Miracles are natural. When they do not occur, something has gone wrong. - A Course in Miracles
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 233, Part I, 4 December 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, SELEZNEV MEET TO DISCUSS BUDGET. President Boris Yeltsin and
Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev met on 3 December to discuss ways to pass
the 1997 budget. Yeltsin expressed his displeasure with the Duma's
recent actions, warning that they were not helping to stabilize society,
Russian TV reported. Seleznev distanced himself from Deputy Duma Speaker
Sergei Baburin's attempts to place a no-confidence vote on the Duma's
agenda, NTV reported. The meeting was the second between Yeltsin and
Seleznev; the first was on 21 October. The president has yet to
participate in a meeting of the "permanent four" Consultative Council,
and, for the time being, is happy to meet with its members one by one,
Kommersant-Daily reported on 4 December. Seleznev said that Yeltsin
would return to work full-time at the end of December. -- Robert Orttung

CONTROVERSY CONTINUES OVER GROUND FORCES COMMANDER. As the scandal
surrounding Defense Minister Igor Rodionov's attempt to dismiss Army
Gen. Vladimir Semenov as Ground Forces commander intensified, the
Defense Ministry announced that Rodionov had postponed his scheduled 5
December visit to the U.S., Russian and Western media reported on 3
December. Russian commentators linked the decision, for which no
official explanation was offered, to the imbroglio over Semenov's
ouster. Further distancing Yeltsin from the move to dismiss Semenov on
misconduct charges, presidential press secretary Sergei Yastrzhembskii
said on 3 December that while Yeltsin had approved the sacking "in
principle," he had left the justification for the dismissal in
Rodionov's hands. He added that Semenov is temporarily suspended from
his post pending a final decision by the president. Meanwhile, Semenov
protested his dismissal in a letter to Yeltsin, vowing to fight the
misconduct allegations "until the end." -- Scott Parrish

MASKHADOV TO RUN FOR CHECHEN PRESIDENT. Chechen interim Prime Minister
Aslan Maskhadov told journalists in Grozny on 3 December that he will
definitely contest the presidential election scheduled for 27 January
1997, Russian and Western agencies reported. Acting President Zelimkhan
Yandarbiev had told ITAR-TASS on 2 December that he favored a single
candidate representing the Chechen opposition forces; this approach has
been rejected both by Maskhadov and by field commander Vakha Arsanov,
who was nominated as a presidential candidate by the Party of National
Independence of Chechnya on 2 December. Also on 3 December, a spokesman
for the European Commission announced that it has allocated an
additional $2.8 million in humanitarian aid for Chechnya, according to
AFP. -- Liz Fuller

MINERS' STRIKE CONTINUES. Tens of thousands of miners are striking for a
second day in Kemerovo Oblast, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 December.
According to the Russian Coal-Industry Workers' Union
(Rosugleprofsoyuz), workers at 161 of the country's 189 mines and 27 of
69 open pits stopped work on 3 December to protest wage arrears. The
coal company Rosugol said work stopped at about 100 mines and 23 open
pits. According to Rosugleprofsoyuz Chairman Vitalii Budko, miners are
owed 2.6 trillion rubles ($470 million) in back wages and 1.5 trillion
in subsidies; another 8 trillion rubles are owed by coal customers.
Finance Minister Aleksandr Livshits said all federal budget allocations
have been paid out. The miners are also seeking the resignation of the
government. The stoppage is opposed by the Independent Miners' Union,
NTV reported. -- Penny Morvant

TVER PENSIONERS PROTEST. About 80 pensioners blocked a railway line near
Tver for four-and-a-half hours on 3 December to demand the payment of
their pensions on time, ITAR-TASS reported. The protest delayed one
service between Moscow and St. Petersburg and several trains between
Moscow and Tver. A spokeswoman for the Russian Pension Fund said on 3
December that the fund owed pensioners 17.5 trillion rubles ($3.2
billion) at the beginning of December. The worst situation is in
Kemerovo Oblast, where pensioners have still not received August
payments. -- Penny Morvant

SARATOV SETS UP SECURITY COUNCIL. Saratov Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov has
set up a regional security council, the first such body in an oblast,
Radio Mayak reported on 3 December. It will handle questions concerning
the vital interests of the oblast and individual rights, state, economic
and ecological security, and try to predict emergency situations and
deal with their consequences. Ayatskov named police Col. Aleksandr
Kosygin as the council's secretary. Three years ago he was the director
of the Ministry of Internal Affairs' Saratov branch. Like its federal
counterpart, the Saratov Security Council will try to coordinate the
actions of the existing branches of the oblast government. -- Robert
Orttung

CONGRESS OF JUDGES OPENS IN MOSCOW. The fourth all-Russian Congress of
Judges opened in Mosow on 3 December to discuss the crisis in the
judical system, Russian media reported. The state owes the courts 540
billion rubles ($100 million) from this year's budget. Wages are low and
paid late, courts are understaffed--there are more than 1,200 vacancies
for judges--and trials are delayed. Nine district courts in Kaluga
Oblast recently stopped work due to lack of funds. Before the congress
opened, President Yeltsin signed a decree on stabilizing the judicial
system. It promises to pay wage arrears to judges and other court
workers by the end of this year and orders the Interior Ministry to take
steps to provide judges with weapons in 1997. A Moscow judge was killed
in her office earlier this year by a defendant. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski
and Penny Morvant

RUSSIA ISOLATED AT OSCE SUMMIT. Russia's proposal that the OSCE, not
NATO, play the leading coordinating role in a new European security
architecture was effectively rebuffed as the OSCE summit in Lisbon ended
on 3 December, Izvestiya reported on 4 December. The most Moscow could
accomplish was the omission of any mention of the disputed issue of NATO
expansion in the final summit communique, which tried to please everyone
by declaring that no new dividing lines should be created in Europe,
while also stating that each country has the right to choose its own
means of assuring its security, NTV reported. Russia also found itself
in the minority on other issues, RFE/RL reported, pressing for the
omission of criticism of Serbia from the final communique, and also
defending Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka against charges
that he has violated democratic norms and principles. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA WARNS U.S. OVER "SUBCRITICAL" BOMB TESTS. Responding to a 2
December report in The San Francisco Examiner that the U.S. Energy
Department is planning a series of test explosions involving small
amounts of fissile uranium and plutonium, Russian Ministry of Atomic
Energy spokesman Georgii Kaurov said any nuclear explosion would be a
violation of the recently-signed Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, ITAR-
TASS reported on 3 December. Kaurov said the treaty contained no minimum
threshold for nuclear explosions, and argued that "if an explosion sets
off a chain reaction, the treaty will be violated ... no matter what
amount of fissionable material is used." U.S. officials insist the
planned tests will not trigger a chain reaction and are hence
permissible under the CTBT, although American critics claim they will
undermine the treaty by violating its spirit. -- Scott Parrish

TROPHY ART ON DISPLAY. The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg on 3
December opened its third exhibition of art transferred from Germany to
the Soviet Union in 1945, Nevskoe Vremya reported. The museum put on
display 89 drawings of 13 European artists of the late 18th-early 20th
centuries, including works by Goya and Van Gogh. All were taken from
private collections and kept hidden for half a century. The first
exhibition of the trophy masterpieces opened in the Hermitage in the
spring of 1995 and sparked a dispute between Germany and Russia over
ownership rights. Considering the booty art as part of compensation for
enormous losses in World War II, Russia is reluctant to return it to the
former owners, despite the Germans' strong legal claims on the art. "We
need to get ready for long and serious negotiations with the German side
to decide the fate of the transferred art," Hermitage Director Mikhail
Piotrovskii said. -- Elena Zotova in St. Petersburg

INTERNATIONAL MONEY LAUNDERING IS WELL ENTRENCHED. The OECD has issued a
report analyzing the work of the Financial Action Task Force, which was
set up by a G-7 summit in 1989 to combat money laundering, RFE/RL
reported on 3 December. The report concludes that Russian and East
European gangs are very active in laundering money from drug-running,
prostitution, car theft, extortion, and corrupt privatization deals.
They have established a broad network of legitimate businesses to
convert the illicit receipts into legal assets. Favorite channels
include the purchase of real estate, art works, and the tourism
business. -- Peter Rutland

AVTOVAZ BANKRUPTCY AVERTED? The government and the management of AvtoVaz
have agreed to a plan to avert the auto manufacturer's bankruptcy,
issuing additional shares worth 50% of its authorized capital over the
next two months, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 December. The government had
threatened to initiate bankruptcy proceedings against AvtoVaz, which
owed 2.8 trillion rubles ($508 million) in federal taxes (see OMRI Daily
Digest, 27 November 1996). First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Potanin
noted that it is best for AvtoVaz to find a strategic investor, such as
BMW, Ford or Opel. Initially, government officials favored Fiat, which
founded AvtoVaz, but the Italian company said that it had no interest in
taking over the company. -- Ritsuko Sasaki

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

LAST-MINUTE OSCE COMPROMISE ON NAGORNO-KARABAKH. A last-minute
compromise wording proposed by the U.S. prevented Armenia and Azerbaijan
from vetoing the final communique by the OSCE summit in Lisbon,
international media reported on 3 December. Armenia had objected to an
article of the draft communique which upheld Azerbaijan's territorial
integrity as a guiding principle for settling the Nagorno-Karabakh
conflict. The provision was included following vigorous efforts by
Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliev, who said he would block the entire
document unless it formally recognized Nagorno-Karabakh as part of
Azerbaijan. Austrian Chancellor Franz Vranitzky told RFE/RL that Flavio
Cotti, the Swiss chairman of the OSCE, might condemn Azerbaijan's
tactic. Yet, according to CNN, Aliev's position was strongly backed by
the European Union. As a result of the compromise, the contentious
language was removed from the final communique and adopted as a separate
document. -- Emil Danielyan

GEORGIAN-RUSSIAN MILITARY TALKS. Georgian Defense Minister Vardiko
Nadibaidze and his Russian counterpart Igor Rodionov met on 3 December
in Moscow to discuss "issues of mutual interest," no details of which
were subsequently disclosed, ITAR-TASS reported. On the same day,
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Andreev told journalists
that at last week's round of inter-governmental Russian-Georgian talks
in Tbilisi, the Georgian side "raised or repeated some problems that do
not promote Russian-Georgian relations." Specifically, Georgia refused
to endorse a Russian draft agreement on developing military cooperation.
Agreement has also not been reached on payment in Georgian laris to
finance the presence of Russian troops in Georgia. -- Liz Fuller

KYRGYZ MINISTRIES CUT. President Askar Akayev signed a number of decrees
on 2 December, reducing the number of ministries in the Kyrgyz
government from 22 to 15 and cutting the government staff by 3,000
people, RFE/RL reported. Among the changes, former Finance Minister
Kemelbek Nanayev was appointed First Deputy Prime Minister and is
replaced by Taalaibek Koichumanov, the former economics minister. The
economics ministry ceases to exist. The ministries of education,
culture, and agriculture and water were combined. Akayev's decree on
cutting personnel will effect 30% of the presidential and parliamentary
staffs, 20% of government and ministerial officials and at least 10% of
local government staffs. On 25 November Akayev signed a decree allowing
private ownership of land, effective on 1 January. -- Bruce Pannier and
Naryn Idinov

KAZAKSTANI PENSIONERS DEMAND RESULTS. The Pensioner's Fund of Kazakstan
has appealed to local government officials to take action in paying
arrears to pensioners, who in some cases have not been paid for several
months, according to a 3 December ITAR-TASS report. Unpaid pensions
total 40 million tenge (about $545,000) despite government efforts to
free money for payments. Inspectors have found many cases of pension
money being loaned by state officials to commercial enterprises or as
short-term loans for quick profits, some funds being simply embezzled or
misappropriated. The ITAR-TASS report claims some pensioners have given
up on using official channels and are engaging in actions such as
blocking roads and rail lines to bring attention to their plight. --
Bruce Pannier

MINISTRY ABOLISHED IN TURKMENISTAN. Turkmenistan's Ministry of
Construction and Architecture was abolished by presidential decree on 3
December, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. In an address to ministry
personnel, President Saparmurat Niyazov charged that the ministry's
enterprises have been unprofitable, operate at 50% of their capacity and
construct facilities which are substandard. The industry is to be de-
centralized with existing enterprises shared out between regional
administrations, the republic's ministries of building materials, power-
engineering, and Turkmenneftgaz. -- Lowell Bezanis

[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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