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Newsline - October 24, 1995


OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 207, 24 October 1995
RUSSIAN-ABKHAZ AGREEMENT ON RAIL TRAFFIC.
On 20 October, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Bolshakov and Abkhaz Prime Minister Gennadii Gagulia signed a protocol on the resumption of rail traffic from the Russia through Abkhazia to Tbilisi and Baku, Interfax reported on 23 October. Traffic was halted after the onset of hostilities between the Abkhaz secessionist government and Tbilisi in 1992; Russian and Georgian officials signed an agreement on its resumption during Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's visit to Tbilisi in September. Also on 23 October, Russian border guards moved to blockade the Abkhaz port of Sukhumi as part of a move to disrupt sea traffic between Abkhazia and Turkey. -- Liz Fuller

KAZAKHSTANI OFFICIALS JAILED FOR ILLEGAL EXPORT OF WEAPONS.
The former deputy defense minister of Kazakhstan, General Valerii Sapsaev, and a senior defense official, Colonel Zhailaubai Sadibekov, have been sentenced to eight- and four-year jail terms respectively for illegally exporting $2 million worth of weapons, Reuters reported on 23 October. Sapsaev is the first senior official to be sentenced since the government began a concerted inquiry into allegations published in Karavan of top level corruption within defense ranks (see OMRI Daily Digest, 7 and 12 September 1995). The convictions coincided with the seizure by Russian customs officials of a trainload of weapons on their way from Kazakhstan to North Korea. -- Bhavna Dave

WORLD BANK POSITIVE ON UZBEK ECONOMY.
A report recently released by the World Bank praised Uzbekistan's economic performance over the first six months of 1995, Interfax reported on 23 October. The monthly inflation rate dropped from 17% in January to 1.6% in June, even though price liberalization continued. Uzbek President Islam Karimov has tried to avoid "shock therapy" and has pursued privatization and monetary reform in a more gradual fashion over the past three years. -- Roger Kangas

MILITARY MANEUVERS IN TURKMENISTAN.
The Turkmen national army recently completed its first military exercises, according to Zaman on 24 October. Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov, Defense Minister and Chief of the General Staff Danatar Kopekov, and a host of diplomats and journalists watched the exercises, which allegedly involved tanks supported with air cover. Other details have not been made available. -- Lowell Bezanis



OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 207, 24 October 1995
BLACK SEA FLEET NEWS.
Over 70 percent of Black Sea Fleet vessels are in disrepair, Interfax reported on 21 October. As there is no procedure to pay for maintenance work, no contracts have been signed with Russian enterprises to do repairs this year. The fleet is still 462.77 billion karbovantsy ($2.64 million) in debt for past repairs. In other fleet news, Interfax reported on 23 October that Ukrainian Defense Minister Valerii Shmarov has said Ukraine has no interest in the fleet's base at Myrne. The fleet was preparing to transfer its facilities to Ukraine's navy on 15 October, which would have effectively made the Ukrainian navy responsible for the 10,000 inhabitants of Myrne. Shmarov said it would be more expedient to transfer the town to Crimean authorities. -- Ustina Markus

UKRAINIAN OFFICIAL DENIES SUSPENSION OF DEATH PENALTY.
Deputy Justice Minister Susanna Stanyk told the Ukrainian Parliament that the government is not yet prepared to reject capital punishment, ITAR-TASS reported 20 October. She denied the death penalty had been suspended last week as announced by Ukraine's newly appointed Justice Minister Serhii Holovatyi in the wake of the country's acceptance into the Council of Europe. Stanyk said the decision is the prerogative of parliament and not the Justice Ministry. Parliament has no plans for debate on the death penalty this year. Stanyk said 74 death sentences were handed down last year in Ukraine and 60 were carried out. One execution was completed this year, she said. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

UKRAINIAN PEASANTS ASSEMBLY OPPOSES LAND MARKET.
The first all-Ukrainian Peasants Assembly held on 21 October in Kiev approved a list of demands to the government that includes greater state control of the economy and a ban on land sales, UNIAN reported the same day. Some 200 delegates from several regions insisted the government fully finance the agricultural sector. Participants blamed the low turnout for the gathering on farm managers who, they claim, prevented employees from attending. Others said the turnout reveals a high degree of apathy among Ukraine's peasants. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

BELARUSIAN ELECTION NEWS.
Registration of candidates for the 29 November by-elections to the Belarusian parliament began on 20 October, Belarusian television reported. The nationalist opposition Belarusian Popular Front announced that it was fielding 65 candidates. The BPF believes the country's very sovereignty is at stake and wants enough nationalist deputies in parliament to bloc any moves to undermine the country's independence. -- Ustina Markus

UPDATE ON BELARUSIAN BALLOON ATTACK.
The Belarusian Foreign Ministry announced on 20 October that a criminal case has been initiated in connection with the 12 September downing of a U.S. hot-air balloon that resulted in the deaths of the two pilots, Belarusian television reported. The announcement followed the completion of preliminary results of an investigative commission, which included U.S. and German aviation experts. -- Ustina Markus

ESTONIAN CENTER PARTY ELECTS NEW LEADERSHIP.
At the extraordinary congress of the Estonian Center Party on 21 October, Andra Veidemann was elected head of the party with 136 votes, just four more than her rival Siiri Oviir, BNS reported on 23 October. Tiit Made and Krista Kilvet were elected deputy chairmen. Former Chairman Edgar Savisaar did not attend the congress but sent a letter stating that the secret taping of other top politicians was not connected to the party. He was fired as interior minister on 10 October as a result of the scandal, and his party's coalition with the Coalition Party and Rural Union broke up. -- Saulius Girnius

NEW ALLIANCES DISCUSSED BEFORE POLISH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION.
Polish President Lech Walesa is "absolutely" convinced he will win the November presidential elections, he said on 23 October in Florence, Italy. As the chances grow that Walesa and Democratic Left Alliance leader Aleksander Kwasniewski will meet in the election's second round on 19 November, many candidates are trying to convince their rivals to resign. Central Bank President Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz said some right-wing candidates are ready to step aside and give her their support. Some of the Christian-National Alliance leaders are playing down their support for Gronkiewicz-Waltz and hinting at possible support for Walesa, Polish dailies reported on 24 October. -- Jakub Karpinski

RAILWAY STRIKE CONTINUES IN SILESIA.
Representatives of all trade unions of the Polish State Railways (PKP) opposed the latest agreement granting the striking Silesian railway workers an increase of 74 zlotys ($30.2) per month effective 1 November. The unions throughout the country demanded for increases for other districts as well; if they are not granted, a general strike is likely. The Polish State Railways assess the total losses resulting from stopping and redirecting trains at 63.2 million zlotys ($25.8 million) since the strike began on 17-18 October, Gazeta Wyborcza reported on 24 October. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz

REPORT: CIVILIANS MUST CONTROL POLISH MILITARY.
Poland must establish true civilian control of the military in 1996 if it wishes to have any chance of joining NATO, according to a Euroatlantic Association report. Gazeta Wyborcza on 23 October quoted Janusz Onyskiewicz, one of the report's authors, as saying the U.S. was worried about the Polish standards of civilian control of the military. The report said that for Poland to meet Western standards, the Sejm should oversee defense policy and the Defense Ministry's budget and the General Staff should be subordinate to a "civilian-military Ministry of Defense," with a completely apolitical minister. -- Doug Clarke

ROMANI CHILDREN TARGET OF ATTACK.
Three Romani girls were hospitalized in Karvina after about 15 Czech skinheads threw them to the ground and kicked them in the head, Premiera TV reported on 23 October. Witnesses said the attack on a group of 10 Romani children was premeditated. One of the injured girls said that as the men were kicking her, they shouted racial epithets. One of the attackers has been identified and apprehended, and may be charged with breach of the peace and grievous bodily harm. If the attackers are proved to have had a racial motive, they may face additional penalties. -- Alaina Lemon

SLOVAK ROUNDUP.
The third investigator in the case of the abduction of President Michal Kovac's son, Maj. Jozef Ciz, was appointed on 23 October by Jan Kostov, director of the police investigation department, Sme reported. Both Ciz and Kostov are from Banska Bystrica, a stronghold of Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar. Ciz's two predecessors were each dismissed after announcing suspicions that the Slovak Information Service was involved in the abduction. In other news, during its congress on 21 October, the opposition Social Democratic Party reelected Jaroslav Volf as chairman. Volf defeated Ivan Laluha, who was said to be leaning toward cooperation with the government coalition. That same day, the leftist Hungarian Peoples' Movement for Moderation and Prosperity held its first assembly. Chairman Gyorgy Gyimesi said his party considers the ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia "a political partner," Sme reported. -- Sharon Fisher

HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER ON TREATY WITH SLOVAKIA.
Gyula Horn, in an interview with the Slovak daily Pravda on 23 October, dismissed efforts to include an "interpretation" clause in the Hungarian-Slovak treaty that would stress Slovakia's explanation of the treaty's controversial points. "I believe the signed version of the Hungarian-Slovak treaty is formulated entirely unambiguously," Horn said. The treaty was signed in March, but the Slovak parliament has yet to ratify the agreement, although Hungary did so in June. Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar is apparently concerned that the ratification will damage his coalition, since the radical Slovak National Party refuses to support the treaty. Parliament Chairman Ivan Gasparovic insists laws on the state language and territorial arrangement need to be passed before ratification is possible. Meciar promised to get approval from the Council of Europe before passing the language law; earlier this month Deputy Premier Katarina Tothova said the CE recommended only a few minor changes. -- Sharon Fisher

HUNGARIAN, SLOVAK PRESIDENTS MEET.
At the New York UN headquarters on 23 October, Hungarian President Arpad Goncz and his Slovak counterpart Michal Kovac discussed the future of the basic treaty, the Slovak language law, and mutual support in European integration, Hungarian and Slovak newspapers reported the next day. On Slovakia's controversial language law, Kovac said he will not sign a bill that is outside Council of Europe standards. Goncz was strongly criticized by opposition politicians in Hungary for missing the 23 October commemorations of the 1956 Hungarian uprising. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

HUNGARY TO SELL BUDAPEST BANK.
On 20 October the Hungarian government signed a declaration of intent with GE Capital Services on the future sale of Budapest Bank, Hungarian newspapers reported the next day. GE Capital Services had made a bid for 53% of the state-owned bank, the third Hungarian bank to be privatized. The Hungarian Finance Ministry, which owns 48% of the bank, has been pushing hard for a deal before the end of the year. -- Zsofia Szilagyi



OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 207, 24 October 1995
CROATIA TALKS WITH REBEL SERBS.
Croatian and rebel Serb negotiators emerged from talks in Osijek on 23 October agreeing that "significant" steps had been taken in averting conflict and accepting reincorporation of the occupied territories of eastern Slavonia under Croatian authority, international media reported the same day. Croatian negotiator Hrvoje Sarinic, echoing sentiments expressed by UN envoy and talks co-chairman Thorvald Stoltenberg, said that "the principle of a peaceful reintegration was accepted [by the Serb side], though some matters must still be discussed." A draft agreement calling for the peaceful reintegration of occupied eastern Slavonia into Croatia was presented at the meeting, and talks are slated to resume on 25 October. -- Stan Markotich

BOSNIAN SERB LEADER SHOWS SOLIDARITY WITH ARKAN.
Bosnian Serb civilian leader Radovan Karadzic on 23 October inspected troops led by Serbian accused war criminal Zeljko Raznatovic, alias Arkan. Arkan and the roughly 300 men under his command have said they would travel to Croatia's eastern Slavonia but that their original departure date of 22 October had to be delayed for "technical reasons." Following the inspection ceremony in Bijeljina, Karadzic, who is also an accused war criminal, remarked that Arkan's paramilitary "Tigers" will always be "welcome" on Bosnian Serb territory, AFP reported on 23 October. -- Stan Markotich

BOSNIAN SERBS APPOINT KASAGIC AS NEW PREMIER.
The self-styled Bosnian Serb parliament has named Rajko Kasagic, mayor of Banja Luka, the new premier and has asked him to form a government, SRNA reported on 23 October. Premier Dusan Kozic resigned on 15 October in the wake of legislators' demands that civilian and military leaders responsible for Bosnian Serb battlefield losses be held accountable and purged. (See OMRI Daily Digest, no. 201, 16 October 1995.) -- Stan Markotich

LEADING MUSLIM PARTY ANNOUNCES NEW NEGOTIATING POSITIONS . . .
The Party of Democratic Action (SDA), the leading Bosnian Muslim Party, accepted new negotiating positions for the upcoming Ohio talks on Bosnia-Herzegovina at a session held on 20 October in Fojnica, near Sarajevo, BBC reported on 22 October. Bosnian President and SDA Chairman Alija Izetbegovic underscored the poor functioning of the Muslim-Croat Federation and proposed that the issue of Sandzak (a part of rump Yugoslavia with an ethnic-Muslim majority) should be included in the peace process. Nikola Koljevic, the deputy president of the Republic of Srpska, said the new platform is "a time bomb for the peace negotiations," Nasa Borba reported on 23 October. The SDA also proposed partial demobilization of soldiers to provide a work force to revive the economy. -- Daria Sito Sucic

. . . AND SO DO BOSNIAN SERBS.
The Bosnian Serb platform for negotiation, discussed in Bijeljina on 23 October, calls for a Union of Bosnia-Herzegovina which "can only be a federation of states," BBC reported the next day. The Republic of Srpska's delegation deputy speaker, reporting on the 19 October meeting with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, claimed his full support of Bosnian Serb requests in the peace negotiations scheduled for 31 October in Ohio. -- Daria Sito Sucic

ROMANIAN STUDENTS' PROTEST UPDATE.
Students in Bucharest on 23 October continued a series of street protests started last Tuesday, Radio Bucharest reported. More than 10,000 people blocked traffic in the capital, shouting anti-government slogans and demanding the dismissal of Education Minister Liviu Maior. The demonstrators marched to parliament headquarters and presented proposals for amending the education law. The Chamber of Deputies agreed in principle that the amendments be discussed in its commissions for education and law. Students in Cluj and Suceava staged rallies in support of their Bucharest peers that drew 15,000 and 1,000 participants, respectively. -- Dan Ionescu

MORE DEMONSTRATIONS IN CHISINAU.
Thousands of students on 23 October resumed their protest in Chisinau after a two-day break, BASA-press and Infotag reported. Demonstrating against an article in the constitution that names "Moldovan" the country's official language, the students blocked traffic on the city's main avenue for one hour and picketed the mayor's office. At a meeting of the strike committee the same day, Anatol Petrencu, the committee's leader and a university professor, suggested suspending the strike until parliament discusses President Mircea Snegur's initiative to amend the constitution. But student leader Oleg Cernei said that the protests should continue, since no precise date for debates on amending the article has been set. -- Dan Ionescu

WORLD BANK TO OPEN CREDIT LINE TO MOLDOVA.
The World Bank's permanent representative in Chisinau, James Parks, said the bank will open a credit line to Moldova at the beginning of next year, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 October. Parks said the project will support small- and mid-sized enterprises in Moldova. The total cost of the project is estimated at $49 million, of which $35 million will be granted by the World Bank, $6.5 million by the Moldovan government, and the rest by European countries and the EU. The credit will be granted until July 2000. -- Matyas Szabo

GREEK-MACEDONIAN TALKS ON NAME TO START SOON.
Greek government spokesman Tilemachos Hytiris announced on 23 October that Greek and Macedonian diplomats will hold separate talks with UN mediator Cyrus Vance to set a timetable for negotiations on Macedonia's name, AFP reported the same day. Greek Ambassador to the UN Christos Zacharakis will meet Vance on 24 October, and Greek-Macedonian talks are expected to start in late October or early November. Greece objects to the name Macedonia, which it says implies a claim on its northern province of that name. Meanwhile, international media report that Australia on 23 October established official diplomatic relations with Macedonia. -- Stefan Krause

EAST-WEST HIGHWAY TO BE BUILT IN THE BALKANS.
The presidents of Albania, Bulgaria, and Turkey, Sali Berisha, Zhelyu Zhelev, and Suleyman Demirel, respectively, and the acting Macedonian president and parliament speaker, Stojan Andov, agreed on 23 October to build a trans-Balkan highway, Bulgarian daily 24 chasa reported the next day. The road, which will cost an estimated $1 billion, will link the Albanian port of Durres with the Turkish city of Istanbul, via Skopje and Sofia. AFP cited a Turkish presidential statement that construction is scheduled to take four years. -- Stefan Krause

SHOOTOUT IN KOSOVO.
Unidentified gunmen ambushed a police car and seriously injured three Serbian policemen in Batlava, in the Kosovo region of Serbia, on 23 October, international media reported the same day. Following the attack, police started intensive raids on private homes and arrested a number of ethnic Albanians. Eight Albanians were detained; three were later released. -- Fabian Schmidt

ALBANIAN WW II PARTISAN DIES IN PRISON.
Shefqet Peci, an 89-year-old former commander of the WW II Fifth Partisan Brigade died in the prison hospital of Tirana on 22 October, Republika reported on 24 October. Peci was arrested on 11 October and accused of ordering the execution without trial of 21 villagers from Buzemadhi in 1944. Peci is the first person to be accused under the Law on Genocide from 20 September 1995 (see OMRI Daily Digest 12 October). During the communist period, Peci was transport minister and deputy chairman of parliament. Family members said Peci was completely deaf, had broken bones due to old age and was almost unconscious when he was arrested. He had started a hunger strike the day after the arrest. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Susan Caskie




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