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Newsline - September 25, 1996

President Boris Yeltsin is doing paper work for 30 minutes to two-and-a-half hours a day and meeting regularly with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais, presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii said on 24 September, NTV reported. The statement, "damning Yeltsin's condition with faint praise," suggested the president may indeed be too weak to undergo an operation, the Los Angeles Times noted. Chernomyrdin denounced Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev's suggestion that Yeltsin step down if the doctors declare him too weak for surgery, saying that "now is not the time to talk about this," Russian Public TV reported. Dr. Renat Akchurin denied on 24 September that the surgery would be called off, although he had said it was a possibility in an NTV interview two days earlier. Seleznev said that the Duma was thinking about passing a law on Chubais' administration "to put it in its place," Izvestiya reported. He believes that Chubais is taking too much power while Yeltsin is incapacitated. -- Robert Orttung

Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed's press secretary, Aleksandr Barkhatov, denied on 24 September that his boss had given any recent interviews to The Daily Telegraph, ITAR-TASS reported. The British daily had published the same day an interview with Lebed in which the Security Council secretary had threatened economic retaliation if NATO expands eastward (see OMRI Daily Digest, 24 September 1996). Barkhatov termed the interview a "falsification," designed to provoke "tension between Russia and NATO." He said Lebed had never met Carey Schofield, the correspondent who wrote the interview. The foreign editor of The Daily Telegraph defended the interview, however, calling Barkhatov's denial "absurd" and adding that Schofield had met twice with Lebed on 20 and 21 September. Lebed's staff frequently clashes with the media, which they allege often misrepresents the blunt former general's statements. -- Scott Parrish

In an interview published in the 25 September issue of Vechernyaya Moskva, Lebed, alluding to widespread wage arrears in the military, warned that "an armed mutiny may take place this Autumn." Lebed blasted the government, headed by his political rival Chernomyrdin, for failing to fund the military adequately in its 1997 draft budget, saying, "they have decided to conclusively undermine the armed forces." He termed the dire financial situation of the military a "national disgrace," and accused the Chernomyrdin government of "hiding its head in the sand." Suggesting that his remarks are linked to the ongoing struggle to succeed the seriously ill Yeltsin, Lebed claimed that he had a "plan" to remedy the situation, but that only "the head of state" could implement it. -- Scott Parrish

Far more Russians trust Lebed than any other politician, according to the latest poll by the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VCIOM). Asked to name the five or six politicians they trusted most, 34% of respondents named Lebed, 15% Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, and just 12% Yeltsin, Moskovskii komsomolets reported on 24 September. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii, Chernomyrdin, and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov were all named by 9% of respondents, while 25% said they did not trust any politicians. -- Laura Belin

One day after the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly canceled planned hearings on the Chechnya conflict, the controversy over the presence of Chechen separatists in Strasbourg dominated the opening day of the assembly's fall session, RFE/RL reported on 24 September. Chechen representatives, including
separatist Foreign Minister Ruslan Chimaev, met behind closed doors with the assembly's Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights. Committee chairman Birger Hagard said only human rights matters were discussed. But Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin blasted the assembly for allegedly interfering in Russia's internal affairs and said the Russian delegation would now "re-evaluate its relations and cooperation" with the committee. The official newspaper Rossiiskie vesti on 25 September regretted that separatists had been allowed to visit Strasbourg to spread "propaganda." -- Laura Belin

There will be numerous problems completing a POW exchange in Chechnya, according to Rossiiskie vesti on 25 September. Of the 1,300 federal troops in custody, Chechen Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov only claims to hold 250. About 200 are apparently held by Chechen groups not subordinate to Maskhadov; others are working as forced labor in Chechen villages in the mountains, or have deserted the Russian military. Additionally, an unknown number have died. Of the 1,400 men the Chechens claim are held by Russia, some are in Russian prisons for criminal offenses not necessarily connected to the war, some are hiding from all governments and are not in Russian custody, while many others have been killed in the fighting, the paper said. Thus, Russia can only return a few individuals now, and it remains to be seen if the Chechens will give up their prisoners without getting anyone in exchange. -- Robert Orttung

NTV president Igor Malashenko told Izvestiya that news will remain a priority when his network begins broadcasting around the clock in November or December, the paper reported on 25 September. NTV will run news updates several times a day and will extend the length of its current 10 p.m. news program from 30 minutes to one hour. Malashenko said NTV will retain some cultural and educational programming produced by the state-run Russian TV company, with which it has up to now shared broadcasting privileges on the fourth channel. Meanwhile, NTV has dropped plans to launch an all-news satellite channel later this year, Kommersant-Daily reported on 24 September. Four other satellite channels will go ahead, devoted to sports, Russian films, foreign films, and children's programming (plans for an all-music channel were also dropped). -- Laura Belin

Addressing the 51st session of the UN General Assembly on 24 September, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov
criticized plans to expand NATO, called for a continued international peacekeeping presence in the former Yugoslavia, and condemned what he termed the "illusion" that some countries had emerged "victorious" from the Cold War while others were "defeated," Russian and Western agencies reported. While the advance text of Primakov's speech admitted that NATO would play a major role in assuring European security, Primakov skipped that passage when delivering the speech, instead emphasizing the importance of the OSCE. Primakov also met with U.S. President Bill Clinton. Although ITAR-TASS said both men stressed the importance of developing an "equal partnership," they apparently made no progress toward resolving outstanding disputes such as selecting the next UN secretary-general or fully lifting UN economic sanctions against rump Yugoslavia. -- Scott Parrish

Primakov joined his counterparts from Britain, China, and France, and President Clinton in signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in New York on 24 September, Russian and Western agencies reported. Primakov termed the treaty a "huge step" toward achieving "disarmament, security, and stability." He urged "all countries capable of producing nuclear arms" to sign it, a statement aimed at India, which has refused to endorse the agreement unless it is accompanied by a timetable for global nuclear disarmament The treaty, which bans all test explosions of nuclear weapons, will enter into force only after all 44 nations with known nuclear programs, including India, have ratified it. By the end of the day, 71 states had signed the treaty. -- Scott Parrish

President Yeltsin signed a decree on 24 September canceling an earlier order removing Viktor Cherepkov from the post of Vladivostok mayor, ITAR-TASS reported. Cherepkov became Russia's first democratically elected mayor in July 1993, but in March 1994 he was accused of accepting bribes and was ousted from office by Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko. Although the Procurator-General's office cleared Cherepkov of wrongdoing, Yeltsin signed a decree on 23 December 1994 sacking the mayor. Cherepkov challenged the edict in court, winning his case in August, but Nazdratenko ignored the ruling and pressed ahead with plans to hold new mayoral elections on 8 October. In a pointed rebuff to Nazdratenko, Yeltsin's press secretary said that the projected elections were senseless as Cherepkov's term does not run out until 1998. But the battle looks set to continue. According to a 25 September ITAR-TASS report, the Vladivostok government has announced plans to hold a referendum on 27 October on confidence in Cherepkov. -- Penny Morvant

The head of the Duma's Committee on Property and Privatization, Pavel Bunich, suggested that part of Russia's gold reserves should be sold to resolve the crisis over the non-payment of wages, which he described as a "burning social problem," ITAR-TASS reported on 24 September. Bunich also proposed floating an additional 15 trillion rubles ($2.8 billion) issue of state securities in 1997 and using the proceeds to pay wage arrears. He pointed out that the government could also increase revenues by raising the currently low rents on federal property. The government could also allow some increase in the rate of inflation, which currently is far below the IMF target level, Bunich said. -- Natalia Gurushina

At a conference of representatives of the Urals, Siberian, and Far Eastern regions in Yekaterinburg to discuss the 1997 budget, Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel argued that the draft budget discriminates against the regions, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 September. Rossel claimed that his oblast is in 12th place in tax contributions, but only 67th in terms of per capita budget spending. Governor of Perm Oblast Gennadii Igumnov asserted that the tax policy neglects the financing of industry, while Anatolii Solovev, governor of Kurgan Oblast, criticized the budget for failing to address the question of repaying debts, Rossiiskaya gazeta reported on 25 September. The chairman of the Duma budget committee, Mikhail Zadornov, described the estimate in the draft budget on the increase in tax receipts as optimistic and illusory. -- Ritsuko Sasaki

According to data released at midday on 24 September by the Central Electoral Commission, incumbent Levon Ter-Petrossyan received 52.32% of the votes cast in the 22 September presidential election, while his principal challenger Vazgen Manukyan gained 40.73%, Noyan Tapan reported. Voter turnout was given at 58.25%. In Yerevan, with returns from one district still outstanding, Manukyan's share of the vote was 53% compared with 41% for Ter-Petrossyan. Simon Osborn, who coordinated the OSCE/ODIHR election monitoring mission, told a news conference on 24 September that the 89 foreign observers had noted several flagrant violations, including the theft of ballot boxes in one Yerevan precinct, but that these were not of a magnitude to cast doubt on the overall results, Western agencies reported. -- Liz Fuller

Representatives of the National Accord opposition bloc supporting Manukyan staged demonstrations outside the parliament and Central Electoral Commission buildings in Yerevan on 24 September to protest the alleged falsification of the election results, Western agencies reported. At an evening rally in Manukyan's support attended by some 120,000 people, the bloc issued a statement calling on the international community to give an honest assessment of the results, which were described as an attempted coup d'etat, Noyan Tapan reported. In an interview with RFE/RL on 24 September, Manukyan, whose proxies were present at the vote count in many electoral precincts, said he would accept any election returns put out by the CEC that tallied with those compiled by his own team. -- Liz Fuller

Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili told the UN General Assembly that "aggressive separatism" should be punished by sanctions, in particular an arms embargo, Reuters reported on 23 September. He claimed that despite concessions from the Georgian government, it has been impossible for Tbilisi to reach a political settlement with Sukhumi, and he called on the UN Security Council to work out new measures to resolve the Abkhaz conflict. Meanwhile, in Georgia itself, President Eduard Shevardnadze called on Moscow to sever its ties with Abkhazia, except mediation contacts, and likened Sukhumi's plans to hold elections in November while some 250,000-300,000 inhabitants of Abkhazia are exiles to "political sadism." -- Lowell Bezanis

Deputy Communications Minister Vladimir Kravchenko was killed at his home on 24 September, ITAR-TASS reported. No motive or suspects have been identified. Kravchenko died after being stabbed six times. -- Lowell Bezanis

The Legislative Assembly of the Kyrgyz parliament on 24 September narrowly approved a vote of confidence in its speaker, Mukar Cholponbayev, RFE/RL reported. Cholponbayev was accused of corruption in connection with the 1995 transfer of 1.5 million som (about $125,000) to Ak-Shoumkar, a firm owned by his wife. Cholponbayev barely received the necessary votes; only 28 of the 35 deputies attended, 15 voted for the confidence motion, 11 against, and two abstained. The chairman of the committee investigating the charges against Cholponbayev, Oktyabr Musulmakulov, said that 3,202,000 som were transferred to Ak-Shoumkar and so far only 140,000 som had been returned. Cholponbayev promised all the funds would be returned by 1 December this year. -- Bruce Pannier and Naryn Idinov

Ukrainian Environment Minister Yurii Kostenko has said the three recent increases in radiation levels at Chornobyl reveal that a dangerous chemical chain reaction is taking place inside the entombed fourth nuclear reactor, Ukrainian and Western agencies reported on 24 September. He noted that spent nuclear fuel inside the sarcophagus-encased reactor is undergoing dangerous chemical reactions that could cause further radiation increases or an explosion at any time. Kostenko added that these latest incidents prove that the planned construction of a new sarcophagus is not enough to contain the radioactivity and that Ukraine must consider the feasibility of removing the spent fuel. He once again complained that Kyiv has received none of the funding promised by the G-7 powers to shut down Chornobyl. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

Crimean legislators have voted to dismiss acting speaker Anushevan Danelyan for allegedly abusing his office, Ukrainian agencies reported on 20 September. In a unusual move, the Crimean Tatar caucus joined forces with the pro-Russian elements in the legislature to oust him. Danelyan took over the temporary post when speaker Yevhen Supruniuk was hospitalized recently after foiling a kidnapping attempt. After the vote, Supruniuk named Deputy Speaker Refat Chubarov, a Tatar leader, as new acting speaker, dashing separatists' hopes of seeing their representative in that post. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma commented that the move provided evidence that a "clash of clans" was under way in the troubled region. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

Yurii Dubinin, meeting with Ukrainian parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Moroz on 24 September, said the adoption of the new Ukrainian constitution marked a new stage in Russian-Ukrainian relations, Ukrainian Radio reported. Dubinin, who had initiated the meeting, also noted that the two countries are each other's largest trading partners, with a total turnover of more than $13 billion. He noted that 150 bilateral agreements have been signed in trade, economic cooperation, and other spheres. Asked by Dubinin about Ukraine's position on NATO expansion. Moroz said he gave greater priority to cooperation with the OSCE. He added that neutral, non-aligned European states such as Austria, Switzerland, and Ukraine could provide the framework for a new European security model on the principles of neutrality, non-nuclear status, and continued participation in peacekeeping missions. The issues of the Black Sea Fleet and Russia's imposition of a 20% tariff on Ukrainian imports were not raised. -- Ustina Markus

The political information department of the president's administration has denied that Alyaksander Lukashenka has wronged any Western state, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 September. The statement was in response to a protest by the U.S. embassy in Minsk over the president's recent allegations that Western diplomats have engaged in activities to destabilize Belarus. However, department head Mikhail Podhany said foreign diplomats are meddling too much in Belarus's internal affairs and that these activities were damaging the country's independence. In other news, a Minsk court has fined head of state radio and television Hryhor Kisel, who was appointed by Lukashenka, 30 minimum wages (the equivalent of $55) for not fulfilling his duties when he failed to broadcast parliamentary debates on the president's proposed referendum. Kisel was also fined 20 minimum wages for not airing regularly the program "Parliament's Diary." Meanwhile, the Constitutional Court has called upon both the president and parliament not to proceed with their proposed referendums. -- Ustina Markus

Defense ministers and other high-ranking officials from the countries of the Baltic Sea region, Great Britain, the Netherlands, and the U.S met in Copenhagen on 23-24 September to discuss security issues, Western agencies reported. Russian Defense Minister Igor Rodinov declined to attend, and his planned substitute, Baltic Sea Fleet Commander Vladimir Yegorov, also failed to appear. German Defense Minister Volker Ruehe stressed that new NATO members should have stable relations with Russia. Lithuanian Defense Minister Linas Linkevicius said the Baltic Action Plan presented by U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry was acceptable as long as it did not amount to an alternative to NATO. He stressed that the alliance was the only real guarantee of the security of the Baltic states. -- Saulius Girnius

Tiit Vahi on 24 September said the government has approved the appointment of Uno Laur, a 68-year-old former captain of the Estonian Shipping Company, as head of the international committee investigating the sinking of the ferry Estonia in September 1994, Reuters reported. The committee's former head, Andi Meister, resigned in July alleging that Swedish investigators had concealed some of the video evidence. Laur's appointment is expected to be ratified on 26 September by the Swedish and Finnish members of the committee. They have insisted that the committee be headed by an Estonian. Laur, who already is a member of the committee, thus appears to be a suitable choice. -- Saulius Girnius

Andris Skele, during his visit to the U.S. from 21-25 September, held talks in Washington with World Bank Vice President Johannes Linn, International Finance Corporation Vice President Wilfried Kaffenberger, and representatives of the International Business Council. He was forced to cancel a meeting with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott in New York on 23 September due to engine problems with his plane in Washington D. C. Skele addressed the UN General Assembly on 24 September, stressing the importance of respecting human rights and Latvia's potential as an "economic bridge between East and West," RFE/RL reported. He also met with his Swedish and Japanese counterparts, Goran Persson and Ryutaro Hashimoto, and UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali. -- Saulius Girnius

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valla has queried the authenticity of former East German secret service (Stasi) files on Pope Paul VI's meeting with West German Chancellor Willy Brandt in the 1970s based on a Polish priest's reports (see OMRI Daily Digest, 24 September 1996). Navarro-Valla said important details from the conversation that took place at that meeting are missing and that the rest is a reconstruction based on known facts or facts that could be easily deduced. "If the reports are false, one has to conclude that the priest did not exist," he said. The Polish episcopate's secretary, Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek, said there was no need for the episcopate to make a statement on the matter. -- Jakub Karpinski

President Aleksander Kwasniewski, speaking at the UN General Assembly session in New York on 24 September, proposed a convention designed to fight international organized crime and terrorism. The convention would urge signatories "either to punish offenders or to extradite them," he said. Kwasniewski also reiterated that joining NATO and the EU are priorities of Polish foreign policy. Earlier that day, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov said Russia opposes former Warsaw Pact countries' membership in NATO. -- Jakub Karpinski

Czech parliamentary parties are at odds over the composition and size of a special parliamentary committee that is to investigate the collapse of the Kreditni banka, Czech media reported on 24 September. The opposition Social Democrats (CSSD), who proposed the creation of the committee, wants to chair it and have five of the 13 seats. This would mean that Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party (ODS) would have only four seats and the four other parliamentary parties one each. The ODS has announced it will insist on either a 10- or 12-member committee in which both it and the CSSD would have three or four seats each and all other parties one each. The coalition parties have also rejected the nomination of the CSSD's Michael Kraus to head the committee, pointing to his communist past and recent charges of involvement in suspicious property deals. -- Jiri Pehe

The Slovak Foreign Ministry on 24 September responded to Hungarian criticism of the recently passed Law on State Symbols, Slovak media reported. Among other things, the new legislation allows foreign national anthems to be played in Slovakia only when a foreign delegation is present. Slovakia's Hungarians have complained that the law is aimed at preventing them from singing or playing the Hungarian anthem on Hungarian national holidays. The Foreign Ministry said it "has taken notice of the reactions in Hungary" to the law. It added that the law affects only Slovakia's internal affairs and has "no bearing on Slovak-Hungarian relations and the implementation of the Slovak-Hungarian Treaty as well as the position of the Hungarian minority in Slovakia." -- Jiri Pehe

Newly appointed Industry and Trade Minister Tamas Suchman has announced a plan to reduce the ministry's staff from 640 to 540 employees, Hungarian dailies reported on 25 September. Scheduled for implementation before the end of the year, the plan will also merge some trade representation offices abroad with embassies. Those offices in Moscow, Brussels, Washington, and Tokyo are to be granted a special status, and a new office will be set up in Budapest to coordinate trade relations with CEFTA countries. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

The six parliamentary parties represented on the committee responsible for a new constitutional draft have submitted their recommendations on modifying that document, Magyar Hirlap reported on 25 September. After the parliament failed to agree on a concept for a new constitution in June, a final vote was postponed until the fall (see OMRI Daily Digest, 1 July 1996). The two coalition parties--the Socialists and the Free Democrats--have jointly submitted three recommendations. Among those proposed by the opposition Christian Democrats is one requiring a referendum on certain clauses it deems crucial. The parliament has yet to decide whether to allow the Democratic People's Party--which was recently formed by the liberal wing of the Hungarian Democratic Forum, the former governing party--to be represented on the committee. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

OSCE's election coordinator Ed Van Thijn on 24 September said he will recommend that the 14 September vote be certified. He admitted that the ballot was not "free or fair" but denied that there was "fraud or manipulation...of sufficient magnitude to affect the [results of the] elections." He added, however, that freedom of movement and association will have to be ensured before local elections can be held and that the nagging problem of voter registration lists will have to be solved as well, Onasa reported. This means that the local elections could be postponed until early 1997, the BBC noted. -- Patrick Moore

Parties now have 72 hours to protest the results, after which the OSCE has another 72 hours to consider those complaints. Challenges have already come from the Muslim Party of Democratic Action. AFP quoted Biljana Plavsic, acting president of the Republika Srpska, as claiming on 24 September that "the figures have been adjusted in order to answer the political needs of some. This adjustment has been accomplished with the help of illegal ballots that the electoral commission of the Republika Srpska was unable to check. The Republika Srpska cannot accept a revision of the results relying on these mysterious ballots." -- Patrick Moore

Proceedings begin again on 25 September in Zagreb against Viktor Ivancic, the editor in chief of Feral Tribune, and Marinko Culic, who writes for the same outspoken satirical weekly. The trial resumes after a three-month break in what is widely seen as a test for the new press law, which allows the government to silence and jail journalists by claiming that they slandered high officials or revealed "state secrets." The two men are accused of defaming President Franjo Tudjman, international media noted. Croatia has been widely criticized for the vague new legislation, and there were some expectations that the charges would be quietly dropped during the recess. Opponents of the law charge that by providing special protection from criticism for the five top government officials, the measure violates the constitution, which guarantees equality before the law for all citizens. -- Patrick Moore

Dragoslav Avramovic has been asked to head the list of the Zajedno (Together) coalition, which consists of the Serbian Renewal Movement, the Democratic Party, and the Serbian Civic League, in the 3 November federal elections, Nasa Borba reported on 25 September. Avramovic, who is expected to announce tomorrow whether he will accept, initiated economic reforms in 1994. He is regarded by opposition politicians as one of the few public figures who may appeal to enough voters to oust the ruling Socialist Party of Serbia. -- Stan Markotich

Judge Konrad Rebernik was unhurt after a bomb exploded near his Maribor home on 24 September, local media reported. Rebernik's wife, however, was rushed to hospital for treatment for serious but unspecified injuries resulting from the incident. This is the first time a senior member of the Slovenian judiciary has been the target of such action. Rebernik is head of Maribor's regional criminal court and has been involved in criminal law for the past seven years. -- Stan Markotich

The Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) on 24 September was defeated over a draft law on the privatization of banks with majority state capital, local media reported. The democratic opposition was supported by the ultra-nationalist Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR), a former PDSR ally, in rejecting the draft legislation, which it described as de facto sanctioning the communist "nationalization" of the banking system. The text, which was previously adopted by the Senate, was sent to a commission of experts to be amended. Romanian TV commented that the ruling party is experiencing "the consequences of the lack of parliamentary support" following its break with the PUNR earlier this month. -- Dan Ionescu

The parliamentary Mediation Commission on 24 September overruled a Chamber of Deputies decision to make homosexuality a crime in Romania, domestic media reported. The commission opted for the text adopted earlier by the Senate stating that relations between people of the same sex are punishable only if they are "performed in public" or "provoke a scandal." The only opposing vote was cast by deputy Rasvan Dobrescu of the National Peasant Party--Christian Democratic. -- Dan Ionescu

The Central Bank on 23 September raised the base interest to 300% from 108% in a bid to restore depositors' confidence in banking institutions and the lev, international and national media reported. The move is also aimed at assuaging public anxieties and thereby preventing a run on deposits, which could lead to the further collapse of banks. Deposits are to be guaranteed up to 100%, parliamentary Budget Commission chief Kiril Zhelev said. But Standart has warned that with much of the public's money already in the banks, the government could be tempted to raise the exchange rate for the dollar to 1,000 leva and lower the interest rate to, for example, 40%. -- Maria Koinova

The leaders of the two biggest trade unions have demanded the cabinet's resignation following its decision to sell 15 large state-owned companies, Reuters and Trud reported on 24 September. That decision was taken in an effort to obtain new loans from the IMF. The unions plan to establish a joint strike committee next week and to press ahead with protests and nationwide strikes. The same day, Premier Zhan Videnov said that in the case of the 15 companies, the government expects privatization deals worth more than $1 billion. In other news, the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry ordered Slavi Pashovsky, the country's ambassador to the UN, to resign after he accused his government of seeking to subvert democracy (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20 September 1996). -- Maria Koinova

Some 400 Albanians clashed with police on 24 September over the setting up of barricades on the main road between Tirana-Durres to protest the police destruction of three illegally-built houses in the area last week, Republika reported. Four protesters and five policemen were injured, while 20 people were arrested. Protests began following the Tirana city hall's decision to award the disputed land as compensation and to order the three families living there to leave. Similar clashes occurred in 1995, when police were forced to beat a retreat. After that incident, authorities formally approved the construction of new settlements. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]
Compiled by Steve Kettle and Jan Cleave