Liberty of thought means liberty to communicate one's thought. - Salvador de Madariaga
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 237, Part I, 10 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

CHECHEN LEADERSHIP SPLIT OVER ELECTIONS? The chairman of Chechnya's
Central Electoral Commission, Mumadi Saidaev, told ITAR-TASS on 9
December that the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for
27 January might have to be postponed unless all Russian troops are
withdrawn from Chechen territory by that date. Also on 9 December,
Chechen parliament speaker Amin Osmaev said in Grozny that it free and
fair elections are impossible in Chechnya at the moment. Osmaev
characterized the present Chechen coalition government as "a coalition
of separatist field commanders who will manipulate elections to support
their policy of secession from Russia," and claimed that the majority of
the Chechen population is against secession and "does not have the
slightest idea of what sovereignty is and where it can lead Chechnya."
Speaking at a press conference in Moscow on 9 December, Aleksandr
Kazakov, deputy head of the Russian presidential administration, said
that the elections could be postponed "without detriment to the Chechen
people," ITAR-TASS reported. -- Liz Fuller

ADMINISTRATION CLAIMS VICTORY IN REGIONAL ELECTIONS . . . The
presidential administration continued to explain away its losses in the
gubernatorial elections, following the defeat of several more incumbents
on 8 December. First Deputy Chief of Staff Aleksandr Kazakov said that
only newly-elected Bryansk Governor Yurii Lodkin was an actual
representative of the opposition, while the other five elected governors
are "normal, sensible people with solid managerial experience." He
claimed that there has always been some dissatisfaction with the federal
government but that more "emotion" might be added to the relationship
now. Izvestiya claimed that the score is now 22-8 in favor of the
administration since 1 September. All-Russia Coordinating Council leader
Sergei Filatov blamed the administration losses on the poor economic
conditions. -- Robert Orttung

. . . AND SO DOES OPPOSITION. The pro-Communist Sovetskaya Rossiya on 10
December scoffed at Kazakov's claims, asking why the administration
changes its attitude toward the opposition candidates as soon as they
are elected. According to the paper's (incomplete) count, the score is
14-13 in favor of the opposition. Spiritual Heritage leader Aleksei
Podberezkin claimed that the elections would change the face of the
Federation Council. -- Robert Orttung

STOLICHNYI BANK HEAD TO BECOME "REAL BOSS" AT ORT? Since Russian Public
TV (ORT) replaced Ostankino as Russia's Channel 1 broadcaster in April
1995, the chairman of the ORT board, Aleksandr Yakovlev, has been a mere
figurehead. Boris Berezovskii, whose LogoVAZ empire owned 8% of ORT
shares, wielded the most influence at the network, even though formally
he was deputy chairman of the ORT board. Now that Berezovskii has
resigned his ORT post (see OMRI Daily Digest, 9 December 1996), it
appears that Stolichnyi Bank Chairman Aleksandr Smolenskii will take his
place as the network's unofficial "real boss," Moskovskii komsomolets
reported on 10 December. Although he has not previously been active
concerning ORT's affairs, Smolenskii was chosen to head a new consortium
of commercial banks called ORT-KB. Those banks combined now hold 38% of
the shares in the 51% state-owned network. -- Laura Belin

INGUSH GOVERNMENT SACKED. Ingush President Ruslan Aushev dismissed his
government on 9 December for bad economic management, ORT and Russian TV
(RTR) reported. Additionally, Aushev claims to have information that
several government members were involved in corruption, according to
RTR. Valerii Fateev, the first deputy prime minister of Ingushetiya and
former executive head of Smolensk Oblast, is reportedly behind the
dismissal and is said to be the most probable candidate to head the new
government, according to Segodnya on 10 December. The health, education,
justice, and interior ministers are likely to retain their positions in
the new government. -- Anna Paretskaya in Moscow

RUTSKOI LOWERS BREAD PRICES IN KURSK. Bread prices in Kursk Oblast are
now among the lowest in Russia after Governor Aleksandr Rutskoi brought
down prices by about 70-100 rubles per loaf, RIA-Novosti and NTV
reported on 9 December. A loaf of bread in Kursk will now cost between
1,500 and 1,800 rubles ($0.27 to $0.33); the national average is 3,222
rubles. A representative of the gubernatorial administration said
bakeries had reduced their own production costs and some trade
surcharges were lowered by 5%, making the oblast-wide price decrease
possible. Bread prices in Kursk may be reduced further after 1 January
1997 if certain prerequisites are met, including decreased electricity
tariffs and lower transportation costs for flour and bread. After his
election in October, Rutskoi pledged to implement a social and economic
program to improve living conditions in the oblast. -- Laura Belin

MUSLIM UNION OF RUSSIA SEEKS BETTER RELATIONS WITH AUTHORITIES. The
congress of the Muslim Union of Russia which concluded on 7 December
called for an improvement in Muslim relations with the authorities and
countering increasingly anti-Muslim feeling in Russian society,
Kommersant-Daily reported on 10 December. The congress voted to seek
greater unity among Russia's estimated 20 million Muslims. It will also
seek state support for increasing public broadcasting about Islam and
including mullahs in the military along with Orthodox priests. The
Muslim Union has one deputy in the State Duma, Nadyrshakh Khachilaev. --
Robert Orttung

SACKED POLICE OFFICER TO BECOME ADVISER TO FEDERATION COUNCIL CHAIRMAN.
Interior Ministry Maj.-Gen. Vladimir Rushailo is to become an adviser to
Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev, ITAR-TASS reported on 9
December. Until recently, Rushailo headed the Moscow Regional
Administration for Organized Crime (RUOP). In October, he was
transferred to the post of deputy head of the Main Administration for
Organized Crime (GUOP) but refused to accept the job and was fired (see
OMRI Daily Digest, 23 October 1996). In his new post, Rushailo is likely
to be responsible for legal issues. -- Penny Morvant

NATO FOREIGN MINISTERS REASSURE MOSCOW. U.S. Secretary of State Warren
Christopher, in Brussels for a meeting of NATO foreign ministers on 10
December, said that "NATO has no intention, no plan, and no need to
station nuclear weapons on the territory of any new members," Reuters
reported. In an 8 December interview with Welt am Sonntag, German
Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said that to reassure Russia, NATO should
propose creating a 17- member security consultative committee, on which
Russia would sit as an equal with the 16 NATO members. It remains
unclear exactly what powers the council would have, and whether Moscow
would have a veto over certain issues. Kommersant-daily on 7 December
criticized Russian Foreign Ministry officials for thus far rejecting
such proposals as insufficient, arguing that they might be Moscow's last
chance to bargain seriously over the enlargement issue. -- Scott Parrish

SOLANA: "RUSSIA IS A PARTNER, NOT A THREAT TO US." That was the title of
an interview with NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana that ran in the
government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta on 10 December. Solana said that
since 1991, "Russia has always been regarded by us as a partner rather
than a threat," and stressed the importance of developing "global
frameworks for relations between NATO and Russia in parallel" to NATO's
"external adaptation," by which he meant the admission of new members.
The accompanying newspaper commentary complained that Solana "avoided
answering the question" of what concrete measures would be taken to
allay Russia's concerns over NATO expansion. -- Peter Rutland

MORE REACTIONS TO ALBRIGHT APPOINTMENT. Vladimir Lukin, head of the Duma
Foreign Affairs Committee, said that the new nominee for U.S. secretary
of state, Madeleine Albright, will be "an active and energetic
supporter" of NATO expansion and will strengthen U.S. ties with Ukraine
and Azerbaijan, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 December. Lukin, a former
Russian ambassador to Washington, conceded that Albright is an
"energetic and persistent diplomat," while Pravda-5 on 7 December dubbed
her the "Steel Lady," a successor to "Iron Lady" Margaret Thatcher. --
Peter Rutland

POTANIN ARRIVES IN KEMEROVO. First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir
Potanin arrived in Kemerovo Oblast on 10 December at the start of a two-
day visit to look into the problems of the region's coal industry, ITAR-
TASS reported. In a jibe at Potanin, who used to head the powerful
Oneksimbank, Kemerovo Oblast Governor Mikhail Kislyuk argued on 9
December that Russia is facing the threat of a "comprador bourgeois
revolution" driven by commercial banking circles acting contrary to
Russia's national interests, ORT reported. The number of Kuzbass miners
taking part in the national strike that began on 3 December has
reportedly fallen following the dispatch of 430 billion rubles to the
area for social benefits. According to the miners' union
Rosugleprofsoyuz, 300,000 miners from 129 underground mines and 15 strip
mines across the country were on strike as of 9 December. The coal
company Rosugol said 113,000 miners were on strike at 98 mines and 10
open-cast pits. -- Penny Morvant

NEW FEES TO BE INTRODUCED ON RUSSIAN BORDER. President Yeltsin signed
amendments on 29 November to the law "On the state border of the Russian
Federation" that introduce a special fee for crossing the border,
Izvestiya reported on 10 December. According to the new law, every
person crossing the border in both directions, Russians and foreigners,
will pay approximately $10 per person. Vehicles and cargo are also
subject to a fee. The amendments, designed to provide the Federal Border
Guard Service with additional sources of funding, allot it with a number
of new duties, ranging from the right to prolong foreigners' visas to
investigation functions. Since the Duma and the Federation Council
already approved the amendments on 4 October and 14 November
respectively, it will go into effect as soon as it is published. --
Nikolai Iakoubovski

LAW TO COMBAT MONEY-LAUNDERING. The government and the Communist faction
of the State Duma have prepared a draft law on preventing money-
laundering, Kommersant-Daily reported on 10 December. The law stipulates
that banks, real estate agencies, shops, and other such enterprises,
will be required to report all transactions in excess of 500 minimum
salaries (currently 38 million rubles, or about $7,000) to tax
authorities. If a transaction exceeds 1,000 minimum salaries, customers
will have to fill in a special form stating the source of their income.
If organizations fail to report to tax authorities, their personnel
could be punished by a two-year imprisonment. The draft drew criticism
from the business community and the media, who complained that it
violates human rights and will hamper the formation of the middle class.
In fact, even in the U.S. all banks have to report cash deposits in
excess of $10,000. -- Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER CALLS FOR COMPROMISE ON NAGORNO-KARABAKH.
Yevgenii Primakov said after a meeting in Moscow with his Armenian
counterpart, Aleksandr Arzumanyan, that Russia is interested in a
peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, ITAR-TASS reported
on 9 December. He added that a compromise solution should recognize
"Nagorno-Karabakh's right to self-determination and self-government
while preserving Azerbaijan's territorial integrity." Addressing the 24
November presidential election in the disputed enclave, Primakov
reiterated the official Russian position that such votes should not be
held until "a mechanism for settling the conflict is worked out," while
Arzumanyan said the election did not hamper the peace process. The two
ministers pledged to "develop fraternal and friendly relations," ITAR-
TASS reported. -- Emil Danielyan

THREE ABKHAZ SOLDIERS KILLED. Three Abkhaz troops were killed and two
wounded on 8 December when their vehicles were fired on near the border
between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia, ITAR-TASS reported on 9
December, quoting Abkhaz security chief Astamur Tarba. Tarba blamed the
attack on the Georgian security services. Georgia has denied the
charges. In a 2 December letter to UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros
Ghali, Abkhaz Foreign Minister Konstantin Ozgan accused the UN of "a
one-sided approach" to resolving the Abkhaz conflict and the Georgian
leadership of "subversion and terror," according to Iprinda on 3
December. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka met with Abkhaz
presidential representative Anri Djergenia recently and proposed that
Abkhazia be incorporated into the Russian-Belarus sphere of integration,
Pravda-5 reported on 10 December. -- Liz Fuller

TAJIK OPPOSITION LEADER ARRIVES IN KUNDUZ. United Tajik Opposition
leader Said Abdullo Nuri flew to Kunduz on 9 December, arriving one day
late for a scheduled meeting with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov,
international press reported. Details on Nuri's delay are conflicting,
with some reports claiming that Taliban aircraft forced the plane down
at Shindan then transferred it to Kandahar, while others claiming that
the plane had technical difficulties and requested a landing for
repairs. One thing is certain, Nuri did meet with Taliban leader Mullah
Mohammed Omar. -- Bruce Pannier

KAZAKSTANI PRESIDENT IN INDIA. Nursultan Nazarbayev arrived in New Delhi
on 9 December to discuss bilateral relations and the situation in
Afghanistan with his Indian counterpart, Shankar Dayal Sharma, Russian
and Western agencies reported. Nazarbayev said he is seeking "the
speediest resolution" to the Afghan conflict and welcomed "the active
and constructive role played by India." Agreements on import taxes,
investment protection, and cultural relations were signed and
cooperation in non-military nuclear research was discussed. -- Bruce
Pannier

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez

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