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Newsline - August 2, 1996


YELTSIN FILLS OUT ADMINISTRATION.
President Boris Yeltsin appointed Yevgenii Savostyanov, Maksim Boiko, and Aleksei Kudrin as deputies to Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais on 1 August, at Chubais' recommendation, ITAR-TASS reported. Savostyanov, who will be in charge of personnel, was a democratic activist who was appointed to head the Moscow office of the KGB (and its successor organizations) from 1991 to 1994. Yeltsin fired Savostyanov after the clash between the presidential security service and Most Bank guards in December 1994. Boiko will coordinate the administration's ties with political parties and social groups. Kudrin, former first deputy to former St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak covering economic issues, will head the president's oversight department, following socio-economic developments in the regions. -- Robert Orttung

KREMLIN PREPARES STRATEGY FOR REGIONAL ELECTIONS.
The presidential administration has started developing strategies to try to prevent the Communists winning the forthcoming gubernatorial elections. The 31 July edition of Nezavisimaya gazeta published a document prepared by Kremlin analysts which outlines the main directions for the regional campaign. It suggests that the president should keep his personal involvement in the campaign to a minimum, and should avoid clashes with incumbent governors prior to the elections. The document also proposes making a careful selection of incumbent governors to be supported for reelection while trying to eliminate the influence of various Kremlin clans on this selection. Since Yeltsin has no party of his own, the document says, he should run his campiagn out of the Our Home Is Russia's regional branches. -- Anna Paretskaya

STUDY ANALYSES RUSSIANS' FEELINGS ABOUT DEMOCRACY.
Russians consider freedom of the press and free elections of their leadership as the most important kinds of freedom, winning 18% each in a poll of 1509 voters conducted at the end of May by the Central Electoral Commission, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 1 August. Regarding the form of government Russia should have, 48% support the current presidential republic, while 11% prefer a parliamentary democracy and 21% want a republic of soviets. 59% support using free elections to elect their leaders, while 5% prefer that they be named from above. 22% would prefer a mixed system of elections and appointments. 68% believe that elections can change the situation for the better. Only 20% consider themselves members of political parties, and 56% of these are communists. -- Robert Orttung

TALKS ON BLACK SEA FLEET MAKE NO PROGRESS.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Hennadii Udovenko met in Moscow on 1 August with his Russian counterpart Yevgenii Primakov, Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed, and presidential foreign policy aide Dmitrii Ryurikov, Russian and Western agencies reported. Ryurikov told ITAR-TASS that no progress had been made yet on resolving the issue of the Black Sea Fleet, which continues to block the signing of a long-delayed bilateral friendship treaty. -- Scott Parrish

OFFICIAL NEWSPAPER TERMS ALLEGATIONS OF CIA PLOT PLAUSIBLE.
The official newspaper of the Presidential Administration, Rossiiskie vesti, published an article on 31 July contending that recent allegations by Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin of a CIA plot to overthrow Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka are "plausible." Although other government officials and most Moscow media ridiculed Ilyukhin's allegations, the paper asserted that while they were unverifiable, his charges "fit entirely" with current plans to expand NATO eastward and isolate Russia with a "cordon sanitaire." It also argued that the allegations were consistent with what it termed an American policy aimed at minimizing Russian influence in the other former Soviet republics. Meanwhile, Nezavisimaya gazeta, which had earlier lent credence to Ilyukin's charges, on 2 August published two additional articles suggesting that the allegations have some substance. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA SKIPS PFP EXERCISE DUE TO LACK OF FUNDS.
Russia will not send even a single observer to an upcoming 12-30 August Partnership for Peace (PfP) exercise at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Izvestiya reported on 1 August. Defense Ministry officials said that as they have no budget funds for PfP operations, so cannot afford to participate. Russia did take part in PfP maneuvers near Lviv, Ukraine, this June, but only because the United States paid some $40,000 to cover the transportation costs of the Russian participants. The Defense Ministry blames the Finance Ministry for the situation, saying that although President Yeltsin has ordered the release of funds for PfP exercises, the Finance Ministry has failed to disburse them. -- Scott Parrish

KOVALEV CLAIMS CHECHENS PREPARING DUDAEV DOUBLE.
Russian counter-intelligence director Nikolai Kovalev on 1 August attributed rumors that Chechen president Dzhokhar Dudaev is still alive and will return to Chechnya on 2 August to plans by his supporters to produce a double, Russian media reported. Kovalev, speaking at a press conference in Moscow , also claimed that a group of Chechen fighters led by field commander Ruslan Khaikharoev are planning terrorist acts in the Russian Federation in order to draw Dagestan and North Ossetiya into the conflict. Chechen Security Council secretary Ruslan Tsakaev stated that reports of an attempt on 29 July to kill chief of staff Aslan Maskhadov were untrue and had been circulated to bolster Maskhadov's standing in advance of his planned meeting with the commander of the North Caucasus Military District, Lt.-Gen. Anatolii Kvashnin, according to ITAR-TASS. -- Liz Fuller

COURT SENTENCES BUS HIJACKERS; MAN DETAINED IN LISTEV CASE.
The Stavropol Krai court on 1 August convicted three Chechens in connection with the hijacking of a bus near Mineralnye Vody in May 1994, ITAR-TASS reported. Four men stormed the bus, demanding $10 million, drugs, arms, and a helicopter in exchange for freeing the hostages on board. The hijackers' demands were met, but three of the men were arrested when the helicopter landed in Chechnya; they were each sentenced to 15 years imprisonment last year. The fourth, captured later, has now also received a 15-year term. The other two men convicted yesterday were sentenced to 12 years for supplying weapons to the gang. Also on 1 August, the Georgian security minister confirmed that a man has been detained on suspicion of organizing the murder of TV star Vladislav Listev on 1 March 1995. -- Penny Morvant


IZVESTIYA MAKES NEW CORRUPTION ALLEGATIONS.
In the latest of a spate of articles on corruption, Izvestiya on 1 August accused the Russian coal association Rosugol of squandering 1.2 billion rubles ($235,000) on a fund to support the poor and the unemployed. The fund, located on Rosugol premises, received money from the association for scientific research projects. It then contracted out the work to false companies, which the tax police found to be registered to people who had at some point lost their passports and had no idea of the firms' existence. The money disappeared. Rosugol President Yurii Malyshev denied any wrongdoing, Radio Rossii reported. -- Penny Morvant

LACK OF ALTERNATIVE MILITARY SERVICE LAMENTED.
In an interview with Trud on 1 August, Institute of Religious Rights Director Anatolii Pchelintsev commented on the failure to resolve the question of alternative military service--something that is guaranteed by the constitution but for which there is no legal mechanism. He argues that the current situation means that many draftees end up performing no service, since many courts, particularly in Moscow and St. Petersburg, show understanding toward conscientious objectors. In the spring the Duma Defense Committee recommended against an alternative service bill prepared by liberal deputies. He then criticized a new draft prepared by the Communists that envisages a four-year term of service to be performed on Defense Ministry construction sites rather than in hospitals or other social services. The total number of conscientious objectors in 1995 exceeded 23,000. -- Penny Morvant

NAZDRATENKO THREATENS FOREIGN RELIGIOUS GROUPS...
Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko threatened on 1 August to banish members of Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church and various other religious groups active in the region, Reuters reported. "I want to warn activists of foreign religions," he said on television, "that if religious psychoses happen again while I am leader... I will employ the police force to throw them out." Many foreign religious groups, including Hare Krishna and the Church of Christ, are active in the region. Moon's church is reported to be particularly active in the education sphere. -- Penny Morvant

... AND VISITS POWER STATION.
Also on 1 August Nazdratenko visited the Primorskii power station, where more than 300 workers have been on hunger strike for nine days to protest a five-month delay in the payment of their wages. He handed over an interest-free credit of 5 billion rubles from the Russian Savings Bank, ITAR-TASS reported. The agency added that miners at 14 mines in the region are continuing to strike (earlier reports had put the figure at 15) despite the transfer of about 50 billion rubles from Moscow. Work has also stopped at 17 mines belonging to the Rostovugol company in southern Russia. -- Penny Morvant

OILMEN TURN DOWN FOREIGN LOANS.
Kogalymneftegaz, a subsidiary of Lukoil, has declared that it will not take up the remaining $130 million of the $272 million loan it received from the World Bank back in 1993, Segodnya reported on 1 August. Earlier Purneftegaz, part of Rosneft, also refused $80 million of the $174 million credit it was granted by the EBRD. The companies complain that high taxes and transport costs make it unprofitable to invest in new oil wells even with the favorable loan terms offered by international institutions. A bill lifting the tariffs on imports of equipment paid for by international loans (one of the main complaints of the oil companies) was passed by the Duma last month. (See OMRI Daily Digest 22 July). State Investments Corporation Deputy Chairman Boris Furmanov said that Russia is expected to attract only some $1.6 to 2 billion of foreign direct investment in 1996, Finansovye Izvestiya reported on 1 August. -- Peter Rutland

INFLATION ONLY 0.7% IN JULY.
Consumer prices rose by only 0.7% in July, down from 1.2% in June, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 August, citing the State Statistical Committee (Goskomstat). Inflation in the first seven months of 1996 was 16.4%, compared to 87.5% over the same period last year. Annual inflation in 1996 may be as low as 20% if the current trend continues. However, this reduction in inflation has come against a background of a continuing fall in living standards and GDP -- which fell 5% in the first half of the year, Reuters reported on 15 July. -- Natalia Gurushina

CROP IMPORTS STILL POSSIBLE.
Official projections put Russia's 1996 grain harvest at 73-77 million metric tons, up from 63.4 million tons in 1995, but down from an average of 88 million tons in the early 1990s, Reuters reported on 1 August. Much of Russia is currently experiencing a drought. The International Grains Council (London) predicts that Russia will need to import around 1.5 million tons this year. -- Natalia Gurushina



KVIRAYA DENIES ALLEGING RUSSIAN INVOLVEMENT IN WOODRUFF MURDER.
Georgian Minister for National Security Shota Kviraya on 1 August denied ever having claimed that the murder in August 1993 near Tbilisi of U.S. diplomat Fred Woodruff was instigated by Russian intelligence, ITAR-TASS reported. Kviraya said that a statement to this effect attributed to him, which was circulated on 25 July by Noyan Tapan, was aimed at undermining relations between the Russian and Georgian security services. -- Liz Fuller

ARMENIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE WITHDRAWS.
Businessman Yuri Mkrtchyan, one of10 candidates who announced their intention to contest the 22 September Armenian presidential election, has withdrawn, protesting that the pre-election campaign is "unfair and immoral", Noyan Tapan reported on 1 August. Other candidates and opposition political organizations have repeatedly claimed that the electoral law, although apparently democratic, gives an unfair advantage to incumbent Levon Ter-Petrossyan, who is seeking reelection. -- Liz Fuller

AZERBAIJAN PROTESTS ARRESTS.
First Deputy Prime Minister Abbas Abbasov and Azerbaijani ambassador to Russia Ramiz Rzayev met Russian Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Bolshakov and Nationalities Minister Vyacheslav Mikhailov to discuss the recent wave of arrests of Caucasians in Moscow, Turan reported on 30 July, as monitored by the BBC. Some 4,000 Azerbaijani citizens have been arrested over the past week. Bolshakov also talked to Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev by phone, trying to reassure him that the operations were not targetting Azerbaijanis. -- Peter Rutland

KYRGYZSTAN AND IRAN SIGN ECONOMIC AGREEMENTS.
In a sign of further cooperation between their countries, Kyrgyz Prime Minister Apas Jumagulov and Iranian Vice President Hasan Habibi on 31 July signed several economic accords, according to Kyrgyz Television First Channel monitored by the BBC. The agreements include mutual investment protection, cooperation in industry, and trade and transportation. Among the first fruits of industrial cooperation will be the establishment of a factory in the northern Kyrgyz city of Tokmak to produce minibuses and later automobiles. The accord on trade and transportation allows direct air links between Bishkek and Tehran, and Bishkek and Meshhed. Kyrgyzstan will receive 200,000-300,000 tons of crude oil beginning in 1997 and in turn will export meat to Iran. -- Bruce Pannier



BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES SAY ASYLUM CLAIMS UNFOUNDED.
The Belarusian Foreign Ministry has denied claims by opposition leaders Zyanon Paznyak and Syarhei Naumchyk that they face the threat of political or physical prosecution in Belarus, Belarusian media reported. The two applied for political asylum in the U.S. earlier this week on the grounds that they feared for their safety if they returned to Belarus. Foreign Minister Uladzimir Syanko said that Belarus protects civil rights and freedoms and that Paznyak and Naumchyk's allegations should be treated with caution. He said the two had applied for political asylum to undermine President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and create problems between the U.S. and Belarus. -- Ustina Markus

BELARUSIAN REFERENDUM UPDATE.
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has said Belarusian citizens will know the precise wording of his proposed referendum questions by the fall, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 August. The referendum will deal with several issues, including delineating the powers of the parliament and president and amending the constitution so that the president can be removed from his post only in the event of his changing citizenship. Lukashenka also said there will probably be a question on changing the public holiday marking the republic's declaration of independence from 27 July to the day Belarus was liberated from the Germans during WW II. The proposed referendum will cost about $2 million. In other news, Minsk Prosecutor Mikalai Kupryysnau said he has not heard any official reports on the reported exchange of seven Ukrainians detained in Belarus for Russians border guards held by Chechens. Such a swap, he said, would be "legal nonsense." -- Ustina Markus

IMF GRANTS FOURTH STAND-BY TRANCHE TO UKRAINE.
The IMF has granted the fourth tranche of a $867 million stand-by credit to Ukraine, Reuters and AFP reported on 1 August. The tranche, worth $100 million, was granted after the IMF Board of Directors gave a positive assessment of Ukraine's adherence to IMF guidelines on budget deficit and money supply. The decision comes in the wake of Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko's meetings with IMF officials during his visit to the U.S. -- Ustina Markus

DEATH PENALTY IN UKRAINE TO BE PHASED OUT?
Vitalii Boyko, chief justice of the Ukrainian Supreme Court, has said his court plans to propose amendments to Ukraine's Criminal Code to reduce the number of crimes carrying the death sentence, UNIAR reported on 1 August. He said this move is a step toward phasing out capital punishment. Some 22 categories of crime now carry the death penalty, including treason, premeditated murder, attempted assassination of public and foreign officials. Seventeen of those categories, however, apply only to military servicemen under martial law or in combat. The chief justice emphasized that there was no moratorium on capital punishment in the country, as has been reported by the media. He noted that both he and the court favor abolishing the death penalty, but he added that the public needed convincing, mainly through combating crime. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

UKRAINE EXPECTS POOR GRAIN HARVEST.
Ukrainian officials have predicted that owing to lengthy dry spells and the poor financial state of the agricultural sector, this year's grain harvest will fall to 27.5 million tons, Kievskie vedomosti reported on 1 August. This would amount to 2 million tons below last year's harvest and would be on par with 1958-59 levels. Meat and dairy production so far this year have fallen by 12% and 5%, respectively. Meanwhile, the Statistics Ministry reported that the number of private farms in the country has risen by 488 to 35,300 but that farming in Ukraine is still mainly owned by the state or heavily-subsidized collectives. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

RUSSIA TO PROTECT INTERESTS OF ACTIVIST EXPELLED FROM ESTONIA.
Renowned Russian lawyer Boris Kuznetsov will soon travel to Tallinn to prepare the case of Russian ultranationalist Petr Rozhok who was expelled from Estonia in the spring of 1995, BNS reported on 1 August, The Citizenship and Migration Department expelled Rozhok, former representative in Estonia of ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party, for anti-constitutional and subversive activities against the state. A Tallinn administrative court in February ruled that his expulsion was legal. Kuznetsov will represent Rozhok in a lawsuit in the Tallinn regional court in September. Aleksandr Udaltsov, Russian Foreign Ministry official in charge of relations with Baltic States, said the ministry will defend the interests of Rozhok as a Russian citizen and that it helped obtain Kuznetsov's assistance. Kuznetsov noted that Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed has promised his assistance and has said that defending the interests of Russian citizens abroad was an important aspect of bolstering the country's security, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 July. -- Saulius Girnius

NEW HEAD OF LATVIAN BORDER TALKS DELEGATION.
Foreign Ministry State Secretary Maris Riekstins will replace Foreign Ministry State Minister Juris Sinka as head of the Latvian delegation for sea border talks with Lithuania, BNS reported on 1 August. Riekstins recently negotiated the settlement of the sea border between Estonia and Latvia. Sinka noted that Latvia was more interested than Lithuania in reaching an agreement because two foreign oil companies that signed oil exploration contracts with Latvia in 1995 can terminate contracts if no border agreement is reached by 31 October. The next round of border talks is scheduled for 20 August. -- Saulius Girnius

PROPOSAL TO STRENGTHEN LITHUANIAN PRESIDENTIAL POWERS.
The ruling Democratic Labor Party (LDDP) on 1 August proposed that a referendum on increasing the powers of the president be held at the same time as the October parliamentary elections, Radio Lithuania reported. The proposal would allow the president to call early parliament elections if the Seimas failed to approve the government program within 30 days of its submission or rejects the candidates for prime minister proposed by the president three consecutive times. The president would also be given the right to appoint and remove the foreign, interior, and defense ministers and would have more power over the courts. -- Saulius Girnius

CHECHNYA ROUNDTABLE IN POLISH CAPITAL.
The Chechnya Round Table--organized by the Chechen Information Center in Cracow--convened in Warsaw on 1 August, Polish and international media reported. Representatives of the Chechen independence movement as well politicians and human rights activists from Poland, Russia, Lithuania, and Great Britain were present. The round table's goal is to increased international awareness of the conflict, draft memorandums to the UN, and the Council of Europe, and make preparations for a conference in London later this year on settling the conflict. Former Polish President Lech Walesa has sent a letter to Nobel Prize winners asking them to help end the war in Chechnya. -- Jakub Karpinski

SLOVAK COALITION PARTY CONSIDERS WITHDRAWAL FROM TREATY WITH HUNGARY.
Slovak National Party (SNS) spokesman Rafael Rafaj on 1 August told TASR that "a proposal for withdrawing from the basic Slovak-Hungarian treaty is currently being examined by our experts." The SNS said Hungary violated the treaty when it called for autonomy for ethnic Hungarians living in neighboring countries at last month's ethnic Hungarian summit in Budapest. Slovakia has already summoned the Hungarian ambassador to Slovakia and delivered an "aide-memoire" to foreign diplomats to inform them of Slovakia's dissatisfaction with the summit's conclusions. "If [the treaty] has been violated, there is no sense in extending it further," SNS Deputy Chairman Jozef Sedovic told Nove Slovo. The word "autonomy" was not defined in the summit's declaration, but the Hungarian government said later that it was referring neither to territorial nor ethnic autonomy. -- Sharon Fisher

PRIVATIZATION IN SLOVAKIA.
The National Property Fund (FNM) on 1 August privatized 40 firms through direct sales, Narodna obroda reported. Several key firms were sold, including the construction company Hydrostav Bratislava and the printing firm Danubiaprint Bratislava. The FNM approved the sales, despite an agreement between Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar and the opposition Party of the Democratic Left, guaranteeing that privatization would be halted until the composition of the FNM boards is changed to include opposition representatives
(see OMRI Daily Digest, 24 July 1996). FNM Presidium President Stefan Gavornik said several ministers pressured him to continue privatizing. Meanwhile, a spokesman for Meciar's party told Reuters on 1 August that talks will soon begin with the opposition aimed at bringing "more consensus" in the parliament. -- Sharon Fisher

KEY WITNESS IN SLOVAK KIDNAPPING CASE TO GAIN ASYLUM.
A former Slovak Information Service (SIS) agent who said he participated in the abduction of the Slovak president's son told the RFE/RL Slovak Service on 31 July that he will soon gain asylum in an unnamed foreign country. Oskar Fegyveres, who for months has been in hiding and fearing for his life, said "in a few days I will be safe." He noted that he is willing to be questioned further but only after "democracy wins in Slovakia and people like [Prime Minister] Vladimir Meciar and [SIS] chief Ivan Lexa are toppled and punished for their actions." Fegyveres also blamed the SIS for the death in a car explosion of his friend Robert Remias. Two people who have taken over Remias's role as Fegyveres's link with Slovakia are being followed by the same SIS agents who shadowed Remias, Fegyveres claimed. -- Sharon Fisher

HUNGARIAN TELEVISION HEAD NOMINATED.
The Presidium of the Board of Trustees of Hungarian Television (MTV) has nominated Istvan Petak, editor in chief for regional programs, as president of MTV, Hungarian media reported on 1 August. The vote was the third attempt in two months to appoint a TV head. Petak's nomination has still to be approved by the full Board of Trustees. The MTV corporation is to run Hungary's two state-owned TV channels. Petak said he is neither an opposition nor a pro-government candidate, but rather is neutral. Earlier this year, Istvan Hajdu was elected president of Hungarian Radio. The media law, passed last December, required the election of media heads by August. -- Zsofia Szilagyi




KORNBLUM DECLARES ABOLITION OF HERCEG-BOSNA.
U.S. envoy for Bosnia-Herzegovina John Kornblum on 31 July announced that Bosnian Muslim and Croat officials have agreed to end the existence of Herceg-Bosna, Onasa reported on 1 August. Following talks with Croats in Mostar, Kornblum said the Croatian side expressed willingness to stop obstructing reunification of the town. Meanwhile, Bozo Raic, president of the ruling Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ), on 1 August appealed to Alija Izetbegovic, head of the Muslim ruling Party of Democratic Action (SDA), to organize a brainstorming session to discuss ways to improve the running of the Bosnian Federation. -- Daria Sito Sucic

REBEL CROATIAN SERBS THREATEN TERRORIST CAMPAIGNS.
Rebel Croatian Serbs have pledged to conduct a campaign of terror against Croatia in response to Croatian authorities' reclaiming the so-called Krajina region following the August 1995 military campaign. The self-proclaimed Krajina Liberation Army--in a fax published by the Belgrade daily Dnevni telegraf on 1 August and also sent to former Krajina Serb leader Milan Martic and Croatian refugee groups throughout the former Yugoslavia--says that Croatia's victory will be celebrated "henceforth in [Croatian] blood wherever [Croats] gather." It also aims to wage a terror campaign against "Serbian traitors." The group has taken responsibility for the bombing on 26 July of Croatia's largest agricultural and military equipment production plant. The explosion caused extensive damage to the facility. -- Stan Markotich

UN SECURITY COUNCIL EXTENDS UN MANDATE IN CROATIA.
The UN Security Council on 30 July extended the mandate of 100 UN military monitors (UNTAES) in eastern Slavonia,--the last Serb-held part of Croatia--for another six months, Hina reported. UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali, in a report to the Security Council on the implementation of the UNTAES mandate, underscored the necessity for military monitors to remain in the area in order to strengthen that mandate following the demilitarization of eastern Slavonia, Baranja, and Western Srijem. -- Daria Sito Sucic

208 SUICIDES IN SARAJEVO SINCE OUTBREAK OF WAR.
The Sarajevo police force says it registered 208 cases of suicide in Sarajevo between April 1992 and June 1996, Onasa reported on 1 August. Of those, 86 cases were reported in the Bosnian Federation during the past six months. Ninety-seven of those who committed suicide were over 50 and nine under 18. -- Daria Sito Sucic

BELGRADE HINDERS REGISTRATION OF REFUGEE VOTERS.
The Helsinki Committee on Human Rights has said that three refugees from Sarajevo have alleged that Belgrade authorities barred them from registering for the 14 September Bosnian elections, Onasa reported on 31 July. Beta says that the three refugees were prevented from registering to vote in the towns from where they came. There are a growing number of reports that Belgrade officials are increasingly reluctant to provide registration forms to refugees whose home in Bosnia is now under Bosnian government or Federation control. Instead, those officials are pressuring refugees to accept voter registration in the Bosnian Serb-controlled Republika Srpska. Meanwhile, Onasa reported that rump Yugoslav authorities have officially extended the period in which refugees can register to vote until 4 August. -- Stan Markotich

MONTENEGRIN ELECTION UPDATE.
Following the expiry of the 30 July deadline, a total of 33 political parties and formations had registered to run in Montenegro's republican elections, scheduled for the fall, Montena-fax reported. Voters will elect 71 parliamentary deputies in 14 districts through a proportional representation system. Before recent controversial changes to the election law, Montenegro had only a single constituency and a legislature composed of 85 deputies. -- Stan Markotich

ROMANIAN REFINERY WORKERS STAGE WARNING STRIKE.
Some 40,000 workers from state-run oil refineries on 1 August staged a two-hour warning strike to demand job security and higher pay, Radio Bucharest reported. The workers, whose average monthly wage, amounts to 380,000 lei ($120) are pressing for a 25% increase. Many fear they will lose their jobs, since the refineries are currently operating at only 30% of their capacity. The oil-processing industry has registered a deficit of 700 billion lei (some $225 million) so far this year. The strikers have accused the government of keeping the prices of oil products low, despite increasing costs of imported oil. They have also threatened to launch a general strike on 7 August if heir demands are not met. The government has responded to their protest by announcing that a National Oil Company will be set up to supervise the sector. -- Dan Ionescu

ROMANIAN POLITICAL UPDATE.
The National Liberal Party led by Radu Campeanu and "The Ecologists" party on 1 August signed a protocol establishing a National Liberal-Ecologist Alliance, Radio Bucharest reported. The alliance will nominate a candidate for the November presidential election on 7 August. The recently created National Liberal Alliance has said it will nominate its presidential candidate on 11 August. Observers of the Romanian political arena believe that the alliance's candidate will be Nicolae Manolescu, chairman of the Civic Alliance Party. In a separate development, the National Liberal Party led by Mircea Ionescu-Quintus has announced it will set up a commission to negotiate its merger with the National Liberal Party-Democratic Convention. -- Dan Ionescu

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT VETOES MEDIA LAW.
Zhelyu Zhelev on 1 August returned the recently adopted media law to the parliament for further debate, 24 chasa reported. Zhelev said he objects to the Radio and TV Law in general as well as certain provisions. One of the most disputed provisions is the creation of a National Radio and TV Council to oversee media operations and elect the director-generals of state radio and TV. That body will also be empowered to cancel programs and suspend licenses. Seven members will be appointed by the parliament and two each by the president and the government. Zhelev also said the composition of the council endangers objective coverage of state institutions by both private and state-run media, noting that under the constitution they should be free and autonomous institutions. If Zhelev's objections are overruled, he can ask the Constitutional Court to rule on the law. -- Stefan Krause

BULGARIA TIGHTENS FOREIGN CURRENCY REGIME.
A decree dated 31 July, published in a special issue of Darzhaven vestnik, tightens the country's foreign exchange regime, Pari reported on 2 August. The move contradicts a 16 July Supreme Court ruling liberalizing that regime by allowing domestic trade in foreign currency. The decree lists 14 instances in which such currency may be exported via the banking system, including to import goods and to repay debts. Exporting foreign currency for investments abroad must be approved by the national bank and Finance Ministry. Meanwhile, in a poll published in Pari on 2 August, 76.5% of the respondents said the situation in Bulgaria will worsen, while only 3.7% said it will improve. -- Michael Wyzan and Stefan Krause

ALBANIAN INDEPENDENT DAILY GRANTED LOAN.
The Media Development Loan Fund has granted Koha Jone a $135,000 loan to help it avoid insolvency, international agencies reported on 1 August. The credit comes with annual interest rate of 2% and is due for repayment in April 1997. High printing expenses and debts forced Koha Jone to close down for some days in July. As part of the agreement, the owners of Koha Jone pledged to restructure the daily to boost its efficiency. Other Albanian newspapers strongly criticized the loan, saying it damages free competition. In protest, they printed a blank page on 26 July. -- Stefan Krause



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