If you are not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don't want to go there. - Martin Luther
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 200, Part I, 15 October 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
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RUSSIA

YELTSIN NAMES LEBED TO HEAD NEW COMMISSION ON CHECHNYA. President Boris
Yeltsin on 14 October approved the creation of a new 17-man commission
to conduct negotiations with the Chechen leadership, Russian media
reported. The commission is to be headed by Security Council Secretary
Aleksandr Lebed and includes the presidents of three North Caucasian
republics, Russian Nationalities Minister Vyacheslav Mikhailov, and
presidential adviser Emil Pain, according to ITAR-TASS. No details have
been released concerning the Russian members of the other joint Russian-
Chechen government commission that was announced on 3 October and is
charged with implementing the agreement signed in Khasavyurt on 31
August by Lebed and Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov. The division
of responsibilities between the two commisions is unclear. -- Liz Fuller

ZYUGANOV SAYS YELTSIN INCAPABLE OF WORK . . . Comparing Russia to a ship
"in a stormy sea without a captain," Communist Party leader Gennadii
Zyuganov charged that President Yeltsin "has not worked a day" since 17
June and will not be able to resume work again, Western agencies
reported on 14 October. Zyuganov once again demanded the creation of a
state medical commission to evaluate the health of leaders, noting that
Yeltsin was unable to work for health reasons for the better part of
five months in 1995. Zyuganov argued that extraordinary measures are
required to save Russia from total collapse and repeated calls for
forming a State Commission on which the presidential administration,
government, and parliament would all be represented, ITAR-TASS and Ekho
Moskvy reported. -- Laura Belin

. . . TV NETWORKS IGNORE OR DISMISS COMMENTS ON HEALTH. Although
Zyuganov's assertion that Yeltsin will never be able to work again made
headlines in Western news agencies, state-run Russian TV (RTR) and the
leading private network NTV ignored those comments, focusing on other
aspects of Zyuganov's press conference, as did the official ITAR-TASS
news agency. State-controlled Russian Public TV (ORT) noted toward the
end of its report that Zyuganov "yet again did not pass up the chance to
talk about the president's incapacity for work" but immediately quoted
Nizhnii Novgorod Governor Boris Nemtsov, who had earlier in the day
called the opposition's behavior regarding the president's health "un-
Christian" and "cynical." Recent television coverage has tended to
support claims by Yeltsin's aides and doctors that the president is
capable of working several hours a day. -- Laura Belin

FEDOROV TO APPEAL SACKING. Boris Fedorov said on 14 October he plans to
appeal his dismissal as president of the National Sports Fund, Russian
media reported. The foundation's board sacked him in late May after he
had been charged with possession of cocaine. Fedorov has since filed
charges against former Presidential Security Service head Aleksandr
Korzhakov for extortion and Col. Valerii Streletskii, Fedorov's
successor as fund head, for corruption. Fedorov also alleged that
Korzhakov and Streletskii might have been involved in a June attempt on
his life. Some speculate that Fedorov's disclosures are aimed against
Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed, who is supporting
Korzhakov's bid for a Duma seat in Tula. RTR quoted current fund head
Sergei Leonyuk as alleging that Fedorov was telling everybody that
presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais had called him and promised
to secure his reinstatement as fund head. -- Penny Morvant

WATCHDOGS: NO INDEPENDENT MEDIA IN PRIMORSKII KRAI. There are no
independent media in Primorskii Krai, according to experts for the
Glasnost Defense Foundation who just spent a week in the krai, ITAR-TASS
and RTR reported on 14 October. They said journalists have been fired
for criticizing the authorities and noted that most publications cannot
survive without state subsidies. Appearing at the same press conference,
a press secretary for Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko
complained that the watchdog group is biased. She admitted that local
media are politically engaged but denied that pressure from the
authorities is responsible. -- Laura Belin

RUSSIA, VENEZUELA OPPOSE U.S. EMBARGO OF CUBA. Following a Moscow
meeting with his Venezuelan counterpart, Miguel Burelli, Russian Foreign
Minister Yevgenii Primakov declared that both Moscow and Caracas oppose
the Helms-Burton law tightening the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba,
ITAR-TASS reported on 14 October. Primakov said discussions continue on
reviving a trilateral oil supply arrangement which was in effect from
1978-1990; under which Venezuela delivered oil to Cuba in return for
Russian oil deliveries to Venezuelan clients in Europe. Primakov
reiterated that Russia will "fulfill all its obligations toward Cuba,"
including completing the controversial Juragua nuclear power station.
However, Russia and Cuba have failed to find international financial
backing for the $750 million project. -- Scott Parrish

JAPANESE TRAWLER SEIZED NEAR SOUTH KURILS. The Japanese Foreign Ministry
on 14 October reiterated its demand that Russia release a Japanese
trawler and its five crew members, who were detained on 12 October by
Russian border guards on charges of poaching in Russian territorial
waters, Russian and Western agencies reported. The incident took place
about 9 km off the coast of Kunashir Island, one of the four disputed
southern Kuril islands claimed by both Russia and Japan. Multiple rounds
of ongoing bilateral talks on fishing rights in the waters around the
disputed islands have failed to reach agreement, and Russian border
patrols frequently chase Japanese trawlers out of waters claimed by
Russia. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA, LITHUANIA SIGN BORDER CONTROL AGREEMENT. Director of the Russian
Federal Border Service Andrei Nikolaev and acting Lithuanian Border
Police Director Audronis Beisys met in Kaliningrad on 14 October to sign
a protocol outlining joint measures to control the Russian-Lithuanian
border, RTR reported. The network said the protocol is the first
intergovernmental agreement on border control issues signed by the two
countries since Lithuania regained its independence in 1991, blaming
ongoing talks over the demarcation of their sea border for the delay.
Nikolaev likened the protocol to similar agreements Russia has signed
with Finland, Estonia, and Latvia, creating a "regional system of border
security" to combat illegal immigration, arms smuggling, and drug
trafficking. -- Scott Parrish

NIYAZOV IN MOSCOW. Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov arrived in
Moscow on 14 October for two days of talks with Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin and President Yeltsin on economic relations, Afghanistan,
and resource exploitation in the Caspian Sea, Russian and Western
agencies reported the same day. Niyazov and Chernomyrdin failed to come
to an agreement on Russia's estimated $500 million debt to Turkmenistan
for natural gas. The situation is complicated by the fact that Russia
controls 45% of the Turkmen-Russian joint venture Turkmenrosgaz which
enjoys sole rights to export Turkmen natural gas within the CIS.
Ashgabat hopes to export 5 billion cubic meters of gas to Russia in
1997--half the amount planned last year--and secure payment in a mixture
of hard currency (20%) and industrial goods (80%). Niyazov said views on
Afghanistan vary among CIS member-states but added that Ashgabat would
coordinate its policy with Moscow. -- Lowell Bezanis

ILYUSHIN DISCUSSES SOCIAL CRISIS. First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor
Ilyushin described Russia's current socioeconomic situation as
disastrous at a news conference on 14 October, ORT reported. He noted
that real incomes have fallen about 40% since 1991, that the pension
debt is rising by about 2 trillion rubles ($370 million) every month,
and that education, health care, and culture have received only 65%,
60%, and 30% of the funds designated to them in the budget,
respectively. According to Reuters, Ilyushin also complained that he has
little money or power to put things right. The government has drafted a
two-stage social policy program to try to raise living standards,
rationalize the labor market, and improve infrastructure. The first
phase covers the rest of 1996 and 1997, when financial resources are
limited, and the second covers the 1998-2000 period, when it is hoped
that economic growth will allow greater social spending. -- Penny
Morvant

CHUBAIS ON STRENGTHENING THE LEGAL SYSTEM. Presidential Chief of Staff
Anatolii Chubais told the Council of Judges at the Russian Academy of
Law in Moscow that President Yeltsin has instructed his administration
to find solutions to the problems facing Russia's legal system, ITAR-
TASS reported on 14 October. Chubais emphasized the importance of
strengthening the judiciary, given the current lack of laws in Russia
and the inability of the state to enforce them. Referring to the funding
problems experienced by judicial bodies, he blamed the crisis on poor
tax collection. Some local courts have ground to a halt due to a lack of
money to pay staff. Chubais promised that money obtained by the
Provisional Emergency Commission for Strengthening Tax and Budget
Discipline established recently by Yeltsin (see OMRI Daily Digest, 11
October 1996) will be used to finance the federal legal system. -- Penny
Morvant and Ritsuko Sasaki

PRIVATIZATION REVENUE IN 1996. The consolidated budget's privatization
revenue in the first nine months of 1996 reached 1.67 trillion rubles
($307 million), ITAR-TASS reported on 14 October, citing the State Tax
Agency. The collected revenue amounts to less than 1% of budget revenue
and is only 14% of the target of 12 trillion rubles for 1996. In 1995 as
a whole, privatization revenue totaled 2.4 trillion rubles, according to
Ekonomika i zhizn (no. 40). Last year's privatization target was reached
due to the launch of the controversial loans-for-shares scheme in
November 1995. Later this year, the government hopes to sell a 25% stake
in the telecom company Svyazinvest and 7.5% of the shares in the
national power grid EES Rossii. -- Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

ABKHAZIA REJECTS NEW GEORGIAN PEACE PROPOSAL. Abkhaz parliament chairman
Vladislav Ardzinba has rejected a new Georgian proposal for talks on
resolving the issue of Abkhazia's status vis-a-vis the Georgian
government in Tbilisi with the participation of Western powers,
according to an 11 October Republic of Abkhazia Radio broadcast
monitored by the BBC. UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali's envoy
to Abkhazia, Edouard Brunner, endorsed the Abkhaz proposal to hold a new
parliamentary election on 23 November, following a meeting with Ardzinba
on 10 October. The proposal has been condemned by Tbilisi. The Abkhaz
Supreme Soviet in exile in Tbilisi condemned Brunner's statement and
called on the UN to replace him, Iberia news agency reported on 12
October. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze on 14 October said he
believed that "the UN, European structures, and Russia have not yet
exhausted the possibilities for a political settlement" in Abkhazia,
ITAR-TASS reported. -- Liz Fuller

CHEVRON/SOCAR OIL SWAP IN PROGRESS. The first tanker of oil from
Kazakstan's Tengiz oil field docked at the Dyubendi terminal north of
Baku on 11 October, Turan reported. Under an agreement between
Tengizchevroil and Azerbaijan's state oil company, SOCAR, 20,000 metric
tons of oil from Kazakstan is to be transported across the Caspian Sea;
in return, SOCAR will deliver the same amount by rail to the Georgian
Black Sea port of Batumi for export. The one-time swap is intended to
test the viability of using routes to export oil from Kazakstan avoiding
Russia; if it proves successful, the Batumi route could be used to
export 1 million tons per year. Chevron President Richard Matzke arrived
in Baku on 11 October from Georgia where he held talks on this project
with President Eduard Shevardnadze and Adzhar parliament chairman Aslan
Abashidze. -- Liz Fuller

COUNCIL OF EUROPE DELEGATION VISITS ARMENIA. A three-member delegation
of the Council of Europe has concluded a visit to Armenia aimed at
assessing the post-election situation in that country, Noyan Tapan
reported on 14 October. The delegation met with Armenian President Levon
Ter-Petrossyan and his main opposition challenger, Vazgen Manukyan. The
delegates said on 11 October that they do not consider the Armenian
opposition to be "fascist." During one of his campaign speeches, Ter-
Petrossyan said Armenia would be faced with fascism if the opposition
came to power. The delegation will release its final report in November.
In other news, the OSCE's Warsaw Office for Democratic Institutions and
Human Rights told RFE/RL on 14 October that its final report on the
presidential election in Armenia "will be consistent with" its previous
statement that questioned the validity of the vote. -- Emil Danielyan

UZBEK SOM IN TROUBLE? The Uzbek Central Bank has refuted rumors that the
country's currency is unstable, Ozbekiston Ovozi reported on 12 October.
In a published statement, the bank said there is no government plan to
introduce a new currency in Uzbekistan or devalue the existing som as a
means of putting a stop to the currency's steady decline. While the som
remained stable for most of 1995 and 1996, it began to fall from its
rate of 35/$1 in the summer of 1996 to the current level of 40.50/$1.
More telling is the fact that the black market rate has jumped from
40/$1 to more than 70/$1 over the same period. Curiously, the currency
woes are taking place when Uzbekistan's economic output and foreign
investment are increasing. -- Roger Kangas

TAJIK OPPOSITION ATTACK. The United Tajik Opposition radio Voice of Free
Tajikistan reported on 12 October that its forces in the Gorno-
Badakhshsan area attacked Russian troops in the Darvoz district, killing
36 Russian border guards and capturing 15 others. The broadcast also
claimed that the opposition shot down three helicopters and seized some
ammunition. However, RTR on 14 October and Nezavisimaya gazeta on 15
October suggested that no Russian border guards have been killed and
that five opposition fighters were killed while trying to cross the
Pyanj River. -- Bruce Pannier
[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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