YELTSIN INSTRUCTS CHERNOMYRDIN TO FIND CHECHNYA SOLUTION.
Boris Yeltsin has asked Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to choose one of
seven options for ending the war in Chechnya discussed at a recent Security
Council meeting, Russian and Western agencies reported on 8 February.
Chernomyrdin has long been associated with those who seek a negotiated end to
the conflict. Yeltsin admitted in an interview with ITAR-TASS that he needs a
compromise: withdrawing the troops would lead to "carnage," but he will not win
reelection in June unless the Chechen war is brought to an end. Yelstin is
expected to officially announce his candidacy for the presidency in his
hometown of Yekaterinburg on 15 February. -- Laura Belin
OUR HOME IS RUSSIA GIVES "UNCONDITIONAL" SUPPORT TO YELTSIN.
the council of Chernomyrdin's Our Home Is Russia (NDR) movement expressed its
"total and unconditional support" for the presidential candidacy of Boris
Yeltsin, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 February. The prime minister told the 9
February Izvestiya that he is confident Yeltsin will win reelection in
June. Although some NDR members were apparently dissatisfied that Chernomyrdin
himself will not seek the presidency, Izvestiya reported that there were
few objections raised at the council meeting. -- Laura Belin
YELTSIN UPDATES SECURITY COUNCIL MEMBERSHIP.
President Boris Yeltsin
formally removed former Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, former Duma Speaker
Ivan Rybkin and former Federation Council Speaker Vladimir Shumeiko from the
Security Council, ITAR-TASS reported 7 February. However, the agency stated
that Yeltsin does not intend to replace them with the new speakers, Gennadii
Seleznev and Yegor Stroev, on the grounds that this would violate the
separation of powers. The Council includes Yeltsin, Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin, the power ministers, and a variety of other executive branch
officials. It meets infrequently, but usually deals with important issues such
as the consequences of the Black Tuesday ruble crisis or the decision to use
force in Chechnya. Vyacheslav Trubnikov, the new director of the Foreign
Intelligence Service, became a non-voting member of the Council. -- Robert
YELTSIN MEETS UNION LEADERS.
At a meeting in the Kremlin on 7 February,
President Boris Yeltsin and trade union leaders discussed the problem of wage
arrears, ITAR-TASS reported. He said the government is currently working out a
schedule to pay off its debts to the state sector and promised that its
implementation would be strictly monitored, Russian Television reported. Wage
arrears in the Russian economy now amount to more than 13 trillion rubles ($2.7
billion), and the issue has prompted numerous labor disputes. At a meeting of
Our Home Is Russia leaders on 8 February, Prime Minister Chernomyrdin said
arrears in wages and other social payments in budget-funded enterprises and
organizations now total 7.5 trillion rubles ($1.7 billion), ITAR-TASS reported.
-- Penny Morvant
POLICE CORDON OFF DEMONSTRATORS IN GROZNY.
The situation in Grozny
remained tense as the mass demonstration in the town's central square entered
its fifth day. During the afternoon of 8 February, Russian and Chechen Interior
Ministry forces cordoned off the square occupied by some 2,000 pro-Dudaev
demonstrators, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported. Attempts by Chechen parliament
deputies to persuade the demonstrators to disperse proved unsuccessful. Despite
assurances by Chechen officials that violence would not be used against the
demonstrators, early on 9 February police opened fire on a man who allegedly
attacked a security official, according to ITAR-TASS. -- Liz Fuller
PRIMAKOV MEETS WITH DUMA MEMBERS.
Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov met
with the Duma International Affairs Committee on 8 February and called for
close cooperation between the Duma and the foreign ministry, ITAR-TASS
reported. Primakov pledged to "defend Russia's national interests more actively
than perhaps was the case in the past," although he added that he would seek to
prevent any drift towards confrontation with the West, with which he said
Russia had many common interests. Primakov said he planned to give priority to
"accelerating integrative processes within the CIS," but dismissed as
"primitive and untrue" Western worries that Russia aims to resurrect the USSR.
-- Scott Parrish
RUSSIA OFFICIALLY INVITED TO JOIN COUNCIL OF EUROPE.
The Council of
Europe's Committee of Ministers gave final approval on 8 February to Russian
membership in the organization, Russian and Western agencies reported. The
ministers endorsed a 25 January recommendation by the council's Parliamentary
Assembly. Russia will become the 39th member of the council, following approval
by the Russian parliament. Russia applied for membership in May 1992, but
doubts about democratic standards, human rights, and the war in Chechnya led to
repeated postponements of its application. -- Scott Parrish
IRAQ AND RUSSIA SIGN OIL DEAL.
Russia and Iraq have concluded a $10
billion deal to revitalize the Iraqi oil industry and boost its production
capacity by 1 million barrels/day after the UN economic embargo is lifted,
Western agencies reported on 8 February, citing Iraqi sources. The deal covers
all aspects of oil exploration and production, and include provisions for Iraq
to pay off its estimated $7 billion debt to Russia with oil deliveries. It will
not be fully implemented, however, until Iraq complies with the disarmament
provisions set by the UN Security Council and the sanctions imposed after the
1990 invasion of Kuwait are lifted. Russia has long pressed for the speedy
lifting of the sanctions, as has France. Both countries had extensive trade
ties with Iraq prior to 1990. -- Scott Parrish
PAPER: RUSSIA OFFERS MIGs TO GERMANY.
Russia has offered Germany 200
MiG-29 jet fighters to offset $2.5 billion worth of debt, NTV reported on 6
February, quoting Argumenty i fakty. The German Air Force inherited a
squadron of MiG-29s from East Germany following German unification, and has
elected to keep them in service. -- Doug Clarke
AUTHOR LYDIA CHUKOVSKAYA DIES.
Lydia Chukovskaya, who chronicled life
during the Stalinist terror in her works The Deserted House and Going
Under, died on 8 February at the age of 88 in Moscow, Russian and Western
agencies reported the same day. A famous defender of dissident literature,
Chukovskaya saved some of her friend Anna Akhmatova's poems by memorizing them
and published an open letter denouncing the 1966 show trial and imprisonment of
the authors Andrei Sinyavskii and Yulii Daniel. She also befriended Boris
Pasternak and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and was herself expelled from the USSR
Union of Writers in 1974. -- Laura Belin
ZIL WORKERS STAGE WARNING STRIKE.
More than 1,500 workers at the
indebted ZIL truck plant in Moscow held a one-hour warning strike on 8 February
to demand the payment of 31 billion rubles ($6.4 million) in wage arrears and
the preservation of their jobs, ITAR-TASS reported. Some Moscow government
officials have suggested that the plant should be renationalized. According to
Izvestiya on 8 February, ZIL's workforce has fallen from 75,000 to
23,000, while output was only a quarter of planned levels. By the end of the
year, the company's total debt had risen to 1 trillion rubles ($210 million).
Earlier this month general director Alexander Yefanov was fired and replaced by
vice president Viktor Novikov. -- Penny Morvant
ARMY SHORT OF MONEY TO FEED TROOPS.
Following criticism that Russian
soldiers in Chechnya are poorly fed and clothed, Deputy Defense Minister
Col.-Gen. Vladimir Churanov acknowledged that the army is facing problems but
blamed them on a lack of government funding. Churanov, who is head of the base
forces, said that supplies to troops elsewhere have been cut to try to ensure
that troops in Chechnya receive all they need, Russian and Western agencies
reported on 8 February. He noted that the 1995 military food budget was cut
from 3.5 trillion rubles to 1.7 trillion, and that in December the ministry
received no money whatsover. Procurator-General Yurii Skuratov said last week
that an inspection of troops in Chechnya showed glaring problems, including
malnutrition and inadequate winter clothing. -- Penny Morvant
IMF APPROVES RELEASE OF LOAN . . .
The International Monetary Fund said
on 8 February that it had approved the release of a $1.05 billion loan to
Russia, the final tranche of a $6.3 billion dollar stand-by facility signed
with Moscow in April 1995, AFP reported the next day. An IMF spokesman said the
IMF board "expressed its satisfaction with Russia's track record in 1995 of
full implementation of (an) economic stabilization and reform program." IMF
head Michel Camdessus is expected to visit Moscow on 21 February to sign a
three-year, $9 billion loan agreement. -- Peter Rutland
. . . QUESTIONS REMAIN OVER OIL LIBERALIZATION.
Reuters reported on 9
February that the IMF is insisting that Russia lift all oil export duties as a
precondition for the new $9 billion loan. Most such duties were lifted from 1
January this year, but some categories (such as fuel oil) were exempted. Also
unclear is the rate at which oil and gas companies will be allowed to raise
their domestic prices, which were frozen in the last quarter of 1995. The
government is discussing plans to index energy prices to the general level of
inflation. Meanwhile, on 8 February the five largest Russian oil companies
called a press conference to denounce a recent government instruction ordering
them to revalue oil company assets (currently valued in 1992 prices). They
claim this will lead to price increases of up to 80%. Revaluation would make it
more difficult for these companies to buy up their own assets. -- Peter
RUSSIAN-U.S. TECHNOLOGY DEALS.
On 8 February representatives of the
Russian rocket manufacturer, Energiya, Gazprom, and U.S. space companies
including Loral signed an agreement to produce a new generation of
telecommunications satellites. The deal was finalized in the meeting of the
Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission on 29-30 January. Gazprom will provide some of the
financing for the project, which may be worth up to $1 billion over 20 years.
The group plans to start with the launch of two Yamal satellites in 1997, using
Molniya booster rockets. However, another Gore-Chernomyrdin deal drew criticism
yesterday. ITAR-TASS reported that the managers of the Perm Motors plant
protested the plan to purchase engines for the IL96 aircraft from the U.S. firm
Pratt and Whitney, rather than ordering the latest engines from Perm. -- Peter
BODY OF RUSSIAN REPORTER FOUND IN TASHKENT.
Sergei Grebenyuk, a reporter
for Interfax, was found dead on 8 February in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent,
western agencies report. Police said he was last seen leaving his brother's
house on the night of 27 January. The body was recovered from the nearby Karasu
canal. The cause of death for Grebenyuk, who had been working in Uzbekistan
since 1992, is under investigation. -- Roger Kangas
NEW PRIME MINISTER IN TAJIKISTAN.
Tajik Prime Minister Jamshed Karimov
was dismissed and replaced by Yakhiye Azimov, Reuters and AFP reported on 7
February. Karimov is the latest official to be dismissed after the Tajik
government announced on 4 February that three other members of the government
had left their posts (see OMRI Daily Digest, 5 February 1996). The
changes are being made in response to demands by armed opposition groups in the
cities of Tursun Zade and Kurgan-Tyube. The groups captured those cities and
came within 20 kms of the capital, Dushanbe, at the end of January. Azimov, 48,
runs the largest carpet company in Tajikistan. In other news, the first
brigade, which was at the center of the uprising in Kurgan-Tyube, has made good
on its promise to go to Tavil-Dara and fight the Tajik opposition group there.
-- Bruce Pannier
KYRGYZSTAN SET FOR REFERENDUM ON AKAYEV'S POWERS.
A popular referendum
on changes to the Kyrgyz Constitution will take place on 10 February, Reuters
reported. The referendum would change more than half of the present
constitution and provide President Askar Akayev with enhanced powers. Akayev
complained shortly after his 24 December election that he was little more than
a figurehead and compared himself to Queen Elizabeth. The changes to the
constitution would give Akayev the right to appoint all top officials except
prime minister, which would require parliament's approval. If the parliament
rejects three of Akayev's candidates then he could dissolve the body. -- Bruce
ASIAN SECURITY FORUM CONCLUDES IN ALMATY.
A pan-Asian security forum
proposed by Kazakhstan to serve as an Asian variant of the OSCE concluded a
two-day meeting in Almaty without signing a charter of common principles,
Russian and Western media reported on 9 February. Representatives from 14
nations, including Russia, China, India, Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan, and the five
Central Asian states except Turkmenistan attended. They formally pledged
support to a new forum, the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building
Measures in Asia (CICA), agreeing to hold higher-level meetings by mid-1997. --
LITHUANIAN PREMIER DISMISSED.
The Seimas on 8 February voted 94 to 26
with four abstentions to dismiss Adolfas Slezevicius, Radio Lithuania reported.
President Algirdas Brazauskas said he proposed the vote because the premier had
removed savings worth 135,162 litai ($33,790) from the LAIB bank two days
before its activities were suspended. He added that the government had worked
well for three years and that there was no reason to make any major changes in
its policies. He appointed Minister for Government Reforms and Local Rule
Mindaugas Stankevicius as interim prime minister. -- Saulius Girnius
UKRAINIAN PREMIER WARNS MINERS' STRIKE IS BECOMING `POLITICAL.'
Marchuk on 8 February said the ongoing coal miners' strike is turning into a
political campaign against the government, Ukrainian TV reported the same day.
His remarks came after trade union officials blasted President Leonid Kuchma's
economic reform policies at a large rally in Donetsk. Strike organizers vowed
to press on with their strike until all their demands are met. Although the
government has allotted at least 21 trillion ($110 million) to cover a portion
of the miners' unpaid wages, Marchuk warned the unions that the state-owned
coal pits could no longer expect government subsidies. Meanwhile, Ukraine's
energy minister told Ukrainian TV that the country was close to using up its
energy reserves and that several power stations were on the brink of shutting
down because of the strike. -- Chrystyna Lapychak
U.S. TO BACK UKRAINE OVER IMF LOAN.
The U.S. has said it will support
Ukraine in its attempts to secure the next tranche of a stand-by loan from the
IMF, international agencies reported on 9 February. President Leonid Kuchma, in
Helsinki on an official visit, met with U.S. Secretary of State Warren
Christopher, who was also in the Finnish capital to hold talks with Russian
Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov. The Ukrainian and U.S. leaders held a
hastily arranged meeting just before Christopher went to meet with Primakov.
This is interpreted as Washington's way of tacitly demonstrating its support
for Ukraine in front of Russia. -- Ustina Markus
BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT PASSES DECREE ON EXPORT TARIFFS.
Lukashenka has issued a decree on export tariffs in a move to control the
export of various commodities from Belarus, Belarusian Radio reported on 7
February. If the parliament approves the decree, tariffs introduced in April
1994 will remain in force until 1 January 1997. Meanwhile, the Party for the
Belarusian Patriotic Movement wants to collect signatures in the Chkalauskai
district in Minsk to remove deputy Stanislau Bahdankevich from office,
Belarusian radio reported on 8 February. The party's press service alleged that
Bahdankevich allowed many serious breaches of law when he was head of the
National Bank of Belarus. Lukashenka is known to hold Bahdankevich in contempt.
-- Ustina Markus
THREE ESTONIAN PARTIES SIGN COOPERATION ACCORD.
The Fatherland Union,
the Republican and Conservative People's Party, and the Farmers' Union on 8
February signed a cooperation agreement, BNS reported. Parliamentary deputies
of the first two parties will coordinate actions in the legislature and will
share seats on standing committees. Representatives of the Farmers' Union,
which has no deputies, will be allowed to attend the caucus meetings. The three
parties set up a joint work group to draft a plan of action and platform for
the fall local elections. -- Saulius Girnius
POLISH FOREIGN MINISTER ON FOREIGN POLICY.
Dariusz Rosati, speaking to
foreign journalists on 8 February, underlined the continuity in Polish foreign
policy priorities--namely, EU and NATO membership, despite Moscow's opposition
to NATO enlargement. Rosati underlined the need for dialogue with Russia,
saying "Poland is the last country that would seek a confrontation" with that
country. Rosati and Defense Minister Stanislaw Dobrzanski the same day
expressed Poland's wish for an individual dialogue with NATO in a letter sent
to Brussels, Polish dailies reported on 9 February. -- Jakub Karpinski
POLISH BUSINESSMAN EXTRADITED FROM SWITZERLAND.
Boguslaw Bagsik on 8
February was extradited from Switzerland to Poland under heavy escort of
anti-terrorist police, Polish media reported. Until 1991, Bagsik was co-owner
of a conglomerate known by the acronym Art-B, which took advantage of poor
inter-bank communications by transferring large deposits from one bank to
another and drawing interest on both accounts. Art-B is estimated to have made
some $100 million in this way. Bagsik was arrested by the Swiss police in June
1994. Under international law, he can be sentenced in Poland only for crimes
identified as such by Swiss law. -- Jakub Karpinski
SLOVAK DEPUTY: HUNGARY SHOULD APOLOGIZE FOR OCCUPATION.
Zora Lazarova on
8 February asked Foreign Minister Juraj Schenk why he has not made the signing
and ratification of the Slovak-Hungarian treaty conditional on receiving an
apology from Hungary for the occupation of southern Slovakia during World War
II, Narodna obroda reported. Lazorova is chairwoman of the Slovak Green
Alternative, which ran on the ticket of the ruling Movement for a Democratic
Slovakia in the last election. Also on 8 February, Ladislav Pittner of the
opposition Christian Democratic Movement addressed several questions to Prime
Minister Vladimir Meciar regarding the "illegal activities" of the Slovak
Information Service. These include SIS chief Ivan Lexa's alleged efforts to
transfer the protection of constitutional officials from the police to the SIS
and his demand that violations of the law on the protection of the republic
(which has not yet been approved) be investigated by the SIS. -- Sharon
SLOVAK OPPOSITION DEPUTY WARNS OF `ABSOLUTE CONTROL.'
deputy chairman Ludovit Cernak, at a press conference on 8 February, compared
the current role of HZDS to that of the Communist Party under the previous
regime. According to the new territorial administration system currently being
prepared, several thousands of jobs will be created and filled not by experts
but by individuals with the "right" party membership, Cernak said. He also
warned that the next elections may not be fair, noting that free competition
among political parties is being violated since the opposition has insufficient
access to Slovak Radio and TV. -- Sharon Fisher
BOSNIAN SERBS THREATEN RETALIATION OVER ARRESTS.
Bosnian Serb Justice
Minister Marko Arsovic said his side will detain Muslims and Croats crossing
Bosnian Serb territory if the eight Serbs arrested on 30 January for suspected
war crimes and other offensives are not released. TV Pale on 8 February also
urged Serbs to postpone visits to areas controlled by the government or the
Croats until "the security situation becomes more favorable."
Oslobodjenje said on 9 February that the Serbs have temporarily detained
two AP correspondents. Onasa news agency reported that international policemen
visited six of the arrested Serb officers, including General Djordje Djukic. UN
spokesman Alexander Ivanko added, however, that "international police did not
get requested information about the remaining prisoners. No one knows where
they are." -- Patrick Moore
MILOSEVIC MEETS WITH KARADZIC.
Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and
other Bosnian Serb leaders met on 7 February with Serbian President Slobodan
Milosevic. Onasa news agency reported unnamed sources as telling Reuters that
Milosevic has agreed with Pale's suspension of Dayton-based contacts until the
arrested officers are freed. Milosevic is a signatory to the Dayton agreement,
which binds him to cooperate with the Hague-based tribunal in bringing indicted
war criminals like Karadzic to justice. -- Patrick Moore
NATO REJECTS BOSNIAN SERB ANNOUNCEMENT ON SEVERING TIES.
NATO on 8
February rejected the Bosnian Serb army's announcement cutting off all military
ties to IFOR unless two Serbian officers held by the Bosnian government are
released, international media reported. A NATO spokesman stressed that the
organization questioned the validity of the order, which was signed by General
Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb army commander. "Under the Dayton peace accords
we are not authorized to communicate with indicted war criminals and we do not
recognize General Mladic as an official representative of the Republic of
Serbska," he said. The spokesman added that NATO saw no connection between the
detention of Serbian soldiers and the military side of the agreement. --
U.S. MOVES TO REVIVE BATTERED PEACE PROCESS.
The U.S. on 8 February
announced it will send its A-team back to Bosnia in an attempt to revive the
faltering Balkan peace process, international media reported. U.S. Secretary of
State Warren Christopher telephoned the presidents of Croatia, Bosnia, and rump
Yugoslavia to inform them that the chief Dayton peace negotiator, U.S.
Assistant Secretary of State, Richard Holbrooke, will return to the region on
11 February. He will be accompanied by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for
Human Rights John Shattuck and Robert Gallucci, special envoy for implementing
the civilian side of the accords. -- Michael Mihalka
KARADZIC KICKS OFF ELECTION CAMPAIGN IN PRIJEDOR.
Although banned by the
Dayton agreement from running in the elections because he is an indicted war
criminal, Bosnian Serb leader has launched the campaign of his Serbian
Democratic Party. He announced on 8 February that he has not given up his goal
of uniting the Republika Srpska with rump Yugoslavia. He also urged toughness:
"At no cost must we allow the degree of [our] autonomy to be reduced" in favor
of the central government. He implicitly accused unnamed Serbian parties of
being willing to make compromises with Sarajevo. Several opposition Serbian
parties have indeed made contacts with the opposition in Sarajevo in the spirit
of the Dayton accords. This is anathema to nationalists like Karadzic, who
added: "we will never renounce the fruits of our combat," AFP reported on 9
February. -- Patrick Moore
MOSTAR IMBROGLIO CONTINUES.
The situation remains outwardly calm in
Herzegovina's largest city following the rampage by Croats against the EU and
its administrator Hans Koschnick on 7 February. Onasa said the next day that
the EU has asked NATO to protect the former mayor of Bremen, whose car was
battered for an hour by Croatian protesters. Koschnick had handed down a
binding decision to create a large ethnically mixed central district in the
city, which is overdue to be reunited. The Croats want to control the center,
at least in their western half of town. Vecernji list on 9 February
quoted Bosnian Croat leader and Federal President Kresimir Zubak as rejecting
Koschnik's decision as "an act of self-will" that is not in keeping with
Dayton. -- Patrick Moore
RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER MEETS WITH MILOSEVIC.
Pavel Grachev on 9
February met with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade to discuss
the Bosnian peace process, AFP reported. The two leaders agreed that the peace
agreements should not be implemented in an "arbitrary" manner. They also
concluded that so far the results of the peace process were good and were
attributable to the efforts of international players, notably Russia and the
rump Yugoslavia. Grachev also met with Montenegrin President Momir Bulatovic,
who described the arrest of the Serbian officers in Bosnia as "a very worrying
matter." -- Stan Markotich
LIBERALS THROWN OUT OF MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT.
The Social Democratic
Union of Macedonia (SDSM) has rejected President Kiro Gligorov's calls to keep
the governing coalition together by ruling out the participation of Liberal
Party ministers in a new government, MIC and ONASA reported on 8 February. The
party leadership asked SDSM Chairman and Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski to
draw up a new government by the end of the week. The Liberals supported
Gligorov's appeal and have expressed readiness to "search for solutions" to
solve disputes within the coalition. In the past, the Liberals had refused to
meet with the Social Democrats and may thus have contributed to the ongoing
government crisis. -- Fabian Schmidt
SHALIKASHVILI CONCLUDES ROMANIAN VISIT.
U.S. Joint Chief of Staff Gen.
John Shalikashvili, at the end of his two-day visit to Romania, praised
bilateral military cooperation with Romania and the country's efforts to
modernize its army, Romanian and international media reported on 8 February.
But he added that NATO membership for Romania was not imminent. Following talks
with President Ion Iliescu and Defense Minister Gheorghe Tinca, Shalikashvili
said he was "heartened" by what he had heard. He noted that the airport offered
by Romania in Timisoara, close to the Yugoslav border, was currently not needed
as a support base for the NATO-led peace mission in Bosnia, but he said an
assessment team will visit it to ensure it is suitable should the need arise.
Shalikashvili also said in Bucharest that there was no need for "buffer zones"
between NATO and Russia because the alliance was "not in confrontation with
Russia." He said NATO "extends its hand of friendship to Moscow." -- Michael
SENIOR EU OFFICIAL IN BUCHAREST.
EU Commissioner for relations with
Eastern Europe and the CIS Hans van den Broek, on an official visit to
Bucharest from 7-8 February, said "Romania is definitely on the right track"
toward EU integration, Romanian and international media reported. At the same
time, he urged the country to speed up economic reforms and to bring its
legislation in line with that of the EU. With regard to negotiations on
Romania's EU membership, Van den Broek said they will not start before the end
of the next year. He met with President Ion Iliescu, Prime Minister Nicolae
Vacaroiu, Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu, and the two parliamentary
speakers. -- Matyas Szabo
MOLDOVAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON RUSSIAN TROOPS WITHDRAWAL.
speaking at a press conference on 8 February, said "now that Russia has entered
the Council of Europe, it is easier for us to negotiate the Russian troop
withdrawal from Moldova," BASA-press reported. He added that Moldova supported
Russia's membership in the CE on the condition that the Russian State Duma
ratifies the evacuation agreement within six months. He proposed setting up a
special commission to report periodically to the parliament on the
implementation of the many bilateral agreements with Russia that Moscow has not
yet implemented. Popov confirmed Chisinau's refusal to transform some Russian
military subdivisions in the Dniester region into peacekeeping forces. --
BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES 1996 BUDGET.
The Bulgarian parliament passed
this year's state budget on 9 February, Bulgarian media reported. Opposition
deputies criticized the document as anti-social and relying on changes to tax
legislation that have not yet been enacted. They also pointed out the need for
a medium-term program on servicing the country's large foreign and internal
debts. The government's official macroeconomic projection for 1996 envisions a
budget deficit of 4.5-6% of GDP. -- Michael Wyzan
BULGARIAN POLITICAL UPDATE.
The Bulgarian parliament on 8 February
rejected a motion by the Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) to dismiss
parliamentary chairman Blagovest Sendov, Pari reported. Sendov came
under fire for controversial statements about NATO enlargement allegedly made
during a visit to Moscow (see OMRI Daily Digest, 31 January 1996).
Reuters on 8 February reported that four Defense Ministry employees working in
the ministry's radioelectronic defense department institute have been arrested
on charges of illegally transferring or selling to private firms military
technology and information "related to national security and defense." Defense
Ministry spokesman Tsvyatko Donchev said his ministry so far has no information
on the involvement of foreign firms. Western firms have shown strong interest
in buying Bulgarian-produced radio defense systems. -- Stefan Krause
CHIEF OF GREEK GENERAL STAFF FIRED OVER DISPUTED ISLET.
government's Defense and Foreign Affairs Council on 8 February dismissed
Admiral Christos Limberis as chief of staff of the armed forces, Reuters
reported the same day. Limberis was sacked for the military handling of the
conflict with Turkey over a disputed islet last week. He offered military
options for driving Turkish commandos from territory that Athens considers
Greek, but those options were rejected by Prime Minister Kostas Simitis on the
grounds that military action might have fueled a major conflict. Simitis was
also furious at Limberis for publicizing what was said at confidential talks
that the two held during the crisis. Limberis had refused to resign. Meanwhile,
international agencies reported that the EU on 7 February expressed its "full
solidarity with Greece" and thanked both sides for peacefully resolving the
crisis. -- Stefan Krause
ALBANIAN PRISONERS IN GREECE DEMAND EXTRADITION.
being held in Greece have threatened to go on hunger strike if they are not
extradited to Albania, Western agencies reported on 9 February. In an open
letter to Albanian President Sali Berisha, published in Albanian newspapers,
the prisoners say they are mistreated by Greek prison guards who frequently
beat them up without reason. They also complain that they do not receive enough
food and that living conditions in the cells are unbearable. In August 1995,
Greece and Albanian signed a prisoner exchange agreement. Last month, Gazeta
Shqiptare reported that 790 Albanian prisoners would be sent to Albania to
serve the rest of their sentence there. -- Stefan Krause
TURKEY TO HOST CONFERENCE ON MILITARY AID TO BOSNIA.
The Turkish Foreign
Ministry announced it will host an international conference to bring together
countries and organizations willing to support a "train and equip" program for
the Bosnian federation, AFP reported on 8 February. The decision to hold the
conference followed discussions in Ankara between Turkish Foreign Minister
Deniz Baykal, former Bosnian Foreign Minister Muhamed Sacirbey, and James
Pardew, U.S. special representative for military stabilization in the Balkans.
Sacirbey told reporters that Turkey's military contribution to Bosnia "is not a
program of war but is aimed at developing peace." -- Lowell Bezanis
[As of 1200 CET]
Compiled by Pete Baumgartner and Jan Cleave