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Newsline - September 18, 1996


YELTSIN IN HOSPITAL UNTIL END OF WEEK.
President Boris Yeltsin will remain in the hospital undergoing medical tests until the end of the week, NTV reported on 17 September. Ekho Moskvy reported that his operation may be postponed. A date has not been set, but it was expected at the end of the month. Press secretary Sergei Yastrzhembskii denied rumors that the president's condition has worsened. Yeltsin met with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on 17 September and discussed the main issues of the day. Argumenti i fakti reported that Yeltsin's politically influential daughter Tatyana Dyachenko also entered the hospital with a cold, AFP reported. Yeltsin's wife Naina remains hospitalized after her 24 August kidney operation. -- Robert Orttung

LEBED VISITS GROZNY...
Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed went to Chechnya on 17 September to resume the pullout of Russian troops, resolve difficulties surrounding the POW transfer, discuss the composition of the coalition government, and begin restoring normal life in Grozny. Lebed described his trip as "highly successful," ITAR-TASS reported on 18 September. He met with the commander of the federal troops, Lt.-Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, and Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov. Lebed returned to Moscow on 18 September and plans to discuss the results of his work with Chernomyrdin. -- Robert Orttung

...ANNOUNCES RESULTS.
Lebed announced that the pullout of Russian troops will resume in three days and that he had reached a complete understanding with Tikhomirov on the issue. However, the commander of the Interior Ministry troops, Col.-Gen. Anatolii Shkirko, said that his soldiers would not be withdrawing from Chechnya, according to Rossiiskie vesti on 18 September. Lebed said there were no major disagreements between the two sides over the composition of the coalition government to rule Chechnya until free elections are held, AFP reported. The government will now include more representatives of Doku Zavgaev's pro-Moscow government as well as Chechens not linked to Zavgaev or to the separatist fighters. Lebed said he hoped that Chernomyrdin will participate directly in these negotiations. He also announced that the demilitarization of the city would continue and that joint law enforcement groups would start functioning on 18 September. Lebed said that both sides would trade their POWs "all for all" by the end of the week. He also said that the Chechens agreed that Russian law would remain in force in the republic, superseding Yandarbiev's introduction of a criminal code base on Islamic law. -- Robert Orttung

LEBED ON CHECHNYA RECONSTRUCTION LOSSES.
Asked in an interview with Komsomolskaya pravda on 17 September how much the Chechen war had cost, Lebed said there were no hard data but estimated the price tag at $12-15 billion. He also cited Zavgaev as saying that 8 trillion rubles ($1.5 billion) were allocated for reconstruction work in the republic in 1995 and another 2.5 trillion this year. He said nothing had been rebuilt, claiming that 90% of the money had been stolen. Izvestiya on 4 September cited an unpublished report by the Russian Federation Accounting Chamber as saying that 11 trillion rubles not envisaged in the budget were sent to Chechnya for reconstruction in 1995. Other reports have pointed out that the renewed battles in Grozny this summer make it difficult to check that funds were properly spent. -- Penny Morvant

SECURITY COUNCIL DENOUNCES PRESIDENTIAL ADMINISTRATION INTRIGUE...
The Security Council press service released a statement denouncing "several officials in the presidential administration" for trying to drag Lebed into a dispute about his responsibilities, NTV reported. On 16 September, ITAR-TASS cited sources close to the prime minister saying that Lebed's responsibilities in Chechnya would be reduced so that he could focus on other issues (see OMRI Daily Digest, 16 September 1996). Lebed had earlier complained that Yeltsin was not signing his own decrees (see OMRI Daily Digest, 21 August 1996). -- Robert Orttung

...CHUBAIS DENIES TENSION...
Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais claimed in an interview with Izvestiya published on 18 September that he is working in "close cooperation" with Lebed. He warned that it was not in his, Yeltsin's, or Chernomyrdin's interests for there to be renewed fighting in Chechnya. Chubais said the main job of the presidential administration is to work on issues of personnel and to improve the quality of civil servants. A second crucial task for the administration is the distribution of money between regions, a job he claimed that the government could not perform. He said that his dismissal from the government in January was a political decision by Yeltsin and not the work of former Presidential Security Service Chief Aleksandr Korzhakov. Chubais also claimed that he did not want the job as chief of staff and would have preferred to set up his own consulting company. -- Robert Orttung

...WHILE LEBED'S ALLIES SEE CHERNOMYRDIN/ZYUGANOV CONSPIRACY.
With Yeltsin's health increasingly in doubt, the Democratic Party of Russia (DPR), whose leader Sergei Glazev is one of Lebed's deputies in the Security Council, issued a statement accusing Chernomyrdin and Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov of conspiring against Lebed and planning a "creeping coup d'etat," Izvestiya reported on 18 September. The statement said both government figures and Communists are waging a campaign to discredit Lebed and his peace initiatives in Chechnya. Izvestiya said the DPR press service later told the paper that its statement was mainly directed against Zyuganov, not Chernomyrdin. -- Laura Belin

LEBED WON'T ATTEND COUNCIL OF EUROPE HEARINGS.
Lebed said he will not accept an invitation from the Council of Europe to hearings on the Chechnya crisis later this month, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 September. He added that there was "no sense" in the council discussing human rights in Chechnya when Chechen separatists are implementing a criminal code based on Islamic law. The council had earlier invited Lebed and Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov to the hearings, prompting a storm of protest from Russian politicians. -- Laura Belin

YAVLINSKII OUTLINES PRIORITIES.
In an interview published in Trud on 17 September, Yabloko leader and failed presidential candidate Grigorii Yavlinskii said poverty is the main problem facing Russia and described Yabloko as the only political force defending the interests of working people. He said the authorities do not worry when Communists speak out against poverty, because the Communists have shown themselves to be a "convenient" opposition (for instance, by voting to confirm Chernomyrdin and sending one of their allies, Aman Tuleev, to join the government). Yavlinskii, who has kept a low profile since the presidential election, said no Yabloko members joined the cabinet because it soon became apparent after the election that Yeltsin did not plan to change his social and economic policies. Instead, he said, Yabloko hopes to build a strong democratic opposition, so that Russian voters are not forced to choose "between two evils" in future elections. -- Laura Belin

NO MONEY FOR ARMED FORCES IN AUGUST.
Defense Ministry officials told ITAR-TASS on 17 September that the ministry had received no money at all from the federal government in August and only 4.4% due it in July. Officials of the Information Department were quoted as saying: "The time has come for state officials to look in the eyes of the military and honestly say whether Russia needs the army at all." The officials complained that the other "power structures" were getting most of their funds. -- Doug Clarke

QUALIFIED SUPPORT FOR START 2.
Leading a delegation of parliamentarians to Washington, Duma Defense Committee chairman Lev Rokhlin said on 18 September that it was in Russia's interest to ratify the Start 2 nuclear weapons treaty, ITAR TASS reported. However, Rokhlin still expressed some reservations about the treaty. He said that it was more beneficial to the U.S. than to Russia, and that it would cost Russia $40-50 billion to dismantle the old missiles and build 500 new single warhead missiles. He urged the preparation of a START 3 to correct these deficiencies. -- Peter Rutland

IRAQI PRAISE FOR MOSCOW.
During a visit to Moscow, the deputy foreign minister of Iraq, Riyad al-Kaisi, said that there is "unity in the evaluation of events [in the Gulf] between Russia and Iraq," ITAR-TASS reported on 17 September. The Iraqi minister said that Russia was a firm supporter of the territorial integrity of Iraq, and claimed that Russian protests had helped deter the U.S. from further military action. Russian diplomats have tried to take a more even-handed stance than the minister suggests, urging Iraq not to take provocative actions. -- Peter Rutland

STRIKE CONTINUES IN PRIMORE; REFERENDUM CALLED OFF.
The regional strike by 10,000 Dalenergo power workers entered its third day on 18 September, ITAR-TASS reported. Power output -- already low -- has not been reduced significantly, but all maintenance work and storing of supplies has stopped. At the Primorskii power station, 189 workers are now into the third week of a hunger strike over wage arrears, a union representative told ITAR-TASS. One billion rubles have been transferred to the plant by Dalenergo, but the strikers are determined to hold out for the entire 22.6 billion owed. Meanwhile, the Primorskii Krai Duma canceled a scheduled referendum on confidence in Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko. The governor said the plebiscite was unnecessary because solutions worked out with the federal government would stabilize the situation in the krai's energy sector. A spokesman for the Energy Ministry told Reuters, however, that he knew of no comprehensive deal. -- Penny Morvant

RUSSIA TAKES FIRST STEPS IN PROTECTING INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS.
The State Anti-Monopoly Committee has organized the first hearing in Russia on the violation of intellectual property rights and business reputations, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 September. The committee found the Russian computer firm Bit Software guilty of spreading false information which damaged the reputation of a competitor. The hearing creates an important legislative precedent, the results of which may be closely studied and used by some commercial banks which have recently been misreported in the Russian media. -- Natalia Gurushina

SHUTDOWN OF REGIONAL INDUSTRY
One of the industrial giants of Russia, the coke and chemical plant Altai KKS in Altai krai, is in a critical financial situation and on the brink of complete shutdown, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 September. Mines have stopped supplying coal, protesting arrears of 44 billion rubles from the plant. The production of coking and chemical gas has fallen fourfold from last year. Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais recently requested Altai krai's administration to take drastic measures to deal with the region's budget debts of 60 billion rubles. Meanwhile, the Vladivostok distillery has declared bankruptcy, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 September. The company will pay off 3.6 billion rubles of its debts in vodka. -- Ritsuko Sasaki



BADALYAN'S CAMPAIGN PROGRAM.
Interviewed in Yerevan on 16 September, Armenian Communist Party leader Sergei Badalyan highlighted the key points of his program for the 22 September presidential election. Badalyan advocates "renewed socialism," which he argues is an ideology uniquely suited to the Armenian mindset; a new NEP (New Economic Policy); the creation of agricultural collectives which peasants may join on a voluntary basis without relinquishing the land they acquired through privatization; and the revision of the constitution adopted in 1995 to limit the powers of the president and subordinate the government to parliament. Badalyan's foreign policy focuses on Armenian membership of the Russia-Belarus Union "in order to guarantee Armenia's national security." He believes that in seeking a solution to the Karabakh conflict the right to national self-determination should take precedence over the principle of territorial integrity. RFE/RL reports that there are now only three candidates for the 22 September election. Incumbent Levon Ter-Petrossyan faces the communist Badalyan and the unified opposition candidate Vazgen Manukyan. -- Liz Fuller in Yerevan (monitoring the presidential election for the European Institute for Media)

NAZARBAYEV IN TBILISI.
Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze and his visiting Kazakstani counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev signed 14 bilateral agreements in Tbilisi on 17 September, RFE/RL reported the same day. The accords cover economic cooperation, sport, transport, transit and trade as well as cooperation between the security agencies of the two countries. -- Lowell Bezanis

UZBEKISTAN HOSTS AFGHAN TALKS.
An Afghan government delegation arrived in Tashkent on 17 September for three days of what were described as "secret" talks with Afghan General Rashid Dostum, an ethnic Uzbek commander in control of much of Afghan territory south of Uzbekistan, AFP reported the same day. Dostum, widely considered to be under Tashkent's patronage, is being vigorously courted by Kabul after the government lost the strategic town of Jalalabad last week, giving rise to fears Kabul may be overrun by the Taliban militia which presently controls an estimated 60% of the country. -- Lowell Bezanis

CEASEFIRE IN KARATEGIN VALLEY.
Tajik government officials and opposition field commanders agreed to a ceasefire in the Karategin valley on 16 September, Western and Russian news agencies reported. The agreement appears to stipulate that checkpoints established by both sides are to be lifted in Garm, Jirgatal and Tajikabad, thereby permitting transit on the solitary artery linking the country's capital with the Pamirs and Kyrgyzstan. -- Lowell Bezanis



BELARUSIAN PRIME MINISTER IN MOSCOW.
Mikhail Chyhir met with his Russian counterpart Viktor Chernomyrdin in Moscow on 17 September, Russian and Belarusian agencies reported. Talks focused on Belarus's $165 million energy debt to Russia incurred since 1 February. Russian President Boris Yeltsin and his Belarusian counterpart Alyaksandr Lukashenka signed a "zero option" at the beginning of the year canceling Belarus's previous energy debt to Moscow. Payment terms for the new debt were agreed to, and Minsk will make most of its payments in barter. -- Ustina Markus

BELARUSIAN POLITICAL CRISIS CONTINUES...
President Lukashenka reiterated his intention of holding the referendum on which version of the constitution to adopt on 7 November and not during the 24 November by-elections, the date parliament set. Lukashenka's version of the constitution increases his powers and diminishes those of parliament; parliament's version abolishes the presidency. Radio Rossii reported that parliament's version has little chance of winning. Parliament Speaker Syamyon Sharetsky asked the Constitutional Court to examine the referendum. -- Ustina Markus

...WITH MORE ATTACKS ON THE SPEAKER.
Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky sent an open letter to Belarusian Parliament Speaker Syamyon Sharetsky and a series of Belarusian newspapers, accusing the speaker of every imaginable sin, including moral depravity, accepting money from America, and having dealings with Israeli intelligence. Sharetsky said the letter was a provocation at a "very primitive level" and offered to put himself to a confidence vote in parliament. Russian Public Television reported that the pro-presidential faction Sohlasiye began collecting signatures from deputies in support of a motion to remove Sharetsky. Only 22 deputies voted in favor of the motion, while 200 supported the speaker and refused to include any discussion of his dismissal on the agenda. -- Ustina Markus

UKRAINE EXTENDS CURRENCY EXCHANGE DEADLINE.
The Ukrainian government has extended the deadline for residents to exchange karbovantsi for hryvyas, the new currency, until 16 October, Ukrainian and Western agencies reported on 16-17 September. Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko said that although the exchange had gone smoothly during the planned two-week exchange period, which ended 16 September, there were some 8.7 trillion karbovantsi ($49 million) still circulating in the economy. Meanwhile, IMF chief Michel Camdessus praised Ukraine for adhering to tight monetary and fiscal policies during the hryvnya introduction. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

TWO MORE CANDIDATES FOR ESTONIA'S PRESIDENT.
Parliament Deputy Chairman Tunne Kelam of the Fatherland Union and deputy leader of the Center Party Siiri Oviir on 17 September announced that they would run for president, BNS reported. Twenty-three representatives of local councils and 12 parliament deputies supported Kelam's candidacy, while 21 representatives supported Oviir's. It is not clear whether any more candidates other than incumbent president Lennart Meri and parliament Deputy Speaker Arnold Ruutel will be registered before the deadline of 18:00 on 18 September. A 374-member electoral college will meet in Tallinn on 20 September and vote for president. If no candidate receives a majority, a run-off between the two top candidates will be held. -- Saulius Girnius

LATVIA'S PARLIAMENT LEADER QUITS SAIMNIEKS PARTY.
Ilsa Kreituse announced on 17 September that she is quitting the Democratic Party Saimnieks because she learned that the party's board was planning to discuss her expulsion, BNS reported. Since Saimnieks had nominated her for the Saeima post, she will probably have to give it up. The party's council expelled her husband, Finance Minister Aivars Kreituss, four days earlier (see OMRI Daily Digest, 16 September 1996). Prime Minister Andris Skele has not yet decided whether he will ask Kreituss to resign or ask the parliament to take a no-confidence vote on him. Decisions on whether the Kreituss couple will remain in their posts will only be made at the end of the month after Skele and President Guntis Ulmanis return from trips abroad. -- Saulius Girnius

GOVERNMENT REFORM IN POLAND.
Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz nominated on 17 September eight temporary heads of ministries that are to be created under the government reform and seven liquidators of ministries and other offices that are to be abolished. The heads include Zbigniew Sobotka for the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Administration, Andrzej Malinowski for Economy, and Piotr Czyzewski for Treasury, Danuta Huebner for the Committee for European Integration. The acting heads are to resign when ministers are appointed after an agreement between the coalition parties. -- Jakub Karpinski

DAEWOO RETHINKING INVESTMENT IN POLAND.
South Korean car manufacturer Daewoo chairman Kim Woo Choong has written to Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, threatening to reconsider plans to invest nearly $2 billion because Daewoo rival Hyundai is already active in Poland, Zycie Warszawy reported on 17 September. In August, the Polish group Universal began assembling Hyundai Accent cars in its factory at Pultusk. -- Jakub Karpinski

CZECH BANKING CRISIS UPDATE.
Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus and Parliament Chairman Milos Zeman, leader of the opposition Social Democrats, met on 17 September to discuss developments in the banking sector (see OMRI Daily Digest, 16 and 17 September), Czech media reported. In an effort to calm the public, the two politicians agreed to put the interests of the Czech economy, and the banking sector in particular, above their political differences and search jointly for solutions. They also agreed that a special parliamentary commission be set up to investigate the collapse of Kreditni Banka. Also on 17 September, Pavel Tykac, the head of the financial group Motoinvest, whose officials have been charged with crimes related to Kreditni Banka's collapse, left the country and is hiding. In a letter he left behind, Tykac explained that he was afraid for his life after he announced on 16 September that he knows who caused the bank's collapse. -- Jiri Pehe

CZECH SENATE ELECTIONS CANDIDATE REGISTRATION FINISHED.
Some 570 candidates will compete for Senate seats in 81 districts in the November elections to the upper chamber of the Czech Parliament, Czech media reported on 18 September. The registration of candidates ended at midnight on 16 September. Only the Civic Democratic Party, the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia, and the Social Democrats have nominated candidates in all 81 districts. The coalition Civic Democratic Alliance and the People's Party/Christian and Democratic Union have formed a preelection coalition. The extreme-right Republican Party decided against running in the Senate elections, arguing that it has always been opposed to the existence of a Senate. Analysts have, however, pointed out that the real reason for the Republicans' decision is that the Senate elections, unlike the elections to the lower chamber, are based on a majority system that greatly diminishes the chances of extremists to win any seats. -- Jiri Pehe

SLOVAK PARLIAMENT RULES ON CULTURE MINISTER, NATIONAL ANTHEMS.
The Slovak Parliament on 17 September failed to pass a vote of non-confidence in Culture Minister Ivan Hudec, who has been accused by the opposition of incompetence, Slovak media reported. Seventy-six votes were needed to remove Hudec but only 62 deputies in the 150-seat parliament took part in the voting; 59 were in favor of removing Hudec, 3 were against. The parliament also ruled that from 1 October the national anthem of a foreign state can only be played in Slovakia when a delegation from the given foreign country is present. Deputies representing the Hungarian minority in Slovakia voted against the bill, arguing it is designed to prevent ethnic Hungarians in Slovakia from singing the Hungarian national anthem on their own holidays. -- Jiri Pehe

FORMER HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON BASIC TREATY.
Geza Jeszenszky, Hungary's former foreign minister and now an opposition deputy, has criticized Hungary's basic treaty with Romania, which was signed in Timisoara on 16 September. According to Hungarian dailies on 18 September, Jeszenszky claims that the treaty fails to guarantee education in the native tongue for children of all ages, does not mention the reopening of a Hungarian university and consulate in Romania, ignores questions about the return of Hungarian assets confiscated by the Romanian government, does not address the issue of Hungarian national symbols in Romania, and does not contain any supervisory mechanisms. Nevertheless, Jeszenszky stressed that he and his party, the Hungarian Democratic People's Party, do not oppose the treaty's ratification. -- Ben Slay



BOSNIAN PRESIDENT'S LEAD REMAINS STRONG.
President Alija Izetbegovic of the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) continues to lead his challenger for the Muslim seat on the three-man collective state presidency. He has 82% to 13% for Haris Silajdzic, AFP reported on 18 September. Among the Croats, Kresimir Zubak of the Croatian Democratic Community has 88%, putting him comfortably ahead of Ivo Komsic of the Joint List. The most interesting development is among the Serbs, where Momcilo Krajisnik of the governing Serbian Democratic Party has only 66% despite his party's virtual monopoly on the media and the police. Challenger Mladen Ivanic of the Alliance for Peace and Progress, which is close to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, has nearly 32% of the total so far despite a campaign of violence and intimidation against his party during the runup to the 14 September vote. Izetbegovic seems slated to be the first to hold the rotating chair of the presidency. -- Patrick Moore

BOSNIAN VOTE CALLED INTO QUESTION.
An OSCE spokeswoman told the BBC on 17 September that the delays in counting votes are mainly due to technical problems and the exhaustion of poll workers, but the BBC suggested that more fundamental difficulties are involved. The SDA has challenged the elections held on Bosnian Serb territory, saying there was no freedom of movement and that various discriminatory measures were taken against Muslim refugees wanting to go home to vote, Onasa noted on 17 September. (see OMRI Special Report , 17 September). The International Crisis Group of prominent public figures issued a statement on 16 September that "against this background of adverse conditions, electoral engineering, and disenfranchisement, these elections cannot be described as free, fair, or democratic." The London Daily Telegraph cited one case in which a polling station recorded votes equivalent to a turnout of 107%. -- Patrick Moore

HAGUE TRIBUNAL CHIEF BLASTS NATO FOR NOT ARRESTING WAR CRIMINALS.
Judge Richard Goldstone told The Independent on 17 September that his court and international justice in general will be dealt a "fatal blow" if NATO fails to arrest indicted Bosnian Serb war criminals Radovan Karadzic and Gen. Ratko Mladic. Goldstone, head of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, charged that IFOR commanders are primarily interested in self-preservation and avoiding risks and casualties. He noted that ordinary soldiers, however, "feel a tremendous frustration that they aren't able to go out and get [the war criminals]." He concluded that "there is no political will to make [international justice] work." -- Patrick Moore

DISPLACED CROATS CAN REPATRIATE WHEN SERB REFUGEES' HOUSING IS PROVIDED.
Soaren Jessen-Petersen, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees special envoy for the former Yugoslavia, at a meeting with Croatian Vice Premier Ivica Kostovic on 16 September, said finding housing for Serbs now living in the homes of Croats displaced from the Serb-held region of eastern Slavonia was the condition for the return of those displaced Croats, Hina reported. Jessen-Petersen said some Serbs now living in Bilje could not return to their homes because their property had been destroyed or occupied in line with some Croatian laws. According to the UNHCR, to avoid creating new refugees after displaced Croats return to their homes, Serbs should be given back their property or otherwise compensated. -- Daria Sito Sucic

JOINT EFFORTS OF BOSNIAN GOVERNMENT AND SERBS IN SREBRENICA.
Bosnian government and Bosnian Serb
forensic teams started on 17 September to work together for the first time on recovering the remains of hundreds of Muslims scattered on hillsides near Srebrenica, AFP reported. Up to 8,000 Muslim men are still unaccounted for after a former Muslim enclave was overrun by Bosnian Serbs last year. The head of the Bosnian Serb
commission for the return of POWs and missing persons, Dragan Bulajic, says the victims were soldiers, while his Bosnian government counterpart Amor Masovic claims they were civilians. -- Daria Sito Sucic

MACEDONIA TO BUY RUMP YUGOSLAV ARMS?
The Macedonian and rump Yugoslav defense ministers are to meet soon to discuss the possibility of Skopje's purchasing military wares from Belgrade, Onasa, citing Vecer, reported on 16 September. Belgrade appears to be "in a hurry to dispose of its arms surpluses" to meet conditions of the Dayton peace agreement. Rump Yugoslavia is reportedly barred from contemplating the destruction of part of its arms stocks, as they may become part of discussions among all states from the former Yugoslavia over assets. Belgrade may believe it has found a loophole by giving control of its surplus arms to Macedonia and possibly working toward a military cooperation agreement with Skopje, noted Vecer. -- Stan Markotich

ZASTAVA STRIKES DOMINATE MEDIA COVERAGE IN SERBIA.
The ongoing work stoppage in Kragujevac, waged by workers of the Zastava car and military plants, enters its 23rd day continuing to dominate headlines in Serbian media. Car plant director Miodrag Bogdanovic said on 16 September that the job action has reached such a critical level that foreign investors, with whom talks have allegedly been under way, may be scared off. He said investors are considering pulling out of a deal rumored to be worth "hundreds of millions of investment dollars" to the Serbian economy, Tanjug reported. Meanwhile Nasa Borba on 18 September reports that the strikers have attracted the support of opposition party leaders, with Serbian Renewal Movement Leader Vuk Draskovic concluding the strikers and "workers of Kragujevac are effectively fighting for [the rights] of all Serbia's workers." -- Stan Markotich

RUSSIA AGREES TO RESCHEDULE MOLDOVA'S DEBT.
An agreement to reschedule Moldova's national debt to the Russian Federation was reached on 17 September in Chisinau, BASA-press and Infotag reported. The agreement was reached at the first meeting of the Moldovan-Russian Intergovernmental Commission for Economic Cooperation, presided over by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Valerii Serov and his Moldovan counterpart Valentin Cunev. The deal applies to $116 million worth of loans granted by Russia since 1992. The two sides also agreed to consider joint defense projects. A member of the Russian delegation, Minister for Relations with the CIS Aman Tuleev, said he regrets an interview published by the Moscow-based Pravda in which he said that Russia should not grant credits to Moldova if Mircea Snegur wins the November presidential election. Tuleev said he did not approve the final text of the interview. -- Dan Ionescu

BULGARIAN MEDIA LAW TO BE REVIEWED, PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS TO GET UNDER WAY.
Bulgarian opposition deputies will submit the media law to the Constitutional Court, hoping for a ruling prior to 27 October presidential elections, Demokratsiya reported on 14 September. Experts say the law violates freedom of speech clauses in the constitution. The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) parliamentary majority readopted the law on 5 September following a 1 August veto by President Zhelyu Zhelev. Meanwhile, in election update news, official campaigning for the presidency is expected to kick off on 24 September. So far, the candidate of the united opposition, Petar Stoyanov, is the favorite of 30% of poll respondents, according to a survey, and about 20% support the BSP's Ivan Marazov, Standart reported on 16 September. -- Maria Koinova

EXPECTING A HUNGRY WINTER IN BULGARIA.
Bread prices quadrupled in the past five months, Pari reported on 13 September. Because of a grain shortage, a kilo of bread now costs 85 leva, up from 62 leva in August. The lack of fodder forced some farmers to butcher pigs and export the meat for hard currency, which resulted in a rise in pork prices from 340 leva for 1 kilogram in August to 400 leva now. Trying to restore consumer confidence and restrain speculation, the government will introduce price controls for bread, milk, cheese, and oil on 1 October, Pari reported. Standart on 16 September called price controls a "tool of socialism" that would lead to black markets. Experts predict retail prices will jump to world levels this December. -- Maria Koinova

MACEDONIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS TO BE HELD ON 17 NOVEMBER.
Macedonian Parliament President Tito Petkovski announced local elections for 17 November, Nova Makedonija reported on 17 September. The local legislatures and mayors of 123 newly drawn municipalities and the capital Skopje will be elected. Petkovski said that almost six years have passed since current town assemblies were constituted and that most of them have been functioning badly or not at all, MILS reported. Each voter will be issued a voter registration card. -- Fabian Schmidt

NEW TRIAL AGAINST ALBANIAN COMMUNIST-ERA OFFICIALS.
Nine senior communists have gone on trial on charges of political persecution on 16 September, Reuters reported. State prosecutors Shkelqim Gani and Kadri Skeraj have charged the defendants, five of whom fled Albania and are to be tried in absentia, with crimes against humanity, including ordering the deportation of political dissidents. If found guilty, the defendants would face sentences ranging from 15 years in jail to the death penalty. One of the defendants was a member of the Communist Party's politburo, while the others were district party leaders. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Steve Kettle and Susan Caskie





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