If you are not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don't want to go there. - Martin Luther

No. 40, Part I, 26 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:

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



already decided to sack Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, Izvestiya
speculated on 25 February, citing an anonymous source in the government.
The paper predicted that the dismissal will take place after Yeltsin's
annual message to the parliament, which is scheduled for 6 March. The
paper said the source had mentioned two possible candidates to succeed
Chernomyrdin: Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais and
Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev. It is unlikely that the State
Duma would confirm Chubais in the post, but he could possibly serve as
acting prime minister. On 24 February, the president's spokesman denied
that Chernomyrdin may soon be fired (see OMRI Daily Digest, 25 February
1997). -- Nikolai Iakoubovski

"the month of great changes," Communist Party (KPRF) leader Gennadii
Zyuganov called on President Yeltsin to form a "government of national
trust," an idea Zyuganov first proposed before the second round of last
year's presidential election, Russian media reported on 25 February.
Noting that the ground was being prepared for a major cabinet reshuffle,
Zyuganov warned that neither the State Duma nor the public would support
a return to the government by Chubais. He also said that the Communist
Party would support the general day of protest planned for 27 March,
adding that Communists are already participating in various protests by
doctors and teachers whose salaries have not been paid. -- Laura Belin

RUSSIAN-CHECHEN TALKS. Russian and Chechen delegations headed
respectively by Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin and acting First
Deputy Prime Minister Movladi Udugov met near Moscow on 25 February to
begin discussions on two draft agreements on peace, accord and
cooperation and on future economic ties between the federal center and
Grozny, Western and Russian agencies reported. Udugov subsequently told
journalists that the negotiations "were rather good," and Rybkin said
that he foresaw no major obstacles to signing the agreements, according
to ITAR-TASS. Also on 25 February, Chechen President and Prime Minister
Aslan Maskhadov met with Russian Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov in
Stavropol krai but failed to reach agreement on setting up joint
Russian-Chechen border posts, according to Radio Rossii. -- Liz Fuller

RODIONOV vs. BATURIN. The feud between Defense Minister Igor Rodionov
and Defense Council Secretary Yurii Baturin continues. Baturin,
interviewed in Itogi on 25 February, said that the strategic forces are
in good shape, contradicting Rodionov's warning in his 23 February
veterans' day speech of a possible command breakdown. The two men had
tried to present a united front in a joint press conference on 7
February. However, according to Kommersant Daily on 25 February,
Rodionov broke the "truce" with Baturin in his speech because of hostile
questioning from the retired generals in the auditorium and he called,
indirectly, for Baturin's dismissal. In an interview with Rossiiskaya
gazeta on 22 February, Rodionov said that Yeltsin had been misinformed
about the state of the army, and criticized the idea that reform should
concentrate on downsizing and modernizing. In that interview, Rodionov
also thanked Chernomyrdin for "easing" the military wage arrears
problem. -- Peter Rutland

FELGENGAUER ON ALBRIGHT. Pavel Felgengauer, writing in Segodnya of 24
February, gave a surprisingly harsh evaluation of the visit of U.S.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, in sharp contrast to the tone of
most Western reports. Felgengauer noted that while Albright was meeting
Yeltsin on 21 February, Chernomyrdin was at the Odintsovo nuclear
command center, overseeing an exercise whose assignment was "to destroy
the U.S. in less than one hour." Felgengauer argued that U.S. officials
have been telling themselves for the past two years that Moscow will
eventually accept NATO expansion, but have not been listening to what
Moscow was saying. Felgengauer said that Albright came to Moscow with
"some attractive" proposals, such as asymmetrical reductions in
strategic weapons in Russia's favor under START 3. However, he said that
"the Americans don't believe in Moscow," and warned that these
concessions are mere "deception" prior to NATO's July summit, after
which they will not be implemented. -- Peter Rutland

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT IN MOSCOW. Petru Lucinschi, starting his first
official visit abroad since taking office last month, on 25 February
held talks in Moscow with President Yeltsin, Prime Minister
Chernomyrdin, and other senior Russian officials. The issue of Moldova's
breakaway Dniester region figured high on the agenda of his talks with
Yeltsin. The two leaders stressed that the key element in solving the
long-standing conflict was "unconditional respect" for the principle of
Moldova's territorial integrity. Lucinschi further insisted that the
Russian troops based in the Dniester region be withdrawn as soon as
possible, in keeping with an October 1994 bilateral agreement.
Discussions with Chernomyrdin focused on economic issues, including
Russian gas deliveries to and investments in Moldova. -- Dan Ionescu

FORMER DISSIDENT SINYAVSKII DIES. Andrei Sinyavskii, one of the
defendants in the last Soviet show trial, died in Paris at age 71,
Russian and Western agencies reported on 25 February. Sinyavskii began
publishing unorthodox fiction and literary criticism abroad under the
pseudonym Abram Tertz in the 1950s. He was arrested in 1965 and tried
the following year, along with his friend Yulii Daniel, for publishing
"anti-Soviet" material. Sentenced to seven years in prison, Sinyavskii
was released from a labor camp in 1971 and emigrated to France with his
family two years later. He spent the rest of his life in Paris and
continued to write, publishing fiction under the name Tertz and non-
fiction under his own name. He and his wife, Mariya Rozanova,
periodically visited Russia in recent years and sharply criticized
economic policies carried out under President Boris Yeltsin (see OMRI
Daily Digest, 10 January 1997). -- Laura Belin

WELL-KNOWN JOURNALIST KILLED. Prominent journalist Vadim Biryukov was
found dead in his garage on 25 February, Izvestiya reported. His body
was bound with tape, and he had been badly beaten. Kommersant-Daily
quoted police investigators as saying that Biryukov's car was missing
and that the motive for the murder was probably robbery. Biryukov, 64,
worked for many years for the official news agency TASS before founding
the business journal Delovye lyudi. At the time of his death, he was
deputy director of the Press-kontakt publishing house, which puts out
Delovye lyudi and the English-language Business in Russia. -- Penny

IMF DELAYS LOAN TRANCHE. The IMF officially announced on 25 February
that it is delaying disbursement of the $340 million January loan
tranche to Russia, Reuters and RFE/RL reported. The principal reason
given was the poor level of tax collection in January. RFE/RL reported
on 25 February that the IMF denied claims by economist Anders Aslund
that a "secret budget" for 1997 was being prepared, with radically lower
expectations of budgetary revenue. Nezavisimaya gazeta on 25 February
suggested that the real reason for the delay was Russian reluctance to
follow IMF advice to cut social spending, including the politically
controversial question of pensions for working pensioners, and to
restructure "natural monopolies" such as Gazprom and the electric power
company EES (Unified Energy Systems). -- Peter Rutland

by the U.S. firm Miller & Lents showed that the Russian company LUKoil
ranks first in the world among private oil firms as regards the size of
its proven oil reserves, Kommersant-Daily reported on 26 February.
LUKoil's reserves are estimated at 10.8 billion barrels (1.5 billion
metric tons), of which some 2.85 billion barrels are located in the
European part of Russia. In December 1995, LUKoil became the first
Russian company allowed to trade its stock in the form of American
Depository Receipts. -- Natalia Gurushina

TAX VIOLATIONS IN MOSCOW. The Moscow city tax police intends to crack
down on violations related to the registration of companies and
organizations in the city, ITAR-TASS reported on 25 February. According
to the tax police, the number of registered legal persons in Moscow in
1996 increased by 70,000 and reached 497,000. However, some 125,000 of
them submitted incorrect information about their addresses. There are 55
postal addresses in Moscow, each of which is used by 500 different
firms. Some 9,700 companies were registered with the use of lost or
stolen passports. The tax police has also announced that, although
Moscow accounts for nearly one-fifth of Russia's foreign trade turnover
($24.6 billion in 1996), the city is not receiving substantial sums of
tax revenue from these operations. In 1996 Moscow-based companies
transferred about $5 billion abroad through commercial banks in the
Baltic states. -- Natalia Gurushina

SITUATION IN THE GOLD MINING INDUSTRY. A spokesperson for the Union of
Russian Goldmining Artels announced at the union's extraordinary meeting
that the government owes goldminers some 1.6 trillion rubles ($280
million at the current exchange rate) for deliveries of gold in 1996,
Finansovye izvestiya reported on 25 February. If the government fails to
repay the shortfall in the near future, goldminers are threatening to
cut production in 1997 by 40-60% compared to the expected level.
Russia's gold output declined from 133 metric tons in 1994 to 101 metric
tons in 1996. Goldmining artels account for some 60% of Russia's total
gold output. -- Natalia Gurushina


Vienna-based International Helsinki Federation criticizes human rights
violations in Georgia in 1995-6, including torture of political
prisoners and the imprisonment of 80 supporters of former president
Zviad Gamsakhurdia, according to AFP of 24 February. Fifty people were
sentenced to death, some on charges of treason, before President Eduard
Shevardnadze imposed a moratorium on executions and the parliament voted
to reduce the number of crimes incurring capital punishment in December
1996. An Amnesty International report released in October 1996 was
similarly critical of the use of torture in Georgian prisons and lack of
impartiality during court proceedings. -- Liz Fuller

UN Security Council on 25 February condemned a series of recent
guerrilla attacks on CIS peacekeeping troops in Abkhazia and called on
both parties to the conflict to ensure their future safety, Reuters and
ITAR-TASS reported. Also on 25 February, Russian Foreign Ministry
spokesman Vladimir Andreyev condemned the most recent incident on 22
February in which three peacekeepers were killed. The presidents of
Abkhazia and Georgia, Vladislav Ardzinba and Eduard Shevardnadze, have
both announced the suspension of bilateral talks on the future status of
Abkhazia vis-a-vis the central government in Tbilisi because of the
alleged intransigence of the opposing side, according to Georgian media
reports monitored by the BBC. -- Liz Fuller

ISLAMISTS GO ON TRIAL IN BAKU. The trial opened belatedly in Baku on 25
February of four of the 10 members of the Islamic Party of Azerbaijan
arrested in May 1996, ITAR-TASS reported. The four men, including party
leader Ali Akram Aliev, are charged with collaborating with the Iranian
intelligence service. The Islamic Party was originally founded and
registered in 1992 but failed to secure reregistration in August 1995 in
the run-up to the Azerbaijani parliamentary elections. It has an
estimated 50,000 members, according to ITAR-TASS, and it is reportedly
financed by Tehran. -- Liz Fuller

Rodionov and his counterparts from Central Asian countries except
Turkmenistan held closed-door talks in Tashkent on 25 February to
discuss what Russian media termed the "deteriorating" politico-military
situation in Afghanistan. The meeting, originally scheduled for March,
was brought forward at the request of Uzbek President Aslam Karimov, who
held talks with Rodionov the day before the official delegations met.
Several plans were reportedly discussed, including the possible creation
of two joint motorized divisions to protect the CIS-Afghan border in the
event that the Taliban overwhelm Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum's forces.
Rodionov said he was "very satisified" with the talks and claimed all
sides believe the conflict in Afghanistan is moving "beyond an intra-
state struggle." The same day the London Times reported that Moscow is
supplying arms to northern Afghanistan to be used against the Taliban.
-- Lowell Bezanis

CLASHES IN TAJIKISTAN. An estimated 25 people have been killed in
clashes in Kofarnikhon district in the last week, according to 25
February Russian media reports monitored by the BBC. The clashes pit a
group loyal to the brothers Rezvon and Bakhrom Sadirov against a group,
led by Kasim Ismatov, loyal to the United Tajik Opposition. The latter
asked permission from Tajik President Immomali Rakhmonov, opposition
leader Sayid Abdullo Nuri, and the UN mission in the country, to
annihilate the opposing group. No reaction to this request was reported.
Aside from their involvement in two hostage-taking incidents since last
December, the pro-opposition turned pro-government turned independent
Sadirov brothers and their companions are widely believed to be an anti-
opposition strike force given a free rein to operate in Tajikistan as
well as Afghanistan by Moscow and Dushanbe. -- Lowell Bezanis

KYRGYZ POLITICIAN RELEASED. The chairman of the Erkin Kyrgyzstan Party,
Topchubek Turgunaliev, was released from custody in Bishkek on 25
February, RFE-RL reported. Accused of abuse of power, embezzlement, and
forgery, he was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment before the republic's
Supreme Court overturned the second two charges and reduced the sentence
on 18 February. Turgunaliev must reside in Bishkek and report to the
authorities on a monthly basis; when two-thirds of his term is
completed, it could be suspended. -- Naryn Idinov

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Steve Kettle

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