Absence makes the heart grow fonder. -
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 13, Part I, 20 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

NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL IN MOSCOW. Javier Solana met with Russian Foreign
Minister Yevgenii Primakov on 20 January to open talks on a proposed
NATO-Russia charter, Russian and Western agencies reported. An anonymous
NATO diplomat told AFP on 17 January that despite media reports of a
"new package" of NATO incentives to defuse Russian opposition to NATO
expansion, Solana was not bringing any new proposals to Moscow. Solana
will simply make a "complete presentation" of existing proposals for a
charter, the diplomat said. Speaking in Bonn before his departure for
Moscow, Solana said he hopes a charter establishing a "durable" and
"institutionalized" relationship with Moscow can be signed before the
scheduled July NATO summit, when the alliance plans to issue the first
invitations to prospective East European members. -- Scott Parrish

MEAGER RESULTS AT CIS PRIME MINISTERS MEETING. The 17 January session of
the CIS Heads of Government Council addressed 17 proposed economic
agreements but approved only nine of them, Russian and Western media
reported. Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin declared that the
council had "approved" an overall concept for CIS economic integration,
but Russian CIS Affairs Minister Aman Tuleev admitted that Uzbekistan,
Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan refused to support it, and at the
insistence of Ukraine, the document will be resubmitted to a scheduled
28 January meeting of the council for discussion. Segodnya on 18 January
reported that Ukrainian Foreign Minister Hennadii Udovenko criticized
the draft concept's proposals for unified CIS trade, labor, transport,
customs, and currency systems, saying they contradict the Ukrainian
constitution. Predicting that Ukraine would not agree to sign the
document, the paper sarcastically said the session had continued the CIS
tradition of "paper creativity." -- Scott Parrish

MOSCOW POLICE TARGET FOREIGN DIPLOMATS. In a game of diplomatic tit-for-
tat reminiscent of the Cold War, officers of the Moscow directorate of
the State Automobile Inspectorate (GAI) launched "Operation Foreigner,"
Russian and Western agencies reported on 17 January. The operation,
during which GAI spokesmen said 1,000 cars with foreign plates were
stopped and 200 violations discovered, is apparently in retaliation for
the 29 December traffic incident in New York involving allegedly drunk
Russian and Belarusian diplomats (see OMRI Daily Digest, 2 and 3 January
1997). U.S. diplomats were found to be the worst offenders during the
operation, according to Segodnya on 17 January. Citing GAI sources, the
paper reported that a U.S. diplomat had been stopped on 3 November for
drunk driving, but officers had been unable to arrest him as he claimed
diplomatic immunity. -- Scott Parrish

LUZHKOV REJECTS UKRAINIAN PROTESTS OVER SEVASTOPOL. Moscow Mayor Yurii
Luzhkov has rejected Ukrainian protests over his recent visit to the
Crimean port city of Sevastopol, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 January (see
related story in Central and Eastern European section). Luzhkov declared
that "no one can stop me, I have traveled and will travel to Sevastopol,
which is a Russian city." He rejected the possibility that Kyiv might
bar him from entering Ukraine, saying that by doing so, "Ukraine would
show that it is completely undemocratic." Citing polls saying 70% of
Russians believe Sevastopol belongs to Russia, Luzhkov said "Russia will
never accept the current situation," adding that Ukraine will ultimately
be forced to begin negotiations on Sevastopol's status. Many link
Luzhkov's jingoistic posturing to his presidential ambitions and hopes
to undermine Aleksandr Lebed's support among nationalist voters. --
Scott Parrish

RUSSIA, COLOMBIA SIGN ARMS CONTRACT. Under a contract signed on 17
January in Bogota, Colombia will purchase 10 Mi-17 transport helicopters
from the Russian state-owned Rosvooruzhenie company, ITAR-TASS reported
the next day. Although the full value of the contract was not disclosed,
Colombia will pay $42 million for the first shipment of helicopters.
After an open tender, Colombia decided last year to purchase both U.S.
and Russian helicopters. Moscow accused Washington of interfering in its
negotiations with Bogota last October, fueling a diplomatic spat over
the sale. -- Scott Parrish

DIFFERENT OPINIONS ON ARMING COSSACKS. The State Duma on 17 January
instructed its law committee to work out amendments to the law on
weapons that would allow Cossack organizations to be armed, ITAR-TASS
reported. While Deputy Security Council Secretary Boris Berezovskii has
supported demands of southern Russian Cossack leaders to be allowed to
create armed units (see OMRI Daily Digest 16 January 1996), Interior
Minister Anatolii Kulikov opposed the idea on 17 January, while noting
that the state "must enter and protect people" if genocide against
Russians erupts in Chechnya. Speaking to Russian Public TV (ORT) on 18
January, Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin indicated that he is
against the arming of separate Cossack units. Instead, he suggested that
they serve in the region's regular army regiments. -- Nikolai
Iakoubovski

EXPLOSION KILLS ANOTHER BUSINESSMAN. A Moscow businessman was killed on
17 January when a remote-controlled bomb exploded as he entered his
office, Russian and Western agencies reported. The businessman, Gennadii
Dzen, was director of the Roskontraktpostavka trading company and a
voluntary assistant to ultranationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky.
On 20 January the owner of the "Dolls" strip club was shot dead in
Moscow, Western media reported. On 19 January, a powerful explosion in
Nalchik, the capital of Kabardino-Balkariya, damaged the republic's
Procurator's Office. ITAR-TASS, quoting the local Interior Ministry,
said the explosion was caused by a gas leak, but there is speculation
that the blast was linked to an 8 January explosion at the republican
parliament building. -- Penny Morvant

KULIKOV ON CRIME AND CORRUPTION. Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov said
on 17 January that 29,700 murders and attempted murders were committed
last year, some 2,000 fewer than in 1995, AFP reported. Of the estimated
450 contract killings, only 60 were solved. Kulikov added that 2.62
million crimes were recorded in 1996, down from 2.75 million in 1995,
Russian media reported. However, he estimated the total number of crimes
committed at 7 million. Kulikov said more than 200 gangs were broken up
by police. But while the police scored some crime-fighting successes,
corruption and other abuses within the ministry remained high. President
Yeltsin's press secretary said on 18 January that the head of the
Interior Ministry's Technical and Military Supplies Main Administration
and 30 other officers had been fired for financial abuses, including
misusing funds earmarked for salaries and prison construction. Kulikov
said 10,000 employees of Interior Ministry organs were brought to book
in 1996, including 3,500 for criminal offenses. -- Penny Morvant

NIKITIN'S WIFE HARASSED. Tatyana Chernova, wife of environmental
activist Aleksandr Nikitin, may be prevented from returning to Russia at
the end of a six-day trip to Norway, AFP reported on 18 January. Russian
customs officials stamped Chernova's passport "exit for permanent
residence abroad" after subjecting her to a 90-minute search and
interrogation when she left the country on 15 January. The Moscow Times
quoted a spokeswoman for the St. Petersburg Visa and Registration
Department as saying Chernova would have to file for special permission
to re-enter Russia. Chernova's lawyer said there were no legal grounds
for the move. Nikitin was held in a pre-trial detention center for 10
months, on accusations that he illegally gathered data for a report on
radioactive contamination of the Kola Peninsula. He was released last
month following an international outcry, but the Federal Security
Service is reluctant to let the case drop. -- Penny Morvant

UNEMPLOYMENT UP, ARREARS PROBLEM WORSE. In late December 1996, 9.3% of
Russia's work force was unemployed, up from 8.8% in early 1996, Russian
and Western agencies reported on 18 January, citing the State Statistics
Committee. The figures were calculated on the basis of household survey
data. Some 2.5 million people, or 3.4% of the work force, were
registered as unemployed with the Federal Employment Service. The wage
debt to Russian workers totaled 47.1 trillion rubles on 23 December, up
from 46.6 trillion on 25 November. About one-fifth of the total arrears-
-9.3 trillion--were in organizations funded by the federal or local
budgets. -- Penny Morvant

IMF NEGOTIATIONS. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin met IMF first
deputy managing director Stanley Fischer on 17 January to discuss a
resumption of the IMF loan, two $340 million monthly payments of which
were suspended last year, AFP reported. Chernomyrdin said, "The West
should not worry. The reforms are not going to be halted. Russia simply
does not have much money at the moment." First Deputy Chairman of the
Central Bank, Sergei Aleksashenko, told Reuters on 17 January that by
the end of 1997 foreigners will be given full access to the government
bond market on the same terms as Russian buyers--something which the IMF
has been urging. One policy change which may not please the IMF is the
introduction of differentiated excise duties on oil and gas, up to $17
per metric ton, on firms that buy at domestic prices and then export,
ITAR-TASS reported on 17 January. The new tax sounds suspiciously like
the resurrection of the oil export duty which was abolished at the IMF's
insistence in July 1996. -- Peter Rutland

NET CLOSES ON ALUMINUM MAFIA . . . Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov
said on 17 January that his ministry has been working on the so-called
aluminum case for 18 months, ITAR-TASS and NTV reported. NTV carried an
investigative series on the "aluminum mafia" in recent weeks (see OMRI
Daily Digest 13 January 1997). Kulikov said that the Trans-seas
Commodities company, represented by Lev Chernyi, paid on contracts with
several aluminum plants using money it obtained from fraudulent bank
transfer documents. He also said Moscow's Izmailovo criminal gang is
involved in the aluminum business. Kulikov called for new laws obliging
citizens to reveal the sources of their income. Former First Deputy
Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets denied NTV's accusations that he
maintained links with the Chernyi brothers, although he did not refute
the NTV report about his American Express account, according to an
interview published in Obshchaya gazeta on 16 January. -- Peter Rutland

.. . . AND TIN MAFIA. On 19 January, NTV's "Itogi" revisited the 1994
scandal around the privatization of the Novosibirsk Tin Combine (NOK).
At that time it was revealed that NOK director Aleksandr Dugelnyi had
managed to acquire a large portion of NOK shares and had also bought
shares for government officials, including Soskovets. The investigation
was closed down on the orders of then Procurator-General Aleksei
Ilyushenko, who is currently in detention under criminal investigation.
NTV provided fresh documentary evidence of Soskovets's share holding,
and alleged that Dugelnyi, who is still the director of NOK, has $1.2
million abroad in foreign bank accounts. Dugelnyi had formerly worked
with Soskovets at the Karaganda Metal Combine in Kazakstan, where an
anti-corruption probe in 1991 led to 14 arrests. -- Peter Rutland

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

RUSSIAN VEHICLE BLOWN UP NEAR GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ BORDER. An armored
personnel carrier operated by Russian peacekeeping forces in the
Georgian-Abkhaz conflict zone blew up on 15 January after hitting an
anti-tank mine, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 January. According to a
Sakinform report monitored by the BBC, Georgian Deputy State Security
Minister Avtandil Ioseliani said that "soon" Russian peacekeepers will
no longer be required in the region as Georgia and Abkhazia are likely
"to find a common language without a mediator." -- Emil Danielyan

AZERBAIJAN UPDATE. The World Bank has extended a $14.7 million credit to
Azerbaijan to promote the privatization of the country's agricultural
sector, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 January. In other news, Azerbaijan's
State Oil Company, SOCAR, has supplied 10,000 metric tons of gasoline to
Iran on a trial basis, Russian media reported on 19 January. SOCAR is
hoping to deliver 120,000 tons to Iran on an annual basis. -- Lowell
Bezanis

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION PARTY SAYS ITS MEMBER STILL UNDER ARREST. The
chairman of a local branch of the opposition National Self-Determination
Union (AIM), Artush Hamazaspyan, is still under arrest on charges of
"participation in mass disorders" in the wake of 25 September post-
election unrest in Yerevan, Noyan Tapan reported on 17 January. Norayr
Khanzadyan, an AIM representative, said that Hamazaspyan was "severely
beaten" while in custody and the authorities are still holding him
despite repeated promises that he would be released. Out of the 27 AIM
members arrested after the election, Hamazaspyan is the only one still
in custody. Khanzadyan also claimed that Interior and National Security
Minister Serzh Sarkisyan has not yet delivered on his "promises" to
compensate AIM for some 10 million drams ($21,300) in damage to the
party's headquarters. -- Emil Danielyan

TAJIK GOVERNMENT, OPPOSITION TALKS IN TEHRAN. Two weeks of difficult
talks between the Tajik government and United Tajik Opposition (UTO)
ended in Tehran on 19 January with the signing of a joint statement
approving some important procedural issues but failing to determine how
many representatives each side will have in a prospective National
Reconciliation Commission, Western and Russian media reported on 19
January. The government wants to dominate the commission and render it
subordinate to Tajik President Immomali Rakhmonov, while the opposition
sees it as the first step toward a redistribution of power in a post-war
government. The two sides agreed on the procedure for approving a mutual
amnesty law and a central election commission and on holding a
referendum on governmental reform.  -- Lowell Bezanis

TURSUN ZADE STANDOFF. The Tajik Presidential Guards clashed with local
self-defense forces in Tursun Zade in a fight over Central Asia's
largest aluminum plant, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 January. Two were
injured during the exchange of fire and an estimated 20 local-self-
defense fighters were "detained" by the Presidential Guard. The fight
was the latest development in an ongoing struggle for control of the
country's single most valuable asset. In other news, unidentified
assailants killed a junior Russian officer in Dushanbe, Reuters reported
on 18 January. -- Lowell Bezanis

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez

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