Give Peace A Chance. - John Lennon and Paul McCartney
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 2, Part I, 3 January 1997

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

NEW CRIMINAL CODE GOES INTO EFFECT. A new criminal code came into force
on 1 January 1997 after President Yeltsin signed the corresponding law
on 27 December 1996, Russian media reported. The new code replaced the
RSFSR's criminal code of 1960. Although it retains capital punishment
and increases the maximum sentence for banditry and murder from 15 to 20
years, it significantly reduces the number of crimes punishable by death
and reduces sentences for non-violent crimes. The code also includes
almost 100 new articles. Convicts serving time for offenses no longer
considered criminal may be eligible for early release, Radio Rossii
reported on 27 December, citing the presidential press service. On
25 December, the Federation Council approved Russia's new Criminal
Correctional Code, which will come into effect on 1 July 1997 if signed
by Yeltsin. Meanwhile, Yeltsin signed the law on the judicial system,
ITAR-TASS reported on 31 December (see OMRI Daily Digest, 30 December).
* Nikolai Iakoubovski

FAPSI CONTROLS GOVERNMENT, COMMERCIAL NETWORKS. In a 24 December
interview with Krasnya zvezda marking the fifth anniversary of the
founding of the Federal Agency for Government Communications and
Information (FAPSI), the agency's chief of staff, Maj.-Gen. Ivan
Shepotkov, said FAPSI's main purpose is to provide a "reliable" and
"independent" communications network for the Russian president. He said
the experience of the August 1991 coup, when the KGB cut off
communications links to then Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, showed
the need for an independent communications agency. He also said FAPSI
protects government secrets from the "information war" which Western
countries are waging against Russia. Emphasizing the importance of
economic secrets, he added that FAPSI runs and is developing secure
networks over which electronic commercial, financial, and banking
transactions in Russia are conducted, and angrily denied suggestions
that the agency might eavesdrop on confidential business transactions.
* Scott Parrish

WHAT SOME JOURNALISTS WERE AFRAID TO WRITE IN 1996. The year-end issue
of the weekly newspaper Kommersant asked 16 journalists what they had
been afraid to write in 1996. One Kommersant reporter was afraid
colleagues would accuse him of taking bribes, another mentioned that he
was afraid of provoking libel suits, and a third had feared for his
physical safety after writing one article about business dealings,
adding that to protect himself he shaved off his beard and did not
answer the phone for a week. Aleksandr Loktev, chief editor of
Kommersant-Daily, said, "Most of all we were afraid that we would have
to write, '[Communist Party leader Gennadii] Zyuganov became president
of Russia.'" Kseniya Makhnenko, chief editor of the glossy magazine
Domovoi, said her magazine did not publish a feature about presidential
Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais, because "there are too many emotions
surrounding his personality, and our magazine tries to avoid openly
scandalous subjects." Nataliya Gevorkyan of Kommersant said she had been
tempted to criticize fellow journalists for engaging in what she called
"brainwashing" but decided to adhere to the principle, "don't touch your
own." * Laura Belin

MASKHADOV STEPS DOWN. On 2 January, Aslan Maskhadov stepped down as
Chechen prime minister in order to run in the 27 January presidential
race, AFP and ITAR-TASS reported. He will be temporarily replaced by
Ruslan Gelaev, a former field commander. President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev
will continue serving in office until the election results are known.
Also on 2 January, 16 candidates were formally registered for the
presidential election, ITAR-TASS reported, citing the press secretary of
the Chechen Central Election Commission, Shaaman Akbulatov. * Peter
Rutland

NEW YORK MAYOR DEMANDS RECALL OF RUSSIAN DIPLOMAT. New York Mayor
Rudolph Giuliani has sent letters to the Russian and Belarusian UN
missions demanding that two diplomats involved in a recent altercation
with New York police be sent home, Reuters reported on 2 January.
Rejecting Russian demands for an apology over the incident (see OMRI
Daily Digest, 3 January 1997), Giuliani said he is "very proud of what
the police officers did," adding that they "did their job trying to stop
drunk people from driving." The incident began when police officers
attempted to ticket the diplomats for illegal parking. Giuliani said
that in the first six months of 1996, 122 vehicles registered with the
Russian UN mission received 14,437 traffic citations. Under the 1961
Treaty of Vienna, foreign diplomats are obligated to observe U.S. law
but have diplomatic immunity from prosecution * Scott Parrish

MORE INTERIOR MINISTRY TROOPS TO PATROL MOSCOW STREETS. The head of the
Moscow branch of Interior Ministry troops, Lt.-Gen. Arkadii Baskaev,
told ITAR-TASS on 3 January that 10,000 additional Interior Ministry
troops will patrol the streets of the capital in 1997. Baskaev claimed
that in other Russian cities where the presence of such troops has
increased, the crime rate decreased by 22% last year, but he did not
cite any specific examples. In 1996, approximately 4,000 Interior
Ministry troops patrolled the streets of Moscow every day. * Laura Belin

DRUG-RELATED CRIMES UP IN MOSCOW IN 1996. Although the overall crime
rate in Moscow dropped in 1996, the number of registered drug-related
crimes increased to 4,600, up from 3,000 in 1995, Reuters reported on 2
January, citing figures released by the Moscow branch of the Interior
Ministry. Drug-related crimes have increased sharply in Russia in recent
years, as the country has become an important transit point for
traffickers bringing drugs from Central Asia to Europe. In all, there
were about 87,600 registered crimes in Moscow in 1996, compared with
92,600 the previous year. * Laura Belin

ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT UPDATE. In recent months, Afghans have become the
largest group of illegal migrants to Russia, ITAR-TASS reported on
2 January, citing Yurii Arkhipov of the Federal Migration Service (FMS).
Arkhipov estimated that 150,000 illegal Afghan migrants live in the
Moscow area. Like many Russian officials who blame illegal immigrants
for crime, Arkhipov complained that Afghan migrants bring their
political disputes with them to Russia, often sparking violent
conflicts. Overall, he estimated that between 500,000 and 1 million
illegal migrants from some 52 countries are currently on Russian
territory, many hoping to move on to Western Europe. Arkhipov predicted
that illegal immigration would increase in 1997 but said recently passed
legislation on refugees would help the FMS deal with the situation.
* Scott Parrish

POPULATION DECLINE CONTINUES. Between January and December of 1996,
Russia's total population declined by 430,000, to reach 147.5 million at
the end of the year, AFP reported on 2 January, citing data released by
the State Statistics Committee. The natural decrease of the population,
the difference between the number of deaths and births, was even greater
(661,600), but the net inflow of migrants partially offset the
population loss. Although the death rate fell from 15.0 to 14.4 per
1,000 in the course of the year, it continued to exceed the birth rate,
which also dropped from 9.5 to 9.0 per 1,000. The birthrate is even
lower in St. Petersburg and Moscow: 6.7 and 7.2 per 1,000, respectively.
The State Statistics Committee predicted in 1995 that the Russian
population would decrease by 5.1 million by the year 2005. * Nikolai
Iakoubovski

DE BEERS DIAMOND CONTRACT LAPSES. . . De Beers has announced that from 1
January 1997 it will no longer adhere to its previous arrangement for
handling Russian diamonds, international media reported. The contract
between De Beers and the Russian government, which gave the former the
right to sell 95% of Russian diamonds, lapsed in December 1995. In 1995,
Russia accounted for about $1.1 billion, or 26%, of De Beer's global
sales. Through 1996, De Beers continued to adhere to the old
arrangement, and in February 1996 they negotiated a new three-year
contract, under which Russia would sell 87.5% of its diamonds through De
Beers. The new deal included letting the pick of $650 million worth of
stones go to Russia's own cutting industry. However, in 1996 Russian
producers began independently selling large amounts of diamonds on the
world market, perhaps as much as $500 million worth. In June, the
Australian firm, Argyle-a small-stone producer like Russia-quit the
cartel, so De Beers cut prices for small stones, causing the market to
collapse, the Independent reported on 29 December. * Peter Rutland

. . . ALMAZY ROSSII-SAKHA ARGUES IN FAVOR OF DE BEERS CONTRACT.
Vyacheslav Shtyrov, the head of Almazy Rossii-Sakha (ARS), Russia's main
diamond producer, has argued in favor of signing the De Beers contract,
but he has reportedly been blocked by government officials who want
Moscow to reap more benefits from the diamond trade. In what may be an
unrelated incident, on 30 December Lev Safronov, the vice-president of
ARS, was beaten on a Moscow street by two assailants. Earlier that day,
he was quoted by ITAR-TASS as saying that a deal with De Beers would be
signed soon. * Peter Rutland

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT ON 1996. In his New Year's Day address, Heidar
Aliev described 1996 as a year of peace and stability, RFE/RL reported
on 1 January. He highlighted the effectiveness of the1993 Nagorno-
Karabakh ceasefire and termed the OSCE Lisbon summmit last month as very
important to the conflict's ultimate resolution. He said the country has
survived "attempts mounted by internal and foreign forces" to
destabilize it and said much work had been accomplished in building a
democratic, secular, and law-abiding state. Aliev said the economy grew
for the first time since the collapse of the USSR (albeit by only 1.2%),
the decline in the rate of production slowed, and agricultural output
rose by 3%. He also noted that monthly inflation was less than 1% and
foreign investments doubled last year. * Lowell Bezanis

TURKISH PRESIDENT TO FURTHER SUPPORT AZERBAIJAN. In a televised New
Year's Day interview, Suleyman Demirel said Turkey will stand behind its
"brother," Azerbaijan, at all future international negotiations,
Asbarez-on-line reported on 2 January, citing Cumhuriyet and Turkiye.
Demirel claimed that Azerbaijan occupies an "extremely important and
exclusive place" in Turkey's foreign policy. Demirel excluded the
possibility of "forcible" border changes in the disputed Nagorno-
Karabakh region. Demirel praised President Heidar Aliev for managing to
"achieve internal stability" and stop the war in Nagorno-Karabakh.
* Emil Danielyan

MANUKYAN ON 1996, NEED FOR NATIONAL FRONT. The leader of Armenia's
opposition National Democratic Union, Vazgen Manukyan, said the
"Armenian state" failed a crucial test last year, pointing to what he
termed the undemocratic presidential elections which took place last
September. According to a 30 December Interfax report monitored by the
BBC, Manukyan harshly criticized the governemnt's social and economic
policy while applauding the high political activity of the Armenian
population. He said he is willing to maintain a dialogue with the
authorities only to discuss new presidential elections and a new
constitution; he also called for the establishment of a "national front"
of "political parties and various public forces" to effect change.
* Lowell Bezanis

TURKMENBASI TO CONTINUE ECONOMIC REFORMS IN 1997. In his New Year's Day
address, Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov said he his pleased with
the accomplishments of 1996, RFE/RL reported on 1 January. He argued
that Turkmenistan's ties with neighboring countries have been
consolidated. While acknowledging that Turkmenistan's agricultural
output was below the desired level (the cotton and grain harvests were
disastrous in 1996), he said living standards were starting to improve.
Niyazov vowed to press on with economic reform and pledged to invest
more than 2 trillion manats (about $400 million) in social programs.
* Lowell Bezanis

GEORGE SOROS NAMED "MAN OF THE YEAR" IN KYRGYZSTAN. The Rukhaniyat
organization of Kyrgyzstan has awarded its 1996 Man of the Year award to
philanthropist George Soros, RFE/RL reported on 2 January. In 1996,
Soros donated more than $4 million to fund programs helping educational
and cultural programs in Kyrgyzstan. The award's previous winners are
Kazakstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Uzbek President Islam
Karimov, and the head of the UNDP office in Kyrgyzstan, Erjan Murat.
* Bruce Pannier and Naryn Idinov

NEW MUFTI FOR KYRGYZSTAN. The controversial Muslim Congress held in
Bishkek on 26 December elected Absatar-Agy Majitov as the head mufti of
Kyrgyzstan, RFE/RL reported. Majitov replaces Kimsanbai-Agi
Abdurakhmanov, who did not take part in the congress, claiming the
schedule agreed to in 1993 stated the congress would meet every four
years. Abdurakhmanov, however, has been accused of corruption, a
possible reason for convening the congress early. The new mufti named
his four top deputies,. representing four different ethnic groups, on
2 January. They are: Abdylda Aslankulov-Kyrgyz, Lukmar Agi-Dungan,
Abdymajit Kary-Uyghur, and Rakhmatulla Kary-Uzbek. * Bruce Pannier and
Naryn Idinov

NEW RULE ON RAISING PRICES IN KAZAKSTAN. The chairman of Kazakstan's
Anti-Monopoly Committee, Nikolai Radostovets, announced on 1 January
that the country's businesses will only be allowed to raise their prices
on a quarterly basis, RFE/RL reported. Prices for heating and
electricity will remain at 1996 rates and in some areas will be reduced.
He also said that the cost of cargo transportation services is expected
to rise in 1997. * Bruce Pannier and Merhat Sharipzhan

TERRORISM IN TAJIK CAPITAL. The ceasefire agreed to by Tajik President
Imomali Rakhmonov and United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri
in Moscow on 23 December appears to be holding, although the number of
terrorist attacks on Russian soldiers and support personnel in Dushanbe
has increased since 23 December, according to Russian media reports. On
28 December, five soldiers were wounded when their vehicle was attacked:
on 2 or 3 January, a Russian soldier was shot and killed in Dushanbe's
Sakhovat district and the bodies of a Russian doctor and nurse were
found on a Dushanbe street on 3 January. Both the Tajik government and
opposition are blaming the attacks on groups that are trying to derail
the peace agreement. * 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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