Nothing helps scenery like ham and eggs. - Mark Twain
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 54, Part I, 18 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

**********************************************************************
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

**See below for information on upcoming changes to Transition.

*********************************************************************

RUSSIA

GOVERNMENT RESHUFFLE: WHO'S IN, OUT. Following his apparent return to
health and on the eve of a U.S.-Russian summit, President Boris Yeltsin
announced a new government on 17 March, bringing in several regional
leaders to tackle the country's problems. Many key economic leaders are
out, but the power ministers seem secure. There will be two first deputy
prime ministers: Anatolii Chubais (also finance minister and responsible
for day-to-day economic management) and Boris Nemtsov (social affairs,
housing, reform of monopolies). The new six deputy prime ministers are:
Yakov Urinson (also economics minister), Alfred Kokh (also head of the
State Property Committee), Oleg Sysuev (housing and utility reform),
Vladimir Bulgak (science and technology), Valerii Serov (national and
regional policy, CIS), and Anatolii Kulikov (law enforcement). The main
victims include first deputy prime ministers Aleksei Bolshakov, Vladimir
Potanin, and Viktor Ilyushin and deputy prime ministers Oleg Davydov,
Aleksandr Zaveryukha, Vitalii Ignatenko, Aleksandr Livshits, and Oleg
Lobov. Some of these figures will retain the lower ranking jobs they
held. The ministry of industry and the ministry of defense industry will
now join the economics ministry and the construction ministry will be
abolished. Although further announcements are expected, Foreign Minister
Yevgenii Primakov, Defense Minister Igor Rodionov, and Federal Security
Service Director Nikolai Kovalev seem set to stay in their posts. --
Robert Orttung

BACKGROUND ON NEW CABINET MEMBERS. Until his appointment, Oleg Sysuev
was the mayor of Samara, having been popularly elected to the post twice
with about 73% of the vote. Kommersant-Daily reported that Samara
Governor Konstantin Titov backed his appointment in hopes of getting a
more loyal politician as mayor. Titov himself had turned down the
position the day before. Urinson, 52, is a 20-year Gosplan veteran and
has served as first deputy economics minister since September 1993.
Kokh, 36, is a close associate of Chubais who worked on privatization in
St. Petersburg before his promotion to serve as deputy and then head of
the national State Privatization Committee. Bulgak, 55, is a technocrat
who has headed the communications ministry since 1991. Although the
telecommunications industry has seen dynamic expansion, some foreign
investors have been critical of efforts to keep them out of the
privatization process. -- Robert Orttung

NEMTSOV SETS CONDITIONS FOR TAKING GOVERNMENT POST. Boris Nemtsov said
that he wants to retain his post as Nizhnii Novgorod governor for two
years and remain in direct contact with Yeltsin, ITAR-TASS reported.
However, Central Electoral Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov said
Nemtsov's decision to hold two jobs may be illegal, and his government
appointment may force pre-term gubernatorial elections, Kommersant-Daily
reported. Nemtsov argued that only radical changes in the government
could improve the situation and praised Chubais as an "intelligent and
determined person." Nemtsov's task of reforming state monopolies in
order to cut the prices they charge and dealing with wage and pension
arrears are among the most difficult tasks facing the government and he
admitted that he may have been wiser staying on only in his capacity as
governor. He also promised a campaign against corruption. -- Robert
Orttung

ANALYSIS OF THE RESHUFFLE. The cabinet reshuffle signals that Yeltsin is
firmly back in control, and gives the government its strongest team of
liberal reformers since 1992. However, the promotion of Chubais allies
Urinson and Kokh has been matched by the dismissal of other reformers,
such as Livshits, Yasin, and the former banker Vladimir Potanin. Also,
Yeltsin still shows a penchant for "balancing" rival teams -- witness
the unexpected promotion of Nemtsov to a status equal to that of
Chubais, and the continuation in office of Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin. Liberal observers welcomed the changes, although many
worried that "by accepting a tempting title now, Nemtsov could ruin his
future career as a politician," as Moskovskii komsomolets said on 18
March. Nemtsov's former ally, Grigorii Yavlinskii, refused to join the
government, telling Russian Public TV (ORT) on 15 March that "So long as
Chernomyrdin remains as the head of the government, the idea of a battle
with the natural monopolies is a chimera." Despite their distaste for
Chubais, the communists have adopted a cautious stance: their main
concern is to avoid giving Yeltsin an excuse to disband the Duma. --
Peter Rutland

YELTSIN, RODIONOV DISCUSS NUCLEAR ARSENAL. Defense Minister Igor
Rodionov briefed President Yeltsin on the state of Russia's nuclear
deterrent forces on 17 March, Russian and Western agencies reported.
According to the presidential press service, Rodionov assured Yeltsin
that the command and control system which directs the country's
strategic nuclear forces is "reliable and stable," excluding "the
possibility of unusual situations." Rodionov was also quoted as saying
the morale of the Strategic Missile Forces is "at a high level." These
statements reverse Rodionov's declaration at a 6 February press
conference, when he warned that chronic underfunding meant "no one can
guarantee the reliability" of Russia's nuclear forces. -- Scott Parrish

YELTSIN CONTINUES TOUGH PRE-SUMMIT RHETORIC. In a 17 March press
conference broadcast on Russian TV (RTR), Yeltsin said his 20-21 March
meeting with U.S. President Bill Clinton will have a "fundamentally
special character," because it will determine the nature of the Russian-
American "partnership." Yeltsin said he would ask Clinton why Russian-
American relations are "one-sided," complaining about American trade
restrictions, the holding of NATO exercises in the Black Sea "against
Russia's wishes," and the "exclusion" of Russia from international
organizations "because of opposition from the United States." Arguing
that "NATO is an American organization," he reiterated Moscow's
opposition to the alliance's expansion, and "ruled out" suggestions that
Russia might join the alliance, unless it transforms itself into a
purely political organization. He also warned that START III talks could
not begin until the Moscow and Washington resolve their differences over
1972 ABM treaty. -- Scott Parrish

PRIMAKOV, CLINTON DISCUSS NATO, SUMMIT AGENDA. After his 17 March
meeting with President Clinton, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii
Primakov told journalists that during his three-day visit to the U.S.,
Russian and American diplomats had "made a success" at narrowing the gap
between Russian and Western visions of a NATO-Russia charter, ITAR-TASS
reported. He asserted that Washington "understands our arguments" in
favor of the charter taking the form of a legally binding international
agreement, a position NATO leaders have consistently rejected in the
past. Primakov insisted that Russia "will not change its position on the
NATO enlargement issue," but said Moscow wants "normal" relations with
the alliance. U.S. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said
Primakov's visit was "productive," but added that the U.S. position on
enlargement remains "unchanged," and concluded that "we are still far
from signing" a Russia-NATO agreement. -- Scott Parrish

YELTSIN SUBMITS CWC FOR RATIFICATION. President Yeltsin submitted the
1993 Chemical Weapons Convention to the Federal Assembly for
ratification on 17 March, ITAR-TASS reported. The convention, signed by
161 states and ratified by 70, will enter into force on 29 April,
although neither the U.S. nor Russia, which have the world's largest
stockpiles of chemical weapons, have ratified it. Plans to liquidate
Russia's 40,000 metric ton stockpile of chemical agents have been
hampered by financial problems and the lack of legislation. Citing
safety concerns, for example, the Federation Council rejected on 23
January the latest draft of a law regulating the destruction of the
stockpile. -- Scott Parrish

YELTSIN VETOES TROPHY ART BILL. President Yeltsin on 18 March vetoed a
draft law that stated that artworks seized in Germany by the Soviet army
during World War II are the property of the Russian state, ITAR-TASS
reported. The controversial bill was approved by the parliament's upper
house on 5 March (see OMRI Daily Digest, 6 March 1997). In a letter to
Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev, Yeltsin called the bill a
"unilateral decision" made "without regard for generally accepted norms
of international law," adding that it "weakens Russian positions in
difficult negotiations now under way with France, Germany,
Liechtenstein, Poland, Hungary, the Netherlands and other countries." A
1990 friendship treaty between Moscow and Germany contained a clause on
the mutual restitution or artworks, but few have been exchanged. --
Penny Morvant

STATE TARGETS RELIGIOUS MINORITIES. The 1996 federal program for
combating organized crime includes a paragraph that names certain
religious organizations as socially dangerous, according to an Interior
Ministry document obtained by Duma Deputy Valerii Borshchov, deputy head
of the Committee for Social and Religious Organizations, as reported by
U.K.-based Keston College. The organizations listed include the
Jehovah's Witnesses, the Unification Church, the Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), the New Apostolic Church, and the True
Orthodox Church. The latter is an offshoot of the Orthodox Church, which
formed in 1927 and opposed any cooperation with the Soviet regime. The
document states that "Using religion as a cover, the foreign
representatives of the above-mentioned organizations are creating
networks which enable them to gather socio-political, economic, military
and other forms of information." Clergy of the True Orthodox Church have
reportedly been harassed by the authorities, and four of them have been
murdered in suspicious circumstances. -- Peter Rutland

MOSCOW BOMB MAKER ARRESTED. Segodnya on 17 March reported that Moscow
police arrested a former lieutenant from an elite army unit on 14 March
after uncovering 649 explosive devices in his apartment. The lieutenant,
Dmitrii Morev, had worked as a pyrotechnics specialist in various Moscow
theaters after retiring from an elite spetsnaz unit. He is also thought
to have designed home security systems for businessmen and made bombs
for the capital's criminal elite. -- Penny Morvant

RUSSIAN ECONOMY GREW IN JANUARY-FEBRUARY. Russia's GDP increased by 0.5%
from January to February over the same period a year earlier, ITAR-TASS
reported on 17 March, citing the State Statistical Committee. Industrial
output also went up 0.9%. The largest increase (10%) was recorded in the
non-ferrous metals industry. The production of oil and gas dropped by 2%
and 1%, respectively. The coal and electrical energy output declined by
4% each. The population's real disposable income increased by 5% and the
average monthly wage went up to 885,000 rubles ($155). The number of
people living below the minimum subsistence level (404,000 rubles at end
of February) fell from 31.9 million in January to 31.5 million in
February. -- Natalia Gurushina

SIDANKO OIL COMPANY UPDATE. Oneksimbank subsidiary Interros-Oil has
transferred its 34% share of the Sidanko oil company to a Cyprus
registered firm, Cantupun, in return for a bank loan, ITAR-TASS reported
on 14 March. Oneksimbank won the shares in a loan auction in September
1996, in return for $20 million and a $60 million investment pledge.
Interros-Oil bought the state's 51% stake in Sidanko in an auction in
January 1997 for $130 million. Sidanko is Russia's fourth largest oil
company, pumping about 20 million metric tons of crude (8% of Russia's
total) in 1996. -- Peter Rutland

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

GEORGIA DENIES ABKHAZ ALLEGATIONS OF TROOP DEPLOYMENTS. The Foreign
Ministry of Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia told ITAR-TASS on 17
March that Georgia had violated the 1994 ceasefire agreement by
deploying six tanks and 100 military personnel in Georgia's Zugdidi
raion, which is currently controlled by CIS peacekeeping troops. The
Georgian Interior, Defense and State Security Ministries issued a
denial. Also on 17 March, Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba sent a
letter to Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze warning that unless the
latter takes measures to halt ongoing terrorist activities by Georgian
saboteurs on Abkhaz territory, hostilities may erupt and the progress
already achieved in mediated talks on a settlement of the Abkhaz
conflict will be demolished. -- Liz Fuller

BIBLES CONFISCATED IN UZBEKISTAN. Uzbek customs officials confiscated
25,000 copies of the bible's New Testament sent to Uzbekistan by the
Russian Bible Society, according to a BBC-monitored 14 March ITAR-TASS
report. The Uzbek authorities regard the Russian Bible Society's action
as missionary activity, which is banned. -- Lowell Bezanis

PENSIONERS DEMONSTRATE IN KAZAKSTAN. About 300 pensioners held a
demonstration in front of the Kazakstani parliament building on 17 March
commemorating the six-year anniversary of the all-Union referendum on
preserving the Soviet Union, Reuters reported. Leaflets were distributed
which said that 95.6% of participants six years ago, "including
President Nursultan Nazarbayev, voted for the socialist development" of
the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic. An elderly woman at the
demonstration was quoted as saying a return to the past was out of the
question but "it is also impossible to suffer any longer." Pensioners
receive about 2,800 tenge per month ($37), often too little to provide
for basic necessities. -- Bruce Pannier

TAJIK TROOPS CLOSE IN ON TERRORIST. Special units of the Tajik Security
Ministry have closed in on Rezvon Sadirov near the village of Chormagz,
about 100 kilometers southeast of Dushanbe, Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported
on 18 March. Sadirov's brother Bahrom was apprehended near Obigarm on 14
March in an attack by government troops allied with fighters of the
United Tajik Opposition. Rezvon and about 40 others are expected to be
in custody soon. The Tajik opposition is not engaged in this action as
it "falls outside their zone of influence." Rezvon had been in contact
with the government until he broke off radio communications on 16 March.
The Sadirovs and their group are wanted by both the government and
opposition for two hostage taking episodes, one in December, the other
in February. -- Bruce Pannier

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Steve Kettle

*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!
What's in Store for the magazine Transition

We've learned much in the last two years about what sort of magazine
Transition can be and what role it should play in Central and Eastern
Europe and the former Soviet Union. Of greatest help in this process has
been the advice of readers. Among some of the desired changes are for
Transition to offer even more articles by writers in the region - lively
opinion pieces as well as fact-filled analysis and expanded departments.

Accordingly, Transition will be substantially restructured and
relaunched as a monthly with the issue dated June 1997. The last
biweekly issue will be 6 April, followed by a brief hiatus. All existing
subscriptions will be honored and extended according to the new monthly
frequency, which is priced at $65 for 12 issues. As before, we offer a
substantial discount for readers in and of the countries we cover (apply
to the contacts listed below for more information).

For engaged intellectuals, policymakers, journalists, and scholars from
the region, the new Transition will provide a rare forum for the
exchange of ideas and criticism on political, economic, and cultural
issues and events. Transition will also offer readers from abroad a
window on the experiences of countries moving away from a single
ideology. We are certain that the magazine's new format and orientation
will make it even more useful for your work, as well as contributing
more to your understanding.

For more information, contact the OMRI Marketing Department at tel.
(420-2) 6114 2114, fax (420-2) 6114 3181; email: transition-DD@omri.cz
*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!

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