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Newsline - December 28, 1995


RUSSIAN FORCES BOMBARD CHECHEN VILLAGES.
Russian artillery bombarded Achkhoi-Martan, southwest of Grozny on 27 December, despite the withdrawal from the town of the Chechen forces loyal to President Dzhokhar Dudaev who had occupied it since 16 December, according to Russian Public TV (ORT) and AFP. Hundreds are thought to have been killed in the last two weeks of fighting. Several other villages were also targeted by Russian warplanes. Speaking at a wreath-laying ceremony in Moscow on 27 December to mark the sixteenth anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Col. Gen. Boris Gromov, whose My Fatherland party failed to clear the 5% hurdle in the Duma elections, called for an immediate withdrawal of Russian forces from Chechnya, NTV reported. -- Liz Fuller

CHERNOMYRDIN PLEASED WITH GOVERNMENT'S WORK.
Addressing the government meeting on 28 December, Prime Minister Victor Chernomyrdin declared his satisfaction with the government's performance in 1995, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. He argued that inflation is under control, the fall in output and income has been halted, and that the securities market has been "put on its feet." He said that "next year will be decisive" and urged ministers to work as a unified team, rather than pursuing their separate agendas. In a press conference for ITAR-TASS the previous day, the prime minister singled out the strengthening of the ruble and overcoming the August bank crisis as the government's main achievements. -- Peter Rutland

BELYAEV TO LEAD OUR HOME IS RUSSIA IN DUMA.
At a meeting of deputies elected to represent Our Home Is Russia (NDR) in the Duma, former State Property Committee Chairman Sergei Belyaev was chosen to lead the bloc's faction in parliament, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 December. Belyaev took leave from his government post in August in order to run the campaign for Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's bloc. On 26 December, Chernomyrdin addressed a meeting of 70 deputies in the Duma who are sympathetic to NDR, Segodnya reported the next day. He said that Yabloko is the closest faction to NDR but added that "there are rational, effective, and responsible deputies in all the factions." He said NDR would seek a "working dialogue" with "social democrats" within the Communist faction. -- Laura Belin and Peter Rutland

ELECTORAL COMMISSION REGISTERS GROUPS BACKING YELTSIN, RUTSKOI FOR PRESIDENT.
On 25 December the Central Electoral Commission (TsIK) registered groups nominating Boris Yeltsin and two other candidates for 16 June presidential elections, Russian media reported. Yeltsin has said he will decide in February whether to run for re-election. An initiative group nominating Derzhava leader Aleksandr Rutskoi was also registered on its second attempt. On 14 December the TsIK refused to register Rutskoi's supporters, on the grounds that they had filled out the documents incorrectly. The third group registered on 25 December is nominating Andrei Zavidiya, director of the Galant concern. According to ITAR-TASS, Zavidiya is best known for having been the vice-presidential candidate on Vladimir Zhirinovsky's ticket during the 1991 presidential elections. Laura Belin

ZHIRINOVSKY FAILS TO APPEAR IN COURT AGAIN.
Former
Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Sergei Stepashin's lawsuit against Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky was postponed for the third time on 27 December due to Zhirinovsky's absence at court hearings, ITAR-TASS reported. Stepashin filed the lawsuit in November 1994 after the LDPR leader called the Federal Counterintelligence Service (since re-named the FSB) a "branch of the CIA and the Mossad" and the leader of Russian counterintelligence "an agent of these services." On 20 December, Zhirinovsky failed to appear in court for the third time in his own slander case against Andrei Kozyrev, who called him a "fascist" on NTV in January 1994. -- Laura Belin

JOURNALIST KILLED IN KRASNOYARSK.
Vadim Alferev, a crime reporter for the Krasnoyarsk newspaper Segodnyashnyaya gazeta, was beaten to death outside his apartment building on 27 December, Russian media reported. Alferev had reportedly received numerous phone threats after writing about economic crimes. According to Oleg Panfilov of the Glasnost Defense Foundation, Alferev became the fifteenth journalist to be killed in Russia in 1995; 10 of those died in Chechnya. Also on 27 December, the head of the Arint gold trading firm in Magadan, Nikolai Kovalchuk, was stabbed to death as he left his apartment, Radio Rossii reported the same day. -- Laura Belin

NEWSPAPER FIREBOMBED IN VOLOGDA.
Meanwhile, on 24 December authorities arrested a man who confessed to firebombing the offices of the Vologda newspaper Russkii sever, ITAR-TASS reported. According to Izvestiya on 26 December, the suspect had worked as a driver for an entrepreneur and deputy in the regional legislature who lost his bid for a single-member Duma seat in Vologda. Russkii sever had endorsed the candidate who won the seat. -- Laura Belin

YELTSIN MEETS WITH KOZYREV.
With many anticipating his removal, Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev met with President Yeltsin on 27 December, Russian and Western agencies reported. Kozyrev said that Yeltsin had postponed any decision on Kozyrev's future until he "officially" returns to work. According to the Russian constitution, government ministers cannot hold seats in the Duma, forcing Kozyrev to choose between the Murmansk seat he won on 17 December and his ministerial portfolio before the new Duma opens on 16 January. Yeltsin also instructed Kozyrev to visit Kandahar and obtain the release of seven Russian air crew held captive by the Afghan Taliban movement since 3 August. -- Scott Parrish

BORDER GUARDS' DIRECTOR ASKS FOR MORE MONEY.
Russian Federal Border Service (FPS) Director Andrei Nikolaev said at a news conference on 27 December that FPS needs more money to safeguard the world's longest frontier, Russian and Western agencies reported. The FPS asked for 12 billion rubles ($2.6 million) from the 1996 budget but was awarded less than 6 billion rubles. Nikolaev said that in 1995 Russian border guards detained more than 3,000 people and along with customs officers confiscated contraband worth 27 billion rubles ($5.8 million). -- Constantine Dmitriev

DUMA AGAIN OVERRIDES VETO ON MILITARY LAW.
During its last session on 22 December, the Duma overrode the Federation Council's veto on changes to the law on military service, Interfax reported. The Duma insists that the service term for draftees called up before 1 October 1995, those serving in the "hot spots," and those with a single parent over the age of 53 should be 18 months instead of two years (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20 December 1995). The bill now goes to President Boris Yeltsin who must either sign or reject it within two weeks. He vetoed a similar measure on 4 December but issued a decree limiting service to 18 months for those involved in combat duties for at least one month. -- Constantine Dmitriev

AN EXPLOSIVE YEAR IN MOSCOW.
The Moscow police announced that there were 106 criminal explosions in Moscow in the first 11 months of 1995, Radio Rossii reported on 27 December. Fifteen persons were killed and 56 wounded, but arrests were made in only six cases. Most bombings were connected to commercial activities, such as unpaid debts. Police fear that the low detection rate will only encourage criminals to resort to such measures in the future. -- Peter Rutland

COLD CHRISTMAS.
A total of 248 people have frozen to death in the streets of Moscow since the beginning of November, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 December. Most were drunks who collapsed while strolling, rather than homeless people. Health authorities are warning people to stay at home during the New Year festivities. Meanwhile, Russian and Western agencies report that Russia and Ukraine are in the grip of a major flu epidemic; one million people have fallen ill in Moscow, 230,000 in Yekaterinburg, and two million in Kiev. It is thought that flu is of a different strain than that circulating in the West. -- Peter Rutland

YELTSIN EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER AIR SAFETY.
The former head of the CIS armed forces, Marshal Yevgenii Shaposhnikov, who is now director of Aeroflot-Russian International Airlines, met with President Yeltsin on 23 December, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. Yeltsin instructed him to take steps to improve air safety. The meeting follows the 7 December crash in the Far East of a Tu-154 operated by Khabarovsk Airlines, which killed all 97 people on board. Preliminary investigations suggest that poor maintenance of the 20-year-old plane may have been the cause. The plane had been fitted with a new engine just two weeks before the crash. ITAR-TASS reported on 26 December that the crash of an Azerbaijani Airlines Tu-134 on 5 December, which killed 50 people, was due to the use of faulty parts in a recent engine repair. -- Peter Rutland

RUSSIA TO LAUNCH OWN DIAMOND EXCHANGE.
The head of the Russian Association of Diamond Producers, Ararat Evoyan, said Russia will launch its first exchange for uncut and polished diamonds in January, Russian agencies reported on 27 December. Russian officials had failed to reach agreement with the South African corporation De Beers for renewal of a 1990 contract that gave the latter exclusive rights to market Russian diamonds abroad. The contract was extended for one month while talks continue. Russian producers complain that De Beer's prices are too low and that they are excluded from the more profitable stone polishing work. Russia extracts nearly 25% of the world's uncut diamonds, but its shares of global diamond polishing and jewelry manufacture are only 6.7% and 0.4% respectively. -- Natalia Gurushina



ANTI-GOVERNMENT LEAFLETS DISTRIBUTED IN AZERBAIJAN.
Anti-government leaflets produced and signed by a secret union of students named after Musavat party leader Memet Emin Rasulzade were distributed in Ganja on 22 December, Turan reported. The union criticized the country's leadership for allegedly betraying national interests and accused President Heidar Aliev's son Ilham of gambling away millions of dollars while the population is on the breadline; the leaflets also criticized the political opposition for its passivity. In November, the union had distributed comparable leaflets in Ganja and Baku. -- Liz Fuller

FORMER GEORGIAN DEFENSE MINISTER ON TRIAL.
The trial of former Georgian Defense Minister Tengiz Kitovani on charges of creating an illegal military formation opened in Tbilisi on 27 December and was promptly adjourned until 9 January, Russian media reported. Kitovani was arrested in January 1995 after launching a crusade to bring the breakaway region of Abkhazia back under Tbilisi's jurisdiction. Former Georgian Prime Minister Tengiz Sigua, a co-founder with Kitovani of the National Liberation Front of Abkhazia, is not facing legal action. -- Liz Fuller

KAZAKHSTAN, ISRAEL SIGN AGREEMENTS, NAZARBAYEV MEETS ARAFAT.
Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres signed four accords on bilateral cooperation in the fields of health, agriculture, the environment, and investment protection on 27 December, AFP reported. Nazarbayev, on a three-day visit to Israel, said Kazakhstan would soon open an embassy in Israel. The Kazakhstani president also took the opportunity to meet with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in Gaza City where the two signed agreements on economic cooperation and education. Nazarbayev said he supported "the creation of an independent Palestinian state." -- Bruce Pannier

ANOTHER DECREE ON STRENGTHENING PRESIDENCY IN KAZAKHSTAN.
Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev issued a decree strengthening the powers of the president on 27 December, Kazakhstanskaya pravda reported the following day. The decree states that the president determines the basic course of domestic and foreign policies and serves as the symbol and guarantor of national unity, state power, the constitution, and citizens' rights. In addition, it allows the president to order parliamentary elections, to annul any existing law, and to demand the government's resignation. The decree also states that the same person cannot be elected president more than two times in a row. -- Bhavna Dave in Almaty

AKAYEV PROMISES CHANGES IN GOVERNMENT.
Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev told a press conference on 27 December that there would be "radical changes" in the government following his victory in the 24 December election, according to Interfax. Akayev said he would ask for international help to develop a national program for battling crime, which he singled out as the gravest problem in the country. He also said he would demand that presidential powers be broadened at the first session of the Kyrgyz parliament. Akayev dismissed speculation that he plans to purge the opposition but added that he will not give government posts to those candidates that ran against him in the election. -- Bruce Pannier



NUKE WITHDRAWAL FROM UKRAINE ON SCHEDULE.
Russian television and Interfax reported on 26 and 27 December that the removal of nuclear weapons from Ukraine is proceeding on schedule for this year. By the end of October all 46 SS-24 and 80 out of 130 SS-19 missiles in Ukraine had been scrapped. 32 of Ukraine's SS-19 missiles are being redeployed in Russia. The U.S. has been monitoring the weapons removal and has promised Ukraine $350 million towards the effort. -- Ustina Markus

GROMOV ON BLACK SEA FLEET.
The Commander of the Russian navy, Admiral Feliks Gromov, sent a message to the Black Sea Fleet command outlining Russia's position on the fleet after the transitional joint-control period between Russia and Ukraine expires on 1 January 1996, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 22 December. The message stated that no agreements on the status of Russian naval forces in Ukraine has been signed and the fleet's division has not been clearly defined. Thus, Russia will maintain its position that all facilities in Sevastopol and some infrastructure in other parts of Crimea will be used by the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Gromov also said a draft agreement on the status of the fleet had basically been agreed on which assumes that Russian fleet personnel serving on Ukrainian territory will be subject to Russian law. -- Ustina Markus

UNIONS THREATEN STRIKES IN BELARUS.
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka assured workers and trade unions that there was no reason to strike and that striking would only "speed up the fall into the economic abyss," Belapan reported on 26 December. The statement came in response to a declaration by the head of the Federation of Trade Unions, Uladzimir Hancharyk, that trade unions were preparing to organize protest actions in January. Workers in a number of enterprises throughout the country have been holding meetings demanding the immediate payment of back wages. In August, transport workers went on strike over the same issue. Lukashenka broke the strike by bringing in temporary workers and paying them several times as much as transport workers earn. The president said any new strikes would be met with "appropriate action," but did not specify what that would be. -- Ustina Markus

OLEKSY RESPONDS TO CALLS FOR HIS RESIGNATION.
Polish Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy, accused by outgoing Internal Affairs Minister Andrzej Milczanowski of spying for Moscow, rejected calls for his resignation or of taking a temporary leave, saying in a 27 December radio interview that he would keep on working. He said he will demand an explanation as to how top secret materials, unknown to him, found their way from the Internal Affairs Ministry to the media. Opposition deputies have demanded Oleksy's resignation or at least a temporary absence from office until military prosecutors and a special parliamentary committee investigate the case. New president Aleksander Kwasniewski said he was waiting for the charges against Oleksy to be dealt with by military prosecutors and courts because he did not want to influence proceedings, Polish and Western media reported on 28 December. -- Jakub Karpinski

LITHUANIAN BANKING CRISIS.
Prime Minister Adolfas Slezevicius said on 27 December that the government would present the next day to the Seimas a resolution on emergency measures for solving banking problems, ELTA reported. The measures call for an audit of the Litimpeks and Akcinis Inovacinis Banks (LAIB) by the international audit company Ernst and Young and the creation of a plan by 20 January for returning the deposits to these banks. Christian Democratic Party faction leader Ignacas Uzdavinys said that the government and the Bank of Lithuania were responsible for the banking crisis since they had had information about questionable loans for a long time, but did nothing. -- Saulius Girnius

HAVEL PARDONS CZECH UNPROFOR SOLDIER.
President Vaclav Havel has pardoned a Czech soldier who was accused of cowardice while serving with UNPROFOR in Croatia, Pravo reported on 27 December. The soldier, identified only as Marek F., allegedly handed over his weapons and pleaded with Serbian troops who surrounded his unit last March not to shoot him and his colleagues. He was charged with endangering the moral state of his unit and could have faced life imprisonment under military law. -- Steve Kettle

SETTING PRECEDENTS: ROMA IN CZECH AND INTERNATIONAL LEGAL DEBATES.
The Brno district attorney's office has appealed the district court's sentence of a 21-year-old Czech for the murder of a Romani man, the state attorney told CTK on 27 December. The district attorney disputes the Brno court's decision that the attack was not racially motivated, which would have carried a higher sentence, according to laws on racially motivated crimes adopted earlier this year, just after the Brno murder. The Czech man received a 12-year sentence, but could have received 15 if convicted of a racially motivated murder. Meanwhile, a 26 December feature in The New York Times on the Czech citizenship law and discriminatory practices towards Roma challenged the common view of the Czech Republic as a "bastion of tolerance." It said that UN officials are concerned about the precedents such policies could set for other countries preparing new citizenship laws, such as Croatia and Macedonia, although it did not mention similar discriminatory policies and practices that exist in some Western countries. -- Alaina Lemon

CZECH TRADE AND CURRENT ACCOUNT DEFICITS AGAIN RISE SHARPLY . . .
The Czech Republic in November recorded its third highest monthly current account deficit of the year, according to figures released by the Statistics Office on 27 December. The shortfall in November was 10.6 billion koruny ($398 million), compared with 12 billion koruny ($451 million) in October, the worst result so far this year. For the first 11 months of 1995, the cumulative trade deficit was 86.7 billion koruny ($3.26 billion), more than seven times higher than for the same period last year. In November, imports were 29.6% higher than in November 1994, while exports were only 10.7% higher. -- Steve Kettle

. . . WHILE SLOVAKIA RECORDS TRADE DEFICIT, CURRENT ACCOUNT SURPLUS.
Slovakia recorded a foreign trade deficit of 542 million koruny ($18.31 million) in November, but its current account for the first 11 months of 1995 remained in surplus, at 3.3 billion koruny ($111.5 million), Sme reported on 28 December. Imports in November were 22.8 billion koruny while exports were 22.3 billion koruny. -- Steve Kettle



SARAJEVO DISENGAGEMENT COMPLETED.
IFOR authorities on 27 December said that Bosnian Serb and government forces ended their withdrawal from 40 key frontline positions, two hours ahead of schedule. The VOA's Serbian Service called it "the first big test" for NATO in its efforts to supervise the disengagement of forces in line with the Dayton agreement. The BBC noted that both sides cooperated in the first stage of setting up a "zone of separation" despite the difficulties in executing such a pullback in a city. The next deadline is 19 January, when a two-kilometer zone is to be set up and demined. -- Patrick Moore

IZETBEGOVIC PROTESTS SMITH'S MESSAGE TO SERBS.
Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic formally objected to statements by NATO commander Admiral Leighton Smith that he would consider a Serb request to delay the transfer of authoriity in Serb-held Sarajevo suburbs (See OMRI Daily Digest, 27 December 1995). The VOA's Croatian Service and the BBC said that the president was disappointed that Smith would have even considered such a move. Bosnian Foreign Minister Muhamed Sacirbey set down his government's objections in talks with U.S. officials, saying that the Serbs were trying "to break the back" of the accord, the International Herald Tribune reported on 28 December. Minister for relations with NATO Hasan Muratovic told news agencies that "this is not the job of IFOR." The Bosnian authorities fear that the Serbs will use such moves to delay implementing the peace plan. Muratovic added that if Smith's forces would not carry out the transfer on time, his government would demand they be replaced with those who could, AFP reported. -- Patrick Moore

MLADIC ABUSED FRENCH PILOTS.
The French Defense Ministry on 27 December admitted that Bosnian Serb forces had mistreated the two French airmen captured at the end of August and released on 12 December, news agencies reported. The ministry thus went back on previous official statements that the men had been well treated, but it denied charges in Le Canard Enchaine that the authorities had forced the pilots to lie about what had happened. They were kicked, beaten, isolated in ice-cold bunkers, and put through mock executions. Indicted war criminal General Ratko Mladic, the pilots said, "was the boss from beginning to end. He decided what our fate would be," threatening to torture and kill them. The Serbs kicked the men's injured legs and threw them only occasional food. The revelations again fueled speculation that the French made a deal to free them, involving plea-bargaining for Mladic at the Hague war crimes tribunal or better terms for the Sarajevo Serbian suburbs. -- Patrick Moore

INTERNATIONAL RED CROSS PROTESTS LACK OF ACCESS TO PRISONERS.
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) officials warned on 27 December that all sides were violating provisions of the peace accord related to the exchange of prisoners of war, Hina reported the same day. During the recent release of 245 prisoners (See OMRI Daily Digest, 27 December 1995), both the Bosnian Serb and government forces denied the ICRC access to prisoners as set down in the Dayton agreement. The VOA's Serbian Service reported that the ICRC stated that prisoners have been released without a prior interview with Red Cross officials and that such releases amount to an expulsion. The ICRC lists 700 to 800 prisoners, but this number is not final because its officials have not had unimpeded access to all prisons and detention camps. -- Patrick Moore and Daria Sito Sucic

CROATIAN HIGH COURT RULES FOR GOVERNMENT, AGAINST COUNCILMEN.
The Constitutional Court on 27 December rejected the appeal by 45 newly-elected councilmen from opposition parties against the government's decision to annul their work in the Zagreb City and County Councils (See OMRI Daily Digest, 18 December 1995), Hina reported the same day. The Court upheld the government's case and ruled that a new constituent session should be held on 2 January. Should that fail, the government will appoint its own administrator for Zagreb and new elections will be called. Meanwhile, negotiations between the government and opposition are underway about a compromise solution, but the opposition has made clear that it will insist on holding the mayor's job, Novi list wrote on 28 December. -- Daria Sito Sucic

UPDATE ON IFOR ARRIVAL IN BOSNIA.
AFP reported on 28 December that 35,000 IFOR soldiers were deployed on the territory of former Yugoslavia, with 28,000 in Bosnia and the rest in Croatia. In spite of bad weather and the difficulties inherent in coordinating 60,000 soldiers from 32 countries, more than 50% of IFOR's scheduled personnel are in the area only a week after NATO started its biggest military operation, a NATO spokesman said on 27 December. Most of the soldiers there are British and French who had already served with UNPROFOR. Out of 20,000 Americans, only 1,400 have arrived, Nasa Borba reported on 28 December. -- Daria Sito Sucic

NASTY WEATHER HITS WESTERN BALKANS . . .
Heavy rains held up U.S. troops in building two pontoon bridges over the Sava River, while floods following a dam burst wiped out a French Foreign Legion base near Mostar. The men were evacuated by helicopter, news agencies reported. But an Italian policeman was killed in a road accident and military vehicles were washed away. The French have evacuated 600 Muslims from Mostar amid fears that another dam may burst. The Muslim authorities wanted to burst the dam as a preventive measure but local Croat officials refused. Meanwhile, widespread flooding cut off villages and forced about 2,000 people to evacuate their homes in northern Albania, Reuters reported on 27 December. At least 5,000 hectares of land were submerged and hundreds of houses have been destroyed. High water is also threatening two hydropower stations on the Drin River. -- Patrick Moore and Fabian Schmidt

. . . AND ROMANIA.
Several people were killed and hundreds of people were forced to leave their homes by heavy floods that hit Romania this week, Radio Bucharest reported on 26-27 December. Particularly affected are the eastern, the northern, and northwestern parts of the country. Rompres reported that the floods cut off telephone lines, water and power supplies, and disrupted traffic in several counties. A government press release said 1,369 dwellings had been flooded, six bridges were destroyed, and numerous roads closed. -- Michael Shafir

POLL SHOWS ILIESCU WINNING IN 1996.
A poll conducted by the Romanian Institute for Public Opinion Surveying shows 67% of Romanians are of the opinion that incumbent President Ion Iliescu will win the presidential election scheduled for autumn 1996. Romanian television reported on 26 December that 57% believe Iliescu's party, the Party of Social Democracy in Romania, will win the parliamentary elections to be held at the same time. The report did not specify what proportion of respondents mentioned the Democratic Convention of Romania or its candidate, Emil Constantinescu, as likely to win the parliamentary and the presidential elections, respectively. -- Michael Shafir

TRANSDNIESTRIAN ELECTIONS AND REACTIONS.
According to data from Infotag on 27 December, the results of the referendum that was held concomitantly with parliamentary elections in the breakaway region of Transdniester are slightly different from those reported the previous day. The constitution was approved by 82.7% of the voters and 89.7% were in favor of joining the CIS. Voter participation was 62.4%. Moldovan President Mircea Snegur said the sole objectives of the vote were to strengthen Tiraspol's position concerning independence and undermine negotiations with Chisinau. He also attacked parliament chairman Petru Lucinschi for publicly backing forces in the Transdniester that favor the region's re-integration with Moldova instead of denouncing the unconstitutionality of the exercise. Presidential adviser Victor Josu told journalists in Chisinau that the presence, allegedly as observers, of Russian Duma deputies in the Transdniester had been a "gross violation of international law" and an "interference in the internal affairs of the Republic of Moldova." On the other hand, Oleg Mirnov, who headed the Duma delegation, spoke in the Tiraspol parliament, praising the elections and stating that the referendum has shown the population's "enthusiasm and wish for integration, first and foremost with Russia." -- Michael Shafir

MOLDOVA, UKRAINE SIGN MILITARY COOPERATION AGREEMENTS.
Visiting Ukrainian Defense Minister Valerii Shmarov and his Moldovan counterpart Pavel Creanga signed in Chisinau on 27 December a number of agreements on cooperation between their ministries. The first such agreements had been signed in 1993 and since then ties had been successfully developing. Shmarov said the proximity of the Transdniester region to his country's borders makes Ukraine particularly interested in a peaceful settlement of the conflict. Though Ukraine could "theoretically" deploy peacekeeping units, it would prefer the conflict to be settled by "political means, without military interference." Smarov said that considering "the recent history of the former Russian 14th Army," the "current Russian contingent in Transdniester cannot receive the status of a peacekeeping force." Such a force could be provided by "other military units, maybe even an international force that included CIS participation." Creanga said granting peacekeeping status to the Russian contingent would lead to a violation of the 1992 agreement between Moscow and Chisinau. -- Michael Shafir

UDF BOYCOTTS BULGARIAN ASSEMBLY AS BNB SUCCESSION DISCUSSED.
Trud on 27 December reported that the Governor of the Bulgarian National Bank, Todor Valchev, has submitted his resignation for the third time. Deputies from the opposition Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) on 22 December boycotted an extraordinary parliamentary session at which the ruling socialists intended to approve his successor, Demokratsiya reported on 23 December. The UDF motivated its action, which deprived the parliament of a quorum, by noting that before voting on a successor, parliament must pass amendments to the law on the BNB and ratify Valchev's resignation. The BSP proposes replacing Valchev, whose term is up in January, with Atanas Paparizov, a deputy minister in the last communist regime, party member, and internationally respected economist (see OMRI Daily Digest, 18 December 1995). In other news, Bulgarian media on 22 December reported that Bulgarian Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski and his Greek counterpart Karolos Papoulias signed agreements opening three new border checkpoints between the two countries and on mutual rights over the Mesta river. -- Michael Wyzan and Stan Markotich

PROSECUTOR DEMANDS TWO YEARS PRISON IN ALBANIAN PRINTING MACHINE SCANDAL.
Tirana prosecutor Shkelqin Danaj demanded a two-year prison sentence for former Zeri I Popullit editor in chief Perparim Xhixha, Gazeta Shqiptare reported on 27 December. Xhixha is accused of misappropriating $400,000 that were given to the daily in 1991 to buy a printing machine in Canada, which never materialized. Xhixha's lawyers argued that there is not enough evidence against him. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]


Compiled by Victor Gomez and Pete Baumgartner





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