This is the true nature of home-- it is the place of Peace; the shelter, not only from injury, but from all terror, doubt and division. - John Ruskin
OMRI DAILY DIGEST</head>

No. 165, Part I, 26 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

TIKHOMIROV, MASKHADOV REACH AGREEMENT ON TROOP WITHDRAWAL. Meeting in
Noviye Atagi, south of Grozny, on 23 August, Chechen Chief of Staff
Aslan Maskhadov and the commander of the Russian federal forces in
Chechnya, Lt.-Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, reached "unanimous" agreement
on the withdrawal from Grozny of Chechen, Russian federal and Russian
Interior Ministry forces, Russian and Western agencies reported. The
Russian troop withdrawal began as planned on 24 August. -- Liz Fuller

LEBED BREAKS OFF TALKS WITH MASKHADOV, RETURNS TO MOSCOW . . . Russian
Security Council secretary Aleksandr Lebed flew back to Grozny on the
morning of 24 August. After meeting with Russian commanders at Khankala
airbase, he proceeded to Noviye Atagi to discuss with Maskhadov a
political solution to the Chechen conflict which postpones a decision on
Chechnya's status vis-a-vis Moscow pending completion of the Russian
troop pullout, new parliamentary elections and the adoption of a new
Chechen constitution, AFP reported on 24 August. Instead of continuing
these talks on 25 August, however, Lebed flew back to Moscow because of
"legal difficulties," in connection with which he planned to consult
Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Foreign Minister Yevgenii
Primakov. Speaking at a press conference prior to his departure, Lebed
appealed to the Chechen population to refrain from any further attacks
on Russian troops, according to ITAR-TASS. The agency attributed the
suspension of the talks to Lebed's dissatisfaction over the seizure of
weapons by Chechen fighters in Grozny on 24 August from Russian Interior
Ministry troops, although Lebed himself dismissed the incident as "a
misunderstanding." AFP quoted Chechen press spokesman Movladi Udugov as
claiming that the Chechen fighters responsible were a renegade group who
wished to disrupt the peace process, and that most of the arms had been
returned. Tikhomirov also canceled a planned meeting with Maskhadov
because of the weapons issue, AFP reported. -- Liz Fuller

. . . BUT LOWER-LEVEL TALKS CONTINUE. On 24 August acting Chechen
President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev met with former Russian parliament
speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov to discuss possible solutions to the
conflict, ITAR-TASS reported. Khasbulatov's trip to Chechnya was
arranged by Chernomyrdin. On 25 August Russian and Chechen commanders
met in Grozny to discuss the work of the joint Russian-Chechen patrols
intended to maintain order and prevent looting in the city, AFP
reported. The head of the OSCE mission in Grozny, Tim Guldimann, told
Russian Television (Channel 2) on 23 August that the OSCE would work
together with Lebed to resolve the Chechen conflict as it had previously
done with Chernomyrdin's now disbanded commission. -- Liz Fuller

YELTSIN BACKS LEBED NEGOTIATIONS. President Boris Yeltsin, in a
telephone conversation with Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed
on 23 August, approved Lebed's negotiations with the Chechen separatist
fighters and backed his search for a political solution to the conflict,
but insisted that any agreement must ensure that Chechnya remains within
the Russian Federation, NTV reported. A day earlier, Yeltsin had said
that he was not satisfied with Lebed's work since he had not achieved
any clear results. The Yeltsin-Lebed conversation took place at 10 p.m.,
following a day of confusion over whether the two men would meet. --
Robert Orttung

CHERNOMYRDIN PROPOSES REFERENDUM ON CHECHNYA'S STATUS. Prime Minister
Viktor Chernomyrdin suggested in an interview with Russian TV that the
Chechens hold a referendum on independence in five years after normal
living conditions had been restored in the republic, ITAR-TASS reported
on 25 August. He said that the people's decision in the vote would be
implemented, but reiterated his belief that "Chechnya should remain
within Russia." He stressed that the issue of Chechnya's secession from
Russia should not be part of the current peace negotiations. Secession
is one of the rebel's main demands. -- Robert Orttung

CHERNOMYRDIN EXPECTS CONSTRUCTIVE WORK FROM TULEEV, GLAZEV. Chernomyrdin
said that former opposition leaders Aman Tuleev, newly appointed CIS
minister, and Sergei Glazev, chief of the Security Council's Economic
Security Directorate, are "now full members of the president's team" and
that they should switch "from criticism to concrete suggestions and
work," ITAR-TASS reported on 24 August. Tuleev said that he does not
intend to engage in confrontation with the government or the prime
minister, NTV reported on 23 August. -- Robert Orttung

TULEEV'S RELATIONS WITH OPPOSITION. It is not clear whether Tuleev will
resign as one of five co-chairmen of Gennadii Zyuganov's Popular-
Patriotic Union of Russia (NPSR) following his cabinet appointment. In
an interview with Rossiiiskaya gazeta published on 24 August, Tuleev
said he might resign his post within the opposition movement, even
though the NPSR leadership council advised him to join the government.
Nezavisimaya gazeta reported the same day that while most opposition
leaders had not criticized Tuleev's appointment, they had not praised it
enthusiastically either. Two other NPSR co-chairmen, Aleksandr Rutskoi
and Agrarian Party leader Mikhail Lapshin, described Tuleev's move as
proof of the constructive nature of the main opposition movement.
Meanwhile, Anatolii Kryuchkov, whose Russian Party of Communists
considers Zyuganov's organization too moderate, denounced Tuleev's
appointment and said the government remains "inimical to the interests
of Russian workers," Radio Rossii reported on 24 August. -- Laura Belin

U.S. STUDY SAYS RUSSIAN MILITARY CAPACITY MUCH DIMINISHED . . . In a
report submitted to the U.S. Congress, the Defense Intelligence Agency
depicts the Russian military as a dilapidated force that will not be
capable of mounting effective offensive operations against China or deep
into Europe for at least 10 years, AFP reported on 23 August. The same
day Reuters quoted Gen. Eugene Habiger, head of U.S. nuclear forces, as
saying that budgetary cutbacks would bring Russia down to the START-2
level of less than 3,500 nuclear weapons by 2005 whether or not Russia
ratified the treaty. He said Russia was making some progress towards
developing a new single-warhead Topol ICBM, and slower progress with a
new submarine-launched missile. -- Peter Rutland

. . . WHILE RODIONOV PROTESTS DEFENSE BUDGET. Security Council Secretary
Aleksandr Lebed said the 1997 budget plan allows for defense spending of
101 trillion rubles ($20 billion), far short of the 260 trillion rubles
requested by the defense ministry, AFP reported on 23 August. Lebed's
ally, Defense Minister Igor Rodionov, complained that "the defense
ministry's budget request was virtually ignored." Defense spending for
1996 is estimated at around 80 trillion rubles ($17 billion), or 10% of
the U.S. level. The Russian Army has about 1.5 million troops compared
to 4.5 million in the former Soviet Army. -- Peter Rutland

FOREIGN MINISTRY: RUSSIA READY TO RATIFY CHEMICAL BAN. Foreign Ministry
spokesman Mikhail Demurin said on 22 August that Russia plans to be
among the first 65 nations to ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention,
ITAR-TASS reported. The 1993 treaty goes into effect 180 days after it
has been ratified by 65 signatories. So far, 61 nations have ratified
it, but not Russia or the U.S., the countries with the largest declared
chemical weapons stockpiles. Some Russian officials have complained in
the past about the expenses that will be involved in complying with the
convention. -- Doug Clarke

MINERS AND AIR WORKERS CALL OFF STRIKE. Coal miners and civilian air
workers have called off nationwide strikes they planed to hold on 26 and
27 August, respectively, Russian media reported. Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin, new Fuel and Energy minister Petr Rodionov, and Deputy
Finance Minister Andrei Petrov met with miners' trade union
representatives and agreed to pay all debts and wage arrears by the end
of the month. According to Yurii Malyshev, general manager of the
federal coal company Rosugol, wage debts to miners totaled 2 trillion
rubles (about $390 million) by the end of July, while the total debt to
the mining industry was about 7 trillion rubles. The air workers called
off their strike after they reached an agreement on tariffs with the
federal aviation service, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 24 August.
However, Independent Trade Union Federation Secretary Galina Strela
suggested that a new wave of strikes may be expected in the fall due to
growing wage arrears that now total 34 trillion rubles in all
industries. -- Anna Paretskaya

PRIMORSKII KRAI GOVERNOR OPPOSES KREMLIN DECISION. Primorskii Krai
Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko has sacked his deputy, Mikhail Savchenko,
complying with President Yeltsin's orders although he says he did not
agree with them, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 August. Yeltsin ordered
Savchenko's dismissal after the Main Oversight Administration (GKU)
commission found he was responsible for the financial and energy crises
in the krai in July. The same day, the manager of the energy company
Dalenergo, Yurii Bashsarov, was fired. Meanwhile, the krai legislature
decided to hold a referendum on public trust in Nazdratenko on 22
September, Russian Public TV reported. The krai duma decision was caused
by a presidential decree warning Nazdratenko that he was not fully
competent. -- Anna Paretskaya

FORMER VICE-PRESIDENT TO RUN FOR GOVERNOR. An initiative group in Kursk
Oblast has notified the regional electoral commission that it has
nominated former Russian vice president and leader of the Derzhava
social-patriotic movement Aleksandr Rutskoi for the October
gubernatorial election, ITAR-TASS and Radio Mayak reported on 24 August.
Other candidates are the incumbent Vasilii Shuteev and an unemployed
deputy of the 1990-1993 Supreme Soviet, Petr Zorin. -- Anna Paretskaya

OLYMPIC CHAMPION STABBED. Aleksandr Popov, who won two Olympic gold
medals in swimming last month in Atlanta, is hospitalized in serious
condition following surgery to treat stab wounds in the stomach, lung
and kidney, Russian and Western media reported on 25 August. A doctor
told ITAR-TASS the next day that Popov's condition had improved
slightly. On the evening of 24 August, Popov was attacked following an
argument with fruit vendors who apparently did not know his identity. --
Laura Belin

BOMB EXPLOSION AT MOSCOW SYNAGOGUE. A small bomb exploded in front of a
synagogue in the center of Moscow late on 22 August, a Federal Security
Service spokesman told ITAR-TASS. The device, with a charge equivalent
to 300 grams of TNT, went off when the building was empty. No one was
injured though the blast broke windows and knocked over Torah scrolls,
causing $15,000 worth of damage, according to Reuters. Rabbi Berel Lazar
said that the explosion was clearly an anti-semitic act. The synagogue,
which burned down in 1993, was reopened in June. -- Anna Paretskaya

NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS MAY FACE STOPPAGE. A shortage of cash may lead to
the closure of some of Russia's nine nuclear power stations, Reuters and
Radio Mayak reported on 25 August. Rosenergoatom is owed some 5 trillion
rubles ($940 million) by the EES (Russia's United Power Grid), and is
unable to finance repair works at nuclear plants. Low energy prices paid
by consumers are often considered a major reason for the debt.
Meanwhile, workers at the Leningrad nuclear power plant are going to
resume protest action over wage arrears totaling 30 billion rubles ($5.6
million), ITAR-TASS reported on 26 August. The 5 billion rubles credit
provided by the Nuclear Energy Ministry last week was used to pay May's
wages. Another 10 billion rubles credit, earmarked for paying June
salaries, will be disbursed in the next week. -- Natalia Gurushina

NEW DECREE ON TAXATION STIRS CONTROVERSY. The publication on 22 August
of a new presidential decree on taxation sent shock waves through
financial circles. The decree stipulates, in particular, that income tax
and insurance payments will be levied on all transfers to bank accounts
of individuals or companies, including interest on deposits in banks,
Russian media reported on 23-24 August. The decree, therefore, leaves a
possibility for double taxation of people's wages, since such levies are
usually already collected at work. It also contradicts the existing
legislation which does not tax interest on banking deposits, pensions
and yields on state savings bonds. Finance Minister Aleksandr Livshits
attempted to ease the tension by saying that in the near future there
will be no changes in the taxation procedure. He pointed out that the
new decree aims to reinforce tax discipline and reduce unaccounted cash
transfers. -- Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

TAJIKISTAN'S NEIGHBORS WORRIED ABOUT SITUATION. Although ITAR-TASS
reported on 23 August that Tavil-Dara has been recaptured by Tajik
government troops, officials from Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan
have met to discuss the Tajik conflict. The presidents of the three
countries met in Almaty on 24 August to discuss economic cooperation and
the creation of a common economic space by the end of 1997, according to
ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL. Prior to the meeting, Kazakstani President
Nursultan Nazarbayev met with his Tajik counterpart Imomali Rakhmonov to
emphasize the need for a peaceful solution to the conflict. Nazarbayev
also sent letters to United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri
and Afghan President Burhanaddin Rabbani expressing the same. There is
speculation Nazarbayev warned Nuri and Rabbani that Kazakstan will not
remain idle should the situation in Tajikistan worsen. -- Bruce Pannier

CABINET RESHUFFLE IN TURKMENISTAN. President Saparmurat Niyazov relieved
Valery Otchertsov, Minister of Economy and Finance as well as deputy
chairman of Turkmenistan's cabinet, of his duties on 22 August, RFE/RL
reported the next day. He was appointed economic counselor to
Turkmenistan's embassy in Moscow and granted what were termed emergency
powers as an envoy to Russia. Otchertsov's replacement as Minister of
Economy is Matkarim Rajapov. Russian agencies noted that Otchertsov was
shifted "at his own request" due to matrimonial problems. -- Lowell
Bezanis

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Steve Kettle

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