When we can begin to take our failures non-seriously, it means we are ceasing to be afraid of them. It is of immense importance to learn to laugh at ourselves. - Katherine Mansfield
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 14, Part I, 21 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

PRIMAKOV, SOLANA, SHUN PRESS AFTER MEETING. Russian Foreign Minister
Yevgenii Primakov and NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana avoided all
contact with the media following five hours of closed-door talks at an
official residence in suburban Moscow, Russian and Western agencies
reported on 21 January. Solana immediately returned to Brussels, and
both NATO and the Russian Foreign Ministry issued similarly terse
statements saying the "useful" session had established a "timetable" for
further talks but admitting that "there are different approaches on a
range of issues." It appears that Moscow continues to insist that any
Russia-NATO agreement create a legally binding joint consultation
mechanism giving Russia a voice in important alliance decisions, a move
NATO officials have balked at. -- Scott Parrish

REACTION TO PRIMAKOV-SOLANA TALKS. Duma Defense Committee Deputy
Chairman Aleksei Arbatov (Yabloko), said that Russia should not settle
for any security guarantees from NATO short of joining the alliance
itself, according to a 20 January Interfax report monitored by the BBC.
Arbatov said Moscow "cannot be satisfied with signing another
declaration or charter," adding that since Russia cannot halt NATO
enlargement, it should seek to transform NATO into a multilateral
security system. Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin,
however, denounced the talks with Solana. The communist deputy argued
that President Boris Yeltsin's foreign policy "had accustomed the West
to constant concessions on our part," and charged that Solana had come
to "persuade" or "maybe blackmail" Russia into accepting NATO expansion.
-- Scott Parrish

YELTSIN REJECTS LUZHKOV'S STANCE ON SEVASTOPOL. In the wake of Moscow
Mayor Yurii Luzhkov's recent visit to Sevastopol, which has provoked
harsh criticism from Kyiv (see related articles in Central and Eastern
European section), Russian presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii
on 20 January said that Luzhkov's statements on the status of Sevastopol
"should not be confused with the position of the president of the
country and Russia in general with regard to Ukraine," ORT reported.
Yastrzhembskii said Ukraine's territorial integrity had been recognized
by the international community and guaranteed by Russia, a reference to
the 1994 trilateral Russian-American-Ukrainian agreement under which
Kyiv agreed to denuclearize and Moscow agreed to respect Ukraine's
territorial integrity. The Foreign Ministry also declared that Luzhkov's
statments "do not reflect official policy and should be treated
accordingly." -- Scott Parrish

YELTSIN LEAVES HOSPITAL. President Yeltsin checked out of the Central
Clinical Hospital on 20 January after 12 days and will continue
recuperating at his suburban Moscow residence Gorkii-9, NTV reported. He
was admitted on 8 January with pneumonia. This week the president is
planning one or two meetings and a three- to four-hour daily work
schedule, according to spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii. Nevertheless, he
is still set to attend the CIS summit in Moscow at the end of January,
meet with French President Jacques Chirac on 2 February, and visit The
Hague on 3-4 February, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Robert Orttung

AGRARIAN LEADER CALLS FOR NEW PROPERTY CONCEPT. Mikhail Lapshin has
called on the Popular-Patriotic Union to re-evaluate its position on
property rights in advance of the next presidential election, ITAR-TASS
reported on 21 January. He blamed Communist Party leader Gennadii
Zyuganov's loss in the 1996 election on his lack of support for private
property and warned that the opposition must recognize this "obvious
reality" in order to increase its electorate. Lapshin said that the
Agrarian Party will add the right for peasants to own land to its
program at its 22-23 March congress, bringing the party "closer to the
center," Segodnya reported 20 January. -- Robert Orttung

CHECHEN CANDIDATES FEUD . . . Former Chechen field commander Shamil
Basaev told a public meeting in Grozny on 20 January that his fellow
candidates Aslan Maskhadov and acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev are
"crooks," and that he will not join their government if they win,
Reuters reported. On 19 January, NTV broadcast a tape of a meeting of
the Chechen State Defense Council on 16 January, at which state security
head Abu Movsaev accused Avakho Arsanov, Maskhadov's vice-presidential
running mate, of having been involved in the kidnappng of three Slovaks
>from Ingushetiya last October. He said Arsanov, the former northern
front commander, is still holding 17 captives for ransom. ITAR-TASS
quoted Yandarbiev on 20 January as saying that Arsanov will be
prosecuted. -- Peter Rutland

. . . WHILE ELECTION PREPARATIONS CONTINUE. Chechen Electoral Commission
head Mumadi Saidaev denied that not allowing voting outside the republic
will make the 27 January election undemocratic, ITAR-TASS reported on 19
January. He noted that estimates of the number of refugees range from
100,000 to 350,000, and claimed many have already returned home.
However, Russian human rights activist Sergei Kovalev said on 19 January
that not allowing refugees to vote where they live is a "serious
mistake," Reuters reported. Although Russian authorities will not be
involved in running the election, NTV reported on 19 January that Russia
is cooperating by setting up the Severnyi Airport and providing
helicopter transport for international observers. -- Peter Rutland

ORT JOURNALISTS MISSING IN CHECHNYA. Chechen law enforcement agencies
have been unable to locate two journalists working in Chechnya for
Russian Public TV (ORT), ITAR-TASS reported on 21 January. Roman
Perevezentsev and Vladislav Tibelius left Grozny on 19 January for the
capital of Ingushetiya, Nazran, where they planned to transmit reports
to Moscow. However, they never turned up at the television station or at
their hotel in Nazran. Chechen Interior Minister Kazbek Makhashev said
all journalists working in Chechnya are offered protection, but that the
ORT correspondents left Grozny unaccompanied by any guards. -- Laura
Belin

LEBED IN D.C. Former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed met with
senators William Roth and Robert Smith in Washington, RFE/RL reported on
20 January. Roth, who is also president of the North Atlantic Assembly
which groups together legislators from all 16 NATO countries,
characterized Lebed's position on NATO expansion as somewhat flexible.
He said Lebed suggested that Russia has "voluntarily isolated itself"
with its current stance on NATO expansion. On the same day, Lebed
attended U.S. President Bill Clinton's inauguration ceremony in a public
viewing area. Major Russian television networks either ignored or gave
unfavorable coverage to the visit. Lebed told NTV that he was "modestly"
representing Russia at the inauguration, since the president, prime
minister, and chief of staff were not present. -- Laura Belin

POLL: MOST RUSSIANS OPPOSE NATO EXPANSION. A VCIOM poll conducted from
13-17 January found that 50% of Russians oppose the admission of former
Soviet republics into NATO and 41% say former Warsaw Pact members should
not join the alliance, according to a 20 January Interfax report
monitored by the BBC. The poll of 1,600 respondents across Russia found
that only 13% support NATO membership for former Soviet republics and
only 15% support the aims of former Warsaw Pact countries to join the
alliance. However, 17% and 22% of respondents were indifferent to the
issue of NATO membership for former Soviet republics or Warsaw Pact
members, respectively, while 20% and 22% were undecided. Asked how
Russia should defend its interests, 26% said it should not join any
alliances, 22% favored cooperation with NATO, 17% said Russia should
form its own alliance with other CIS states, and 8% said Russia should
join NATO. -- Scott Parrish

NIKITIN'S WIFE LET INTO RUSSIA WITHOUT PROBLEMS. Tatyana Chernova, the
wife of environmental activist Aleksandr Nikitin, was allowed back into
Russia without problems on 20 January despite fears that she might
encounter difficulties, AFP reported. When Chernova left Russia last
week for a brief visit to Norway, customs officials stamped her passport
"exit for permanent residence abroad" (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20 January
1997). Chernova has campaigned actively on behalf of her husband, who is
facing charges of espionage for his part in a report by the Norwegian-
based environmental group Bellona on radioactive contamination of the
Kola Peninsula. -- Penny Morvant

MOSCOW HOUSING FOR DEPUTIES. Izvestiya on 21 January reported on the
latest attempt by Russia's parliamentarians to safeguard their housing
benefits. Last week the Duma passed in all three readings amendments to
the law on the Status of a Deputy of the Federal Assembly entitling
deputies from outside Moscow to the equivalent of $60,000 to buy an
apartment in the capital. The figure of $60,000 (330 million rubles) is
derived from an estimate of the cost of housing a deputy for four years
in a top-class hotel. There is insufficient official housing in part
because not all former deputies have relinquished their apartments.
According to Izvestiya, 69 deputies have privatized their flats and
another 14 have received compensation payments. -- Penny Morvant

FAR EASTERN FACTORY WORKERS PAID IN BRAS. Workers at a factory producing
women's underwear in Vladivostok have been receiving bras in lieu of
their wages, Izvestiya reported on 21 January. Short on cash, the
factory has handed out seven to nine bras a month to both male and
female employees. Owing to the problem of interenterprise debt and
delays in the payment of state subsidies, workers at many enterprises
receive wages in kind. -- Penny Morvant

MORE DATA ON LIVING STANDARDS IN 1996. Real monthly wages grew 5% last
year although real inm&me levels rem‘üneEstable, ITAR-TASS reported on
20 January, citing Goskomstat data. The average monthly wage in November
was 835,000 rubles plus an average of 29,800 rubles in social payments.
(These figures do not take into account delays in the payment of wages
and benefits.) Goskomstat estimated the average December pension at
320,700 rubles, up from 246,700 at the beginning of 1996. The average
subsistence minimum in December was 379,000 rubles a month; 22% of the
population were living below the poverty line. -- Penny Morvant

ECONOMIC SLUMP CONTINUES. Russia's GDP and industrial production fell by
6% and 5%, respectively, in 1996 over the previous year, ITAR-TASS
reported on 20 January, citing the State Statistical Committee. The
largest decline was recorded in light industry (28%), construction
materials (25%), and the chemical and petrochemical industry (11%). Oil
production dropped 2% to 293 million metric tons and coal output fell 4%
to 243 million tons, while the production of natural gas rose 1% to 575
billion cubic meters. The volume of investment totaled 370 trillion
rubles, 18% down on 1995. Housing construction shrank 10% to 37 million
square meters. -- Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT ON RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA. In his weekly interview on
Georgian state radio, Eduard Shevardnadze described the development of a
"close strategic alliance" between Georgia and Russia as "promising,"
ITAR-TASS reported on 20 January. Shevardnadze thanked the Russian
government for allowing Georgia to postpone repayment of its $180
million debt to Russia until 2000. Shevardnadze said Russia "can and
should play the key role" in resolving the Abkhaz and South Ossetian
conflicts. Meanwhile, Georgian Parliament Speaker Zurab Zhvania claimed
that any special relationship with Russia will be "empty rhetoric" as
long as the Abkhaz conflict is not settled. -- Emil Danielyan

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER IN SOUTH OSSETIA. Zurab Zhvania met behind
closed doors with the leaders of the self-proclaimed Republic of South
Ossetia on the first visit by a top Georgian official to the breakaway
region's capital, Tskhinvali, in five years, ITAR-TASS reported on 20
January. The visit comes after President Eduard Shevardnadze's
prediction of an imminent breakthrough in the Georgian-South Ossetian
talks and South Ossetian Parliament Speaker Konstantin Dzugaev's
subsequent visit to Tbilisi (see OMRI Daily Digest, 16 January 1997). --
Emil Danielyan

AZERBAIJAN COMMEMORATES "BLACK JANUARY." Azerbaijan officially
commemorated "Black January," when more than 130 people were killed and
some 700 wounded in 1990, as thousands of Soviet interior and security
forces moved into Baku to defend Soviet power from rising nationalist
sentiment, Western and Russian media reported the same day. The
intervention helped Azerbaijan Popular Front leader Abulfaz Elchibey
come to power. The same day, Turan reported that 69 volumes of
documentation relating to the January events were illegally seized and
removed from Azerbaijan three years ago; the efforts of Azerbaijani law-
enforcement organs to resecure them has won no favor with the
responsible military court in Russia, according to the agency. -- Lowell
Bezanis and Emil Danielyan

STRIKE IN SOUTHERN KAZAKSTAN, NO HEAT IN NORTH. Workers at the Achisay
Polymetal plant in Southern Kazakhstan have gone on strike to demand the
payment of their back wages, RFE/RL reported on 21 January. According to
sources in the Kazakstani Federation of Trade Unions, the strikers were
joined by local transport system workers on 20 January. In other news,
the city of Kokshetau in North Kazakstan has been unable to provide heat
to some 15,000 apartments for two weeks. Temperatures in the city have
dropped to -30 C. -- Merhat Sharipzhan

TURKMENISTAN UPDATE. Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov on 18 January
issued deeds to 80 farmers permitting them to use their lands in
perpetuity, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. Turkmenistan's new
landowners are prohibited from transferring or reselling their property.
The ceremony was held to mark the launch of Turkmenistan's efforts to
reform its crisis-riden agricultural sector by moving toward private
land ownership. In other news, a total of 123 drug smugglers were
executed in Turkmenistan in 1996, according to a 13 January Vechernii
Bishkek report monitored by the BBC. -- Lowell Bezanis

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez

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            Copyright (c) 1997 Open Media Research Institute, Inc.
                      All rights reserved. ISSN 1211-1570
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