The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion. - Thomas Paine
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 16, Part I, 23 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 BACKS OFF FROM IMPEACHMENT EFFORT AGAIN. The State Duma accepted a
resolution to remove President Boris Yeltsin on health grounds "as a
basis for further debate" by a vote of 229 to 63 but voted against
adopting the resolution in full by a vote of 102 to 87, Russian media
reported on 22 January. The resolution, which will allow deputies to
return to the issue in February, was backed mainly by the Communist
Party (KPRF) and the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR). Many
opposition deputies, including the Yabloko faction and leading figures
in the left-wing Popular Power and Agrarian factions, voted against.
Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii compared the Duma debate to a
discussion with patients in a lunatic asylum; he accused the KPRF and
LDPR of supporting the resolution in order to obscure the fact that they
(unlike Yabloko) voted for the draft 1997 budget in December. -- Laura
Belin

MORE CALLS FOR CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS. Addressing the Federation
Council on 22 January, Speaker Yegor Stroev again advocated amending the
constitution to increase the parliament's authority, Russian media
reported (see OMRI Daily Digest, 13 and 14 January 1997). In an
interview published in Moskovskie novosti (no. 3), Stroev suggested that
the Duma should have the authority to confirm deputy prime ministers,
while the Council should be able to confirm the power ministers.
Currently the Duma confirms only the prime minister; all other cabinet
ministers are appointed without parliamentary oversight. Also on 22
January, the Yabloko Duma faction released a statement saying "the way
to break the deadlock" between the executive and legislative branches
"lies not in attempts to remove the president from office for health
reasons, for which there is as yet no legal basis, but in purposeful and
logical steps to reform the constitutional structure," ITAR-TASS
reported. -- Laura Belin

ADMINISTRATION CONSIDERING ITS OWN CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGES? Stroev's
initial calls for constitutional amendments were criticized by figures
in the presidential administration. However, citing anonymous sources,
Izvestiya reported on 23 January that the Kremlin is now considering
delegating some presidential powers to the Security Council and possibly
even more far-reaching constitutional changes. Whereas parliamentarians
want to reduce the powers of the presidency, Security Council Deputy
Secretary Boris Berezovskii recently told the American network CNN that
more authority should be granted to the circle around Yeltsin. In
addition, Izvestiya said the idea of having the president elected by the
Federation Council rather than directly by the people "is gaining more
and more popularity in ruling circles." The subject has been discussed
with both pro-government and Communist Duma deputies, the paper said,
noting that both the Communists and the "ruling elite" fear a potential
triumph by Aleksandr Lebed in an early direct presidential election. --
Laura Belin

MASKHADOV'S RUNNING MATE CHARGED WITH KIDNAPPING. Former Chechen Chief
of Staff Aslan Maskhadov's running mate for the 27 January presidential
election, Vakha Arsanov, has been formally charged with kidnapping, AFP
reported on 22 January, citing Chechen Procurator-General Khavazh
Serbiev. Arsanov went before an Islamic court the same day to rebut the
accusation, originally leveled against him by acting Chechen President
Zelimkhan Yandarbiev. Serbiev said Arasanov could sue Yandarbiev for
damages if the charges, which some view as politically motivated, are
dismissed. Maskhadov is considered to be the front-runner in the
presidential race. Meanwhile, at a Moscow ceremony, human rights
advocate Sergei Kovalev accepted a "Knight of Honor" award granted to
him by the late Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev. Kovalev criticized
the current Chechen authorities for not halting crime and kidnappings
against ethnic Russians in the republic. He also described their
decision not to facilitate voting by Chechen refugees living outside the
republic as "undemocratic." -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER CRITICIZES OSCE FUNDING OF CHECHEN ELECTIONS .
. . Yevgenii Primakov declared on 23 January that the OSCE had not
received permission from any Russian government agencies to grant
financial aid to the Chechen Electoral Commission for the scheduled 27
January presidential and parliamentary elections there, Russian and
Western agencies reported. Russian officials have objected to the OSCE
granting some $600,000 in technical aid for the elections, claiming the
organization is interfering in Russia's internal affairs and violating
Russian law, which bars the foreign funding of elections. The head of
the OSCE mission in Chechnya, Tim Guldimann, rebutted Primakov's
accusations, saying his mission's actions fall within its mandate and
are discussed daily with Russian officials, including Security Council
Secretary Ivan Rybkin. Guldimann said the OSCE aid is necessary to
assure the integrity and independence of the Chechen Electoral
Commission, which has refused aid from its Russian counterpart. -- Scott
Parrish

. . . AND URGES FORMAL TREATY WITH NATO. Yevgenii Primakov discussed
current foreign policy issues at a closed session of the Federation
Council on 22 January, ITAR-TASS reported. Afterwards, he said that
despite opening talks with the alliance, Russia remains firmly opposed
to NATO enlargement on geopolitical, military, and what he termed
"moral-psychological" grounds. He also insisted that any agreement
outlining the relationship between Russia and the alliance not be a mere
charter but a formal treaty subject to ratification by the Russian
parliament and the legislatures of all 16 current NATO members.
Reiterating Russian claims that Western countries are breaking informal
pledges made in 1990 to then Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev not to
include former Warsaw Pact countries in NATO, Primakov said Russia would
now insist on getting any assurances from NATO codified in a
"juridicially binding" international treaty. -- Scott Parrish

U.S. CONCERNED ABOUT "OPERATION FOREIGNER." U.S. Embassy officials have
expressed concern to the Russian Foreign Ministry over a recent surge of
traffic inspections in Moscow that is apparently targeted against U.S.
and Western diplomats (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20 January 1997), Reuters
reported on 22 January. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said
the action was apparently in retaliation for the 29 December traffic
incident in New York involving a Russian and Belarusian diplomat, for
which Moscow has demanded an apology from Washington. Burns said some
Russian police have even told U.S. diplomats after stopping them for
inspection: "now you know how it feels to be a Russian living in New
York." Burns said the U.S. "respectfully" hopes that the campaign stops
and assured Moscow that its diplomats are not being singled out on the
streets of New York or Washington. -- Scott Parrish

PAPER PUBLISHES MILITARY REFORM OUTLINE. Nezavisimaya gazeta on 22
January published what it said is an outline of the military reform
program prepared by the staff of the Defense Council. The document
states that military reform should proceed in two stages. The first
stage, from 1997-2000, will optimize the size and organization of the
military, considering "the country's limited economic potential."
Defense Ministry personnel will be reduced to 1.2 million and other
power ministries cut by 30%. From 2001-2009, when the economy is
expected to improve, the armed forces will grow to 1.7 million, while
resources are focused on long-term weapons development. The plan calls
for abolishing the Ground Forces Command, merging the Air Defense Forces
with the Air Force, and creating new unified Space Missile Forces and an
Operational Strategic Forces Command. It also endorses first use of
nuclear weapons under certain circumstances. -- Scott Parrish

PENSION VOTE POSTPONED. The Federation Council on 22 January postponed
voting on a draft law raising the minimum pension until 11 February,
when the 1997 budget is due to be discussed, Segodnya and ITAR-TASS
reported. The draft, which seeks to raise the pension by 10% to 76,530
rubles a month, was earlier rejected by the president on the grounds
that it would exacerbate the problem of pension arrears. The Duma,
however, overrode the veto on 25 December. (According to Pension Fund
head Vasilii Barchuk, arrears totaled 1.7 trillion rubles on 17
January.) The Federation Council has now made passage of the law
conditional upon the Duma's ability to find additional funds in the
budget to cover the increase. The Federation Council also failed to
muster enough votes to pass a controversial bill on the Russian
Federation Human Rights Commissioner (see OMRI Daily Digest, 31 December
1996). -- Penny Morvant

POLLUTION LEVELS REMAIN HIGH. Despite the fall in industrial production,
pollution levels in Russia remained unacceptably high in 1996, State
Environmental Protection Committee Chairman Viktor Danilov-Danilyan said
on 22 January. Air pollution exceeded admissible levels in more than 200
cities with a total population of more than 60 million, ITAR-TASS and
Reuters reported. In 120 of those cities, pollution levels were five
times the permitted maximum. Danilov-Danilyan added that water pollution
levels remained high and that Russia is losing 150,000 to 180,000
hectares of woodland each year, one-third of it because of forest fires.
Poaching is also a growing problem. Russia's ecological problems date
back to the Soviet era, but environmental protection remains a low
priority for many officials and businessmen. -- Penny Morvant

SMALL BUSINESSES IN 1996. The number of small businesses operating in
Russia--mainly in trade, catering, industry, and construction--reached
about 810,000 last year, ITAR-TASS and Izvestiya reported on 22 January.
Investment in small businesses last year reached 28.2 trillion rubles,
or 8% of total investment in the economy. Small businesses accounted for
10%-12% of GDP (this share is expected to increase to 30% by 2000) and
for 20% of local budgetary revenue (50% in Moscow). During the year,
small businesses created 1 million new jobs and now employ more than 14
million people. Although the economic importance of small businesses is
growing, their geographical distribution is still very uneven--in
Moscow, small businesses employ 31% of the working population, while in
Mordovia they employ only 2%. -- Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

UN RECOMMENDS RENEWAL OF OBSERVER MISSION IN GEORGIA. Secretary-General
Kofi Annan on 22 January recommended that the mandate of the 125-member
UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) be extended by another six
months, Reuters reported. UNOMIG and the Russian peacekeeping forces are
responsible for monitoring and securing the 1993 ceasefire agreement
between Georgia and the breakaway Republic of Abkhazia. The latest UN
report on the situation in the region said that the conflict's key
issues, namely Abkhazia's future political status and the return of the
refugees, have yet to be resolved. Commenting on the recent direct talks
between Georgian and Abkhaz officials, Annan said the UN should help the
two sides in their "apparent attempt to unblock the peace settlement."
Annan called on the conflicting parties to "take effective measures" to
counter the terrorism and acts of violence that periodically occur in
Abkhazia. -- Emil Danielyan

MORE ON MANSUROV CASE. Azerbaijani State Ecology Committee Chairman Arif
Mansurov has been accused of helping to prepare the escape from jail of
several prominent figures allegedly involved in what is officially
described as the October 1994 coup attempt, Turan reported on 22
January. According to the agency, Mansurov is purported to have helped
Rahim Gaziev and Alikram Humbatov escape from prison and travel to
Lenkoran. Mansurov is also alleged to have cooperated with former Prime
Minister Suret Huseinov on the purported coup attempt. One of Mansurov's
employees at the committee, Asad Kyazimov, was arrested on 19 January.
He is accused of failing to turn in Mansurov. -- Lowell Bezanis

ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT, GAZPROM TO START JOINT VENTURE. During their 17
January meeting in Moscow, Prime Minister Armen Sarkisyan and the
president of Russia's natural gas giant Gazprom, Rem Vyakhirev, agreed
that Armenia will receive natural gas from a pipeline that will run from
Russia to Turkey via Armenia, Noyan Tapan reported on 22 January. The
pipeline has a projected annual capacity of up to 9 billion cubic meters
of gas. Turkmenistan has been Armenia's sole natural gas supplier to
date. -- Emil Danielyan

DEMONSTRATION IN KYRGYZSTAN. Thirty people gathered in front of the
Kyrgyz government building in Bishkek to protest the jailing of Erkin
Kyrgyzstan Party Chairman Topchubek Turgunaliyev, RFE/RL reported. The
group handed a petition, addressed to President Askar Akayev, to
government officials. They then marched to the Supreme Court building
and delivered another petition. Turgunaliyev is facing a 10-year prison
term on charges of embezzling $10,000. The case is being appealed. --
Bruce Pannier and Naryn Idinov

TAJIK GOVERNMENT'S VIEW OF NATIONAL REVIVAL MOVEMENT. Tajik Foreign
Minister Talbak Nazarov has said that Abdumalik Abdullajonov's National
Revival Movement will not have a role in the current negotiations
between the government and the United Tajik Opposition (UTO), ITAR-TASS
reported on 21 January. However, Nazarov added that the UTO is free to
give up some of its allotted seats on the anticipated National
Reconciliation Commission in order to make room for other groups.
Nazarov described Abdullajonov's movement as a regional group,
representing the interests of Tajikistan's northern Leninabad Oblast.
The minister said the next round of talks is scheduled to begin on 26
February in either Moscow or Tehran. -- Bruce Pannier

[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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