A man seldom thinks with more earnestness of anything than he does of his dinner. - Samuel Johnson
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 176, Part I, 11 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

POLITICAL REPRESENTATIVES MEET IN GROZNY . . . A congress of 20 Chechen
political groups, chaired by Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov, met in
Grozny on 10 September, Reuters reported. They called for the formation
of an interim coalition government under international monitoring. The
leader of the pro-Moscow Chechen government, Doku Zavgaev, said that
none of his ministers would participate in such a government. Forces
loyal to Zavgaev control the Nadterechnyi region in northern Chechnya.
Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed did not attend the Grozny
gathering. On 11 September, Lebed met with Zavgaev in Moscow, AFP
reported. The content of their discussion was not released. --  Peter
Rutland

. . . AS NEW AUTHORITIES CLAMP DOWN ON ALCOHOL. The Chechen authorities
who make up the joint command in Grozny are taking stern measures to
halt the consumption of alcohol, ITAR TASS reported on 11 September.
Traders' stocks of alcohol are being destroyed, and drunks are subject
to 40 strokes with a cane, under Islamic law (Sharia). Chechen commander
Khadid Dadaev said that in his district of Grozny up to 30 people are
punished per day. They are also trying to prevent unauthorized persons
from carrying their weapons in public, ITAR TASS reported on 10
September. The deputy commander of Grozny, Aslambek Abdul-khadzhiev,
told Chechens "to keep at home the arms which may prove of use yet."
Ilyas Sigauri, Zavgaev's culture minister who was kidnapped by rebels on
24 August, was released unharmed on 10 September. --  Peter Rutland

ZAVGAEV NOT INCLUDED IN FEDERATION COUNCIL COMMISSION ON CHECHNYA. A
closed session of the newly-created commission on Chechnya in the
Federation Council favorably assessed Security Council Secretary Lebed's
recent activities in the republic, Izvestiya reported on 11 September,
citing Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev. Pro-Moscow Chechen head
of state Doku Zavgaev, who has denounced the agreement Lebed signed with
Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov, did not join the commission "by
mutual consent," according to the Federation Council press service. The
commission includes leaders of regions in the North Caucasus, the mayors
of Moscow and St. Petersburg, and representatives from standing Council
committees on constitutional law, regional policy, defense, and
international affairs. --  Laura Belin

DETAILS ON TRANSFER OF POWER REMAIN UNCLEAR. President Boris Yeltsin's
decree on transferring control of the power ministries to Prime Minister
Viktor Chernomyrdin does not specify when the latter is to actually
assume that control, NTV reported 10 September. The presidential press
service statement also failed to explain why the decree was released to
the public days after it was signed. Publicly, Publicly, Chernomyrdin is
downplaying the transfer of powers, saying that Yeltsin will remain
president during his heart operation and recovery, and that discussions
of the issue are "artificial and tactless," ITAR-TASS reported. However
he has discussed the issue with Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii
Chubais, indicating that it is moving ahead quickly
--  Robert Orttung

KREMLIN: YELTSIN IS SIGNING HIS OWN DECREES. Presidential spokesman
Sergei Yastrzhembskii denied Security Council Secretary Aleksandr
Lebed's accusations that President Yeltsin is not signing all of his
decrees, ITAR-TASS reported 10 September. Lebed earlier charged that
Yeltsin had not signed a decree ordering him to drive the Chechen rebels
from Grozny in August (see OMRI Daily Digest , 21 August 1996). There
has been speculation in the Russian media that Chubais might have
released the decree behind Yeltsin's back in order to thwart Lebed, but
Yastrzhembskii claimed that "in most cases, the [media] do not have
reliable information on the matter." --  Robert Orttung

YELTSIN ORDERS IMPROVEMENT IN SOCIOECONOMIC SITUATION. President Yeltsin
ordered the government on 10 September to take urgent measures to
improve Russia's socioeconomic situation, Russian Public Television
(ORT) reported. He gave the cabinet and Pension Fund two weeks to draft
proposals on eliminating pension arrears, ordered the Finance Ministry
to pay off all its debts to organizations funded from the federal budget
by mid-1997, and instructed the government to improve the efficiency of
tax collection. Yeltsin handed out many social benefits before the
election but subsequently suspended many of them for lack of funds. --
Penny Morvant

JOURNALIST CRITICIZES MEDIA COVERAGE OF CHECHNYA. Although the Russian
public badly needs a thorough discussion of the Chechen conflict, the
mass media is engaged in "stifling alternative opinions," according to a
commentary by Gleb Pavlovskii in the 10 September Nezavisimaya gazeta.
The author, who views the Lebed-Maskhadov peace agreement as a dangerous
"capitulation," complained that Russian correspondents routinely ignored
the opinions of military officials opposed to the agreement in order to
build public consensus behind it. He noted that Russian journalists
refer to Chechens who do not back the rebels as "puppets" of Moscow or
"collaborators." Throughout the conflict, he charged, journalists have
claimed that official secrecy on the Russian side gave them no choice
but to relay Chechen propaganda as the "unem-bellished truth about the
war." Unfortunately, the same journalists are now "kicking" the Russian
army and federal authorities, the author concluded. --  Laura Belin

RUTSKOI DENIED REGISTRATION IN KURSK. The Kursk Electoral Commission has
rejected former Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi's application to
participate in the local gubernatorial election because he has not lived
in the oblast for the past year, Radio Rossii reported on 10 September.
Rutskoi is now taking the matter to court. Former Agriculture Minister
Aleksandr Nazarchuk was denied registration in Altai Krai for the same
reason. In St. Petersburg, however, a court overturned a similar ruling
on the candidacy of Yurii Boldyrev in that city's May gubernatorial
election. Rutskoi is the candidate of the united opposition parties and
is heavily favored to win. --  Robert Orttung

LUZHKOV DECLARES SEVASTO-POL A RUSSIAN CITY. Following Lebed's
announcement that the Security Council would take charge of Black Sea
Fleet negotiations, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov announced that Sevastopol
is a Russian city that should "not be lost or given up to anybody," Ekho
Moskvy reported on 10 September. Luzhkov had earlier described Lebed's
peace plans for Chechnya as "capitulation" and his statements now put
Lebed in a difficult position since the Ukrainians are unlikely to allow
the city to fall under exclusive Russian control. Ukrainian Foreign
Ministry spokesman Vadim Dolhanov criticized Luzhkov's statement, saying
it could only harm relations between Russia and Ukraine. He said that
such views do not reflect Moscow's official position. Ukrainian Foreign
Minister Hennadii Udovenko said Russian officials had made no claims on
Ukrainian territory during recent talks. --  Ustina Markus and Robert
Orttung

RUSSIA REACTS WITH CAUTION TO CHRISTOPHER PROPOSALS ON NATO . . . While
Russian officials welcomed U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher's
recent announcement that a list of East European countries that will be
invited to join NATO will not be released before next year, they remain
implacably opposed to NATO expansion and believe discussions on the
subject should be postponed further, according to a commentary in
Segodnya on 10 September by military analyst Pavel Felgengauer. As for
Christopher's suggestion that NATO formalize its relationship to Russia
in a new charter, Russian officials could only accept such a charter if
it would give Russia a voice equal to that of NATO members on matters of
European security. But Moscow will reject the charter if it turns out to
be only a prescription for "consultations" with Russia. --  Laura Belin

. . . BUT EXPRESSES INTEREST IN ATTENDING NATO MEETINGS. Meanwhile,
Defense Minister Igor Rodionov has agreed to attend an informal meeting
of NATO defense chiefs later this month in Norway, where NATO's plans
for eastward expansion will be discussed, ITAR-TASS reported on 10
September. On the same day, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said French
President Jacques Chirac's suggestion that Russia attend a NATO summit
in spring or summer 1997 has been met with "interest" in Moscow. --
Laura Belin

CHECHEN REPRESENTATION IN TURKEY. The Chechen Foreign Ministry is
operating out of a "prime location" on the Bosporus Strait in Istanbul,
the Suddeutsche Zeitung reported on 11 September. The officially
unrecognized office, described as the "General Representation of the
Chechen Republic of Ichkeria," has a staff of 20 people and is headed by
Deputy Prime Minister Hosh-Ahmed Nukhayev. He is in charge of some 16
other representations located in other countries, including Pakistan,
Saudi Arabia, Latvia, Germany, the U.K., and the U.S. --  Lowell Bezanis

ANOTHER STRIKE THREATENED IN PRIMORSKII KRAI. The Federation of
Independent Trade Unions of Primore has announced its intention to stage
a regional warning strike on 10 October, Radio Rossii and ORT reported
on 10 October. The strike, in protest at the federal government's
imposition of higher energy tariffs, could disrupt the Trans-Siberian
railroad and stop work in the krai's ports. A regional power workers'
strike has already been set for 16 September, but unlike the union
federation, the Dalenergo workers want higher tariffs and the
introduction of direct rule from Moscow in the krai. --  Penny Morvant

GOVERNMENT SEEKS MORE MONEY FOR PENSION FUND. The government on 10
September submitted draft legislation to the Duma envisaging a 1%
increase in most employer contributions to the Pension Fund and a larger
increase in the agricultural sector, ITAR-TASS reported. Industrial
employers currently pay 8% of their wage bill to the fund, and employees
1%. Under the draft, employees earning more than 1 million rubles ($187)
a month would also pay a higher percentage of their earnings to the fund
(up from 1% to 2-5%). The proposed changes would give the cash-strapped
fund another 9 trillion rubles in 1997. The draft Pension Fund budget
for 1997, submitted to the Duma on 31 August, envisages a 12% increase
in pensions during the year. The Duma is likely to press for a larger
rise. --  Penny Morvant

HEALTH MINISTRY OFFICIAL LAMENTS LACK OF FINANCING. Russia may soon lose
many of its clinics and medical research centers as a result of poor
financing, Health Ministry spokesman Mikhail Klimkin warned on 10
September. Klimkin said that in the first half of 1996 the 167
scientific institutions under the ministry, including 79 research
institutes and 46 central research laboratories, had only received
enough money to pay modest salaries but could not afford to purchase
equipment, ITAR-TASS reported. Klimkin said the Finance Ministry wants
to increase the number of fee-based medical services but that the
majority of the population cannot afford them. A simple operation in a
top Moscow clinic costs up to 12 million rubles ($2,200). --  Penny
Morvant

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

EMERGENCY SESSION OF AZER-BAIJANI PARLIAMENT. The Azer-baijani
parliament, the Milli Mejlis, is expected to open an extraordinary
session on 11 September amid increasing speculation that parliament
chairman Rasul Guliev is set to resign, according to international
media. RFE/RL reported on 10 September that troop movements were being
conducted in the capital, Baku. President Heidar Aliev's New Azerbaijan
Party issued a statement accusing Guliev of placing his "ambitions above
national interests and attempting to keep the economy under the control
of a small group of people." The media has been predicting the
resignation of Guliev, who is closely associated with the oil industry,
for some time. --  Elin Suleymanov

GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ NEGOTIATIONS. The Georgian-Abkhaz negotiations that
resumed in Moscow on 9 September will focus on the return of refugees, a
lifting of the economic blockade of Abkhazia, and the region's political
status within Georgia, Krasnaya zvezda reported on 11 September. Pravda-
5 quoted Georgian President Eduard Shevar-dnadze on 7 September as
saying that if Georgian refugees are not allowed to return to the Gali
region of Abkhazia before the end of 1996, he will insist on the
immediate withdrawal of the Russian peacekeeping force from the area. In
Ajaria, the Central Electoral Commission, citing a Soviet-era law, has
decided to prohibit international observers from monitoring the Ajarian
parliamentary election scheduled for the end of September, BGI reported
on 10 September. --  Elin Suleymanov

GEORGIAN-UZBEK MILITARY COOPERATION. Georgian Defense Minister Vardiko
Nadibaidze and his Uzbek counterpart, Rustam Akhme-dov, signed a package
of bilateral military agreements in Tbilisi on 10 September, Georgian
and Russian media reported the same day. The package includes an
interstate treaty on military cooperation, an intergovernmental
agreement on military and technical cooperation, another on cooperation
between the two countries' Defense ministries, and a protocol on
providing airfield and technical support and protection for aircraft
from their respective airforces, according to a 10 September Iprinda
report monitored by the BBC. The same day Akhmedov said the Uzbek
government opposes the creation of a coalition of CIS armed forces,
ITAR-TASS reported. Akhmedov suggested that such a grouping could lead
to another Cold War. --  Lowell Bezanis

CORRECTION: A sentence in an item on Azerbaijan in the 10 September
edition of OMRI Daily Digest (Vol. 2, no. 175), should have read:
"Dilenji, who said Azerbaijani officials have assured him that he would
not be extradited to Iran, may have to choose between leaving Azerbaijan
and halting his activities."

[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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