Upon the education of the people of this country the fate of this country depends. - Benjamin Disraeli 1804-1881
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 24, Part I, 4 February 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

***********************************************************************
OMRI, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Announcement:

Due to a restructuring of operations at the Open Media Research
Institute, OMRI will cease publication of the OMRI Daily Digest with the
issue dated 28 March 1997. For more information on the restructuring of
the Institute, please access the 21 November 1996 Press Release at:
http://www.omri.cz/about/PressRelease.html

On 2 April, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty will launch a daily news
report, RFE/RL Newsline, on the countries of Eastern Europe and the
former Soviet Union. A successor to the RFE/RL Daily Report and the
OMRI Daily Digest, the new daily will nonetheless represent a major
departure from its predecessors. In addition to analytic materials,
RFE/RL Newsline will carry news gathered by the correspondents,
bureaus, and broadcast services of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
RFE/RL will disseminate this new publication both electronically and via
fax to all those now receiving the OMRI Daily Digest and for the time
being under the same terms.

OMRI will continue to publish the periodical Transition, for more
information on Transition please access
http://www.omri.cz/publications/transition/index.html or send a
request for information to: transition-DD@omri.cz

*********************************************************************

RUSSIA

CHERNOMYRDIN DENOUNCES NATO EXPANSION . . . Continuing a coordinated
campaign of public diplomacy against NATO expansion, Prime Minister
Viktor Chernomyrdin told The Washington Post in an interview published
on 4 February that NATO expansion will bolster the position of Russian
nationalists who want armed confrontation with the West. "The West wants
us to explain to our people that there is nothing to fear," said
Chernomyrdin, adding, "How can we explain this? Nobody is going to
listen to any explanations." Emphasizing that "I'm worried about what
might happen in Russia," Chernomyrdin derided Western efforts "to
comfort us" over the issue. He also hardened the Russian stance on a
proposed NATO-Russia security agreement, terming an informal charter
"unacceptable," and demanding that NATO sign with Russia a "binding
treaty, with verification," pledging to transform itself from a defense
alliance into a "political organization" that does not view Russia as a
threat and potential adversary. -- Scott Parrish

. . . AS DOES CHUBAIS. Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos,
Switzerland on 3 February, presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais
declared that if NATO accepts new members without addressing Russian
concerns, it would be "the biggest mistake the West has made in 50
years," Russian and Western agencies reported. In remarks he said were
cleared with Yeltsin and Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov, Chubais,
who rarely speaks out on foreign policy, warned that NATO expansion
would trigger "serious changes" in European politics and force Russia to
reconsider its attitude toward Western economic institutions. He argued
that advocates of NATO expansion, "not understanding the real situation
in Russia," were actually playing into the hands of "nationalists" and
"anti-Western forces" in Moscow. Like Chernomyrdin, Chubais urged NATO
to conclude a "legally binding" agreement with Russia before beginning
enlargement. -- Scott Parrish

YELTSIN'S HEALTH STILL ON DUMA'S AGENDA. Duma Security Committee
Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin, who sponsored a resolution last month to
remove President Boris Yeltsin on health grounds, told Ekho Moskvy on 3
February that the Duma will again consider the measure this week.
However, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 4 February that the resolution,
passed as a basis for further discussion on 22 January (see OMRI Daily
Digest, 23 January 1997), will be revised before it is put to a final
vote, and will merely ask Yeltsin to resign. Legal experts have mostly
agreed that the Duma lacks the authority to dismiss the president for
health reasons. Meanwhile, presidential Spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii
announced on 3 February that other than his regular weekly meeting with
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, Yeltsin will hold few meetings this
week, as he is working on his annual message to parliament, Russian
Public TV (ORT) reported. -- Laura Belin

SCANDAL AT RUSSIAN TV. Russian TV (RTR) Chairman Eduard Sagalaev
threatened to sue current and former RTR executives who published a
statement in the latest edition of Novaya gazeta accusing him of
destroying the state-run television network, ITAR-TASS and Ekho Moskvy
reported on 3 February. The disgruntled executives blamed Sagalaev for
what they called the "utter commercialization and degradation" of RTR,
Russia's Channel 2 broadcaster. One of the signatories, RTR News
Programming Director Aleksandr Nekhoroshev, told Ekho Moskvy that
Sagalaev had replaced valuable social and political programs with light
entertainment. Moskovskii komsomolets reported on 4 February that
Sagalaev, appointed RTR chairman in February 1996, may soon be sacked.
Among his possible replacements are NTV President Igor Malashenko, RTR
journalist Nikolai Svanidze, and political consultant Vyacheslav
Nikonov. -- Laura Belin

FIRST DEPUTY FINANCE MINISTER'S CAR BOMBED. A minor explosion damaged
the official car of First Deputy Finance Minister Andrei Vavilov in
central Moscow on 3 February, but no one was hurt, Russian and Western
agencies reported. Vavilov's SAAB-9000 was standing empty near the
ministry building when the blast damaged its windshield and door. ITAR-
TASS quoted an investigator as saying the blast could have been a
warning from private companies. Vavilov's duties have included
authorizing banks to handle state funds. -- Penny Morvant

CHECHEN PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS UPDATE. Second-round parliamentary
elections will take place in 55 of 63 districts in Chechnya on 15
February, the Chechen Central Electoral Commission announced on 3
February. Field Commander Abubakar Magomadov was one of only four
candidates who managed to win more than half of the votes in the first
round, thereby earning a seat outright, ITAR-TASS reported. In the
remaining four districts, the elections will be repeated because of
various violations. The new parliament will be divided among a number of
recently created and poorly defined political parties. -- Robert Orttung

ROSVORUZHENIE PLANS TO OVERTAKE U.S. BY 1998. Mikhail Timkin, deputy
director of the state arms export company Rosvoruzehnie, told ITAR-TASS
on 3 February that the firm has developed a "strategic plan" to expand
Russian arms exports, which will allow Russia to overtake the U.S. in
arms sales by 1998. Timkin said Rosvoruzhenie plans to market 200-300 of
the most advanced Russian weapons systems, focusing on increasing sales
in Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. In an interview with
Russian TV on 2 February, Rosvoruzhenie head Aleksandr Kotelkin said his
agency was "very proud" of its recent sale of Mi-17 transport
helicopters to Colombia, and confirmed that the controversial deal
selling S-300 air defense missiles to Cyprus had been approved by
President Yeltsin and would proceed despite international criticism. --
Scott Parrish

RUSSIA, MONGOLIA, SIGN DEFENSE AGREEMENT. Defense Minister Igor Rodionov
and his Mongolian counterpart Dambiin Dorligjav signed a military
cooperation agreement for 1997 on 3 February, ITAR-TASS reported. The
same day, Izvestiya reported that although a 1993 bilateral military
cooperation agreement has produced few results, Moscow now hopes to
trade military aid for Mongolian support of Russian objections to NATO
expansion. Meanwhile, the Russian Defense Ministry continues to face a
serious financial crisis. Writing in Segodnya on 31 January, military
commentator Pavel Felgengauer said the ministry's debts now total 34
trillion rubles ($6.1 billion), including 5 trillion in wages owed to
servicemen. The paper said Rodionov personally oversees the allocation
of limited funds among Russia's eight military districts, "according to
the actual situation." Felgengauer said the ministry still hopes the
financial crisis will convince the government to increase the military
budget. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA TO ISSUE EUROBONDS TO PAY PENSIONS. Russia will launch two or
three Eurobonds this year to pay wages and pensions, Finance Minister
Aleksandr Livshits said on 3 February. He added that the first, of DM 1
billion ($606 million), will be issued by the end of March, AFP
reported. In November, Russia issued a five-year Eurobond offering a
yield of 9.25% to raise $1 billion; the issue was twice over-subscribed.
First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Ilyushin, meanwhile, said that in
order to ensure the payment of current pensions the Finance Ministry and
Russian Pension Fund have had to rethink a timetable agreed a week ago
to pay off the bulk of pension arrears in February and March, ITAR-TASS
reported. The new agreement postpones the settlement of much of the debt
to April-June, Segodnya reported on 1 February. According to Pension
Fund Chairman Vasilii Barchuk, the debt to pensioners should fall from
17.1 trillion rubles to 14.5 trillion by the end of February. -- Penny
Morvant

POTANIN SAYS 1997 PRIVATIZATION TARGET TOO HIGH. First Deputy Prime
Minister Vladimir Potanin said that the 1997 privatization revenue
target of 6 trillion rubles ($1.1 billion at the current exchange rate)
is too high and will be difficult to meet, ITAR-TASS and Nezavisimaya
gazeta reported on 3-4 February. Potanin, recently appointed head of the
government commission on collecting privatization revenue for the
federal budget, argued that setting targets at the beginning of the year
is "unproductive" since attempts to meet them may cause conflicts over
sales of equity stakes in certain companies. Potanin proposed instead
increasing other types of revenue, such as taxes on production and sale
of alcohol, which could net 10-12 trillion rubles a year. -- Natalia
Gurushina

CONFLICT WITHIN NORILSK NIKEL. Employees of the Norilsk Mining and
Metallurgical Plant (NGMK) have expressed no-confidence in the
management of their parent company Norilsk Nikel and the Moscow-based
ONEKSIMbank, which holds a controlling interest in Norilsk Nikel, ITAR-
TASS and Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 3-4 February. The workers are
demanding that Norilsk Nikel pay 1 trillion rubles ($180 million) in
wage arrears, increase the minimum wage to 500,000 rubles, and increase
the wage compensation coefficient for working in the northern region.
They threatened to call for the dismissal of Norilsk Nickel and NGMK
management and the revocation of ONEKSIMbank's controlling interest in
Norilsk Nikel if their demands are not met by 20 February. Norilsk Nikel
officials say the company's ability to solve the wage problem is
limited, since tax police sequestered 626 billion rubles worth of output
in July 1996. -- Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

SHEVARDNADZE IN FRANCE. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze arrived
in Paris for a three-day state visit on 3 February, Western media
reported. Following talks with his French counterpart Jacques Chirac,
Shevardnadze was quoted as saying Georgia welcomes France's intention to
conduct an "active policy" in the Caucasus and Georgia was "moving in
the direction" of the European Union but had no ambitions to join NATO
because "no one would take it seriously." Chirac suggested Paris intends
to support Tbilisi's bid to join the Council of Europe. -- Lowell
Bezanis

IRAN AND ARMENIA. Armenian parliamentary Speaker Bakken Ararktsyan held
talks with top Iranian officials in Tehran from 1-3 February, Iranian
and Western media reported. Ararktsyan's Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar
Natek Nuri, was quoted by Iranian media as saying the two sides had
reached "important decisions," including the construction of a pipeline
to carry Iranian gas to Armenia. No further details were given. Iranian
Vice President Hasan Habibi reiterated Tehran's standing offer, which is
anathema to Azerbaijan, to mediate in the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute.
Ararktsyan voiced hopes that the recently formed Iran-Armenia joint
committee would speed up implementation of existing agreements and that
joint ventures in gas, tire manufacturing, transport, and petrochemicals
would be established in the future. -- Lowell Bezanis

SUSPECT SENTENCED TO DEATH FOR KILLING RUSSIAN SOLDIERS. A Dushanbe
court on 3 February found 30-year-old Aleksandr Gayurov guilty of
murdering two Russian soldiers in February 1995 and sentenced him to be
shot, NTV reported. Gayurov's lawyer says his client received a "cursory
and unprofessional trial" and plans to appeal. In a related story, the
Russian magazine Itogi on 4 February published a poll on the presence of
Russian soldiers in Tajikistan. According a VCIOM survey of 1,600
Russians, 20% said the troops should remain, 12% said their number
should be increased, 50% wanted them pulled out, and 18% had trouble
answering the question. Russian soldiers make up the core of both the
201st Motorized Division and the CIS peacekeeping force in Tajikistan.
During the last two years more than 60 have been killed, many away from
the scenes of fighting. -- Bruce Pannier

KAZAKSTANI UNIONS READY TO STRIKE. A leader of the Kazakh Free Trade
Unions Confederation, Leonid Solomin, warned the government that if wage
arrears are not paid soon strikes could sweep the country, Reuters
reported on 3 February. Solomin noted that 254 miners at the Achisaysky
non-ferrous metals plant in Kentau have occupied administrative
buildings since mid-January demanding their unpaid wages, which now
total 40 million tenge ($500,000). Solomin said many had not been paid
for eight months and some for as long as two years. Teachers in
Kazakstan's northern Semipalatinsk Region are threatening to strike
later this week. Total wage and pension arrears are estimated to be
approaching $1 billion. President Nursultan Nazarbayev has several times
ordered the problem to be solved, but some fear that a sudden payment of
the outstanding wages will drastically devalue the country's currency.
-- Bruce Pannier

FUND ESTABLISHED IN MEMORY OF MURDERED U.S. JOURNALIST. The Internews
network on 3 February announced the creation of the Chris Gehring
Memorial Fund to aid journalists in Central Asia. Gehring, 28, was the
head of an Internews project in Kazakstan until he was found murdered in
his Almaty apartment on 9 January. The fund will be used to continue
Gehring's work, and will include an annual prize for journalists and a
legal defense fund for journalists working in the area. Internews, a
non-profit organization, provides assistance to more than 100
independent electronic media organizations in Central Asia. -- 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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