You see things and you say 'Why?' But I dream thing that never were; and I say, 'Why not?'. - Geroge Bernard Shaw
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 224, Part I, 19 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

RUSSIA, CHINA HAIL "BREAKTHROUGH" IN BORDER TALKS. Speaking at a Beijing
press conference with his visiting Russian counterpart, Yevgenii
Primakov, Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen announced a
"breakthrough" in talks on reducing troop levels along the 4,300 km
Russian-Chinese border, Russian and Western agencies reported on 18
November. Primakov said the troop reduction agreement, which would
complement a frontier confidence-building agreement signed this past
April, could be finished as early as next April, when Chinese President
Jiang Zemin is scheduled to visit Moscow. Primakov hailed the
development of a "strategic partnership" with China but denied that
Russian-Chinese ties were directed at any third country. Qian said China
is very satisfied with the development of bilateral ties but hopes to
further boost bilateral trade, which totalled $5.4 billion in 1995, and
is expected to exceed $6 billion this year. -- Scott Parrish

. . . BUT OTHER BILATERAL PROBLEMS PERSIST. Meanwhile, an official from
the Russian Border Service complained to ITAR-TASS about what he termed
the "silent expansion" of illegal Chinese immigration into the Russian
Far East. He said that during 1996, some 9,500 Chinese had been deported
from Primorskii Krai for overstaying their visas. Although joint border
control measures had helped somewhat reduce the flow of illegal
migrants, he argued that lax visa regulations for Chinese tourists
continued to make illegal immigration too easy. Meanwhile, ITAR-TASS
reported that complaints of unfair competition from local traders in
Birobidzhan had led the local authorities to establish a separate market
for Chinese traders. -- Scott Parrish

ACCUSED RUSSIAN SPY ARRESTED. Harold Nicholson, a former CIA station
chief in Romania currently serving in the agency's counter-terrorism
center, has been arrested on charges of spying for Russia, Western
agencies reported on 18 November. CIA Director John Deutch and FBI
Director Louis Freeh told a joint press conference that Nicholson had
been delivering classified data to Moscow since June 1994, in exchange
for more than $120,000. Freeh and Deutch said Nicholson, 46, had not
done as much damage as the notorious Russian mole Aldrich Ames but had
told Moscow the identities of agents he taught during a 1995-1996 stint
as a CIA training instructor. Possibly reflecting official unease in
Moscow, only NTV covered the story, while ORT and Russian TV (RTR)
ignored it. After pulling one report, ITAR-TASS quoted Russian Foreign
Intelligence Service spokeswoman Tatyana Samolis as refusing comment on
the arrest. -- Scott Parrish

DAGESTAN EXPLOSION DEATH TOLL RISES TO 64. The death toll from the 16
November explosion at the military apartment block in the city of
Kaspiisk has risen to 64, including 20 children, ITAR-TASS reported on
19 November. So far, 39 people have been rescued from the rumble.
President Boris Yeltsin has declared 19 November a day of national
mourning. ITAR-TASS reported on 18 November that Federal Security
Service head Nikolai Kovalev informed Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin
that investigators had detained one suspect, but that information was
later denied. Officials investigating the case rule out the possibility
of an accidental gas explosion, since the house was not hooked up to gas
supplies. -- Natalia Gurushina

NEITHER SIDE SHOWS UP FOR KORZHAKOV LAWSUIT. Neither side turned up for
a court hearing in former presidential bodyguard Aleksandr Korzhakov's
lawsuit against President Boris Yeltsin and the presidential
administration, NTV and Reuters reported on 18 November. Korzhakov is
demanding a public apology for a presidential decree that accused him of
slandering the president and divulging secret information (see OMRI
Daily Digest, 4 November and 29 October 1996). He is not seeking
financial compensation or reinstatement in his former job. It was the
second time the case was postponed because neither side showed up, and
Judge Lidiya Sorokina said she would subpoena both sides for the next
court hearing. NTV reported that Korzhakov is in the hospital but did
not say for how long. He was taken to hospital on 8 November for
treatment of a sports-related knee injury. -- Laura Belin

SEPARATISM THREATENS KABARDINO-BALKARIYA. A congress of Balkar people
voted on 17 November to establish the sovereign Republic of Balkariya,
separate from the current North Caucasian Republic of Kabardino-
Balkariya, Russian media reported the next day. The congress appealed to
President Yeltsin to introduce direct presidential rule in Balkariya
until an independent State Council and law enforcement authorities are
formed. It also elected Lt.-Gen. (ret.) Sufeyan Beppaev, a former high-
ranking Soviet officer in the Transcaucasus military district, to chair
the new Balkariyan State Council. Kabardino-Balkariya's president,
Valerii Kokov, an ethnic Kabardiyan, on 18 November accused the congress
of "nationalist extremism" and pledged to take all legal means against
"acts aimed at destabilizing peace and accord" in the republic. Russian
Public TV (ORT) reported that in 1995 Kokov cut off calls for separatism
among Kabardiyans. The 1989 census estimated the number of Balkars at
71,000, making up about 9% of the population of Kabardino-Balkariya. --
Laura Belin

CHERNOMYRDIN, RYBKIN DISCUSS CHECHNYA. Russian Security Council
Secretary Ivan Rybkin on 18 November announced that the interim draft
agreement on relations between Russia and Chechnya is "practically
ready" for signing by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and interim
Chechen Prime Minister Aslan Maskhadov, Radio Rossii reported. His
comments came after a meeting with Chernomyrdin and Chechen national
security adviser Akhmed Zakaev. Also on 18 November, Chechen parliament
chairman Akhyad Idigov argued that the two Russian brigades still
stationed in Chechnya constitute "a destabilizing factor" and should be
withdrawn before the parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled
for 27 January 1997, Reuters reported, citing Interfax. Chechen Deputy
Prime Minister Ruslan Kutaev similarly told RTR that all Russian troops
must be withdrawn from Chechnya prior to the elections. Russian Interior
Minister Anatolii Kulikov argued that Russia should keep up to 5,000
troops in Chechnya permanently. -- Liz Fuller

VOLGOGRAD MAYOR SUES FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. Volgograd Mayor Yurii Chekhov
has asked the Procurator General's Office to open a lawsuit against the
federal government in Russia's Supreme Arbitration Court, RTR reported
on 18 November. Chekhov is seeking approximately 200 billion rubles ($37
million) that he says federal authorities owe his city; the funds are
needed to pay wages, pensions, and social programs. Chekhov is
contesting the 22 December gubernatorial election in Volgograd Oblast,
and like many candidates for regional office, he is seeking to build a
reputation as a defender of local interests against Moscow. Khabarovsk
Krai Governor Viktor Ishaev, who is seeking re-election in December,
recently threatened tough measures to force the federal government to
meet its financial obligations to his region (see the Russian Regional
Report, 13 November 1996). -- Laura Belin

REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMEN APPEAL TO YELTSIN. U.S. House of Representatives
Speaker Newt Gingrich and several other Republican members of Congress
have sent a letter to President Yeltsin asking him to do "everything in
his power" to solve the Moscow murder of U.S. entrepreneur Paul Tatum,
Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported on 18 November. The letter said that U.S.
assistance programs for Russia will be influenced by the success of
Russian authorities in combating crime and corruption, and warned that
the current atmosphere of unrestrained crime undermines the willingness
of U.S. businesses to operate in Russia. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA ACCUSED OF VIOLATING OF CHILDRENS' RIGHTS. The International
Commitee for the Dignity of the Child, a human rights organization based
in Switzerland, has accused Russia of violating international
conventions on the rights of the child which it signed upon joining the
Council of Europe earlier this year, AFP reported on 18 November. After
a survey of four St. Petersburg prisons, the commitee pointed out that
imprisoned adolescents are often held in very poor conditions and suffer
from various abuses meted by the prison administration, including rape
and other violence. The commitee said adolescents are subjected to the
same penal code as adults from the age of 14 and undergo severe
punishment ranging from a few months for a simple theft to seven years
for burglary. In some cases, youths who were incarcerated for petty
crimes suffer from tuberculosis. There are some 80 youth prisons in the
CIS. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski

MARTIAN PROBE FOLLOW-UP. Russia's financial losses from the unsuccessful
launch of the Martian probe, Mars-96, may top $122 million, since
neither the booster nor the probe were insured, ITAR-TASS reported on 18
November. Although the failure dealt a serious blow to the Russian space
program, foreign space experts say that occasional disasters like this
are inevitable. Environmentalists are concerned over the presence of
some 200 grams of plutonium in four of the probe's batteries, which they
say may cause radioactive contamination. Russian officials, however,
said the plutonium presents no danger as it is stored securely and
sealed in a double casing, AFP reported on 18 November. -- Natalia
Gurushina

GAZPROM CONTEMPLATES RESTRUCTURING AND CUTTING GAS TRANSIT THROUGH
UKRAINE. Speaking at a conference in London, the head of Russia's gas
giant Gazprom, Rem Vyakhirev, said that the company will restructure its
operations in the near future, AFP reported on 19 November. Gazprom's
management will impose stricter market discipline and discontinue
certain activities that are not directly connected with its gas
operations. Fuel and Energy Minister Petr Rodionov rejected rumors that
the company will be split into several smaller units. Gazprom's new
strategy may involve cutting the volume of gas moved through Ukraine,
since, according to Vyakhirev, a substantial part of it is stolen en
route. Gazprom is now working on an insurance deal that would require
the Ukrainian side to pay compensation for stolen gas, ITAR-TASS
reported on 18 November. -- Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

SECRET GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ TALKS. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze met
on 14 November in Tbilisi with Abkhaz Foreign Minister Konstantin Ozgan
to discuss "the full range of questions regarding the Georgian-Abkhaz
conflict" including a possible meeting between Shevardnadze and Abkhaz
President Vladislav Ardzinba, Reuters reported on 18 November, quoting
Georgian presidential press spokesman Vakhtang Abashidze. Also on 18
November, Shevardnadze again condemned the Abkhaz parliamentary
elections scheduled for 23 November as "illegal" and "a masquerade." --
Liz Fuller

UZBEKISTAN, KAZAKSTAN SIGN GAS DEAL. An agreement signed in Tashkent on
18 November will open the way for Uzbekistan to ship $150 million worth
of gas to southern Kazakstan, the BBC reported on 19 November. The
agreement resulted from a one-day meeting that focused attention on the
fact that Kazakstan currently owes its southern neighbor $26 million for
1995 gas shipments. Kazakstan had no alternative but to sign the
agreement after it failed to take advantage of its own untapped
resources and finalize gas shipment arrangements with Turkmenistan. The
deal is seen as a major step for Uzbekistan, which hopes to capitalize
on its growing capacity to export raw materials and energy resources
and, in the process, settle its own economic problems. -- Roger Kangas

CLINTON PRAISES AZERBAIJAN'S STANCE ON CFE. U.S. President Bill Clinton
on 18 November dispatched a message to his Azerbaijani counterpart
Heidar Aliev emphasizing the importance of reaching a settlement of the
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as a basis for stability and prosperity in the
Caucasus, ITAR-TASS reported. Clinton also praised Azerbaijan's "firm
stand" on compliance with the CFE (in contrast, Georgia has ceded to
Russia part of its CFE allowance). Clinton further affirmed the U.S.'s
intention to broaden its dialogue with Azerbaijan on issues of regional
stability. -- Liz Fuller

OPPOSITION RALLY IN YEREVAN. Speaking at their traditional weekly rally
on 15 November, Armenian opposition leaders said they do not trust the
Constitutional Court because it is "not independent," Noyan Tapan
reported on 18 November. The Constitutional Court is to rule on the
opposition's appeal of the recent presidential election results.
Representatives of student organizations at the rally demanded the
release of Mikael Surenyants and Vahe Varsamyan, two activists arrested
during the violent 25 September protests against the election results.
Meanwhile, some 300 protesters gathered in front of the Constitutional
Court building in Yerevan on 18 November to demand a live TV broadcast
of the court's hearings on the appeal. -- Emil Danielyan

FOUR RADIO STATIONS SUSPENDED IN ALMATY. The Almaty-based independent
radio stations Totem, RIK, NS, and Radio M have not been able to
broadcast for the past several days, Kazakstani TV reported on 18
November, citing the radios' presidents. The stations were shut down
because their frequencies allegedly interfere with the local airport's
communications system, an official explanation dismissed by all four
stations (see OMRI Daily Digest, 15 November 1996) Sergei Duvanov,
director of Radio M, said the stations were shut down for "political
reasons." Aidar Zhumabayev, president of the International Center of
Journalism Akbar, said there are also possible commercial reasons for
shutting down the stations, referring to an upcoming tender for
frequencies to be held in 1997. -- Slava Kozlov in Almaty

TURKMENISTAN, TURKEY SIGN AGREEMENTS. Turkmen President Saparmurat
Niyazov met his Turkish counterpart, Suleyman Demirel, on 18 November in
Ankara and the two signed agreements covering environmental,
educational, and economic cooperation, according to ITAR-TASS and
RFE/RL. Demirel said the two countries enjoy "perfect relations" and
Niyazov mentioned that Turkish investors had already sunk $1.5 billion
into Turkmen projects. Niyazov arrived in Turkey on 14 November for
medical check-ups, but none of the reports carried any detailed
information on the results. TRT TV in Ankara, monitored by the BBC,
reported that Niyazov's examination had a "cardiac emphasis." Niyazov
suffers from respiratory problems and had an operation on his leg to
remove a blood clot in 1994. -- 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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