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Newsline - February 7, 1995

Meeting with military leaders in Moscow on 6 February, Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev asserted that the army had fulfilled its task in Chechnya by establishing control over the last remaining Chechen stronghold in Grozny, Interfax reported. A military source in Mozdok told Interfax on the same day that Russian troops had succeeded in blocking the main roads into Grozny, thus preventing the transport of arms and supplies to the remaining Chechen fighters. He also predicted the Russian military would formally hand over the Chechen territory under its control to the Russian Interior Ministry "within ten days." -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.

The head of President Yeltsin's Analytical Center, Emil Pain, and a consultant to the center, Arkady Popov, have published a report describing the decision to intervene in Chechnya, Interfax reported on 7 February. The two experts claim they had presented a plan for the peaceful resolution of the conflict which was ultimately rejected. The plan proposed economic and social support for the three northern regions of Chechnya, where the population had demonstrated sympathy for remaining within the Russian Federation in September 1994. The goal was to improve conditions in this part of Chechnya so that when elections were held in the republic, residents would be able to make a clear choice between staying within Russia or leaving it. The plan sought to strengthen the position of Umar Avturkhanov, in his capacity as head of the Nadterechny Regional Administration, and make public Moscow's attempts to help the loyal regions. The advisers claim the Security Council's power ministers rejected this plan because they did not want to deal with "either the Chechen opposition or political partners deserving respect and confidence." Much of the presidential apparatus and many of Yeltsin's advisers were excluded from reviewing the military plans for Chechnya. Deputy Prime Minister and then Minister for Nationalities and Regional Policy Nikolai Egorov did not inform his ministry's board of the secret plans. As a result, Deputy Minister for Nationalities Vyacheslav Mikhailov, appointed head of the negotiating delegation, went to Mozdok without knowing that the war would begin before he could start his work. The experts said the media's critical reaction drove the generals and politicians who supported the policy to even more cruel actions. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

Russia may become the target of economic sanctions as a result of Chechnya, according to Vladimir Lukin, chairman of the State Duma Committee on International Affairs, Interfax reported on 6 February. He based his conclusion on the Council of Europe's decision to defer consideration of Russia's application for membership. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.

Defense Minister Pavel Grachev will participate in Russia's official delegation to the CIS summit in Almaty on 10 February, Interfax reported. According to a "high-ranking military source speaking on condition of anonymity," the minister's inclusion in the delegation "completely goes against the rumors of Grachev's imminent removal, intentionally spread in Moscow." The source said this trip is an indication of "normal relations between the president and the defense minister." -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

Responding to media concern, Chairman of the Duma Committee for Legislation and Judicial Reform, Vladimir Isakov told Interfax on 6 February, that draft laws for electing the Duma and President, and holding referenda will be submitted for their second reading in parliament no later than March. Isakov confirmed reports that his committee and its counterpart in the Federation Council are working on a law for elections to the council. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

Regional interests are not represented in elections by party list, Vladimir Medvedev, leader of the New Regional Policy parliamentary group, said in a Duma debate, reported in Nezavisimaya gazeta on 7 February. All the parties fight for support in Moscow, he explained. He advocated the election of Duma deputies from single-member districts as the best solution. In the same discussion, St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak complained that federal authorities were accumulating power at the expense of the regions. In St. Petersburg there are now 64 federal structures employing 11,000 individuals. Not one of them was set up with the consent of local officials, as provided for in the constitution, he claimed. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

The board of the Russian Social Democratic Party has ruled to expel its ex-leader, former Vice-President Aleksandr Rutskoi, along with nine of his supporters, Interfax reported. According to the board's communique, Rutskoi's group had organized a meeting on 4 February called "a session of the party's federal council" where it decided to take the party out of the umbrella organization, the Social Democratic Union, in order to concentrate its efforts on Rutskoi's "Derzhava" (Great Power) movement. In a 6 February interview with RFE/RL, Rutskoi explained the meeting as his attempt to expel Vasilii Lipitsky, the RSDP former first deputy who now heads the union. The umbrella group was formed last fall in an attempt to consolidate various social democratic forces. The union is the only social democratic group in Russia to have won the support of the trade unions. Thanks to good relations with Mikhail Gorbachev, the union has also succeeded in winning recognition from Socialist International, as the legitimate representative of world social democracy in Russia. In contrast, Rutskoi's "Derzhava" is a relatively moderate nationalist movement that seems to have little in common with traditional social democracy. -- Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc.

The leadership of Russia's oldest non-communist political party--the Democratic Party of Russia--has accused the government of violating all the provisions of the Public Accord Agreement, ITAR-TASS reported. DPR leaders called for an assembly of the agreement's signatories to discuss the Russian executive's recent actions. The agreement was penned last year in the office of Yeltsin Chief of Staff Sergei Filatov, who persuaded both Russian parliament speakers, leaders of political parties, and various non-political organizations to sign it without discussion. Later, on 4 February, the widely respected human rights "Memorial" society officially resigned from the presidential Public Chamber. Yeltsin set up the chamber in 1993, and entrusted it, rather than the rebel parliament, with the task of drawing up a new constitution. He maintained the chamber after the December 1993 elections because his supporters had not gained enough support in the new parliament. -- Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc.

Russian President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree ordering a special privatization plan for Moscow, Interfax reported on 6 February. The decree, based on proposals by economist Grigorii Yavlinsky, leader of the reformist Yabloko group in parliament, authorizes municipal authorities to set asking prices in auctioning state property, allowing them to sell such property at prices much higher than the rest of the country. The regulation cancels a clause in the official privatization program, effected by Yeltsin last July, which stipulated that asking prices for the property of an enterprise should be based on its fiscal balance as of 1 January 1994. The decree also allows the municipal government to sell non-residential buildings at market prices and gives a building owner the right to a 49-year lease of the land on which the building is situated. Municipal authorities are now allowed to entrust the administration of unsold shares to the managers of the privatized enterprise. The decree also allows for some of the receipts from the sale of state enterprises to be used to renovate other enterprises. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

More than 1,000 people, who lost their investments in Russian shareholding companies and banks, held a protest rally in Moscow on 5 February, Interfax reported. In the demonstration, organized by the Labor Forum Trade Union Association and the Union of Privatization Check Holders, protesters demanded the government take tight control over Russia's money market and called for the creation of a political party of investors. The rally brought together stockholders who have interests in investment companies which include the Tibet and Chara concerns, the Ronika Company, and Capital Bank. Moscow City Duma Councilor Vyacheslav Marakov, an organizing member of the protest, told Interfax the president and the government should meet with the investors' representatives and appoint a conciliation commission to solve the problems of company debts and non-payments to clients. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

In an attempt to attract western investments to its eastern regions where major mineral deposits are located, Russia's Trade and Industry Chamber stressed the need to develop this sector at a recent Moscow conference, Finansovye Izvestia reported on 7 February. Meanwhile, the South African company, De Beers, which controls 80% of the world's raw diamond market, hopes to sign a trade agreement with Russia before the end of the year, Interfax reported. Before the agreement is signed, the two sides must settle some disputed points, including De Beer's insistance that most of Russia's diamond sales be channeled through their Central Sales Organization. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

PROSPECTS FOR IMF LOAN TO MOSCOW REMAIN CLOUDED. The IMF delegation visiting Moscow was set to leave on 7 February without having concluded an agreement on a $6.25 billion IMF standby loan, the Financial Times and Interfax reported. Nevertheless, both IMF and Russian officials still think the deal will go through. IMF officials continue to have doubts about Russian revenue forecasts and the government's political commitment to stabilization. In addition, the IMF is concerned that Russia has failed to deliver on its promise to liberalize oil exports. Disbursement of a $600 million loan from the World Bank depends on a successful conclusion to the IMF talks
-- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.

Azeri President Heidar Aliev issued a decree dismissing Defense Minister Mamedrafi Mamedov "for errors committed when organizing the building up of the army," Interfax reported on 6 February. Former Deputy Defense Minister Safar Abiev was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-general and appointed in his place. He is Azerbaijan's eighth defense minister since September 1991. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.

Two deputies have been elected to the Legislative Assembly and eleven to the Assembly of People's Representatives, a spokesman for the Kyrgyz Central Electoral Commission told Interfax on 6 February. A second round of voting will take place on 19 February for the 90 constituencies where no single candidate won the required number of votes. President Askar Akaev predicted that former Communist Party members will constitute an overwhelming majority in the new Kyrgyz parliament, while "democrats got lost somewhere on their way," Interfax reported on 6 February. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.


Despite media speculation to the contrary, the CIS summit is set to go ahead on 10 February, Russia's Vice-Premier Aleksei Bolshakov told Interfax on 6 February. Members of the executive secretariat left Moscow for Almaty on the same day to prepare for the summit. A preliminary agenda lists more than 20 items to be addressed, including agreements on a joint economic space, tariff policy, and aid to refugees. Commenting on Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev's proposal to strengthen security relations, Georgian Parliament Chairman Eduard Shevardnadze said, "This is a very interesting proposal, but it will remain on the level of declaration, unless my amendments concerning aggressive separatism, and the Commonwealth's attitude to it, are reflected in the document." -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.

During a stormy meeting with the parliament leadership broadcast live by Polish TV on 6 February, President Lech Walesa demanded that a new government be formed by the end of the month. He indicated he would dissolve the Sejm if the coalition failed to comply. "[Marshal Jozef] Pilsudski would have done it long ago," he said. In repeated emotional statements, Walesa argued that he was being attacked unfairly from all sides and "dragged through manure" by potential rivals for the Presidency. He charged the ruling coalition with being guided by nothing more than the "will to survive" and with failing to clean house, despite clear evidence of corruption. "Poland does not have the time to sit at a yellow light," the president said, threatening to take decisions into his own hands. Pawlak met with Walesa briefly before the parliament meeting, Gazeta Wyborcza reports. The president apparently demanded his resignation. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc.

Prime Minister Waldemar Pawlak rejected all criticism of his government and insisted that the cabinet was working steadily, not just ensuring its own survival. Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) leaders asserted that the two-party coalition has not outlived its usefulness and accused Walesa of unjustly focusing on the government's "shortcomings." They repeated the SLD's standard reservations about government policy: bad public relations, over-centralization of economic structures, and disregard for local government. In a statement issued on 6 February, the SLD demanded that Walesa sign the 1995 budget and stop "blackmailing" the parliament. Government lapses could be corrected only thereafter, it said. But both SLD and Polish Peasant Party (PSL) officials acknowledged in private that ministerial changes were imminent. Some PSL leaders were reportedly even willing to accept Pawlak's replacement by someone from the SLD, provided the PSL was granted control over the post of Sejm speaker (now held by the SLD) in exchange. The coalition meets on 7 February to discuss the "reconstruction" of the cabinet. Meanwhile, the opposition Freedom Union debated proposing a no-confidence vote in the government, Rzeczpospolita reports. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc.

Ukrainian Radio reported on 6 February that Leonid Kuchma met with the heads of the Ukrainian, Russian, U.S., and Norwegian space agencies to discuss maintaining cooperation in space technology. The report said Ukraine's cooperative links were at risk owing to the country's economic crisis. Russia, which had called the meeting, proposed developing the automatic "Zenith" rocket for commercial use. The U.S. firm Boeing is reportedly interested in developing the "Zenith," as are the Norwegian company Kvarner and the Russian firm Energia, which developed the "Buran" rocket. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.

A public opinion poll sponsored by the Washington-based International Foundation for Electoral Systems and conducted in December by the Kiev Sociological Institute revealed that nearly 92% of Ukrainians are dissatisfied with the general situation in their country. But just over 63% believe democratic reforms will help, The Economist reports in its 4-10 February issue. Although 77.9% of the 1,200 respondents admit they are regularly short of money for food, 72% support the policies of President Leonid Kuchma (after factoring out 20% who responded they didn't know). The poll shows a marked increase in support for Kuchma since November when a survey taken by Socis-Gallup revealed a 47.6% approval rating for the president. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc.

Belarusian and Lithuanian Presidents Alyaksandr Lukashenka and Algirdas Brazauskas on 6 February signed treaties on good-neighborly relations and cooperation and on the demarcation of their common border, RFE/RL's Lithuanian Service reports. Deputy foreign ministers of the two states signed accords transferring a resort in Druskininkai to Belarus and giving Lithunania installations moderating the water level of Lake Druksiai, which is used to cool the atomic power plant at Ignalina. Lukashenka will address the Seimas on 7 February before returning to Belarus. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.

Eesti Sonumid published in late January the results of a poll conducted by the EMOR agency on the 5 March Estonian parliament elections, BNS reported on 6 February. The Coalition Party and Rural Union electoral alliance, led by former Prime Minister Tiit Vahi and former President Arnold Ruutel, won the most support in the poll, with 28%. Five other parties also exceeded the necessary 5% threshold to gain parliament seats: the Moderates (13.6%), the Center Party (11.6%), the Reform Party (9.4%), the Pro Patria and National Independence Party union (6.1%), and the Rightists (5.8%). Four coalitions and six parties received less than 3.8% and thus seem unlikely to gain seats. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.

An official of the Russian Embassy in Tallinn said that by 1 February, 61,401 residents of Estonia had obtained Russian citizenship, BNS reported on 6 February. Estonian authorities noted that 48,491 mostly Russian speakers have become naturalized Estonian citizens since 1992. The Russian parliament amended the country's citizenship law extending the deadline for granting Russian citizenship to former USSR citizens from 6 February 1995 to 31 December 2000. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.

Dusan Macuska, chairman of the parliament Mandate and Immunity Committee's commission investigating the legitimacy of the Democratic Union's parliament mandates, said on 6 February that his work is still unfinished and that he wants to set up a new parliament investigative commission empowered to take further action, Narodna obroda reports. Macuska's five-member commission, which consists only of members of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia and the Slovak National Party, found after the fall 1994 elections that the DU did not have the required legitimate signatures. Both the Electoral Commission and the Constitutional Court have ruled since that the DU collected the 10,000 signatures necessary to compete in the elections, but discussion continues on removing the party's 15 deputies from the parliament. During an SNP press conference on 3 February, Bartolomej Kunc said the issue could be brought before the Constitutional Court once again, and the court could "change its standpoint under the influence of new evidence," Pravda reported. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.

Nasa Borba reports on 7 February that EU foreign ministers the previous day agreed in Brussels to endorse the French proposal for yet another major international gathering to deal with the ongoing crisis in the former Yugoslavia. Guests would include Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, his Croatian counterpart, Franjo Tudjman, and Bosnia's Alija Izetbegovic. Politika writes that Izetbegovic would be invited only in his capacity as leader of the Bosnian Muslims, however, not as the president of an internationally recognized state. The pro-Milosevic daily also notes approvingly that one of the goals of the meeting, which would aim at no less than a global solution to the former Yugoslavia's problems, would be to deepen the isolation of Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic. Reuters reports, however, that US Secretary of State Warren Christopher continues to be skeptical about such a gathering. He warns against having too great expectations and stresses that such a meeting must be very carefully prepared. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

The BBC's Croatian Service on 7 February quoted US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke as saying that further talks with the Bosnian Serbs are pointless unless they first accept the current peace plan. Holbrooke is regarded as the architect of recent US policy stressing the need for direct contacts with Karadzic's headquarters at Pale. Meanwhile in Belgrade, Politika deals with official Serbia's response to Dutch UNPROFOR reports from 3 February that up to 20 helicopters have flown missions from Serbia to eastern Bosnia. The daily quotes the rump Yugoslav General Staff as denying that it has any military presence beyond its own borders. Finally, from the Croatian battle front, Vjensik quotes UNPROFOR sources as saying that 5 February witnessed a record number of violations--168 in all--of the cease-fire agreement between Croatia and its rebel Serbs. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

Croatian Radio on 6 February announced the death the previous day following a long illness of Drago Stipac (74), the leader of the Croatian Peasant Party (HSS). Amid the collapse of communism, Stipac was instrumental in reviving the HSS, which was the most important political party in Croatia between the two world wars. He never achieved his dream of returning the HSS to the center stage of political life, but it did acquire a strong following in some rural areas and plays a role in local and regional government there. Stipac and his party were also prominent on the fragmented political opposition scene. A lifelong supporter of the HSS who was jailed by both the fascists and the communists for his beliefs, Stipac was also a past president of the Croatian Society of Political Prisoners. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

The Serbian government-controlled daily Borba has launched a media campaign to support a government program offering potential Serbian settlers interest-free credits to build houses in Kosovo. The paper carried two articles on 7 February calling for more Serbian settlements in Kosovo. One article reported about an economist from Pristina who wrote a letter to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic offering to exchange his house in Serbia proper for one in Kosovo and to move back. The other, headlined "Kosovo Is Serbian," dealt with Radmilo Bogdanovic, president of the Serbian parliament Security Committee and a former interior minister. Bogdanovic has tried to convince Serbs to settle in Kosovo, saying that "the situation of public order, peace, and personal security in Kosmet (Kosovo-Metohija) is not always satisfactory . . . but it is safer, for example, than in Belgrade or Kragujevac." Independent Nasa Borba on 7 February raises doubts about the program, arguing that it does not make sense to settle people to a region that already is densely populated and where most industry has stopped working. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.

A Russian delegation headed by Deputy Premier Oleg Davydov visited the rump Yugoslavia on 6 February, state-controlled Borba reported the next day. Davydov met with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and the prime ministers of Serbia and Montenegro to discuss economic relations between rump Yugoslavia and Russia and the international sanctions against Belgrade. The delegation supported the idea of lifting the sanctions, observing that the international community's hesitation to do so "imperils peace and security on the wider European scene." -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.

Four ethnic Albanian deputies walked out of the legislative commission of the Mace-donian parliament, Nova Makedonija reports on 7 February. They did so to protest a bill on identity cards, which, they claim, limits ethnic minorities' rights. The deputies were demanding that the identity cards be printed in the language of the holder. Present regulations provide for cards to be printed only in Mace-donian. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.

Presidential spokesman Traian Chebeleu said on 6 February that the commemoration of 19th-century Szekler historian and ethnographer Balasz Orban at Odorheiul Secuiesc the previous day was a "provocation organized by leaders of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania" and had "offended the Romanian state," Radio Bucharest reported. The commemoration, attended by HDFR President Bela Marko and Hungary's ambassador to Romania, began with the singing of the Hungarian national anthem. In a clear allusion to the Party of Romanian National Unity, Chebeleu said such acts help those who proposed legislation forbidding the unauthorized singing of foreign anthems and the hoisting of foreign flags. Following the commemoration, PRNU leader Gheorghe Funar dispatched a letter to President Ion Iliescu accusing him of failure to defend the constitution and the rights of Romanians. He also said that Iliescu was insisting on signing a basic treaty with Hungary, which he described as a country that "interferes in our domestic affairs, plots against our country's territorial integrity, and fights against Romania in European institutions," Western agencies report. Funar also claimed Iliescu was seeking a secret arrangement with Hungary and the United States to change Transylvania's status. Chebeleu said the letter demonstrated that its author was "[mentally] unbalanced." Following Funar's attack on Iliescu, Adrian Nastase, executive president of the Party of Social Democracy in Romania, told the PSDR leadership that relations with the PRNU could not improve as long as Funar remained president of that party. Nastase also said Funar's statements about President Iliescu amount to "a declaration of war against us." -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.

Radio Bucharest reported on 6 February that the Democratic Party-National Salvation Front faction in the Chamber of Deputies issued a declaration saying the four-party agreement concluded between the formations backing Nicolae Vacaroiu's government "opens the path to fascism" in Romania. The DP-NSF said the pact increased the access to power of "extremist, intolerant, xenophobic, anti-Semitic, nostalgic, [and] restorationist" parties. It called on the Party of Social Democracy in Romania to renounce its alliance with the extremists and to "begin serious negotiations with the democratic parties" in an attempt to pull the country out of its present crisis and "guarantee Romania's process of democratization." The DP-NSF said the current government does not enjoy the confidence of the electorate and called on Premier Vacaroiu to ask parliament for a vote of confidence. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.

Duma on 6 February reports that if Sofia's water supplies do not increase, the capital may be threatened by epidemics capable of spreading across Bulgaria. Sofia has been suffering water shortages for several months and faces strict regulations since January. Construction of a new water pipeline linking rivers in the Rila Mountains to the Iskar dam has been halted since residents of the Sapareva Banya region formed a human chain on 23 December and prevented workers from entering the construction site. Deputy Prime Minister Doncho Konakchiev said the government will take the Sapareva Banya City Council to court if it does not rescind its 5 February decision to halt the project, Standart reported. The government decided on 6 February that work on the pipeline is to continue and that the pipeline will be ready by 20 March, Duma reported the next day. Meanwhile, Sofia University specialists claim they have proof that the present crisis was caused deliberately and does not result from a lack of water, Kontinent wrote on 6 February. They say the water in the Iskar dam is sufficient to cover the needs of Sofia's population and industry. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.

The first draft of the 1995 state budget has been submitted to the cabinet by Finance Minister Dimitar Kostov, Kontinent reports on 7 February. Revenues are estimated at 321 billion leva ($4.8 billion) and expenditures at 348 billion leva ($5.2 billion). The estimated budget deficit of 27 billion leva ($400 million) equals 3-3.5% of estimated GDP. Inflation is projected to reach 40-50% in 1995 (the government estimated inflation at 35-40% in 1994, but it reached 121%). The draft budget is to be discussed later this month. Prime Minister Zhan Videnov has said the 1995 budget has top priority and will be passed by the end of March. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.

The U.S.-based organization Human Rights Watch/Helsinki called on the Albanian High Court to maintain the highest standards of impartiality in the trial of four ethnic Greeks to begin on 8 February. The Greeks are accused of espionage and illegal possession of arms. In a press release on 7 February, the organization criticized an earlier lower court trial of the Greeks for its "numerous violations of both Albanian and international law." It also criticized the conditions of arrest, treatment under detention, denial of defendants' access to counsel, and the failure to ensure a fair and public trial. The Greeks were sentenced to between six and eight years, but their terms were reduced and one of the accused was released in an amnesty in November and December. Freeing the remaining four may be welcomed by President Sali Berisha, who is under pressure from Greece to release the prisoners. But Berisha has said he will not challenge the court's decisions. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave