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Newsline - July 25, 1996


LEBED: NATO EXPANSION NOT A THREAT . . .
In an interview published in the Financial Times on 25 July, Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed said that he was "calm" about the prospect of NATO expanding eastward. Reiterating a position he took during the presidential election campaign, Lebed declared that "Russia is not planing to fight anyone...so this mighty NATO is being developed to do battle in the air." NATO leaders would soon have problems convincing their taxpayers to finance the alliance's expansion, he argued, but if NATO countries "have enough money and health, they are welcome" to accept new members. Meanwhile, NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana told ITAR-TASS in Brussels that the alliance wants to strengthen its "partnership" with Russia, and suggested concluding a political "framework agreement" which would regulate Russia-NATO relations. * Scott Parrish

. . . BUT RODIONOV DISAGREES.
Krasnaya zvezda on 25 July published excerpts from remarks made by newly appointed Defense Minister Igor Rodionov during a recent inspection tour which markedly contrast with Lebed's assessment. Rodionov described the possible expansion of NATO as the "main problem for Russia in the West," since it would "dangerously alter the strategic-military balance in Europe." He warned that if NATO expanded into Central Europe, its tactical aviation would be able to reach Western areas of Russia, like Smolesnk, Kursk and Bryansk. Commenting on military reform, he attributed some of the military's problems to competition among the various "power ministries," which he said often operate "in isolation." This comment suggests that Rodionov may try to bolster the powers of the General Staff, which supervised all uniformed military personnel in the Soviet era, but lost that authority after Russia became independent. * Scott Parrish

CHERNOMYRDIN MAY INVITE OPPOSITION TO JOIN GOVERNMENT . . .
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin has not ruled out the possibility of inviting opposition representatives to join the government, Russian media reported on 24 July. However, he stressed that the cabinet will be formed on an exclusively professional basis and future ministers will have to give up their party and faction affiliations, ITAR-TASS reported. Several independent expert groups within the government are working now on drafts of the new cabinet structure and economic development until the year 2000, Russian Public Television (ORT) reported, citing an unnamed top government official. * Anna Paretskaya

. . . WHILE COMMUNISTS TO CONSIDER PROPOSAL.
After a one-hour meeting with Chernomyrdin, Communist Party (KPRF) leader Gennadii Zyuganov announced that the opposition may join the new government only if its program complies with the interests of the 30 million voters who supported Zyuganov for president, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 July. He insisted that any candidate for prime minister should present an outline of the new government program while being introduced to the Duma, which must approve the prime minister in his post. * Anna Paretskaya

NEW POST FOR YAROV.
President Yeltsin signed a decree on 24 July appointing Yurii Yarov as his deputy chief of staff under Anatolii Chubais, Rossiiskie vesti reported. Hitherto Yarov was deputy prime minister with responsibility for social issues. He is the first senior government member to leave the cabinet since the second round of the presidential elections. Kommersant-Daily speculated that Viktor Ilyushin will replace Yarov as a deputy prime minister. Meanwhile Moskovskii Komsomolets reported on 24 July that Maj.-Gen. Georgii Rogozin, first deputy head of the Presidential Security Service and a close ally of Aleksandr Korzhakov, has been sacked. * Penny Morvant

NEW POLITICAL PARTY FOR LEBED.
Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed will form a new political movement to be called Truth and Order, Ekho Moskvy reported on 24 July. The new movement will include the Congress of Russian Communities (KRO), on whose ticket Lebed ran for parliament last year; the association Honor and Motherland, which Lebed founded last year and which helped organize his presidential campaign; and the Democratic Party of Russia, whose leader Sergei Glazev was a leader of KRO. Truth and Order will hold its founding congress in September. * Laura Belin

PRAVDA SUSPENDS PUBLICATION.
The pro-communist newspaper Pravda shut down operations on 24 July following a quarrel with the Greek millionaires Theodoros and Christos Giannikos, who have financed the paper since 1992. AFP reported that editorial staff, outraged by the owners' decision to suspend publication as of 27 July, voted themselves to stop production. But according to ITAR-TASS, Theodoros Giannikos ordered the computers at the paper's publishing center to be switched off after he was denied access to the Pravda building on 24 July. In a statement, editors accused the owners of violating their contractual obligations and showing a "lack of respect" toward readers. * Laura Belin

PERSONNEL CHANGE AT RTR.
The popular Russian TV (RTR) journalist Nikolai Svanidze has been promoted to deputy chairman of the state-run network in charge of political and news broadcasting, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 July. He will continue to host the Sunday-evening analytical program "Zerkalo." RTR Chairman Eduard Sagalaev, whom Yeltsin appointed in February, denied rumors that he will soon take up a post in the government. * Laura Belin

POWER-SHARING TREATIES SIGNED WITH KHABAROVSK KRAI.
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Khabarovsk Krai Governor Viktor Ishaev have signed a package of 11 documents detailing the separation of powers between the federal government and the krai's administration, Russian media reported on 24 July. The package divides areas of competence of the federal and regional authorities in managing agriculture and industry, natural resources, development of the krai's Northern areas, and defense. The general agreement on power-sharing with Khabarovsk was approved by President Yeltsin in April during his visit to the region. * Anna Paretskaya

MASKHADOV, KVASHNIN MEETING CALLED OFF.
The planned meeting between Chechen chief of staff Aslan Maskhadov and the commander of the Russian Interior Ministry troops in Chechnya, Lt.-Gen. Anatolii Kvashnin, failed to take place on 24 July, Russian and Western media reported. The commander of the Russian federal forces in Chechnya, Lt.-Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, blamed Maskhadov but the head of the OSCE mission in Grozny, Tim Guldimann, said that Maskhadov had been hindered by transport and communications difficulties, according to AFP. Russian Nationalities Minister Vyacheslav Mikhailov rejected Yandarbiev's call for the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force in Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported. * Liz Fuller

CHECHEN MILITANTS RETURN TO BAMUT.
Chechen separatist
fighters staged a raid on the village of Bamut, the location of a former Soviet strategic missile base with a dense network of bunkers some 45 kilometers southwest of Grozny, on 23 July, Radio Rossii reported. On 24 July military officials admitted that the situation in the area had deteriorated, but denied that Bamut had been captured by the militants. Once Dzhokhar Dudaev's headquarters, Bamut has been heavily contested between federal troops and the militants for more than a year. * Doug Clarke

SPRING DRAFT COMPLETED.
200,200 people were drafted into the armed forces in the draft which concluded on 30 June, Krasnaya zvezda reported on 24 July. The proportion of draftees deemed unfit for service was 15%, down from 29% in 1995 (but up from 7% in 1987). In addition to possible fraud in the medical inspections, 26,000 persons avoided the draft by other means. Meanwhile, few military commentators are voicing support for Yeltsin's plan for an all-professional army by the year 2000. Writing in Komsomolskaya Pravda on 23 July, Vladimir Sviridov argued that professional armies in the West are not immune from the problems of budget cuts, bad morale, and poor quality personnel which bedevil the Russian Army. Rather than abolishing the draft, he proposed increasing the proportion of professionals, currently 50% (officers, NCOs, and 250,000 contract servicemen), to 70-80%, while cutting the draft period in half. * Peter Rutland

ITAR-TASS ACCUSES JAPANESE NAVY OF SPYING.
ITAR-TASS reported on 24 July that six Japanese naval intelligence agents were aboard the Japanese destroyer Kurama, currently sailing toward Vladivostok where it will participate in ceremonies later this month to mark the 300th anniversary of the Russian Navy. The agency accused the Japanese Navy of using the first port visit by one of its ships to Russia since 1925 to conduct espionage. A Japanese Navy spokesmen later admitted that six naval intelligence officers are on board the Kurama. But he said four will serve as translators while the others will gather open navigational information about Vladivostok's port. He said it was a "complete misunderstanding" to describe the officers as spies. * Scott Parrish

BOMB BLAST IN VOLGOGRAD.
A bomb exploded on a train at Volgograd's central station on 25 July, ITAR-TASS reported. There were no casualties. The agency noted that the previous day Chechen fighter Salman Raduev had claimed responsibility for a failed bomb attack on Voronezh station and threatened new terrorist acts on Russian railways, claiming that they were a military target. However, doubts have been raised over the true identity of the man claiming to be Raduev, and the Chechen separatist leadership has stated repeatedly that it opposes all terrorist acts. * Penny Morvant

YELTSIN'S TEAM TO ENSURE GOOD WEATHER ON INAUGURATION DAY.
Even if weather forecasters predict rain, President Yeltsin's inauguration celebration on 9 August will take place under sunny skies, according to newly-appointed Deputy Chief of Staff Yurii Yarov. He told ITAR-TASS on 24 July that money has been set aside to disperse the clouds if necessary. During the Soviet period, artificial means were occasionally employed to disperse rain clouds on important holidays. * Laura Belin

KGB GUIDEBOOK.
A group of KGB veterans held a press conference in Moscow on 24 July to launch a new book they have authored, "The KGB Guide to Cities of the World,", NTV reported. Written for tourists, it reportedly includes special vignettes on life as a spy in cities from New York to Bangkok. * Peter Rutland

CENTRAL BANK RELAXES MONETARY POLICY.
The Central Bank (TsB) has announced that it will lower its reserve requirements on commercial bank 30-day deposits from 20% to 18%, Kommersant-Daily reported on 25 July. The reserve requirements were raised on 10 June 1996 to offset the inflationary impact of the enforced transfer of $1 billion from the TsB to the federal budget. The relaxation appears to be a precautionary measure to forestall the possibility of a banking crisis. TsB also announced on 24 July that it will lower the refinancing rate from 120% to 110% a year. * Natalia Gurushina

NEW DEFENSE CONVERSION FUND.
The government will establish a new state conversion fund to provide financial support for projects that encourage defense factories to produce civilian rather than military goods, Kommersant-Daily reported on 24 July. The Defense Industry Minister Zinovii Pak said that the fund would be financed from the state budget but would also try to attract foreign investors. The government plans to transfer some 2 trillion rubles ($386 million) to the fund by the end of 1996, rising to 8 trillion rubles in 1997. * Natalia Gurushina



U.S. DROPS ARMS RESTRICTIONS FOR 5 REGIONAL STATES.

According to a State Department announcement on 24 July, the
United States has ended restrictions on arms trade with Georgia, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. These countries have been removed from the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) proscribed list. This means that the U.S. will no longer automatically deny licenses for the export or import of military equipment or services to these nations. * Doug Clarke

KOMSOMOLSKAYA PRAVDA DISPUTE RESOLVED IN ALMATY.

An Almaty court has lifted the proposed ban on Komsomolskaya pravda, ending a three-month dispute between the newspaper's editorial board and the Procurator General of Kazakhstan, Russian media reported on 24 July. The court said it was satisfied with the apology published in its last two issues in which the newspaper's editors admitted being guilty of permitting "factual errors" on Kazakhstan's sovereignty in the controversial 23 April article "Conversations with Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn." Kazakhstan's Procurator General withdrew the case following the public statement by the editorial staff that they do not share Solzhenitsyn's views on relations between Russians and Kazakhs. * Bhavna Dave

RUSSIAN ENVOY TO TAJIKISTAN MEETS UTO LEADER.
The Russian Special Envoy to Tajikistan, Yevgenii Mikhailov, met with United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri in the opposition's base at Kunduz, Afghanistan, RFE/RL reported on 24 July. Talks focused on a planned meeting between Nuri and Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov in Moscow. The meeting was agreed on at the recent Tajik peace negotiations in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. * Bruce Pannier



CENTRAL EASTERN EUROPE

CZECH GOVERNMENT WINS CONFIDENCE VOTE.
The Czech parliament approved on 25 July a new minority coalition government led by Vaclav Klaus after the opposition Social Democrats (CSSD) walked out, enabling the coalition deputies to pass the vote of confidence. The vote in the 200-member parliament was 98-40. During a three-day parliamentary debate preceding the vote, the CSSD did not reveal whether it would support the government. President Vaclav Havel, in a speech to the parliament on 23 July, asked for support from the opposition parties. CSSD chairman Milos Zeman told the parliament on 23 July that he wanted to vote against the government but changed his mind after hearing a speech by the leader of the extreme-right Republican Party, Miroslav Sladek. Sladek attacked the Roma minority; Zeman noted that Sladek's speech united moderate parties. * Jiri Pehe

UKRAINIAN ULTRANATIONALIST GROUP DISBANDS PARAMILITARY WING.
The Ukrainian National Assembly (UNA) said it disbanded its paramilitary wing, the Ukrainian National Self-defense Organization, and now renounces violence, Ukrainian agencies reported on 23-24 July. Leaders of the right-wing group said the decision was made in line with their bid to regain official political party status. They said they would no longer oppose the government and they would use only constitutional means to pursue their goals. The UNA was stripped of its formal party status last summer after it was accused of inciting violence. More recently, President Leonid Kuchma named the UNA as one of several suspected groups behind the assassination attempt on Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko. * Chrystyna Lapychak

RUSSIAN-BELARUSIAN RELATIONS.
Russian deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Bolshakov reached agreements with Minsk on a mechanism for repaying Belarus's $1.2 billion debt to Russia, Belarusian and Russian agencies reported on 24 July. Bolshakov said the debt arrangement was similar to the "zero option," under which Russia would cancel Belarus's energy debt in exchange for Belarus's free stationing of Russian troops in Belarus. Belarus's request that Russia raise import duties will be discussed in the future. * Ustina Markus

LITHUANIA ADDS MORE ENTERPRISES TO LIST.
The administration on 24 July named another 259 enterprises to be privatized this year, raising the total to 454 enterprises, BNS reported. The additions raise the estimated value of the property to be privatized by 82.2 million litai ($20.55 million) to 374 million litai. Many enterprises on the list have already been privatized, but the State Stock Fund still retains small shares of stocks to be sold. * Saulius Girnius

LATVIAN SECURITY POLICE HEAD FIRED.
The Cabinet on 23 July decided to unanimously fire Raimonds Rozkalns, on the recommendation of Interior Minister Dainis Turlais, LETA reported. Rozkalns was implicated in a scandal in which Russian and Latvian security forces allegedly conspired to create a corridor for transiting illegal immigrants through Latvia. Angered by the suicide of a drunken border guard on 23 July and 12 other deaths in the armed forces this year, Prime Minister Andris Skele on 24 July instructed Defense Minister Andrejs Krastins to fire National Defense Commander-in-Chief Juris Dalbins, BNS reported. President Guntis Ulmanis appointed Navy Commander and Deputy Army Commander Gaidis Zeibots as Dalbins's acting replacement until the parliament approves the dismissal. * Saulius Girnius

POLISH TRADE DEFICIT GROWING RAPIDLY.
The foreign trade deficit at the end of May reached $2.6 billion, the National Bank of Poland reported on 24 July. That figure is eight times larger than the deficit recorded in May 1995. The deficit for all of 1995 was only $1.8 billion, Zycie Warszawy reported on 24-25 July. The combination of rapid import growth (up 33.7% since January 1996) and slowing export growth of 8.6% (due largely to the EU's economic slowdown) apparently is reducing Poland's foreign exchange reserves. The capital inflows that fueled Polish economic growth during 1994-1995 could be diminishing. * Ben Slay

ABUSES POSSIBLY BANKRUPTING POLAND'S UNEMPLOYMENT SYSTEM.
Polish Labor Minister Andrzej Baczkowski asked the unemployment offices to take "extraordinary actions" to offset an estimated 800 million zloty ($300 million) shortfall in the state labor fund that finances unemployment benefits, Rzeczpospolita reported 25 July. Despite a series of amendments tightening eligibility requirements--only 47% of those listed as unemployed in June actually received unemployment compensation--the labor fund will be unable to pay benefits in November and December if the trend continues. The labor fund's shortfall suggests that the common practice of giving benefits to nominally "unemployed" workers who are working illegally has gotten out of hand. Other problems with the unemployment system were highlighted in a report issued on 24 July by the Supreme Auditing Chamber, which uncovered widespread fraud by local governments when providing public-works jobs for unemployed workers. * Ben Slay

POLISH STEEL MILL TARGET OF TAIWANESE ANTI-DUMPING CHARGE.
Taiwan's Tung Ho Steel Enterprise named Poland's Huta Katowice as one of four steel firms allegedly "dumping" steel on the Taiwanese market, Rzeczpospolita reported 24 July. This charge represents the latest in a series of dumping allegations against Polish steel exporters. It also highlights the difficulties Polish firms face in expanding sales to booming Asian markets, which purchase less than 5% of Poland's exports. The Taiwanese government has not taken an official position on the charge. * Ben Slay

SLOVAKIA COMPLAINS TO EU ABOUT HUNGARY.
Slovak Foreign Ministry State Secretary Jozef Sestak on 24 July handed a diplomatic note to EU ambassadors, responding to calls from Budapest for autonomy for ethnic Hungarians living in neighboring states, Reuters reported. Sestak delivered an "aide memoire" to the ambassadors of Germany, Italy, Britain, France, and the European Commission's representative to Slovakia, informing them about the current relationship between Slovakia and Hungary following the communique issued earlier this month by the Budapest summit on ethnic Hungarian minorities. * Sharon Fisher

SLOVAKS RESPOND TO NATO EXPANSION BILL.
Slovak officials on 24 July responded to the U.S. House of Representatives' bill offering financial assistance to Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary to help them gain NATO membership, Slovak media reported. During a special meeting of the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, members called for "additional lobbying" in the U.S. Congress and appeals to the parliaments of EU member countries. Roman Kovac of the opposition Democratic Union said he considers Slovakia's omission from the list "one of the last warning signals." * Sharon Fisher

HUNGARIAN GOVERNMENT DOMINATES STATE-RUN MEDIA.
A survey of state TV and radio newscasts from April-June showed an overall ratio of 66.1% coverage for the governing parties versus 33.9% for the opposition, Hungarian media reported on 25 July. Coverage of the ruling parties on Duna TV and Hungarian Radio slightly surpassed their parliamentary representation, while Hungarian TV (MTV) gave somewhat more exposure to the opposition. The ruling Socialists received the most media coverage, with 45.6%, while the Free Democrats--the junior coalition partner--captured 20.5%. Next came the opposition Hungarian Democratic Forum (8.4%), the Smallholders (7.6%), the Christian Democrats (6.8%), the Young Democrats (6.3%), and the People's Party (4.8%). * Sharon Fisher




BOSNIAN SERBS TO GO TO HAGUE.
Pale said it will send a delegation next week to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the BBC reported on 25 July. It is seen as a propaganda effort--the Bosnian Serbs apparently have no intention of cooperating with the court to extradite indicted war criminals such as Radovan Karadzic and Gen. Ratko Mladic, and continue to regard the tribunal as an anti-Serb political instrument. Their hope is rather to gain publicity for their demand that Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic and other Muslims be indicted for war crimes. In early July, Pale issued such indictments. Meanwhile, former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, former Ambassador to the UN Jeanne Kirkpatrick, and others have called for action against Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic in conjunction with war crimes, the VOA reported. * Patrick Moore

UN PATROLS TO PROTECT SARAJEVO SERBS.
The International Police Task Force (IPTF) will begin patrolling this week in the suburbs of Ilidza and Osjek to prevent further harassment of Serbs there, Onasa reported on 24 July. The Serbs who survived intimidation by Serbian nationalists earlier this year and stayed on in their homes are now being bullied by Muslims. The Democratic Initiative of Sarajevo Serbs said 70 people have left Vogosca in recent weeks, while another 20 departed Blazuj. IPTF spokesman Alexander Ivanko said while he can not confirm these figures, the UN continues to receive reports of Serbs being harassed. Meanwhile, in Belgrade, Bosnian Vice President Ejup Ganic said Serbs must hold full rights under the Bosnian constitution, Nasa Borba reported on 25 July. * Patrick Moore

U.S. MILITARY INSTRUCTORS TO ARRIVE IN BOSNIA.
James Pardew, the U.S. official responsible for military aid to Bosnia, said about 170 U.S. instructors will begin arriving in Bosnia soon to help train the Muslim-Croat Federation forces, AFP reported on 24 July. The first arms shipments under the U.S. "Equip and Train Program" will not arrive for several weeks. Pardew said U.S. officials would establish a logistics center to ensure the weapons are properly stored. In other news, an unmanned IFOR plane on reconnaissance over northern Bosnia crashed on 23 July; there were no injuries, AFP reported. * Daria Sito Sucic

U.S. GENERAL: WESTERN FORCE NEEDED FOR BOSNIAN STABILITY.
Ltn. Gen. Patrick Hughes, director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, said the former warring parties in Bosnia-Herzegovina would return to violence unless the NATO-led forces remain, AFP reported on 24 July. Hughes said the prospect for maintaining a viable international force on the ground is not feasible without full U.S. participation. Meanwhile, NATO is preparing to send to Bosnia a new command post, which will oversee the withdrawal of its peacekeeping force, AFP reported. The pull-out is expected to begin the day after the Bosnian elections, scheduled for 14 September, and to end by February 1997. * Daria Sito Sucic

EU THREATENS MOSTAR CROATS WITH WITHDRAWAL.
The EU will pull out of Mostar on 4 August unless the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) ends its boycott of the city council, AFP reported. EU ambassadors decided on 24 July on that ultimatum, which was to be ratified by the 15 member states on 25 July. The Croats lost the elections in Mostar and since then have refused to accept the election results. The EU apparently wants to pressure Croatian President Franjo Tudjman to resolve the crisis. The Bosnian Croats have appealed the election results to the Bosnian federal constitutional court. * Fabian Schmidt

SERBIA, BOSNIA TO RESTORE COMMUNICATIONS LINKS.
Serbia and Bosnia on 24 July reached an agreement to restore telephone, rail, bus, and air links. Bosnian Vice-President Ejup Ganic, heading a 15-member delegation visiting Belgrade, described the agreement as "a new chapter between the two countries," Onasa reported. Alija Behmen, delegation member and vice-president of Bosnian state railways, said the technical work of reconstructing the railway between Serbia and Bosnia likely will be completed in 10-15 days, Beta reported. Also, Nasa Borba on 25 July reported that a second protocol was signed, between Foreign Minister of the Bosnian Muslim-Croat Federation Jadranko Prlic and his rump Yugoslav counterpart, Milan Milutinovic, which aims to abolish visa restrictions on cross-border travel for citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina and rump Yugoslavia. * Stan Markotich

SERB OPPOSITION LEADERS CRITICIZE AGREEMENT.
Among the most critical of Ganic's visit were some of Serbia's opposition parties. The Democratic Party (DS)
said while the party welcomed any normalization of relations between states of the former Yugoslavia, Ganic's visit--met with much fanfare--contrasted with how politicians from the Republika Srpska, meeting "in secret," were treated, Beta reported on 23 July. The DS said the courtesy given Ganic revealed "a double standard." The Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) was more blunt, dubbing Ganic "a war criminal [whose] place is at The Hague" and calling Milosevic's invitation to Ganic a "humiliation and complete capitulation." They said renewing relations with the Muslim-Croat Federation prior to squaring ties with the Republika Srpska was unacceptable. * Stan Markotich

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT RETRACTS ANTI-OPPOSITION ACCUSATIONS.
President Ion Iliescu retracted a statement made on 18 July, which had accused the opposition of acting against the U.S.'s extension of permanent MFN status for Romania, Romanian television reported on 24 July. A joint statement released after a meeting with the chairmen of the Democratic Convention of Romania and the Social Democratic Union, Emil Constantinescu and Petre Roman, said the extension of the status was the result of equal efforts by "official bodies and the opposition." * Michael Shafir

NEW ROMANIAN AUDIO-VISUAL COUNCIL HEAD.
Television filmmaker Mircea Moldovan was elected on 24 July by the National Audio Visual Council to replace outgoing chairman Titus Raveica, local media reported. Moldovan's mandate runs for four years. * Michael Shafir

RUSSIAN GENERAL IN MOLDOVA DENIES RUMORS.
The commander of the Dniester-based Russian troops, Gen. Valerii Yevnevich, denied rumors in the Chisinau media that he has been dismissed from his post, BASA-Press reported on 24 July. Yevnevich said rumors that he was appointed Russian military attaché in China were untrue. He said he had done nothing to warrant being dismissed. * Michael Shafir

MOLDOVAN ENERGY CRISIS POSTPONED.
Following a visit to Moscow, Prime Minister Andrei Sangheli told Moldova suverana that he reached an agreement to postpone for seven years the repayment of the $140 million Moldovan debt to Russia for fuel delivery arrears in 1994-1995. Sangheli said that energy used in 1996, however, must be paid for. He said the Dniester region's debts were separated from Chisinau's, and that cooperation was underway with Ukraine and Russia to restore Moldovan membership into the Common Energy System, BASA-Press reported on 23 July. Sangheli met in Crimea with Ukraine President Leonid Kuchma to discuss ensuring normal coal deliveries to Moldova for the winter, as well as other issues of cooperation, Infotag reported on 24 July. * Michael Shafir

BULGARIAN SOCIALISTS INSIST ON PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE.
The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) continues to defy a Constitutional Court ruling effectively barring the BSP candidate, Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski, from seeking the presidency. The court ruled he is not a Bulgarian citizen by birth as required by the constitution (see OMRI Daily Digest, 24 July 1996). The BSP daily Duma on 25 July reported that the BSP Supreme Council will back Pirinski, and that Pirinski pledged to stay on. According to 24 chasa, Pirinski is the only BSP candidate who can win the presidential elections, and the BSP hopes for a more favorable outcome if the Constitutional Court should rule on the concrete case of Pirinski's citizenship. But Standart reported that the BSP is considering an alternative candidate, probably Parliament Chairman Blagovest Sendov. Pirinski has not commented. * Stefan Krause

BULGARIA, UKRAINE SIGN ACCORDS.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko promised to sell wheat, coal, and natural gas to Bulgaria during an official two-day visit concluded on 24 July, Bulgarian and Western media reported. Bulgaria is suffering from a grain crisis and is short on energy. The supplies of wheat and coal are to be negotiated, while Lazarenko and his Bulgarian counterpart, Zhan Videnov, in principle agreed on a natural gas shipment of 2 million cubic tons in exchange for Ukrainian debts to Bulgaria. The two sides signed eight bilateral agreements, including a consular treaty and an accord on military production, research, and marketing to other countries. Lazarenko asked Videnov to liberalize Bulgaria's trade regime and work toward free trade and double taxation agreements between Ukraine and Bulgaria. He said he hopes Bulgaria and Ukraine will reach their 1992 trade level of $500 million by the end of this year. * Stefan Krause

ALBANIAN COURT REVOKES DEATH SENTENCES.
The Court of Appeal dropped the death sentences of former communist deputy Interior Minister Zylyftar Ramizi, General Prosecutor Mino Rrapi, and Supreme Court head Aranit Cela. The three had been sentenced on 24 May for crimes against humanity. The appeals court, led by Prel Martini, reduced the sentences to life imprisonment for Ramizi and 25-year terms for the others. For former Parliamentary President Haxhi Lleshi and deputy Prime Minister Manush Myftiu, their life sentences were reduced to five years each. * Fabian Schmidt

DATE SET FOR ALBANIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS.
After Albanian president Sali Berisha decreed that local elections will be held on 20 October, opposition parties tried to ensure successful talks with the ruling Democratic Party. On 22 July, the Socialists met with six other opposition parties to discuss how to ensure free elections. Another issue was the significance of round-table talks between the Democrats and the Socialists. The Center Pole coalition criticized the Socialists for holding isolated talks, Republika reported on 25 July. ButKoha Jone reported that the Center Pole supported the Socialists after a meeting with the Socialist's leadership committee on 24 July. They decided new general elections should be the opposition's main objective. * Fabian Schmidt



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