Every individual has a place to fill in the world, and is important, in some respect, whether he chooses to be so or not. - Nathaniel Hawthorne
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 43, Part I, 03 March 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

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
In the 7 March issue of OMRI's journal, TRANSITION:

BALKAN UNREST
- Pyramid Schemes Leave Albania on Shaky Ground
- Back to the Basics in Bulgaria
- Protests in Serbia Raise Hopes of Reconciliation in Kosovo
- In Post-Dayton Balkans, Change Comes Where It's Least Expected
PLUS...
- RUSSIA: Chernomyrdin: A Prime Minister Without Politics
- VIEWPOINT: Azerbaijan: Democracy in a State of Emergency

        and Reviving the Black Sea...

For subscription information about OMRI's new monthly, send an e-mail
message to transition@omri.cz
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

RUSSIA

RUSSIA, CHECHNYA CLOSE TO AGREEMENT. Following another one-day round of
negotiations in Grozny, Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin and
acting Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Movladi Udugov announced on 2
March that the federal government and Chechnya may sign a treaty "on
peace and agreement" during the first ten days of this month, Russian TV
reported. Rybkin said that a "centuries-old confrontation" is "coming to
an end." The agreement provides for Chechnya to remain within the ruble
zone, but the two sides announced no other provisions. NTV quoted early
critics of the new agreement as pointing out that Chechnya wants
independence from everything but the budget. While acknowledging that
advances have been made, Udugov stressed that the question of whether
Chechnya will be independent remains unresolved, "slowing the whole
process of negotiations." -- Robert Orttung

YELTSIN ORDERS NEXT STEP TOWARD ABOLITION OF DEATH PENALTY . . .
President Boris Yeltsin on 28 February ordered the Foreign Ministry to
sign Protocol 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which
outlaws capital punishment, international agencies reported. When it
joined the Council of Europe on 28 February 1996, Russia undertook to
sign Protocol 6 within a year and to ablolish the death penalty within
three. Yeltsin also instructed the Justice Ministry to work out measures
to bring about the "step by step" abolition of the death penalty in
practice, but he set no timetable. Before capital punishment can be
abolished, the parliament must amend current legislation, including the
new Criminal Code. There is considerable support for capital punishment
in the Duma, which has still not passed legislation placing a moratorium
on executions. Although Russia committed itself to an immediate
moratorium when it acceded to the Council of Europe, executions
continued until August. -- Penny Morvant

. . . AND TO PROPOSE REFERENDUM ON MERGER WITH BELARUS. Yeltsin, in his
6 March address to the State Duma, will announce that he and his
Belarusian counterpart, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, have agreed to hold
simultaneous national referenda on accelerating Russian-Belarusian
integration, Reuters reported on 1 March, citing Interfax. Quoting
anonymous sources in Yeltsin's administration, the agency said Yeltsin
will argue that the current state of "semi-unification" between the two
countries is more expensive than fuller economic and political
integration. The report gave no details and no date for the proposed
referenda. Yeltsin proposed such referenda in a January letter to
Lukashenka (see OMRI Daily Digest, 14 January 1997). To date, bilateral
declarations and agreements on Russian-Belarusian integration have had
little effect in practice. -- Scott Parrish

YELTSIN, PRIMAKOV DISCUSS NATO EXPANSION, HELSINKI SUMMIT. Foreign
Minister Yevgenii Primakov on 2 March briefed Yeltsin on his recent
visits to Brussels, Oslo, Copenhagen, and London, international agencies
reported. Primakov said "progress" had been made on the proposed Russia-
NATO charter, but he and Yeltsin agreed that any such agreement must not
only address Russian "concerns" but be legally "binding," which alliance
leaders have balked at. Yeltsin also ordered Primakov to visit
Washington to finalize preparations for the 20-21 March U.S.-Russian
summit in Helsinki. Addressing the Royal Institute of International
Affairs in London on 28 February, Primakov argued that Western policies
aimed at expanding NATO and hampering CIS integration were damaging
Russia's relations with the West. He added that Moscow wants a
moratorium on NATO enlargement. The alliance is moving ahead with plans
to accept new members by 1999. -- Scott Parrish

STROEV NOT INTERESTED IN CHERNOMYRDIN'S JOB. Federation Council Speaker
Yegor Stroev, rumored to be a possible candidate for prime minister,
announced that he has no desire to leave his current posts as governor
of Orel Oblast and head of the upper house of parliament, Russian media
reported on 28 February. Stroev's comments fueled speculation that Prime
Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin will keep his job in the reshuffle expected
on 6 March. Meanwhile, at a 28 February conference of his Reforms--New
Course movement in Togliatti (Samara Oblast), former Federation Council
Speaker Vladimir Shumeiko called on Yeltsin to dissolve the State Duma
along with reshuffling the government. Shumeiko had reportedly been
considered for Chernomyrdin's job, but his latest suggestion infuriated
Duma deputies, who would have to confirm a new prime minister. Shumeiko
could still be tapped to head Yeltsin's administration, should Anatolii
Chubais take up a cabinet post. -- Laura Belin

DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF RUSSIA REPLACES GLAZEV. The Democratic Party of
Russia (DPR) replaced its leader, Sergei Glazev, with 45-year-old Viktor
Petrov, chairman of the party's Rostov regional organization, ITAR-TASS
reported 28 February. Petrov described the DPR as "a party of strong
regional organizations" but called for a new program and set of parties
rules to be adopted in May. Glazev did not seek another term, saying he
was too busy as the head of the Federation Council's Information and
Analytical Department. Another visible DPR leader, the Duma member and
filmmaker Stanislav Govorukhin has also quit the party, which has been
in crisis since its founder, Nikolai Travkin, resigned as leader in late
1994. -- Robert Orttung

LEBED BUILDING NEW PARTY IN REGIONS. Former Security Council Secretary
Aleksandr Lebed appeared in Chelyabinsk to found a regional branch of
his Russian People's-Republican Party (RNRP), Russian media reported on
1 March. The RNRP, which is being organized by Lebed's Honor and
Motherland movement, will hold its nationwide founding congress later
this month; it has already established branches in Nizhnii Novgorod,
Krasnoyarsk Krai, and Bashkortostan. Also on 1 March, the Honor and
Motherland headquarters in Zlatoust (Chelyabinsk Oblast) were burned to
the ground in a suspected arson attack, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile,
the Congress of Russian Communities (KRO), on whose ticket Lebed
campaigned for the State Duma in 1995, held a conference in Moscow on 1
March. KRO leader Dmitrii Rogozin told ITAR-TASS that he would have to
study the program of Lebed's new party before he could determine how
closely they would cooperate in the future. -- Laura Belin

IRKUTSK WITHHOLDS FEDERAL BUDGET PAYMENTS. Irkutsk Governor Yurii
Nozkikov has ordered that the oblast stop making payments to the federal
budget as of 1 March, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 March. The money will be
allocated to the oblast budget to pay wages in the social sector. Wage
arrears in the oblast have reached 2 trillion rubles ($360 million).
Nozhikov's move follows a trip to Moscow last week in which he met with
federal officials, including Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, and
made demands totaling some 3 trillion rubles, Radio Rossii reported. --
Robert Orttung

FBI AGENT ADMITS SPYING FOR RUSSIA. Earl Pitts, the former FBI
counterintelligence officer arrested last December on charges of selling
classified information to Russian and Soviet agents from 1987 to 1996
(see OMRI Daily Digest, 19 December 1996), pleaded guilty on 28 February
to two espionage charges, Reuters reported. In a plea bargain negotiated
with federal prosecutors, ten other charges against Pitts were dropped
in exchange for his admission of guilt. Pitts still faces the
possibility of life imprisonment when sentenced later this month. The
plea bargain allows the government to avoid a trial in which classified
information might have been disclosed. -- Scott Parrish

MONEY BOUND FOR RUSSIA STOLEN AT LONDON AIRPORT. About $2.5 million of
U.S. aid for Russia was stolen at London's Heathrow airport last week,
British police said on 2 March. The money was seized from a high-
security cargo compound on 25 February while awaiting transfer from a
New York flight to a plane bound for Moscow, international agencies
reported. The cash was in one of four bags, containing a total of $10
million. The Mail on Sunday said the money, in high denomination dollar
bills, came from the Republic National Bank of New York and was being
sent to the Moscow-based Tokobank as part of U.S. aid to Russia. On 3
March, however, the U.S. embassy in Moscow denied that USAID money had
been stolen, AFP reported. "This story, as reported, is not credible,"
an embassy press release said. -- Penny Morvant

CENTRAL BANK TO INTRODUCE 500,000-RUBLE BANK NOTE. The Central Bank
(TsB) will introduce a new 500,000-ruble ($90) bank note on 17 March,
ITAR-TASS and Kommersant-Daily reported on 28 February-1 March. This
move appears to confirm the TsB's promise not to carry out monetary
reform in the near future. The new bill will feature a portrait of Peter
the Great, a metallic strip intended to prevent counterfeiting, and
special signs for visually-impaired people. It will first be introduced
in the Far East and northern Russia. -- Natalia Gurushina

PERSONAL SAVINGS IN COMMERCIAL BANKS IN JANUARY. Personal savings kept
in the Sberbank savings bank totaled 97.6 trillion rubles ($17 billion
at the current exchange rate) in January, up 13% over December 1996,
ITAR-TASS reported on 28 February, citing the State Statistical
Committee (Goskomstat). The average personal savings deposit increased
from 381,100 rubles in December to 429,800 rubles in January. The state-
owned Sberbank holds 76% of all personal savings held in Russian
commercial banks. -- Natalia Gurushina

OIL EXPORT ROUTES. Russian oil companies are considering building a new
250 km eastern branch of the Perm-Saratov-Novorossiisk pipeline that
will avoid Ukrainian territory, Segodnya reported on 28 February.
Russian firms have to pay Ukraine $2.5 for each metric ton of oil
transiting the Dnieper pipeline, which runs to the Russian port of
Novorossiisk. In 1996, Russia paid Ukraine $200 million in oil transit
fees, $75 million on the Dnieper line and $125 million on the Druzhba
line, which carries oil to Slovakia and Western Europe. Russian TV (RTR)
noted on 27 February that 90% of Russia's freight imports come through
ports in the Baltic states, which means an estimated loss to Russia of
$10 billion a year in revenue. Three new ports are to be constructed in
Leningrad Oblast as well as an oil facility at Ust-Lug and a natural gas
outlet at Primorsk. -- Peter Rutland

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

AIOC FUNDS BAKU-SUPSA PIPELINE. The Azerbaijan International Operating
Company (AIOC) will spend $315 million on the construction of a pipeline
from Baku to Supsa on the Georgian Black Sea coast, Russian and Western
media reported on 28 February. Construction is to begin immediately and
is scheduled to be completed by December 1998. The pipeline will carry
an estimated 115,000 barrels a day of so-called early oil. Early oil is
supposed to start flowing through the "northern route" to the Russian
port of Novorossiisk in 1997. -- Lowell Bezanis

CENTRAL ASIAN HEADS OF STATE DISCUSS ARAL SEA . . . The presidents of
all five Central Asian States met in Almaty on 28 February to discuss
the desiccation of the Aral Sea, RFE/RL reported the same day. Following
the summit, Kazakstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev said the World
Bank will spend $2.5 million on a pilot project to help persons living
near the sea. Each republic will allocate 0.3% of its national income to
the International Aral Sea Salvation Fund. Uzbek President Islam Karimov
is to head the fund over the next three years. It was also agreed in
Almaty to urge the UN to proclaim 1998 the year of environmental
protection in Central Asia. -- Lowell Bezanis

. . . AND WARN OF TALIBAN SPRING OFFENSIVE. The Central Asian presidents
also discussed Afghanistan, although Nazarbayev stressed "no special
decision" was taken. They expressed concern over developments there,
while Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov and his Uzbek counterpart, Islam
Karimov, went further, saying they feared a Taliban spring offensive
that could destabilize Central Asia, international media reported.
Karimov was quoted by AFP as saying the Uzbek military has been put on
alert. The five leaders also unanimously urged all interested countries
to support their concept of a nuclear weapon-free Central Asia, Russian
media reported on 28 February. -- Lowell Bezanis

TAJIK UPDATE. Tajik government and United Tajik Opposition (UTO)
representatives remain "far apart" on key military problems, Russian
media reported on 2 March. The key sticking point in the Moscow talks is
the size of the opposition forces to be integrated with those of the
Tajik government. The UTO wants platoons and companies integrated, while
the government wants groups of only 5-10 men. Meanwhile, owing to a lack
of ammunition and food, fighting between UTO and pro-Sadirov forces in
the Ramid Gorge seems to have temporarily ceased, RFE/RL reported. The
Tajik Foreign Ministry has protested to Russia over what it called the
anti-Tajik campaign waged by the Russian media, ITAR-TASS reported on 1
March. Dushanbe called on Moscow to curb the campaign of "purposeful
disinformation." Finally, the death toll from the typhoid fever outbreak
in Tajikistan has risen to over 80, Reuters reported on 28 February. --
Lowell Bezanis

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Jan Cleave

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