Miracles are natural. When they do not occur, something has gone wrong. - A Course in Miracles
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 39, Part I, 25 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

YELTSIN FAVORS CABINET RESHUFFLE. President Boris Yeltsin has criticized
the government for failing to ensure the timely payment of wages and
pensions and proposed that it be reshuffled to make it more efficient,
international agencies reported. At a meeting with Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin on 24 January, Yeltsin noted that many Russians are
"dissatisfied with the government, its chairman, and consequently the
president" and suggested that the prime minister draw up proposals on
"structural" and, "if necessary," personnel changes. The president's
spokesman later denied rumors that Chernomyrdin's own position might be
under threat. Chernomyrdin noted that a timetable for paying pension
arrears has been agreed and sought to shift some of the blame onto the
regions by arguing that federal money allocated to pay wages is often
misused. A cabinet reshuffle is unlikely to solve the intractable
arrears problem, and Yeltsin's comments were probably intended primarily
to show that he is ready to reenter the political fray after his long
illness. -- Penny Morvant

YELTSIN MEETS WITH CONSTITUTIONAL COURT CHAIRMAN. In his first meeting
with new Constitutional Court Chairman Marat Baglai, Yeltsin said that
"under no circumstances" should the constitution be amended within the
next several years, Russian media reported on 24 February. "Our society
has not reached this stage yet," he added. Although the president's
supporters on the Constitutional Court outnumber his opponents, Yeltsin
complained that some judges on the court criticize the constitution,
when they should merely respect and interpret it. Yeltsin's Communist
opponents in the State Duma have long advocated constitutional
amendments to reduce presidential power, and some Federation Council
members have recently suggested that the upper house of parliament might
support amendments along these lines. -- Laura Belin

DUMA COMMITTEE REJECTS LAW ON YELTSIN'S HEALTH. The State Duma
Legislation Committee, chaired by Anatolii Lukyanov, has rejected a
draft law proposed by Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin
on removing Yeltsin from office for health reasons, ITAR-TASS reported
on 24 February. Both Lukyanov and Ilyukhin are influential members of
the Communist Party. The legislation committee had considered eight
different versions of a law to clarify how and when the president must
hand over power to the prime minister, Lukyanov said, and the version
his committee selected does not address Yeltsin's current state of
health. Yeltsin suggested on 23 February that he may "hit back" if the
Duma continues its efforts to remove him on health grounds. But
Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov dismissed Yeltsin's veiled
threat to dissolve the lower house of parliament, saying neither the
army nor the public would support such a move, Reuters reported. --
Laura Belin

JOURNALISTS PROTEST DUMA DECISION ON ORT CORRESPONDENT. Union of
Journalists Chairman Vsevolod Bogdanov and Glasnost Defense Foundation
head Aleksei Simonov issued an open letter to Duma Speaker Gennadii
Seleznev demanding that the Duma reverse its decision to revoke the
accreditation of a television journalist, ITAR-TASS reported on 24
February. The Duma revoked its accreditation of Pavel Ryazantsev, a
Russian Public TV (ORT) correspondent, for one month because of his
report on parliamentary debate over a new pornography law. Bogdanov and
Simonov argued that under Russian media law, a court must approve any
decision to revoke a correspondent's accreditation, which can be done
only if the journalist is found to have misreported the facts. -- Laura
Belin

PRIMAKOV IN NORWAY. Visiting Oslo on 24 February, Foreign Minister
Yevgenii Primakov suggested that the "Norwegian model" of NATO
membership could be appropriate for Eastern Europe, Russian Tv (RTR)
reported. Norway is a member of NATO but has no foreign bases on its
territory and does not permit the stationing of nuclear weapons.
Primakov said his talks with NATO Secretary General Javier de Solana on
23 February were "not easy" but had made "some progress, in certain
directions," NTV reported the next day. The station also claimed that
Defense Minister Igor Rodionov is "sceptical" about the proposal to form
a joint NATO-Russian brigade. There were conficting reports on whether
or not NATO and Russian officials in Brussels are concretely working on
a document which will form a joint agreement. -- Peter Rutland

NATO UPDATE. The U.S. government appeared to be distancing itself from
statements of President Yeltsin suggesting that a compromise deal was in
the works. White House spokesman Michael McCurry said "There's no
compromise on the central fact that we will explore with our treaty ally
partners the expansion of NATO at the Madrid summit later this year,"
AFP reported on 25 February. Russia is pressing for a legally-binding
agreement, in part because they claim that the informal promises about
NATO not expanding which were given to Soviet President Mikhail
Gorbachev in 1990 during German unification were not adhered to. --
Peter Rutland

ITALIAN JOURNALIST ABDUCTED IN CHECHNYA. An Italian photographer was
abducted by masked men in Grozny on 23 February, Russian and Western
agencies reported. Although several Russian journalists have been held
hostage over the past two years, this is the first instance in which a
foreign journalist has been targeted. On 24 February, Chechen President
and Prime Minister Aslan Maskhadov chaired a cabinet meeting; no detalis
of the agenda were released. Also on 24 February, a member of the
Chechen Presidential Council told ITAR-TASS that a  peace treaty between
the Russian Federation and Chechnya is currently being drafted and will
be submitted to Moscow for discussion before the end of this month. The
same official also predicted that the name of  radical field commander
Salman Raduev, who  continues to threaten terrorist acts against the
Russian Federation, "will disappear from the mass media" after the
signing of the Russian-Chechen agreement. -- Liz Fuller

ANOTHER SUPERCOMPUTER SALE. Russia has purchased an IBM RS/6000 SP for
$7 million through a European middleman and will use the machine to
simulate nuclear tests, according to the New York Times on 25 February.
U.S. firms are required by law to seek approval from the Commerce
Department before selling Russia a computer that can perform more than
two billion calculations per second. Last week it was revealed that
Silicon Graphics had sold two similar high-powered machines to Russia
(see OMRI Daily Digest, 19 February 1997). In principle, Russia can use
these computers to develop new nuclear warheads, even while observing
the ban on nuclear test explosions. Izvestiya complained on 22 February
that leakage of information about these sales are part of a U.S. plot to
discredit Russia. -- Peter Rutland

LAUNCH OF ALFA STATION WILL BE DELAYED. The head of the Russian Space
Agency, Yurii Koptev, has acknowledged that largely due to a lack of
financing, Russia has delayed the launch of the international orbital
space station Alfa that was originally scheduled for November 1997,
ITAR-TASS and Izvestiya reported on 24-25 February. In 1996, the
industry did not receive the 900 billion rubles ($160 million) that was
allocated to it in the federal budget. According to Koptev, the industry
has lost some 42% of its specialists over the last two years and 11 out
of the 38 companies working for the space agency are on the brink of
bankruptcy. More than 60% of Russia's satellites have exceeded their
recommended period of service. The Alfa launch is likely to be postponed
until June 1998. Meanwhile, a minor fire broke out on board the Russian
orbital space station Mir when astronauts were installing a new air
filter. None of the six astronauts were injured. -- Natalia Gurushina

MOSCOW GETS INTERNATIONAL CREDIT RATING. Moscow has become the first
Russian region to get an international credit rating, Kommersant-Daily
and Segodnya reported on 25 February. The credit rating agencies
Standard & Poor's and Moody's gave Moscow the same speculative grades
BB- and Ba2, respectively, as they gave Russian government bonds on the
eve of Russia's first sovereign eurobond issue in November 1996. The
floatation of the first tranche of Moscow eurobonds is slated for 15
March. The investment banks CS First Boston and Nomura International
will underwrite the $400 million issue. So far, six other regions--the
St. Petersburg, Nizhnii Novgorod, and Sverdlovsk oblasts, the Altai
Krai, Tatarstan, and Marii-El--have announced their intention to float
eurobond issues, Delovoi mir reported on 21 February. -- Natalia
Gurushina

REGENT GAZ BACKS OFF. The Cayman Islands-based Regent Gaz Investment
Company has announced that it will comply with demands of the Russian
giant Gazprom to stop operations with Gazprom's shares traded on the
domestic market (see OMRI Daily Digest, 19 February 1997), Kommersant-
Daily reported on 25 February. The company has also stated that Regent
Gaz will repurchase shares worth some $200 million from its shareholders
and that the company itself will then be dissolved. -- Natalia Gurushina

DUMA OVERRIDES FEDERATION COUNCIL'S VETO ON VEKSELYA. The Duma on 21
February overrode the Federation Council's veto on the law on bills of
exchange (vekselya)--promissory notes with which organizations extended
short-term credits to each other, Kommersant-Daily reported on 25
February. The law limits the rights of regional authorties to issue
vekselya and bans the issuance of electronic bills of exchange. The
Duma's move supports the Finance Ministry's earlier attempts to
eliminate the destabilizing influence of the massive issuance of
vekselya (which are a form of surrogate money) on the Russian financial
system by announcing that it will cut the volume of its guarantees for
vekselya floated by commercial banks. The Federation Council, composed
of regional representatives, was trying to defend the rights of the
regions to run independent monetary policy. It remains to be see whether
Yeltsin will sign the bill into law. -- Natalia Gurushina

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

GEORGIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY ADMITS NUKES WERE DEPLOYED IN GEORGIA. The
deputy chief of staff of the Georgian armed forces, Tengiz Razmadze, has
admitted that "tactical, medium-range" rockets with nuclear warheads
were stored at the Soviet military base at Vaziani, near Tbilisi, NTV
reported on 24 February. The warheads were reportedly removed in 1989,
after the political disturbances in April of that year. Formerly,
Russian and Georgian officials had claimed there had never been nuclear
weapons stationed in Georgia. -- Liz Fuller

RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPERS KILLED IN ABKHAZIA. A Georgian Foreign Ministry
spokesman on 24 February condemned the deaths on 22 February of three
Russian peacekeeping soldiers in Abkhazia, who were killed when their
vehicle hit a mine, Reuters reported. The commander of the Russian
force, Maj.-Gen. Dorii Babenkov, and an Abkhaz Defense Ministry
spokesman blamed the incident on the Georgian "White Legion," which they
claim is subordinate to the Georgian security service. The legion is a
Georgian guerrilla formation seeking to restore Georgian hegemony over
Abkhazia. Meeting on 24 February with the deputy head of the UN military
mission in Georgia, Deputy Foreign Minister Giga Burduli reaffirmed his
government's commitment to seeking a peaceful solution to the standoff
between Tbilisi and the separatist regime in Sukhumi, according to ITAR-
TASS. -- Liz Fuller

GEORGIAN CONDUIT TO TURKEY. During a recent joint economic session held
in Tbilisi, Georgia and Turkey reached a pipeline and power deal
according to a 23 February Interfax report monitored by the BBC. Under
the deal, Turkey will receive Russian gas via Georgia once an existing
pipeline is refurbished and extended 30 km to the Turkish border. The
pipeline is to initially carry 3 billion cubic meters annually,
subsequently rising to 9 billion cubic meters. Georgia is planning to
generate electricity from Turkmen gas for subsequent transmission to
Turkey. -- Lowell Bezanis

MOUSIN TO BE EXTRADITED, ROTAR DENIED ACCREDITATION. Recently detained
in Moscow by Russian law enforcement officials, Albert Mousin, a
freelance reporter working for RFE/RL, Komsomolskaya pravda, and Ekho
Moskvy, is to be extradited to Uzbekistan, Radio Rossii reported on 24
February. The same day, RFE/RL reported that Russia's branch of the PEN
club has called for the 44-year-old human rights advocate and reporter
to be released. They claim that Mousin is a citizen of Kazakstan, not
Uzbekistan, and that it is "not the first time" Russian law enforcement
agencies are helping Central Asian and Transcaucasian governments
"settle scores" with their political opponents. Meanwhile, the Tajik
authorities have denied accreditation to Nezavisimaya gazeta reporter
Igor Rotar on the grounds he has been "unscrupulous and biased" in his
reporting on certain events that took place in Tajikistan, according to
a 21 February Nezavisimaya gazeta monitored by the BBC. Nezavisimaya
gazeta has expressed bewilderment at the decision. -- Lowell Bezanis

TYPHOID EPIDEMIC UPDATE. The typhoid fever epidemic in Tajikistan has
spread beyond Dushanbe to Kulyab and Tursun Zade, Reuters reported on 21
February. The Tajik authorities have closed down schools in Dushanbe in
an effort to stem the epidemic which is believed to be infecting between
150-200 people every day. An estimated 4,000 people have fallen ill to
date. Aid workers say the city's water supply, which has not been
chlorinated in three months, is "a million times worse" than World
Health Organization standards and citizens cannot afford fuel to boil
their water. -- 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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