Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead
OMRI DAILY DIGEST</head>

No. 166, Part I, 27 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

CHECHENS RETURN SOME RUSSIAN ARMS. Chechen militants on 26 August handed
over to the Russian federal command up to 50 firearms said to be among
approximately 60 seized from a Russian unit in Grozny on 24 August; but
a Russian military spokesman said that the identification markings on
half the weapons did not correspond to those seized, Russian and Western
agencies reported. The withdrawal of six Interior Ministry units from
Grozny was halted pending the return of the remaining weapons, according
to ITAR-TASS. Speaking at a press conference in Moscow on 26 August,
pro-Moscow Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Alkhazur Tsokayev termed the
talks between Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov and Russian
Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed "a blatant coup d'etat" given
the existence of "the legitimate leadership" of head of state Doku
Zavgaev, Radio Rossii reported. Also on 26 August, Reuters reported that
Lt.-Gen. Konstantin Pulikovskii, who deputized for Tikhomirov while the
latter was on vacation, is to be questioned by the Russian procuracy and
the military procuracy concerning the circumstances surrounding the
occupation of Grozny by Chechen forces on 6 August. -- Liz Fuller

HEAVY FEDERAL TOLL IN RECENT CHECHNYA FIGHTING. The bodies of 451
Russian troops killed in Grozny since 6 August have been recovered and
1,264 wounded soldiers have been evacuated, Reuters reported on 26
August. The federal command told ITAR-TASS that 163 Interior Ministry
troops had been killed and 876 wounded. An officer of the 58th Army
serving in Chechnya told RIA that many men considered missing had
actually deserted. -- Doug Clarke

POTANIN TO OVERSEE FINANCIAL ASPECTS OF RESOLVING CHECHEN CONFLICT. At a
26 August meeting, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Security
Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed named First Deputy Prime Minister
Vladimir Potanin to head the Security Council committee overseeing the
financing of the peace process in Chechnya, Radio Rossii reported. The
decision gives Lebed the power to oversee the financial terms of the
peace-making process and the reconstruction of the republic, the radio
noted. Pro-Moscow Chechen leader Doku Zavgaev's government has come in
for considerable criticism for abusing these funds and, in turn,
complained that it does not have the resources to do what is necessary.
Lebed had hoped to meet with Yeltsin on 26 and 27 August, but the
president postponed both meetings, suggesting continued dissatisfaction
with the retired general's activities. Yeltsin has stressed that
Chechnya must remain a part of Russia. -- Robert Orttung

COMMUNISTS PREPARING TO QUESTION LEBED'S POWERS. Communist Duma Security
Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin is preparing to question whether
Yeltsin's delegation to Lebed of presidential authority to sign
agreements with the Chechen separatists is constitutional, NTV reported
on 26 August. Communist Duma Member Vladimir Semago argued that Yeltsin
had given up some of his powers to Lebed, while the constitution makes
clear that Chernomyrdin should take on these responsibilities if the
president cannot carry them out on his own. An additional problem is
that there is no law regulating the actions of the Security Council and
its secretary, although the constitution requires one. -- Robert Orttung

YELTSIN BEGINS VACATION. President Boris Yeltsin began his vacation on
26 August in his suburban residence Rus, about 50 miles northeast of
Moscow, NTV reported. The report included no further details about the
length of the president's holiday or if he would visit any other sites.
The president is not planning any meetings, his press service announced.
Yeltsin's wife Naina had a kidney operation on 24 August and is
recovering well in the hospital, AFP reported. -- Robert Orttung

FOREIGN MINISTRY BLASTS LATVIAN PARLIAMENT VOTE. The Foreign Ministry
released a statement denouncing the 22 August Latvian parliament
declaration that the USSR's incorporation of Latvia amounted to an
"occupation," ITAR-TASS reported (see OMRI Daily Digest , 26 August
1996). The Russian side called the declaration "unprecedented in its
cynicism" and said that it provided a legal framework for expelling
ethnic Russians from Latvia. One consequence of the vote is that Latvian
Prime Minister Andres Skele will not visit Moscow in the first half of
September as had been planned, Kommersant-Daily reported on 27 August.
-- Robert Orttung

BORDER GUARDS FIRE ON JAPANESE FISHING BOATS. Russian maritime border
troops over the weekend fired warning shots to stop three Japanese
fishing boats from entering Russian territorial waters near the disputed
Kuril islands, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 August. The agency said that the
Pacific Border District headquarters noted that this was the eighth
attempt in August by Japanese "poachers" to intrude into Russian waters.
Several other such incidents took place earlier in the summer. -- Doug
Clarke

FIRST REGIONAL ELECTIONS MARKED BY LOW TURNOUT. Only 29% of the
electorate turned out to vote in the 25 August elections to the regional
legislature in Kaluga Oblast, Radio Rossii reported the next day. Due to
the low turnout, the election results are valid in less than half of the
electoral districts. The Agrarian Party of Russia won 6 of the 40 seats
in the legislature; another four were won by a regional association of
physicians. All candidates from the Liberal Democratic Party and the
Communist Party lost. Valerii Sudarenkov, who has chaired the
legislature since April 1990, was defeated by local hospital surgeon
Yurii Volkov. -- Anna Paretskaya

PRIMORSKII KRAI LEGISLATURE PROTESTS "BIASED" TV COVERAGE. Deputies in
the Primorskii Krai Duma requested that Russian Public TV (ORT) recall
two of its Far East correspondents, whom they accused of biased
reporting on the socioeconomic and political situation in Primore, ORT
reported on 24 August. An ORT news anchor suggested that the deputies
"reconsider their attitude to our colleagues." Financial and energy
crises in Primore in recent weeks have attracted the attention of both
federal officials and the Moscow-based media, who have generally pinned
the blame on the regional authorities. Primorskii Krai leaders are
accustomed to consistently favorable coverage in the local print and
electronic media, which are under the tight control of Governor Yevgenii
Nazdratenko. -- Laura Belin

NUCLEAR, MEDICAL WORKERS RESUME PROTESTS. Workers at the Leningrad
nuclear power plant (LAES) resumed protest actions on 26 August, ITAR-
TASS reported. After finishing their shift, LAES employees refused to
leave the plant's building and gathered in a conference hall to demand
full payments of wage arrears which total about 30 billion rubles (over
$5.5 million). Earlier this month, the LAES workers and Atomic Energy
Ministry worked out a schedule for payment of overdue wages; however,
the ministry broke the agreement. The same day, over 1,000 medical
workers went on indefinite strike in Kyzyl, the capital of the Siberian
republic of Tyva, ITAR-TASS reported. They are demanding payment of more
that 90 billion rubles of overdue wages and an increase in state support
for their sector. Patients will only be given emergency treatment while
the strike continues. -- Anna Paretskaya

STABBED OLYMPIC CHAMPION RECOVERING, SUSPECT ARRESTED. Double Olympic
swimming champion Aleksandr Popov is in "fairly serious" condition in
the Moscow hospital where he is recovering from stab wounds to the
stomach, lungs and kidney, but a doctor said that he is "conscious and
smiling," ITAR-TASS and AFP reported on 26 August. It was too early to
tell whether the injury would affect his swimming career permanently.
Popov was stabbed during a fight that broke out between his friends and
a watermelon vendor on 24 August (see OMRI Daily Digest, 26 August
1996). Police sources said an Azerbaijani man in his early twenties had
been arrested as a suspect in the case. -- Laura Belin

SHAFRANIK ELECTED HEAD OF OIL COMPANY. Former Fuel and Energy Minister
Yurii Shafranik was elected Chairman of the Board of Directors of
Tyumenskaya Neftyanaya Kompaniya (TNK), ITAR-TASS and Kommersant-Daily
reported on 26-27 August. The company was set up at the initiative of
the Tyumen Oblast's local authorities to develop oil and gas reserves in
western Siberia. Shafranik succeeds Viktor Palii, head of the TNK's core
firm Nizhnevartovskneftegaz (NVNG). Possible reasons for Palii's removal
include his inability to improve the financial situation at NVNG and his
conflicts with the Tyumen Oblast's local administration. Prime Minister
Viktor Chernomyrdin has announced that Shafranik will also be appointed
his advisor. -- Natalia Gurushina

NEW MEASURE TO IMPROVE TAX COLLECTION. The government intends to adopt a
decree imposing tax and audit inspections on the largest debtors to the
federal budget, Segodnya reported on 24 August. This measure is
envisaged in the government's agreement with the IMF. The State Tax
Agency has already prepared a list of such debtors in which companies
are split into three groups according to the size of their debt -- 20
billion rubles ($3.8 million at the current exchange rate) to 50 billion
rubles, 50 billion to 100 billion, and over 100 billion. The largest
debtors are fuel, energy and transport companies. Many are located
either in regions extracting mineral resources, or in regions with
powerful local authorities, such as Moscow, and the Nizhnii Novgorod,
Samara and Sverdlovsk Oblasts. -- Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

ARMENIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN GETS UNDERWAY. Campaigning for
the 22 September Armenian presidential election got underway on 23
August, Western agencies reported. While hitherto observers have
unanimously predicted that incumbent Levon Ter-Petrossyan will be
reelected, a recent poll of 1,000 residents of Yerevan revealed that
23.9% of respondents intended to vote for former Prime Minister and
chairman of the National Democratic Union Vazgen Manukyan, 16.5% for
Ter-Petrossyan and 8.2% for Communist Party leader Sergei Badalyan,
according to Noyan Tapan on 26 August. Seven candidates are contesting
the election. -- Liz Fuller

TWO IRANIANS SHOT DEAD IN YEREVAN. Armenian police are investigating the
shooting deaths in Yerevan's central Republic Square on 24 August of two
Iranian businessmen, ITAR-TASS and Noyan Tapan reported. The killer, a
young man in combat fatigues, escaped by car. Armenian-Iranian relations
deteriorated last year after the murder of an Iranian lorry driver in
southern Armenia. -- Liz Fuller

CONGRESS OF UZBEK PATRIOTIC SOCIETY. The first congress of the
Vatanparvar [patriot] organization was held in Tashkent on 23 August,
Uzbek Television (first channel) reported the same day. According to the
BBC-monitored report, the organization is the successor to the Voluntary
Society for Cooperation with the Army, Air Force and Navy (DOSAAF). The
organization's principal mission, to train youth for service in the
armed forces, remains unchanged. A report read at the congress noted the
organization lacked a clear understanding of its task now that
Uzbekistan is independent. -- Lowell Bezanis

ATTACK REPORTED 100 KM FROM DUSHANBE. A convoy of Tajik government
soldiers was ambushed on the road leading to the Tavil-Dara area on 24
August, ITAR-TASS reported. One soldier was killed and four wounded when
elements of the Tajik opposition opened fire on the convoy near the town
of Chorsada, 100 kilometers northeast of the capital Dushanbe. The
Russian newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda speculated in its 23 August issue that
the opposition is attempting to gain control over the mountainous
regions of Tajikistan and split the country. Meanwhile, on the
diplomatic front, the opposition's Radio Voice of Free Tajikistan
dismissed an offer last week by Tajik Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov to
include members of the opposition in the government. "Such statements by
the leaders of the regime are made on the advice of Moscow," the radio
said. -- Bruce Pannier

NAZARBAYEV AND KAZAKSTAN'S FUTURE. In an interview on Kazak TV on 21
August monitored by the BBC, President Nursultan Nazarbayev said he
would like to see more ethnic Kazaks return to Kazakstan and called upon
the government and the people to help "to return our brothers living
abroad." He said some 200,000 people had returned to Kazakstan in the
last 2 to 3 years. The issue of resettlement of Kazaks was being
discussed with Mongolia and Karakalpakistan and the Kazakstani president
said he had also broached the question with Chinese President Jiang
Zemin during the latter's visit to Almaty in July. -- Bruce Pannier

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Steve Kettle

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            Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc.
                      All rights reserved. ISSN 1211-1570
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