Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. - Vladimir Nabokov
OMRI DAILY DIGEST</head>

No. 226, Part I, 21 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 MAKES FIRST POST-OPERATION TV APPEARANCE. In his first
television appearance since his 5 November heart operation, President
Boris Yeltsin said he is "in a fighting mood" but did not comment on any
specific political matters, Russian and Western media reported on 20
November. Yeltsin was shown walking near the Kremlin Central Hospital
with his wife, daughter, and granddaughter. While admitting he is not
"completely and firmly back on my feet," he said he no longer suffers
from heart pain. He is expected to be moved to the Barvikha sanitarium
soon for further recuperation before returning to the Kremlin. In an
interview published in Izvestiya on 21 November, Naina Yeltsin said the
president's daughter, Tatyana Dyachenko, does not interfere in personnel
matters or prepare presidential decrees but often helps Yeltsin by not
deceiving him and telling him "what others will not." -- Laura Belin

BEREZOVSKII NOT AN ISRAELI CITIZEN. Israel's ambassador to Russia, Aliza
Shenhar, announced on 20 November that Security Council Deputy Secretary
Boris Berezovskii is not an Israeli citizen, ITAR-TASS and NTV reported.
Berezovskii has admitted that he sought Israeli citizenship in late
1993, but he said he asked Israeli authorities to cancel his citizenship
after being appointed to the Security Council in October. Some
commentators had argued that it was inappropriate for a person with dual
citizenship to hold high government office, and Izvestiya questioned
Berezovskii's truthfulness about the matter (see OMRI Daily Digest, 14
and 15 November 1996). -- Laura Belin

AGRARIANS CHANGE STANCE ON LAND SALES. Leaders of the Agrarian Party of
Russia (APR) have agreed to change their stance toward the buying and
selling of farmland, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 November. APR Chairman
Mikhail Lapshin said his party would not oppose "restricted" sales or
what he called a "civilized land market." The shift could pave the way
toward passage of a land code. A presidential decree in March allowed
sale of farmland with some restrictions, but the APR and its left-wing
allies in the State Duma strongly opposed the measure. The Duma passed a
draft land code in May banning all sales of arable land but was unable
to override the Federation Council's veto on the code (see OMRI Daily
Digest, 23 May, 27 June and 15 July 1996). -- Laura Belin

DEFENSE COUNCIL INCREASES MILITARY BUDGET. The Defense Council decided
at its 20 November meeting to increase the 1997 state defense order by 6
trillion rubles ($1.1 billion), with 1.6 trillion rubles allocated to
clothing and food, and 4.4 trillion rubles for weapons and equipment,
Russian and Western agencies reported. That would increase defense
expenditures in the 1997 draft budget from 102 trillion rubles ($20.4
billion) to 108 trillion rubles. The Duma has postponed until 4 December
consideration of the draft 1997 budget approved by the joint government-
parliament conciliation commission. -- Scott Parrish

POLICE KIDNAPPED IN CHECHNYA. Two Russian Interior Ministry OMON
soldiers were kidnapped near Grozny by gunmen on 20 November while on
joint patrol with two Chechen fighters, Russian media reported. NTV
reported that the officers were being held hostage by a Chechen field
commander in exchange for the release of three of his men who were
arrested earlier this month and are now being held in a Stavropol
prison. A Chechen representative of the joint Russian-Chechen command of
Grozny later negotiated the officers' release, but on the morning of 21
November they had not yet been freed. Also on 20 November, in a separate
attack near Grozny, four Russian soldiers were killed. Meanwhile, in
Moscow, the Duma rejected a draft law presented by the government on
providing compensation to victims of the Chechen conflict, ITAR-TASS
reported. -- Scott Parrish

CONFUSION IN MOSCOW OVER NATO? "Mutually exclusive" statements from the
Defense Ministry and the Foreign Ministry on Russia's stance toward NATO
raise the question of "whether Russia has a unified and comprehensive
position on NATO, and if so, what is it?" commented Izvestiya on 21
November. The paper noted that while Defense Minister Igor Rodionov was
saying that NATO does not threaten Russia (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20
November 1996), Russia's ambassador to Sweden, Oleg Grinevskii, was
telling a Stockholm conference that NATO expansion would increase the
risk of nuclear war, warning that Russian nuclear forces could destroy
Europe and the U.S. Those contradictory statements follow a disagreement
between Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin and Foreign Minister
Yevgenii Primakov over whether Russia should apply for NATO membership
(see OMRI Daily Digest, 14 November 1996). -- Scott Parrish

PROGRAM TO AID FORMER SOVIET SCIENTISTS SAID TO BE WORKING. An
international program aimed at providing scientists from the former USSR
with nonweapons-related work is paying off, according to a report by the
U.S. government-funded National Research Council. The EC (now the EU),
Japan, and the U.S. set up an International Science and Technology
Center in Moscow in 1992 in the hope of dissuading former Soviet
scientists and engineers from selling their expertise to rogue countries
and terrorist groups eager to acquire weapons of mass destruction,
RFE/RL reported on 21 November. The center has received almost $140
million and undertaken 236 projects, employing about 12,000 scientists,
in Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakstan, and Kyrgyzstan. --
Penny Morvant

KUZBASS SALVATION COMMITTEES CALL FOR REGIONAL PROTEST. A coordinating
council of salvation committees of Kuzbass cities meeting in Prokopevsk
has called for a regional protest action, NTV reported on 20 November.
The proposal was advanced by Anatolii Chegis, chairman of the council of
oblast trade union organizations. The form of the protest will vary from
enterprise to enterprise and will coincide with the opening of a trade
union congress in Moscow. The heads of the salvation committees decided
against holding a regional political strike for the time being but
threatened to go ahead with such a protest if the government does not
send a commission to Kemerovo Oblast to deal with the region's payments
crisis and provide additional support to the coal industry. -- Penny
Morvant

MORE DETAILS ON KISIN FIRING. Vadim Kisin, the first senior government
official to fall victim to the crackdown on tax evasion, was dismissed
after depositing $300,000 in a foreign bank account without paying the
appropriate taxes in Russia, AFP reported on 20 November, citing
Interfax. Kisin, 34, was deputy minister in charge of CIS affairs until
his removal on 19 November. He will now be charged with large-scale tax
evasion and faces up to five years in prison and the confiscation of his
assets, according to tax officials. Kisin reportedly opened several
accounts in West European banks between 1992 and 1994. Investigators
found 10 bank cards in his or his parents' names issued by foreign
banks. -- Penny Morvant

KILLINGS IN TYUMEN, ST. PETERSBURG. Leonid Sidorov, general director of
a housing construction company in Tyumen and an aide were killed in a
bomb attack in the Siberian oil town on 20 November, ITAR-TASS reported.
They were on their way to their office when the explosive device--
apparently remote-controlled--went off. Sidorov was also a Cossack
general. Also on 20 November, the agency reported that Sergei Rogov, a
businessman from St. Petersburg and the organizer of a "festival of
laughter" scheduled to be held this weekend, was shot dead on 19
November. -- Penny Morvant

ANOTHER SOLDIER GOES ON SHOOTING SPREE. An Interior Ministry soldier
murdered his patrol commander and a private and wounded three others on
20 November while they were escorting a convoy of prisoners at a railway
station in Tula Oblast, ITAR-TASS reported. The soldier attempted to
escape after the shooting but was detained five hours later in a nearby
village. The crime is the latest in a series of similar cases in which
servicemen have killed their colleagues. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski

TENDER FOR AGROPROMBANK. The government announced on 12 November that it
will not buy a controlling stake in the financially troubled
Agroprombank (APB) but will put the bank up for tender on 22 November,
Segodnya reported on 21 November. The decision is opposed by the Duma's
Agrarian faction, which worries that a new private owner will not be
willing to allow APB to continue making loans to farms, many of which
are not repaid. Central Bank officials say that any new investor will be
required to ensure that 60% of APB's loans will go to agriculture. The
Agrarians also doubt whether any private bidder will come up with the 1
trillion rubles ($180 million) credit the bank requires to resume
operations. -- Natalia Gurushina

MENATEP TO SELL STAKE IN YUKOS. Menatep bank will become the first bank
to sell the government stake that it holds under the 1995 loans-for-
shares scheme, Kommersant-Daily reported on 21 November. In December
1995, an intermediary firm Laguna (backed by Menatep, Tokobank, and
Stolichnyi Bank) won a loans-for-shares auction by offering a $159
million credit for the state's 45% stake in Russia's second-largest oil
company YUKOS. The stake was then transferred under Menatep management.
In September 1996, the federal stake held by Menatep was diluted to
33.3% as a result of an additional share issue, needed to help pay off
YUKOS's 2.25 trillion ruble wage and tax debts. Menatep plans to sell
its stake in an auction slated for 23 December 1996. Its plan has been
approved by the Finance Ministry, State Property Committee, Federal
Property Fund, and by YUKOS itself. -- Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

AZERBAIJANI FOREIGN MINISTER ON NAGORNO-KARABAKH PEACE TALKS.
Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Hasan Hasanov has refuted Armenian
presidential spokesman Levon Zurabyan's statement that Azerbaijan
refused to participate in drafting a declaration of principles on a
settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20
November 1996), Turan reported on 20 November. Hasanov said a draft
declaration proposed by the Armenian side contradicts the "interests of
Azerbaijan," because it does not respect his country's territorial
integrity. -- Emil Danielyan

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT CONDEMNS PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION IN ARMENIA. The
European Parliament has passed a resolution challenging the legitimacy
of the 22 September Armenian presidential election and calling for a new
round of elections to be held in those electoral districts where serious
violations took place, Noyan Tapan reported on 20 November. The
resolution condemned the crackdown on the opposition and the media and
called on the Armenian government to adhere to democratic principles. --
Emil Danielyan

GEORGIA REINFORCES ITS BORDER TROOPS. Georgia has sent seven warships to
patrol its territorial waters amid reports that it plans to deploy an
800-strong police unit along the border with its breakaway Black Sea
region of Abkhazia, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 November, citing the
Georgian Defense Ministry. A Defense Ministry official described the
move as "planned combat duty," yet some observers believe it is
connected with the upcoming parliamentary elections in Abkhazia that
have been denounced by Georgia and the international community. Georgia
does not recognize the legitimacy of holding such elections since some
200,000 ethnic Georgian refugees who fled the region in 1993 are barred
from participating in the vote. -- Emil Danielyan

KAZAKSTAN AGREES WITH UZBEKISTAN, KYRGYZSTAN ON GAS DEBTS. Kazakstan has
signed an agreement with Uzbekistan in Tashkent on paying off its $24
million debt for Uzbek gas, Kazakhstanskaya pravda reported on 19
November. In October, Uzbekistan withheld gas deliveries due to
nonpayments and the Kazakstani capital, Almaty, received only half of
what it needed for that month, leading to a severe gas deficiency in
many households. Besides direct monetary compensation to pay for Uzbek
gas, Kazakstan also offered to supply gas from Caspian Sea regions of
Kazakstan to western Uzbekistan. Kazakstan is also close to completing a
deal with Kyrgyzstan on electricity supplies to southern Kazakstan. The
Kyrgyz have agreed to defer Kazakstan's $8 million debt for Kyrgyz
electricity but prices for electricity will now be higher. -- Slava
Kozlov in Almaty and Bruce Pannier

KAZAKSTANI OPPOSITION LEADERS CHARGED WITH VIOLATING PUBLIC ORDER. The
Kazakstani government has accused Leonid Solomin, head of the
independent confederation of trade unions, of "violating public order"
and conducting "unlawful actions" during a recent anti-government rally
in Almaty (see OMRI Daily Digest, 18 November 1996), KTK TV reported on
20 October. Police have laid similar charges against Peter Svoik, the
co-chairman of the opposition Azamat Movement. Before the rally,
President Nursultan Nazarbayev had called for the jailing of "all
violators of public stability." Meanwhile, the opposition applied to
Almaty municipal authorities for permission to hold another
demonstration on 1 December. -- Slava Kozlov in Almaty

KYRGYZSTAN TIGHTENS CONTROLS OVER RELIGIOUS GROUPS. Kyrgyz President
Askar Akayev has ordered all religious groups in Kyrgyzstan to register
with the proper authorities within a month, ITAR-TASS reported on 18
November. A source in the Justice Ministry claimed that there are more
than 200 religious organizations in the country but only 47 of them are
registered. The head of the State Commission on Religious Affairs, Emil
Kaptagayev, said the registration of the groups would allow his
commission to "compare the tasks and aims of the religious organizations
not registered so far with Kyrgyz laws as well as the principles of
state security." The Kyrgyz parliament is due to review a new law on
religion at the end of this year. -- 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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