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OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 218, Part I, 11 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

EXPLOSION AT CEMETERY KILLS 13 . . . Thirteen people were killed and
several more seriously injured in an explosion during a memorial service
at the Kotlyakovskoe cemetery in Moscow on 10 November, Russian TV (RTR)
reported. The service was in honor of Mikhail Likhodei, head of the Fund
for Invalids of the Afghan War, who was murdered exactly two years
earlier. The victims of the bomb attack included the current head of the
fund, Sergei Trakhirov. Valerii Radchikov, head of a rival group of
Afghan veterans within the fund, survived an assassination attempt last
year. The blast at the cemetery and the attacks on Likhodei and
Radchikov are thought to have been linked to lucrative tax exemptions
the fund was granted in 1994 on the import and export of alcohol and
tobacco, with an estimated value of $800 million, which attracted the
interest of criminal groups. The fund split into two rival groups in
1993, one headed by Radchikov and the other by Likhodei. -- Penny
Morvant in Moscow

. . . CHERNOMYRDIN, KULIKOV RESPOND. In a national televised address
following the explosion, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin called on
the Interior Ministry to take immediate steps to respond to the
challenge thrown down by the bombers. Interior Minister Anatolii
Kulikov, in turn, said everything would be done to find and punish the
"scum" behind the explosion. The blast cast a shadow over the "day of
the police," celebrated on 10 November, and Chernomyrdin canceled a
concert to be broadcast on Russian TV (RTR) and Russian Public TV (ORT)
marking the holiday. Speaking at a memorial service earlier in the day,
Kulikov said that 430 police officers and 561 members of the Interior
Ministry's Internal Troops have been killed while performing their
duties this year. That figure presumably excludes casualties in
Chechnya. Last year, about 350 police officers were killed, according to
Moskovskii komsomolets. -- Penny Morvant in Moscow

YELTSIN'S SURGEON REVEALS RISK WAS 50/50. The surgeon Renat Akchurin,
who performed the 5 November bypass operation on President Boris
Yeltsin, told ORT on 9 November said that the patient's physical
condition in July was so poor that there was a 50/50 chance that he
would not survive surgery. This bleak prognosis was not revealed at the
time. Yeltsin's condition subsequently improved, and by the time of the
operation Yeltsin's doctors were saying that the procedure had a greater
than 90% chance of success. Akchurin's comments continue a well-
established tradition whereby official statements downplay the
seriousness of Yeltsin's health problems, only admitting them after a
crisis has passed. -- Laura Belin

ZAVGAEV MAY RUN FOR CHECHEN PRESIDENCY. Pro-Moscow Chechen head of state
Doku Zavgaev told Interfax on 8 November that he may run as a candidate
in the republic's presidential election scheduled for 27 January but
that unless Chechnya is demilitarized before that date there is no
chance of holding a free and democratic election, Radio Rossii reported.
Zavgaev also told Ekho Moskvy that a council has been created to
implement the peace agreements signed in August-September, the legality
of which he does not dispute, according to RTR. Addressing several
thousand participants of a meeting in Grozny on 9 November to
commemorate the fourth anniversary of Dzhokhar Dudaev's election as
Chechen president, his successor Zelimkhan Yandarbiev criticized the
heads of Muslim states for their "lack of solidarity" with Chechnya. --
Liz Fuller

SUNDAY TIMES: NUCLEAR MATERIAL MISSING IN CHECHNYA. Citing leaked
Russian government documents, The Sunday Times reported on 10 November
that radioactive material stored at a facility in Chechnya, including
Cesium-137 and Strontium-90, as well as weapons-grade Plutonium-239 and
Uranium-235, had disappeared. The paper said that half of the 900 cubic
meters of materials with radioactivity levels of 1, 500 Curies once
stored at the Radon factory in Tolstoi-Yurt is now missing, but did not
specify how much was weapons-grade. It added that a Russian government
commission has concluded that at least 21 sites storing radioactive
materials were unguarded during the Chechen conflict, and some are now
contaminated. Last November, Chechen rebel commander Shamil Basaev
buried a container with Cesium-137 in a Moscow park (see OMRI Daily
Digest, 27 November 1995). -- Scott Parrish

BANDITRY IN NORTH CAUCASUS. An attempted car-hijacking by armed Ingush
near the village of Chermen on 9 November led to a battle with guns and
grenades in which four people died, ITAR-TASS reported. The attack took
place in the disputed Prigorodnyi Raion of North Osetiya. Also on 9
November, a group Chechens crossed the border into Dagestan and hijacked
two cars near Khasavyurt. Dagestani police pursued and caught the
robbers, killing one in the process. The civil defense minister in the
Ingush Republic, Yurii Gorev, was shot dead outside his home, ITAR-TASS
reported on 11 November. -- Peter Rutland

ACTING GOVERNOR OF TYUMEN KILLS HIMSELF. Sergei Martynushkin, the 39-
year-old first deputy governor of Tyumen Oblast in western Siberia,
reportedly killed himself in his office with a pistol late on 7
November, ITAR-TASS and ORT reported the next day. The economist and
lawyer, a father of three, was serving as acting head of the Tyumen
administration while Governor Leonid Roketskii was on a work trip
abroad. No reasons have yet been suggested for the suicide. Tyumen is
home to 90% of Russia's oil and gas deposits, and is thus the focus of
intense political and business rivalry. -- Peter Rutland

INCUMBENT GOVERNOR DEFEATED IN KALUGA. Valerii Sudarenkov, chairman of
the Kaluga Oblast Legislative Assembly, defeated incumbent Governor Oleg
Savchenko in a 63%-31% landslide with 41% turnout in the oblast's 9
November runoff election, Kommersant-Daily reported. Yeltsin appointed
Savchenko to his position in March. Although Sudarenkov had the support
of the local communists, First Deputy Presidential Chief of Staff
Aleksandr Kazakov claimed to be satisfied with his election since he
views Sudarenkov as a reasonable and experienced politician. Eight
incumbents have been defeated in the 16 gubernatorial races held since 1
September. -- Robert Orttung

HUNGER STRIKES SPREAD. Thirteen leading members of the Vorkuta branch of
the Russian Coal-Industry Workers' Union began an open-ended hunger
strike on 10 November to protest wage arrears totaling more than 140
billion rubles ($25.6 million), RTR reported. The union is also calling
for an increase in government subsidies to mines in the Pechora coal
basin. From 1 to 5 November, representatives of the Vorkuta branch of
the Independent Miners' Union (NPG), a smaller, free trade union,
picketed the Russian government building in Moscow to protest wage and
subsidy arrears. Meanwhile, a hunger strike by 112 doctors in
Chernogorsk, Khakassiya, entered its 12th day on 9 November, ITAR-TASS
reported. The doctors have not been paid for six months. Meteorologists
at Moscow's Sheremetovo airport called off a strike scheduled for 10
November to protest wage arrears after their demands were met,
Vechernyaya Moskva reported. Also -- Penny Morvant in Moscow

IRAQI DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER IN MOSCOW. After meeting with his "old
comrade" Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, Russian Foreign
Minister Yevgenii Primakov blasted "artificial delays" in implementing
UN Resolution 986, which would allow Iraq to sell $2 billion worth of
oil in order to purchase food and medicine under UN supervision, Russian
and Western agencies reported on 10 November. The oil-for-food deal was
postponed after Iraqi troops intervened in October fighting between
rival Kurdish groups in northern Iraq. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA PUSHING CASPIAN SEA "COMPROMISE." Russia is using a new
compromise proposal to make progress toward asserting control over the
oil resources of the Caspian Sea, The Journal of Commerce reported on 8
November. The paper said Russia has proposed granting each of the five
littoral states an exclusive economic zone reaching 40 miles offshore,
rather than insisting on a 12-mile limit. Kazakstan, whose offshore
deposits lie within 40 miles of the coastline, may accept the proposal,
which would bring Almaty into line with Iran, Turkmenistan and Russia.
But the proposed offshore line would cut through the heart of major oil
deposits further offshore which are currently claimed by Azerbaijan.
Under the Russian proposal, they would be jointly owned by all littoral
states. -- Scott Parrish

DEFENSE MINISTRY DENIES REDUCTION PLANS. A Defense Ministry spokesman
told ITAR-TASS on 10 November that there are no plans to cut 500
positions for general officers or to reduce drastically the number of
divisions in the ground forces (see OMRI Daily Digest, 8 November 1996).
He described media reports of such plans as "politically motivated," and
attributed them to journalists "susceptible to sensations of shady
origin." -- Scott Parrish

OIL, GAS EXPORTS INCREASE. In the first nine months of 1996, Russia
exported 95 million metric tons of crude oil and 142 billion cubic
meters of natural gas, 4% and 3% increases over the same period a year
earlier, earning $22.7 billion from these operations, ITAR-TASS reported
on 10 November. Oil and gas exports to the non-CIS countries (77 million
tons and 104 billion cubic meters) continued the previous years' trend,
going up by 8% and 17%, respectively. Those to CIS states, however,
plunged by 11% and 22% due to payments arrears. -- Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

SOUTH OSSETIYA'S SUPREME SOVIET CHAIRMAN ELECTED PRESIDENT. Lyudvig
Chibirov was elected president of South Ossetiya, a former autonomous
oblast of Georgia, on 10 November, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 November.
The Georgian Supreme Soviet abolished the region's formal autonomous
status in 1990. Of the six candidates, Chibirov received 65% of the vote
and former Prime Minister Vladislav Gabaraev, who advocates South
Ossetiya's secession from Georgia and its unification with North
Ossetiya within the Russian Federation, won about 20%. Georgian
President Eduard Shevardnadze said the election was "unlawful." Chibirov
has rejected Georgian arguments that the vote could jeopardize a
political agreement on the region's future status in Georgia. -- Liz
Fuller

BEREZOVSKII IN TBILISI. Russian Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris
Berezovskii discussed the Chechen conflict and Russian-Georgian
relations with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze during a visit to
Tbilisi on 8 November, Russian media reported. Berezovskii dubbed
Shevardnadze "the patriarch of the Caucasus" and termed his experience
"unique," and called for the creation of a new infrastructure that would
permit an integrated approach to structuring relations between the
various Caucasian states taking into account their disparate interests,
according to ORT. -- Liz Fuller

NEW CABINET FORMED IN ARMENIA. Newly appointed Prime Minister Armen
Sarkisyan received formal endorsement from President Levon Ter-
Petrossyan for his new cabinet on 8 November, international media
reported the same day. The interior and national security ministries
have been merged into a single ministry headed by Serzh Sarkisyan. The
influential defense minister, Vazgen Sarkisyan, retained his post. Ter-
Petrossyan signed a decree appointing former Interior Minister Vano
Siradeghyan to the post of Yerevan mayor. New to the cabinet are
Armenia's former representative to the UN, Alexander Arzumanyan (foreign
minister), former Communist Party leader Vladimir Movsisyan (agriculture
minister), former Armenian Komsomol First Secretary Hranush Hakobyan
(social welfare minister). -- Emil Danielyan

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION LEADER ENDS HUNGER STRIKE. Vahan Hovannesyan, a
leader of the banned Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutyun
party (HHD), ended the hunger strike that he began on 29 October to
protest the continuous delays in his trial, AFP reported on 8 November.
Several of Hovannesyan's supporters joined the hunger strike in
solidarity with him in Yerevan's Freedom Square. Hovannesyan and 31
other members and supporters of the HHD were arrested in July 1995 on
charges of plotting a coup Hovannesyan and the HHD have repeatedly
accused the Armenian authorities of staging a political trial in order
to outlaw one of the strongest opposition parties. -- Emil Danielyan

NAZARBAYEV CRITICIZES UNIONS, MEDIA, NATIONAL BANK. Kazakstani President
Nursultan Nazarbayev told leaders of trade unions and public movements
on 5 November not to make trouble during this difficult stage of
Kazakstan's economic transformation, according to a 6 November report on
Kazak TV monitored by the BBC. Nazarbayev was referring to the "Day of
Poverty" demonstrations held in mid-October to protest unpaid wages and
pensions. Nazarbayev was also critical of the media for joining the
protests, and thereby "violating the constitution and all laws of the
state." He went on to criticize the National Bank for not fulfilling
orders to pay back wages and pensions and not working with other state
bodies to solve the issue. -- Bruce Pannier

FIRST FOREIGN-OWNED BANK TO OPEN IN KYRGYZSTAN. A new bank called
DemirKyrgyz International Bank (DIB) will soon open in Kyrgyzstan,
RFE/RL reported on 7 November. The bank's principal shareholder is the
Demirbank of Turkey which has a 60% stake in the new bank. However, the
EBRD is providing $300,000 for the bank and will provide a $2 million
credit line for short- and medium-term financing in Kyrgyzstan's private
sector once DIB begins operating. -- Bruce Pannier

TAJIK OPPOSITION RELEASES PRISONERS. Tajik opposition forces have freed
the last of 37 police hostages they captured on 24 October near
Komsomolabad, AFP reported on 8 November. The release of the remaining
hostages comes after the government freed four members of the opposition
held in government jails. -- 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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