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OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 214, Part I, 5 November 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 OPERATION SAID TO END SUCCESSFULLY. President Boris Yeltsin's
cardiac bypass operation ended successfully seven hours after it began
at 7 a.m. Moscow time on 5 November, Russian and Western agencies
reported. After the operation, Yeltsin was moved to the intensive care
section of the Moscow Cardiological Center. Citing a source at the
hospital, AFP reported that American and German doctors, including
Michael DeBakey, monitored the operation on closed-circuit television
but did not enter the operating room. Before going under anesthetic,
Yeltsin signed a decree transferring all presidential powers to Prime
Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. He is expected to sign another decree
taking some powers back soon after he regains consciousness. Doctors
have estimated that he will need at least two months to recover from the
operation. Should Yeltsin die from complications surrounding the
surgery, a new presidential election must be called within three months.
In the meantime, Chernomyrdin would perform all presidential duties. --
Laura Belin

IZVESTIYA: CHUBAIS TO MONITOR FORCE MINISTRIES. Yeltsin's 1 November
decree creating a Presidential State Military Inspectorate will permit
presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais to supervise the power
ministries, Izvestiya reported on 5 November. The decree charged the
inspectorate with ensuring the implementation of the president's
constitutional powers in the areas of defense and security, and
established it as an independent department of the presidential
administration. The paper said that although the 100-member inspectorate
will be directly subordinate to Yeltsin, day-to-day "operational
matters" not requiring Yeltsin's attention will be decided by Chubais.
The inspectorate will monitor not only the defense ministry, but also
the 24 other federal agencies with uniformed servicemen, the paper
added. -- Scott Parrish

SECURITY COUNCIL DISCUSSES CHECHNYA. Chernomyrdin chaired a session of
the Security Council on 4 November at which council chairman Ivan Rybkin
and his deputy Boris Berezovskii reported on their recent talks with the
Chechen separatist leadership, Russian media reported. Chernomyrdin
endorsed the Chechen leadership's plans to hold parliamentary and
presidential elections on 27 January 1997, on condition that the 300,000
people who fled Chechnya to avoid the fighting are permitted to vote,
and that full security can be guaranteed. But he did not stipulate, as
Rybkin did, that the elections should be contingent on complete
demilitarization. Chernomyrdin also said "it is clear" that Chechnya
should receive special economic status, but noted that "a special
approach" is needed to formulate this status as an entire republic of
the Russian Federation is involved. -- Liz Fuller

CHECHNYA PRISONER EXCHANGE GOING SLOWLY. So far, federal authorities
have released 35 militants and Chechens have released 100 civilians and
51 soldiers, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 November. The Russian government
says the Chechens are holding 1,600 prisoners, while the Chechens are
seeking the release of 1,350 persons from Russia. Under the Khasavyurt
accords signed on 31 August, prisoners were supposed to be promptly
exchanged on an "all for all" basis. Sergei Popov, head of a group
dealing with the prisoner exchange, expressed frustration at the slow
progress. He also stated that the Chechens are not asking for the
release of convicted criminals, only those detained under suspicion of
fighting in the separatist forces. -- Peter Rutland

MOSCOW, GROZNY MAYORS MEET. Grozny Mayor Lechi Dudaev (Dzhokhar Dudaev's
nephew) traveled to Moscow on 4 November to meet Mayor Yurii Luzhkov,
ITAR-TASS reported. Luzhkov offered to build one million square meters
of housing in Grozny in return for oil shipments from Chechnya. He also
agreed to provide schools in Grozny with textbooks and to accommodate
children from the region in summer camps near Moscow. Luzhkov has been
an ardent advocate of Chechnya remaining within the Russian Federation.
-- Natalia Gurushina

PRESIDENTIAL COMMISSION TO FOCUS ON PROBLEMS ABROAD... The presidential
Commission for Human Rights met on 4 November and expressed concern
about violations of the rights of ethnic Russians living abroad, ITAR-
TASS reported, citing commission chairman Vladimir Kartashkin. He
advocated forming a joint CIS human rights court to hear complaints
brought by individuals living in CIS countries, as well as an interstate
human rights commission of all CIS countries plus the Baltic states. The
commission is a consultative body with no power to enact policy. He also
suggested forming a special joint rapid reaction force to undertake
hostage rescues and similar missions. -- Laura Belin

...WHILE WATCHDOG GROUPS CONCERNED ABOUT PROBLEMS AT HOME.
Representatives from several human rights watchdog groups resolved at a
2 November Moscow meeting to focus their efforts on helping human rights
defenders in Russia's regions, ITAR-TASS and Russian TV (RTR) reported,
citing Moscow Helsinki Group leader Lyudmila Alekseeva. They claimed
that the farther a region is located from Moscow, the worse the human
rights situation is. Alekseeva argued that the most widespread violation
of human rights in Russia is the delayed payment of wages and pensions.
Such delays "violate fundamental human rights: the right to life, to
health, and a normal family," she added. -- Laura Belin

CONTROVERSY OVER BEREZOVSKII CITIZENSHIP. Controversy has flared over
reports that Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii is a
citizen of Israel as well as of Russia. While not explicitly denying
that he has dual citizenship, Berezovskii has said articles published in
Izvestiya and Komsomolskaya pravda on 1 November questioning his
citizenship were anti-Semitic. Appearing on NTV on 3 November, he
threatened to sue the newspapers, saying, "I am a citizen of Russia, and
for my entire life, all my actions have been connected only with
Russia." On 5 November, both Izvestiya and Komsomolskaya pravda held
their ground. Citing the Israeli newspaper Ha'Aretz, Komsomolskaya
pravda reported that a Boris Abramovich Berezovskii obtained Israeli
citizenship in 1993. The papers argued that while Berezovskii's
ethnicity was of no concern, it was inappropriate for a person with dual
citizenship--with any country--to hold a high office involving state
security. -- Laura Belin

RUSSIA PROTESTS FORMER INTELLIGENCE AGENT'S ARREST IN U.S. Foreign
Intelligence Service (SVR) spokeswoman Tatyana Samolis denounced the 24
October arrest of former agent Vladimir Galkin in New York as an
"uncivilized" violation of accepted intelligence practice, Russian and
Western agencies reported. Galkin, accompanying a Russian Interior
Ministry delegation, was taken into FBI custody upon arrival at Kennedy
International Airport, and will be indicted on charges of attempting to
purchase classified information related to the "Star Wars" missile
defense program in Cyprus in 1990 and 1991. According to Samolis, Galkin
freely admitted on his U.S. visa application that he worked for the SVR
until 1992, and she termed his arrest a "dirty trick," which broke
informal norms on the treatment of retired agents. She threatened that
Russia might retaliate against retired American operatives. -- Scott
Parrish

PRIMAKOV LAUDS NEUTRALITY. At a joint Moscow press conference with his
Austrian counterpart Wolfgang Schuessel, Foreign Minister Yevgenii
Primakov declared that neutral countries play a positive role in
maintaining international stability, Russian agencies reported.
Reiterating Moscow's opposition to NATO enlargement, he praised the
position of Austrian politicians who do not want Austria to join the
alliance. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA, SOUTH KOREA SIGN DEFENSE COOPERATION AGREEMENT. Defense Minister
Igor Rodionov and his South Korean counterpart Kim Dong-Jin signed a
bilateral defense cooperation agreement in Moscow on 4 November, Russian
and Western agencies reported. It calls for military exchanges, naval
port visits, and the training of South Korean personnel in Russia.
Rodionov hailed the development of bilateral military cooperation over
the last five years, while Kim said Korean experts are closely studying
sample SU-37, SU-35, and SU-30 fighters. Moscow hopes South Korea, which
usually buys its weapons from the U.S., will purchase some 120 of the
planes. The South Korean military already has some Russian armored
vehicles which it recently received under a debt-for-weapons barter
deal. -- Scott Parrish

MUSLIMS OPPOSE CHANGING REPUBLICAN LAWS. Khadzhi-Murat Ibragimbeili,
deputy chairman of the Muslim movement Nur, told OMRI on 4 November that
the movement opposes the federal government's intention to force
republics to make their legislation conform to federal law. He said that
republican authorities know better how to express local traditions in
legislation, while federal laws, including the Constitution, fail to
reflect those traditions. Last week, presidential Chief of Staff
Anatolii Chubais called for regional and republican laws to be amended
to make them comply with the federal legislation (see OMRI Daily Digest,
30 October 1996). The Central Electoral Commission has said that
electoral laws of 27 regions violate federal statues. In addition, mass
media laws of the republics of Bashkortostan and Kalmykiya contradict
the federal Constitution and violate individuals' right to information,
head of Glasnost Defense Foundation Aleksei Simonov told OMRI last week.
-- Anna Paretskaya in Moscow

PRIMORE ENERGY CRISIS CONTINUES. The head of the Primorskii Krai power
company (Dalenergo), Vasilii Poleshchuk, told ITAR-TASS on 5 November
that none of the commitments made in an agreement signed last month by
Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Bolshakov were realized (see OMRI Daily
Digest 7 October 1996). The use of middlemen companies to resell coal
has not been eliminated, and local consumers still owe the company 286
billion rubles. Primore mine officials complain that they have shipped
120 billion rubles ($22 million) worth of coal to Dalenergo in the last
two months, but have only been paid 9 billion rubles. The Bolshakov
protocol promised to pay 27 billion rubles a month each to Dalenergo and
the coal company, but they have received only 14 and 5.8 billion
respectively, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 November. Wage arrears to the
region's coal miners total 160 billion rubles. -- Peter Rutland

SVERDLOVSK OBLAST TO INTRODUCE LOCAL CURRENCY. Governor of the
Sverdlovsk Oblast Eduard Rossel has announced that the region will
introduce its own currency, which has already been dubbed the "Ural
Franc," ITAR-TASS reported on 4 November. Rossel said that the currency,
which will be accepted only locally, should ease problems associated
with tight money supply. He also noted that the introduction of the
"Ural Franc" was already planned when the oblast attempted to get the
status of Ural republic in 1993, adding that the proposal has now been
agreed with First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Potanin. -- Ritsuko
Sasaki

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

ARMENIAN PRIME MINISTER RESIGNS. Hrant Bagratyan announced his
resignation on 4 November, Western media reported the same day. He was
replaced by Armen Sarkisyan, Armenia's Ambassador to Britain. Bagratyan
declined to give any reason for his decision. The move follows recent
statements by several leaders of the ruling Armenian Pan-National
Movement blaming Bagratyan for the poorer than expected showing of
President Levon Ter-Petrossyan in the controversial 22 September
elections. During his first post-election speech, Ter-Petrossyan
promised a "serious reshuffle" in the government. A staunch supporter of
market reforms and tough monetary policy, 38-year old Bagratyan headed
the government since February 1993 and is credited by the West for
Armenia's good macroeconomic indicators. Speaking at his last news
conference, he called for a dialogue between the authorities and the
opposition. -- Emil Danielyan

GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ ELECTION ROW CONTINUES. In his regular Monday radio
address, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze called on Russia's
leaders to state more clearly their country's official position towards
the parliamentary elections scheduled for 23 November in Georgia's
breakaway Black Sea region of Abkhazia, ITAR-TASS and Radio Mayak
reported. Shevardnadze argued that this would dispel suspicions in
Georgia that certain unnamed forces in Russia support the separatist
regime in Sukhumi. The Georgian parliament has denounced the planned
elections as illegal; the UN has called for their postponement pending
the repatriation to Abkhazia of some 200,000 ethnic Georgian refugees
who fled the fighting in 1992-3. On 2-3 November, Georgian terrorist
groups attacked Russian peacekeeping forces on the border between
Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia and launched an artillery attack on the
town of Gali, Ekho Moskvy reported, citing Abkhaz government statements.
-- Liz Fuller

TWO STRATEGIC TAJIK VILLAGES FALL TO OPPOSITION. Fighters of the Tajik
opposition have seized two more villages along the road to Khorog,
Russian and Western sources reported. They attacked Sagirdasht and
Kalai-Hussein on 1 November, capturing both by 3 November. The villages
lie along the only highway leading to the Eastern city of Khorog. More
importantly, these are the last two villages of any size on the way
south to Afghanistan. Russian and Kazakstani border guards at the Kalai-
Khumb posts are now sandwiched between Tajik opposition forces based
opposite their positions in Afghanistan and behind them in the Tavil-
Dara region. The Tajik Ministry of Defense is moving about 3,000
soldiers into position to launch a counter-offensive. -- Bruce Pannier

FRENCH COMPANY TO BUILD TURKMEN CONVENTION CENTER. The French
construction company Bouygues has been awarded the contract to build a
convention center in the Turkmen capital Ashgabat, according to a 4
November AFP report. This latest contract is worth about $98 million but
Bouygues is already building the presidential palace at a cost of about
$80 million and a national park complex for an undisclosed figure. --
Bruce Pannier

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Steve Kettle

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