If we are to live together in peace, we must first come to know each other better. - Lyndon B. Johnson
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 242, Part I, 17 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

RED CROSS WORKERS SLAUGHTERED IN CHECHNYA. Six medical personnel working
for the International Committee of the Red Cross in a Norwegian-funded
hospital in Novye Atagi, south of Grozny, were shot dead on the night of
16-17 December. In response to the killing of the six international
volunteers, the Red Cross announced it was suspending all operations in
Chechnya. Meanwhile, Chechen field commander Salman Raduev said on 16
December he would release 10 of the Russian Interior Ministry troops
abducted by his men two days earlier in return for an apology from the
Russian military for preventing his men from entering Dagestan, Russian
and Western agencies reported. He added that he would exchange the
remaining Russian hostages for Chechen fighters currently held prisoner
by the Russians and accused the Russian security services of planning to
assassinate him. Later the same day, however, after receiving a "tough
warning" from interim Chechen Prime Minister Aslan Maskhadov, Raduev
agreed to release all the hostages on 17 December, Reuters reported
citing Interfax. -- Liz Fuller

BUDGET VOTE REVEALS SPLIT AMONG COMMUNISTS. Although Communist Party
(KPRF) leader Gennadii Zyuganov supported the draft 1997 budget in the
Duma on 15 December, 44 of 147 KPRF deputies voted against it, along
with all 46 Yabloko deputies and some of Sergei Baburin's supporters in
the left-wing Popular Power faction, Segodnya reported on 16 December.
Zyuganov said his party had been forced to choose a "very bad" outcome
in order to avoid a "total disaster," NTV reported on 16 December. Yet
leading KPRF official Valentin Kuptsov told ITAR-TASS that the
Communists who voted against the budget had done so "with the consent of
the faction leadership." The latest edition of Itogi (no. 31) argues
that the KPRF faces deep ideological divisions and that party leaders
adopt a vague "general opposition" stance partly to avoid alienating
current supporters and partly because provoking confrontation with the
authorities would jeopardize their own chances of joining the ruling
elite. -- Laura Belin

MINISTERS GO TO THE REGIONS. Numerous ministers are now visiting cities
outside Moscow to listen to citizens' complaints and promise a better
future. A crowd of angry pensioners and street venders accosted First
Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Ilyushin while he was in his hometown of
Nizhnii Tagil on 16 December, ITAR-TASS reported. They pleaded with
Ilyushin to ensure the payment of back wages and pensions, some of which
have been delayed since September. Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister and
Finance Minister Aleksandr Livshits said in Smolensk that 1997 would be
the year of "cheap money and cheap credits," while Deputy Prime Minister
Vitalii Ignatenko told Samara college students that the government would
spend seven times as much on science, education, and culture next year
as it has in 1996. -- Robert Orttung

FEDERATION COUNCIL TO REVIEW RUSSIA-CHINESE BORDER TREATY. Federation
Council Deputy Chairman Vasilii Likhachev, who heads a special
parliamentary commission reviewing the 1991 Russo-Chinese border
agreement, told ITAR-TASS on 16 December that the treaty "inflicts
damage on Russia's geostrategic interests" and should be amended. The
commission has been visiting the Russian Far East to discuss the ongoing
demarcation of the Russo-Chinese border with officials from Primorskii
Krai and Khabarovsk and Amur oblasts. Although the Russian Foreign
Ministry has insisted that the treaty does not harm Russia's national
interests, the commission supports local officials' opposition to the
scheduled transfer to China of some small areas along the border.
Likhachev said the treaty could be amended to address these concerns
without undermining its framework. The Federation Council is scheduled
to discuss the issue in mid-January. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA OPPOSES NATO EXPANSION, BUT WANTS DIALOGUE. Russian Foreign
Minister Yevgenii Primakov said on 16 December that Moscow has agreed to
open a dialogue with NATO not because it has softened its opposition to
the alliances's plans to enlarge, but in order to "alleviate our
concerns about some developments in Europe," ITAR-TASS reported.
Primakov, who was speaking at a joint news conference with his visiting
Slovak counterpart Pavol Hamzik, added that Moscow would sign a
"corresponding document" with the alliance only if those talks directly
addressed Russian concerns. Primakov did, however, note some recent
"positive changes" in "NATO's position on Russian concerns," including
the decision to open talks on revising the 1990 CFE treaty and the
declaration that the alliance does not plan to deploy nuclear weapons in
new East European member states. Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry
announced that NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana will visit Moscow
next January. -- Scott Parrish

RODIONOV ON MILITARY REFORM. Defense Minister Igor Rodionov said in an
interview with Nezavisimaya gazeta on 16 December that a "general plan"
for military reform is on the verge of being adopted by the Defense
Council. However, he stressed that reforms would require sufficient
financing and described the draft 1997 budget's planned defense
expenditures as "totally unrealistic." Even with the significant force
reductions planned for 1997, it is a "dangerous illusion" to think the
country can economize on defense spending, he said. While giving no
details of the plan, he noted that it will have five major priorities:
maintaining nuclear deterrence, matching manpower levels to current and
prospective threats, purchasing modern weapons systems, improving the
system of command, and upgrading working conditions for officers and
soldiers. Rodionov refused to answer a question about the imbroglio
surrounding the dismissal of Ground Forces commander Vladimir Semenov.
-- Scott Parrish

YELTSIN SIGNS WEAPONS LAW. President Boris Yeltsin signed the federal
law on weapons on 13 December, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 December. The
law, passed by the Duma on 13 November, regulates the acquisition,
licensing, and use of arms. It allows individuals to use weapons in
self-defense and, unlike previous legislation on arms, to acquire gas
sprays and electric shock devices without a license. As before, other
weapons cannot be bought without a license and must be registered with
the Interior Ministry, according to NTV. Licenses to purchase weapons
are valid for six months, while those for the production, trade,
collection, or exhibition of weapons are good for three years. -- Penny
Morvant

RUSSIA ADHERES TO DEATH PENALTY BAN SINCE AUGUST. No death sentences
have been carried out in the Russian Federation since August, Chairman
of the Presidential Commission on Pardons Anatolii Pristavkin told ITAR-
TASS on 16 December. The Council of Europe called on Russia to place an
immediate moratorium on executions when Russia was admitted to the
organization in February of this year, but 53 death sentences were
carried out in 1996. In 1995, 40 people were executed, and in 1994, 10.
In the new Criminal Code, which goes into effect on 1 January 1997, the
number of crimes punishable by death has been reduced to five.
Pristavkin called for the adoption of a law banning capital punishment
to prevent the authorities from resuming executions. -- Nikolai
Iakoubovski

TRADE UNION BOSSES BECAME ABLE CAPITALISTS. An article in Obshchaya
gazeta of 11-18 December accuses the leaders of the Federation of
Independent Trade Unions (FNPR) of lining their pockets at the expense
of their 45 million members. Author Vakhtang Yakobidze estimates that
membership dues provide only 5% of the FNPR's income: the rest comes
from operating the extensive network of hotels, sanatoria, etc. that the
FNPR inherited from its Soviet predecessor. Much of this real estate has
been sold off at nominal prices to private companies controlled by FNPR
officials. Yakobidze singles out the joint-stock company formed on the
basis of the FNPR's former Central Council for Tourism and Excursions,
which now owns the massive Izmailogo and Salyut hotels in Moscow and
others in the Mineralnye Vody resort. The company's president is Viktor
Pugiev, deputy chairman of the FNPR for financial affairs. -- Peter
Rutland

NATIONAL ELECTRONIC MEDIA SILENCED IN MURMANSK. Communications workers
in Murmansk Oblast declared an indefinite strike on 16 December to
protest non-payments from the federal budget, ITAR-TASS reported. The
workers first switched off transmitters for national television networks
and radio stations during a one-hour strike in November, then declared a
warning strike on 10 December, silencing Russian Public TV (ORT),
Russian TV (RTR), St. Petersburg Channel 5, and radio stations including
Radio Mayak. ITAR-TASS estimated back wages owed to communications
workers across Russia at 120 billion rubles ($22 million) and suggested
that broadcasts in other regions could soon be disrupted by strikes.
Meanwhile, FNPR Chairman Mikhail Shmakov predicted another coordinated
nationwide strike during the first quarter of 1997, noting that isolated
groups of teachers, machine-builders, and power industry workers are
already on strike to protest wage arrears, RIA-Novosti reported. --
Laura Belin

FOOD IMPORTS STILL HIGH. The Russian Institute for Strategic Studies
estimates that Russia's food imports for 1996 will total some $13.5
billion, or about the same level as last year, ITAR-TASS reported on 16
December. Imported food products now account for 35-37% of domestic
consumption. Meat imports, in particular, meet over 50% of domestic
demand. There has, however, been some improvement in domestic grain
production. This year's grain harvest was 68 million metric tons, a 6%
increase over 1995. As a result, Russia is likely to export up to 7
million metric tons of grain, mainly to other CIS countries, while
importing 5 million tons to the Russian Far East. -- Natalia Gurushina

FEDERAL INVESTMENT PROGRAM IN 1996. In the first nine months of this
year, only 12 of 411 construction projects envisaged by the 1996 federal
investment program were completed, Finansovye izvestiya reported on 17
December. At a fifth of the sites, no work was carried out at all. Of
the 1.32 trillion rubles ($240 million) allotted to the program, only
1.01 trillion were released. None of the 77 construction projects in
agriculture were finished, and the actual volume of investment in
construction in that sector was a mere 57.3 billion rubles, or 20% of
the expected level. -- Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

ANOTHER POLITICAL CASUALTY IN UZBEKISTAN. The regional governor of the
Bukhara region, Mavlon Rahmonov, asked to be relieved of his duties on
14 December, Uzbek Radio reported. Current Deputy Finance Minister
Samoiddin Husinov, has been nominated by President Islam Karimov to
replace Rahmonov, who is the fourth regional governor to lose his job
this year. Poor harvest figures were cited as the reason for Rahmonov's
departure. While still incomplete, figures on Uzbekistan's grain harvest
reveal that, on average, less than 80% of the expected quota was
attained. Poor weather and mismanagement at the regional level have been
blamed for the shortfall. And, as in 1995, the result has been a
reshuffling of key positions in the government. -- Roger Kangas

STATE ENTERPRISES TO BE AUCTIONED IN TURKMENISTAN. Foreign and domestic
investors will be offered an equal opportunity to buy 100 state
enterprises specializing in sales before the end of the year, Finansovye
izvestiya reported on 17 December. According to unnamed sources in
Turkmenistan's ministries of economics and finance, more than 2,000
enterprises involved in public catering and the retail trade are to be
privatized over the next two years. Meanwhile, the Turkish firm Artpaper
has won a tender to build a cellulose plant in Turkmenistan, ITAR-TASS
reported on 16 December. The plant is to begin production in 1998 and
will produce 32,000 tons of various cellulose products. The project is
worth $110 million and is being financed by the Turkish side. -- Lowell
Bezanis

DEMIREL IN KAZAKSTAN. Turkish President Suleyman Demirel completed a
two-day visit to Almaty on 17 December, Western and Russian agencies
reported. The visit coincided with celebrations of the country's fifth
year of independence and was designed to highlight Turkish-Kazakstani
relations, which Demirel described as "eternal." Demirel and his
Kazakstani counterpart, Nursultan Nazarbayev, discussed expanding
bilateral trade and utilization of a $300 million line of credit from
Turkey. According to the Turkish Daily News, Demirel also presented a
list of complaints from Turkish investors operating in Kazakstan. Over
200 Turkish firms have invested an estimated $1.2 billion in the
country. -- Lowell Bezanis

CONCERN OVER PKK ACTIVITIES IN KAZAKSTAN. The Turkish daily Yeni Yuzyil
on 17 December used Demirel's visit to focus attention on the activities
of the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) in Almaty. The paper claimed that
the group was causing distress to Turkish students and businessmen in
Almaty because of its alleged involvement in protection rackets. One
business was reportedly bombed and a businessmen kidnapped. -- Lowell
Bezanis

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Penny Morvant

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