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Newsline - October 18, 1996


YELTSIN SACKS LEBED.
In a televised address on Russian Public TV (ORT) on 17 October, President Boris Yeltsin fired Aleksandr Lebed from his positions as secretary of the Security Council and national security aide. Yeltsin accused Lebed of taking a series of actions that were harmful to Russia, acting without the president's approval, launching a presidential election campaign even though the next elections are not scheduled until 2000, constantly arguing with the other members of the executive branch, and trying to get former Chief of the Presidential Security Service Aleksandr Korzhakov elected to the Duma from the seat Lebed had to resign in Tula. The previous day Lebed had demanded that Yeltsin fire either him or Minister of Internal Affairs Anatolii Kulikov, who Lebed blamed for losing control of Grozny to the Chechen separatists. -- Robert Orttung

TV APPEARANCE DESIGNED TO SHOW YELTSIN IS STILL IN CHARGE.
By signing the decree firing Lebed during his televised speech to the country, Yeltsin sought to signal that he was still in charge and that he personally approved the dismissal. On 20 August, Lebed had accused Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais of signing decrees without Yeltsin's knowledge. Recently, Yeltsin has started addressing the country over the radio, presumably to hide the true state of his health, and Western news agencies claimed that he looked unwell in the 17 October broadcast. Lebed later complained that he had not been sacked by Yeltsin face to face, but had been handed a paper by a "bureaucrat" informing him of his dismissal. -- Robert Orttung

LEBED BLAMES CHUBAIS, APPEALS FOR CALM.
Although it was accusations from Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov that immediately precipitated his dismissal, Lebed blamed his ouster on Chubais. Lebed was not able to meet with Yeltsin on 17 October, and he said he was "convinced" that documents he recently sent to Yeltsin naming those responsible for events in Chechnya never reached the president, Radio Rossii reported. Lebed refrained from attacking Yeltsin, whom he called an "elderly, sick man," according to NTV. Lebed indicated that he will remain active politically but has no interest in regaining his seat in the Duma. Commenting on an open protest letter from military officers demanding that the Defense Ministry pay military salaries by 25 October, Lebed warned that it could be a "hot autumn." However, he appealed to his supporters to remain calm: "We will act only by legitimate, constitutional and lawful means." -- Laura Belin

CHERNOMYRDIN ON LEBED'S EXIT.
In comments carried by the BBC, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin had some kind words for Lebed, describing him as a "strong individual" who had his own way of doing things, but who had overstepped the mark. Chernomyrdin noted that Lebed had played a role in ending the fighting in Chechnya, but said that he was merely carrying out the policy of the president and government, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 October. The prime minister claimed that the federal government still seeks peace, and Lebed's dismissal does not signal any changes. However, Lebed was almost alone in the government in his support for the Khasavyurt treaty he signed on 31 August, calling for the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya while postponing a decision on Chechen independence for five years, and his removal further reduces the likelihood of its implementation. Chubais, who attended the 17 October meeting between Chernomyrdin, Lebed, and the power ministers and who clearly sought Lebed's ouster, did not make any statements to the media on that day. -- Robert Orttung

IMPLICATIONS OF LEBED'S DISMISSAL FOR CHECHNYA.
Lebed told Ekho Moskvy on 17 October that the situation in Chechnya "will most likely go the worst possible way" following his dismissal, while Chechen Foreign Minister Ruslan Chimaev said that it "would have tragic consequences for Russia," according to Reuters. The joint Russian-Chechen commission set up under the Khasavyurt agreement to coordinate reconstruction in Chechnya pending new elections discussed procedural issues at its first session in Grozny on 17 October, ITAR-TASS reported. Russian Security Council Deputy Secretary Sergei Kharlamov, who accompanied the Russian members of the commission to Grozny, expressed concern at the clashes in Urus Martan between supporters of pro-Moscow Chechen head of state Doku Zavgaev and acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, and accused the latter of violating an agreement not to replace Zavgaev's appointees, AFP reported. Having failed on 17 October to name a date for new elections, on 18 October the Chechen parliament scheduled presidential and parliamentary elections for 27 January 1997. -- Liz Fuller

INTERIOR MINISTRY DENIES SURVEILLANCE OF LEBED.
The Interior Ministry (MVD) denied on 17 October that four MVD officers detained by Lebed's security guards that morning had been keeping the then Security Council secretary under surveillance. Lebed earlier told a news conference that he was being watched by the MVD. An MVD spokesman said that the officers were working as part of another special anti-terrorist operation and that Kulikov had requested Procurator-General Yurii Skuratov to instigate criminal proceedings over their detention, Ekho Moskvy reported. MVD officer Aleksandr Ovchinnikov was quoted extensively by all three national TV stations as saying that the police officers had been forced by Security Council officials to sign a statement saying they had been ordered to watch Lebed--a charge rejected by Lebed. -- Penny Morvant

TV REPORTS PLAY UP PRO-LEBED MILITARY FORMATIONS.
Although Yeltsin did not accuse Lebed of planning to seize power by force and Chernomyrdin expressed skepticism about the coup allegations, television reports on 17 October continued to hint that Lebed might instigate military unrest. ORT suggested that Lebed was involved in preparing an open letter from military officers, published in Nezavisimaya gazeta on 17 October, which the network claimed threatened "radical actions" if officers' salaries are not paid by 25 October. NTV, which on 16 October devoted substantial coverage to Kulikov's coup allegations, the next day reported that extreme nationalists in St. Petersburg have already set up a "Russian Legion" with support from "officers from General Lebed's circle." The network interviewed Yurii Belyaev of the National-Republican Party of Russia, who said the legion was prepared to come to Lebed's aid if he gave the order. -- Laura Belin

COMMUNIST REACTION TO LEBED'S OUSTER.
Leading members of the Communist Party (KPRF) generally blamed Lebed for his own ouster. KPRF leader Gennadii Zyuganov, who earlier called for the Security Council secretary to be subordinated to the prime minister, suggested that Kulikov was justified in accusing Lebed of plotting a coup, NTV reported on 17 October. Zyuganov added that NTV and other media outlets helped lay the ground for Lebed's dismissal. Appearing on ORT, Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev referred to Lebed as a "Bonaparte" and suggested that he had been using Yeltsin's illness to further his own ambitions. Earlier in the day, Seleznev had suggested that both Lebed and Kulikov should resign. Meanwhile, Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin, who on 16 October suggested that Kulikov's coup allegations were credible, described Yeltsin's decision as the "logical conclusion" to events set into play by Lebed himself, Russian TV (RTR) reported. -- Laura Belin

REGIONAL REACTION TO LEBED'S FIRING.
Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov supported Lebed's dismissal, claiming that Lebed's recent moves to consolidate his power in the army threatened stability, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 October. Luzhkov also said Lebed's Khasavyurt accord postponing the resolution of Chechnya's status was unconstitutional. Likewise, St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev supported Lebed's sacking, saying that the conflict between Kulikov and Lebed threatened stability in the regions. However, Boris Nemtsov, the liberal governor of Nizhnii Novgorod, said "Aleksandr Lebed is a very popular man with the people. And, speaking openly, I think he is like the Boris Yeltsin of 1987," Reuters reported on 18 October. In Tula Oblast leaders of the Civil Solidarity movement expressed their support for Lebed and said he should run for governor in Tula in the election this December. Lebed was formerly a Duma member from Tula and commander of the 106th airborne division there. -- Ritsuko Sasaki

INTERNATIONAL MARKETS' REACTION TO LEBED'S DISMISSAL.
The German mark fell against the dollar following the news of Lebed's dismissal, sliding from 1.5373/$ to 1.5447/$ on 17 October, AFP reported. The mark fell because of Germany's close economic relations with Russia and the perception of the dollar as a safe currency. The political crisis may also spoil foreign investors' appetite for Russia's first Eurobond issue at the end of this month. Earlier in October Russia became the first CIS country to get a favorable investment grade from leading international credit-rating agencies (See OMRI Daily Digest, 8 October 1996). Under these circumstances, net receipts from the issue were expected to reach $1.3 billion in 1997. However, many market analysts now believe that the window of opportunity has closed. -- Natalia Gurushina

DUMA HOSTILE TO START 2.
Duma deputies subjected U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry to harsh questioning after he addressed them on 17 October on the advantages of ratifying the START 2 nuclear disarmament treaty, AFP reported. Perry argued that the treaty is fair to both sides and would save the U.S. and Russia $5 billion each. He said that the 3,000-3,500 warheads left in each country would be "enough to destroy the world. That is more than enough deterrent." Duma deputies cited worries over NATO expansion as the main factor influencing their attitude towards START 2. Senator Richard Lugar, who is accompanying Perry, said earlier this week that the $330 million in U.S. disarmament aid which Russia was slated to receive in 1997 will not be forthcoming if the treaty is not ratified, AFP reported. On 18 October Perry travelled to Severodvinsk to view the dismantling of a Typhoon class submarine under START 1. -- Peter Rutland

JEWISH AGENCY LICENSED.
Local offices of the Israeli-based Jewish Agency can operate legally in Russia once again, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 October. The agency is a quasi-governmental body that promotes Jewish immigration to Israel and international Jewish educational and cultural activities. Russia canceled its registration in April in line with new legislation on the activity of foreign organizations and subsequently restricted its operations, prompting an international outcry. The Justice Ministry has now issued a license for the Jewish Agency in Russia, a Russian public organization that will receive financial and organizational support from the Jewish Agency for Israel. Jewish Agency President Avraham Burg thanked U.S. officials for their assistance in finding a solution to the registration problem as well as the Russian authorities for their cooperation. -- Penny Morvant



ARMENIAN OPPOSITION RALLY BANNED.
The Yerevan city authorities reversed themselves and withdrew permission for opposition rallies slated for 18 October, citing errors in the application, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL reported the same day. The opposition said that they will apply for the demonstration to be held next week. The move follows President Levon Ter-Petrossyan's 11 October decree lifting the ban on public gatherings that was imposed after the 25 September violence in the capital. In other news, chief presidential aide Gerard Libaridian charged that the OSCE used the 22 September presidential elections to force Armenia to make concessions in the negotiations over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Noyan Tapan reported. Libaridian accused the OSCE observer mission monitoring the vote of "playing political games," and said the latter misinterpreted Armenian electoral laws. The mission questioned the official election results according to which Ter-Petrossyan won a second term. -- Emil Danielyan

GEORGIAN INTERIOR MINISTRY DENIES GAMSAKHURDIA SUPPORTERS ARRESTED.
Georgian Interior Ministry spokesman Valerian Gogolashvili on 17 October denied Russian media reports that some 30 supporters of deceased President Zviad Gamsakhurdia had been arrested in protest demonstrations in Tbilisi on 16 October, ITAR-TASS reported. (See OMRI Daily Digest, 17 October, 1996) -- Liz Fuller

NEW TWIST IN GEORGIAN-RUSSIAN WAR OF WORDS.
The Georgian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 16 October categorically rejecting the Russian Foreign Ministry's accusation six days earlier that the Georgian parliament is trying "to revise the whole complex of Russian-Georgian relations" by threatening to annul an (unratified) agreement on Russian military bases in Georgia and by calling for the withdrawal of the Russian peacekeeping troops currently deployed along Georgia's internal border with Abkhazia, ITAR-TASS reported. The statement reiterated Georgia's commitment to the bilateral treaty on friendship and cooperation signed in February 1994, and Georgia's desire for a peaceful resolution of the Abkhaz conflict. -- Liz Fuller

DEMONSTRATION IN KAZAKSTANI CAPITAL.
About 4,000 people rallied in Almaty on 17 October to demand that the government do something about unpaid wages and pensions, which now total some $8.5 million, and the poor standard of living, ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL reported. No political leaders were given the opportunity to speak: the trade unions, which called the demonstration, wanted to avoid any insinuation that it was politically motivated. Those assembled requested in vain a meeting with a government representative. Though the unions called for demonstrations throughout Kazakstan, officials in other regions, notably Pavlodar and Ust-Kamenogorsk, managed to obtain injunctions against the meetings. -- Bruce Pannier and Merhat Sharipzhan

CORRECTION:
An item in the OMRI Daily Digest of 16 October incorrectly stated that Iran was thought to share Kazakstan's views on the legal status of the Caspian Sea. In fact Iran is thought to favor the Russian position.



UKRAINE ADOPTS LAW ON CONSTITUTIONAL COURT.
The Ukrainian legislature finally approved a law on the Constitutional Court on 16 October, UNIAN and Ukrainian Radio reported. The next day, President Leonid Kuchma signed it. While deputies failed to elect the final two justices to the 18-member panel, they did reach agreement over the disputed Article 13, which states that the court has the exclusive right to officially interpret the new constitution and legislation adopted by parliament, president, government, or Crimean authorities. Meanwhile, thousands gathered in Kyiv and other cities to take part in rallies organized by the Federation of Trade Unions, Ukrainian and international agencies reported. The protesters demanded that the government pay off its huge wage debt by 1 January, They also complained about mass hidden unemployment, which is not reflected in the official 0.9% rate. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

UKRAINE'S RESPONSE TO DUMA'S VOTE ON BLACK SEA FLEET.
Ukraine's Foreign Ministry has criticized the Russian State Duma's vote to pass a law on halting the division of the Black Sea Fleet, Ukrainian Radio reported on 17 October. Deputy Foreign Minister Kostyantyn Hryshchenko said the ministry cannot help but be concerned over the Duma's territorial claims on Ukraine, even if the Russian government distanced itself from the Duma's position. He demanded an official explanation from Russia. AFP reported Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksander Kuzmuk as saying the Duma law will not improve Russian-Ukrainian relations. He noted that Ukraine and Russia have reached a compromise allowing Russia temporary use of the Sevastopol base because, he said, Ukraine understands that time and money are needed to build a new base in Russia. -- Ustina Markus

BELARUSIAN REFERENDUM UPDATE.
Some 1,000 representatives of opposition parties are meeting in Minsk today at a National Congress intended to compete with President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's All Belarusian Congress, Belarusian media reported. The National Congress will set up a tribunal to examine all illegal acts by the president, his administration, and his so-called "vertical structures." The All Belarusian Congress is to convene on 19 October to debate Lukashenka's draft of a new constitution; some 5,000 delegates are expected. Reuters reported U.S. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns as calling on Lukashenka to begin talks with the parliament. Meanwhile, President Boris Yeltsin noted that the exacerbation of the political situation in Belarus does not conform with Russia's long-term strategic interests, Komsomolskaya Pravda reported on 17 October.
Lukashenka is currently in Russia for talks with his Russian counterpart. -- Ustina Markus and Sergei Solodovnikov

ESTONIAN OPPOSITION SEEKS EARLY ELECTIONS.
Leaders of the Pro Patria Union, the Right-Wingers, and the Moderates have called for early elections following the defeat of their motion to reject the draft budget, BNS reported on 17 October. They argued that the ruling coalition was acting as if it were about to collapse. Interior Minister Mart Rask of the Reform Party threatened to resign if more money was not allocated to his ministry, while Foreign Minister Siim Kallas claimed that Prime Minister Tiit Vahi was demonstrating "Soviet-style behavior and nervousness." The ruling coalition rejected holding early elections, saying tension within the government was primarily due to the upcoming local elections. -- Saulius Girnius

UPDATE ON LATVIAN-LITHUANIAN BORDER DISPUTE.
Lithuanian Prime Minister Mindaugas Stankevicius on 17 October said he was still awaiting a reply from his Latvian counterpart, Andris Skele, on his proposal that the two countries should hold trilateral talks with the AMOCO and OPAB oil companies on possible oil exploration, BNS reported. He also noted that he would support the recent suggestion by G-24 ambassadors that third-party experts help determine the sea border. Latvian border delegation head Maris Riekstins, however, said Latvia would not agree to hold trilateral talks, noting that its earlier discussions with AMOCO had taken four years to complete. Meanwhile, Lithuanian President Algirdas Brazauskas on 17 October told the European Parliament's foreign and security committee that it should consider the cost of not granting EU and NATO membership to Lithuania rather than the cost of doing so, Radio Lithuania reported. -- Saulius Girnius

POLISH GOVERNMENT COMMITTEE APPROVES DRAFT LANGUAGE LAW.
The Polish government's socio-economic committee on 16 October approved a draft language law drawn up by the Culture Ministry, Polish dailies reported. The law stipulates that labels on commodities and shop signs be in Polish. The Culture Ministry, in consultation with the Polish Language Council, will impose penalties for infringements of the law. The government's legislative committee must now approve the draft before the cabinet decides whether to send it to the parliament. The bill is intended to replace a 1945 decree saying that Polish is the state language. Language experts have criticized English and German influences on the Polish language, which, they point out, are most evident on shop signs. -- Jakub Karpinski

CONTROVERSY OVER 1949 POLISH-SWISS ACCORD.
The Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs is to investigate allegations by U.S. Senator Alfonse D'Amato that Poland made a secret deal with Switzerland in 1949 allowing it to seize bank accounts of Polish citizens, mainly Jews, to compensate Swiss citizens for property confiscated by the Polish communist regime, international media reported on 18 October. A ministry spokesman confirmed the existence of an agreement on Polish citizens' assets deposited in Swiss banks, but he did not reveal its content. The Swiss Foreign Affairs Ministry denied there had been a secret Polish-Swiss deal on Jewish property. PAP reported that the only relevant document, which D'Amato has obtained, is the U.S. government's demarche protesting the Swiss parliament's decision to return to Poland the property of Polish citizens who died without any heirs. -- Beata Pasek

WHO WILL COMPETE IN CZECH SENATE ELECTIONS?
Czech media on 18 October reported that 569 candidates have made the 16 October deadline for registering to compete in the Senate elections next month. The Central Electoral Commission had disqualified almost 100 candidates for making mistakes in filling out their applications, but the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court both ruled that most of the disqualified candidates can compete. Eight cases still have to be decided. Should those candidates be allowed to run, the ballot in their districts may have to be postponed or the registration deadline moved. The only party that will compete in all 81 districts is Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party. The Communists are fielding 80 candidates and the Social Democrats 79. Only 60 of the 569 candidates are women. -- Jiri Pehe

SLOVAK PRESIDENT ASKS EU TO OVERLOOK DOMESTIC POLITICAL CONFLICTS.
Michal Kovac, during his two-day official visit to Brussels to meet with top EU and NATO representatives, told European Commission President Jacques Santer that internal political disagreements should not be the only factor in evaluating Slovakia's bid for EU membership, Slovak media reported. Kovac pointed to the country's good macroeconomic results, including GDP growth over 7%, inflation under 6%, and a small foreign debt. He also said he thinks the West's view of the situation in Slovakia is broadly correct and objective. Reuters reported him as saying that "the West is criticizing the same things I myself have been criticizing." -- Sharon Fisher

SLOVAK OPPOSITION ROUNDUP.
Representatives of all Slovak opposition parties met on 17 October in an effort to implement democratic changes, Slovak media reported. The parties demanded the dismissal of Agriculture Minister Peter Baco and Culture Minister Ivan Hudec. They also stressed that the no-confidence vote in Education Minister Eva Slavkovska will go ahead as scheduled during the upcoming parliament session and that "democratization" proposals on the secret service, privatization, and the radio and TV boards will be made. The parties said the adjournment of two controversial cases related to the Michal Kovac Jr. kidnapping (see OMRI Daily Digest, 16 October 1996) demonstrates that the coalition fears the results of an in-depth investigation. -- Sharon Fisher

OFFICIAL SAYS HUNGARIAN POLITICS NEED CLEANSING.
Peter Hack, deputy caucus leader of the junior coalition party Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ), has said that it is necessary to "internally cleanse" the party, just as it is necessary to cleanse Hungarian politics in general, Magyar Hirlap reported on 18 October. "Unless this happens in time, the political elite could sink into a morass of corruption, and a situation could develop similar to that in Italy in 1990," he added. Meanwhile, the opposition Young Democrats have responded to a letter from Prime Minister Gyula Horn in which he said that interference in the privatization process is unconstitutional. They demanded that the privatization process be suspended and said that if any governing party is implicated in the recent privatization scandal, Hungary's democratic foundations would be shaken. -- Zsofia Szilagyi




NEW RULES FOR BOSNIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS.
The OSCE's Provisional Election Commission (PEC), convening in Sarajevo on 17 October, decided on registration rules for the 23-24 November local vote. Refugees will be allowed to register to vote only where they lived in 1991 or where they have lived since the end of 1995, Reuters and Oslobodjenje reported. They will no longer be permitted to sign up for a place where they simply say they intend to live. The local elections were postponed last month because of massive fraud in registering refugees to vote in strategic towns where they had never resided. All three sides engaged in the practice, but the fraud was particularly blatant among the Serbs. The Bosnian Serb authorities are expected to protest the new OSCE ruling, PEC spokesmen said. Meanwhile, the Muslim Party of Democratic Action wants the fate of the strategic Serb-held northern town of Brcko to be decided before the local vote, AFP noted. The Dayton agreement left the issue open for international arbitration before 14 December. -- Patrick Moore

IFOR GETS TOUGH WITH MUSLIM MILITARY.
NATO peacekeepers have placed a republic-wide ban on parades by the mainly Muslim Bosnian army following an unauthorized one in east Mostar, Oslobodjenje reported on 18 October. The targeted corps may not train for a week, nor may any other unit train in the area during that time. The parade ban is of indefinite duration. IFOR stumbled upon the display when it unwittingly took two Turkish officers to the site to participate. Elsewhere, IFOR also protested remarks made at another ceremony by Gen. Atif Dudakovic, Onasa noted on 17 October. The politically active general said that "Dayton allowed for a reunited Bosnia, including Banja Luka and Bijeljina, which will be ours in the next war." He also stated that "children should wave toy guns, not flowers." An IFOR spokesman commented that those remarks were "unhelpful to the peace process." -- Patrick Moore

SERBS BULLDOZE FORMER MOSQUE SITE IN BANJA LUKA.
Bosnian Serbs have begun bulldozing the site of the Ferhadija mosque in Banja Luka, which was blown up three years ago, Oslobodjenje reported on 18 October. A spokesman for the Office of the High Representative for Bosnia said the act was probably aimed at persuading Muslim deputies in the Serbian parliament not to attend its inaugural assembly, scheduled for 19 October in Banja Luka. The spokesman said that Michael Steiner, High Representative Carl Bildt's deputy, has gone to Banja Luka to demand that work on the site stop and to seek a meeting with Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic. -- Daria Sito Sucic

FORMER YUGOSLAV BANK GOVERNOR DEFINITELY OUT OF ELECTION RACE.
Rajko Nisavic, head of the federal electoral commission, has confirmed that Dragoslav Avramovic, former governor of the National Bank of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, will not take part in the 3 November elections, Nasa Borba reported on 18 October. Avramov wrote to Nisavic informing him of his decision. The former bank governor has also resigned as head of the electoral opposition list "Zajedno [Together]--Dragoslav Avramovic." Nasa Borba had reported last week that Avramovic would resign owing to "aggravated health conditions." The newspaper also speculated that pressure from the authorities may have been the main reason (see OMRI Daily Digest, 10 October 1996). -- Stan Markotich

AMNESTIED CROATIAN SERBS RE-ARRESTED.
According to Croatia's Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, at least two Serbs recently released from prison under an amnesty law have been re-arrested and charged with war crimes, international agencies reported on 18 October. Committee head Ivan Zvonimir Cicak said his organization fears there are more such cases and is trying to confirm three or four others. But, Serbs who returned to Belgrade say the Croats have re-arrested at least 23 amnestied Serbs who were waiting in a camp for Croatian approval to leave for Belgrade. Those who arrived in Belgrade said they feared for the safety of those still imprisoned in Croatia. -- Daria Sito Sucic

CROATIA RECEIVES LOAN WORTH 200 MILLION DM.
A union of 28 foreign banks from 12 countries has granted Croatia a DM 200 million loan, Hina reported on 17 October. Croatian Finance Minister Bozo Prka said the loan will be used for investment projects and capital expenditures. It will not damage the country's economic stability, he added. Interest on the loan is less than 6% and repayment is over two years. The loan has been described as the "cheapest and largest" granted to Croatia so far. -- Daria Sito Sucic

MOLDOVAN ELECTION UPDATE.
Prime Minister Andrei Sangheli has denied press reports that he is about to withdraw from the upcoming presidential elections in favor of parliamentary chairman Petru Lucinschi, Infotag reported on 16 October. Sangheli said he is aware that if President Mircea Snegur wins the November elections, the president will dismiss him as premier. Meanwhile, the number of candidates officially registered with the Central Electoral Commission now stands at eight. Infotag on 17 October reported that Anatol Plugaru, a 45-year-old former minister of national security, and 38-year-old Veronica Abramchuk, who heads the Department for National Relations, have registered as candidates. Abramchuk is a member of the Socialist Party, but both she and Plugaru are running as independents. -- Michael Shafir

DID DNIESTER-BASED RUSSIAN TROOPS BACK LEBED?
Aleksandr Baranov, deputy commander of the Dniester-based Russian garrison, has denied a Radio Moscow report claiming the garrison sent telegrams of support to Gen. Aleksandr Lebed, BASA-press reported on 17 October. Baranov also refuted that the garrison was on alert. The Radio Moscow report was broadcast only several hours before Lebed was dismissed by President Boris Yeltsin. -- Michael Shafir

BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT FAILS TO SET UP COMMITTEE TO INVESTIGATE LUKANOV KILLING.
The parliament on 17 October postponed voting on the establishment of a commission to investigate the killing of former Prime Minister Andrey Lukanov, Pari reported. Parliamentary Deputy President Nora Ananieva's proposal to form the commission was initially supported by deputies from all factions, but legislators were unable to agree on the lineup of that body. The ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), to which Lukanov had belonged, insisted on an 11-member commission reflecting the strength of the various caucuses. Under that proposal, the BSP would have had six seats. The ruling party rejected the proposal that more seats be distributed among the other parliamentary parties, prompting the opposition to withdraw its support for the motion.
-- Stefan Krause

BULGARIAN PRIME INTEREST RATE CUT.
The Bulgarian National Bank (BNB) on 17 October cut the monthly prime interest rate from 25% to 20%, international media reported. Less than a month ago, the interest rate was hiked considerably (see OMRI Daily Digest, 25 September 1996). Standard commented that the new rate is intended to "trick" the electorate before the 27 October presidential elections. Trud noted that only one day earlier, BNB Governor Lyubomir Filipov had said there were no objective reasons to cut the interest rate. No current BNB official commented on the move, but former Deputy Governor Emil Harsev said this decision will barely affect the economy. However, the Bulgarian media believes that the lev will lose strongly against the U.S. dollar now and that the prices of all goods will go up immediately. -- Maria Koinova

MORE OBSERVERS WITHDRAW FROM ALBANIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS.
The OSCE's Parliamentary Assembly has withdrawn its 19 monitors for the Albanian elections, following the example of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), Reuters reported. The OSCE issued a statement saying that the Albanian authorities' decision not to accept the ODIHR's list of 37 observers is "extremely regrettable [and] unacceptable within internationally accepted observation criteria." According to the OSCE's 1990 Copenhagen Human Dimensions Document, participating states are committed to admit observers from "any other participating states and any appropriate private institutions." The Albanian government has accepted only 15 ODIHR accreditations for the 20 October elections. However, the U.S., Italy, and the Council of Europe will send monitors. -- Fabian Schmidt

KOSOVO ALBANIAN ARRESTED IN TIRANA FOR SELLING MARXIST LITERATURE.
An Albanian court has sentenced 37-year-old Nusret Recica from Kosovo to 10 months in prison for disseminating "anti-constitutional propaganda," AFP reported on 18 October. Recica was arrested for selling works by Marx, Lenin, and former Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha on the streets of Tirana. Marxist writings and those of former Albanian communist leaders have been banned since April 1992. -- Dukagjin Gorani



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