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Newsline - November 15, 1996


EVIDENCE OF CAMPAIGN COVER-UP LEAKED.
Moskovskii komsomolets on 15 November published what it claimed is a transcript of a 22 June meeting between then Yeltsin campaign chief Anatolii Chubais, senior aide Viktor Ilyushin, and presidential aide Sergei Krasavchenko in which they discussed attempts to cover up the use of money in the campaign. While the source of the tape is not identified, it most likely comes from former Presidential Security Service chief Aleksandr Korzhakov and his allies. The conversation took place after the arrest of Chubais's aides, Sergei Lisovskii and Arkadii Yevstafev, as they were walking out of the White House with more than $500,000 on 19 June. In the transcript, Ilyushin is quoted as saying that he told President Yeltsin that they could catch 15-20 men leaving the President Hotel (Yeltsin's campaign headquarters) with sports bags full of money. Chubais at one point noted that "we will pay for this with our heads." -- Robert Orttung

U.S. RELEASES FORMER RUSSIAN AGENT.
A Massachusetts federal judge has approved a motion by the U.S. Justice Department to dismiss espionage charges against former Russian intelligence agent Vladimir Galkin, Russian and Western agencies reported on 14 November. A Justice Department spokesman said consultations with the CIA and the State Department had led to the conclusion that Galkin's release would be "in the national interest." Russia had reacted angrily to the ex-agent's 29 October arrest (see OMRI Daily Digest, 5 and 13 November 1996), and had threatened retaliation against U.S. operatives if he was not freed. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin had earlier that day pressed for Galkin's release in a phone conversation with U.S. Vice President Al Gore. Galkin plans to return to Russia in a few days. -- Scott Parrish

STATE DUMA UNCOVERS EMBEZZLEMENT OF PENSION FUND'S MONEY.
The Audit Chamber of the State Duma has found that in the last quarter of 1995 and the first half of 1996, the amount of money misappropriated from the Pension Fund totaled 667 billion rubles ($122 million), ITAR-TASS reported on 14 November. Inspectors found that some 163 billion rubles were invested in commercial banks and another 87.5 billion rubles were used to buy real estate. In some regions, pensions have not been paid for three months. The government's 14 trillion ruble debt to the fund has worsened its financial situation. In the first 10 months of 1996, the misused money of all non-budgetary funds reached almost 1.8 trillion rubles. Meanwhile, wage arrears increased by 2.8 trillion rubles between 23 September and 28 October, reaching 43.1 trillion rubles. -- Ritsuko Sasaki

PRIMAKOV PROPOSES JOINT ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT OF KURILS.
Meeting in Tokyo with his Japanese counterpart, Yukihiko Ikeda, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov proposed that Russia and Japan develop a joint program of economic development for the disputed southern Kuril Islands, Russian and Western agencies reported on 15 November. According to ITAR-TASS, Moscow hopes to reduce tension over the islands through "pragmatic cooperation," while postponing a final resolution of the territorial dispute. The agency said Ikeda promised to study the proposal, hinting at a possible change in the Japanese policy, as Tokyo has previously made such projects contingent on settling the territorial issue. -- Scott Parrish

CONTROVERSY OVER BEREZOVSKII CITIZENSHIP CONTINUES.
Izvestiya on 15 November charged that Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii has not been entirely accurate in answering questions about his dual citizenship with Israel (see OMRI Daily Digest, 14 November 1996). The paper noted that Berezovskii's statements on the subject have changed several times and have not always been confirmed by official sources, such as the Russian or Israeli Foreign Ministry. It suggested that Berezovskii does not like "unpleasant details" and simply wanted to close the matter. Meanwhile, the 14 November issue of Segodnya quoted Berezovskii as objecting to what he called anti-Semitic insinuations made about his citizenship by Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, and Izvestiya. -- Laura Belin

SELEZNEV, STROEV: YELTSIN SHOULD ATTEND MEETINGS OF "PERMANENT FOUR."
Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev confirmed that he will not participate in the newly formed Consultative Council until President Boris Yeltsin is well enough to attend meetings in person, Russian media reported on 14 November. The council was to include Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais (representing Yeltsin), Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, Seleznev, and Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev. However, following the appointment of Boris Berezovskii as Security Council deputy secretary, Seleznev threatened to boycott all meetings of the "permanent four" if Chubais was present (see OMRI Daily Digest, 30 and 31 October 1996). Stroev, who had not previously objected to Chubais's membership on the Consultative Council, on 14 November backed Seleznev, saying the council should only meet when Yeltsin can attend, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. -- Laura Belin

FIFTH ANNIVERSARY OF CONSTITUTIONAL COURT.
The Constitutional Court marked the fifth anniversary of its creation with a conference attended by Prime Minister Chernomyrdin and presidential Chief of Staff Chubais, Russian media reported on 14 November. In September 1993, led by Chairman Valerii Zorkin, the court declared Yeltsin's decree no. 1400, which dissolved parliament, unconstitutional. The court did not meet between October 1993 and March 1995 after Yeltsin ordered it not to hold a session until a new constitution had been adopted. When it met again in March 1995, a new constitution and a new law on the court had been passed and several new judges had been appointed. The new court elected Yeltsin ally Vladimir Tumanov to be its chairman. Under the law on the Constitutional Court, Tumanov was required to step down by the end of October 1996, having turned 70 years old, but he remains in office pending the appointment of his replacement. -- Laura Belin

FEDERATION COUNCIL REFUSES TO LIFT MEMBER'S IMMUNITY.
The Federation Council refused to lift St. Petersburg Assembly Speaker Yurii Kravtsov's parliamentary immunity from criminal prosecution, Radio Rossii reported on 14 November. The procurator general is seeking to prosecute Kravtsov on charges that he spent 350 million rubles ($65,000) of city budget money to renovate his apartment. Federation Council member Vladimir Platonov said they found no basis for letting Kravtsov stand trial. -- Robert Orttung

CENTRAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION ELECTS NEW CHAIRMAN.
The Central Electoral Commission elected Aleksandr Ivanchenko to be its chairman on 14 November, ITAR-TASS reported. Ivanchenko has been a deputy chairman of the commission since 1993 and succeeded Nikolai Ryabov, who was appointed Russia's ambassador to the Czech Republic on 12 November. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski

RUSSIA, ITALY SIGN DEFENSE COOPERATION AGREEMENTS.
Russian Defense Minister Igor Rodionov signed two bilateral agreements on military and defense industry cooperation with his Italian counterpart, Beniamino Andretta, in Rome, Russian and Western agencies reported on 14 November. The defense industry agreement provides for the joint development of radar planes, helicopters and other systems, while the military cooperation agreement calls for joint work on security and arms control concepts, as well as planning for peacekeeping operations. Rodionov said the agreements were the first of their kind with a NATO country, showing that Russia can cooperate with alliance members. He added that Moscow remains opposed to NATO's plans to expand eastward. -- Scott Parrish

INDIA TO PURCHASE SU-30S.
The Indian cabinet has approved a long-anticipated deal to purchase 20 SU-30 fighters from Russia with an option to purchase 20 more planes later, AFP reported on 14 November. The previous cabinet had approved the estimated $1.8 billion purchase, but the change of governments in New Delhi earlier this year had necessitated its reconsideration. -- Scott Parrish

YAKUBOVSKII SENTENCED.
The city court of St. Petersburg has sentenced lawyer and businessman Dmitrii Yakubosvkii to five years in prison for participating in the theft of manuscripts worth $139 million from the Russian National Library in 1994, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 November. The court further ordered that Yakubovskii's property be confiscated. He was also found guilty of conducting illegal operations with foreign currency and will soon be charged with allegedly injuring his cell-mate in the Kresty prison. In 1992, Yakubovskii acted as a governmental advisor. He played a prominent role in the 1993 power struggle in Russia and was involved in a corruption scandal around former Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi. Yakubovskii was arrested in December 1994. -- Natalia Gurushina

CHERNOMYRDIN PROMISES TO REPAY BUDGETARY DEBT TO LOCAL TV COMPANIES.
Prime Minister Chernomyrdin has promised to repay part of the federal budget's 840 billion rubles ($153 million) debt to regional television companies, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 November. The remaining debt will be included in the 1997 budget. Chernomyrdin also said that the government intends to abolish the VAT on vital telecommunications and radio equipment imported from abroad. He noted that the heads of local TV companies may soon be classified as civil servants, which should make them more independent from local authorities. -- Natalia Gurushina

RUSSIAN ECONOMY STILL SHRINKING.
In the first 10 months of 1996, Russia's GDP and industrial output fell by 6% and 5%, respectively, compared with the same period a year earlier, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 November. In October, both indicators dropped by 4% compared with the same month in 1995. From January through October, the volume of investment totaled 247 trillion rubles, 18% down from the same period in 1995. The number of unemployed increased by 11% and is now at 6.6 million, of which 2.6 million are officially registered as unemployed. ITAR-TASS also reported that Russia's population declined by 300,000 in 1996. -- Natalia Gurushina

PRIVATIZATION REVENUE UPDATE.
State Property Committee head Alfred Kokh has asked the government to reduce the 1996 privatization revenue target from 12.3 trillion rubles ($2.2 billion) to 7.7 trillion rubles, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 November. He said that the budget has received only 735 billion rubles from privatization so far this year, or 6% of the expected annual figure. Kokh suggested that the collection of 1996 privatization revenue be extended into the first half of 1997, since a massive sale of companies' shares at this point would dampen their prices and reduce potential receipts. Foreign Economic Relations Minister Oleg Davydov supported Kokh's proposal to sell part of the government's stakes in companies that have completed successful international floatations of their shares. Kokh also said that the government could raise $1-2 billion by merging the national telephone company Rostelekom with the telecommunications holding Svyazinvest and selling it to an institutional investor. -- Natalia Gurushina



U.S., RUSSIAN DELEGATIONS IN ARMENIA.
James Collins, special advisor to the U.S. secretary of state on the newly independent states, arrived on 14 November in Yerevan from Baku where he held talks with the Azerbaijani leadership (see OMRI Daily Digest, 14 November 1996), Armenian and Russian media reported. Collins and Armenian Foreign Minister Aleksandr Arzumanyan agreed that the Caucasus region needs a security system to settle conflicts. Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Security Council Secretary Boris Berezovskii, who is also visiting the Transcaucasus, met the same day with President Levon Ter-Petrossyan, AFP reported. -- Emil Danielyan

BEREZOVSKII VISITS TBILISI . . .
Russian Deputy Security Council Secretary Boris Berezovskii, on his second visit to Georgia in less than a week, met for two hours behind closed doors with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze on 14 November to discuss the situation in Abkhazia, Chechnya, and the North Caucasus in general, Russian media reported. -- Liz Fuller

. . . AND BAKU.
Berezovskii then flew to Baku where he discussed Russian-Azerbaijani relations, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and the situation in Chechnya with Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev, noting that the "urgent" problems of the region are linked and should be tackled jointly. Berezovskii also tried to persuade Aliyev of the advantages of exporting Azerbaijan's Caspian Sea oil via the "northern" pipeline that runs through Dagestan and Chechnya, according to Turan. Aliyev told TRT on 14 November, however, that he would prefer that Azerbaijan's "strategic" (as opposed to "early") oil be exported through the proposed Baku-Ceyhan pipeline, but that unnamed members of the consortium engaged in exploiting the deposits in question oppose that option. -- Liz Fuller

INDEPENDENT TV, RADIO FACE NEW RULE IN KAZAKSTAN.
The Kazakstani State Property Committee has notified independent TV and radio stations in Kazakstan that their contracts with the transmission center are not valid and will have to be redrawn, Ekho Moskvy reported on 10 November. Kazakstani officials claim the stations are broadcasting on frequencies that interfere with airline traffic control, and the government shut down three independent radio stations and two television stations on 4 November. Yevgenii Zhovtis of the Kazak-American Bureau told Ekho Moskvy that many of the stations alleged to be interfering with air traffic have been using those frequencies for four years. Zhovtis said the government is holding a public tender for frequencies at the beginning of next year and it appears that many independent stations will not have the means to buy a frequency. -- Bruce Pannier

NIYAZOV IN TURKEY FOR MEDICAL CHECK-UP.
Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov arrived in Turkey on 14 November for a medical check-up, according to Reuters and RFE/RL. Although he is also there to meet with Turkish officials, Niyazov said he will be in the Istanbul branch of the Houston clinic for four days of post-operative treatment. In 1994, Niyazov had a blood clot removed from his leg at a hospital in Houston, Texas. -- Bruce Pannier



UKRAINE MAY RESTART A CHORNOBYL REACTOR.
Ukrainian nuclear authorities prepared plans to restart Chornobyl reactor No. 2, which was shut down in 1991 after a fire incident, international media reported on 14 November. Valerii Idelson, spokesman for Chornobyl, told Reuters that technical documents have been sent for approval to the Ukrainian government. Chornobyl reactors 1 and 3 still function and contribute 5% of Ukraine's electricity. Ukraine promised to close reactor No. 1 on 30 November and to close the entire plant by 2000 in return for $3.1 billion in grants and credits from G-7 countries. Ukrainian officials say the country faces severe energy shortages and complain Western help is coming too slow. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev

PRESIDENT APPOINTS REFORMER TO HEAD STATE TV.
Kuchma has appointed Viktor Leshyk as president of the Ukrainian State TV Company, Ukrainian TV reported on 14 November. Considered a progressive, Leshyk has headed the private Gravis-TV company since he was removed nearly two years ago as program director of Ukrainian State TV in favor of more conservative management. Kuchma also appointed Valerii Mezhynsky as acting head of the State TV and Radio Committee. Both posts were held by Zinovii Kulyk, a conservative, who was recently named the country's minister of information. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT DISMISSES ELECTORAL COMMISSION CHAIRMAN.
Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 14 November signed a decree firing the chairman of the Central Electoral Commission, Viktar Ganchar, and replacing him with Lidiya Yermoshina, Reuters reported. Ganchar had infuriated Lukashenka by describing the president's 24 November referendum as "a piece of legal idiocy" and threatening not to validate the results. The parliament, the Constitutional Court, and Ganchar's commission have all said the vote should be advisory and have no legal force. But Lukashenka has decreed that it will have legal force. The last straw in the conflict between the president and Ganchar was the latter's unsuccessful attempt to speak before the Russian Duma the same day as Lukashenka. Ganchar said that he will ignore the decree and continue carrying out his duties. -- Sergei Solodovnikov

BELARUSIAN DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER RESIGNS.
Andrei Sannikau tendered his resignation on 14 November, Reuters reported. Sannikau said he disagrees with the president's policies. This is the first sign of open resistance to Lukashenka in the government since Viktar Ganchar quit as deputy prime minister last December. -- Sergei Solodovnikov

BALTIC PRIME MINISTERS SIGN DECLARATION ON MONEY LAUNDERING.
Prime Ministers Siim Kallas (Estonia), Andris Skele (Latvia), and Mindaugas Stankevicius (Lithuania) together with representatives of the European Commission, the U.N. Drug Control Program, and the Financial Action Task Force signed in Riga on 14 November a joint declaration pledging to combat money laundering in their countries, Reuters reported. The prime ministers promised to pass laws in the financial and criminal sphere that will comply with EU and international directives on money laundering. Much of the money laundering is believed to be done by criminal groups operating mainly in Russia who use the Baltic countries as offshore money centers. -- Saulius Girnius

LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT ON BORDER TALKS WITH LATVIA.
Algirdas Brazauskas on 14 November announced that negotiations with Latvia on their common sea border will practically have to begin all over again, Radio Lithuania reported. In a decree, the president on 13 November formally renounced all previous recommendations made by Lithuania dealing with the sea border question, especially the memorandum Brazauskas and Prime Minister Adolfas Slezevicius had signed last year with their Latvian counterparts in Maisiagala. He also set guidelines for negotiation, specifying that the sea border should go directly west from the northernmost point of the border on the seashore. -- Saulius Girnius

POLISH, EAST GERMAN POLICE COLLABORATED.
The
Warsaw prosecutor's office has established that the Internal Affairs Ministry concluded agreements in 1974 and 1982 with its East German counterpart that allowed each side to recruit agents in the other country, Rzeczpospolita reported on 15 November. Former Internal Affairs Minister Gen. Czeslaw Kiszczak approved the 1982 accord. The prosecutors were investigating former Prime Minister Jan Olszewski's allegations that the Stasi, the East German secret police, had acted freely in communist Poland. But the prosecutors said Kiszczak did not violate then-existing laws by allowing the Stasi to act in Poland. The prosecutors also concluded that Kiszczak acted legally when he decided in 1989 to keep the opposition under surveillance, to create fake opposition organizations, and to infiltrate the existing ones. -- Jakub Karpinski

WHITE BOOK ON MOSCOW MONEY FOR FORMER COMMUNISTS IN POLAND.
Justice Minister Leszek Kubicki ordered the publication of a "White Book" about financial links between the Soviet authorities on the one side and the Polish Communist Party (PZPR) and its successor Social Democracy of Poland (SdRP) on the other, Gazeta Wyborcza reported on 15 November. The last PZPR first secretary, Mieczyslaw Rakowski, negotiated a loan of more than $1 million with then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in December 1989; the money came to Poland in January 1990, but two weeks later the PZPR dissolved and was replaced by the SdRP. According to Wprost, former PZPR political bureau member Leszek Miller and Rakowski partially repaid the debt in the apartment of Vladimir Alganov, a KGB officer who had contacts with former Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy. Copies of the "White Book" will be distributed to the media. -- Jakub Karpinski

POLISH SENATE ON 1997 TAX RATES.
The Senate has approved the governing Democratic Left Alliance (SLD)'s version of the 1997 income tax rates, set at 20%, 32%, and 44%, Polish media reported on 15 November. The move is expected to end the three-week controversy over taxes. The opposition Freedom Union backed the SLD against the Polish Peasant Party (PSL), junior coalition partner of the SLD, which supported four rates ranging from 18% to 44%. The Sejm on 24 October approved the opposition Labor Union's proposal of four rates ranging from 17% to 45%. After the Sejm vote, President Aleksander Kwasniewski had agreed with the government that introducing the four rates would be economically irresponsible and said that he would veto the Sejm version. The government welcomed the Senate decision. -- Beata Pasek

CZECH SENATE ELECTIONS BEGIN.
The first-ever elections to the upper chamber of the Czech parliament take place on 15 and 16 November. A total of 569 candidates will compete in 81 single-mandate districts for the 81 Senate seats, Czech media reported. Candidates who win over 50% of the vote in the first round will gain seats without having to face a run-off; a second round, in which the two most successful candidates from the first round will face each other, will take place in one week. Candidates must be older than 40; the average age is 54. Only 59 candidates are women. The importance of the Senate elections increased dramatically after the June elections to the lower chamber resulted in a stalemate. A resounding victory for either Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party or the opposition Social Democrats is seen as a way of breaking the deadlock. -- Jiri Pehe

ANTI-GOVERNMENT RALLY IN BRATISLAVA.
All opposition parties except the Party of the Democratic Left joined with the forum Save Culture in a rally to commemorate the seventh anniversary of the "velvet revolution," international media reported on 15 November. About 20,000 Slovaks, with their jangling keys reminiscent of November 1989, chanted "Down with Meciar" and "Resign," TASR reported. Slovak President Michal Kovac sent a supportive letter to the rally, saying, "It is sad that after seven years, the citizens of this country again have to raise their voices to call for justice and human rights." -- Anna Siskova

FORMER SOVIET AGENT ALLEGES WEST TRAINED HUNGARY'S 1956 INSURGENTS.
Vladislav Voronov, a veteran of the Russian state security authorities, says Western secret services played a major role in preparing and igniting the 1956 Hungarian uprising, Magyar Hirlap reported on 15 November, quoting an article in the Moscow daily Nezavisimaya gazeta. Voronov says that British intelligence trained fighters in the British occupation zone in Austria from 1954 onward. He estimates that nearly 10,000 people were trained to use guns and engage in street fighting. He says that U.S. intelligence was also involved in the project and that weapons were transported to Hungary before October 1956 from British and American arsenals in Austria. Finally, Voronov claims that several Western organizations applied similar methods in the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and early 1990s. -- Zsofia Szilagyi




ANOTHER HIGH-PROFILE MEETING ABOUT BOSNIA.
Representatives of the five-member international Contact Group met in Paris on 14 November with the Bosnian presidency members, the BBC and Reuters reported. The three presidency members agreed on a 13-point, two-year stabilization program that stresses the right of refugees to go home, the need for democratization, the central role of joint institutions, and the importance of cooperating with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal. U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher threatened sanctions against those who do not comply. The Paris meeting is but the latest in a series of gatherings since early in the wars of the Yugoslav succession in which international diplomats meet with regional politicians in a West European venue. The former Yugoslavs reaffirm promises they have made and broken before, and then they go home and do as they please. -- Patrick Moore

IFOR ROUNDS UP WEAPONS IN NORTHEAST BOSNIA.
U.S. IFOR troops on 14 November confiscated six truckloads of arms from the Bosnian army's 254th Brigade in the Celic-Koraj area. Russian IFOR troops took a smaller quantity of weapons from the nearby Serbian police. The worst fighting in Bosnia since the Dayton agreement was signed took place there earlier in the week when Muslim refugees tried to go back to their homes on Serb-held territory in keeping with the peace treaty. NATO blamed both sides but charged that the Muslims staged a deliberate provocation with the help of the Sarajevo authorities and the local military. The weapons seizure is aimed at preventing the refugees from rearming and at discouraging the army from organizing similar ventures with other refugees, VOA noted. Muslims tried to block the trucks and, as in previous days, subjected the U.S. personnel to "considerable abuse." The Bosnian army then charged IFOR with staging provocations against it and against its commander, Gen. Rasim Delic, Oslobodjenje reported on 15 November. -- Patrick Moore

U.S. TO COMMIT TROOPS TO BOSNIA FORCE?
NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said on 14 November that the U.S. has signaled it will commit troops to a follow-on force in Bosnia, AFP reported. Solana, who met a day earlier with U.S. Vice President Al Gore, said he expected President Bill Clinton to make a decision very soon. The total force is envisaged as 20,000-30,000 and will replace the existing force when its mandate ends in December. Solana said the U.S. contingent would number about 7,500, while the proportions of troops of other countries would remain almost the same. At least 12 of NATO's 16 members support such a decision, according to Solana, who said he wants to convene a meeting of the NATO council on 18 November to make a formal decision. -- Daria Sito Sucic

STANDOFF CONTINUES OVER SACKING OF GEN. MLADIC.
Bosnian Serb television ran a commentary on 14 November indirectly attacking cashiered Gen. Ratko Mladic and his loyalists for the first time, AFP reported. The broadcast stressed the importance of civilian control over the military and noted that Mladic had resisted the civilian authorities since 1993 and often communicated with them only through statements and the media. Mladic's backers, for their part, told the Belgrade daily Blic that their dismissals had been purely political. Gen. Manojlo Milovanovic urged the civilian authorities "to agree to a solution with us and avoid the spilling of Serbian blood." -- Patrick Moore

CROATIAN PARLIAMENT MEETS WITHOUT OPPOSITION.
The Croatian parliament met on 14 November in the absence of opposition deputies, who a day earlier had announced a 30-day boycott over the parliament's vote to reject discussion on their proposal for solving the crisis of the Zagreb city council (see OMRI Daily Digest, 14 November 1996), Novi List reported the next day. Meanwhile, as a result of several weeks' negotiations, the government on 14 November signed an agreement with the Croatian Association of Unions, Vecernji List reported. The government promised no more interference in the wage policy. Salaries are set to increase from January 1997 with no restrictions from the government's side. The unions had threatened many strikes unless the government met their demands. -- Daria Sito Sucic

SERBIAN OPPOSITION PARTIES, LOCAL ELECTIONS, AND THE MEDIA.
Members of Serbia's opposition parties said they are having a nearly impossible time communicating their messages to voters ahead of the 17 November run-off municipal elections. Members of the Zajedno coalition said that state-run television flatly refuses to broadcast their political ads. Also, on 12 November the Democratic Party (DS) alleged that Serbian Information Minister Aleksandar Tijanic personally intervened and placed a ban on BK Telecom television's airing of a Zajedno ad, Beta reported. "This is another severe violation of the law and is evidence of the ... media darkness that is in force in Serbia," the DS statement charged. -- Stan Markotich

CHALLENGER LEADING IN CAMPAIGN FOR ROMANIAN PRESIDENT.
Campaigning for the second round of the presidential election due on 17 November officially ended on 14 November. The last opinion poll allowed to be published confirms challenger Emil Constantinescu's lead over incumbent President Ion Iliescu. While Constantinescu received 49% and Iliescu 34%, 17% of the voters are still undecided. The poll also showed that 65% of the population view with confidence the change in government. Meanwhile, international media noted that former tennis star Ilie Nastase, who lost two bids for public office on behalf of Iliescu's Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), said on 13 November he is quitting the PDSR and politics in general. In an open letter published in Romanian newspapers, he claimed he had been "dragged into a political quagmire." -- Zsolt Mato

REACTIONS TO THE RUSSIAN RESOLUTION ON THE DNIESTER REGION.
A Russian State Duma resolution proposing that the government declare the Dniester region a zone of special strategic interests for Russia has provoked a sharp reaction in Chisinau, Moldovan media reported on 14 November. The resolution, adopted a day earlier (see OMRI Daily Digest, 14 November), was dismissed by Moldova's Deputy Foreign Minister Vasile Sova as interference in his country's internal affairs. Parliament Deputy Chairman Dumitru Diacov said the motion may complicate relations between Chisinau and Moscow. But the Russian ambassador in Moldova, Aleksandr Papkin, expressed hopes that the document will not damage bilateral relations. For his part, Grigorii Marakutsa, chairman of the Dniester Supreme Soviet, welcomed the resolution. -- Dan Ionescu

REFORMERS THREATEN TO LEAVE BULGARIAN SOCIALIST PARTY.
Andrey Raychev, a leading member of the Alliance for a Social Democracy (OSD) within the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), on 14 November said the reformist wing may split from the BSP if no "decisive steps toward social-democratization" are taken at the upcoming BSP congress on 21-22 December, Bulgarian media reported. "We may look for ways to structure the Left outside the BSP," he said. He said that OSD representatives and the leaders of the Alternative Socialist Alliance-Independents decided to establish contacts between different groups of social-democratic orientation. Meanwhile, BSP Deputy Boyan Kirov announced the formation of a "new leftist current" in the BSP as a reaction to the government's "extreme rightist politics." -- Stefan Krause

BULGARIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT INVALIDATES MEDIA LAW.
The Constitutional Court on 14 November invalidated 15 provisions of the electronic media law, RFE/RL and Demokratsiya reported. The judges declared unconstitutional the formation of an 11-seat National Radio and TV Council based on political criteria and on parliamentary representation. The provisions that the council, a state organ, approve program schemes and program content and have the right to cancel programs were also declared unconstitutional. "As I was reading that provision, I thought it was written not in 1996, but in 1956," said Judge Todor Todorov. Articles depriving the judiciary of free airtime and banning journalists from giving "subjective" commentaries were also invalidated. The law had been vetoed by President Zhelyu Zhelev in August. After the Socialist majority overruled the veto, 74 opposition deputies asked the court to invalidate 22 provisions of the law. -- Maria Koinova

ALBANIAN OPPOSITION WANTS REFERENDUM TO ELECT CONSTITUTIONAL ASSEMBLY.
The Center Pole opposition coalition and the Democratic Party of the Right proposed that a new constitution be developed by a constitutional assembly, Koha Jone reported on 15 November. When it votes for the assembly, the electorate should also decide about the form of the future state--monarchy or presidential or parliamentary republic. The Socialists supported the initiative, but it is unlikely that the governing Democrats will agree. They hold the two-thirds majority necessary to pass a constitution. In other news, the leader of the National Unity Party, Idajet Beqiri, has sent a letter to U.S. President Bill Clinton, asking Clinton to support his release from prison. Beqiri was sentenced to 15 years for crimes against humanity committed during the communist era, but he says he is a political prisoner, Gazeta Shqiptare reported on 15 November. -- Fabian Schmidt





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