Science and art belong to the whole world, and before them vanish the barriers of nationality. - Goethe
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 162, Part I, 21 August 1996

This is Part I of the Open Media Research Institute's Daily Digest.
Part I is a compilation of news concerning Russia, Transcaucasia
and Central Asia. Part II, covering Central, Eastern, and
Southeastern Europe is distributed simultaneously as a second
document. Back issues of the Daily Digest, and other information
about OMRI, are available through OMRI's WWW pages:
http://www.omri.cz/Index.html

RUSSIA

CIVILIANS FLEE GROZNY, ULTIMATUM REMAINS IN FORCE. Citizens of
Grozny on 20 August continued to flee the city following the
ultimatum issued the previous day by the interim commander of the
Russian federal forces, Lt.-Gen. Konstantin Pulikovskii, though an
estimated 150,000 people remain, Russian and Western agencies
reported. Chechen spokesman Movladi Udugov told Reuters that some
100 civilians died when Russian troops blew up a bridge in Alkhan-
Yurt, southwest of Grozny; AFP reported that Russian troops later
blocked the only remaining route out of the city to the northeast.
Pro-Moscow Chechen Prime Minister Nikolai Koshman told ITAR-TASS
that the ultimatum to leave Grozny within 48 hours was
"unrealistic." Lt.-Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, who resumed command
of the Russian forces in Chechnya on 20 August after a vacation,
affirmed that he would "use all means, political and military" to
expel the Chechen fighters from Grozny, AFP reported. -- Liz Fuller

MOSCOW GROUPS DENOUNCE PULIKOVSKII ULTIMATUM. Russia's Democratic
Choice called on President Boris Yeltsin to fire Lt.-Gen.
Konstantin Pulikovskii and speed up the peace settlement in the
separatist republic. The Chechen representative to the president
denounced Pulikovskii's ultimatum as a "death sentence" for the
"hundreds" of thousands of people unable to escape from Grozny,
ITAR-TASS reported on 20 August. Meanwhile, the little-known
Assembly of Russian National Democratic and Patriotic Forces called
Lebed's negotiations "criminal" and argued that they would lead to
the disintegration of Russia and civil war throughout the Caucasus
region, Russian TV reported. -- Robert Orttung

LEBED CHARGES THAT YELTSIN IS NOT SIGNING HIS OWN ORDERS . . .
Aleksandr Lebed's Security Council released a statement on 20 June
expressing doubts whether President Boris Yeltsin had actually
signed his instruction to "restore the order that prevailed" in
Grozny before 5 August (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20 August 1996),
Kommersant-Daily reported. Lebed argued that carrying out these
instructions would lead to widescale military activities, heavy
losses among federal troops, massive civilian deaths, and would
disrupt his negotiations. Lebed insisted that no one be allowed to
manipulate the president and demanded an explanation of the order's
origin. The paper suggested that Lebed would only make such a
statement if he were sure that Yeltsin had not signed the order, a
likely scenario given Yeltsin's poor health. Chief of Staff
Anatolii Chubais, a Lebed rival, is in charge of preparing all
documents for the president's signature. -- Robert Orttung

. . . KREMLIN DENIES CHARGES. The Kremlin responded to Lebed's
charges in a vaguely worded statement from the presidential press
service on 20 June, ITAR-TASS reported. The statement said that the
federal government would not fulfill the separatists' demands while
they continued shooting but that it was prepared to continue
negotiations. The statement also asked Lebed not to talk about the
issue with the media until he had met with Yeltsin. Lebed's charges
and the nebulous response suggest that Yeltsin is no longer in
direct control. -- Robert Orttung

MEDIA COVERAGE OF HEALTH ISSUE INCREASES. As President Boris
Yeltsin's spokesman continues to insist that the president is
merely resting in the lake region of Valdai, intense speculation on
Yeltsin's health has reappeared in the press. Russian journalists
sympathetic to Yeltsin avoided the health issue in late June and
July, even as Yeltsin's absence from public view dominated Western
news coverage of Russia. Yeltsin has not been seen in public since
the 9 August inauguration. Komsomolskaya pravda reported on 21
August that the president clearly needs heart surgery. On the same
day, Kommersant-Daily dismissed official statements on Yeltsin's
health and whereabouts as unconvincing. The latest issue of Novaya
gazeta claimed that recent television footage of Yeltsin has been
broadcast with no soundtrack. Meanwhile, the official newspaper
Rossiiskie vesti continued to deny the rumors on Yeltsin's health,
reporting on 21 August that a recent story in Time (see OMRI Daily
Digest, 19 August 1996) was based on "nonexistent" sources. --
Laura Belin

IZVESTIYA: LEBED HAS LAUNCHED PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN. Izvestiya
argued on 21 August that Lebed has launched his campaign to succeed
Yeltsin. The general's chances for success depend on whether he can
resolve the Chechen war. Lebed figured out that Yeltsin himself is
responsible for the conflict, not his hard-line advisors, often
dubbed the "party of war." Therefore, guessing that the president
will not live much longer, Lebed has forsaken internal Kremlin
struggles for public attacks on the other members of Yeltsin's
inner circle who are trying to get rid of him, the paper said.
Lebed believes that public appeals for peace in Chechnya are the
best way to mobilize his main resource--the more than 10 million
voters who supported him in the first round of the presidential
election on 16 June, Izvestiya argued. -- Robert Orttung

ANOTHER BOMB EXPLOSION IN DAGESTAN. The bomb attack on Dagestani
Finance Minister Gamid Gamidov (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20 August
1996) followed an assassination attempt on Union of Muslims of
Russia leader Nadir Khachilaev, ITAR-TASS and Russian TV (RTR)
reported. A hand grenade was thrown into the courtyard of
Khachilaev's house in the Dagestani capital Makhachkala at about 3
a.m. on 20 August, causing a powerful explosion but no injuries.
Khachilaev has recently been conducting an active campaign to stop
the war in Chechnya. -- Anna Paretskaya

RALLY HELD IN NAZDRATENKO'S SUPPORT. About 500 people rallied in
support of Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko in the
krai's main city Vladivostok on 20 August, Radio Rossii and
Kommersant-Daily reported. They called on the regional legislative
assembly to hold a referendum on confidence in the governor, who
was criticized by the federal commission investigating the region's
financial crisis. They also protested the decision of a Moscow
court which reinstated dismissed Vladivostok Mayor Viktor Cherepkov
(see OMRI Daily Digest, 15 August 1996). -- Anna Paretskaya

METRO CONSTRUCTION WORKERS GO ON STRIKE. Moscow metro construction
workers began an indefinite strike on 19 August to demand payment
of wages due since May, RTR reported. Meanwhile, the workers'
committee of the Leningrad atomic power plan (LAES) decided to
resume protest actions on 26 August, Radio Rossii reported on 20
August. The LAES employees are demanding full payment of wage
arrears, which total 8 billion rubles ($1.5 million), and an
investigation of LAES management's financial activities. Nuclear
Energy Minister Viktor Mikhailov claims that 5 billion rubles have
been transferred to LAES' account. The LAES workers also plan to
picket the Russian government building in Moscow from 30 August
until 2 September. -- Anna Paretskaya

REGIONAL PROPERTY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN DETAINED. Sergei Kozlov, the
former chairman of the Bryansk Oblast state property committee, has
been arrested on charges of abuse of power. He is also likely to be
charged with embezzlement of state funds, ITAR-TASS reported on 20
August, citing oblast Deputy Procurator Aleksandr Stupak. Kozlov,
who was fired several months ago, had been issuing permits to
transfer state property into private ownership, including the vast
field of the old airport in the center of Bryansk. Procurator
General's Office detective Petr Kuznetsov, who heads the
investigation, said the case may expose other related crimes both
within and outside the oblast. -- Anna Paretskaya

SLIGHT DECREASE IN MORTALITY RATE. Russia's mortality rate declined
slightly in the first five months of 1996, to 15.1 deaths per 1,000
residents, compared to 15.5 per thousand in 1995 and 15.8 per
thousand in 1994, Izvestiya reported on 21 August. The incidence of
cancer, heart and lung diseases was practically unchanged. However,
deaths from so-called "unnatural causes" declined significantly;
between January and May 1996, about 128,000 accidental deaths were
recorded (down 14,000 from the same period in 1995). In particular,
deaths attributed to alcohol poisoning were down by 18% compared to
the first five months of 1995, murders by 12%, and suicides by 6%.
Izvestiya pointed out that Russia's overall demographic picture has
not improved, because the birth rate has continued to decline and
the population is falling by 6 per thousand. -- Laura Belin

GLAZEV TO HEAD SECURITY COUNCIL ECONOMIC DIRECTORATE. Sergei
Glazev, longtime political ally of Aleksandr Lebed and head of the
Democratic Party of Russia, has been appointed chief of the Russian
Security Council's Economic Security Directorate, ITAR-TASS and ORT
reported on 20 August. Glazev, a former minister of foreign trade,
told a press conference that his team will conduct an "expert
analysis" of government proposals (such as the budget or
privatization plans) to assess their impact on Russia's economic
dependence on other states. Glazev said steps will be taken to
reverse oil contracts being signed under the production sharing
law. Earlier reports suggested that Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin barred Glazev from a ministerial post because of his
fierce attacks on the government's economic policy. Lebed has now
found Glazev a niche in his own apparatus, and Glazev's replies to
journalists made it clear that he intends to continue criticizing
government policy even from his new position inside the
administration. -- Peter Rutland

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

ARDZINBA REITERATES READINESS TO MEET WITH SHEVARDNADZE. Abkhaz
President Vladislav Ardzinba, responding on 20 August to his
Georgian counterpart Eduard Shevardnadze's call for a resumption of
talks on resolving Abkhazia's future status, reiterated his
readiness for a face-to-face meeting if there is a real chance of
reaching a settlement, but insisted that there could be no revision
of the principles outlined in the UN-mediated statement of April
1994 on repatriation, AFP and ITAR-TASS reported. The most recent
round of talks on a political settlement of the Abkhaz conflict,
held in Moscow in late July, failed to make any progress. -- Liz
Fuller

ARMENIAN DEMOGRAPHIC UPDATE. The total number of Armenians in the
world exceeds 10 million, Noyan Tapan reported on 20 August. Of
these, 3.5 million live in Armenia, 2.5 million in the Russian
Federation, and almost 1.5 million in the U.S. At the time of the
1989 Soviet census, the total population of the Armenian SSR was
3,304,800, of whom approximately 90% were Armenians. The figure
cited for the number of Armenians currently living in Armenia is
difficult to reconcile with reports that some 800,000 people, or
17% of the total population, have left Armenia since 1991, and that
the sterility rate in Armenia is 20-25%, which is 10% higher than
the world average. -- Liz Fuller

CORRECTION: Vahan Hovanessyan, one of the leading members of the
Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsyutyun) arrested on 29
July 1995 on charges of terrorism and planning a coup, was
erroneously referred to in the OMRI Daily Digest of 16 August as
the ARFD candidate for next month's Armenian presidential
elections. The ARFD has not in fact nominated a candidate.

TAJIKISTAN SAID TO BE ON VERGE OF COLLAPSE. The Russian newspaper
Segodnya on 16 August reported Tajikistan as being on the verge of
collapse. The article claimed the Tajik economy is in ruins due to
corruption and the emigration of both the Russian and local
population, which has drained Tajikistan of qualified specialists.
It also said that the Tajik government is not interested in a
peaceful solution to the conflict with religious and political
opponents, and that despite trade agreements with Russia only 6% of
Tajikistan's goods go there, the bulk of the rest going to Western
countries. The article also charged that paramilitary formations
from the Popular Front, which helped the present government come to
power in 1992, have formed criminal bands which virtually occupy
Dushanbe, and that half of the Tajik militia are former criminals,
the paper said. -- Bruce Pannier

KAMILOV IN NEW DELHI. Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov held
talks with Indian Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda in New Delhi on 21
August, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. The report emphasized that
New Delhi and Tashkent's positions coincide on key regional issues,
particularly the need to find a peaceful resolution of the civil
war in Afghanistan. Both also stressed their commitment to fighting
all forms of international terrorism, including what was termed
religious extremism, and to further enhance bilateral ties. Trade
between India and Uzbekistan reportedly reached $20 million in
1995. -- Lowell Bezanis

FBI IN TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA. The U.S. Federal Bureau of
Investigation plans to double it overseas offices from 23 to 46
over a four-year period, AFP reported on 20 August. Among other
countries, the agency plans to establish a presence in Kazakhstan,
Uzbekistan, and Georgia in 1998. This is part of the FBI's effort
to create a "first line of defense" or early warning system to cope
with what it considers to be the growing internationalization of
crime and crime threats to the U.S. The report detailing these
plans stressed that the agency, whose mission has been confined to
domestic law enforcement and counter-intelligence, would not be
engaged in espionage but would liaise with its foreign
counterparts. -- Lowell Bezanis

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Steve Kettle

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