The fool wonders, the wise man asks. - Benjamin Disraeli
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 215, Part I, 6 November 1996


No. 215, Part I, 6 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

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RUSSIA

YELTSIN REGAINS CONSCIOUSNESS . . . President Boris Yeltsin regained
consciousness at 6:45 p.m. Moscow time on 5 November, less than five
hours after the end of the operation during which his heart was stopped
for 68 minutes, Russian and Western media reported. He was taken off a
respirator on the morning of 6 November. Renat Akchurin, the surgeon who
headed the surgery, said his team had completed five bypasses, The
Washington Post reported. Akchurin also said five or six days must pass
before he will be able to determine when Yeltsin might resume work.
According to Reuters, top cardiologists said the 48 hours after the
operation are crucial in Yeltsin's recovery. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski

. . . TAKES POWERS BACK FROM CHERNOMYRDIN. Yeltsin signed a decree
terminating Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's tenure as acting
president at 6 a.m. on 6 November, only 23 hours after transfering all
his powers to the prime minister, Russian and Western agencies reported.
Although Yeltsin once again controls the so-called "nuclear suitcase,"
Chernomyrdin will continue to perform some presidential functions, such
as chairing Security Council meetings, until Yeltsin has fully
recovered. The same morning, Chernomyrdin and Yeltsin met for about 15
minutes, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Laura Belin

WORKERS STAGE DAY OF PROTEST. Workers took to the streets on 5 November
in nationwide demonstrations coordinated by the Federation of
Independent Trade Unions, Russian and Western media reported. Their main
demand was the payment of wage arrears, which now total 43 trillion
rubles ($7.9 billion). The protests were the largest since 1993. The
unions claim 15 million people participated in various ways, while the
Interior Ministry put the figure of street demonstrators at 320,000,
spread over 50 regions. Some 40,000 marched in Moscow but only 8,000 in
St. Petersburg. Turnout was high in the Far East: 20,000 in Vladivostok
and 15,000 in Khabarovsk. In some regions, such as Yaroslavl, workers
also staged two-hour strikes. Chernomyrdin addressed the crowd in
Moscow, saying that he regretted the non-payment of wages but saw no
easy solution. The government said it has already released 320 billion
rubles to pay wages owed to culture, education and health workers.
Radical communist leader Viktor Anpilov complained that union officials
tried to prevent the display of red flags, NTV reported. -- Peter
Rutland

SELEZNEV HOSPITALIZED. State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev has been
hospitalized with asthma and bronchitis, ITAR-TASS reported on 5
November. It was not clear whether he will be released from Moscow's
Central Clinical Hospital in time for the Duma's next plenary session on
10 November. Seleznev had already announced plans to boycott this week's
planned inaugural session of the Consultative Council if presidential
Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais is present (see OMRI Daily Digest, 30
and 31 October 1996). The council, informally known as the "permanent
four," consists of Chernomyrdin, Chubais, Seleznev, and Federation
Council Speaker Yegor Stroev. -- Laura Belin

CORRUPTION INVESTIGATION IN ST. PETERSBURG. The head of the Interior
Ministry administration for St. Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast, Yurii
Loskutov, has been suspended while prosecutors investigate some of his
recent business trips abroad. Loskutov has been replaced temporarily by
Anatolii Ponidelko, a former colleague of Interior Minister Anatolii
Kulikov. The head of the economic crimes administration, Nikolai
Danilov, has also been suspended following charges that a number of his
officers were involved in extortion, NTV reported on 1 November. Last
but not least, the head of the St. Petersburg legislative assembly,
Yurii Kravtsov, has been accused of abuse of office and bribe-taking,
but as a Federation Council member he cannot be sued without the
permission of that body. The investigation was started after the St.
Petersburg newspaper Chas pik published an article saying that Kravtsov
had spent 350 million rubles ($65,000) from the city budget to renovate
his apartment, Moskovskie novosti (no.44) reported. -- Penny Morvant in
St. Petersburg

MAYOROV IN GROZNY. Russian Security Council Deputy Secretary Leonid
Mayorov and the newly appointed permanent representative of the federal
government in Chechnya, Georgii Kurin, on 5 November met in Grozny with
the commander of the Russian federal forces in Chechnya, Maj.-Gen.
Vladimir Sukhoruchenko, and interim Chechen Prime Minister Aslan
Maskhadov, Russian Television (RTR) reported. They discussed the
situation of Russian troops still in Chechnya and the timetable for
their withdrawal, which according to Mayorov is to proceed in three
stages. Kurin and Maskhadov also discussed economic restoration and
preparations for the winter. -- Liz Fuller

U.S., RUSSIAN CHIEFS OF STAFF MEET. The chairman of the U.S. Joint
Chiefs of Staff, Gen. John Shalikashvili, met in Moscow with the chief
of the Russian General Staff, Gen. Viktor Samsonov, Russian and Western
media reported on 5 November. They discussed security issues including
the future of the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Bosnia and bilateral
military cooperation. Samsonov told ITAR-TASS that "complete
understanding" had been reached on extending the presence of U.S. and
Russian peacekeepers in Bosnia. He added that the two countries plan to
deepen bilateral military cooperation by increasing contacts not only
between top brass, but at lower organizational levels. The General Staff
is considering holding joint military exercises with the U.S. during
1997 if financing is available, Samsonov said. -- Scott Parrish

PRIMAKOV RAPS RYBKIN ON NATO. Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov
rejected Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin's 30 October suggestion
that Russia join NATO's political structures, ITAR-TASS reported on 5
November. Commenting in Petrozavodsk on the possibility of Russia
joining NATO, he sarcastically asked, "Who wants that?" Primakov said
NATO "isn't really interested" in Russian membership, and Moscow doesn't
want it either. Primakov quipped that Security Council secretaries "have
developed a hobby" of discussing Russian ties with NATO, but insisted
that the Foreign Ministry formulates policy, adding that he continues to
oppose NATO enlargement. Primakov's remarks quash speculation that
Rybkin's comments signaled a new tack in Russian policy toward NATO. --
Scott Parrish

RUSSIA TO OPEN UNOFFICIAL MISSION IN TAIWAN. A former diplomat, Vladimir
Malshev, has been dispatched to Taipei, where he will open a non-
governmental Russian mission before the end of the year, ITAR-TASS
reported on 5 November. An analogous Taiwanese mission has been
operating in Moscow since 1993. The mission's main function is to
promote economic ties; Taiwanese-Russian trade reached $1.8 billion in
1995 and totaled $842 million in the first eight months of 1996. Russia
accepts mainland China's "one China" policy, and does not recognize
Taiwan. The opening of the informal mission was discussed with the
Chinese ambassador in Moscow, Li Fenglin, who told ITAR-TASS that Russia
has pledged the mission will not have any official political or
diplomatic functions. -- Scott Parrish

GRU CHIEF: WEST WANTS TO KEEP RUSSIA WEAK. In a rare interview published
in Komsomolskya pravda on 5 November, Col.-Gen. Fedor Ladygin, head of
the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) of the Russian General Staff,
contended that "Despite all their assurances of friendship, the
developed countries do not want Russia to be a strong power and are
undertaking decisive measures to weaken it." Ladygin said that, as a
result, one of his organization's top priorities is military-related
economic and technical espionage, to help prevent Russia from "falling
into the ranks of third-rate countries." He revealed that the GRU is not
immune from the military's financial crisis, saying his staff only
recently received their August salaries. -- Scott Parrish

MOSCOW GOVERNMENT PROMISES MORE HELP TO MEDIA. The Moscow city
government has promised more financial help to publishing and printing
houses, television and radio stations, news agencies, and newspapers,
Ekho Moskvy and ITAR-TASS reported on 5 November. Media organizations
will continue to pay rent far below market prices; beginning on 1
January their rates for utilities will be reduced and they will be
exempt from taxes on building maintenance and for education. Mayor Yurii
Luzhkov said the new measures would cost the city about 80 billion
rubles ($15 million), but said it was worth it to guarantee that even
the poorest citizens could still afford to buy newspapers. Luzhkov's
generosity will also carry political dividends; he is hardly ever
criticized in the mass media, a fact many observers attribute to the
media's financial dependence on the Moscow city administration. -- Laura
Belin

RUSSIA AND INTERPOL. More than 500 Russian citizens are on the Interpol
wanted list, according to Maj.-Gen. Ivan Sardak, the head of the Russian
Interpol bureau, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 November. So far this year,
Russia has received 10 criminals from abroad, and in turn has extradited
11 foreign suspects to other countries. The Russian Interpol bureau was
formed in 1991, but only received legal status through presidential and
governmental decrees in June and October of this year. -- Peter Rutland

CONCILIATION COMMISSION SUGGESTS INTRODUCING NEW TAXES. The joint
parliament and government budget commission has agreed to propose the
introduction of new taxes on financial operations, ITAR-TASS reported on
5 November. Interest on bank deposits above a certain rate will be taxed
at 15%, as will profits from operations in state, regional and municipal
securities. A 1.5% tax will be levied on purchases of foreign currency,
although state organizations will be exempt from this tax. Such a
measure would likely boost the black market trade in foreign currency.
In the first six months of this year, foreign currency purchases by the
population totaled $30 billion. -- Natalia Gurushina

DIAMOND PRODUCER ACCUSED OF FINANCIAL IRREGULARITIES. The Procurator
General's Office has started criminal procedures against Russia's
principal producer and exporter of uncut diamonds, Almazy Rossii-Sakha
(ARS), ITAR-TASS reported on 5 November. The company is charged with
concealing profits, resulting in the non-payment of 46 billion rubles
($8.2 million) in taxes. In addition, as of April 1996, ARS owed 3.1
trillion rubles in tax arrears. ARS is also accused of conducting
illegal operations with foreign currency and precious stones and metals,
from which it received nearly $87 million. Company officials deny all
charges, claiming that the move is aimed at disrupting the conclusion of
a deal with South Africa's De Beers. The special tax commission has
asked the President of Yakutiya (Sakha) to dismiss local government
officials responsible for ARS's activity. -- Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

MORE KARABAKH DIPLOMACY. The chairman of the OSCE Parliamentary
Assembly, Xavier Ruperes, held talks in Baku on 5 November with
Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliev, Foreign Minister Hasan Hasanov, and
representatives of the opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front and Party of
National Independence of Azerbaijan, Turan and ITAR-TASS reported.
Ruperes advocated direct bilateral talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan
to expedite a political solution to the Karabakh conflict. On 4
November, Aliev's special advisor, Vafa Gulu-Zade, left Baku to meet at
an undisclosed European location with his Armenian counterpart, Zhirair
Liparitian. They were to discuss the progress achieved on the
Declaration of Principles that is due to be signed by the presidents of
Armenia and Azerbaijan at the OSCE heads of state summit in Lisbon in
early December. -- Liz Fuller

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION CRITICIZES CONSTITUTIONAL COURT. Shavarsh Kocharyan,
the Constitutional Court representative of defeated presidential
candidate Vazgen Manukyan, said the court "violates the principles of
equality and transparency" in validating the 22 September election
results, Noyan Tapan reported on 5 November. The opposition appealed to
the court on 24 October, asking it to annul the vote. Kocharyan claimed
that numerous documented cases of irregularities are not being
addressed. According to him, Manukyan asked the court to return property
and documents from his campaign headquarters seized by the Interior
Ministry, but this was refused on the grounds that the court "is not
empowered to solve this problem." Kocharyan said the Ministry's actions
amount to a virtual suspension of the party, which, according to
Armenian law, only the Constitutional Court has the right to decide. --
Emil Danielyan

UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER IN GEORGIA. Pavlo Lazarenko arrived in Tbilisi
on 4 November for a three-day visit and met with Georgian President
Eduard Shevardnadze to discuss bilateral cooperation, ITAR-TASS
reported. On 5 November Ukrainian and Georgian officials signed a series
of bilateral agreements, including one on military technical
cooperation. The issue of transporting Caspian oil from Azerbaijan via
Georgia to Ukraine was also discussed, according to Radio Mayak. -- Liz
Fuller

TAJIK GOVERNMENT AND OPPOSITION COURT NATIONAL REVIVAL MOVEMENT. Since
the start of November, both the Tajik government and opposition have
made overtures to the National Revival Movement founded last spring by
three former prime ministers. The United Tajik Opposition (UTO)
announced that the movement would be included at the next round of peace
talks, and that one UTO leader, Ali Akbar Turajonzoda, had met with the
movement's co-founder, Abdumalik Abdullajonov, in Tashkent recently.
Following this meeting, UTO leader Said Abdullo Nuri said that
cooperation with the movement was possible, according to a Voice of Free
Tajikistan radio broadcast monitored by the BBC. ITAR-TASS reported on 5
November that President Imomali Rakhmonov met with the other two leaders
of the movement, Jamshed Karimov and Abdujalil Samadov, after they
arrived in Dushanbe on 3 November, and appointed Karimov as a senior
aide for foreign affairs. -- Bruce Pannier

[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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