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Newsline - January 25, 1996


CHECHENS RELEASE HOSTAGES.
Chechen militants handed over some 46 hostages seized in Kizlyar and Pervomaiskoe to Dagestani officials in the Chechen village of Novogroznenskaya on 24 January in return for the bodies of 42 Chechens killed during the Pervomaiskoe fighting, Russian media reported. Negotiations on the release of 29 Russian power plant workers abducted on 16 January are continuing. Also on 24 January, Chechen guerrilla leader Shamil Basaev threatened to renew hostilities unless the Russian 506th regiment is withdrawn from its present position in Vedeno Raion, according to NTV. -- Liz Fuller

YELTSIN ORDERS AID TO CHECHNYA.
President Yeltsin ordered the spending of 16.2 trillion rubles ($3.5 billion) and up to $1 billion in 1996 to rebuild the social and economic infrastructure of Chechnya, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 24 January. The spending would come on top of the agreed 1996 budget. Duma Budget Committee Chairman Mikhail Zadornov called the move "a terrible economic and political mistake," saying the investment program for the entire country is only 27 trillion rubles, Ekho Moskvy reported. Presidential economic adviser Aleksandr Livshits remarked that it is better to stop the destruction of buildings before starting to reconstruct them. -- Robert Orttung

PRESIDENTIAL COUNCIL LOSES ANOTHER MEMBER.
Academician Sergei Alekseev resigned from the consultative Presidential Council and the presidential Human Rights Commission on 24 January in protest of the war in Chechnya, one day after human rights advocate Sergei Kovalev did the same, Russian media reported. Izvestiya commentator Otto Latsis and Russia's Democratic Choice leader Yegor Gaidar also have quit the 28-member council in recent days. Presidential adviser Georgii Satarov criticized those who resigned for "leaving the ship in a very difficult situation," NTV reported. -- Laura Belin

SOSKOVETS TO CLARIFY WORK OF PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN HQ.
First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets, the head of the new presidential campaign headquarters, has agreed to answer questions about its work in the State Duma on 31 January, Russian media reported on 24 January. Soskovets insists that the headquarters is not President Yeltsin's personal campaign committee, since the president has not decided whether he will run for re-election. Also on 24 January, the Central Electoral Commission (TsIK) agreed to examine the legal status of the new campaign headquarters, NTV reported. TsIK Chairman Nikolai Ryabov has said that only the TsIK is authorized to organize and supervise the June presidential elections. -- Laura Belin

SOSKOVETS OUTLINES NEW COURSE.
Addressing a meeting of industrial leaders on 24 January, First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets promised a "speedy financial restructuring" to address social questions, Russian media reported. "Today there cannot be any opponents of reform," Soskovets said, while condemning efforts to transplant foreign models of the market economy onto "Russian soil." The meeting brought together the heads of 28 financial-industrial groups uniting 4,500 firms. On 25 January, ITAR-TASS reported that Aleksandr Kazakov was appointed as the new head of the State Privatization Committee and as deputy prime minister. He was formerly the head of the department for territorial administration in the presidential apparatus. These developments appear to confirm that the conservative Soskovets will be filling the gap left by the departure of Anatolii Chubais. -- Peter Rutland

METAL INDUSTRY DIRECTORS BACK YELTSIN.
At a meeting of the Russian Metallurgy Committee on 24 January, the directors of 10 large steel and aluminum plants formed an initiative group to nominate Boris Yeltsin for president, Rossiiskaya gazeta reported the next day. However, metalworker trade union representatives refused to support the proposal and walked out of the meeting. Three candidates backed by the metalworkers' union were elected to the Duma on the Yabloko ticket. -- Peter Rutland

FEDERATION COUNCIL WITHDRAWS CONSTITUTIONAL COURT SUIT.
The Federation Council voted on 24 January to withdraw its request that the Constitutional Court determine whether the method of forming the Council was constitutional, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. The previous Federation Council had filed the request on 9 December 1995. Some members of the old Council, who had been elected in December 1993 and did not necessarily hold local offices, objected to filling the Council ex officio with the executive and legislative heads of each of Russia's republics and regions. The Council also elected four deputy speakers, representing the four major regions of Russia: the Volga, Central Russia, Siberia, and the North Caucasus. -- Robert Orttung

TRANSFER OF PARATROOPS STIRS CONTROVERSY.
The State Duma, spurred on by ex-paratrooper Aleksandr Lebed, has appealed to President Yeltsin to overrule the Defense Ministry's recent decision to subordinate several elite Airborne Assault units to various military district commands, Ekho Moskvy reported on 23 January. General Mikhail Kolesnikov, the chief of staff explained that the four separate brigades would be transferred to the jurisdiction of the North Caucasus, Siberian, Transbaykal, and Far Eastern Military Districts. Two of Russia's five airborne divisions would also be subordinated to military districts rather than Moscow: the 76th to the Leningrad MD and the 7th to the North Caucasus MD. The three remaining divisions would stay as part of the strategic reserve. The move marks a significant step away from the highly-vaunted program to form Mobile Forces which were to be built around the airborne troops. -- Doug Clarke

CHRISTOPHER DECLINES PRIMAKOV INVITATION.
U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher has declined an invitation from his recently appointed Russian counterpart, Yevgenii Primakov, to visit Moscow for talks, Russian and Western agencies reported on 24 January. Citing Christopher's heavy travel schedule, the State Department expressed a preference for "a very brief meeting" with Primakov "in a third country." Christopher's decision hints at Washington's displeasure with recent actions by President Yeltsin, including the dismissal of several prominent liberals from his cabinet and the assault on Pervomaiskoe. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin is scheduled to visit Washington on 29-30 January. -- Scott Parrish

PRIMAKOV ON REGIONS AND FOREIGN POLICY.
In a meeting with representatives of Russia's 89 constituent regions, Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov suggested he will tighten central control over their foreign ties, Russian media reported on 24 January. Primakov was addressing a session of the ministry's Consultative Council of Russian Federation Subjects on International and Foreign Economic Relations, which was formed in December 1994. The council was ineffective under former Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, but Primakov hopes to use it to limit international freelancing by regional elites, which sometimes contradicts federal government policy. -- Scott Parrish

ESTONIAN-RUSSIAN BORDER TALKS RESUME.
The latest round in the long-running Estonian-Russian border talks will open in Tallinn on 25 January, ITAR-TASS reported. The previous round ended on 21 December without reaching agreement (see OMRI Daily Digest, 22 December 1995). The main stumbling block in the talks concerns the status of the 1920 Tartu Treaty, which Estonia argues is still valid, while Russia refuses to recognize it. Accepting the boundaries specified in the treaty would mean transferring about 2,000 sq km of territory currently under Russian control to Estonia. However, Estonian diplomats say they want Russia to recognize as valid only those clauses of the treaty that recognize Estonian independence, not those demarcating the border, and insist that Estonia has no territorial claims on Russia. -- Scott Parrish

DUMA SEEKS INCREASE IN MINIMUM WAGE AND PENSION.
On 23 January, the Duma adopted on first reading bills raising the minimum wage and minimum pension from 63,250 rubles ($14) a month to 75,900 rubles ($17) as of 1 February, Russian media reported. The bill, sponsored by Duma Labor and Social Policy Committee Chairman Sergei Kalashnikov (LDPR), was severely criticized by Budget Committee Chairman Mikhail Zadornov (Yabloko), who described it as a populist measure that would only result in a new round of payments arrears. Kalashnikov admitted that the adoption of the bills contravened parliamentary procedure, which requires that such bills first be screened by the government and Pension Fund, but argued that the government is legally obliged to index these payments every three months, and the last indexation occurred on 1 November, Izvestiya reported on 25 January. -- Penny Morvant

MINERS PICKET RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT BUILDING.
Up to 1,000 miners began a three-day picket of the Russian government building in Moscow on 24 January to demand the payment of wage arrears and more support for the coal industry, Russian media reported. In an attempt to avert industrial action, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin had met with representatives of the Coal Industry Workers' Union on 23 January. According to Izvestiya on 25 January, Chernomyrdin ordered the Economics Ministry to pay the miners 400 billion rubles ($88 million) owed from 1995 and promised that $500 million in World Bank loans would be invested in socioeconomic programs for coal regions. The miners are still considering whether to call a national strike on 1 February. -- Penny Morvant

GOVERNMENT OFFERS PARTIAL TAX HOLIDAY.
President Yeltsin has signed a decree (no. 65) launching a new scheme to tackle the problem of tax arrears, Izvestiya reported on 25 January. Firms currently owe the federal government about 30 trillion rubles ($6.5 billion)--almost one third of the total taxes due in 1995. Under the new plan, devised by Anatolii Chubais before he left office, firms that meet their current tax payments on time will be allowed to reschedule their outstanding tax debt over two years. Critics argue that the plan gives too much discretion to tax inspectors and the regional governors who supervise their work. Many firms are not in a position to pay current taxes, and probably will not be eligible for the plan. Tax arrears are penalized by fines of 0.7% per day (20% per month). -- Peter Rutland

NEW CHAIRMAN FOR SBERBANK.
On 23 January, shareholders in Sberbank (Savings Bank), Russia's largest bank, elected 37-year-old Andrei Kazmin as its new chairman, Russian media reported the same day. Kazmin was formerly a Deputy Finance Minister. According to Kommersant-daily, Central Bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin wants to assert stronger control over Sberbank. The Central Bank owns 51% of Sberbank shares: no other owner holds more than 1%. Sberbank has been criticized for advancing credits to state enterprises at interest rates below the rate of inflation. -- Natalia Gurushina



AZERBAIJANI POPULAR FRONT MEMBERS SENTENCED.
Twenty-one members of the Nakhichevan branch of the opposition Azerbaijani Popular Front who were arrested in August 1994 have been sentenced to a total of 208 years of imprisonment on charges of creating illegal armed formations, illegal possession of arms, and violence against members of the police, Turan reported on 24 January. Defense lawyers plan to appeal the verdict in a higher court. -- Liz Fuller

KINKEL IN TBILISI.
On a one-day visit to Georgia on 25 January, German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said his country will provide an additional DM 20 million in aid to Georgia, mainly to support the energy sector, Western agencies reported. Kinkel said the aid is an acknowledgment of Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze's role in bringing about German unification during his stint as Soviet foreign minister. He further pledged support for Georgia's territorial integrity but declined to mediate in the ongoing conflicts between the central government in Tbilisi and the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetiya. -- Liz Fuller

IRAN UPSET WITH TAJIK STATEMENT.
Iran has rejected the Tajik government's accusations on 22 January that it is responsible, along with Pakistan and Afghanistan, for helping to train guerrillas "to terrorize the people of Tajikistan," Reuters reported. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mahmoud Mohammadi deplored Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov's allegation that Iran is "teaching terrorist acts," according to the Iranian daily paper Salam on 24 January. Rakhmonov's comments came in response to the murder of Mufti Fatkhullo Sharifzoda on 21 January. -- Bruce Pannier



POLISH PRIME MINISTER RESIGNS.
Jozef Oleksy, who is facing a military investigation concerning his alleged spy activities, said on 24 January that he will resign from his post and fight to clear his name. Oleksy, who has held office since March 1995, claimed he had only social contacts with Vladimir Alganov, who proved to be a top Soviet spy in Poland. "I never betrayed Poland," said Oleksy, accusing former President Lech Walesa's supporters of misusing the secret services in order to regain power. After accepting Oleksy's resignation, Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski has 14 days to nominate a new prime minister, who has to be approved by the Sejm. -- Jakub Karpinski

INQUIRY LAUNCHED INTO POLISH PRIME MINISTER SPY ALLEGATIONS.
The Warsaw military prosecutor's office on 24 January launched an investigation into Jozef Oleksy's alleged spy activities. The inquiry, which is also directed against former Soviet and Russian diplomats Vladimir Alganov and Grigory Yakimishin, follows a motion put forward by former Interior Minister Andrzej Milczanowski on 19 December 1995 which was leaked to the media that same day (see OMRI Daily Digest 20 December 1995). The prosecutor's office stated that materials provided by the Interior Ministry have been "operational" (collected by the counterintelligence officers) and have to be verified through formal penal law procedures, Polish and international agencies reported. -- Jakub Karpinski

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT VOWS TO SPEED UP PRIVATIZATION.
Leonid Kuchma told a meeting of top ministers and regional governors that privatization will accelerate in 1996 through the issuance of new decrees expanding the number of enterprises available and improving conditions for foreign investors, Ukrainian radio and Interfax-Ukraine reported 24 January. Poor results of last year's scheme prompted the IMF last week to delay issuance of the fourth tranche of a standby loan, worth $350 million. On 23 January a presidential aide told reporters that Kiev had managed to privatize only 60% of small-scale enterprises and 40% of some 8,000 large-scale firms slated for privatization last year. State Property Fund Chairman Yurii Yekhanurov said his agency plans to complete small-scale privatization by June and its large-scale privatization program by December. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

UKRAINE TO PROVIDE PEACEKEEPERS IN BOSNIA.
Deputy Foreign Minister Volodymyr Khandozy announced on 24 January that the 550 Ukrainian soldiers currently in Bosnia will stay and take part in the IFOR peace implementation mission, Reuters reported. He also disclosed that UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali invited Ukraine to send an additional force to eastern Slavonia. -- Doug Clarke

BELARUSIAN KGB OPENS CONFIDENTIAL PHONE LINE.
In a move reminiscent of the Stalin-era, the Belarusian KGB announced it has opened a confidential phone line for people to call-in and report any information they have on crimes, Reuters reported on 24 January. Colonel Yauhen Babrau, who helps run the phone service, denied that it is meant to recreate an informant network as had existed in the former Soviet Union. News of the phone service comes just a week after the head of the President's Control Service, Uladzimir Bandarenka, gave an interview in which he said that 3,200 individuals had gone to the control service with their grievances against people engaged in unfair economic practices last year, and announced the control service's telephone numbers in all of the country's main cities for people to call in. -- Ustina Markus

RUSSIAN-UKRAINIAN OIL TALKS SUSPENDED.
Failing to reach any agreement over Ukraine's decision to raise its transit fee for Russian oil, Russia's Mintopenergo and Ukraine's Ukrhazprom broke off talks until 2 February, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 January. Russia insists that the tariff increase was a unilateral move on Ukraine's part, and such hikes should only be done through agreement at the highest levels of government. For its part, Ukraine is displeased with Russia's efforts to tie the cost of transit to the cost of Russian oil supplies to Ukraine. Yevhen Dovzhok, who heads Ukrhazprom, said Russia's approach was "more than inappropriate." Meanwhile, Russia has stopped supplying Ukraine's Drohobych oil refinery with oil, in a move which is interpreted in Ukraine as a pressure tactic to force Ukraine to rescind the new tariff. -- Ustina Markus

ESTONIAN PRIME MINISTER IN BELGIUM.
Tiit Vahi began a four day visit to Belgium on 23 January, holding meetings with European Commission President Jacques Santer and other EU officials. Vahi noted that Estonia's economy was making progress, which should help it be among the first countries to begin negotiations on EU membership. In talks the next day with NATO Secretary General Javier Solana, Vahi said Russian extremists pose a threat to his country's security and called on NATO to admit the Baltic states as members. Later that day, he signed an investment protection agreement with Belgian Deputy Premier Philippe Maystadt and met with his Belgian counterpart, Jean Luc Dehaene, BNS reported. -- Saulius Girnius

LITHUANIAN PRIME MINISTER ASKED TO RESIGN.
President Algirdas Brazauskas has asked Adolfas Slezevicius to resign, Radio Lithuania reported on 24 January. If Slezevicius does not do so, Brazauskas will allegedly ask the Seimas to remove him from office. Slezevicius told Lithuanian radio later that day that talk of his resignation was premature. Meanwhile, the prosecutor general's office announced it had begun criminal proceedings related to the exorbitant interest paid to the prime minister's account at LAIB bank. Formal charges cannot be brought against Slezevicius without approval from the Seimas. -- Saulius Girnius

SLOVAK SUPREME COURT CHAIRMAN RESIGNS.
The Slovak government on 24 January approved the resignation of Karol Plank, replacing him with Milan Karabin, who was recommended for the post by Justice Minister Jozef Liscak. Karabin, who since 1989 has served as chairman of the Supreme Court's Senate, has worked as a judge for 22 years. Plank told TASR "the motivation for my decision is nothing else but a need to free myself from the demanding work and to make way for younger people." However, Democratic Union deputy chairman Jan Budaj expressed fear that Plank resigned under pressure. In November, the Supreme Court reversed a controversial decision by the Finance Ministry to cancel the license of the investment firm PSIS. Also on 24 January, the cabinet approved a bill allowing for the establishment of supplementary retirement insurance, Narodna obroda reported. -- Sharon Fisher

HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON RELATIONS WITH SLOVAKIA.
According to Laszlo Kovacs, the status of the ethnic-Hungarian minority in Slovakia could improve in the future, due to expanding bilateral Slovak-Hungarian trade relations, Hungarian media reported. Speaking in the west Hungarian town of Gyor, near the Slovak border, Kovacs said it is regrettable that moves like the passing of Slovakia's language law offer a chance to curb minority rights. He said the government believes the problem can be solved by providing accurate information to the EU, the OSCE, the European Parliament and other international organizations. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

HUNGARY AND NATO SIGN IFOR AGREEMENT.
NATO Secretary General Javier Solana and Hungarian delegate to NATO Andras Simonyi signed an agreement in Brussels on 24 January regulating Hungary's participation in IFOR operations and marking NATO's formal acceptance of the Hungarian technical contingent, Magyar Hirlap reported. A separate financial settlement was signed as well, stipulating that all costs of the Hungarian contingent's operation, including board, accommodation, various services, medical supplies and fuel will be borne by Hungary. According to the document, Hungary agrees to participate in the peacekeeping operation until 31 December 1996. -- Zsofia Szilagyi



SERBS, CROATS, AND MUSLIMS MEET IN SARAJEVO.
The international community's High Representative for civilian affairs, Carl Bildt, met on 24 January with leading representatives of the political "entities" party to the Dayton agreement. The Bosnian government was represented by outgoing Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic and his designated successor Hasan Muratovic; the Muslim and Croat Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina by Prime Minister-designate Izudin Kapetanovic; and the Republika Srpska by Prime Minister Rajko Kasagic. Reuters said the participants spoke favorably about the session, with Silajdzic calling it "relatively relaxed." Kasagic added that "the war is behind us, the war is over. We must now build the bridges of peace." Bildt stressed the importance of access to the media for the coming elections, and the participants set up a working group to sort out radio and television frequencies. -- Patrick Moore

CROATS PREPARE FOR NEXT STAGE OF BOSNIAN PEACE . . .
Oslobodjenje's Onasa News Agency reported on 24 January that the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) met in Mostar and nominated its candidates for posts in the new federal and republican governments. The leading Croatian party selected Jandranko Prlic to head the republic's foreign ministry, and Drago Bilandzija to be federal deputy prime minister and finance minister. Vladimir Soljic will head the federal defense ministry, while Mato Tadic will be at justice. The party also agreed to transfer its executive functions to the federation in keeping with the Dayton agreement, and called on the Muslims to do the same. -- Patrick Moore

. . . ON BOTH CIVILIAN AND MILITARY FRONTS.
The existing Croatian Community of Herzeg-Bosna would thus become a political organization and give up its governmental role. Many Croats have been uneasy about what they regard as subordinating their role to the Muslims in the federation. The head of the Bosnian Croat army (HVO) general staff, General Zivko Budimir, told Vecernji list of 25 January that the Croats will have their own national units in the new federal army and thus be able to maintain "their national identity . . . and the traditions of the HVO." -- Patrick Moore

POLITICKING STARTING UP IN BOSNIA.
The first weeks of the implementation of the Dayton agreement have witnessed various parties and politicians gearing up for the elections slated for later this year. Onasa said on 24 January that Silajdzic refuses to rule out forming a new political party. If he does set up a new organization, it could be a big step in breaking up a political landscape hitherto dominated by three large ethnically-based parties. The small Social Democratic Party called for free and democratic conditions for the elections. Its Vice President Gradimir Gojer denied that his civic-based party is a-national or godless, claiming he is at least as good a Croat as the HDZ's Kresimir Zubak, and noting that SDP members observe Christmas or Ramadan. Meanwhile in Serbia, Nasa Borba on 25 January quoted Democratic Party leader Vojislav Kostunica as saying his group would not set up a Bosnian branch to take part in the elections, unlike some other Serbian parties. -- Patrick Moore

FOUR PEACEKEEPERS KILLED IN SARAJEVO BLAST.
Four IFOR peacekeepers were killed and six injured in a blast on 25 January at the Zetra Olympic stadium in Sarajevo, international media reported. Improper handling of ammunition was the suspected cause. Unconfirmed reports said two victims were Portuguese and one Italian. Elsewhere, four French soldiers were injured by an explosion during a training mission near Sarajevo. In another incident on 25 January, a mine explosion injured four Danish soldiers. -- Michael Mihalka

WORLD BANK TO PROVIDE BOSNIA WITH $150 MILLION.
The World Bank confirmed in Sarajevo on 24 January that it will provide $150 million in emergency aid for Bosnian reconstruction, international agencies reported. The funds, which come in addition to the some $500 million promised at a Brussels conference on Bosnia reconstruction last month, are primarily intended to help rebuild the country's devastated utilities. The World Bank estimates that Bosnia needs $5.1 billion over the next three years for reconstruction. -- Michael Mihalka

BELGRADE SIGNALS COOPERATION WITH THE HAGUE?
Uros Klikovac, federal deputy premier and justice minister, announced on 24 January that an office of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia shall open in rump Yugoslavia in the near future, Nasa Borba reported. He suggested that this marked the start of cooperation between Belgrade and the Hague, as outlined in the Dayton accord, but stressed it did not signal that Belgrade would extradite suspected war criminals. Klikavac maintained that Dayton obliged Belgrade to cooperate but said the agreement did not specify "the means" of cooperation. "Insofar as [rump] Yugoslavia learns of someone being involved in war crimes, then our [legal] authorities are obliged to bring proceedings against such a person. As far as I know, precisely these kinds of proceedings are already being undertaken," he said. -- Stan Markotich

BELGRADE-ZAGREB HIGHWAY TO REOPEN.
UN officials announced that the main Belgrade-Zagreb highway will reopen on 25 January, but only to UN and NATO military traffic, Politika reported the same day. Formerly the highway of the "Brotherhood and Unity," connecting Slovenia in the north and Macedonia in the south, the busiest road in former Yugoslavia was closed ever since the war started in summer 1991, thus becoming a symbol of separation of the former Yugoslav republics. -- Daria Sito Sucic

ROMANIAN PRIME MINISTER VISITS SLOVENIA.
Nicolae Vacaroiu on 24 January began a three-day tour through former Yugoslavia, Romanian and Western media reported. Accompanied by a group of economic experts, Vacaroiu discussed with Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek and President Milan Kucan ways of expanding mutual economic cooperation. -- Matyas Szabo

REBEL DNIESTER TO TAX MOLDOVAN TRANSIT CARGOES.
The president of the self-proclaimed Dniester republic on 23 January decreed drastic customs control on Moldovan cargoes transiting the region, BASA-press reported the following day. The decree provides for duties on all goods exported or imported by Moldova through Dniester territory but gives no details of the new tariffs. A spokesman for Moldovan President Mircea Snegur said the move came as a shock, since it occurred the same day the Dniester leaders were discussing in Chisinau ways to de-block negotiations over the future legal status of the region. -- Dan Ionescu

WAS MAXWELL THE "KING OF BULGARIA" . . .
Bulgarian newspapers on 24 January reported on an article in The Guardian the previous day entitled "King of Bulgaria," which deals with the connections between late media tycoon Robert Maxwell and former Bulgarian Communist leaders. The article, based on the Maxwell biography "Foreign Body" by Russell Davies, says Maxwell, former Bulgarian Communist Dictator Todor Zhivkov, former Prime Minister Andrey Lukanov, and former Communist Party Politburo member Ognyan Doynov had developed "perfect channels" to transfer some $2 billion in foreign currency out of Bulgaria. Maxwell reportedly helped the Communist leaders to launder money, mainly through joint ventures set up in the West with Bulgarian capital. -- Stefan Krause

. . . OR NOT?
Lukanov in an interview with RFE/RL's Bulgarian Service on 24 January said articles such as the one in The Guardian are simply attempts by newspapers to boost their sales. He added that Maxwell's investment policy in Bulgaria prior to 1989 was "good for the country." Pari on 25 January cited Lukanov as saying "Bulgaria did not transfer $2 billion because it simply did not have it." Doynov, who worked for Maxwell for one year after 1989, told the BBC on 23 January that he has no knowledge about trade deals between Bulgaria and Maxwell and that no money was transferred out of Bulgaria while he was a Politburo member. Former Premier Dimitar Popov repeatedly asserted that $2 billion of foreign reserves "vanished during Lukanov's tenure." -- Stefan Krause

HUNGARIAN PRESIDENT VISITS ALBANIA.
Hungarian President Arpad Goncz visited Albania on 23-24 January, signing agreements on transport cooperation and the protection of investments with his Albanian counterpart Sali Berisha, Republika and international agencies reported. Goncz and Berisha expressed hope that the Dayton agreement will increase chances for a solution of the conflicts in Kosovo and Vojvodina and committed themselves "to contributing to the peaceful solution of these problems." -- Fabian Schmidt

ALBANIAN STATE MEDIA ACCUSE OPPOSITION OF ESPIONAGE . . .
Albania, Rilindja Demokratike, and public television on 24 January accused the independent media and the Socialist party of espionage. The allegations are based on an Italian news agency interview with a former Albanian secret police officer. Albania said "tens of millions of Italian lira" are being paid monthly by the "communist world," including "Moscow and Serbia," to direct a network of spies which aims to "control the policy of the Tirana government." Albania further claims that "Serbian Communists are financing the [communist-era Albanian] secret police, the Socialists, the [independent daily] Koha Jone and [the Socialist party daily] Zeri I Popullit." -- Fabian Schmidt

. . . DEMOCRATS DEMAND INVESTIGATIONS.
The Democratic Party reacted to the allegations by calling for a parliamentary investigation, the Albanian language service of Deutsche Welle reported on 24 January. The party also called on the prosecutor's office and secret police to investigate all funding and revenues of the Socialists and Koha Jone "to bring the culprits to justice," international agencies reported on 25 January. The Socialists said the charges are part of the election campaign. Koha Jone and Zeri i Popullit on 25 January denied receiving any money from Serbia. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Sharon Fisher




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