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Newsline - August 22, 1995


OMRI DAILY DIGEST

VOL. 1, NO. 163, 22 AUGUST 1995
RYBKIN FORMS LEFT-CENTER BLOC.
After numerous false starts, Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin formed a left-center bloc on 21 August, finally fulfilling a request President Boris Yeltsin made in late April, NTV reported. Having failed to gain the support of the Agrarian Party, the Federation of Independent Trade Unions (FNPR), and the Russian United Industrial Party (ROPP) (which recently overturned a decision to join Rybkin), Rybkin's bloc now includes 50 relatively unknown parties. Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky claimed the bloc has no chance of winning the 5% vote needed to get into parliament, but Sergei Yushenkov, of Russia's Democratic Choice, believes the bloc's prospects are better due to "Rybkin's balanced and reasoned approach to settling nearly all problems Russia faces," Interfax reported. * Robert Orttung

ZHIRINOVSKY WILL NOT RUN IN SINGLE-MEMBER DISTRICT.
Zhirinovsky will run exclusively on his Liberal Democratic Party list in the Duma elections, Radio Rossii reported. In the last elections, to improve his chances of winning he ran both on the party list and in a Moscow Oblast district, where he was elected. In early August, Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii challenged Zhirinovsky and Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov to a three-way electoral race in the same district in Moscow. * Robert Orttung

CHECHEN FIGHTERS SEIZE POLICE HEADQUARTERS IN ARGUN . . .
Late in the evening of 20 August,
a group of about 250 Chechen fighters entered the town of Argun, just east of Grozny, and seized the local police headquarters, Russian and Western agencies reported. Chechen field commander Alaudi Khanzatov announced that Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev had appointed him "commandant" of the town, which had been occupied by federal troops in March. General Anatolii Romanov, commander of federal forces in Chechnya, said the action was a "gross violation of the [military] agreement," and federal troops subsequently surrounded the building, evacuated the civilian population of the town, and demanded that Khanzatov and his men surrender. Chechen military commander Aslan Maskhadov and OSCE mediator Sandor Meszaros met with Khanzatov on 21 August to negotiate a resolution to the standoff. Although Maskhadov at first expressed surprise when told of Khanzatov's action, he later said it was consistent with the provisions of the 30 July military accord, as Khanzatov and his men were simply returning to their homes in Argun. * Scott Parrish

. . . RUSSIAN TROOPS STORM ARGUN POLICE BUILDING.
According to NTV later on 21 August, Chechen spokesman Movladi Udugov announced that Khanzatov and his men would surrender at 3:45 p.m. local time. Federal troops waited until 4:45 p.m., but when no one emerged from the police headquarters by that time, they stormed the building, supported by helicopter and artillery fire. Russian officials later told ITAR-TASS that Maskhadov had been unable to persuade the fighters inside to surrender. At about 6 p.m., a Russian military spokesman said the assault had been "successfully" concluded, but sporadic gunfire continued through the night. * Scott Parrish

ROSSEL ELECTED GOVERNOR OF SVERDLOVSK.
Final vote counts confirm that regional Duma Chairman and Federation Council deputy Eduard Rossel was elected governor of the Sverdlovsk Oblast on 20 August, Russian media reported the next day. Rossel received about 60% of the vote in the second round of elections, while Sverdlovsk administrative head Aleksei Strakhov won only 32% despite spending three times as much on the campaign as Rossel. In the first round, held on 6 August, Rossel and Strakhov received 29% and 26% of the vote, respectively (see OMRI Daily Digest, 8 August 1995). The result is a setback for Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's bloc Our Home Is Russia, since Strakhov leads its Sverdlovsk branch. Rossel is a strong advocate of regional autonomy. In July 1993, then-governor Rossel declared the Sverdlovsk Oblast a "Urals Republic," after which Yeltsin replaced Rossel with Strakhov and dissolved the Sverdlovsk legislature. * Laura Belin

PARTY CHAIR CLAIMS BASHKORTOSTAN FUELS ETHNIC CONFLICTS.
The republic of Bashkortostan in Russia is training and financing troops loyal to Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev, Sergei Shakhrai, chairman of the Party of Russian Unity and Concord (PRES), alleged in an interview published in the 18-24 August issue of Vek. Shakhrai also accused the Bashkir state of plotting to divide the republic into Christians and Muslims, of hosting a separatist Islamic congress, and of aggravating ethnic rifts between Bashkirs, Russians, and Tatars by dismissing a Tatar from a key administrative post. The Bashkir president, Murtaza Rakhimov, telephoned Vek himself to respond, saying that Bashkortostan's constitution defines it as part of Russia and adding that it had allocated 50 million rubles ($11,000) to the restoration of a Russian church. He denied Shakhrai's accusations. Meanwhile, according to Vremya on 21 August, reports are also circulating that Chechen troops are training in the Czech Republic. * Alaina Lemon

COUP ANNIVERSARY ENDS ON LOW NOTE.
An estimated 50 to 100 people gathered at the Vagankovo cemetery in Moscow on 21 August to pay their respects to the three people killed during the failed hard-line coup four years ago, Western agencies reported. Sergei Filatov, President Yeltsin's chief of staff, was the only senior official to lay a wreath on the graves. He said he was "puzzled" that no one from the government or the Moscow Mayor's Office attended the ceremony. In contrast with previous years, gatherings marking the 1995 anniversary of the putsch have attracted a low turnout. * Penny Morvant

KOMSOMOLSKAYA PRAVDA SEES BARSUKOV STRENGTHENING FSB.
Newly appointed Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Mikhail Barsukov is trying to secure some of the former KGB's powers for his own service, Komsomolskaya pravda reported on 22 August. In particular, he wants to incorporate parts of the Federal Agency for Government Communication and Information (FAPSI) and Foreign Intelligence Service into the FSB, potentially bringing him into conflict with their respective heads, Andrei Starovoitov and Yevgenii Primakov. The paper argues that Yeltsin will benefit from having Barsukov in charge of the FSB's operational-technical department during the elections because it has the capacity to tap hundreds of telephone lines and monitor correspondence. Barsukov will be able to channel the information directly to Yeltsin. * Robert Orttung

SOLDIER ARRESTED WITH RADIOACTIVE MATERIAL.
In Tver on 18 August, Federal Security Service and Interior Ministry officers arrested a former soldier found in possession of 11 crates containing large quantities of radioactive cobalt, ITAR-TASS reported. A local newspaper alleged that the material was the same as that used to poison the prominent businessman Ivan Kivelidi, who died on 4 August. Law enforcment agencies are currently investigating the cause of Kivelidi's death. * Penny Morvant

NORWAY ON RADIOACTIVE CONTAMINATION OF ARCTIC.
Speaking at the opening of an international conference on pollution in the Arctic Ocean, Norwegian Environment Minister Thorbjoern Berntsen said studies by three recent Norwegian-Russian expeditions concluded that nuclear waste dumped east of Novaya Zemlya had had little effect on the environment, Reuters reported on 21 August. He said the studies indicated that contamination was limited to areas close to the dumped material and that there has been no impact on the main body of the Kara and Barents seas. For many years, the Soviet navy dumped nuclear waste, including whole reactors containing spent nuclear fuel, in those seas, but the practice was discontinued after the collapse of communism. * Penny Morvant

HEALTH MINISTRY RELEASES CHOLERA DATA.
A Health Ministry official said on 21 August that eight cholera cases, including one death, have been registered in Russia this summer, Interfax reported. The first cases were registered in June: two in Moscow, one in Rostov-na-Donu, and one in Chechnya. No new cases were registered in July, but a resident of the Moscow area died of cholera at the beginning of August and cases were recorded in Dagestan. The Health Ministry official said urgent measures were being taken to prevent another cholera epidemic in the southern Russian republic, where several thousand people contracted the disease last year. * Penny Morvant

NORTHERN FLEET BALKS AT LOSS OF CARRIER.
Admiral Oleg Yerofeyev, commander of the Northern Fleet, has refused to meet a visiting Indian military delegation, Russian TV reported on 19 August. India wants to lease the Northern Fleet aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov, but Yerofeyev has repeatedly expressed his opposition to the deal. The reporter speculated that he would probably have to give up the ship eventually, since its transfer was said to be part of a program of military cooperation with India signed during Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's recent visit to New Delhi. * Doug Clarke

ST. PETERSBURG GAS SUPPLY CUT DUE TO NONPAYMENT.
The Lentransgaz Company, a major natural gas supplier in northwestern Russia, cut back St. Petersburg's gas supply to 13.5 million cubic meters a day, Interfax reported on 21 August. Until recently, the city had consumed as much as 15 million cubic meters of gas a day. Lentransgaz acting director Yurii Streltsov told the news agency that the leadership of Gazprom's northwestern affiliate was forced to implement the tough measures to encourage debt payments from St. Petersburg's major consumers. Lentransgaz is demanding 400 billion rubles ($91 million) of the total 1 trillion rubles ($227 million) owed by St. Petersburg. * Thomas Sigel



OMRI DAILY DIGEST

VOL. 1, NO. 163, 22 AUGUST 1995
KAZAKH OPPOSITION STAGE HUNGER STRIKE AGAINST REFERENDUM.
A group of about 30 opposition activists staged a dem- onstration and a hunger strike on 21 August near Kazakhstan's parliament building to protest against holding a national referendum on the draft constitution, ITAR-TASS reported on the same day. Khasen Kozhakhmetov, chairman of the opposition group Democratic Movement of Kazakhstan, told ITAR-TASS that Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev had failed to respond to their demands that the new constitution be decided on by the national parliament--the only way it can go through a proper and detailed analysis before being passed, according to the protesters. The coalition of opposition parties and movements say the draft constitution gives the president unlimited powers over the nation's parliament and courts. A spokesman for Almaty's human rights committee told Reuters on 21 August that Interior Ministry troops arrested 19 demonstrators for violating a presidential decree against unauthorized public meetings. The opposition activists planned to hold another protest in three days. * Bhavna Dave

AKAEV TO HOLD REFERENDUM EXTENDING TERM?
Local officials in Kyrgyzstan have collected 1.2 million signatures, 52% of the voting age population, in support of a proposal that President Askar Akaev prolong his term in office until 2001, a presidential spokesman in Bishkek told Reuters on 22 August. He said that the officials are campaigning on a platform of "unity around one leader, and not election campaigns." Akaev has repeatedly said that presidential elections will be held on schedule in 1996. A final decision on the referendum will be made later this month. The leaders of the neighboring states of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan have already extended their terms until the year 2000 or beyond through national referendums. * Bhavna Dave

KYRGYZ PREPARE TO CELEBRATE 1,000 YEARS OF EPIC POEM.
Kyrgyzstan is preparing to celebrate the 1,000th anniversary of Manas--the legendary Kyrgyz leader who is believed to have united his nomadic horsemen against enemy tribes--at Talas in western Kyrgyzstan, Reuters reported on 21 August. The epic Manas, passed on orally through generations, has become the most important symbol of a new Kyrgyz national identity. Some claim that Manas is an "historical figure, at least a 1000 years old," whereas others point out that references to Manas were first found in the 15th century Tajik chronicles. A Manas aiyly, or village, is being hastily built in the capital Bishkek for the opening ceremony. The preparations for the festival are expected to cost $5 million; UNESCO and foreign investors have provided financial help. The festival runs from 25-31 August. * Bhavna Dave

CIS

RUSSIAN DIVISION IN CRIMEA TO BE DISBANDED.
A controversial Russian division belonging to the Black Sea Fleet will be disbanded "in several weeks," NTV reported on 20 August. The 126th Coastal Defense Division, stationed in Simferopol, was once a motorized rifle division belonging to the Ground Forces. During the negotiations for the CFE treaty, the division was transferred to the navy and transformed into a coastal defense division. The CFE treaty does not apply to naval forces, but NATO objected so strongly to the move that the Soviet Union finally agreed to count the weapons in the division against its treaty allowances. The equipment and property of the division are to be turned over to Ukraine. * Doug Clarke



OMRI DAILY DIGEST

VOL. 1, NO. 163, 22 AUGUST 1995

CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE

KUCHMA RESCINDS DECREE.
President Leonid Kuchma has rescinded a March decree, issued in his campaign to clamp down on Crimean separatism, that placed the government of Crimea directly under the Ukrainian government's control, Ukrainian TV reported on 21 August. Kuchma issued a new decree returning the power to appoint a prime minister to the Crimean legislature, whose new leadership is now dominated by forces more loyal to Kiev. The decree stipulates, however, that candidates for the post must first be approved by the Ukrainian president. The Crimean prime minister has the authority to appoint other government members with the consent of the Crimean assembly. * Chrystyna Lapychak

UKRAINIAN ECONOMIC NEWS.
The National Bank of Ukraine has raised its critical refinancing rate from 60% to 70% amid signs of growing inflation, Ukrainian TV and Interfax-Ukraine reported on 21 August. Inflation rose from 4.8% in June to 5.2% in July and is expected to increase further in August after a recent devaluation of the provisional currency, the karbovanets. The tender edged up slightly against the dollar in trading on the Interbank Currency Exchange from 167,000 to 165,000 to $1 since last week. Commercial interest rates have remained around 60-70%, but most lending has remained short-term, signaling lingering low confidence in the economy. Ukrainian TV also reported that the State Property Fund of Ukraine, the body charged with privatizing state-owned enterprises, has revoked the operating licenses of 14 investment trusts after uncovering numerous criminal violations, including fraud. * Chrystyna Lapychak

GERMAN DEFENSE MINISTER IN BALTIC STATES.
Volker Ruehe held talks on 21 August with his Lithuanian counterpart Linas Linkevicius, Prime Minister Adolfas Slezevicius, Foreign Minister Povilas Gylys, and armed forces commander Maj. Gen. Jonas Andriskevicius, BNS reported. Ruehe noted that while the visit could be termed "historic" because it is the first to the Baltic States by a German defense minister, subsequent visits will become "normal" events for the European partners. After meeting President Algirdas Brazauskas in the morning of 22 August, Ruehe travels to Latvia for talks with Latvian officials and a visit to the Baltic Peacekeeping Battalion training center at Adazi. He will then complete his Baltic tour in Estonia. * Saulius Girnius

LITHUANIAN INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION DECLINES.
The Lithuanian Department of Statistics announced that industrial production in July was 8.5% lower than in June while the use of electrical energy declined by 10%, BNS reported on 21 August. The production of tobacco products decreased by 71%, furniture by 54%, lumber by 43%, electrical equipment by 34%, and basic metals by 33%. The declines were offset, however, by increases in the production of peat by 243%, in oil refining by 39%, and of automobile parts by 23%. * Saulius Girnius

STRIKE ENDS IN MINSK.
A strike by metro workers in Minsk was ended on 21 August when police arrested several union leaders and brought in train drivers, protected by a police escort, to replace the strikers, international agencies reported. A union official said masked police arrested two union leaders and brought them to the prosecutor general and then to the municipal court. Under Belarusian law the strike was illegal. The head of the Independent Trade Unions, Syarhei Antonchyk, said that police had detained 15 strikers and 60 were fired. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka told Belarusian radio he had information that the strikers, who said they had not been paid since June, were abetted by Polish and American unions. He also accused the nationalist opposition of having a hand in organizing the strikes. * Ustina Markus

GERMAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN BELARUS.
Klaus Kinkel was in Minsk on 21 August where he met with President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Prime Minister Mikhail Chyhir, and his Belarusian counterpart Uladzimir Syanko, Belarusian Radio and Russian Public Television reported. Afterwards, Kinkel gave a negative report on the outcome of the meetings. He said that he did not receive any guarantees from Lukashenka that Belarus would continue dismantling weapons as obliged under the CFE treaty, and therefore Germany did not extend any guarantees of disarmament aid to Belarus. Lukashenka halted CFE reductions in February because of financial difficulties and said the disarmament will not resume until Belarus receives financial aid for the reductions. * Ustina Markus

POLISH PARLIAMENT'S WORK ON CONSTITUTION.
The constitutional commission of the Polish parliament approved on 21 August 11 articles of the constitution's draft. Ratification and repealing the most important international treaties concerning political and military alliances or citizens' freedoms and rights would demand prior parliamentary approval. Transfer of state legal prerogatives to an international organization would require a two-thirds parliamentary majority, and may be submitted to a referendum. The commission is finishing its work on the long overdue draft of the constitution and the commission's head, presidential candidate Aleksander Kwasniewski, hopes the draft will be ready before the date of presidential elections is announced. Opposition deputies are pressing Kwasniewski to resign to exclude a possible conflict of interest between his work on the constitution and his campaign, Polish media reported on 22 August. * Jakub Karpinski

DATA ON POLISH FOREIGN TRADE.
Poland's Main Statistical Office (GUS) has published data on foreign trade for the first half of 1995. Exports in that period amounted to $10.8 billion while imports totaled $13.2 billion. Both exports and imports grew by nearly 40% compared with the first half of 1994. Countries of the European Union, Germany in particular, remain Poland's most important trading partners, Gazeta Wyborcza reported on 22 August. * Jakub Karpinski

CHURCH-GOVERNMENT TENSION IN SLOVAKIA.
Some 3,000 Catholics demonstrated in Banska Bystrica on 21 August against what they see as government intimidation of Catholic Church officials, Slovak media report. On 18 August, Church officials accused the government of communist-era practices after police stormed the office of Rudolf Balaz, head of the Slovak Bishops Conference, allegedly investigating a report that Balaz might be involved in the illegal trading of religious antiquities. Church officials have claimed that the house search was was an act of retaliation against the Bishops Conference for expressing support for President Michal Kovac in his conflict with Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar. The government has distanced itself from the house search but the investigation continues. * Jiri Pehe

SLOVAK PRESIDENT REACTS TO ACCUSATIONS.
Michal Kovac on 21 August responded to a statement made on 19 August by Tibor Cabaj, chairman of the parliamentary caucus of Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS). Cabaj said on Slovak Television that in the light of Kovac's recent statements, citizens are beginning to be afraid that the president wants to engineer a crisis similar to that which led to the ouster of Meciar in March 1994. In his response, Kovac said Cabaj's accusations were "regrettable." The president argued that he wants the HZDS to remain in power until the next regular parliament elections. Moreover, said the president, "I never engineered any March crisis; nor am I preparing one now." He noted that what makes citizens afraid and nervous are not his own statements but others such as those made by Cabaj. * Jiri Pehe

HUNGARY'S SOCIALISTS SURPASSED IN OPINION POLL.
An opinion poll released on 21 August by Marketing Centrum shows Hungary's ruling Socialists trailing an opposition party for the first time since the Socialists' landslide election victory in May 1994. The results of the poll, published in Nepszava, show the Socialists running in second place with 16%; the right-of-center populist Smallholders placed first with 22%. The Socialists' junior coalition partner, the liberal Alliance of Free Democrats, finished third with 14%. The popularity of Prime Minister Gyula Horn's Socialist Party has been dwindling for nearly a year, but the slide accelerated following the passing of an austerity package in March aimed at cutting the country's huge budget and current account deficits. * Jiri Pehe



OMRI DAILY DIGEST

VOL. 1, NO. 163, 22 AUGUST 1995
BOSNIA ACCUSES UN OF ABANDONING GORAZDE.
International media on 22 August quoted Bosnian Foreign Minister Muhamed Sacirbey as condemning the UN decision to withdraw the remaining peacekeepers from the "safe area" of Gorazde and replace them with unarmed monitors. Given the UN's track record in Srebrenica, Zepa, and elsewhere, the presence or absence of UN troops is unlikely to deter the Serbs from overrunning Gorazde. Sacirbey, however, seems concerned with the political and symbolic implications of the world body's move. Nasa Borba, meanwhile, quoted UN spokesman Alexander Ivanko as saying that one shell is no reason for NATO intervention. He was replying to Sacirbey's earlier criticism of the UN for not calling in air strikes when three children were killed in Gorazde on 20 August. Sacirbey asked: "When will enough be enough, and what will it take for the United Nations and NATO to react to this terrorism?" * Patrick Moore

CROATIAN UPDATE.
The mayor of Dubrovnik on 21 August told a press conference that demilitarization could be one answer to the city's problems posed by Serbian artillery in the heights above. News agencies reported from Montenegro, however, that Bosnian Serb forces are building up strength in the area. Elsewhere, the UN continued to criticize Croatia. It appealed to Zagreb not to return some 25,000 Muslim refugees loyal to Bihac-pocket warlord Fikret Abdic to Bosnian government-controlled territory. It also accused Croatia of not admitting Muslim refugees from Banja Luka. Croatia has denied the charges, saying that it has already taken in 2,500 Muslims from the latest round of Serbian "ethnic cleansing" of the Banja Luka region's once large Muslim and Croatian populations. Croatia hosts another 50,000 Muslim refugees whom it has admitted since 1992. Opinion polls have shown, however, that many Croats resent the idea of able-bodied Muslim men sitting out the war in Croatia and feel such people should go back to Bosnian government-controlled territory. * Patrick Moore

TUDJMAN CALLS ON RUSSIA TO INFLUENCE SERBIA.
Croatian President Franjo Tudjman on 21 August urged Russian presidential envoy Aleksandr Zotov to persuade Serbia to recognize Croatia. Hina said that Tudjman "underlined the willingness of Croatia to settle the problem on the basis of mutual recognition [between Belgrade and Zagreb] and urged Russia to use its influence on Serbian authorities to this end. Failing that, Croatia will feel obliged to resort to all means at its disposal to liberate the remainder of its occupied territories" and to enable refugees to go home. Vecernji list on 22 August asked whether some joint U.S.-Russian peace proposal is in the offing, but Mlada fronta dnes on 18 August warned Western powers against trying to rid themselves of the current crisis by giving Moscow undue diplomatic influence in the Balkans. * Patrick Moore

A NEW BOSNIAN PEACE PLAN.
Slobodna Dalmacija on 21 August reported on suggestions in international media over the weekend that Karadzic had been ousted by the military commander, General Ratko Mladic. The paper also discussed a new 12-point peace plan by Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic that stresses the "sovereignty and territorial unity" of the state. The project apparently makes no mention of any confederal ties to either Serbia or Croatia. It does, however, guarantee the Serbs full rights. * Patrick Moore

SERBIAN REFUGEE UPDATE.
BETA on 21 August reported that the total number of Krajina Serbs now in rump Yugoslavia is 154,079. Of that number, approximately 83,000 are in Serbia's ethnically mixed Vojvodina province, and about 3,000 in the predominantly ethnic Albanian province of Kosovo. Montena-fax observes that some 1,115 have found refuge in Montenegro. Belgrade officials continue to articulate concern for the humanitarian needs of the refugees, and on 22 August AFP quotes national bank Governor Dragoslav Avramovic as saying the best way to meet them is "to reduce budgetary spending in general while promoting production and boosting revenues." Meanwhile, on 21 August the BBC reported that the UN has protested to Serbia over its having press-ganged about 1,000 "military-aged" Krajina male refugees last week. The men have been forcibly deported to Bosnia. * Stan Markotich

ROMANIAN JEWISH COMMUNITY'S NEW RELIGIOUS LEADER TAKES OFFICE.
Rabbi Mark Yehezkel, the new leader of Romania's Jewish community, arrived in Bucharest on 20 August and on the following day met members of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Romania, Radio Bucharest announced on 21 August. Rabbi Yehezkel, who was elected to the position by the federation on 28 May, succeeds the deceased Chief Rabbi Moses Rosen. Although he will not, for the time being, have the title of Chief Rabbi, his jurisdiction extends over all of the country's Jewish congregations. Unlike Rabbi Rosen, Rabbi Yehezkel will not be president of the federation, a function now fulfilled by a layman, Professor Nicolae Cajal. Rabbi Yehezkel was born in 1928 in Romania. He left the country for Israel in 1946, lectured at Israel's Bar Ilan religious university in Tel Aviv and was head of a South African Jewish congregation between 1970 and 1972. * Michael Shafir

ROMANIAN MILITARY INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION.
Citing Rompres, Radio Bucharest said on 21 August that the Romanian troops who participated in the joint Hungarian-Romanian exercise in Hodmezovasarhely had returned to the country. The exercise was held within the Partnership for Peace Program and lasted 11 days. Hungarian Defense Minister Gyorgy Keleti told the guests they should "bring home the message that Hungary is capable and prepared to defend itself" and has the means to do so. In other news, Romanian television reported on 21 August that the first contingent of 105 peacekeeping troops has left for Angola. The Romanian battalion will eventually be manned by a total of 750 soldiers. * Michael Shafir

PULL-OUT OF RUSSIAN WEAPONS FROM MOLDOVA TO BEGIN.
The press center of the Operational Group of Russian Forces in Moldova -- the former 14th Army -- announced on 21 August that the repatriation of its weapons and equipment from the Transdniestr region would begin shortly. ITAR-TASS quoted the group's commander, Lt. Gen. Valery Yevnevich, as announcing that the first shipment would take place on 25 August. The report said that Russian troops were currently loading four trains with military cargo, and that these would all leave for Russia before mid-September. * Doug Clarke

TURKISH DEFENSE MINISTER IN MOLDOVA.
Turkish Defense Minister Mehmet Golhan began on 20 August a two day-visit to Moldova. BASA-press reported on 21 August that Golhan said upon his arrival that Ankara hoped the issue of the presence of Russian troops in Moldova will be solved "in a manner that will not harm Moldovan independence." He added that Turkey and Russia were "neighboring countries that . . . do not interfere in each other's domestic affairs." Moldovan Defense Minister Pavel Creanga said no documents will be signed during the visit, but the two sides will continue work on drafting a cooperation program between the two ministries. Golhan is also scheduled to meet President Mircea Snegur, Prime Minister Andrei Sangheli, and Foreign Minister Mihai Popov. * Michael Shafir

PRIVATE TV IN MOLDOVA.
The first Moldovan private independent television station, Catalan TV, began broadcasting on 21 August, BASA-press reported on the same day. The station will mainly air original programs dealing with local events. Catalan TV reaches an area of 35 kilometers around Chisinau. * Michael Shafir

BULGARIAN BANK MERGER.
BTA on 21 August reported that three large banking institutions -- Sofiabank, Serdika Bank and Biochim Bank -- have announced a merger plan. Total capital assets of the new company are expected to be about 1.3 billion leva ($19 million), and among the chief shareholders are at least two Russian banks. The merger plan has already been approved in principle by the government. * Stan Markotich

ALBANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS MACEDONIA.
Albanian Foreign Minister Alfred Serreqi and his Macedonian counterpart Stevo Crvenkovski on 21 August accused Belgrade of attempting to modify borders in the Balkans by flooding Kosovo with Serb refugees, AFP reports the following day. Concerning the situation in Bosnia, both politicians agreed that "Macedonia and Albania consider unacceptable any change to borders by force and ethnic cleansing." The two sides will formulate a "common strategy" to cope with a possible widening of the war to Kosovo that might follow the relocation of Krajina refugees there. Serreqi, on a three-day visit to Macedonia, also met with Parliament Speaker Stojan Andov and representatives of parliamentary parties, including the main ethnic Albanian Party of Democratic Prosperity. Serreqi will meet President Kiro Gligorov and Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski in Ohrid the same day. * Fabian Schmidt

NEW ALBANIAN MILITARY DOCTRINE.
Albanian President Sali Berisha presented a new military doctrine on 21 August, Zeri I Popullit reports the next day. He said the army went through a period of restructuring and has been modernized in cooperation with NATO and other countries. The new doctrine therefore focuses on strengthening the army but mainly on regional cooperation. Reuters, however, quotes Berisha as saying that "although Albania's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity is . . . guaranteed with political means, we cannot renounce having armed forces able to secure a convincing defense of the country [but] Albania does not threaten militarily any other state and . . . it is resolved to solve disagreements through dialogue." * Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Steve Kettle




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