The person who knows how to laugh at himself will never cease to be amused. - Shirley MacLaine
OMRI DAILY DIGEST</head>

No. 185, Part I, 24 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

SELEZNEV: YELTSIN SHOULD STEP DOWN IF OPERATION IS CANCELED. Duma
Speaker Gennadii Seleznev argued that President Boris Yeltsin should
step down if doctors refuse to perform bypass surgery, since Russia
cannot afford to have its president adopt an "easy work schedule,"
Russian and Western agencies reported on 23 September. Article 92 of the
Constitution stipulates that the president must step down if he becomes
persistently unable to fulfill his duties but outlines no procedure for
evaluating the president's abilities. Also on 23 September, while
visiting the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, Communist Party leader
Gennadii Zyuganov told Reuters that the Kremlin had committed
"falsification" by not informing voters before the second round of the
presidential election that Yeltsin was having serious heart trouble. --
Laura Belin

KREMLIN DENOUNCES ARTICLE ON YELTSIN'S HEALTH. Presidential spokesman
Sergei Yastrzhembskii denounced an article which appeared in the
Financial Times that claimed Yeltsin is so sick that he can work only 15
minutes a day and is unable to sign documents, Russian Public TV
reported on 23 September. Yastrzhembskii said that the article was full
of incorrect information and wondered why the paper would print a report
that caused the price of Russian debt to drop on the London exchange.
The Russian press widely reported the arrival of American surgeon
Michael DeBakey, who will participate in the 25 September meeting to
determine when Yeltsin's operation will take place. DeBakey said that
the doctors would not operate if there was a great risk to Yeltsin or if
surgery would not improve his condition. -- Robert Orttung

CHAOS IN GROZNY. An NTV correspondent in Grozny described the current
situation there as "destruction and chaos." The former fear of aerial
attack has been replaced by a fear of marauders and thieves. Although
Deputy Minister for Internal Affairs Valerii Fedorov announced that
Russian law rather than Islamic law would prevail, there are no police,
courts, or prisons. The united law enforcement agencies set up following
the Lebed-Maskhadov accords have about 500 members, ITAR-TASS reported.
These men are operating check points, removing explosive devices, and
escorting troop columns. -- Robert Orttung

YANDARBIEV ADDRESSES CHECHENS. Acting Chechen President Zelimkhan
Yandarbiev was hospitalized at an undisclosed location early on 23
September for food poisoning. In an evening broadcast, however, he
looked healthy, ITAR-TASS reported. He called on the residents of his
republic to seek national agreement, since "it will be practically
impossible to build an independent state in Chechnya without mutual
forgiveness and understanding." He said it was acceptable to form an
unarmed opposition to the authorities, but not an unarmed or armed
opposition to one's own people. He stressed that the new criminal code
he introduced on 12 September remained in effect throughout the
republic, except in the parts of Grozny under joint Russian-Chechen
patrols. School children will study Arabic and the basics of Islam, but
the state languages will remain Chechen and Russian. -- Robert Orttung

COUNCIL OF EUROPE POSTPONES CHECHNYA HEARING. In the absence of Security
Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed and Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan
Maskhadov, the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly on 23
September postponed its hearing on the Chechen conflict until at least
November. Russia had objected to the session, arguing that Chechnya was
an internal problem. However, members warned that the assembly should
not be intimidated by Russia and argued that Chechnya is "Europe's
problem," RFE/RL reported. The chairwoman of the assembly, Leni Fisher,
expressed dismay at the political games in Moscow surrounding the
session, NTV reported. A lower ranking Chechen group, including the
rebels' designated foreign minister Ruslan Chimaev, attended the
Strasbourg session, as did Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov,
Yabloko's Vladimir Lukin, and Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir
Zhirinovsky, Reuters and NTV reported. -- Robert Orttung

GAIDAR CALLS FOR LIBERAL COALITION. Russia's Democratic Choice (DVR)
leader Yegor Gaidar said that his party resolved at its 21 September
congress to make "presenting a liberal alternative to the status quo"
its new primary objective, ITAR-TASS and Radio Rossii reported on 23
September. In the past, Gaidar noted, the DVR's main task had been
"preventing a Communist revanche," but now the party would focus on
changing the "corrupt" form of capitalism developing in Russia. Gaidar
said Democratic Russia, Irina Khakamada's Common Cause movement, and
Yurii Chernichenko's Peasants' Party might join a new alliance of
liberal groups. However, he said Grigorii Yavlinskii's Yabloko would not
be included, since it was more a "social-democratic" than a liberal
party. -- Laura Belin

LEBED: SANCTIONS FOR WESTERN FIRMS IF NATO EXPANDS. In an interview with
The Daily Telegraph published on 24 September, Security Council
Secretary Aleksandr Lebed threatened to impose economic sanctions
against American and German firms operating in Russia if NATO expands
eastwards. He told the British paper that "we will find ways to hit the
proponents of this policy where it hurts," warning that "German and
American interests in Russia will suffer directly as a result of
enlargement plans." Lebed, who has expressed contradictory opinions
about NATO enlargement in the past, argued that NATO expansion could be
seen as an attempt by Germany to establish a "Fourth Reich," contending
that German policy on the issue appears "sinister" to "foreign
observers." Lebed, who has never visited the West, is slated to visit
NATO headquarters to discuss the issue on 7-8 October. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA, U.S. ISSUE JOINT DECLARATION ON ABM TREATY. Meeting in New York,
Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov and his American counterpart
Warren Christopher issued a joint declaration partially clarifying the
terms of the 1972 ABM treaty, Western and Russian agencies reported on
23 September. Ongoing talks seek agreement on the technical parameters
defining which missile systems are prohibited by the treaty and which
permitted. The declaration confirms a June agreement by Russian and
American negotiators, under which missile defense systems with
interceptor velocities under 3 km/second will be regarded as "tactical"
and hence permitted under the treaty. A second phase of the talks,
scheduled to open on 7 October will discuss how to treat systems with
higher interceptor velocities. The two diplomats also discussed NATO
expansion, the former Yugoslovia, and the situation in Iraq, but failed
to resolve outstanding differences on these subjects. -- Scott Parrish

ROKHLIN AGAINST START-II RATIFICATION. The State Duma is unlikely to
ratify the START-II nuclear arms reduction treaty, according to Lev
Rokhlin, the chairman of the Duma's defense committee. He told ITAR-TASS
on 23 September that signing the treaty was "a serious unilateral
concession to the West" on Russia's part and implementing it would mean
"betraying the national interests of Russia." Under Russian law, a
majority of the members of both houses of the Federal Assembly must vote
for ratification if the treaty is to be approved. -- Doug Clarke

ST. PETERSBURG-LENINGRAD OBLAST MAY MERGE. St. Petersburg Mayor Vladimir
Yakovlev and Leningrad Oblast Governor Aleksandr Belyakov initialed an
agreement on 22 September on the gradual unification of the city and
oblast into a single administrative unit, Radio Rossii reported. The
agreement will be discussed by the city and oblast legislatures, and the
final decision on the projected merger will be made by a popular
referendum. -- Penny Morvant

STRIKES SPREAD IN ENERGY SECTOR... As a strike and hunger strike by
energy workers in Primorskii Krai continued on 23 September, a strike
committee representative threatened acts of civil disobedience if wages
are not soon paid, ORT reported. Seven hunger strikers who have been
without food for three weeks are said to be in a serious condition.
Blaming the energy crisis on the coal company Rosugol and Russia's Joint
Energy System, Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko contended
that many regions have similar problems but their leaders conceal their
difficulties for fear of the central authorities. In Sakha (Yakutiya),
6,000 power workers went on strike over wage arrears; one of
Yakutenergo's largest debtors is Diamonds of Russia-Sakha, which owes
400 billion rubles. In Kamchatka, the local power company has asked the
oblast governor to declare a state of emergency in the sector because of
payments problems. -- Penny Morvant

...AND DEFENSE INDUSTRY. Workers at the Zvezda nuclear submarine
maintenance plant in Bolshoi Kamen in Primore staged a one-day strike on
23 September to protest wage arrears, ORT reported. A similar stoppage
took place the same day at a nuclear submarine plant at Severodvinsk
near Arkhangelsk. The enterprise is owed about 1 trillion rubles for
state orders and is unable to pay wages or taxes, ITAR-TASS reported.
The tax shortfall means that  social services for the city's 250,000
residents have also been badly affected. -- Penny Morvant

IMF SATISFIED WITH RUSSIA'S ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE. IMF experts visiting
Moscow on a working mission to monitor Russia's adherence to the
conditions of a $10.1 billion extended facility fund were satisfied with
the country's economic performance, Segodnya reported on 21 September.
The budget deficit was only 2.2% of GDP (according to Russian
calculating procedures) and the rate of inflation almost hit zero in
August. The IMF hailed the government's efforts to boost tax revenue,
which peaked at 20 trillion rubles ($3.7 billion) in August. The
disbursement of July's tranche of the loan was delayed due to
insufficient tax collection in the first half of the year. The IMF group
was also satisfied with the state of Russia's net domestic assets and
net foreign exchange reserves, which did not overshoot the target
levels. -- Natalia Gurushina

LEBED SEEKS ROLE IN LOANS-FOR-SHARES AUCTIONS. President Yeltsin has
instructed Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed and Prime Minister
Viktor Chernomyrdin to work together on the issue of loans-for-shares
auctions and to report on a draft decision by 1 October, Kommersant-
Daily reported on 21 September. Yeltsin's instruction is in response to
a request by Lebed and  Sergei Glazev,  the head of the Security
Council's administration of economic security, to put off the deadline
for such sales. Lebed also suggested that the shares be sold in 10-15%
packages, following  international tender rules. Lebed's proposals
concern not only the sale of shares but the whole loans-for-share system
and related investigation of banking activities. The government,
criticizing the draft resolution of the Security Council, is preparing
its own version, which does not change the sales deadline. -- Ritsuko
Sasaki

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

ARMENIAN ELECTION RESULTS IN DISPUTE. The outcome of Armenia's
presidential election appears unclear in the face of contradictory
figures emanating from the Central Election Commission, claims and
counter-claims of victory made by rival sides, and charges of ballot
rigging, international media reported on 23 September. Incumbent
President Levon Ter-Petrossyan claimed victory on the basis of
incomplete results which gave him 56.9% of the vote to 35.6% for his
chief rival, Vazgen Manukyan. Manukyan and his supporters claim that
these figures are the reverse of the truth. Between 25,000 and 100,000
people, according to varying estimates, joined an opposition rally in
Yerevan on 23 September and marched on the Central Election Commission
building to demand Ter-Petrossyan's resignation. The New York Times,
citing an unnamed "senior election monitor," reported on 24 September
that "a lot of clear and blatant fraud" occurred during the balloting.
-- Lowell Bezanis

IDA LOAN TO AZERBAIJAN. The World Bank's International Development
Association has approved a credit of some $20 million to rehabilitate
and improve Azerbaijan's gas delivery system, RFE/RL reported on 23
September. The credit will be given to the government of Azerbaijan
which, in turn, will lend it to Azerigas to upgrade the gas system's
analytical equipment and improve its corporate management. The bank had
identified Azerbaijan as the country most dependent upon natural gas in
the world. The present distribution system loses or is unable to account
for an estimated 20% of its inputs. -- Lowell Bezanis

RUSSIAN JOURNALIST IN TROUBLE OVER SECRET LETTER. The publication of a
letter allegedly sent by Kazakstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev to
his Uzbek counterpart Islam Karimov (see OMRI Daily Digest, 23 September
1996) has been traced back to a Russian journalist working for
Izvestiya, NTV reported on 23 September. The report quoted Kazakstani
media as saying Nazarbayev has promised to expel the journalist,
Vladimir Ardiev. The letter reportedly referred to Kazakstan's
disenchantment with the customs union of Russia, Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan,
and Belarus. Nazarbayev denies any such letter was ever sent and called
reports of it "provocation." NTV noted the letter was first reported by
RFE/RL and later obtained by at least four other agencies, but that only
the Izvestiya reporter was facing trouble on account of it. -- Bruce
Pannier and Merhat Sharipzhan

TAJIK DIPLOMAT EXPELLED FROM IRAN. The Iranian government on 23
September told the Tajik Charge d'Affaires in Tehran, Tashmet Nazirov,
to leave the country within 24 hours, AFP reported. The reason given for
the expulsion was "activities incompatible" with Nazirov's diplomatic
status. The move by the Iranians is seen as retaliation for the 20
September arrest and expulsion of an unnamed Iranian diplomat in
Dushanbe, who was accused of committing unspecified "hostile acts." --
Bruce Pannier

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Steve Kettle

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