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Newsline - August 5, 1996


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. -- Laura Belin

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. -- Laura Belin

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. -- Penny Morvant

AIRBORNE FORCES COMMANDER: NO PROFESSIONAL ARMY BY 2000.
Col. Gen. 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.
Ukrainian Foreign 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.
The 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.
Uzbek President 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 Lapychak

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. -- Doug Clarke

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.
Mostar EU 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?
The 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.
An explosive 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.
Romanian media 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.
Moscow's 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. -- Stefan Krause

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 Wyzan

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. -- Fabian Schmidt

GREECE, ALBANIA AND THE ALBANIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH CHALLENGE CONSTANTINOPLE.
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















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