A tablecloth restaurant is still one of the great rewards of civilization. - Harry Golden
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 7, Part I, 10 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'S CONDITION FAILS TO IMPROVE. President Boris Yeltsin has
pneumonia of "medium gravity" in both lungs, Ekho Moskvy reported on 10
January, citing anonymous sources at the Central Clinical Hospital. A
Kremlin spokesman refused to comment on the report, according to
Reuters, but an official statement did concede that although the
president is "breathing with more ease," and his "temperature remains
normal," his doctors believe "it is too early to speak about a
breakthrough." Reuters on 9 January cited international heart experts as
saying that the pneumonia could complicate Yeltsin's recovery from his 5
November heart surgery. -- Laura Belin and Scott Parrish

IZVESTIYA: RUSSIA FENDS FOR ITSELF WHILE YELTSIN IS ILL. While officials
play down Yeltsin's illness, some journalists are expressing skepticism
about the president's health. In an editorial on 10 January, Izvestiya
said it is clear that Yeltsin is seriously ill, and expressed concern
for the country's stability. Like many other papers, Izvestiya avoided
covering Yeltsin's health problems during his re-election campaign.
Vitalii Tretyakov, editor of Nezavisimaya gazeta, wrote in the paper's
10 January edition that "The country is much sicker than the president."
Meanwhile, the weekly Obshchaya gazeta for 9-15 January wrote that a
Kremlin censor vetted all television footage of Yeltsin's meeting with
German Chancellor Helmut Kohl to delete everything that betrayed the
true state of Yeltsin's health. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski

YAVLINSKII: SICK OR WELL, YELTSIN UNABLE TO RUN RUSSIA. Yabloko leader
Grigorii Yavlinskii told Ekho Mosvky on 9 January that President Yeltsin
is incapable of ruling Russia -- not because of his illness, but because
of "the way he sees the political situation, grasps it, selects people,
makes decisions, assigns tasks, and his general abilities to resolve the
problems our country is facing." He claimed that since nobody in the
president's circle understands what policies are needed, it is
irrelevant whether Yeltsin is in the Kremlin or the Central Clinical
Hospital. However, Yavlinskii did not call for the president to resign,
noting that citizens had elected Yeltsin and their choice must be
respected. Commenting on repeated calls for Yeltsin's resignation by
former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed, Yavlinskii pointed
out that Lebed helped Yeltsin get re-elected by joining his team after
the first round of the presidential race. -- Laura Belin

SPLITS IN CHECHEN GOVERNMENT. Acting Chechen President Zelimkhan
Yandarbiev on 8 January fired Ruslan Kutaev, Deputy Prime Minister and
Minister for CIS Affairs, for being too active in support of rival
presidential candidate Aslan Maskhadov, Ekho Moskvy reported. The next
day, five ministers and 15 deputy ministers and department heads, all
members of Maskhadov's Party for National Independence of Chechnya,
resigned from the government in protest. NTV suggested that Maskhadov
and Movladi Udugov are the front-runners in the 27 January race, while
Ekho Moskvy and Russian TV (RTR) saw Yandarbiev and Maskhadov as the
leading candidates. -- Peter Rutland

RUSSIAN MINISTERS DISCUSS CHECHNYA. Russian ministers still show a
reluctance to admit that Chechnya is well on the way to independence.
Justice Minister Valentin Kovalev said on 9 January that "there are no
prospects for Chechen separatists to gain independence with arms in
hands," and urged negotiations to amend Chechnya's status by
"constitutional" means, ITAR-TASS reported. Foreign Minister Yevgenii
Primakov was more realistic. The same day he told a government meeting
that "there is a real danger that Chechnya will leave Russia de jure and
de facto," ITAR-TASS reported. Primakov said Russia should "put the
brake on this process" by exerting diplomatic pressure on foreign
countries, particularly Russia's Islamic allies. -- Peter Rutland

RUSSIAN CAPTIVES IN CHECHNYA. Sergei Osipov from the Russian Commission
for Prisoners of War, Detainees, and Missing Persons has provided more
precise figures for the number of Russian servicemen missing in
Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 January. He said the whereabouts of a
total of 700 soldiers are unknown. This number includes 300 unidentified
bodies in a morgue in Rostov-on-Don. Osipov estimated 200 of the
remainder are probably buried in unmarked graves, and 200 soldiers are
being held captive. -- Peter Rutland

DOUBTS OVER CHECHEN AMNESTY. Procurator General Yurii Skuratov told a
press conference that the Duma should not grant an amnesty for the
perpetrators of the kidnappings in Budennovsk (June 1995) and Kizlyar-
Pervomaiskoe (January 1996), ORT reported on 9 January. The Budennovsk
raid was led by presidential candidate Shamil Basaev. Skuratov's
position was supported by deputy Duma speaker Mikhail Gutseriev, ITAR-
TASS reported on 10 January. The Duma rejected an amnesty plan in
December: it will probably discuss the issue again in February. The lack
of an amnesty could delay the release of Russian captives. -- Peter
Rutland

PRIMAKOV THREATENS BALTICS WITH SANCTIONS. Foreign Minister Yevgenii
Primakov told a meeting of the Russian government on 9 January that
Moscow "should not be afraid to use economic sanctions" to defend the
human rights of Russians living in the Baltic states, Russian and
Western agencies reported. In order to pressure Estonia into halting
what he claimed are discriminatory policies toward its Russian minority,
for example, he said that Moscow will refuse to sign a border treaty
with Tallinn until the issue was resolved. Since Estonia dropped its
demands for the recognition of the 1920 Tartu treaty, a border
agreement, which would bolster Estonia's bid to join the EU and NATO, is
all but ready for signature. Segodnya on 31 December accused Moscow of
deliberately dragging its feet over the border treaty in order to hamper
Estonian integration into Western institutions, and said the policy
"resembles crude blackmail." -- Scott Parrish

INDIA TO PURCHASE RUSSIAN SUBMARINES. The Indian government has decided
to purchase two Kilo-class diesel-electric attack submarines from
Russia, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 January. The new submarines, plus two
others to be built at Indian shipyards under license, will replace six
older Soviet-designed submarines which are slated to be scrapped. India
already has eight Kilo-class boats in service, and Moscow hopes to sell
New Delhi equipment ranging from helicopters to surface combatants for
its naval modernization program. On 6 January ITAR-TASS reported the
delivery of a third Russian-built Kilo-class submarine to Iran. -- Scott
Parrish

DIPLOMATIC SCANDAL UPDATE. The Russian and Belarusian UN missions
complained to a UN panel on 9 January that New York police violated
international law in the 29 December incident involving two allegedly
drunk diplomats in a dispute over a parking ticket, Russian and Western
agencies reported. Sergei Lavrov, Russian ambassador to the UN,
reiterated Moscow's demands for an apology over the incident, adding
that the U.S. should pay compensation to Russian diplomat Boris
Obnossov, whose arm was injured by police during the scuffle. Lavrov
refuted charges that Obnossov and his Belarusian colleague Yurii Oranzh
had been intoxicated, pointing out that the two had not been asked to
take a breathalyzer test and that police had allowed them to drive away.
A New York official stuck by the police version of events, however, and
the State Department is still investigating the incident. -- Scott
Parrish

COURT APPROVES ELECTION RESULTS IN KURGAN. The Supreme Court has
confirmed the legitimacy of the 8 December runoff gubernatorial election
in Kurgan Oblast, Sovetskaya Rossiya and ITAR-TASS reported on 9
January. Communist-backed candidate Oleg Bogomolov ran unopposed in the
second round and received over 67% of the vote. Anatolii Koltashev and
incumbent Governor Anatolii Sobolev, who finished second and third
respectively in the first round, both withdrew on the eve of the runoff.
An aide of the presidential representative in Kurgan filed an appeal,
saying federal legislation prohibits candidates from running for office
unopposed; his case was supported by the Central Electoral Commission
(TsIK). When pro-Yeltsin candidates ran unopposed and won presidential
elections in Kalmykiya in fall 1995 and Tatarstan in spring 1996, the
TsIK announced its dissatisfaction with the single-candidate races, but
those election results were not challenged in court. -- Anna Paretskaya
in Moscow

MOSCOW MILITARY SUE GOVERNMENT OVER WAGE ARREARS. Moscow military
procurators have sued the government in a desperate attempt to secure
the payment of servicemen's back wages, but the courts have been in no
hurry to hear their case, Obshchaya gazeta reported in its first issue
of 1997. The procurators filed suit against the Defense Ministry's Main
Military Budget and Finance Administration and the Finance Ministry in a
Moscow district court and then appealed to the Moscow City Court when
the district court refused to accept the case. The city court, however,
has taken no action on the matter since 20 August. The courts' hesitancy
is not surprising, given that a verdict in favor of the military would
set an expensive precedent and wreak havoc with the budget. According to
Moskovskii komsomolets on 6 January, the government currently owes
servicemen nationwide about 6 trillion rubles in back wages. -- Penny
Morvant

FORMER DISSIDENTS CRITICIZE INTELLIGENTSIA. Former dissidents Andrei
Sinyavskii and Mariya Rozanova have sharply criticized Russia's
"egotistical intellectual elite" for ignoring the plight of the poor and
the hungry. In excerpts from a British radio broadcast published in the
9 January edition of Sovetskaya Rossiya, Sinyavskii and Rozanova claimed
that private enterprise was beginning to flourish in 1990 and goods were
widely available at reasonable prices . But they said the "shock
therapy" reforms of the government of Yegor Gaidar in 1992 destroyed
honest enterprise and impoverished millions. They assailed
intellectuals, many of them former dissidents, for defending Gaidar's
reforms rather than the people who suffered under them. Sinyavskii and
Rozanova have lived in Paris since 1973, having emigrated after
Sinyavskii served six years in a labor camp for publishing "anti-Soviet"
literature abroad. They supported former Soviet President Mikhail
Gorbachev's presidential bid last year. -- Laura Belin

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

U.S. MAINTAINS PRESSURE ON GEORGIA OVER FATAL CAR ACCIDENT. U.S.
Secretary of State Warren Christopher has asked Georgian President
Eduard Shevardnadze to ensure that diplomat Georgi Makharadze, who
reportedly caused a five-car accident in Washington in which an American
girl was killed (see OMRI Daily Digest, 7 January 1997), is not recalled
home until the United States gets a formal response from Georgia to its
waiver request, Western agencies reported on 9 January. Meanwhile, an
unidentified U.S. official said Makharadze will "leave the country
shortly." The report contradicts an earlier statement by Georgian
Foreign Minister Irakli Menagarashvili that the diplomat will not be
recalled until the investigation is complete. -- Emil Danielyan

HIGH LEVEL GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ TALKS. The foreign ministers of Georgia and
its breakaway republic of Abkhazia have met in the Abkhaz resort town of
Gagra, Russian and Western media reported on 9 January. According to
Abkhaz Foreign Minister Konstantin Ozgan, the fact of direct talks
testifies to the two sides' readiness to reach a compromise on the
Abkhaz conflict and is not a sign of Russia's decreased role in settling
it. Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagarashvili warned the Abkhaz
side that Georgia will ask CIS member countries to tighten the blockade
of Abkhazia unless the latter provides for the return of more than
200,000 ethnic Georgian refugees. Menagarashvili said there was no
progress on the issue of Abkhazia's future status. -- Emil Danielyan

AMERICAN JOURNALIST MURDERED IN ALMATY. The body of the director of the
Internews Network Agency in Kazakstan, 28-year-old Chris Gehring, was
found in his apartment on 9 January, Western and Russian media reported.
Chief detective Alibek Shapenov said Gehring was apparently murdered
during a burglary that went wrong. As a foreigner in Kazakstan Gehring
was likely to be considered wealthy. Gehring's computer was missing and
boxes containing a stereo, VCR, and television were found near the
doorway. However, many journalists doubt the validity of the burglary
theory, noting Gehring was found with his hands and feet bound and his
throat cut. Gehring had been working in Kazakstan since May 1995 as part
of a US AID-funded project to aid independent media. The Committee to
Protect Journalists has sent a strongly worded note to the Kazakstani
government demanding an immediate investigation. -- Bruce Pannier

FIRST BRIGADE TO LEAVE TURSUN ZADE. The commander of Tajikistan's First
Brigade, Col. Mahmud Khudaberdiyev, said on 9 January, he and his unit
are ready to comply with a presidential order that they return to their
base in Kurgan-Tyube, international media reported. Khudaberdiyev's unit
managed to push the outlaw group of Kadyr Abdullayev outside the city
limits, according to Russian television. Abdullayev says he will not
surrender nor heed Khudaberdiyev's order that he permanently vacate
Tursun Zade. Khudaberdiyev said he was satisfied with the recapture of
military hardware Abdullayev's group stole from the First Brigade on 29
December and the departure of Abdullayev's criminal band from the city.
-- Bruce Pannier

TAJIK GOVERNMENT SCOFFS AT OPPOSITION PROPOSAL. Peace negotiations
between the Tajik government and United Tajik Opposition (UTO) taking
place in Tehran became bogged down on 8 January, RFE/RL reported. UTO
representatives had the impression the planned National Reconciliation
Commission would consist of 40% representation from both the government
and the UTO, with the remaining 20% being made up of regional and ethnic
groups. However, government negotiators in Tehran now say they want an
80% share of the commission to be from the Tajik government and that all
proposals for amendments to the constitution be approved by a two-thirds
vote. The deputy leader for the UTO, Ali Akbar Turajonzoda, said that is
not what was agreed at the Moscow talks in December between Tajik
President Imomali Rakhmonov and UTO leader Said Abdullo Nuri. -- Bruce
Pannier

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Steve Kettle

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