Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside. - Mark Twain
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 22, Part I, 31 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 TO BE INAUGURATED ON 10 FEBRUARY. Ruslan Kutaev, one of the
officials organizing the inauguration of Aslan Maskhadov, said the new
president would be sworn in on 10 February, after the end of the Muslim
holy month of Ramadan, AFP reported on 30 January. Kutaev said that in
addition to top Russian officials and regional leaders, representatives
from Middle Eastern and Islamic countries, the Baltic States, South
Korea, and Japan would be invited to attend. He claimed Grozny has
"serious contacts" with those states. Chechen leaders view Maskahdov's
inauguration as a symbol of their republic's independence, which Moscow
denies, and their claims would be bolstered by an international
presence. In Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry again warned that
Russia would take "harsh measures," including breaking off diplomatic
relations, against any country which recognized Chechnya, although none
have shown signs of doing so. -- Scott Parrish

MASKHADOV WARNS RADUEV. A spokesman for the presumed Chechen president-
elect Maskhadov said that the Chechen armed forces and Interior Ministry
would take "tough steps" to suppress any illegal terrorist actions by
renegade field commander Salman Raduev, Russian and Western agencies
reported on 30 January. Raduev had threatened the day before to launch a
terrorist campaign against Russia if Moscow refuses to recognize Chechen
independence. Vakha Arsanov, Maskhadov's vice-presidential running mate,
derided Raduev's threat as "not even worth commenting on." Meanwhile,
beginning talks with other Chechen leaders about forming a government,
Maskhadov met with former field commander Shamil Basaev on 30 January.
Basaev, who finished second in the presidential polls, and acting
President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, who finished third, have both complained
about minor election irregularities, although neither disputes the
results. OSCE mission head Tim Guldimann said on 30 January that the
polls were "exemplary and free." -- Scott Parrish

YELTSIN MEETS WITH RETIRING JUDGE. President Boris Yeltsin met with
retiring Chairman of the Constitutional Court Vladimir Tumanov on 30
January on his third visit to the Kremlin since being released from the
hospital. According to the law on the Constitutional Court, Tumanov had
to step down because he turned 70 on 20 October 1996. Rossiiskie vesti
named Justices Tamara Morshchakova, Vladimir Strekozov, and Marat Baglai
as possible successors to Tumanov. The president will fill the vacancy
in the court by choosing a nominee from a list prepared by a congress of
judges, the Justice Ministry, and the Academy of Sciences. The
Federation Council must approve his choice. Tumanov said that the
president, who turns 66 on 1 February, looked "better in real life than
on television, but it is obvious that his illness is still taking its
toll," NTV reported. -- Robert Orttung

RUSSIAN LEADERS FEAR LEBED. With his dominance of recent public opinion
polls and unpredictable actions if he came to office, former Security
Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed evokes fear among Russian politicians
who support the status quo. Former Presidential Press Secretary
Vyacheslav Kostikov warned that "people striving to run the state out of
personal ambition" pose a greater threat to the current elite than the
Communist Party," RIA Novosti reported on 30 January. Kostikov noted
that "the political elite is panicking, partly because their destiny is
completely tied up with that of the president," AFP reported. Meanwhile,
Izvestiya on 31 March published an analysis claiming that the "party of
power" and the communists will join forces against Lebed by recreating
the post of the vice presidency and naming Communist leader Gennadii
Zyuganov to the position. The article argues that the policy positions
of Yeltsin and the communists have become nearly identical and that a
Yeltsin-Zyuganov hand-off would ensure a "peaceful transition of power."
-- Robert Orttung

CHERNOMYRDIN: RUSSIA WANTS TO JOIN NATO COUNCIL. Speaking in Davos,
Switzerland, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said that NATO
Secretary-General Javier Solana, who addressed the economic forum
earlier, "is wrong" to contend that enlarging NATO will bolster European
security. NATO expansion "will overburden our continent with new
suspicions and contradictions," he added, saying that Russia would
prefer to concentrate on "business cooperation" rather than wasting time
on "unproductive military and political plans." Chernomyrdin later said
that Russia wants to join the NATO political council as its "full and
equal" 17th member, saying Moscow is not satisfied with consultations
under the current "16 +1" formula. While stressing that Moscow wants to
cooperate with the alliance, he added that "Russia will never sign a
formal document that would determine its attitude toward NATO," although
Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov and Solana are scheduled to
continue talks on a proposed Russia-NATO agreement on 23 February. --
Scott Parrish

JAPAN DENIES U.S. TROOP BUILD-UP ON HOKKAIDO. Speaking during a tour of
Sakhalin Island, Japanese Ambassador to Russia Takeshiro Togo denied on
31 January that Tokyo was redeploying U.S. troops to Hokkaido, the
northernmost of the Japanese home islands, AFP reported. Russian Defense
Council Secretary Yurii Baturin on 29 January had charged that the U.S.
and Japan were "bolstering their military potential" in the region even
"as we are withdrawing troops from the Kuril islands." Togo said that
U.S. troops, based in Japan since 1945, had merely been recently granted
a base on Hokkaido to "ease pressure on the local population" during
naval exercises. Meanwhile, Russian Transport Minister Nikolai Sakh
accepted a Japanese proposal for a joint investigation into the 2
January sinking of the Russian tanker Nakhodka, which caused oil slicks
that contaminated the Japanese coastline and fishing grounds. -- Scott
Parrish

U.S. REPORT: LITTLE PROGRESS ON HUMAN RIGHTS IN RUSSIA. The U.S. State
Department's annual review of human rights in 194 countries gave Russia
a mixed review, AFP and Reuters reported on 30 January. The survey
described the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya in late 1996 as
a "bright spot," but it blamed President Yeltsin and Russia's military
leadership for the war's heavy casualties, noting that "violations
committed by Russian forces continued to occur on a much larger scale
than those of the Chechen rebels." It also faulted the country for
torture in prisons, the practice of hazing new recruits in the army, and
high rates of crime and corruption, among other things. It concluded
that there had been "little progress" on human rights, calling
democratic gains "fragile" and elections "subject to manipulation." --
Penny Morvant

CHERNOMYRDIN ON DEATH PENALTY. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said
on 30 January that Russia will adhere to its pledge to introduce a
moratorium on capital punishment, but he added that "in some recent
cases it was impossible not to execute," international agencies
reported. Chernomyrdin was responding to a resolution adopted by the
Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe the previous day warning
Russia that if it continues to execute prisoners, the Council will next
year consider suspending the powers of the assembly's Russian
delegation. Delegation head Vladimir Lukin described the resolution as
"correct" but not "timely," according to ITAR-TASS. He argued that it
could prove "counterproductive," creating problems during the Duma
debate on the abolition of the death penalty scheduled for 12 February.
Duma international affairs deputy chairman Aleksei Podberzkin, a
Communist, described the resolution as "pressure on Russia." -- Penny
Morvant

FEWER RUSSIANS WANT TO EMIGRATE. Russians today are noticeably less
interested in emigrating or living abroad temporarily than they were in
1992, according to the results of a Public Opinion Foundation poll
released on 30 January. Of the 1,500 people interviewed across Russia,
only 6% said they wanted to emigrate, down from 11% in a similar 1992
survey. The share of respondents saying they would like to go abroad for
a limited period to earn money fell from 17% to 11%, while those
interested in studying abroad fell from 6% to 3%. The percentage of
people saying they would not want to leave under any circumstances rose
from 49% five years ago to 64%, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. The
findings suggest that Russians may be less pessimistic about their
country's prospects and their own situation than is often believed. --
Penny Morvant

FOREIGN CURRENCY TRANSACTIONS LIBERALIZED. The Russian Central Bank
announced on 30 January that is has eased rules for individual Russians
wishing to take foreign currency across the country's borders,
international agencies reported. Vladimir Smirnov, head of the bank's
department for foreign currency supervision, said individuals are no
longer required to have a special foreign-currency bank account or to
obtain special permission to carry out cross-border cash transfers for
non-commercial purposes. Russians can transfer up to $2,000 a day
provided that they present either a foreign exchange transaction receipt
or a customs declaration. Additional documentation is still required for
larger transfers. -- Penny Morvant

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

UN EXTENDS MANDATE OF OBSERVER MISSION IN GEORGIA. The Security Council
has approved another six-month extension of the 125-member UN Observer
Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) which, with some 1,500 Russian peacekeepers,
is stationed along the border with the breakaway Republic of Abkhazia,
Western agencies reported. The council reaffirmed its support for
Georgia's territorial integrity in the Abkhaz conflict and condemned the
Abkhaz leadership for holding "illegitimate and self-styled"
parliamentary elections in November 1996. -- Emil Danielyan

OIL AND GAS SURVEYS TO START IN ARMENIA. The Armenian government on 30
January approved an agreement on surveys for oil and natural gas in a
large area around Yerevan that was signed between the Energy Ministry
and the Armenian-American oil company in October 1996, Noyan Tapan and
ITAR-TASS reported. Geological exploration works will begin in February
and Energy Minister Gagik Martirosyan said that by next summer it will
be clear whether Armenia will extract its own oil and gas. He said that
the American side will invest some $100 million in the project.
Martirosyan added that an unnamed "American oil company operating in
Baku" will get a concession to develop the prospective oil fields.
Martirosyan did not deny that the company might be the U.S. Amoco
corporation, according to RFE/RL. -- Emil Danielyan

TRIALS UPDATE IN AZERBAIJAN. The former Deputy Chairman of the Popular
Front of Azerbaijan, Faraj Guliev, was sentenced to 1.5 years
imprisonment for his involvement in an attempt on the life of President
Heidar Aliev in 1993, Turan reported on 30 January. Three other
defendants, Sahib Huseinov, Fazil Kerimov, and Bayram Ahmedov received
between 11 and 12 years each. -- Lowell Bezanis

U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT ON HUMAN RIGHTS IN CENTRAL ASIA. The U.S. State
Department's annual global human rights report, issued on 30 January,
said the human rights situation deteriorated in Central Asia in 1996,
RFE/RL reported. The report noted that abuses in Turkmenistan and
Tajikistan were the worst in the region. Uzbekistan was not much better,
despite steps to improve its human rights record. The growth of
presidential power in Kazakstan and Kyrgyzstan caused them to lag in the
development of democracy and human rights. -- Lowell Bezanis

MORE PRISONERS EXCHANGED IN TAJIKISTAN. The Tajik government, in
accordance with a ceasefire agreement signed in Moscow in December,
released another seven opposition prisoners on 29 January, Reuters
reported. This brings the number of opposition fighters freed by the
government to 13. However, the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) noted that
they had set free 111 government soldiers during the same period and
that, while the release of opposition prisoners was encouraging, the UTO
estimates there are still about 600 more held by the government. The
government says there are still 300 of its prisoners held in central
Tajikistan though the opposition claims it captured many more during
1996. -- Bruce Pannier

TAJIKISTAN REPORTS TRADE SURPLUS. According to Tajikistan's National
Custom's Committee and Statistics Services, the country had a foreign
trade volume of $1.4 billion in 1996, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 January.
Exports amounted to $768 million and imports $657 million, a surplus of
$111 million. Prime Minister Yakhye Azimov, in an interview in the 31
January edition of Nezavisimaya Gazeta, claimed the country had not yet
reached even half its economic potential. Azimov said that the "internal
conflict" had held the country back but also noted successes in the
privatization of agriculture and small businesses as an encouraging
sign. The Prime Minister said the establishment of peace following an
agreement signed between the government and United Tajik Opposition in
December would hopefully create the stability needed to attract foreign
investment and raise wages, currently among the lowest in the CIS. --
Bruce Pannier

CHANGES TO TURKMENISTAN'S FLAG. An olive branch motif is to be added to
Turkmenistan's national flag, RFE/RL reported on 30 January. According
to a presidential decree issued the day before, the branch, which is
similar to the olive branch on the UN flag, is to appear below the five
motifs situated on the flag's left corner. The decree noted the olive
branch is to symbolize the peace-loving nature of the Turkmen people as
well as the country's "neutral" status. Changes to the Turkmen national
anthem and alphabet have also been made by presidential decree. --
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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