We are all apt to believe what the world believes about us. - George Eliot
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 240, Part I, 13 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

ON CONSTITUTION DAY, FILATOV WARNS OF CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS. Russians
marked 12 December, Constitution Day, in a subdued manner. The occasion
has become Russia's "quietest holiday" and may have been observed this
year for the last time, according to a 12 December commentary by NTV's
Vadim Gluzker. He noted that the first anniversary of the 12 December
1993 constitutional referendum coincided with the escalation of fighting
in Chechnya, which "was no cause for celebration." Sergei Filatov,
chairman of the All-Russia Coordinating Council responsible for electing
pro-Yeltsin governors, warned on 12 December that a political crisis
could be triggered by efforts by the Federation Council to amend the
constitution. He claimed that, following the current round of
gubernatorial elections, the leftist opposition will have more than
enough members to put such amendments on the upper house's agenda, RIA
Novosti reported. Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev, however, said
that the governors tend to become moderate in their views after the
elections no matter what their campaign rhetoric, Radio Mayak reported.
-- Laurie Belin and Robert Orttung

PLANS TO ORGANIZE MUSLIM GROUP IN DUMA. A spokesman for the Union of
Muslims of Russia has announced plans to organize a Muslim deputies'
group in the State Duma, according to a 12 December Interfax report
monitored by the BBC. The union's chairman, Nadir Khachilaev, won a Duma
by-election in Dagestan on 8 December, and the spokesman said
Khachilaev's victory showed that the North Caucasus regions are
experiencing an "Islamic revival." However, Khachilaev is known in
Dagestan as a former karate champion and prominent businessman, not as a
religious leader. Most of the 26 Muslims currently serving in the Duma
belong to the pro-government Our Home Is Russia faction. Even if all of
them joined the new group, it would lack the 35 deputies needed to form
an officially registered faction. Unlike small informal deputies'
groups, registered Duma factions are represented on the Duma Council and
may chair parliamentary committees. -- Laura Belin

ROKHLIN ON RODIONOV, MILITARY REFORM. In an interview with NTV on 11
December, Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin hailed President
Yeltsin's decision to convert retired Army Gen. Igor Rodionov into a
civilian defense minister, saying the move would improve coordination
between the country's political and military leadership. Rokhlin, who
like Rodionov is a retired general, said officers would respect a
knowledgeable and qualified civilian defense minister and refuted
criticism that the change would undermine military discipline. He added
that plans to bolster the authority of the General Staff would
ameliorate but not resolve the problem of rivalry among the various
power ministries, which was highlighted by squabbles between the
Interior Troops and Defense Ministry forces during the Chechen conflict.
Rivalries will persist as long as the power ministries are directly
subordinated to the president, and can appeal to him over the head of
the General Staff, he argued. -- Scott Parrish

YANDARBIEV INJURED IN CAR CRASH. Acting Chechen President Zelimkhan
Yandarbiev suffered a broken arm and other minor injuries while leaving
Grozny on 12 December in what he said was "a simple car accident" that
he blamed on his bodyguards, Russian and Western agencies reported.
Yandarbiev was immediately hospitalized and is expected to be released
today. Also on 12 December, two Russian Interior Ministry soldiers were
found murdered in the village of Gerzel-Aul near Gudermes, NTV reported.
Radio Mayak reported on 12 December that the payment of pensions and
other social benefits will be resumed in Chechnya on 15 December. -- Liz
Fuller

FATE OF TYUMEN ELECTIONS REMAINS UNCERTAIN. Seven candidates are running
for office in the 22 December Tyumen Oblast gubernatorial election. The
incumbent, Leonid Roketskii, is leading in the polls with 53%, far ahead
of his nearest rival, former Tyumen Credit Bank President and current
Tyumen-2000 movement leader Sergei Atroshenko, who has 11%, RIA Novosti
reported on 12 December. The participation of the oblast's two
autonomous okrugs is still in doubt. The Yamal-Nenets Duma has declared
that the okrug's voters will not participate in the elections, while
Khanty-Mansi is preparing to take part in the vote but will only
consider the candidate who wins on its territory to be the governor,
ITAR-TASS reported. However, polls show that a majority of Yamal-Nenets
residents plan to participate in the elections, despite the objections
of their Duma. -- Robert Orttung

TATARSTAN EXPANDS REGIONAL, INTERNATIONAL TIES. The State Council of
Tatarstan on 12 December signed a protocol on interparliamentary
cooperation with the Legislative Assembly of Ulyanovsk Oblast, RIA
Novosti reported. The chairman of Tatarstan's legislature, Vasilii
Likhachev, said 10 similar agreements have already been signed with the
legislatures of neighboring republics and regions as well as with the
parliaments of some CIS states, Canada, Turkey, and Hungary. Tatarstan's
legislature also plans to sign such treaties with Amur and Khabarovsk
oblasts, Primorskii Krai, and the Jewish Autonomous Oblast to foster
better economic ties. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski

RUSSIA ON NEW UN SECRETARY-GENERAL. Although some Russian officials had
earlier suggested that Moscow would veto any candidate for UN secretary
general other than Boutros Boutros Ghali, Russia has now accepted his
withdrawal. Russian UN representative Sergei Lavrov told Russian Public
TV (ORT) on 12 December that Russia will support any of the four African
candidates currently under consideration by the Security Council. Lavrov
said Russia insists only that the new secretary general be "qualified"
but complained that some countries have "other" criteria. France has so
far refused to support the leading candidate, Kofi Annan of Ghana,
currently UN undersecretary general for peacekeeping. Paris reportedly
resents Washington's earlier veto of Ghali's candidacy and opposes Annan
because he does not come from a Francophone African state. -- Scott
Parrish

RUSSIA, CHINA RATIFY EXTRADITION TREATY. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister
Grigorii Karasin and Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Zhang Deguang
exchanged instruments ratifying a bilateral extradition treaty in
Beijing on 12 December, international media reported. According to AFP,
citing the official Chinese news agency Xinhua, the agreement is the
first extradition treaty between China and a foreign country. The agency
quoted a Chinese official as saying that growing economic ties between
the two states had increased the need for cross-border cooperation in
fighting crime, especially economic offenses. Meanwhile, after meeting
Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Bolshakov, Chinese Prime
Minister Li Peng said "strategic partnership between China and Russia"
is "our correct and historical option." Peng, scheduled to visit Moscow
later this month to prepare for an April Russian-Chinese summit, said he
hoped annual bilateral trade would quadruple to $20 billion by the year
2000. -- Scott Parrish

MINERS' STRIKE OVER, EXCEPT IN ROSTOV. Some 60,000 miners from Rostov
Oblast remained on strike on 12 December, despite a decision by the
leadership of the Russian Coal-Industry Workers' Union to suspend a
national strike begun on 3 December, ITAR-TASS reported. The suspension
of the strike was announced late on 11 December, but union officials in
Rostov said that they had not been consulted and that mines run by the
coal concerns Rostovugol and Gukovugol would continue to stand idle.
According to Reuters, the Rostov miners are also threatening to block
railroads from 15 December if their wages are not paid. Miners in Tula
have also reportedly refused to return to work, while six miners from
Leninsk-Kuznetsk announced their intention to go on hunger strike. A
senior representative of the coal company Rosugol acknowledged that the
miners were unlikely to receive all their back wages, as the funds due
from the federal budget are insufficient to cover the total backlog. --
Penny Morvant

LUZHKOV ORDERS EARLY START OF CHRISTMAS SEASON IN MOSCOW. Moscow Mayor
Yurii Luzhkov has officially brought forward the New Year and Christmas
season in the capital in an attempt to boost trade turnover, loosen
consumer purse strings, and cheer up fellow Muscovites, Reuters reported
on 13 December. Under the decree, shops and businesses were ordered to
move up the day when they display New Year and Christmas decorations
from the traditional 15 December to 1 December. The Moscow government
also dispatched teams of inspectors to ensure the decree is complied
with. Some large department stores, including GUM, started the holiday
season on 25 November. Many shops are also adopting new business
practices, such as offering consumers holiday discounts. -- Natalia
Gurushina

WAGE SURVEY PUBLISHED. A VTsIOM survey has found that only 30% of wages
in Russia were paid on time and in full in 1996, down from 45% in 1995,
Segodnya reported on 11 December. Some 31% of wages were delayed and 39%
of workers were not paid at all (compared to 38% and 17% in 1995). High-
ranking officials and managers, white-collar workers, and inhabitants of
Moscow, St. Petersburg and European North were more likely to get paid
on time, while manual workers and those living in rural areas, the Far
East and Siberia, had their salaries delayed. The proportion of people
who say that price and wage arrear increases may cause social unrest in
their regions and those who are willing to take part in protest
demonstrations increased from 26% and 23%, respectively, in 1995 to 40%
and 26%, respectively, in 1996. -- Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

ARMENIAN CHURCH HEAD MEETS WITH POPE. Pope John Paul II said he hopes
the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Roman Catholic Church will
eventually reunite, after meeting with Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos
of All Armenians Garegin I in the Vatican on 11 December, Reuters
reported. The independent Armenian church split from the Vatican in the
5th century. Garegin said he is praying for the pontiff's health for
"the good of all humanity." -- Emil Danielyan

SELEZNEV IN TBILISI. Georgian parliament chairman Zurab Zhvania made
clear to visiting Russian State Duma chairman Gennadii Seleznev on 12
December that the future course of Russian-Georgian relations hinges on
a solution to the Abkhaz conflict, NTV reported. Parliament deputies
from the National Democrat faction staged a walkout prior to Seleznev's
address to the Georgian parliament to protest Russia's role in the
region. Seleznev proposed the opening of a Russian consulate-general in
Batumi to safeguard the interests of more than 30,000 ethnic Russians in
Adzharia, according to Radio Rossii. Meanwhile, the Russian government
has closed a border crossing between Georgia and North Ossetiya on
orders from the commander of the Russian Border Troops, Gen. Andrei
Nikolaev. The move imposes a virtual economic blockade on Georgia,
although goods and passengers headed for Armenia are being allowed to
proceed, Iberia reported on 12 December. -- Liz Fuller

RUSSIAN OWNERSHIP OF KAZAKSTAN INDUSTRIES. The Russian electricity
monopoly EES Rossii has taken over full ownership of the Severnii coal
basin in Ekibastuz, Kazakstan, Radio Rossii reported on 12 December. An
agreement to that effect was signed by the Russian and Kazakstani
governments -- presumably as partial payment for Kazakstan's electricity
debts to Russia. Russian CIS Affairs Minister Aman Tuleev commented the
day before that "practically all of Kazakstan's industry is owned by
third countries," mentioning India and the U.S. as examples, Radio Mayak
reported. However, foreign companies which have leased Kazakstani
enterprises often have a hard time. ITAR-TASS reported on 12 December
that the Russian firm Postovalov and Co. was abandoning its control over
the Katagaily ore factory despite having sunk $3.8 million into the
project. -- Peter Rutland

YURII BATURIN IN TAJIKISTAN. Russian Defense Council Secretary Yurii
Baturin arrived in Tajikistan on 12 December to review the ceasefire
agreement signed by Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov and Tajik
opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri in Afghanistan on 10-11 December,
Russian media reported. High-ranking Russian officials always visit the
Central Asian nation prior to peace negotiations. All sides involved in
the Tajik conflict still agree Rakhmonov and Nuri will meet in Moscow on
19 December to sign agreements that UN special envoy to Tajikistan Gerd
Merrem said will be even "more rewarding" than previous settlements. --
Bruce Pannier

TAJIK CEASEFIRE VIOLATED IN FIRST 24 HOURS. The latest Tajik ceasefire,
which came into effect at midnight on 11 December, has already been
violated in the Garm region, Russian and Western media reported. The
Tajik government complained to the UN, claiming that opposition forces
in Garm, 150 km east of Dushanbe, attacked a special forces unit. At
least two soldiers are reported dead. Another attack by opposition
forces was reported in the village of Labijar, 120 km east of Dushanbe,
but no casualty figures were given. The reports failed to mention that
in the hours leading up to the signing of the latest ceasefire,
government forces moved a brigade near the city of Garm, which was
captured by the opposition on 1 December. Meanwhile, the opposition is
denying that it was behind two bombs that went off in Dushanbe on 12
December, one near the parliament building and the other near the
Pakistani Embassy. -- 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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