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Newsline - February 13, 1996


NATIONALIST LEADER ATTACKED IN MOSCOW.
The deputy leader of Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party's parliamentary faction, Aleksandr Vengerovskii, was shot by two unidentified assailants while walking near his home on 12 February. He received a superficial knee wound and was hospitalized, ITAR-TASS reported. The police are currently investigating Vengerovskii's business dealings, which have provoked threats in the past. Vengerovskii heads the Duma's subcommittee on foreign intelligence, which is planing to hold hearings on the secret service's ability to prevent foreign mercenaries from entering Chechnya. Four deputies have been murdered since the 1993 Duma elections. -- Robert Orttung

TULEEV READY TO DROP PRESIDENTIAL BID.
Kemerovo Oblast legislature chairman Aman Tuleev is prepared to end his presidential campaign, Rossiiskie vesti reported on 13 February. The pro-government paper described his decision as the "best gift [Communist Party leader] Gennadii Zyuganov could imagine," since Tuleev was Zyuganov's "only real competitor from within the Communist Party." Rossiiskie vesti also contended that Zyuganov is planning to introduce constitutional changes that would shift power from the presidency to the Duma to reward colleagues who have nominated him as the single presidential candidate from the left bloc. There have also been rumors that Zyuganov was prepared to offer Tuleev the post of prime minister. -- Robert Orttung

KREMLIN LOCKS OUT NTV.
President Boris Yeltsin's press service has banned NTV from the Kremlin, the station reported on 12 February. NTV said no reason was given for the ban but speculated that it was because the station had interviewed Vyacheslav Kostikov, a former presidential press secretary and current ambassador to the Vatican, who has been very critical of Yeltsin. NTV accused the Kremlin of violating the law on the media by preventing the station from reporting the news. NTV came under state pressure in December 1994 when its reporting from Chechnya contradicted the official version of events and in July 1995 when the procurator-general opened a case against the satirical puppet show "Kukly." -- Robert Orttung

ST. PETERSBURG LOBBY GROUP CREATED IN DUMA.
Duma deputies elected from St. Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast have set up a non-partisan group Neva Initiative (Nevskaya initsiativa) to lobby for the interests of their region, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 February. So far, only eight of the 23 deputies from the region have agreed to join the group, which thus falls short of the 35 required to register as an official parliamentary faction. -- Anna Paretskaya

NATIONALITIES MINISTRY IDENTIFIES DEPRESSED REGIONS.
The Nationalities Ministry has classified
Dagestan, Kalmykiya, Chuvashiya, and Kostroma and Ivanovo Oblasts as "depressed" regions, Rabochaya tribuna reported on 13 February. The ministry now plans to submit a draft program of financial support for those areas to the Federation Council. According to Rabochaya tribuna, even regions that are doing relatively well are ready to declare themselves depressed in the hopes of obtaining extra money from the federal budget. -- Anna Paretskaya

RUSSIA AND U.S. SPAR OVER SANCTIONS AGAINST BOSNIAN SERBS.
Disagreement between the United States and Russia in the UN Security Council has delayed the suspension of economic sanctions against the Bosnian Serbs as provided for by the Dayton agreement, Russian and Western agencies reported on 12 February. The two countries disagree over whether a letter from NATO Secretary General Javier Solana, stating that Bosnian Serb forces have withdrawn from areas slated to be handed over to the Bosnian government, is sufficient to trigger suspension of the sanctions. Russian UN delegate Sergei Lavrov told ITAR-TASS that the letter is sufficient and sanctions should now be suspended, but an American official told AFP that sanctions will be suspended only after the "zones of separation" provided for by the Dayton agreement have been created. -- Scott Parrish

FSB: SMUGGLED PLUTONIUM WAS FROM RUSSIA.
German government spokesman Petr Haussman said on 12 February that Bonn has received a letter from the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) that clears Germany's BND intelligence service of staging a 1994 operation to smuggle plutonium into Germany. Haussman said the letter, a request for legal aid, shows that the plutonium seized at Munich airport in August 1994 was stolen from a research reactor at Obninsk, southwest of Moscow, Reuters reported. At the time, the FSB denied that the radioactive contraband was Russian in origin and suggested that the BND had staged the operation to justify its existence. According to Haussman, the letter says Justinian Torres, one of three men seized by police in the Munich incident, acquired a sample of plutonium in June, whereas the BND undercover agent reported the offer only at the beginning of July--a sequence of events that indicated that the BND had not initiated the deal. According to the German daily Bild, the Russian authorities are investigating three Russians believed to have helped the Colombian Torres obtain the plutonium. -- Doug Clarke and Penny Morvant

JUPPE ENDORSES YELTSIN.
On the eve of a visit to Russia, French Prime Minister Alain Juppe expressed support for Russian President Yeltsin's reelection in a 13 February interview with Izvestiya. Juppe said he hoped that the upcoming presidential campaign would "give credit to the reforms accomplished by President Yeltsin." Juppe termed the eastward expansion of NATO a "natural process," but added that Russia and NATO could conclude a special accord to regulate their relationship. On 12 February, Juppe met with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl in Bonn, where the two leaders announced their continued support for Russian political and economic reforms. While the United States has cooled toward Yeltsin in recent months, both Germany and France have continued to offer open support, a stance criticized by media in both countries. -- Scott Parrish

AIR FORCE CHIEF SAYS MILITARY AVIATION IN CRITICAL STATE.
General Petr Deinekin, the commander-in-chief of the Russian Air Force, told the service's military council that military aviation is in a critical state, NTV reported on 11 February. Deinekin pointed out that modern, fourth-generation aircraft made up just 15% of the air force fleet. He said that the service needed to acquire 250-300 new planes each year to maintain its combat effectiveness but added that not a single new aircraft was purchased last year. Financial problems have prevented the service from buying the aviation fuel it needs with the result that "only one-third of the pilots are capable of doing their job properly," he said, adding: "The rest simply don't fly." -- Doug Clarke

UNITY OF PROCURACY AT RISK.
Addressing the collegium of the Buryat procuracy in Ulan-Ude on 12 February, Russian Procurator-General Yurii Skuratov called for the retention of the centralized system of public prosecutors, saying it guaranteed the effectiveness and cohesion of the country's legal system, ITAR-TASS reported. He said he was alarmed by current difficulties in appointing procurators in Russia's regions, noting that 40 such appointments are due to be made this year. Current practice is to give oblsat authorities the right to confirm the appointment of regional procurators. Skuratov said this results in long-drawn-out conflicts in regions where heads of the executive and legislative branches are at odds with one another. He criticized proposals to extend the confirmation right down to raion level. -- Penny Morvant

CORRUPTION CRACKDOWN IN STAVROPOL.
On 11 February, ITAR-TASS quoted Kremlin chief of staff Nikolai Yegorov as saying, "We are going to take steps against enterprise leaders, including those in joint-stock companies with state ownership, who have used money released to them to buy Mercedes and build houses." Later in the day the agency reported that Valentin Poltorak, former director of the Signal firm in Stavropol, had been arrested for corruption--including buying cars and having a house built for himself. He was also accused of leasing and selling off Signal's assets to firms run by his associates (including his son) at low cost. The previous day, ITAR-TASS reported that Col. Valerii Zimarev, head of the Stavropol MVD's financial department, had been arrested for misplacing 2 billion rubles ($420,000) intended for wages owed to police. Meanwhile, NTV reported on 9 February that Yevgenii Bychkov, the head of the Russian Federation Committee on Precious Metals (Roskomdragmet), is also under investigation for corruption. -- Peter Rutland

COAL INDUSTRY PRIVATIZATION ON HOLD.
On 10 February, President Yeltsin signed a decree turning the state enterprise Rosugol into an open joint-stock company, but with 100% state ownership for three years. Both the management and unions of the monopoly coal producer are keen to stay in state ownership in order to ensure a steady flow of subsidies, Izvestiya reported on 13 February. The paper suggested that the Economics Ministry is the only agency arguing against the continuation of state control over the coalmining industry. Real privatization would trigger a wave of closures of unprofitable pits. There are growing complaints that profits are being siphoned off from parts of the industry even as miners go unpaid and subsidies continue to flow in. -- Peter Rutland

MONETARY POLICY MAY BE WEAKENING.
On 9 February, the Central Bank cut the refinancing rate (the rate at which it lends to banks) from 160% to 120%, Ekho Moskvy reported the same day. Finansovye izvestiya noted on 13 January that a similar cut in August 1994 had preceded the "Black Tuesday" ruble crash in October of that year. The bank's move is a response to the cash crisis facing Russian industry. Firms have been squeezed by the tight monetary policy of the past few months. Yet investors expect inflation to accelerate between now and the June elections. This leaves Russian firms in the worst of both worlds. Credits are expensive (60-80% annual interest at minimum) with a maximum duration of three months. -- Peter Rutland

HEAD OF VNESHEKONOMBANK DISMISSED.
President Yeltsin dismissed Anatolii Nosko on 8 February from his position as head of Vneshekonombank, the state-owned bank responsible for foreign currency transactions, Kommersant-Daily reported on 10 February. Similar to January's cadre reshuffling at Sberbank (see OMRI Daily Digest, 25 January), the move signals the government's intention to exert stronger control over the bank's activities. Deputy Finance Minister Andrei Vavilov criticized the bank for speculating in Russian treasury bills with funds earmarked for repaying foreign debts. -- Natalia Gurushina



THREE MILITARY OFFICERS SENTENCED TO DEATH IN AZERBAIJAN.
On 12 February, a military court in Baku sentenced three former ranking military officers to death for "high treason," Turan and Western agencies reported. The three are Alikram Gummatov, who proclaimed the secession of the so-called Talysh-Murgan Republic from Azerbaijan in the summer of 1993; former Defense Minister Rahim Gaziev, charged with responsibility for military defeats in the war in Nagorno-Karabakh in 1993; and former Minister of National Security Nariman Imranov, who engineered their escape from pre-trial detention in September 1994 shortly before an alleged coup attempt. Gummatov was recaptured, but Gaziev is reportedly in Moscow and was sentenced in absentia. Arif Pashayev, a former army commander who escaped with Gummatov and Gaziev in September 1994, was sentenced to five years' imprisonment. -- Liz Fuller

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION CALLS FOR RECOGNITION OF NKR.
Several Armenian opposition parties, including the Democratic Party of Armenia (the successor to the Armenian CP) and the Scientific-Industrial and Civic Union, have issued an appeal to the Armenian government to grant international recognition to the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, Noyan Tapan reported on 12 February. Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan has stated that Armenia will recognize the NKR only after another country has formally done so. -- Liz Fuller

NIYAZOV IN ANKARA.
Following a five-day stay in Istanbul, Turkmenistan's President Sapamurad Niyazov traveled to Ankara, where he signed a memorandum of understanding for the sale of 10-15 billion cubic meters of natural gas between 1998 and 2020 with his Turkish counterpart, Suleyman Demirel, the Turkish press reported on 13 February. The agreement appears to dodge the all-important question of the route by which Turkmen gas will reach Turkey. One quarter of the estimated 200 foreign companies operating in Turkmenistan are Turkish; they have invested approximately $1.5 billion over the past four years. Demirel lavished praise on Niyazov, noting "the giant steps Turkmenistan is taking toward democracy, secularism, and market economics." -- Lowell Bezanis

SCABIES AND LICE EPIDEMIC IN KAZAKHSTAN.
More than 60,000 people in Kazakhstan, mostly children, are afflicted with lice and scabies: 42,234 cases of scabies and 18,000 of lice were noted in 1995, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 February. These figures came to light after a seven-year-old girl in a Zhambul collective farm died of scabies after being treated with medicine used on cattle. The Kazakhstani Health Ministry said no medicines were available to rid humans of these parasites. Owing to a lack of running water and indoor plumbing in many remote regions, people have traditionally used the public baths. Few can now afford the high prices of the baths, which are being privatized. -- Bhavna Dave



UKRAINIAN DEPUTIES ASK PRESIDENT TO RECONSIDER CHORNOBYL SHUTDOWN.
Fifty-eight Ukrainian lawmakers have appealed in an open letter to President Leonid Kuchma to reconsider his decision to shutdown the Chornobyl nuclear power plant by 2,000, Ukrainian TV and UNIAN reported on 9 February. Calling the decision groundless, the deputies cited government reports claiming Chornobyl has been the safest and most efficient of all five Ukrainian atomic energy stations for the past two years. They cited various experts' conclusions that the plant could safely operate until 2007 and bring in revenues of more than $5 billion in electricity exports. The legislators also demanded that Environment Minister Yurii Kostenko be removed as head of the government delegation in ongoing talks with the G-7 powers over the planned closure. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

UPDATE ON UKRAINIAN CHIEF OF STAFF'S DISMISSAL.
Further details about Col.-Gen. Anatolii Lopata's dismissal as chief-of-staff of the armed forces by President Leonid Kuchma have been released, according to ITAR-TASS and Reuters. Lopata's dismissal reportedly stems from differences with Defense Minister Valerii Shmarov over downsizing Ukraine's 470,000-strong military. Shmarov was in favor of reducing troops to 350,000 by the end of the decade, while Lopata prefers maintaining a larger force and has objected to plans on reorganizing military districts. Rumors were circulating for over a year that Lopata would be replaced, and presidential adviser Volodymyr Horbulin said Lopata was making public what amounted to state secrets over the dispute. Deputy Defense Minister Ivan Bizhan was named acting chief-of-staff. In other news, the Black Sea Fleet and Ukraine's navy have begun to exchange naval information. The agreement on the exchange was initiated by the fleet after handing over most observation stations to Ukraine. -- Ustina Markus

RUSSIA DENIES INVOLVEMENT IN BELARUSIAN MILITARY THEFTS.
Russia's Strategic Rocket Forces have categorically denied any involvement in the theft of military hardware and precious metals from the 25th rocket arsenal in Belarus, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 February. Belarusian Radio reported last month that 7.8 kilograms of platinum worth $1.3 million had gone missing from the base. According to Reuters on 8 February, the commander of the 25th arsenal, Maj. Gen. Aleh Kruhlyakau, has been arrested for negligence and for abusing his position, although concrete charges have not been filed against him. The press center of the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces said they had nothing to do with the irregularities on the base since they had handed it over to Belarusian authorities in October 1992. All work there since then has been carried out by employees of the Belarusian Defense Ministry. -- Ustina Markus

LESS THAN 15% FAIL ESTONIAN CITIZENSHIP TESTS.
Estonian Prime Minister Tiit Vahi on 12 February told the parliament that only 13-15% of applicants for citizenship have failed tests on knowledge of the Estonian language and the republic's laws, BNS reported. He noted that since the implementation of separate tests on 21 November 1995, 313 persons have passed the language test and 562 the law test. -- Saulius Girnius

100 KILOS OF RADIOACTIVE MATERIAL SEIZED IN LITHUANIA.
Security and police officials on 10 February detained six Lithuanians and a Georgian who were attempting to sell 100 kilograms of radioactive material for $50,000 in Visaginas, where the Ignalina nuclear power plant is located, Radio Lithuania and Western agencies reported on 12 February. The material was stored in wooden boxes and was 10 times above normal radioactive levels. Plant director Viktor Shevaldin said the plant had nothing to with the incident. The material is suspected to be uranium smuggled from another former Soviet republic. -- Saulius Girnius

STRIKES IN SILESIA.
Miners from 19 coal mines on 12 February blocked coal supplies from Silesia to the rest of the country after union negotiations with employers broke down before the weekend, Polish dailies reported. Coal miners have been striking since 5 February. Solidarity, which represents Silesia's 270,000 miners, is demanding additional bonus payments for 1995, wages increases to keep pace with inflation, and government guarantees that the planned restructuring of the mining industry will not lead to layoffs and curb social benefits for the workers. Meanwhile, government spokesperson Aleksandra Jakubowska claimed that "representatives of Ukrainian coal companies have already become very active in Silesia." -- Jakub Karpinski

SECURITY OFFICER ARRESTED IN POLAND.
An officer at the State Protection Office, whose name has not been disclosed, was arrested on 9 February on charges of revealing classified information to the press. The released information reportedly sheds light on a loan that Polish Communists were offered by the former Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Polish press reported on 13 February. -- Jakub Karpinski

ZHIRINOVSKY WARNS POLAND NOT TO BEHAVE "LIKE A WHORE."
During French radical nationalist politician Jean-Marie Le Pen's visit to Russia, Vladimir Zhirinovsky told journalists that "if Poland would like to be free, let it be free both from the Soviet Union and NATO. . . . [But] if Poland behaves like a whore, running from one client to another, that will end very badly. The next client will strangle the whore." Zhirinovsky said that if Poland lets NATO soldiers be stationed near Russian borders, "there will be no Poland and no NATO," Polish media reported on 12-13 February. -- Jakub Karpinski

SLOVAK OPPOSITION ASKS PRESIDENT TO VETO LAW.
A group of opposition deputies on 12 February sent an open letter to President Michal Kovac asking him not to sign an amendment to the income tax law approved four days earlier, Pravda reported. The opposition walked out before the vote, and the legislation was passed with fewer deputies present than the parliamentary quorum stipulated in the constitution. The amendment frees new owners of privatized companies from paying taxes on income if the National Property Fund lowers the purchase price of their property. "The government not only enabled a small group of people to grow rich quickly from privatization by allowing the cheap sale of state companies but it also lowered their tax obligations to the detriment of other taxpayers who were excluded from privatization," the opposition said. -- Sharon Fisher

GABCIKOVO DAM TRIAL SET FOR EARLY NEXT YEAR.
The International Court of Justice in the Hague has said the trial to resolve the legal dispute between Hungary and Slovakia on the controversial Gabcikovo dam project will take place in February 1997, Magyar Hirlap reported on 13 February. Head of the international law division at the Hungarian Foreign Ministry Gyorgy Szenasi will represent the Hungarian government in its bid to prevent completion of the project. The two countries are expected to seek an out-of-court settlement before the trial, although no headway has been made in the three rounds of negotiations to date. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

PROMINENT HUNGARIAN EMIGRES GATHER IN BUDAPEST.
At the invitation of the Prime Minister's Office, more than 90 prominent emigres met with leading Hungarian politicians at a two-day conference titled "Hungary 2000," Hungarian media reported on 12 February. Prime Minister Gyula Horn requested the emigres' help to solve domestic problems and improve the country's international image. The emigres criticized certain bureaucratic procedures slowing down the process of opening new businesses and some financial aspects of the stabilization program. The conference issued an appeal asking the 2 million-strong Hungarian emigre community to do their best for Hungary. The participants--including financier and philanthropist George Soros--will be invited to attend similar meetings in the future. -- Zsofia Szilagyi



TWO SERBIAN OFFICERS SENT TO THE HAGUE.
Bosnian Serb General Djordje Djukic and Colonel Aleksa Krsmanovic were extradited to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia on 12 February "for questioning," the BBC reported. The move followed a compromise by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke, according to which the two would be sent to the court but the Bosnian government in the future would arrest for war crimes only persons against whom the tribunal had already issued a warrant. Holbrooke said that his visit to Sarajevo and Belgrade in recent days set down "new rules of the road." Two key Dayton principles are at stake: the Bosnian government is anxious to prosecute war criminals, while the Serbs argue that seemingly random arrests of Serbs threaten freedom of movement. -- Patrick Moore

"THE HAGUE'S SEAL OF APPROVAL AS A COMPROMISE."
This is how Nasa Borba on 13 February summed up the result of Richard Holbrooke's diplomacy. Bosnian government envoy Muhamed Sacirbey said he is convinced that the questioning of the two officers "will show that the source of the war is in Belgrade," the BBC reported. Onasa quoted him as saying that the government is preparing new rules for arresting war criminals in keeping with the compromise. U.S. human rights envoy Richard Shattuck said he is sure that most Bosnian Serbs will be pleased with the result since they are anxious to separate themselves from war criminals and get on with their lives. AFP on 12 February reported that the Bosnian Serb interior minister charged arrested Bosnian photo journalist Hidajet Delic with war crimes. -- Patrick Moore

U.S. REBUKES IFOR OVER KARADZIC.
U.S. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said reports that indicted war criminal and Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic passed unhindered through IFOR checkpoints are "disturbing," international media reported on 13 February. Burns stressed that if IFOR troops "come across suspected indicted war criminals in the conduct of their normal operations, then they are bound . . . to detain them" and turn them over to the International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague, even though this is not their principal mission. IFOR said it had limited information on the 52 indicted war criminals and photographs of only 15, many of which are of poor quality or outdated. It added that there are no checkpoints--only patrols to ensure freedom of movement--along the route Karadzic was likely to have taken from Pale to Banja Luka over the weekend. -- Michael Mihalka

NATO TO PROTECT EU ADMINISTRATION IN MOSTAR.
NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana and Gen. George Joulwan, allied supreme commander in Europe, visited Mostar on 12 February to meet with Mostar's EU administrator Hans Koschnick, international and local media reported. Solana also met with the president and vice president of the Bosnian Federation, Kresimir Zubak and Ejup Ganic, as well as the mayors of the eastern and western halves of Mostar. He said NATO will not tolerate Koschnick being threatened, underscoring the need for cooperation between IFOR and police forces in Mostar, Hina reported. He also called for reconciliation between Muslims and Croats in Mostar. According to Ganic, Koschnik's decision on the administrative reorganization of Mostar was not discussed at all. Zubak told Slobodna Dalmacija on 13 February that Western Mostar Mayor Mijo Brajkovic has agreed to reestablish contacts with Koschnick. -- Daria Sito Sucic

SLOVAK PRIME MINISTER IN CROATIA.
Vladimir Meciar on 12 February concluded a two-day visit to Croatia aimed at broadening bilateral trade contacts, Slovak media reported. Meciar and his Croatian counterpart, Zlatko Matesa, signed agreements on boosting and protecting investments, preventing double taxation, and cooperating in tourism and air traffic. "There have never been any problems between Slovakia and Croatia," Meciar stressed. He also discussed the several thousand Slovaks living in Croatia and the Slovak army unit that forms part of the UN forces in eastern Slavonia. "Slovaks in Croatia are first of all loyal to their state--Croatia. Their rights are understood only as individual rights," Meciar said. -- Sharon Fisher

BULGARIAN PREMIER IN BELGRADE.
Zhan Videnov arrived in the rump Yugoslav capital on 12 February for a two-day official visit, BETA reported. He met with high-ranking officials, including federal rump Yugoslav Premier Radoje Kontic, who agreed that bilateral economic relations need to be "intensified." Videnov also met with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to discuss the status of rump Yugoslavia's Bulgarian minority community. According to the Bulgarian daily Duma, "both parties agreed that the problems of the Bulgarian minority in Serbia are mainly of an economic nature and can be solved . . . through existing legislation." Stan Markotich

REFUGEE CAMPS IN KOSOVO ATTACKED WITH EXPLOSIVES.
Explosions were reported at refugee camps in Vucitrn, Kosovska Mitrovica, Pec, Pristina, and Suva Reka on 11 February, AFP and Reuters quoted Tanjug as saying the next day. Reports speak about the use of "homemade explosives," while the police say the blasts were caused by hand grenades thrown within one hour at the different locations. The explosions caused serious damage but no casualties or injuries. Between 10,000 and 12,000 Serbian refugees from Croatia are currently living in the camps. Tanjug reported that the refugees were "seriously upset" by the explosions. -- Fabian Schmidt

HOLBROOKE IN BUCHAREST.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke on 12-13 February paid a visit to Romania, local and international media reported. Radio Bucharest said Holbrooke thanked President Ion Iliescu for Romania's contribution to the peacekeeping process in Bosnia. The meeting was attended by Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu, Defense Minister Gheorghe Tinca, Chamber of Deputies chairman Adrian Nastase, and other officials. The Euro-Atlantic Center in Bucharest awarded the U.S. diplomat a diploma as "a sign of gratitude and appreciation for his special contribution to restoring peace in former Yugoslavia" and his "personal role in the development of Romanian-U.S. relations." RFE/RL's correspondent in Washington quoted U.S. State department spokesman Aric Schwann as saying Holbrooke was to discuss with his hosts democratic reforms in Romania and the situation of the Hungarian ethnic minority. -- Michael Shafir

ZHIRINOVSKY PROPOSES ROMANIA AS BATTLEFIELD FOR CHECHENS, FRENCH BLACKS.
Speaking to journalists after marrying his lawful wife in a religious ceremony in Moscow, the ultranationalist Russian politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky said that if the countries of Eastern Europe join NATO and thus "provoke a third world war," he will not "cross swords" with Jean Marie Le Pen, the leader of the French National Front, who attended the wedding. Rather, Zhirinovsky said, he and Le Pen will send the Chechens and France's black population to "confront each other on Romania's territory," Radio Bucharest and international agencies reported on 10 February. -- Michael Shafir

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT'S PARTY REACTS TO PARLIAMENT RESOLUTION.
Responding to the Moldovan parliament's decision to reject President Mircea Snegur's initiative to change the official name of the country's language (see OMRI Daily Digest, 12 February 1995), the Party of Revival and Conciliation of Moldova (PRCM) said increased tension may split the population over the issue. BASA-press on 12 February reported the PRCM statement as saying the "parliamentary majority has proven once more" that it is ignoring "scientific truth" and is guided only by "political reasons." The statement also denounced "trends endangering the democratization of society and economic reforms." -- Michael Shafir

BULGARIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION UPDATE.
The ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) will try to unite the pro-republican forces if former Tsar Simeon runs for president, Trud reported on 13 February. BSP Deputy Chairman Georgi Parvanov said his party is counting on talks with the Bulgarian Agrarian People's Union, which is anti-communist but also anti-monarchist. Standart cited top judges as saying Simeon cannot run in the next elections because he does not meet the constitutional provision that the president must have lived in Bulgaria for the past five years. Simeon says it does not apply in his case because he was forced to live in exile. However, he has so far failed to prove that he tried to return but was not allowed to. Standart also reported that Union of Democratic Forces Chairman Ivan Kostov will brief other opposition leaders on his recent talks with Simeon. -- Stefan Krause

VICE PRESIDENT OF BULGARIA'S MULTIGROUP SACKED.
Dimitar Ivanov, vice president of Multigroup, the controversial Bulgarian cartel, was fired by its board of directors on 12 February, Standart reported the next day. Ivanov made headlines in November 1995 following unsubstantiated allegations of his involvement in the October assassination attempt against Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov. Ivanov is a former section head at the infamous Sixth Administration of the State Security (DS) agency, which was charged with investigating political offenses. He may have been sacked for alleging that group president Iliya Pavlov was investigated by DS from 1983-1989 for corruption. Another possibility is that Multigroup is making room for technocrats in its management. -- Michael Wyzan

TURKEY'S LATEST MOVE ON KARDAK-IMIA.
Following the European Commission's declaration of "full solidarity" with Greece in its dispute with Ankara over the Kardak-Imia islet, Turkey has announced it is sending Foreign Minister Deniz Baykal to various European capitals, Turkish media reported on 13 February. Baykal will attempt to persuade Turkey's European allies to support the Turkish call for diplomatic negotiations on the status of various islets in the Aegean. Greece has already rejected this call, saying it is impossible to negotiate its sovereign rights. -- Lowell Bezanis

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Penny Morvant and Jan Cleave




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