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Newsline - January 8, 1996


KOZYREV CALLS IT QUITS.
Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev submitted his resignation to President Boris Yeltsin on 5 January, Russian and Western agencies reported. Subsequently, presidential press secretary Sergei Medvedev announced that Yeltsin had accepted the resignation but emphasized that it would not precipitate any major changes in Russian foreign policy. Ostensibly, Kozyrev resigned to take the Duma seat he won in a Murmansk single-member constituency (see OMRI Daily Digest, 28 December 1995). However, Kozyrev had registered to run for the seat in October, shortly after Yeltsin publicly suggested that he might sack him; winning the seat gave Kozyrev a face-saving way to leave office, while allowing Yeltsin to jettison his unpopular foreign minister. No replacement for Kozyrev has yet been announced, but frequently mentioned candidates include Duma International Affairs Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin, First Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, and presidential foreign policy aide Dmitrii Ryurikov. -- Scott Parrish

REACTION TO KOZYREV'S RESIGNATION.
Predictably, foreign observers expressed disappointment at Kozyrev's departure, while Russian politicians and commentators warmly greeted the resignation of the highly unpopular foreign minister, Russian and Western agencies reported. U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher and his German and Ukrainian counterparts, Klaus Kinkel and Henadii Udovenko, expressed regret at Kozyrev's departure. Kinkel emphasized that Kozyrev had understood the importance of close ties with the West. Duma International Affairs Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin, a long-time critic of Kozyrev, described the resignation as "the right move," but politically long overdue, noting that he had been calling for Kozyrev's removal since 1992. Kozyrev's departure is unlikely to trigger a significant shift in Russian policy. Kozyrev himself had long ceased to be as pro-Western as his opponents claimed and had been marginalized in the Russian foreign policy process for several months. -- Scott Parrish

YELTSIN LEANING TOWARDS RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT.
Although President Boris Yeltsin has repeatedly said that he will not decide whether to run for a second term until February, his intensive schedule of public appearances since returning to the Kremlin on 29 December strongly suggest that he will seek re-election, according to an NTV political commentary on 7 January. At a 5 January Kremlin holiday ceremony, Yeltsin said he is thinking "more and more" about whether to run for a second term. NTV suggested that Yeltsin has already made up his mind to run again, but now simply needs to make the decision appear "natural." In order to keep himself in the political limelight, Yeltsin also issued a decree on 5 January setting 23 January as the date for the first meeting of the new Federation Council, adding that he will personally open the session. -- Scott Parrish

YELTSIN ATTENDS CHRISTMAS SERVICE AT NEW CATHEDRAL.
President Yeltsin, Patriarch Aleksii II of Moscow and All Russia, and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov participated in a ceremony to mark Orthodox Christmas at the newly rebuilt Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Central Moscow on 7 January, Russian and Western agencies reported. Yeltsin helped Aleksii lay the final brick of the cathedral's outside walls, the construction of which began a year ago. Yeltsin hailed the rapid reconstruction of the church, which was first completed in 1883 but razed by Stalin in 1931, as proof of Russia's greatness, saying "This shows that Russia is alive, that the Russian spirit is alive." In what sounded like a campaign speech, Yeltsin declared: "The time of crisis has passed, stability and improvement are ahead." -- Penny Morvant

CHERNOMYRDIN MEETS WITH ZYUGANOV, ZHIRINOVSKY.
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin discussed a "wide range" of political and economic issues with Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov on 6 January, but Zyuganov said the question of Communist participation in the cabinet was not raised, Russian and Western media reported. Chernomyrdin's spokesman said the prime minister met with Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky on 5 January, but released no further details. -- Laura Belin

YUSHENKOV: DEMOCRATS WILL NOT FORM DUMA FACTION.
Sergei Yushenkov, leader of the nine Duma deputies from Russia's Democratic Choice, acknowledged on 5 January that his attempts to form a "centrist democratic" faction of pro-reform deputies had failed, NTV reported. Last week, Yushenkov said he had recruited 22 out of the 35 deputies required to form an officially registered faction, but he admitted defeat following the defection of four members, including Forward, Russia! leader Boris Fedorov. -- Laura Belin

NINETEEN CANDIDATES TURN DOWN DUMA SEATS.
According to the Central Electoral Commission, 19 candidates elected to the Duma from party lists chose to keep their old jobs rather than serve in parliament, Russian TV reported on 5 January. At least six candidates from Our Home Is Russia (NDR), including the top three, turned down their Duma seats, although Minister without portfolio Nikolai Travkin and Vladimir Zorin, deputy head of the federal administration in Chechnya, did quit their posts to join the NDR Duma faction. Six candidates out of 50 from the Liberal Democratic Party also declined to serve, but only two out of the 99 Communist Party candidates and one out of Yabloko's 31 party-list deputies turned down their seats, NTV reported on 7 January. -- Laura Belin

PAPER CRITICIZES POLITICIANS WHO GAVE UP DUMA SEATS.
"Many of those who call themselves politicians in our country have not yet grasped the seriousness of their work," according to a 6 January commentary in the military newspaper Krasnaya zvezda. The author of the article wrote that by appearing on party lists, the would-be deputies promised voters that they would apply their talents in parliament, but it turns out "they simply deceived their admirers." The article did not specifically mention Lt. Gen. Lev Rokhlin, who gave up his number three position for Our Home Is Russia in order to continue to serve in the army. -- Laura Belin

GROUP SAYS PRESS FREEDOM "LARGELY FLOUTED" IN CHECHNYA.
According to Oleg Panfilov of the Glasnost Defense Foundation, press freedom has been "largely flouted" in Chechnya since the war began in December 1994, AFP reported on 7 January. He said the foundation had documented 267 cases in which journalists were wounded, beaten, arrested, or had film or videotapes confiscated. -- Laura Belin

RUTSKOI TO BRING CHARGES OVER CORRUPTION CASE.
Former Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi has asked Procurator-General Yurii Skuratov to institute criminal proceedings for forgery and abuse of office against former members of the anti-corruption commission that accused Rutskoi of misappropriating state funds in 1993, Interfax reported on 3 January, citing "well-informed" sources. The charges against Rutskoi were finally dropped in December due to "the absence of a crime" (see OMRI Daily Digest, 14 December 1995). But the agency quoted Rutskoi as saying that the case cannot be closed as long as "the people who forged documents" to discredit him as a politician remain unpunished. -- Penny Morvant

SUPREME COURT SAYS ELECTIONS IN MOSCOW OBLAST VALID.
The Supreme Court rejected Moscow Oblast Duma Deputy Chairman Valerii Galchenko's appeal to have the second round of the oblast's gubernatorial elections declared invalid (see OMRI Daily Digest, 5 January 1996), NTV reported on 6 January. Galchenko said he was going to challenge the court's decision. Governor Anatolii Tyazhlov, who was re-elected on the ticket of Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's Our Home Is Russia (NDR) bloc, said at his inauguration ceremony that he had won the election fairly, Russian TV reported. In his congratulatory telegram to the governor, President Yeltsin said the elections had once again confirmed the respect and authority that Tyazhlov enjoys among the people of the region. -- Anna Paretskaya

FEDERATION COUNCIL VOTES FOR KALININGRAD ECONOMIC ZONE.
The Federation Council endorsed a bill on creating a special economic zone in the Kaliningrad Oblast, Russian media reported on 5 January. The establishment of the free economic zone is aimed at encouraging capital investment, foreign trade, and business enterprise in the region. The zone covers all of the oblast, except army bases and compounds, defense plants, and oil and gas facilities, Interfax reported. -- Anna Paretskaya

RUSSIAN DIPLOMAT EXPELLED FROM SWITZERLAND ON INTELLIGENCE CHARGES.
Swiss authorities confirmed on 7 January earlier local media reports that a Russian diplomat had been expelled from Switzerland on 21 December for "illegal information gathering," ITAR-TASS reported. An official from the Swiss Department of Justice and Police said the diplomat, who he refused to name, was accused of conducting intelligence activities in Switzerland. -- Constantine Dmitriev

ECONOMICS MINISTER TO BE DISMISSED?
On 6 January, Ekho Moskvy reported that President Yeltsin was about to dismiss Economics Minister Yevgenii Yasin, but Yeltsin's chief of staff, Sergei Filatov, denied it the next day. The first reports of an impending purge of the ministry surfaced two weeks ago (see OMRI Daily Digest, 29 December 1995). The focus of Yeltsin's wrath was the ministry's failure to release a 150 billion ruble ($33 million) credit for the Krasnoyarsk harvester plant. Speaking on NTV on 7 January, Yasin defended his position, explaining that the government froze all industrial subsidies in August 1995. He added that "the rumors of my dismissal are exaggerated." It is unlikely that Yeltsin would dismiss Yasin as a concession to the Communist bloc in the new Duma. Contrary to many Western reports, Yasin is not a reformer from the Chubais camp. He is a centrist figure close to conservative industrialists. In related news, Yeltsin's chief adviser on economic issues, the 47-year-old Aleksandr Livshits, was hospitalized with heart trouble on 4 January. -- Peter Rutland

COST OF LIVING DATA.
The cost of the basic monthly consumer basket of 19 essential goods rose 130% during 1995 and stood at 235,000 rubles ($52) by the end of December, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 January, citing the State Statistics Committee. The basket ranged from 508,000 rubles in Yakutsk and 300,000 in Murmansk to 132,000 in Ulyanovsk. In Moscow it cost 277,000 rubles. Among the steepest price rises last year were utilities (400%) and urban mass transit (220%). -- Peter Rutland

CORRUPTION IN BRYANSK.
A control commission from the Finance Ministry found "serious violations" in the work of the Bryansk Oblast Privatization Committee, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 January. As a result, the head of the committee, Sergei Kozlov, was suspended by the oblast governor, who has asked the national State Privatization Committee to fire him. The investigation documents have been passed to the Procurator's Office. -- Peter Rutland



DIVISION AMONG TAJIK OPPOSITION.
The Rastakhiz movement, outlawed in Tajikistan since the end of 1992, gave a statement to ITAR-TASS on 5 January saying the movement "fully recognizes" the constitution, president, and the measures underway "to strengthen the republic's independence and implement democratic reforms." The move comes as a blow to the United Tajik Opposition (UTO), which has already been criticized by another opposition party, the Democratic Party of Tajikistan (DPT). The DPT, also on 5 January, repeated its dissatisfaction with its role in the ongoing inter-Tajik talks. A DPT spokesman, Azam Afzali, criticized the Islamic Renaissance Party's dominant role at the peace talks, saying the negotiations will not yield "the desired results" without the DPT's participation, according to ITAR-TASS. The DPT suffered a split in its ranks in late May when its former leader, Shodman Yusuf, returned to Tajikistan and announced his support for the government. He was then voted out of the party by the membership in exile. -- Bruce Pannier

KARIMOV RECEIVES BRITISH FOREIGN MINISTER.
Malcolm Rifkind concluded a two-day visit to Uzbekistan on 6 January which was well-received in the Uzbek press, Russian and Western sources report. Rifkind met with his counterpart, Abdulaziz Kamilov, as well as President Islam Karimov. Of particular importance were agreements on business cooperation, water purification assistance for the Aral Sea region, and strategies to combat the increasing drug trade in Central Asia. In addition, Rifkind declared his support for the proposed UN-based peacekeeping force that would include units from Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, and he called the British and Uzbek position on the Tajik and Afghan crises to be "practically identical." -- Roger Kangas



UKRAINE TO SUBMIT DRAFT AGREEMENT ON BORDERS.
Interfax and Radio Mayak on 6 January reported that Ukraine plans to submit a draft agreement on its borders at the 12 January meeting of CIS foreign ministers. Deputy Foreign Minister Kostyantyn Hryshchenko said Ukraine finds it "inadmissible" to divide its borders into "internal" and "external" ones. He rejected arguments that this stance would impede integration within the CIS. Russia and the Council of Commanders of CIS Border Guards reportedly oppose Ukraine's position, but Hryshchenko said a number of other CIS states support it. -- Ustina Markus

BANKING PROBLEMS IN BELARUS.
Belarusian Radio on 5 January reported that the Prosecutor-General's Office will begin criminal proceedings against executives at the Belarusian Savings Bank following an investigation that found widespread irregularities in their financial dealings. The Ministry of Finance reportedly loaned the Savings Bank $25 million to be used to index people's savings to inflation. Instead, the money was deposited in bank accounts abroad and used to offer credit to commercial establishments. Meanwhile, Interfax and Radio Mayak on 6 January reported that President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has ordered an investigation into gold coins minted in the U.S. for the Savings Bank. The coins were found to be faulty; and the National Bank of Belarus has refused to recognize the coins as legal tender. -- Ustina Markus

ESTONIA TO PURCHASE RADARS FROM FRANCE.
The Estonian government on 4 January announced it will take out a 108 million kroon ($9.4 million) loan to buy early-warning radar systems from Thomson CSF of France, ETA reported the next day. The radars will be located on the Russian border and will be capable of tracking ground, airborne, and sea targets. Most of the loan will come from the French Banque Paribas, with the remainder being supplied by the Japanese financial corporation Marubein. -- Saulius Girnius

EBRD TO INVEST IN LATVIA'S UNIBANKA.
Latvian Privatization Agency Director-General Janis Naglis has said the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development on 5 January agreed to invest 4.5 million lati ($8.1 million) in Unibanka in late March or early April, BNS reported. The investment will raise the bank's capital to 16 million lati. Sweden's Swedfund and Estonia's Tallinna Pank are also likely to purchase shares in Unibanka. -- Saulius Girnius

LITHUANIAN FOREIGN, DEFENSE MINISTERS RESIGN.
Foreign Minister Povilas Gylys and Defense Minister Linas Linkevicius on 5 January handed in letters of resignation to President Algirdas Brazauskas saying they could not continue to work in the administration of Prime Minister Adolfas Slezevicius, Radio Lithuania reported. They were evidently displeased with Slezevicius's decision to remain in office even after he had admitted to removing his savings from the Lithuanian Joint-Stock Innovative Bank two days before its activities were suspended. Linkevicius said he would remain in the Democratic Labor Party (of which Slezevicius is chairman) because there were "many people in the party who were genuinely decent." Brazauskas said he would announce shortly whether he would accept the resignations. -- Saulius Girnius

NEW POLISH DEFENSE MINISTER APPOINTED.
Stanislaw Dobrzanski, a 46-year-old historian from the Polish Peasant Party, on 5 January was appointed defense minister, Polish dailies reported. Dobrzanski was a member of the former communist-allied Peasant Youth Association. More recently, he was secretary of the Defense Committee in Jozef Oleksy's government. Following his appointment, Dobrzanski said "the key to NATO lies in Poland" but added that Poland's legal system "needs to be adjusted, beginning with the constitution." He also stressed the need to adjust defense legislation to ensure full civilian control over the military, a condition for NATO membership. -- Jakub Karpinski

UPDATE ON OLEKSY AFFAIR.
Sejm Speaker Jozef Zych on 5 January appealed to politicians and the media to stop "passing judgment" on Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy's alleged spy activities. Zych met the same day with Internal Affairs Minister Jerzy Konieczny, chief military prosecutor Gen. Ryszard Michalowski, head of the Sejm commission investigating the Oleksy affair Lucyna Pietrzyk, and head of the Sejm Administration and Internal Affairs Commission Zbigniew Bujak. -- Jakub Karpinski

CZECH PREMIER ON GULF TOUR.
Vaclav Klaus began a tour of Gulf states on 6 January to promote Czech trade in the area and seek investment, Czech and international media reported. In Abu Dhabi, Klaus met with the deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, Sheik Sultan ibn Zayed al-Nahayan. Klaus said the Czech Republic could take advantage of the UAE's position as a re-export center to further contacts with countries such as Pakistan and India, Pravo reported on 8 January. He also discussed with Sheikh Sultan the possibility of the Czech Republic buying oil from the UAE and told local businessmen it was time to invest in the Czech Republic. Trade between the two countries amounted to only $15.5 million in the first 10 months of 1995. Klaus is also scheduled to visit Dubai and Kuwait. -- Steve Kettle

SLOVAK COALITION PARTY REVEALS PRIORITIES FOR 1996.
Slovak National Party (SNS) deputy Vitazoslav Moric told a press conference on 5 January that the party will continue to block Slovakia's entry into NATO, TASR and Slovak Radio reported. Responding to recent statements by representatives of the ethnic Hungarian Coexistence movement on establishing territorial autonomy in Slovakia, Moric said he would not be opposed "if that territory included Jager, Miskovec, half of Budapest, and Balaton [all located in Hungary], as Slovak territories." SNS deputy chairperson Anna Malikova, noting that the SNS wants to intensify contacts with parties abroad with a similar orientation, said a meeting will be prepared between SNS chairman Jan Slota and Austrian Freedom Party chairman Jorg Haider. -- Sharon Fisher

HUNGARY CONCERNED ABOUT PROTECTION OF BOSNIAN TECHNICAL CONTINGENT.
Following a five-hour debate, the parliament's Defense Committee on 7 January approved reports by Defense Minister Gyorgy Keleti and Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs on preparations for the 400-strong Hungarian technical contingent's deployment and on IFOR's guarantees for the contingent's protection, Hungarian media reported. Some opposition deputies claimed that Keleti misled the parliament when he said NATO guarantees were accomplished facts; they pointed out that he had no written agreement to that effect. Kovacs said the British Embassy last week confirmed on behalf of its government that British armed forces will provide protection for the Hungarian contingent in the British zone. He added that the Hungarian unit will undertake its mission in Bosnia only if IFOR signs an agreement guaranteeing its protection. The opposition want a special parliamentary session to be convened to debate the issue further. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

LEFTISTS DEMAND DISMISSAL OF HUNGARIAN FINANCE MINISTER.
The leftist caucus of the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) on 6 January demanded that Finance Minister Lajos Bokros and MSZP Vice President Laszlo Mate be dismissed from both the party and the government, Hungarian media reported. Some leftists argued that unless significant personnel changes are made at the MSZP's March congress, the party will lose the 1998 general elections. Csaba Hamori, a former secretary-general of the Communist Youth League, was elected to the leadership of the caucus. Divisions within the senior coalition party have been growing since the announcement of radical austerity measures last March. -- Zsofia Szilagyi



IFOR UNDER CONSTANT ATTACK IN BOSNIA.
Reuters on 8 January reported that NATO officials have become increasingly worried about the security of their troops after a series of firing incidents. An Italian soldier was shot near Sarajevo last week. British troops on 5 January were attacked by Bosnian Serbs near Sanski Most. A French plane on 7 January was hit by bullets near Sarajevo airport; and British troops were attacked again in central Bosnia next day. An IFOR spokesman in Sarajevo said the attacks did not cause serious damage or injury and that fire had been returned in most cases, Hina reported on 7 January. In another development, Lt.-Gen. Michael Walker, who is in charge of IFOR land forces, warned that NATO troops in Bosnia lack the manpower to ensure the free movement of civilians across ethnic front lines, Reuters said. He was responding to charges by the Bosnian government that NATO has not fulfilled its duty to ensure the safe passage of civilians under the Dayton peace accord. -- Daria Sito Sucic

BOSNIAN SERBS LAUNCH PUBLICITY CAMPAIGN.
Bosnian Serb Vice President Nikola Koljevic appeared on Greek TV on 7 January to launch a new publicity drive, the BBC reported. It appears to be part of the campaign to promote Serbian interests by political means, which Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic first announced after the Dayton agreement was signed. The latest installment involves a fundraising effort to transport 15,000 Serbian schoolchildren from the Sarajevo suburbs to stay with relatives in Bosnian Serb territory, in Serbia, or in Greece. Koljevic said the Bosnian Serb authorities wanted the children to spend the rest of the school year away from Sarajevo because of the current "period of uncertainty." Meanwhile in Kragujevac, Bosnian Serb Prime Minister, Rajko Kasagic, told a radio audience that he is "determined" to apply the Dayton accords. He suggested that the treaty was necessary in order to free Serbia from the sanctions. -- Patrick Moore

WILL INTERNATIONAL POLICE DEAL WITH ISLAMIC FIGHTERS?
The slowness in setting up the international police force for Bosnia is having repercussions in Podbrijezje, near Zenica, AFP noted on 5 January. The area witnessed sharp fighting during the Croatian-Muslim war of 1993, and now Turkish peacekeepers keep a sometimes difficult truce. One problem is the presence of the Islamic fighters, who must leave under the terms of the Dayton agreement. In departing the Croatian village, they are now carting off everything they can. Local Croats fear that many will come back, since they are not foreigners who are obliged to leave but rather Bosnian young men who became Islamic warriors in the course of the conflict. -- Patrick Moore

BOSNIAN FACTIONS AGREE ON SETTING UP MILITARY LIAISONS.
The parties to the OSCE-sponsored talks on confidence-building measures in Vienna agreed on 5 January to set up military liaisons at each other's military headquarters within 10 days, international agencies reported. The Muslim-Croatian federation and the Bosnian Serbs also provided preliminary military data on the number and location of certain weapons and factory sites but failed to agree on the type of weapons and military units that would be subject to inspection. Meanwhile, at the talks on arms control in Vienna, the parties agreed to provide complete data on their armed forces and weapons when they reconvene on 16 January. -- Michael Mihalka

GERMAN INTERIOR MINISTERS DECIDE TO RETURN BOSNIAN REFUGEES.
The Conference of German Interior Ministers on 6 January decided to return refugees from Bosnia by mid-1996, AFP reported the following day. German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel is expected to discuss the issue in talks with Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic, Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic, and Foreign Minister Muhamed Sacirbey in Sarajevo on 8 January. Some 320,000 refugees would be affected by the decision, which has been strongly protested by the German opposition and refugee organizations. -- Fabian Schmidt

SERBIA'S DEMOCRATIC PARTY SUPPORTS SARAJEVO'S SERBIAN COMMUNITY.
Serbia's nationalist opposition Democratic Party on 7 January issued an appeal to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and federal rump Yugoslav authorities to press diplomatically for demands made by the Serbian community in Sarajevo's suburbs, BETA reported. The appeal said that if the president and federal authorities do not [help] create the conditions for the Serbs of Sarajevo to safeguard their local autonomy and safety, more than 100,000 people will flee Sarajevo. Last week, BETA reported that the DS plans to establish a branch in the Republic of Srpska. A convention is slated for the end of January, when a party leadership and platform are to be approved. -- Stan Markotich

KOSOVAR CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATS REJECT AUTONOMY COMPROMISE.
Mark Krasniqi, head of the Kosovar Christian Democratic Party, has rejected the idea of autonomy for Kosovo, Nasa Borba reported on 8 January. Krasniqi pointed out that "the Albanian people will not accept autonomy since they called for an independent and neutral Kosovo" in the recent referendum. Krasniqi also demanded that Kosovo be demilitarized and made a UN protectorate. The Christian Democrats received 3.1% of the vote in 1992 illegal shadow-state parliamentary elections and seven mandates in the 125-seat parliament. Albanian President Sali Berisha recently called for a compromise solution to the issue of Kosovar independence. -- Fabian Schmidt

MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT MAKES FIRST PUBLIC APPEARANCE SINCE ATTACK.
Kiro Gligorov on 7 January made his first public appearance since the attempt on his life on 3 October 1995, Nova Makedonija reported the next day. He attended an Orthodox Christmas mass in Skopje. In an interview with Nova Makedonija on 22 December 1995, Gligorov announced he would resume his duties at the beginning of 1996. -- Stefan Krause

PROTESTS OVER MISTREATMENT OF MOLDOVAN JOURNALISTS.
International journalists' organizations, including the Paris-based Reporteres sans Frontieres and the Committee for Freedom of the Press, have protested the alleged mistreatment of two Moldovan journalists by local policemen, BASA-press reported on 4 and 6 January. The two reporters, a married couple, were tortured for two hours by four men wearing police uniforms and were told they would be killed if they continued to write about police officers involved in a racketeering ring. The couple works for Mesagerul, a publication of the opposition Party of Democratic Forces in Moldova. Moldovan Interior Minister Constantin Antoci launched an inquiry into the incident, which reportedly took place at the end of December. -- Dan Ionescu

MOLDOVAN, RUSSIAN EXPERTS DISCUSS WITHDRAWAL SCHEDULE.
Russian and Moldovan military experts have met in Chisinau to discuss the implementation of the 1994 withdrawal treaty, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 January. Lt. Gen. Valerii Yevnevich, commander of the Russian troops stationed in the Transdniestr region, said the Russian and Moldovan delegations agreed that some military equipment would begin to be withdrawn in late January. He added that the question of the full withdrawal of Russian troops could be resolved only by the Russian government. -- Constantine Dmitriev

NEW WAVE OF MASS PRIVATIZATION STARTS IN BULGARIA.
The latest Bulgarian mass privatization program is scheduled to get under way on 8 January, AFP reported. Vouchers for the sale of shares in 1,063 companies with a total official value of 80.47 billion leva ($1.12 billion) will be sold at post offices throughout the country. Bulgaria's 6.7 million adult citizens can each buy vouchers totaling 25,000 leva ($348) for a registration fee of 500 leva ($7). The vouchers can be used at auctions starting in June 1996. Bulgarians living abroad cannot participate, but foreigners can take part through investment funds provided they are registered as a financial institution and have engaged in similar activities at home for at least five years. Another wave of mass privatization has been announced for 1997. -- Stefan Krause

SEVEN DIE AS BRIDGE COLLAPSES IN BULGARIA.
The collapse of a pedestrian bridge in the southeastern Bulgarian town of Elhovo on 6 January claimed at least seven lives, Reuters reported. Around 80 people--mostly women and children--were watching the traditional Saint Jordan celebrations from the bridge when it gave way, hurling them into a river. Two persons were still missing when the search for survivors was called off late on 7 January; nine people were receiving hospital treatment. President Zhelyu Zhelev, parliamentary chairman Blagovest Sendov, and Interior Minister Lyubomir Nachev visited Elhovo the same day the accident occurred. Nachev said Sofia had asked Turkey to help in the search for survivors. -- Stefan Krause

U.S. SPECIALISTS COMPLETE ALBANIAN RADAR STATION.
U.S. army specialists have completed the construction of a radar station in Dobrinje, in the northern Albanian district of Tropoja, Gazeta Shqiptare reported on 6 January. The Albanian army will be given control over the station, which can monitor air traffic over most of Europe. Meanwhile, Tirana airport is concerned about safety because of the large number of daily flights and the poor state of the runway. A Transportation Ministry official noted that the German company Siemens won the contract to reconstruct the airport in 1993 but the Berliner Bank has not yet approved a loan because it is waiting for further guarantees from the Albanian company Albtransport or the Albanian government, Koha Jone reported the same day. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave




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