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Newsline - February 20, 1996



YELTSIN MEETS KOHL.
German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, on a three-day official visit to Russia, met with President Yeltsin in the Kremlin on 19 February, Russian and Western agencies reported. Kohl's visit, the first by a Western leader since Yeltsin announced that he will seek reelection, appeared orchestrated to lend support to the unpopular Russian president. Afterwards, the two leaders announced their full agreement on all international issues, except NATO expansion. They minimized their differences, however, describing them as "a matter of tone," not substance. Kohl assured Yeltsin that no decision about the expansion of the alliance will be made before the Russian presidential polls. Kohl also held talks with other top Russian officials, but declined to meet with any of the other leading Russian presidential candidates, sparking criticism in Germany that Kohl has tied German policy too closely to Yeltsin personally. -- Scott Parrish

SOBCHAK UNDECIDED ABOUT SUPPORTING YELTSIN.
St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak believes that President Boris Yeltsin's ability to enter the second round of the presidential elections is "not guaranteed," Izvestiya reported 20 February. Sobchak has not decided who he will support, saying that he cannot support Yeltsin until he sees a serious attempt to resolve the Chechen conflict. He believes that the election results will depend on three issues: Chechnya, aid for the 25 million investors who lost their money in fraudulent schemes, and the decision to lengthen military service from 1.5 to 2 years. Sobchak has advised Yeltsin to run an energetic campaign based on the premise that he has "practically no chance" of winning. -- Robert Orttung

POLITICAL CAMPS PREFER DIFFERENT INSTITUTIONS.
Pro-reform segments of society prefer presidential institutions, while nationalist and patriotic camps prefer parliamentary institutions, concludes a study released by the Russian Institute of Social and National Problems and financed by the German Friedrich Ebert Foundation, ITAR-TASS reported 19 February. The study, based on surveys conducted in 14 regions, shows that individuals often hold democratic views on some issues and authoritarian positions on others. The researchers found that the population is most upset about the character of privatization, price increases, and the absence of government control over entrepreneurial activity. It also found evidence contradicting the stereotypical views that Russians reject the idea of a market economy and do not wish to live in an economically-stratified society. The recent sharp increase in support for authoritarian measures is attributed to fears about rising crime, embarrassment over the country's current crisis, and feelings of impotence in changing the situation. -- Robert Orttung

YEGOROV SUPPORTS INSTITUTION OF PRESIDENTIAL REPRESENTATIVES...
The presidential Chief of Staff Nikolai Yegorov proclaimed that the institution of the presidential representatives in the federation subjects should be further developed to provide co-operation of power institutions at all levels, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 February. He also said that presidential representatives should be assigned to the key ministries. The institution of the presidential representatives in the regions and republics was introduced along with post of regional head of administration (governor) in August 1991. Presidential envoys in regions were supposed to serve as the "eyes and ears" of the presidential apparatus, but failed to secure much influence. Now, in addition to regional envoys, the president has his representatives in the Constitutional Court and both houses of the parliament. -- Anna Paretskaya

...AND PRESIDENTIAL APPOINTMENT OF COSSACKS' ATAMANS.
At the same time Yegorov, who continues to head the advisory Presidential Council on Cossacks Affairs, said that President Boris Yeltsin will decide soon whether to replace elected Cossack Atamans with direct presidential appointment, Izvestiya reported on 20 February. The proposal, which will now undergo juridical review together with other draft bills on Cossacks affairs, proposes that all heads of Cossack units, except the lowest level leaders, would be appointed by the president after consultations with the Cossack units themselves. -- Anna Paretskaya

RUSSIAN MUSLIM LEADER RESIGNS.
The General Secretary of the Union of Muslims of Russia, Mikhail Bibarsov, has announced his resignation from the organization, Russian media reported on 19 February. Bibarsov said that he disagreed with other Union leaders' decision adopted by the Union's Council on 10 February to support President Boris Yeltsin re-election bid if he stops the war in Chechnya. He added that he and his supporters intend to set up a new Muslim organization and hold its constituent congress in March. According to Bibarsov, the idea of a new organization has been supported by the leaders of Tatarstan and Bashkortostan. Consultations with the pro-government bloc Our Home Is Russia, Yabloko movement, and the Communist Party are also underway. -- Anna Paretskaya

DUMA BEGINS HEARINGS ON START II.
On 19 February, a special Duma commission heard expert testimony from military and foreign ministry officials on the START II arms control agreement, Russian and Western agencies reported. The commission, consisting of representatives from the Defense, International Affairs, Security, and Geopolitics committees, will submit a report on the treaty to the full Duma before it votes on ratification. NTV reported that military officers at the session expressed unease about ratifying the treaty in the face of the possible NATO expansion. Western agencies also quoted military officials as estimating that implementation would cost Russia 35 trillion rubles ($7.45 billion). International Affairs Committee Chair Vladimir Lukin (Yabloko) later said that American development of missile defenses could torpedo ratification, although he still expressed support for the agreement. -- Scott Parrish

ITALIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN MOSCOW.
Italian Foreign Minister Susanna Agnelli met with her Russian counterpart Yevgenii Primakov in Moscow on 19 February, Russian and Western agencies reported. As Italy currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, the two diplomats discussed European security, NATO expansion, and the Yugoslav settlement in addition to bilateral issues. Afterwards Primakov told Russian TV that Russia and Italy shared a "common interest" in creating a new pan-European security system. Agnelli later met with First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Kadannikov to discuss Russo-Italian economic ties, including bilateral tax and investment protection agreements. The Italian diplomat subsequently announced that Italy will unfreeze the remaining 210 billion lira ($132 million) of a credit line provided for by a 1992 bilateral agreement, which has been blocked since 1993. -- Scott Parrish

MIR STATION CELEBRATES TENTH ANNIVERSARY.
Russia's seventh orbital space station, Mir, whose first unit was launched on 20 February 1986, celebrates its 10th anniversary, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 February. The Mir station was originally intended to last only 3 years, and has hosted 33 Russian and 13 foreign astronauts. In 1995 the Mir station earned 350 billion rubles ($74 million) from international flights. The 1996 space budget is 1.5 trillion rubles ($315 milion). Russia's space research is struggling in the face of budgetary cutbacks. The head of the Russian Space Agency, Yurii Koptev, said that the state owed the space program 437 billion rubles ($92 million). He welcomed a decision by the Gore-Chernomyrdin commission to extend Mir's operation until 1999, despite the projected launch of the cargo unit of the international Alfa station in 1997. -- Natalia Gurushina

FORMER EU MOSCOW MISSION HEAD INVOLVED IN CORRUPTION SCANDAL.
A former head of the European Union mission in Moscow, British diplomat Michael Emerson, has resigned from the European Commission in Brussels amid accusations that he used his position in Moscow to further his own business interests, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 February. The previous day the news agency said Emerson had denied the corruption allegations but admitted that he set up a private consulting firm that operated in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Kyrgyzstan. Emerson ended his five-year stint in Moscow with the EU on 30 December 1995. -- Penny Morvant

NICKEL MINERS BEGIN HUNGER STRIKE.
More than 150 nickel miners employed by the Norilsk Nickel Combine at its Komsomol pit announced a hunger strike on 19 February, ITAR-TASS reported. The miners, who are still waiting for their November paychecks, have been on strike since 13 February. Miners at the Taimyr pit are threatening to join their colleagues if wages are not paid within five days. Norilsk Nickel is one of the companies at the center of the controversy over the 1995 loans-for-shares auctions (see OMRI Daily Digest, 7 February 1995). -- Penny Morvant

OUSTED BOSS SEIZES SIBERIAN METALLURGICAL COMBINE.
Former Kuznetsk Metallurgical Combine General Director Nikolai Fomin hired a private security company to occupy the offices of his successor, Yevgenii Braunshtein, at the metalworks in Novokuznetsk, Russian media reported. Fomin's armed guards occupied the building for 30 hours on 16-17 February before being replaced without incident by local police after the company's board of directors reaffirmed its support for Braunshtein. Fomin said he was acting on a raion court ruling which stated that his dismissal by the company's board last year was unlawful, ITAR-TASS reported. According to Russian TV, Fomin was backed by the management of the Novokuznetsk Aluminum Works, which owns shares in the Kuznetsk metal plant. On 19 February, Kemerovo Oblast Governor Mikhail Kislyuk recommended that the Kuznetsk works, Russia's main producer of railroad, tram, and metro rails, be renationalized, an initiative supported by the board. -- Penny Morvant

FINANCE MINISTRY REPORTS ON 1995.
On 19 February Finance Minister Vladimir Panskov delivered a report to a ministry meeting on his agency's performance in 1995, NTV reported. Tight monetary policy brought about a reduction in inflation and stabilization of the ruble, which rose 70% in real terms against the dollar during 1995. However, Panskov admited that balancing the budget had been achieved by carrying over 4 trillion rubles ($840 million) of spending into 1996. He said targets were exceeded because of additional spending on Chechnya, pensions, and gold purchases, while income was reduced by import tariff waivers. -- Peter Rutland



AZERBAIJAN'S EX-FOREIGN MINISTER HOSPITALIZED.
Former Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Tofik Gasymov, who has been in pre-trial detention since September, 1995 pending charges of state treason, has been transferred from prison to hospital, Turan reported on 19 February. Gasymov, a leading member of the Musavat party, was in perfect health before his arrest, but is now reported to be unable to take food. -- Liz Fuller

KYRGYZSTAN'S BIGGEST SAVINGS BANK COLLAPSES.
The collapse of Kyrgyzstan's biggest savings bank, Kyrgyzelbank, on 19 February will hit about two million savers, or almost half the country's 4.2 million inhabitants, Western media reported on 20 February. The Central Bank of Kyrgyzstan said it was taking away the bank's license due to insolvency. Banking sources blamed the collapse on the bank's inability to honor the high rates of interest it offered. --Bhavna Dave

TAJIK OPPOSITION RETURNS BODIES OF SLAIN SOLDIERS IN TAVIL DARA.
After three days of negotiations under the direction of international observers, the anti-government opposition in the Tavil Dara region has handed over the bodies of 47 soldiers killed in the recent fighting, western sources reported on 19 February. Since the fighting began on 31 January, the government states that 92 soldiers have been killed, although the opposition puts the figure into the hundreds. Heavy snow and bad weather have hampered the transfer of additional bodies, and have temporarily halted fighting in the region. As the problems in Tavil Dara and Garm continue, the foreign ministers of Uzbekistan and Russia have called for a more active mediation process to the conflict. -- Roger Kangas

TURKMENISTAN CENSUS UPDATE.
Despite out-migration, Turkmenistan's continues to demonstrate a higher than average rate of natural increase. The population has increased from 3.6 million in 1990 to 4.5 million in 1995, Reuters reported on 19 February, citing the official Turkmen press agency. Ethnic Turkmen now constitute 77% of the population --up 5% from 1989. The percentage of ethnic Uzbeks remained stable at 9.2%, while that of ethnic Russians diminished from 9.5% to 6.7%. The rural population to 2.5 million, compared to 2 million urban dwellers. -- Lowell Bezanis



BELARUSIAN SPEAKER AGAINST DISSOLUTION OF CONSTITUTIONAL COURT.
Belarusian parliamentary speaker Syamuon Sharetsky on 19 February said he opposed the idea of dissolving the Constitutional Court, ITAR-TASS reported. Sharetsky has asked the court not to examine several cases brought to it by his predecessor, Mechyslau Hryb. Sharetsky said the reason for the move was that he did not view using an intermediary as the best way to build relations between the branches of power. As for President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's idea of holding a referendum over amending the constitution, Sharetsky said it was the parliament that decides whether plebiscites are held. In other news, Belarusian TV on 17 February reported the first interview with newly appointed head of the National Bank of Belarus Tamara Vinnikau. Lukashenka named Vinnikau to the post two days earlier. -- Ustina Markus

CONGRESS OF LATVIAN DEMOCRATIC PARTY, SAIMNIEKS.
The merger of the Latvian Democratic Party and the party Saimnieks was formally completed at a congress in Riga on 17 February. The congress was attended by 534 delegates representing the party's 1,045 members, BNS reported two days later. Ziedonis Cevers was elected as the sole chairman with former co-chairman Juris Celmins and board member Ivars Redisons as deputy chairmen. President Guntis Ulmanis and premier Andris Skele addressed the congress that also approved several amendments to the party's program and statutes, including the introduction of honorary members and tightening rules for admitting new members. * Saulius Girnius

FORMATION OF LITHUANIAN GOVERNMENT.
After consultations with President Algirdas Brazauskas and leaders of the Democratic Labor Party faction on 19 February, prime minister Mindaugas Stankevicius said that he would probably retain "about twelve" of the nineteen ministers in the former government, Radio Lithuania reported. The new cabinet will likely be announced in a few days. He said the post of interior minister would be offered to Seimas deputy Virgilijus Bulovas, while communications and finance deputy ministers Vaidotas Abraitis and Algimantas Krizinauskas would advance. He hoped to have two women ministers, mentioning Free Market Institute president Elena Leontjeva as a suitable economics minister. * Saulius Girnius

PRELIMINARY RESULTS OF POLISH REFERENDUM ON PROPERTY OWNERSHIP.
Poles on 16 February voted in two referendums on ownership. According to preliminary results of those votes, more than 90% answered "yes" to former President Lech Walesa question "Are you in favor of a general transfer of state property to citizens?" Four detailed questions were posed by the Sejm on using privatization funds to pay sums owed to pensioners and civil servants and to finance a new pension fund. Again, more than 90% gave their backing to these suggestions. These preliminary results show that voters followed the advice of Solidarity and right-of-center parties. Turnout, however, was less than 50%, which means the referendum will be non-binding. -- Jakub Karpinski

CZECH, POLISH PRESIDENTS' MEETING POSTPONED.
A meeting scheduled for 22 February between Vaclav Havel and Aleksander Kwasniewski has been postponed to an unspecified date in March, Czech media reported on 20 February. The two presidents were to have met in the Czech town of Nachod, near the Polish border, but Havel is recovering from a mouth operation and has canceled official engagements until next week. -- Steve Kettle

SLOVAK PRESIDENT MEETS WITH OPPOSITION.
Michal Kovac on 19 February met with opposition leaders to discuss the amendment to the income tax law approved earlier this month (see OMRI Daily Digest, 13 February 1996). The opposition said the law "violates the principle of equality of economic competition and is unfair toward businessmen." They also claim it was approved in an "irregular way." Kovac stressed that he uses two criteria to assess laws: whether they comply with the constitution and whether they narrow or widen the scope for implementing democratic principles, TASR reported. According to a Slovak Radio poll released on 20 February, parliamentary chairman Ivan Gasparovic is the most popular politician in Slovakia, with 61.3% of respondents expressing trust in him. Kovac came next with 50.3%, followed by Peter Weiss of the opposition Party of the Democratic Left with 49.6%. -- Sharon Fisher

SLOVAK INVESTIGATORS BRING CHARGES IN MURDER OF ROMA.
The investigation of the brutal murder of Mario Goral last July in Ziar nad Hronom ended with a proposal to bring charges against 16 skinheads, according to Marian Ponc, chief of the Regional Office of Investigation in Banska Bystrica. Of the 16 accused (nine of whom are under the age of 18), four have been taken into custody, TASR reported on 19 February. -- Sharon Fisher

HUNGARIAN ECONOMISTS FEAR THE SLOWDOWN OF REFORMS.
Hungarian economists say they fear that Finance Minister Lajos Bokros's sudden resignation on 18 February means economic reforms will slow down and a less radical alternative economic policy will be pursued. Coalition politicians said the move was unjustified, as the country is about to sign vital agreements on an IMF loan and on membership in the OECD. Prime Minister Gyula Horn said he accepted the resignation in order to "end uncertainty" in the cabinet, which, he added, was caused by Bokros's repeated threats to step down during his one year in office. Horn also said he would confirm in a letter to both the IMF and OECD that the cabinet will continue with stabilization, Nepszabadsag reported. Opinion polls conducted following Bokros's resignation show that most people are relieved that the radical austerity program will be eased somewhat. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

HUNGARIAN PUBLIC FOUNDATION TO HANDLE RETURNED JEWISH PROPERTY.
Representatives of the Hungarian Jewish community met with Secretary-General of the World Jewish Congress Israel Singer on 18 February to resolve differences over the restitution of Jewish community property, international and Hungarian media reported. Return of the property is currently being negotiated by Hungary's Jewish communities and the government, but a dispute emerged over which property would be overseen by a foundation set up for that purpose and who would control that foundation. The meeting voted overwhelmingly to set a public foundation to handle returned assets that cannot be used by Jewish communities that no longer exist. -- Zsofia Szilagyi



SERBIAN EXODUS FROM SARAJEVO UNDER WAY.
Serbs living in the five Sarajevo districts slated to pass to government control have begun a migration from their homes that is to be completed before government police arrive in those suburbs on 23 February. A special committee has been set up to oversee the exodus, which may be less than voluntary. The BBC added on 20 February that the Serbs are taking the exhumed coffins of their dead along in what many had predicted would be a media event staged by the Pale leadership under Radovan Karadzic. Committee chairman Gojko Klickovic said that the people would be settled in Bratunac, Srebrenica, Zvornik, Milici, Brcko, Pale, Sokolac, Visegrad and Rogatica, news agencies reported. These are mainly either "ethnically cleansed" regions of eastern Bosnia or places astride the strategic northern supply corridor. If completed, the exodus would mark a victory for the nationalists who have gained much wealth and power in the war by enforcing their doctrine that people of different origins cannot live together. It is not clear who will pay for the enterprise. -- Patrick Moore

MILOSEVIC SAYS THAT SERBS HAVE NO REASON TO LEAVE SARAJEVO.
Tanjug on 18 February ran a detailed interview with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. He said that he spoke in Rome with Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic and the international community's Carl Bildt at length about explicit measures to guarantee the future and safety of Serbs living under Bosnian government rule. Milosevic noted there will be no more arbitrary arrests and that an amnesty has been passed to cover everyone except indicted war criminals. The Serbs, he stressed, have a "very firm guarantee" and no reason to leave Sarajevo, where they will enjoy a wide degree of cultural and social self-government and participate in political life. -- Patrick Moore

BOSNIAN SERB GENERAL IGNORES DAYTON, ROME ACCORDS.
A Bosnian Serb general failed to show up for a meeting with IFOR and his Croatian and Muslim counterparts that took place on 19 February aboard the U.S. aircraft carrier USS George Washington, international media reported. Lt.-Gen. Sir Michael Walker, commander of NATO ground forces in Bosnia, has agreed to meet with Maj.-Gen. Zdravko Tolimir, deputy Bosnian Serb army commander, in Pale on 20 February to discuss his boycott. IFOR condemned his failure to appear as a "contradiction of the Dayton Peace Accord and the agreement at the Rome summit on the weekend." Momcilo Krajisnik, president of the self-styled Bosnian Serb parliament, said "the Serbs will make the release of General Djukic and Colonel Krsmanovic a condition for any future cooperation with the international community," a reference to the Bosnian Serb officers currently being held on suspicion of war crimes at The Hague. -- Michael Mihalka

FRENCH TROOPS SEIZE ARMS CACHE.
French IFOR troops seized a Bosnian Serb arms cache in a former weapons depot near Sarajevo on 19 February, international media reported. IFOR is empowered to ensure that no weapons or soldiers are left behind in areas to be transferred under the Dayton peace accords. The Bosnian Serbs at the site said the depot has been declared a humanitarian center. The arms included mortars, rocket launchers, machine guns and assorted munitions and were found hidden among sacks of onions and potatoes. Meanwhile, NATO issued a "wanted poster" of suspected war criminals to its troops. The poster contains 17 poor quality photographs and cursory descriptions of 35 others. A journalist at an IFOR press briefing on 17 February said he had found no IFOR troops at checkpoints in Bosnia who could identify a small glossy photograph of Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb political leader. -- Michael Mihalka

MOSTAR SETTLEMENT COMES INTO EFFECT.
A Croatian-Muslim agreement reached on 18 February in Rome to reunite the Herzegovinian city of Mostar will take effect over the next few days, the BBC reported on 20 February. The Muslim mayor of the eastern half of the town has resigned in protest over the plan, which creates a smaller central district than that recently proposed by EU administrator Hans Koschnick. The new administrative divisions were a concession to the Croats, while the Muslims got their key demand for immediate free movement for all people, including military-aged males. A joint police force will also be set up. Slobodna Dalmacija carried a conciliatory message to the Muslims from the Croatian mayor of the western half. AFP said that the atmosphere in the city is festive as Muslims mark the end of Ramadan and Croats celebrate carnival. -- Patrick Moore

CALLS FOR OPPOSITION TO CONTINUE PROTESTING SERBIAN GOVERNMENT'S MOVE OVER STUDIO B.
Mirjana Stojanovic, head of the broadcaster's independent trade union, has called on opposition parties to continue protesting new management policies at the independent TV station Studio B in the wake of the government's bid to take control, BETA reported on 19 February. She urged those journalists who still work on the station's now-censored news programs "to join with the independent union and thereby demonstrate real professionalism and journalistic ethics." Dragan Kojadinovic, one of the founders and former principal managers of Studio B, on 16 February sent a letter to the Belgrade municipal authorities announcing that since the station's independence "today no longer exists, I must resign from Studio B." The Belgrade local branch of the ruling Socialist Party of Serbia has backed the take-over bid, while claiming to support press freedom. -- Stan Markotich

TUDJMAN AGAIN BLOCKS ZAGREB OPPOSITION MAYOR.
Croatian President Franjo Tudjman has rejected the opposition-dominated Zagreb city council's mayoral candidate, Jozo Rados, Novi list reported on 20 February. This is the second time that he has blocked the council's nominee to head the city, which has been without a chief executive since 29 October. Hina on 19 February quoted Tudjman's office as saying he is acting within the law in blocking the appointment without giving a reason. The opposition will challenge his decision in parliament. Tudjman's own party may be the big losers, however, if his move forces new elections, since polls show broad popular backing for the opposition's stand (see OMRI Daily Digest, 19 February 1996). AFP quoted him as saying that it is "unthinkable" that Zagreb, "the heart of the nation," could be governed by the opposition. Some also suspect that Tudjman does not want the opposition to get its hands on the city administration's financial records. -- Patrick Moore

MACEDONIA GAINS ADMISSION INTO PHARE.
The European Parliament on 16 February accepted Macedonia as a member of the PHARE development program, MIC reported on 19 February. As a first measure, the country will receive 25 million ECU. Future funding will include projects in economy, culture, health, education, and infrastructure. -- Fabian Schmidt

ROMANIAN FORMER BANK CHIEF FACING FRAUD PROBE.
Romanian police on 19 February announced prosecutors are questioning Marcel Ivan, former head of the Credit Bank, over suspicions of fraud and incitement to forgery. Reuters cited a spokesman for the general police inspectorate as saying that Ivan has been detained for questioning since 25 January. A court sentenced him last year to one year in jail for acquiring "unearned gains," and police re-arrested him as he was about to leave jail after having served his sentence. His lawyer told Reuters that the charges on which Ivan is investigated could bring a jail sentence of up to five years. Credit Bank, one of the largest retail banks in Romania, was set up in 1991 and was placed under central bank supervision shortly before Ivan's arrest last year. -- Michael Shafir

GREEK FOREIGN MINISTRY OFFICIAL IN ROMANIA.
Alexandros Filon, director-general at the Greek Foreign Ministry, on 19 February met with Romanian Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu in Bucharest to discuss bilateral relations and how to boost economic and cultural cooperation between the two countries, Romanian media reported. The region's stability and the role Greece plays in supporting Romania's integration into European structures were also on the agenda. The two sides agreed that Melescanu will visit Athens on 12-13 March. They also discussed Filon's suggestion that a Romania-Greece-Bulgaria meeting be held over the next few months. -- Matyas Szabo

BULGARIAN MASS PRIVATIZATION UPDATE.
The Center of Mass Privatization on 19 February announced that by the end of last week, 356,285 people, or 5.5% of those entitled to, had taken part in the mass privatization program, Bulgarian media reported. The highest participation (7.5%) was reported in Sofia. Prime Minister Zhan Videnov at a press conference the same day said that initially 2,000-3,000 firms were to be privatized through the voucher program but that their number was limited to 1,063 in order to include only the best enterprises. Kontinent cited Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Development Rumen Gechev as saying that the fewer people who participate, the more each of them will get. According to Director of the Center for Mass Privatization Kalin Mitrev, the number of those willing to participate increases by 12% per month, while the number of those strictly opposed declines at the same rate. -- Stefan Krause

BULGARIAN "HORNETGATE" UPDATE.
Four officers at a Defense Ministry research institute who on 6 February were arrested on charges of illegally transferring or selling military technology to private firms are reported to have been developing the Starshel (Hornet) system designed to disrupt the enemy's communications and radar interception systems. Duma on 20 February called the whole story a "consecutive blow against Bulgaria and her defense industry." Acting Armed Forces Prosecutor-General Colonel Nikolay Kolev said the officers will face only charges of malfeasance in office. Trud quoted former Deputy Defense Minister Iliya Marinov as saying it was absurd that three firms divide trade with Bulgarian special military technology among themselves, while the ministry was deprived of its license. Marinov said the military-industrial complex must be subordinated to a committee with the rank of a ministry rather than to the Industry Ministry. -- Stefan Krause

ALBANIAN MEDIA UPDATE.
The Albanian government has denied Koha Jone's charges that Finance Minister Dylber Vrioni ordered the publishing house Demokracia to stop printing 14 dailies (see OMRI Daily Digest, 14 February 1996), Albanian media reported. Vrioni had argued that the dailies had not been properly registered to avoid paying taxes. Meanwhile, Dita reported that police on 16 February detained and beat up Koha Jone journalist Fatos Veliu in Saranda. Veliu earlier had alleged police corruption in one of his articles. International agencies the same day reported that the local police chief complained that "the article had denigrated the good work of the police." Koha Jone protested the incident, and directors Nikolla Lesi and Alexander Frangaj stressed that no policeman has been punished for similar acts of violence against journalists in the past. -- Fabian Schmidt

OFFICIAL AT ITALIAN EMBASSY IN ALBANIA SUSPENDED FOR CORRUPTION.
An official at the Italian Embassy in Tirana has been charged with selling visas to Albanian citizens for up to $1,000, international agencies reported on 16 February. Other countries' foreign diplomats are also suspected of selling visas. Greeks visa are estimated to be available for between $400-500. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Roger Kangas and Jan Cleave





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