If you wish to make an apple pie truly from scratch, you must first invent the universe. - Carl Sagan
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 221, Part I, 14 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

DUMA MAKES PROGRESS ON GOVERNMENT BILL. The State Duma approved a bill
defining the legal basis for the government's activities in the second
of three readings by a vote of 344-2 with one abstention, Nezavisimaya
gazeta reported on 14 November. The bill contains several features
strengthening the Duma that President Boris Yeltsin does not support. It
would give the Duma the right to approve the prime minister's dismissal
as well as his nomination; remove the power ministers from direct
presidential subordination and place them under the immediate control of
the prime minister; and require the prime minister and other ministers
to attend Duma sessions if they are asked to do so. All of the
parliamentary factions supported the bill except for Yabloko, whose
leader, Grigorii Yavlinskii, said the measure does not give the Duma
sufficient oversight powers over the government, Russian Public TV (ORT)
reported. -- Robert Orttung

POLAND, RUSSIA SIGN ECONOMIC AGREEMENTS. Delegations led by Prime
Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and his Polish counterpart, Wlodzimierz
Cimoszewicz, signed a package of intergovernmental agreements in Moscow
on 13 November, including one on liberalizing bilateral trade, and
another settling mutual debts dating back to the Soviet era, Russian
media reported. Chernomyrdin termed the agreements of "crucial
importance" for bilateral economic relations, and predicted that
Russian-Polish trade would reach about $4 billion this year, up from
$3.2 billion in 1995. Russian Minister of Foreign Trade Oleg Davydov
said the trade liberalization agreement paved the way for a free trade
zone with Poland, but Polish officials worry that such an arrangement
might hamper their efforts to join the EU. -- Scott Parrish

LUKASHENKA SUGGESTS JOINT OPPOSITION TO NATO. In his controversial
speech to the State Duma on 13 November (see OMRI Daily Digest, 13
November 1996), Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka proposed that
Russia and Belarus jointly take "adequate measures" to oppose NATO
expansion, Russian and Western media reported. Lukashenka suggested that
the remaining SS-25 ICBMs in Belarus not be removed until NATO
guarantees that nuclear weapons will not be deployed on the territory of
any new Eastern European member. Blaming "misconceptions" about Belarus
spread by the Russian media for hampering the progress of Russian-
Belarusian integration, he claimed that Belarus is not an economic drain
on Russia, that economic reforms are proceeding, and that his government
respects human rights. -- Scott Parrish

RYBKIN AGAIN SUGGESTS JOINING NATO. In an interview published in the 12
November edition of the weekly Itogi, Security Council Secretary Ivan
Rybkin again suggested that Russia join NATO's political structures. He
said that "the position of France would be fully acceptable for us,"
adding that Moscow could join the alliance's military structures at a
later date. Defense Council Secretary Yurii Baturin commented that
Rybkin's suggestion is not "practical," since NATO has shown no sign
that it wants to invite Russia to become a full member. A similar
suggestion by Rybkin on 30 October drew a harsh rebuff from Foreign
Minister Yevgenii Primakov (see OMRI Daily Digest, 6 November 1996). --
Scott Parrish

DUMA DECLARES TRANSDNIESTRIA "STRATEGIC ZONE." The Duma adopted a
resolution, 284-29, declaring the breakaway Transdniestria region of
Moldova a "zone of special strategic interest for Russia," ITAR-TASS
reported on 14 November. Citing NATO's plans to expand eastward, the
resolution called on President Yeltsin and the Federation Council to
consider establishing a permanent Russian military base in the region.
It also called on the Russian government to negotiate cultural,
economic, and military agreements with the self-proclaimed Transdniester
republic, and provide it with economic aid. Moldova has repeatedly
rejected attempts by Moscow to establish a permanent military base in
the region. -- Scott Parrish

DUMA VOTES FOR INCREASE IN MINIMUM PENSION. The Russian parliament's
lower house voted on 13 November to raise the minimum pension by 10% as
of 1 November, RTR and ORT reported. The minimum pension, which was last
increased in May, currently stands at 69,500 rubles ($12.70) a month.
The Duma's previous attempt to increase pension payments was rejected by
the Federation Council on the grounds that the rise would be too
expensive. According to a representative of the indebted Pension Fund,
the latest projected increase would cost an additional 816 billion
rubles a month. At the beginning of November, the fund owed pensioners
about 16 trillion rubles in back payments. -- Penny Morvant in Moscow

BEREZOVSKII ADMITS HE HELD ISRAELI CITIZENSHIP. While flying from
Tbilisi to Almaty, Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii
admitted that he received Israeli citizenship in 1994, Kommersant-Daily
reported on 14 November. After being appointed to the Security Council,
he said, he had asked the Israeli Foreign Ministry to annul his
citizenship. Soon after Berezovskii's appointment, Izvestiya and
Komsomolskaya pravda questioned whether it is appropriate for a person
with dual citizenship to hold high office. While never explicitly
denying that he was an Israeli citizen, Berezovskii threatened to sue
the papers (see OMRI Daily Digest, 5 November 1996). -- Laura Belin

ZYUGANOV ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov
is campaigning actively for opposition gubernatorial candidates in
regions where he did well in the presidential election. Along with two
prominent figures from his Popular-Patriotic Union of Russia -- Duma
Deputy Nikolai Ryzhkov and Vasilii Starodubtsev of the Agrarian Party --
Zyuganov flew to Stavropol Krai on 14 November to campaign on behalf of
Duma Deputy Aleksandr Chernogorov, ITAR-TASS reported. Chernogorov is
the favorite to win the 17 November Stavropol runoff election. On 12
November, Zyuganov stumped for Ivan Ivanov, a candidate in the 17
November gubernatorial election in Ust-Orda Buryat Autonomous Okrug (in
the Baikal area). In July, Zyuganov beat President Yeltsin in Stavropol
by 54% to 41% and only lost narrowly to Yeltsin in Ust-Orda Buryat by
49% to 47%. -- Laura Belin

LARGE PART OF VLADIVOSTOK LEFT WITHOUT HEAT. A significant part of
Vladivostok, including more than 30 kindergartens, schools, and clinics,
has been left without heat since 11 November, ITAR-TASS reported on 13
November. A steam-line rupture in the city's heating system destroyed
more than 300 yards of pipe at a time when night temperatures in the
region drop well below freezing. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski

OIL FOUND IN SOUTH TYUMEN OBLAST. The Senior Geologist of the
Tyumennedra firm, Vladimir Rudenko, announced the discovery of a
promising oil field in the southern part of Tyumen Oblast, ITAR-TASS
reported 14 November. He claimed that the oil is much closer to the
surface in the new Nizhne-Keumskii field than the deposits in the
northern part of the oblast. Until now there were no known reserves in
Tyumen's south. The oil and gas rich Khanty-Mansii and Yamal-Nenets
autonomous okrugs, which make up the northern part of the oblast, are
seeking to secede from the poorer southern region to gain control over a
greater portion of the tax revenues produced by the oil and gas
production. -- Robert Orttung

ALMAZY ROSSII-SAKHA THREATENS TO SUE GOVERNMENT. The president of
Yakutiya (Sakha), Mikhail Nikolaev, and the chairman of Russia's major
producer and exporter of raw diamonds Almazy Rossii-Sakha (ARS),
Vyacheslav Shtyrov, have said that ARS is prepared to sue the federal
government, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 November. The company rejects the
government's accusations that it is breaching tax and foreign currency
laws and concealing its profits (see OMRI Daily Digest, 6 November
1996). The company says the charges may damage the company's business
reputation and delay the signing of a final agreement with South
Africa's De Beers. In 1995, ARS's net profit (of which the Russian
government was entitled to receive 32%) totaled 1.5 trillion rubles
($330 million). -- Natalia Gurushina

FEDERATION COUNCIL DISCUSSES ECONOMIC PROBLEMS. First Deputy Prime
Minister Aleksei Bolshakov said in a 13 November address to the
Federation Council that although the government has found money to repay
wage arrears in the energy sector and the army, it is still unable to
meet a timetable for repaying pensions and wages to budgetary
organizations, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 November. Regional leaders
criticized the government for the lack of an anti-crisis program and
called on the regions to draft their own economic program. The Council
also rejected an amendment to the 1996 budget to increase subsidies to
northern regions (on the grounds that it is unclear how money is spent
in those regions due to poor accounting practices) and a bill on
protecting Russia's economic interests in foreign trade (on the grounds
that it contradicts WTO regulations). -- Natalia Gurushina

TAX POLICE ACTIVE IN THE FIRST NINE MONTHS OF THE YEAR. From January
through September, the Federal Tax Police managed to secure some 30
trillion rubles ($6 billion) in payments to the consolidated budget,
ITAR-TASS reported on 13 November. Police officials said tax evasion in
1996 commonly took the form of entrepreneurs refusing to register their
businesses. The State Tax Agency has threatened nine companies with
bankruptcy if they do not pay their tax arrears. They are:
Norilskgazprom (580 billion rubles), Tebukneft (130 billion rubles),
Berezovskaya Power Station (94 billion rubles), Avtodizel (87 billion
rubles), Karelskii Okatysh (58 billion rubles), Krasnyi Oktyabr (56
billion rubles), Sokol (54 billion rubles), Vakhrushevrazrezugol (50
billion rubles), and Severokuzbassugol (33 billion rubles). -- Natalia
Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

CONFLICTING REPORTS ON LOCAL ELECTIONS IN ARMENIA. Armenia's 10 November
local elections, which were boycotted by the opposition, were marred by
serious irregularities, according to Noyan Tapan. A group of candidates
has lodged complaints of electoral law violations at some polling
stations with Interior and National Security Minister Serzh Sarkisyan.
Voter turnout in one of the Yerevan districts was as low as 27%.
Meanwhile, a Council of Europe observer group released a statement
describing the ballot as free and fair, adding that the irregularities
did not affect the results. -- Emil Danielyan

U.S. DELEGATION VISITS BAKU. A U.S. government delegation headed by
James Collins, special advisor to the U.S. secretary of state on the
newly independent states, and the U.S. special envoy to the OSCE Minsk
Group, Joseph Presel, held talks in Baku on 13 November with Azerbaijani
Foreign Minister Hasan Hasanov and President Heidar Aliev, ITAR-TASS
reported. Collins expressed concern that the disputed status of the
Caspian Sea could jeopardize several major oil consortiums; Hasanov
assured him that Azerbaijan's laws "guarantee the safety of foreign
companies." Collins handed Aliev a message from U.S. President Bill
Clinton expressing hope that a document on conditions for resolving the
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict will be signed during the December OSCE heads
of state summit in Lisbon. -- Liz Fuller

NAZARBAYEV RECEIVES BEREZOVSKII . . . Kazakstani President Nursultan
Nazarbayev met with Russian Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris
Berezovskii in Almaty on 13 November to discuss economic relations and
Chechnya, Kazakstani media reported. Kazakstan is no longer interested
in sharing the burden of reconstructing the Chechen economy, and will
most likely withdraw support pledged earlier. Despite the fact that the
Caspian Sea's legal status was not on the agenda for the meeting,
Russian media were quick to link the visit of the former Russian tycoon
to the recent agreements signed by Caspian littoral states. -- Slava
Kozlov in Almaty

. . . AND AWARD FROM ORTHODOX CHURCH. Nazarbayev has been awarded the
First Degree Order of Duke Dmitriy of Moscow, one of the highest awards
of the Orthodox Church, Kazakstani TV media reported on 13 November. The
order was bestowed on behalf of Moscow Patriarch Aleksii II in
appreciation of the "historical justice" that has been "re-established
by the Kazakstani president in his republic" and to mark the 125th
anniversary of the Turkmen diocese. Nazarbayev, who returned hundreds of
buildings to the Orthodox Church that were seized by the Soviet
authorities, is the first Central Asian leader to receive such an award.
-- Slava Kozlov in Almaty

UZBEK PRESIDENT CONCLUDES BELGIAN VISIT. Uzbek President Islam Karimov
ended a two-day visit to Belgium on 13 November that included a series
of high-level meetings with EU and NATO officials to discuss
Uzbekistan's involvement in the Partnership for Peace program and other
issues, Russian and Western media reported. According to Uzbek
officials, Karimov met with NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana and
discussed the situation in Central Asia and Afghanistan. Before leaving,
Karimov met with Belgian Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene to discuss
bilateral relations. -- Roger Kangas

MONETARY CRISIS WORSENS IN UZBEKISTAN. Uzbek commercial banks were
severely criticized at an 11 November session of the parliamentary
Budget, Banking, and Financial Affairs Committee, Halq sozi reported on
12 November. Calling the banks "irresponsible," the committee noted that
they are not abiding by recent decrees enumerating the monetary
transactions that a bank may engage in. As part of an effort to curb the
drop in the som's value, the Uzbek government has initiated a series of
measures that effectively restrict access to hard currencies. The report
noted, however, that the guidelines are difficult to enforce and 432
million soms worth of violations have occurred in recent weeks. -- Roger
Kangas

[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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