Poetry must be human. If it is not human, it is not poetry. - Vicente Aleixandre
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 5, Part I, 8 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

YELTSIN SPENDS ORTHODOX CHRISTMAS IN BED. A cold and fever forced
President Boris Yeltsin to celebrate Orthodox Christmas on 7 January
partially confined to bed at a suburban Moscow residence, Reuters
reported. Yeltsin's temperature was 37.5 C (99.5 F). The president has
no plans to return to the hospital. -- Robert Orttung

RUSSIANS CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS. Millions of Russians attended church
services on 7 January to celebrate Orthodox Christmas, Russian and
Western agencies reported. Hours after leading a long Christmas Eve
ceremony, Patriarch Aleksii II led a mass at the newly rebuilt Cathedral
of Christ the Savior in Moscow. Noting that President Yeltsin has
designated 1997 a year of reconcilitation and accord,  the patriarch
said that "now is a time to create" after a period of devastation. In a
Christmas interview with Dom i otechestvo, Aleksii II had warned of the
dangers of "Godless materialistic consumerism" but said he believed the
Russian people had sufficient moral strength to chose "moral
renaissance." On the revival of Orthodox Russia, Aleksii said: "We
should not feel embarassed to call Russia an Orthodox country. We should
remember our kinship and know that the majority of Russians are rooted
in Orthodoxy." -- Penny Morvant

CHECHEN UPDATE. Abu Masaev, the head of the Chechen State Security
Department, said on 7 January that they have identified the person who
ordered the killing of six Red Cross workers on 17 December, NTV
reported. Masaev refused to name the individual, but said that he was
now outside Chechnya. Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin urged the
Duma to immediately grant a complete amnesty to jailed Chechen fighters,
as the only way to secure the release of Russian captives in Chechnya,
ORT reported on 6 January. There are an estimated 1,500 Chechen
prisoners, while 1,058 Russian servicemen are missing, many thought to
be held captive by private citizens in Chechnya, NTV reported on 6
January. That day, ITAR-TASS reported that acting President Zelimkhan
Yandarbiev has refused to serve in the new government if he is defeated
in the 27 January elections. Presidential candidate Movladi Udugov
dismissed the report as Russian disinformation. -- Peter Rutland

GERMANY, U.S. DOWNPLAY RUSSIAN THREATS OVER NATO. German Foreign
Minister Klaus Kinkel on 8 January said that, although it will be "very
difficult," Russia will eventually accept the enlargement of NATO, AFP
and RFE/RL reported. He interpreted the latest Russian denunciations of
the alliance's expansion plans as bargaining ploys, saying "Russia knows
that it cannot prevent NATO expansion and wants to obtain a good price
for it." He said Russia should have an "equal and effective" role in
European security, but insisted that "NATO will not make decisions in
concert with Russia" over issues like enlargement. U.S. State Department
spokesman Glyn Davies said that Washington is "aware" of Russian
objections to expansion but will proceed anyway, since the policy is
"not directed against Russia." NTV said on 7 January that President
Yeltsin's recent warnings on the subject were having no effect on
Western policy. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA, BELARUS SLAM NEW YORK POLICE. The Russian and Belarusian
missions to the UN held a joint press conference on 7 January at which
they reiterated allegations that New York police unjustifiably beat two
diplomats over a traffic citation (see OMRI Daily Digest, 2 and 3
January 1997), Russian and Western agencies reported. Russian diplomat
Boris Obnossov and his Belarusian colleague Yurii Oranzh said the police
officers had dragged them from their car and beaten them, despite being
shown diplomatic identification. Obnossov admitted receiving about 400
parking tickets in 1996 and conceded that his car was illegally parked
when the incident occurred, but denied police charges that he was
intoxicated. New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani termed the diplomats'
version of events "a pack of lies" on 7 January, saying seven witnesses
corroborated the police officers' account, according to which the
visibly drunk diplomats threw the first punch. -- Scott Parrish

SPECULATION ON NEW U.S. AMBASSADOR TO MOSCOW. Citing anonymous State
Department sources, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 January that J. Stapleton
Roy, currently the American ambassador in Indonesia, will be appointed
as the new U.S. ambassador in Moscow. Roy, 61, is a career diplomat like
his predecessor Thomas Pickering, having previously served as ambassador
in China and Singapore, and holds the top U.S. diplomatic rank of career
ambassador. Although many of his recent postings have been in Asia, the
agency said Roy, a Princeton graduate who speaks Russian, had earlier
served in the U.S. embassy in Moscow and worked at the State
Department's Soviet desk. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIAN ARMS SALES IN 1996 TOP $3 BILLION. Oleg Sidorenko, deputy
director of the state-owned firm Rosvooruzhenie, said on 6 January that
Russia was the world's second leading arms exporter in 1996, selling an
estimated $3.5 billion of weapons abroad, an increase over the $3.1
billion figure for 1995, Interfax reported as monitored by the BBC.
Sidorenko charged the United States, Britain, and France with "actively
obstructing" Russian access to world arms markets, saying Paris, London
and Washington observe "no ethical standards" in the competition for
arms contracts. The same day, Defense Industry Minister Zinovii Pak also
estimated 1996 arms exports would top $3 billion, and said Moscow plans
to triple that figure in the next few years. -- Scott Parrish

OFFICIAL COSSACK BULLETIN ISSUED. The president's Main Department for
Cossack Troops (GUKV) published the first issue of its information
bulletin, marking the Cossacks' official return to state service, ITAR-
TASS reported on 8 January. In tsarist Russia, the Cossacks, usually
living in special settlements near the country's borders, fulfilled
border guard and territorial militia functions in exchange for a number
of economic privileges. Since the end of the 1980s, following the era of
Soviet repression, the Cossacks have sought to restore their former
position and have won official support in recent years. Yeltsin
established the GUKV in January 1996. Currently there are 438 Cossacks
organizations with 700,000 participants in Russia. -- Nikolai
Iakoubovski

KREMLIN DENIES REPORT ON ROMANOV HEIR. Presidential spokesman Sergei
Yastrzhembskii dismissed a report published on 5 January in the British
Daily Telegraph, which claimed that the Kremlin is preparing a
presidential decree to reinstate a 15-year-old descendant of the Romanov
dynasty, Reuters reported on 6 January. The paper said Grand Duke
Georgii Mikhailovich Romanov would play only a ceremonial role and that
plans to bring him back were connected to a Kremlin-sponsored search for
a Russian national idea. Yastrzhembskii said the story would be "funny
if it were not annoying," speculating that the British media "has run
out of its own monarchy stories" and wants to expand onto Russian
territory. -- Laura Belin

TULEEV BLOC DOMINATES NEW KEMEROVO LEGISLATURE. The Power to the People
bloc, formerly led by Aman Tuleev before he became minister for CIS
affairs, won nine of the 16 seats decided in the 29 December elections
to the Kemerovo Oblast legislature, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 January. The
Communists won five seats and the Agrarian Party took two. Results are
still being tabulated in an additional district, while four other
districts must hold repeat elections because turnout there fell below
the mandatory 25%. The returns do not augur well for Governor Mikhail
Kislyuk, Tuleev's rival, who faces elections later this year. The
legislature's first task will be to define the provision of the
electoral law for the gubernatorial elections. -- Robert Orttung

TV SCREENS DARK IN KRASNOYARSK. Communication workers removed Russian
Public TV (ORT), Russian TV, and local state TV from the air before 8
p.m. local time on 6 January in a warning strike to protest against
those broadcasters' failure to pay for their air time, Radio Russia
reported. The television companies owe more than 11 billion rubles ($2
million) and the situation is unlikely to improve soon since there is
little money in the federal budget to finance the media. Murmansk
viewers lost many of their TV stations for a week in December for the
same reasons. -- Robert Orttung

MORE FUEL CRISES IN FAR EAST. The sinking of the Russian oil tanker
Nakhodka has caused an energy crisis in Kamchatka as well as blackening
a 100 km stretch of Japan's western shoreline and fouling prime fishing
areas. The Nakhodka, which broke up on 2 January, was carrying 19,000
metric tons of heavy fuel oil to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii. NTV reported
on 6 January that the city's administration had announced measures to
ration electricity supplies because of the shortage of fuel oil;
Kamchatka's reserves were used up last summer. According to Radio Mayak,
however, a deal with local military units obviated the need for power
cuts over Orthodox Christmas. According to the Russian Fuel and Energy
Ministry, 20,000 tons of fuel oil are due to arrive by 18 January.
Meanwhile, electricity supplies to customers in Primorskii Krai have
also been reduced because of a shortage of fuel oil. The energy company
Dalenergo, owed more than 1 trillion rubles by local state-funded
organizations, cannot afford to pay for fuel supplies. -- Penny Morvant

INTERNET PROVIDER CUTS SERVICE TO RUSSIA. Internet service provider
America Online (AOL) is no longer permitting users in Russia direct
access to its services by telephone because of rampant credit card
fraud, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 January. The agency quoted AOL
spokeswoman Susan Porter as saying that many subscribers have been using
stolen credit cards to purchase time on line, leaving the company to
foot the telephone bill. There have also been cases of people using
stolen passwords to access information. AOL, which has more than 6
million subscribers worldwide, has not said when it plans to reinstate
services for users in Russia. Under the new Criminal Code, which went
into effect on 1 January, the illegal manufacture or sale of credit
cards is punishable by two to six years imprisonment. -- Penny Morvant

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

HUNDREDS OF VEHICLES STILL STUCK IN GEORGIAN MOUNTAIN PASS. More than
200 vehicles remain blocked in a mountain pass connecting Georgia and
Russia, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 January. The pass has been closed since
26 December following an avalanche in the Caucasus Mountains (see OMRI
Daily Digest, 2 January 1997). Georgian traffic workers continue to
clear the most difficult section of the road, using tractors and snow-
plows, while rescue helicopters evacuate people trapped in the Georgian
mountain resort of Gudauri. According to ITAR-TASS, Georgian authorities
expect traffic to resume "in the near future." -- Emil Danielyan

FRANCE BECOMES CO-CHAIR OF KARABAKH NEGOTIATIONS. The OSCE has named
France as the new co-chair of the deadlocked negotiations on the
Nagorno-Karabakh dispute, RFE/RL reported on 7 January. France, beating
out an active U.S. bid, succeeds Finland, which held the office for 20
months. The other co-chair is Russia, whose post is permanent. The chief
French negotiator will be Jacques Blot. -- Lowell Bezanis

RUSSO-AZERBAIJANI TALKS "USEFUL AND CONSTRUCTIVE." Following two days of
talks, Russia and Azerbaijan agreed to improve trade and economic ties,
signing protocols on trade in major commodities in 1997 as well as the
development of transport and metro building, Russian media reported on 7
January. The head of the Russian delegation, Valerii Serov, termed the
meetings constructive and useful, noting that it was the "first time"
the two sides had agreed on specific joint actions. Serov also noted
that the two sides continue to hold differing views on the Caspian Sea,
and on mutual debts. While both Serov and Azeri officials were upbeat
about moving Azeri oil through Chechnya soon, Chechen sources, cited by
Reuters the same day, claim Russia is dragging its feet in oil
negotiations it was to have completed by 1 December. -- Lowell Bezanis

TROUBLE IN TAJIKISTAN'S "WILD WEST." Elements of Tajikistan's First
Brigade moved toward the western city of Tursun Zade during the night of
7-8 January, ITAR-TASS reported. The brigade is under the command of
Col. Mahmud Khudaberdiyev, who last January led one of two mutinies
which for two weeks threatened the capital Dushanbe. The other mutiny
was led by the former mayor of Tursun Zade, Ibodullo Baimatov. Like
Khudaberdiyev, Baimatov returned to his base following concessions by
the government. Since then, control of Tursun Zade, the site of the
largest aluminum plant in Central Asia, has been contested by several
criminal groups. Baimatov was ousted by late summer 1996 but the city
remained outside the jurisdiction of the government. Khudaberdiyev
mended relations with the Tajik government and sources from the
brigade's headquarters say this latest move is an attempt to restore
order in Tursun Zade. -- Bruce Pannier

FLOUR ENTITLEMENTS DOWN IN TURKMENISTAN. The amount of wheat flour
available to Turkmenistan's citizens at subsidized rates has been
decreased by presidential decree, according to a 7 January Interfax
report monitored by the BBC. As of 1 February 1997, citizens whose
average monthly income does not exceed 200,000 manats (about $40) are
entitled to six kilos of flour at 25 manats per kilo. In rural areas the
eight kilo ration will remain in effect. -- Lowell Bezanis

LAW ON POLITICAL PARTIES IN UZBEKISTAN. Uzbekistan's law on political
parties came into force on 7 January, according to Uzbek media monitored
by the BBC. The law prohibits parties based on ethnic or religious lines
and those advocating war or subversion of the constitutional order.
Prospective parties must submit details of at least 5,000 members spread
over eight provinces. Applications for registering a party are to be
directed to the Justice Ministry and the Supreme Court has the right to
suspend or ban them if they are found guilty of persistent legal
violations. Parties have the right to take part in elections, publish
newspapers, and establish parliamentary and local groups. -- Lowell
Bezanis

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Steve Kettle

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            Copyright (c) 1997 Open Media Research Institute, Inc.
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