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Newsline - August 13, 1996


LEBED TAKES CHARGE OF CHECHEN TALKS . . .
Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed returned to Moscow from Chechnya on 12 August and briefed President Yeltsin on the results of his talks with Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov, Russian and Western agencies reported. Lebed later said that Yeltsin approved the general outline of the settlement plan he had discussed with Maskhadov, and would issue a decree within the next 48 hours empowering the Security Council head to implement it. Lebed said that Maskhadov had reacted positively to his proposal that Chechnya be granted a level of autonomy within the federation similar to that of Tatarstan. He added that they had both agreed that the current fighting must he stopped before serious political talks can begin. Chechen leaders have previously insisted on full independence, and earlier talks repeatedly foundered on that issue. -- Scott Parrish

. . . ANNOUNCES CEASEFIRE . . .
Lebed also announced that a ceasefire would begin in Chechnya at 3 p.m. Moscow time, and added that Gen. Konstantin Pulikovskii, the federal forces commander, would soon begin talks with Maskhadov on a mutual disengagement of forces. Chechen Information Minister Movladi Udugov offered a very positive assessment of Lebed's talks with Maskhadov, which he said offered "serious hope" that the conflict could be resolved. However, as of midnight on 12 August, Chechen military spokesmen said that Maskhadov had still not spoken with Pulikovskii, complaining that repeated attempts to contact the Russian commander had proven fruitless. -- Scott Parrish

. . . AND BLASTS PREDECESSORS IN CHECHNYA.
Lebed also expressed outrage at the state of federal troops in Chechnya, saying they are lice-ridden, underfed, and dressed in rags. He said they had been sent to Chechnya as "cannon fodder," and should be recalled from combat for "purely humanitarian considerations." Lebed also lashed out at the "failure" of the State Commission for Regulating the Chechen Conflict, headed by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, which he described as "having made no positive progress," and attacked pro-Moscow Chechen leader Doku Zavgaev as a liar with "delusions of grandeur." He also criticized the "passivity" of Oleg Lobov, his predecessor as presidential representative in Chechnya and currently first deputy prime minister. Lebed said "someone wants me very much to break my neck over this assignment. We'll see. I like tough assignments. They excite me." -- Scott Parrish

CHECHEN FIGHTERS ATTACK FEDERAL HEADQUARTERS NEAR GROZNY.
Despite talk in Moscow of an imminent ceasefire, Chechen separatist fighters on 12 August launched an assault on the federal forces headquarters in Khankala, a Grozny suburb, Russian and Western agencies reported. They were beaten off after an hour of heavy fighting. Russian military spokesmen told ITAR-TASS early on 13 August that separatist fighters continued to offer "fierce resistance" to federal troops. NTV reported that separatist fighters still controlled much of the city, which federal forces continue to blast with indiscriminate artillery barrages. Meanwhile, according to AFP, separatist fighters ambushed a Russian convoy near Vedeno, killing 20 federal troops, and fighting also continues in Argun and Gudermes. An RFE/RL correspondent reported on 11 August that a Russian unit had taken hospital workers hostage in an attempt to escape encirclement by Chechen fighters. -- Scott Parrish

YELTSIN POSTPONES VACATION.
President Yeltsin has decided to postpone his vacation plans this week in order to deal with the renewed fighting in Chechnya and other pressing issues such as the upcoming regional elections, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 August. Yeltsin had been expected to arrive at a sanitarium in Valday, 145 km from Novgorod, this week. The president is now planning to begin his vacation on 19 August. -- Robert Orttung

JOURNALIST KILLED IN CHECHNYA.
Ramzan Khadzhev, a Russian Public TV (ORT) correspondent, has been shot dead in Chechnya, AFP reported on 12 August, quoting Interfax. If Khadzhev's death is confirmed, it will bring to 17 the number of journalists killed in Chechnya since the beginning of the conflict in December 1994. Meanwhile, the Glasnost Protection Foundation claimed that federal troops in Chechnya have recently launched another campaign of harassment against journalists who cover the Chechen conflict. For instance, on 8 August, federal forces fired on the cars of journalists representing various international news agencies. -- Anna Paretskaya

REFUGEE CRISIS IN CHECHNYA CONTINUES.
About 12,000 refugees from the Chechen capital have gathered in the villages of Staraya Sunzha, Starye Atagi, and Kalinino just outside of Grozny, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 August. The refugees, who started to leave Grozny after several days of heavy fighting in the city, are running out of food, water, and medicine. The local hospital cannot house all those who are in need of medical care. A corridor for refugees, which federal troops promised to open by 2 p.m. on 12 August, has not come into existence. Federal forces are refusing to let any men out of the town, fearing that rebels will escape along with the refugees. -- Anna Paretskaya

HARDLINERS DENOUNCE COMMUNIST PARTY.
The leader of the Russian Communist Workers' Party, Viktor Tyulkin, has asked Gennadii Zyuganov's Communist Party of the Russian Federation to remove the word "communist" from its name so as not to discredit the very idea of communism and confuse working people, Izvestiya reported on 13 August. Tyulkin's request was sparked by the Communists' decision to vote for the confirmation of Viktor Chernomyrdin as prime minister in the Duma on 10 August. Tyulkin's party refused to join the new Popular-Patriotic Union, arguing that it had moved too far away from the ideas of "true communism." -- Robert Orttung

PRAVDA STILL HOPES TO RETURN.
Pravda editor Aleksandr Ilin 12 August said that he wants to revive the paper, but there is no sign of an agreement in the dispute between the paper's editorial staff and its Greek publishers, Theodoros and Christos Giannikos, Russian TV reported. The paper published its last issue on 24 July, although the publishers, Pravda International, continue to put out the tabloid Pravda-5. Ilin claimed that the paper has the potential attain a circulation of 30 million--the number of people who voted for Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov--although the paper's circulation when it folded was only 200,000. -- Robert Orttung

CAMPAIGN STARTS IN KALININGRAD AND LENINGRAD OBLASTS.
Seven candidates have been registered to contest the 6 October Kaliningrad Oblast election, including the incumbent, Yurii Matochkin, Radio Rossii reported. Meanwhile, five gubernatorial hopefuls in Leningrad Oblast have started to gather the required 13,000 nomination signatures, RFE/RL reported. Aleksandr Belyakov, the incumbent who is a member of the pro-government Our Home Is Russia, plans to stand for re-election in the 29 September election. Kaliningrad and Leningrad are among first federation subjects to hold regional elections this year. -- Anna Paretskaya

NAZDRATENKO UNHAPPY WITH FINDINGS OF PRESIDENTIAL OVERSIGHT ADMINISTRATION.
Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko has withheld his signature from the findings of a government body investigating the finances of his krai's administration, saying a more thorough check should be carried out, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 August. The president's Main Oversight Administration (GKU) came to the krai on 5 August to look into the distribution of federal funds allocated to the energy sector over the past two years. During the recent power cuts and the miners' strike in Primore, allegations surfaced that part of the 60 billion rubles ($11.5 million at today's rate) allotted by Yeltsin in January for miners' wages was spent on other matters. The GKU reported its findings at a closed session on 11 August. According to an ITAR-TASS source, the GKU concluded that the local authorities are more to blame for the recent crises than the federal government. The results of a similar government investigation in May this year were never publicized. -- Penny Morvant

RUSSIAN ARMS TO SOUTH KOREA.
South Korea has sent 30 officers to Russia to learn how to operate the tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, and missiles that will soon be delivered to the Asian country, a South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman told ITAR-TASS on 12 August. The spokesman said that the transfer is part of the first large arms deal between the two countries. He said that the first shipment would arrive by the end of August. Russia agreed in 1995 to provide military equipment to South Korea in partial repayment of its debt. -- Doug Clarke

LACK OF FUNDING FOR EDUCATION LAMENTED.
Writing in Megapolis-kontinent (no. 32), Duma Science and Education Committee Deputy Chairman Oleg Smolin lamented the low funding of education and warned that it could seriously undermine Russia's long-term well-being. Smolin, a member of former Soviet Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzhkov's Popular Power Duma faction, cited the World Bank as estimating that spending on education fell from 7% of GDP in the USSR in 1970 to 3.4% in Russia in 1994. Osipov supported a draft amendment to the 1996 budget raising this year's allocation for education from 15.2 trillion rubles ($2.9 billion) to 29 trillion rubles. He said that the budget as it stands does not take into account pay increases for teachers envisaged in an August 1995 government resolution and that it is based on an average monthly salary for teachers of 316,000 rubles ($60), a third of the average in industry. -- Penny Morvant

FATHER WARDS OFF POLICE TO SAVE SON FROM DRAFT.
A 20-year-old man seeking to avoid the draft has barricaded himself with his father in their home in the Khabarovsk Krai village of Kherpuchi, Izvestiya reported on 13 August. When police came to the house to take the boy away, the father opened fire out of a window with a rifle. After police released the son, the two barricaded themselves in the house. According to official figures, since 1992 about 30,000 young men have dodged the draft in each of the twice yearly call-ups. About 70% of draft-age men are eligible for some form of deferment. -- Penny Morvant

TUPOLEV WANTS TO BUILD A NEW SUPERSONIC TRANSPORT.
Russian and U.S. specialists on 12 August conducted the first ground tests of the modified Tu-144 supersonic transport at the Zhukovskii air base near Moscow, RIA reported. The Tu-144LL will be used as a flying laboratory during a six-month test program largely funded by the U.S. space agency NASA. Tupolev's chief designer, Aleksandr Pukhov, told Reuters that the plane could become the prototype of the "supersonic jet of the next century." Tupolev has designed an upgraded engine for the new venture. -- Doug Clarke

CHERNOMYRDIN ON BUDGET PROBLEMS.
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, addressing officials of the State Tax Service on 13 August, said that said 25% of economic activity is evading taxes, ITAR-TASS reported. He complained of "excessive generosity in granting various concessions," and said that 60 trillion rubles of additional revenue will be needed to cover the minimum federal expenditure for the remainder of1996, which he estimated to be 130 trillion rubles, including 50 trillion for the "power ministries." -- Peter Rutland

STATE AID FOR NORILSK NICKEL.
President Yeltsin has signed a decree ordering a broad range of federal help for the troubled metal giant Norilsk Nickel, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 August. The plant has been the subject of political and legal battles since ONEKSIMbank acquired 38% of its shares in a loan auction last November. Norilsk Nickel, located in the far north of Krasnoyarsk Krai in Siberia, had debts of 3.9 trillion rubles ($750 million) at the end of June, Segodnya reported on 2 July. It is unable to purchase supplies for its workforce or relocate pensioners to southern districts. The new measures under the Yeltsin decree include postponing the repayment of federal loans, government guarantees for new bank credits, and an emergency issue of 500 billion rubles from federal reserves. -- Peter Rutland



MORE ON RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPERS IN ABKHAZIA.
The Russian Federation Council has agreed to double the number of troops in the Russian-dominated CIS peacekeeping force in Abkhazia to 3,000 and expand their operations to cover all of the Gali District, according to a 9 August Georgian Radio report monitored by the BBC. The council had earlier decided to extend the force's mandate until 31 January 1997 (see OMRI Daily Digest, 9 August 1996). Russia's ambassador to Georgia described the new policing functions as a breakthrough. Although the expanded mandate partially meets a key Georgian demand, it is only a cosmetic change since it does not state how and when the peacekeepers will be able to ensure the return of Georgian refugees to their homes in Abkhazia. Several Georgian politicians, including the chairman of the Georgian National Democratic Party and the Georgian United Republican Party, have strongly criticized the decision to extend the mandate. -- Lowell Bezanis

MKHEDRIONI LEADER SENTENCED.
One of the former leaders of the Mkhedrioni (Centurions) paramilitary group, Alexandre Bochorishvili, has been sentenced to 12 years imprisonment, according to a 9 August Kontakt news agency report monitored by the BBC. Bochorishvili, a former security adviser to Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, was found guilty of possessing large amounts of arms and drugs with the intent of selling them. -- Lowell Bezanis

AZERBAIJANI COUP-PLOTTERS ARRESTED IN DAGESTAN.
Three men wanted in Azerbaijan in connection with the March 1995 coup-attempt were arrested in a joint Russian-Azerbaijani operation in Dagestan, according to an 8 August Interfax report monitored by the BBC. -- Lowell Bezanis

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL REPORT ON KAZAKHSTAN PRISONS.
Amnesty International (AI) has released a report on the grim conditions in Kazakhstani prisons, RFE/RL reported on 12 August. At the beginning of 1996, Kazakhstan, a country of 17 million people, had 78 prisons holding 94,000 people, 20,000 of whom were awaiting trial, according to the report. In June, the country's government amnestied 20,000 prisoners convicted of non-violent crimes. An estimated 10,000 inmates in the prison system are suffering from tuberculosis. Amnesty estimates that 1,270 prisoners died of the disease last year and 450 have died so far this year. Kazakhstan ranks fourth in the world in terms of the number of executions carried out every year. In 1995, 110 people were sentenced to death and 101 executions were carried out. Deputy Interior Minister Nikolai Vlasov told AI that the death penalty is less cruel than life in a Kazakhstani prison. -- Bruce Pannier



UKRAINIAN UPDATE.
President Leonid Kuchma has appointed Mykola Biloblotsky as labor minister and Dmytro Khudolii as minister of communications, Ukrainian TV reported on 12 August. He also named Oleksander Omelchenko as mayor of Kyiv. Meanwhile, Ukraine's Ministry of Education has announced it is cutting enrollment to the country's higher education institutions by 4,600 full-time students and laying off one-third of teaching staff at medical schools, UNIAN reported on 10 August. The measures are aimed at reducing the ministry's wage debt, which nonetheless amount to 17.1 trillion karbovantsi ($92 million) after the cuts. The ministry has also closed down 12 facilities that offered evening and correspondence courses, saying it will cut jobs at the country's scientific and research institutes. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS LOWERING VOTE BARRIER.
The Seimas on 12 August rejected President Algirdas Brazauskas's proposal that in order to gain a share of the proportional seats in the October parliamentary elections, parties need to win only 4% of the vote and coalitions 5%, Radio Lithuania reported. In accordance with the election law, parties will have to gain 5% of the vote and coalitions 7% in the fall ballot. While 41 deputies voted in favor of the proposal, 21 voted against and 29 abstained. The Seimas also ratified World Bank loans worth $5.9 million and $6.2 million for financing a geothermal power plant in Klaipeda and an environmental protection project in Siauliai, respectively. -- Saulius Girnius

LATVIAN MINISTER URGES LITHUANIA TO STOP OIL TERMINAL CONSTRUCTION.
Environmental Protection Minister Indulis Emsis, citing environmental reasons, has called on Lithuania to stop the construction of its floating oil terminal at Butinge, BNS reported on 12 August. He said the terminal should be built in a closed-port area, where it would be easier to contain spilled oil. He also complained that Lithuania has not informed Latvia about the environmental safety of the terminal, which, according to Lithuanian press reports, will also be used to reload chemical substances. Lithuanian Energy Minister Saulius Kutas told Lietuvos rytas last week that his country had expected Latvia to protest because the completed terminal will compete with Latvia's Ventspilis port for the export of Russian oil. The construction of that terminal has been suspended owing to a lack of funds. -- Saulius Girnius

IS POLAND'S ECONOMIC TSAR OUT?
Zycie Warszawy reported on 13 August that according to "unofficial plans" for the cabinet reshuffle, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Grzegorz Kolodko will not have a place in the new government. Kolodko has been responsible for economic policy over the past two years. The daily suggests that he will become president of the National Bank of Poland at some later date. The Polish Peasants' Party, which is the junior member of the coalition government, has reportedly been promised two of the new government's three deputy premierships. The beneficiaries would be Miroslaw Pietrewicz (who would also be the state treasury minister) and Roman Jagielinski (who would keep his position as agricultural minister). Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz of the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), the senior coalition party, would keep his position, while SLD Labor Minister Leszek Miller would become the third deputy prime minister and minister of administration and internal affairs. Former Deputy Prime Minister Marek Borowski is to head the Economics Ministry, while Foreign Minister Dariusz Rosati is be moved to the Finance Office. If these changes were to take place, the PSL's influence, especially in economic policy, would be greatly increased. -- Ben Slay

POLISH TELECOM COMES UNDER ATTACK.
Polish Telecom, which has a monopoly on most telephone services in Poland, has come under strong criticism for its apparently high-handed ways, Polish dailies reported 13 August. In response to a complaint against PT filed by the Consumers' Federation and the Human Rights Ombudsman, Polish Antimonopoly Office President Andrzej Sopocko called for a recent Communications Ministry decision to be overturned. According to that decision, PT would have been allowed to supply network access to two cellular phone companies on terms favorable to it. The recent unilateral withdrawal by PT's Cracow office from an agreement with the Polish Post Office has left small towns in five regions in southeastern Poland without any telephone or telegraph services. An Antimonopoly Office spokesman promised that the matter would be investigated, adding that "this is only one part of a greater whole. Unfortunately, we have many complaints against PT." -- Ben Slay

CZECH PREMIER SAYS NO RIFT IN RULING PARTY.
Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus on 12 August said there is no rift -- and no need for factions -- within the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), Czech media reported. The statement followed a meeting of his party's executive council, the first since Foreign Minister and ODS Deputy Chairman Josef Zieleniec called for more pluralism and political debate within the party (see OMRI Daily Digest, 7 August 1996). "I know more or less these views of Zieleniec, and I have repeatedly discussed them with him," Klaus said. He added that they had gained "popularity" because they were published in "the silly season." Klaus said he and Zieleniec have "fundamentally different" views on the problems faced by the ODS in the post-election period. -- Sharon Fisher

CZECH SOCIAL DEMOCRAT CHAIRMAN INSTILLS DISCIPLINE.
Milos Zeman has reprimanded three deputies from the Czech Social Democratic Party (CSSD) for their recent absence from the parliament, Pravo reported on 10 August. Zeman noted that by leaving for vacation, the deputies allowed the law on Church restitution to pass by a single vote. The opposition was also one vote short in the ballot on the establishment of a commission to investigate the situation of the Poldi Kladno steel firm. "If any deputy is unable to bear the responsibility, there is only one honorable solution: to free his post for a replacement," Zeman said. Four other CSSD deputies--including the popular deputy chairwoman Petra Buzkova--will reportedly also be reprimanded for violating the CSSD's election program when they voted against holding a referendum on the country's EU and NATO membership. One of those singled out rejected the criticism. Kvetoslava Korinkova said she learned of the scheduling of the session one day before leaving for vacation and could not put off her flight. -- Sharon Fisher

SLOVAK-HUNGARIAN TENSIONS FLARE . . .
The Slovak National Party (SNS) on 12 August strongly criticized Hungarian Prime Minister Gyula Horn for supporting autonomy for ethnic Hungarians living in neighboring countries, Slovak media reported. The SNS--a junior partner in Slovakia's ruling coalition--was responding to Horn's statement the previous day that the joint declaration approved at the July Budapest summit does not contain anything that could offend neighboring countries. Horn had also stressed that the document is in harmony with both the government's program and European norms and does not conflict with the Slovak-Hungarian treaty. The SNS said it is "very dangerous" for Hungary's official representative to openly endorse the joint declaration, which demands territorial autonomy for Hungarians living in neighboring countries as a condition for maintaining their identity. -- Sharon Fisher

. . . WHILE PREMIERS' MEETING IS CANCELED.
A meeting between Horn and his Slovak counterpart Vladimir Meciar scheduled for 13 August has been postponed indefinitely, according to Hungarian and Slovak media. Slovakia reportedly requested that the meeting be put off until a later date. Horn had said on Hungarian TV on 11 August that issues on the meeting's agenda included the rights of ethnic Hungarians living in Slovakia, the Gabcikovo dam, bilateral cooperation in privatization, and European integration efforts. One Hungarian daily speculated that Meciar called off the meeting because nationalists in his governing coalition objected to the July joint declaration as well as to Hungarian participation in Slovakia's privatization process. -- Sharon Fisher

HUNGARIAN OPPOSITION CRITICIZES PREMIER'S STATEMENT ON TREATY WITH ROMANIA.
Hungarian opposition leaders have responded with surprise and skepticism to Prime Minister Gyula Horn's statement on 11 August that Hungary is about to ratify the basic treaty with Romania, Hungarian dailies reported. Former Foreign Minister Geza Jeszenszky said he sees no indication that Romania is modifying its treatment of its Hungarian minority. Tensions have arisen between the two countries over this issue. Meanwhile, Hungarian Foreign Ministry state secretary Ferenc Somogyi has left for Bucharest to discuss unresolved issues in the basic treaty. Somogyi said agreement has been reached on 95% of the basic treaty and the outstanding issues are related to the Council of Europe Recommendation 1201 on ethnic minorities. -- Ben Slay

HUNGARIAN MILITARY REINFORCED CROATIAN BORDER LAST SUMMER.
Hungarian Defense Minister Gyorgy Keleti and Secret Services Minister Istvan Nikolits on 12 August confirmed that Hungary's border guard troops were substantially reinforced along the border with eastern Slavonia in Croatia during the summer of 1995, Vilaggazdasag reported. This move reflected the heightened threat of war related to the Croatian military offensives to retake Serb-held western Slavonia in May 1995 and Krajina in August 1995. Although eastern Slavonia remains the sole Croatian region under the control of rebel Serbs, Keleti said that no such threat exists today. -- Ben Slay



BOSNIAN SERBS GIVE IN TO NATO FIRMNESS.
The Pale leadership on 12 August agreed to allow IFOR to inspect sites at Gen. Ratko Mladic's headquarters, located at the mountain stronghold of Han Pijesak. The Serbs had blocked NATO inspectors two days earlier, and IFOR had responded with the unprecedented step of pulling its liaison officers out of Pale (see OMRI Daily Digest, 12 August 1996). NATO the same day activated "Operation Fear Naught," which placed its own forces in the Republika Srpska on a higher state of alert, consolidated them in more readily defendable positions, and effectively ordered civilian aid workers to leave. NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana and NATO's commander in Europe, Gen. George Joulwan, met with Republika Srpska Acting President Biljana Plavsic and other Serbian officials, who then said that the inspection could go ahead. On 13 August, IFOR commander Gen. Sir Michael Walker flew his helicopter from Sarajevo to Pale to collect Plavsic en route to Han Pijesak to ensure that all went smoothly, international media noted. -- Patrick Moore

CROATIAN PRESIDENT AGREES TO 3-MONTH EXTENSION OF UN MANDATE.
Franjo Tudjman on 12 August told Jacques Klein, UN administrator of eastern Slavonia, that Croatia will agree to have the UN's mandate extended by three months, Hina reported. Serbs living in the region have said they would like a one-year extension, and UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali has supported that view (see OMRI Daily Digest, 8 August 1996), while Tudjman said that he would request that during the period of extension, local government elections take place on the basis of the 1991 census and that the UN create the conditions for the return of refugees. But Klein said those requests could not be met before Croatia issued an amnesty for rebel Serbs. Meanwhile, a Croatian government team on 12 August began excavating mass graves in the Plitvice region, central Croatia, that are thought to contain the bodies of Croats killed by rebel Serbs, AFP reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic

SUPPORTERS OF BOSNIAN MUSLIM RULING PARTY DISRUPT OPPOSITION RALLY.
A Bosnian opposition rally on 10 August in Gradacac, northern Bosnia, was disrupted by a group of supporters of the ruling Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA), Onasa reported on 12 August. Youths wearing SDA T-shirts caused a commotion and broke up the meeting, organized by the opposition Joint List, which consists of anti-nationalist parties and one Croatian group. The Joint List has accused the SDA of wanting the Muslim-Croatian federation to be controlled by ethnic Muslims. The rally was staged in Gradacac because Muslims and Croats have never stopped cooperating in that city and because their respective parties -- the SDA and the Croatian Democratic Community -- have only limited support there. Meanwhile, Sejfudin Tokic, vice president of the Union of Bosnian Social Democrat, has said he is concerned about the lack of neutrality among police officials at campaign rallies, Onasa and AFP reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic

REFUGEES IN SERBIA-MONTENEGRO REGISTER TO VOTE IN BOSNIAN ELECTIONS.
An OSCE representative has said that 220,640 refugees have registered with his organization to vote in the 14 September elections in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Beta reported on 12 August. Of those, 97,636 have opted to cast their ballots in Serbia-Montenegro and the remainder will vote in Bosnia, with the majority expected to do so in the Republika Srpska. Polling in Serbia-Montenegro will take place between 28 August and 3 September and will be supervised by OSCE monitors. Beta reported that there are 450,000-480,000 Bosnian refugees in Serbia-Montenegro and that 633,584 refugees in a total of 28 countries have registered to vote in the elections. -- Stan Markotich

AMMUNITION CACHE FOUND IN DNIESTER REGION.
An ammunition cache has been discovered in Colbasna, a village in Moldova's breakaway Dniester region near the Ukrainian border, BASA-press reported on 12 August. The discovery follows the arrest in a nearby town of several Ukrainian teenagers who were in possession of ammunition from the former 14th Russian army depositories. The Russian command in Tiraspol was quoted as saying that the military of the self-declared Dniester Moldovan Republic may have hidden the ammunition in 1995. The Dniester military has insisted that it have control over the equipment and ammunition slated for liquidation by the Russian troops. Up to 100,000 tons of ammunition are believed to be in the Colbasna cache. -- Dan Ionescu

PEACETIME NAVAL EXERCISE OFF BULGARIAN COAST.
Vessels from eight nations--the U.S., Russia, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Romania, Ukraine, and Bulgaria--gathered off the Bulgarian coast on 10 August to take part in a six-day peacekeeping naval exercise. According to a statement issued by the Bulgarian Defense Ministry, Bulgaria's contingent consists of nine ships, six planes, and two helicopters. Bulgarian media reported that the exercise would focus on communication drills and damage-control maneuvers. -- Stan Markotich

ALBANIAN APPEALS COURT REDUCES SENTENCES OF COMMUNIST OFFICIALS.
The Tirana appeals court on 12 August reduced the life sentences of former party chief ideologue Foto Cami, former Defense Minister Prokop Murra, and regional party leader Muho Asllani, Reuters reported. Cami's sentence was commuted to a five-year suspended jail term, while Murra and Asllani received 20- and 18-year terms respectively. The court upheld the sentences handed down to former party secretary Gaqo Nesho, national Police Chief Dilaver Bengasi, and Tirana secret police chief Zef Loka, who were sentenced in May to between 16 and 20 years. All were charged with crimes against humanity and deportation of dissidents. -- Fabian Schmidt

MILITARY EXERCISES IN ALBANIA.
U.S. and Albanian troops on 12 August began a joint military exercise in Albania. Code-named "Salvation Eagle 96," the maneuvers will focus on peacekeeping and search-and-rescue operations, ATSH reported. Over the past four years, Albanian troops have taken part in more that 20 joint exercises with armies of NATO countries and member states of the Partnership for Peace program. -- Fabian Schmidt

CRIME IN ALBANIA DECREASING.
Deputy Interior Minister Agim Shehu has announced that crime in Albania is down 45% compared to 1992, ATSH reported. Shehu argued that the decrease is largely due to reforms, adding that the per capita level of crime is now comparable to that of major Western countries such as France, Italy, and England. Crime began to increase in 1990 and 1991, when the transition to democracy got under way. -- Fabian Schmidt

ALBANIAN HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP CONCERNED ABOUT PROSTITUTION ABROAD.
The Albanian Helsinki Committee has expressed concern about the increase in prostitution among Albanian women living in neighboring states, Poli i Qendres reported on 13 August. The group estimates that about one-third of female prostitutes in Italy are from Albania and that the majority were smuggled into that country by criminal gangs who then force the women to engage in prostitution. Stranded abroad, the women become dependent on criminal organizations and, as illegal immigrants, are deprived of legal protection and human rights. -- Ismije Beshiri

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave







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