Every individual has a place to fill in the world, and is important, in some respect, whether he chooses to be so or not. - Nathaniel Hawthorne
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 169, Part I, 30 August 1996


        Note to readers: The OMRI Daily Digest will not appear
                 on 2 September 1996, a U.S. holiday

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

LEBED FLIES TO CHECHNYA FOR MORE TALKS. A planned meeting between
Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov and the commander of the Russian
federal forces in Chechnya, Lt.-Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, to discuss
the demilitarization agreement, was postponed on 29 August pending the
return to Chechnya of Russian Security Council Secretary Aleksandr
Lebed, Russian and Western agencies reported. Meanwhile, Russian and
Chechen troops continued to pull out of Grozny and some residents who
had fled the fighting began to return, according to ITAR-TASS. Speaking
in Moscow on 29 August, Lebed stressed that if any Chechen political
faction were to consolidate its power, the result would be "more war,"
and called for the creation of "a new pyramid of power" comprising
representatives of all political factions. Lebed also called for the
resignation of pro-Moscow Chechen head of state Doku Zavgaev, according
to AFP. On 30 August, Lebed flew back to Chechnya for talks with
Maskhadov and acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev at an
unspecified location, Western agencies reported. According to AFP,
Maskhadov has accepted an invitation from the chairman of the PACE
committee on Chechnya, Ernst Muellimann, to address the autumn session
of the EU Parliamentary Assembly in Strasbourg if Lebed agrees to do
likewise. -- Liz Fuller

YELTSIN PHONES LEBED ON CHECHNYA PEACE PLAN . . . President Boris
Yeltsin continued to maintain his distance from Security Council
Secretary Aleksandr Lebed by choosing to speak with him over the phone
about Lebed's proposal for a settlement to the conflict, Ekho Moskvy
reported. Neither Lebed nor Yeltsin revealed the content of their
conversation. Lebed said that not being able to meet with Yeltsin in
person is making his work difficult. Komsomolskaya pravda commented on
30 August that if Yeltsin approves the Chechen peace plan he would have
to explain why he approved the war almost two years ago, why tens of
thousands Russians have died, why he is negotiating with "bandits," and
why money from the strapped federal budget is being spent on restoring
buildings destroyed in the fighting, particularly if Chechnya might
become independent. -- Robert Orttung

. . . WHILE CHERNOMYRDIN CRITICIZES IT. Yeltsin's reaction to the peace
plan was apparently negative judging from Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin's remark that the proposals need "serious work." He made
that comment after meeting with Lebed, the power ministers, and the
chairmen of both houses of the Federal Assembly at Yeltsin's request.
Chernomyrdin expressed particular concern that Chechen separatist field
commanders were setting up executive institutions parallel to Moscow-
backed Doku Zavgaev's government. Lebed commented that the parallel
institutions had always existed in Chechnya and that they had simply
become more visible now, Radio Rossii reported. Chernomyrdin had earlier
expressed cautious support for the plan but may now be shifting his
position under pressure from Yeltsin. Presidential Chief of Staff
Anatolii Chubais supports Lebed's peace plans, according to Duma member
Sergei Yushenkov, who along with Chubais is a member of the leadership
of Russia's Democratic Choice, the BBC reported. -- Robert Orttung

LEBED REJECTS DEMOCRATS' CALL TO PARTICIPATE IN ANTI-WAR DEMONSTRATION.
Several reform parties, including Russia's Democratic Choice, Yabloko,
and Democratic Russia are planning to hold a demonstration in Pushkin
Square on 31 August to support Lebed's initiatives. However, Lebed
rejected the idea of the rally, saying he hopes to succeed without the
help of those parties, NTV reported 30 August, citing a Security Council
Press Service statement. Galina Starovoitova, one of the rally
organizers, said she doubts that Lebed had personally prepared this
statement due to its emotional and angry tone, Radio Rossii reported.
Later, Lebed called on the parliament and all of Russia's political
parties to come to a common agreement on how to resolve the conflict. --
Robert Orttung

YELTSIN'S PRESS SECRETARY ON PLANS. Presidential press secretary Sergei
Yastrzhembskii told Moskovskii komsomolets on 29 August that he would
like to organize regular briefings on President Yeltsin's health,
attended by medical professionals who have treated the president. He did
not say when journalists could expect the first such briefing. In the
last two months, despite intense speculation in the media on the
president's health, doctors have not spoken publicly about Yeltsin's
condition. Yastzhembskii said another one of his priorities will be to
develop an "information strategy" for shaping public opinion. As Russian
ambassador to Slovakia, he said, he had observed how Moscow's
information policy with respect to the war in Chechnya had "utterly
failed." -- Laura Belin

YABLOKO ATTACKS YELTSIN'S AUSTERITY DECREES. State Duma deputies from
Grigorii Yavlinskii's Yabloko party released two statements on 29 August
attacking decrees signed earlier this month on enforcing an "austerity
regime to fulfill the federal budget" (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20 August
1996). Charging that President Yeltsin "will save money on law and
order" and "is rejecting the promises of candidate Yeltsin," they said
the spending cuts would hurt precisely the groups whom Yeltsin promised
to help before the election, including farmers, teachers, and doctors,
Kommersant-Daily and Pravda-5 reported on 30 August. In particular, they
complained that by removing privileges from judges and procurators and
suspending planned increases in law enforcement personnel, Yeltsin's
decree will weaken the judicial branch and impede the war on crime. --
Laura Belin

PRIMORSKII KRAI TO HOLD REFERENDUM ON GOVERNOR. The Primorskii Krai
legislative assembly has voted to hold a regional referendum on 22
September to decide on whether Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko should
remain in office, ITAR-TASS and Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. The
krai's residents will also be asked whether they support the governor's
attempts to check the rise in electricity and railway transportation
rates and the governor's policy of blocking the federal transfer of some
of the krai's land to China. The assembly's decision comes after
President Yeltsin formally placed the blame for the krai's energy and
financial crises on Nazdratenko in early August. Nazdratenko was elected
governor in December 1995 with about 90% of the vote. The president has
the authority to remove governors from office. -- Anna Paretskaya

TWO ASSASSINATION ATTEMPTS. Security service officers have arrested a
man who attempted to throw a grenade at Vologda Oblast Governor
Vyacheslav Pozgalev, Izvestiya reported on 30 August. The 30-year-old
unemployed man is reportedly associated with an opposition organization
in the oblast, according to a regional security official. Pozgalev,
appointed governor in May this year, is said to have the best chance of
winning the oblast's 6 October election. In other news, an unidentified
assailant seriously wounded the top union official of the Volga car
plant, Aleksandr Ivanov, in the city of Tolyatti on 29 August, ITAR-TASS
and Izvestiya reported. Ivanov, who received four bullet wounds in his
stomach and one leg, has been hospitalized. His assailant managed to
escape. This is the second attempt on Ivanov's life this year and other
union members have been similarly attacked, according to Izvestiya. --
Anna Paretskaya

ANOTHER PLANE CRASH. At least 141 people were killed when a Vnukovo
Airlines chartered plane crashed into a mountain on the remote Norwegian
island of Spitsbergen, Russian and Western agencies reported on 29
August. Most of the passengers were Russian and Ukrainian coal miners
and their families traveling to work in Spitsbergen, which is 400 miles
north of the Norwegian mainland. The cause of the crash was not known;
air traffic controllers received no distress signal and although the
Tupolev Tu-154 has a reputation for being accident-prone, the plane that
crashed in Spitsbergen was an improved model and was only eight years
old, according to the Los Angeles Times. ITAR-TASS suggested that low
cloud cover could have been a factor. The accident was the sixth crash
involving a Russian airplane this year, NTV reported. -- Laura Belin

PKK CAMP NEAR YAROSLAVL. Militants linked to the Kurdistan Workers'
Party (PKK) have established a cultural center, and possibly a military
training camp, near the Gavrilov Yam settlement in Yaroslavl,
Komsomolskaya pravda reported on 29 August. The site, allegedly
purchased by a group calling itself the International Union of Kurdish
Public Associations, was previously home to the "Solnechnii" children's
summer camp. The students at the new "military-political academy" are
reportedly ethnic Kurds from CIS member states and "refugees," some of
whom are wanted by the Turkish and Iranian authorities. The paper noted
the camp, already "swarming with wounded Kurdish guerrillas," may turn
into a rehabilitation center for Kurdish militants. -- Lowell Bezanis

ARMS EXPORTER UNDER FIRE. In the 29 August issue of Segodnya Pavel
Felgengauer published a number of leaked documents relating to the
activities of the state-owned company Rosvooruzhenie, which has an
effective monopoly of the arms export business worth $3 billion a year.
A 7 June letter from Procurator-General Yurii Skuratov asked President
Yeltsin to investigate the activities of the company, which Skuratov
said is operating in the absence of legal regulation and does not
clearly account for the funds at its disposal. Skuratov said it owes
defense plants $200 million for weapons already delivered. Felgengauer
says the company takes 7-10% commission, while other state trading
companies take only 1%. Some senior managers, many of them army officers
"on reserve," were reportedly paid up to $70,000 a year. After the
Skuratov letter, 15 leading defense plant directors wrote to Yeltsin
asking him not to shake up the company, which has managed to find some
new customers overseas. However, changes are expected since arms exports
were overseen by Presidential Security Service Head Aleksandr Korzhakov,
who was dismissed in June. They may soon fall under the remit of
Security Council Secretary Lebed. -- Peter Rutland

ENERGY PRICES TO RISE. The government on 29 August discussed measures to
avert an energy crisis this winter, which will include a doubling of
electricity prices from 1 October, ORT and NTV reported. The issue is
relatively urgent because the cities of the Far North must be supplied
with stocks of coal and oil before winter sets in. Aleksandr
Yevtushenko, the first deputy minister of fuel and energy, said that the
non-payments crisis in the electricity sector "has the country by the
throat," and demanded assistance from the Finance Ministry. First Deputy
Finance Minister Andrei Petrov said "non-traditional" and off-budget
sources of additional funding would have to be found--given the
government's pledge to the IMF to reduce the budget deficit. Meanwhile,
in Primorskii Krai residents are facing power cuts of two hours per day,
and Dalenergo has instructed all industrial customers to cut power usage
by 40%. -- Peter Rutland

BANKS FREEZE COMPANIES' PAYMENTS. Commercial banks froze some 11.5
trillion rubles ($2.2 billion at the current exchange rate) of
companies' money earmarked for payments to other organizations as of
mid-August, Segodnya reported on 29 August, citing the Federal Tax
Agency. Of this amount, 5.9 trillion rubles (a 63% increase over April
1996) are payments that should have gone to the consolidated budget and
non-budgetary funds. The largest proportion of frozen payments were
recorded in Moscow (2.5 trillion rubles) and Moscow Oblast (1.9 trillion
rubles). The tax agency has announced that it will send special
commissions to these banks, whose aim will be to recover the frozen
money and transfer it to the budget and non-budgetary funds. -- Natalia
Gurushina

RUSSIA TO CLOSE 35 TRADE REPRESENTATIVE OFFICES ABROAD. The Russian
government has announced that it will close Russia's trade
representative offices in 35 countries including Singapore, Switzerland,
Australia, and South Africa, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 August. Budget
constraints and the current state of trade relations with these
countries are the major reasons cited for the move. Meanwhile, the State
Epidemiological Service has announced that 9% (1,840 metric tons) of
food stuffs imported into Russia in the first half of 1996 were either
of low quality or had passed the expiration date for freshness. --
Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

CONFUSION OVER GERMAN STANCE ON NAGORNO-KARABAKH. The German Embassy in
Yerevan on 28 August condemned what it described as the
misinterpretation of statements made by Germany's OSCE Minsk Group
representative, Ambassador Frank Lambach, during an early August meeting
with Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev in Baku, Noyan Tapan reported on
29 August. On 23 August, the Information Department of the self-
proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh (RNK) accused Lambach of
exhibiting pro-Azerbaijani bias in statements he had made about the
possible future status of the RNK. The German Embassy said that
Lambach's words had been misquoted and "had evoked fair criticism" from
Armenia, according to Noyan Tapan. Meanwhile, Gerard Liparitian, special
adviser to Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan, met this week in
Germany with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Vafa Gulu-zade, to discuss the
Karabakh issue before flying to Ankara for a two-day working visit. --
Liz Fuller

KARIMOV ON HUMAN RIGHTS, OPPOSITION. Speaking to parliament on 29
August, Uzbek President Islam Karimov said his government is committed
to boosting cooperation with international human rights organizations,
Reuters reported the same day. In the speech that marked the country's
fifth year of independence, Karimov praised the republic's political
stability and added that there is a need for political "alternatives" as
long as they are "constructive." -- Lowell Bezanis

BORDER GUARD OFFICERS CONFER. Senior border guard officers from
Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Russia agreed in
Moscow on 29 August to take "additional measures" to defend the Tajik-
Afghan border, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. Russia appears to be
strengthening the hand of its border troops in Tajikistan in order to
face down some 1,000 armed Tajik rebels who are reportedly ready to
enter Tajikistan from Afghanistan. The presidents of Kyrgyzstan and
Kazakstan have both voiced their concern over the increase in tension
along the border and have called on the Tajik government and opposition
to resolve the conflict. -- Lowell Bezanis

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez

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            Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc.
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