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Newsline - October 23, 1996


SCANDAL IN THE INTERIOR MINISTRY.
Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov on 22 October dismissed Vladimir Rushailo, the first deputy head of the Interior Ministry's Main Administration for Organized Crime, ITAR-TASS reported. Rushailo, until 10 October the head of the Moscow Regional Organized Crime Administration (RUOP), held an unsanctioned press conference on 22 October at which he criticized his new boss and his RUOP replacement, Moskovskii komsomolets reported. Rushailo had reportedly asked Kulikov to give him back his old post and threatened to call the press conference if his request was not met. The RUOP, modeled on the FBI, was set up in February 1993. There has been speculation that the decision to move Rushailo to a more senior, but less powerful post was linked to his regard for the former head of the presidential security service, Aleksandr Korzhakov. -- Penny Morvant

LEBED PREDICTS RYBKIN WILL HAVE GREATER POWERS . . .
Former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed met with his successor Ivan Rybkin and suggested that, since Rybkin is very loyal to the president, the powers of his office may soon be "significantly strengthened," NTV reported on 22 October. On the same day, presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii said President Boris Yeltsin will not formally appoint a new adviser on national security as Rybkin can fulfill that role. Until 17 October Lebed served as both Yeltsin's national security adviser and Security Council secretary. Lebed's prediction is supported by comments made on 21 October by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, who suggested that in addition to the Chechnya crisis, the Security Council would examine questions concerning the power ministries, as well as certain economic problems. Chernomyrdin had repeatedly rebuffed Lebed's attempts to assert authority in those areas. -- Laura Belin

. . . BUT COMMUNISTS SEEK TO LIMIT HIS AUTHORITY.
A draft law being prepared in the State Duma would define the Security Council as a purely consultative organ and would limit its secretary to "organizational" activities such as implementing the council's decisions, NTV reported on 22 October. Communists in the parliament criticized Lebed's peacemaking activities in Chechnya and charged that he exceeded his authority in signing the Khasavyurt accords. The draft law would also make the chairmen of both houses of parliament members of the Security Council ex officio, ITAR-TASS reported. Rybkin joined the council when he was Duma speaker, currently Seleznev has been excluded. -- Laura Belin

DOCTOR, SPOKESMAN: YELTSIN'S OPERATION TO GO AHEAD.
American cardiologist Michael DeBakey announced that, for now, there are no complications that could force President Yeltsin's heart bypass operation to be postponed, ITAR-TASS and NTV reported on 22 October. On the same day, Yeltsin's press secretary Sergei Yastrzhembskii said Yeltsin remains "firmly committed" to undergoing heart surgery, AFP reported. DeBakey, who took part in medical consultations with the president in September, confirmed that he will travel to Moscow sometime in the second half of November for the operation. -- Laura Belin

KORZHAKOV CALLS ON YELTSIN TO STEP DOWN.
Describing Yeltsin as "an ill old man," former Presidential Security Service head Aleksandr Korzhakov told The Guardian on 23 October that the president should hand over power to the prime minister. The previous day, Nikolai Yegorov, another former Kremlin hardliner, urged Yeltsin to hold early presidential elections, saying he was not fit to rule. Korzhakov contended that Yeltsin had fallen under the influence of his daughter and Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais, whom he claimed controlled all appointments and presidential decrees. "We have a regent with a president still alive," he asserted, adding "I wouldn't like things to get to a level of popular revolt, but events are moving this way." -- Penny Morvant

CHECHEN LEADERSHIP REAFFIRMS COMMITMENT TO PEACE.
Ruslan Khutaev, deputy premier of the newly-formed Chechen interim coalition government responsible for relations with Russia and the CIS, traveled to Moscow on 22 October to deliver to Chernomyrdin a statement by acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev and Prime Minister Aslan Maskhadov reiterating their commitment to the Chechen peace process, ITAR-TASS and AFP reported. Khutaev also aims to open a new representation in Moscow and to meet with Rybkin, NTV reported. Maskhadov has issued orders on the creation of special armed units to guard Chechen oil installations against theft, ITAR-TASS and NTV reported on 22 October. -- Liz Fuller

CIA: RUSSIAN NUCLEAR SAFEGUARDS WEAKENING.
The CIA confirmed on 22 October a leaked report cited by The Washington Times that day, which expressed concern with the erosion of the Russian nuclear command and control system, Western agencies reported. The paper had quoted the report as worrying about "conspiracies within armed units" to commit blackmail using parts of Russia's arsenal of 28,000 nuclear warheads. The report expressed particular concern with the "poor" safeguards preventing unauthorized use of tactical nuclear weapons. Although details of the report undermine official U.S. and Russian assurances that Moscow retains tight control of its nuclear arsenal, CIA analysts emphasized that the chance of unauthorized nuclear use in Russia remains "low." -- Scott Parrish

LUZHKOV RENEWS CLAIMS ON SEVASTOPOL.
Two days before Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma is scheduled to meet with Yeltsin, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov published an open letter in the 22 October edition of Moskovskaya pravda urging Yeltsin to publicly "confirm on all levels the Russian status of Sevastopol," and include a clause to that effect in the draft Ukrainian-Russian friendship treaty. The letter was reprinted on 23 October in the official Russian government paper Rossiskaya gazeta, and in Trud. Luzhkov argued that Sevastopol remains administratively subordinate to Moscow under a 1948 decree of the Russian Supreme Soviet, which he claimed was not altered by the 1954 transfer of Crimea Oblast from Russia to Ukraine. Although Russian diplomats have repeatedly repudiated Luzhkov's statements and insisted that Russia has no claims on Sevastopol, his remarks have drawn heavy criticism from Kyiv. -- Scott Parrish

NOVODVORSKAYA CASE REFERRED.
Although a verdict was expected on 22 October, the judge presiding over the trial of longtime dissident Valeriya Novodvorskaya instead asked the prosecutor's office to conduct further investigation, Russian media reported. Novodvorskaya, leader of the radical Democratic Union, is accused of spreading ethnic hatred toward Russians in two newspaper articles and one television interview dating from 1993 and 1994 (see OMRI Daily Digest, 27 September 1996). Prosecutors are seeking a prison term of one and a half years. Novodvorskaya's lawyer, Genri Reznik, described the judge as a "bureaucrat" who was trying to avoid responsibility, since further investigation could take months. -- Laura Belin

MEDICAL WORKERS PROTEST.
Medical workers staged a string of protests across Russia on 22 October to demand the payment of back wages and adequate funding for the health-care sector, RTR and Reuters reported. They threatened to take further industrial action from 25 October to 5 November if their demands are not met. According to union leader Mikhail Kuzmenko, in the first 10 months of 1996, the health-care sector received only 38% of the 4.6 trillion rubles budgeted for the year. Under the constitution, Russian citizens are guaranteed free medical care, but in practice people pay for food, medicine, and often treatment as well. -- Penny Morvant

TULA MINERS STRIKE.
About 20,000 workers of the Tulaugol Coal Company on 22 October began an indefinite strike in Tula Oblast, protesting wage arrears of 100 billion rubles ($18.4 million), ITAR-TASS reported. According to the local trade union committee, almost 90% of the employees participated in the strike; they intend to picket the local government building on 29 October. The miners will also attend a march and meeting in Tula as part of a protest of the all-Russian trade union on 5 November. -- Ritsuko Sasaki

GAZPROM STARTS INTERNATIONAL SALE OF SHARES.
Russia's giant Gazprom, which owns one-quarter of the world's gas reserves, began the first international flotation of its shares on 21 October, ITAR-TASS and Kommersant-Daily reported. The shares (237 million, or 1% of the equity capital) are issued in the form of American Depository Receipts (ADRs) and will be sold in bundles of 10 at $15.75 per bundle. Gazprom's recent conflict with the government over tax payments did not undermine foreign investor's interest: the shares were trading on 23 October at $18.25 per bundle. Gazprom expects to raise some $400 million from this operation. Gazprom is the first Russian company to have its shares listed in London. -- Natalia Gurushina



VERDICT IN GEORGIAN ANTI-SEMITISM CASE.
Givi Alaznispireli, owner and editor of the newspaper Noe, has been sentenced to one year's imprisonment "for violating national and racial equality," BGI reported on 19 October. Alaznispireli was arrested in August after publishing a virulently anti-Semitic article in his paper. -- Liz Fuller

UN CALLS ON ABKHAZ LEADERSHIP TO POSTPONE ELECTIONS.
The UN Security Council on 22 October called on the leadership of the breakaway Georgian region of Abkhazia to postpone parliamentary elections scheduled for 23 November until a political settlement is reached on Abkhazia's status vis-a-vis the Tbilisi government, Reuters reported. The statement contradicts the opinion expressed two weeks ago by UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali's special envoy for Abkhazia, Swiss diplomat Edouard Brunner, who told Abkhaz Radio that a new parliament should be elected given that the term of the existing one was due to expire. Also on 22 October, the UN Security Council passed a resolution (despite Chinese objections) to establish a two-person office in the Abkhaz capital, Sukhumi, to monitor human rights violations, according to AFP. Abkhaz Security Service head Astamur Tarba denied Georgian TV reports that Abkhaz militants had attacked a village in Abkhazia's Gali raion and abducted four ethnic Georgians, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 October. Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba accused the Georgian authorities of launching a campaign of "terror and sabotage" in order to prevent the elections. -- Liz Fuller

FINAL RESULTS OF ARMENIAN ELECTIONS.
The Armenian Central Election Commission released the final results of the 22 September presidential polls, confirming the victory of the incumbent Levon Ter-Petrossyan with 52.75% of the vote, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 October. The opposition, whose candidate, Vazgen Manukyan, won 41.3% of the vote, has accused the authorities of election rigging and plans to appeal the official results to the Constitutional Court. -- Emil Danielyan

LEADER OF RULING PARTY ON ARMENIAN PRIME MINISTER.
The chairman of Armenia's ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement party (HHSh), Ter-Husik Lazaryan, in an interview with RFE/RL on 22 October, called on Prime Minister Hrant Bagratyan to step down. Lazaryan claimed that Bagratyan is to blame for the country's economic hardships that resulted in the poorer than expected performance of Ter-Petrossyan in the disputed 22 September election. Lazaryan's statements follow similar comments by other HHSh leaders. In his first post-election speech Ter-Petrossyan promised a "serious reshuffle" of the government. -- Emil Danielyan

KARABAKH ELECTION RUMPUS.
Azerbaijan's Central Electoral Commission on 22 October issued a statement condemning as "an attempt to legalize a puppet regime" the presidential elections scheduled for 24 November by the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, Turan reported. The agency also quoted the U.S. Ambassador to Baku, Richard Kauzlarich, as stating that the U.S. government does not recognize the legitimacy of the elections. To date four presidential candidates have been registered: incumbent Robert Kocharyan, former parliament deputy speaker Boris Arushanyan, Nagorno-Karabakh Communist Party head Hrant Melkumyan, and the head of the Control Inspection of the government of the RNK, Albert Ghazaryan, Noyan Tapan reported on 22 October. -- Liz Fuller

AID FOR RECONSTRUCTION, REFUGEES IN AZERBAIJAN.
Representatives of the World Bank, the UN Development Program, and the Azerbaijani government signed an agreement in Baku on 22 October on financial aid for reconstruction work in seven raions of Azerbaijan destroyed by fighting in 1993, ITAR-TASS reported. The estimated cost of reconstruction is $22 billion; the World Bank will provide $50 million. Donor countries provided $7.6 million towards the cost of UNHCR programs for reconstruction in 1996, according to Turan on 22 October, quoting the head of the UNHCR program for Azerbaijan, Ann Howard-Whiles. -- Liz Fuller

UZBEK YOUTH ORGANIZATION STARTS PAPER.
The youth organization Kamolot (Perfection) sent to press the first issue of its independent newspaper, Uzbek radio reported on 20 October. Also called Kamolot, the newspaper will begin service in the Namangan region and will partially act as a promotional vehicle for the organization. Founded in the summer of 1996, Kamolot is a government-funded "non-governmental organization" which is supposed to fill the role of the Soviet-era Komsomol. Unlike that entity, however, Kamolot is allowed to court Western companies for financial assistance which can be matched by government contributions. -- Roger Kangas

JAPAN TO LOAN TURKMENISTAN $120 MILLION.
The Export-Import Bank of Japan, after consulting with Japanese commercial banks, announced that a loan of $120 million would be extended to Turkmenistan, according to Reuters and RFE/RL. The money is slated to be used in upgrading the oil refining industry with the hope of diversifying the economy and reducing pollutants. The Export-Import Bank will put up 60% of the loan (about $73 million) and the remainder will be co-financed by three Japanese banks. -- Bruce Pannier



CLINTON CALLS FOR NATO ENLARGEMENT BY 1999.
U.S. President Bill Clinton has set 1999 as the target date for admitting the "first group" of new members to NATO, international media reported on 22 October. Speaking in Detroit, Michigan, Clinton scrupulously avoided naming any candidate countries, but he emphasized that "NATO's doors will not close behind its first new members." He asserted that enlargement will "advance the security of everyone," adding that Russia could be an "equal and respected partner" in building a new undivided Europe. Clinton also voiced support for the negotiation of a NATO-Russia cooperation agreement. A NATO summit in mid-1997 is scheduled to choose the first candidate countries to begin acession negotiations. -- Scott Parrish

A FOURTH ORTHODOX CHURCH IN UKRAINE?
The conflict among hierarchs of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church may result in the establishment of a fourth Orthodox Church in Ukraine, Den reported on 22 October. The paper reported that five hierarchs had long been seeking to remove Patriarch Dymytrii Yarema, who was ousted last week after threatening to dissolve the Church. The patriarch had accused those hierarchs of trying to usurp power and had allegedly threatened to split away to form another church. Patriarch Filaret of the rival Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate said the split within the UAOC is bound to lead to its demise. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT IN UKRAINE.
Mircea Snegur, in Kyiv for a meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart, Leonid Kuchma, has said relations with Ukraine are a priority for Moldova, Infotag reported. Ukraine is Moldova's second-largest trading partner after Russia. Moldova also relies on Ukraine for its energy supplies. Snegur expressed his gratitude to Kyiv for acting as mediator in the Transdniester conflict, while Kuchma reaffirmed his support for Moldova's territorial integrity. -- Ustina Markus

BELARUSIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT CRITICIZES ALL BELARUSIAN CONGRESS.
Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court Valeryi Tsikhinya has said the court does not approve of several resolutions adopted by the All Belarusian Congress, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 October. Tsikhinya said the court continues to support the "zero option" solution, whereby both the president and the parliament refrain from holding referendums on their proposed constitutions. He noted that the president's draft constitution is based on a "philosophy contravening the principle of division of powers." He added that if that version is approved in the referendum "Belarus will become a totalitarian state." Tsikhinya also stressed that the court has ruled on 19 decrees issued by the president and found 17 to be in contravention of the constitution. -- Ustina Markus

RUN-OFF ELECTIONS FOR LITHUANIA.
Although all the votes have still not been counted, it is clear that only two candidates, President Vytautas Landsbergis and Gediminas Vagnorius, chairman of the Homeland Union (Conservatives of Lithuania) [TS(LK)], have been elected to the parliament, Radio Lithuania reported. New elections will have to be held within six months in four single-mandate districts where voter participation was less than the required 40%. The two top candidates in the 65 districts where no one gained a majority will compete in run-off elections on 10 November. -- Saulius Girnius

TRIAL OVER MURDER OF FORMER POLISH PRIME MINISTER GETS UNDER WAY.
The trial of four men charged with murdering Piotr Jaroszewicz has begun in Warsaw, Polish dailies reported on 22 and 23 October. Jaroszewicz was prime minister in the 1970s. He and his wife were brutally murdered in their villa near Warsaw in September 1992. The house was ransacked, but only a small sum of money, a gold watch, and two guns were taken. According to the prosecutor, the motive behind the murder was financial gain. He also said that the assailants found out the identity of their victims only the next day while watching television. The defendants, all of whom have previous convictions for robbery, are pleading not guilty. -- Beata Pasek

CZECH CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULES ON ELECTIONS.
The Czech Constitutional Court on 22 October decided that another four candidates can compete in the Senate elections, Czech media reported. Almost 600 candidates submitted registration forms, but the Central Electoral Committee disqualified some 100 candidates for making mistakes in the application forms. Both the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court ruled before the 16 October registration deadline that most of the disqualified candidates can compete. In its latest ruling, the Constitutional Court explained it is not bound by the registration deadline. It ordered the relevant electoral district committees to register the four candidates. -- Jiri Pehe

U.S., EU CALL FOR MORE DEMOCRACY IN SLOVAKIA.
In separate statements, the U.S. and EU ambassadors to Slovakia, Ralph Johnson and Georgios Zavvos, have warned that Slovakia must demonstrate democratic values if it hopes to join NATO and the EU, international media reported on 22 October. Johnson told the Slovak Foreign Policy Association in Presov that the failure to resolve criminal cases related to the kidnapping of President Michal Kovac's son will harm Slovakia's chances for Western integration. Slovakia must be democratic "not only in its electoral process, but also in its laws, their implementation, and its preservation of individual rights, including the right to disagree without being considered an enemy of the state," Johnson emphasized. Zavvos told a conference on non-government organizations in Banska Bystrica that "much work [remains] to be done" before Slovakia can join the EU. "The clock is ticking...; Slovakia must seize the messages and act," Zavvos commented. -- Sharon Fisher

SLOVAK OPPOSITION FAILS TO OUST EDUCATION MINISTER.
The new parliamentary session opened on 22 October with a failed no-confidence vote in Eva Slavkovska, Slovak media reported. Opposition deputies accused Slavkovska of professional incompetence, limiting universities' academic freedom, implementing massive political purges, and intervening in minority education. Only 60 deputies, however, supported her dismissal. At the opposition's request, the agenda was amended to include a bill on the handling of National Property Fund privatization bonds and a report on the state budget for the defense and interior ministries as well as the secret service during the first half of 1996. -- Sharon Fisher

WAS BRITISH INTELLIGENCE INVOLVED IN 1956 HUNGARIAN UPRISING?
On the eve of the 40th anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian uprising, The Independent, citing a British book about to be published, reported that some of those who took part in the uprising were trained by British military intelligence. A British agent is quoted as saying that Hungarian rebels were taken to the British-occupied zone of Austria in 1954 for a "crash course" in explosives and weapons training and were then returned to Hungary with the "intention to cause an uprising." -- Sharon Fisher




BOSNIAN SERB LEADER SIGNS OATH TO BOSNIA.
The Serbian member of the three-man presidency, Momcilo Krajisnik, on 22 October signed a "solemn declaration" promising to "uphold and defend" the Bosnian constitution, international and local media reported. The Bosnian constitution, which was contained in the Dayton agreement, defines Bosnia-Herzegovina as a unitary state consisting of two "entities." By taking this oath, Krajisnik appears to have abandoned formal claims to independence for the Republika Srpska, which is, however, still a major policy goal of his party. It seems that Bosnian Serb leaders have decided at least to pay lip service to the Dayton system while still seeking independence and unity with other Serbian lands in the long run. -- Patrick Moore

BOSNIAN PRESIDENCY ON TRACK?
Krajisnik was attending the second full meeting of the presidency, which took place in Sarajevo's National Museum under the auspices of U.S. envoy John Kornblum. The next session of that body has been set for 25 October in a Serb-held school in nearby Lukavica, while the fourth meeting will take place on 29 October back in the museum, Oslobodjenje noted on 23 October. A six-month deadline has been set to draw up "a long-term arrangement dealing with the goals, meeting places, and functioning" of the various joint institutions, Dnevni avaz added. This marks a breakthrough in that the parties have agreed to a concrete timetable. -- Patrick Moore

MORE THAN 700 BODIES EXHUMED BY CROATIAN AUTHORITIES.
The Croatian authorities have exhumed more than 700 bodies from mass graves in the formerly Serb-controlled regions of western Slavonia and Krajina, AFP reported on 21 October. Ivan Gruic, head of the Croatian commission for prisoners and displaced people, said 80% of those exhumed were civilians; six were children. International organizations have not confirmed these figures. Gruic also said that 90% of the bodies have been identified. Meanwhile, the Croatian government has announced that its experts will begin on 1 December identifying bodies exhumed by international experts from a mass grave near the town of Vukovar, in eastern Slavonia. Gruic said he expected mass graves there to yield several thousand more bodies than had been unearthed so far. -- Daria Sito Sucic

UN PREPARES FOR POSSIBLE SERB EXODUS FROM EASTERN SLAVONIA.
UN intelligence services in eastern Slavonia are preparing contingency plans to cope with a possible exodus of Serbs from this last Serb-held region of Croatia, AFP reported on 22 October, citing Le Monde. According to the French daily, a confidential UN document says the return of Croats next spring to the area from which they were forcibly expelled in 1991 could prompt the 130,000 Serbs now living there to leave for Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. UN officials in New York said there was "nothing secret" about making contingency plans for such a scenario and that it was customary to prepare for all eventualities in such cases, AFP reported. A UN spokesman in eastern Slavonia said he did not believe that a massive exodus would take place. In other news, Serbs in eastern Slavonia have called again for a "special status," AFP reported. The UN dismissed the request when it was first made in June. -- Daria Sito Sucic

TRADE SANCTIONS AGAINST YUGOSLAVIA TO CONTINUE INTO 1997.
The last session of the U.S. congress has passed legislation extending into 1997 trade sanctions against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, despite a recent UN resolution providing for the embargo to be lifted. Nasa Borba on 23 October said Washington's action amounted to enforcing the "outer wall" of sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro. It reported that the extension of the embargo is linked to an improvement in internal conditions in Serbia's predominantly ethnic Albanian province of Kosovo, including the renewal of autonomy, improved human rights, and the return of international observers. -- Stan Markotich

SLOVENIAN CLAIM ON FORMER YUGOSLAV ASSETS NOW IN COURT.
Hearings to determine the status of assets held by the Cyprus branch of Belgrade's Beobanka resumed in a Nicosia court on 21 October, Radio Slovenija reported. Ljubljana has laid claim to a portion of those assets. Borka Vucic, the director of the Cyprus branch, says, however, that Slovenian officials have no proof that between 1978 and 1988, any Slovenian commercial bank made deposits with the former National Bank of Yugoslavia. Thus, he argues, they cannot prove that any assets have come to be held by Beobanka. Vucic also alleged that Slovenia owes Beobanka some $2 billion withheld since the collapse of socialist Yugoslavia. Earlier this year, Slovenia succeeded in having Beobanka's assets in Cyprus frozen by court order. -- Stan Markotich

ROMANIAN OPPOSITION PARTIES ACCUSE GOVERNMENT OF PLANNING ELECTION FRAUD.
Romania's opposition parties have accused the government of planning to falsify the results of the 3 November presidential elections, AFP and Romanian dailies reported on 22-23 October. They say the ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) has violated the election law by appointing several hundreds of its members as chairmen of polling stations. Meanwhile, President Ion Iliescu has added to the anti-Semitic statements against his rival, Petre Roman, who is partly of Jewish descent. Iliescu told a meeting in Olt County that Roman "does not really have roots in our people." Corneliu Vadim Tudor, the presidential candidate of the Greater Romania Party and a notorious anti-Semite, told Jurnalul national that if there is a presidential runoff, he will ask his electorate to vote for Romania's wartime Hitler ally, Marshal Ion Antonescu. -- Michael Shafir

MOLDOVA RATIFIES CONVENTION ON PROTECTION OF ETHNIC MINORITIES.
The parliament on 22 October ratified the Council of Europe's Convention on the Protection of Ethnic Minorities, Infotag reported the same day. Heated debates preceded the passage of the law ratifying the convention, primarily because of an article aimed at defining what constitutes an "ethnic minority." Deputies decided to avoid interpreting the term, allowing the convention to be ratified. -- Zsolt Mato

DNIESTER AUTHORITIES TO BUILD AMMUNITION RECYCLING PLANT.
The leaders of the breakaway Dniester republic have reached an agreement with an unspecified "foreign country" on building a plant to recycle ammunition belonging to the former Russian 14th Army, Infotag reported on 22 October, citing Prosecutor General Victor Zakharov. Thousands of tons of ammunition have been kept for decades in Russian depots in the region. -- Zsolt Mato

BULGARIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULES ON UPCOMING PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS.
The Constitutional Court has decided that a minimum turnout is not required in the first round of the 27 October presidential elections, RFE/RL reported on 22 October. The court noted that under the constitution, a president is elected in the first round if he receives more than half of the valid votes cast and if turnout is more than 50%. The court ruled that if one or both conditions are not met, the vote is valid but the two best-seeded candidates are to take part in a second round. It explicitly stated that a second round must take place if turnout is less than 50% in the first round. There had been speculation that the election would be postponed in the event of low voter turnout. -- Stefan Krause

BULGARIAN GRAIN CRISIS UPDATE.
Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) Deputy Chairman Vasil Gotsev and SDS caucus leader Yordan Sokolov have said that the EU has turned down a Bulgarian government request for financial and humanitarian aid to help alleviate the ongoing grain crisis, Demokratsiya reported on 23 October. Prime Minister Zhan Videnov reportedly asked last month to import grain from EU countries. But the government denied those reports, saying Videnov received a private letter from EU Commission President Jacques Santer that, according the government press office, promised Bulgaria 40 million ECU ($30 million). The office did not specify, however, whether this sum was a credit for grain imports. Gotsev claimed that Videnov had deliberately hidden the letter because of the impending presidential elections. In other news, Deputy Prime Minister and Economic Development Minister Rumen Gechev said Bulgaria will barely be able to service half its foreign and domestic debt in 1997. -- Stefan Krause

BULGARIAN HIGH OFFICIALS ACCUSED OF CORRUPTION.
Union of Democratic Forces deputy Edvin Sugarev on 22 October published an open letter to Prosecutor-General Ivan Tatarchev claiming that high officials close to the government and to Prime Minister Zhan Videnov are involved in shady banking, privatization, and telecommunications deals, Bulgarian media reported. Sugarev said the National Security Service and Central Office for Fighting Organized Crime launched separate anti-corruption investigations that were halted. He also alleged that former Prime Minister Andrey Lukanov was murdered because he had gathered similar information. Meanwhile, government Committee for Post and Telecommunications Chairman Lyubomir Kolarov has asked Parliamentary Chairman Blagovest Sendov to lift Sugarev's parliamentary immunity because he wants to take the UDF deputy to the court for "lies and slanders" against both the Bulgarian Socialist Party and him personally. -- Maria Koinova

EUROPEAN, U.S. INSTITUTES CALL ALBANIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS "FREE AND FAIR."
The International Republican Institute has concluded that in the 20 October local elections "none [of the incidents] appears to have threatened the legitimacy of the election." The U.S. National Democratic Institute on International Affairs called the vote "a significant improvement from the May elections." The Council of Europe said it was "satisfied with the way the vote was carried out, but regrets a few cases of irregularities serious enough to warrant careful examination by the Central Electoral Commission," AFP reported. A Socialist Party spokesman, however, called the ballot "another farce following the legislative elections of 26 May." He pointed out that monitoring missions had visited only 263 of the 4,665 polling stations. -- Fabian Schmidt

TWO ALBANIAN PRISON OFFICIALS ARRESTED IN ALLEGED TERRORIST CONSPIRACY.
A Tirana court has arraigned two high-ranking Tepelena prison officials on charges of abuse of office, ATSH reported on 22 October. Gribes Licaj is accused of allowing illegal meetings between late communist dictator Enver Hoxha's son-in-law Klement Koloneci and communist secret police chief Hajredin Shyti, who is serving an 18-year-prison term in Tepelena for involvement in the killing of pro-democracy demonstrators in Shkoder in April 1991. Licaj is also accused of allowing letters by Shyti containing instructions for the Revenge of Justice terrorist group to leave the jail. Those letters were found in the possession of Shyti's son. Robert Kazanxhiu is accused of falsifying Koloneci's name so that he could enter the jail. So far, 20 people have been arrested in connection with the alleged conspiracy. -- Fabian Schmidt



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