I dream my painting, and then I paint my dreams. - Vincent van Gogh
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 31, Part I, 13 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

KREMLIN BLASTS NATO FOR "ANTI-MOSCOW" POLICY. Presidential spokesman
Sergei Yastrzhembskii on 12 February accused NATO of an "anti-Moscow"
secret agenda, arguing that "the West as a whole, and the leadership of
NATO in particular, is opposed to any form of political or military
integration" between the former republics of the Soviet Union, Reuters
reported. Yastrzhembskii said that there are "no grounds" for saying
that Russia and NATO have drawn closer on certain issues. NATO
Secretary-General Javier Solana is currently on a tour of Moldova,
Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. In Yerevan, Solana expressed surprise
at Yastrzhembskii's comments, RFE/RL reported. -- Robert Orttung

SURGEON: YELTSIN NEEDS ANOTHER TWO WEEKS TO RECOVER. President Boris
Yeltsin needs at least 10 to 14 more days to recover from pneumonia,
surgeon Renat Akchurin told ITAR-TASS on 12 February. Akchurin said that
while the pneumonia has not affected Yeltsin's heart, the president is
somewhat weakened, needs to gain weight, and his recuperation should not
be rushed. In the meantime, the Railway Ministry was instructed to
prepare a special carriage fitted with medical equipment for Yeltsin's
trip to a meeting with Bill Clinton in Helsinki in March, Argumenty i
fakty reported on 11 February. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski

FEDERATION COUNCIL PASSES 1997 BUDGET. The Federation Council passed on
12 February the 1997 budget by 120 votes to 25 with nine abstentions,
ITAR-TASS reported. After the Council meeting, Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin noted that the budget will enable the government to control
the macroeconomic situation in the country. Responding to critics of the
budget's revenue target, Finance Minister Aleksandr Livshits noted that
the government intends to intensify the fight against tax dodgers and
cut the number of available tax benefits. The budget now goes to
President Boris Yeltsin for signing. -- Natalia Gurushina

DUMA APPEALS TO CONSTITUTIONAL COURT ON FEDERATION COUNCIL FORMATION.
The State Duma has asked the Constitutional Court to examine the
legality of the law on the formation of the Federation Council, ITAR-
TASS reported on 12 February. The law stipulates that the heads of the
executive and legislative branches in each of Russia's 89 regions
automatically become members of the upper house of parliament. Duma
deputy Yelena Mizulina (Yabloko) argued that the current law violates
the principle of separation of powers by having governors take part in
passing legislation, and also allows the regional elite to "interfere"
in passing federal laws. Asked why the Duma was only now disputing a law
passed in December 1995, Mizulina said that the Duma had wanted to make
sure gubernatorial elections would be held by the end of 1996, as
stipulated by the law on the Council's formation. -- Laura Belin

DUMA ROUNDUP. Also on 12 February, the Duma passed a resolution asking
the Interior Ministry to determine whether state officials are citizens
of another country and to announce the results of the investigation by 1
April, Russian Public TV (ORT) and ITAR-TASS reported. The resolution
was inspired by media reports last November that Security Council Deputy
Secretary Boris Berezovskii held dual citizenship with Israel (he
eventually dropped his Israeli citizenship). The Duma also ordered the
Audit Chamber to investigate the finances of state-run Russian TV (RTR).
The audit will examine the network's agreements with commercial
organizations and how RTR uses federal funds and advertising profits.
The Duma also passed in the second reading a law prohibiting public
actions and the distribution of written materials promoting "the
propaganda of fascism." -- Laura Belin

DUMA PASSES DRUG LAW. The Duma on 12 February passed in the third and
final reading a draft law on narcotic and psychotropic substances, ITAR-
TASS reported. The bill, which is aimed at combating drug trafficking,
provides for a state monopoly on the cultivation, production,
development, processing, and transportation of drugs in Russia. All drug
operations will be monitored by a government commission on drug abuse
and a permanent drug monitoring committee within the Health Ministry. --
Penny Morvant

FEDERATION COUNCIL REJECTS PENSION INCREASE. The parliament's upper
house rejected on 12 February a bill raising the minimum pension by 10%
to 76,530 rubles a month, ITAR-TASS reported. The deputies voted down
the bill by 55 to 47 with 11 abstentions, although the Federation
Council's social policy committee had recommended that it be adopted.
The draft was earlier vetoed by President Yeltsin on the grounds that
the country could not afford it (see OMRI Daily Digest, 23 January
1997). It will now be reviewed by committees in both houses of the
Federal Assembly. Also on 12 February, the Federation Council at last
approved the constitutional law on the Russian Federation Human Rights
Commissioner. The bill has been more than three years in the making (see
OMRI Daily Digest, 31 December 1996).-- Penny Morvant

BEAR HUNT STORY CAUSES TROUBLE FOR OGONEK. Officials in Prime Minister
Viktor Chernomyrdin's office persuaded a Moscow bank to freeze the
credit of the popular weekly magazine Ogonek after it reported on
Chernomyrdin's lavish bear-hunting expedition in Yaroslavl last month,
the Christian Science Monitor reported on 11 February. In preparation
for the prime minister's visit, public funds were used to build a new
road in the forest near the lair of a mother bear and two cubs. Ogonek
Editor Lev Gushin immediately called the matter to the attention of
Deputy Security Council Secretary Boris Berezovskii, whose Logovaz
empire is the major financial backer of Ogonek. He cleared up the
problem by phoning the bank. The newspaper Novaya gazeta broke the bear
hunt story the same week, but it has a relatively small circulation
concentrated in Moscow, whereas Ogonek is sold nationwide. -- Laura
Belin

BEREZOVSKII SUING FORBES. Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris
Berezovskii filed a libel lawsuit in the High Court in London against
the U.S. magazine Forbes, ITAR-TASS and Russian Public TV (ORT) reported
on 12 February. At issue is a recent Forbes article--published
anonymously--entitled "Godfather of the Kremlin?" (see OMRI Daily
Digest, 20 December 1996). It suggested that Berezovskii built his
Logovaz empire through criminal means and was a "leading suspect" in the
March 1995 assassination of journalist Vladislav Listev. Nikolai
Glushkov, deputy director of Aeroflot and a co-founder of Logovaz, is a
co-plaintiff in the case. It is easier to win a libel suit in Great
Britain than in the U.S. -- Laura Belin

LIVSHITS RESPONDS TO RODIONOV ATTACK ON UNDERFUNDING. Deputy Prime
Minister and Finance Minister Aleksandr Livshits said that the 1996
budget called for spending more than 21 trillion rubles on the military
and that his ministry paid out more than 28 trillion. He claimed that he
hoped to provide an additional 3.2 trillion as well. His remarks came in
response to Defense Minister Igor Rodionov's 6 February charge that
military underfinancing is causing Russia to lose control of its nuclear
missiles (see OMRI Daily Digest 7 February 1997). Livshits argued that
the difficulties of collecting taxes has limited the amount of money
that can be disbursed. -- Robert Orttung

U.S. WARNS RUSSIA ON IRANIAN MISSILE TRANSFER. During Prime Minister
Viktor Chernomyrdin's recent visit to Washington, the U.S. issued a
diplomatic warning to Russia because it had allegedly. transferred SS-4
missile technology to Iran that could threaten U.S. troops in the
Persian Gulf, the Los Angeles Times and news agencies reported on 12
February. The transfer involved detailed instructions on how to build a
delivery system for the weapon. The SS-4 has a range of 1,250 miles,
three times more than the missiles Iran currently possesses. -- Robert
Orttung

FOREIGN CURRENCY SALES IN 1996. More than $51 billion in foreign
currency were sold in Russia in 1996, a sum roughly equal to 1996
federal budget revenue, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 February citing sources
in the Central Bank. Sales reached a peak in December, topping $6
billion. At the end of last year, the Duma approved a draft law
introducing a 0.5% tax on the purchase of foreign currency, but the bill
was rejected by the Federation Council and is now being reviewed by a
conciliation commission. -- Penny Morvant

CHERNOMYRDIN SUGGESTS NEW APPROACH TO TAX COLLECTION. Prime Minister
Viktor Chernomyrdin said that the government plans to introduce a new
approach to tax collection and the reduction of non-payments in the
economy, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 February. It involves (1) using the
Treasury to implement the federal budget and (2) the transfer of
budgetary accounts (and the accounts of non-budgetary funds) to branches
of the Central Bank (TsB) or Sberbank (Savings Bank). Companies will
have to make their tax payments to those accounts. According to the TsB,
the total volume of non-payments in Russia has reached 893 trillion
rubles ($160 billion), Delovoi mir reported on 12 February. -- Natalia
Gurushina

CIS ENERGY DEBT TO RUSSIA REDUCED. The debt owed by the CIS and Baltic
states for Russian supplies of fuel and energy now amounts to 7.67
trillion rubles ($1.36 billion at the current exchange rate), down from
some 16 trillion rubles at the beginning of 1996, Segodnya reported on
12 February. Ukraine remains Russia's largest debtor, owing 2.6 trillion
rubles. Meanwhile, Russia's giant natural gas company Gazprom warned its
clients in Belarus that it will cut gas deliveries by 30% unless Belarus
adheres to the debt repayment schedule agreed to at the end of 1996.
Belarus owes Gazprom some $280 million. -- Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

SOLANA MEETS WITH ARMENIAN LEADERSHIP. Armenian President Levon Ter-
Petrossyan told visiting NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana on 12
February that maintaining "normal relationships" with neighboring
countries is the most reliable guarantee of Armenia's national security,
ITAR-TASS reported. Both Ter-Petrossyan and Defense Minister Vazgen
Sarkisyan assured Solana that cooperation with NATO under the
Partnership for Peace Program is important for Armenia. Acknowledging
"some progress" in his country's relations with NATO, Sarkisyan said
that Armenia will get more actively involved in the program in 1997,
adding that the Armenian armed forces may take part in military
exercises. Sarkisyan added that Armenia is pursuing a "balanced policy"
between the CIS collective security treaty and the Partnership for Peace
program. Earlier, during his visit to Georgia, Solana argued that a
European security system would be incomplete without the Transcaucasian
states. -- Emil Danielyan

RUSSIAN BORDER GUARDS OUST TURKISH VESSELS FROM GEORGIAN WATERS. Russian
border guards patrolling Georgia's territorial waters on 11 February
spotted and ousted 16 Turkish vessels engaged in illegal fishing,
Russian media reported. A spokesman for the Russian Federal Border
Service claimed that the Turkish boats ignored orders to stop and one of
them rammed a Russian boat as the latter tried to approach it. In
response, the border guards "had to open fire" on the Turkish vessels.
No casualties were reported. Meanwhile, Turkey has informed the Russian
border officials that all of the poachers have been arrested. -- Emil
Danielyan

NIYAZOV SACKS SOLTANOV. . . Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov
appointed Akmurad Mulkamanov to the post of first deputy defense
minister and chief of the Armed Forces General Staff on 12 February,
RFE/RL reported the same day. Mulkamanov, who earlier headed an unnamed
body that coordinated the country's national security agencies, replaced
Annamurad Soltanov in both positions. The same day, Niyazov issued a
decree effectively abolishing what was described as the government Press
Committee and created a state-run publishing house called Turkmenpishit
that will be subordinated to the cabinet. No explanation for the changes
was given. -- Lowell Bezanis

. . . AND HEADS FOR TEHRAN. Also on 12 February, Niyazov arrived in
Tehran for two days of official talks focusing on regional problems,
specifically Afghanistan and Tajikistan, as well as enhancing
cooperation in several areas, notably in the transport, oil, and gas
sectors as well as in trade, RFE/RL reported the same day. Over the past
six years, Niyazov has visited Tehran some 16 times; 116 bilateral
agreements have been reached since 1992 and bilateral trade stands at an
estimated $100 million, according to AFP. Turkmen sources note that Iran
has invested $250 million in Turkmenistan. -- Lowell Bezanis

HOSTAGE EXCHANGE DELAYED IN TAJIKISTAN. The scheduled exchange of
hostages held by the Bahrom and Rezvon Sadirov for members of the
brothers' gang was delayed for technical reasons on 12 February,
according to international media. The 40 members of the Sadirov gang
were picked up in Afghanistan and flown by helicopter to the Kulyab area
of southern Tajikistan, but the helicopters which were to take them to
the exchange site were unable to leave. The Sadirovs have extended the
deadline after which they had threatened to start executing their 14
hostages, who include UN workers, Russian journalists, and the Tajik
security minister. As a sign of their good faith, they plan to release
the five Russian journalists they hold and one of the UN observers. They
also say that if there are more delays, they will ask that an additional
95 members of their gang be brought from Afghanistan. -- Bruce Pannier

DENUNCIATION, DOUBT IN TAJIK HOSTAGE CRISIS. The hostage crisis in
Tajikistan has prompted Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov and United
Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri to draft a joint statement
condemning terrorism in Tajikistan, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 February.
The current crisis was threatening to derail the peace process in
Tajikistan. The commander of the Russian border guards in Tajikistan,
Lt.-Gen. Pavel Tarasenko, absolutely ruled out creating a corridor to
allow more of the Sadirov gang into Tajikistan--the key demand of the
hostage takers. They were brought by helicopter instead. Russian
Minister for the CIS Aman Tuleev, who is in Tajikistan on a previously
scheduled visit, commented: "A civilized exchange is beginning. The
bandits come here (to Tajikistan)--some hostages are released. The
bandits are brought to the mountains--more hostages are released." --
Bruce Pannier

[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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