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OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 225, Part I, 20 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 OMRI Daily Digest, and other information about OMRI, are
available through OMRI's WWW pages: http://www.omri.cz/Index.html

RUSSIA

YELTSIN MEETS WITH CHERNOMYRDIN. President Boris Yeltsin met with Prime
Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin for more than one hour, Russian media
reported on 19 November. According to presidential spokesman Sergei
Yastrzhembskii, Yeltsin instructed Chernomyrdin to arrange the first
meeting of the Consultative Council before the president returns to the
Kremlin. Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev has said he will boycott all
meetings of the Consultative Council until Yeltsin attends personally
and is not represented by his chief of staff, Anatolii Chubais. It was
the first lengthy meeting between the two men since Yeltsin's 5 November
heart operation, but contrary to expectations, no footage of the meeting
was broadcast on television. Surgeon Renat Akchurin said Yeltsin has
regained all his powers of speech and could move to the Barvikha
sanitorium within a few days. However, Naina Yeltsin said her husband
continues to suffer from chest pains, NTV reported. -- Laura Belin

YELTSIN TO HOLD SUBORDINATES ACCOUNTABLE FOR DECISIONS MADE DURING
ILLNESS. Presidential spokesman Yastrzhembskii said President Yeltsin
will hold all representatives of the federal authorities accountable for
decisions made during his lengthy illness and convalescence, Russian
media reported on 19 November. Asked for Yeltsin's reaction to the
transcript published in Moskovskii komsomolets on 15 November (see OMRI
Daily Digest, 15 and 18 November), Yastrzhembskii said Yeltsin is well-
informed about the publication but had not expressed an opinion on it.
The transcript, whose authenticity has been questioned, suggested that
current Chief of Staff Chubais and First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor
Ilyushin authorized the use of illegaly procured funds to finance
Yeltsin's re-election campaign and tried to obstruct a criminal
investigation into campaign funding. -- Laura Belin

PROCURATOR ALREADY HAD TAPE OF CONTROVERSIAL CONVERSATION. Procurator-
General Yurii Skuratov told ITAR-TASS on 19 November that his office had
a copy of the tape containing an alleged 22 June conversation among
Anatolii Chubais, Viktor Ilyushin, and Sergei Krasavchenko before the
transcript of that conversation was published in Moskovskii komsomolets
on 15 November. The procuracy obtained the recording while investigating
the events that occurred on 19-20 June, when two Yeltsin campaign aides
were detained carrying $500,000 out of a government building. Skuratov
said the recording will soon be sent for expert analysis, and he has
instructed the newspaper to hand over its tape for comparison. Chubais,
Ilyushin, and Krasavchenko have all said the alleged conversation never
took place and the transcript was fabricated. -- Nikolai Iakouboski

JOURNALIST WINS LIBEL SUIT AGAINST IZVESTIYA. A Moscow court awarded
Russian Public TV (ORT) journalist Aleksandr Lyubimov 8 million rubles
($1,500) and ordered Izvestiya to print a retraction of an article that
alleged Lyubimov had demanded a bribe from then-presidential candidate
Vladimir Bryntsalov in exchange for a television appearance, ORT
reported on 19 November. Claiming that the 21 May article harmed his
reputation, Lyubimov originally sought nearly $3 million in damages (see
OMRI Daily Digest, 24 May 1996). -- Laura Belin

REACTION TO SEPARATISM IN KABARDINO-BALKARIYA. The Procurator's Office
of Kabardino-Balkariya has opened a criminal case against leaders of the
National Council of Balkar People, and the republican parliament voted
to ban the council, Russian media reported on 19 November. The council
recently led a Congress of Balkar People that declared the formation of
an independent Republic of Balkariya (see OMRI Daily Digest, 19 November
1996). In Moscow, Justice Minister Valentin Kovalev described the
separatist declaration as unconstitutional, and the State Duma voted to
send a delegation to the republic, to be led by Duma Security Committee
Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin. In 1991-1992, representatives of the Balkar
and Karachai minorities in Kabardino-Balkariya repeatedly voiced
secessionist intentions. However, in a 1994 referendum, about 90% of
Balkars, who make about 10% of the republican population, voted to stay
in a united republic, ORT reported. -- Anna Paretskaya in Moscow

DEFEATED KORYAK GOVERNOR CALLS FOR STATE OF EMERGENCY. After losing his
17 November gubernatorial race to Valentina Bronevich, Koryak Autonous
Okrug Governor Sergei Leushkin asked President Yeltsin to cancel the
election results and impose a state of emergency because of an energy
shortage and wage arrears in the region, Segodnya reported on 20
November. Leushkin said the election was invalid since it was conducted
on the basis of a presidential decree rather than local legislation.
Bronevich, who was backed by Vladimir Shumeiko's Reforms-New Course
bloc, won a resounding 46%-25% victory after Communist-backed Nina
Solodyakovaya withdrew in her favor the day before the balloting.
Central Electoral Commission Secretary Aleksandr Veshnyakov described
Leushkin's actions as illegal and warned that "governors will not be
allowed to appoint themselves" to second terms, the paper reported.
Bronevich will be Russia's first female governor. -- Robert Orttung

U.S. PROTESTS RUSSIAN ESPIONAGE. U.S. State Department spokesman Glyn
Davies termed Russian espionage activities like the recruitment of CIA
officer Harold Nicholson "unacceptable" and "inconsistent with the
pattern of bilateral relations in recent years," Reuters reported on 19
November. Davies said Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott had
delivered a formal protest to Russian Ambassador Yulii Vorontsov in
which Washington had "demanded an explanation" and threatened
retaliatory action. -- Scott Parrish

RODIONOV SAYS NATO DOESN'T THREATEN RUSSIA . . . Speaking after a 19
November meeting with his visiting British counterpart, Michael
Portillo, Defense Minister Igor Rodionov said that he is convinced that
NATO is not a threat to Russia but added that "millions of people,
especially in Russia," remain to be convinced, Russian and Western media
reported. In an interview published on 20 November in Komsomolskaya
pravda, Rodionov expressed doubt about Security Council Secretary Ivan
Rybkin's suggestions that Russia join NATO's political structures,
saying the alliance is "a product of the Cold War" and cannot serve as
the basis of a new European security system, even if Russia were to be
admitted. -- Scott Parrish

. . . AND THAT RUSSIAN MILITARY IS NO LONGER IN "CRISIS." Backtracking
from his recent statement that the military is on the verge of a
"catastrophe," (see OMRI Daily Digest , 13 November 1996), Rodionov told
journalists, "I wouldn't term the situation in the Russian armed forces
a 'crisis.'" He admitted that "certain difficulties and problems remain"
but said that the overall situation, including funding, has improved in
the past month. Meanwhile, in response to media reports of starving
soldiers and rampant corruption in military procurement, First Deputy
Prime Minister Aleksei Bolshakov told a Moscow meeting of government and
military officials that military food supplies will now be centralized
under the Federal Food Corporation. It will purchase only domestic food
products, he added. -- Scott Parrish

LEBED VISITS U.S. Former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed is
visiting the U.S. at the invitation of the Council on Foreign Relations
and the Nixon Center, Western and Russian media reported on 19 November.
Lebed addressed a closed-door session of the council in New York. RFE/RL
reported that Lebed urged the U.S. to increase aid to Russia to help it
improve the security of its nuclear stockpile. Komsomolskaya pravda said
the trip, only Lebed's second to the West, is part of his preparation
for the 2000 presidential election. While Russian TV (RTR) and several
Moscow papers covered the visit, ORT and NTV, which spearheaded a media
offensive against Lebed before his sacking, did not. -- Scott Parrish

RESEARCHER KILLS FIVE, COMMITS SUICIDE. Karen Zhamogortyan, the director
of the Kazan branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences's Institute of
Information Science, committed suicide after killing his wife and four
co-workers, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 November. Police have yet to find a
motive for the killings. -- Penny Morvant

STRIKE ROUND-UP. Workers at the Pribaltiiskii military shipbuilding
plant in Kaliningrad Oblast have been on strike for a week in protest
against a five-month delay in wage payments, ORT reported on 19
November. A number of the plant's employees have also gone on hunger
strike. The Defense Ministry owes the shipyard 30 billion rubles ($5.5
million). The yard is the biggest enterprise in the oblast. Meanwhile,
medical workers in Chernogorsk, Khakassiya, ended a three-week hunger
strike despite the failure of the local administration to pay wage
arrears, ITAR-TASS reported. The city authorities have, however,
resolved to allocate 40% of local tax receipts to the health care
system. -- Penny Morvant

RUSSIANS STILL PREFER FOREIGN CURRENCY. Although the monthly
depreciation of the ruble-dollar exchange rate was lower than the
monthly rate of consumer price inflation for most of the year (the ruble
fell from 4,034/$1 at end-January to 5,455 at end-October), Russians
still prefer to hold savings in foreign currency. According to the
Central Bank and the State Statistical Committee, in the first nine
months of 1996 the population spent 169 trillion rubles ($31 billion) on
purchasing foreign currency, and the authorities recorded an inflow to
the country of $21 billion, according to Rossiiskaya gazeta on 19
November and Interfaks-AiF (no.47). -- Natalia Gurushina

DUMA CHALLENGES LEGALITY OF TAX COMMISSION. The State Duma on 18
November appealed President Yeltsin's 11 October decree  establishing
the Temporary Extraordinary Commission for Tax and Budget Discipline
(VChK) to the Constitutional Court, Rossiiskaya gazeta reported the next
day. The Duma argues that it is unconstitutional to grant judicial and
investigative functions to a presidential body. The VChK held its third
meeting behind closed doors on 19 November, NTV reported. It discussed
ways to tax the shadow economy, thought to account for 40% of all
economic activity, and to crack down on illicit alcohol imports. It is
estimated that 80% of all vodka sold avoids excise duties. On 19
November, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said that the Deputy
Minister for CIS Affairs, Vadim Kisin, would be fired for tax evasion,
ITAR-TASS reported. On 20 November, AFP reported that tax police raided
the Moscow offices of the U.K. advertising firm Saatchi and Saatchi,
claiming unpaid taxes of 33 billion rubles ($5.4 million). -- Peter
Rutland

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

GAMSAKHURDIA LIEUTENANT SENTENCED TO DEATH. The Georgian Supreme Court
in Tbilisi on 19 November handed down a death sentence on Vakhtang
"Loti" Kobalia, a commander of informal military formations and ally of
former President Zviad Gamsakhurdia, Western agencies reported. After a
trial lasting one year, Kobalia was found guilty of treason, banditry,
and the 1993 murders of five soldiers and a TV journalist. Three other
Gamsakhurdia associates, including his former chief bodyguard, Djambul
Bokuchava, received prison sentences of between eight and 15 years. Some
1,500 Gamsakhurdia supporters gathered outside the court to protest the
sentences. Speaking on Georgian Radio on 18 November, Georgian President
Eduard Shevardnadze hinted that he would decide before the end of this
year whether to abolish the death penalty. -- Liz Fuller

NAGORNO-KARABAKH NEGOTIATION UPDATE. Acting Armenian presidential
spokesman Levon Zurabyan said that Azerbaijan has refused to participate
further in drafting a joint declaration of principles on a settlement of
the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, RFE/RL reported on 19 November. The
declaration was due to be presented at the OSCE's December summit in
Lisbon. Zurabyan said Armenia will not sign any documents at the summit
unless all sides agree on them in advance. Meanwhile, another round of
Nagorno-Karabakh peace talks sponsored by the OSCE Minsk group began in
Helsinki on 18 November, Noyan Tapan and Turan reported. -- Emil
Danielyan

ARMENIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT HEARINGS INTERRUPTED. The Armenian
Constitutional Court on 19 November interrupted its hearings on the
opposition's appeal of the recent presidential polls after the proxies
of defeated candidate Vazgen Manukyan staged a walk-out, RFE/RL
reported. Shavarsh Kocharyan, Manukyan's representative to the court,
said the proxies were protesting the court's refusal to demand access to
all of the precinct-level voting protocols from the Central Electoral
Commission and to listen to complaints of alleged voting irregularities
from opposition witnesses. Kocharyan said the opposition will not attend
the hearings unless its demands are satisfied. -- Emil Danielyan

PROTESTS OVER BEATING OF AZERBAIJANI JOURNALIST. Reporters sans
frontieres and the independent Azerbaijani journalists' organization
Yeni Nesil have both protested the 17 November beating of journalist
Taptig Farkhadoglu by a group of plainclothes police officers, Turan
reported on 19 November. The incident took place shortly after
Farkhadoglu interviewed Party of National Statehood Chairman Nemat
Panahov, who had himself been detained by security officials on 15
November and warned against holding a planned demonstration in Baku on
17 November. -- Liz Fuller

KAZAKSTANI FOREIGN MINISTER MEETS OIC OFFICIAL. Kazakstani Foreign
Minister Kasymzhomart Tokaev discussed the situation in Afghanistan with
Ibrahim Saleh Bakr, the deputy secretary general of the Organization of
the Islamic Conference (OIC), in Almaty on 17 November, Kazakhstanskaya
pravda reported on 18 November. The OIC, which has been trying to
arrange peace negotiations involving all opposing forces in Afghanistan,
is currently looking for the support from various Asian states. -- Slava
Kozlov in Almaty

KYRGYZSTAN OFFERS TO HOST AFGHAN CONFERENCE. Kyrgyz President Askar
Akayev forwarded a letter to the UN on 18 November offering Bishkek as a
venue for Afghan peace talks that would involve representatives of the
UN Security Council, RFE/RL reported. On the same day, 18 countries,
including Russia and the CIS Central Asian states, met at the UN behind
closed doors to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. Kabul Radio,
controlled by the Taliban rebel group, commented that the UN meeting
"runs counter to the interests of the Afghan people," ITAR-TASS
reported. -- Bruce Pannier and Naryn Idinov

[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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