"ARMY HAS FULFILLED ITS TASKS IN CHECHNYA" -- GRACHEV.
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.
MORE DETAILS ABOUT THE DECISION TO INTERVENE IN CHECHNYA COME TO LIGHT.
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.
LUKIN FORESEES ECONOMIC SANCTIONS OVER CHECHNYA.
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.
RUMORS OF GRACHEV'S REMOVAL EXAGGERATED?
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.
DRAFT ELECTORAL LAWS TO BE CONSIDERED IN MARCH.
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 LEADERS DENOUNCE PARTY LIST ELECTIONS, FEDERAL ENCROACHMENTS.
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.
RUTSKOI SPLITS SOCIAL DEMOCRATS.
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,
"MEMORIAL," DPR REBUFF YELTSIN'S "PUBLIC" INITIATIVES.
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.
YELTSIN SIGNS PRIVATIZATION DECREE.
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.
INVESTORS PROTEST IN MOSCOW RALLY.
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.
RUSSIA ENCOURAGES INVESTMENT IN MINERAL DEPOSIT REGIONS.
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.
AZERBAIJAN DEFENSE MINISTER DISMISSED.
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.
KYRGYZ ELECTIONS INDECISIVE.
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.
CIS SUMMIT SET TO GO AHEAD.
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.
WALESA DEMANDS PAWLAK'S OUSTER.
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,
TURNING POINT FOR POLISH COALITION.
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 PRESIDENT MEETS WITH HEADS OF INTERNATIONAL SPACE AGENCIES.
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.
POLL SHOWS MOST UKRAINIANS DISSATISFIED WITH LIVING CONDITIONS, YET WANT
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.
LITHUANIA, BELARUS SIGN AGREEMENTS.
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.
PRE-ELECTION POLL IN ESTONIA.
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.
MORE THAN 60,000 RUSSIAN CITIZENS IN ESTONIA.
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,
DEBATE ON SLOVAK PARTY'S EXPULSION FROM PARLIAMENT CONTINUES.
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.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN BRUSSELS AND WASHINGTON OVER YUGOSLAV SUMMIT.
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.
OTHER NEWS FROM THE YUGOSLAV WAR ZONE.
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 AGRARIAN LEADER DIES.
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.
PRESS CAMPAIGN FOR SERBIAN COLONIZATION OF KOSOVO.
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.
RUSSIAN DELEGATION VISITS RUMP YUGOSLAVIA.
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.
MACEDONIAN ETHNIC ALBANIANS WALK OUT OF PARLIAMENT COMMISSION.
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.
ROMANIAN INTERETHNIC DISPUTE CONTINUES.
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.
ROMANIAN OPPOSITION PARTY SAYS COUNTRY FACES DANGER OF FASCISM.
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.
BULGARIA THREATENED BY EPIDEMICS?
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.
BULGARIA'S 1995 DRAFT BUDGET.
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.
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH CALLS FOR FAIR TRIAL IN ALBANIA.
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