The person who knows how to laugh at himself will never cease to be amused. - Shirley MacLaine
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 28, Part I, 10 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

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In the 21 February issue of TRANSITION, OMRI's biweekly journal:

DISSIDENTS -- THEN AND NOW
- Reshaping Dissident Ideals for Post-Communist Times
- How Rude pravo 'Helped' Get Charter 77 off the Ground
- In Poland, A Long-Standing Tradition of Resistance
PLUS...
- CENTRAL ASIA: The Gordian Knot of Energy
- BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA: Janusz Bugajski on Stabilizing Partition with SFOR
- VIEWPOINT: Vladimir Shlapentokh on Creating 'The Russian Dream' After
Chechnya

For subscription information, send an e-mail message to
transition@omri.cz
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RUSSIA

EIGHTH MEETING OF GORE-CHERNOMYRDIN COMMISSION. Eighteen economic
agreements were signed at the eighth meeting of the U.S.-Russian Joint
Commission on Economic and Technological Cooperation in Washington, D.C.
on 8 February, international agencies reported. They included a joint
declaration on regional initiatives in Russia, which is expected to
boost foreign investment in Russia's regions. The previous day, U.S.
Vice President Al Gore and Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin
attended the ceremonial signing of a joint-venture deal between the U.S.
oil firm ARCO and Russia's LUKoil. LUKoil will own 54% of the venture
and ARCO, 46%. Russian Deputy Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and U.S.
Deputy Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers on 8 February signed an
agreement to spread the repayment of Russia's $2.3 billion debt to the
U.S. over 25 years. -- Natalia Gurushina

YELTSIN-CLINTON SUMMIT SET. President Bill Clinton will meet his
counterpart, Boris Yeltsin, in Helsinki on 20-21 March, according to an
announcement in Washington by Vice President Gore. The fact that the
venue has been moved from the U.S. to Finland suggests that Yeltsin is
not healthy enough to make the long flight to North America. Gore also
said that the U.S. is ready to begin START III talks and that
preliminary discussions are already under way, AFP reported. The
Congress has ratified START II, but the Russian State Duma has not. --
Robert Orttung

RODIONOV, BATURIN SEEK TO PRESENT UNITED FRONT. At the request of
President Yeltsin, Defense Minister Igor Rodionov and Defense Council
Secretary Yurii Baturin held a joint press conference on 7 February to
discuss military reform, international media reported. The conference
was aimed at dampening speculation that the two men have serious
differences of opinion over the direction, speed, and funding of reform
(see OMRI Daily Digest, 28 January 1997). Baturin advocated a three-
stage program, which Rodionov said he fully supported. The first phase,
to 2000, would entail a reduction in manpower; the second phase, 2001-
2005, would deal with "qualitative issues"; and the third phase, after
2005, would include large-scale rearmament. According to Rodionov, the
size of the armed forces will be cut by 200,000 to 1.5 million by 1998.
Both men emphasized their good relationship, but Rodionov admitted they
disagree on how to resolve "certain technical problems." -- Penny
Morvant

KORZHAKOV WINS DUMA SEAT. Former presidential bodyguard Aleksandr
Korzhakov on 9 February won the Tula State Duma seat that former
Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed gave up after he joined the
presidential administration last year, NTV reported. According to
preliminary results, Korzhakov took 26% of the vote in the 10-candidate
race, while his main rival, former Duma member Eduard Pashchenko
(Russia's Democratic Choice), received 17%. World chess champion
Anatolii Karpov, a candidate backed by the presidential administration,
finished third with 16%. The turnout was about 43%. On the eve of the
vote, the Tula regional court revoked the registration of Yelena
Mavrodi, wife of notorious financier Sergei Mavrodi. The court ruled
that Mavrodi's campaign had used illegal sources of financing. -- Anna
Paretskaya in Moscow

DUMA DISCUSSES CHECHEN AMNESTY. The Duma adopted a draft amnesty for
Chechen fighters on 7 February by a vote of 263-27, ITAR-TASS reported.
The amnesty covers a limited number of Russian citizens who committed
crimes connected with the Chechen war between 9 December 1994 and 1
September 1996, AFP reported. It does not apply to the June 1995
Budennovsk or January 1996 Pervomaiskaya raids carried out by Chechen
field commanders Shamil Basaev and Salman Raduev, respectively. It also
does not apply to serious crimes such as banditry and terrorism.
Communist Duma member Viktor Ilyukhin supports the current limited scope
of the amnesty, while Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii wants to expand
it to cover additional offenses, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 8
February. The Duma will review the issue again within the next two
weeks. -- Robert Orttung

ATTEMPTS TO CREATE "INDUSTRIAL UNION" IN DUMA. About 20 State Duma
deputies, mostly from the left-wing Popular Power, Agrarian, and
Communist factions, are forming a group called the Russian Industrial
Union, Russian media reported on 7 February. Its main organizers are
Duma deputies Vyacheslav Zvolinskii, Ivan Anichkin, and Leonid Kanaev.
Zvolinskii said the new group would defend the interests of industry and
stand for "less politics, more professionalism" in parliament,
Kommersant-Daily reported. The Russian Industrial Union does not yet
have the 35 deputies needed to register officially as a faction, but if
it attracts enough deputies, the existence of the Agrarian and Popular
Power factions could be threatened. Duma Deputy Speaker and Yabloko
member Mikhail Yurev participated in organizing the new group; he denied
accusations from Communists and Agrarians that deputies were offered
thousands of dollars in bribes to join, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on
8 February. -- Laura Belin

SAGALAEV QUITS RTR. In an abrupt turnaround, Eduard Sagalaev, chairman
of the state-run network Russian TV (RTR), submitted his resignation to
the Kremlin on 10 February, ITAR-TASS reported. The agency said TV
journalist Nikolai Svanidze, who currently hosts RTR's Sunday analytical
program "Zerkalo," is expected to replace Sagalaev. Last week, a group
of current and former journalists at the network accused Sagalaev of
financial abuses and poor programming decisions at RTR (see OMRI Daily
Digest, 4 February 1997). Sagalaev threatened to sue his critics,
charging that the accusations were part of a campaign to get him fired.
-- Laura Belin

ANOTHER SCIENTIST COMMITS SUICIDE. Viktor Staroseltsev, a scientist at
the Nalchik Mountain Geophysics Institute, has reportedly committed
suicide out of despair over his financial situation, according to ITAR-
TASS on 7 February. It was not clear from the reports how Staroseltsev
died, but he did leave a note saying he had decided to take his life
because he had not been paid in months and could no longer support his
family. Last year, a top physicist committed suicide because he was
unable to pay salaries to the employees of his research institute (see
OMRI Daily Digest, 31 October 1996). -- Nikolai Iakoubovski

IMF RELEASES FROZEN EFF TRANCHES. The IMF has disbursed two tranches of
the $10.1 billion Extended Facility Fund, withheld in November and
December of 1996, to the Russian government, AFP and Reuters reported on
7-8 February. An IMF statement notes that the tranches, worth $647.2
million, were released "on the basis of the achievement of monetary and
fiscal targets for December 1996, the continued appropriate conduct of
credit policy, as well as effort to improve tax collections and the
implementation of several structural reforms." The IMF also welcomed the
recent introduction of licensing for alcoholic beverages and the cut in
the list of electric power consumers to whom supplies cannot be halted
even if they fail to settle their energy bills. -- Natalia Gurushina

CENTRAL BANK CUTS REFINANCING RATE. Effective on 10 February, the
Central Bank (TsB) cut its annual refinancing rate from 48% to 42%,
ITAR-TASS reported on 7 February. According to TsB First Deputy Chairman
Aleksandr Khandruev, the decision was motivated by a continuing fall in
inflation (the increase in the rate of inflation in January 1997 was
caused mainly by seasonal factors) and yields on state short-term
securities (GKO-OFZ), which now average 30%. The cut is expected to
stimulate investment by making credits more accessible to financial
institutions and industrial enterprises. This is the sixth cut since
February 1996, when the refinancing rate was lowered from 160% to 110%.
-- Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

TRANSNEFT CLARIFIES STANCE ON TRANSPORTING CASPIAN OIL. Contrary to
recent reports (see OMRI Daily Digest, 6 February 1997), the Russian
pipeline company Transneft intends to abide by the January 1996 Russian-
Azerbaijani intergovernmental agreement to transport Caspian Sea oil
from Baku to Novorossiisk, according to Turan on 7 February, citing
Transneft deputy president Sergei Ter-Sarkisyants. Ter-Sarkisyants
explained that transportation will begin only in May 1997 rather than
during the first quarter because of the situation in Chechnya. Talks on
the optimum schedule for Azerbaijan's Caspian oil exports are due to
begin in Moscow on 10 February between Transneft representatives and the
presidents of the Azerbaijan State Oil Company, Socar, and the
Azerbaijan International Operating Company. -- Liz Fuller

ANOTHER COUP THWARTED IN AZERBAIJAN? Azerbaijan's security services
recently arrested "dozens" of people who had allegedly planned a wave of
terrorist bombings in Baku as a prelude to assassinating President
Heidar Aliev and seizing power, Security Minister Namik Abbasov told
ITAR-TASS on 7 February. The investigation located two caches of arms
and communications equipment in Gyanja and Sumgait as well as hideouts
for rebel armed units in the northern raion of Belokany, near the border
with Georgia. Abbasov claimed that the unidentified plotters were acting
on orders from former President Ayaz Mutalibov. -- Liz Fuller

RAIL LINK RESTORED BETWEEN IRAN AND NAKHICHEVAN. Iran on 9 February
lifted a nine-year suspension on rail traffic to the Azerbaijani exclave
of Nakhichevan, AFP reported on 9 February quoting IRNA. Speaking at a
reception on 7 February to mark the 19th anniversary of the Iranian
Revolution, Iranian Ambassador to Azerbaijan Alirza Bikdeli said that a
gas pipeline from northern Iran to Nakhichevan will begin operating next
year. Bikdeli also said that he could neither confirm nor deny that
former Azerbaijani Prime Minister Suret Huseinov, who fled Azerbaijan
after being accused of an unsuccessful coup attempt in October 1994, is
currently in Iran, Turan reported on 7 February. -- Liz Fuller

TAJIK SECURITY MINISTER TAKEN HOSTAGE. Saidamir Zuhurov was taken
hostage in Afghanistan on 7 February, after arriving in the Obigarm
region of that country to negotiate the release of several other
hostages, including Russian journalists and UN workers, Russian and
Western media reported. The hostages are being held by outlaw Tajik
field commander Bahrom Sadirov, who is demanding the release of his
brother, Rezvon Sadirov, who was initially reported to have been a
hostage of Afghan field commander Ahmed Shah Masoud. However, other
reports say that Rezvon Sadirov is in fact fighting the Afghan Taliban
movement alongside Masoud. Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov met Masoud
in the Tajik city of Kulyab on 9 February in an attempt to resolve the
situation. -- Bruce Pannier

UN, INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS PULL OUT OF TAJIKISTAN. Following a wave
of kidnappings in Tajikistan targeted against employees of the UN, Red
Cross, Russian media, and Tajik government, a number of organizations
working in Tajikistan have either scaled back their personnel in the
country or pulled out entirely, Western media reported. The Red Cross
has left only a skeleton crew in Tajikistan, and on 8 February the UN
sent 50 expatriate staff to Uzbekistan. The UN convoy heading west also
included workers from UNICEF, the World Health Organization, and the
World Bank. Even UN Special Envoy to Tajikistan Gerd Merrem has left for
Uzbekistan. Most of the groups have stressed that they have only
temporarily departed from the country. -- Bruce Pannier

KAZAKSTANI UNION LEADERS ASK FOR HUMANITARIAN AID. The chairman of the
Kazakstani Federation of Independent Unions, Gennadii Nikitin, has
appealed for aid from international humanitarian organizations, AFP
reported on 9 February. Nikitin says that there is widespread famine in
Kazakstan and that more than one-third of households have no heating,
electricity, or gas. Unpaid workers are striking in several northern
regions. The AFP report claims people are resorting to shooting dogs for
food. "Mothers of families are coming to me asking for Kalashnikov
assault rifles to attack the authorities," Nikitin said. -- Bruce
Pannier

KARIMOV HAILS ECONOMIC ACHIEVEMENTS OF 1996. Uzbek President Islam
Karimov on 6 February applauded the country's economic achievements but
also noted that corporate debt and slow agricultural reform continue to
pose problems, according to an 8 February Narodnoe slovo report
monitored by the BBC. Karimov said the "main task of 1996" has been
achieved--namely, halting the fall in production and registering
economic growth. Without providing detailed figures, he said GDP rose
last year by 1.6%, industrial output by 6%, consumer goods production by
8.1%, and foreign trade turnover by 1.4%. He also noted that foreign
investment doubled to more than $825 million. Karimov said the main task
for 1997 will be to build up a middle class of property owners, who will
form the "bedrock" of the state. He also called for an end to Soviet-era
hostility to wealth and private property. -- Lowell Bezanis

EARLY SUMMIT ON REGIONAL PIPELINE SOUGHT BY ASHGABAT. Turkmenistan has
called for an early summit of the Economic Cooperation Organization
(ECO), according to a 7 February Turkmen TV report monitored by the BBC.
Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov wants his counterparts from
Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, and the five Central
Asian states to meet this year in Ashgabat to discuss regional pipeline
schemes and measures for expediting their construction. The ECO's next
summit is currently scheduled for late 1998. -- Lowell Bezanis

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez

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            Copyright (c) 1997 Open Media Research Institute, Inc.
                      All rights reserved. ISSN 1211-1570
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