Experience is in the fingers and head. The heart is inexperienced. - Henry David Thoreau
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 223, Part I, 18 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

POWERFUL EXPLOSION WRECKS MILITARY APARTMENT BLOCK IN DAGESTAN. A
powerful explosion killed at least 42 people and wrecked a nine-storey
military apartment block with 82 units in the Dagestani city Kaspiisk on
16 November, ITAR-TASS, Reuters, and AFP reported on 16-18 November. At
least 14 people are still missing. The explosive device, thought to
equal 50 kg of TNT, blew up in a building inhabited by officers of the
Russian Border Guards and their families. Observers believe that a
specially trained terrorist group detonated the bomb. Possible suspects
include opponents of the Chechen peace process, black marketeers in
caviar, or local drug dealers. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin
visited the site of the explosion, while the Chechen government
condemned the terrorist attack and sent condolences to the families of
victims. -- Natalia Gurushina

PROCURATOR ORDERS INQUIRY INTO TRANSCRIPT. Procurator-General Yurii
Skuratov on 15 November ordered an investigation into a Moskovskii
komsomolets article that contained a transcript of an alleged
conversation among Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais, First
Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Ilyushin, and presidential aide Sergei
Krasavchenko, Russian and Western media reported. In the transcript,
Chubais, Ilyushin, and Krasavchenko discussed their involvement in the
events of 19-20 June, when two Yeltsin campaign aides were detained
carrying more than $500,000 out of a government building (see OMRI Daily
Digest, 15 November 1996). Chubais and Ilyushin also discussed ways to
prevent Skuratov from bringing criminal charges against the two campaign
aides and how to retrieve documents connected to the case from Skuratov.
Skuratov did not comment on whether a telephone conversation between him
and Ilyushin ever took place on 22 June; the transcript contained
Ilyushin's side of the conversation. -- Laura Belin

OFFICIALS CHARGE TRANSCRIPT IS FAKE. Presidential Chief of Staff
Chubais, First Deputy Prime Minister Ilyushin, and presidential aide
Krasavchenko all categorically denied that they met on 22 June and
charged that the transcript published in Moskovskii komsomolets was
fabricated, Russian media reported on 15 November. Chubais characterized
the publication as an attempt to discredit the institution of the
presidency following President Yeltsin's successful heart operation. In
an interview with Ekho Moskvy, Krasavchenko suggested that the
Communists manufactured the tape, which he said could have been spliced
together from different conversations. Chubais and Ilyushin indicated
that they will not sue Moskovskii komsomolets ; Chubais said additional
publicity would merely help the newspaper's circulation. Ilyushin said
one cannot sue the special services, which he argued were behind the
publication, Segodnya reported on 16 November. -- Laura Belin

DUMA REACTION TO THE AFFAIR . . . The State Duma on 15 November passed
several resolutions in connection with the Moskovskii komsomolets
publication, Russian media reported. The Duma asked President Yeltsin to
instruct Procurator-General Skuratov to speed up his investigation of
the 19-20 June events and whether Yeltsin's campaign was financed
illegally, ITAR-TASS reported. The Duma also asked the Audit Chamber to
investigate the use of budget funds in Yeltsin's re-election campaign,
Russian TV (RTR) reported. Another resolution, proposed by the Yabloko
faction, asked Yeltsin to "immediately and unambiguously" state his own
position on the taping of conversations among state officials,
corruption among top state officials, and "the criminalization of the
state as a whole." Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, a strong opponent of
Chubais, said he doubted the transcript was faked and told Ekho Moskvy
that "the entire clique" should be sacked if "even one-hundredth" of the
transcript is proven true. -- Laura Belin

. . . BUT NO COMMENT FROM YELTSIN. President Yeltsin did not release any
official comment on the Moskovskii komsomolets publication, although
presidential press secretary Sergei Yastrzhembskii described the
transcript as another salvo in "the war of pseudo-compromising
materials," ITAR-TASS reported on 15 November. Yeltsin is expected to
give his first public address following his heart operation on radio or
television on 19 November. According to Kommersant-Daily on 16 November,
Yeltsin had prepared a radio address to be broadcast on 15 November, but
in the wake of the Moskovskii komsomolets article, the radio address did
not go on the air. -- Laura Belin

KORZHAKOV DENIES INVOLVEMENT IN PUBLICATION OF TRANSCRIPT. Many
commentators and Chubais himself have argued that Aleksandr Korzhakov,
former chief of the Presidential Security Service, was the source of the
transcript published in Moskovskii komsomolets on 15 November. However,
on 16 November Korzhakov denied any involvement in the taping of the
alleged conversation between Chubais, Ilyushin, and Krasavchenko, or in
the publication of the transcript, Russian media reported. Korzhakov
noted that he was sacked on 20 June, two days before the alleged
conversation took place. Meanwhile, on 15 November Korzhakov was
registered as a candidate for a Duma seat in Tula Oblast. As a
registered candidate, Korzhakov is now protected by immunity from
criminal prosecution. A special decision would have to be made by the
procurator general to strip him of immunity. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski

CHECHEN-RUSSIAN AGREEMENT FINALIZED. Chechen presidential security
adviser Ahmed Zakaev met in Moscow with Russian government officials,
including Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin, on 15-16
November to discuss the final text of the agreement on the economic
reconstruction of Chechnya, Russian and Western agencies reported. The
draft agreement is to be signed at an upcoming meeting between
Chernomyrdin and interim Chechen Prime Minister Aslan Maskhadov. Also on
16 November, pro-Moscow Chechen head of state Doku Zavgaev issued a
decree on the resignation of Nikolai Koshman's government. Russian
Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin described the resignation as a
step toward reaching national reconciliation, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Liz
Fuller

CHECHEN ISLAMIC PARTY CALLS FOR ONE CANDIDATE IN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION.
At a 16 November congress in Urus Martan, delegates of the Chechen
Islamic Path Party called for the nomination of a single candidate for
the Chechen presidential election. Yurii Soslambekov, the chairman of
the Confederation of Peoples of the Caucasus, told ITAR-TASS on 17
November that he would stand as a presidential candidate only if there
is at least one other candidate. -- Liz Fuller

REGIONAL INCUMBENTS SUFFER DEFEAT . . . Only nine governors have managed
to hang on to their seats with 20 races complete following voting on 17
November (counting Amur Oblast where the opposition's victory has yet to
be validated). Communist Duma member Aleksandr Chernogorov defeated
incumbent Petr Marchenko in Stavropol Krai by 55% to 40%, ITAR-TASS
reported. The former chairwoman of the okrug ispolkom, Valentina
Bronievich, won 46% of the vote to defeat incumbent Sergei Leushkin in
the Koryak Autonomous Okrug. She becomes Russia's first woman governor.
State Farm Director Valerii Maleev defeated the incumbent Ust-Orda
Buryat Autonomous Okrug Governor Aleksei Batagaev 39%-23%. The incumbent
governor of the Komi-Permyatsk Autonomous Okrug Nikolai Polyanov won a
second term with 70% of the votes and 57% turnout. -- Robert Orttung

. . . WHILE OTHERS FACE RUNOFFS. In Murmansk, there will be a runoff
between the incumbent Yevgenii Komarov and the former chairman of the
oblast soviet, Yurii Yevdokimov, backed by former Security Council
Secretary Aleksandr Lebed's Honor and Motherland, who respectively took
32% and 20% of the vote in a field of eight with 40% turnout. In Altai
Krai, the Communist-backed chairman of the Krai legislature, Aleksandr
Surikov, is leading incumbent Lev Korshunov, 47% to 43%, with 48%
turnout. A runoff is set for 1 December. Additionally, Altai voters
rejected the free buying and selling of agricultural land by a margin of
81% to 16% in a non-binding referendum. In Kamchatka, even though
Governor Vladimir Biryukov leads his closest opponent, Boris Oleinikov,
48% to 11%, he also faces a runoff. -- Robert Orttung

MILITARY WAGE ARREARS FOR AUGUST PAID. Maj.-Gen. Georgii Oleinik, head
of the Defense Ministry's Main Directorate of Budget and Finance, told
Radio Rossii on 15 November that the ministry has now paid all wage
arrears for August. He also promised to liquidate arrears for September
by the end of the month, and for October and November by 1 January 1997,
although he added that repayment of overdue social benefits to
servicemen remains in the "planning phase." -- Scott Parrish

JAPAN TO RELEASE $500 MILLION LOAN TO RUSSIA. In a sign of warming
bilateral ties, Japanese Foreign Minister Yukihiko Ikeda told his
visiting Russian counterpart, Yevgenii Primakov, that Tokyo will free
$500 million in credits frozen since 1991, Russian and Western agencies
reported on 15 November. The credits, originally intended as
humanitarian aid, will now be used by the Japanese Import-Export bank to
invest in Russian industrial and commercial projects. Russian
commentators optimistically said the decision indicated Japan is
becoming more flexible and not focusing exclusively on the intractable
territorial dispute over the southern Kurile Islands. However, Japanese
Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto warned Primakov that a related dispute
over fishing rights in the waters around the islands could have a
negative effect on bilateral ties if not resolved soon. -- Scott Parrish

BLAST IN COAL MINE NEAR CHELYABINSK. A methane gas explosion killed nine
miners and injured six others on 17 November in a Chelyabinsk Oblast
coal mine. The mining company opened an investigation, since its methane
gas detectors had not detected any dangerous concentration of the gas
before the blast, according to NTV. In other news, six people died on 15
November in an explosion at a mine in Magadan Oblast, Radio Rossii
reported. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski

RUSSIA'S MARTIAN PROBE FAILS. Russia's attempt to send a space mission
to Mars has ended in failure, dealing another blow to the Russian space
program, ITAR-TASS, Reuters, and AFP reported on 17-18 November. The $64
million probe, carrying scientific equipment from the U.S. and 20
European countries, was launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome in
Kazakstan on 16 November and was expected to reach the planet in
September 1997. However, due to problems with the booster (the Russian
rocket Proton) it was unable to leave its orbit of the Earth and crashed
into the Pacific Ocean off the Chilean coast. -- Natalia Gurushina

FEDERATION COUNCIL APPROVES BILLS ON SOCIAL ISSUES. The Federation
Council has approved 10 new bills on social policy, including the
introduction of a 10% increase in the minimum pension as of 1 November.
It also insisted that by 1 December the government undertake measures
(which may include no-interest credits from the Central Bank) in order
to repay wage arrears to budgetary organizations, as well as pension and
social benefits arrears, Nezavisimaya gazeta, Izvestiya, and Radio Mayak
reported on 15-16 November. The Central Bank and the Finance Ministry
both criticized the idea of printing money, however, arguing that it
will not solve the problem, as the additional money is likely to go to
the currency and state securities markets. The idea was also rejected by
First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Potanin. -- Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

OPPOSITION DEMONSTRATION IN KAZAKSTAN. Some 500 people gathered near the
Academy of Sciences in Almaty to protest government policies on 17
November, Kazakstani TV reported. The rally, organized by the Azamat
People's Movement, a confederation of independent trade unions, and pro-
communist groups, did not receive official authorization as the
government argued that organizers would not be able to "guarantee public
order." Instead of holding an official rally, the organizers put on a
"silent protest" and symbolically bound their mouths. Former Almaty
Mayor Zamanbek Nurkadilov, a parliament deputy who has accused the
government of corruption, also attended the rally. Police closely
watched the rally; no violence was reported. -- Slava Kozlov in Almaty

NEW SPEAKER OF PARLIAMENT CHOSEN IN KYRGYZSTAN. Following the Kyrgyz
Constitutional Court's 12 November decision invalidating Mukar
Cholponbayev's election as parliament speaker, the Legislative Assembly
of Kyrgyzstan convened on 15 November to select Usup Mukambayev to be
the new speaker, ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL reported. Cholponbayev had
resigned on 13 November when the court found that he had not received
the required majority of votes when elected in March 1995. At that time,
only 29 of the 35 deputies were present, 17 of whom voted for
Cholponbayev. In this latest vote, only 28 deputies were present, but 18
voted in favor of the 55-year-old Mukambayev. Cholponbayev was nominated
again but refused the nomination. -- Bruce Pannier and Naryn Idinov

KOMSOMOLABAD FALLS TO TAJIK OPPOSITION. Tajik opposition forces took
over the strategic city of Komsomolabad, 150 km east of the capital,
Dushanbe, by 15 November without a fight, Russian media reported.
Russia's NTV reported that the city is calm and the opposition has
already replaced local officials. The opposition also controls a long
stretch of highway leading west toward Dushanbe. Only 60 km separate
government checkpoints on the outskirts of Dushanbe from opposition
checkpoints on the same road, according to NTV. Opposition fighters are
in positions only 12 km away from Dushanbe leaving the capital and the
Khatlon region to the south as the only territory in Tajikistan under
full government control. -- Bruce Pannier

[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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