It matters if you don't just give up. - Stephen Hawking
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 201, Part I, 16 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
through OMRI's WWW pages: http://www.omri.cz/Index.html

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Inc., this 336-page yearbook provides a systematic and comprehensive
review of the most pivotal events in the 27 countries of the former
Communist bloc and former Soviet Union during 1995. Available to OMRI
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To order, please email your request to: annual@omri.cz
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RUSSIA

LEBED SLAMS RODIONOV. Defense Minister Igor Rodionov has apparently
released a plan which calls for the ranks of the airborne forces to be
reduced from 63,000 to 48,000. Senior commanders of the parachute forces
met in closed session on 15 October and condemned the proposal. Security
Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed, himself a former parachute general,
described Rodionov's directive as a "criminal document," which "actually
means the elimination of the airborne forces," NTV reported on 15
October. Lebed complained that military financing was the victim of
political fighting between unidentified groups and "politicians with
strong jaws," according to Radio Rossii. Lebed had recommended Rodionov
be appointed defense minister this summer. Last week, reports surfaced
suggesting that Rodionov had cast his lot with Chernomyrdin, forsaking
his alliance with Lebed. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski

DUMA REJECTS BUDGET. The State Duma formally rejected the 1997 draft
federal budget on 16 October by a vote of 273-83, with 12 abstentions,
ITAR-TASS reported. The Duma decided to send the budget back to the
government for reworking, rather than immediately creating a
reconciliation commission as the government hoped. The budget was
sharply criticized for failing to promote economic recovery when the
Duma debated the draft on 11 October. -- Peter Rutland

YELTSIN OPERATION WILL TAKE PLACE ON SCHEDULE. Presidential spokesman
Sergei Yastrzhembskii, speaking on NTV on 15 October, denied reports by
Ekho Moskvy that President Boris Yeltsin's operation would be delayed
because of a low hemoglobin count in his blood. One of Yeltsin's
doctors, Sergei Mironov, said on 16 October that the operation will take
place in mid-November, AFP reported. Yeltsin's surgeon Renat Akchurin is
in Houston buying equipment for the operation, ITAR-TASS reported.
Yastrzhembskii said on 15 October that Yeltsin is "seriously concerned"
about the infighting among his aides over how to resolve the Chechen
crisis and called on Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov, Security
Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed, and Prime Minster Viktor Chernomyrdin
to develop a unified policy, NTV reported. -- Robert Orttung

DUMA HOLDS CLOSED SESSION ON CHECHNYA. In a closed session of the State
Duma on 15 October, Security Council Secretary Lebed blamed five
officials for the August loss of Grozny, Russian Public TV (ORT)
reported. Lebed named Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov, , former
Interior Ministry Coordinating Center official Pavel Golubets, Lt.-Gen.
Konstantin Pulikovskii, pro-Moscow Chechen leader Doku Zavgaev, and
Zavgaev's government head Nikolai Koshman. Despite Kulikov's objections,
Lebed requested that journalists be prevented from attending the
session, NTV reported. Many deputies, including Communist Party leader
Gennadii Zyuganov, said the speeches by Lebed and Kulikov were
relatively restrained. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii claimed that
the only thing he gained from the session was a sense that the
administration is not making progress in understanding the situation,
working out a unified position, or developing a program of action. --
Robert Orttung

RIVAL CHECHENS CLASH. A Chechen separatist spokesman told ITAR-TASS that
on 14 October supporters of pro-Moscow Chechen head of state Doku
Zavgaev had taken a rebel field commander hostage in Urus Martan, and
that a successful operation had been launched to free him. Urus Martan
is the base of armed units loyal to Zavgaev, who was born there. Russian
media reported that the Chechen separatists had agreed to nominate Chief
of Staff Aslan Maskhadov as their candidate in the Chechen presidential
election to be held in January are incorrect, ITAR-TASS and NTV
reported, adding that the most likely opposition candidate is acting
President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev. -- Liz Fuller

OUR HOME IS RUSSIA SUED OVER CAMPAIGN DEBTS. Cascade International is
suing Prime Minister Chernomyrdin's bloc, Our Home Is Russia, for the $1
million it is owed for organizing the bloc's 1995 Duma election campaign
which included rock concerts and appearances by top international
models, AFP reported on 16 October, citing Moskovskii komsomolets.. The
Moscow Arbitration Court will hear the case on 23 October. Kommersant-
Daily reported on 10 October that the party is on the verge of splitting
because of disagreements between its executive committee, headed by
Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Babichev, and its Duma faction, led by
Sergei Belyaev. The executive committee accuses the Duma faction of not
keeping track of its finances, while the deputies complain that the
executive committee does not involve them in its work on the budget, the
gubernatorial elections, and the process of transforming the bloc into a
political party. -- Robert Orttung

U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY VISITS MOSCOW. William Perry arrived in Moscow on
16 October for a three-day visit in a bid to persuade the Russian
parliament to ratify the START 2 treaty, which was approved by the U.S.
Senate in January of this year. Perry told reporters on his arrival that
implementation of the treaty, which will halve the two sides' strategic
arsenals, would save money for both countries, Reuters reported. Perry
advised the Duma not to try to link START 2 ratification to NATO
expansion. The day before Perry's arrival, Russian Defense Ministry
officials were leaking reports that Russia would seek amendments to the
treaty, while Duma Foreign Affairs Committee member Vladimir Averchev
said a lack of funds would prevent the dismantling of missiles within
the established deadlines, Reuters reported. Duma Defense Committee
members fear that the treaty could push Russia's nuclear forces below
the level needed to provide a credible deterrent, ITAR-TASS reported on
16 October. -- Peter Rutland

TURKMEN PRESIDENT MEETS YELTSIN. Saparmurat Niyazov on 15 October
visited President Yeltsin at the Barvikha sanitarium, international
media reported. The conversation focused on economic issues,
particularly supplies of Turkmen gas to Russia and the development of
the Caspian Sea area. In a later meeting with Russian Foreign Minister
Yevgenii Primakov, Niyazov once again emphasized that Turkmenistan would
coordinate any action on the situation in Afghanistan with Russia but
would not stray from its policy of neutrality. -- Bruce Pannier

YELTSIN SETS UP ARTS, RELIGION COUNCILS. President Yeltsin issued a
decree on 15 October establishing a Council on Culture and the Arts
under his chairmanship, ITAR-TASS reported. The 40-member advisory
council was set up in line with a 1 July decree on increasing state
support for culture and the arts. Cultural figures have warned that
Russia's national culture is in danger because of a lack of funding and
the influx of Western popular culture. The same day, Yeltsin approved
the composition of a 32-member presidential Council on Cooperation with
Religious Associations, ITAR-TASS reported. The council will be headed
by Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais. -- Penny Morvant

CRIMES INCREASING IN MILITARY. Chief Military Procurator Valentin
Panichev said that embezzlement is a now a common occurrence in the
armed forces, with losses amounting to more than 60 billion rubles in
the first half of 1996 ($13.7 million), ITAR-TASS reported on 16
October. Criminal proceedings have begun against about 100 officers with
the rank of colonel or higher, included fifteen generals or admirals.
Panichev said 1,914 servicemen died in accidents and crimes in 1996, and
more than 4,000 were injured. -- Penny Morvant

RUSSIA SEEKS ENTRY TO WTO. Russia renewed its bid to join the World
Trade Organization in Geneva on 15 October, ITAR-TASS reported. This is
the fourth round of talks since June 1993, when Russia applied to join
GATT, the WTO's predecessor. The WTO was formed in January 1995 and now
has 123 members, accounting for 90% of world trade. Russian entry has
been delayed because of non-tariff trade barriers, distorted domestic
energy prices, and concerns over the custom service's ability to
register trade activity. China is also not a member of the WTO. -- Peter
Rutland

GOVERNMENT THREATENS LARGE DEBTORS WITH BANKRUPTCY. The head of the
State Bankruptcy Committee, Petr Mostovoi, said that bankruptcy
procedures will begin against six large firms unless they pay 1.3
trillion rubles ($240 million) of tax arrears within a week, ITAR-TASS
and Reuters reported on 15 October. The companies are the oil firms
Tatneft and Purneftegaz, the Krasnodar oil refinery, aluminum producer
Achinskii Glinozemnyi Zavod, and car manufacturers Moskvich and KamAZ
(located in Tatarstan). Mostovoi said that in the first half of 1996
these firms paid less than 10% of their annual tax obligations. Mostovoi
noted that Russia's 185 largest firms owe 12 trillion rubles to the
federal budget and more than 25 trillion rubles to local budgets. Total
budgetary arrears reached 72 trillion rubles in October. -- Natalia
Gurushina

ECONOMIC DECLINE CONTINUES. The Russian economy continued to slide in
September. In the first nine months of the year, the volume of GDP
dropped by 6%, agricultural production by 8%, and industrial output by
5% over the same period last year, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 October. The
largest fall was recorded in light industry (27%), construction
materials (25%), and machine building (14%). None of the extractive
industries reported an increase in output. The volume of domestic
investment plunged to 218 trillion rubles ($40 billion), a 17% decline
compared with the same period in 1995. -- Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

INTERNATIONAL OBSERVERS CRITICIZE ARMENIAN ELECTION. The U.S.-based
International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES), an international
election observer group, issued a report on Armenia's 22 September
presidential election, citing numerous irregularities and describing the
ballot as "flawed," Reuters reported on 15 October. IFES urged the
Armenian government to investigate the irregularities. IFES is the
second international organization after the OSCE to question the
election results. Meanwhile, Armenian presidential spokesman Levon
Zurabyan acknowledged "numerous shortcomings" in the election process
and said the authorities will "punish the guilty," Noyan Tapan reported
on 15 October. Paruyr Hayrikyan, one of the leaders of the opposition
National Accord bloc, said the opposition plans to resume its protest
rallies on 18 October, RFE/RL reported. -- Emil Danielyan

SHEVARDNADZE MEETS WITH DIRECTOR OF WORLD BANK. Meeting in Tbilisi on 15
October with the managing director of the World Bank, Peter Steck,
Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said that the World Bank's
backing for reforms in his country "guarantees political and economic
stability," ITAR-TASS reported. Steck praised the Georgian leadership's
"correct and constructive economic policy." -- Liz Fuller

NEW AZERBAIJANI OIL CONSORTIUM CREATED. Representatives of the British
company Ramco, Mobil, and Total have formed a consortium to carry out
exploratory work in the southern Caspian Sea, Turan reported on 15
October. Representatives of the three constituent companies have held
talks in Baku with Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev and the head of
Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR. -- Liz Fuller

MIXED RETURNS ON UZBEK HARVESTS. The Uzbek government announced that
grain harvests are well below expectations for the second year in a row,
according to an 8 October Uzbek Radio report monitored by the BBC. The
1996 harvest currently stands at 2,669,000 metric tons, well below the
target figure of 4.5 million tons. Only seven regions were able to meet
their quotas, with the rest blaming poor irrigation, bad weather, and a
lack of fertilizer for the shortfalls. At the same time, the Central
Council of the People's Democratic Party called on Uzbek citizens to
participate in the cotton harvest, which is expected to be higher than
last year (see OMRI Daily Digest, 15 October 1996). Regional party
leaders are even offering prizes for the most "active" volunteer--a
practice reminiscent of the Soviet era--Golos Uzbekistana reported on 11
October. -- Roger Kangas

IRAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS ALMATY. Ali Akbar Velayati went to
Kazakstan on 15 October where he discussed the situation in Afghanistan
with his Kazakstani counterpart, Kasyzhomart Tokaev, Kazakstani media
reported. The two ministers issued a call for a special emergency
meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the Afghan situation, AFP
reported. Analysts suggest that an additional hidden motive for the
meeting was to coordinate positions on the status of the Caspian Sea, in
view of an upcoming international meeting on the issue. The Caspian
littoral states disagree over how to divide access to the sea and its
resources: Iran and Kazakstan disagree with Russia's wish to define it
as an lake, whose resources must be shared. Velayati also met Kyrgyz
President Askar Akayev in Bishkek on 15 October and traveled on to the
Tajik capital Dushanbe on 16 October. -- Slava Kozlov in Almaty

PROTESTERS SURROUND KYRGYZ GOVERNMENT BUILDING. A crowd of about 1,500
people demonstrated in front of the Kyrgyz government building in
Bishkek on 15 October, RFE/RL reported. The demonstrators were
protesting rising costs and declining living standards. Some in the
crowd claimed their monthly wage was 150-200 som ($12-18) and their
monthly gas bill alone was 500-700 som. Officials from the government
met briefly with leaders of the demonstration, organized by the
unregistered Citizen's Council, and were handed a letter of demands
signed by more than 4,000 people. -- Bruce Pannier and Naryn Idinov

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez

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            Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc.
                      All rights reserved. ISSN 1211-1570
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