MOSCOW SEEKS TO RESOLVE PRIMORE ENERGY CRISIS. . .
First Deputy Prime
Minister Vladimir Kadannikov said on 2 August that the government has
transferred 50.7 billion rubles ($9.7 million) to Primorskii Krai to pay
miners' back wages and that another 77.6 billion rubles will be transferred on
5 August to be split among miners and electric power workers, Russian and
Western agencies reported. Kadannikov blamed the payments crisis, which has
resulted in lengthy protests, on the electricity pricing policy of the local
authorities. In the last quarter of 1995, for example, the electricity tariff
to consumers was 162 rubles per kWh, although it cost the local power company
Dalenergo 240 rubles/kWh to produce the energy, Izvestiya reported on 1
August. Also on 2 August, President Yeltsin ordered his Oversight
Administration to find out what happened to 60 billion rubles transferred to
the krai for miners at the beginning of 1996 (only 20 billion was reportedly
distributed). -- Penny Morvant
. . . HUNGER STRIKE AT POWER PLANT SUSPENDED.
Workers on hunger strike
at the Primorskii electric power plant decided on 4 August to end their protest
after a visit by Fuel and Energy Minister Yurii Shafrannik, Russian agencies
reported. If, however, Shafrannik's promise to clear wage debts by 15 August is
not kept, the workers will renew their action. Primorskii Krai Governor
Yevgenii Nazdratenko, however, blames the problems of the energy sector on the
central government's failure to adequately finance state-funded industry and
military bases in the krai. The 10,000 or so miners on strike in Primore also
began to receive money over the weekend, but they have pledged to continue
protests until all their back wages, totaling more than 110 billion rubles, are
paid. -- Penny Morvant
CHERNOMYRDIN MEETS WITH AGRARIAN REPRESENTATIVES.
Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin has asked State Duma deputies from the Agrarian faction to
recommend candidates for the leader of the agro-industrial complex and deputy
finance minister in charge of financing agriculture, Russian media reported on
2 August. Agrarian Party (APR) leader Mikhail Lapshin, who did not meet with
the prime minister, said the Agrarian Duma faction will vote to confirm
Chernomyrdin only if Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Zaveryukha is excluded
from the new cabinet, NTV reported on 2 August. (A founding APR member in
February 1993, Zaveryukha was expelled from the party in March of this year for
helping draft a presidential decree allowing the private ownership of
farmland.) Chernomyrdin affirmed his support for Zaveryukha, along with
pro-reform Agriculture Minister Viktor Khlystun, Radio Rossii reported. --
CHUBAIS BUILDS A PETERSBURG CLAN, LEBED BARELY KNOWS HIS DEPUTY.
Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais is building up his team from
others who are from St. Petersburg, Izvestiya reported 3 August. Three
of the five deputies he has named so far (Yurii Yarov, Aleksandr Kazakov, and
Aleksei Kudrin) are from Russia's northern capital. The paper noted the role of
such "clans" in Kremlin politics, comparing the group to Yeltsin's Sverdlovsk
team. Meanwhile, the new deputy secretary of the Security Council, Nikolai
Mikhailov, admitted that he had only met his new boss Lebed a week ago, Radio
Rossii reported 3 August. Lebed is often cited as having little experience on
the "parquet battlefields" of the Kremlin, while his rival Chubais is seen as a
brilliant administrator. -- Robert Orttung
SATAROV ON KORZHAKOV, YELTSIN'S HEALTH.
Presidential aide Georgii
Satarov told Segodnya on 2 August that former Presidential Security
Service Director Aleksandr Korzhakov had "hindered work" in the Kremlin and
with his associate Federal Security Service Director Mikhail Barsukov had
"pushed misinformation." Satarov did not rule out that Korzhakov would return
but added that if he did, his power would be greatly reduced. Satarov also said
that Yeltsin's health is obviously much worse than it was in May. He said the
president is in "excellent intellectual and psychological shape" but added that
he is "tremendously tired" and needs rest. -- Robert Orttung
COMMUNIST PARTIES DISCUSS FUTURE STRATEGY.
Representatives of 22
communist organizations from Russia and other CIS countries met in Moscow on 3
and 4 August to discuss future strategy, Russian media reported. Gennadii
Zyuganov's Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) was by far the
largest and most powerful of the groups represented. Oleg Shenin, chairman of
the Union of Communist Parties-Communist Party of the Soviet Union, asked
delegates to set aside ideological disputes and support the KPRF's initiative
to form a broad Popular-Patriotic Union. Despite protests from several radical
groups over what they view as Zyuganov's excessively moderate line, a narrow
majority of those present supported Shenin's motion, ITAR-TASS reported. --
AID WORKERS ABDUCTED IN CHECHNYA.
A French and a British aid worker with
Action Against Hunger were abducted in Grozny on 27 July, and a ransom of half
a million dollars was demanded for their release on 3 August, Western agencies
reported. A spokesman for the Chechen leadership denied that Chechen field
commanders were responsible, according to AFP. -- Liz Fuller
CHECHEN PEACE TALKS SUSPENDED.
Russian Nationalities Minister Vyacheslav
Mikhailov and the secretary of the Russian State Commission for resolving the
Chechen conflict, Sergei Stepashin, announced in Grozny on 3 August that they
are ready for direct talks with representatives of acting Chechen President
Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, NTV reported. However, Chechen spokesman Movladi Udugov
has said that peace talks cannot be resumed as long as Russian forces continue
hostilities, Russian TV (RTR) reported. Meanwhile, commission member Vladimir
Zorin accused Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov of avoiding talks on
implementing the 10 June Nazran peace agreement. On 4 August, following a
meeting with Mikhailov and Stepashin, OSCE representative Tim Guldimann told
ITAR-TASS that no further meetings between Russian and Chechen representatives
have been scheduled. The same day, pro-Moscow Chechen head of state Doku
Zavgaev told ITAR-TASS that all Russian troops will be withdrawn from Chechnya
by 1 September. -- Liz Fuller
REGIONAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN HEATS UP.
The executive committee of Our Home
Is Russia has announced that it will join other political organizations that
supported President Yeltsin's reelection campaign to present a joint list of
candidates for the 47 gubernatorial elections that are scheduled to take place
later this year, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 2 August. Opposition
groups gathered around the Communist Party (KPRF) are also trying to field a
joint list of candidates. For instance, in Saratov Oblast's 1 September
election, incumbent Dmitrii Ayatskov's main rival will be Anatolii Gordeev, a
local KPRF activist and aide to Gennadii Zyuganov. -- Anna Paretskaya
KRASNODAR GOVERNOR CANDIDATE MURDERED.
Aleksandr Rozhin, a candidate for
the post of Krasnodar Krai governor, was shot dead on 1 August, Russian TV
(RTR) reported. Rozhin, who was elected to the local legislature on the ticket
of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, was one of 17 people to have
announced their intention to run in the 27 October gubernatorial election.
Former presidential Chief of Staff Nikolai Yegorov is also a candidate in the
election. Rozhin was the president of a real-estate company that went bankrupt
in 1994 and still owes investors money. Law enforcement agencies are treating
the murder as a common crime rather than as a politically motivated case. --
AIRBORNE FORCES COMMANDER: NO PROFESSIONAL ARMY BY 2000.
Yevgenii Podkolzin, Russian Airborne Forces commander, told Radio Mayak on 2
August that "we won't have a professional army by the year 2000" due to
"difficult economic circumstances." Podkolzin argued against making the
military an all-professional force, saying that "specialists" should be
professionals but that "all the other soldiers should be conscripts."
Podkolzin's comments contradict both President Yeltsin's May decree ordering
the abolition of conscription by 2000, and recent comments by Defense Minister
Igor Rodionov, who said it would be possible, if difficult, to convert the
Russian military into an all-professional force by then. -- Scott Parrish
TATARSTAN AIRCREW MARK FIRST ANNIVERSARY IN CAPTIVITY.
The seven crewmen
of a Tatarstan-based IL-76 transport forced down by the Afghan Taliban marked a
year in captivity on 3 August, Russian media reported. The plane was ferrying
Chinese-made ammunition from Albania to the Afghan government in Kabul when a
MiG fighter belonging to Taliban forced it to land in Kandahar. Negotiations to
obtain the crew's release collapsed late last year, and no progress toward
securing their release has been made. -- Scott Parrish
UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER FINISHES MOSCOW VISIT.
Minister Hennadii Udovenko met with Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin
on 2 August, international media reported. At a joint press conference, Russian
Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov and Udovenko admitted that no progress has
been made toward settling the Black Sea Fleet dispute, and Primakov reiterated
that Russia will not conclude a long-delayed friendship treaty with Ukraine
until that issue is resolved. -- Scott Parrish
SOUTH KOREA TO GET RUSSIAN URANIUM, HELICOPTERS.
South Korean officials
on 2 August said they had agreed to accept Russian enriched uranium and
helicopters as partial repayment of the former Soviet Union's debt, Reuters
reported. A government statement said that Russia would provide $75 million
worth of enriched uranium and $15 million worth of helicopters. Russia
currently owes South Korea $450 million. In 1995, Russia agreed to provide
tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, and anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles to
South Korea in partial repayment of its debt. -- Doug Clarke
TATARSTAN INTRODUCES ALCOHOL MONOPOLY.
The government of Tatarstan
introduced on 1 August a state monopoly on the manufacture, storage, and sale
of alcohol products, Izvestiya reported on 3 August. The decree
transfers the republic's 15 alcohol-producing plants to a specially created
production unit called Tatspirtprom. The new rules also ban firms from using
alcohol in barter deals. -- Natalia Gurushina
TAX POLICE ANNOUNCE HALF-YEAR RESULTS.
The Federal Tax Police Service
uncovered 7,300 serious tax violations in the first half of 1996, Radio Rossii
reported on 3 August. About 12,000 cases were recorded in total, and the
service delivered 13 trillion rubles to the state's coffers; another 9.3
trillion are expected. In 1995, 13,000 violations were recorded for the year as
a whole. One of the Tax Police's biggest catches was Vladimir Shchukhin, the
mayor of Snezhinsk (formerly the top-secret nuclear center Chelyabinsk-70),
Izvestiya reported on 3 August. Shchukhin is suspected of embezzling
state funds and gaining 2 billion rubles in interest by depositing local
tax-payers' money in commercial banks. -- Penny Morvant
WARRANT ISSUED FOR ARREST OF FORMER GEORGIAN FOREIGN MINISTER.
Georgian procuracy on 1 August issued a warrant for the arrest of businessman
Murman Omanidze on charges of illicit financial dealings, according to an
Iprinda News Agency reports monitored by the BBC. Omanidze was the foreign
minister in Zviad Gamsakhurdia's government in 1990-91. -- Liz Fuller
NEW HARDLINE ABKHAZ FOREIGN MINISTER.
Leonid Lakerbaya, who resigned as
foreign minister of the breakaway Abkhaz Republic, has been replaced by
Konstantin Ozgan, former first secretary of Gudauta Raikom and later chairman
of the Abkhaz Oblast Soviet, who was accused by Georgian intellectuals of
instigating the July 1989 clashes in Sukhumi during which 25 people died,
according to a 1 August Interfax report monitored by the BBC. -- Liz Fuller
PROTESTS IN YEREVAN.
Some 1,600 striking workers from the Sipan
construction trust demonstrated in front of the parliament building in Yerevan
on 2 August, Noyan Tapan reported. They claim to be owed 11 months of back
wages, and protested their director's decision to shut down their trade union.
The Sipan enterprise is part of the Defense Ministry and works on military
projects. The same day, 1,500 members of the Communist Party of Armenia
gathered to protest the dismantling of the pedestal in Republic Square on which
a Lenin statue formerly stood. The statue itself was removed several years ago.
-- Peter Rutland
UZBEK PRESIDENT PROPOSES ARMS EMBARGO ON AFGHANISTAN.
Islam Karimov has sent an official petition to the UN Security Council calling
for a general arms embargo on Afghanistan, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 August.
Pakistan supports the proposal, and top Pakistani officials are currently in
contact with their Uzbek counterparts to work out the details. Karimov first
suggested such an embargo at the UN in October 1995. -- Roger Kangas
TAJIK SECURITY COUNCIL MEETS.
The Tajik Security Council on 3 August
ratified President Imomali Rakhmonov's decree on the formation of a commission
to coordinate the activities of all branches of the Tajik military, Radio
Rossii reported. The Tajik Defense Ministry reported that government troops in
central Tajikistan are coming under attack "every day," according to Tajik
Radio. A planned meeting between Rakhmonov and opposition leader Said Abdullo
Nuri, scheduled for August, may be delayed. The opposition Radio Voice of Free
Tajikistan reported on 30 July that Nuri is now demanding that Rakhmonov come
to the meeting prepared to sign an agreement on the formation of a coalition
government. -- Bruce Pannier
PASHA'S REMAINS RETURNED TO TURKEY.
The remains of Gen. Enver Pasha were
flown from Dushanbe to Istanbul on 3 August and were reinterred with a military
ceremony the next day, Turkish and international media reported. The return was
agreed during Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov's early May visit to Ankara.
Enver Pasha was the leading member of the triumvirate that effectively ruled
the Ottoman Empire from 1908 until its collapse. He later attempted to lead the
indigenous Central Asian anti-Bolshevik guerrilla war--the so-called Bamachi
Revolt--and was believed to have been killed near Baljuvan, Tajikistan, on 4
August 1922 by Red Army troops. -- Lowell Bezanis
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT ISSUES TAX REFORM DECREE.
Leonid Kuchma issued a
decree on 2 August setting guidelines for tax reform, Ukrainian and Western
agencies reported. The guidelines are aimed at simplifying the tax system,
reducing the tax burden on businesses and eliminating many loopholes and
privileges. They also call for various protectionist measures, including a tax
increase on imports and new taxes on barter transactions. The government will
use the guidelines in drafting tax reform legislation for parliament, which is
set to take up the issue in September. Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Pynzenyk
told Ukrainian TV that the government is cooperating with the World Bank on
several projects on tax reform, which may include some aid to fill any budget
gaps Kyiv may encounter during the transition to a new tax system. -- Chrystyna
SEVASTOPOL SEEKS FREE-TRADE ZONE STATUS.
An initiative group in the
Crimean port city of Sevastopol has appealed to the Ukrainian government to
approve their plan to turn the city into a free-economic zone, Ukrainian radio
reported on 2 August. Valerii Ivanov, a local official, said the group had sent
a package of documents proving the viability of turning the base of the
disputed Black Sea Fleet into a free-trade zone. The group needs the approval
of the Ukrainian government in order to submit a package of some 60 bills to
parliament regulating economic issues such as customs, currency, and taxes.
According to Ukrainian legislation, the creation of any free-economic zone
requires the adoption by parliament of a separate law. -- Chrystyna Lapychak
UKRAINE REMOVED FROM U.S. ARMS TRADE BAN LIST.
The U.S. has taken
Ukraine off the International Traffic in Arms Regulations list, a State
Department spokesman announced on 2 August. According to his statement, this
means that it is no longer U.S. policy to deny licenses for the sale or
purchase of military equipment or services from Ukraine. The State Department
lifted the restrictions on six other former Soviet republics two weeks ago. --
IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN BELARUS.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar
Velayati ended a two-day visit to Belarus on 2 August, Belarusian radio
reported. During the visit, Velayati met with President Alyaksandr Lukashenka,
Prime Minister Mikhail Chyhir, and Foreign Minister Uladzimir Syanko. Talks
focused on trade and economic cooperation, especially a barter deal through
which Belarus could pay for Iranian oil with goods from its industries. In the
first half of the year, Iranian-Belarusian trade amounted to $7 million. In
1995, total trade was $8 million. Syanko also asked Velayati to help secure the
release of Belarusian POWs captured in Afghanistan while serving in the Soviet
military. -- Ustina Markus
LATVIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN TOKYO.
Valdis Birkavs completed a five-day
visit to Japan on 2 August with talks with his Japanese counterpart Yukihido
Ikeda, BNS reported. Ikeda noted that Latvia was on the list of countries
eligible to receive technical assistance from Japan and experts of the Japanese
International Cooperation Agency would soon tour Latvia to determine where
assistance was most needed. The ministers also discussed opportunities to
increase economic cooperation as well as ways to attract Japanese investment to
Latvia. -- Saulius Girnius
KWASNIEWSKI THE MOST POPULAR.
President Aleksander Kwasniewski is the
most popular Polish politician, Rzeczpospolita reported on 3 August,
quoting a poll conducted from 12-16 July by the Public Opinion Research Center
(OBOP). Kwasniewski has an approval rating of 55% and is followed by former
Labor Minister Jacek Kuron (52%), Sejm Speaker Jozef Zych (48%), Prime Minister
Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz (39%), and former Foreign Affairs Minister Andrzej
Olechowski (37%). Three former prime ministers come next: Waldemar Pawlak
(32%), Tadeusz Mazowiecki (31%), and Jan Olszewski (29%). Solidarity leader
Marian Krzaklewski (28%), Finance Minister Grzegorz Kolodko (26%), former
President Lech Walesa (26%), and former Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy (23%),
scored less impressively. Walesa leads the negative popularity ranking with 38%
of respondents disapproving of him. Oleksy (37%), Confederation of Independent
Poland leader Leszek Moczulski (33%), and Kolodko (30%) come after Walesa in
the negative ratings. Politicians' popularity is important in view of next
year's parliamentary elections. -- Jakub Karpinski
U.S. HELSINKI COMMITTEE DISAPPOINTED WITH HUNGARIAN DECLARATION.
Christopher H. Smith, chairman of the U.S. Congress's Helsinki Committee, on 2
August criticized last month's ethnic-Hungarian summit in Budapest,
Praca reported on 5 August. Saying that he had expected the summit to
deal with "concrete problems" of Hungarian minorities, Smith expressed
disappointment that the participants concerned themselves with "ambiguous
support for autonomy" and "self-government." They did so knowing that the use
of these terms must "induce alarm in countries which are already afraid of
alleged irredentism," Smith said. He warned that the application of such terms
without clarification creates the impression that "the declaration represents
only the hardly concealed effort by Budapest to expand its influence also
beyond current borders or to return back to the time when all Hungarians were
unified in one country." Slovakia's Foreign Ministry expressed agreement with
Smith's comments. -- Sharon Fisher
LATEST POPULARITY POLL RESULTS IN HUNGARY.
According to a recent poll
conducted by Marketing Centrum, the opposition Smallholders Party retook a
slight lead over the senior governing Socialist Party, Nepszava reported
on 5 August. If elections were held "this Sunday" 25% of the decided voters
would cast their ballot for the populist Smallholders and only 24% for the
Socialists. The opposition Young Democrats have also increased their popularity
(17%) while support for the junior coalition party Alliance of Free Democrats
dropped to 15%. The Smallholders' Party had continually headed popularity polls
from October 1995 until radical statements by their leader in a March speech.
-- Zsofia Szilagyi
SLOVAK CULTURAL CENTER OPENS IN HUNGARY.
A Slovak Education and Culture
Center was opened in the northern Hungarian town of Bank to serve the interests
of the Slovak minority in Hungary, Hungarian media reported on 5 August.
Setting up the Ludovit Stur Center cost 30 million forints ($198,000). Of this
the Hungarian government contributed 5 million forints and the Slovak
government 2 million forints. Jan Lomen, mayor of the predominantly Slovak
town, said the new center should improve Hungarian-Slovak relations and help
the 100,000-strong Slovak minority adapt to Hungarian society. Slovak
Ambassador to Hungary Eva Mitrova said the opening of the center was an
exceptionally important event. -- Zsofia Szilagyi
MOSTAR CROATS REJECT EU PROPOSAL ON CITY COUNCIL.
administrator Sir Martin Garrod said on 5 August that the Mostar Croat
leadership refused the proposal of the EU Administration to consider
establishing Mostar's city council, Oslobodjenje reported the same day.
Croats wanted the city council to be a "provisional" body until their
complaints over the elections were heard by the Bosnian federation's
constitutional court, but Garrod said that was unacceptable. The EU threatened
to withdraw from Mostar if the Croats continue their boycott. The EU will
announce its future course of action this evening, news agencies reported. --
Daria Sito Sucic
DOES CROATIAN PRESIDENT SUPPORT MOSTAR CROATS OVER CITY COUNCIL ROW?
mayor of the Croat-part of Mostar, Mijo Brajkovic, said the Mostar Croats will
not give up their terms for establishing a joint city administration, and they
have been supported in their requests by Croatian President Franjo Tudjman,
Novi List reported on 3 August. Meanwhile, Tudjman assured U.S.
President Bill Clinton that Bosnian Croats will cooperate with Muslims in
Mostar, AFP reported on 2 August. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns
said Tudjman promised that Mostar Croats would respect the elections in Mostar
and they would dismantle their para-state of Herceg-Bosna. Meanwhile, Tudjman
accused some "European circles" of wanting the Dayton peace accord to fail, and
blaming Croatia for it, AFP reported. Tudjman also said the institutions of
Herceg-Bosna could continue until those of the Bosnian federation came into
being. -- Daria Sito Sucic
FEUDING BETWEEN BOSNIAN SERB POLITICAL PARTIES CONTINUES.
device was discovered in a hall in Brcko just before a meeting of the Socialist
Party of the Republika Srpska (SPRS), AFP reported on 4 August, citing Beta
news agency. Tanjug called the machine a smoke grenade. The SPRS is the Bosnian
branch of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia and
is the main electoral rival of Radovan Karadzic's Serbian Democratic Party.
Provocations such as beatings, bombings, and stonings against the SPRS have
been reported over recent months, and Onasa said on 1 August that additional
incidents took place recently in Teslic, Zvornik, Brcko, and Derventa.
Meanwhile, among the Muslims, the governing SDA and the opposition Joint List
continue to trade accusations over a SDA poster that implies that it is the
duty of all Muslims to vote for the SDA. -- Patrick Moore
HAS A PLAN TO NAB KARADZIC BEEN EXPOSED?
London's Sunday Times
reported on 4 August that the U.S. wants to stage a covert air operation to
seize Bosnian Serb civilian leader and indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic
from his base at Pale, Reuters noted. The paper quoted British Defense
Secretary Michael Portillo as saying, however, that Britain would refuse to
cooperate with such a mission, asking: "how many British lives is that worth?"
He added that "whilst we believe Karadzic must be brought to justice... our
immediate priority is stability in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the holding of
democratic elections next month." Portillo denied that there is any rift
between London and Washington over policy toward Bosnia, but observers of the
conflict know that such differences have long existed. Croatian sources told
OMRI that they believe that the story was deliberately leaked by London to
thwart American plans. -- Patrick Moore
SERBIAN REFUGEES COMMEMORATE "OPERATION STORM."
An estimated 3,000
Serbs, mostly refugees from Croatia, crammed into Belgrade's St. Mark's Church
on 4 August to hear Patriarch Pavle deliver prayers in commemoration of the
first anniversary of "Operation Storm," the military exercise by which Croatia
reclaimed much of Krajina that was held by rebel Serbs. The operation was
followed by a massive outflow of Serbian refugees. For his part, Pavle,
delivering a message clearly tinged with political overtones supportive of the
insurrection against Croatia and at the same time critical of Belgrade
authorities for not rescuing the Krajina regime, said "There is no place on
earth where the guilty can hide...the truth will always be revealed," Reuters
reported. -- Stan Markotich
THREE POLICE STATIONS BOMBED IN KOSOVO.
Six cars were burned when a
local police station in Podujevo caught fire following a bomb attack on 2
August, international agencies reported. A municipal building and a Red Cross
warehouse were also damaged by the explosion. A shoot-out reportedly followed
the incident. Two other police stations were simultaneously hit in Krpimej near
Podujevo and Pristina. Nobody was injured in the attacks, AFP reported.
Meanwhile, Deutsche Welle's Albanian language service reported on 5 August that
the police force has stepped up its presence in the region and begun raiding
Albanian homes. -- Fabian Schmidt
ROMANIA SLAPS CURRENCY CONTROL ON BUSINESSES.
In a measure that Reuters
called a "populist move," Romania on 2 August slapped stringent exchange
controls on state companies and banks, stripping them of hard currency in order
to help fund badly needed energy imports. The government decreed that some 100
state companies must convert earnings from certain exports at the
disadvantageous exchange rate of 3,134 lei to the dollar, instead of the retail
rate of some 3,500 lei. Banks will also be forced to cheaply sell hard currency
holdings that exceed certain limits. Proceeds will be used to set up a special
energy fund, which will also hold foreign loans and hard currency receipts from
privatization. -- Michael Shafir
CONTROVERSIAL GATHERING OF HUNGARIAN CHURCH IN ROMANIA.
reported on 3 August that a controversial international gathering of the
Hungarian Reformed Church began in Oradea on the same day. Apart from members
of the church from Romania, the gathering is attended by participants from
Hungary, the U.S., Australia and other countries. The authorities have warned
the organizers not to allow the event to be turned into one of "irredentist
provocations." But on the same day, Romanian television reported that a statue
of Hungarian princess Zsuzsana Lorantffy, who in 1657 opened the first Reformed
theological school in Oradea, was erected where a bust of Romanian national
poet Mihai Eminescu used to stand. The bust had been removed by Hungarian
authorities after the annexation of northern Transylvania in 1940. The congress
elected Romanian Reformed Church bishop Laszlo Tokes as chairman of the World
Union of Magyar Reformists. On 4 August Tokes denied any "tendency of
separation or unification with Hungary," but added that it was "natural" for a
community that "was once one entity to wish to become one entity again," Radio
Bucharest reported on 5 August. -- Michael Shafir
RUSSIANS DENY REPORTS THEY ARE INVESTIGATING MOLDOVAN PREMIER.
Prosecutor's office has denied reports in the Romanian press and in the
Moldovan opposition media that it had opened a criminal investigation against
Moldovan Prime Minister Andrei Sangheli, Infotag reported on 2 August. The
reports had alleged that Sangheli and the leadership of the Dniester breakaway
region had been placed under investigation for mismanaging funds to be used to
pay for energy deliveries from Russia to the Dniester region. The commander of
Russian troops in Tiraspol, Colonel Mikhail Bergman, who was cited as the
source of the reports, told Infotag he had indeed granted an interview to
Romanian reporters, but added that in the interview he only spoke of the
"doubtful business affairs" of the Minister of State Security in Tiraspol,
Vadim Shevtsov. -- Michael Shafir
MONEY-LAUNDERING SCANDAL IN BULGARIA.
Between 31 July and 2 August, five
Bulgarians were arrested for illegally transferring $186 million abroad, RFE/RL
reported. Four of the detainees are employees of Balkanbank, the country's
biggest state-owned commercial bank, and the fifth is a former policeman acting
as the representative of an unnamed Cypriot company which is involved in the
apparent money laundering scheme. The money was apparently sent to Balkanbank's
Ruse branch from abroad and then transferred to a third country. The sum
transferred, in what appears to be Bulgaria's biggest financial scandal since
1989, equals almost one-third of Bulgaria's foreign currency reserves. --
WORLD BANK LENDS BULGARIA $30 MILLION TO ASSIST UNEMPLOYED.
A World Bank
representative in Sofia confirmed on 4 August that the bank would lend
Bulgarian $30 million to assist workers left unemployed by structural reforms
agreed to with the bank and the IMF, Pari reported on 5 August. The loan
-- which is for 20 years with a five-year grace period -- will provide funds
for both social assistance and retraining for the estimated 65,000 workers who
will lose their jobs. It will help the government by reducing the social cost
of the reforms, and free the banks from having to finance failing state
enterprises, enabling them to lend more extensively to the private sector.
Total World Bank lending to Bulgaria to date is $869 million. -- Michael
ALBANIAN PRESIDENT DECREES CREATION OF PERMANENT ELECTORAL BODY.
Albanian President Sali Berisha has decreed the creation of a 17-member
permanent electoral commission, Reuters reported on 3 August. The body is in
charge of organizing, supervising and controlling future ballots. Berisha has
invited political parties to nominate candidates for the body ahead of 20
October's local elections. In its final report on May's controverisal
parliamentary elections, the OSCE recommended the creation of an independent
permanent body to ensure that election irregularities do not occur again and
that neither parties nor the government interfere in the voting process. --
GREECE, ALBANIA AND THE ALBANIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH CHALLENGE
The Greek government and Albanian Archbishop Anastasios
Giannoulatos agreed that the appointment of three bishops by the Ecumenical
Patriarchate of Constantinople is not acceptable, Koha Jone reported on
3 August. They were appointed to the sees of Gjirokaster, Vlora, and Korca, but
the Albanian authorities declared them persona non grata. The Committee for the
Protection and the Independence of the Albanian Orthodox Church argues that
according to the Albanian church's statute, high dignitaries must be Albanian.
Giannoulatos, himself a Greek, is under criticism by Albanians who want him
replaced. His appointment in 1991 led to a factional split of the church, with
some Orthodox communities in central Albania refusing to accept his authority.
-- Fabian Schmidt and Stefan Krause
[As of 1200 CET]
Compiled by Victor Gomez and Pete Baumgartner