Как ни обманчива надежда, все же до конца наших дней она ведет нас легкой стезей. - Ф. Ларошфуко
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 171, Part I, 4 September 1996

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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

YELTSIN SUPPORT FOR LEBED PLAN UNCLEAR. President Boris Yeltsin has not
publicly announced his opinion on Security Council Secretary Aleksandr
Lebed's peace plan for Chechnya while his subordinates are giving
conflicting accounts of his views. During his trip to the North Caucasus
republic of Kabardino-Balkariya on 3 September, Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin announced that Yeltsin supported the plan, ITAR-TASS
reported. Chernomyrdin had said earlier that he supported the agreement
as well. However, Lebed himself said that Yeltsin had been silent about
the idea of deferring the question of Chechen independence for five
years but that "silence meant approval," Izvestiya reported on 4
September. Lebed said that he is in constant touch with the president
through notes or by telephone but added that "open support from the
president would not hurt." -- Robert Orttung

LEBED: 80,000 DEAD IN CHECHNYA, CURRENT PLAN IS SIMILAR TO BREST-
LITOVSK. Security Council Secretary Lebed on 3 September said that
80,000 people, plus or minus 10,000, had been killed in Chechnya, NTV
reported. He compared his deal with Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan
Maskhadov to the Brest-Litovsk peace treaty in which the Bolsheviks gave
up considerable land to win peace from the Central Powers in 1918.
Despite this comparison, however, Lebed said the integrity of Russia
should be maintained, noting that his plan leaves five years to work out
the "nuances" of the issue. Lebed avoided discussing the issue of how to
disarm the separatist fighters and reconstruct the republic. He rejected
speculation in the Russian media that the plan is part of his bid for
the presidency, although he claimed that he and Chernomyrdin would play
the main role in the peace process. -- Robert Orttung

CHERNOMYRDIN ADMITS MISTAKES IN CHECHNYA. Speaking in Kabardino-
Balkariya, Prime Minister Chernomyrdin admitted for the first time that
Moscow had made mistakes in Chechnya, NTV reported on 3 September. He
said that "we must speak of our shame for everything that has happened."
Chernomyrdin supported the idea of a referendum, saying that the Chechen
people could decide themselves whether they should be independent in
five years. He noted that the Chechen separatists are not the only
opponents of the government's peace plan but refused to name anyone. --
Robert Orttung

ZYUGANOV CRITICIZES LEBED ACCORDS . . . Communist Party leader Gennadii
Zyuganov has denounced the Lebed-Maskhadov peace agreement as
unconstitutional and a threat to Russia's territorial integrity, Russian
media reported on 3 September. At the same time, Zyuganov inexplicably
said the Communists "welcomed" a peaceful resolution of the crisis. He
also called on the parliament's upper house, the Federation Council, to
hold a special debate on Lebed's authority on the Chechen issue, Radio
Rossii reported. Zyuganov is not a member of the largely pro-government
Federation Council, but his party and left-wing allies have a working
majority in the lower house, the State Duma. The Duma seems unlikely to
convene a special session to discuss Chechnya, and a Duma spokesman told
ITAR-TASS that the deputies are not drafting an official statement on
the Lebed-Maskhadov agreement. -- Laura Belin

. . . AS DO "PATRIOTS." Also on 3 September, Duma Deputy Speaker Sergei
Baburin, leader of the nationalist Russian Public Union, hosted a press
conference of politicians on
the "patriotic" wing of the Russian spectrum to denounce the Lebed-
Maskhadov agreement, Kommersant-Daily reported the next day. Baburin
warned that the document threatened the Russian constitution by making
its provisions "arguable." Chechen rebels, he added, would soon force
Chechnya's total separation from Russia, increase their numbers and
launch an attack deep into Russian territory. In addition, Baburin
claimed that the shattered Chechen economy would become a "black hole"
through which criminals will pump oil, narcotics, and ill-gotten
capital. Doku Zavgaev, the pro-Moscow Chechen head of state, attended
the press conference and said he agreed with Baburin's every word. --
Laura Belin

MORE REACTION TO U.S. MISSILE ATTACKS AGAINST IRAQ. An official Russian
government statement called the U.S. cruise missile attacks against Iraq
an "inappropriate and unacceptable reaction" to recent events and called
for halting military operations that threaten Iraq's "sovereignty and
territorial integrity," Russian and Western agencies reported on 3
September. Speaking from Switzerland, Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov
linked the strikes to U.S. President Bill Clinton's re-election
campaign, an interpretation shared by Duma Foreign Affairs Committee
Chairman Vladimir Lukin, along with Izvestiya and the official newspaper
Rossiiskaya gazeta in their 4 September editions. U.S. State Department
spokesman Nicholas Burns said the Russians were "not surprised" by the
strikes, and the U.S. embassy in Moscow said Washington is carrying out
"intensive consultations" with the Russian government on the matter. --
Laura Belin

CASE OF MURDERED JUDGE HIGHLIGHTS UNDERFUNDING OF JUDICIARY. A Moscow
street vendor stabbed to death a judge at the Ostankino municipal court
in Moscow after he was fined just 37,950 rubles ($7) for trading
illegally, Kommersant-Daily reported on 31 August. On 30 August, the day
after Judge Olga Lavrenteva had ordered that vendor Valerii Ivankov's
goods be confiscated, the latter returned to the court building and
stabbed Lavrenteva repeatedly. Court personnel, many of whom are women,
are routinely threatened, and security is minimal owing to a lack of
funding. They were dealt another blow by President Yeltsin's 18 August
austerity decree, which among other provisions suspends implementation
of a law on social protection for judges and court officials in an
attempt to reduce the budget deficit. -- Penny Morvant

PAYMENTS CRISIS PROVOKES MORE LABOR DISPUTES, POWER CUTS. About 70
workers at the troubled Primorskii power plant at Luchegorsk began a new
hunger strike on 3 September to protest the Russian energy company's
failure to adhere to the promised timetable for repaying wage arrears,
ITAR-TASS reported on 4 September. Following an 11-day hunger strike a
month ago, workers were promised that arrears for May and June would be
paid by 30 August. Also in Primore, continuing shortages of fuel oil
because of the power plants' inability to pay suppliers are leading to
new electricity cuts to consumers. ITAR-TASS reported that beginning on
2 September some areas were suffering cuts of up to 16 hours a day.
Meanwhile, 500 building workers at the Severomuisk tunnel on the Trans-
Siberian railway are continuing a 17-day strike to protest arrears
totaling 14 billion rubles ($2.6 million). Only 695 meters of the 15 km
tunnel remains to be built. -- Penny Morvant

BANK CRISIS "IMPOSSIBLE." Petr Aven, president of Alfa Bank, told a
seminar at the Carnegie Endowment on 3 September that a bank crisis of
the sort experienced in August 1995 "cannot now happen." Banks are no
longer heavily dependent on inter-bank overnight loans. Mikhail
Dmitriev, from the Carnegie Endowment, said bad loans to clients are not
likely to trigger a crisis either, since they amount to only 1% of total
assets. This is partly because bank lending to clients is still very
low. Dmitriev stressed that bank balance sheets are extremely unreliable
and do not reflect their real asset structure. The main reason why a
sudden crash of the banking system is unlikely is that the banking
system per se is weakly developed. Most banks still depend on state
business--and the state has made it clear that it will bail out the
larger banks. -- Peter Rutland in Moscow

TOP 200 RUSSIAN COMPANIES. Ekspert on 2 September carried a rating of
the top 200 companies in Russia. The Unified Energy System topped the
list, with sales of $36.5 billion in 1995 and pre-tax profits of $4.3
billion. Gazprom was next, with $27 billion sales and $3.2 billion
profits. If these companies were included on the list of top U.S. firms,
they would rank 15th and 25th respectively. The remaining companies in
the top 20 were all raw material producers (oil, metal, and diamonds),
except for two car producers--AvtoVAZ and GAZ. The top 20 firms alone
account for 56% of Russia's industrial production and employ 3.4 million
of its 17 million industrial workers. -- Peter Rutland in Moscow

NEW CHAIRMAN OF VNESHEKONOMBANK APPOINTED. The Observation Council of
Vneshekonombank has dismissed the bank's chairman, Yurii Poletaev, and
appointed Russia's executive director of the IMF, Dmitrii Tulin, to
replace him, Kommersant-Daily and Finansovye izvestiya reported on 3
September. Observation Council head Sergei Dubinin, who is also the
chairman of the Central Bank, said Poletaev was dismissed because "new
tasks require new people." Tulin, with a background in security and
currency operations, is well suited to oversee the bank's new policy
priorities, such as the development of depository operations and trade
in precious metals. However, Poletaev's dismissal may be related to the
scandal surrounding the theft of Finance Ministry currency bonds
deposited in Vneshekonombank. -- Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

ELECTIONS SCHEDULED IN NAGORNO-KARABAKH . . . At a session marking the
fifth anniversary of the Republic of Nagorno Karabakh's (RNK) unilateral
declaration of independence from Azerbaijan, the RNK parliament voted to
hold a presidential election on 24 November 1996, according to a 30
August Armenian Radio report monitored by the BBC. The current RNK
president, Robert Kocharyan, was elected in 1994; his term expires in
December 1996. Under the terms of the Law on Presidential Elections
passed by the RNK parliament in May 1996, the new president will be
elected for five years; presidential candidates must collect a minimum
of 1,500 signatures in their support from residents of at least four of
the six raions of the RNK. -- Liz Fuller

. . . AND ABKHAZIA. The president of Abkhazia, Vladislav Ardzinba, has
scheduled a parliamentary election for 23 November 1996, according to a
31 August Republic of Abkhazia Radio report monitored by the BBC. The
existing Abkhaz parliament, elected in early 1992, split during the
civil war of 1992-1993; the Georgian deputies fled to Tbilisi where they
set up an exile parliament. -- Liz Fuller

PEACEFUL SOLUTION FOR KARABAKH SOON? Azerbaijani presidential adviser
Vafa Guluzade believes that a peaceful solution can be found to the
Nagorno-Karabakh problem following a meeting in Frankfurt with his
Armenian counterpart, Jirair Liparitian, Turan reported on 30 August.
Guluzade said that Armenian authorities are eager to resolve the
conflict due to economic difficulties in their country and because they
have realized that Nagorno-Karabakh cannot be annexed and that no
country will recognize the enclave's independence. In Ankara, Liparitian
said that a new draft agreement proposed by the Armenian side should
satisfy Azerbaijan. -- Elin Suleymanov

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT UNVEILS PRE-ELECTION PLATFORM. Levon Ter-Petrossyan
has unveiled his election platform for Armenia's 22 September
presidential vote, Noyan Tapan reported on 3 September. The president's
priorities include the further development of democratic institutions, a
continuation of the fight against crime and corruption in government and
law enforcement agencies, and a strengthening of the army and
intelligence services. He also pledged to continue free-market reforms
while improving living conditions through the permanent growth of wages
and the creation of a system of social security. He said a balanced
foreign policy will be directed at increasing cooperation with Russia,
Georgia, and Iran and at looking for ways to settle problems with
Azerbaijan and Turkey. Ter-Petrossyan said he will seek a compromise
solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and would like to improve
relations with Armenia's diaspora. -- Elin Suleymanov

GEORGIA REITERATES CLAIM TO PART OF BLACK SEA FLEET. Georgian Foreign
Minister Irakli Menagharishvili on 3 September said that during his
recent visit to Kyiv he presented the Ukrainian leadership with an
official Georgian claim on part of the Black Sea Fleet, and that a
similar claim had been passed to the Russian government by Georgia's
ambassador in Moscow, Vazha Lordkipanidze, ITAR-TASS reported. In 1992,
Georgia was allocated the naval port infrastructure at Poti and
Ochamchire (in Abkhazia) plus a number of coastal patrol boats and
minesweepers; it is now demanding an unspecified number of additional
vessels to protect its naval borders. At a press conference in Tbilisi
on 21 August, Ukraine's ambassador to Georgia, Anatolii Kosyanenko, said
he saw no obstacles to Ukraine and Georgia reaching agreement on this
issue, BGI reported. -- Liz Fuller

EU PLEDGES TO HELP CENTRAL ASIAN STATES. The EU has pledged to help
Kyrgyzstan, Kazakstan, and Uzbekistan secure membership in the World
Trade Organization and to provide these countries with additional
financial and expert assistance, according to Russian and Kazakstani
media. According to a 1 September ITAR-TASS report monitored by the BBC,
the EU will provide Kyrgyzstan with an estimated $30 million up to the
year 2000 under the TACIS technical aid program, $15 million in
humanitarian aid, and $600,000 to buy medical supplies. Details on the
EU aid pledged to Kazakstan and Uzbekistan were not publicized. Kyrgyz
and Kazakstani officials discussed the aid with visiting EU external
affairs commissioner, Hans van den Broek, earlier this week. -- Lowell
Bezanis

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez

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