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Newsline - August 30, 1995


OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 169, 30 August 1995
YELTSIN GIVES ENVOY IN CHECHNYA SWEEPING POWERS.
On 29 August, the presidential press service released details of the decree appointing Security Council Secretary Oleg Lobov presidential representative in Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported. Under the decree, Lobov will have the powers of a first deputy prime minister, with authority over all federal officials in Chechnya, including the operational command of federal forces in the republic. He will also coordinate the activity of all federal delegations sent to negotiate with separatist Chechen leaders. That Lobov, a close associate of President Boris Yeltsin, has been granted such sweeping powers suggests that Yeltsin is reasserting control over Chechen policy, in which Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin has played a major role since the Budennovsk events, Izvestiya commented on 30 August. The appointment also follows Yeltsin's recent pattern of placing close personal associates in important positions within the presidential apparatus. Also on 29 August, Yeltsin reiterated his commitment to a negotiated settlement of the Chechen conflict, saying that his policy in Chechnya remains "unchanged." -- Scott Parrish

GRACHEV SAYS KURILS BELONG TO RUSSIA.
Speaking to a meeting of Russian war veterans, Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev said that the successful Soviet military offensive against the Japanese Kwantung Army in August 1945 led to the "return to Russia of lands torn away by Japan," Russian and Western agencies reported on 29 August. When asked what specific areas he had in mind, Grachev said the Kuril Islands, which he then described as "genuine Russian land," according to Interfax. Grachev's comments are likely to aggravate already shaky relations between Russia and Japan. A long-running territorial dispute over the four southernmost islands of the Kuril chain, which Russia continues to control but Japan claims, has blocked improvement in relations. Russian military officers have frequently made public statements opposing any concessions to Japan on the issue. -- Scott Parrish

FOREIGN MINISTRY WARY OF NATO ACTION IN BOSNIA.
An anonymous diplomat at the Russian Foreign Ministry told Interfax on 29 August that the possibility of NATO airstrikes against Bosnian Serb positions in retaliation for the recent mortar attack on a crowded Sarajevo marketplace could endanger progress toward a peace settlement in the former Yugoslavia. Another Russian diplomat, quoted by Interfax in Paris before a scheduled meeting of international Contact Group representatives, described the mortar attack as a "provocation" designed to undermine the peace process. He refused, however, to pin the blame on the Bosnian Serbs, saying that "extremists" among the Bosnian Muslims also wanted to block the negotiation process. In Moscow, Defense Minster Grachev told journalists that the international community should give "equal treatment" to all parties in the Yugoslav conflict, adding that the "Bosnian Serbs, Croats, and Muslims all have a big enough share of responsibility for current developments." -- Scott Parrish

YELTSIN TO REMAIN ABOVE THE FRAY.
President Yeltsin told a meeting of political scientists that he will not announce whether he intends to run for a second term until after the December parliamentary elections, according to Presidential Council member Andranik Migranyan, NTV reported on 30 August. Yeltsin also said that he will not identify himself with any party or bloc during the parliamentary campaign. At the meeting, Yeltsin reaffirmed his intention to hold all elections on schedule, although he said there is a danger that they will destabilize the situation. He again rejected elections to the Federation Council as unconstitutional and was advised by his interlocutors to form the upper house from the regional leadership by presidential decree if the issue is held up in the Constitutional Court. -- Robert Orttung

LEBED ADDRESSES MOSCOW PARTY CONGRESS.
Retired Lt. Gen. Aleksandr Lebed addressed a conference of the Moscow City branch of the Congress of Russian Communities (KRO) on 29 August, ITAR-TASS reported. Lebed is the deputy chairman of the KRO. Lebed advocated strengthening Russian statehood since "we possess a unique civilization and should preserve it." Reporters present said that the general again demonstrated his oratorical skill, which is bolstering his standing in the opinion polls. The KRO claims 80 regional branches in Russia and 43 branches in the non-Russian republics of the former Soviet Union, but it does not provide membership figures. -- Robert Orttung

MOSCOW TO ELECT CITY DUMA ON 17 DECEMBER.
Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov signed a directive on 29 August setting 17 December as the date for elections to the Moscow City Duma, ITAR-TASS reported. The current Duma was elected on 12 December 1993, after Yeltsin shut down all local soviets in the country following his October attack on the Russian White House. -- Robert Orttung

CHEMICAL WEAPONS TO BE DESTROYED BY NUCLEAR BOMBS?
The Atomic Power Ministry has been working for four years on a plan to destroy chemical weapons in underground nuclear explosions, its chief told a 28 August meeting marking the 50th anniversary of the ministry's creation. NTV quoted Viktor Mikhailov as saying that while such explosions would violate the current test moratorium, they had the "indisputable advantage" of being "approximately 100 times cheaper than any other means." -- Doug Clarke

TATAR STUDY ON "SHUTTLE" TRADERS.
An opinion survey conducted in the Tatar capital, Kazan, by a Tatar government center suggests that women make up 80% of those who engage in "shuttle" trade-- i.e., those who make regular trips abroad to buy goods to sell at home. According to Interfax on 27 August, more than 40% of the respondents had a higher education, 20% had earlier worked in the military-industrial complex, and over 16% were former civil servants. Nearly 82% said they had to "shuttle" to keep their families. Half of the traders admitted to paying off officials, and 40% are controlled by criminal groups. -- Penny Morvant

GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS REBUKED FOR TRIPS ABROAD.
According to a report by the Presidential Control Administration, 525 officials from 32 ministries have violated a decree issued by Yeltsin in 1993 regulating civil servants' trips abroad, Kommersant-daily reported on 25 August. First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets rebuked the offenders at a meeting of the cabinet and urged officials to spend more time traveling around Russia. The largest number of unnecessary trips was made by officials from the Foreign Economic Relations Ministry, the Economics Ministry, the Finance Ministry, and the Nationalities Ministry, while the biggest individual offender was Education Ministry department head Yelena Lenskaya, said to have traveled abroad on 80 occasions. According to Komsomolskaya pravda of 29 August, however, Lenskaya herself claims to have made only eight trips. -- Penny Morvant

BANKS FAIL TO OUTLINE CLEAR POLICY ON CRISIS.
The Association of Russian Banks has failed to draw up measures to overcome the interbank credit market crisis that hit banks last week, Russian agencies reported on 29 August. The Association, which unites more than 1,000 commercial banks, is working on a guiding statement to better define credit limits and create a mechanism for paying off mutual obligations but has yet to complete it. According to Interfax, dealers in Moscow estimate that only four or five banks in the capital still trust each other enough to operate on the interbank credit market. -- Thomas Sigel

SECURITIES AND STOCK COMMISSION DRAFTS REGULATIONS.
The changing infrastructure of the stock market requires regulations to be put in place, Deputy Chairman of the Federal Commission for Securities and Stock Markets Dmitrii Vasilev told Russian media on 29 August. Vasilev said that companies that keep shareholder registers will be subject to an audit to reveal stock market law violations and that the commission is drafting rules governing the work of mutual investment funds, which are being established in accordance with Yeltsin's decree of late July (see OMRI Daily Digest, 31 July 1995). Vasilev also said that in September the commission will publish a document on amending Russian enterprises' share prospectuses to ensure that they meet world standards. In addition, the commission will draft a document authorizing it to apply sanctions and initiate criminal proceedings against companies violating the rights of investors. -- Thomas Sigel



OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 169, 30 August 1995
CAR BOMB IN TBILISI.
Georgian parliament chairman Eduard Shevardnadze escaped an apparent assassination attempt with minor injuries when a car bomb exploded outside the parliament building in Tbilisi on 29 August, Russian and Western agencies reported. Five other people, including parliament speaker Vakhtang Rcheulishvili and Shevardnadze's chief of staff Petre Mamradze were also hurt. Security measures in Tbilisi have been intensified, and a nationwide state of emergency may be imposed, according to Prime Minister Otar Patsatsia. Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Ciller is due in Tbilisi later this week to discuss a planned export pipeline for Caspian oil with Shevardnadze. -- Liz Fuller

NAZARBAEV DISMISSES OPPOSITION, SET TO WIN REFERENDUM . . .
In a country where plebiscites almost never disappoint the expectations of the authorities, the 30 August vote on the draft constitution is likely to provide a big win for Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, despite widespread apathy on the part of the electorate toward the new constitution. The Chairman of the Election Commission Yurii Kim said he was sure the president would score a major victory. In a national television address, Nazarbaev announced that soon after the anticipated referendum victory, a law setting a date for elections to the nation's parliament will be adopted. In an interview with Interfax on 29 August, Nazarbaev praised his draft constitution as the "only one" in the CIS that guarantees private property and land ownership, including the right to confidentiality regarding bank holdings "just as in Swiss banks." He maintained that the constitution clearly lays down the distribution of power between the various branches of government on the basis of a system of checks and balances in which the president has the authority to dissolve the parliament, just as the latter has the prerogative to impeach the president. Nazarbaev dismissed the opposition as "a narrow and absolutely unrepresentative group of people, motivated by private interests." He said that the country needs "competent, experienced and skilled politicians," not those who stage mass rallies and pickets. He also justified the adoption of a presidential system on the grounds that Kazakhstan lacks a "parliamentary culture and the traditions of a well-developed multiparty system." -- Bhavna Dave

. . . AND ANXIETY AMONG SLAVIC GROUPS.
Konstantin Zatulin, chairman of the Russian Duma committee on ties with the CIS, warned in an interview with Russian TV on 29 August that once Nazarbaev's powers are extended through a referendum, nothing will deter him from making further changes to the constitution. Zatulin expressed concern that although the Russian language has the status of an official language, the preamble of the constitution favors Kazakh. The issue of Russian speakers in the "near abroad" is likely to be raised in the Russian Duma. Most Kazakh citizens appear more concerned about provisions on land privatization, which are regarded as favoring the sale of land and factories to foreigners, according to Reuters on 29 August. Meanwhile, emigration of Russian-speakers continues to rise--more than 480,000 left Kazakhstan in 1994. "Emigration of Russians is the biggest factor explaining stability of Kazakhstan," Nurbulat Masanov, a history professor from Kazakhstan, told Reuters on 29 August. -- Bhavna Dave

ISRAEL TRAINING AZERBAIJANI SECURITY AGENTS?
An Israeli intelligence delegation recently arrived in Baku on a secret visit, according to a 28 August IRNA report monitored by the BBC. The Iranian agency claimed that the discussions are part of an effort to upgrade the republic's intelligence system; they are said to follow on from an earlier visit of Azerbaijani security officials to Tel Aviv. The report also alleged that a team of 45 Israeli officers are in Azerbaijan providing training to Azerbaijani security officers. -- Lowell Bezanis

TURKISH INVESTMENT IN TURKMENISTAN.
Over the past three years Turkey has invested more than $1.5 billion in Turkmenistan, Interfax reported on 28 August. Citing an unnamed spokesman in Turkmenistan's Foreign Economic Relations Ministry, the agency said that about 40% of that money (c. $600 million) is in construction projects. Turkish builders are involved in many of the republic's high profile projects, including its new international airport and several hotels. -- Lowell Bezanis

LIBERALIZATION OF TAJIK ECONOMY TO BE ACCELERATED.
The authorities in Tajikistan expect that all state property in the republic will be privatized in 1996, Tajik Radio reported on 25 August. According to the report monitored by the BBC, Tajik Prime Minister Jamshid Karimov told a consultative meeting of top industrial managers, the head of the finance ministry, and representatives from the national bank and tax inspectorate that the government intends to speed up the privatization process. He indicated that the prices for all kinds of goods and foreign trade had been completely liberalized to date with the exception of cotton. Cotton-producers have the right to dispose of 30% of the crop in 1995; in 1996 the entire crop is to be at their disposal. Karimov also noted that Tajikistan must pay $126 million in foreign debts this year. -- Lowell Bezanis



OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 169, 30 August 1995
POLISH GOVERNMENT POSTPONES PENSION HIKE . . .
The government on 29 August decided to raise pensions in December rather than in September, Radio Warsaw reported. State-sector wage growth (to which pensions are indexed) has not run high enough to mandate a third-quarter increase, but some members of the ruling coalition proposed an early raise in any case (a plan some observers criticized as an attempt to win votes from Poland's 9 million pensioners in the fall presidential elections). Deputy Prime Minister Grzegorz Kolodko told reporters that the December rise could be as high as 17%. The government said that insufficient income from privatization and the National Bank left the budget with too little cash to afford an increase now. -- Louisa Vinton

. . . BUT RAISES PUBLIC-SECTOR WAGES.
The government also said that bolstering incomes for employees paid from the state budget (teachers, health-care workers, and the public administration) is a priority, as their wages have suffered most over the past five years. The tripartite commission representing unions, employers, and the state agreed on 28 August to increase public-sector wages this year by 6% in real terms. The raises were first promised after a Solidarity hunger strike in January. The commission also agreed to raise public-sector wages next year by 5.5% over inflation, Rzeczpospolita reported. A deputy finance minister had previously hinted that revenue shortfalls might prevent the government from paying the raises. Her remarks prompted fierce criticism from the unions. -- Louisa Vinton

POLAND TO BUILD RUSSIAN-DESIGNED FIGHTER?
A Polish aviation company may build an upgraded Russian MiG-29 jet fighter for the Polish Air Force, Gazeta Wyborcza reported on 29 August. The paper said that WSK-PZL Mielec may be given a license to build the "M-2000," which would have the fuselage and wings of the latest version of the MiG-29, new engines, and the latest Western avionics. In return for such a license, the paper said that Polish shipyards would repair Russian warships and Poland would supply Russia with spare parts for Polish planes that had been exported to the former Soviet Union. -- Doug Clarke

HUNGARIAN PREMIER BACKS DOWN ON DEPUTY PREMIER POST.
Gyula Horn on 29 August abandoned plans to appoint trade union leader Sandor Nagy as deputy prime minister in charge of overseeing the economy. But he said he wanted Nagy to take over the post of industry minister instead, international agencies reported. Horn's move came amid strong protests from the Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ), who believe that Nagy's appointment would diminish the powers of Finance Minister and reform architect Lajos Bokros. The liberals dismissed Horn's concession as cosmetic only. "We believe that [Nagy's appointment] would still reduce the chances for a healthy economic policy," an SZDSZ leader told Reuters. Meanwhile, Horn said he hoped that an agreement could be found with the SZDSZ but added that the Socialists were willing to rule without the liberals if necessary. -- Jan Cleave

POLL REVEALS UKRAINIANS SEE LITTLE ETHNIC DISCRIMINATION.
An opinion poll conducted by the Kiev-based Democratic Initiatives has revealed that most Ukrainians do not believe that discrimination against ethnic groups is widespread, Interfax reported on 28 August. But 10% said they had witnessed discrimination against Russians, 7% reported having seen such incidents against Ukrainians, and 6% said they had observed prejudice against Jews. Six percent of the 1,810 citizens polled said they had seen incidents of discrimination against other ethnic minorities in the country. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

DISCORD WITHIN BELARUSIAN LIBERAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY.
Ekho Moskvy on 29 August reported that Vasil Krivenko, leader of the Belarusian Liberal Democratic Party, has asked the Belarusian police to look into a recent incident in which the party safe was broken into and papers and rubber stamps stolen. Krivenko suggested that rebel members of the party had a role in the theft. Apparently, seven leading members want to replace Krivenko as party leader. But Krivenko said that although he is a "liberal," he is not enough of a democrat to stand for his "illegal" removal. The party "putschists" are reportedly now hiding for fear of Krivenko and his supporters. -- Ustina Markus

TOWARD VISA-FREE TRAVEL BETWEEN ESTONIA AND FINLAND.
The Estonian government on 29 August took a major step toward establishing visa-free travel with Finland by endorsing the draft of a bilateral agreement on the readmission of illegal immigrants, BNS reported. Estonian Foreign Minister Riivo Sinijaerv said talks on visa-free travel will begin immediately after the Finnish and Estonian interior ministers sign the agreement at the end of September. -- Saulius Girnius

IMF TO SEVER RELATIONS WITH LATVIA?
Latvian government sources believe that the International Monetary Fund will soon freeze relations with Latvia because the government refuses to follow IMF recommendations to double excise duties, BNS reported on 29 August. Latvia has raised the budget deficit to 92 million lati ($180 million) and drafted laws to regulate the banking system and bankruptcy procedures, as recommended by the IMF. An IMF freeze might prompt the European Union not to extend promised credits of 40 million ecus ($50 million) to stabilize the country's balance of payments. -- Saulius Girnius



OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 169, 30 August 1995
NATO LAUNCHES AIR, ARTILLERY ASSAULT AGAINST BOSNIAN SERBS.
Jets of several members of the Atlantic alliance appeared over Sarajevo around 2:00 a.m. local time on 30 August, after taking off from bases in Italy and from aircraft carriers in the Adriatic. They continued to fly bombing missions throughout the morning with a brief interruption around dawn. British, French, and Dutch heavy artillery of the Rapid Reaction Force lobbed more than 600 shells into Bosnian Serb positions by mid-morning, international media reported. Bosnian Radio said that the fire was directed against targets in Lukavica, Bogosca, Ilidza, on Mt. Jahorina, and elsewhere. The extent of the damage is not clear, but the VOA reported that most targets appear to have been hit. The aim was to secure Sarajevo as a "safe area" following the Serbian shelling of a market on 28 August, which killed 37 and wounded 85. Serbian positions near the "safe areas" of Tuzla and Gorazde were also attacked. -- Patrick Moore

SERBS RETURN FIRE.
Bosnian Serb forces responded with antiaircraft fire directed at the planes and with rockets aimed at Sarajevo, including a Bosnian army base. Radio Pale said on 30 August that the damage from the NATO intervention could be "massive" and that there was "no excuse" for such a move. The UN had taken precautions in advance to get its peacekeepers out of the area lest they be taken hostage. The only "blue helmets" in exposed positions now are Russians, and it is doubtful that the Serbs will want to anger Moscow, one of their few friends. The VOA quoted President Bill Clinton as saying that he hoped the attacks will help promote the peace process by bringing the Serbs around to negotiate seriously. The BBC, however, cited The Independent as criticizing the attacks and a British UN spokesman as warning the Bosnian army not to take advantage of the new situation. There was no official reaction from the Bosnian Serb leadership as of mid-morning. -- Patrick Moore (see related story in the Russian section above)

SILAJDZIC SAYS RAIDS RESTORE CREDIBILITY.
Bosnian Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic told Reuters on 30 August that "this is a very important step toward peace because it restores the credibility of the international community. I hope the Serbs and the regime in Belgrade have got the message." The BBC noted that the overnight developments mean that the UN has switched from peace-making to peace-enforcing, while Reuters spoke of the "most intensive military intervention in the Bosnian conflict." Another dispatch called it the biggest single combat mission in NATO's history. The VOA, however, asked why such moves had not come sooner, such as during the Serbian attack on Srebrenica and Zepa or even at the start of the war. Serbian shelling of Sarajevo has killed 10,500 and wounded 50,000 since 1992. The 28 August attack apparently was the last straw, however, the broadcast concluded. -- Patrick Moore

CARNIVAL ATMOSPHERE IN SARAJEVO.
The population of Sarajevo had come to expect nothing from the international community, but were pleasantly surprised by the developments in the early hours of 30 August, the VOA noted. Reuters quoted one man who watched the spectacle from his balcony as calling it "beautiful, just beautiful." Impromptu street parties broke out in the capital, with the besieged Sarajevans jubilant that their tormentors were now themselves being hunted. One crippled woman told Reuters: "NATO and the United Nations are to be applauded, cheered for finally acting after the suffering of our city's innocent people. This is the only thing the Serbs understand--force. They're brutes, beasts, and they're getting what they deserve." -- Patrick Moore

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS IN THE CONFLICT REGION.
Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic has written to former U.S. President Jimmy Carter to tell him of his support for the latest peace plan, the BBC reported on 30 August. Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic continued his visit to Paris, but what was billed as an important diplomatic event has become totally overshadowed by developments in and around Sarajevo. Slobodna Dalmacija wrote that the next two weeks will be decisive for Bosnia. With regard to the Krajina conflict, Hina quoted top Croatian government officials as saying that known casualties from Operation Storm have reached 402 Serbian soldiers, 116 Serbian civilians, 211 Croatian soldiers, and 42 Croatian civilians. Slobodna Dalmacija reported that Croatia has identified 217 Serbian rebels it wants to try as war criminals. Meanwhile in Rijeka, the independent Novi list criticized the governing party for trying to claim all the credit for what the daily said was really a national victory. -- Patrick Moore

RUGOVA PROPOSES INDEPENDENT KOSOVO FOR PEACE PLAN.
Kosovar shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova has suggested putting Kosovo under international control as part of a peace plan for former Yugoslavia, AFP reported on 29 August. According to Rugova, Kosovo should be independent, neutral, demilitarized, and "open to both Albania and Serbia," thereby forming a "bridge of peace between Belgrade and Tirana." As an intermediary measure, he proposed "a regime run by an international administration" with "a limited mandate." -- Fabian Schmidt

SERBIAN SOLDIER REPORTED KILLED BY KOSOVO ALBANIANS.
One rump Yugoslav soldier was killed and another wounded 300m inside Kosovo when an armed group opened fire on a rump Yugoslav patrol near the Albanian border, Reuters and AFP reported on 29 August. The rump Yugoslav army claims that a group of ethnic Albanian "terrorists" ambushed the patrol with automatic weapons before fleeing into Albania under the cover of a storm. The killing may be related to an incident in which three drunken soldiers killed an ethnic Albanian on 27 August (see OMRI Daily Digest, 28 August 1995). -- Fabian Schmidt

NASTASE: ROMANIAN EDUCATION LAW ISSUE "ARTIFICIALLY INFLATED."
Romanian Chamber of Deputies chairman Adrian Nastase told Max van der Stoel, the visiting OSCE high commissioner for ethnic minorities, that the issue of the controversial new education law has been "artificially inflated" by the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR). Radio Bucharest on 29 August quoted Nastase as saying that the UDMR wants to use the education law to introduce via the back door the concept of territorial autonomy. Nastase denied the law will have a negative impact on the pending treaty between Romania and Hungary. Van der Stoel also met with Viorel Hrebenciuc, the government coordinator for the Council for National Minorities, and Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu. The government daily Vocea Romaniei reported on 30 August that after meeting with Hrebenciuc, Van der Stoel said the education law adequately reflects European standards. Meanwhile, nationalist Mayor of Cluj Gheorge Funar has invited Van der Stoel to participate on 30 August at ceremonies marking 55 years since northern Transylvania was ceded to Hungary. Funar said the occasion would make it possible for the high commissioner to learn about "the atrocities" committed against the Romanian and Jewish population in Transylvania "by the parents and the grandparents of today's UDMR members." -- Michael Shafir

ROMANIA'S MAGYARS LAUNCH NEW RADIO STATION.
Reuters on 29 August reported that a radio station broadcasting a 75% Hungarian-language program went on the air over the weekend in the town of Targu Secuiesc, in Covasna County. Radio Siculus is the first station in Romania that broadcasts mainly in Hungarian, according to Lazar Madaras, a deputy representing the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania. Under broadcasting rules enforced by the Audio-Visual Council, the proportion of minority languages used on the air must reflect the proportion of nationalities in each area. Covasna County is has a large Hungarian majority. -- Michael Shafir

GERMAN BUNDESTAG PRESIDENT IN ROMANIA.
Rita Sussmuth on 29 August began a two-day visit to Romania, Radio Bucharest reported the same day. She conducted talks with her counterpart, Adrian Nastase, Senate Chairman Oliviu Gherman, Prime Minister Nicolae Vacaroiu, and President Ion Iliescu. Among the topics discussed were increasing German investments in Romania, the situation of the German national minority, and the conflict in the former Yugoslavia. Sussmuth is scheduled to meet with Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu and representatives of opposition parties on 30 August. She will then travel to Timisoara to receive an honorary doctorate from the local university. -- Michael Shafir

CHOLERA IN BUCHAREST.
The first case of cholera in Bucharest was reported on 29 August. Reuters quoted a spokesman for the Romanian Health Ministry as saying the patient appeared to have contracted the illness in his home district of Calarasi, along the Danube. The number of confirmed cases in the Danube Delta area has risen to 19 and seven suspected cases are under investigation, the spokesman said. -- Michael Shafir

UKRAINE TO JOIN PEACE PROCESS IN TRANSDNIESTER.
At the end of his two-day visit to Moldova, Ukrainian Prime Minister Yevhen Marchuk said Kiev will take part in the peace process in the breakaway Transdniester region, international agencies reported on 29 August. Marchuk told reporters that it has been agreed that Ukraine will participate in settling the conflict "on equal terms" (presumably with the Russian and the OSCE missions already taking part in the negotiations). But Marchuk said it has not yet been decided whether Ukraine will mediate through diplomats or send peacekeeping troops. He said a Ukrainian representative will be present alongside Russian and OSCE mediators at the next Moldovan-Transdniester summit on 13 September. Marchuk also said Kiev will agree to the transit of Russian troops deployed in the region through its territory. -- Michael Shafir

TIRASPOL DENIES RUSSIAN ARMAMENT DELIVERY.
Stanislav Hajeyev, who has the title of defense minister in the breakaway Transdniester region, has denied that equipment and armament belonging to the former Russian 14th army is being transferred to the Tiraspol authorities. He told Infotag on 29 August that he has never heard about the deal. The headquarters of the Russian military in the Transdniester also denied the delivery, saying that "combat machinery and armaments are the property of the Russian government and any transfers without Moscow's order are absolutely out of the question." -- Michael Shafir

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT REFUSES TO APPROVE CHANGES IN ARMED FORCES.
Zhelyu Zhelev has defied the Socialist government by refusing to approve the replacement of several top officers from the Defense and Interior Ministries, international agencies reported on 29 August. The Socialists proposed the changes allegedly to improve the efficiency of the armed forces. Zhelev said the chiefs of the Interior Forces, the Border Troops, and the Fire Department should not be replaced by communist-era officers, as proposed by the government. -- Fabian Schmidt

FIVE ALBANIAN SOLDIERS APPLY FOR POLITICAL ASYLUM IN U.S.
Five Albanian soldiers, who participated in the first joint U.S.-Albanian military exercises on U.S. territory have applied for political asylum, Gazeta Shqiptare reported on 30 August, citing the BBC's Albanian Service. There has been no official confirmation by Albanian officials. Gazeta Shqiptare adds that the chances of the five achieving their goal are rather limited. -- Fabian Schmidt

ALBANIAN ARMY FIGHTS ENVER HOXHA WITH NAPALM.
An Albanian army unit has dropped napalm on giant stone letters commemorating communist-era dictator Enver Hoxha, Reuters reported on 29 August. The stone letters, spelling out Hoxha's first name, were located near the peak of Mount Shpiragu at Berat. The napalm blackened the letters, making them indistinguishable from the surrounding mountainside and no longer visible from the nearby town of Berat. An engineering squad had previously failed to blow up the huge 140-meter long and 65-meter high stones, which were erected 24 years ago. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Penny Morvant and Jan Cleave




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