Treat your friends as you do your pictures, and place them in their best light. - Jennie Jerome Churchill
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 179, Part I, 16 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 HOSPITALIZED FOR TESTS. President Boris Yeltsin was hospitalized
on 14 September for tests before his heart operation, setting off
speculation that his condition may be worsening. He accepted the offer
of German Chancellor Helmut Kohl to use the advice of two top German
surgeons, Russian TV reported on 15 September. Yeltsin will hand over
control of Russia's nuclear weapons only during the time that he is
unconscious for the operation, NTV reported the same day. Also on 15
September, U.S. President Bill Clinton phoned Yeltsin to wish him well.
Nezavisimaya gazeta noted on 14 September that Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin is already de facto running the country. -- Robert Orttung

FIGHTING BREAKS OUT IN GROZNY . . . Fighting involving automatic
weapons, grenade launchers, and mortars broke out near Grozny airport
around 9 p.m. local time on 15 September, AFP reported, citing Chechen
rebel spokesman Movladi Udugov. The fighting might be an attempt to
seize the airport where Russian troops and pro-Russian Chechens are
stationed. The rebels had earlier warned the Russians to leave the area
within two days. Chechen rebels and Russian soldiers from a joint force
later quelled the fighting. The identity of the assailants remained
unknown, but ITAR-TASS speculated that they belonged to extremist groups
that want to upset the peace process. No one was killed. -- Robert
Orttung

. . . LEBED TO RETURN TO CHECHNYA. Security Council Secretary Aleksandr
Lebed will return to Chechnya on 17 September to address the problems
preventing the implementation of the 31 August peace treaty, ITAR-TASS
reported on 16 September. With the attack in Grozny and rumors of more
fighting, the situation in Chechnya is becoming increasingly unstable.
Federal troops claimed that about 200 Chechen separatist fighters are
concentrating to the east of Grozny and are preparing to attack Argun,
NTV reported on 15 September. Udugov denied this claim, ITAR-TASS
reported the same day. Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov claimed
that pro-Moscow Chechen leader Doku Zavgaev was preparing to launch an
assault to retake Grozny. Zavgaev has 7,000-8,000 troops but denied that
they were preparing for further fighting in the republic, Radio Rossii
reported on 15 September. Maskhadov told NTV's Itogi that he was ready
to fight again if the peace process collapsed. -- Robert Orttung

RUSSIAN POLICY MAKERS MEET ON CHECHNYA, REDUCE LEBED'S ROLE . . . All
the major players involved in defining Moscow's Chechen policy,
including Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed, Prime Minister
Viktor Chernomyrdin, and Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais,
met on 14 September behind closed doors. The group will meet under
Chernomyrdin's chairmanship every Saturday, ITAR-TASS reported on 16
September. The meeting supported the Lebed-Maskhadov agreements as the
basis for resolving the conflict and appointed Lebed the head of a
united commission, formed apparently by representatives from the federal
government and the separatist fighters. The commission's membership has
not yet been announced, but it will define the Kremlin's "general
political strategy in the negotiations." Lebed's responsibilities in
Chechnya will be reduced so that he can concentrate on other issues,
such as military aspects of Russia's relationship with Ukraine and
Belarus. The move to reduce Lebed's control over the resolution of the
Chechen conflict addresses the fears of Kremlin insiders that he was
playing too visible a role, giving him a platform for a future
presidential campaign. -- Robert Orttung

. . . AND EXPRESS CONCERN OVER CHECHEN GOVERNMENT FORMATION.
Participants in the 14 September meeting expressed concern that the
Chechen separatists were acting unilaterally to form the Grozny
government. They called for letting both Chernomyrdin and Chechen
opposition leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiev approve the membership of the
government. Zavgaev moderated his demands regarding the government's
formation on 15 September as he continues to lose influence in Moscow
(he was not invited to the meeting). Sources in the White House said
that Moscow would not recognize a government formed mostly of
Yandarbiev's fighters. -- Robert Orttung

SEPARATISTS HOPE TO ATTEND COUNCIL OF EUROPE'S HEARINGS ON CHECHNYA.
Ruslan Chimaev, foreign minister of the self-proclaimed Republic of
Ichkeriya, said a Chechen delegation including Chief of Staff Maskhadov
plans to attend hearings scheduled for 23 September at the Council of
Europe's Parliamentary Assembly in Strasbourg, Ekho Moskvy reported on
14 September. The council's decision to invite Maskhadov but not pro-
Moscow Chechen head of state Zavgaev has met with sharp criticism in
Russia, and State Duma deputies have threatened to boycott the hearings.
The Chechen delegation may be blocked if, as is expected, the Russian
Foreign Ministry refuses to grant Maskhadov an exit visa. Maskhadov
could travel on a Chechen passport, but France would be unlikely to
grant him an entry visa, since it does not recognize Chechnya as an
independent state. -- Laura Belin

TURKEY BARS RUSSIAN WARSHIP FROM EXERCISE. The Turkish government barred
a Russian warship from the Black Sea Fleet from participating in a NATO-
led exercise in Turkish waters because the ship was flying the old
Soviet naval ensign, NTV reported on 14 September. On 10 September,
Defense Minister Igor Rodionov had said that the fleet would not take
part in exercise Black Sea Partnership-96 because the status of the
fleet remained "undecided" and its ships still fly the flag of a
"nonexistent state, the USSR" while the fleet is being divided between
Russia and Ukraine. Admiral Petr Svyatashov, the deputy commander of the
fleet, said that the ships were ready to "raise the [Russian St.
Andrew's naval] flag at any time to ensure that Russia, Russia's navy,
is not disgraced like that again in future." -- Doug Clarke

PRIMAKOV STRESSES IMPORTANCE OF RUSSO-JAPANESE RELATIONS. Russian
Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov said on 13 September that Russia
attaches great importance to ties with Japan and gave an "on the whole
positive" appraisal of the state of relations between the two countries,
ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL reported. Speaking at a Moscow symposium marking
the 40th anniversary of the normalization of the two countries'
diplomatic relations, Primakov suggested that increased Japanese-Russian
cooperation could help stabilize the situation on the Korean peninsula
and aid the economic development of the Russian Far East. He also sought
Tokyo's support for efforts to counter "trends toward a unipolar world"
-- a reference to what Russia views as U.S. efforts at domination.
Primakov added that Russia is still committed to settling the dispute
with Japan over the Kuril Islands, despite the recent lack of progress
on the issue. -- Penny Morvant

RUTSKOI LOSES COURT APPEAL IN KURSK. The Kursk Oblast Court refused to
overturn the decision by the Kursk electoral commission not to register
former Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi as a gubernatorial candidate,
Radio Rossii reported on 14 September. Rutskoi was denied registration
because of a regional law requiring all candidates to have lived in
Kursk for the past year. However, he argued that under federal law he is
entitled to run for governor, and NTV reported that the Central
Electoral Commission has asked the Kursk authorities to repeal the
residency requirement, which it said violated the rights of voters.
Rutskoi, considered the favorite to win the election if he is
registered, will now appeal to the Supreme Court. -- Laura Belin

ENERGY WORKERS STRIKE BEGINS IN PRIMORE . . . The 16,000-strong
workforce of the Far Eastern power company Dalenergo began an indefinite
strike on 16 September to protest wage arrears and the continuing crisis
in Primorskii Krai's fuel and energy sector, ITAR-TASS reported, citing
a representative of the strike committee. About 500 workers attended a
demonstration in Vladivostok in support of the strike, but the rally was
disrupted by a market organized on the same square at the last minute.
Workers from a number of other sectors, including some defense industry
enterprises, said earlier that they would also strike. Transport
workers, however, agreed to postpone protest actions following a promise
by the krai administration to eliminate wage arrears totaling 13 billion
rubles ($2.4 million) within two months. -- Penny Morvant

. . . PRIMORSKII GOVERNOR MEETS FUEL MINISTER, CALLS FOR MORE POWERS.
Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko and newly appointed Fuel
and Energy Minister Petr Rodionov have worked out a series of measures
to deal with the energy crisis in Primore, ITAR-TASS reported on 16
September, citing the krai administration's press service. In mid-August
President Yeltsin gave Nazdratenko a month to resolve the problems
facing the krai's energy sector. The agreement has been presented to
Prime Minister Chernomyrdin for approval. Speaking on Russian TV on 13
September, Nazdratenko argued that the powers of regional governors
should be extended, saying that one of the problems he encountered was
being responsible for what goes on in the krai without having the
authority to intervene in the financial transactions of local state
companies. He also rejected media reports that he supports the
Primorskii Krai Duma's initiative to hold a referendum on confidence in
his policies on 22 September. -- Penny Morvant

DUBININ ON CURRENCY REFORM, EXCHANGE RATE. Central Bank (TsB) Chairman
Sergei Dubinin has rejected rumors that there will be a currency reform
in Russia in the near future, ITAR-TASS and Izvestiya reported on 13-14
September. He said that carrying out a currency reform will be possible
only when economic reforms have attained a critical mass and economic
growth begins. Dubinin also noted that there will be no immediate
changes in the exchange rate mechanism, and the sliding ruble corridor
will remain in place until the end of 1996. The choice of next year's
exchange rate mechanism will depend on the priorities in fiscal and
monetary policy. It is likely to be a compromise between the need to
keep inflation low and protecting the interests of exporters. -- Natalia
Gurushina

NEW HEAD OF STATE PROPERTY COMMITTEE. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin
has appointed 35-year-old Alfred Kokh as chairman of the State Property
Committee, Reuters, ITAR-TASS and Segodnya reported on 13-14 September.
As a deputy chairman of the committee, Kokh played a pivotal role in
holding the controversial loans-for-shares auctions at the end of 1995.
He is considered to be a member of the so-called Chubais team and
describes his economic beliefs as radical. Hitherto, the committee has
been headed by Yeltsin's Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais and the first
deputy head of the presidential administration, Aleksandr Kazakov.
Meanwhile, Yeltsin has appointed Deputy Economy Minister Sergei Ignatev,
another member of the Chubais team, as presidential economic aide. --
Natalia Gurushina

MOSCOW BECOMES OWNER OF ZIL. The Moscow government has acquired a
controlling interest in Zil, thus becoming the owner of one of the
largest automobile manufacturers in Russia, Russian TV reported on 14
September. Zil's production fell last year from 200,000 vehicles to only
17,000. Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov said that mistakes made during the
privatization of Zil should be corrected, ITAR-TASS reported on 12
September. The mayor appealed to Moscow citizens to buy Zil products and
support the development of the automobile giant. -- Ritsuko Sasaki

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

DATE SET FOR PRESIDENTIAL VOTE IN SOUTH OSSETIA. The South Ossetian
parliament on 13 September decided to hold a presidential election on 10
November, Russian and Western agencies reported. The Georgian government
earlier stated its opposition to a presidency being established in South
Ossetia, and Russian presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais also
expressed concern over South Ossetia's decision. -- Elin Suleymanov

DUMA COMMITTEE ON SIDOROVA CASE. The Russian State Duma's Council of
Compatriots issued a statement on the continued detention of Nina
Sidorova, president of the Russian Center in Kazakstan, ITAR-TASS
reported on 14 September. The statement claimed she was detained without
due cause and has been battered in prison. It also charged the Kazak
authorities with willful and intentional harassment of the leaders of
Kazakstan's Russian communities, and called on Moscow to link loans to
Kazakstan and the writing off of its debts to Almaty's human rights
record. -- Lowell Bezanis

THREAT OF FAMINE IN KAZAKSTAN? Leonid Solomin, head of the confederation
of independent trade unions in Kazakstan, said more than 400,000
residents of industrial towns are facing famine, AFP reported on 13
September. Solomin, like some Kazak papers recently, pointed to early
signs of famine such as the consumption of animal feed and even
fertilizer by desperate people. He identified those most stricken with
hunger as residents of Karaganda in northern Kazakstan, and the towns of
Janatas, Kentau and Tekeli in the country's south. -- Lowell Bezanis

SACKINGS FOR CORRUPTION IN KYRGYZSTAN. President Askar Akaev dismissed
the head of the state customs inspectorate and the governors of Naryn
and Issyk-Kul provinces on 12 September, Reuters reported the next day.
The three were sacked for what was termed "serious violations of
financial discipline." At the same time, Akaev dismissed the heads of
three regional administrations and severely reprimanded First Deputy
Prime Minister Abdyjapar Tagaev and Deputy Prime Minister Bekbolat
Talgarbekov. -- Lowell Bezanis

[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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