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Newsline - August 14, 1995


OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 157, 14 August 1995
DUMA OVERRIDES FEDERATION COUNCIL ON DISTRICT BOUNDARIES.
In a special session on 12 August, the State Duma overrode the Federation Council veto of a law defining the boundaries of the 225 single-member districts in the December Duma elections with 350 votes in favor, five against, and two abstentions, NTV reported. The higher-than-expected turnout of deputies and their unity in the vote showed that they were interested in the Duma elections being held in strict accordance with the law so that there would be no pretext to overturn their outcome. President Boris Yeltsin is expected to sign the law in the next few days. The Central Electoral Commission must officially publish the map of district boundaries by the end of August, according to the electoral law. -- Robert Orttung

YELTSIN VETOES LAW ON FEDERATION COUNCIL.
President Yeltsin vetoed the law on the formation of the Federation Council on 12 August, Russian and Western agencies reported. The law had been passed by the Duma on 5 July and the Federation Council on 27 July. During its special session 12 August, the Duma tried to override the veto but mustered only 282 of the needed 300 votes, Russian Public TV reported. Yeltsin said the law would violate the constitution. According to his interpretation, Federation Council members should be appointed by the local executive and legislative branches of Russia's 89 republics and regions. The parliament's version of the law called for electing the upper house based on candidates nominated by the local executives and legislatures. According to a Kremlin statement, electing the upper house makes it too much like the lower house, AFP reported on 12 August. Appointing the members will allow them to better represent the interests of Russia's federal units, while the Duma will represent various groups within the population, according to the statement. Yeltsin has asked the Constitutional Court to examine the matter. -- Robert Orttung

KOZYREV AND LAKE DISCUSS YUGOSLAV SITUATION.
No joint statement was issued after Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev and U.S. National Security Adviser Anthony Lake met for nearly three hours in Sochi on 13 August to discuss the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, Russian and Western agencies reported. Lake left without commenting to journalists. Kozyrev expressed satisfaction that the U.S. was now making "more active efforts to find a political solution" to the conflict but also admitted that "differences in accent between the two sides" persist. He also complained that "lifting or suspending sanctions" against rump Yugoslavia, a step supported by both President Yeltsin and the Duma, is not backed by the U.S. Differences in the U.S. and Russian approaches to the conflict have intensified since Croatia successfully recaptured Krajina earlier this month, and Lake, who is touring European capitals in a reported attempt to gain support for a U.S. peace initiative, had not originally planned to visit Russia. -- Scott Parrish

DUMA PASSES BILLS ON YUGOSLAV CONFLICT.
At its special session on 12 August, the Duma adopted a resolution condemning Croatian actions in Krajina and passed three bills related to the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, Russian and Western agencies reported. On the second attempt, by a vote of 226-1, with many deputies not voting, a bill providing for Russia to unilaterally withdraw from UN sanctions against rump Yugoslavia barely passed on its third reading. The same bill had passed on its second reading on 12 July, following NATO air strikes against the Bosnian Serbs. In three simultaneous readings, the Duma also passed by 234-0, again with many deputies not voting, a bill that would impose a trade embargo on Croatia as punishment for "genocide against the Serbian people." The third bill called for the dispatch of humanitarian aid to Serbs fleeing Croatia. The bills now go to the Federation Council for consideration, and Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin suggested after the vote that President Yeltsin might veto them if they pass the upper house, which is currently in summer recess. -- Scott Parrish

GROZNY PEACE PROCESS FALTERS.
Continued failure to implement the military accord signed in Grozny on 30 July has increased already strong doubts about the prospects for negotiating a stable peace in Chechnya. Sandor Meszaros, head of the OSCE delegation in Grozny, said on 11 August that none of the major provisions of the agreement have yet been put into operation. He added that an atmosphere of "mistrust" is hindering further progress. To push the process forward, Minister for Nationalities Vyacheslav Mikhailov and Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov went to Grozny over the weekend. Mikhailov told ITAR-TASS on 12 August that if the process of disarmament moves forward successfully, local elections in Chechnya could take place this December. He added, however, that a recent decision by Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev to exempt the "Chechen army" from the provisions of the Grozny military accord would torpedo any further progress. Kulikov later told journalists in Grozny that if pro-Dudaev fighters do not turn over their weapons soon, federal troops would "continue to use force" to disarm them. Talks on implementing the military agreement are scheduled to continue on 14 August. -- Scott Parrish

OSSETIYANS AND INGUSH BREAK NEGOTIATIONS OVER REFUGEES.
Negotiations between North Ossetiyan and Ingush delegations that began in Nazrani on 8 August halted three days later. Interfax reported on 11 August that the Ingush press service said that the talks were "interrupted because of the Ossetiyan side's refusal to continue them," and also that the Ossetiyans claimed that making a list of North Ossetiyan communities to which refugees could return is not possible. North Ossetiyan President Yurii Biragov, however, told ITAR-TASS on 12 August that the Ingush side had insisted on a rapid return of refugees to 16 resettlement points in North Ossetiya, while his side had proposed to deal with the problem gradually. He said that each side should send a group of experts to look over proposed sites to determine housing and infrastructure needs, as well as how to guarantee refugees' safety, before negotiations continue. Both sides have expressed a willingness to resume negotiations later. Interfax labeled the problematic refugees "North Ossetiyans," while ITAR-TASS referred to them as "Ingush." -- Alaina Lemon

OUR HOME IS RUSSIA ADOPTS PRELIMINARY PLATFORMS.
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's center-right Our Home is Russia bloc adopted preliminary versions of its program and campaign platform at the first session of its second congress on 12 August, ITAR-TASS reported. The final versions will be adopted at the second stage of the congress on 2 September. In his speech to the congress, Chernomyrdin said it will be difficult to convince people to support the program because many of the movement's members are currently in the executive branch and are vulnerable to criticism. Aleksandr Shokhin, chairman of the program commission, said that the main goals of the program were to pay state debts to industry and compensate citizens, starting with the oldest, for the savings they lost due to the liberalization of prices. Chernomyrdin's "party of power" faces stiff competition, since the appearance of numerous regional branches of Our Home is Russia is giving the opposition a common enemy and spurring its unification, Izvestiya reported on 12 August. -- Robert Orttung

"ALPHA" UNIT GOES TO THE FSB.
The crack antiterrorist "Alpha" commando unit has been transferred to the Federal Security Service (FSB), RIA reported on 10 August. The unit, established in 1974 under the KGB, had belonged to President Yeltsin's Main Administration for the Protection of the Russian Federation. Sullied in the attack on the hospital in Budennovsk, Alpha thus follows its former commander Col. Gen. Mikhail Barsukov to the strengthened FSB. In April, Yeltsin signed into law a bill that allowed the FSB to create special forces for paramilitary functions. -- Doug Clarke

RECORD NUMBER OF SYPHILIS CASES.
Yevgenii Belyaev, the head of the State Committee for Sanitary-Epidemiological Inspection, said on 11 August that there were more than 100,000 registered cases of syphilis in the first six months of this year, the most Russia has seen this century, Reuters reported. Dysentery is up 26%, and hepatitis A up 3.9%. There were 18,787 cases of diphtheria in the first seven months of the year, but the disease is spreading much more slowly than it did last year. To improve the health of the population, Belyaev advocated a national campaign to promote "healthy lifestyles, good food, and family values." -- Penny Morvant

PAY RISE FOR CIVIL SERVANTS.
Finance Minister Vladimir Panskov said on 11 August that civil servants' salaries will be raised by 55% in September and that President Yeltsin has promised to issue a decree raising salary levels by 150% in the new year, ITAR-TASS and Kommersant-Daily reported. He added, however, that the Duma was likely to oppose the hikes. Government ministers argue that low pay is encouraging a damaging emigration of qualified officials that is "threatening national security," but left-wing papers have frequently criticized civil service salaries as too high. At present, the lowest average monthly salary is at the Culture Ministry--313,000 rubles ($71)--and the highest at the State Customs Service--960,000 rubles ($218). -- Penny Morvant

MORE ON TURKISH SPY IN DAGESTAN.
The case of Isak Kasap, a Turkish national arrested for espionage in late May in Dagestan (see OMRI Daily Digest, 2 June 1995 and 31 May 1995), may be nearing a conclusion. At an 11 August press conference organized by the Russian Federal Security Service in Makhachkala, Kasap told reporters he was guilty of espionage on Russian territory and of serving as a contact between Turkey and Dzhokhar Dudaev, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. He said he confessed his guilt because the Turkish authorities had denied any connection to him. The Dagestani prosecutor's office has decided to cancel criminal proceedings against Kasap since he cooperated with them and "did not cause any serious damage" to Russia or Dagestan. It appears he will be deported. -- Lowell Bezanis

LARGE FOREIGN INVESTMENTS NOT EXPECTED IN 1996.
Russian Deputy Economics Minister Vladimir Kossov told Interfax on 11 August that political uncertainty in the country is discouraging foreign investment which is not expected to pick up until after forthcoming parliamentary and presidential elections. The minister noted that the government had sent proposals to the State Duma to pass legislation that would make the investment climate more attractive to foreigners. Nebulous and contradictory legislation is one of the obstacles in attracting foreign investment to Russia. Kossov said Russia received as little as $500 million in direct foreign investment in the first six months of this year, marking a drop from last year's figures. Kossov predicted that foreign investments for 1996 will stay in these year's range of $1.2-1.5 billion. -- Thomas Sigel

RUBLE REMAINS UNCHANGED FOR FIRST TIME THIS YEAR.
For the first time this year, the Russian ruble remained unchanged at 4,405 rubles to $1 for a whole week (7-11 August), the Financial /Information Agency reported on 11 August. The ruble is stable because the dollar rate on the exchange market approached a limit the Central Bank of Russia can permit. The bank bought about $300 million worth of currency on MICEX trading during the course of the week, which kept the ruble stable. The Financial Information Agency reported that if high interest rates (70-100%) persist on inter-bank ruble credits, commercial banks may avoid a long-term play for the dollar's rise. In August last year, the price of ruble credits averaged 20-25%, which triggered the panic buying of hard currency late last summer and early fall. -- Thomas Sigel

CITIZENS' SAVINGS HOLDINGS RISE.
The total bank savings of Russian citizens amounted to 50.9 trillion rubles ($1.2 billion) as of 1 July, according to issue No. 30 of Birzhevye vedomosti. Based on Goskomstat statistics, this means an 80% rise over the figure at the beginning of the year. As before, Russians prefer to keep their savings with the Sberbank (Savings Bank), which has accumulated 59.4% of all bank assets invested by the Russian population. Meanwhile, some experts cited in the report noted that this figure is actually declining. They say that in January 1994, Russians kept 71.4% of their total savings with Sberbank compared with only 62.2% in January 1995. -- Thomas Sigel



OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 157, 14 August 1995
UN ENVOY MAKES STATEMENT IN KABUL ON TAJIK TALKS.
The UN special envoy to Tajikistan, Ramiro Piriz Ballon, said in Kabul on 12 August after meeting with opposition leader Said Nuri that the two sides in the Tajik conflict have agreed on "some of the principles that should serve as the basis for future inter-Tajik talks," according to the United Nations Daily report. Ballon said the two sides agreed in principle on a six-month extension of the existing ceasefire (due to expire on 26 August), on the formation of a consultative body to discuss political transition in Tajikistan, and on the legalization of political parties. After the statement, Ballon flew back to Dushanbe without mentioning where or when the next round of talks will be held. -- Bruce Pannier

CILLER BEGINS CENTRAL ASIAN TOUR.
At the head of a large delegation, Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Ciller began a tour of Central Asia on 14 August to strengthen economic and political ties with Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan, international media reported. In particular, along with her energy minister, Ciller is expected to push for more trade, an oil pipeline, and eventually, a highway linking Turkey and Central Asia, according to media reports. Ciller was in Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan, priority countries for Turkey, less than two months ago. Her visit follows a similar regional tour earlier this month by Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati. Ciller's visit is also a precursor to the third summit of Turkic leaders which is to be held in Bishkek later this month. -- Lowell Bezanis



OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 157, 14 August 1995


EAST CENTRAL EUROPE


UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT REINSTATES GENERAL PROSECUTOR.
Leonid Kuchma issued a decree on 10 August reinstating Vladislav Datsiuk as general prosecutor, Ukrainian TV reported the same day. Datsiuk was dismissed by the parliament after he was accused of failing to address growing crime and corruption. Datsiuk denied the charge and claimed the move was motivated by his ongoing investigation into charges of corruption among parliamentary leaders, especially into alleged money-laundering by deputy speaker Oleksander Tkachenko. Prior to his dismissal, Datsiuk formally requested the legislature to strip Tkachenko of his immunity from criminal prosecution so that the prosecutor's office could file official charges. Kuchma overturned the removal of Datsiuk on the grounds that it was contrary to a recent so-called constitutional accord between himself and lawmakers, which gave him authority to appoint government ministers and officials. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

UKRAINIAN MEDIA NEWS.
Crimean Parliament Speaker Yevhen Supruniuk told UNIAN on 11 August that the Ukrainian government allotted 14 billion karbovantsi (over $100,000) to the region's TV transmission center and Crimean TV, which will enable Ukraine's recent decision to switch Russian Public TV from the country's Channel One to a channel with a less powerful signal to be reversed. Supruniuk said he discussed the issue with President Leonid Kuchma after the mostly Russian-speaking Crimeans complained that the transmission quality was poor for the popular programming. He said Kuchma promised another 100 billion karbovantsi for the repair and purchase of new equipment for the local transmission center. Ukrainian State TV and Radio said it was forced to change the channels on 1 August after the Russian broadcasters failed to pay some $8 million in fees. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

BELARUSIAN ECONOMIC NEWS.
Belarusian Television reported on 10 August that Prime Minister Mikhail Chyhir discussed economic problems with the Belarusian economic court. Over the past six months, the court has examined over 5,000 cases, a five-fold growth over the previous year. The head of the court, Uladzimir Boika, said there is a serious problem with the court's judgments not being carried out. Chyhir affirmed that there was a problem with economic laws in the country, and said the cabinet was taking measures to rectify the situation. Chyhir informed Belarusian Radio that President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has reconsidered his decrees forbidding pensioners to claim both a working income and their pensions. Now the president has decided working pensioners should be entitled to both, but those earning over 360,000 Belarusian rubles ($31) per month should get only half of their pension. On 11 August, Belarusian radio reported that the Ministry of State Assets and Privatization has confirmed a list of 624 state enterprises to be privatized this year. -- Ustina Markus

ESTONIAN, LITHUANIAN PRIME MINISTERS DISCUSS BILATERAL RELATIONS.
Tiit Vahi and Adolfas Slezevicius discussed issues concerning their countries and the whole Baltic region during their meeting in Tallinn on 11 August, BNS reported. The premiers talked about preparing bilateral agreements for investment protection and on social guarantees as well as establishing a Baltic customs union for which a common transit agreement is being prepared. They also discussed the situation of their UN peacekeeping units in Croatia and the Danish initiative to set up a security council for the Baltic area. -- Saulius Girnius

RUSSIAN ORGANIZATIONS IN LITHUANIA.
The editorial board of the largest Russian-language newspaper in Lithuania, Ekho Litvy, published an appeal on 10 August asking for support for founding an independent, apolitical organization that would unite all Russian speakers in Lithuania, BNS reported the following day. Noting that the organizations of ethnic minorities and the Union of Russians in Lithuania currently being formed are political, the appeal asserts the need for "a general, social and civic organization of fellow countrymen" regardless of political views and professions. It underlines the fact that the Russian Federation has drafted a law that would offer "financial aid and other benefits to organizations of ethnic Russians and to businesses, operating within these organizations' frameworks." -- Saulius Girnius

UPDATE ON THE PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN IN POLAND.
Press reports concerning plans to postpone the presidential elections, which would require changing the constitution, are still dividing Polish politicians. According to presidential candidate and Democratic Left Alliance leader Aleksander Kwasniewski, the idea originated in June and came from a Democratic Union leader, Bronislaw Geremek. Geremek confirms talking in June with Kwasniewski and Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy and saying that Kwasniewski's candidacy "is now not good for the Polish state," but denies conducting negotiations on extending current president Lech Walesa's term for another two years, Gazeta Wyborcza reported on 12-13 August. Rzeczpospolita on the same day commented that "establishing a formula of government by a political arrangement and not by elections is an indecent act directed towards the electorate." In other developments, presidential candidate and former Labor Minister Jacek Kuron proposed on 13 August that every presidential candidate should answer five questions concerning Poland's future, such as what to do in order to assure that "the state functioned well and was friendly to citizens." Gazeta Wyborcza reported on 14 August. -- Jakub Karpinski



OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 157, 14 August 1995
SERBIA WANTS REFUGEES TO FIGHT IN BOSNIA.
International media report on 14 August that Serbian authorities have closed the border to Krajina Serb refugee males of military age. Huge jams at frontier crossings have resulted, since the women refuse to proceed without their menfolk. The Serbian authorities want the men to join Bosnian Serb forces, despite the fact that Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic has publicly distanced himself from the Bosnian Serb leadership. Reuters on 13 August quoted one of the women as saying that "there is nothing left for our men to defend," and the BBC cited others as saying that they would go to Serbia, Krajina, or abroad, but did not want to fight in Bosnia. -- Patrick Moore

SERBS PRESS ETHNIC CLEANSING OF BOSNIA, VOJVODINA.
Croats and Muslims continued over the weekend to be driven out of the Banja Luka area by Bosnian Serbs and Krajina refugees. According to Reuters on 14 August, "this is the final touch to a three-year-old barbarity that will make the name of Banja Luka go down in history as the heart of darkness," UN refugee agency spokesman Kris Janowski remarked. He said that 1,600 expellees are expected by 16 August. The Roman Catholic Church in the area has issued a special protest. Croatian and international media since 11 August have also reported that Croats and other non-Serbs are being "ethnically cleansed" from Vojvodina, ostensibly to make room for Krajina refugees. Meanwhile, in Petrinja in the formerly Serb-held Krajina, Croats are returning to the homes the Serbs chased them from four years ago. AFP on 14 August quoted one as saying that the Serbs the whole time "lived among utter rubble" without water, electricity, or reconstruction. -- Patrick Moore

CROATIAN, BOSNIAN FORCES PRESS FORWARD.
Over the weekend Bosnian Serb forces shelled the Dubrovnik area. The Croats attacked in return, and Vjesnik and the BBC reported on 12 August that Serbs in Trebinje in eastern Herzegovina are fleeing into Montenegro. Eastern Herzegovina has long been a Serbian stronghold and for Serbs to flee Trebinje would certainly be a new development. Meanwhile in central Bosnia, government forces have been pressing the Serbs back. The Fifth Corps is advancing eastward toward Bosanska Krupa and Prijedor, while other units are moving with Croatian artillery support northward to Donji Vakuf. Their goals appear to be to improve road transportation links and move on to Jajce. Government forces in both Prijedor and Jajce would then be in a position to advance on Banja Luka in a pincer movement. The morale of the Serbs is particularly low after a series of crushing defeats, while the mainly Muslim forces include men fighting to retake their homes. -- Patrick Moore

IZETBEGOVIC SAYS THAT GORAZDE WILL NOT BE TRADED.
Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic said in a television interview on 13 August that "we will not give up Gorazde even if we have to wage war for 15 years." There has been speculation that the latest U.S. peace plan would require him to give up the last remaining Muslim enclave in eastern Bosnia. The entire area had a large Muslim population in places like Visegrad before the Serbs launched their "ethnic cleansing" campaigns. Izetbegovic added that the siege of Sarajevo would be lifted by November, and that there would be some personnel changes in the Bosnian military. -- Patrick Moore

KARADZIC WARNS AGAINST DEAL OVER HIS HEAD.
Nasa Borba on 14 August quoted Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic as saying that any agreement reached in Moscow without his consent would be invalid. The New York Times reported that Karadzic and his estranged military commander, General Ratko Mladic, have had another exchange of words, this time reflecting on Karadzic's prewar profession as a psychiatrist. Karadzic said that the general was certifiably crazy. Mladic returned the compliment, telling Karadzic that he had "spent too long with his patients." -- Patrick Moore

RUSSIAN AID ARRIVES IN BELGRADE.
Three Russian Ilyushin-76 aircraft arrived on 12 August at Belgrade airport carrying some 90 tons of humanitarian aid for Serb refugees, AFP reported the same day. Moscow has said that the aid package, consisting almost entirely of foodstuffs and medical supplies, ought not be regarded as a violation of international sanctions against rump Yugoslavia. On 12 August, however, the Russian Duma passed a resolution calling for a unilateral lifting of the sanctions (see related items in Russian section). Meanwhile, additional Russian aid is slated for shipment to the rump Yugoslavia. -- Stan Markotich

SERB REFUGEES SETTLE IN KOSOVO . . .
International agencies reported on 14 August that 670 Krajina Serb refugees arrived in Prizren and Pec the previous day. Some additional families have also reached the region to join relatives there, a Red Cross official said. Rump Yugoslav authorities have reportedly said they want to settle 16,000 refugees in Kosovo, but other estimates mention 20,000. Many refugees have reportedly refused to be settled in the poor region. Previous efforts to settle Serbs in Kosovo have failed. Out of a total of 500,000 refugees to rump Yugoslavia during the Yugoslav war, only about 4,000 have so far been settled in Kosovo and have been accommodated mainly in school buildings. Rump Yugoslavia decided two years ago to build nearly 2,000 apartments, 400 houses and 11 camps to accommodate the influx of refugees, but only two camps have so far been constructed, at Junik and Velika Reka. -- Fabian Schmidt

. . . BUT SHARP REACTIONS FROM KOSOVO AND ALBANIA.
Edita Tahiri, a member of the leadership of the Democratic League of Kosovo, said that the settlement of Krajina refugees in Kosovo was a "project of colonization" and accused Belgrade of trying to alter the ethnic balance in Kosovo, international agencies reported. That view was supported by the Albanian Foreign Ministry: in a declaration published in Rilindja Demokratike on 12 August, it called the settling of refugees in Kosovo a "part of [rump Yugoslavia's] ethnic cleansing policy." Macedonian Defense Minister Blagoj Handziski warned against "a heightening of tension" in the province. The United States also expressed fears that the resettlement plan could extend the conflict. -- Fabian Schmidt

ROMANIA HOLDS NAVAL EXERCISE ON THE DANUBE.
Romania on 12 August began a Partnership For Peace naval exercise on the Danube, Radio Bucharest and Reuters reported. The exercise, known as "Danube `95," is scheduled to end on 16 August. It is designed to show Romania is able to protect humanitarian aid convoys in "hostile waters." On 13 August a mock aid convoy, protected by Romanian military river boats and by a Ukrainian ship, sailed up a 20-km stretch of the Danube between the ports of Galati and Braila. The flotilla fired its weapons to repel simulated air and land attacks. NATO and PFP observers from France, Germany, the US and other countries watched the exercise. A NATO official described the exercise as "a good demonstration of what can be done in an area where NATO has not yet really operated." -- Dan Ionescu

CHOLERA EPIDEMIC REACHES ROMANIA.
In a statement released on 12 August, Romania's Health Ministry confirmed that three cases of cholera were registered in the Danube ports of Galati and Tulcea, Radio Bucharest reported. The statement added that medical authorities were taking steps to prevent the spread of the infection. Meanwhile, the number of cholera cases in the neighboring Republic of Moldova rose to 116, a health official told BASA-press on 12 August. -- Dan Ionescu

MOLDOVA'S RULING PARTY ISSUES NEW PLATFORM.
The Agrarian Democratic Party of Moldova (PDAM) published their "ideological platform" in the last issue of the party's mouthpiece, Pamint & Oameni, BASA-press reported on 12 August. The platform stresses that Moldova should consolidate its independence while continuing to be a haven for people with various ethnic and religious backgrounds. It also says that the PDAM opposes economic reforms which might endanger the country's production capacity and impoverish the population. The PDAM, which has recently shaken by serious infighting, plans to hold an extraordinary congress aimed at clarifying the organization's future orientation. -- Dan Ionescu

BULGARIAN SOLDIERS DIE IN ROAD CRASH.
On the evening of 11 August, 11 soldiers and four officers were burnt alive when the truck they were traveling in crashed into a trailer near Sofia and exploded, AFP reported the following day. Only one soldier survived the accident, but he is in a critical condition. Police said the truck was traveling "at a speed not appropriate to the situation." The soldiers belonged to an engineering unit and were returning from work on a site near Sofia. A defense ministry commission has started an inquiry. Demokratsiya on 14 August said that soldiers in the unit are regularly sent to work on private building sites after their normal duty hours and on weekends. -- Stefan Krause

CONTROVERSIAL PERSONNEL CHANGES IN BULGARIAN ARMY.
Demokratsiya on 14 August reports that President Zhelyu Zhelev will not accept all the personnel changes in the top ranks of the army announced by the government on 11 August. The cabinet wants to replace or shift some 30 high ranking officers. Presidential aides said that while some of the General Staff changes are justified by appointments to the newly formed inspectorate of the army, others have clearly political reasons. According to Demokratsiya, the Socialist government also wants to replace Chief of the General Staff Gen. Tsvetan Totomirov. Meanwhile, Duma says Zhelev "dramatizes" the situation in order to attack the government. -- Stefan Krause

BULGARIAN PUPILS HAVE TO LEARN RUSSIAN AGAIN.
Education Minister Ilcho Dimitrov on 11 August announced that tuition in Russian will be intensified from the next school year. Trud on 12 August cited Dimitrov as saying that "Russian is the only language of a great power [Bulgarians] can master easily." He said compulsory tuition will also create new jobs for unemployed teachers. Russian was compulsory until the 1990/1991 school year, and optional since then. Also on 11 August, Dimitrov signed an agreement with the British Council, which will train English teachers in the next year. Dimitrov complained that more than half the English teachers do not hold a university degree. -- Stefan Krause

TURKEY, BOSNIA SIGN MILITARY COOPERATION DEAL.
Turkey and Bosnia-Herzegovina signed a military cooperation agreement providing for collaboration in training, technology and in the medical field on 10 August, AFP reported the same day. The agreement, signed in Ankara by Muhammed Lemes, Bosnia's Assistant Defense Minister, and Ahmet Corekci, Turkish Deputy Chief of Staff, is similar to other cooperation deals Turkey has signed with Albania, Macedonia and Bulgaria. Late last month Ankara stressed that the agreement with Bosnia would not break Turkey's commitment to the arms embargo against former Yugoslavia. -- Lowell Bezanis

OZGEN'S PARTING SHOT.
The departing commander of the 30,000-strong Turkish forces stationed in northern Cyprus, Gen. Necati Ozgen, warned Greek Cypriots against any "folly" leading to war, AFP reported on 11 August. Denying any desire to "target" the territories of others and pointing out that "we want peace," he warned Greek Cypriots that "this time" the objective will be Paphos if Greek Cypriots "commit any sort of folly." As Paphos is on the extreme southwest corner of the island, his words may be interpreted as an implicit threat to occupy all of Cyprus if the Greek Cypriots initiate hostilities. Turkish and Turkish Cypriot officials have been expressing growing concern over what they see as the excessive Greek Cypriot military buildup, which they fear may be a precursor to a sudden attack against northern Cyprus. Ozgen's replacement, General Hasan Kundakci, is battle-tested: he is being transferred from Diyarbakir where he led the massive operation against the PKK in northern Iraq from late March to early May. -- Lowell Bezanis

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Steve Kettle






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