The sum of human wisdom is not contained in any one language, and no single language is capable of expressing all forms and degrees of human comprehension. - Ezra Pound
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 17, Part I, 24 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

FEDERATION COUNCIL ASSAILS BEREZOVSKII ON COSSACK QUESTION. Federation
Council deputies on 23 January strongly criticized Security Council
Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii's proposal to arm Cossacks living
near Chechnya, Russian and Western media reported (see OMRI Daily
Digest, 16 and 20 January 1997). Deputies intially considered calling on
President Boris Yeltsin to sack Berezovskii, but a demand for his
dismissal was not included in the final version of a resolution
discussing the situation in the North Caucasus. Federation Council
Speaker Yegor Stroev said that although the upper house has nothing
personal against Berezovskii, any plan to arm a civilian population in
the Caucasus is "madness" and could lead to another war in the region,
Ekho Moskvy reported. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski

FEDERATION COUNCIL REJECTS BILL ON DEPUTIES' HOUSING . . . The
Federation Council voted unanimously on 23 January to reject an
amendment to the law on the status of deputies that would have entitled
them to about 300 million rubles ($60,000) each from the federal budget
to purchase housing in Moscow (see OMRI Daily Digest, 21 January 1996).
According to Segodnya on 24 January, members of the parliament's upper
house suggested that the Duma deputies allocate the money they were
prepared to spend on themselves--some 135 billion rubles--to pensions
and social benefits. Izvestiya noted that not all Duma deputies had
supported the amendment: four members of the Yabloko faction sent a
letter to the Federation Council deploring the proposal. It is not clear
what will happen to the 14 deputies who have already received housing
compensation payments. -- Penny Morvant

. . . AND TWO OTHER BILLS. The Federation Council has rejected a bill
that would have introduced a 0.5% tax on purchases of foreign currency
by individuals, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 January. Deputies said that the
law--which was passed by the State Duma in December 1996--would violate
individual rights and resurrect the black market in foreign currency.
The measure would have raised an estimated 2.3 trillion rubles ($410
million) for the 1997 federal budget. The Council also rejected a draft
law regulating the destruction of Russia's chemical weapons stockpile.
Deputies felt the bill inadequately addressed environmental and safety
issues. The lack of appropriate legislation has hindered efforts to
begin liquidating Russia's 40,000 metric tons of chemical weapons, as
called for in the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, which Russia has
signed but not ratified. -- Natalia Gurushina and Scott Parrish

DUMA DISCUSSES BUDGET, POSTPONES DISCUSSION OF CHUBAIS'S TAXES. The
State Duma postponed a scheduled discussion of tax evasion allegations
against Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais in order to devote
its 24 January session entirely to the fourth and final reading of the
1997 budget, NTV reported on 23 January. A resolution demanding that
Yeltsin dismiss Chubais and that the Procurator-General's Office
investigate Chubais's financial dealings will be debated in early
February, according to the 24 January Nezavisimaya gazeta. Duma Security
Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin proposed the hearings on Chubais
following a series of publications in the weekly Novaya gazeta, which
claimed that Chubais did not pay taxes on $278,000 he earned in 1996
while working on President Yeltsin's re-election campaign (see OMRI
Daily Digest, 16 and 22 January 1997). -- Laura Belin

CHERNOMYRDIN SLAMS LIVSHITS, YASIN. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin
has announced that Finance Minister Aleksandr Livshits and Economics
Minister Yevgenii Yasin will be reprimanded for failing to make a
significant dent in the payment of wage arrears, which topped 52
trillion rubles ($9.3 billion) in December 1996, ITAR-TASS and NTV
reported on 23 January. The key reasons for the worsening arrears
situation include poor implementation of the federal budget and a lack
of financial discipline among companies and organizations. Yasin has
stressed that the government will not resort to printing money in order
to resolve the problem. Chernomyrdin gave First Deputy Prime Minister
Vladimir Potanin two weeks to prepare a package of measures to deal with
the problem. Chernomyrdin also said taxes should be reduced for
industrial companies in 1997 and that the 1998 budget should include
such cuts. -- Natalia Gurushina

GROZNY RENAMED DZHOKHAR-GALA. A crowd of 8,000 gathered at a pro-
independence rally in central Grozny on 23 January, which was addressed
by acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev and former Chief of
Staff Aslan Maskhadov, both leading candidates in the 27 January
presidential election, Russian and Western agencies reported. Yandarbiev
told the cheering crowd, some of whom carried banners reading "Freedom
or Death," that the Chechen parliament had posthumously promoted late
Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev to the rank of generalissimo. He also
announced that he was renaming the Chechen capital Dzhokhar-Gala in
honor of the late president, who was killed in a Russian missile attack
last April. Maskhadov, whose running mate has been accused of
kidnapping, called on his presidential rivals not to sow dissent and
allow the voters to calmly pick their next leader, ITAR-TASS reported.
-- Scott Parrish

CONTROVERSY OVER OSCE ROLE IN CHECHNYA CONTINUES. Russian Foreign
Minister Yevgenii Primakov spoke by telephone on 23 January with Danish
Foreign Minister Niels Helveg Petersen, who currently holds the rotating
chairmanship of the OSCE, AFP and ITAR-TASS reported. Primakov expressed
concern that the OSCE was directly financing the Chechen Electoral
Commission without permission from Moscow. According to a Foreign
Ministry spokesman, Russia supports OSCE financing for international
election observers and technical aid such as ballot boxes but still
regards the election as an "internal matter" of Russia. Primakov called
on the OSCE to convince the Chechen authorities to allow refugees
outside the republic to vote. He also told Petersen that the OSCE
mission in Chechnya should be reviewed after the 27 January elections.
Russian officials are concerned that the OSCE role in the elections,
which are being held without financial assistance from Russia, will
bolster Chechen claims to independence. -- Scott Parrish

SUSPECTED ABDUCTORS OF ORT JOURNALISTS DETAINED. Chechen First Deputy
Interior Minister Vakha Zakriev announced on 23 January that two men
suspected of abducting Russian journalists Roman Perevezentsev and
Vladislav Tibelius have been detained, ITAR-TASS reported. Perevezentsev
and Tibelius, correspondents for Russian Public TV (ORT), went missing
on 19 January en route from Grozny to the capital of Ingushetiya,
Nazran. Zakriev said witnesses had seen the journalists alive and
healthy on the evening of 22 January. -- Laura Belin

SHAIMIEV ENDORSES CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS. In an interview published
in the 24 January edition of the newspaper Respublika Tatarstan, Tatar
President Mintimer Shaimiev advocated constitutional amendments to
increase the powers of the parliament, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 January.
He noted, "We all know how [the constitution] was prepared, in what
circumstances it was adopted." (Drafted by Yeltsin's associates, the
constitution was passed by a controversial referendum in December 1993,
little more than two months after tanks shelled Yeltsin's parliamentary
opponents out of the Supreme Soviet.) Shaimiev acknowledged that the
constitutions of many of Russia's 21 republics contradict the federal
constitution; he advocated amending both federal and republican
constitutions as a compromise solution. Like Federation Council Speaker
Yegor Stroev, who has also called for increasing parliamentary powers,
Shaimiev is normally a loyal Yeltsin ally. His comments suggest that a
consensus in favor of constitutional amendments may be forming in the
upper house of parliament. -- Laura Belin

POLITICAL CRISIS IN ALTAI REPUBLIC. The Altai Republic legislature
passed a resolution on 23 January dismissing the republican government,
headed by Vladimir Petrov, ITAR-TASS reported. At a morning session of
the 27-member State Assembly (El Kurultai), scheduled to discuss the
republic's draft constitution and budget for 1997, a majority of
deputies present called for the resignation of the government on the
grounds that it had failed to tackle the republic's economic
difficulties and lost the trust of the people. Later the same day, 18 of
22 deputies taking part in the session voted in a secret ballot to sack
the government. The deputies gave parliament Chairman Valerii Chaptynov
a week to nominate new candidates for the post of government head. Some
deputies also called for the resignation of Chaptynov. The Altai
Republic is experiencing a severe economic crisis, with lengthy delays
in the payment of wages, pensions, and other benefits. -- Penny Morvant

REACTIONS TO START III PROPOSAL. Russian parliamentary deputies on 23
January reacted guardedly to reports that Washington is ready to propose
rapidly opening talks on START III in order to facilitate ratification
of START II, Western agencies reported. Duma International Affairs
Committe Chairman Vladimir Lukin said START III is a good idea, "if we
can go ahead without ratification of START II." Communist Deputy Aleksei
Podberezkin also supported a START III agreement, but linked it with
"America fulfilling different conditions," a possible reference to NATO
enlargement. Pentagon spokesman Kevin Bacon confirmed the same day that
Washington will propose opening talks on a START III agreement reducing
each country's strategic arsenal far below the 3,500 warhead ceiling set
by START II. Such an agreement could address some Russian concerns over
the cost of implementing START II, but Bacon emphasized that Washington
will still insist on ratification of START II before opening new talks.
-- Scott Parrish

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

ARMENIAN PRIME MINISTER ON RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA, U.S. Armen Sarkisyan
on 23 January refuted Armenian media reports that the country plans to
sign a confederative agreement with Russia similar to the April 1996
Russian-Belarusian community treaty, Armenian and Russian media
reported. Sarkisyan said Armenia will continue to cooperate with Russia
on an "equal and mutually beneficial" basis. He described the agreement
with Gazprom on setting up a joint Russian-Armenian venture (see OMRI
Daily Digest, 23 January 1997) as "extremely important," saying it is a
"first step to end Armenia's economic blockade." Sarkisyan said he is
satisfied with his recent visit to the U.S., adding that 1997 will see
"a new page" in relations between the two countries. He also said U.S.
politicians and entrepreneurs are expressing a growing interest in
Armenia. Sarkisyan denied that the U.S. put pressure on Armenia to hold
early parliamentary elections. -- Emil Danielyan

RUSSIAN GENERAL: RUSSIAN TROOPS ARE LIKELY TO REMAIN IN ARMENIA. Maj.-
Gen. Aleksei Tretyakov, commander of Russian troops stationed in
Armenia, said the March 1995 agreement between the Russian and Armenian
presidents on the Russian military base is unlikely to be revised, Snark
reported on 21 January. Recent reports in the Russian media have
suggested that the Russian General Staff is questioning the strategic
value of maintaining Russian troops in Armenia and Georgia. Tretyakov
said the troops are "protecting the interests of Russia and Armenia"
along the external border of the CIS, adding that they will not
intervene in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. -- Emil Danielyan

AZERBAIJANI AMBASSADOR SUES PAPER. Azerbaijani Ambassador to Russia
Ramiz Rezaev has sued the Russian newspaper Pravda-5 for defamation of
character after the paper published an article alleging he was a heavy
drinker and unwelcome in various diplomatic settings, Radio Rossii
reported on 23 January. Rezaev is reportedly seeking 15 billion rubles
(about $2.5 million) in damages. Pravda-5 has apologized to Rezaev for
the publication. -- Lowell Bezanis and Emil Danielyan

NEW REGULATIONS FOR FOREIGNERS STAYING IN ASHGABAT. Ashgabat's mayor has
issued an order requiring all visitors to the Turkmen capital to stay in
officially approved hotels, RFE/RL reported on 23 January. Foreigners
arriving in Ashgabat with their families will be exempted from the new
rule if they sign leases with the city authorities. The order also
obliges all government offices and businesses inviting foreigners to
Turkmenistan to register their presence with the local authorities. --
Lowell Bezanis

THREE KILLED IN TAJIK CAPITAL. Three Russians, two of them women, were
killed in Dushanbe on 23 January, AFP reported. Oleg Motus, described as
a "Cossack military commander," was shot at close range along with his
mother and his fiancee. Motus, born in Tajikistan, had returned to work
on a humanitarian aid project. While open warfare in Tajikistan has been
brought to a halt since the 23 December signing of a ceasefire agreement
between the government and the United Tajik Opposition, Russian soldiers
serving in Tajikistan have recently become targets of a terror campaign.
Civilians have not been exempt from random acts of violence but have not
usually been singled out as targets. -- 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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