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

No. 235, Part I, 6 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-CLINTON SUMMIT SCHEDULED FOR MARCH. During a 20-minute phone
conversation on 5 December, Russian President Boris Yeltsin and his
American counterpart Bill Clinton agreed to hold a summit meeting next
March, Russian and Western agencies reported. Russian presidential
spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii did not give an exact date or location,
although he said Washington, D.C. was the most likely site for the
meeting. The White House also confirmed the March summit, but gave no
further details. Yeltsin and Clinton last met in April 1996 during the
Moscow nuclear safety summit. -- Scott Parrish

RYBKIN IN GROZNY. Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin,
together with his deputies Boris Berezovskii and Leonid Mayorov,
traveled to Grozny on 5 December to attend sessions of various
commissions, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported. Rybkin termed the
parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for 27 January
Chechnya's internal affair, but said that the Russian leadership had
contacted various international organizations that would monitor the
voting. Rybkin also gave the Chechen leadership various draft documents
on power sharing between Moscow and Grozny. Also on 5 December, Russian
Television (Channel 2) reported that Adam Deneyev, chairman of the
social-political movement For the National Rebirth of the Chechen People
and Chechnya, has stated his intention of running for the Chechen
presidency, raising the number of candidates to seven. Field commander
Salman Raduev will run for vice president, but it is not clear as whose
deputy, according to NTV. -- Liz Fuller

LEBED TO RUN FOR GOVERNOR IN TULA? The Tula Oblast Duma has decided that
gubernatorial elections in the oblast will be held on 23 March, ITAR-
TASS reported on 5 December. The agency claimed that former Security
Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed intends to contest the office,
although Lebed has been coy about whether he will stand for the
position. The oblast duma rejected a proposal by some deputies to
postpone setting an election date until the Russian Constitutional Court
rules on a Federation Council appeal which challenges the oblast
legislature's legitimacy. It was elected earlier this year on the basis
of a gubernatorial directive, which the Federation Council claims
violated federal legislation. In the December 1995 Duma elections, Lebed
won a seat in Tula which he gave up after becoming Security Council
Secretary. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski

BRYANSK GOVERNOR ATTACKED. Bryansk Oblast Governor Aleksandr Semernev
escaped unscathed when his car was shot at in the Bryansk suburbs,
Russian TV (RTR) reported the next day. The governor's press service
claimed that the unknown assailant was seeking to prevent Semernev from
participating in the gubernatorial elections on 8 December. Semernev,
who was appointed governor in June, is one of the three front-runners.
His main rivals are former regional executives Yurii Lodkin and Vladimir
Barabanov. -- Anna Paretskaya in Moscow

IMBROGLIO OVER GROUND FORCES COMMANDER CONTINUES. The scandal
surrounding Defense Minister Igor Rodionov's still unresolved attempt to
dismiss Army Gen. Vladimir Semenov intensified on 5 December, Russian
media reported. A meeting of the presidential commission on top military
ranks the previous day failed to make any final decision on Semenov's
sacking, and it still remains unclear if Semenov will be removed or on
what grounds. After a meeting with Presidential Deputy Chief of Staff
Evgenii Savostyanov to discuss the charges against him on 5 December,
Semenov said he was now being blamed for the failure of the Russian
military in Chechnya. He rejected this charge, and dismissed as "absurd"
continuing allegations that he was involved in illegal sales of military
helicopters. Semenov told NTV that the atmosphere surrounding his
dismissal resembled that of the 1930s Stalinist purges, when people were
repressed on the basis of unsubstantiated denunciations. -- Scott
Parrish

FEDERATION COUNCIL CLAIMS SEVASTOPOL. At its 5 December session, the
Federation Council passed by 110-14 (with seven abstentions) a
resolution authored by Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov claiming the Crimean
port of Sevastopol as Russian territory, Russian and Western media
reported. The resolution condemned what it termed "unilateral" attempts
by Ukraine to "tear away" Sevastopol from Russia, and called for
bilateral negotiations to settle the city's status. Luzhkov has for
months been publicly contending that Sevastopol was not legally
transferred to Ukraine in 1954 along with the rest of Crimea. Evgenii
Savchenko, the governor of Belgorod oblast, which borders on Ukraine,
unsuccessfully opposed the resolution, NTV reported. He argued that
claiming Sevastopol would set a "bad precedent," and encourage other
states to challenge Russia's 1991 borders. The Russian government, which
has repeatedly insisted that it has no claims on Sevastopol, will
probably ignore the non-binding resolution. -- Scott Parrish

PRIMAKOV ON BOSNIA, YUGOSLAVIA. Speaking at the London conference on
Bosnia on 5 December, Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov said that the
peace process was "moving in the right direction," ITAR-TASS reported.
Taking Moscow's traditional pro-Serb stance, and implicitly accusing the
West of favoring the Bosnian and Croat factions, however, Primakov said
the peace process was threatened by "the unbalanced attitude of the
international community," saying that all sides in the conflict should
receive equal treatment "in terms of getting economic support ... and in
terms of punishment." Primakov also condemned as "clumsy threats,"
Western warnings that economic sanctions might be re-imposed if the
Serbian government of Slobodan Milosevic cracks down on demonstrators
protesting the recent annulment of opposition victories in local
elections. He claimed that Milosevic's role in the peace process is "a
very important factor." -- Scott Parrish

YELTSIN ON CIS FIFTH ANNIVERSARY. In an interview marking the fifth
anniversary of the 8 December 1991 creation of the CIS, President
Yeltsin said it had been the only way "to save what could be saved" from
the collapse of the USSR, Russian and Western agencies reported on 5
December. While admitting that the CIS has many faults, Yeltsin called
for faster and more effective CIS integration. He held up Russian
cooperation with Belarus as a "vivid" example of integration's benefits,
although he conceded that problems have plagued the Russo-Belarusian
customs union. Yeltsin insisted that the CIS integration process is
voluntary, and would not lead to the resurrection of the USSR. He also
reiterated his opposition to NATO expansion, but said that CIS military
cooperation is not intended as a counterweight to the alliance. -- Scott
Parrish

BATTLE OVER BUDGET BEGINS. The Duma began discussion of the revised 1997
draft budget prepared by the government-parliament conciliatory
commission, ITAR-TASS, AFP, and Reuters reported on 6 December. Prime
Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin ordered all his ministers to attend the
session. On 5 December, Chernomyrdin met with leaders of the Duma
factions (including Yabloko, the LDPR, the Communists, and the
Agrarians) which have threatened to block the revised budget. Communist
leader Gennadii Zyuganov said that his party will not support a spending
plan which does not meet the needs of millions of people. Before the
debate began, Chernomyrdin presented the government's concept of
Russia's economic development for 1997-2000, which envisages growth of
over 5% a year and increasing investment to 600 trillion rubles ($110
billion) a year by 2000. -- Natalia Gurushina

PARLIAMENT CONSIDERS SOCIAL LEGISLATION. The Federation Council on 5
December approved a bill raising the minimum pension by 10% as of 1
November, ITAR-TASS reported. The increase is opposed by the government,
which argues that it is unaffordable. Russian Pension Fund head Vasilii
Barchuk said the bill would require an additional 815 billion rubles
($148 million) a month and noted that pension payments are already in
arrears. The upper house also approved a draft law on paying pensions to
prisoners in line with a 1995 Constitutional Court ruling that declared
unconstitutional the practice of suspending pension payments to
convicts. The law will cost about 25 billion rubles a year. The Duma
passed a bill that seeks to make the average wage of workers in the
budget sector equal to that of industry. In the first eight months of
1996, the average salary of education, science, culture, and health care
workers was only 66% of that in industry. -- Penny Morvant

FNPR CONGRESS OPENS. Addressing the third congress of the Federation of
Independent Trade Unions of Russia (FNPR), Chairman Mikhail Shmakov was
sharply critical of the government's policies, Russian Public TV
reported. Shmakov said that if the demands of Russia's miners, many of
whom have been on strike since 3 December, are not soon met, other trade
unions may join the protest. The congress did not, however, support a
proposal by Russian Coal-Industry Workers' Union Deputy Chairman Ivan
Mokhnachuk to pass a resolution of no confidence in the government. The
FNPR congress, which opened in Moscow on 5 December, will last three
days. Communist leader Zyuganov and First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor
Ilyushin attended the meeting. -- Penny Morvant

DUMA SUPPORTS STRIKING MINERS . . . The Duma passed a resolution on 5
December supporting the miners' strike, Russian media reported. It
stated that the miners are owed a total of 4 trillion rubles and
threatened to hold a vote of confidence in the government if the crisis
in the coal industry is not resolved. Rosugol Chairman Yurii Malyshev,
meanwhile, said that Finance Minister Aleksandr Livshits had signed a
timetable for repaying the wage debt to miners. Livshits rejected
charges that the first $250 million tranche of the World Bank loan for
restructuring the coal industry had not been disbursed to the regions.
Despite the government's promises, the miners union resolved to continue
their strike for a fourth day. -- Penny Morvant

. . . POTANIN DISCUSSES RESTRUCTURING OF COAL INDUSTRY. First Deputy
Prime Minister Vladimir Potanin said on 5 December that about 50 loss-
making pits have been closed and operations suspended at another 60
since the process of restructuring the coal industry began, ITAR-TASS
reported. He said that state subsidies to the coal industry now account
for only 15% of financing compared with 80% before the start of reforms
and that labor productivity has increased by 9%. He added that the
government supports a proposal to increase budget allocations for the
coal industry to 10 trillion rubles next year from the 6 trillion first
envisaged. In the 1996 budget, the coal industry was allocated 7.4
trillion rubles. President Yeltsin subsequently signed a decree
promising another 3 trillion, to come mainly from the $500 million World
Bank coal loan. -- Penny Morvant

TAX POLICE IN THE FIRST TEN MONTHS OF THE YEAR. In the first 10 months
of this year, the Federal Tax Police brought charges against 5,600 tax
dodgers and returned 35 trillion rubles ($6.9 billion) to the state
coffers, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 December, citing Tax Police head Sergei
Almazov. Almazov said that seizing tax dodgers' assets was a fairly
effective measure, as companies repaid some 90% of their debts to the
budget without reducing production. Almazov also noted that the tax
police are experiencing serious financial difficulties: so far, they
have received only 67% of required financing. -- Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

MEDIA CRACKDOWN IN AZERBAIJAN. The speaker of Azerbaijan's Milli Mejlis
(parliament), Murtuz Alesqerov, on 3 December gave instructions that the
accreditation of Azadlyg journalist Azer Huseynbala be revoked, and
warned other opposition journalists that their accreditation will also
be revoked if they publish materials "that show parliament in a bad
light," Turan reported on 5 December. Parliamentary correspondents for
opposition papers decided on 5 December to take turns in supplying
coverage of the proceedings of the Milli Mejlis for publication in
Azadlyg, the newspaper of the opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front. --
Liz Fuller

GEORGIA TO CREATE ITS OWN NAVY? Speaking at a press conference in
Tbilisi on 5 December, Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili
said the country's present level of economic development is adequate to
finance a navy, which he said would be used exclusively to protect
Georgia's maritime borders, ITAR-TASS reported. Visiting Kyiv in
September, Menagharishvili had submitted to the Ukrainian government an
official claim by the Georgian leadership to part of the Black Sea
Fleet, and Ukraine's ambassador in Tbilisi, Anatolii Kasyanenko,
recently told Svobodnaya Gruziya that Ukraine supports this request. --
Liz Fuller

KAZAKSTAN WILL DEVELOP CASPIAN DEPOSITS IN 1997. Despite lack of
agreement between the five littoral states, Kazakstani Oil and Gas
Minister Nurlan Balginbayev announced his country would begin oil
production in the Caspian Sea in 1997, RFE/RL reported on 5 December.
Balginbayev said the organizations involved in the international
consortium will sign a production-sharing agreement in the near future
and work will start shortly after that. Companies with shares in the
project are Agip, British Gas, British Petroleum, Statoil, Mobil and
Total. -- Bruce Pannier

TROUBLES FOR UN OBSERVERS IN TAJIKISTAN. The UN Mission of Observers in
Tajikistan (UNMOT) issued a press release on 3 December, condemning the
treatment of its people by members of the Tajik government's military,
Nezavisimaya Gazeta and RFE/RL reported. According to UNMOT, three of
its officials sent to the Garm area to report on the fighting there were
stopped by government troops at the Chorsada post where they were
physically abused and threatened with their lives. In order to return to
the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, the three had to travel first to
Kyrgyzstan. The United Tajik Opposition is cited by UN Special Envoy to
Tajikistan Gerd Merrem as being instrumental in procuring safe passage
through opposition-held territory en route to Kyrgyzstan. The Tajik
government apologized and claimed the incident was the action of
individuals and promised to investigate the matter. UNMOT has reportedly
recalled all its representatives to Dushanbe. -- 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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