He who receives an idea from me receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mind, receives light without darkening me. - Thomas Jefferson
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 20, Part I, 29 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 APPARENT WINNER IN CHECHNYA. Although the Chechen Electoral
Commission had not released official preliminary results early on 29
January, a spokesman for Aslan Maskhadov said that results from 53 of
the republic's 63 electoral districts gave the former chief of staff
almost 65% of the vote, while former field commander Shamil Basaev was
second with 24%, followed by acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev with
10%, Russian and Western agencies reported. OSCE mission head Tim
Guldimann confirmed on 28 January that international observers viewed
the election as "legitimate and democratic." Maskhadov said at a press
conference on 28 January that his top priorities as president will be
securing recognition of Chechen independence from Moscow and cracking
down on crime. He called for immediate talks with Moscow on
independence, and insisted that "the same courage that won us the war"
could secure international recognition of Chechen sovereignty. -- Scott
Parrish

CHECHEN REACTION TO MASKHADOV VICTORY. Former field commander Basaev
told AFP on 29 January that he would neither oppose nor support
Maskhadov. Basaev said he could not work with Maskhadov's aides, who he
has previously described as "crooks." But he dismissed predictions that
there would be a violent falling out between his supporters and those of
Maskhadov, since "we have a common goal--Chechen independence." On 28
January, acting President Yandarbiev said the elections showed the
"unity" of the Chechen people, adding that he would remain politically
active despite his defeat. But he said his future support for Maskhadov
would be contingent on the policies the new president adopts, adding
independence should be the top priority. Amid rumors that he will be
offered a senior post in the new government, another major candidate,
Movladi Udugov, pledged his support for Maskhadov. -- Scott Parrish

MOSCOW WELCOMES ELECTION RESULTS. Despite Maskhadov's repeated public
insistence that he seeks full independence for Chechnya, Russian leaders
reacted positively to his victory, which they argued would facilitate
negotiations over Chechnya's future status, Russian and Western media
reported on 28 January. Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii
said President Boris Yeltsin was "satisfied" with the election. He added
that Yeltsin believed Maskhadov's election "provides a serious chance"
for successful talks resulting in "mutually acceptable decisions on
Chechnya's status within the Russian Federation." Communist leader
Gennadii Zyuganov also described Maskhadov as a "moderate politician,"
saying "he understands that without Russia, Chechnya would not be
viable." Ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, however, broke with the
conventional wisdom that economic necessity will force Maskhadov to
compromise his goal of independence, arguing that Moscow and Grozny
"will not find a common language." Although opinion polls show that most
Russians do not care if Chechnya becomes independent, Russian leaders
adamantly reject this option. -- Scott Parrish

LEBED WELCOMES MASKHADOV WIN, SEEKS RETURN OF JOURNALISTS. Former
Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed on 28 January welcomed the
victory of Maskhadov, whom he called an honest and responsible man and
"a model officer," ITAR-TASS and Ekho Moskvy reported. Lebed and
Maskhadov negotiated and signed the Khasavyurt accords last August, and
Lebed expressed confidence that the new Chechen president would respect
the terms of those agreements. On the same day, Lebed announced that his
associates have been involved in negotiations to secure the release of
two Russian Public TV (ORT) correspondents who have been missing in
Chechnya since 19 January (see OMRI Daily Digest, 21 and 24 January
1997). Lebed said the two journalists were being held somewhere in the
mountains and would be returned within two or three days, once weather
conditions improve, ORT reported. -- Laura Belin

YELTSIN RETURNS TO KREMLIN, BRIEF FOOTAGE RELEASED. The presidential
press service said President Yeltsin visited the Kremlin for about three
hours on 28 January, meeting with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin for
one hour, Russian and Western media reported. Yeltsin also met with CIS
Executive Secretary Ivan Korotchenya. Very brief footage from both
meetings, broadcast without sound on major Russian television networks,
showed Yeltsin looking tired and thinner than he had on 6 January, when
the last pictures of him were released. Presidential spokesman
Yastrzhembskii insisted that Yeltsin will meet with French President
Jacques Chirac in Moscow on 2 February, and pictures from that meeting
will be televised. Korotchenya said the summit of CIS leaders, recently
postponed due to Yeltsin's pneumonia, has been rescheduled for 15 March.
-- Laura Belin

CIS DEFENSE MINISTERS MEET. Despite the postponement of the CIS summit
scheduled for later this month, the CIS Council of Defense Ministers met
in closed session in Moscow on 28 January, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported
the next day. Ministers from all CIS members except Moldova and
Turkmenistan attended the meeting. They decided to recommend to the CIS
heads of state that Russian Army General Viktor Samsonov be reinstated
as head of the CIS Military Cooperation Staff. Russian President Yeltsin
had removed Samsonov last October, when he was appointed chief of the
Russian General Staff, but the other CIS members subsequently refused to
accept Yeltsin's suggested replacement, Russian Army General Mikhail
Kolesnikov. The council also recommended extending to the mandates of
CIS peacekeepers in Tajikistan and Abkhazia to 30 June and 31 July,
respectively. -- Scott Parrish

SCANDAL IN RUSSIAN COUNCIL OF EUROPE DELEGATION. Public discord among
the members of the Russian delegation to the Council of Europe
Parliamentary Assembly means that the post of assembly vice-chairman
assigned to Russia will remain vacant until April, Izvestiya reported on
29 January. Russia is allotted one of 18 vice-chairmanships--a position
held until now by Duma International Affairs Committee Chairman Vladimir
Lukin (Yabloko). At a recent meeting of the Russian delegation in
Strasbourg, where the parliamentary assembly is holding its January
session, Lukin, challenged by ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky,
failed to gain the support of a majority of his colleagues for another
term. Zhirinovsky also failed to win the post, but managed to torpedo
attempts to select a compromise candidate, leaving Russia temporarily
without a representative in the assembly's leadership. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA, MEXICO SIGN AGREEMENTS. Mexican Foreign Minster Jose Angel
Gurria wrapped up a four-day official visit to Moscow by signing a
bilateral declaration of principles and an agreement on visa-free travel
with his Russian counterpart Yevgenii Primakov, Russian media reported.
Primakov hailed the growth of Russian-Mexican trade, which he said
doubled in 1996, although according to Segodnya on 29 January it still
totaled only $220 million. Gurria earlier held talks with the speakers
of both houses of the Federal Assembly and co-chaired a session of the
bilateral economic cooperation commission with Minister of Industry
Yurii Bespalov. -- Scott Parrish

NEW CITIZENSHIP FIGURES RELEASED. More than 1.5 million people have been
granted Russian citizenship since 1992, when the law on citizenship of
the Russian Federation went into effect, ITAR-TASS reported on 28
January, citing Goskomstat. Of these, 900,000 live outside Russia,
including 100,000 living outside the former Soviet Union. About 40,000
people have renounced Russian citizenship during the same period. --
Nikolai Iakoubovski

CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULES ON LEGAL REPRESENTATION. The Constitutional
Court on 28 January ruled constitutional an article in the Criminal
Procedures Code requiring that suspects be represented in preliminary
criminal proceedings by counsel belonging to lawyers' collegia, Russian
media reported. The court was examining a complaint from three people
who were refused the lawyers of their choice. They argued that Article
47 of the Criminal Procedures Code, which limits the choice of counsel,
contradicted their constitutionally guaranteed right to choose their own
legal representation. The court ruled that a defendant's right to choose
a lawyer should not infringe the right to qualified legal aid. Thus
until new legislation is passed regulating legal qualifications, only
members of lawyers' collegia are entitled to represent a suspect during
preliminary investigations. Other legal specialists, including those
licensed by the Justice Ministry to offer legal services, may work only
as consultants at this stage. -- Penny Morvant

YASIN SLAMS THE BUDGET. Economics Minister Yevgenii Yasin slammed the
1997 federal budget recently approved by the Duma, calling it
unrealistic and saying it contains too many new obligations, AFP and
ITAR-TASS reported on 28 January. He argued the budget will only worsen
the deteriorating economic situation in the country. Yasin termed 1996
the worst year of economic reform and blamed the current budget crisis
primarily on the "chain of electoral campaigns" in Russia. Other
contributing factors included the increasing cost of servicing the
internal debt (5.8% of GDP in 1996), mounting non-payments, and the
large underground economy (an estimated 25% of GDP). Yasin acknowledged,
however, that many companies were pushed into the shadow economy by the
harshness of the Russian tax system. -- Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

CONFLICTING REPORTS FROM ABKHAZIA. Referring to ongoing operations by
Abkhaz security forces in the troubled Gali district, Abkhaz Security
Service spokesman Astamur Tarba told ITAR-TASS on 28 January that the
"liquidation of bandit formations" is continuing. Tarba alleged that 20
Georgian gunmen arrested over the past three days (see OMRI Daily
Digest, 28 January 1997) belonged to the so-called White Legion, an
organization he claimed has several hundred well-armed members and poses
a threat to civilians and CIS peacekeepers. Meanwhile, the Georgian news
agency Iberia reported on 27 January that Abkhaz police, using Russian
peacekeepers' armored personnel carriers, had attacked local ethnic
Georgians. The report, monitored by BBC, also claimed that the Abkhaz
killed five Georgian civilians and took four others hostage. -- Emil
Danielyan

SHEVARDNADZE: YELTSIN'S HEALTH HAMPERS RUSSIA'S RELATIONS WITH GEORGIA.
Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said on 28 January that Russian
President Yeltsin's poor health hampers the development of "normal"
Russian-Georgian relations, AFP reported. Shevardnadze said that if
Yeltsin is no longer fit to govern, he should "step down, hand over
power to Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, and organize fresh
elections." Shevardnadze also complained that Moscow has no "clear"
Georgian policy, arguing that there are "as many approaches to it as
there are political parties in Russia." -- Emil Danielyan

TURKEY, GEORGIA TO BUILD RAIL LINK. Turkey and Georgia have agreed to
build a railroad to link the two countries, Reuters reported on 28
January. Neither the cost of the railroad running from Kars to Tbilisi,
nor its projected completion date, has been announced. The decision to
go ahead with the project was probably made last week during what
Turkish media described as the "first-ever" political consultations
between Ankara and Tbilisi in the Turkish capital. -- Lowell Bezanis

AZERBAIJANI POLICE OFFICIALS SENTENCED FOR TREASON. The Azerbaijan
Supreme Court sentenced three top law enforcement officers to lengthy
prison terms, international media reported on 29 January. Baku's former
Interpol Chief Ilgar Safikhanov, Ganja's Chief of Police Eldar Hasanov,
and Nizami's (region of Ganja) Chief of Police Alik Mamedov, were found
guilty of high treason for involvement in the October 1994 attempted
coup led by former Prime Minister Suret Huseinov. Safikhanov and Hasanov
were sentenced to 15 years imprisonment, while Mamedov received 11
years; the court also confiscated their property. In other news, former
Prime Minister Panakh Huseinov was released from custody, Turan reported
on 28 January. Huseinov, who served under ousted President Abulfaz
Elchibey, was accused of using the army to disperse protests in Ganja in
1993. -- Lowell Bezanis

NAZARBAYEV DEMANDS PAYMENT OF WAGES, ACCELERATION OF REFORMS. Kazakstani
President Nursultan Nazarbayev had tough words for members of the
government and regional leaders at a 27 January special meeting, Reuters
reported. "The issue of unpaid wages and salaries is becoming a
political issue... the tempo of reforms is becoming slower and the
socio-political situation is deteriorating," Nazarbayev said. He told
those at the meeting they had until 1 April to solve these problems,
adding there would be another meeting at that time and if the situation
had not been rectified "some members of the government could be given
the sack right in this hall." Government estimates of wage and pension
arrears stand at 60 billion tenge ($792 million). Finance Minister
Alexander Pavlov said companies did not have the money to pay wages and
that 40% of Kazakstan's companies were on the verge of bankruptcy. --
Bruce Pannier

NEW HEAD OF UN OBSERVERS IN TAJIKISTAN. Jordanian Gen. Hasan Abaza will
be replaced as head of the UN military observer force in Tajikistan by
Polish Brig.-Gen. Boleslaw Izydorczyk, RFE/RL and AFP reported on 28
January. UN Security Council President Hishashi Owada confirmed the
appointment in a letter to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. The UN has
44 observers in Tajikistan monitoring the ceasefire which was signed in
1994 but often ignored by the warring factions. -- Bruce Pannier

[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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