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Newsline - December 18, 1995


COMMUNISTS LEAD IN RUSSIAN DUMA ELECTION.
With about 30% of the votes counted, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) is the clear leader with about 22% of the vote on party lists, Russian and Western media reported on 18 December. The KPRF is followed by Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia with 11.2%. A jubilant Gennadii Zyuganov, the KPRF leader, described the results as a vote of no-confidence in the Chernomyrdin government. Of the other parties, only the pro-government Our Home Is Russia and Grigorii Yavlinskii's Yabloko look certain to clear the 5% barrier necessary to get into parliament. Only 225 Duma seats will be allocated on the basis of party-list voting. The other 225 will be filled by winners of individual races in single-member districts. -- Laura Belin

PRELIMINARY PARTY-LIST RESULTS.
As of 9 a.m. Moscow time on 18 December, 44% of the votes had been tallied. Russian and Western agencies reported the following preliminary results in the party-list contest: Communist Party of the Russian Federation 21.8%; Liberal Democratic Party of Russia 11.2%, Our Home Is Russia 9.5%; Yabloko 8.4%; Russia's Democratic Choice-United Democrats 4.8%; Women of Russia 4.5%; Communists-Working Russia 4.3%; Congress of Russian Communities 4.1%; the Workers' Self Government Party 4.1%; and the Agrarian Party 3.7%. -- Peter Rutland

FIRST RESULTS FROM SINGLE-MEMBER SEATS.
By 12 p.m. GMT, results had been reported in 57 of the 225 individual constituencies, Reuters reported on 18 December. Of the 57 deputies elected, 20 were independents and 10 were Communist Party supporters. Our Home Is Russia had six deputies elected, the Agrarian Party five, Yabloko four, and Russia's Democratic Choice three. Among those elected were former Soviet Premier Nikolai Ryzhkov, 1993 coup leader Albert Makashov, and human rights campaigner Sergei Kovalev. -- Peter Rutland

ANOTHER ZHIRINOVSKY SURPRISE.
Vladimir Zhirinovsky appears to have surprised the pundits again. Preliminary returns showed his Liberal Democratic Party of Russia in second place with 11.2% of the vote, well below the 23% he gained on the party lists in 1993 but still much more than the 5% which most observers had predicted. However, the LDPR's share of the vote could decline as districts in western Russia are counted; he appears to have polled only 4-5% in Moscow and St. Petersburg, down from the 13% and 18% he received in 1993. Zhirinovsky's success in beating out other challengers for the nationalist vote can be attributed to his charismatic style and effective advertising campaign. -- Laura Belin

DEMOCRATS DESPONDENT.
Grigorii Yavlinskii's Yabloko appears to have emerged as the strongest democratic party, with 8.4% support, little changed from what it gained in the 1993 elections. It was too early to say whether Yegor Gaidar's Russia's Democratic Choice-United Democrats would clear the 5% barrier; the latest report placed it at 4.8%. Gaidar's party finished second in 1993, with 15.5% of the vote. The other democratic parties are way below the 5% barrier, although their individual leaders appear to be doing well in single-seat races. -- Laura Belin

OUR HOME IS RUSSIA LEADING IN MOSCOW, YABLOKO IN ST. PETERSBURG.
According to preliminary results, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's bloc, Our Home Is Russia (NDR), is leading in Moscow with 20.3% of the vote and Grigorii Yavlinskii's Yabloko is ahead in St. Petersburg with 16%, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 December. In Moscow, NDR is followed by Yabloko and the Communist Party (each with 15%), and Russia's Democratic Choice-United Democrats (11%). In St. Petersburg, the Communist Party and Our Home Is Russia are running second and third behind Yabloko, each with 13%, followed by Russia's Choice (12%). Although NDR is leading in Moscow's party-list vote, the leaders of other pro-reform parties (Russia's Democratic Choice, Common Cause, Pamfilova-Gurov-V. Lysenko bloc, and Party of Economic Freedom) won in the single-mandate districts. -- Anna Paretskaya

LEBED TRIUMPHS IN TULA, BUT KRO BELOW 5%.
According to preliminary results, Lt. Gen. (ret.) Aleksandr Lebed won twice as many votes as his nearest rival, local Mayor Nikolai Tyaglyvi, in a single-mandate constituency in the city of Tula, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 December. However, the moderate-nationalist Congress of Russian Communities (KRO), the party Lebed heads along with former Security Council Secretary Yurii Skokov, looks unlikely to clear the 5% barrier. -- Penny Morvant

KOZYREV LEADING IN MURMANSK.
Early returns showed Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev leading the field of 16 candidates (including Vladimir Zhirinovsky's sister) in the single-member district in Murmansk where he is running for re-election, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 December. In 1993, Kozyrev was affiliated with the Russia's Choice movement, but this year he ran as an independent. He was one of the first cabinet ministers to announce that he would not join the pro-government Our Home Is Russia. -- Laura Belin

YELTSIN WARNS AGAINST RETURNING TO THE PAST ON ELECTION'S EVE.
On 15 December, the last day the electoral law allows for campaigning before the 17 December elections, President Boris Yeltsin spoke on Russian Public TV (ORT) to warn voters against supporting parties who wanted to take the country back into the past. He particularly cautioned against parties that support a command economy, a prohibition on the buying and selling of land, a redistribution of property, and the risk of worsening relations with neighboring states in the name of restoring the Soviet Union. -- Robert Orttung in Moscow

YELTSIN SAYS HE WILL NOT ABANDON REFORMS.
As he voted in the Barvikha sanitarium outside Moscow, President Yeltsin said he has no intention of abandoning market reforms and wants to keep Viktor Chernomyrdin as prime minister, Russian and Western agencies reported. The president is not obliged to change the prime minister whatever the outcome of the elections, but Yeltsin did not rule out the possibility of a government reshuffle. On 18 December, ITAR-TASS quoted presidential adviser Mark Urnov as saying that the results had been expected, and they showed "that the leftist electorate had become more accountable" by switching from Zhirinovsky to the Communists. -- Penny Morvant

HIGH TURNOUT IN DUMA ELECTIONS.
According to a Central Electoral Commission (TsIK) spokesman, the turnout for the 17 December Duma elections was 64.95%, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 December. TsIK Chairman Nikolai Ryabov said that in every region of the Russian Federation, the turnout was higher than the 25% necessary for the elections to be considered valid, ranging from 69.2% in Altai Republic to 39.2% in Ingushetiya. In the 1993 Duma elections, the turnout was officially reported at 50.6%, although critics claim that the figure was inflated. Presidential adviser Emil Pain said the surprisingly high turnout may have been increased by the fact that the Duma voting coincided with gubernatorial races in 13 regions, where 25% of the population reside, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 17 December. -- Anna Paretskaya

OBSERVERS SAY ELECTIONS FREE AND FAIR.
The head of the OSCE delegation, Sir Peter Emery, described the Duma elections as free, fair, and democratic, and said they were an improvement on those held in December 1993, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 December. About 800 international observers have been monitoring the elections. The representative of the Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly, David Atkinson, said the elections were "100% fair and democratic," and that he would advocate the Russian Federation's admission to the Council of Europe at its meeting on 25 January 1996. -- Anna Paretskaya

SHOKHIN CALLS FOR COALITION BETWEEN OUR HOME IS RUSSIA AND YABLOKO.
As the first results were coming in from the Far East, Aleksandr Shokhin, a party-list candidate for Our Home Is Russia, called for a parliamentary alliance between his bloc and Yabloko to create a union of democratic forces in the State Duma. Shokhin spoke just after midnight on 18 December at Our Home Is Russia headquarters. He said Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii's presidential ambitions are the only obstacle to the coalition. He said that if the Agrarian Party did not cross the 5% barrier necessary to get into parliament, other parties could claim spots in the government. As the early results came in, Shokhin said he was most surprised by the apparently strong showing of Communists-Worker's Russia-For the Soviet Union and the weak showing of Yegor Gaidar's Russia's Democratic Choice-United. -- Robert Orttung in Moscow

ZHIRINOVSKY, OUR HOME IS RUSSIA VIOLATE RULES ON CAMPAIGNING.
The Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and Our Home Is Russia violated the rules on campaign agitation, according to Igor Yeremin, deputy chairman of the President's Judicial Chamber on Information Disputes, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 16 December. On 6 December, Vladimir Zhirinovsky proposed "napalm bombing five to six villages" for every Russian soldier killed in Chechnya. Yeremin said the proposal violates the ban on instigating interethnic conflict. Viktor Chernomyrdin used his status as prime minister to stage numerous appearances on television in the run-up to the election, which violated "all acceptable limits," Yeremin charged. He said that there are "no judicial sanctions for such violations." The Central Electoral Commission has asked the Procurator-General's Office to investigate Zhirinovsky's statements on the grounds that they violate laws banning the promotion of interethnic hatred, Radio Rossii reported on 15 December. -- Robert Orttung in Moscow

ZAVGAEV ELECTED IN CHECHNYA.
Chechen Prime Minister Doku Zavgaev received 80% of the votes cast in the 14-17 December elections to the post of Chechen leader, Russian media and Western agencies reported. Estimates of voter participation varied from 47% to 60%, according to AFP. Russian media reported violations of voting procedure during the elections, which were not conducted in the presence of foreign observers after the OSCE mission left Grozny temporarily for security reasons. There were also conflicting reports on whether voting had taken place in Gudermes where Russian federal troops and Chechen forces loyal to President Dzhokhar Dudaev have been engaged in sporadic fighting since 14 December, in which 32 Russian servicemen have been killed. -- Liz Fuller

KOZYREV SAYS NO ASYLUM FOR MLADIC.
Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev denied reports that Russia would grant political asylum to Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic, who is wanted for war crimes, Western agencies reported on 17 December. -- Constantine Dmitriev

TURKEY AND RUSSIA CONTINUE DISPUTE OVER STRAITS.
Turkey and Russia recently sent letters to UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali outlining their positions on Ankara's decision to regulate maritime traffic through the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits, the Turkish Daily News reported on 15 and 18 December. Turkey claims the letter sent by Russia's UN representative, Sergei Lavrov, misrepresents the facts. Ankara has also noted that it refuses "to open a debate" on an issue which it considers to be within its national jurisdiction. Russia claims that the regulations put into effect last year are a contravention of the 1936 Montreux Convention and are aimed at preventing Russia from transporting large volumes of Caspian Sea oil through the straits. Turkey claims the regulations are designed to ensure the safety of the straits and that it has the right to introduce such measures under the terms of the convention. That position was recently backed by the International Maritime Organization. -- Lowell Bezanis

RUSSIA'S GDP CONTINUES TO FALL.
The State Statistics Committee announced that in the first 11 months of 1995, Russia's GDP fell by 4% and industrial output by 3% compared to the same period in 1994, Radio Mayak reported on 16 December. GDP for 1995 is estimated at 1,650-1,700 trillion rubles ($360-368 billion). The rate of economic decline slowed this year in comparison with 1994, when Russia's GDP and industrial output were down 15% and 21% respectively. However, despite the government's success in reducing inflation there is as yet little sign of the long-awaited economic recovery. Official figures also show a12% fall in real income over the first 11 months of 1995. -- Natalia Gurushina



GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES FIRST MINISTERS.
The Georgian parliament approved some of the government's proposed new cabinet on 15 December, Interfax reported the same day. Irakli Menagharishvili was appointed foreign minister with by a vote of 157-2. According to parliamentary chairman Zurab Zhvania, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze has appointed Foreign Minister Alexander Chikvaidze to the post of ambassador to Greece. The parliament appointed former Interior Minister Shota Kviraya to the post of state security minister, and his former deputy at the Interior Ministry, Kakha Targamadze, has been promoted to minister. According to Georgian Radio, the economics, finance, and defense ministers are to remain in their posts, the latter despite accusations by deputies representing the National Democratic Party that he follows a pro-Russian line. The parliament suspended deliberations on former Deputy Prime Minister Bakur Gulua's candidacy for the post of agriculture and food industry minister, Iberia news agency reported on 16 December. -- Irakli Tsereteli



EU AIMS TO START MEMBERSHIP TALKS WITH EASTERN EUROPE IN 1997.
EU member countries, meeting in Madrid on 16 December, said they expected to start membership talks with East European countries (as well as with Cyprus and Malta) within six months after the EU's intergovernmental conference, scheduled to end in mid-1997, Western agencies reported. German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel called the summit "a breakthrough. . . . All applicants will have the same starting conditions." The summit asked the EU Commission to conclude reports on the countries seeking membership. Meanwhile, Bulgaria has become the eighth East European country to formally apply for membership. -- Michael Mihalka

UKRAINIAN FOREIGN AFFAIRS UPDATE.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Yevhan Marchuk and his Belarusian counterpart, Mikhail Chyhir, on 14 December signed four agreements on protection of investments; pensions and civil guarantees to citizens' working and living in the other country; border controls; and cooperation with youth groups, Belarusian Radio reported. Radio Rossii on 17 December reported that Russian President Boris Yeltsin has reiterated he will visit Ukraine only once the treaty on friendship and cooperation is fully drafted. Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said in London on 15 December that he did not expect any changes in Russian policy toward Ukraine, despite parliamentary elections, as long as Yeltsin remained in power. -- Ustina Markus

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT IMPEDES WORK OF NEW PARLIAMENT.
Belarusian parliamentary speaker Mechyslau Hryb has accused President Alyaksandr Lukashenka of setting up obstacles before the new parliament, Reuters reported on 15 December. According to Hryb, Lukashenka has not provided any funds for the new parliament's operations, has taken away Hryb's official car and bodyguard, has made no proposals for new laws, and has not had identification badges issued to new deputies. A statement released by the parliamentary press office said there were "attempts by certain forces to disrupt the work of the first session and to force parliament to submit to their will." Meanwhile, Belarusian Radio on 15 December reported that the Constitutional Court found 14 of the 118 laws on the parliament in either full or partial contravention of the constitution. Lukashenka had asked the court to review the laws on the parliament to determine if they conform with the constitution. The court will release all its findings in some 10 days. -- Ustina Markus

BELARUSIAN TRADE UNIONS WARN OF STRIKE.
Belapan on 15 December reported that workers meeting in Minsk two days earlier unanimously decided to begin organizing an all-out strike if their demands are not met. These include payment of all unpaid wages by the end of the year and guarantees that wage increases will be in line with inflation. The Association of Independent Industrial Unions said it is trying to organize the strike within the law, but under labor legislation it is obliged to conduct all negotiations with management rather than the government. -- Ustina Markus

GERMANY PLEDGES SUPPORT TO ESTONIA.
German Ambassador Berndt Mutzelburg told Estonian President Lennart Meri on 15 December that Germany will support Estonia's rapid integration into the European Union, ETA and BNS reported. He said an article in the previous day's Financial Times asserting that Germany wanted only the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary to be included in the first round of EU expansion was inaccurate. Mutzelburg noted that the German government has already given its approval to the associate membership agreements for the Baltic States and that the parliament is expected to ratify them soon. -- Saulius Girnius

GAZPROM RAISES GAS PRICES TO LITHUANIA, LATVIA.
Representatives of the Lithuanian state gas company Lietuvos Dujos signed an agreement with Gazprom on 14 December to purchase 3.2 billion cubic meters of natural gas in 1996 at $78 per 1,000 cubic meters, BNS reported the next day. The company's director-general said Lithuania succeeded in limiting the price increase for this year to some $3 per 1,000 cubic meters because gas to Kaliningrad is shipped via its territory. Meanwhile, the Latvian state gas company Latvijas Gaze signed an agreement with Gazprom at an even more favorable price of $77.5 per 1,000 cubic meters. -- Saulius Girnius

POLISH FORMER PREMIER LOSES PARTY CONFIDENCE.
The leadership of the Polish Peasant Party (PSL) on 16 December failed by one vote to pass a motion of confidence in former Prime Minister and PSL leader Waldemar Pawlak, Polish dailies reported on 18 December. Pawlak received 4.3% of the vote in the November presidential elections, far below the PSL's 15.4% in the 1993 parliamentary ballot, The vote has no immediate consequences but may augur Pawlak's removal as PSL head at the party leadership's next meeting. -- Jakub Karpinski

CZECH EXTREME RIGHT-WING LEADER SENTENCED.
A Prague court on 15 December sentenced Republican Party leader Miroslav Sladek in absentia to 10 months in jail, suspended for 18 months, for a breach of the peace and assaulting a policeman. Sladek was also fined 6,000 koruny ($230) for failing to attend any part of his trial, Czech media reported. On 28 October 1994, the Republican Party held a rally in central Prague to celebrate the Czech national day. Sladek climbed up the statue of St. Wenceslas in Wenceslas Square to address his supporters and refused police orders to come down. Scuffles broke out and video evidence showed Sladek punching a policeman three times in the stomach. The sentence will not prevent Sladek from standing in next year's parliamentary elections. -- Steve Kettle

SLOVAK PRIME MINISTER ON TREATY WITH HUNGARY.
Vladimir Meciar, speaking on Slovak Radio on 15 December, asserted that the Slovak-Hungarian treaty will be ratified during the current parliamentary session. "If I did not believe in the position of the government coalition, I would strive for support from the opposition, but I am not doing that," Meciar stressed. Participants in a Slovak TV debate two days later agreed that the main problem with the treaty is the possibility of multiple interpretations, particularly with regard to collective versus individual rights and territorial autonomy. Pravda on 18 December reported that most parties will make their final opinions on the treaty known only during parliamentary discussions on 20 December. -- Sharon Fisher

SLOVAK POLITICAL UPDATE.
Slovak National Party deputy Vitazoslav Moric has said that "dictates from Brussels" are beginning to be worse than those from Moscow. Moric made this remark during the 15 December parliamentary debate on enlarging Slovakia's permanent delegation to the Council of Europe to include the ethnic Hungarian deputy Edit Bauer. Moric said Bauer was an unacceptable choice because she considers Slovakia "not a homeland but a shelter for the homeless," Sme reported. The same day, the cabinet forwarded a request by Meciar asking the Constitutional Court to clarify the president's powers vis-a-vis the government. The government is seeking confirmation that the president is not empowered to assign tasks to members of the government or to stipulate a deadline for a task to be carried out. -- Sharon Fisher

HUNGARIAN TECHNICAL UNIT TO BOSNIA CUT BY 20%.
Defense Minister Gyorgy Keleti told MTI that the Hungarian technical team bound for Bosnia will have only 400 members, 100 fewer than the figure endorsed by the parliament, Hungarian newspapers reported on 18 December. He said the contingent was cut due to financial considerations and in order to reduce risk factors. But several newspapers reported last week that there were only 160 soldiers in Hungary who have been trained in peacekeeping operations and can speak English. The technical team is expected to move to the Balkan region in the second half of January and will be replaced by another unit after six months. Meanwhile, U.S. President Bill Clinton has thanked Hungarian Prime Minister Gyula Horn for Hungary's contribution to bringing about peace in the Balkans, a spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Ministry told MTI on 15 December. -- Zsofia Szilagyi



UN, NATO APPROVE NATO-LED DEPLOYMENT.
The UN Security Council on 15 December authorized the deployment of the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Bosnia, Western agencies reported. Shortly thereafter, NATO commander-in-chief George Joulwan issued the order to begin deploying troops, saying "the mission is clear: limited in time and scope and with robust rules of engagement." The UN resolution authorizes deployment for approximately one year and allows the troops to use "all necessary force" to implement the Dayton peace accord. Acting NATO Secretary-General Sergio Balanzino noted "this is a historic moment for the (NATO) alliance. It is the first ground operation, the first operation out of area." Meanwhile, bad weather slowed deployment of troops into the region. -- Michael Mihalka

BOSNIAN SERB PARLIAMENT REJECTS DAYTON MAPS.
The Bosnian Serb legislature met in Jahorina on 17 December and "took note" of the Dayton treaty while rejecting the maps and territorial settlement, Nasa Borba and news agencies reported. It singled out the return of Sarajevo suburbs to Bosnian government control and the setting up of a corridor to Gorazde as particularly unacceptable. The parliament set down its views in ten points that included limiting opposition to the agreement to peaceful means and urging the population to stay put, the BBC said. Civilian leader Radovan Karadzic called the pact "a general defeat for the Serbs" because of the territorial provisions. The assembly demanded that the Serbs get an outlet to the sea at Neum, as well as Croatia's Prevlaka peninsula that controls access to Montenegro's Bay of Kotor. -- Patrick Moore

KARADZIC CLINGS TO POWER.
The legislators meeting in Jahorina on 17 December called for the right to unite with rump Yugoslavia in a single state, even though several speakers implied that Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic had betrayed the Serbs of Bosnia and Croatia. The assembly also authorized its leaders to negotiate a deployment agreement with NATO, news agencies reported. The Dayton agreement bans the Bosnian Serb civilian leader and his military counterpart, General Ratko Mladic, from public office as indicted war criminals. Karadzic nonetheless showed no sign of preparing to abandon power willingly, and reshuffled his cabinet to strengthen the position of his hard-line loyalists. New appointees include Velibor Ostojic, who has been linked to "ethnic cleansing," as deputy prime minister, and security chief Dragan Kijac as interior minister. -- Patrick Moore

SERBIAN HELSINKI COMMITTEE ACCUSES BELGRADE OF OPPRESSING MINORITIES.
The Serbian Helsinki Committee, in its annual report released on 15 December, concludes that minorities in Serbia are subject to repression, discrimination, and "ethnic cleansing," according to AFP on 18 December. The report charges Serbian authorities with maltreatment, torture, and hostage-taking. It also accuse them of staging political trials in Kosovo, while noting that residents are also subject to pressure from the Kosovar shadow state. With regard to Vojvodina, the report concludes that the ethnic Hungarian community may eventually disappear due to discrimination. Some 30,000 young Hungarians have fled the country to avoid the military draft, while dozens of families have been turned out of their homes to make room for Croatian Serb refugees. Of the 250,000 Croats living in Vojvodina, 45,000 have been expelled since 1991. The report adds that Croatian Serb refugees have not been treated in accordance with international conventions. -- Fabian Schmidt

RUMP-YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT IN CHINA.
Zoran Lilic arrived in China for a six-day visit on 17 December, AFP reported the next day. Lilic is quoted as saying that he hoped the visit will "mark the opening of doors to Yugoslavia." He met with Chinese President Jiang Zemin to discuss "bilateral ties and issues of common interest." Lilic will also meet with Prime Minister Li Peng. -- Fabian Schmidt

CROATIAN OPPOSITION FILES SUIT AGAINST GOVERNMENT.
Some 45 members of Croatia's seven opposition parties have sent a request to the Constitutional Court to determine if decisions taken by government on the constituent session of the Zagreb city and county assemblies were in accordance with the constitution. They have also filed a suit asking the court to annul those decisions, Hina reported on 16 December. The government earlier this month declared that the opposition-dominated assemblies had not been properly constituted; and it claimed the measures they passed were illegal because there was no quorum following the boycott by deputies from the ruling party. President Franjo Tudjman at a 16 December press conference said the state authorities could not allow the Zagreb government to fall into the hands of enemies of state policy. The opposition leaders rejected his accusations and signed a joint statement on what they called the political crisis in Zagreb. -- Daria Sito Sucic

ROMANIA, HUNGARY TO RECONCILE IN SPRING?
Romanian President Ion Iliescu and Hungarian Prime Minister Gyula Horn, attending the EU summit in Madrid on 16 December, said the two sides want to finalize negotiations on Iliescu's proposal for a historic reconciliation with Hungary by March 1996, Romanian media reported. Romanian Ambassador to Budapest Ioan Donca said Hungary's official response to the proposal, which was supposed to be given on 15 December, has yet to be discussed with the six parliamentary parties. Its response is thus likely to be delayed until after Christmas, he said. -- Matyas Szabo

ACUTE FOOD SHORTAGES IN MOLDOVA'S BREAKAWAY DNIESTER REGION.
Igor Smirnov, president of the self-proclaimed Dniester republic, and Grigorii Marakutsa, chairman of the region's Supreme Soviet, left for Moscow to ask for urgent economic assistance, BASA-press reported on 16 December. According to an official at the Agriculture Ministry in Tiraspol, the region has run out of food and cash, and its cereals reserves are enough for only ten days. Local bakeries are reportedly short of flour supplies and operating at reduced capacity. Daily bread rations were recently cut by half but had to be restored to their full level of 500 grams following protests from the population. -- Dan Ionescu

BULGARIAN OPPOSITION TO ASK FOR NO CONFIDENCE VOTE.
The Union of Democratic Forces, the People's Union, and the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedom on 15 December agreed to request a vote of no confidence in the government, Demokratsiya reported the following day. The three leaderships have decided to form a working group to draft a joint motion. The reason for the no confidence vote is the ongoing grain shortage (see OMRI Daily Digest, 28 November 1995). Flour and bread are either unavailable in the shops or have been pushed up in price. The opposition blames the crisis on the government, which controls some 40% of the grain supplies. The opposition will meet on 20 December with the trade unions to discuss joint action. -- Stefan Krause

BULGARIA TO RESTITUTE JEWISH PROPERTY.
President Zhelyu Zhelev on 15 December said "the Jews will receive everything that was taken away from them," 24 chasa reported the following day. Their property will be returned to the organization Shalom, which is the successor to the Jewish community in Bulgaria and defends the interests of some 50,000 Jews who were forced to leave Bulgaria. According to Shalom, the property in question is worth about 1 billion leva ($14.2 million). The organization has waived its claims on a building in Varna that is the navy's headquarters but insists that other property be returned. -- Stefan Krause

BULGARIAN BANK CHIEF ON IMF LOAN.
Bulgarian National Bank governor Todor Valchev on 15 December said that the IMF will probably accept the projected 1996 budget deficit of 4.8% of GDP if progress is made on structural reform, Pari reported the next day. He asserted that a lower deficit will hurt health, education, and the legal system. Agreement with the IMF on a new stand-by loan is crucial because Bulgaria's foreign reserves stand at $1.4 billion while debt payments in 1996 will be $1.25 billion. Meanwhile, Pari on 18 December reported that the ruling Socialists are considering four candidates to replace Valchev early next year. They include Atanas Paparizov, a former deputy minister in the last communist government; Lyubomir Filipov, head of the BNB's lev operations; and Chavdar Kanchev, head of the state bank for foreign economic relations and a former negotiator with the London Club. -- Michael Wyzan

ALBANIAN COMMUNIST OFFICIALS CHARGED WITH CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY.
An Albanian court has ordered the arrest of 14 communist-era officials on charges of sending dissidents into internal exile for political reasons, Reuters reported on 16 December. Those accused include Haxhi Lleshi, president of the parliament from 1953 until 1982; former first party secretary in Tirana Pirro Kondi; and former Defense Minister Prokop Murra. Lleshi, who is 82 years old, has been confined to house arrest. Four suspects, including former Prosecutor-General Qemal Lame, have fled abroad. Prosecutors launched investigations after the National Forum of Intellectuals filed a lawsuit charging the officials with violating communist-era legislation. About 100,000 people were sent into internal exile; of these, some 5,100 are estimated to have been executed. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave




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