We are all apt to believe what the world believes about us. - George Eliot
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 25, Part I, 5 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

KULIKOV GETS POWERFUL NEW POST. President Boris Yeltsin issued a decree
on 4 February appointing Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov the
government's ninth deputy prime minister, international agencies
reported. Army General Kulikov, who will retain his powerful Interior
Ministry post, will also be responsible for the Tax Police, the Customs
Service, and economic security. Yeltsin's spokesman, Sergei
Yastrzhembskii, said Kulikov's promotion was aimed at improving
coordination in the fight against crime, particularly in the economic
sphere. The long-rumored appointment gives Kulikov expanded powers on
the critical issue of tax collection, presided over by presidential
Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais, but, contrary to some predictions, it
does not give him jurisdiction over the military. Kulikov, who is widely
viewed as a conservative, is well-regarded by the left-wing majority in
the Duma. He was critical of the Chechen peace deal and instrumental in
the ouster of former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed. --
Penny Morvant

OSCE MISSION HEAD EXPELLED FROM CHECHNYA. Tim Guldimann, the head of the
OSCE mission in Chechnya, was called to the Chechen Foreign Ministry on
4 February and declared persona non grata, Russian and Western agencies
reported. According to an OSCE spokesman, Chechen Foreign Minister
Ruslan Chimaev, a member of outgoing President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev's
government, expelled Guldimann because of his recent public statements
that Chechnya remains part of the Russian Federation. Guldimann left
Grozny the same day for Nazran, the capital of neighboring Ingushetiya.
Ironically, the Swiss diplomat's mediation efforts had earlier drawn
criticism from pro-Moscow Chechen leader Doku Zavgaev and the Russian
Duma, which accused Guldimann of facilitating Chechnya's secession from
Russia. An anonymous source close to Chechen president-elect Aslan
Maskhadov, however, told ITAR-TASS that Maskhadov did not support
Guldimann's expulsion, saying he could still help Grozny and Moscow
resolve their outstanding differences. -- Scott Parrish

DUMA REFERS RESOLUTION ON YELTSIN'S HEALTH FOR FURTHER REVISION. The
State Duma Council referred a motion to remove Yeltsin on health grounds
to three Duma committees for examination and refused to include it on
the agenda for the Duma's 5 February plenary session, Russian media
reported on 4 February. Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor
Ilyukhin, a leading Communist who sponsored the resolution, indicated
that the final version of the motion will merely ask Yeltsin to step
down voluntarily. The Duma Council's decision followed escalating
rhetoric from the pro-Yeltsin camp in the last two days. Both Yeltsin's
representative to the Constitutional Court Sergei Shakhrai and Duma
Deputy Aleksandr Shokhin (Our Home Is Russia) have warned that, if the
Duma demanded the president's dismissal on health grounds, Yeltsin might
dissolve the lower house for violating Article 3 of the constitution,
which prohibits attempts to seize power, RIA-Novosti reported. -- Laura
Belin

YELTSIN AND CHERNOMYRDIN DISCUSS FOREIGN POLICY. Yeltsin met with Prime
Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on 4 February for an hour-long meeting
which focused on foreign policy issues, ITAR-TASS reported. Presidential
spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii said the two leaders discussed the
upcoming 5-7 February session of the U.S.-Russian economic cooperation
commission in Washington, D.C., which Chernomyrdin will co-chair with
U.S. Vice President Al Gore. Yastrzhembskii said the Russian delegation
will present a bilateral economic cooperation plan for 1997-2000, aiming
to boost direct U.S. investment in the Russian economy. He added that
the issue of NATO expansion would also be on the agenda. While public
Russian criticism of the alliance's expansion plans has recently
escalated, U.S. President Bill Clinton pledged in his state of the union
address on 4 February that "we must expand NATO by 1999." -- Scott
Parrish

ZYUGANOV STILL DOUBTS PRESIDENT'S FITNESS. Communist Party leader
Gennadii Zyuganov on 4 February insisted that despite the president's
recent publicized meetings in the Kremlin, "Mr. Yeltsin is absolutely
unable to function," NTV reported. Zyuganov said that on a recent trip
to Western Europe he saw video footage of Yeltsin's 4 January meeting
with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. "Now I understand why our Russian
television [networks] do not show these tapes," he commented. Meanwhile,
footage of Yeltsin's 4 February meeting with Chernomyrdin, which was
aired on Russian TV (RTR), showed the president looking pale and tired,
with an unsteady walk, according to the BBC. -- Laura Belin

LUZHKOV: RUSSIA CAN COUNTER NATO EXPANSION. Continuing the foreign
policy rhetoric that many link with his presidential ambitions, Moscow
Mayor Yurii Luzhkov told a news conference on 4 February that "Russia is
strong enough to take defensive measures which will force hot heads in
the West to reconsider" expanding NATO, ITAR-TASS reported. Luzhkov
accused the West of using Russia's current economic difficulties to
renege on earlier pledges not to expand NATO eastward. He recommended
that Russia take "a rigid and adequate" stance on the issue, which he
argued would force the West to back down. In response to a question
about Ukraine's desire for an "enhanced relationship" with the alliance,
Luzhkov retorted that "Ukraine will not be so stupid as to join NATO."
-- Scott Parrish

MOSCOW CRITICIZES COUNCIL OF EUROPE ON ESTONIA. Russian Foreign Ministry
spokesman Mikhail Demurin on 4 February accused the Parliamentary
Assembly of the Council of Europe of employing "double standards" when
it decided to end human rights monitoring in Estonia, ITAR-TASS and BNS
reported. Demurin argued that although the assembly admitted Estonia
does not meet European human rights standards, it nonetheless voted on
30 January to end monitoring, despite objections by the Russian
delegation. He complained that Tallinn was now using the assembly
decision to justify its refusal to conduct talks with Moscow about the
Russian minority in Estonia. While the assembly did say that Estonia
needs to maintain the availability of Russian-language education and
simplify the Estonian language exams required for citizenship, it also
praised Tallinn's "rapid success" in meeting European human rights
criteria. -- Scott Parrish

FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE IN TROUBLE WITH TAX POLICE. Billionaire
Vladimir Bryntsalov, who finished last in the 1996 presidential
election, has been accused of tax dodging, ITAR-TASS reported on 4
February. A Moscow government official claimed that Bryntsalov has
reregistered his Moscow-based pharmaceutical company Ferein in
Kabardino-Balkariya in order to avoid paying 18 billion rubles in taxes
and other mandatory payments, such as pension fund contributions. Moscow
Mayor Yurii Luzhkov said he would inform Valerii Kokov, the new
president of Kabardino-Balkariya, of Bryntsalov's intentions and
threatened to use the Moscow Property Committee to evict Ferein from its
Moscow real estate. -- Penny Morvant

PENSION REFORM DEBATED. First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Ilyushin told
ITAR-TASS on 5 February that the government has submitted two draft laws
on pension reform to President Yeltsin. Under the drafts, he said,
pensions would consist of two parts: the base pension, equal to 80% of
the subsistence minimum for pensioners; and an additional sum dependent
upon the size of the pensioner's former salary and the length of time he
or she contributed to the Pension Fund. He denied that the pension age--
55 for women and 60 for men--would be raised in the near future but
admitted that a proposal to reduce payments to working pensioners is
under discussion. The money freed by such a scheme would be used to
raise pensions for the poorest groups, he said. On 4 February, the
Communist faction in the Duma, the Federation of Independent Trade
Unions, and the Union of Pensioners all spoke out strongly against plans
to adjust payments to Russia's numerous working pensioners. -- Penny
Morvant

DUTCH AND FRENCH BANKS TO FINANCE SAKHALIN-1 PROJECT. Russian
participants in the Sakhalin-1 oil project have signed a financial
agreement with the Dutch bank ABN-AMRO and the French bank Lazard Freres
& Cie, Kommersant-Daily and Segodnya reported on 4 February. Rosneft and
Sakhalinmorneftegaz --which hold 17% and 23% stakes in the project,
respectively--will get a $13 billion credit to finance the development
of oil reserves in the Sea of Okhotsk. Of that, $8 billion will be
provided by ABN-AMRO. The deal envisages opening a six-month $10 million
credit line to Russian companies immediately. The disbursement of money
for longer-term programs, however, will depend on agreement being
reached on the route for transporting the extracted oil. Foreign
participants in the Sakhalin-1 project include Japan's Sodeko and Exxon
of the U.S., which each hold a 30% equity stake. -- Natalia Gurushina

INFLATION 2.5% IN JANUARY. Consumer price inflation reached 2.5% in
January, the highest since March 1996 when it was 2.8%, ITAR-TASS
reported on 4 February. Still, the figure compares favorably with the
4.1% inflation rate in January 1996 and the 17.8% of January 1995. The
rise is likely to have been caused by seasonal factors such as
traditional holiday bonuses, end-of-year payouts, and the government's
attempts to repay wage and pensions arrears in November-December 1996.
However, Deputy Economics Minister Vladimir Panskov said that the
January increase in inflation stemmed from heightened inflationary
expectations caused by political developments, primarily President
Yeltsin's illness and the Duma's attempts to dismiss him. -- Natalia
Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

TROUBLE AT ARMENIAN NUCLEAR POWER PLANT. Problems in the turbo-generator
led to the shutdown of Armenia's only nuclear power plant for several
hours on 4 February, according to AFP and ITAR-TASS. Faulty wiring was
discovered but officials at the Metzamor plant stressed that there was
no danger to workers or the environment. The plant resumed normal
operations later the same day. -- Bruce Pannier

U.S. AID TO ARMENIA. U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Peter Thomsen reiterated
Washington's policy of providing aid to Armenia to support its
democratic reform, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 February. Thomsen told
journalists the U.S. will provide $95 million in aid to Armenia in 1997,
including a $30 million credit to buy natural gas and $6 million to
increase safety at the Metzamor nuclear power plant. He noted that the
U.S. provided $150 million in aid to Armenia in 1996. -- Lowell Bezanis

STATUS OF AZERBAIJAN'S ACADEMY OF SCIENCES TO CHANGE. President Haidar
Aliev on 2 February declared his intention to subordinate Azerbaijan's
Academy of Sciences to the office of the president, Turan reported. The
move effectively overturns a 1992 law making the academy an independent,
if partially state-funded, body. In an address to an enlarged session of
the academy's presidium, Aliev also said he accepted the resignation of
Eldar Salayev, the body's chairman since the early 1980s, and appointed
Farmaz Maksudov to replace him. The same day Aliev raised the salaries
of academy members by 50%. -- Lowell Bezanis

UN OBSERVERS TAKEN HOSTAGE IN TAJIKISTAN. Four UN military observers and
their translator were taken hostage on 4 February on a road 68 km from
the Tajik capital Dushanbe, according to Western and Russian sources.
The group, which includes two Swiss, one Austrian, one Ukrainian, and a
Tajik interpreter, were stopped by a group loyal to renegade field
commander Rezvon Sadirov. His group in late December held 23 people from
the ceasefire monitoring committee, among them seven UN observers, and
used the hostages to secure the release of two of their members from the
Tajik opposition. However, a demand for Russian border guards to clear a
corridor and allow more of their group passage from Afghanistan into
Tajikistan was not met and appears to be the motive behind this latest
action. Sadirov himself is rumored to be among those presently in
Afghanistan. The UN is demanding the immediate release of the five
captives. -- Bruce Pannier

KAZAKSTANI PARLIAMENT OPPOSED TO RUSSIAN TESTING. The Kazakstani
parliament on 4 February refused to ratify an agreement signed by Prime
Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin and his Russian counterpart Viktor
Chernomyrdin last fall on Russian use of four weapons test centers in
Kazakstan, RFE/RL and AFP reported. Deputy Sharip Omarov recalled that
nuclear testing during the Soviet era had caused damage which has cost
the Kazakstani government $115 million to alleviate since 1991. Omarov
said Kazakstan had already become a non-nuclear state and the next step
is to ban conventional weapons testing on the country's soil. The terms
of the deal allow Russia to use the sites for a 10-year period at a cost
of $26.5 million annually. -- Bruce Pannier and Merhat Sharipzhan

EARTHQUAKE HITS TURKMENISTAN. Two earthquakes, 30 minutes apart, struck
northeastern Iran and Turkmenistan on 4 February, Western sources
reported. The quakes, which measured 5.6 and 6.1 on the Richter scale at
their epicenters in Iran, caused extensive damage there, destroying 34
villages, but Turkmenistan is presently reporting no damage and no
casualties. In Ashgabat, the Turkmen capital, the two quakes were
measured at 3.5 and 4.5, which normally indicates little damage. In
rural areas, however, most houses are made of clay and many small
villages are in remote desert regions where conditions are impossible to
assess immediately. Turkmenistan has lived in fear of earthquakes for
some time. In 1948 an earthquake nearly leveled Ashgabat; among the
thousands killed were the parents of current President Saparmurad
Niyazov. -- 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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