RUSSIAN FORCES CONSOLIDATE HOLD OVER GROZNY.
Russian forces gained
ground in Grozny on 8 February, advancing toward the city's southern fringe as
artillery and warplanes continued to bomb Chechen positions, AFP reported.
Chechen military spokesman Aslan Maskhadov insisted that his men have no plans
to abandon Grozny. A Chechen presidential spokesman told Interfax on 8 February
that Dzhokhar Dudaev's forces still possess "substantial amounts" of heavy
military equipment. He reiterated that Dudaev is ready to conduct negotiations
with the Russian leadership "at the corresponding level." -- Liz Fuller, OMRI,
DUMA FAILS TO PASS AMENDMENTS TO MEDIA LAW.
The State Duma failed to
garner the two-thirds majority vote necessary to overcome President Boris
Yeltsin's veto on amendments to the media law, Russian TV reported on 8
February. The amendments would have barred state bodies from setting up their
own newspapers and journals. The Duma lacked the votes because Vladimir
Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party boycotted the session. -- Julia
Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc.
ZHIRINOVSKY BOYCOTTS DUMA SESSIONS.
Vladimir Zhirinovsky's faction
staged a walkout at the Duma's 8 February session to protest the legislature's
disapproval of proposals put forward in connection with the death of LDP Deputy
Sergei Skorochkin. Zhirinovsky had urged that Minister of Internal Affairs
Viktor Erin and Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin be removed from their posts for
failing to protect Skorochkin and two other deputies who have suffered violent
deaths in the past nine months. The Duma did accept a motion to discuss Erin's
performance, but only in the minister's presence. Erin has gone to Chechnya.
The LDP chairman said his party would boycott only plenary sessions, while
continuing to participate in committees and commissions. -- Julia Wishnevsky,
SENATORS TURN DOWN BILL ON COURTS OF ARBITRATION.
The Federation Council
voted down a courts of arbitration bill on 8 February, Russian TV reported.
While many observers consider the legislation essential for Russia's transition
to a market economy, it was rejected by the council which is composed of
Russian republic leaders. The courts settle economic disputes. Isa Kostoev,
chairman of the chamber's legislation committee, told "Vesti" the vote
reflected a conflict of interest between republican leaders, who want the power
to appoint judges on their own, and the federal executive powers. According to
the constitution, the naming of judges is a presidential prerogative. -- Julia
Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc.
YELTSIN APPOINTS KRASNOV AS LEGAL AIDE.
President Yeltsin appointed
Professor Mikhail Krasnov as an aide to provide legal backing to the
president's legislative initiatives and other legal acts worked out by the
administration, Interfax reported on 8 February. Krasnov, a well-known
45-year-old lawyer, had worked for Yeltsin's National Security Adviser Yury
Baturin and was a department head at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute
of State and Law. Yeltsin had nominated him for a seat on the Constitutional
Court, but the Federation Council refused to confirm him. -- Robert Orttung,
YELTSIN CONVENES CONFERENCE ON LOCAL GOVERNMENT.
signed orders to convene a conference on local government to take place in
Moscow on 17 February, Interfax reported on 7 February. Yeltsin did not specify
if he would attend, but parliament, government, various regions, public groups,
and research institutions will be represented, AFP reported. According to
Sergei Filatov, the president's chief of staff, the Duma is now considering a
variety of bills on local government. One bill proposes the restoration of the
Soviet system abolished by Yeltsin in October 1993. Yeltsin's bill guarantees
the local bodies control over property and revenue. Filatov also claimed
federal bodies will not be allowed to interfere in local affairs without the
consent of local bodies. However, he reiterated his warning that "local leaders
are still trying to grab more powers from federal authorities." He did not
elaborate. Federation Council Chairman Vladimir Shumeiko strongly believes
parliament should leave behind a package of laws on power sharing before its
term expires. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.
RUSSIA'S CHOICE PUSHES FOR CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS.
Russia's Choice is
pushing for an amendment that will increase the legislature's control over the
executive branch, Boris Zolotukhin, vice-chairman of the parliamentary faction,
told Interfax on 8 February. The amendment would change article 101 to include
a provision giving parliament the right to set up commissions "for
investigating issues of special interest." It also proposes that officials in
question be required to attend sessions of parliamentary commissions and
present any documents requested. The motion has 40 deputies' signatures and
needs a total of 90 to get on the Duma agenda. Zolotukhin is a member of the
Duma commission investigating the causes of the Chechen conflict whose work
Yeltsin has declared unconstitutional. The parliament has also had trouble
inducing government officials to testify at its hearings. -- Robert Orttung,
NATIONWIDE MINERS STRIKE.
Half a million miners at about 200 pits
throughout Russia staged a 24-hour warning strike on 8 February to demand
payment of wage arrears and a 10-trillion-ruble subsidy for the coal industry,
agencies reported. Union officials estimated the stoppage would cost Russia 1
million tons in lost coal production. Yeltsin's economic adviser, Aleksandr
Livshitz, said the debt to the miners will be paid back shortly and "the
miners' fair demands will be met," Interfax reported. However, he said the debt
is 1.5 trillion rubles, a trillion less than the miners calculate, and
cautioned that promising privileges to the industry when virtually every branch
of the economy is underfunded "would be tantamount to cutting other vitally
important branches and putting up with a dangerous growth in the budget
deficit." If their demands are not met, the miners plan to picket government
buildings in Moscow for three days at the end of February, prior to launching
an indefinite strike on 1 March. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.
NEW OSCE DELEGATION TO RUSSIA?
A French Foreign Ministry spokesman said
a new Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe fact-finding
delegation should be sent to Chechnya, AFP reported. Russian Foreign Minister
Andrei Kozyrev has been very supportive of the organization. "We understand
that the Chechen conflict casts a shadow on Russia's foreign policy.
Nevertheless, Russia is seeking closer interaction with international
organizations, including the OSCE. This organization is gaining momentum and we
intend to expand our cooperation with it," he told ITAR-TASS on 8 February. --
Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.
GAIDAR CALLS FOR MILITARY REFORM.
Former acting Prime Minister Egor
Gaidar said his Russia's Choice party supports the creation of a smaller but
more efficient military. He said the operations in Chechnya highlighted the
"amazing incompetence" of Russia's senior military officers, Interfax reported
on 7 February. Gaidar charged that real reform of the armed forces had yet to
begin and said, "building an army adequate for our current objectives and
capabilities is not just the problem of the military. It is Russia's strategic
task." -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.
KOKOSHIN SAYS STATE MUST PAY DEFENSE DEBTS.
The state should pay the
debts it owes the armed forces and defense enterprises, First Deputy Defense
Minister Andrei Kokoshin told the Duma on 7 February. According to Interfax,
the Duma's Defense Committee estimates the government owes 3.2 trillion rubles
for arms purchases and research alone. The report said the government was
allowing the Defense Ministry to sign contracts for up to 80% of the money
allotted to it in the draft budget, so as to not disrupt 1995 procurements. --
Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.
YELTSIN APPOINTS NEW PRIVATIZATION CHIEF.
In a move to speed up Russia's
privatization process, President Yeltsin appointed Sergei Belayev, previously
head of the Federal Bankruptcy Agency, as chairman of the State Property
Committee, Russian and Western agencies reported on 8 February. Belayev
replaces acting chairman Pyotr Mostovoi, who himself replaced Vladimir
Polevanov, who was fired last month for suggesting that key industries, such as
oil and aluminum, be renationalized. Polevanov had also barred Western advisers
and their Russian employees from entering the State Property Committee.
Belayev, an ally of reformist First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais, has
already been involved in carrying out Russia's privatization agenda. He aided
Chubais in devising and implementing the ambitious voucher sell-off campaign
which transferred more than 15,000 medium and large state firms, representing
60% of the work force, into private hands. In his new job, Belayev will have to
deal with a parliament that is largely hostile to Chubais' privatization
program. The legislature has yet to approve the government's plans for the
program. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.
EXPORT REVENUES UP IN 1994.
Russia's foreign exchange revenues from
exports to countries outside the former Soviet Union increased from $22.1
billion in 1993 to $36.8 billion last year, Vice-Premier and Foreign Trade
Minister Oleg Davidov said on 8 February, Interfax reported. The positive trend
follows a substantial cut in barter trade and more effective currency and
export controls, Davidov said. Last year's volume of exports ran at $48
billion, an 8.4% increase over 1993, and was attributed to growing exports of
unfinished products and raw materials. Exports of crude oil and oil products
were up 11.3% and 10.6% respectively. Last year's imports rose only 5.4%,
reaching $28.2 billion, according to the minister. Davidov said any further
increase was "constrained by higher import tariffs and taxes, as well as the
ruble rate which started to plummet in the second half of 1994." -- Thomas
Sigel, OMRI, Inc.
No report today.
RUSSIAN-UKRAINIAN FRIENDSHIP TREATY AGREEMENT INITIALED.
Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets and his Ukrainian counterpart Yevhen
Marchuk initialed a comprehensive agreement on friendship and cooperation in
Kiev on 8 February, international agencies reported. The sticking points of
dual citizenship and the Black Sea Fleet had held up the agreement for months.
The accord was initially meant to be ready for signing by President Yeltsin in
October 1994, but was delayed. Reports indicate the touchy issues were not
actually dealt with in the initialed text. The problem of dual citizenship will
be addressed within a separate agreement and the fleet issue was not
definitively resolved. In addition, the problem of Ukraine's $4.3 billion
energy debt was left out of the treaty. A number of other agreements concerning
the easing of trade restrictions, cooperation in rocket and space technology,
the simplification of border crossings, and a common taxation pact were agreed
upon. Soskovets said Yeltsin should visit Ukraine in March to sign the treaty.
-- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.
UNRESOLVED FLEET ISSUES.
While it was agreed that Russia would lease
Sevastopol as the main naval base for its share of the Black Sea Fleet, it did
not specify a timetable for the division of the fleet and did not say whether
Sevastopol would also be the Ukrainian navy's headquarters. Previously, Russia
had been opposed to both countries sharing the base. In April 1994 it had been
generally accepted that Ukraine would take only 20% of the fleet and sell the
rest of its share to Russia to pay off energy arrears. Comments by the
Ukrainian defense minister, Valerii Shmarov, indicate the issue has not been
fully resolved. Shmarov was quoted as saying he hoped for a resolution by the
end of 1995. In contrast, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets said the
two sides had "made considerable progress in bringing our positions closer
together," ITAR-TASS reported. -- Ustina Markus and Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.
WALESA ACCEPTS OLEKSY AS PRIME MINISTER.
Presidential spokesman Leszek
Spalinski told reporters on 8 February that Lech Walesa has "voiced no
objection" to the selection of Sejm Speaker Jozef Oleksy to replace Polish
Peasant Party leader Waldemar Pawlak as prime minister. The president is to
meet with Oleksy on 9 February. Spalinski stressed that Walesa expects the
coalition to respect his prerogatives when selecting the new cabinet (the
president has the constitutional right to supervise defense and security
policy). Democratic Left Alliance leader Aleksander Kwasniewski has taken pains
to avoid antagonizing Walesa on this issue. While arguing that the defense,
foreign affairs, and internal affairs portfolios are "incorrectly" known as
"presidential" ministries, Kwasniewski has indicated that the coalition will
seek to find candidates acceptable to the president. (He has already indicated
that Andrzej Milczanowski will stay on as internal affairs minister.) Walesa
would like Andrzej Olechowski to return to his former post of foreign affairs
minister, Rzeczpospolita reports, citing unofficial sources. -- Louisa
Vinton, OMRI, Inc.
FATE OF POLISH BUDGET UNCLEAR.
Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) leader
Aleksander Kwasniewski told reporters that talks on the new cabinet could be
concluded in a matter of days. But conflicts have already emerged and could
delay a Sejm vote to approve the new cabinet. Leading SLD members have argued
that President Lech Walesa should withdraw his constitutional challenge to the
1995 budget and sign it into law before Waldemar Pawlak is removed from office.
But the president's spokesman has argued that the budget is an entirely
unrelated issue, and he recommended that the coalition open talks with Walesa
on the budget. Leading figures in the Polish Peasant Party (PSL), for their
part, have argued that a new coalition agreement should be completed before
Jozef Oleksy proposes a new cabinet to the parliament. They insist that the new
deal give their party control over the economic ministries run by the SLD under
the old agreement. Kwasniewski has argued that ministerial posts should be
divided up in proportion to the two parties' relative strength in the Sejm (the
SLD has 167 of the 460 seats and the PSL 131). Meanwhile, Freedom Union leader
Tadeusz Mazowiecki stressed that his party will remain in opposition. Mere
personnel changes, Mazowiecki said, cannot solve the country's political
crisis. Other opposition forces likewise dismissed the coalition's moves as
mere "cosmetic" changes. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc.
NATO LOOKS SOUTH INSTEAD OF EAST, DESPITE CHECHEN WAR.
Secretary-General, Willy Claes admits the Chechen war has put increased
pressure on its Eastern flank. Claes, who has recently been meeting with
representatives of East European and Central Asian countries, said "NATO
expansion was the most important item on the agenda--so no doubt there's more
pressure, and I've told the Russians this." He added, "The more President
Yeltsin makes strong speeches against enlargement, the more the nations of
CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE are knocking at my door." Poland's ambassador to
Belgium, Andrzej Krzeczunowicz, said, "Chechnya won't change the pace of
expansion...but [it] has changed the climate. People are more aware that the
political environment is unstable and that changes in Russia may not be
irreversible," The New York Times reported. But Claes cited the Caucasus
situation as one reason to redirect NATO's interest southward. "The situation
in the Middle East and in the southern parts of the former Soviet Union is so
serious that we have to increase our efforts to cooperate with the countries
around the Mediterranean Sea," Claes told the Belgian newspaper Tijd. --
Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.
UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES CASH EMISSION.
The Ukrainian parliament
has authorized a cash emission worth 25 trillion unbacked Ukrainian karbovantsi
to meet outstanding payments for energy and fuel imports, pay wages and
pensions, and finance this year's spring sowing, UNIAR News reported on
8 February. Viktor Pynzenyk, deputy premier in charge of economic reform, said
the government was forced to request the emission after the parliament
threatened a vote of no confidence if the government did not pay off the debts
of state enterprises. Legislators have yet to review the 1995 draft budget
submitted by the government, which calls for tight fiscal measures and deep
cuts in state subsidies to businesses and in social expenditures. The emission
is expected to further devalue the karbovanets and double inflation to around
30% in February. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc.
UKRAINIAN FOREIGN TRADE IN 1994.
Russia was Ukraine's most important
trade partner in 1994, Interfax reported on 5 February. No less than 39% of
Ukraine's exports were to Russia and 30% of its imports came from that country.
Former Soviet republics accounted for two-thirds of Ukraine's trade. Belarus
accounted for 6% of its exports and 3% of its imports; Moldova, 5% and 1%;
Turkmenistan, 3% and 7%; and Kazakhstan, 1% and 2%. Overall, Ukraine exported
more than it imported. Among its non-CIS trading partners, China was the
largest, accounting for 6% of Ukraine's total trade. The U.S. and Switzerland
followed with 3% each; and Hungary, Italy, and Germany, 2% each. -- Ustina
Markus, OMRI, Inc.
PRESIDENTS OF BALTIC STATES MEET.
Baltic Presidents Lennart Meri
(Estonia), Guntis Ulmanis (Latvia), and Algirdas Brazauskas (Lithuania)
officially inaugurated the activities of the Baltic Peacekeeping Battalion
(Baltbat) at the former Soviet army base at Adazi, Latvia, Western agencies
report. Ulmanis told a press conference that Baltbat was important for Baltic
security and a clear example of Baltic cooperation. The presidents, after a
meeting in Jurmala, issued a statement urging Western nations not to put the
Baltic States on the slow track to NATO membership. "The criteria for admission
to the North Atlantic Alliance need to be equal for all prospective members,"
the statement said. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.
LATVIA SIGNS INDIVIDUAL PFP PROGRAM.
Latvian Defense Minister Janis
Trapans, at a meeting with the NATO Council in Brussels on 8 February,
concluded an agreement making Latvia the 11th country to sign an individual
Partnership for Peace cooperation program, AFP reports. Trapans told a press
conference that the agreement has symbolic and practical value, since it marked
Latvia's return to the family of European nations and would help develop the
country's military structures. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.
MAJOR PRIVATE LITHUANIAN TV STATION CLOSES.
The Lithuanian Radio and TV
Committee on 8 February discussed use of the TV channel on which the bankrupt
private company LitPoliinter TV had broadcast until the previous day, RFE/RL's
Lithuanian Service reports. LitPoliinter TV owes 800,000 litai ($200,000) to
the state and would need another 1 million litai as security to regain the
right to broadcast. The committee decided to accept until 8 March offers from
companies to use the channel. The applicants have to present programming
schedules and a statement from a commercial bank guaranteeing their ability to
pay necessary expenses. The committee also decided that the successful
applicant will have to reach an agreement to continue rebroadcasting programs
from Russia's Ostankino Television. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.
CZECH STATE FIRMS BANNED FROM POLITICAL SPONSORSHIP.
government on 8 February banned state-owned firms from giving donations to
political parties, Czech media reported the following day. According to changes
in legislation to be submitted to the parliament, companies in which the state
has a majority interest or which receive state subsidies will be allowed to
make donations only to charities and social welfare organizations. The changes
were prompted by a fund-raising dinner organized by Prime Minister Vaclav
Klaus's Civic Democratic Party (ODS) in November. The ODS invited
industrialists, including several directors of state-owned companies, who paid
up to 250,000 koruny (some $9,000) to attend. A public outcry followed, and
other parties in the governing coalition charged that the ODS was effectively
receiving hidden state subsidies. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc.
CZECH DEPUTIES PROTEST CHURCH TRANSFER.
More than half of Czech
parliament deputies signed a petition protesting a court decision to hand over
St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague to the Catholic Church, Czech media report. The
medieval cathedral, the principal place of worship in the capital and a major
tourist attraction, is part of Prague Castle and was expropriated by the
Communists in the 1950s. A Prague court ruled recently that it should be
returned to the Church. The petition, delivered on 8 February to President
Vaclav Havel's office in the Castle, called on the Castle authorities to appeal
the decision because the cathedral has always been considered public property.
Some 12,000 people signed the petition, among them 107 deputies and
Transportation Minister Jan Strasky. The deadline for lodging an appeal is 10
February. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc.
SLOVAK ECONOMIC STATISTICS FOR 1994.
The Slovak Statistical Office, at a
press conference on 8 February, revealed that real wages in 1994 grew by 3.3%
in industry, 2.1% in construction, 1.1% in trade, and 6% in transport, compared
with 1993. Real industrial production rose 6.4%, while the private sector's
share in retail trade reached 88.5%, in construction 73.6%, in transport 56.3%,
and in industrial production 53.7%. Foreign investment increased by 53.8%,
reaching 16.5 billion koruny. Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, the U.S.,
and France are the largest foreign investors in Slovakia, Narodna obroda
reports. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.
KRAJINA SERBS CALL MILITARY ALERT, BREAK CONTACTS WITH ZAGREB.
reports on 9 February that the Krajina Serb legislature has set up a military
alert and that observers in the area have already detected signs of
mobilization. A correspondent noted the "fear of a drift toward war." The
government-controlled Belgrade press already seems to have started a campaign
promoting war hysteria. One headline in the pro-Milosevic Borba reads:
"Germany prepares for war." The Krajina legislature also suspended all
political and economic contacts with Zagreb either until Croatian President
Franjo Tudjman takes back his decision to cancel UNPROFOR's mandate or until
the UN finds a way to keep on UNPROFOR with or without Tudjman's approval.
Economic contacts between the two sides have been increasingly promising, but
neither party is happy with the current political agenda, which is topped by a
plan from international mediators. Both Zagreb and Knin will probably be glad
if it now dies a quiet death. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.
MORE ON SERBIAN MILITARY HELP FOR BOSNIAN SERBS.
on 9 February that U.S. officials are continuing to show great concern over UN
accounts of some 62 military helicopter flights from Serbia to Bosnian Serb
forces at Srebrenica last week. The newspaper also notes that Bosnian Prime
Minister Haris Silajdzic has charged that Serbia recently sent some 90 tanks
and 8,000 "volunteers" to help its beleaguered allies. Newsday also
reports on the French proposal for an international conference on the Yugoslav
crisis, which has drawn mixed responses from around the globe. One French
diplomat said in its defense: "If not this, what else can we propose?"
Meanwhile, Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic is quoted in the Belgrade
dailies as saying that his side will not be bound by any decisions of the
conference if he is not invited. French officials deliberately left him off the
guest list in a move to increase his isolation because of his continued refusal
to accept the current peace plan. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.
SARAJEVO TO REOPEN RAILWAY LINKS.
The BBC's Serbian Service reports on 9
February that railway transport has restarted in the Bosnian capital for the
first time in almost three years. A German locomotive pulled two cars into the
city the previous day, but plans are under way to reopen soon the key route
running south to Mostar and on to Ploce on the Adriatic. Elsewhere, UN
spokesmen reported alarm at what they said was an increase of fighting in the
Bihac area. Agencies quoted them as calling troop movements of hundreds of
Krajina Serbs "alarming." -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.
SERBIAN AUTHORITIES CRACK DOWN ON STUDIO B.
Nasa Borba on 9
February reports that the independent Belgrade-based Studio B, which has both
radio and television broadcast facilities, may become the latest victim in the
Serbian government's crackdown on the free media. The daily notes that the same
pattern is evident as in other recent cases, including that of the independent
daily Borba (reincorporated last month as Nasa Borba). The
authorities on 8 February challenged Studio B's legal status or incorporation
in what appears to be the first step in a takeover bid. Studio B director
Dragan Kojadinovic remarked that his company may exist for no more than 20
days. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.
SLOVENIAN, ITALIAN FOREIGN MINISTERS MEET.
Reuters on 8 February
reported that Slovenian Foreign Minister Zoran Thaler met in Rome with his
Italian counterpart, Susanna Agnelli. The meeting was described as one of
"goodwill," with such divisive issues as a property dispute that has prompted
Italy to block Slovenian efforts at EU membership being kept off the agenda.
Thaler told reporters that discussions focused on how to develop "[bilateral]
relations that are closer and not based on hate." -- Stan Markotich, OMRI,
CONTINUED DISAGREEMENT OVER HUNGARIAN-ROMANIAN TREATY.
Ministry spokesman Mircea Geoana said at a press conference on 8 February that
the teams of experts that met in Budapest from 6-8 February still disagree over
two points in the basic Hungarian-Romanian treaty. These concern minority
rights and collaboration to achieve Romania's admission as a full member of the
Central European Initiative and the Central European Free Trade Association.
Geoana was quoted by Radio Bucharest as saying that Hungary has submitted new
proposals, which he described as representing "some steps forward but also some
backward." Responding to Hungary's proposal that the treaty be accompanied by a
separate document detailing minority rights, Geoana said there should be no
linkage between such a document and the basic treaty. He added that the
proposal was not in line with what had been agreed by the two countries'
foreign ministers a few days earlier in Strasbourg and during Theodor
Melescanu's visit to Budapest last September. The Romanian side will make its
own proposals at the next round of negotiations at expert level, to be held in
Bucharest later this month. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.
LEBED SAYS BAN ON REMOVING EQUIPMENT DOES NOT APPLY TO RUSSIAN ARMY.
Lieutenant-General Aleksandr Lebed, commander of the Russian 14th Army,
told Interfax on 8 February that a decree issued by the president of the
self-styled Dniester Republic banning the removal of Russian military assets
from the republic's territory does not apply to Russian military forces. He
said the decree detailed "equipment, property, and other material resources
purchased from the Russian 14th Army," which he interpreted as applying only to
Dniester Republic residents who have purchased property from the army. He said
vehicles, including general purpose trucks, have been sold after their term of
service expired. He noted that he had received no instructions about the
removal of 14th Army units from the region and suggested that discussion on the
issue was superfluous at this stage. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.
BULGARIAN POLICE BREAK UP PROTESTS AGAINST WATER PIPELINE.
police dispersed about 200 protesters who blocked work on a water pipeline
project in the town of Sapareva Banya, Reuters reported on 8 February. Some 21
demonstrators were arrested. Construction of the pipeline, linking rivers in
the Rila Mountains to the Iskar dam, has been stopped since residents of the
Sapareva Banya region formed a human chain on 23 December and prevented workers
from entering the construction site. The government on 6 February ordered work
on the project to be continued. Meanwhile, international news agencies reported
on 7 February that the persisting water shortage in Sofia is severe enough to
justify evacuation of some of the capital's residents. A government spokesman
said "the introduction of a state of emergency in Sofia and surrounding areas"
cannot be excluded, since the shortage "threatens the health of the 1.5 million
Sofia residents." -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.
BULGARIA TO REHABILITATE EX-COMMUNIST ACADEMICS.
Bulgarian Minister of
Education and Science Ilcho Dimitrov announced on 8 February that the
government plans to revise a law barring former communists from higher academic
posts, Reuters reported the same day. Under the present law, introduced in
1992, former senior communist functionaries are barred from governing bodies of
universities, research institutes, and the Central Examination Board. Dimitrov
called the law "absurd" and fascist." He added that he is allowed to be
minister and run the whole educational system but cannot be a member of his
university's faculty council. The law has been criticized by international
human rights organizations. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.
ALBANIAN SUPREME COURT FREES ETHNIC GREEKS.
Albanian Chief Supreme Court
Judge Zef Brozi has suspended the prison terms of four ethnic Greeks sentenced
to between six and eight years by a lower court last summer, international
agencies reported on 8 February. They were found guilty of espionage and
illegal possession of firearms, but their terms were later reduced. A fifth was
released in an amnesty last fall. The Prosecutor-General's Office immediately
protested the court ruling to release the four prisoners. As a result, they
were freed only some nine hours after the ruling. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI,
[As of 1200 CET]
Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave