CHECHEN REBELS SEIZE HOSTAGES IN DAGESTAN.
Chechen rebels led
by a son-in-law of President Dzhokhar Dudaev occupied a hospital and maternity
home in the town of Kizlyar in Dagestan in the early morning of 9 January,
ITAR-TASS and Western agencies reported. The rebels took up to 1,000 people
hostage and demanded the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya, ITAR-TASS
reported. A fierce exchange of fire was reported between the Chechen contingent
and several hundred Russian troops who surrounded the buildings; at least five
civilians, two police officers, and five Chechen militants were reported to
have been killed. -- Liz Fuller
YELTSIN BLASTS SECURITY MINISTRIES.
Following a 9 January meeting with
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and other high-ranking officials to discuss
the situation in Kizlyar, President Boris Yeltsin sharply criticized the
leaders of Russia's security ministries for failing to prevent the attack by
pro-Dudaev fighters. "How can we understand you generals?" said Yeltsin. "The
lessons which should have been learned by the security services were apparently
not sufficient," he added, in an obvious reference to last June's Budennovsk
events, when Chechen fighters also seized a hospital and hundreds of hostages.
"The Border Guards were sleeping," Yeltsin noted, pointing out that he had
previously ordered the administrative boundary between Chechnya and Dagestan
sealed against incursions. -- Scott Parrish
FEDERATION COUNCIL APPARATUS MISAPPROPRIATED FUNDS.
An audit of the
Federation Council apparatus requested by the Council itself found that during
1994 and the first half of 1995, 700 million rubles ($152,000) in budgetary
funds were misappropriated, Radio Rossii reported on 8 January. For instance,
bureaucrats spent 82 million rubles ($18,000) on sportswear, 90 million rubles
($19,500) on holiday gifts, and 15 million rubles ($3300) on wine and vodka for
trips abroad. -- Laura Belin
DEMOCRATIC RUSSIA MAY NOMINATE STAROVOITOVA FOR PRESIDENT.
Democratic Russia withdrew from the party-list ballot and threw its support
behind Yabloko for the Duma elections, but the movement appears unwilling to
endorse Grigorii Yavlinskii for the presidency. Andrei Frolov, a Democratic
Russia representative, told Interfax on 7 January that "all democratic forces"
in Russia should unite behind one presidential candidate. But he added that
Democratic Russia may yet nominate its own candidate, most likely co-leader
Galina Starovoitova, who was elected to the Duma from a St. Petersburg
single-member district. Democratic Russia helped form the Russia's Choice
movement in 1993 but split with Yegor Gaidar the following year. -- Laura
MORE CALLS FOR UNITY AMONG DEMOCRATS.
Dmitrii Kataev, a member of
Democratic Russia's federal council, wrote in the 5 January issue of
Kuranty that democratic parties must move beyond discussions and round
tables and form a "single organization." He said this organization should
include members of various parties and seek compromise positions on issues but
should then enforce party discipline to support the positions agreed upon.
Kataev said such an organization should be built from below, starting with
local and regional branches of democratic parties. However, he admitted that
unity is easier to support in principle than in practice. At Democratic
Russia's April 1995 congress, delegates voted nearly unanimously to form a
united democratic bloc, but only half as many voted to join Yavlinskii's party
and half that number voted to unite with Gaidar. -- Laura Belin
GAIDAR: YABLOKO AND OUR HOME IS RUSSIA SHOULD COOPERATE.
In a 5 January
interview with Nezavisimaya gazeta, Russia's Democratic Choice leader
Yegor Gaidar said reconciliation between his party and Yabloko is no longer the
"main question of democracy in Russia." He added that "however humiliating it
may be for us," the main question now is a rapprochement between Yabloko and
Our Home Is Russia (NDR). Gaidar said his party will try to persuade Yabloko
and NDR to agree on a common presidential candidate in the first round of
elections, so as not to leave Russians with a choice between Gennadii Zyuganov
and Vladimir Zhirinovsky in the runoff. He added, "Let Yabloko, which received
fewer votes, and NDR, which received more votes, agree on whom they should
nominate." Gaidar has already said he will not run for president in 1996. --
KALMYKIYA CREATES OIL AND GAS MINISTRY.
Kalmykiyan President Kirsan
Ilumzhinov has issued a decree creating a Gas and Oil Production Ministry in
the republic, Interfax reported on 4 January. Under the decree, the ministry is
to carry out land surveys and develop the republic's hydrocarbon resources. The
ministry will also be responsible for implementing a $22 million project to
build an oil refinery in the Kalmykiyan capital Elista. The refinery has been
under negotiation with a number of foreign countries since August last year.
Currently, Kalmykiya ships all its crude to neighboring regions for processing
in return for manufactured goods. -- Anna Paretskaya
RUSSIA URGES IRAQ TO ACCEPT UN OFFER.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister
Viktor Posuvalyuk, currently on a tour of the Middle East, urged Iraq to accept
the terms of UN Security Council Resolution 986, Russian and Western agencies
reported on 8 January. Under the resolution, Iraq can sell a limited amount of
oil under UN supervision in order to purchase food and medicine. Iraq has
rejected the resolution as an infringement on its sovereignty. On 5 January,
the UN Security Council again extended its trade embargo against Iraq, imposed
after the 1990 invasion of Kuwait, citing Iraqi failure to cooperate with UN
disarmament inspectors. -- Scott Parrish
MORE RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPERS TO EAST SLAVONIA?
According to sources at the
UN, Russia may be asked to boost the number of its peacekeepers in Eastern
Western agencies reported on 8 January. The UN will soon
formally establish a new mission of some 5,000 peacekeepers in the
Serb-dominated area of Croatia, which is to gradually revert to Croatian
control under a 12 November agreement. Russia currently has about 950
peacekeepers serving in Eastern Slavonia under a previous UN mandate and could
be asked to double that number for the new force. Meanwhile, ITAR-TASS reported
that the lead elements of the Russian brigade participating in the Bosnian
peace implementation force (IFOR) will arrive in Bosnia on 11 or 12 January.
How Russia will pay for its participation in these peacekeeping operations,
however, remains unresolved, as Russian media have repeatedly pointed out. --
RUSSO-NORWEGIAN FISHING DISPUTE.
Russian fishermen are angered by
restrictions recently placed on the amount of herring Russian trawlers can
catch in Norwegian territorial waters, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 9
January. The Norwegian government's restrictions allow the country's own
fishermen to catch 705,000 tons of herring annually, while Russia will be
restricted to only 1/6 that amount. The Russian State Committee for Fisheries
plans to protest the Norwegian regulations, saying they are a violation of
earlier Russo-Norwegian agreements and unfair because the herring spawn in
Russian waters but then migrate to Norwegian territory after they mature. ORT
attributed the restrictions to purely financial motives, since herring sells
for $500/ton on the world market. -- Scott Parrish
HEALTH MINISTER DENIES EMBRYO EXPERIMENTS.
Health Minister Aleksandr
Tsaregorodtsev denied on 8 January a television report claiming that aborted
embryos are sold to foreign doctors in Moscow for use in developing a drug to
treat Down's Syndrome, Russian media reported. The report, based on an
investigation by Germany's Spiegel-TV and shown on NTV's "Itogi" on 7 January,
claimed that more than 1,000 women went to a Moscow maternity center to have
late-term abortions, signing documents giving doctors rights over the dead
embryos, and that the drug used in the operations is banned in Germany.
Tsaregorodtsev, who was ordered by the prime minister conduct an urgent
investigation into the allegations, rejected the report, asserting that
abortions in Russia are carried out within 21 weeks of conception. He also
denied that footage showing abortions of almost fully formed embryos was shot
in a Moscow clinic and said that the drug allegedly used in the abortions is
not registered in Russia. -- Penny Morvant
AUTHORITIES IN BASHKORTOSTAN COVER UP SCALE OF OIL SPILL.
A leak from an
oil pipeline running along the Belaya River in Bashkortostan that has
contaminated the drinking water of dozens of villages near the capital Ufa is
far larger than was initially reported, Bashkortostan's environment minister,
Rustem Khamitov, said on 6 January. The authorities had initially maintained
that the spill, which occurred on 27 December, involved only 100-150 tons of
crude oil, but they now admit that thousands of tons of oil may have been lost.
As of 8 January clean-up workers had recovered more than 560 tons of oil mixed
with water and absorbents, and a higher than normal concentration of oil has
been found downstream in neighboring Tatarstan. Authorities in Bashkortostan
claim they were deliberately misled by the company that runs the pipeline. --
KIVELIDI REPORTEDLY KILLED BY CHEMICAL DEVELOPED FOR RUSSIAN MILITARY.
Ivan Kivelidi, the late chairman of Rosbiznesbank and the Russian Business
Roundtable, was poisoned by a chemical developed for the Russian military,
according to an 8 January Interfax report citing a source close to the Moscow
procurator. Kivelidi died in hospital on 4 August 1995 from heavy-metal
poisoning; his secretary, who displayed similar symptoms, also died (see
OMRI Daily Digest, 7 August 1995). A member of the Board of
Rosbiznesbank was detained in connection with the investigation in October but
released a month later without charges being brought. Most contract killings in
Russia remain unsolved. -- Penny Morvant
EARTHQUAKE HITS SAKHALIN.
An earthquake measuring 6.1 on the Richter
scale shook northern Sakhalin on the night of 8-9 January rendering 14
apartment blocks uninhabitable, ITAR-TASS reported. There were no casualties
and no serious damage to oil or gas pipelines. The epicenter of the quake was
close to Neftegorsk, the oil town destroyed by a major quake last May that
killed more than 1,800 people. Another minor quake was registered on 9 January
near the Kuril Island of Urup. -- Penny Morvant
INVESTMENT BOOM UNLIKELY IN 1996.
In a debate on Radio Rossii on 8
January, presidential adviser Aleksandr Livshits, seemingly recovered from his
recent heart trouble, said the reduction in inflation may cause interest rates
to fall from their current level of 100% per year, which would lead to a
revival of domestic investment. Domestic investment has fallen to about 25% of
its 1990 level. However, the prospects for an inflow of foreign investment look
dim. Economist Pavel Bunich said there is little chance that Yeltsin will sign
a bill on production sharing which was passed by parliament, because of the
Duma's amendments limiting privileges for foreign investors. On 7 January,
First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais said on Radio Mayak that "the
world reaction to the Duma elections has been strong, maybe too strong," which
will unfortunately scare off foreign investors. -- Peter Rutland
KARIMOV AND NIYAZOV AGREE TO MEET.
After months of disagreements and
canceled meetings, Uzbek President Islam Karimov and Turkmen President
Saparmurad Niyazov have finally agreed to meet in the Turkmen city of
Chardzhou. According to Radio Mayak on 5 January, the leaders will meet on 16
January to discuss the problem of water conservation and management in the Amu
Darya River, as well as the potential development of oil and gas reserves on
the right bank of the river, which defines part of the Uzbek-Turkmen border. --
REBELS OR DRUG-RUNNERS?
On 7 January, Russian border troops killed four
armed men out of a group of 15 who attempted to cross into Tajikistan from
Afghanistan near Pyanj, while the rest fled back across the border, Russian and
Western media reported. Although NTV reported that the group were rebels who
had crossed to commit sabotage and terrorism, another band that was repelled in
the same area by Russian forces on 6 January left behind 70 kg of narcotics
valued at 300 million rubles (about $650,000). Meanwhile, in an area near
Kalai-Khumb Russian troops detained two men and confiscated 8 kg of narcotics
on 7 January. The recent incidents suggest that this latest outbreak of
violence along the border is likely the result of the drug trade rather than
intensified rebel activity. -- Bruce Pannier
IMF CONDITIONS FOR MORE AID TO GEORGIA.
The IMF has put forward several
conditions for the continuation of financial aid to Georgia, Interfax reported
on 8 January. According to the office of the Georgian Minister of State, the
IMF requires that the budget be approved in January and that laws be adopted on
commercial banks and the buying and selling of land. The initial draft
predicted a budget deficit equal to 28% of GDP. -- Irakli Tsereteli
NEW BELARUSIAN PARLIAMENT CONVENES.
The new Belarusian parliament is
scheduled to meet for the first time on 9 January, Belarusian Radio reported
the previous day. The top item on its agenda is the election of a new speaker.
Candidates for the post include former Prime Minister Vyachelsau Kebich, who is
supported by the Accord faction; Syamon Shapetsky, is backed by the Agrarian
Party; and former Foreign Minister Piotr Krauchanka, who is the candidate of
the Social-Democratic bloc. -- Ustina Markus
DANISH DEFENSE MINISTER IN ESTONIA.
Hans Haekkerup on 6 January
discussed with President Lennart Meri cooperation within the framework of the
Partnership for Peace program and training of Estonian personnel in Denmark.
Following meetings on 8 January with Prime Minister Tiit Vahi, parliamentary
chairman Toomas Savi, and Defense Minister Andrus Oovel, Haekkeup said the
Estonian defense forces had developed quickly in an exemplary manner. He also
stressed that Estonia must join NATO, ETA reported. Oovel noted that defense
cooperation with Denmark was increasing. -- Saulius Girnius
TIGHTER LATVIAN BUDGET.
Finance Minister Aivars Kreituss told reporters
on 8 January that the 1996 budget deficit should not exceed 60 million lati
($111 million), BNS and LETA reported. He noted that the budget will have no
funds for the redemption of certificates issued by previous government as
compensation for property taken over by the state. Nor will it compensate
depositors in bankrupt banks or pay out 5 million lati in subsidies owed to
farmers. The Finance Ministry hopes to end the special budgets of various
ministries that spent 70-80 million lati last year without presenting accounts
either to it or the Saeima. Kreituss on 5 January accused the previous cabinet
of uncontrolled spending in the last two months of 1995, which, he said, had
raised the budget deficit from 40 million lati to 92 million lati. -- Saulius
BANK OF LITHUANIA CHAIRMAN RESIGNS.
Kazys Ratkevicius on 8 January
announced he has submitted his resignation to President Algirdas Brazauskas,
Radio Lithuania reported. Ratkevicius noted that the Democratic Labor Party
caucus's decision the previous day to support his ouster was a strictly
political move, since no charges of irregular economic activity have been
brought against him. Also on 8 January, Brazauskas said after a meeting with
Foreign Minister Povilas Gylys and Defense Minister Linas Linkevicius that he
would not accepting their resignations; the two ministers will remain in
office. A further blow to the credibility of the government is the revelation
that Prime Minister Adolfas Slezevicius and Interior Minister Romasis
Vaitekunas were receiving more than 30% interest on savings accounts in the
recently suspended Joint-Stock Innovative Bank. -- Saulius Girnius
POLISH PRESIDENT LIFTS VETO ON NATIONAL DEFENSE LAW.
Aleksander Kwasniewski on 8 January withdrew his predecessor Lech Walesa's veto
on national defense legislation, which places the chief of staff and secret
service under the direct control of the civilian defense minister. Kwasniewski,
following a visit to the General Staff headquarters, said he is planning to
strengthen parliamentary control over the armed forces. He was accompanied on
his visit by newly appointed Defense Minister Stanislaw Dobrzanski, Polish
dailies reported on 9 January. -- Jakub Karpinski
WALESA TO RESUME WORK AT GDANSK SHIPYARD?
The former president is
considering taking up his old job at the Gdansk shipyard, Polish media reported
on 8-9 January. His wife has confirmed the reports. Walesa had worked at the
shipyard as an electrician since 1966 before becoming involved in politics
full-time in April 1989. Rzeczpospolita on 9 January noted that former
presidents have no particular rights, except to be accompanied by bodyguards
and to accept medical treatment in the government hospital. -- Jakub
CZECH REPUBLIC, KUWAIT SIGN INVESTMENT PROTECTION ACCORD.
Republic and Kuwait on 8 January signed a mutual investment protection treaty
during a two-day visit to the Gulf state by Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus,
Czech and international media reported. Klaus told a press conference that
Kuwait is also preparing to provide finance for the planned reconstruction of a
railway corridor across the Czech Republic from its border with Poland to
Austria. No further details were released. Klaus, who was accompanied by 25
Czech industrialists, also met with Kuwait's ruler, Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmed
al-Sabah, and other officials for talks on potential Kuwaiti investment in the
Czech Republic. -- Steve Kettle
SLOVAKIA'S RULING COALITION TO EXPAND?
There is growing speculation
among Slovak media that the anticipated leadership change at the April congress
of the opposition Party of the Democratic Left (SDL) may mean the party will
join the coalition government. SDL chairman Peter Weiss, who is opposed to the
coalition's political line, has said he will not run again. Head of the SDL
shadow government Juraj Hrasko, in an interview with Narodna obroda on 9
January, noted that the party's republican council in November 1994 rejected
joining the coalition because of the latter's "confrontational style of
governing," including attempts to dismiss the president and massive purges.
According to Hrasko, the decision on whether the coalition will be expanded is
in the hands of the ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, rather than the
SDL. "A correct political and program agreement" approved by both parties would
be required for the SDL's entry into the coalition, Hrasko noted. -- Sharon
OSCE OFFICIAL IN SLOVAKIA.
OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities
Max van der Stoel began a three-day visit to Slovakia on 8 January to examine
the situation of the country's Hungarian minority, Praca reported.
Topics of discussion include the ratification of the Slovak-Hungarian treaty;
Slovakia's state language law, passed in November; preparations for a law on
minority languages; "alternative" (bilingual) education; state subsidies for
minority culture, and Slovakia's plans for territorial administration. With
regard to territorial autonomy for minorities, Deputy Premier Katarina Tothova
told Van der Stoel that Slovakia will follow the guidelines of the Framework
agreement, which does not guarantee such rights. -- Sharon Fisher
HUNGARIAN LOCALS COMPLAIN ABOUT IFOR TROOPS.
Several members of the town
council of the southern Hungarian town of Kaposvar have complained about
traffic jams caused by IFOR units, increasing air pollution, and damage to
local roads, Nepszabadsag reported on 9 January. At the same time, the
daily noted, the arrival of IFOR troops has boosted the economy of both
Kaposvar and nearby Taszar, where the main air base is located. The paper also
said that numerous IFOR soldiers have been taken ill and are now in quarantine.
Both U.S. and Hungarian health experts denied that the troops have contracted
measles, saying the soldiers picked up some kind of influenza virus on their
way to Hungary. Hospital sources say that laboratory results in the second half
of the week will reveal the nature of the ailment. -- Zsofia Szilagyi
FORMER HUNGARIAN PREMIER DIES.
Karoly Grosz, a former prime minister and
the last secretary-general of the Hungarian Communist Party, died on 7 January
after a long illness, Hungarian media reported on 9 January. A government
statement described Grosz, who was 65, as an "ambivalent but major political
personality in the era of transformation" who strove to launch reforms.
Magyar Nemzet, assessing his role in the reform process, remarked
that Grosz only went so far as to give a cautious "yes" to the reform of the
system. Grosz was prime minister from June 1987 to November 1988. -- Zsofia
UN SECURITY COUNCIL SLAMS CROATIA.
The top UN body on 8
January passed a resolution calling on Zagreb to cease human rights abuses in
Krajina and work to remedy the situation, Hina reported. "The Security Council
strongly condemns the violations of international humanitarian law and human
rights . . . including killings of several hundreds of civilians, systematic
and widespread looting and arson, and other forms of destruction of property."
The resolution also accused Croatia of blocking the return of refugees, not
bringing guilty parties to justice, not handing over indicted war criminals,
and discriminating against remaining Serbian civilians. It called on Zagreb to
restore Serbian property rights and provide humanitarian aid for stranded
Serbian villagers. The Council asked the secretary-general to prepare a report
on Croatia's compliance by 15 February. -- Patrick Moore
IS UN RESOLUTION AIMED AT EASTERN SLAVONIA?
The BBC on 9 January called
the UN resolution on Croatia (see "Top Story") the organization's toughest
condemnation of that country to date. The broadcast suggested that the council
is under no illusions about any early or massive return of Krajina Serbs but is
seeking rather to reassure the Serbs of eastern Slavonia, who are slated under
a 12 November agreement to return to Croatian control within two years. AFP
reported that Russia may be asked to help beef up the international military
contingent in eastern Slavonia from fewer than 1,700 to some 5,000 troops as
part of a general upgrading of the UN force in the region. There appears to be
general concern in the international community that any problems in eastern
Slavonia could adversely affect implementation of the Dayton agreement in
Bosnia. Croatia has repeatedly warned that it reserves the right to retake the
territory by force if the Serbs do not respect the current agreement. --
SUSAK BACKS DAYTON DEADLINES.
EU administrator Hans Koschnick said in
Mostar on 8 January that Croatian and Muslim officials now seem anxious to
implement the Dayton agreement. "Both sides, importantly, have managed to calm
the situation down. As far as I'm concerned things seem to be getting better,"
he told Reuters. U.S. trouble-shooter Robert Gallucci said in Zagreb, however,
that he was unhappy with current progress on the implementation of the peace
treaty. But Croatian Defense Minister Gojko Susak, who is probably the most
powerful of the Herzegovinian Croats, weighed in solidly on behalf of the
Muslim-Croatian federation: "We have to go on with the federation. If we want
the federation, if we want to stick with the Dayton agreement which has certain
deadlines, then we have to have a much more active approach." AFP reported on 9
January that EU police officials in Mostar are nonetheless doubtful that a
joint force can be set up by the 20 January deadline. -- Patrick Moore
MITTERRAND GETS COLD SHOULDER FROM BOSNIAN GOVERNMENT.
Sarajevans may fondly recall late French President Francois Mitterrand, who
died in Paris on 8 January aged 79, for his daring if brief visit to their
besieged city; but those sentiments are not necessarily shared by the mainly
Muslim authorities. The BBC on 9 January quoted Vice President Ejup Ganic as
saying that Bosnia has no reason to remember him. This presumably reflects the
view widely held in Bosnia and Croatia that Mitterrand was pro-Serbian and
sought to restore a united Yugoslavia as his ultimate goal. President Alija
Izetbegovic told OMRI in Prague in October that he found little sympathy or
understanding in Paris during the Mitterrand presidency but that things
improved dramatically following the election of Jacques Chirac. -- Patrick
MILOSEVIC SENDS "BEST WISHES" TO BOSNIAN SERBS.
Nasa Borba, citing
Tanjug, on 9 January reported that Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic sent
the Bosnian Serbs his official greetings on the occasion of the "national day"
of the Republika Srpska. Milosevic observed that this was the first such
holiday commemorated "in peace," and he added that it is his hope that the
Bosnian Serbs can look forward "to a successful economic and cultural
recovery." -- Stan Markotich
HOLBROOKE ASKS MILOSEVIC TO ALLOW U.S. REPRESENTATION IN KOSOVO.
Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke told VOA on 8 January that he
has held talks with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and that the U.S. is
seeking permission to establish an official presence in Pristina. The
representation will probably be a United States Information Agency office,
Holbrooke said. He added that it might open "in the very near future" and will
help reduce tensions in the region. Holbrooke stressed that the U.S. was not
supporting the Kosovar Albanians' demand for independence. But he pointed out
that "the oppression of the people there by the Serbs has been extremely bad."
-- Fabian Schmidt
SLOVENIA TO OPEN NEW EMBASSIES?
Nasa Borba on 9 January reported
that the Slovenian Foreign Ministry has announced it will open new embassies in
Turkey, South Africa, Portugal, India, Slovakia, Denmark, and the rump
Yugoslavia. But Ljubljana noted that these plans will have to take into account
budgetary and other constraints. Slovenia currently has embassies in 28
nations. It was the first republic of the former Yugoslavia to recognize
Belgrade (see OMRI Daily Digest, 1 December 1995). -- Stan Markotich
ROMANIAN ROM TO RUN IN PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS.
Ion Cioaba on 7 January
announced he will run in the 1996 Romanian parliamentary elections, Reuters
reported. The international and domestic media treat Cioaba, who declared
himself "king of all Gypsies" in 1992, as something of a joke and typically
focus on his Cadillac motorcades and other signs of opulence. Reuters writes
that "he is not generally recognized by anyone beyond his family or people keen
to do business with him." However, the agency noted that "his critics,
including rival Gypsy leaders, say the ruling left-wing Party of Social
Democracy in Romania uses him as a puppet in order to garner the substantial
Gypsy vote." There are an estimated 2 million Roma in Romania. -- Alaina
UNIDENTIFIED VIRUS KILLS BABIES IN ROMANIA.
Six newborn babies died and
12 others were in critical condition owing to a unidentified virus at a
maternity clinic in eastern Romania, Romanian and international media reported
on 8 January. Rompres quoted doctors as saying the infants died from vomiting,
irregular heartbeat, and asphyxiation. The Health Ministry has set up a special
panel to investigate the mysterious deaths, sent expectant mothers to other
hospitals, and shut down the clinic. Romania's infant mortality rate of 21.2
per 1,000 births in 1995 was one of the highest in Europe. -- Matyas Szabo
ASSOCIATION FOR FREEDOM OF SPEECH FORMED IN BULGARIA.
Slovo (Free Speech) officially constituted itself in Sofia on 8 January,
Pari reported the following day. Around 100 journalists, translators,
and sociologists adopted the forum's statutes and elected its administrative
bodies. Former Bulgarian National Radio journalist Yasen Boyadzhiev was elected
chairman of the organization. Svobodno Slovo defines itself as
politically independent and committed to the defense of freedom of speech. The
founding of Svobodno Slovo comes in the wake of ongoing quarrels within
BNR. Dissenting journalists accused BNR's management of political censorship,
while BNR Director-General Vecheslav Tunev responded by dismissing seven of the
journalists who made the accusations (see OMRI Daily Digest, 27 November
and 19 December 1995). -- Stefan Krause
DID BULGARIAN DEPUTY PREMIER RESIGN?
Pari on 9 January cited
unnamed sources within the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party as saying that
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Trade Kiril Tsochev handed in his
resignation and has been on leave since New Year. The resignation will be
announced during a cabinet reshuffle in February, the sources said. Pari
adds that Tsochev will take the blame for the ongoing grain shortage and leave
the cabinet along with Interior Minister Lyubomir Nachev. While 24 chasa
carried a similar report, both dailies noted that other ministers denied any
knowledge of Tsochev's resignation. -- Stefan Krause
ALBANIAN COURT ORDERS ARREST OF FORMER COMMUNIST OFFICIALS.
Municipal Court, following a request by the Prosecutor-General's Office, has
ordered the arrest of former Deputy Interior Minister Hysen Shahu and former
Deputy Director of the state security Sigurimi Sulejman Abazi. Both
officials held office from 1980-1990 and are accused of mass imprisonments in
violation of communist-era laws and the constitution, ATSH reported on 8
January. The two officials are included on a list of 36 people accused by the
Forum of Albanian Intellectuals of crimes against humanity. -- Fabian Schmidt
GREEK OPPOSITION FILES NO CONFIDENCE MOTION.
The conservative New
Democracy party on 8 January submitted a no confidence motion against the
government of ailing Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou, Reuters reported the
same day. Leading ND members said the move was necessary because Greece has
been "a rudderless ship" since Papandreou was admitted to the hospital on 20
November 1995. They urged the ruling Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) to
nominate a new premier and accused Papandreou of plunging Greece into political
uncertainty by not resigning. The ND is supported by the small Political Spring
party, but together they hold only 119 mandates in the 300-seat parliament. --
[As of 1200 CET]
Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave