We are so bound together that no man can labor for himself alone. Each blow he strikes in his own behalf helps to mold the universe. - K. Jerome
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 26, Part I, 6 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

ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT ON CHECHEN VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT. A remote-
controlled bomb blast damaged two cars in the motorcade of Chechen Vice
President-elect Vakha Arsanov as it passed through central Grozny late
on 4 February, Russian and Western agencies reported. Arsanov was
unhurt, although his bodyguards suffered minor injuries. Arbi Ruslanov,
Arsanov's press spokesman, alleged the attack was "a carefully planned
operation by the Russian secret services," designed to destabilize
Chechnya by provoking conflict between supporters of Arsanov's running
mate, President-elect Aslan Maskhadov, and Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, the
outgoing acting president. -- Scott Parrish

MOSCOW CRITICIZES CHECHEN EXPULSION OF OSCE MISSION HEAD. Implicitly
criticizing the 4 February decision by Yandarbiev's government to expel
Tim Guldimann, the head of the OSCE mission in Chechnya, Russian
Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin said it was too soon to close the
mission, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 February. An anonymous senior Russian
government official later said Moscow expects Chechen President-elect
Maskhadov to reverse Yandarbiev's decision after his scheduled 12
February inauguration. Russian TV reported the same day that Maskhadov
had invited Guldimann to attend the inauguration. Yandarbiev, meanwhile,
stood by the expulsion in an interview with NTV, warning that Maskhadov
would "put himself in a very awkward position" if he retracts it.
Yandarbiev added that Guldimann would be in danger if he returns to
Chechnya. Despite press speculation that he does not support the
expulsion, Maskhadov has not yet publicly commented on it. -- Scott
Parrish

KULIKOV'S APPOINTMENT RECEIVES MIXED REACTION. The appointment of
Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov to the post of deputy prime minister
in charge of economic crime has been slammed in the "democratic" press
but welcomed by Communists and nationalists. Several newspapers derided
Kulikov's promotion, questioning his record against crime and in
Chechnya. Segodnya described Kulikov's elevation as a reward for his
loyalty to Yeltsin rather than for his performance as interior minister,
while Izvestiya claimed the new deputy prime minister had been a failure
as commander of Russian forces in Chechnya and as head of the police.
Appearing on Ekho Moskvy on 5 February, Communist Party leader Gennadii
Zyuganov, on the other hand, described Kulikov as a professional doing
his best to fight organized crime. Liberal Democratic Party of Russia
leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky also praised the appointment and Kulikov's
crime-fighting abilities, NTV reported. -- Penny Morvant and Laura Belin

DUMA ACCUSES CHUBAIS OF BREAKING LAWS. The State Duma passed by a vote
of 235 to 19, with 4 abstentions, a resolution accusing Presidential
Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais of not declaring his full 1996 income
and failing to pay his taxes on time, Russian media reported on 5
February. The resolution, prepared by the Security Committee, asked
President Boris Yeltsin to require senior civil servants to release
income declarations. The Duma also sent photocopies of Chubais's bank
statement and other financial documents to the Procurator-General's
Office. In January, Chubais paid about 517 million rubles ($95,000) in
taxes on income he said he earned through lectures and consultations
during the first half of 1996. The Duma rejected an appeal by Russia's
Democratic Choice member Sergei Yushenkov who claimed that many Duma
deputies are far wealthier than Chubais and called on parliamentarians
to release their own income declarations, NTV reported. -- Laura Belin

DUMA PASSES ANOTHER TROPHY ART LAW. By an overwhelming majority, the
Duma passed on 5 February a law laying claim to artworks seized by
Soviet troops in Germany at the end of World War II, international
agencies reported. The new legislation stipulates that such works of art
"are the property of the Russian Federation and belong to the federal
state." It also stresses that the artworks are compensation for the
massive losses sustained by Russia during the war. The law still has to
be approved by the Federation Council and President Yeltsin. Russia and
Germany have been disputing the ownership of so-called trophy art since
the collapse of the Soviet Union. In July 1996, the Duma passed a
similar law, but the Federation Council rejected it. Following a meeting
with Yeltsin in Moscow last month, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl
announced that both sides wanted to resolve the dispute by the end of
this year. -- Jan Cleave

RUSSIA REACTS POSITIVELY TO FRENCH NATO SUMMIT PROPOSAL. Presidential
spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii said on 6 February that Moscow supports
the reported proposal by French President Jacques Chirac to hold a five-
way summit on European security and NATO expansion this April, Russian
and Western agencies reported. Citing anonymous Western diplomatic
sources, AFP reported the day before that Chirac, supported by German
Chancellor Helmut Kohl, had proposed that an April summit of Russia,
France, Germany, Britain, and the U.S. hammer out a deal on Russian ties
with NATO before the alliance issues membership invitations to
prospective East European members at its scheduled July summit. The
French proposal has received a cool response from American diplomats. --
Scott Parrish

ALIENS GOING TO RUSSIA. Federal Migration Service head Tatyana Regent
estimates that almost 1 million illegal immigrants have moved to Russia
from beyond the borders of the former Soviet Union, ITAR-TASS reported
on 5 February. Only 10,000, however, have applied for asylum, and
significantly fewer are likely to receive it, she said. According to
Regent, about 700,000 people emigrated to Russia from former Soviet
countries in 1996, down from 1.1 million two years before. She
attributed the decline to Russia's economic problems and the war in
Chechnya. Reuters, however, quoted independent researchers as estimating
that the real number of immigrants is at least 50% higher than the
official statistics. -- Penny Morvant

CHORNOBYL WORKERS' PROTESTS SPREAD. Former miners and soldiers who took
part in the clean-up operation after the 1996 Chornobyl disaster are
continuing a hunger strike in Tula Oblast, although the government has
released funds to pay delayed pensions and disability benefits, ITAR-
TASS reported on 5 February. The former "liquidators," who declared a
"dry" hunger strike on 1 February after more than two weeks of protests,
decided to accept liquids and medicine when the government ordered the
payment of 40 billion rubles ($7.1 million) to clean-up workers, but
they say they will continue to refuse food until all the money,
including an adjustment for inflation, is paid. Meanwhile, on 4
February, dozens of "liquidators" in Sverdlovsk Oblast also went on
hunger strike to demand the payment of about 28 billion rubles in
overdue benefits. Sverdlovsk is home to about 4,000 victims of nuclear
accidents, including Chornobyl. -- Penny Morvant

WATER SYSTEM COLLAPSING. Half of Russia's population is forced to drink
water that does not meet acceptable hygiene standards, ITAR-TASS
reported on 5 February, citing the Collegium of the Ministry of Natural
Resources. The Collegium said Russian reservoirs and water purification
systems are in critical condition, and the danger of dams breaking has
increased. Of 30,000 water reservoirs, 12% have not been modernized for
more than 50 years, while state subsidies to keep these systems in good
condition are insufficient. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski

GERMANY AGREES TO RESTRUCTURE RUSSIA'S DEBT. Russian Finance Minister
Aleksandr Livshits and his German counterpart Theo Waigel have signed an
agreement on restructuring the DM 25 billion ($15.2 billion) debt of the
former USSR for which Russia assumed responsibility in April 1993, ITAR-
TASS and ORT reported on 5 February. Under the deal, the principal will
be repaid over 25 years, following a six-year grace period. There will
be no rescheduling of interest payments, and in 1997 Russia will pay
Germany some $260 million. Germany is Russia's largest creditor among
members of the Paris Club, accounting for 40% of these countries' loans
to the former Soviet Union. -- Natalia Gurushina

 TAX SERVICE CRITICIZED. A report by the Main Control Department of the
Presidential Administration (GKU) criticized the State Tax Service and
accused its head Vitalii Artyukhov of failing to carry out his duties,
Segodnya and Finansovye izvestiya reported on 5-6 February. The GKU said
only 16% of taxpayers paid on time and in full, while 50% have tax
arrears and 34% do not pay taxes. It added that in 1996, industrial
companies' profits dropped 50% compared to 1995. Meanwhile, Finance
Minister Aleksandr Livshits said that Russia has not achieved financial
stabilization. Livshits said a major cause of the current financial
crisis is "irrationally high" government expenditures. According to
Economics Minister Yevgenii Yasin, they accounted for 39% of Russia's
GDP in 1996 and should be brought down to at least 25-30% for economic
reform to progress. -- Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

GEORGIA UPGRADES ITS MILITARY AIRCRAFT. The Tbilisi aircraft plant has
begun production of new Su-39 low-flying assault jets, Georgian and
Russian media reported on 5 February. The Su-39 is an upgraded version
of the older Soviet Su-25 plane with, according to military experts,
increased firepower. Georgian newspapers quoted the plant's general
director as saying that the Georgian Defense Ministry has ordered 50 Su-
39s, which are due to be delivered over the next seven years. -- Emil
Danielyan

MINSK GROUP IMPASSE CONTINUES. Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev and
Denmark's representative in the OSCE Minsk Group, Susan Christiansen,
held talks on resolving the impasse over which country will co-chair the
stalled Nagorno-Karabakh negotiations, RFE/RL reported on 4 February.
Christiansen proposed the U.S. be added as co-chairman, creating a
leadership troika that would also include recently nominated France and
permanent co-chairman Russia. Aliev rejected the proposal and said the
OSCE, in appointing France, had disregarded Baku's concerns. Aliev would
prefer to see the U.S. or Germany co-chair the group with Russia. --
Lowell Bezanis

IMF, AZERBAIJAN SIGN MEMORANDUM. Representatives of the International
Monetary Fund and the government of Azerbaijan signed a memorandum of
understanding in Baku on 4 February, RFE/RL reported. Satisfied with
Azerbaijan's macroeconomic stabilization program of the last two years,
which brought inflation down to 6.8% in 1996, the IMF, in keeping with a
decision reached last December, will offer Azerbaijan two loans totaling
$219 million over the next three years. -- Lowell Bezanis

CASPIAN OIL EXPORT PROBLEMS. Russia's pipeline concern Transneft has
refused to pump Azerbaijani oil to the Black Sea in February and March,
RFE/RL reported on 5 February. Transneft said it agreed with the
Azerbaijan International Operating Company (AIOC) and Azerbaijan's State
oil concern SOCAR to transport oil from the Chirag and Gunesli offshore
fields, but not from other Azerbaijani deposits. The present rumpus,
which pits SOCAR and the AIOC against Transneft, disrupts plans to
export an estimated 70,000 metric tons of oil in the next two months. --
Lowell Bezanis

MORE UN WORKERS TAKEN HOSTAGE IN TAJIKISTAN . . . Three UN workers
described as "local staff" and a Nigerian national accompanying them
disappeared in the Tajik capital Dushanbe on 6 February, Reuters
reported. The four were working for the refugee agency UNHCR. Four
members of the UN military observer team and their interpreter were
captured by a band loyal to renegade field commander Rezvon Sadirov on 4
February (see OMRI Daily Digest, 5 February 1997). They were allowed to
contact UN offices in Dushanbe by radio and said they were not being
mistreated but an Austrian member of the team was ill. Their captors are
demanding safe passage for Sadirov and his group into Tajikistan from
Afghanistan. -- Bruce Pannier

. . . AS ARE RED CROSS WORKERS AND RUSSIAN JOURNALISTS. A Red Cross
worker and interpreter on 5 February were captured by the same group
which took UN military observers hostage the previous day near the town
of Obigarm, according to Russian and Western media. The same day five
Russian journalists were also taken by the group. Reports indicate the
Red Cross employees were returning from the Tavil-Dara area were they
had been engaged in humanitarian works. The Russian journalists were en
route to meet with the outlaw band which holds the UN observers and now
the journalists as well. Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov is ordering
his government to take whatever action necessary to secure the release
of all the hostages. -- Bruce Pannier

SALARIES HIKED IN TURKMENISTAN . . . In a television broadcast on 4
February, Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov pledged to double the
salaries of state employees and the military, Reuters reported the next
day. Niyazov said the state had earmarked $92 million for this purpose
and salaries will be raised effective 1 March. He said the increase is
to be covered by fines imposed on Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, and
Azerbaijan for overdue payments for Turkmen gas delivered from 1994 to
1996. -- Lowell Bezanis

. . . AND ECONOMIC STATISTICS REPORTED. The Turkmen Press News Agency,
citing the State Statistics Committee, published official economic
figures for 1996 on 4 February. According to the BBC-monitored report,
inflation last year was 100.1%. In 1996, 4.4 million metric tons of oil
and 35.2 billion cubic meters of gas were extracted. Over 90% of
industrial production came from state enterprises but some 66% of retail
trade is reportedly outside state control. The agency said GDP exceeded
6.6 billion manats ($1.6 billion) last year. -- 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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