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Newsline - December 21, 1995


YELTSIN SEES NO TRAGEDY IN ELECTION RESULTS.
"There is no reason to worry or to view the elections as a tragedy," President Boris Yeltsin announced on 20 December at the Barvikha sanitarium. He was confident that the new Duma would not prevent him from carrying out his current political course, Radio Rossii reported on 20 December. He said that the majority in the Duma would support reforms and human rights because the Communists received 20%, Vladimir Zhirinovsky's party lost support in comparison to 1993, and the Agrarians did not even cross the 5% barrier. He warned that a return to Marxist ideology would be "criminal for Russia and Russians" and that he would "not allow it to happen." Meanwhile, a final count for the party-list vote had still not been announced by noon Moscow time on 21 December. * Robert Orttung

GAIDAR: DEMOCRATS MUST NOMINATE ONE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE.
Russia's Democratic Choice leader Yegor Gaidar said he will not run for president in June 1996, NTV reported on 21 December. Instead, his party will work to unite all of Russia's pro-reform parties, including Our Home Is Russia, behind a common candidate. He predicted that the "Communist wave" rising in the country would be short-lived but warned that if democrats could not agree on a single presidential candidate, Russia would be left with a choice between Communist Party leader Zyuganov and Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky in the second round. -- Laura Belin

SHAKHRAI TO LEAVE GOVERNMENT FOR DUMA.
Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai is planning to leave his position in the government to take his seat in the Duma, NTV reported on 20 December. He was elected in a Rostov-na-Donu constituency. Russian law prohibits simultaneous membership in the government and Duma. Although Shakhrai's government position is more powerful than being a Duma member, his hold on the office may be tenuous. Shakhrai's Party of Russian Unity and Concord campaigned against Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's Our Home Is Russia after splitting with the bloc on 30 August. Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov has also identified Shakhrai as one of the ministers he most wants to replace, making him a likely sacrifice. -- Robert Orttung

LEAVING THE COUNTRY IS NOT TREASON.
The Constitutional Court ruled that leaving for a foreign country or refusing to return from abroad cannot be considered a form of treason, Ekho Moskvy reported on 20 December. It therefore declared Article 64 of the Russian Criminal Code unconstitutional. The court was considering a case brought by Valerii Smirnov, who claimed political asylum in Norway while on an official visit in 1981. He returned to the Soviet Union four months later, only to be sentenced to 10 years in prison for treason. The court found that Smirnov did not break the law by refusing to return but left open the question of whether he committed treason by revealing confidential information from his work at a state instrument-making institute. -- Laura Belin

ZHIRINOVSKY AGAIN FAILS TO APPEAR IN COURT.
Nearly two years have passed since Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev described Vladimir Zhirinovsky's views as "fascist" on NTV in January 1994, but the ensuing slander case remains unresolved. The case was postponed for the third time on 20 December, after Zhirinovsky and the presiding judge both failed to appear for court hearings, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. Kozyrev told journalists that he came to court "to defend my right to call fascists what they are" and referred to Zhirinovsky as a "Fuehrer." -- Laura Belin

YELTSIN MEETS AKAYEV.
President Boris Yeltsin met with his Kyrgyz counterpart, Askar Akayev, at the Barvikha sanitarium outside Moscow on 20 December, Russian agencies reported. The two presidents released a statement endorsing the "further deepening of Russian-Kyrgyz cooperation . . . within the framework of the CIS." Akayev said he will make an official state visit to Moscow soon to sign more than 20 bilateral economic agreements, including one formalizing Kyrgyzstan's entry into the Belarus-Russia-Kazakhstan customs union. He also announced that the mandate of the CIS forces on the Afghan-Tajik border would be extended to the end of 1996. Akayev downplayed the results of the Duma elections, saying they would not hinder democratic reform in Russia. -- Scott Parrish

COUNCIL OF EUROPE COMMITTEE APPROVES RUSSIAN MEMBERSHIP.
A parliamentary committee of the 38-member Council of Europe decided on 20 December to submit Russia's application to a vote of the full parliamentary assembly at its next session, Western and Russian agencies reported.
Russia applied for membership in 1992, but its application was frozen after the December 1994 military intervention in Chechnya. The application was reactivated this September once peace negotiations had begun in Chechnya, but a final decision was postponed pending the outcome of the 17 December Duma elections. Council observers recently back from Russia endorsed the elections as "fair and correct," allowing the application to proceed. The council agreed that even if Russia does not yet meet all of the body's standards, "integration is better than isolation." Ironically, even as the committee was voting, renewed fighting was underway in the Chechen town of Gudermes. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIAN PILOTS TO BE RELEASED SOON?
A Russian delegation that hoped to secure the quick release of the seven Russian air crew members held hostage by the Afghan Taliban movement since 3 August returned to the United Arab Emirates from Kandahar on 20 December without the pilots, Russian agencies reported. Delegation head Yurii Kotov told ITAR-TASS that Taliban has promised to release the crew by 30 December. Taliban had earlier said it would release the crew only after clarifying the fate of some 6,000 Afghans it claims were deported to the Soviet Union during the Afghan War. Kotov said he had given the Taliban documentary evidence that no Afghan citizens are being forcibly detained in Russia. Although not entirely satisfied with that response, Taliban agreed to release the pilots after studying the Russian documents for another 10 days. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPERS READY FOR BOSNIA.
The Russian airborne brigade which will form part of the multinational Bosnian peace implementation force is preparing to depart from its base in Kostroma, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 December. The brigade, with an overall strength of 1,500 men, consists of two battalions, drawn from the 76th and 98th Airborne Guards Divisions. Russian military spokesmen praised both the multiethnic composition and combat-readiness of the brigade, in which 23 different nationalities are represented, although 78% of the troops are Russian. The brigade's officers have extensive combat experience, 30% having served in Afghanistan, and 60% in Chechnya. The brigade' commander, Col. Aleksandr Lenstov, served two years and Afghanistan and was recently decorated for bravery in Chechnya. According to a statement by NATO Supreme Commander General George Joulwan on 19 December, the Russian brigade will be deployed in the Posavina land corridor together with troops from the U.S. First Armored Division. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA REFUTES REPORTS ABOUT POLISH PRIME MINISTER.
Russian officials on 20 December reacted angrily to reports in the Polish media accusing Polish Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy of serving as an agent for Soviet and later Russian intelligence agencies, Russian agencies reported (see related item in Central and Eastern Europe section). Alexander Mikhailov, a spokesman for the Federal Security Service, called such reports "deliberate rubbish," and Tatyana Samolis, press secretary to Foreign Intelligence Service head Yevgenii Primakov, also denounced the accusations as groundless. In a subsequent statement released to ITAR-TASS, the Russian Foreign Ministry indirectly criticized outgoing Polish President Lech Walesa, who has called for an investigation of the allegations. The agency expressed "concern" with the release of such "false reports," which it said only served to create tensions in Russo-Polish relations. -- Scott Parrish

INDIA TO BUY RUSSIAN FIGHTERS, SUBMARINES.
A high-ranking representative in the Indian defense establishment told journalists in New Delhi on 19 December that India and Russia are about to sign an agreement on the sale to India of two squadrons of Russian multipurpose Su-30MK jets. ITAR-TASS reported that some of those aircraft would be used for photographic and electronic reconnaissance. The two sides are reportedly "very close" to a contract for the sale of six more Kilo-class submarines to India, and are still negotiating the sale of the aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov. -- Doug Clarke

AGENCY SET UP TO INVESTIGATE MOSCOW CONTRACT KILLINGS . . .
A special service of procurators and detectives will be set up to investigate contract killings in the capital, Moskovskii komsomolets reported on 20 December citing sources within the city Procurator's Office. Only two of the 45 contract killings in Moscow this year have been solved. Half the victims were businessmen, and the other half belonged to criminal groups. Interior Minster Anatolii Kulikov called on 1 December for the creation of a special bureau to investigate the large number of contract killings in Russia. -- Penny Morvant

. . . DEPUTY KILLED IN KOMI.
A Komi State Council deputy, Yevgenii Leontev, was gunned down outside Vorkuta airport on 20 December, ITAR-TASS reported. Leontev, who died as he was being taken to hospital, was the director of a coal-exporting company. The agency said that a number of businessmen involved in coal exports have been killed; thus, it seems likely that Leontev's death was also linked to his business activities. -- Penny Morvant

COST OF MOSCOW METRO RIDE INCREASES.
The cost of a Moscow metro ticket went up 50% on 21 December to 1,500 rubles (32 cents), ITAR-TASS reported. But according to the Moscow Mayor's Office, even the new price covers only a quarter of the real cost of a trip. The last increase was on 20 September, when the cost of a token went up from 800 rubles to 1,000. Metro workers have repeatedly complained about safety, claiming that none of the trains on the network are in good working order. The metro has carried 9 million passengers a day since its inauguration under Stalin in 1935. -- Penny Morvant

ECONOMICS MINISTRY ISSUES 1996 INVESTMENT FORECAST.
The Economics Ministry expects investment to grow by 4% in 1996, and reach 310 trillion rubles ($67 billion), Segodnya reported on 20 December. Of this, two thirds will be raised from companies' internal resources, and some 50 trillion rubles ($11 billion) will be invested by commercial banks. However, the head of the Association of Russian Banks, Sergei Yegorov, doubted whether firms and banks would be able to generate such a level of investment. He noted, for example, that the banks only managed to raise 4.5 trillion rubles ($1 billion) to participate in the recent round of share auctions. -- Natalia Gurushina and Peter Rutland

FOREIGN TRADE CONTINUES TO PROSPER.
During the first 11 months of the year, Russian foreign trade turnover was $113 billion, 21% up over the same period last year, Delovoi mir reported on 20 December. Exports rose 21% and the trade surplus widened to $31 billion, belying reports that the ruble corridor had made exports unprofitable. Exports to non-CIS countries rose 28%, to $59 billion, while exports to the CIS fell 3.5%, to $12.4 billion. -- Peter Rutland



PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION RESULTS CONTESTED IN KAZAKHSTAN.
Appeals from unsuccessful candidates in the 9 December elections to the lower house (Majilis) of the Kazakhstani parliament have reduced the number of occupied seats in the house from the originally announced 43 to 32, according to Western agencies. This could complicate plans for opening 67-seat Majilis which needs at least 45 deputies to hold a quorum. The Central Electoral Commission has not yet commented on the results. A run-off election involving the two leading candidates from each electoral district will be held on 23 December to fill the empty seats. An appeal by a defeated candidate in the March 1994 parliamentary elections, Tatyana Kvyatkovskaya, started a review process that led to the previous parliament being dissolved in March 1995. However, that scenario is unlikely to repeat itself. -- Bruce Pannier

KAZAKHSTAN GETS RUSSIAN WARPLANES.
The Kazakhstani air force received eight MiG-29s from Russia on 19 December, ITAR-TASS reported. Sources in the Russian Defense Ministry told the agency that Russia also plans to export Su-25 close air support planes and Su-27 fighters to Kazakhstan. The sources said the exports are part of the concept of collective CIS border protection. -- Doug Clarke



UKRAINE, G-7 SIGN CHORNOBYL AGREEMENT.
Ukraine on 20 December signed an agreement with the G-7 on the closure of the Chornobyl nuclear power station, international agencies reported. Details of how the closure will be financed have not been made available, but the agreement reportedly says only that Kiev is to contribute as much as its resources and economy allow. The issue of rebuilding the sarcophagus over the highly radioactive Reactor No. 4 is also left vague, and a deadline for the closure is omitted. Moreover the agreement is not legally binding. Ukrainian officials have said they felt pressured to sign the deal because of threats to withhold credits for economic restructuring. The agreement was signed in Ottawa by Ukrainian Economics Minister Yurii Kostenko and Canadian Deputy Prime Minister and Environment Minister Shiela Copps. Copps represented the G-7, which is currently chaired by Canada. -- Ustina Markus

LUKASHENKA APPOINTS NEW KGB, INTERIOR MINISTRY CHIEFS.
Reuters and Interfax on 20 December reported that Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has promoted Deputy Interior Minister Valyantsin Aholets to the post of interior minister and head of the Brest regional KGB Uladzimir Matskevich to chairman of the KGB. The former head of the KGB, Uladzimir Yahorau, resigned after being elected to the parliament. Lukashenka had dismissed former Interior Minister Yurii Zakharenka in October. -- Ustina Markus

ACTING COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF OF ESTONIAN DEFENSE FORCES APPOINTED.
President Lennart Meri on 20 December appointed chief of the General Staff Col. Vello Loemaa as acting commander-in-chief of the defense forces. Loemaa replaces Aleksander Einseln, whom the parliament had relieved of his duties the previous day, BNS reported. Although Meri had nominated Lt. Col. Johannes Kert, the head of the Defense League, to replace Einseln, he was required to follow Einseln's choice of Loemaa as his replacement to "ensure continuity in the leadership of the defense forces." -- Saulius Girnius

OPERATIONS OF LITHUANIA'S LARGEST COMMERCIAL BANK HALTED.
Prime Minister Adolfas Slezevicius and Bank of Lithuania President Kazys Ratkevicius on 20 December said the republic's largest commercial bank, the Lithuanian Akcinis-Inovacinis Bank, has halted all its operations due to lack of money, Radio Lithuania reported. Citizens have deposited some 300 million litai ($75 million) in the bank, which can count among its customers the Ignalina atomic power plant and the Mazeikiai oil refinery. The bank's problems were caused by issuing loans sometimes at rates even lower than those paid to the bank's depositors. -- Saulius Girnius

POLISH PRIME MINISTER REJECTS COLLABORATION ACCUSATIONS . . .
Jozef Oleksy, who has been accused of collaborating with Soviet and Russian secret services (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20 December 1995), has said on Polish TV that the accusations are false and a "dirty provocation." He commented that "people in the secret services, with the permission of the internal affairs minister and President Walesa, undertook attempts to destabilize the country three days before the changeover in Poland's Presidency. Walesa's camp knows no moral or ethical restraints in the struggle for power," Oleksy said. He also went on to reveal that, in an obvious blackmail attempt, he was told last week that if he were to quit before 19 December, the matter would be kept secret. Oleksy said, however, that he would not hide behind his parliamentary immunity and would accept any independent verdict, Polish media reported on 20-21 December. -- Jakub Karpinski

. . . WHILE GAZETA WYBORCZA PUBLISHES DETAILS.
The Polish daily on 21 December wrote that according to sources close to outgoing President Lech Walesa, he was told in early December by unnamed secret service agents that Oleksy had contacted KGB agents identified by Polish intelligence. Later, Walesa received documentary evidence collected by the Internal Affairs Ministry over the past eight months. The newspaper added that Oleksy had been warned last year that Polish intelligence was aware he had been meeting with Russian secret service officers. President-elect Aleksander Kwasniewski is said to have been told on 12 December about the documentary evidence, which, according to Gazeta Wyborcza was delivered on 19 December to the Sejm and Senate speakers and the heads of Poland's main courts. Kwasniewski the next day stressed that he has full confidence in Oleksy. -- Jakub Karpinski

CZECH PARLIAMENT REJECTS UNIVERSITY FEES.
Deputies from two government parties--the Civic Democratic Alliance and Christian Democratic Union-Czechoslovak People's Party--on 20 December joined the opposition in voting down a government draft law on universities. Its most contentious provision was the introduction of tuition fees for higher education students from next year. Deputies voted 107 to 61 to return the bill to the government for further study. Education Minister Ivan Pilip said a new version will not be presented before next year's parliamentary and Senate elections; he termed the vote the start of the general election campaign. The rector of Charles University in Prague, Karel Maly, welcomed the vote. According to Maly, the present law is better than the government proposal, which was full of inadequacies, Pravo reported. -- Steve Kettle

SLOVAK PARLIAMENT DELAYS RATIFICATION OF TREATY WITH HUNGARY.
By a vote of 80 to 46, the Slovak parliament on 20 December postponed ratifying the Slovak-Hungarian treaty until its next session. It also asked parliamentary Foreign Committee chairman Dusan Slobodnik to draft an interpretation clause. Slobodnik said that through consultations with Budapest a compromise might be reached on the interpretation of the treaty. But Foreign Minister Juraj Schenk argued that it was unrealistic that Hungary would agree to such consultations. Critics have pointed out that, besides the sticking points over minority rights issues, the treaty does not deal with the question of succession to former Czechoslovakia and thus allows for challenging Trianon and the 1977 agreement on the Gabcikovo dam project. The parliament also voted to abolish the embargo against rump Yugoslavia and to endorse a cabinet proposal to send peacekeeping forces to eastern Slavonia, Slovak media reported. -- Sharon Fisher

SLOVAK COURT RULES ON COUPON PRIVATIZATION.
The Constitutional Court on 20 December ruled that an amendment to the large-scale privatization law is not unconstitutional, thereby rejecting claims by a group of opposition deputies. The amendment--approved by the parliament in September for a second time after being vetoed by President Michal Kovac--cancels the second wave of coupon privatization in favor of a program based on bonds. The court declared only one section of the amendment unlawful--namely, that requiring municipalities and housing associations to accept bonds when selling apartments, TASR reported. The court rejected opposition objections against the government's changing the rules of privatization in the middle of the process and against transferring control over privatization from the cabinet to the National Property Fund. -- Sharon Fisher

HUNGARY YIELDS CONTROL OF TELECOMMUNICATIONS GIANT.
In a deal giving a German-U.S. group a majority stake in the telecommunications company Matav, Hungary has become the first country in Eastern Europe to yield control of its telecommunications industry, Reuters reported on 20 December. MagyarCom, a consortium equally owned by Deutsche Telekom AG and Ameritech Corp., will pay $852 million for an additional 37% of Matav, giving it a majority holding of 67%. Matav is one of Hungary's and Eastern Europe's largest firms and has a monopoly on national cable telephone services. This latest deal is one of the largest foreign investments in Eastern Europe to date. The MagyarCom consortium bought a 30% stake in Matav in 1993 for $875 million and received a 25-year concession for long-distance and local calls and a monopoly on long-distance calls for eight years. -- Jiri Pehe



EU PLEDGES MONEY FOR RECONSTRUCTION OF BOSNIA.
Officials from more than 40 countries met in Brussels on 20 December to begin discussing the reconstruction of Bosnia-Herzegovina. They estimated that $1.5 billion is needed for priority projects such as transportation, water and sewage, while World Bank experts projected that the cost of reconstructing Bosnia in the first years alone will be $5.1 billion, Nasa Borba reported the next day. Only the EU was immediately ready to pledge $100 million of the $518 million needed to cover immediate needs. Bosnian Foreign Minister Muhamed Sacirbey said that the Bosnian delegation has not come to Brussels to beg because the Bosnian government and its citizens are ready to rebuild the country themselves. But he added that he was disappointed by the poor response of the donors. * Daria Sito Sucic

WHITE HOUSE TO LIFT EMBARGO AGAINST RUMP YUGOSLAVIA?
Nasa Borba on 21 December reported that President Bill Clinton is about to lift the embargo against Belgrade, including all sanctions related to trade, air, and sea transport as well as to other business contacts. In accordance with the November resolution of the UN Security Council on immediate suspension of sanctions, Clinton would thus reward the former Yugoslavia's "constructive participation" in the Dayton peace talks. But this move would not include lifting so-called "outside sanctions," meaning the country's immediate readmission to the UN, the OCSE, and international financial organizations. Meanwhile, French President Jacques Chirac told Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic that France will be among the first countries to recognize the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and to establish full diplomatic relations, Beta reported on 20 December. The same agency reported that telephone communications between rump Yugoslavia and Croatia were reestablished on 20 December. -- Daria Sito Sucic

NATO HAS 17,000 TROOPS IN BOSNIA.
NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana, speaking at a press conference in Brussels on 20 December, said NATO already has 17,000 troops in Bosnia, Western agencies reported. But most of those troops were formerly with the UN. An IFOR press spokesman told OMRI that as of 21 December, only 1,400 NATO troops had arrived in Bosnia and some 1,000 in Croatia. Meanwhile, British troops have arrived in Krupa, 30 km south of Banja Luka, and IFOR forces have removed roadblocks to Sarajevo airport. -- Michael Mihalka

SERBIAN RENEWAL MOVEMENT ANNOUNCES NEW COALITION.
The Serbian Renewal Movement is to form a new coalition of opposition parties, according to Nasa Borba on 21 December. Party leader Draskovic has announced that a joint "list without Communists" will be drawn up for future elections. That list will include the Civic Union of Serbia, New Democracy, the Vojvodina Reformists, the Union of Vojvodina Hungarians, and the Party of Democratic Action of Sandzak. It may also include the political movement Democratic Center, which is expected to form a party. -- Fabian Schmidt

WHAT FUTURE FOR CROATS IN VOJVODINA?
Rump Yugoslavia has a Croatian population estimated at about 250,000. The largest single group of them live in Vojvodina, which had at least 160,000 Croats before the war but of whom over 45,000 have left, mainly under duress. President Bela Tonkovic of the Democratic League of Croats in Vojvodina told human rights activists that his people face constant harassment and psychological pressure. Their legal status as a "nation" or a national minority has not been clarified, and they are virtually excluded from public life but subject to rigorous military conscription and discrimination in hiring. They made a formal complaint to the Serbian government in June 1993 but have had no response to date, Nasa Borba reported on 21 December. -- Patrick Moore

MACEDONIAN PARLIAMENT DISCUSSES TOUGH 1996 BUDGET.
The Macedonian parliament on 20 December began discussing the 1996 budget, which is based on 6% retail price inflation, 10% growth in social product, and 2% growth in industrial production, Nova Makedonija reported the next day. Planned revenues of 42.9 billion denars ($1.1 billion), represent 23% of social product, compared with 23.8% in 1995. Wages in the budgetary sphere will be frozen at their August 1995 levels, vacation pay eliminated, and social welfare spending and agricultural subsidies reduced. The largest revenue sources will be excise taxes, the personal income tax, and the sales tax. -- Michael Wyzan

ROMANIAN SENATE APPROVES SENDING BATTALION TO BOSNIA.
The Senate on 20 December voted 107 to seven to approve contributing an engineer unit to the peacekeeping forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Radio Bucharest reported. The 200-strong battalion, whose mission is to last for up to 12 months, will mainly help restore roads and bridges in the region. The estimated cost of the operation--18 billion lei (some $7 million)--will be covered from the budget. The initial proposal to dispatch a unit to the former Yugoslavia was made by President Ion Iliescu in a letter to the parliament. -- Dan Ionescu

ROMANIA TO STICK TO ITS PRO-WESTERN POLICY.
A spokesman for Romania's Foreign Ministry on 20 December said his country's decision to seek NATO membership was "irreversible," Radio Bucharest reported. He stressed that a possible change in Russia's foreign policy following the recent elections will not affect Romania's policy of integration into Euro-Atlantic structures. -- Dan Ionescu

ROMANI FOREIGN-LANGUAGE COURSE OFFERED AT BUCHAREST UNIVERSITY.
Bucharest University is to offer instruction in Romani as a foreign language as part of a three-year course that will include Sanskrit and Hindi, Reuters reported, citing Evenimentul Zilei on 19 December. The reports did not stipulate which Romani dialect will be taught and whether the courses are meant for Roma or non-Roma. Romani is offered, among others, at Charles University in Prague and at the Gandhi High School in Pecs, Hungary, as part of courses about or for Roma. -- Alaina Lemon

MOLDOVAN RULING PARTY ACCUSED OF "BOLSHEVISM."
The Agrarian Democratic Party of Moldova (PDAM) has been accused of establishing "a Bolshevik-style dictatorship in some raions in an attempt to politicize the population" and thus divert public attention from the current "economic disaster," Radio Bucharest reported on 19 December, quoting Moldpres. The accusation was made in a communique released by the Executive Committee of the Party of Revival and Conciliation in Moldova, led by President Mircea Snegur, who quit the PDAM in late June to set up his own party. Meanwhile, Infotag on 20 December quoted a presidential spokesman as saying that Snegur was not prepared to accept any compromise on the controversial issue of the designation of the country's official language. The spokesman said that according to "scientific truth," that designation could be only "Romanian." -- Dan Ionescu

BULGARIA, ROMANIA SIGN MILITARY ACCORD.
The chiefs of staff of the Bulgarian and Romanian militaries signed an agreement on military cooperation in Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria, Bulgarian media reported on 19 December. The two sides agreed to continue their cooperation along their common border, to increase the exchange of military information, and promote more military contracts. Romanian Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dumitriu Cioflina was quoted as saying the Bulgaria was the first country with which Romania had signed such an agreement. He added that Romania intended to sign similar agreements with Ukraine and Hungary. -- Doug Clarke

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT IN PORTUGAL.
Zhelyu Zhelev, during a three-day official visit to Portugal on 18-20 December, stressed that Sofia will step up its efforts to join the EU and NATO but he added that it is unlikely Bulgaria will be admitted as a full EU member by 2000, Bulgarian and international media reported. Zhelev met with his Portuguese counterpart, Mario Soares, Prime Minister Antonio Guterres, Parliamentary President Antonio Santos, and caucus leaders. Zhelev noted that bilateral relations should be developed further, while Soares said Portugal considers Bulgaria's application for full EU membership to be fully justified and timely. Zhelev on 20 December met with former Bulgarian Queen Ioanna, who lives in Estoril. Zhelev said they discussed "very private matters." -- Stefan Krause

BULGARIAN JOURNALISTS WANT RESIGNATION OF RADIO BOSS.
Hundreds of demonstrators, including many journalists from private and state media, on 20 December protested the dismissal of seven journalists from Bulgarian National Radio, Bulgarian newspapers and Western media reported. The demonstrators demanded the resignation of BNR Director-General Vecheslav Tunev, who sacked the journalists on 18 December (see OMRI Daily Digest, 19 December 1995). A declaration by journalists said the dismissals "irrefutably prove that there is political censorship in [BNR]." Opposition leaders attended the meeting but did not speak, saying they did not want to give the gathering a "partisan twist." -- Stefan Krause

ALBANIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT CHIEF ACCUSED OF SENTENCING PRIEST TO DEATH.
Rustem Gjata has been charged with sentencing Dom Gjergj Gjoni to death in 1973, Koha Jone reported on 21 December. The catholic priest from the diocese of Shkoder had been charged with high treason for trying to flee Albania after it was declared an atheist state and after churches were closed in 1967. Gjata was reported to have pronounced the death sentence even though the prosecutor had demanded only a 15-year prison term. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]


Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave





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