When in doubt, tell the truth. - Mark Twain
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 230, Part I, 27 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

SOME DUMA FACTIONS OPPOSE SPECIAL SESSION ON CHECHNYA. Russian Regions
faction leader Vladimir Medvedev called for canceling the Duma's special
session set for 29 November, citing the Justice Ministry's conclusion
that the accord signed by Chernomyrdin and Maskhadov is constitutional,
ITAR-TASS reported on 26 November. Yabloko's Vladimir Lukin said there
was no need for the session since it was merely an attempt by the
opposition to patch up divisions that have recently appeared in its
ranks, RIA Novosti reported. Liberal Democratic Party of Russian Duma
Deputy Chairman Mikhail Gutseriev believes that the reaction of the
communists and their allies has been "too emotional" since neither the
troop withdrawal decree nor the accord say Chechnya is not part of
Russia. Duma Deputy Chairman Sergei Baburin, of the People's Power
faction, however, called on President Boris Yeltsin and Prime Minister
Viktor Chernomyrdin to resign. -- Robert Orttung

BASAEV TO RUN FOR CHECHEN PRESIDENT. Speaking on Chechen television on
26 November, field commander Shamil Basaev announced his candidacy for
the 27 January 1997 Chechen presidential elections, Russian and Western
agencies reported. Basaev, who commanded the Chechen militants who
perpetrated the hostage taking in the southern Russian town of
Budennovsk in June 1995, said that in running for president he wished to
demonstrate his ability "not only to fight but to build a peaceful
life." Also on 26 November, thousands of Chechens congregated in Grozny
to commemorate the second anniversary of the abortive attempt to
overthrow the Dudaev leadership. Speaking in Moscow on 26 November,
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadii Tarasov warned that Russia
will oppose the plans of the Chechen leadership, as outlined by premier
Aslan Maskhadov in an interview with a Saudi newspaper, to open
embassies in Turkey and a number of Asian states, ITAR-TASS reported. --
Liz Fuller

LUZHKOV JOINING RULING TROIKA. Yeltsin may be boosting Moscow Mayor
Yurii Luzhkov's power and prestige as a counterweight to Presidential
Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 26
November. Traditionally, Yeltsin rules with a threesome or foursome of
immediate subordinates, while reserving the role of arbiter for himself.
With the removal of Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed, only
Chubais and Chernomyrdin are considered key players. Luzhkov's
participation in the 21 November Consultative Council meeting is
evidence of his rise. The mayor's strong political support base,
aggressive tactics, and past differences with Chubais over privatization
make him a logical balancer. -- Robert Orttung

BEREZOVSKII SAID TO HAVE A GREEN CARD. Kuranty on 26 November published
a photo of a document it claimed was a valid U.S. green card in the name
of Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii. Berezovskii had
an Israeli passport until recently, renouncing his citizenship after he
was appointed to the Security Council. According to Komsomolskaya pravda
on 27 November, documents purporting to show that Berezovskii has the
right to reside in the U.S. have been distributed to various editorial
offices. The paper noted that there is now a considerable market in
kompromat, or compromising material. It claimed that the latest material
on Berezovskii might be an attempt to divert attention away from the
scandal over his Israeli citizenship rather than simply another attempt
to discredit him. -- Penny Morvant

CHERNOMYRDIN DENOUNCES NATO EXPANSION PLANS. On an official visit to
Paris, Prime Minister Chernomyrdin on 26 November harshly criticized the
"obstinacy" of "certain forces" in the West, which want to achieve the
goal of NATO expansion "at whatever cost, without concern for the
legitimate national security concerns of Russia," AFP reported. Harking
back to Soviet diplomatic tactics, which often attempted to exploit
divisions within NATO, Chernomyrdin praised Paris's stance on
enlargement as close to that of Moscow. He also alluded to Franco-
American disputes over European security, saying that Europeans "should
be able to decide their destiny without outside interference." Earlier,
Chernomyrdin and his French counterpart Alain Juppe signed three
agreements covering taxes, space exploration, and agriculture. -- Scott
Parrish

RODIONOV REFUSES TO ACCEPT JOINT BASING OF BLACK SEA FLEET. Speaking
after a 26 November Moscow meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart
Oleksander Kuzmuk, Defense Minister Igor Rodionov reiterated that Russia
will not accept joint basing of the Ukrainian and Russian portions of
the Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol, Russian media reported. Rebuffing
continuing claims to Sevastopol by Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, however,
Rodionov argued that Russia must "resign itself" to the "fact" that
Crimea and Sevastopol belong to Ukraine. Kuzmuk insisted the Ukrainian
navy would be based in Sevastopol, and predicted that further talks
would resolve the dispute. Rodionov blamed the failure to achieve
compromise on "third forces" in Russia, Ukraine and other countries
which hope to torpedo Russo-Ukrainian cooperation. Despite the fleet
disagreement, the two ministers signed a bilateral military cooperation
plan for 1997, which includes measures strengthening joint air defense
and communications. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA PROTESTS U.S. BAN ON SUPERCOMPUTER SALES. The Ministry of Atomic
Energy on 26 November protested the decision by the U.S. Commerce
Department blocking its plans to purchase American high-speed computers,
NTV and ITAR-TASS reported (see OMRI Daily Digest, 26 November 1996).
Ministry spokesman Grigorii Kaurov dismissed as "groundless" American
concerns that the proposed computer sales would pose a risk of nuclear
proliferation, saying that the ministry had intended to use the
computers to improve the safety and security of the existing Russian
nuclear stockpile. He complained that the decision showed that "mutual
trust" had not been established between Washington and Moscow. -- Scott
Parrish

RUSSIA DENIES IT HAS BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS PROGRAM. Addressing a conference
of 138 signatories of the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention, Russian
delegation head Grigorii Berdennikov said that Russia adheres to all
clauses of the convention, and has "never developed, produced,
accumulated, or stored biological weapons," ITAR-TASS reported. He said
Russia supports moves to strengthen enforcement of the treaty, but any
new inspection regime must be inexpensive and non-discriminatory.
Earlier, U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency head John Holum said
Washington suspects 12 countries, including Russia, Iraq, and China of
having biological weapons programs. In 1992, President Yeltsin admitted
that the Soviet Union had developed biological weapons in violation of
the 1972 convention, but insisted that all such programs had been
terminated. -- Scott Parrish

SOLZHENITSYN ASSAILS RUSSIAN LEADERSHIP. Nobel prize-winning author
Alexander Solzhenitsyn published an article in the French daily Le Monde
in which he painted a grim picture of present-day Russia, AFP reported
on 26 November. The article was timed to coincide with Chernomyrdin's
visit to Paris. Solzhenitsyn argues that the new Russian leadership is
no better than the communists and stresses that "nothing resembling
democracy currently exists in Russia." He states that the country is
ruled by an oligarchy of 150 to 200 people, drawn from former members of
the communist elite or the "new rich" who amassed instant fortunes
through illegal means. Solzhenitsyn argues that the state operates
without any accountability to society, while the press is under tight
control. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski

YASIN WARNS OF ECONOMIC CRASH. In a letter to Chernomyrdin, Economy
Minister Yevgenii Yasin warned that the government's economic policy "is
dragging the country into the abyss of a long depression." The letter
was published in Nezavisimaya gazeta on 26 November; independent
confirmation of its authenticity is not available. Yasin writes that the
slide in tax collections "is not due to the evil refusal to pay taxes by
people who have money, but the contraction of the tax base as a
consequence of the fall in production and worsening financial situation
of enterprises." He called for a radical change in the government's
course, but did not come up with much in the way of concrete policy
proposals. -- Peter Rutland

INDUSTRIALISTS UNHAPPY. Arkadii Volskii, president of the Russian Union
of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, told a national congress of the
organization on 26 November that the money supply should be raised from
12% to 60% of GDP to stop the economic recession, ORT reported. He said
that the emergency tax commission is not working because "it is avoiding
the half-criminalized banks and fake financial companies, trading
houses, and intermediaries," and cracking down on manufacturers while
"protecting the field for the new Russians." Volskii said "the idea that
there is a directors' bloc, or 'red directors' who want to drag the
country into the past, has become a fairy tale." -- Peter Rutland

RUBLE CORRIDOR SET FOR 1997. At a press conference on 26 November,
Finance Minister Aleksandr Livshits and Central Bank head Sergei Dubinin
said the "inclined corridor" for the ruble will be continued through
1997 to ensure "stability and predictability" in the exchange rate,
ITAR-TASS reported. The corridor will slide from 5,500-6,100 rubles per
dollar on 1 January 1997 to 5,750-6,350 rubles on 31 December1997. The
plan is to have the ruble slip against the dollar by no more than 1.1%
per month, and hopefully at a rate below domestic price inflation. This
would mean that the ruble will continue to slowly appreciate in real
terms against the dollar, which is favorable to importers but not to
exporters. On 27 November the official course was 5,503 rubles to the
dollar. -- Peter Rutland

RUSSIA AND FRANCE SETTLE TSARIST DEBT. Russia's Foreign Economic
Relations Minister Oleg Davydov and France's Finance Minister Jean
Arthuis signed an agreement on repaying tsarist debts on 26 November,
AFP reported. Russian state bonds in French hands will be redeemed over
a four-year period by dividing $400 million by the number of claims.
Over the last 10 years, Russia signed similar deals with the U.K., the
U.S., Canada, and Switzerland. Arthuis said the deal should improve
Russia's investment risk grade, lowering insurance premiums and boosting
investment. Signing the deal means that French investors can now
participate in Russia's eurobond trade. The agreement may also help
Russia's application to join the Paris Club as a creditor (in light of
debts owed to it by Third World nations). -- Natalia Gurushina

AVTOVAZ BANKRUPTCY IMMINENT. First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir
Potanin has decided to initiate bankruptcy proceedings against the
Togliatti auto manufacturer AvtoVAZ, ITAR-TASS and Kommersant-Daily
reported on 26-27 November. Potanin said that company officials refused
to cooperate with a government plan to sell 50% of the company's shares
to a strategic investor. According to State Property Committee Chairman
Alfred Kokh, AvtoVAZ's debts amount to 11 trillion rubles ($2 billion),
of which 2.8 trillion rubles are owed in federal taxes. -- Natalia
Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

UN SECURITY COUNCIL SLAMS ABKHAZ ELECTIONS. The UN Security Council,
following a briefing by UN special envoy for Georgia Edouard Brunner and
his deputy Liviu Bota, on 26 November issued a statement deploring the
holding of "so-called parliamentary elections" in Abkhazia on 23
November, ITAR-TASS reported. The statement, however, expressed
satisfaction at last week's meeting between Georgian President Eduard
Shevardnadze and Abkhaz Foreign Minister Konstantin Ozgan. In the polls,
30 deputies were elected, including 19 Abkhaz, four Russians, three
Armenians, two Georgians, one Kabardian, and one Greek; runoffs will be
held in five constituencies where turnout was below the required 50%. In
Abkhazia, celebrations were held on 26 November to mark the first
anniversary of the adoption of a new constitution. -- Liz Fuller

MORE REACTIONS TO NAGORNO-KARABAKH ELECTION. The Azerbaijani Foreign
Ministry on 26 November issued a statement reiterating its condemnation
of the 24 November presidential election in the self-proclaimed Nagorno-
Karabakh Republic, ITAR-TASS reported. The statement said the election
was an attempt "to annex a part of Azerbaijani territory occupied by
Armenian troops," and blamed Armenia for initiating the "illegal act."
Meanwhile, reelected Nagorno-Karabakh President Robert Kocharyan
assessed his landslide victory (more than 85% of the vote) as support
for his administration's policies, Noyan Tapan reported on 26 November.
-- Emil Danielyan

RASI-ZADE CONFIRMED AS AZERBAIJAN'S PRIME MINISTER. Azerbaijani
President Heidar Aliev on 26 November issued a decree naming Artur Rasi-
Zade as Azerbaijan's new prime minister, ITAR-TASS reported. Rasi-Zade
had been acting prime minister since the resignation, ostensibly on
health grounds, of Fuad Kuliev on 19 July. Rasi-Zade was born in Gyanje
in 1935, trained as an oil engineer, and worked from 1957-1978 in the
oil sector. He then worked as deputy chairman of Gosplan and from 1981-
86 as head of the Machine-Building Department of the Azerbaijan CP
Central Committee. He held the post of first deputy prime minister
between 1988 and 1992, prior to the advent to power of the Azerbaijan
Popular Front. -- Liz Fuller

UNREST IN SOUTHERN KAZAKSTANI CITY. The Kazakstani city of Shymkent
experienced three days of protests against the shortage of electricity,
gas and telephones services, RFE/RL reported on 26 November. Despite an
agreement signed earlier in November with Uzbekistan to increase power
supplies to southern Kazakstan, no visible results were seen by 24
November. RFE/RL reported youths broke car windows, elderly people
blocked traffic, and thousands of people took to the streets.
Authorities in the region turned on the city's electricity and natural
gas supplies and as of 27 November reports indicate order has been
restored. -- Bruce Pannier and Merhat Sharipzhan

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Steve Kettle

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            Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc.
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