Всякая жизнь, хорошо прожитая, есть долгая жизнь. - Леонардо да Винчи

No. 241, Part I, 16 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


DUMA APPROVES 1997 BUDGET. The Duma voted by 263 to 111 on 15 December
to approve on first reading the draft budget for 1997, Russian media
reported. The Communists and their allies voted in favor, Yabloko and
sundry democrats and nationalists against. The second and third readings
will be on 25 December. Earlier this month, the Duma twice rejected the
budget, prompting the government to increase planned spending by 34.8
trillion rubles ($6 billion) and introduce a parallel "development
budget" of tax breaks to stimulate investment. Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin accepted most of the Communists' 11 demands, pertaining to
timely payment of wages and pensions and spending increases, but
rejected their demand to dismiss Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais. The
budget projects 11.8% inflation, 2% GDP growth, spending of 530 trillion
rubles, and revenue of 434 trillion. The government claims that the
deficit of 96 trillion is equal to 3.5% of GDP and thus within the IMF
limit. -- Peter Rutland

Russian Federation (KPRF) held a closed plenum of its Central Committee
on 14 December to discuss party strategy, in particular how to vote for
the 1997 budget while saving face as a credible opposition. In his 15
December parliamentary address, KPRF leader Gennadii Zyuganov emphasized
that if the government did not meet his party's 11 conditions,
Communists "reserve the right to vote against the budget in later
readings and raise a vote of no-confidence in the government," and might
organize "acts of civil disobedience and protest" across Russia, NTV
reported. Meanwhile, in endorsing the budget, Economics Committee
Chairman and KPRF member Yurii Maslyukov said it was time for Communists
to "change our style" and avoid confrontation, Reuters reported. --
Laura Belin

YAVLINSKII REMAINS FIRM. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii called for
the rejection of the government's budget on 15 December. He argued that
the 1997 draft, "continues the same policy, does not change anything,
and deepens the crises" related to internal and external debt. In an
article published in Nezavisimaya gazeta on 15 December, Yavlinskii
called for rejecting a "budget of crisis and debt" in favor of a "budget
of reform and development," which he argued would promote growth. Other
deputies who had earlier opposed the budget, gave it their reluctant
support. Agrarian faction leader Nikolai Kharitonov, for example, said
that the Duma should "pass this disgusting budget with one aim in mind -
to maintain stability in society." -- Laura Belin

NIKITIN RELEASED. Retired naval captain Aleksandr Nikitin was released
from custody on 14 December, although the case against him is
continuing. Nikitin was arrested on 6 February on suspicion of treason
and espionage for his part in a report by the Norwegian-based
environmental group Bellona on radioactive contamination of the Kola
Peninsula. He was released on his own recognizance at the request of the
Procurator's General's Office for procedural reasons, according to ITAR-
TASS. His lawyer described the decision as a historic victory for human
rights, arguing: "This is the first case in the history of Soviet-
Russian state security that social pressure has succeeded in forcing the
Federal Security Service to observe the laws and stop its trampling of
human rights," Reuters reported. Nikitin was repeatedly denied bail and
not charged until the fall. Amnesty International declared him a
prisoner of conscience, the first in Russia since the collapse of the
USSR. -- Penny Morvant

ANOTHER RADUEV HOSTAGE-TAKING. A detachment of Chechen militants under
field commander Salman Raduev attacked a Russian control post on the
border between Chechnya and Dagestan on 14 December and abducted 22
Russian Interior Ministry troops in protest at having been refused
permission to enter Dagestan, Russian and Western agencies reported.
Raduev subsequently demanded an official apology from the Dagestani
authorities, who dispatched Dagestan Security Council secretary Magomet
Tolboev to negotiate the hostages' release. NTV quoted Raduev as saying
the hostage-taking was to protest the proposed Chechen presidential
elections on 27 January, which he claims are illegal as Dzhokhar Dudaev,
believed killed by a Russian missile in April, is still alive. Interim
Chechen Prime Minister Aslan Maskhadov and his deputy Movladi Udugov
condemned the attack as a provocation. Col.-Gen. Anatolii Shkirko,
commander of Russia's Internal Troops in Chechnya, warned it could delay
the planned withdrawal of the remaining Russian troops in Chechnya.
Negotiations continue for the release of the hostages. -- Liz Fuller

in the second reading a bill designed to stop Russia's autonomous okrugs
from seceding from the krais or oblasts to which they are subordinate,
Kommersant-Daily reported on 15 December. The bill declares that all
resources in the okrugs belong to the krai or oblast and that the okrugs
must hold elections for the oblast or krai governor. The wealthy Khanty-
Mansi, Yamal-Nenets, Nenets, and Taimyr (Dolgan-Nenets) autonomous
okrugs want greater independence in order to gain more control over the
income generated from the resources on their territory. The Duma is
moving quickly in order to try to preserve the integrity of Tyumen
Oblast, where gubernatorial elections are set for 22 December. Khanty-
Mansi and Yamal-Nenets are working to prevent the elections from being
valid on their territory. -- Robert Orttung

NENETS INCUMBENT LOSES REELECTION. The incumbent governor of Nenets
Autonomous Okrug, Vladimir Khabarov, was defeated in the 13 December
gubernatorial run-off. Khabarov, who was supported by the presidential
administration and the opposition, received about 39% of the vote, 10%
less than his rival Vladimir Butov, a businessman and member of the
okrug's legislature. In the first round on 1 December, Butov finished
second with 18% fewer votes than the incumbent governor but managed to
double his support between the rounds. Kommersant-Daily described Butov
as a "capitalist shark" who promised the voters high salaries and
pensions. -- Anna Paretskaya in Moscow

DUMA PROTESTS ASTRAKHAN VOTE. Several Duma members who acted as
observers during the 8 December gubernatorial elections in Astrakhan
claimed that the incumbent governor, Anatolii Guzhvin, violated
constitutional provisions for fair elections, Kommersant-Daily reported
on 16 December. Following their testimony, the Duma asked Yeltsin to
suspend Guzhvin while the charges are investigated. Guzhvin won 52% of
the vote, while his opponent from the pro-Communist Popular Power Duma
faction received 40%. The Communists have also protested the
gubernatorial results in Rostov, where the incumbent won by a landslide,
while the administration managed to overturn the results in Amur after
the Communist challenger apparently defeated the incumbent by a margin
of 189 votes. -- Robert Orttung

Abdulatipov on 15 December announced plans to set up a Coordinating
Council of Russia's Muslim organizations. He said that the council will
coordinate the activities of about two dozen Russian Muslim
organisations and seek to defend the rights of Russia's Muslims in
cooperation with the authorities, Kommersant-Daily reported on 16
December. Abdulatipov, a former deputy chairman of the upper house of
the parliament, will head the new council. He opposed a plan by the
Union of Muslims to organize a Muslim group in the Duma (see OMRI Daily
Digest, 13 December 1996). -- Nikolai Iakoubovski

spokesman Gennadii Tarasov welcomed the UN Security Council's 13
December nomination of Kofi Annan as the next secretary-general of the
organization, terming him a "flexible and skilled leader," ITAR-TASS
reported on 14 December. The Security Council unanimously approved
Annan, a Ghanaian diplomat currently serving as UN undersecretary-
general for peacekeeping, after France withdrew its objections to his
candidacy. He now faces a confirmation vote in the General Assembly on
17 December. Tarasov expressed hope that Annan would "make an active
contribution to the rebuilding of the UN" and help it adapt "to the
needs of the emerging multipolar world." -- Scott Parrish

have assured Moscow that the Chechen Information Center in Warsaw has no
official status, the Russian Foreign Ministry is still unhappy with
Warsaw's actions, Izvestiya reported on 15 December. An anonmyous
Russian diplomat described the ceremonial opening of the center on 13
December, which reportedly included the raising of the Chechen flag and
was attended by Polish parliamentarians, as "unacceptable," calling it
interference in Russian internal affairs. Russian Deputy Foreign
Minister Sergei Krylov told NTV that any attempt to transform the office
into a "pseudo-embassy" would have "the most negative consequences" for
Russian-Polish relations. Chechen Foreign Minister Ruslan Chimaev told
Izvestiya , however, that Chechnya's only offical foreign mission is in
Moscow, adding that Chechnya cannot recieve international recognition
until it resolves its relationship with Russia. -- Scott Parrish

MARS PROBE UPDATE. Chilean Deputy Foreign Minister Mariano Fernandez
said on 13 December that the failed Russian Mars-96 probe, reported to
have fallen into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Chile on 17
November, actually fell in Bolivia near the Chilean border, Reuters
reported. Despite assurances by Russian officials, Chilean and Bolivian
officials have expressed worry about possible radioactive contamination
resulting from the 200 grams of plutonium the probe carried as part of
its power supplies, and Santiago accused Moscow of being "tremendously
unwilling" to share technical information about the probe. A spokesman
for the Lavochkin design bureau, which worked on the probe, refuted the
Chilean report on 14 December, telling ITAR-TASS that it had indeed
fallen in the ocean without causing any damage. -- Scott Parrish

WAGE ARREARS MOUNT. The total wage debt in Russia equaled 46.6 trillion
rubles on 25 November, up 3.5 trillion from 28 October, ITAR-TASS
reported on 14 December citing the State Statistics Committee.
Organizations and enterprises funded directly by the state accounted for
8.58 trillion of the total. Mounting wage arrears are continuing to
trigger strikes and other forms of protest. AFP on 16 December quoted
Vitalii Budko, chairman of the Coal Industry Workers' Union, as saying
that the government was failing to keep to the timetable agreed for the
payment of subsidies to the industry and that another strike may be
called. Miners in Rostov, who refused to abide by a union decision to
end a 10-day national miners' strike on 12 December, held protest
rallies in Shakhty and Novoshakhtinsk on 15 December. -- Penny Morvant

IMF RESUMES LOANS. The IMF executive board approved on 13 December the
disbursement of the eighth (October) $336 million tranche of the $10.1
billion Extended Fund Facility loan it granted Russia in March, ITAR-
TASS and AFP reported on 14 December. The decision was made on the basis
of improvements in tax collection, which totaled 20.1 trillion rubles
($3.8 billion) in November (up from 14.6 trillion in October), of which
87% was actual cash, rather than tax credits. However, Kommersant-Daily
on 15 December reported that the IMF executive board criticized the
Russian government for their inability to pay pensions on time and for
their failure to liberalize energy prices, which are still distorted. --
Natalia Gurushina


AZERBAIJAN SIGNS ANOTHER OIL CONTRACT. Representatives of Azerbaijan's
state oil company SOCAR signed on 14 December a $2 billion 25-year
contract with a consortium of U.S., Japanese, and Saudi Arabian
companies to develop the Dan Ulduzu and Ashrafi Caspian shelf deposits,
Russian and Western agencies reported. The deposits are estimated to
contain 150 million metric tons of oil and up to 50 billion cubic meters
of gas. SOCAR will have a 20% stake in the project, Amoco 30%, Unocal
25.5%, Itochu 20%, and Saudi Arabia's Delta 4.5%. Russia's LUKoil is not
a direct participant in the consortium but could acquire an interest,
since SOCAR plans to link the development of Dan Ulduzu and Ashrafi with
that of the nearby Karabakh deposit, according to AFP of 14 December
quoting Interfax. -- Liz Fuller

Aleksandr Djavakhishvili, former commander of the Georgian navy, has
rejected criticism from Georgian Defense Minister Vardiko Nadibaidze
that he failed to eradicate financial irregularites and raise the combat
efficiency of the service, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 November.
Djavakhishvili was dismised from his post last week by Nadibaidze. The
two men have very different views on the optimum size of the navy,
whether Georgia should persist with its claim to part of the Black Sea
Fleet, and military cooperation with Ukraine, according to Segodnya of 5
December. A member of the opposition National Democrats faction within
the Georgian parliament, Beso Djugeli, has demanded Nadibaidze's
impeachment on the grounds that he has allegedly ruined the country's
entire military-industrial complex, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 15
December. -- Liz Fuller

CEASE-FIRE TAKING HOLD IN TAJIKISTAN. The cease-fire agreement signed at
the conclusion of a 10-11 December meeting between Tajik President
Imomali Rakhmonov and opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri appears to be
reducing fighting in central Tajikistan, according to international
sources. This latest agreement seemed doomed when less than 24 hours
after its signing two bombs went off in the Tajik capital and fighting
was reported in Garm. Four government soldiers were killed and 14
wounded in the town on 13 December. However, by 15 December only
sporadic gunfire was reported near Garm, although a special unit of
government troops remains surrounded. AFP reported that a special
meeting was held on 13 December in Dushanbe attended by representatives
of the government, opposition, and UN special envoy Gerd Merrem to
prevent the cease-fire agreement from falling apart. -- Bruce Pannier

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Penny Morvant

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