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Newsline - August 21, 1995


OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 162, 21 August 1995
TRADE UNIONS ABANDON POSSIBLE RYBKIN BLOC.
The trade union movement Trade Unions of Russia-For the Elections founded by the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia (FNPR) has voted to campaign independently rather than join the left-center bloc that Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin is planning to set up later this month, ITAR-TASS reported 18 August. At the movement's conference, the regional trade union leaders rejected the idea of cooperating with Rybkin as the FNPR leadership had proposed. They particularly objected to Rybkin's close ties with President Boris Yeltsin and his recent polemics with Agrarian Party leader Mikhail Lapshin, Russian Public TV reported on 18 August. The trade unions' decision deprives Rybkin's bloc of several million potential supporters. FNPR leader Mikhail Shmakov said Rybkin could not make it to the conference because of "family obligations," NTV reported. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

PROCURATOR FILES ADDITIONAL CHARGES AGAINST KUKLY.
The procurator general has filed tax evasion and illegal currency dealing charges against Vasilii Grigorev, the producer of the satirical show Kukly (Puppets) which is already under investigation for insulting the president and other top officials, ITAR-TASS reported 18 August. The charges are punishable by terms of five to 10 years in prison as well as stiff fines, penalties much greater than the previous charges carried. Grigorev represents a French company which paid tens of thousands of dollars for the show in cash without completing the proper documents, according to the procurator's charges. NTV, which broadcasts Kukly, said the procurator came up with the new charges because the investigation into charges of discrediting government officials is encountering problems. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

FIRST FIVE PARTIES GAIN REGISTRATION TO BEGIN CAMPAIGN.
The Central Electoral Commission has officially registered the first five party lists, allowing the parties to begin the process of collecting the necessary 200,000 signatures to get on the ballot, Russian TV reported 18 August. The parties are Forward, Russia!, Women of Russia, both currently represented in the Duma, and the lesser-known Conservative Party, Union of Communists, and Advocates of Lower Taxes. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

COUP ANNIVERSARY MARKED.
In a 19 August interview with the popular daily Komsomolskaya pravda to mark the fourth anniversary of the failed hard-line coup, President Boris Yeltsin called on reformers to unite to prevent the restoration of a totalitarian system. He bemoaned the divisions in the democratic camp, warning that without unity the road back to a Soviet style empire remains open. On 20 August, prodemocracy groups gathered outside the White House to remember their defense of the building four years earlier, Russian and Western agencies reported. The same day, hard-line communists and nationalists took to the streets of the capital to call for mass protests to overthrow Yeltsin. Speakers at the rally, which attracted about 1,000 people--far fewer than had been expected,--blamed Yeltsin and the West for unemployment, the collapse of industrial production, crime, and corruption. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.

COSSACKS CELEBRATE.
On 18 August, Cossacks from all over Russia launched their first festival in Moscow since their political rehabilitation in 1991, Russian and Western agencies reported. Opening the festival, Nationalities Minister Vyacheslav Mikhailov said "the revival of Cossack culture is today going hand in hand with a rebirth of the Cossacks themselves, who always defended Russian interests." President Yeltsin resolved on 9 August to include 20 Cossack units in the Russian army as border guards and pledged to give the Cossacks part of their ancestral lands. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.

DISARMAMENT PROCESS CONTINUES IN CHECHNYA.
On 18 August, Chechen military commander Aslan Maskhadov told journalists that he had accepted Russian explanations that the bombing of Roshni-Chu on 17 August resulted from a "misunderstanding," NTV reported. Subsequently, Russian and Western agencies reported gradual progress in implementing the 30 July military accord, as Chechen fighters in several villages began to hand in their weapons. The implementation of the accord received an additional boost when a spokesman for Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev, Movladi Udugov, said Dudaev and Maskhadov had met on 19 August and agreed on all "main questions for peacefully ending the war," although the spokesman added that Dudaev objected to some provisions of the accord. Reports had suggested growing divisions between Dudaev and his military commander, prompting speculation that the negotiation process might break down. Sporadic fighting continued across Chechnya, however, as an 18 Augusat explosion at the main electric plant in Grozny cut off power to much of the city. It is unclear when talks on Chechnya's political status, adjourned last week, will resume. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc.

RUSSIA PRESSES FOR INTERNATIONAL MEETING ON YUGOSLAVIA.
Russia hopes to organize a conference of all the warring parties in the Yugoslav conflict this October, a high-ranking Russian diplomat told Interfax on 19 August. The conference, which would also include representatives of the international Contact Group, could use the most recent U.S. peace proposals as a starting point, according to the diplomat. He added that Moscow could be the site of the conference and, if it were successful, international sanctions against rump Yugoslavia could be lifted. On 18 August, an anonymous source at the Russian Ministry of Foreign Trade told AFP that Russia would soon sign several economic cooperation agreements with rump Yugoslavia, although it is unclear if their terms would violate the UN sanctions. Other sources said the agreements concern oil and a joint gas pipeline construction project. Earlier cooperation agreements signed by Moscow and Belgrade will not enter into force until sanctions are lifted. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc.

CONSTRUCTION TO BEGIN ON IRANIAN REACTOR IN NOVEMBER.
Speaking after arriving in Tehran, Deputy Minister of Nuclear Energy Yevgenii Reshetnikov told ITAR-TASS on 18 August that construction on the controversial nuclear power complex in Bushehr would begin in November or December. Rejecting criticism of the deal, Reshetnikov said "there is no question of submitting to American pressure" to cancel the contract, signed in January, to build the plant. Reshetnikov leads a delegation of Russian specialists who will discuss the financing of the reported $1 billion contract with Iranian officials. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc.

VIETNAM EXCHANGES LAND FOR DEBT TO RUSSIA.
The Saigon newspaper Gai Phong reported on 20 August that Vietnam has leased a 1,000 hectare rubber plantation to a Russian firm for 25 years to repay part of Vietnam's Soviet-era debt to Russia. The exchange is one of a number of debt-for-equity swaps that Vietnam is using to repay its estimated $2.27 billion debt to the former Soviet Union, of which 80% is owed to Russia. Despite the reorientation of the Vietnamese economy toward the West, Russia still plays a significant role in the local economy, especially as a partner for joint ventures in the petroleum sector. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc.

NEW RULES ON SHARE REGISTERS.
Russia's Federal Securities Commission issued new rules on share registers on 18 August aimed at increasing investor confidence in the country's emerging securities markets, Russian and Western agencies reported. The commission said in a statement that the regulations defined the duties of everyone involved in a securities transactions, including shareholders and keepers of share registers. Other rules deal with issuing, splitting, consolidating, and canceling securities. The rules, which will be binding pending passage of a comprehensive securities law, are aimed at ensuring there is no repetition of recent scandals such as secret takeovers, stock dilutions, and other violations of shareholders' rights. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

SAVINGS BONDS RESOLUTION ADOPTED.
The Russian government has introduced a new scheme for the sale of government savings bonds to the general public, Interfax reported on 18 August. According to the report, the Finance Ministry is to start issuing up to 10 trillion rubles ($2.3 billion) worth of government savings bonds in 1995-1998. The first installment, with a circulation period of 12 months, will be floated on the domestic market in September. Aleksandr Livshits, the president's economic adviser, said the savings bonds would be fully guaranteed by the state. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

McDONALD'S OPENS FIFTH RESTAURANT IN MOSCOW.
The U.S. fast-food chain McDonald's opened its fifth restaurant in Moscow on 18 August, five years after opening its first in Russia, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. The company announced that the first four restaurants in Moscow, which employ 2,650 people, have served a total of 103 million meals. The first restaurant, opened on Pushkin Square on 31 January 1990, has served 81 million customers. The new restaurant is located on Prospekt Mira. The chain plans to open its first restaurant in St. Petersburg in the near future. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

ZAVERYUKHA REFUTES GRAIN HARVEST FORECAST.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Zaveryukha bluntly refuted media reports claiming Russian will collect only 45-50 million tons of grain this year, Interfax reported on 18 August. According to reports, the forecast came from specialists within the Agriculture Ministry (see OMRI Daily Digest, 17 August 1995). Zaveryukha said that amount has already been milled and asserted that the agrarian sector will collect 70-75 million tons of grain in 1995, compared to 81.3 million tons in 1994. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.



OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 162, 21 August 1995
POLITICAL EXILE OR PLUM FOR SULEIMENOV?
Olzhas Suleimenov, founder of the Nevada-Semipalatinsk anti-nuclear movement and chairman of the Peoples' Congress Party, has been appointed Kazakhstan's ambassador to Italy, Kazakh Radio reported on 19 August. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev made the appointment after establishing an embassy in Rome by decree, according to the report monitored by the BBC. Suleimenov has come under attack recently for his alleged financial misdealings and corruption, as well as for his advocacy of close ties with Russia. -- Lowell Bezanis and Bhavna Dave, OMRI, Inc.

KAZAKHSTAN AND RUSSIA SIGN CUSTOMS TREATY, DISAGREE OVER CASPIAN OIL.
Visiting Russian Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Bolshakov signed a package of documents in Almaty with Kazakh officials on implementing a customs union, environmental protection, natural resources, and rules for visits to the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 August. Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus had signed an accord on a customs union in January. Kazakh Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Gizatov told Interfax on 19 August that the two sides had developed "similar approaches" to the issues of navigation, fishing, ecology, and biological resources in the Caspian Sea. However, differences over the rights of the states bordering on the sea to develop offshore oil and gas deposits are still being negotiated. Russia is opposed to Azerbaijan's proposal that the sea be divided into national sectors. During Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Ciller's visit to Almaty last week, Turkey and Kazakhstan agreed to set up a joint-stock company that would build an oil pipeline to the Mediterranean Sea. Almaty is to host a meeting of experts from the five littoral states next month. -- Bhavna Dave, OMRI, Inc.

IZVESTIYA TO BE SUED OVER SALIMOV CASE.
The Tajik Interior Ministry has decided to sue Izvestiya for articles published on 15-16 August concerning former Tajik Interior Minister Yakub Salimov, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 August. The articles accused Salimov of corruption. Tajik First Deputy Interior Minister Gennadii Blinov told the agency that the articles, which he said called Salimov's honor into question with the aim of destabilizing the country, was an "invention." He also claimed that "certain forces" had assigned this task to Izvestiya journalist Yurii Snegirev. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc.

IN-HOUSE TAJIK DEMOCRATS SPEAK OUT.
The leaders of the pro-government Democratic Party of Tajikistan called on the people of Tajikistan to rally around President Imomali Rakhmonov and help lift the republic out of its economic crisis, according to an 18 August Tajik Radio report monitored by the BBC. Habibullo Abdurazzakov made the appeal following a meeting between Rakhmonov and the party's leaders led by Deputy Chairman Azam Afzali. A statement by the party's leader, Shodmon Yusuf, and circulated by the Khovar news agency explained that the party, officially registered on 20 July, reiterated its shift away from the opposition and toward the government. The elections and the "creation of legal and responsible leadership" in Tajikistan were cited as reasons for this change of heart. Yusuf was dismissed as party chairman at a meeting in Almaty on 5 June; he now represents only the views of those who favor cooperation with Rakhmonov. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc.

CIS


RUSSIA TO GET MISSILE CRUISER FROM UKRAINE.
Russia has secured ownership of the missile cruiser Admiral Lobov, which was under construction in a Ukrainian shipyard when that country gained independence, Ukrainian Radio reported on 19 August. The fourth and last of the Slava-class anti-ship cruisers, the Admiral Lobov was laid down at the 61 Kommuna Shipyard in Mikolaiv in 1985 but was only three-quarters complete when the Soviet Union collapsed. According to the report, the Ukrainians have virtually completed the 12,500-ton warship. The Russians have offered to offset the construction costs incurred after 1 January 1992 and to provide funds to complete the ship's construction. The agreement is awaiting approval from both governments. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.



OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 162, 21 August 1995
NATO "WHY AND HOW" STUDY VAGUE ON DETAILS.
The year-long study on the why and how of NATO expansion will be vague on details, Der Spiegel reported on 20 August. Potential applicants will be briefed on the draft plan this fall and it will be formally endorsed at NATO ministerial meetings in December. The study will contain no timetable nor precise criteria for membership. Der Spiegel quoted one German diplomat as saying, "No one should be able to say, 'We fulfill all the criteria so now you have to take us in.'" The weekly reports that NATO has informally agreed to admit East European countries in stages, with the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary forming the first group and Romania, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Slovenia the second. New members will not be required to base foreign troops or nuclear weapons on their territories. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.

FIRST PFP EXERCISES BEGIN IN U.S.
The sixth major NATO Partnership for Peace exercise began at Fort Polk, Louisiana, on 18 August, international agencies reported. Soldiers from 3 NATO and 14 former Warsaw Pact countries were represented in the first such exercise to be held in the U.S., which simulates peacekeeping operations on a island. Participating countries include the United States, Britain, Canada, Albania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. The exercise ends on 26 August. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.

UKRAINE TO HAVE MILITARY INSPECTOR-GENERAL.
General Valeriy Hubenko, the first incumbent, told UNIAN on 19 August that Ukraine's Military Inspectorate-General will become operational on 30 August. He said it will oversee the Ministry of Defense, the armed forces, the Border Troops, the Interior Troops, and a number of other military and paramilitary organizations. Hubenko said his inspectorate's main task is to control the combat readiness of the forces. It will also investigate cases of abuse, fraud, and violence. He said he will have a staff of 53 and insisted that his organization will be a "specialized presidential body of military control and expert analysis" rather than the "holiday group" that some journalists had branded it. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

LICENSING OF PRESS IN ESTONIA.
Culture Minister Jaak Allik prepared a draft government decree that stipulates licensing of periodicals partly or fully under foreign ownership, BNS reported on 18 August. Several newspapers expressed their opposition to the proposal, arguing that any licensing of the press is wrong in principle. Igor Rotov, chief editor of Aripaev, a paper 51% owned by the Swedish Bonnier media concern, said the measure was an obvious attempt to curb the freedom of the press for licensing would allow the government to control the media and jeopardize democracy in Estonia. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.

LUKASHENKA ALLOWS INVESTMENT FUNDS TO FUNCTION.
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka signed an order on 15 August allowing some investment funds to renew their activities, Belarusian Television reported on 16 August. Two funds which were not allowed to restart operations were "OSMAS-invest" and "Narodny." Lukashenka had suspended investment fund activities in April after the first round of privatization because of alleged irregularities. As many as 100,000 Belarusian citizens had handed their privatization vouchers over to the funds and then stood to lose their newly acquired shares. The IMF made allowing the investment funds to restart their activities a condition for the release of a stand-by credit to Belarus. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.

BELARUSIAN KGB ACCUSES TRADE UNIONS OVER STRIKES.
Following several days of strikes by metro and trolley drivers in Minsk, the Belarusian KGB accused strike organizers of taking money and orders from the West, Ekho Moskvy reported on 19 August. A representative of the KGB stated that the independent trade unions which organized the strikes prepared for the action by attending conferences abroad which were paid for by foreign sources. The KGB official also said that the American Congress of Trade Unions was ready to aid the Belarusian unions. The acceptance of any foreign aid would make the Belarusian trade unions paid agents of foreign powers, he added. Ekho Moskvy concluded that a campaign against independent trade unions is being mounted in Belarus. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.

CEFTA MEETING ENDS IN WARSAW.
Trade ministers from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia, countries belonging to the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA), ended a two-day meeting in Warsaw on 18 August and agreed to lift tariffs on many industrial products as of 1 January 1996. Slovenia's trade minister was also present. The next meeting is scheduled in Brno, the Czech Republic, in September, where CEFTA is to admit Slovenia as a full member, Polish and international media reported on 19 August. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc.

UPDATE ON THE POLISH PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN.
Sejm speaker Jozef Zych, who is authorized to announce the date for presidential elections between 22 August and 22 September, said on 18 August that he would announce the date in early September, a move that would put an end to rumors about changing the constitution and extending current President Lech Walesa's term of office for another two years. Walesa, himself a candidate, plans to send Mieczyslaw Wachowski, the minister of state in his chancellery and a controversial figure whose constant presence at Walesa's side has further diminished the president's popularity, on a long vacation, Gazeta Wyborcza reported on 21 August. In other developments, right of center politicians meeting in St Catharine's Convent decided to support Polish National Bank President Hanna Gronkiewcz-Waltz, but supporters of former Prime Minister Jan Olszewski and the Confederation of Independent Poland leader Leszek Moczulski disagree with the decision, Polish media reported on 21 August. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc.

MECIAR'S PARTY BARS SLOVAK PRESIDENT.
The leadership of Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) announced on 19 August that President Michal Kovac's membership in the party will not be renewed after his current term of office expires, Slovak media report. Kovac suspended his membership in the HZDS when he was elected president. The HZDS has recently repeatedly demanded that the president, who has been at odds with Meciar, step down. Slovak media report that the HZDS leadership also accepted the offer of the Party of the Democratic Left to discuss the controversial privatization laws that Kovac recently vetoed. -- Jiri Pehe, OMRI, Inc.

HUNGARY TURNS OFF BOSNIAN PIPELINE.
Hungarian radio announced on 19 August that, at the request of the United Nations, Hungary has shut a natural gas pipeline leading to Sarajevo. The UN asked Hungary on 15 August to turn off the pipeline after Bosnian government complaints that it had not received any gas through it since May. Bosnian Serbs, who hold the territory through which the pipeline passes, are believed to have diverted the gas to their own use. In another development, five busloads of refugees, mostly Muslims from eastern Bosnia, arrived in Hungary on 18 August saying they had been expelled by Bosnian Serbs, international media report. According to Hungarian border guards, the 261 refugees were the biggest single group to arrive from former Yugoslavia this year. A border guard spokesman told journalists that "as further humiliation, the Serbs forced the refugees to pay considerable sums for their trip, as if they (the Serbs) were some sort of travel agency." The refugees were granted temporary asylum and sent to camps in Nagyatag and Bekescsaba. -- Jiri Pehe, OMRI, Inc.



OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 162, 21 August 1995
MILITARY SITUATION REMAINS TENSE IN CROATIA AND BOSNIA.
The BBC on 20 August quoted UN officials as saying that some 10,000 Croatian soldiers backed by tanks, artillery, and rockets had assembled in the Dubrovnik area. The Croats exchanged salvos with the Serbs in the surrounding heights as a prelude to what is widely expected to be a Croatian assault to end the threat to Dubrovnik. AFP noted that Serbs shelled Osijek in eastern Slavonia, killing one and injuring six. Bosnian Serb artillery also hit the UN-declared "safe area" of Gorazde, killing three children. Bosnian Foreign Minister Muhamed Sacirbey sharply criticized the UN for not ordering air strikes in response, VOA reported on 21 August. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

REPORTS OF "COMPELLING EVIDENCE" OF SREBRENICA MASSACRE.
A journalist from the Christian Science Monitor managed to get into the Srebrenica area, where he found "compelling evidence" that the Serbs had massacred Muslims. The BBC quoted him on 19 August as saying that he found human bones near the reported mass grave site, as well as empty ammunition boxes. The UN, for its part, has said that only between 1,000 and 2,000 people remain unaccounted for from Srebrenica, claiming that the Bosnian government had originally given a far too high estimate of the total population. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

MORE ON ETHNIC CLEANSING IN BANJA LUKA.
The Bosnian Serbs continue to expel Muslims and Croats from the Banja Luka area on short notice, allowing them to take only what they can carry and making them pay a $1,200 fee in German marks. The bishop of Banja Luka wrote to Croatia's Cardinal Franjo Kuharic that "among many others, even my own old mother was victimized when a local official grabbed her and pulled a knife over her neck, saying he would `slay her with pleasure' (as the bishop's mother) unless she cleared out of her house within 15 minutes." During the night between 8 and 9 August a grenade was hurled at the New Nazareth convent in the village of Budzak." -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

KRAJINA UPDATE.
Croatia's Operation Storm two weeks ago put an effective end to the "Republic of Serbian Krajina," but Politika wrote on 21 August that recriminations continue among its erstwhile leaders over the blame for the quick demise of Serbian forces . This defeat was all the more amazing in light of a report carried by Vecernji list and AFP on 20 August on the massive stockpiles of Serbian weapons found by the Croats at Dvor, Sveti Rok, Knin, and Petrova Gora. One Western expert called the arsenal "unbelievable," and the Croatian commander said that the Serbs could have waged war "for several years" with it. The BBC on 21 August reported that representatives of a Western human rights group charged the Croats with burning, looting and systematic executions following the fall of Krajina. The Croatian high command denied the charges, stating that there were only individual graves and that the dead were identified where this was possible, including Bosnian Serb soldiers killed in the brief fighting. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

U.S. OFFICIALS DIE IN BOSNIAN ROAD ACCIDENT.
International media reported on 20 August that four British soldiers were killed when their Lynx helicopter fell into the Adriatic. The previous day three members of a five-man U.S. interagency team died when their armored personnel carrier fell down a steep tree-lined ravine on Mt. Igman and its gas tank exploded. The fatalities included Robert Frasure, who was Washington's chief "ideas man" on the former Yugoslavia. President Bill Clinton said that the U.S. would continue its diplomatic efforts in the region. Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic sent his condolences, adding that the diplomats should have been talking to the Serbs instead of going to Sarajevo. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole said that the Serbs were indirectly responsible for the deaths, since they barred the main access roads to the diplomats, VOA reported. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

MILOSEVIC, PAPOULIAS TALK PEACE.
Greek Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias met in Belgrade with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic on 18 August, Tanjug reported on the same day. The two men reportedly shared "concurrent" views on the peace process in the Balkan region, and Tanjug noted they both agreed on "the need to spur all-encompassing efforts to step up the peace process and definitively create conditions for an end to the military confrontation in the former Yugoslavia." Papoulias, speaking on Greek Radio, observed that Athens always "supported the lifting of sanctions against the new Yugoslavia because one cannot impose sanctions against people who fight for peace, and President Milosevic has been among the leaders favoring a peaceful solution." Belgrade's new foreign minister, Milan Milutinovic, also attended the meeting. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.

ROMANIAN JOURNALISTS CHARGED WITH SLANDERING ILIESCU.
Romanian and international media reported on 18 August that prosecutors in Bucharest indicted two Romanian journalists on charges of "insulting [state] authority." Sorin Rosca Stanescu, the editor in chief of the daily Ziua, and Tana Ardeleanu, who works for the same publication, were said to have been "fabricating lies" last May, when Ziua alleged that President Ion Iliescu had been recruited as a KGB agent during his student days in Moscow in the 1950s. Iliescu denied the allegations. According to the prosecution, Ardeleanu never set foot in Moscow, where she claimed to have obtained documents proving the links. If found guilty, the two could face imprisonment of between six months and three years, under a new law that critics say is aimed at gagging the freedom of the press. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.

ROMANIAN NATIONAL AIRLINE ASKS GOVERNMENT TO COME TO RESCUE.
International agencies reported on 18 August that the national airline TAROM has asked the government to bail it out of the worst financial crisis facing the company in its 41-year history. The company is unable to pay its debts, amounting to 300 million dollars. The government, which underwrote the airline's 10-year foreign bank credit, accuses TAROM of mismanagement and poor marketing and has threatened to assume full control of management. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.

MOLDOVA ATTEMPTS TO COPE WITH GAS DEBT.
Mihai Lesnic, the director general of the state-owned Moldova Gas company, told BASA-press on 18 August that, in order to pay back arrears for gas consumption, the company has contracted agricultural products worth 35 million lei to be exported to Russia. Arrears for Russian gas consumption for 1995 are 1,935 million lei ($452 million). Moldova is to draft a program of payments to be presented to the Russian side in two weeks. The program includes building a town in a Moscow suburb for the workers of the Russian Gasprom company, which will require $20 million in expenditure. Moldova Gas warned consumers that in case the arrears are not covered by 1 October, the economy will face "disastrous consequences" because the supply of gas to Moldova might be stopped. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT ON CHANGES IN MILITARY.
An aide to Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev told BTA on 19 August that the president did not approve in advance recent changes in the Bulgarian military made by the defense ministry. According to the aide's statement, "President Zhelyu Zhelev will not allow any politically-motivated reshuffles of the top brass of the army or structural changes that may harm the national security of Bulgaria." Meanwhile, Zhelev's chief of staff added that "the press has recently suggested the proposals had been harmonized with the president, or even sponsored by his Military Office. These are attempts at flagrant manipulation of public opinion and army officers." These statements come in the wake of changes at the top level of the military, announced by the government on 11 August, but even then in part questioned by Zhelev's office (See OMRI Daily Digest, 14 August 1995). -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.

KOSOVAR LEADERS VISIT MONTENEGRIN ALBANIANS.
The leader of the Democratic League of Montenegro, Mehmet Bardhi, met with the deputy leader of the Democratic League of Kosovo, Fehmi Agani, and other Kosovar and Albanian party politicians, Montena-fax reported on 19 August. Bardhi, who is also the mayor of Ulcinj, discussed with his guests possibilities of cooperation between the ethnic Albanian political parties in former Yugoslavia and Albania. The politicians jointly denounced plans to settle refugees from Krajina to Kosovo. Meanwhile, Kosovar shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova accused the Serbian authorities of placing the refugees "into ethnically pure Albanian communities" and called it "a political rather than humanitarian activity." So far, Serbian authorities have placed 2,350 refugees in Kosovo, but they expect to relocate a total of 16,000. Prime Minister Bujar Bukoshi warned on 18 August that the relocation of refugees could lead to war and added: "We Albanians won't be slaughtered like the Bosnians. We will defend ourselves," international agencies reported. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.

ALBANIAN-MONTENEGRIN BORDER INCIDENT.
A 26 year-old Albanian was wounded on 18 August by rump Yugoslav border guards, Montena-fax reported the following day. The man reportedly went about 100 meters into Montenegrin territory to sell cloth. The incident will be brought up by Albania on the first meeting of a newly created joint rump Yugoslav-Albanian border commission. It was the second such incident this month at that part of the border. Meanwhile, about 100 trucks were jammed for hours at the Albanian-Greek border because the official stamp used by Albanian customs wore out, Reuters reported on 18 August. Tourists reportedly were allowed through with unstamped documents. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Steve Kettle





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