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Newsline - February 5, 1996


MINERS SUSPEND STRIKE AFTER CASH PROMISE.
Russian miners suspended their nationwide strike after two days on 3 February, Russian and Western agencies reported. Miners' leaders voted to halt the strike after Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin signed a new pledge calling for payment of 10.4 trillion rubles ($2.2 billion) to the coal industry in 1996--3 trillion more than envisioned in the 1996 budget. According to Fuel and Energy Minister Yurii Shafranik, the government owes miners 400 billion rubles in overdue wages from 1995 and 600 billion for January, Russian TV reported. Coal-Industry Workers' Union Chairman Vitalii Budko said 95% of the striking miners had returned to work but that the strike would resume on 1 March if the government reneges on its commitments. -- Penny Morvant

ZYUGANOV, YAVLINSKII IN DAVOS.
More than 150 Russian participants descended on the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov sought to assure Western politicians and businessmen that they should not be disturbed by developments in Russia. He said that "a return to a state monopoly is impossible" and that he supports a stable cimate for foreign investors, Western and Russian media reported. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii warned that "confiscation and nationalization" are key to the Communists' platform and that Zyuganov's message in Davos was different than it is at home. He also said that it would now be possible for Yabloko to form a coalition with Russia's Democratic Choice leader Yegor Gaidar, since the latter had renounced his ties with Yeltsin, NTV reported 4 February. -- Robert Orttung

MASS DEMONSTRATION IN GROZNY.
Some 10,000 supporters of Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev staged a peaceful demonstration in Grozny on 4 February to demand the withdrawal of Russian troops from the region, Russian media reported. Earlier, Chechen Prime Minister Doku Zavgaev said the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya could begin in 2-3 weeks, ITAR-TASS reported. His comments came after a 2 February meeting with the Russian presidential adviser for legal affairs, Mikhail Krasnov, and the commander of the Russian federal forces in Chechnya, Lt. Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. Also on 2 February, Russian Economy Minister Yevgenii Yasin told ITAR-TASS he was concerned that part of the 4 trillion rubles ($840 million) allocated for Chechen reconstruction has vanished without a trace. -- Liz Fuller

OUR HOME IS RUSSIA CALLS FOR END TO CHECHNYA WAR.
Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin and Sergei Belyaev, leader of the pro-government Our Home Is Russia (NDR) Duma faction, called on the president and government to pursue negotiations to end the military campaign in Chechnya, Russian media reported on 2 February. Belyaev said that any presidential candidate representing the current authorities could only be elected in June if he managed to solve the Chechnya situation, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. -- Laura Belin

YELTSIN MEETS WITH DUMA SPEAKER.
President Boris Yeltsin met with Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev for more than an hour on 2 February, Russian and Western agencies reported. According to the presidential press service, the two discussed the need for the administration and parliament to cooperate more on drafting legislation in order to improve the quality of laws passed by the Duma. Seleznev told reporters that Yeltsin promised to unveil a peace plan for Chechnya soon. An NTV commentator observed that the meeting will primarily help the Communist Party become a "respectable force," an image it is trying to cultivate before the June presidential elections. -- Laura Belin

FILATOV TO LEAD NEW PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN HEADQUARTERS.
In mid-January, Sergei Filatov was sacked after three years as President Yeltsin's chief of staff and appointed to become First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets' deputy at an "official presidential campaign headquarters." New reports suggest Filatov will lead a separate campaign headquarters for Yeltsin, Russian media reported on 2 February. Meanwhile, the Duma passed by a vote of 255-6 a motion inviting Soskovets to answer questions about the status of the campaign office he is heading, which he has insisted will not work for any one candidate. -- Laura Belin

NOVGOROD REGIONAL COURT CHALLENGES PRESIDENTIAL DECREE ON ELECTIONS.
The Novgorod regional court ruled on 2 February that Article 1 of President Yeltsin's 17 September 1995 decree on regional elections contradicts the constitution and requested the Constitutional Court to examine the decree, ITAR-TASS reported. A group of local deputies had challenged the Oblast Duma's decision to extend its electoral term until December 1997 in accordance with the presidential decree. -- Anna Paretskaya

TAMBOV AND SMOLENSK REGIONAL LEGISLATURES EXTEND THEIR TERMS.
The Tambov and Smolensk oblast Dumas have ruled to extend their term in office until December 1997, Radio Rossii reported on 3 February. The step drew protests in both cities. In Tambov both pro-reform political organizations and the Communist Party's regional branch denounced the decision as anti-democratic. The regional legislatures were elected in late 1993 and early 1994 for a period of two years. -- Anna Paretskaya

CHINA LICENSED TO BUILD RUSSIAN JETS.
China has been sold a license to produce Su-27 jet fighters, Reuters reported on 2 February. Col. Gen. Petr Deynekin, the commander-in-chief of the Russian Air Force, said the sale "will bring Russia at least $2 billion." The deal was signed in late 1995 and production is not scheduled to start for several years. Russia will supply the plant to build the planes and will train the Chinese in its operation. -- Doug Clarke

KOKOSHIN WARNS AGAINST NATO EXPANSION.
Speaking at the annual Munich Wehrkunde meeting of defense experts on 3 February, Russian First Deputy Defense Minister Andrei Kokoshin warned that NATO could set off a backlash against reforms in Russia if it expands eastward, Reuters reported. In written comments he charged that such an expansion would also be "in violation of the obvious obligations of the West not to expand [NATO] after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union's consent to German unification." "This is a historical injustice," he added. "We have retreated to the East and NATO is advancing in the same direction, pushing us further and further East." German Defense Minister Volker Ruehe sharply rejected Kokoshin's assertion. -- Doug Clarke

GENERAL WARNS THAT ARMY AVIATION FACING EXTINCTION.
Army aviation could cease to exist as a branch of the Russian armed forces within the next few years, according to its chief, Col. Gen. Vitalii Pavlov. Russian media quoted him as telling a "crisis conference" of military and defense industry leaders on 3 February that his forces had not received a single new-generation helicopter in 1995 and could not afford to buy any now. While his forces have 2,000 combat aircraft most of them are "long out of date." Mi-24 attack helicopters have been in service for over 20 years, Mi-8 for 30 years, and Mi-6 for 40 years. -- Doug Clarke

PENSION FUND STILL IN DIFFICULTIES.
The Russian Pension Fund will experience constant financial difficulties in 1996, the fund's vice president, Yurii Lyublin, told ITAR-TASS on 2 February. He said the problems are linked to the declining share of wages in the total income of the population. He added that in January pensions were paid on time in only 50 of Russia's 89 regions. According to Moskovskii komsomolets on 3 February, the government still owes the Pension Fund 1.6 trillion rubles for 1992-94 ($338 million at the current exchange rate) and 3 trillion for 1995. Delays in the payment of pensions last year led to demonstrations in some towns and provided plenty of ammunition for the Communists in run-up to the December Duma elections. -- Penny Morvant

GAZPROM THREATENS ACTION AGAINST BALTIC STATES.
Gazprom, Russia's largest gas company and the sole supplier of gas to the Baltic states, is threatening to reduce deliveries to Latvia and Lithuania unless they pay off their debts, BNS and Russian agencies reported on 1-3 February. As of 1 February, the debts of state-owned companies Latvijas Gaze and Lietuvos Dujos to Gazprom stood at $20 million and $28 million respectively. The Latvian and Lithuanian companies claim that the current payments crisis is caused by their consumers' debts ($38 million in the case of Lietuvos Dujos). Estonia, where the gas company Eesti Gaas has been privatized, is the only Baltic state with no outstanding debt to Gazprom. -- Natalia Gurushina



RESIGNATIONS IN TAJIK GOVERNMENT.
The Tajik government announced on 4 February that First Deputy Prime Minister Makhmadsaid Ubadollayev had submitted his resignation, according to Russian and Western sources. In addition, presidential Chief of Staff Izatullo Khayeyev and the head of the Khatlon region, Abdujalol Salimov, were dismissed. The moves were meant to placate rebel military commanders who have occupied the cities of Tursun Zade and Kurgan-Tyube. The Tajik government has promised amnesty to those in Tursun Zade and Kurgan-Tyube who voluntarily surrender their weapons. -- Bruce Pannier

MAJOR MILITARY ACTIVITY IN TAJIKISTAN.
The Tajik government brought extra troops to the capital, Dushanbe, amid fears that two military commanders occupying cities in the south and west were preparing to attack the capital, international sources reported. Mahmud Khudaberdiyev's troops, currently occupying Kurgan-Tyube, have reportedly pulled back from their positions some 15 km away from Dushanbe. Meanwhile, fighters loyal to Ibodullo Baimatov, in control of Tursun Zade, have remained in the vicinity of the western city. In the eastern city of Tavil-Dara, 100 government soldiers are reported missing after fighting last week. Heavy snowfall has brought hostilities to a temporary halt. -- Bruce Pannier

TURKISH CREDITS TO CENTRAL ASIA, AZERBAIJAN, AND GEORGIA.
To date, Turkey has extended $986 million in Eximbank credits to the republics of Central Asia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan, Zaman reported on 2 February. The lion's share of these credits has been extended to Azerbaijan ($270 million) and Uzbekistan ($250 million). Only about half of the credits, or $556 million, has been used so far. -- Lowell Bezanis

KAZAKHSTANI SUPREME COURT HEAD ACCUSED OF TAKING BRIBES.
Confusion prevails about the bribery charges levied against Supreme Court Chairman Mikhail Malakhov by another member of the court, Utegen Iskhanov, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 February. Iskhanov accused the chairman of receiving imported cars and hard currency worth "up to hundreds of thousands of dollars." The General Procurator's Office has refused to examine the charges on the grounds that the alleged briber, Almas Nasenov, remains at large. Meanwhile, Majilis Speaker Marat Ospanov rejected demands to set up a parliamentary commission to inquire into allegations of corruption and misuse of foreign credits by government members, Russian TV reported on 4 February. -- Bhavna Dave

RUSSIA TO RETAIN CUSTOMS CONTROLS ON KAZAKHSTANI BORDER.
Russia plans to keep its customs controls on the border with Kazakhstan despite a 3 February decree lifting them, Russian media reported on 2 February, quoting a "high-ranking staff member" on the Russian State Customs Committee. The official stated that the decree only applies to goods made in the two countries, but goods produced in third states are still liable to border controls. He added that eliminating Russian customs posts "would open the way to drugs from the Central Asian republics and free exports of Russian strategic materials," as Kazakhstan has unilaterally closed down its customs posts on the border. -- Bhavna Dave

GEORGIAN OPPOSITION DEMANDS IMMEDIATE WITHDRAWAL OF RUSSIAN TROOPS.
At an emergency meeting in Tbilisi on 2 February, Georgian opposition leaders demanded the immediate withdrawal of all Russian troops from the country, Russian media reported the same day. Georgian United Republican Party leader Nodar Natadze said that "no matter who is in power in Russia--democrats, communists, liberals or nationalists--they all stand for the same imperialist ideas." They accused the government and President Eduard Shevardnadze of betraying the country's national interests in order to remain in power. According to the Georgian news agency BGI, the opposition also described the ratification of the Russo-Georgian friendship treaty as illegal and called for Georgia to quit the CIS and the annulment of the Russian peacekeeping mandate in Abkhazia. -- Irakli Tsereteli

RUNOFF ELECTIONS IN AZERBAIJAN.
Runoff elections were held in Azerbaijan on 4 February in 15 electoral districts where no candidate was elected during the 12 November parliamentary elections, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. Among the 47 prospective candidates were Foreign Minister Hasan Hasanov running in the Genje constituency where ballot boxes were reportedly stolen during the first round of voting, and Musavat Party leader Isa Gambar who was prevented from standing in the first round as his party was barred from running for seats to be allocated on the proportional system. On 1 February, police raided Musavat's headquarters in Sumgait, where Gambar was a candidate, according to Turan. -- Liz Fuller



UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT MAKES PERSONNEL CHANGES.
Leonid Kuchma formally dismissed Anatolii Halchynsky, his advisor on macroeconomic issues, UNIAN reported 2 February. Halchynsky announced his intention to resign in December along with another Kuchma aide, Oleksandr Razumkov, to protest what they viewed as the growing and politically destructive influence of the president's chief of staff, Dmytro Tabachnyk. Kuchma named Petro Petrashko as his chief economic advisor in December. Halchynsky has agreed to head the Ukrainian Stock Market Association, made up of 20 companies so far, and cooperate with the Ukrainian Center for Economic and Political Research, headed by Razumkov. In other news, Kuchma dismissed Justice Minister Serhii Holovaty, Deputy Prosecutor Olha Kolinko and Hryhorii Omelchenko, chairman of parliament's anti-crime committee, from his presidential committee against crime and corruption. Deputy Prime Minister Vasyl Durdynets will keep his post as the committee's chairman, while the president appointed two new deputy chairmen, Prosecutor-General Hryhorii Vorsinov and his predecessor, Vladyslav Datsiuk. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

SLOVAK PARLIAMENT APPROVES ANTI-COMMUNIST LAW.
The parliament on 2 February adopted a law on the immorality and illegality of the former Communist regime by a vote of 63 to 22, with 24 abstentions, Slovak media reported. Some aspects of the original bill were modified; the Communist Party was labeled "a party which did not prevent its members from committing crimes," rather than "a criminal organization responsible for violating human rights and spreading terror," as in the original version. Peter Brnak of the ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) expressed appreciation that "the parliament, in which there are 92 former communists, found the strength to approve [the bill]." The Party of the Democratic Left, the successor to the Communist Party, said it may bring the law before the Constitutional Court. The law was supported mainly by the HZDS and the opposition Christian Democratic Movement (KDH). -- Sharon Fisher

HUNGARIAN PREMIER IN CROATIA.
Croatian President Franjo Tudjman and visiting Hungarian Prime Minister Gyula Horn agreed at a meeting in Zagreb on 3 February to further intensify cooperation between the two countries, Hungarian dailies reported. Horn and Tudjman told a news conference that cooperation would focus especially on trade and transport, including the improvement of road and rail links between the two countries. Horn also stressed that the Balkan peace settlement would not be complete if the Eastern Slavonia problem is not solved. In other news, Horn and Hungarian Defense Minister Gyorgy Keleti attended a ceremony at Okucani, Croatia the same day, during which Hungary's IFOR technical contingent was transferred to NATO command. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

RATIFICATION LETTERS OF ESTONIA-RUSSIA AGREEMENTS EXCHANGED.
Estonian Foreign Minister Siim Kallas and Russian ambassador Aleksandr Trofimov on 2 February exchanged the letters of ratification for the agreements signed by presidents Lennart Meri and Boris Yeltsin in July 1994, BNS reported. The agreements dealing with the withdrawal of Russian troops and social guarantees for Russian military retirees were ratified by the Russian Duma in the summer and by the Estonian parliament in December. Meri regretted that border talks between the two countries had been unsuccessful for so long even though a border agreement is "essential, necessary, and unavoidable." -- Saulius Girnius

TWO LATVIAN TV COMPANIES ANNOUNCE MERGER.
Andrejs Ekis, the director of Picca TV, told reporters on 2 February that the company would merge with NTV-5 to form Latvian Independent Television, BNS reported the following day. The decision to merge was due to financial reasons and the new station would begin broadcasts at the beginning of April. Ekis forecast that the number of television companies in Latvia would drop from the current 46 to five in two or three years. -- Saulius Girnius



SERBS ADMIT THAT SREBRENICA MALES ARE DEAD.
Nasa Borba on 5 February reports that Bosnian Serb officials in Srebrenica told UN human rights envoy Elisabeth Rehn that the missing men from Srebrenica were killed in battle. The BBC the previous day noted that few people are willing to believe that the deaths involved mainly combat casualties and will conclude that up to 8,000 people were indeed massacred. AFP reports on 5 February that still more mass graves are believed to exist in the Srebrenica area. The BBC said that the chief UN officer dealing with missing persons, Manfred Nowak, stated that there will be no lasting peace until the question of missing persons is cleared up. He added that the three sides have agreed to form a joint commission to deal with the matter. The broadcast noted that relatives of the missing, like the women who protested in Tuzla last week, are "at the end of their tether." -- Patrick Moore

SERBIAN POLICE TO STAY ON IN SARAJEVO UNTIL 19 MARCH.
CNN reported on 3 February that the international community's chief representative in Sarajevo, Carl Bildt, said that the Bosnian Serb police could remain 45 days more in the Serb-held Sarajevo suburbs slated for return to government control. He said this was necessary to avoid a vacuum in authority and to reassure the Serbian population. BBC reported the next day that the Bosnian civilian authorities had tried to thwart Bildt's moves, but that the Bosnian military had complied. The Serbian police have, however, announced a 9 pm to 5 am curfew in those suburbs, and it is not clear how the Bosnian authorities will respond. Oslobodjenje noted on 5 February that those suburbs will be under government control alone after 19 March. The paper added that the government meanwhile says that only IFOR and the international police should be armed there. Bildt's arrangement calls for the Serbian police to wear sidearms. -- Patrick Moore

BOSNIAN SHORTS.
Some 100 Croatian police will help the force in Mostar starting 10 February, Oslobodjenje reported on the 5th. The Czech paper Mlada fronta Dnes said that Bosnian Serb parliamentary speaker Momcilo Krajisnik stated that Pale does not recognize the new Bosnian republican government announced last week, since Pale was not party to the arrangement. Nasa Borba noted that Serbian refugees have begun returning to the Mrkonjic Grad area, which is passing from Bosnian Croat to Bosnian Serb control in keeping with the Dayton agreements. Most of the homes there were so badly damaged that the refugees will not be able to return permanently for some time. Vecernji list reported that a Serbian radio station in Eastern Slavonia continues to urge Serbian refugees uprooted in last year's allied offensive to move into Croatian homes there. Western press reports last week said there are several signs that the East Slavonian Serbs have no intention of letting the region return to Croatian control as it is supposed to do. -- Patrick Moore

WITHDRAWAL DEADLINE MET.
The Bosnian factions have withdrawn from territory adjacent to the zones of separation or set to change hands under the Dayton peace accords by the 3 February midnight deadline, international and local media reported. Five Serb-held suburbs of Sarajevo were being handed over are to the Muslim-Croat federation, as were areas around the city of Mostar and an access corridor from federation territory to the eastern enclave of Gorazde. The Serb republic assumed control of the area around Mrkonjic Grad in northwest Bosnia. Bosnian Federation Defense Minister Vlado Soljic said on Croatian TV on 3 February that the Bosnian government and Croat forces had fully complied with the deadline and that he didn't "think that any side will run the risk of forcing IFOR to implement this part of the agreement by force." Meanwhile, Major-General Mike Willcocks, chief of staff of NATO ground forces in Bosnia, reported in Sarajevo on 3 February that the netural zones around the country had been violated some 40 times but that all of these had been the result of "misunderstandings, bad map reading or no map reading." -- Michael Mihalka

ICRC FINDS 88 SERB PRISONERS IN TUZLA.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) found 88 unregistered Serb prisoners on 2 February when it was finally allowed access to the Bosnian government run prison in Tuzla, international media reported. The ICRC gave no details on when the prisoners might be released. The government had denied the ICRC access to the prison since September 1995. The ICRC said on 1 February that the Bosnian Serbs still hold some 20 prisoners in defiance of the Dayton peace accords which mandated all prisoners be released by 19 January. -- Michael Mihalka

IZETBEGOVIC MEETS CHRISTOPHER.
On 3 January U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher met Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic and other government officials in Sarajevo to discuss civilian problems in implementing the Bosnia peace accords, Onasa reported the same day. Izetbegovic said while the military part of the Dayton peace agreement was being successfully implemented, the civilian part that includes the reunification of Sarajevo and Mostar and establishment of the federation was going slower. He expressed his dissatisfaction to Christopher over High Representative Carl Bildt's consent to Serb police staying in Sarajevo for another 45 days, and over Serb destruction of factories and buildings that are to revert to government control. Izetbegovic informed Christopher there was little political freedom in the Republika Srpska in regards to media and political activity, which are conditions affecting elections, and discussed the release of prisoners. On prospects for the country's reconstruction, Christopher said: "Bosnia has a chance, it has a future with the U.S. and strong partners from Europe." -- Daria Sito Sucic

MILOSEVIC, CHRISTOPHER DISCUSS WAR CRIMES, TRIBUNAL.
Nasa Borba on 5 February reports that during his visit to Belgrade the previous day, US Secretary of State Warren Christopher held extensive talks with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic on the question of Belgrade's cooperation with the UN War Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Milosevic said he would allow an international war crimes investigator to establish an office in Belgrade, but resisted pressure to say that his authorities would extradite suspected war criminals, notably Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and Gen. Ratko Mladic, to face trial in the Hague. Milosevic described the talks as "frank and open." For his part, Christopher noted that US relations with rump Yugoslavia were improving "step by step," but also observed that Washington was not yet prepared to post an ambassador to Belgrade or to approve financial aid to the rump Yugoslavia. -- Stan Markotich

MILOSEVIC AGREES TO USIA OFFICE IN KOSOVO.
Following the talks, U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher said that Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic agreed to the opening of an United States Information Agency office in Kosovo, international agencies reported on 4 February. During the talks, Christopher raised the issue of human rights violations in Kosovo urging Milosevic to "ensure the status for Kosovo that would ensure respect of political and human rights" for the Kosovar Albanians. The International Herald Tribune on 5 February quoted Christopher as saying that rump Yugoslavia "will never achieve full acceptance into the international community, will never achieve full approbation by the United States until it reconciles the status of Kosovo." Albanian President Sali Berisha praised the planed USIA office and the preconditions Christopher set for the admission of rump-Yugoslavia into international institutions, Reuters reports on 5 February. -- Fabian Schmidt

GOLDSTONE SAYS PROMINENT SERB SUSPECTS MAY FACE JUSTICE.
Nasa Borba on 5 February reports that in an interview on a BBC program the previous day, Chief Prosecutor on the UN War Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, Richard Goldstone, said that the chances of Bosnian Serb leaders Karadzic and Mladic facing trial in the Hague are increasing. According to the Nasa Borba, Goldstone appears to be of the opinion that "Karadzic and Mladic are moving ever closer to the Hague," and said that chances for their extradition seem greater now than ever before. He did temper his comments by observing that he did not have a crystal ball, and could not predict exactly how developments would unfold. -- Stan Markotich

FORMER ROMANIAN PREMIER TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT.
The Democratic Party on 3 February nominated its leader, Petre Roman, as a candidate for presidential elections to be held in the fall of 1996, Romanian and Western media reported. Speaking to a crowd of some 1,000 supporters, Roman pledged to put an end to the "misery, indifference and influence peddling which have become characteristic of the present authorities." Roman also vowed to be a president "for the future not for the past," as well as Romania's first social-democratic president. The 49-year-old Roman, who was the country's first post-communist premier, was forced out of government by street protests against his economic reforms in September 1991. -- Dan Ionescu

ROMANIAN EXTREMIST PARTY STICKS TO RULING COALITION.
The National Council of the chauvinistic Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR) on 3 February decided to remain in the governmental coalition, Romanian media reported. Despite the recent conflict that emerged around the dismissal of Telecommunications Minister Adrian Turicu, a PUNR member (see OMRI Daily Digest, 31 January), party Chairman Gheorghe Funar said "we did not join the governmental coalition in order to quit it." Another PUNR minister, Valeriu Tabara, said however, that practically all of the ministers who are members of the PUNR have been suspended, due to systematic obstruction by the ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR). Turicu was dismissed on the ground of having appointed one of his proteges as director of the Romtelecom company. -- Matyas Szabo

CIS REJECTS DNIESTER MEMBERSHIP APPLICATION.
The Executive Secretariat of the Commonwealth of Independent State in Minsk rejected an application for membership from the self-proclaimed Dniester republic, BASA-press and Moldpres reported on 2 and 3 February. In reply to an application submitted by Dniester President Igor Smirnov on 5 January, the secretariat stressed that "Moldova, which includes the Dniester region, is a CIS member since 27 June 1994, when the Moldovan parliament ratified the CIS statutes." Cooperation within the CIS, the letter added, is based on respect for the territorial integrity of its member states and on refraining from any action which may encourage territorial dismemberment. Over 80% of the participants in a Dniester referendum held on 24 December voted in favor of the region's adherence to CIS as a separate entity. -- Dan Ionescu

GREECE, MACEDONIA CUT VISA FEES.
Delegations from Macedonia and Greece on 2 February in Skopje ended two-day talks on normalizing relations, AFP reported the same day. They signed an agreement aimed at making traveling between the two countries easier. Visa fees will be cut by about 80% and will cost no more that around $5. Both sides said this agreement will "stimulate the exchange of people and goods [and] speed up economic cooperation." The Macedonian and Greek governments have agreed that delegations meet at least twice a year to discuss bilateral relations. -- Stefan Krause

BULGARIA TO INTENSIFY TALKS WITH NATO.
The Bulgarian government on 2 February decided to intensify its talks with NATO, including on possible membership in the alliance, Standart reported the following day. An expert group from the foreign and defense ministries is scheduled to prepare a document on Bulgaria's position on NATO enlargement by the end of March. The decision comes after NATO Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Gebhardt von Moltke on 29 January called for an "intensified dialogue" and asked Sofia to respond to that offer by the end of March. So far, the Socialist government has said Bulgaria will join NATO only if it becomes a system of collective security and takes Russian objections into account. -- Stefan Krause

FORMER ALBANIAN PRESIDENT BACK IN JAIL.
The last communist president of Albania, Ramiz Alia, was arrested on 2 February, AFP and Reuters reported. Alia is charged with political persecution, deportations and ordering the use of firearms against civilians, including border killings and ordering police to fire on protesters in 1990-1991. A Tirana court rejected an appeal by his lawyer Kleanthi Koci to put him under house arrest. Koci submitted a medical report saying that Alia suffered from a serious heart problems. However, the court ruled that Alia was "a danger to society". Alia was first arrested in 1992 and sentenced to nine years in prison for abuse of power and human rights violations. He was released in July 1995 following a series of amnesties and the introduction of a new penal code. Investigations are continuing into another 31 communist officials arrested and charged with crimes against humanity. -- Fabian Schmidt

ALBANIAN JOURNALIST FREED.
Altin Hazizaj, a journalist of Koha Jone who was arrested on 31 January while reporting on the eviction of a squat in Tirana, was released on 2 February. The release followed several protests by international human rights groups who claimed that Hazizaj was obstructed in fulfilling his journalistic duty to report on the eviction of former political prisoners from an unfinished building they had occupied. An investigation against Hazizaj for allegedly assaulting two policemen will continue and he has to report to authorities twice a week, Gazeta Shqiptare reported on 3 February. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]


Compiled by Victor Gomez and Ustina Markus




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