As courage endagers life even so fear preserves it. - Leonardo Da Vinci
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 244, Part I, 19 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

RADUEV RELEASES HOSTAGES. Chechen field commander Salman Raduev on 18
December released the 22 Russian policemen taken hostage by his men on
the Chechen-Dagestan border on 14 December, Russian and Western agencies
reported. Raduev had come under pressure to release the men from Russian
and Chechen officials, including acting Chechen President Zelimkhan
Yandarbiev. Still unresolved, however, is the whereabouts of a North
Ossetiyan government delegation abducted on 16 December in the Chechen
village of Znamenskoe while traveling to Grozny for talks with Chechen
officials on normalizing the situation on the border between the two
republics. Meanwhile, six Russian civilians were killed in Grozny on the
night of 17-18 December, according to ITAR-TASS. Following the murder of
six Red Cross workers in Novye Atagi, a third humanitarian group,
Medicins sans Frontieres, has suspended its operations in Chechnya, AFP
reported. * Liz Fuller

YELTSIN TO MAKE "UNEXPECTED" MOVES, BUT NO DYACHENKO APPOINTMENT.
Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii said Boris Yeltsin will
make some "unexpected" moves when he returns to work on or before 25
December, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 December. However, Yastrzhembskii
denied rumors circulating in the Russian press that Yeltsin's daughter
Tatyana Dyachenko may soon be appointed to an official position in the
presidential administration. Meanwhile, Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais
said the American surgeon Michael DeBakey, who was a consultant during
Yeltsin's recent illness, wrote to Yeltsin saying the president could
enjoy another 10 working years as long as he returns to a full work
schedule gradually, Reuters reported. Only a few photographs and brief
video footage of Yeltsin have been released since his 5 November heart
operation. * Laura Belin

SHAKHRAI ON CHUBAIS. Sergei Shakhrai, Yeltsin's deputy chief of staff
and representative in the Constitutional Court, suggested that
persistent attacks could soon prompt Chubais to resign voluntarily, NTV
and Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 18 December. The Procurator-
General's Office is investigating a transcript published last month that
apparently implicated Chubais in wide-ranging malfeasance during
Yeltsin's re-election campaign. More recently, Communists in the Duma
demanded Chubais' ouster as a condition for adopting the 1997 budget.
Kommersant-Daily argued on 19 December that even if Chubais remains in
office, his authority will be reduced and Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin's influence will increase. The paper also suggested that
Shakhrai and Chubais (who are known to dislike each other) may develop a
"good cop, bad cop" approach toward regional policy. Shakhrai is
considered to be more sympathetic to regional interests, while Chubais
has called for cracking down on so-called legal "separatism." * Laura
Belin

YELTSIN CREATES DEPARTMENT ON COSSACK POLICY. Yeltsin signed a decree
establishing a Main Directorate on Cossack Units in the presidential
administration, which will be responsible for working out policy on the
revival of Russia's Cossacks and coordinating the activities of all
registered Cossack organizations, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 December. In
April, Yeltsin signed several decrees on Cossack participation in the
border guards and civil service (see OMRI Daily Digest, 18 April 1996).
Meanwhile, Komsomosakaya pravda reported on 18 December that 3,000 Terek
Cossacks blockaded the airport and train station in Mineralnye Vody
(Stavropol Krai) until they were promised a meeting between Chernomyrdin
and their ataman, Vladimir Shevtsov. The Terek Cossacks are demanding
that some territory be transferred from Chechnya to Stavropol Krai, as
well as immunity from prosecution for possession of firearms and the
authority to guard the border between Chechnya and Stavropol. * Laura
Belin

CONFUSION OVER MINIMUM PENSION INCREASE. Presidential Chief of Staff
Chubais told ITAR-TASS on 18 December that Yeltsin has resubmitted to
the Duma an amended bill raising the minimum pension. Earlier reports
said Yeltsin had vetoed the law on the grounds that it was too
expensive. Chubais said the new version raises the minimum pension by
10% as of 1 January. The Duma had wanted the increase to take effect on
1 November. Also on 18 December, the Duma passed on second reading a
bill raising the minimum wage from 75,900 rubles a month to 95,000 as of
1 January. The minimum wage, which is used as the basis for calculating
a range of benefits, was last raised on 1 April. The Duma also overcame
a Federation Council veto on a bill increasing child benefits for single
parents. * Penny Morvant

DUMA PASSES BILL AGAINST SEPARATISM BY AUTONOMOUS OKRUGS. The Duma
passed in the third and final reading a draft law regulating relations
between krais, oblasts, and the autonomous okrugs subordinated to them,
ITAR-TASS reported on 18 December. Nine krais and oblasts of the Russian
Federation contain autonomous okrugs. The bill would make okrugs subject
to the laws of the corresponding oblast or krai. It stresses that
elections to a krai's or oblast's legislative and executive bodies are
held throughout all their territories without any exception. The Duma
vote is in large part aimed at preserving the integrity of Tyumen
Oblast, since the legislature of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug-one
of two okrugs in Tyumen-has declared that the okrug's citizens will not
participate in the 22 December Tyumen gubernatorial elections (see OMRI
Daily Digest,16 and 18 December 1996). * Nikolai Iakoubovski

RODIONOV TAKES HARSH STAND IN BRUSSELS. Russian Defense Minster Igor
Rodionov blasted NATO's plans to expand eastward after meeting with
defense ministers from the 16 NATO countries on 18 December,
international agencies reported. Rodionov dismissed alliance pledges not
to deploy nuclear weapons in new member states, saying such promises
could be revoked at any time. He renewed threats to take unspecified
"countermeasures" if the alliance expands and said expansion would
threaten START II. Rodionov's comments may be aimed at extracting the
maximum concessions for Russian acquiescence to enlargement, but they
could also signal that Moscow still hopes to torpedo the process.
* Scott Parrish

FBI AGENT ACCUSED OF SPYING FOR RUSSIA. FBI agents on 18 December
arrested one of their own colleagues, Edwin Pitts, charging him with
espionage for the Soviet Union and Russia, international agencies
reported. Pitts is accused of passing information to the KGB beginning
in 1987, when he worked in the New York office of the FBI conducting
counterintelligence operations against suspected Soviet agents. Although
Pitts apparently stopped working for the KGB's Russian successors in
1992, a recent Russian defector fingered him as a turncoat, and the FBI
agents posing as Russian operatives induced him to reveal details of his
past cooperation with Soviet intelligence. Like Harold Nicholson, the
CIA officer recently arrested on charges of spying for Russia, Pitts'
motivation was financial, and he received $224,000 in return for
information on FBI agents, counterintelligence techniques, and codes.
* Scott Parrish

TURKISH FOREIGN MINISTER IN MOSCOW. Turkish Deputy Prime Minister and
Foreign Minister Tansu Ciller discussed a wide range of issues in
meetings with Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Foreign
Minister Yevgenii Primakov on 18 December, international agencies
reported. Ciller said NATO expansion should "be handled very carefully,"
adding that Turkey, whose approval is neccessary for the admission of
new members, "will not allow NATO to become a threat to Russia."
Kommersant-Daily on 19 December speculated that Ciller hoped to trade
Turkish opposition to NATO expansion for Russian agreement not to
support Kurdish separatists. Ciller and Primakov did sign a joint anti-
terrorism declaration, and each side pledged to respect the others'
territorial integrity. But Primakov said Moscow is "not responsible" for
the activities of the Kurdistan Workers' Party and rebuffed Turkish
concerns over the planned sale of S-300 air defense missiles to the
Greek-controlled part of Cyprus. * Scott Parrish

EXPLOSION ON ST. PETERSBURG METRO. One passenger was slightly injured
when an explosion ripped through a train on the St. Petersburg metro
shortly after midnight on 19 December, Russian and Western agencies
reported. The metro director, Vladimir Garyugin, said the force of the
explosion was similar to one that killed four people on the Moscow metro
in June. No one claimed responsibility for the Moscow metro bombing.
* Penny Morvant

NEW PRIVATIZATION LAW. On 18 December, the Duma passed on first reading
a new privatization law, the first since 1991, Kommersant-Daily
reported. The draft law was prepared in advance by a joint
parliamentary-government commission: only the Liberal Democratic Party
voted against the bill. Many of the innovations in privatization since
1991 have taken place on the basis of presidential decrees, leading
deputies to argue that the new law was needed "the day before yesterday"
to halt the "fire-sale of state property." The bill includes new
procedures for deciding which firms are to be privatized, abolishes
annual targets, and provides a legal basis for a broader range of
privatization methods, including more freedom for federation subjects.
* Peter Rutland

DE BEERS ISSUES ULTIMATUM TO RUSSIA. South Africa's De Beers has issued
a statement urging the Russian government to ratify an agreement between
the company and Russia's largest diamond producer Almazy Rossii-Sakha by
the end of 1996, AFP and ITAR-TASS reported on 18 December. De Beers
says it will not buy Russian raw diamonds under the terms of the current
agreement next year. The new agreement would allow De Beers to become
the sole buyer of all Russian raw diamond exports. De Beers was
responding to a statement by Finance Minister Aleksandr Livshits in
Smolensk on 17 December: he said the agreement with De Beers should pay
more attention to the interests of the Russian diamond extracting and
cutting industries. * Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

TRIALS ON POST-ELECTION UNREST IN YEREVAN TO START IN JANUARY. An
Armenian opposition representative, Vladimir Hakhverdyan, said that the
investigation into the 25 September protests in Yerevan is complete and
that trials will begin in January, Groong reported on 18 December citing
Asbarez-on-line. The protests were triggered by reports of alleged vote-
rigging in the 22 September presidential election. A number of
supporters of the defeated opposition candidate Vazgen Manukyan burst
into the parliament building and took the National Assembly speaker and
his deputy hostage. According to Hakhverdyan, a group of opposition
activists arrested in connection with the unrest, have been charged with
inciting mass disorder and illegally possessing arms. * Emil Danielyan

RUSSIA UPSET OVER ADAMS/KHACHUKAEV MEETING. Russia's Ambassador to Baku,
Aleksandr Blokhin, told ITAR-TASS on 18 December he was displeased at
the reported recent meeting in Baku between Terry Adams, chairman of the
Azerbaijan International Operating Company (AIOC), and Chechen
government official Eduard Khachukaev (See OMRI Daily Digest for 18
December 1996). Blokhin argued that the export of Caspian oil via
Chechnya to Novorossiisk, which Adams and Khachukaev allegedly
discussed, was regulated under the terms of the existing agreement
between Transneft and the AIOC. A spokesman for Adams confirmed that he
had met with Khachukaev but denied that the two men had discussed
transit tariffs. * Liz Fuller

ADZHAR SUPREME SOVIET DENIES REPORTS OF STATE OF EMERGENCY IN BATUMI. On
18 December a spokesman for the Adzhar Supreme Soviet denied press
reports that a state of emergency had been declared in the capital,
Batumi, but said that military vehicles had been moved to the city on 18
December to take part in maneuvers, according to ITAR-TASS of 18
December. Nezavisimaya gazeta on 19 December quoted a source within the
Georgian parliament as claiming that all Russian troops stationed in
Adzharia had been placed on full alert in connection with an anticipated
attempt to assassinate Azdhar Supreme Soviet chairman Aslan Abashidze.
* Liz Fuller

NIYAZOV ON NATUAL GAS EXPORTS. Speaking on state television, Turkmen
President Saparmurat Niyazov said on 18 December he is pinning his hopes
for an economic revivial on renewed exports of natural gas to Western
Europe, Reuters reported. He said that gas exports in 1997 will almost
double to 40 billion cubic meters and that half the gas will be shipped
to Western Europe via Russia, in accordance with an agreement with
Russia's Gazprom. Last year, Turkmenistan exported 24 billion cubic
meters of natural gas. In the late 1980s, Turkmenistan produced more
than 80 billion cubic meters of gas a year. In 1993, Russia stopped
delivering Turkmen natural gas to Europe, leaving the country to supply
cash-strapped CIS countries. * Lowell Bezanis

TAJIK OPPOSITION FREES CAPTIVES; MOSCOW TALKS DELAYED. The Tajik
opposition on 18 December released 39 hostages captured in recent
fighting, RFE/RL reported. Those freed were described only as "high-
ranking" officials. The move was agreed at a meeting of Tajik President
Imomali Rakhmonov and opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri on 10-11
December. Talks between the two leaders in Moscow scheduled for 19
December have been pushed back a day as Nuri's departure was delayed by
an opposition meeting in Tehran on 18 December, according to Russian
sources. In a brief interview with Nezavisimaya gazeta on 19 December,
Rakhmonov said that a national reconciliation council must be set up
but-a stipulation of the original cease-fire agreement signed in Tehran
in 1994-but added: "It's not our fault the agreement has not been
realized." * Bruce Pannier

CORRECTION. In the Freedom House survey covered in the OMRI Daily Digest
of 18 December, Kyrgyzstan was classified as "partly free."

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Penny Morvant

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