The greatest happiness is to know the source of unhappiness. - Dostoevsky
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 238, Part I, 11 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

RODIONOV BECOMES FIRST CIVILIAN DEFENSE MINISTER . . . Dispelling rumors
that he might dismiss Igor Rodionov, President Boris Yeltsin instead
issued a decree on 11 December retiring Rodionov from the military but
leaving him in his ministerial post, Russian and Western agencies
reported. Rodionov will be the country's first civilian defense minister
since it became independent in 1991. Army Gen. Rodionov reached 60, the
mandatory retirement age for Russian officers, on 1 December. Both sides
of the political spectrum quickly criticized Yeltsin's decision. Duma
member Sergei Mitrokhin (Yabloko) termed it "purely symbolic," while
Duma Security Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin (KPRF) argued it would undermine
discipline in the military. -- Scott Parrish

. . . WHILE CHUBAIS INVESTIGATES "SEMENOV AFFAIR." Presidential press
secretary Sergei Yastrzhembskii announced on 10 December that President
Yeltsin has instructed Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais to "thoroughly
study" the circumstances surrounding Rodionov's proposal to dismiss Army
Gen. Vladimir Semenov as commander of the ground forces, ITAR-TASS
reported. Yastrzhembskii said Semenov had asked for such an
investigation in a letter to Yeltsin. It remains unclear whether Semenov
will be dismissed or on what grounds, as the earlier allegations of
misconduct and corruption appear to have been dropped. -- Scott Parrish

CHERNOMYRDIN ADDRESSES FEDERATION COUNCIL. Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin promised on 10 December that the government will meet all
its current wage and pension commitments and pay off many of its debts
to the budget sector by the end of the year. He told the Federation
Council that 7.9 trillion rubles ($1.4 billion) will be earmarked for
wages, of which almost 4 trillion will go to the army, 650 billion to
miners, 1.5 trillion to education, 285 billion to the courts, 146
billion to prosecutors, 71 billion to the media, 460 billion to the
health service, and 730 billion to the state administration, Kommersant-
Daily reported on 11 December. He said the remaining debt to the army
and pensioners should be paid off early next year and stressed the
importance of passing the 1997 budget. Chernomyrdin was sharply
criticized by the upper house last week for failing to make a scheduled
appearance on 4 December. -- Penny Morvant

CHECHEN ROUNDUP. Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin met with
the head of the OSCE mission in Grozny, Tim Guldimann, on 10 December to
discuss arrangements for the OSCE and the Council of Europe to monitor
the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled in Chechnya on 27
January, ITAR-TASS reported. Rybkin also met with the Russian chairman
of the Russian-Chechen joint commission, Georgii Kurin, to discuss the
implementation of President Boris Yeltsin's 23 November decree on the
withdrawal of the last Russian troops still stationed in Chechnya. The
Chechen parliament has issued an appeal to the parliaments of other CIS
states to take a stand on the proposed participation of Chechen
parliament deputies in the work of the CIS Inter-Parliamentary Assembly,
Kommersant-Daily reported on 11 December, citing Interfax. -- Liz Fuller

NEW INGUSH PRIME MINISTER APPOINTED. One day after sacking his
republic's government for economic mismanagement and possible
corruption, Ingush President Ruslan Aushev appointed a new prime
minister, Belan Khamchiev, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 December. Khamchiev
previously served as Ingush commissioner to the Russian president. The
ousted prime minister, Mukharbek Didigov, said it is "normal" for
governments to be dismissed for failing to meet economic targets but
denied any personal involvement in corruption. Meanwhile, Ingush
parliament Chairman Ruslan Pliev praised Aushev's decision, saying
Didigov's cabinet had been extremely inefficient. -- Laura Belin

NEW AIRBORNE FORCES COMMANDER APPOINTED. In a decree dated 4 December,
President Yeltsin appointed Lt.-Gen. Georgii Shpak commander of the
Airborne Forces, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 December. Shpak, 53, served in
the paratroops from 1966 to 1988 and fought in Afghanistan. His son,
also an officer, was reportedly killed in Chechnya. Shpak is a graduate
of the Frunze and General Staff academies, and a former commander of the
76th Airborne Division. Before his appointment as airborne forces
commander, he was first deputy commander of the Volga military district.
Shpak replaces Yevgenii Podkolzin, who was officially retired in October
but widely believed to have been sacked for his opposition to Defense
Minister Rodionov's plans to downsize the airborne forces. -- Scott
Parrish

MOSCOW STANDS FIRM AGAINST NATO EXPANSION. NATO's recent moves to
assuage Moscow's fears over the alliance's eastward expansion have not
eased Moscow's opposition to the idea, Russian and Western media
reported on 11 December. Despite the 10 December declaration by NATO
foreign ministers that the alliance has no plans to deploy nuclear
weapons on the territories of new members, and their endorsement of
negotiations on a formal NATO-Russia charter, Foreign Minister Yevgenii
Primakov termed the expansion of the alliance "unacceptable" following a
meeting with NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana. Primakov welcomed the
proposal to begin talks on a NATO-Russia agreement but said it must
contain "concrete arrangements," signalling that Moscow wants it to
contain legally binding security guarantees. -- Scott Parrish

MINERS' PROTESTS CONTINUE. About 2,000 people took part in a rally in
Tula on 10 December organized by miners from the Moscow coal basin,
ITAR-TASS reported. The demonstrators demanded the resignation of the
president and government as well as the payment of wage arrears totaling
about 100 billion rubles. About 16,000 miners from Tula are taking part
in the national miners' strike, which entered its ninth day on 11
December. Ivan Mokhnachuk, deputy head of the miners' union
Rosugleprofsoyuz, said the future of the strike, which has been losing
momentum, would be discussed following the return of First Deputy Prime
Minister Vladimir Potanin from the Kuzbass coal basin. According to an
ORT report, there have been 164 strikes involving more than 300,000
miners in the Kuzbass this year. -- Penny Morvant

NUCLEAR INDUSTRY WORKERS PROTEST. About 100 employees of nuclear missile
production facilities picketed the Finance Ministry in Moscow on 10
December to demand the payment of wage arrears. According to union
representatives cited by ITAR-TASS, wage arrears now total 550 billion
rubles, while the government owes an additional 2.5 trillion for state
contracts. Employees have not been paid for two to six months. Trud on
10 December noted that funds are not being allocated to finance the
storage of nuclear warheads, posing a threat to security. -- Penny
Morvant

RUSSIA SEEKS ENTRY TO WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION. Speaking at the meeting
of the World Trade Organization in Singapore on 10 December, Deputy
Prime Minister Oleg Davydov said that he expects Russia to join the 125-
country organization by the end of 1997, Reuters reported. Davydov
argued that Russia has already abolished all quota restrictions on
imports. Russia originally applied to join the WTO's predecessor, GATT,
in 1993. Its application has been held up by lack of clarity over
industrial subsidies and trade statistics. The same day ITAR-TASS
reported that Russia's trade turnover in the first 10 months of 1996 was
up 7.2% over the same period last year, with exports of $71 billion and
imports $38 billion (not including any allowance for individual "shuttle
traders"). Trade with CIS countries accounted for 23% of the total. --
Peter Rutland

SIDANKO TO SELL FEDERAL STAKE. The Federal Property Fund will hold an
investment auction for a 51% federal stake in the Sidanko oil company,
Kommersant-Daily reported on 11 December. The stake is currently held by
the Mezhdunarodnaya Finansovaya Kompaniya, which won it in return for a
$130 million loan to the government in December 1995. This is the second
stake won in last year's loans-for-shares auctions to be sold off: in
November, Menatep bank announced it would sell its 33% stake in the oil
company YUKOS (see OMRI Daily Digest, 21 November 1996). Meanwhile, the
oil firm Tatneft (which was threatened with bankruptcy by the special
tax commission in October) has become the second Russian company
alongside Gazprom to successfully float its shares (10% of the equity
capital) at the London Stock Exchange in the form of American Depository
Receipts. -- Natalia Gurushina

BANKS PROVIDE CREDIT TO ZIL. The Moscow government has signed a 246
billion ruble ($45 million) credit agreement with six banks to finance
the rehabilitation of the local truck manufacturer ZIL, Kommersant-Daily
reported on 11 December. The one-year loan, bearing a 48% annual
interest rate, is secured against a 100% equity stake in the Rossiya
hotel worth 400 billion rubles. The Moscow government bought a 60% stake
in ZIL in September 1996 to prevent it from going bankrupt. Moscow
authorities are also working on a rehabilitation deal for another debt-
ridden auto plant, the AZLK (Moskvich) factory. -- Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

THREE DASHNAK PARTY MEMBERS SENTENCED TO DEATH IN ARMENIA. Armenia's
Supreme Court on 10 December sentenced to death three members of the
banned Dashnak party (HHD) on charges of terrorism after a trial that
lasted more than 16 months, international agencies reported. Arsen
Ardzrouni (a Lebanese citizen of Armenian origin), Armen Grigoryan, and
Armenak Mnjoyan have been convicted of forming a clandestine armed group
called Dro and committing three murders. Eight other members of the
alleged group were sentenced to prison terms ranging from three to 15
years. The lawyers of the defendants can appeal the verdict within a
week. President Levon Ter-Petrossyan suspended the activities of the HHD
in December 1994 on the grounds that Dro was affiliated with the party
and planned to overthrow the government. But according to RFE/RL, the
three-member panel of judges ruled that there is not enough evidence to
prove a connection between HHD and Dro. -- Emil Danielyan

19 FORMER OPON MEMBERS ARRESTED IN AZERBAIJAN. Elchin Amiraslanov, the
former commander of the OPON special police sub-division in Kazakh
Raion, was arrested in Baku on 10 December along with 18 of his
associates, Turan and Western agencies reported. In March 1995, the OPON
unit occupied the local administrative building to protest a planned
crackdown on their involvement in the illegal export of strategic
metals; the incident precipitated a showdown between OPON commander
Rovshaan Djavadov and Azerbaijani army troops in which the former was
killed. Amiraslanov, who subsequently fled to Ukraine, will be charged
with treason and the murder of several high-ranking security officials
in October 1995. Azerbaijani parliament speaker Yagub Mamedov has denied
reports of Amiraslanov's arrest, according to Turan. -- Liz Fuller

RUSSIAN STATE DUMA SPEAKER IN TBILISI. Gennadii Seleznev met with
Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze and Minister of State Niko
Lekishvili on 10 December to discuss bilateral relations and the Abkhaz
conflict, Russian and Western agencies reported. Shevardnadze and
Seleznev said they favor expediting the ratification of a handful of
bilateral treaties, including one on friendship and cooperation, and
Seleznev affirmed his support for Georgia's territorial integrity,
according to ORT. Also on 10 December, a UN human rights office opened
in the Abkhaz capital, Sukhumi, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Liz Fuller

KAZAKSTAN FLOATS BONDS ON WORLD MARKET. Deputy Prime Minister and
Finance Minister Aleksandr Pavlov announced on 10 December that $200
million worth of "Kazak Euronotes" were launched in Amsterdam on 9
December, ITAR-TASS reported. Kazakstan is the second CIS country, after
Russia, to float its bonds on world markets. According to Pavlov, Kazak
Euronotes have a three-year term and will carry an interest rate of
9.3%. The proceeds will be used to pay wage and pension arrears. --
Bruce Pannier

UZBEKISTAN TO BUY RUSSIAN GRAIN. Due to a poor 1996 harvest, Uzbekistan
agreed to exchange 100,000 metric tons of grain from Russia in return
for 18,200 tons of cotton, the BBC reported on 9 December. The agreement
is backed by a $27 million guarantee from European bankers. Officials
noted that Uzbekistan will have to make further grain imports, as the
2.7 million ton harvest fell short of the 4.5 million tons the country
requires. -- Roger Kangas

TAJIK PRESIDENT, OPPOSITION LEADER MEET. Tajik President Imomali
Rakhmonov and United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri met in
Khosdekh, Afghanistan, on 10 December, international press reported. Few
details were available on the meeting, except that the two men agreed to
meet officially in Moscow on 19 December. The press speculated that a
new ceasefire agreement will be signed at that time as well as an
agreement on the establishment of a coalition council with
representation from both the government and opposition. Meanwhile, Red
Cross representatives were allowed to see 110 government soldiers being
held by opposition forces in Komsomolabad. -- Bruce Pannier

TURKMENISTAN CELEBRATES NEUTRALITY. An article in the 11 December
edition of Nezavisimaya gazeta noted that Turkmenistan will celebrate
the first anniversary of its recognition as a "neutral country" on 12
December. On that day in 1995, the UN passed a resolution recognizing
Turkmenistan's status as a neutral country. To mark the occasion the
former Karl Marx Square is being renamed "Neutrality Square." The
article notes that "during the last year more than 60 international
conferences, symposiums, and summits" took place in Ashgabat, and that
three rounds of negotiations between the Tajik government and opposition
were also held there, going so far as to claim that "only thanks to
Turkmenistan" were the Tajik negotiations kept "alive." -- Bruce Pannier

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez

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            Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc.
                      All rights reserved. ISSN 1211-1570
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