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Newsline - February 1, 1996


YELTSIN SACKS BLACK SEA FLEET COMMANDER.
Ending nearly two weeks of confusion, Russian President Boris Yeltsin has signed a decree dismissing Admiral Eduard Baltin as commander of the Black Sea Fleet, effective from 27 January. (See OMRI Daily Digest, 22 and 29 January 1996). The Black Sea Fleet press center told ITAR-TASS on 1 February that Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev had notified Baltin of his removal and given him 10 days to hand over command to his first deputy, Vice Admiral Gennadii Suchkov, who will serve as acting commander. Baltin, appointed by Yeltsin and former Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk in December 1992, has long been viewed by many as hampering the settlement of the dispute over the fleet. His dismissal may hasten its resolution, perhaps triggering an improvement in Russian-Ukrainian relations. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIAN COMMANDER IN CHECHNYA REJECTS FURTHER TALKS WITH DUDAEV.
The commander of federal forces in Chechnya, Lt.-Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, argued on 31 January that attempts in 1995 to negotiate a settlement of the Chechen conflict with President Dzhokhar Dudaev had led nowhere and that the Russian leadership should concentrate on supporting the government of Prime Minister Doku Zavgaev, NTV reported. Tikhomirov said he did not plan military operations against the civilian population and proposed concluding agreements with villages under the control of Zavgaev's government as a precondition for the withdrawal of federal troops from those areas. Also on 31 January, Russian State Duma deputies voted to create a commission uniting all branches of federal power to work for a settlement of the Chechen conflict. Meanwhile, talks are still proceeding on conditions for the release of some 70 hostages still held by Dudaev's field commanders. -- Liz Fuller

YAVLINSKII ISSUES APPEAL TO END WAR IN CHECHNYA.
Besides "a small group of operatives" in the Kremlin, all of Russia is against the war in Chechnya, Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii wrote in Izvestiya of 1 February. He proposed a "clear and simple" plan to end the conflict: first withdrawing all Russian troops from the breakaway republic; then letting Dudaev and Zavgaev work out a "non-agression pact" among themselves toward gradual demilitarization; and ultimately holding a referendum in Chechnya to decide the republic's future status. Yavlinskii also invited political parties, trade unions, human rights groups, and other anti-war organizations to convene a Moscow conference on peaceful solutions to the Chechen conflict, which "could not be ignored" by the authorities. -- Laura Belin

LEBED JOINS RYZHKOV'S PARLIAMENTARY FACTION.
Lt.-Gen. (ret.) Aleksandr Lebed has joined the leftist Popular Power, the Duma faction led by former USSR Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzhkov, NTV reported on 31 January. Ryzhkov said that Lebed would primarily work on military issues. Lebed's decision may spark a split in the Congress of Russian Communities (KRO), for in the past party leader Yurii Skokov has expressed less support for the communists than has Lebed. The chairmen of the party's Krasnodar and Rostov branches, Konstantin Zatulin and Viktor Petrov, have requested that Lebed and Skokov call a meeting of the KRO's national council shortly to clarify their relationship. -- Robert Orttung

ZYUGANOV RANKS NUMBER 2 ON LIST OF 100 LEADING POLITICIANS.
Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov ranked directly behind President Yeltsin on a list of 100 leading politicians published by Nezavisimaya gazeta on 1 February. The paper's panel of experts also see Zyuganov as likely to win the presidential elections in June. Zyuganov moved past Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin following communist gains in the Duma and the violence in Dagestan. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov was listed as the politician making the most useful contribution to Russian foreign and domestic policy. -- Robert Orttung

ELECTORAL COMMISSION WANTS MORE INFORMATION ON SOSKOVETS' OFFICE.
Aleksandr Ivanchenko, deputy chairman of the Central Electoral Commission (TsIK), told the Duma on 31 January that the TsIK still has no information on the office set up to prepare for the presidential elections under First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets and has requested more from the presidential administration, NTV reported. The government has already disclaimed any knowledge of Soskovets' office, while Soskovets himself failed to make a scheduled address in the Duma on 31 January. Yeltsin set up the office on 15 January, claiming that it was non-partisan, but deputies have accused him of using state money to support his campaign, while the TsIK believes that Soskovets' offices duplicates its functions. Ivanchenko also said he had received information about Transport Ministry workers who had allegedly been told that their pay would be withheld if they did not sign petitions supporting Yeltsin's candidacy. -- Robert Orttung

CHERNOMYRDIN REJECTS NOMINATIONS.
Prime Minister Chernomyrdin called "unacceptable" the formation of groups to support his candidacy for the presidency, saying he knew nothing about them, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 January. Groups have appeared in St. Petersburg and Orenburg. The Petersburg group, which includes members of Russia's Democratic Choice, described Chernomyrdin as a "goal-oriented, strong-willed, centrist leader" who could form a cabinet of professionals and stop the war in Chechnya, Segodnya reported on 31 January. -- Robert Orttung

DUMA IN NO HURRY TO RATIFY START II.
Despite President Yeltsin's request that the START II treaty be ratified by April, on 31 January the Duma failed to set a date for a vote on the agreement, instead referring it to three committees for study, Russian agencies reported. Vladimir Lukin, chairman of the Duma International Affairs Committee, described the treaty as "extremely advantageous" for Russia and warned that if it is not ratified, Russia may become a "secondary nuclear power." He added, however, that ratification should be postponed to prevent the treaty from becoming a "political football" in the upcoming presidential elections and said newly elected deputies need more time to study it. In a subsequent interview with Russian TV, Lukin suggested that even if the Duma does not ratify the treaty, the Russian government may observe its terms anyway, as the U.S. did with SALT II in the 1980s. -- Scott Parrish and Doug Clarke

MIKHAILOV DENIES RUSSIA CHEATING ON URANIUM AGREEMENT.
Russian Atomic Energy Minister Viktor Mikhailov has refuted recent allegations that inadequate inspection provisions could have allowed Russia to violate the terms of a bilateral agreement under which it sells diluted uranium extracted from dismantled nuclear warheads to the U.S. "We obtain high-grade uranium when dismantling nuclear weapons," he told ITAR-TASS on 31 January, "then process it into a low-grade uranium for subsequent deliveries abroad." He explained that U.S. experts had watched the process at the two plants involved--Tomsk-7 and Sverdlovsk-44--but said they "would like to make a more thorough analysis." Mikhailov said that in turn Russia wants assurances that uranium shipped to the U.S. is not re-enriched, complaining that the U.S. companies involved "seem reluctant to see Russian experts at their enterprises." -- Doug Clarke and Scott Parrish

RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPERS COMPLETE BOSNIA DEPLOYMENT.
The deployment of the 1,600-man Russian airborne brigade that is participating in the international Bosnian peace implementation force (IFOR), has been completed, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 February. Col.-Gen. Yevgenii Podkolzin, a spokesman for the Russian airborne forces, said it had taken 76 transport flights and 11 trains to transport the brigade to Bosnia from its central Russian base. The Russian troops will now begin patrolling their assigned 70-km segment of the line separating Bosnian government and Bosnian Serb forces in the eastern part of the Posavina corridor, just south of the Serb-held town of Brcko. -- Scott Parrish

NUMBER OF CRIMES COMMITTED BY WOMEN INCREASING.
The crime rate among women in Russia is rapidly increasing, Interior Ministry official Yurii Kalinin said on 31 January. ITAR-TASS said women committed about 238,000 crimes in 1995, up from 142,000 in 1993. Over 5,600 women were convicted of premeditated murder and about 3,350 of grievious bodily harm. The total number of recorded crimes in 1995 was about 2.75 million. Kalinin attributed the rise in crime among women to growing unemployment, forced migration, increased juvenile crime, and general moral decay. -- Penny Morvant

MINERS STRIKE ACROSS RUSSIA.
About half a million miners from over 120 pits and open cast mines went on strike on 1 February, a representative of the Coal Workers' Union told ITAR-TASS. The coal association Rosugol put the number of strikers at about 300,000. The miners are demanding payment of over a trillion rubles in delayed wages and a schedule for state funding of the sector in 1996. Rosugol Chairman Yurii Malyshev appealed to miners to call off the strike on 31 January, promising that agreement would soon be reached with the government on the provision of more than 10 trillion rubles in support for the coal industry in 1996, Radio Mayak reported. Meanwhile, strikes continued on 31 January at over 1,170 educational institutions in 23 regions of Russia, Interfax reported. -- Penny Morvant

NUCLEAR ENERGY PRODUCTION UP IN 1995.
Russia's nine nuclear power plants generated 99.3 billion kilowatt-hours of energy in 1995, a 1.5% increase compared with 1994, Russian agencies reported on 31 January. This is the first sign of stabilization in the industry after two years of decline: nuclear energy production plunged from 120 billion kilowatt-hours in 1992 to 98 billion in 1994. A spokesman for the Russian atomic energy agency noted that the number of accidents in the industry declined from 95 in 1994 to 62 in 1995 (of which only three were classified as serious, compared to eight in 1994). Russia's total energy production in 1995 was 862 billion kilowatt-hours, a 2% decline over 1994. -- Natalia Gurushina



AZERBAIJAN JUSTICE MINISTRY TO BAN THREE POLITICAL PARTIES.
The Azerbaijan Ministry of Justice decided on 30 January to request that the country's Supreme Court ban the Democratic Youth Organization, the Labor Party, and the Gardashlyg Society on the grounds that all three have sought since their inception to undermine Azerbaijani statehood, Turan reported. The Democratic Youth Organization was founded by OPON police chief Rovshan Dzhavadov, who was killed in a confrontation with the Azerbaijani authorities in March 1995. The activities of the Labor Party and Gardashlyg are said to be directed by ex-President Ayaz Mutalibov, who is currently living in Moscow. -- Liz Fuller

INTENSIVE FIGHTING REPORTED IN TAJIKISTAN.
Fighting has broken out in the Tavil-Dara region, east of the Tajik capital Dushanbe, Russian and Western media reported. Tavil-Dara has been the scene of a stand-off between Tajik government troops and opposition forces, who captured several villages in October 1995. According to an opposition spokesman, the latest fighting has claimed at least 10 lives. Both sides have accused each other of starting the violence. Meanwhile, Western media reported that in Kurgan-Tyube, the commander of the Tajik army's first brigade, Mahmud Khudaberdiyev, is distributing weapons to the population, while about 1,000 citizens of Kabodien, a city nearby, have surrounded the local police station, trapping police and security officers. -- Bruce Pannier

TAJIK PEACE TALKS NEAR COLLAPSE IN ASHGABAT.
The renewed hostilities in Tavil-Dara have prompted the Tajik government representatives currently in Ashgabat for peace talks to threaten to withdraw from the negotiations, international media reported. Chief negotiator Talbak Nazarov said the attack on 30 January was a flagrant violation of the ceasefire agreement signed by the protagonists in 1994. The ceasefire has been violated on numerous previous occasions. A spokesman for the opposition, Ali Akbar Turajonzoda, claimed the problems were initiated by the government. The recurrent problem of redistributing power in the government to include members of the opposition parties has also hindered progress in Ashgabat. ITAR-TASS reported on 30 January that Tajik Prime Minister Jamshed Karimov said the government was willing to step down if it would help stabilize the country. -- Bruce Pannier

YELTSIN DENIES RUSSIAN TROOPS INVOLVED IN TAJIK FIGHTING.
Sergei Medvedev, press spokesman for Russian President Yeltsin, said on 31 January that Russian troops in Tajikistan are only involved in guarding military and other sites for which they are responsible, Russian agencies reported. This statement came in response to rumors that Russian forces in Tajikistan were participating in operations in Kurgan-Tyube, Tursun Zade, and Tavil-Dara. Yeltsin himself said such activity did not conform to the CIS peacekeepers' mandate. The Russian Foreign Ministry expressed deep concern at the renewed unrest in Tajikistan and stressed the need for a negotiated settlement. -- Bruce Pannier



NEW POLISH PRIME MINISTER APPOINTED.
President Aleksander Kwasniewski on 1 February appointed Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, deputy Sejm speaker and deputy leader of the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), as prime minister. Leaders of the ruling SLD and Polish Peasant Party (PSL) the previous day nominated Cimoszewicz as their joint candidate. Cimoszewicz, a 45-year-old lawyer, was a member of the Polish communist party from 1971 until its dissolution in 1990. He was the SLD's presidential candidate in 1990 and justice minister from 1993-1995. Cimoszewicz replaces Jozef Oleksy, who resigned last month over allegations that he spied for Moscow. Cimoszewicz is expected to receive the Sejm's approval with ease, since the SLD-PSL coalition has 303 mandates in the 460-strong legislature. -- Jakub Karpinski

RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN UKRAINE.
Yevgenii Primakov arrived in Ukraine for an official visit on 31 January, Russian and Ukrainian agencies reported. Talks with his Ukrainian counterpart, Hennadii Udovenko, were intended to make progress toward resolving some long-standing bones of contention. But the issue of Sevastopol's status was kept off of the agenda, and Primakov again stressed that the division of the Black Sea Fleet was a precondition to signing the long-delayed treaty on friendship and cooperation. With regard to NATO expansion, Udovenko said Russian and Ukrainian interests must be taken into account. He reiterated Ukraine's fears of becoming a buffer zone between NATO and countries in the CIS Collective Security Pact. Primakov stressed that Russia categorically opposed any NATO expansion, although it could not veto such a move. -- Ustina Markus

UKRAINIAN MINERS THREATEN NATIONWIDE STRIKE.
Miners at 162 of Ukraine's 254 state-owned coal pits are set to begin a nationwide strike to protest their employers' failure to pay up to six months of wages, Ukrainian TV reported on 31 January. Workers at another 75 mines have pledged to halt coal deliveries. In a last-minute effort to prevent the strike, Prime Minister Yevhen Marchuk said on Ukrainian TV that the government has managed come up with 2 trillion karbovantsi ($10 million) to pay one monthly wage to the miners without spurring higher inflation. Marchuk blamed the crisis on the lack of restructuring in the coal sector and the failure of other industries to pay the mines for coal supplies. He said the state was responsible only for 1 trillion of 30 trillion karbovantsi wage arrears, adding that President Leonid Kuchma is ready to issue several decrees aimed at speeding up reforms in the coal industry. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT APPOINTS NEW REPRESENTATIVE IN CRIMEA.
Leonid Kuchma has appointed Ukrainian lawmaker Dmytro Stepaniuk as his representative in Crimea, Ukrainian TV reported on 31 January. Stepaniuk, who replaces Valerii Horbatyi, worked with the Ukrainian and Crimean parliamentary committees on the new Crimean constitution. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT TO ISSUE NEW DECREE ON BUSINESSES.
Alyaksandr Lukashenka is preparing to sign a decree on businesses in the private and legal sectors, Belarusian Radio reported on 31 January. The decree would require all non-state enterprises to re-register. The president is also drawing up a decree imposing stricter state control over the manufacture and sale of alcohol and tobacco products in Belarus. -- Ustina Markus

ESTONIA SIGNS RADAR PURCHASE LOANS.
Estonian Finance Minister Mart Opmann on 31 January signed loan agreements with the French Banque Paribas and the Japanese Marubeni corporation on the purchase of a border radar system from the French Thomson CSF company, BNS reported. The loans--DM 10.04 million ($6.8 million) and DM 3.94 million, respectively--are to be paid back by 2002. Opmann said that, unlike the arms deal with Israel several years ago, there had been an open international tender, which he said set a good precedent for the future. -- Saulius Girnius

OPPOSITION TO VOTE FOR LITHUANIAN PREMIER'S DISMISSAL.
Leaders of the opposition parties on 30 January stressed again they will vote for the dismissal of Adolfas Slezevicius on 8 February, Radio Lithuania reported. But they also supported calling early parliamentary elections in June, rather than in October as scheduled. Opposition leader Vytautas Landsbergis will not participate in the vote, since he does not return from the U.S. until 10 February. Algirdas Kuncinas, a deputy head of the ruling Democratic Labor Party (LDDP) caucus, said the next day that the caucus make a final decision on 7 February. -- Saulius Girnius

MASS GRAVE IN AUSTRIA MAY CONTAIN BODIES OF HUNGARIAN JEWS.
A mass grave from World War II, possibly containing Hungarian victims of the Holocaust, has been found in Lambach, eastern Austria, Hungarian dailies reported on 1 February. Experts--including Simon Wiesenthal, head of the Jewish Documentation Center in Vienna--say many Hungarian Jews were very likely buried there. The grave, which is near to a death camp that held Hungarian Jews, was discovered during the construction of a new hydroelectric plant. Work on the plant has been suspended since the mass grave was discovered. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

HUNGARIAN TECHNICAL BATTALION LEAVES FOR CROATIA.
The last contingent of the 400-strong Hungarian technical unit left for Croatia on 31 January to serve as part of NATO's multinational peace-implementation force, Hungarian dailies reported. The unit will build a bridge over the Sava River, linking their base with an area of Bosnia populated mainly by Serbs. Reuters the same day quoted a NATO commander as saying that the integration of Hungarian troops into the IFOR force is going well. -- Zsofia Szilagyi



BOSNIAN OPPOSITION DEPUTIES MEET ACROSS DIVIDE.
The
Onasa news agency and AFP on 31 January reported that Bosnian Serb opposition deputies from Banja Luka arrived in Sarajevo for a meeting with their counterparts there. The visitors were led by Liberal Party leader Miodrag Zivanovic and the hosts by Social Democratic chief Sejfudin Tokic. They issued a declaration that called for the participation of opposition parties in organizing upcoming elections, the renewal of economic contacts, the punishment of war criminals, and the right of refugees to go home. A joint opposition council will be set up to encourage mutual trust, and an economic delegation from Banja Luka will go to Tuzla. Zivanovic added: "Democratic forces in Banja Luka believe that our lives cannot be built on ideas which understand an absolute reduction of life to ethnic background, which are advocated by the ideology of blood and evil, and which represent the past and a myth." -- Patrick Moore

CROAT-MUSLIM FEDERATION GETS NEW GOVERNMENT.
Just one day after the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina received its first postwar cabinet, one of its components, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina followed suit. Prime Minister Izudin Kapetanovic presented the parliament with a list of 12 ministers and deputies reflecting an ethnic balance between Muslims and Croats. There are also two ministers without portfolio. Most of the posts deal with purely internal matters, but there is a defense minister, namely Vladimir Soljic. A Muslim deputy questioned how Soljic could be appointed when he is also a deputy in the Croatian Sabor, but Federation President Kresimir Zubak answered that Soljic gave up his job in Zagreb on being appointed to the cabinet. Oslobodjenje reported on 1 February that the new government is young by traditional Yugoslav standards, with the average age of the ministers being 46. * Patrick Moore

MORE "TERRIBLE DISCOVERIES" IN BOSNIA?
Elisabeth Rehn, UN special reporter for human rights in the former Yugoslavia, told the Stern weekly magazine about possibility of more "terrible discoveries" of mass graves in Bosnia, AFP and Nasa Borba reported. She said of the estimated 200-300 mass graves in Bosnia, some may be attributed to the Croats or Muslims. Besides the Srebrenica mass graves, she mentioned three graves near the east Croatian town of Vukovar and others near Banja Luka and Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegovina, some of which were bigger than 20 square meters. Rehn criticized IFOR for not patrolling grave sites to protect evidence being destroyed. -- Daria Sito Sucic

SNIPER ATTACKS ON THE RISE; MUJAHIDEEN LEAVE.
Two sniper attacks on IFOR vehicles were reported on 31 January. One British soldier was wounded. NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana, speaking in Copenhagen the same day, refused to blame any of Bosnian factions for the attacks., saying "It's not for us to point a finger at anybody." He added that 45,000 men of the 60,000-strong IFOR have already arrived in Bosnia. Meanwhile, a NATO spokesman in Sarajevo said that the last group of Islamic "mujahideen" have left the country. But NATO officers say that a number of Islamic volunteers remain in the country after marrying local women or otherwise integrating with the local population. -- Michael Mihalka

BOSNIAN SHORTS.
Edmina Babahmetovic, a 53-year-old Muslim woman from Banja Luka, has returned to her flat, restored to her by a Serbian court. Reuters said on 1 February that she still receives threats from armed Serbs. AFP the previous day quoted Pale parliamentary speaker Momcilo Krajisnik as saying the search for the missing may go on for years. The news agency added that outgoing republican Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic blasted the Bosnian parliament for not doing anything to stop the fall of Srebrenica and Zepa last July. Onasa quoted the Croatian deputy prime minister as saying that indicted war criminal General Tihomir Blaskic will soon be extradited to The Hague. He is wanted for atrocities against Muslim villagers in Ahmici in April 1993. -- Patrick Moore

SERBS STONEWALLING IN EASTERN SLAVONIA.
AFP on 1 February quoted The New York Times as saying that Serbian leaders in eastern Slavonia have yet to admit openly that the region will return to Croatian sovereignty in a maximum of two years. Serbian authorities continue to use vitriolic language against Croatia and are conducting a propaganda campaign among Serbian refugees to encourage them to settle in Eastern Slavonia. The article said it is suspected that the Serbs have no intention of honoring the agreement on returning the region to Croatia signed by the Serbian and Croatian presidents in November. Meanwhile in Zagreb, refugees from Posavina issued a declaration on 30 January to demand that they be allowed to go home, Onasa reported. The group, based in Slavonski Brod, said that they want to return to the area, which has been assigned to the Serbs by the Dayton accords, in the hope of restoring it to Croatian control. -- Patrick Moore

UN MILITARY OBSERVERS TO BE DEPLOYED IN EASTERN SLAVONIA.
The UN Security Council on 31 January authorized the deployment of 100 UN military observers to eastern Slavonia for six months, beginning end of April, AFP and Hina reported the same day. The observers will join 5,000 peacekeepers in the region and oversee the demilitarization of the area. Meanwhile, the UN Peace Force closed its main headquarters in Zagreb. During its four-year mission in the former Yugoslavia, 213 Unied Nations soldiers were killed and 1,485 soldiers wounded, Hina reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic

SERBIAN OPPOSITION LEADER ON THE HAGUE.
Nasa Borba on 1 February reports Vojislav Kostunica, leader of the Democratic Party of Serbia, as saying the previous day that the Hague-based International War Crime Tribunal was an organization that "had to be worked with." The tribunal, he said "is a force in international relations that must be respected. In the past, Kostunica has had ties with Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic, both accused war criminals. -- Stan Markotich

SLOVENIA BUYS ARMS FROM ISRAEL.
Delo on 31 January reported that Ljubljana has agreed to purchase defense communications equipment worth some $100 million from the Israeli firm Tadiran. Defense Minister Jelko Kacin reportedly closed the deal on 12 January. Ljubljana is obligated to buy the system by 1999. Equipment deliveries have already begun. -- Stan Markotich

UN FORCE IN MACEDONIA TO BECOME INDEPENDENT.
UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali on 31 January recommended that UNPREDEP be transformed into an independent mission reporting directly to the UN headquarters, AFP reported the same day. So far, UNPREDEP has been reporting to UNPROFOR in Zagreb. The change, which has to be approved by the Security Council could become effective on 1 February. UNPREDEP currently has about 1,000 soldiers stationed in Macedonia. -- Stefan Krause

ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN GERMANY.
Teodor Melescanu on 31 January paid a one-day official visit to Germany, Romanian and international media reported. he met with Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel, Development Aid Minister Carl-Dieter Spranger, and Defense Minister Volker Ruehe to discuss Romania's European and NATO integration as well as the development of bilateral economic relations. Kinkel stressed that Romania needs to push ahead with domestic reforms, while Melescanu pointed out that Germany is Romania's most important trade partner, accounting for 17% of Romanian imports and 18% of its exports. Talks with Ruehe concentrated on military cooperation, especially on officer training programs. The German Defense Ministry has agreed to send a senior logistics officer as an adviser in Bucharest. -- Matyas Szabo

CONTRADICTORY REPORTS ON ROMANIAN MINISTER'S DISMISSAL.
Radio Bucharest on 31 January quoted President Ion Iliescu's spokesman as saying that the president has endorsed Premier Nicolae Vacaroiu's decision to sack Telecommunications Minister Adrian Turicu. He later issued another statement saying that the president was still considering the case but that no final decision has been taken. Turicu is a member of the chauvinistic Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR), an ally of the ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania. Vacaroiu's decision to suspend him is considered an indication of an imminent split of the parties' coalition. -- Dan Ionescu

DNIESTER PARLIAMENT AGAINST STATE OF EMERGENCY IN ECONOMY.
The Supreme Soviet of the self-proclaimed Dniester republic on 30 January voted to suspend a state of emergency in economy beginning the next day, BASA-press reported. Deputies argued that President Igor Smirnov has so far failed to present an anti-crisis program, and they urged him to do so by 10 February. The state of emergency, which had been imposed by presidential decree on 12 January, is mainly administrative and includes severe restrictions on civic freedoms and political activities. It is unclear whether the parliament's vote means a de facto end to the state of emergency. On 31 January, the Dniester government continued to abide by Smirnov's decree when it banned the use of the Moldovan leu in cash transactions in the region. -- Dan Ionescu

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT CALLS GOVERNMENT "DANGEROUS."
Zhelyu Zhelev on 31 January launched a renewed attack against the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and the government of Prime Minister Zhan Videnov. Standart quoted him as saying that "Bulgaria needs a new, democratic government," since the BSP government has become "simply dangerous for Bulgaria [and] its national security and interests." He accused the cabinet of returning to totalitarian methods of government and tolerating crime and corruption. "You can't fight corruption when you yourself are corrupt or are in some way associated with it." Zhelev also criticized the government for alienating some of Bulgaria's neighbors and not wanting to joint NATO. -- Stefan Krause

JOURNALIST ARRESTED IN ALBANIA.
Altin Hazizaj, a journalist for the independent daily Koha Jone, on 31 January was arrested after entering a building in Tirana from which police were evicting former political prisoners. The prisoners were squatting in the building because of a lack of housing in the capital. Hazizaj entered the building to report on the case. He has been charged with beating two policemen, but an OMRI correspondent reports that Hazizaj does not appear physically capable of beating policemen. The arrest appears to be the latest in a number of attacks against Koha Jone. Since 26 January, police have been impounding delivery vans belonging to the daily. -- Fabian Schmidt

ALBANIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT DECLARES GENOCIDE LAW LEGAL.
The Constitutional Court has dismissed an appeal by the Socialist and Social Democratic Parties against the disputed genocide law (see OMRI Daily Digest, 18 January 1996), Lajmi i Dites reported on 1 February. The two parties said the law violated their basic freedoms because it bans communist-era high-ranking officials from running for public office until 2002. Under the law, Socialist Party leader and former Premier Fatos Nano and Social Democratic leader Skender Gjinushi, who was also education minister under President Ramiz Alia, will be banned. Constitutional Court Chief Judge Rustem Gjata ruled that the Albanian constitution allowed "reasonable limitations on the freedom" of people who led repressive regimes. -- Fabian Schmidt

GREEK PRIME MINISTER RECEIVES VOTE OF CONFIDENCE.
Kostas Simitis on 31 January received a vote of confidence from the parliament, Reuters reported the same day. Some 166 deputies voted for his government, 123 against, and three abstained. The ruling Panhellenic Socialist Movement has 168 mandates. In the parliamentary debate before the vote, Simitis defended both the agreement to withdraw Greek and Turkish naval forces from the area around the disputed islet of Imia and the decision to lower the Greek flag there in order to ease tension. Miltiadis Evert, leader of the conservative New Democracy party, argued that "the removal of Greek troops and the lowering of the Greek flag constitute an act of treason." He called on Simitis to resign. -- Stefan Krause

[As of 1200 CET]


Compiled byPenny Morvnt and Jan Cleave






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