The greatest of faults, I should say, is to be conscious of none. - Thomas Carlyle 1975-1881
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 234, Part I, 5 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

FEDERATION COUNCIL DISCUSSES NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE IN GOVERNMENT. Prime
Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin failed to make a scheduled speech in the
Federation Council on 4 December, claiming he was too sick to appear,
NTV reported. When Speaker Yegor Stroev announced that Chernomyrdin was
not coming, the hall exploded and Vladimir Varnavskii proposed that the
Federation Council recommend that the Duma pass a vote of no-confidence
in the government. Only Stroev's efforts to calm his colleagues managed
to postpone the vote until 5 December. Many council members were angry
that Chernomyrdin has not paid back wages and pensions or solved the
non-payments crisis. This session marks the first time the upper house
has challenged the government so forcefully, and may be a precursor of
future disputes now that all the regional executives, who make up half
of the house, will be elected rather than appointed by the president. --
Robert Orttung

GOVERNMENT LASHES OUT AT PARLIAMENT. The government staff released an
official statement late on 4 December denouncing both houses of the
legislature. The statement blasted the "constant striving of some Duma
members to earn cheap popularity by irresponsibly speculating on urgent
and important problems." It also attacked attempts by some Federation
Council members to transfer their responsibility for resolving the most
serious social problems in the regions exclusively onto the federal
executive branch, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Robert Orttung

YELTSIN, CHERNOMYRDIN DISCUSS OSCE SUMMIT. Chernomyrdin met with
President Boris Yeltsin at the Barvikha sanatorium outside Moscow on 4
December to discuss the Lisbon OSCE summit, Russian and Western agencies
reported. Echoing a foreign ministry statement which downplayed Moscow's
isolation at the summit, presidential press spokesman Sergei
Yastrzhembskii said the two men concluded that "Moscow's position on a
new European security architecture was heard in Lisbon." Yastrzhembskii
said the two leaders agreed that preparations for a planned 1997 U.S.-
Russian summit should begin, and that Chernomyrdin should travel to Kyiv
in the near future to discuss the intractable Black Sea Fleet dispute,
which Moscow insists be resolved before the signing of a bilateral
friendship and cooperation treaty with Ukraine. Later that day, Yeltsin
moved from the sanatorium to continue his convalescence at his nearby
country residence. -- Scott Parrish

CHECHEN ELECTION COMMITTEE MEETS. The 33 members of the Chechen
Elections Committee convened for the first time on 4 December in Grozny
to discuss preparations for the 27 January parliamentary and
presidential elections, Radio Rossii reported. Implicitly contradicting
statements made by OSCE Chechnya mission head Tim Guldimann, chairman
Mumadi Saidayev said the committee is adequately financed by the interim
Chechen government. To date six candidates have announced their
intention to contest the presidency, although none has been formally
registered as a candidate. According to Nezavisimaya gazeta of 5
December, the six are acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, interim
Prime Minister Aslan Maskhadov, former presidential press spokesman (now
first Deputy Prime Minister) Movladi Udugov, field commanders Shamil
Basaev and Vakha Arsanov, and the chairman of the Confederation of
Peoples of the Caucasus, Yusup Soslambekov. Also on 4 December, a group
of unidentified armed men abducted five Russian officers and their
driver in Grozny, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Liz Fuller

DUMA DENOUNCES CHECHEN TROOP WITHDRAWAL, GIVES UP IDEA OF IMPEACHMENT.
The State Duma passed a non-binding resolution on 4 December advising
Yeltsin to "consider once again the expediency of a complete withdrawal
of troops" from Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported. Though the resolution
criticizes the Chernomyrdin - Maskhadov accord and Yeltsin's decree
ordering the troop withdrawal, saying these decisions continue one-sided
concessions to Chechen nationalists, it has a generally conciliatory
tone. It omits earlier attempts to impeach the president and vote no-
confidence in the government. The resolution orders Procurator General
Yurii Skuratov to open an investigation into who started the war. --
Nikolai Iakoubovski

FEDERATION COUNCIL REJECTS LAW ON COURTS. The parliament's upper house
failed on 4 December to muster the two-thirds majority needed to pass
the constitutional law "on the judicial system of the Russian
Federation," Izvestiya reported the following day. At the second
attempt, 132 deputies voted for the draft, two short of the number
needed. The bill provides for the introduction of the institution of
arbitrators to handle civil cases and some petty crimes and gives the
president the right to appoint all federal judges, Rossiiskaya gazeta
reported on 3 December. It was opposed by deputies from Tatarstan,
Bashkortostan, and Kareliya, who argued that it reduces the role of
local legislative organs in appointing judges. Tatar President Mintimer
Shaimiev said Russia's republics will never vote in favor of a judicial
system that makes them highly dependent on Moscow. -- Penny Morvant

DUMA APPEALS TO YELTSIN ON MILITARY REFORM. With the support of 308
deputies, the Duma passed a resolution appealing to Yeltsin to
accelerate the process of military reform, ITAR-TASS reported. The
resolution called the current financial crisis in the military
"inadmissible," and said officers must be paid on time if they are to
carry out their normal duties. The same day, however, the Duma agreed to
postpone a planned presentation to the chamber on military reform by
Defense Minister Igor Rodionov. Rodionov had requested the postponement,
saying he could not discuss reform plans with legislators without the
approval of Yeltsin. He also complained that the military could not be
reformed during the current financial crisis, when it was "struggling
for survival," adding, "there is no finance for the reform effort." --
Scott Parrish

YELTSIN ORDERS DELEGATION TO KUZBASS. President Yeltsin resolved on 4
December to send a government delegation to the Kuzbass, the coal-mining
area at the heart of the current miners' strike over pay arrears, ITAR-
TASS reported. The delegation will be headed by First Deputy Prime
Minister Vladimir Potanin. Prime Minister Chernomyrdin said the
following day that the government sent 750 billion rubles to the miners
on 2 December and will dispatch a further 450 billion. The Russian coal
company Rosugol and the miners' union Rosugleprofsoyuz gave differing
estimates of the number of miners taking part in the strike's second
day. A Rosugol spokeswoman put the number of strikers at 61,000, while
union leader Vitalii Budko said about 400,000 were taking part. -- Penny
Morvant

KURGAN GOVERNOR CANCELS ELECTION RUNOFF; PROCURATOR PROTESTS. In a
special dispatch from Moscow, Kurgan Governor Anatolii Sobolev canceled
the second round of gubernatorial elections set for 8 December, ITAR-
TASS reported on 4 December. Sobolev was eliminated in the first round
of voting after winning just over 13% in the three-way race. A runoff
was set between opposition-backed Oleg Bogomolov, chairman of the oblast
legislature, and businessman Anatolii Koltashev. But then Koltashev, and
subsequently Sobolev, refused to participate in the race, leaving only
one candidate, which is a violation of Russian law. The Central
Electoral Commission informed the Kurgan authorities that they could not
proceed with the election with one candidate, but the Kurgan procurator
has claimed that the governor's decision to cancel the elections was
illegal. In spite of the scandal, preparations for the ballot are
continuing. -- Robert Orttung

RUSSIAN-IRANIAN ECONOMIC TALKS. First Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei
Bolshakov met with visiting Iranian Economics and Finance Minister
Morteza Mohammad-Khan in Moscow on 4 December to discuss bilateral
economic ties, particularly cooperation in the oil and gas sector, ITAR-
TASS reported. The Iranian minister is in Moscow for the first meeting
of the Russo-Iranian economic cooperation commission since the 1991
collapse of the Soviet Union. At the session, Minister of Foreign Trade
Oleg Davydov confirmed that Russia was moving ahead with the
controversial deal to complete the unfinished nuclear power station at
Bushehr in Southern Iran, which the U.S. opposes, citing nuclear
proliferation concerns. During his visit, Mohammad-Khan deplored the
current "stagnation" in bilateral trade, which dropped from $1.4 billion
in 1991 to about $200 million in 1995 and is expected to reach $350
million this year. -- Scott Parrish

TAX DEBTORS PAY UP. The head of the Federal Bankruptcy Administration,
Petr Mostovoi, told a press conference on 4 December that of 1,025
businesses threatened with bankruptcy at the start of the year, 500 have
paid their tax debts and 200 others were placed in liquidation, ITAR-
TASS, AFP, and Kommersant Daily reported. Tax collection in November
reached 20.1 trillion rubles ($3.6 billion), 40% up on the previous
month, although total federal tax debts still stand at 61 trillion
rubles (of which 30 trillion date back to 1995). Mostovoi said
bankruptcy proceedings had begun against seven major firms, including
the Moskvich auto plant, Krasnodar oil refinery, Achinsk Aluminum
Combine, and West Siberian Metal Combine. Mostovoi noted that 1,600
firms still owe more than 3 billion rubles each. His agency seems to be
stepping up its activity, not least because in two weeks the IMF will
reconsider the suspension of its Russian loan. -- Peter Rutland

DUMA APPROVES TAX MEASURES. The State Duma on 4 December passed on first
reading a package of tax measures requested by the government, ITAR-TASS
reported. They include an alcohol excise duty of 12,000 rubles ($2.2)
per liter of spirits and 700 rubles per liter of beer, a 15% tax on
profits from trades in T-bills, a tax on interest income, and
preservation of tax credits for manufacturers. They also approved a tax
on the purchase of foreign currency, at a rate to be decided later -
probably 1.5%. The government has tried to reassure the Duma that the
1997 budget will help stimulate investment and revive production. The
draft budget includes planned investment spending of 28.4 trillion
rubles, up from 10 trillion this year, Rossiiskaya gazeta reported on 4
December. In addition the government will issue investment guarantees
for industrial bonds worth 65 trillion rubles. -- Peter Rutland

CURRENCY AND EXPORT CONTROL AGENCY REGAINS MINISTERIAL STATUS. President
Yeltsin has signed a decree reinstating the ministerial status of the
Federal Currency and Export Control Service (VEK), Kommersant-Daily
reported on 5 December. VEK, set up in 1992, was disbanded in August
1996 and most of its functions (such as preventing illegal outflow of
capital) were taken over by the Finance Ministry. The reappearance of
VEK may mean tighter monitoring of export and import contracts, which
has been opposed by the Justice Ministry and the IMF. -- Natalia
Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

ENERGY TARIFFS TO RISE IN ARMENIA. Prime Minister Armen Sarkisyan on 4
December said the government will raise energy tariffs by 40% starting
in January, Noyan Tapan reported the same day. Sarkisyan said the
decision was taken in accordance with the 4 March agreement with the
World Bank which made its loans to Armenia contingent on bringing energy
prices closer to world ones. Armenia has undergone severe energy
shortages and winter rationing since the war in Nagorno-Karabakh broke
out in 1992. The crisis has been substantially alleviated by the
reopening of the Medzamor nuclear plant in summer 1995. -- Emil
Danielyan

HELSINKI WATCH PROTESTS TO ALIEV. The Helsinki Watch human rights
organization has sent a letter to President Heydar Aliev protesting the
handling by the Azerbaijani authorities of the criminal case against
former Defense Minister Rahim Ghaziev, Turan reported on 4 December. The
letter said that Gaziev was repeatedly not allowed to meet with his
relatives or his lawyer, who so far has only had one meeting with his
client. Gaziev was Azerbaijan's defense minister in the government of
former President Abulfaz Elchibey, and fled to Russia after Aliev came
to power in June 1993. Gaziev was charged with the "surrender" of the
Shusha and Lachin towns to Armenian forces in May 1992 and sentenced to
death in absentia. He was extradited by Russia in April 1996 at
Azerbaijan's request. -- Emil Danielyan

TAJIK FIGHTING CONTINUES, MOVES CLOSER TO CAPITAL. An attempt by Tajik
government forces to retake the city of Garm has been repelled by
opposition forces who captured the city last week, Russian sources
report. Opposition forces used artillery and tanks to drive back
government troops. Attacks have also been reported as close as 13
kilometers from the capital Dushanbe. A Russian helicopter came under
gun and grenade fire at Dushanbe airport on 4 December. -- Bruce Pannier

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH BLASTS TAJIKISTAN, KYRGYZSTAN. In its seventh annual
human rights survey, the organization Human Rights Watch notes a
dramatic deterioration of democratic principles in Tajikistan and
Kyrgyzstan, RFE/RL reported on 5 December. On Kyrgyzstan, HRW pointed to
government repression of the media, suspension of freedom of speech and
association, the continued existence of residence permits and internal
passports, and the "alarming" consolidation of power by President Askar
Akayev. HRW also questioned the constitutionality of the rescheduled
presidential elections of December 1995. Tajikistan, which has been
criticized for the last five years for its record on human rights, was
described as having its "worst year" in 1996. The report also condemned
decisions by the IMF and World Bank to lend money to Tajikistan despite
the country's disregard for human rights. -- Bruce Pannier

RUSSIAN STATION PULLED FROM AIR IN KAZAKSTAN. The Kazakstani National
Agency for Press and Mass Media decided to stop airing the Russian
Television (RTR) station, according to 4 December reports from ITAR-TASS
and Radio Mayak. The reason given was lack of funding. The Russian
Public Television station (ORT) will continue to have its programing
shown in Kazakstan. -- Bruce Pannier

[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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