Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid. - Dostoevsky
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 34, Part I, 18 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

IZVESTIYA ACCUSES STROEV OF CORRUPTION. Izvestiya on 15 February charged
that Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev is trying to use his
influence to gain ownership rights to at least two valuable properties
that may be privatized. Stroev has asked President Boris Yeltsin to hand
over the "Polimer" factory that provides unique and essential defense
products to a financial industrial group controlled by his associates.
In 1995, this factory was included on a list of enterprises of national
significance whose stock cannot be sold. Stroev wants that decision
rescinded. Stroev has also asked the president to transfer control of
91% of the state-owned Tyumen Oil Company (TNK) to an "authoritative
group of leaders" who manage Rosinvestneft. The paper compared Stroev's
actions to former Presidential Security Service chief Aleksandr
Korzhakov's December 1994 attempts to influence the country's oil export
policies. -- Robert Orttung

YELTSIN BACKS RODIONOV. President Yeltsin on 17 February dismissed
rumors that he plans to sack Defense Minister Igor Rodionov as
"absolutely unfounded," Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. The media have
focused on differences of opinion between Rodionov and Defense Council
Secretary Yurii Baturin over military reform and funding issues and
speculated that the defense minister would be removed. Prior to a
meeting with Rodionov, Yeltsin acknowledged that the two defense chiefs
do not always agree, observing that "various points of view can exist
but the president will decide finally which to choose." Yeltsin and
Rodionov discussed military financing, combat readiness, and possible
personnel changes in army command, Russian agencies reported. Meanwhile,
Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin argued that the country's
leadership does not have the political will to implement reform, NTV
reported. He also criticized the Defense Council's reform proposals as
"lacking in economic substance," according to ITAR-TASS. -- Penny
Morvant

DOES YELTSIN'S WIFE WANT HIM TO QUIT? President Yeltsin's wife has urged
her husband to resign and devote more attention to his health,
Komsomolskaya pravda reported on 17 February, adding fuel to the rumours
that Yeltsin's condition is worse than his aides are willing to admit.
The newspaper claimed that Yeltsin is withdrawing into his family, and
becoming increasingly less accessible even to his immediate entourage.
Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii called the article "utter
nonsense," and refuted the newspaper's assertion that he himself has not
seen the president for weeks. Meanwhile, First Deputy State Duma Speaker
Aleksander Shokhin, who is generally loyal to the president, said
Yeltsin's 6 March address to the parliament will prove whether he is
capable of ruling the country, NTV reported on 17 February. -- Nikolai
Iakoubovski

GOVERNOR LEBED REFUSES TO SIGN POWER SHARING AGREEMENT. Khakasiya
Governor Aleksei Lebed, Aleksandr Lebed's younger brother, has refused
to sign the draft power sharing agreement between Khakasiya and the
Russian Federation prepared by his predecessor, ITAR-TASS reported on 17
February. Lebed said that he would study the experiences of other
republics and regions that have signed similar agreements before
preparing a new draft. Following his election on 22 December, Lebed
ordered an audit of the previous administration's work in an effort to
uncover any wrongdoing. -- Robert Orttung

YANDARBIEV PUTS SCREWS ON MASKHADOV. Some 300 members of the armed
presidential guard created by former Chechen President Zelimkhan
Yandarbiev staged a demonstration outside the Grozny mayor's office on
16 February to protest President Aslan Maskhadov's decision to combine
the posts of president and prime minister, ITAR-TASS and Rabochaya
tribuna reported. Yandarbiev's supporters demanded that field commander
Ruslan Gilayev continue to hold the post of prime minister and that
field commander Shamil Basaev be appointed defense minister. On 17
February, Central Electoral Commission Chairman Mumadi Saidayev
announced that the second round parliament elections held in several
districts on 15 February was valid, and that 30 more deputies have been
elected. New elections will be held within two months in those districts
where turnout was below 50%. -- Liz Fuller

LATVIAN PARLIAMENT DELEGATION IN MOSCOW. Visiting Saeima Chairman
Alfreds Cepanis on 17 February agreed with State Duma Chairman Gennadii
Seleznev that both countries should abandon the residual Cold War
elements in their bilateral relations, BNS reported. The two sides
agreed that the main outstanding problems between the two states--the
Russian-speaking population of Latvia and the border issue--should be
resolved through negotiations. Russian Ambassador to Riga Aleksandr
Udaltsev noted that Cepanis's visit should be regarded as the first step
toward resuming a political dialogue in advance of Russian Deputy Prime
Minister Valerii Serov's anticipated 27 February visit to Riga. Serov
heads the Russian delegation of the Russian-Latvian intergovernmental
commission. -- Saulius Girnius

PLAN TO DISPOSE OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS. Russia is moving ahead with plans
to build a facility at Shchuche in Kurgan Oblast to dispose of its
chemical weapons, Russian TV (RTR) reported on 17 February. Stanislav
Petrov, the commander of the Russian radiation, chemical, and biological
defense troops, said that the Gore-Chernomyrdin commission agreed on 8
February that the U.S. will pay for the construction of the plant, ITAR-
TASS reported. Russia has some 40,000 metric tons of chemical munitions,
mostly stored at sites in Udmurtiya and the Saratov, Bryansk, and Kurgan
oblasts, which should be destroyed by 2005 under the 1993 Paris
convention. The Kurgan facility is being opposed by local residents and
politicians. A factory for the disposal of chemical weapons was built
near the city of Chapaevsk 10 years ago, but local opposition prevented
it from coming into operation. On 27 December, the State Duma passed a
bill on funding the disposal of chemical weapons, but the Federation
Council vetoed the measure on 23 January. -- Peter Rutland

OFFICIAL SAYS NO EXECUTIONS SINCE AUGUST 1996. Presidential Clemency
Commission Chairman Anatolii Pristavkin reaffirmed on 17 February that
no executions have been carried out in Russia since August last year and
urged the Duma to pass legislation confirming the de facto moratorium,
international agencies reported. He added, however, that prisoners whose
death penalties have been commuted are kept in "exceptionally rough and
inhumane conditions" in two camps in northern Russia. The same day,
Deputy Duma Speaker Aleksandr Shokhin also called for a moratorium on
executions to allow "calm discussion" of the issue of abolishing capital
punishment without fear that Russia could be expelled from the Council
of Europe. Russia undertook to halt executions when it joined the
Council last year, and it has been sharply criticized for failing to
meet its obligations (see OMRI Daily Digest, 30 and 31 January 1997).
Fifty-three people were executed in the first six months of 1996. --
Penny Morvant

GOSKOMSTAT RELEASES WAGE, EMPLOYMENT DATA. The average monthly salary in
Russia was 870,000 rubles ($155) in January, 10% higher than a year
earlier after adjustment for inflation, ITAR-TASS reported on 14
February, citing the State Statistics Committee. The January figure was
17% down on the previous month, as pay packets are generally higher in
December because of end-of-year bonuses. Unemployment (estimated from
household survey data) was 9.5% by late January, up from 9.3% the
previous month. Wage arrears also continued to climb. As of 27 January,
Russian workers were owed 48.60 trillion rubles in delayed wages,. up 3%
from 47.15 trillion in late December; late payments from the budget
accounted for 9.48 trillion of the arrears. -- Penny Morvant

TEACHERS' PROTEST RENEWED. Renewing a national protest begun in mid-
January, education workers in 86 of Russia's 89 regions staged strikes
and demonstrations on 17 February to demand the payment of about 7
trillion rubles in overdue wages, NTV and ORT reported. Only teachers in
Moscow, Samara, and the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug are receiving all
their pay on time. The teachers sent an open letter to Yeltsin calling
for the resignation of the government and threatening to disrupt
examinations, RTR reported. Following a meeting between government
officials and union representatives, Education Minister Vladimir Kinelev
said teachers should address their demands to local authorities, since
schools are financed from regional budgets, but he promised that the
government would allocate funds to the worst-hit areas. Strikes, mostly
over wage arrears, occurred at 5,716 enterprises and organizations in
January--a 170% increase on figures for January 1996, Izvestiya
reported. -- Penny Morvant

TAX POLICE INTENDS TO CREATE RAPID RESPONSE UNITS. The Russian tax
police has announced that it will set up special rapid response groups
to carry out inspections of banks and financial-industrial groups
(FPGs), ITAR-TASS reported on 14 February. A spokesman for the tax
police said that the groups will check accounts of both mother-companies
and their branches. He noted that it is the existence of multi-level
organizational and functional networks that allows banks and FPGs to
conceal large amounts of their taxable profits. As of 1 January 1997,
tax arrears to the federal budget totaled 68.1 trillion rubles (1.8% of
GDP), 130% up over the beginning of 1996, Rossiiskaya gazeta reported on
15 February. -- Natalia Gurushina

DUMA OPPOSES PRIVATIZATION OF EES ROSSII. The Duma has passed a bill
that would prohibit the privatization of the energy giant EES Rossii
(United Power Grid of Russia), Kommersant-Daily reported on 14 February.
The bill was adopted one month after a consortium of Russian commercial
banks led by Natsionalnyi rezervnyi bank won an investment auction for a
8.5% equity stake in EES Rossii. Duma deputies expect the law will help
prevent the sale of the remaining 51% federal equity stake. The
government, however, argues that such a law would contravene the
constitution, according to which the management of federal property
falls under the jurisdiction of the government. The parliamentarians say
that the management of federal property is a separate issue from the
ownership of such property, which they argue should be governed by
federal laws. -- Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

TAJIK HOSTAGE CRISIS OVER, WITH APOLOGIES. The two-week Tajik hostage
crisis ended without further incident on 17 February following high-
level talks between Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov, representatives
of hostage taker Bahrom Sadirov, and a Russian embassy official, Western
and Russian media reported. No details on the agreements have been
released. According to one Russian media report, Sadirov hopes to
participate in the peace talks between the government and the opposition
as a so-called third force. Before the drama ended, Sadirov's
representative apologized to "Russia and the world community" for the
hostage taking, explaining that he had no other means of bringing his
fellow fighters back from Afghanistan. None of the hostages were hurt,
contrary to earlier reports that one of them had been killed. -- Lowell
Bezanis

MORE ON RUSSIAN ARMS SUPPLIES TO ARMENIA. Russian Ambassador to Yerevan
Andrei Urnov told Noyan Tapan on 17 February that the Russian arms being
sent to Armenia are designated for use at Russia's military bases there
in accordance with existing bilateral military agreements. Urnov said he
does not know of any illegal arms transfers. On 14 February, Russian
Minister for Relations with the CIS Aman Tuleev claimed that Armenia has
illegally received some 270 billion rubles ($50 million) worth of arms
from Russia (not 270 million rubles as erroneously reported by Noyan
Tapan on 15 February and OMRI Daily Digest on 17 February). The
Azerbaijani Embassy in Moscow issued a statement expressing concern at
"the continuing practice of illegal arms shipments to Armenia" which it
said "undermines efforts to settle the conflict between Armenia and
Azerbaijan by peaceful means," according to a 16 February Interfax
report monitored by the BBC. -- Liz Fuller

KAZAKSTANI UPDATE. Kazakstani Transport and Communications Minister
Yurii Lavrinenko signed an agreement on expanding economic cooperation
with his Iranian counterpart during a visit to Tehran, according to a 17
February Iranian TV report monitored by the BBC. Lavrinenko described
Iran as the "most important and most strategic country in the region."
In other news, Kazakstani authorities are hunting down dozens of former
prisoners amnestied in 1996 and imprisoning them without trial, AFP
reported on 17 February. Officials claim some of the 19,000 prisoners
released on 30 January 1996 were not meant to be freed. Jumabek
Busurmanov, head of the governmental Human Rights Committee, has
criticized the Western groups that protested the illegal, retroactive
nature of the undertaking. Meanwhile, Russia remains in arrears with
Kazakstan to the tune of $115 million over the use of the Baikanour
space station, RFE/RL reported on 18 February. -- Lowell Bezanis and
Merhat Sharipzhan

MOBIL, MONUMENT IN TURKMENISTAN. Mobil Exploration and Producing
Turkmenistan, Inc. have joined the UK-based Monument Oil and Gas in a
production-sharing agreement with the government of Turkmenistan to
explore and develop oil and gas opportunities in the Nebit-Dag license
area, RFE/RL reported on 17 February. The two companies also reached an
agreement with Ashgabat for the exclusive right to negotiate a
production-sharing agreement covering most of the country's onshore oil-
producing region, which is some 18,000 sq. km in size. The first deal
applies to a 2,000 sq. km area. -- 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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