The business of art lies just in this--to make that understood and felt which, in the form of an argument, might be incomprehensible and inaccessible. - Leo Tolstoy
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 229, Part I, 26 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

ILYUKHIN SEEKS IMPEACHMENT OR NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE. Following the decision
to withdraw troops from Chechnya, Duma Security Committee Chairman
Viktor Ilyukhin called for discussing the impeachment of President Boris
Yeltsin and voting no confidence in the government at the Duma's special
hearing on 29 November, Reuters reported on 25 November. Duma Speaker
Gennadii Seleznev said that the Duma would consider action against the
executive branch if it had violated the constitution but impeachment was
not an option now, Russian TV (RTR) and Ekho Moskvy reported. A
statement from the Popular-Patriotic Union (NPSR) published in
Sovetskaya Rossiya on 26 November, however, limited itself to asking the
Constitutional Court to examine the decisions, calling for an
extraordinary meeting of the Security Council, and calling an
extraordinary NPSR congress. Impeaching the president is extremely
difficult and the Duma has backed down from no-confidence votes in the
past because the president can call new parliamentary elections if the
Duma votes no confidence twice in three months. -- Robert Orttung

KABARDINO-BALKARIYA PRESIDENT TO RUN UNOPPOSED. The incumbent president
of Kabardino-Balkariya, Valerii Kokov, was the only candidate to submit
documents by 25 November, the deadline to register for the 12 January
1997 elections, ITAR-TASS reported. Several months ago, Kokov had
declared his republic the most stable in the North Caucasus, but on 17
November a congress of Balkar people revived earlier demands to set up a
separate Balkar Republic. Kokov has strongly denounced the separatists
and a criminal case has been filed against them. Kokov was elected to a
five-year term on 5 January 1992. -- Robert Orttung

MAVRODI'S WIFE AND CHESS CHAMPION TO RUN FOR DUMA SEAT. Yelena Mavrodi,
the wife of the infamous MMM pyramid-scheme operator Sergei Mavrodi, and
FIDE world chess champion Anatoly Karpov, have announced their intention
to run for a Duma seat in Tula Oblast, ITAR-TASS reported. They must
gather 4, 518 signatures before 15 December to register. Yelena Mavrodi
campaigned unsuccessfully for a Duma seat in Kolomna in 1995. (See OMRI
Daily Digest, 10 April and 16 May, 1995.) The only candidate officially
registered so far in Tula Oblast for the 9 February 1997 elections is
former Yeltsin Security Service chief Aleksander Korzhakov. -- Nikolai
Iakoubovski

KAZAKSTANI PRIME MINISTER IN MOSCOW. Russian Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin and his visiting Kazakstani counterpart Akezhan Kazhegeldin
signed three economic agreements in Moscow on 25 November, ITAR-TASS
reported. The agreements covered agricultural equipment, scientific-
technical cooperation, and the broadcasting of each country's television
programs. Chernomyrdin said that the two countries have "no major
differences," while Kazhegeldin termed Russia a "strategic partner" for
Kazakstan. Chernomyrdin added, however, that the "main task" facing
Russia and Kazakstan is making more rapid progress toward economic
integration. Although it was signed with much fanfare this spring, for
example, the March 1996 quadripartite Russia-Belarus-Kazakstan-
Kyrgyzstan integration accord has remained largely unimplemented. --
Scott Parrish

U.S. BLOCKS SUPERCOMPUTER EXPORTS TO RUSSIA. The U.S. Commerce
Department has refused to grant export licenses to IBM and a Hewlett-
Packard subsidiary, blocking them from selling high-speed computers to
the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy, The Journal of Commerce reported
on 25 November. The computers were intended for the Arzamas-16 (Kremlev)
and Chelyabinsk-70 (Snezhinsk) research laboratories, where they would
have helped Russian weapons designers conduct simulated nuclear
explosions, improving the safety and reliability of the Russian nuclear
arsenal while assuring adherence to the recently-signed Comprehensive
Test Ban Treaty. American critics of the proposed sale had argued that
the computers would be used to improve Russian weapons design, injuring
U.S. national security. The paper said Russian weapons designers had
viewed the computer sales as linked to Russia's signing of the CTBT, and
may now push to resume nuclear testing. -- Scott Parrish

FINNO-RUSSIAN TRANSPORT DISPUTE. Finnish trade unions on 25 November
launched an indefinite boycott of all Russian trucks, refusing to load
or unload trailers from Russia until a dispute over border charges is
resolved, ITAR-TASS reported. The boycott is in protest against taxes
and fees imposed by Russian border guards on Finnish trucks crossing the
Russo-Finnish border. The unions claim the fees are illegal and
inconsistent with bilateral border agreements, but several rounds of
intergovernmental talks have failed to resolve the dispute. The unions
also are demanding increased security for Finnish truck drivers in
Russia, who are frequently robbed or hijacked, and protesting the
increasing use of Russian drivers by Finnish firms exporting to Russia.
According to the agency, 50% of truck traffic in Finland is now
conducted by lower-cost Russian trucks and drivers. -- Scott Parrish

CONCERN OVER INCREASED USE OF KOMPROMAT. The Judicial Chamber on
Information Disputes, chaired by Anatolii Vengerov, has expressed
concern over the increased use of the media to disseminate material
aimed at compromising a business or political rival, ITAR-TASS reported
on 25 November. The chamber noted that anonymous sources or illegally
obtained information are often cited as proof of scandalous disclosures,
arguing that such practices flout the presumption of innocence, damage
the reputation of individuals and organizations, and "run counter to the
spirit and letter of legislation on the media" and journalistic ethics.
It also criticized the slow response of law enforcement bodies to such
publications. A flood of articles have recently appeared in the press
accusing prominent figures of criminal offenses and cover-ups. The
chamber is an advisory body. -- Penny Morvant

COMMUNICATIONS WORKERS THREATEN TO DISRUPT HOLIDAY BROADCASTS. Workers
at radio and television transmitter stations are threatening to disrupt
broadcasts over the New Year holidays if back wages are not paid, ITAR-
TASS reported on 25 November. Communications workers are owed 92 billion
rubles and have not been paid for three to six months. On 20 November,
workers at a Murmansk transmission center, who have not been paid for
six months, staged a one-hour strike, disrupting ORT, RTR, and St.
Petersburg Channel 5 programs in several northern cities. In general,
however, such disputes tend to be resolved before broadcasts are
canceled. -- Penny Morvant

POLL SHOWS MAGNITUDE OF WAGE ARREARS PROBLEM. Only 22% of respondents in
a recent poll received their wages in full and on time, Izvestiya
reported on 26 November. The survey, which involved about 1,500 Russian
citizens, was carried out by the Public Opinion foundation in mid-
November. Sixty-two percent of the respondents were not paid on time,
while another 16% did not work. Residents of small towns and villages
were the most likely to be paid late in October (70% of those surveyed),
while Muscovites were in the best position. Of the residents of the
capital surveyed, 64% were paid on time and only 18% suffered wage
delays. -- Penny Morvant

GOVERNMENT PICKS RUSSIAN BANKS FOR TELECOM PRIVATIZATION. The Russian
government is expected to announce on 26 November the cancellation of
the planned public sale of $1 billion worth of shares in the state-owned
telecom companies Rostelekom and Svyazinvest, AFP and the Financial
Times reported the same day. The sale was being prepared by a Western
consortium headed by N.M. Rothschild and in part funded by the World
Bank. Last week the government apparently decided to switch the project
to Alfa Bank and the Most group, two of the largest donors to Yeltsin's
election campaign. One can expect that the flotation of telecom shares
will now be confined to insider bidders, along the lines of the 1995
loans-for-shares auctions. One Western observer opined that "This will
be the biggest scandal yet in the sorry history of Russian
privatization." -- Peter Rutland

RUSSIA WILL REPAY TSARIST DEBT TO FRANCE. Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin said that the Russian government will repay the debt to
French holders of tsarist bonds, ITAR-TASS and AFP reported on 25
November. He did not elaborate on details of the repayment mechanism.
France ranked first in the total volume of foreign investment in late-
imperial Russia and was the largest official creditor of the tsarist
government. The French Association for holders of Russian bonds claims
that the tsarist debt (including interest accrued since 1917) totals
$27-31 billion. Russian officials, however, insist on taking into
account the value of Russian assets seized by French authorities when
the Bolshevik government refused to honor tsarist debts after 1917. Due
to the rumors surrounding the redemption of tsarist bonds, the French
stock market authorities temporarily suspended trade in tsarist
securities. -- Natalia Gurushina

BANKING SYSTEM REVIEW. Central Bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin said that
only 38% of all Russian banks are stable, ITAR-TASS reported on 25
November. In Moscow and the Moscow Oblast this figure is 51%, while in
the Far East it is as low as 14%. According to a Finansovye izvestiya
report on 26 November, the number of banks declined from 2,295 to 2,090
in the first 10 months of the year. The number of commercial bank
branches fell from 5,581 to 5,218 and those of Sberbank (Savings Bank)
from 38,567 to 34,326 over the same period. The banking system's
capitalization increased from 11 trillion rubles ($2.3 billion) in
January to 17 trillion rubles ($3.1 billion) in October. -- Natalia
Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

NAGORNO-KARABAKH TALKS DEADLOCKED. Yet another round of negotiations to
settle the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which began on 18 November in
Finland, have failed to make any progress, RFE/RL reported on 25
November. The parties could not agree on a declaration of principles for
ending the conflict that was intended to be signed at the OSCE's
upcoming summit in Lisbon. Observers note that, as a result, the summit
will probably adopt a nonbinding statement urging all sides to reach a
peaceful resolution. Diplomats who attended the talks said there was a
"slight movement" in Azerbaijan's position, whereas the positions of
Armenian and Nagorno-Karabakh representatives remained unchanged.
Armenia's chief presidential aide Gerard Libaridian said his country
will veto any document at the Lisbon summit that runs counter to its
interests, according to RFE/RL. In other news, commenting on the 24
November presidential election in Nagorno-Karabakh, chairman of
Azerbaijan's Supreme Court Hanlar Hajiev said it was the "result of the
thoughtless policy of Russia," Turan reported on 25 November. -- Emil
Danielyan

MORE CRITICISM OF ABKHAZ ELECTIONS. Georgian President Eduard
Shevardnadze, in his regular Monday radio broadcast on 25 November,
condemned as "a serious mistake" and "a political farce" the
parliamentary elections in Abkhazia on 23 November, Reuters reported. A
Russian Foreign Ministry statement released on 25 November and quoted by
Radio Rossii similarly asserted that the elections constituted "a
violation of universally accepted norms of human rights and basic civic
liberties" and willfully ignored international public opinion. -- Liz
Fuller

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION PARTY'S OFFICE REOPENED. The office of the National
Democratic Union (AZhM) was reopened on 25 November. It was sealed on 25
September by police following violent protests by opposition supporters
against the official results of the presidential election. An AZhM
representative told Noyan Tapan that the office suffered serious
material damage and that the party's property has not yet been returned
by the Interior Ministry. -- Emil Danielyan

KAZAKSTANI LOWER HOUSE PASSES LANGUAGE LAW. The lower house of the
Kazakstani parliament approved a language law on 22 November, according
to ITAR-TASS. After "three days of heated debates" it was decided that
ethnic Kazaks would be required to know the state language (Kazak) by
January 2001 while the Russian-speaking population must know Kazak by
January 2006. Television and radio must broadcast at least half their
programming in the state language. Also mentioned was that the state
language is used along with Russian in "all types of military
formations." On 20 November Aman Tuleyev, the Russian Minister for
Cooperation with CIS States, warned that passing such a law could lead
to a mass exodus of Russia-speakers from Kazakstan. -- Bruce Pannier

TAJIK PRESIDENT, OPPOSITION LEADER TO MEET IN DECEMBER. Western sources
reported on 25 November that Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov will meet
United Tajik Opposition (UTO) leader Said Abdullo Nuri on 9 December in
northern Afghanistan. The exact location of the meeting has not been
disclosed. The meeting will lay the groundwork for a 23 December
"official" meeting in Moscow. Expectations are that an agreement on
power sharing will be signed at the Moscow meeting. Opposition forces
have moved steadily westward since early 1996 and are now about 80
kilometers east of the capital Dushanbe. -- Bruce Pannier

UZBEK PARLIAMENT OPENS WITH HUMAN RIGHTS AGENDA. The 7th session of the
Oliy Majlis opened on 26 November with a list of "democratization"
proposals on the agenda, Uzbek TV reported. The steering committee of
the legislature, under the leadership of speaker Erkin Khalilov, met on
22 November to set the agenda, which includes the creation of a
government institution designed to ensure that legislation abides by
international standards of "democracy and human rights." In addition,
the Oliy Majlis is expected to pass legislation on political parties,
the protection of independent journalists, and greater access to state
information. While other legislation will be considered, it is evident
that this session will be marked as one in which human rights became a
high priority for the government, Uzbek officials note. -- Roger Kangas

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Steve Kettle

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            Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc.
                      All rights reserved. ISSN 1211-1570
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