Increase The Peace. - John Singleton
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 19, Part I, 28 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

MASKHADOV LEADING IN CHECHEN POLLS. Preliminary reports give former
Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov a commanding lead in the 27 January
Chechen presidential election, Russian and Western agencies reported.
His staff claimed victory on 28 January, saying he received 58% of the
vote. Chechen election officials told AFP that Maskhadov garnered over
55% in the 35 of 63 districts where results had been tabulated. Shamil
Basaev was in second place, with about 30%. Officials estimated a very
high turnout, reaching 80%, with heavy participation by refugees in
Ingushetiya and Dagestan. Polling hours were extended until 10:00 p.m.
local time in order to accommodate all those wishing to vote. Tim
Guldimann, the head of the OSCE mission in Chechnya, said he had not
seen any significant irregularities, but the 72 OSCE election observers
will meet on 28 January before releasing an official appraisal of the
polls. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIAN LEADERS INSIST CHECHNYA REMAINS PART OF RUSSIA. While Chechen
voters chose between presidential candidates who all support
independence for the republic, Russian leaders on 27 January continued
to dismiss talk of Chechnya becoming independent, Russian media
reported. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said that "one should not
take seriously" campaign rhetoric about independence. "Let the elections
happen and when everything has calmed down we can sit down at the table
and begin working together," he added. Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev
also argued that, despite campaign rhetoric, "relations can be built
with Chechnya as a constituent part of Russia." These statements reflect
the prevailing view in Moscow that economic necessity will force Chechen
leaders to pull back from their goal of full independence. The
Consultative Council, consisting of Chernomyrdin, Seleznev, Federation
Council Speaker Yegor Stroev, presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii
Chubais, and Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin, will meet on 28
January to discuss Chechnya. -- Scott Parrish

YELTSIN POSTPONES VISIT TO NETHERLANDS. Aggravating concern about his
health, President Boris Yeltsin on 27 January postponed his scheduled 4
February visit to The Hague, Russian and Western media reported.
Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii said that the meeting was
postponed because Yeltsin has not fully recovered from his recent
pneumonia, and that doctors had advised the president to "avoid flying
for the time being." The Hague meeting with top European Union officials
will be rescheduled and moved to Moscow, Yastrzhembskii added, saying
that Yeltsin still plans to meet with French President Jacques Chirac
outside Moscow on 2 February. The announcement prompted Communist leader
Gennadii Zyuganov to renew calls for Yeltsin to step down because of his
health. All three major Russian television networks gave the
announcement only cursory coverage, and did not speculate on the
president's condition. -- Scott Parrish

RUMORS OF IMPENDING CHUBAIS DISMISSAL. Presidential Chief of Staff
Anatolii Chubais paid 515 million rubles ($92,000) in taxes owed on his
1996 income, but Yeltsin may be looking to replace him in any case,
according to the 25 January Komsomolskaya pravda. The paper said Yeltsin
was furious upon learning Chubais had earned $278,000 for "lectures and
consultations" while working on the president's re-election campaign. It
said Yeltsin may replace Chubais with Yurii Petrov, who headed the
presidential staff from August 1991 to January 1992, First Deputy Prime
Minister Viktor Ilyushin, whom he has known since his days in
Sverdlovsk, or perhaps Deputy Chief of Staff Yurii Yarov. On 17 January,
Moskovskii komsomolets speculated that Yeltsin may soon replace Chubais
with Reforms--New Course leader Vladimir Shumeiko, who served as
Federation Council speaker from 1994-1995. -- Laura Belin

BATURIN ON MILITARY REFORM. On a tour of military installations in the
Far East, Defense Council Secretary Yurii Baturin admitted that he has
differences of opinion with Defense Minister Igor Rodionov about the
direction of military reform, but emphasized that "we can sit down and
find a common solution," NTV reported on 27 January. He added, however,
that Russia cannot afford to maintain the military at its current size,
and said it was "erroneous" to postpone reform until additional funds
have been budgeted for the military, an implicit criticism of Rodionov's
views. He concluded that military reform should not only downsize the
army and eliminate wasteful duplication, but also focus on research and
development of the next generation of high-technology weaponry. -- Scott
Parrish

SHARANSKII RETURNS TO MOSCOW. Ten years after being freed from a Soviet
prison and sent to the West in a cold war prisoner swap, former
dissident Natan Sharanskii returned to Moscow on 27 January, Russian and
Western media reported. Sharasnkii, now Israeli minister of trade and
industry, is accompanied by a large delegation of Israeli businessmen,
and his four-day official visit primarily aims to boost Russian-Israeli
trade. However, he also plans to visit Lefortovo prison and the grave of
fellow dissident Andrei Sakharov. -- Scott Parrish

MOST GROUP CREATES MEDIA HOLDING COMPANY. Vladimir Gusinskii is
resigning as Most Bank president and Most group general director in
order to become general director of a new holding company, Media-Most,
ITAR-TASS and AFP reported on 27 January. Media-Most will acquire all
the shares Most group holds in various media outlets, including NTV and
the satellite network NTV-Plus, the radio station Ekho Moskvy, the
publishing house Sem Dnei, the newspaper Segodnya, and the weekly
magazine Itogi. Gusinskii said he hoped the move would improve the
media's financial performance and avoid "a possible conflict of
interest" between the media and companies in the Most group. Gusinskii
has been close to the presidential administration since last spring. NTV
President Igor Malashenko worked openly for Yeltsin's re-election
campaign, and in recent months the network's coverage has continued to
favor the president over his political opponents. -- Laura Belin

COUNCIL FOR FOREIGN INVESTMENT MEETS. Speaking at the seventh meeting of
the consultative council for foreign investment (which includes
governmental officials and representatives of Russian and foreign
business circles), Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said that foreign
investments in Russia topped $6 billion in 1996, while the cumulative
volume of foreign investment reached $12 billion by the end of the year,
Izvestiya and ITAR-TASS reported on 27-28 January. Chernomyrdin argued
that Russia's political and economic development has become more
predictable and the political risk of foreign investment has declined.
Tax reform, the impending adoption of international accounting practices
by Russian companies, and other changes in economic legislation could
increase the volume of foreign investment in Russia to $20 billion by
2000, he said. -- Natalia Gurushina

HAZARDS OF TAX COLLECTION. The Russian Tax Service said on 27 January
that 26 of its inspectors were killed, 74 injured, six kidnapped, and
164 threatened with physical violence in 1996, ITAR-TASS reported.
Eighteen taxation offices experienced bomb blasts and shooting
incidents. The service, which has been under heavy government pressure
to improve tax collection, has also suffered financial difficulties. Tax
offices in Yaroslavl Oblast are on strike to protest delayed wages, and
inspectors in Tver are threatening to take industrial action, Radio
Mayak reported on 26 January. The IMF suspended payment of the November
and December tranches ($680 million) of a $10.1 billion extended
facility fund to Russia because of inadequate tax collection. Prime
Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said on 27 January, however, that the funds
should be released in the next few days. -- Natalia Gurushina and Penny
Morvant

HIV CASES UP, OTHER INFECTIOUS DISEASES DOWN. First Deputy Health
Minister Gennadii Onishchenko said on 27 January that 1,397 new cases of
HIV infection were registered in Russia in the second half of 1996,
ITAR-TASS reported. There was a particularly sharp increase in the
number of intravenous drug users infected with the virus. The total
number of HIV cases recorded in Russia to date is 2,439 but the true
number of carriers is thought to be several times higher. Onishchenko
also said that the overall incidence of infectious diseases declined by
5.3% in 1996, noting in particular that vaccination programs had led to
a reduction in diphtheria and measles. Vaccine producers are currently
owed about 100 billion rubles ($17.8 million) for state orders dating
back to 1995, according to the Health Ministry. Prime Minister
Chernomyrdin has promised that this debt will soon be paid. -- Penny
Morvant

RUSSIAN SHIPS UNDER SCRUTINY. A state commission investigating the 2
January sinking of the Russian oil tanker Nakhodka in the Sea of Japan
concluded that it collided with a floating object, ITAR-TASS reported on
27 January. Investigators said the tanker, which released about 4,000
metric tons of oil into the sea, may have collided with a wrecked
fishing boat or a floating target used for military exercises.
Meanwhile, the British marine safety agency has placed the Russian
merchant fleet in its "risk" category. The agency says Russian ships are
poorly maintained, prone to accidents, and present a danger to the
environment. Of 185 Russian merchant ships examined by British
inspectors in 1996, one in 10 had serious technical problems and 19 were
detained. -- Natalia Gurushina and Penny Morvant

RUSSIA BEHIND SCHEDULE IN SPACE STATION'S CONSTRUCTION. The U.S. space
agency NASA has expressed concern over Russia's one-year delay in
assembling the service module of the international orbital space station
Alfa, AFP and Reuters reported on 27 January. The delay, which was
caused by the lack of financing, may result in postponing the first
manned mission to the station -- originally slated for May 1998 -- to
early 1999. Russian officials say the 1997 budget, which has just been
approved by the Duma, earmarks necessary funds for the project. A
spokesman for the Moscow-based Khrunichev space center, which assembles
the module, said the company had already secured a $35 million loan from
Moskovskii mezhdunarodnyi bank. U.S. officials, however, are threatening
to limit Russia's participation in the project if delays persist. --
Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

TENSIONS MOUNT IN ABKHAZIA. Abkhaz police are conducting identity checks
to detect "Georgian saboteur groups" in ethnic Georgian villages in the
Gali district, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 January. The raids follow armed
clashes in the district, which the Abkhaz blame on Georgian special
services. Georgian officials described the clashes as "power struggles
between Abkhaz clans and criminal groups." Earlier, Abkhaz officials
claimed that they captured four Georgian gunmen, one of whom "confessed"
to involvement in the attacks. Meanwhile, ITAR-TASS quoted Georgian TV
as reporting that some 2,000 mainly ethnic Georgian residents of the
Gali district, fearing "looting and violence by the Abkhaz forces," fled
to the neighboring Zugdidi district. Meanwhile, Abkhaz President
Vladislav Ardzinba called on the leaders of the CIS-member countries to
prolong the mandate of the Russian-led CIS peacekeeping forces in
Abkhazia. -- Emil Danielyan

PARTIAL RESULTS OF KAZAKSTANI FREQUENCY TENDER. Kazakstani authorities
on 24 January announced the results of the first round of a tender for
broadcasting rights, Internews and Kazak Television reported, as
monitored by the BBC. According to the television, channels were given
to Kazak Commercial Television (KTK) and the Independent Television
Channel (NTK), which were described as "independent companies." KTK is
owned by Karavan, which publishes an independent newspaper, but
Internews linked NTK with the daughter of President Nursultan
Nazarbayev. Radio frequencies were given to "Europa," "Siti," and
"Rika." A second tender will be held later. Meanwhile, Russian
Television reported on 27 January that its broadcasts have been pulled
off the air in Kazakstan and replaced with programming from Kazakstan's
state television agency "Habar." Russian-speaking citizens of Kazakstan,
particularly in the north, have protested the change to Russian Minister
of CIS Affairs Aman Tuleyev. -- Bruce Pannier

UYGHUR CONGRESS HELD IN KYRGYZSTAN. A congress of the Uyghur Association
of Kyrgyzstan was held in Bishkek on 26 January, RFE/RL reported. The
session replaced the association's president, Nurmuhamed Kenjiev, with
Nigmat-Agi Baizakov. It also elected a 47-member council and five-member
inspection committee. The congress approved plans for creating a special
fund which would provide Uyghur students studying in Kyrgyzstan with a
3,000 som ($180) monthly stipend. Also, the association plans to open
book stores in Bishkek, which will specialize in Uyghur literature.
There are now about 50,000 Uyghurs living in Kyrgyzstan. The Uyghur
Association was founded in 1990, the first ethnic minority organization
registered in the country. -- Bruce Pannier and Naryn Idinov

TURKMENISTAN AND AZERBAIJAN TANGLE OVER OIL FIELD. Ashgabat and Baku
appear to be on the verge of an open dispute over ownership of the
Chirag offshore Caspian oil field, Russian and Azerbaijani sources
reported on 26 January. While the two have been at odds over the
Caspian's status, with Ashgabat's position mirroring that of Russia and
Iran in opposition to that of Azerbaijan, no dispute over particular
fields has yet gone public. The present friction stems from a 23 January
article in theFinancial Times in which Ashgabat claimed that the Chirag
field, part of the so-called "deal of the century," is located in
Turkmenistan's territorial waters. Baku has both demanded clarification
of Ashgabat's position and rejected any such claims. -- Lowell Bezanis

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Steve Kettle

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