Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal. - John F. Kennedy
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 29, Part I, 11 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

SAGALAEV EXITS WITH HEAD HELD HIGH. President Yeltsin has appointed TV
journalist Nikolai Svanidze chairman of state-run Russian TV (RTR),
while former Chairman Eduard Sagalaev has announced that he will return
to the private network TV-6, which he founded in 1992, Russian media
reported on 10 February. Sagalaev will continue to host the Saturday
evening RTR program "Otkrytye novosti." He told ITAR-TASS that resigning
was "the most dignified step" he could take in the current situation,
adding that he was leaving "with a clear conscience and a proudly raised
head." Sagalaev told NTV that he still plans to sue current and former
RTR journalists who accused him of destroying the network and using it
for personal financial gain. Svanidze, whose appointment was favored by
Sagalaev, had only praise for his predecessor, saying he was convinced a
court would find that the accusations against Sagalaev were false, NTV
reported. -- Laura Belin

WILL RTR'S EDITORIAL LINE CHANGE? Rumors that Sagalaev would be forced
out of his post at RTR first began to circulate last July, after
Anatolii Chubais was appointed presidential chief of staff. Sagalaev
told NTV that his enemies had long resented his journalistic
independence, because he frequently said no to various politically-
motivated "suggestions." (He apparently did not always resist such
pressure: in October, an interview with former presidential bodyguard
Aleksandr Korzhakov was pulled from an RTR program; see OMRI Daily
Digest, 22 October 1996.) Meanwhile, Izvestiya noted on 11 February that
Svanidze is known to have warm relations with Chubais. Svanidze told NTV
that he will continue to host the Sunday analytical program "Zerkalo."
Asked whether reporting the main events of the week while holding a
high-ranking bureaucratic post might constitute a violation of
journalistic ethics, Svanidze replied, "There are no independent people
or independent commentators." -- Laura Belin

LUZHKOV CHANGES STAND ON CHECHEN INDEPENDENCE. Moscow Mayor Yurii
Luzhkov told Russian Public TV (ORT) on 10 February that there is no
need to prevent Chechnya from leaving the Russian Federation. In a
sharply-worded statement, Luzhkov said no free economic zones in
Chechnya should be established and the border between Russia and
Chechnya should be closed to prevent criminals, drugs, and weapons from
moving into Russia. Earlier, Luzhkov had been an ardent critic of the
Khasavyurt accords, which postponed a decision on Chechnya's status for
five years and a strong advocate of keeping Chechnya within the Russian
Federation. A few days earlier, Luzhkov met Grozny's deputy mayor,
Mulayk Saydulayev, to discuss mutual cooperation and announced that the
city of Grozny would soon send a representative to Moscow, Moskovskaya
pravda reported on 8 February. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski

YELTSIN DETAILS RYBKIN TO ATTEND MASKHADOV INAUGURATION. President Boris
Yeltsin on 10 February met for 45 minutes with Security Council
Secretary Ivan Rybkin to discuss the situation in Chechnya and the
possible creation of a Russian State Committee for the North Caucasus,
Russian media reported. Yeltsin also named Rybkin his personal
representative at the 12 February inauguration of Chechen President-
elect Aslan Maskhadov. Delegations from Morocco, Poland, and the Baltic
states, as well as former Russian Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi are
also expected to attend the inauguration ceremony. Rybkin told Russian
Public TV (ORT) that Yeltsin reiterated his commitment to continuing the
search for a peaceful solution to the situation in Chechnya. -- Liz
Fuller

TULA DEPUTY GOVERNOR ARRESTED. Police have arrested Tula Oblast Deputy
Governor and Oblast Property Commission Chairman Boris Shapovalov for
abuse of public office, forgery, and misuse of state property, ITAR-TASS
reported 10 February. Criminal proceedings were launched against
Shapovalov in December, but he continued to carry out his official
duties because Governor Nikolai Sevryugin refused to fire him. Sevryugin
will stand for election later this spring since Tula is one of the few
regions that has not yet elected a regional executive. -- Robert Orttung

REACTION TO KORZHAKOV VICTORY. In his first interview after winning a
seat in the Duma, Aleksandr Korzhakov was quoted in Izvestiya on 11
February as saying that voters elected him because of the state's
"impotence." He was vague about his previously advertised plans to
release compromising information about those in power. NTV, one of
Korzhakov's most vociferous critics, suggested that the results of the
vote would be declared invalid because of irregularities in the
financing of Korzhakov's campaign. Such a move is unlikely, however,
since President Yeltsin's victory in the presidential election could be
canceled on similar grounds. The co-chairman of the administration's
coordinating council on regional elections and a long-time Korzhakov
foe, Sergei Filatov, called him a "zero" as a legislator and a person
"who does not respect the law." -- Robert Orttung

IZVESTIYA CRITICIZES CHERNOMYRDIN. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin
damaged his own reputation and that of the Russian authorities in
general during his recent trip to the U.S., according to a commentary
published in Izvestiya on 11 February. When the notoriously inarticulate
Chernomyrdin was asked about Defense Minister Igor Rodionov's warnings
that insufficient military funding is threatening the Russian nuclear
command-and-control system (see OMRI Daily Digest, 7 February 1997), he
asked the reporter whether Rodionov's comments were reported in a
newspaper. When the answer was affirmative, Chernomyrdin asserted, "That
means [Rodionov] did not say that." Izvestiya argued that Chernomyrdin
was either in "blissful ignorance" of what was going on in his own
country or was attacking the media to evade an unpleasant question.
Either way, the prime minister acted badly, the paper said. -- Laura
Belin

SHUMEIKO FOUNDS ORTHODOX RUSSIA MOVEMENT. Delegates from 57 regions
attended the founding conference of the new movement Orthodox Russia,
which was organized by Vladimir Shumeiko and his Reforms-New Course
movement, ITAR-TASS and RIA-Novosti reported on 9 February. Shumeiko
said Orthodox Russia would focus on Russia's spiritual revival, whereas
Reforms-New Course will concentrate on economic issues. He added that
Orthodox Russia would not discriminate against citizens of other
religions. Many army, police, and security officers were invited to the
conference, and Shumeiko said the new movement was in part designed to
encourage patriotism among officers. Shumeiko has close ties with
President Yeltsin, who sent a message to the conference welcoming the
new movement's creation. He is reputed to have presidential ambitions
and has cultivated contacts among the regional elite since serving as
Federation Council speaker from 1994 to January 1996. -- Laura Belin

BILL ON PORNOGRAPHY DRAFTED. The Duma Culture Committee has drafted a
bill regulating trade in pornographic materials, NTV and ITAR-TASS
reported on 10 February. The new Russian Criminal Code that went into
effect on 1 January forbids the illegal distribution of pornography, but
there is as yet no legislation stipulating how such material can be
traded legally. Under the new bill, porn magazines could be sold only in
special retail outlets, sales would be subject to a new tax, and
newspapers would have to purchase a license to publish ads offering
sexual products and services. Committee chairman and film director
Stanislav Govorukhin estimates that in Moscow alone the porn trade is
worth about $5 million each month. Under the old Criminal Code, the
distribution of pornography was punishable by up to three years
imprisonment, but the legislation was almost never enforced. -- Penny
Morvant

MOSCOW HOLDS FIRM ON REACTOR SALE TO INDIA. First Deputy Prime Minister
Viktor Ilyushin said during Indian Foreign Minister I. K. Gujral's visit
to Moscow that Russia is planning to go ahead with its $2.6 billion sale
of two light-water reactors to India, Reuters reported 10 February. The
U.S. lobbied against the sale, saying it violates a 1992 treaty not to
transfer nuclear technology to non-nuclear states. Russia claims that
the reactors, which it is now building in Iran and planning to sell to
China as well as India, cannot produce weapons-grade uranium or be put
to any military use, ITAR-TASS reported. In addressing the Russian-
Indian Commission on Trade, Scientific, and Cultural Cooperation,
Ilyushin stressed that one of the main obstacles to trade between the
two countries is that India does not accept the guarantees of Russian
commercial banks. -- Robert Orttung

RUSSIAN-GERMAN MANNED SPACE MISSION LAUNCHED. A German-Russian manned
space mission was successfully launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome in
Kazakstan on 10 February, ITAR-TASS reported. German astronaut Reinhold
Ewald is expected to stay at the Russian orbital space station Mir until
the beginning of March. The German space agency will pay Russia $60
million for the flight. Some of this money will be used to finance
Russia's work on the international space station Alfa, and in particular
to reduce Russia's nearly one-year lag behind schedule. During last
week's Gore-Chernomyrdin commission meeting, Prime Minister Chernomyrdin
assured the U.S. side that Russia is committed to working on the Alfa
station as a full partner. -- Natalia Gurushina

MORE ON U.S.-RUSSIAN COOPERATION. The State Duma has supported a U.S.
Congress initiative to use the resources of U.S. banks to finance
housing construction in Russia, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 February. The
Duma-Congress working group held in Washington, D.C. on 5-9 February
came up with the suggestion to give Russia a 30-year $5 billion credit
which will bear 6%-8% annual interest. The next meeting of the group is
scheduled to take place in Moscow in April 1997. Meanwhile, the Russian
oil giant LUKoil and the U.S. petroleum firm ARCO have announced that
they will invest some $400 million in the development of oil projects in
Russia in 1997. The projects will be carried out by their joint venture
LUKARCO (See OMRI Daily Digest, 10 February 1997). -- Natalia Gurushina

ECONOMIC INDICATORS IN JANUARY. The State Statistical Committee recorded
a slight increase in both GDP and industrial output, which went up by
0.1% and 0.3%, respectively, in January 1997 in comparison with the same
period a year earlier, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 February. According to
the State Tax Service, there was also an improvement in tax collection
in January, which reached 10.1 trillion rubles ($1.8 billion)--26.3%
more than the expected level. The real disposable income of the
population increased in January by 9% and the average wage by 33%
compared with January 1996. The number of people with incomes below the
official minimum subsistence level dropped by 14%. -- Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

BLACK SEA ECONOMIC COOPERATION. Foreign Ministers and other high-ranking
officials from the 11 member-states of the Black Sea Economic
Cooperation (BSEC) organization met in Istanbul on 7 February to discuss
the creation of a free trade zone, AFP reported. The group includes
Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Moldova,
Romania, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine. Turkish Foreign Minister Tansu
Ciller used the meeting to announce that the planned Black Sea Trade and
Development Bank, to be based in Thessaloniki, will have $300 million in
contributions from member-states at its disposal. She also expressed her
hope that in the future the BSEC will be "integrated into Europe." --
Lowell Bezanis

TURKMENISTAN, IRAN COORDINATE CUSTOMS, BORDER PROCEDURES. An agreement
coordinating customs and border procedures for cargoes moving through
Sarakhs railway station has been reached by Turkmen and Iranian railway
officials, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 February. The Sarakhs station, which
is being expanded to increase its capacity, opened in May 1996. It is
the only rail link between the two countries, and is Iran's solitary
connection to the larger Central Asian rail network. According to
Turkmen Railway Minister Mered Kutliev, more than 123 million metric
tons of cargo has passed through the station to date. -- Lowell Bezanis

NEW DEVELOPMENT IN TAJIK HOSTAGE CRISIS . . . Outlaw Tajik field
commander Rezvon Sadirov, the subject of an ongoing hostage-taking
crisis, has reportedly arrived in the Obigarm region of Tajikistan where
the hostages are being held, international media reported. His brother,
Bahrom Sadirov, is holding several hostages--including nine UN workers,
five Russian journalists, and the Tajik security minister--and demanding
that Rezvon Sadirov be granted free passage from Afghanistan to
Tajikistan. It is not clear what Rezvon Sadirov's arrival in Obigarm
means for the crisis, as negotiations appeared to continue on 10
February. Bahrom Sadirov has changed his demands several times, at one
point insisting that his group be allowed to participate in the peace
talks between the government and the opposition. The kidnapping has been
condemned throughout the international community. -- Bruce Pannier

. . . BUT NEGOTIATIONS CONTINUE . . . Meanwhile, Russian Minster for the
CIS Aman Tuleev arrived in the Tajik capital Dushanbe on a visit that
will focus on the hostage crisis, rather than his originally scheduled
series of meetings and visits, international media reported. Also, the
commander of the Tajik presidential guard, Gafar Mirzoyev, held talks
with Bahrom Sadirov over the release of the hostages. Earlier reports
had indicated that Rezvon Sadirov was fighting alongside Afghan field
commander Ahmed Shah Masoud against the Taliban movement and that he had
no desire to return to Tajikistan. The hostages have been allowed to
contact officials in Dushanbe and Moscow via satellite telephone. All of
them say they are in good condition. -- Bruce Pannier

. . . AND TAJIK OPPOSITION PROTESTS. The United Tajik Opposition (UTO),
which is currently involved in peace talks with the government, has
complained that the authorities violated the ceasefire agreement when
they allowed outlaw Tajik field commander Rezvon Sadirov and an armed
band to enter the Obigarm region. The UTO is unofficially in control of
the region. -- Bruce Pannier

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez

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