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Newsline - December 13, 1995


CHERNOMYRDIN SAYS HE WON'T RUN FOR PRESIDENT.
Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin told the latest issue of Argumenty i fakty that he does not plan to run for president in 1996, emphasizing his unwavering support for the re-election of President Boris Yeltsin. A poll by the Public Opinion Foundation indicated that Chernomyrdin would not be a viable presidential contender, as only 25% of those surveyed said they trust the prime minister, while 54% said they do not trust him, Russian TV reported on 12 December. -- Laura Belin

CHERNOMYRDIN STRIKES PESSIMISTIC TONE BEFORE DUMA ELECTIONS.
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin has struck a pessimistic note in recent public appearances. The decision in 1993 to elect the State Duma for only two years was a "most serious error," he told Argumenty i fakty, adding that "one can work with this Duma. The deputies have begun to understand what is what." Speaking on Radio Rossii on 12 December, Chernomyrdin claimed to have "faith in the reason of the calm, normal person," but his appeal to voters was quite defensive. The prime minister promised that the conflict in Chechnya will not be "endless," the army's "difficult situation" will not be "eternal," people will not be left without salaries, and soldiers will not be poorly fed and clothed. Similarly, he admitted that the economic policies "of the last decade" had not always benefited rural areas but pledged to continue agricultural reform without imposing such policies "by force." -- Laura Belin

GAIDAR ASKS SOME OF HIS BLOC'S CANDIDATES TO STEP ASIDE.
Yegor Gaidar, leader of the electoral bloc Russia's Democratic Choice-United Democrats, asked Duma candidates from his bloc in several single-member districts to withdraw in support of representatives from other democratic parties, Radio Rossii reported on 13 December. In a telegram to the candidates, Gaidar regretted that no broad democratic electoral alliance had been formed at the national level and asked candidates who were unlikely to win in single-member districts to step down to prevent the victory of communists or nationalists. Recent poll results suggest Gaidar's bloc may not win the minimum 5% of the party-list vote necessary to secure seats in the Duma. -- Laura Belin

LEBED DOUBTS THAT PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS WILL BE HELD.
Lt. Gen. (ret.) Aleksandr Lebed, deputy chairman of the Congress of Russian Communities (KRO), said he doubts that the presidential elections will take place in June 1996 because President Yeltsin would be held accountable for many of his past actions if he were to lose the elections, Russian TV reported on 12 December. Lebed said the only way that Russia can get out of its current political crisis and become a "great nation" once again is through change that begins from below. He said such a movement should begin with the revival of the Russian army. -- Anna Paretskaya

PARTY SUPPORT VARIES ACROSS REGIONS.
Polls conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation suggest that three leading contenders will emerge from the 17 December elections, although support varies across the country, NTV reported on 12 December. In Moscow, Our Home Is Russia (NDR) topped the poll with 16% support, followed by Yabloko with 10%. In the oblasts around St. Petersburg and Moscow, however, the Communist Party was in the lead, followed by Yabloko. In Yekaterinburg, Yabloko led with 12%, followed by 10% for NDR and 8% for Gaidar's bloc. In Dagestan and North Ossetiya, polls suggest the Communists may get a third or more of the vote. However, with one week to the election some 20-30% of voters were still undecided. -- Peter Rutland

VOTING TO BEGIN EARLY IN CHECHNYA.
Meeting in Grozny on12 December, the Chechen Supreme Soviet adopted an election law that provides for voting in the Russian State Duma elections to begin on 14 December, Russian media reported. Citizens will be entitled to cast ballots in any polling station, regardless of their place of residence. The law also stipulates that the 17 December elections for a new Chechen leader will be considered valid if 25% of the electorate (which includes those Russian servicemen permanently stationed in Chechnya) cast votes. Also on 12 December, the Chechen Supreme Soviet named Prime Minister Doku Zavgaev to head a commission that will draft a new Chechen constitution, according to Russian TV. -- Liz Fuller

CHIRAC THANKS YELTSIN FOR RESCUED FRENCH PILOTS.
French President Jacques Chirac thanked President Yeltsin and his Serbian counterpart, Slobodan Milosevic, for their role in securing the release of two French pilots, downed and then held in Bosnia for more than 100 days, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 December. Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladic said the release of the pilots was largely the result of Russian mediation. A Russian military official based in Belgrade said the release of the pilots will allow Russia and France to contribute in a more constructive way to the peace process in Bosnia. -- Constantine Dmitriev

RUSSIA MARKS CONSTITUTION DAY. . .
Russians marked the second anniversary of the adoption of their constitution by referendum in 1993 with a public holiday on 12 December. The same day, Sergei Kovalev noted on Russian TV that the constitution left many issues unresolved, such as the formation of the Federation Council, and the adjudication of dual competency between it and the Duma. -- Peter Rutland

. . .WITHOUT A NATIONAL ANTHEM.
According to the constitution, Russia has a national anthem, but the commission which was set up in 1990 to choose an appropriate anthem recently abandoned its search, NTV reported on 12 December. It was agreed that the music will be the hymn from Mikhail Glinka's Ivan Susanin, but the commission concluded that none of the 8,000 lyrics submitted in the competition it organized accurately conveyed the essence of modern Russia. The task was simpler in 1833, when Russia adopted its first anthem, "God save the Tsar." -- Peter Rutland

DUMA CANDIDATE SHOT AT; DEPUTY RUN OVER.
Aleksandr Kashcheev, an independent Duma candidate from Yessentuki in Stavropol Krai, told Interfax on 12 December that his car was shot at as he drove home in the early hours of the morning. He was not hurt. Kashcheev said he believed the incident was linked to his criticism of the local mafia, which he claims has links with the regional authorities. The previous day, another Duma candidate, Anatolii Shabad, was taken to hospital after being knocked down by a car in Moscow. Shabad, who is a member of the Russia's Choice faction in the current parliament, is said to be in a satisfactory condition. Another Duma deputy, Vitalii Savitskii of the Christian Democratic Union, was killed in a car accident on 10 December. Other members of the CDU insist that Savitskii was the victim of foul play, but police have dismissed such claims. -- Penny Morvant

NOVOE VREMYA ANALYSES VOROBEV'S DISMISSAL.
The latest issue of the weekly Novoe vremya (no. 48) argues that Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin was the main force behind the dismissal last month for "gross financial violations" of Col. Gen. Vasilii Vorobev, head of the Defense Ministry's budget and finance department (see OMRI Daily Digest, 27 November and 1 December 1995). The magazine asserts that Vorobev was involved in the misappropriation of large sums destined for the army and that this led to regular delays in the payment of servicemen's salaries. When Chernomyrdin learned the details, he reportedly went to President Yeltsin, who fired Vorobev. Novoe vremya speculated that Chernomyrdin's intervention was linked to his promise on 15 November to pay the government's debts to the military. Vorobev's dismissal, the paper contends, would allow him to attribute the shortages not to government inefficiency, but to the army, while his attempts to remove the "miltary mafia" would improve his prestige in the military ahead of the elections. -- Penny Morvant

OIL WORKERS, MINERS ON HUNGER STRIKE.
About 60 oil workers from two villages in the Komi Republic began a hunger strike on 12 December in Usinsk to draw attention to their dismal living conditions, ITAR-TASS reported. About 100 families are living in rundown huts in temporary workers' settlements set up by Komineft and other oil industry enterprises. There are no facilities, and the area has been badly contaminated by pollution. The strikers want steps to be taken immediately to improve their situation and the prompt payment of overdue wages. Meanwhile, about 20 miners from the Tula coal basin are on an underground hunger strike to demand the payment of back wages. The miners are still owed money from August. -- Penny Morvant



BBC CORRESPONDENT KILLED IN TAJIKISTAN.
The body of a BBC correspondent has been found on the outskirts of the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, Russian TV reported on 13 December. The correspondent, Mehetdin Alenpur, appears to have been killed on 12 December. The report gave no possible motive for the killing. Police are investigating. -- Bruce Pannier

UN SEEKS TO EXTEND OBSERVER MANDATE IN TAJIKISTAN.
UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali has asked the Security Council to extend the mandate of the UN observer mission in Tajikistan (UNMOT) by another six months, according to the UN Daily Report on 12 December. The current mandate expires on 15 December. Boutros Ghali said tension has risen in the Central Asian republic and spoke of the "worrying" deterioration in the country. Boutros Ghali blamed Russian border guards for the obstacles that UN observers have encountered in their investigations of ceasefire violations. The secretary general called on representatives at the inter-Tajik negotiations, which have come to a standstill in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, to find a way to stop the fighting in Tajikistan. -- Bruce Pannier

TAJIK PRESIDENT VISITS INDIA.
Visiting Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov met with Indian Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao and President Shankar Sharma to discuss the situation in Afghanistan and sign several bilateral agreements on issues ranging from investment protection to cultural exchange programs, Reuters reported on 12 December. Rakhmonov called recent events in Afghanistan "disturbing." Sharma said Afghanistan is a training ground for Islamic fundamentalists who are "financed and armed by outsiders," a thinly veiled reference to Pakistan, which the Indian government accuses of backing rebel Afghan group Taliban. -- Bruce Pannier

SHEVARDNADZE NOMINATES NEW MINISTERS.
Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze has submitted his list of cabinet nominees to the Georgian parliament, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 December. Lt. Gen. Shota Kviraia, the Georgian interior minister for the past two years, has been nominated to the post of security minister; Maj. Gen. Kakha Targamadze, the head of the Interior Ministry department on organized crime and economic sabotage, to the post of interior minister; Irakli Menagarishvili, former vice-premier and health minister from 1986 to 1990, to the post of foreign minister. Shevardnadze has left some ministers from the previous government, including the defense minister, in their posts. The current foreign minister, Alexander Chikvaidze, has fallen out of favor with Shevardnadze. -- Irakli Tsereteli

IRAN AND AZERBAIJAN.
On 12 December, the Iran News carried a sharply worded editorial saying Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev will be "personally responsible" for endangering regional stability "if Tehran-Baku relations are not straightened out," AFP reported the same day. Iranian Deputy Prime Minister Mahmud Vaezi is currently in Baku for talks aimed at improving relations with Tehran. The editorial appears to be part of a campaign to tilt Azerbaijan away from Turkey and the U.S. Meanwhile, Hoshbaht Yusifzade, the vice president of Azerbaijan's national oil company (SOCAR), denied reports that Tehran had rejected Baku's offer to participate in the exploitation of the Caspian Sea's Shakh-Deniz oil and gas deposits, according to a 12 December report on Turan cited by the BBC. Relations between the two countries have been acrimonious since this spring when Baku, under U.S. pressure, withdrew its offer to sell part of its shares in a deal to exploit three Caspian oil fields to Tehran. -- Lowell Bezanis

ALLEGED COUP PARTICIPANT SENTENCED TO DEATH IN AZERBAIJAN.
Eldar Aliev, identified as a close associate of former Prime Minister Suret Guseinov, has been sentenced to death by the military collegium of the Azerbaijani Supreme Court for his role in the alleged coup against President Heidar Aliyev in October 1994, Radio Rossii reported on 12 December, quoting Interfax. -- Liz Fuller



UKRAINIAN LAND REFORM IS SLUGGISH.
Officials from the Ukrainian State Property Fund, the agency in charge of privatization, say that less than a third of the collective and state farms slated for privatization this year have been transferred to private hands, the Eastern Economist Daily reported on 12 December. Of the 3,690 farms scheduled to be handed over to their employee collectives, only 1,071 had completed the process by 1 December. SPF officials say farm privatization has been most successful in Vinnytsia, Poltava, and Odessa Oblasts. They claim local authorities have been most resistant in the Kharkiv, Kherson, and Chernivtsi regions. The SPF says, however, it expects the process to be over by the end of 1996. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

BELARUSIAN PRIME MINISTER ON RELATIONS WITH UKRAINE.
Belarusian Radio on 12 December reported Mikhail Chyhir as saying that relations between Belarus and Ukraine are not entirely satisfactory. Speaking on the eve of a two-day visit to Ukraine, he urged Minsk and Kiev to work more closely to overcome economic difficulties . In 1992, trade between the two countries totaled $1.16 billion; in 1994, it dropped to $322 million. Belarus recently signed military agreements with Russia during Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev's visit to Minsk. One of the agreements provides for the joint use of regional forces and for the Russian forces' use of Belarusian bases. Such agreements are likely to deter Ukraine from closer cooperation with Belarus, despite Chyhir's statements. -- Ustina Markus

REACTIONS TO BELARUSIAN ELECTIONS.
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said the election of a new parliament shows that Belarusians continue to uphold the same ideals they had when they elected him president in 1994, Belarusian radio reported on 12 December. Lukashenka described these ideals support for his policies of closer integration with Russia. Prior to the elections the president, saying he would not vote, had publicly tore up his voting card. But Zyanon Paznyak, leader of the nationalist Belarusian Popular Front, which did not win any seats, said the success of the elections showed people were afraid of Lukashenka establishing a dictatorship in the country. The leader of the United Civic Party, former banker Stanislau Bahdankevich, agreed with Paznyak's interpretation and added that his party hoped to cooperate with the agrarians since their program was liberal in many ways. -- Ustina Markus

RUSSIAN EMBASSY UNHAPPY ABOUT TOO FEW POLLING STATIONS IN ESTONIA.
Vassilii Ostaptchuk, an official at the Russian Embassy in Tallinn, is dissatisfied with the decision of the Estonian Foreign Ministry to permit polling stations for the Russian elections on 17 December only in Tallinn and Narva, ETA reported on 12 December. The ministry rejected requests to open such stations in Tartu, Parnu, Sillamae, and Kohtla-Jarve, noting that only 2,000 Russian citizens had registered to vote in the elections. Citizens who did not register, however, are allowed to vote. Estonia has 82,000 Russian citizens residing on its territory, the largest per capita number in any foreign country. -- Saulius Girnius

LATVIA'S BANKA BALTIJA DECLARED BANKRUPT.
The Latvian Economic Court on 12 December declared Banka Baltija, the former largest commercial bank in the Baltic States, officially bankrupt, BNS reported. Ugis Grube, the former administrator of the bank, was appointed its liquidator. The activities of the bank were suspended in May, and none of the proposals to restore the bank was considered acceptable. The losses to the bank's 200,000 depositors are estimated at some 200 million lati ($370 million). The government has paid out slightly more than 1 million lati in compensations to 6,214 depositors. -- Saulius Girnius

LITHUANIAN PREMIER IN CHINA.
Adolfas Slezevicius met with his Chinese counterpart, Li Peng, in Beijing on 11 December to discuss economic cooperation issues. The next day, he met with Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation Wu Yi and urged greater Chinese investment in Lithuania, noting that although 72 Chinese companies operate in Lithuania their investments are worth only $300,000, ELTA reported. Wu responded that China is not a "fund exporting country" and called for direct contacts between medium-sized and large companies in both countries. Slezevicius also had "very friendly and fruitful talks" with Chinese President Jiang Zemin. -- Saulius Girnius

OUTGOING POLISH PRESIDENT CALLS FOR UNITY AMONG RIGHT-WING OPPOSITION . . .
Outgoing President Lech Walesa, meeting on 12 December with the caucus of the opposition Confederation for an Independent Poland (KPN), said the rightist opposition had to unite in order to prepare for the 1997 parliamentary elections. He was supported by representatives of the Freedom Union (UW), Christian National Alliance (ZChN), and Solidarity, who also were invited to the meeting. "Whoever boycotts the common election list is a traitor," he commented. He added that he had proof of "oligarchic international activities" that had been "top secret," and he promised to reveal the relevant details before his term ends, Rzeczpospolita reported on 13 December. -- Jakub Karpinski

. . . AND REJECTS ANTI-TOBACCO BILL.
Walesa has returned the anti-tobacco bill to the Sejm, Rzeczpospolita reported on 13 December. The bill prohibits tobacco advertisements on television and radio and in cinemas, youth publications, and sports establishments. The president pointed out that under the law, tobacco products can continue to be advertised in the press and in public transport. In his opinion, the total prohibition of all advertising of tobacco goods (following the example of Canada and Norway) is the best way to protect the population's health. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz

CZECH PARLIAMENT APPROVES STATE BUDGET.
By a vote of 114 to 57, Czech deputies on 12 December approved a balanced state budget of 497.6 billion koruny ($18.655 billion) for 1996, Czech media reported. The state sector will account for 43.3% of GDP next year, a fall of 0.9%, Hospodarske noviny noted. Attempts by one of the governing coalition parties, the Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA), to radically cut taxes and state spending were defeated; and the ODA finally supported the budget. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs will receive the highest sum from the budget, 158 billion koruny ($5.923 billion), but other ministries' allocations were reduced from the original government proposal. Provision was made in the budget for financing next year's general election, the creation of a Senate and the sending of Czech troops as part of the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Bosnia. -- Steve Kettle

FLU EPIDEMIC CLOSES CZECH SCHOOLS.
The Chief Hygiene Officer of the Czech Republic on 12 December ordered all elementary and secondary schools across the country to be closed from 14 December because of a flu epidemic, Czech media reported. Kindergartens will remain open, but other schools will break up nine days earlier than planned for the Christmas and New Year holidays. The epidemic, which is still spreading, has hit more than 5,000 people per 100,000 in some areas. Education Minister Ivan Pilip regretted the closure order, saying that some schools could have combined classes in order to maintain some teaching until the regular Christmas break. -- Steve Kettle

SLOVAK PREMIER ON CABINET'S FIRST YEAR.
On the occasion of his government's first anniversary in office, Vladimir Meciar told Slovak Radio that his government has fulfilled its promises to voters. He stressed that certain negative expectations--including international isolation and economic collapse--have not been fulfilled. Meciar referred to the Slovak-Hungarian treaty, which will be discussed by the parliament this month, as "a key document for the stabilization of relations in Central Europe." Meanwhile, Sme on 12 December noted that although the cabinet has succeeded in some areas, including the signing of the treaty with Hungary and stabilizing monetary policy, it cannot get rid of its "unfavorable image" and has received "a record number of demarches." -- Sharon Fisher

FIRE AT SLOVAK NUCLEAR PLANT.
A fire broke out on 12 December during the repair of a switch at the compressor and cooling station of the Jaslovske Bohunice nuclear power plant, located in western Slovakia, Reuters and TASR reported. A statement released by the plant said there was no danger of radioactive leakage. The Soviet-designed Bohunice plant has been criticized by the West as dangerous, and Slovakia has been asked to close down the older reactors once the country's second plant, currently under construction in Mochovce, is completed. Representatives of Slovenske elektrarne and Electricite de France (EdF) on 12 December signed an agreement on the completion of Mochovce. The EdF's involvement is expected to help the plant reach international safety standards. The existing consortium for constructing Mochovce--which also includes Czech, German, and Russian firms--remains in effect, TASR reported. -- Sharon Fisher

HUNGARIAN PREMIER IN JAPAN.
Gyula Horn, on a three-day visit to Japan to boost economic ties, has met with Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, Foreign Minister Yohei Kono, Emperor Akihito, and several banking executives, Hungarian media reported. Horn is accompanied by National Bank President Gyorgy Suranyi and officials from the Finance and Industry Ministries. The talks focused on Japanese involvement in Hungarian environmental projects, Hungary's OECD membership, and joint projects to finance the reconstruction of the former Yugoslavia. The Japanese Eximbank signed a $50 million loan agreement with the Hungarian Eximbank to finance Hungarian exports to the Balkans. Horn requested the expansion of preferential customs duties and the easing of restrictive measures on Hungarian imports of agricultural and meat products to Japan. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

HUNGARY EXPECTS IMF STAND-BY-LOAN IN JANUARY.
The final version of the $300 million stand-by credit agreement between Hungary and the IMF is now ready and will probably be signed in early January, Nepszabadsag reported on 13 December. Under the terms of the deal, Hungary will have access to the loan for 18 months as of February 1996. An IMF delegation is currently holding talks with Hungarian Finance Ministry officials in Budapest. A key stumbling block to date has been the delegation's position that it will approve releasing the credit only after the 1996 budget for the country's social security system has been passed. The long-awaited credit agreement is seen as helping to restore Hungary's financial credibility rather than meeting any real financial need. -- Zsofia Szilagyi



MLADIC FREES FRENCH PILOTS.
A Bosnian Serb army communique announced on 12 December that "in keeping with the traditional friendship between the Serbian and French people, it was agreed that the [Serbs] release the captured French pilots who bombed Serb settlements around Sarajevo on August 30." General Ratko Mladic personally handed over the two men in Zvornik near the Serbian border. They looked dazed and had been kept isolated from the outside world in separate adjoining rooms. Nasa Borba on 13 December quoted a Russian colonel on the scene as saying that "the freeing of the pilots is a gesture of humanity. I hope this will show what kind of people the Serbs really are." AFP said that France would not have signed the Dayton accords had the pilots remained captive. It is not clear why the Serbs stayed silent about the fate of the men for so long or why they were so reluctant to free them. -- Patrick Moore

BOSNIA CONFERENCE OPENS NEAR PARIS.
Delegates from the five-country Contact Group meet on 13 December with representatives of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran, Malaysia, Morocco, Pakistan, Senegal, and Turkey, to discuss stability in the Balkans. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung said that the Bosnian conference is taking place 50 km north of Paris near Roissy airport because of the strike-induced problems in the French capital. Meanwhile, in the Sarajevo suburbs run by the Pale Serbs, AFP reported that 98.78% of the voters rejected the Dayton agreement returning them to Bosnian government authority. The validity of the ballot is recognized only by the Bosnian Serbs. -- Patrick Moore

BOSNIAN FEDERATION ASSEMBLY BACKS DAYTON ACCORD.
Following a long discussion, the Bosnian Federation's Constituent Assembly accepted the Dayton peace accords on 12 December, Hina reported the same day. Assembly members also agreed that new federal laws proposed in Dayton should take effect on 20 December in keeping with the prescribed time schedule. They authorized Federation President Kresimir Zubak to sign the agreement in Paris on 14 December on its behalf, while Hina quoted Bosnia-Herzegovina's President Alija Izetbegovic as saying "we travel to Paris to sign the deal, not to negotiate." However, at a previously unannounced session the same day, the Bosnian republican parliament decided to reserve the right to annul the Dayton accord if it is not carried out in due time. In such a case, the constitution of Bosna-Herzegovina, as envisaged in the Dayton text, would be annulled and the republican parliament would regain legislative power from the federal authorities. -- Daria Sito Sucic

CROATIAN OPPOSITION FAILS TO BLOCK GOVERNMENT OVER DAYTON.
Both houses of the Croatian parliament on 12 December approved Foreign Minister Mate Granic's report on the Dayton peace talks and the Basic Agreement on the Region of Eastern Slavonia, Baranja, and Western Srijem, Hina reported the same day. An opposition motion calling for Posavina to be included in the Croat-Muslim federation and prohibiting negotiations on Prevlaka failed. -- Daria Sito Sucic

SERBIAN PRESIDENT OPTIMISTIC ABOUT PEACE PROSPECTS.
Slobodan Milosevic, following meetings on 11 December with co-chairman of the International Conference on Former Yugoslavia Thorvald Stoltenberg, told Radio Serbia that the Dayton peace accord signaled that a lasting regional peace was at hand. At the same time, he distanced himself from the Bosnian Serbs and any possible actions they may undertake to undermine the peace. When asked whether they would seek to foment regional hostilities, Milosevic said such an eventuality was unlikely, but he did not rule it out. -- Stan Markotich

ROMANIAN CONTRIBUTION TO NATO FORCE IN BOSNIA.
Romania hopes to increase its ties with NATO by contributing engineering and telecommunications units to the NATO peace-keeping forces in Bosnia. Radu Timofte, chairman of the Senate's Defense Committee, told a NATO delegation that his country's participation in the peace-keeping operations in Bosnia would achieve far better results than "years of seminars" on the interaction of the Romanian armed forces and NATO, Rompres and international agencies reported on 11-12 December. Timofte also told the delegation that all East Central European states should be integrated into NATO at the same time to avoid creating insecurity. -- Michael Shafir

DNIESTER TEACHERS, LAWYERS STRIKE.
More than 5,000 teachers in the breakaway Dniester republic are refusing to return to class after going on strike six days ago, the strike committee chairwoman told Infotag on 12 December. They are demanding higher salaries and normal working conditions. A total of 74 schools and kindergartens are closed, and the protest movement is expanding to other schools, she said. Court officials from the Rybnitsa district joined the strike this week with similar demands, paralyzing the work of the republic's courts. The strikers say they will resume work only after all their demands have been met. President Igor Smirnov said that those demands cannot be met but that the authorities "will consider the problem." -- Matyas Szabo

"THE TSAR IS COMING."
Under this headline, Demokratsiya on 13 December published a declaration by former Bulgarian Tsar Simeon II, who is living in exile in Spain. Simeon said he is willing to make his first visit to Bulgaria since he was forced to abdicate and leave the country following a referendum abolishing the monarchy in 1946. He gave no date for his visit and did not say how long he intended to stay. In November, 101 intellectuals wrote to the former monarch asking him to help bring the country out of its present crisis. The Foreign Ministry said he will encounter no problems upon returning to Bulgaria since he was never stripped of his Bulgarian citizenship, AFP reported. -- Stefan Krause

BULGARIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULES ON MEDIA CONTROL.
The Constitutional Court on 12 December overruled the parliament's decision to transfer some of its legal powers to the parliamentary Commission for Radio, TV, and the Bulgarian Telegraph Agency, Standart reported the following day. The judges also ruled that the commission does not have the right to decide on the management of state-run media, structural changes, the program schedule, or the media's statutes. But it retains the right to propose the directors-general to the parliament and to discuss and propose media-related legislation. The parliament had turned over those rights to the commission after the Constitutional Court on 19 September declared the provisional statute on the national media's operations unconstitutional. The judges ruled that the commission does not have the right to take decisions on behalf of the parliament. -- Stefan Krause

ALBANIAN JOURNALIST BEATEN UP BY POLICE.
Gezim Ashimi, a journalist for Koha Jone, was called in for questioning on 12 December at the Devoll police station, where he was severely beaten up, the same newspaper reported the next day. Ashimi was attacked by an officer who previously had been suspended from work for misconduct; reportedly, no other policemen intervened. The officer claimed that the journalist had discredited the police force in an article published on 8 December. When Ashimi was allowed to leave the police station two hours after being called in, the police station chief reportedly told him "not to write anything against the president." -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]


Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave




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