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OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 175, Part I, 10 September 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

YELTSIN DISCUSSES HEALTH ISSUE. In an interview with Itogi magazine,
President Boris Yeltsin said that he broke the Kremlin tradition of
secrecy to announce his upcoming operation because "the duty of the
president is to make sure that every voter lives with the firm belief
that the country is in reliable and strong hands." Yeltsin said he is
suffering from ischemia, as many had speculated, and that the campaign
traveling took a heavy toll on him. Kommersant-Daily on 10 September
commented that the Russian media has reversed its past policy of hiding
details about the leader's health and is now full of medical minutiae
about the president's condition and the procedures he faces. The paper
pointed out that the main risk is not the operation itself but that
Yeltsin's general state of health (his liver, for example) may be too
poor to ensure safe recovery. -- Robert Orttung

CHERNOMYRDIN TO OVERSEE POWER MINISTRIES DURING YELTSIN ABSENCE.
President Yeltsin informed the power ministers that they will be
subordinate to Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin during the president's
vacation, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 September. Yeltsin, however, will
maintain control of the "nuclear button," press secretary Sergei
Yastrzhembskii announced. This is separate from the question of who will
rule the country after Yeltsin's operation at the end of this month.
Additionally, Yeltsin asked Cherno-myrdin to examine all expenditures
made by the power ministries and suggest ways to improve the structure
of the Defense Ministry and other ministries that control military
units. Yeltsin plans to restructure the ministries and their spending on
the basis of Cherno-myrdin's findings. -- Robert Orttung

LEBED, CHERNOMYRDIN EXAMINE ACCORDS' STATUS. Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin and Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed on 9
September examined a Justice Ministry study on the legal standing of
Lebed's agreements with the Chechen forces, NTV reported. The vice
president of the National Association of International Law, Oleg
Khlestov, and a group of independent experts conducted the study. There
was no information available on the report or the discussion between
Chernomyrdin and Lebed. After their last meeting, the two men's press
services produced contradictory accounts of the discussion, Russian TV
(RTR) reported. Chernomyrdin had earlier said that the documents were
political and lacked "juridical standing." -- Robert Orttung

SHAKY PEACE STILL HOLDS IN CHECHNYA. Over the night of 8-9 September,
federal troops came under fire in several locations, and one Interior
Ministry soldier was killed on Monday, Russian Public TV (ORT) and NTV
reported. A federal column en route to the Russian headquarters at
Khankala was halted on 9 September by a Chechen checkpoint at Petro-
pavlovskoe. The Chechens wanted to search the trucks for stolen
property, while the Russians argued that the convoy had been approved in
advance by the unified command. The column was eventually allowed to
proceed. Ekho Moskvy on 9 September reported tension on the border with
Dagestan following a raid by Chechens, who seized hostages and property.
-- Peter Rutland

LEBED TO ADDRESS COUNCIL OF EUROPE. The Council of Europe announced on 9
September that Security Council Secretary Lebed will travel to
Strasbourg on 23 September with Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Mas-khadov
to discuss their peace agreement, Reuters reported. When Russia joined
the Council of Europe in February of this year it promised to seek a
political solution to the Chechen crisis. Lebed's peace is still
regarded skeptically by most members of the Russian political elite. By
entering the international political arena, Lebed could boost his
political prestige, but may also provide more ammunition to those who
accuse him of betraying Russia to advance his career. Several
commentators had already cynically remarked that Lebed was angling for
the Nobel Peace Prize. -- Peter Rutland

CHERNOMYRDIN CONSOLIDATES POWER OVER ECONOMIC DECISION-MAKING. The
Russian press has generally remained silent about Prime Minister
Chernomyrdin's announcement that his government will no longer hold
weekly meetings, according to Vek on 6-12 September. From now on, the
Operational Headquarters for Urgent Measures to Stabilize the Economic
Situation, headed by Chernomyrdin and subordinate exclusively to him,
will resolve all urgent economic management issues. Thus, the article
argues, Chernomyrdin has assumed complete responsibility for the
country's economic development and excluded many cabinet members from
taking part in the decision-making process. At the same time,
presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais has consolidated his
control over the presidential administration and Security Council
Secretary Lebed is trying to exercise greater control over economic
policy. -- Robert Orttung

TULEEV ON HIS NEW POST. Aman Tuleev, the new minister for cooperation
with CIS states and the only communist supporter in the government, said
on 9 September that he had agreed to accept the post because of the
essential similarity between the attitudes of President Yeltsin and
Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov on CIS integration, NTV reported. He
added that he maintains good relations with Zyuganov and is backed by
the leftist opposition. Tuleev said that the CIS republics owe Russia
$5.8 billion and that his ministry is working on possible ways of
securing payment through nonmonetary means such as property and
securities,  ORT reported. Ko-mmersant-Daily noted that Tuleev has
agreed to coordinate actions against drug trafficking and other crime
within the CIS with Lebed's deputy at the Security Council, Sergei
Glazev, and suggested that a Lebed-Tuleev axis could be forming within
the Moscow power structure. -- Penny Morvant

ORENBURG ELECTS MAYOR WITH NO CHALLENGERS. Orenburg Mayor Gennadii
Domkovtsev, the sole candidate in the regional election, was re-elected
on 8 September with a turnout of 26%, Radio Rossii reported. His two
opponents withdrew before the election, complaining about malicious
attacks against them in the press and the fact that they had not been
paid money owed them for campaign expenses. Although Russian law states
that more than one candidate must contend an election for it to be
considered valid, the local electoral commission ruled that the
condition must only be filled at the registration stage. The
commission's ruling could set an undemocratic precedent for future local
elections. Central Electoral Commission Chairman Nikolai Ryabov declared
Kalmyk President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov's unopposed re-election invalid in
October 1995 (see OMRI Daily Digest, 18 October 1995). However,
Ilyumzhinov remains in office. -- Robert Orttung

KEMEROVO GOVERNOR DECLARES STATE OF ECONOMIC EMERGENCY. Mikhail Kislyuk
has suspended all payments to the federal budget and declared a state of
economic emergency in the Kemorovo oblast, which includes the Kuzbass
coal mining basin, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 September. He said the move
was necessitated by the failure of industrial enterprises to pay their
debts and delays in the payment of wages, pensions, and other social
benefits in the region. Almost 90% of the region's industrial
enterprises rely on barter operations, while monetary transactions are
conducted outside the oblast, thereby depriving revenue from the local
budget. Kislyuk said he wanted to avoid a repeat of the Primorskii Krai
crisis. He asked for more financial help from the government to ease the
social strain in the region. -- Ritsuko Sasaki

LEBED TO HANDLE BLACK SEA FLEET NEGOTIATIONS. Russia's Security Council
announced it will handle the Black Sea Fleet issue because "Kyiv has
shown a tendency to go back on its commitments," UNIAN and ITAR-TASS
reported on 9 September. The remark was in reference to the impasse over
the status of Sevastopol. Russia has interpreted last year's Sochi
agreement allowing Russia's share of the fleet to be based in the port
as giving it sole basing rights, while Ukraine interprets the provision
as allowing Russia to use some bays for its ships but not precluding
Ukraine's use of the port. The council's press service noted that Russia
regards the Sochi accord as part of a single program of defense for its
legitimate interests in the Caspian-Black seas region. -- Ustina Markus

PRIMORSKII INDUSTRY HEADS APPEAL TO CHERNOMYRDIN. The directors of more
than 20 industrial firms in Primore appealed to Prime Minister
Chernomyrdin on 9 September to provide financial aid to the region's
fuel and energy sector, ITAR-TASS reported. They called on the
government to pay all federal debts to the krai and energy subsidies and
urged caution in the matter of raising the price of electricity to
consumers. Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko is strongly
opposed to the federal government's decision to increase electricity
prices from 1 October; on 10 September local trade unions also protested
the decision to raise tariffs. The Primorskii branch of the Russian
Coal-Workers' Union, meanwhile, issued a statement supporting the
decision of Dalenergo workers to begin an indefinite strike on 16
September. The latter are demanding back wages totaling some 125 billion
rubles (about $23.4 million) and have called for direct presidential
rule in the krai and the firing of Nazdratenko. -- Penny Morvant

MISSILE EXPLODES IN FAR EAST. Two Russian soldiers were killed on 8
September when the warhead of a short-range missile they were tampering
with exploded near Komsomolsk-na Amure, ITAR-TASS reported on 10
September. According to unconfirmed reports, the soldiers were
attempting to dismantle it in order to steal precious metals. -- Penny
Morvant

CONSOLIDATED BUDGET IN THE FIRST HALF OF 1996. In the first half of
1996, the revenue for federal and regional budgets combined totaled 237
trillion rubles ($44 billion) and expenditures 293 trillion rubles,
leaving a deficit of 59 trillion rubles, or 5.5% of GDP, Ekonomika i
zhizn (No. 36) reported. Regional budget revenue was 134 trillion rubles
or 57% of total government income, and their contribution to the deficit
was 1.5% of GDP. VAT, profit, income, and excise taxes accounted for
23%, 20%, 11%, and 6% of the consolidated budget's revenue,
respectively. The rate of tax collection is deteriorating: in the first
three weeks of August, the government managed to collect only 57% of the
expected revenue. In late August, the IMF agreed to loosen the budget
deficit target from 4% to 5.25%. -- Natalia Gurushina

COMPANY ARREARS INCREASE IN THE FIRST HALF OF 1996. Firm debts reached
400 trillion rubles ($75 billion) by the end of June, rising by 9% in
June compared to an 8% monthly increase in March through May, Ekonomika
i zhizn (No. 36) reported. Of this figure, some 86 trillion rubles are
owed to the budget, 62 trillion rubles to non-budgetary funds (such as
the Pension Fund), and 18 trillion rubles to banks. Russian companies
also owe 1.8 trillion rubles to firms in other CIS countries and the
Baltic states, while firms in those countries owe Russian enterprises
4.4 trillion rubles. -- Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

IRAN DEMANDS EXTRADITION. Iran has demanded the extradition of Piruz
Dilenji, chairman of the South Azerbaijan National Liberation Committee
(SANCL), and a number of other Iranian emigrants living in Azerbaijan,
Segodnya reported on 4 September. Iran has been pressuring Azerbaijan to
back up its declared neutrality towards the nationalist movement in
Azeri-populated northern Iran with concrete steps. Dilenji, who said
Azerbaijani officials have warned him that he may be extradited to Iran,
may have to choose between leaving Azerbaijan and halting his
activities. -- Elin Suleymanov

ARMENIANS ABROAD TO VOTE IN ELECTION. In response to opposition pressure
it has been announced that Armenians living abroad will be allowed to
vote. However, Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian said the
decision to allow Armenian citizens living abroad to vote in the 22
September presidential election is of political rather than practical
significance, Noyan Tapan reported on 9 September. According to
Khachatour Bezrijian, the chairman of the Central Electoral Committee,
about 10,000 Armenians living abroad are expected to vote, although an
estimated 800,000 Armenians are thought to be living abroad. According
to Ekspress-Khronikha on 10 September, the number is so low because only
those who registered with Armenian diplomatic missions can vote. In
Russia, for instance, there are  only 172 registered voters. Bezirijian
noted that Armenian citizens residing in Nagorno-Karabakh will have to
vote in Armenia. -- Elin Suleymanov

NIYAZOV IN FRANCE. Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov arrived in Paris
for a three days of meetings with government officials and executives of
companies interested in investing in Turkmenistan's oil and gas sector,
Western agencies reported on 9 September. French President Jacques
Chirac told Niyazov he appreciates Turkmenistan's "will to independence
and regional cooperation." The day before Niyazov's arrival, the French
Foreign Ministry announced that Paris would establish an embassy in Ash-
gabat. Several French firms--including Elf oil, Dassault aerospace,
Bouygues construction, and others--are presently operating in Turk-
menistan. -- Lowell Bezanis

DRUG SEIZURES IN GORNO-BADAKHSHAN INCREASE. About 3 metric tons of
narcotic substances, including raw opium and heroin, have been seized in
the district of Gorno-Badakhshan since early 1996, ITAR-TASS reported on
9 September. The agency, citing a top federal border guard officer in
Tajikistan, also reported that two drug processing plants (likely for
converting raw opium into morphine base) are operating in Afghan
Badakhshan at present. If true, the figures cited would represent a
significant increase on the seizures made in 1995, which totaled 1,749
kg according to a 14 August Segodnya report. -- 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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