It is a mistake to look too far ahead. Only one link in the chain of destiny can be handled at a time. - Sir Winston Churchill
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 15, Part I, 22 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

DUMA BEGINS HEARING ON YELTSIN HEALTH. The Communist and Liberal
Democratic Party of Russia factions voted to include the question of
impeaching President Boris Yeltsin on health grounds on the agenda of
the 22 January Duma session, ITAR-TASS reported. Our Home Is Russia,
Yabloko, Popular Power, Russian Regions, and the Agrarians voted
against, making the final tally 206-164 with two abstentions. The Our
Home Is Russia faction left the Duma chamber in protest when the body
began discussing the issue. Instead of trying to impeach Yeltsin now,
Popular Power leader Nikolai Ryzhkov called for adopting a law setting
up a procedure for removing a president who is no longer able to carry
out his duties. The Duma directed its committee on legislation to look
into the possibility of creating the position of vice president in
Russia. Earlier, First Deputy Duma Speaker Aleksandr Shokhin,
representing Our Home Is Russia, warned that any effort to remove the
president could be viewed as a coup attempt, forcing Yeltsin to take
"appropriate measures." -- Robert Orttung

YELTSIN MEETS CHERNOMYRDIN IN KREMLIN. President Boris Yeltsin met with
Prime Minster Viktor Chernomyrdin in the Kremlin on 22 January, ITAR-
TASS reported. Yeltsin left the hospital on 20 January after undergoing
treatment for pneumonia for 12 days. Yeltsin's doctors have expressed
concern that he is not limiting his activities enough to recover fully.
-- Robert Orttung

DUMA TO INVESTIGATE CHUBAIS'S TAXES. Duma Security Committee Chairman
Viktor Ilyukhin has announced that the Duma will debate on 24 January
whether Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais paid taxes on all
of his income for 1996, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. Novaya
gazeta's Aleksandr Minkin has already published allegations that Chubais
did not pay those taxes (see OMRI Daily Digest, 16 January 1997).
Chubais, however, claimed that he had paid his taxes in full: 515
million rubles ($92,000) on income derived from lectures and
consultations earned before he became Yeltsin's chief of staff. Ilyukhin
circulated credit card statements purporting to show that Chubais had
received considerable sums after he became a civil servant on 15 July,
Reuters reported. The last credit is from August, "which is not
inconsistent with Chubais's response that he made the money before
July," the agency noted. -- Robert Orttung

MOSKOVSKII KOMSOMOLETS PUBLISHES LETTER FROM FAPSI GENERAL. The popular
daily Moskovskii komsomolets on 21 January published an appeal it
claimed was written in February 1996 by Maj.-Gen. Valerii
Monastyretskii, head of a finance department at the Federal Agency for
Government Communications and Information (FAPSI) until he was arrested
on charges of embezzlement. In the letter, Monastyretskii alleged that
during the renovation of government buildings in 1994 and 1995 the Main
Protection Administration, the Federal Security Service, and
Presidential Security Service--then controlled by Mikhail Barsukov and
Aleksandr Korzhakov--purchased expensive surveillance equipment from
dubious sources in the U.S. for their own purposes. Monastyretskii
concluded that the aim of the security services was "to place all
statesmen and political activists under all-out surveillance so as to
compromise them and subsequently use them to pursue their personal
political interests." Numerous articles implicating Korzhakov and
Barsukov in illegal activities have been published since their dismissal
in June last year. -- Penny Morvant

COMMUNISTS HONOR LENIN. Gennadii Zyuganov led a few hundred Communists
at a wreath-laying ceremony on Red Square on 21 January to honor the
73rd anniversary of Lenin's death, Russian media reported. In comments
to reporters, Zyuganov repeated communist opposition to suggestions that
Lenin's body should be removed from the Red Square mausoleum and
reburied. On the subject of Yeltsin's health, Zyuganov noted that the
president had been unable to perform his duties for long periods over
the past two years and spoke out in favor of establishing a medical
commission to monitor his condition. Communists in St. Petersburg also
held a number of meetings to mark Lenin's death. Most national TV
reports of the Lenin anniversary stressed the low turnout at the
meetings. -- Penny Morvant

SCANDAL OVER GENERALS' LETTER ON NATO. Izvestiya on 22 January harshly
criticized an open letter to President Yeltsin signed by a group of
admirals and generals serving in Sevastopol which called on the
president to take vigorous countermeasures against NATO enlargement. The
letter, released by Interfax on 20 January, urged Yeltsin to counter
NATO expansion by not signing START II, building up Russia's nuclear
arsenal, targeting alliance members with nuclear weapons, and demanding
revisions in the 1990 CFE Treaty. Izvestiya commented that the letter
contains "absurdities," such as urging Yeltsin not to sign the START II
treaty, which he signed in 1993. It also blasted the letter as a
"manifesto" with a tone "akin to mutiny." The paper concluded that
Yeltsin must discipline the unruly generals and admirals or else they
may soon "move from words to deeds." -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA REITERATES OPPOSITION TO NATO ENLARGEMENT. Foreign Ministry
spokesman Gennadii Tarasov said on 21 January that while Russia is
discussing a new relationship with NATO, it "maintains and will maintain
a negative approach to NATO enlargement," Russian and Western agencies
reported. He added that the NATO-Russia talks "cannot be regarded as a
compensation for our acceptance of enlargement." Tarasov added that the
next round of NATO-Russia talks would take place in February but gave no
exact date or location. Izvestiya on 22 January cited NATO sources as
saying that the latest Primakov-Solana meeting was much warmer than
those held last year. It attributed this "sharp change of tack" to
Moscow's desire to conclude an agreement with NATO before the alliance
issues invitations to prospective members at its July summit. In
contrast NTV argued that the press blackout imposed on the Primakov-
Solana talks suggested the negotiations were proceeding "with
difficulty." -- Scott Parrish

STROBE TALBOTT IN MOSCOW. Acting U.S. Secretary of State Strobe Talbott
arrived in Moscow on 21 January for talks on bilateral issues and
European security, Russian and Western agencies reported. Talbott, one
of the architects of U.S. policy toward Russia, will stay on as deputy
secretary of state during President Bill Clinton's second term. He is
serving as interim head of the State Department pending Madeleine
Albright's confirmation by the U.S. Senate, expected on 22 January.
Talbott's main goal is to finalize plans for the scheduled 5-7 February
session of the Gore-Chernomyrdin commission, but he will also discuss
the proposed NATO-Russia charter with his Russian interlocutors. --
Scott Parrish

CFE REVISION TALKS OPEN. Delegates from the 30 signatories of the 1990
Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty gathered in Vienna on 21
January to discuss revising the Cold War-era accord, Russian and Western
agencies reported. The talks are being held at Russia's request. Moscow
has long argued that the treaty, based on the principle of establishing
a stable military balance between NATO and the now defunct Warsaw Pact,
has become obsolete. Russia would like to see the treaty's bloc ceilings
on military equipment replaced with national limits, and also wants to
modify the zonal restrictions it places on heavy weapons deployment.
Such changes would help minimize the possible military consequences for
Moscow of NATO enlargement. Despite some sympathy for the Russian
position, Western diplomats have predicted that it could take two years
to hammer out a revised treaty. -- Scott Parrish

CHORNOBYL VICTIMS STAGE HUNGER STRIKE; OTHER PROTESTS. More than 50
workers involved in clean-up operations after the Chornobyl nuclear
disaster have been on hunger strike in Tula for more than a week to
protest delays in the payment of social benefits, ITAR-TASS reported on
21 January. Nine of the hunger strikers have been hospitalized. The
clean-up workers are owed three months' worth of pension payments and
have not received compensation payments for damage to their health since
March 1996. The local authorities have promised to address the issue,
but the protest is continuing. The total debt to Chornobyl programs in
Tula Oblast exceeds 300 billion rubles. Meanwhile, ORT reported on 21
January that health-care workers in Primore have begun a four-day strike
to protest wage arrears and that teachers' strikes are continuing in 28
Russian regions; a national teachers' protest was held last week. --
Penny Morvant

FARMS BEING SQUEEZED. Despite a good harvest last year--69 million
metric tons, 9% up on 1995--three-quarters of Russia's farms ran at a
loss in 1996, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 January. Nationally, the losses
totalled 16 trillion rubles ($2.9 billion), and only in three of 89
regions (Krasnodar and Stavropol krais and Bashkortostan) was the farm
sector profitable. The losses rose from 37 rubles per 100 rubles of
output in 1995 to 100 rubles in 1996. Only 8.7 trillion rubles of the
13.2 trillion allotted in the 1996 federal budget for farm support were
actually paid out. -- Peter Rutland

AMENDMENTS TO INCOME TAX LAW COME INTO FORCE. Several new personal taxes
came into force on 21 January, ITAR-TASS reported. The law imposes a 15%
tax on interest earned by individuals from bank deposits if the bank's
interest rate exceeds the Central Bank's (TsB) refinancing rate
(currently 48%) for ruble deposits or 15% for foreign currency deposits.
Also, from now on insurance payments will be taxed if they exceed the
premiums paid by the client. Likewise, low-interest loans will also be
treated as taxable income. These measures are expected to bring some 400
billion rubles ($71 million) to the state coffers. The new law aims at
preventing tax evasion: many firms have been paying salaries in the form
of insurance payments, loans, and high-interest bank accounts. --
Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

GEORGIAN UPDATE. Georgian air traffic controllers have barred the
military cargo planes that supply Russian peacekeepers in Abkhazia from
flying in Georgian airspace because of Russia's $250,000 debt for air
traffic services, RFE/RL reported on 21 January. An unnamed Russian air
force official declined to say when the debt will be repaid. In other
news, the Foreign Ministry of the self-proclaimed Republic of Abkhazia
accused Georgia of planning "large-scale terrorist and sabotage attacks"
in Gali, Tkvarcheli, and Ochamchira districts, according to an Interfax
report monitored by the BBC. The ministry says that the Georgian State
Security Ministry wants to prevent the Russian peacekeeping mandate from
being extended by destabilizing the situation in the region on the eve
of the upcoming CIS summit. -- Emil Danielyan

AZERBAIJANI ECOLOGY COMMITTEE HEAD DETAINED. Azerbaijani Ecology
Committee Chairman Arif Mansurov was dismissed by presidential decree on
19 January, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 January. Mansurov was detained by
the police the same day while in hospital for heart problems. There has
been no official explanation of his dismissal. However, several
committee employees were arrested some time ago. -- Lowell Bezanis

AIDS STATISTICS IN ARMENIA. National Center for AIDS Control and
Prevention director Lev Zohrabyan said that an "AIDS chain reaction" is
taking place in Armenia, Noyan Tapan reported on 21 January. Zohrabyan
claimed that in 1996 there were 26 reported HIV-carriers in Armenia
(three of whom have died) as opposed to only three reported HIV cases
from 1988 to 1991. Zohrabyan blamed the situation on a lack of
awareness, low living standards, migration, and prostitution. Also,
Zohrabyan said the Armenian Health Ministry is now developing a program
to tackle the problem. -- Emil Danielyan

NEW KYRGYZ MOVEMENT APPLIES FOR REGISTRATION. The movement For
Deliverance from Poverty in Kyrgyzstan on 21 January applied to become
an official opposition bloc, RFE/RL reported. The Justice Ministry could
take months to process the application. The movement argues that Kyrgyz
governmental policies are responsible for wage arrears, a deterioration
of social services, and falling standard of living. The movement held
its founding congress in December 1996, after which one of its leaders,
Jumagazy Usupov, was jailed for 15 days. Another founder of the new
movement, Topchubek Turgunaliyev, was given a 10-year prison sentence
after being found guilty of embezzlement in early January. -- Bruce
Pannier and Naryn Idinov

CAREFUL, KIND WORDS FOR TURKMENISTAN FROM IMF OFFICIAL. IMF official
Emine Gurgen has noted that Turkmenistan is making progress toward a
market economy but must continue pushing forward with economic reform,
RFE/RL reported on 21 January. She said that in the last year Ashgabat
has shown an increasing awareness of the need to undertake such reforms
and pointed to progress in several areas, including the establishment of
a two-tier banking system, a reduction of inflation to 10-12% a month, a
slowing production decline, and some liberalization of price controls.
She said GDP declined by 4% last year. While gas production was said to
have exceeded 1995 levels, it was more than offset by a sharp decline in
agriculture due to poor cotton and grain harvests. Turkmenistan has been
a member of the IMF since 1992. -- Lowell Bezanis

NIYAZOV ADDRESSES UN FORUM ON AFGHANISTAN. Turkmen President Saparmurad
Niyazov opened a two-day UN-sponsored forum on Afghanistan on 21
January, international media reported the same day. Some 300
representatives of donor countries, UN agencies, and private relief
groups are in Ashgabat to discuss how to maintain the flow of aid to
Afghanistan and explore means of synchronizing aid and peace
negotiations. In his address, Niyazov said Turkmenistan's "largest
projects" are linked "to peace and stability in Afghanistan," Reuters
reported. He specifically noted that his country is desperate for an
international energy consortium to build a $2 billion gas pipeline that
would run across Afghanistan to the Indian Ocean, a project he said
could also greatly benefit the citizens of Afghanistan. -- 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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