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Newsline - October 30, 1995


OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 211, 30 October 1995


TODAY'S HEADLINES

-- SUBWAY FIRE KILLS MORE THAN 300 IN BAKU.

-- TsIK DENIES REGISTRATION TO YABLOKO.

-- TOXIC CLOUD KILLS 11 IN EASTERN SLOVAKIA.

-- CROATIAN DEMOCRATIC UNION POISED FOR ELECTION VICTORY.


SUBWAY FIRE KILLS MORE THAN 300 IN BAKU.
Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev declared two days of national mourning after an underground train fire killed at least 330 people and injured half as many just outside of Baku on 28 October, international media reported. A preliminary investigation indicates riders on a five-carriage train were trapped in a tunnel when an electrical fire broke out. -- Lowell Bezanis

TOXIC CLOUD KILLS 11 IN EASTERN SLOVAKIA.
Eleven people were killed when a pipe burst at the VSZ steelworks near Kosice on 27 October, releasing a cloud of carbon monoxide, Sme and AFP reported. Nine of those killed were VSZ employees, while the remaining two were unemployed Roma from the near-by village of Velka Ida who happened to be inside the plant. Of the 244 people injured, 109 were hospitalized. VSZ Kosice President Jan Smerak said "routine maintenance" caused the initial leak on the morning of 27 October, but the disaster occurred later that day when weather conditions prevented dispersion of the gas. Local residents and environmentalists complained that authorities reacted too slowly: the 2,500 residents of Velka Ida were evacuated long after the disaster occurred and a public announcement was delayed until 24 hours later. According to TASR, VSZ officials initially underestimated the situation. Authorities lifted the state of emergency on 29 October and production was allowed to resume. -- Sharon Fisher PRE-ELECTION ALLEGATIONS IN AZERBAIJAN.
A recently sacked adviser to Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev has gone public with allegations of official wrong-doing in the run up to the 12 November parliamentary elections. At a 27 October press conference, Panahov, who was barred from running in the elections by the Central Election Commission the same day, provided journalists with a list of 36 candidates whom he said the president and his brother, Jalal Aliev, handpicked for election, Turan reported. He also charged that authorities had decided in advance to bar Musavat from the elections. He also noted that bribes "totalled millions" under former President Abulfez Elchibey, but that they "stand at billions" under Aliev. He specifically charged parliamentary speaker Rasul Guliev with corruption. In other news, the Azerbaijani Supreme Court has upheld a ban on the participation of Azerbaijan's Communist Party in the elections, Interfax reported on 26 October. -- Lowell Bezanis

KYRGYZ AUTHORITIES HEAD OFF DEMONSTRATION.
Local militia and Interior Ministry special forces (OMON) prevented a demonstration called for by Kyrgyz communist and nationalist parties from taking place in Bishkek on 28 October, AFP reported. About 200 people planned to hold a demonstration calling for fair and open elections in December on Alatau Place in the Kyrgyz capital, but the militia held what appeared to be an anti-terrorist exercise. More than 750 members of the militia and OMON armed with assault rifles and light armored vehicles used empty buses to simulate an attack on a terrorist held positions. A spokesman for the Erkin Kyrgyzstan Party said the demonstrators dispersed in order to "avoid an explosive situation." -- Bruce Pannier

OPPOSITION CANDIDATES JOIN FORCES TO DEFEAT AKAEV?
The BBC cited an article in the Kyrgyz newspaper Delo No... that claims some of the candidates running against President Askar Akaev are working together to prevent his re-election. The paper listed the leaders of Ata-Meken, the Communist Party, Adilet, the Human Rights Movement of Kyrgyzstan, and others, including parliament deputies, as being involved. -- Bruce Pannier

KAZAKHSTAN TO CHANGE MILITARY'S ORGANIZATION.
Kazakhstani Defense Minister Alibek Kasymov said his government intends to overhaul the Kazakh armed forces, Interfax reported on 27 October. Kasymov said the air force, air defenses and land forces will be reorganized "in order to have a small, mobile, well-prepared, and well-equipped army." He said ranks would be filled using volunteers and conscripts and that Kazakhstan will still cooperate militarily with Russia but will maintain relations with other countries such as China and the U.S. -- Bruce Pannier



OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 211, 30 October 1995


TODAY'S HEADLINES

-- SUBWAY FIRE KILLS MORE THAN 300 IN BAKU.

-- TsIK DENIES REGISTRATION TO YABLOKO.

-- TOXIC CLOUD KILLS 11 IN EASTERN SLOVAKIA.

-- CROATIAN DEMOCRATIC UNION POISED FOR ELECTION VICTORY.


SUBWAY FIRE KILLS MORE THAN 300 IN BAKU.
Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev declared two days of national mourning after an underground train fire killed at least 330 people and injured half as many just outside of Baku on 28 October, international media reported. A preliminary investigation indicates riders on a five-carriage train were trapped in a tunnel when an electrical fire broke out. -- Lowell Bezanis

TOXIC CLOUD KILLS 11 IN EASTERN SLOVAKIA.
Eleven people were killed when a pipe burst at the VSZ steelworks near Kosice on 27 October, releasing a cloud of carbon monoxide, Sme and AFP reported. Nine of those killed were VSZ employees, while the remaining two were unemployed Roma from the near-by village of Velka Ida who happened to be inside the plant. Of the 244 people injured, 109 were hospitalized. VSZ Kosice President Jan Smerak said "routine maintenance" caused the initial leak on the morning of 27 October, but the disaster occurred later that day when weather conditions prevented dispersion of the gas. Local residents and environmentalists complained that authorities reacted too slowly: the 2,500 residents of Velka Ida were evacuated long after the disaster occurred and a public announcement was delayed until 24 hours later. According to TASR, VSZ officials initially underestimated the situation. Authorities lifted the state of emergency on 29 October and production was allowed to resume. -- Sharon Fisher UKRAINIAN PREMIER TO RUN IN DECEMBER PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS.
Yevhen Marchuk told Interfax-Ukraine on 28 October that he will run in the by-election in Myrhorod on 10 December. Marchuk said he has accepted the nomination of a local worker's collective to run as their candidate to the national legislature. He noted that his election as a deputy would help push through important legislation needed to implement his government's economic program, approved by the legislature on 11 October. The December by-elections are intended to fill 45 vacant seats in the 450-member parliament. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

ROUND-TABLE STRESSES NEED FOR TAX REFORM IN UKRAINE.
Government officials at a round-table on Ukraine's troubled tax system revealed that only 30-40% of all enterprises in the country were paying taxes, the Eastern Economist Daily reported 26 October. Officials from the State Tax Inspection Agency said Ukraine's complicated tax system was to blame for the poor collection of taxes. Of the 36 taxes, imposed on enterprises and consumers, the four that bring the most revenue are the value-added, excise, enterprise revenue, and personal income taxes. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT'S LATIN AMERICAN TOUR.
Leonid Kuchma became the first leader of a former Soviet republic to visit Latin America when he toured Brazil, Argentina, and Chile from 25-30 October, international agencies reported. The purpose of his visit was to expand trade and economic cooperation. An aerospace cooperation agreement signed with Brazil foresees Ukraine supplying space technology and Brazil a launch site. An accord with Argentina calls for an agreement to be drawn up on cooperation in space projects. Kuchma also held talks with the Chilean Space Affairs Committee. Last month, a Ukrainian-Chilean space mission failed when a Chilean satellite did not separate from the Ukrainian spacecraft to which it was attached. -- Ustina Markus

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT CHARGED WITH LIBEL.
Former Interior Minister Yurii Zakharenka has said he wants the country's prosecutor-general to examine a libel suit against President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who recently dismissed Zakharenka and his deputy and then arrested over 10 Interior Ministry officials on charges of corruption. Zakharenka complained that he was not allowed into his office because Lukashenka ordered armed guards to prevent him from entering and collecting his personal belongings. In the meantime, his successor, Viktar Sheiman, has been putting together a case against Zakharenka. -- Ustina Markus

LATVIA HANDS IN APPLICATION TO JOIN EU.
Latvian Foreign Ministry State Secretary Maris Riekstins on 27 October handed over to his Spanish counterpart, Carlos Westendorf, Latvia's formal application to join the European Union, BNS reported. Spain is currently hold the EU Presidency. President Guntis Ulmanis and Prime Minister Maris Gailis signed the application on 13 October. Latvia is the first Baltic State and the fourth East European country (after Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia) to submit applications to join the EU. -- Saulius Girnius

POLISH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE WITHDRAWS FROM RACE.
Marek Markiewicz, former president of the National Radio and TV Council, has withdrawn his candidacy for the 5 November presidential elections. Markiewicz, whose ratings in recent opinion polls has been low, said he hoped his supporters would vote for the strongest right-wing candidate. The Christian National Alliance (ZChN) the same day announced that it was switching its support from Central Bank President Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, whose popularity has been dwindling recently, to incumbent President Lech Walesa. Gronkiewicz-Waltz said in an interview with Polish TV that she supports German-style Christian democracy but, unlike Walesa, does not intend to have an official chaplain or confessor if elected. -- Jakub Karpinski in Warsaw.

POLISH GOVERNMENT APPROVES 1996 BUDGET DRAFT.
The Polish government on 27 October approved the 1996 budget draft, which foresees an annual inflation rate of 17% (the Polish National Bank estimates inflation next year at 19-21%). It puts the GDP growth rate at 5.5-6%, compared with an estimated 6.5-7% for this year, and average wages at 840 zloty ($200). According to the draft, the price of medication increase will 23%, alcohol 20%, gas 14%, electricity 12%, and heating and hot water 22%, Polish dailies reported on 28 October. -- Jakub Karpinski

HAVEL UNDER FIRE AGAIN OVER CZECH FOREIGN POLICY.
Czech President Vaclav Havel on 29 October defended himself against widespread criticism for inviting Palestine Liberation Organization chairman Yasser Arafat to visit the Czech Republic. "I believe that Czech policy is based on support for all peace processes in the world. And as long as I am president, this policy will apply," Havel said in his weekly radio address. Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus earlier said Havel's invitation to Arafat--made during the UN's 50th anniversary celebrations in New York--could cause heated arguments and conflicts on the Czech political scene. Interior Minister Jan Ruml said during a television debate on 29 October that Arafat symbolized violent political struggle and that he would not have invited the PLO leader. -- Steve Kettle

U.S. CALLS FOR GREATER DEMOCRACY IN SLOVAKIA.
U.S. Ambassador to Slovakia Theodore Russell followed the EU's lead on 27 October by sending a diplomatic note to Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar expressing concern about the coalition's attacks on President Michal Kovac. He also called for "the toleration of diverse opinions...and the operation of government in a transparent manner," international media reported. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns, at a White House press conference the same day, stressed that efforts should be made "to reestablish cooperation among the constitutionally established institutions of the state of Slovakia." The Slovak National Party reacted by blaming Kovac and the opposition for damaging Slovakia's image abroad. -- Sharon Fisher

WORLD BANK PRESIDENT IN HUNGARY.
James Wolfelsohn, during a visit to Hungary on the weekend, praised Hungary's efforts to establish a market economy, saying the World Bank was anxious to help the country reestablish its economic balance, international and Hungarian media reported on 30 October. Wolfelsohn, following meetings with top government and central bank officials, said there is "a high measure of agreement between [the World Bank] and the Hungarian government." Hungary and the World Bank are currently negotiating a water quality project for Lake Balaton, investment in the government's state treasury system, and strengthening supervision of the country's banks. Two $400-500 million credits are also under discussion to support entrepreneurial and financial restructuring as well as other state budget reforms. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

MAJOR GOLD SEAM DISCOVERED IN HUNGARY.
A seam believed to contain several tons of gold has been discovered in northeastern Hungary, Magyar Hirlap and international media reported on 28 October. The seam was found in the Nagyborzsony region by Lone Star, an Austro-Hungarian joint venture. Experts said it could be the most productive mine in Hungary, where gold mines yielded around 80 kilograms a year before they were closed in the 1970s. -- Zsofia Szilagyi



OMRI DAILY DIGEST

Vol. 1, No. 211, 30 October 1995


TODAY'S HEADLINES

-- SUBWAY FIRE KILLS MORE THAN 300 IN BAKU.

-- TsIK DENIES REGISTRATION TO YABLOKO.

-- TOXIC CLOUD KILLS 11 IN EASTERN SLOVAKIA.

-- CROATIAN DEMOCRATIC UNION POISED FOR ELECTION VICTORY.


SUBWAY FIRE KILLS MORE THAN 300 IN BAKU.
Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev declared two days of national mourning after an underground train fire killed at least 330 people and injured half as many just outside of Baku on 28 October, international media reported. A preliminary investigation indicates riders on a five-carriage train were trapped in a tunnel when an electrical fire broke out. -- Lowell Bezanis

TOXIC CLOUD KILLS 11 IN EASTERN SLOVAKIA.
Eleven people were killed when a pipe burst at the VSZ steelworks near Kosice on 27 October, releasing a cloud of carbon monoxide, Sme and AFP reported. Nine of those killed were VSZ employees, while the remaining two were unemployed Roma from the near-by village of Velka Ida who happened to be inside the plant. Of the 244 people injured, 109 were hospitalized. VSZ Kosice President Jan Smerak said "routine maintenance" caused the initial leak on the morning of 27 October, but the disaster occurred later that day when weather conditions prevented dispersion of the gas. Local residents and environmentalists complained that authorities reacted too slowly: the 2,500 residents of Velka Ida were evacuated long after the disaster occurred and a public announcement was delayed until 24 hours later. According to TASR, VSZ officials initially underestimated the situation. Authorities lifted the state of emergency on 29 October and production was allowed to resume. -- Sharon Fisher CROATIAN DEMOCRATIC UNION POISED FOR ELECTION VICTORY.
Croatian media on 30 October report that the governing Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), led by President Franjo Tudjman, is poised to win the parliamentary elections held the previous day. With nearly 43% of the ballots counted, the HDZ is in the lead with 43.61%, followed by the opposition five-party coalition, United List, with 19.37%. Nearly 70% of the country's 1.4 million eligible voters turned out. As yet, it is unclear whether the HDZ will gain a two-thirds majority in the 128-seat Sabor, which will be needed to introduce constitutional changes granting the President wider powers and revoking autonomy in the regions of the country where ethnic Serbs are in a majority. -- Stan Markotich

CONTROVERSY OVER VOTING RIGHTS IN CROATIAN ELECTIONS.
The New York Times on 30 October reported that Croats living abroad were entitled to cast a ballot in the 29 October elections, thanks to a recently passed electoral law introducing the provision. This constituency will have 12 seats. The 312,000 or so ethnic Croats in neighboring Bosnia-Herzegovina allowed to vote are regarded as strongly pro-HDZ. The U.S. daily reported that Western observers have commented that enfranchising this group may place a strain on the Bosnian-Croatian federation. Zarko Puhovski, political philosophy professor at the University of Zagreb, is quoted as saying that the move is arguably tied to Croatian expansionism. "It is the first step toward a Greater Croatia," he commented. -- Stan Markotich

TALKS WITH REBEL SERBS BREAK DOWN.
U.S. Ambassador to Croatia Peter Galbraith and UN envoy Thorvald Stoltenberg on 28 October presented rebel Serb leaders in Serb-controlled eastern Slavonia with a set of proposals for reintegrating the territory into Croatia. Serbian leader Milan Milanovic, however, rejected the proposals, saying the time frame was unrealistic, Tanjug reported the same day. Meanwhile, the rump Yugoslav news agency also quoted Serbian negotiator Slavko Dokmanovic as saying he rejected the proposals on the grounds that they provided for Croatian police to be stationed along the border with Serbia as soon as an agreement was concluded. Zagreb has repeatedly hinted that it may employ force to reclaim eastern Slavonia if an acceptable peaceful resolution is not found. -- Stan Marktoich

CAUTION OVER BALKAN PEACE TALKS.
Assistant Secretary of State and chief negotiator Richard Holbrooke, in a 28 October interview with Reuters, expressed reservations about the likelihood of a breakthrough at upcoming peace talks in Ohio, to be attended by Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic, Croatian President Franjo Tudjman, and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. "My greatest fear is that bringing [the presidents] together will prove to have been a mistake. This was a gamble," Holbrooke said. He added that regional peace could not be achieved if the Bosnian Serbs pressed ahead with their demands for secession from Bosnia-Herzegovina. -- Stan Markotich

MORE EVIDENCE OF BOSNIAN SERB ATROCITIES.
The New York Times on 30 October, citing intelligence reports and U.S. government sources, reports that as many as 6,000 Moslems may have been massacred by Serbian forces after the Serbian capture of the Srebrenica enclave on 11 July. The report also says that the Serbs attempted to cover up their crimes by pouring corrosive chemicals on the victims' bodies and moving corpses that had initially been dumped into a mass grave. Initial reports of the Serbian atrocities came to light in early August, but recent studies suggest that more mass burials than originally suspected took place. -- Stan Markotich

FIRST BUSES LEAVE SARAJEVO ON WESTERN ROUTES.
The first passenger bus to leave Sarajevo since April 1992 had a UN escort to Kiseljak on 29 October on a road to the west of the town, Reuters reported. It was followed by a bus to Zagreb. According to UN officials, the opening of the road will create a good atmosphere for the peace talks beginning in Ohio on 1 November. The Bosnian government, however, argues that in reality, the city remains under blockade, since most civilians are afraid to travel via Serb-held territory. Meanwhile, the Bosnian Serb army and the Bosnian government exchanged 19 prisoners and five corpses in Sarajevo. Elsewhere, international agencies reported that about 1,000 Muslim refugees returned to their homes in Sanski Most, Kljuc, and Mrkonjic Grad. A UN spokeswoman described the situation in northwestern Bosnia as "quiet." -- Fabian Schmidt

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT IN U.S.
Ion Iliescu on 28 October returned to Romania following an unofficial visit to the U.S., Radio Bucharest reported the same day. The visit came after Iliescu's address the UN General Assembly on the occasion of the organization's 50th anniversary. Iliescus met with U.S. businessmen in New York, Houston, and Boston. In a related development, RFE/RL's correspondent in Washington reported on 27 October that the U.S. Eximbank has approved a $79.5 million guarantee to underwrite the sale of five radar systems and related equipment to upgrade Romania's air traffic control system. The Romanian air traffic control agency is purchasing equipment worth $82 million from a branch of the Lockheed Martin company in New York. The Eximbank guarantee will support a loan from a syndicate of commercial banks that is to finance the deal. -- Michael Shafir

ROMANIAN EXTREMISTS DEMAND BAN ON ETHNIC PARTIES.
Anghel Stanciu, a deputy from the extremist Greater Romania Party, demanded on 27 October that ethnic parties be outlawed in Romania. The proposal came in the form of an amendment to the law on political parties, which the Chamber of Deputies is currently debating. But only one other deputy, Petre Turlea, who defected from the Party of Social Democracy in Romania, supported the amendment. Other deputies rejected the proposal as contravening both the constitution and the international treaties to which Romania is a signatory. Emil Roman, a representative of the Party of Romanian National Unity, demanded that political formations based on religious affiliation be outlawed. Both amendments will be examined by a special parliamentary commission, Radio Bucharest reported the same day. -- Michael Shafir

MOLDOVA SEPARATISTS ADOPT BASIC LAW.
Radio Bucharest and AFP, citing Interfax, reported on 29 October that the parliament of the breakaway Transdiestrian region adopted a draft constitution the previous day proclaiming the region a separate state. The draft is to be submitted to a referendum. The president of the breakaway region, Igor Smirnov, rejected a proposal by the Moldovan government to grant territorial autonomy to the Transdniester. He told the parliament that the proposal did not take into account developments in the region over the past five years. -- Michael Shafir

SOCIALISTS LEAD AFTER FIRST ROUND OF BULGARIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS . . .
Preliminary results of the first round of the Bulgarian local elections on 29 October show that the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) won 42% of the vote, the Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) 24%, the People's Union (NS) 13%, the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) 9%, and the Bulgarian Business Bloc 6%, according to RFE/RL. Bulgarian TV reported that turnout was 55-60%. A second round of elections will be held wherever no mayoral candidate won an outright majority. In most cases, the runoff is expected to take place on 12 November. -- Stefan Krause in Sofia.

. . . BUT OPPOSITION WINS IN SOFIA.
According to the preliminary results, Stefan Sofiyanski (SDS) is leading after the first round with some 44% of the vote. Ventsislav Yosifov, who is supported by the BSP, received 33%, and former interim Prime Minister Reneta Indzhova, nominated by the NS, came third with 17%. The SDS won about 46% of the vote for the Sofia City Council, with the BSP gaining 33% and the NS 7%. Indzhova announced she will withdraw from the race in Sofiyanski's favor. The second round of elections for Sofia mayor will take place on 11 November. In Plovdiv, Spas Garnevski of the SDS was elected mayor with 50.9%; the SDS also seems to have won an outright majority for the city council. In Varna, the SDS candidate garnered 43% of the vote, compared with 21% for the BSP-supported candidate. -- Stefan Krause in Sofia

U.S. HALTS SPY PLANE MISSION OVER BOSNIA.
The U.S. will halt unmanned reconnaissance flights over Bosnia-Herzegovina as of 5 November, Reuters reported on 28 October. Reuters, citing Koha Jone, says that the three "Predator" planes that have been stationed at the Gjader air base in Albania since July, have recently reduced their number of flights. U.S. diplomats in Albania, however, declined to comment on the report. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]


Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave






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