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Newsline - December 5, 1996


FEDERATION COUNCIL DISCUSSES NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE IN GOVERNMENT.
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin failed to make a scheduled speech in the Federation Council on 4 December, claiming he was too sick to appear, NTV reported. When Speaker Yegor Stroev announced that Chernomyrdin was not coming, the hall exploded and Vladimir Varnavskii proposed that the Federation Council recommend that the Duma pass a vote of no-confidence in the government. Only Stroev's efforts to calm his colleagues managed to postpone the vote until 5 December. Many council members were angry that Chernomyrdin has not paid back wages and pensions or solved the non-payments crisis. This session marks the first time the upper house has challenged the government so forcefully, and may be a precursor of future disputes now that all the regional executives, who make up half of the house, will be elected rather than appointed by the president. -- Robert Orttung

GOVERNMENT LASHES OUT AT PARLIAMENT.
The government staff released an official statement late on 4 December denouncing both houses of the legislature. The statement blasted the "constant striving of some Duma members to earn cheap popularity by irresponsibly speculating on urgent and important problems." It also attacked attempts by some Federation Council members to transfer their responsibility for resolving the most serious social problems in the regions exclusively onto the federal executive branch, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Robert Orttung

YELTSIN, CHERNOMYRDIN DISCUSS OSCE SUMMIT.
Chernomyrdin met with President Boris Yeltsin at the Barvikha sanatorium outside Moscow on 4 December to discuss the Lisbon OSCE summit, Russian and Western agencies reported. Echoing a foreign ministry statement which downplayed Moscow's isolation at the summit, presidential press spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii said the two men concluded that "Moscow's position on a new European security architecture was heard in Lisbon." Yastrzhembskii said the two leaders agreed that preparations for a planned 1997 U.S.-Russian summit should begin, and that Chernomyrdin should travel to Kyiv in the near future to discuss the intractable Black Sea Fleet dispute, which Moscow insists be resolved before the signing of a bilateral friendship and cooperation treaty with Ukraine. Later that day, Yeltsin moved from the sanatorium to continue his convalescence at his nearby country residence. -- Scott Parrish

CHECHEN ELECTION COMMITTEE MEETS.
The 33 members of the Chechen Elections Committee convened for the first time on 4 December in Grozny to discuss preparations for the 27 January parliamentary and presidential elections, Radio Rossii reported. Implicitly contradicting statements made by OSCE Chechnya mission head Tim Guldimann, chairman Mumadi Saidayev said the committee is adequately financed by the interim Chechen government. To date six candidates have announced their intention to contest the presidency, although none has been formally registered as a candidate. According to Nezavisimaya gazeta of 5 December, the six are acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, interim Prime Minister Aslan Maskhadov, former presidential press spokesman (now first Deputy Prime Minister) Movladi Udugov, field commanders Shamil Basaev and Vakha Arsanov, and the chairman of the Confederation of Peoples of the Caucasus, Yusup Soslambekov. Also on 4 December, a group of unidentified armed men abducted five Russian officers and their driver in Grozny, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Liz Fuller

DUMA DENOUNCES CHECHEN TROOP WITHDRAWAL, GIVES UP IDEA OF IMPEACHMENT.
The State Duma passed a non-binding resolution on 4 December advising Yeltsin to "consider once again the expediency of a complete withdrawal of troops" from Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported. Though the resolution criticizes the Chernomyrdin - Maskhadov accord and Yeltsin's decree ordering the troop withdrawal, saying these decisions continue one-sided concessions to Chechen nationalists, it has a generally conciliatory tone. It omits earlier attempts to impeach the president and vote no-confidence in the government. The resolution orders Procurator General Yurii Skuratov to open an investigation into who started the war. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski

FEDERATION COUNCIL REJECTS LAW ON COURTS.
The parliament's upper house failed on 4 December to muster the two-thirds majority needed to pass the constitutional law "on the judicial system of the Russian Federation," Izvestiya reported the following day. At the second attempt, 132 deputies voted for the draft, two short of the number needed. The bill provides for the introduction of the institution of arbitrators to handle civil cases and some petty crimes and gives the president the right to appoint all federal judges, Rossiiskaya gazeta reported on 3 December. It was opposed by deputies from Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, and Kareliya, who argued that it reduces the role of local legislative organs in appointing judges. Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev said Russia's republics will never vote in favor of a judicial system that makes them highly dependent on Moscow. -- Penny Morvant

DUMA APPEALS TO YELTSIN ON MILITARY REFORM.
With the support of 308 deputies, the Duma passed a resolution appealing to Yeltsin to accelerate the process of military reform, ITAR-TASS reported. The resolution called the current financial crisis in the military "inadmissible," and said officers must be paid on time if they are to carry out their normal duties. The same day, however, the Duma agreed to postpone a planned presentation to the chamber on military reform by Defense Minister Igor Rodionov. Rodionov had requested the postponement, saying he could not discuss reform plans with legislators without the approval of Yeltsin. He also complained that the military could not be reformed during the current financial crisis, when it was "struggling for survival," adding, "there is no finance for the reform effort." -- Scott Parrish

YELTSIN ORDERS DELEGATION TO KUZBASS.
President Yeltsin resolved on 4 December to send a government delegation to the Kuzbass, the coal-mining area at the heart of the current miners' strike over pay arrears, ITAR-TASS reported. The delegation will be headed by First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Potanin. Prime Minister Chernomyrdin said the following day that the government sent 750 billion rubles to the miners on 2 December and will dispatch a further 450 billion. The Russian coal company Rosugol and the miners' union Rosugleprofsoyuz gave differing estimates of the number of miners taking part in the strike's second day. A Rosugol spokeswoman put the number of strikers at 61,000, while union leader Vitalii Budko said about 400,000 were taking part. -- Penny Morvant

KURGAN GOVERNOR CANCELS ELECTION RUNOFF; PROCURATOR PROTESTS.
In a special dispatch from Moscow, Kurgan Governor Anatolii Sobolev canceled the second round of gubernatorial elections set for 8 December, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 December. Sobolev was eliminated in the first round of voting after winning just over 13% in the three-way race. A runoff was set between opposition-backed Oleg Bogomolov, chairman of the oblast legislature, and businessman Anatolii Koltashev. But then Koltashev, and subsequently Sobolev, refused to participate in the race, leaving only one candidate, which is a violation of Russian law. The Central Electoral Commission informed the Kurgan authorities that they could not proceed with the election with one candidate, but the Kurgan procurator has claimed that the governor's decision to cancel the elections was illegal. In spite of the scandal, preparations for the ballot are continuing. -- Robert Orttung

RUSSIAN-IRANIAN ECONOMIC TALKS.
First Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Bolshakov met with visiting Iranian Economics and Finance Minister Morteza Mohammad-Khan in Moscow on 4 December to discuss bilateral economic ties, particularly cooperation in the oil and gas sector, ITAR-TASS reported. The Iranian minister is in Moscow for the first meeting of the Russo-Iranian economic cooperation commission since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. At the session, Minister of Foreign Trade Oleg Davydov confirmed that Russia was moving ahead with the controversial deal to complete the unfinished nuclear power station at Bushehr in Southern Iran, which the U.S. opposes, citing nuclear proliferation concerns. During his visit, Mohammad-Khan deplored the current "stagnation" in bilateral trade, which dropped from $1.4 billion in 1991 to about $200 million in 1995 and is expected to reach $350 million this year. -- Scott Parrish

TAX DEBTORS PAY UP.
The head of the Federal Bankruptcy Administration, Petr Mostovoi, told a press conference on 4 December that of 1,025 businesses threatened with bankruptcy at the start of the year, 500 have paid their tax debts and 200 others were placed in liquidation, ITAR-TASS, AFP, and Kommersant Daily reported. Tax collection in November reached 20.1 trillion rubles ($3.6 billion), 40% up on the previous month, although total federal tax debts still stand at 61 trillion rubles (of which 30 trillion date back to 1995). Mostovoi said bankruptcy proceedings had begun against seven major firms, including the Moskvich auto plant, Krasnodar oil refinery, Achinsk Aluminum Combine, and West Siberian Metal Combine. Mostovoi noted that 1,600 firms still owe more than 3 billion rubles each. His agency seems to be stepping up its activity, not least because in two weeks the IMF will reconsider the suspension of its Russian loan. -- Peter Rutland

DUMA APPROVES TAX MEASURES.
The State Duma on 4 December passed on first reading a package of tax measures requested by the government, ITAR-TASS reported. They include an alcohol excise duty of 12,000 rubles ($2.2) per liter of spirits and 700 rubles per liter of beer, a 15% tax on profits from trades in T-bills, a tax on interest income, and preservation of tax credits for manufacturers. They also approved a tax on the purchase of foreign currency, at a rate to be decided later - probably 1.5%. The government has tried to reassure the Duma that the 1997 budget will help stimulate investment and revive production. The draft budget includes planned investment spending of 28.4 trillion rubles, up from 10 trillion this year, Rossiiskaya gazeta reported on 4 December. In addition the government will issue investment guarantees for industrial bonds worth 65 trillion rubles. -- Peter Rutland

CURRENCY AND EXPORT CONTROL AGENCY REGAINS MINISTERIAL STATUS. President Yeltsin has signed a decree reinstating the ministerial status of the Federal Currency and Export Control Service (VEK), Kommersant-Daily reported on 5 December. VEK, set up in 1992, was disbanded in August 1996 and most of its functions (such as preventing illegal outflow of capital) were taken over by the Finance Ministry. The reappearance of VEK may mean tighter monitoring of export and import contracts, which has been opposed by the Justice Ministry and the IMF. -- Natalia Gurushina



ENERGY TARIFFS TO RISE IN ARMENIA.
Prime Minister Armen Sarkisyan on 4 December said the government will raise energy tariffs by 40% starting in January, Noyan Tapan reported the same day. Sarkisyan said the decision was taken in accordance with the 4 March agreement with the World Bank which made its loans to Armenia contingent on bringing energy prices closer to world ones. Armenia has undergone severe energy shortages and winter rationing since the war in Nagorno-Karabakh broke out in 1992. The crisis has been substantially alleviated by the reopening of the Medzamor nuclear plant in summer 1995. -- Emil Danielyan

HELSINKI WATCH PROTESTS TO ALIEV.
The Helsinki Watch human rights organization has sent a letter to President Heydar Aliyev protesting the handling by the Azerbaijani authorities of the criminal case against former Defense Minister Rahim Ghaziev, Turan reported on 4 December. The letter said that Gaziev was repeatedly not allowed to meet with his relatives or his lawyer, who so far has only had one meeting with his client. Gaziev was Azerbaijan's defense minister in the government of former President Abulfaz Elchibey, and fled to Russia after Aliyev came to power in June 1993. Gaziev was charged with the "surrender" of the Shusha and Lachin towns to Armenian forces in May 1992 and sentenced to death in absentia. He was extradited by Russia in April 1996 at Azerbaijan's request. -- Emil Danielyan

TAJIK FIGHTING CONTINUES, MOVES CLOSER TO CAPITAL.
An attempt by Tajik government forces to retake the city of Garm has been repelled by opposition forces who captured the city last week, Russian sources report. Opposition forces used artillery and tanks to drive back government troops. Attacks have also been reported as close as 13 kilometers from the capital Dushanbe. A Russian helicopter came under gun and grenade fire at Dushanbe airport on 4 December. -- Bruce Pannier

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH BLASTS TAJIKISTAN, KYRGYZSTAN.
In its seventh annual human rights survey, the organization Human Rights Watch notes a dramatic deterioration of democratic principles in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, RFE/RL reported on 5 December. On Kyrgyzstan, HRW pointed to government repression of the media, suspension of freedom of speech and association, the continued existence of residence permits and internal passports, and the "alarming" consolidation of power by President Askar Akayev. HRW also questioned the constitutionality of the rescheduled presidential elections of December 1995. Tajikistan, which has been criticized for the last five years for its record on human rights, was described as having its "worst year" in 1996. The report also condemned decisions by the IMF and World Bank to lend money to Tajikistan despite the country's disregard for human rights. -- Bruce Pannier

RUSSIAN STATION PULLED FROM AIR IN KAZAKSTAN.
The Kazakstani National Agency for Press and Mass Media decided to stop airing the Russian Television (RTR) station, according to 4 December reports from ITAR-TASS and Radio Mayak. The reason given was lack of funding. The Russian Public Television station (ORT) will continue to have its programing shown in Kazakstan. -- Bruce Pannier



UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT LAMBASTS GOVERNMENT OVER PROPOSALS TO CURTAIL SOCIAL BENEFITS.
Following a meeting with President Leonid Kuchma late last night, the government has decided to withdraw its proposals to cut benefits for World War II invalids and to increase the retirement age beginning in 1997, Ukrainian TV and ITAR-TASS reported on 5 December. Kuchma sharply criticized Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko and his government for "inefficiency" and "lack of responsibility." He told the government "to stop once and for all any attempts to infringe on people's basic rights." Meanwhile, a group of prominent international academics have nominated Kuchma for the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, international agencies reported on 4 December. Kuchma is credited with diffusing ethnic tensions in Crimea, giving up Ukraine's nuclear weapons, improving relations with Moscow, and pushing through market reforms. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev

NUCLEAR REACTOR SHUT DOWN IN SOUTHERN UKRAINE.
Reactor No. 2 at the Yuzhnoukrainska nuclear plant has been switched off owing to a short circuit, Ukrainian and international agencies reported on 4 December. Ukrainian nuclear experts reported no radiation emissions. The plant, located in Mykolaiv Oblast, some 280 km south of Kyiv, has already been shut down three times this year because of other problems. A reactor at Ukraine's Zaporizhya plant--the largest nuclear facility in Europe--was also shut down recently owing to a fault. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev

BELARUS'S ACTING PRIME MINISTER IN CHINA.
A delegation headed by Syarhey Linh arrived in Beijing on 4 December, Belarusian Radio reported. Linh was accompanied by the ministers of foreign economic relations, industry, education, and science, as well as other officials and prominent Belarusian businessmen. The delegation will sign several trade agreements and study Chinese experience in creating free economic zones. Such a zone is intended to be created in the western Brest region of Belarus. Linh is due to meet today with his Chinese counterpart, Li Peng. -- Sergei Solodovnikov

NORDIC COUNTRIES AGREE TO TAKE ASIAN REFUGEES DETAINED IN LATVIA.
The Swedish, Danish, Finnish, and Norwegian ministers responsible for immigration, meeting near Helsinki on 4 December, agreed to take 108 of the 130 Asian refugees being held in the Olaine internment camp in Latvia, Western agencies reported. The case of the remaining 22 refugees is to be reviewed. Extensive media coverage was devoted to the refugees in April 1995, when they were shuttled between Latvia, Lithuania, and Russia for 16 days on what was dubbed the "train of despair." The ministers expect Latvia to adopt and implement refugee legislation in accordance with the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees. Two days earlier, Latvia and Finland had signed an agreement on the readmission of illegal immigrants. -- Saulius Girnius

LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT APPROVES NEW GOVERNMENT.
Algirdas Brazauskas on 4 December signed a decree approving the 17-member cabinet of Prime Minister-designate Gediminas Vagnorius, Radio Lithuania reported. The Homeland Union has 11 ministers, the Christian Democratic Party three, the Center Union two, and the Confederation of Industrialists one. Vagnorius will present his government program to the parliament today, but legislators are not expected to approve it until next week. -- Saulius Girnius

UPDATE ON MISSING FILES PROBE IN POLAND.
Warsaw prosecutors investigating allegations about secret files missing from the State Security Bureau (UOP) archives (see OMRI Daily Digest, 3 December 1996) have said that former Internal Affairs Minister Andrzej Milczanowski and former UOP chief Gen. Gromoslaw Czempinski may be asked to testify as witnesses,
Rzeczpospolita reported on 5 December. The daily speculates that the probe may focus on Milczanowski and Czempinski rather than former President Lech Walesa. Walesa had received his personal files from the UOP, but when he returned them, some files were missing. Among the missing documents were allegedly a written statement by Walesa vowing to keep quiet about conversations he had with the communist secret police and receipts for money he had received. Milczanowski and Czempinski are suspected of having delivered the documents to Walesa. Meanwhile, President Aleksander Kwasniewski met with his French counterpart Jacques Chirac in Paris on 4 December. Chirac assured Kwasniewski that France will support Poland's speedy admission into the EU and NATO. -- Jakub Karpinski

CZECH PRESIDENT DOING WELL AFTER SURGERY.
Ladislav Spacek, spokesman for Czech President Vaclav Havel, has told journalists that the president is recuperating "nicely" after surgery to remove half of his lung earlier this week. Havel had been diagnosed as suffering from a malignant tumor. Spacek said there were no signs of complications and that the patient's condition is "very good." Doctors say the cancer has been caught at an early stage and that the prognosis for Havel is positive. -- Jiri Pehe

LOW SUPPORT FOR NATO MEMBERSHIP AMONG CZECHS.
A poll conducted by the Institute for Public Opinion Research suggests that only 38% of Czechs are in favor of their country joining NATO, Czech media reported on 4 December. Some 35% were opposed, while 27% were undecided. A further 33% saw NATO membership as a security guarantee, while 40% considered the main disadvantage to be the expected higher costs for the Czech army. Czech politicians disagree over whether there should be a national referendum on NATO membership. The three coalition parties are all against such a referendum, while the opposition Social Democrats support joining NATO but insist on a plebiscite. Two minor opposition parties, the Communists and the extreme-right Republicans, strongly oppose NATO membership. -- Jiri Pehe

SUDETEN GERMANS CRITICIZE CZECH-GERMAN DECLARATION.
Franz Neubauer, chairman of the Sudeten German community, told German Radio on 4 December that he was disappointed with the Bonn government's behavior in negotiating a joint Czech-German declaration. The declaration is designed to deal with past mutual grievances, including the expulsion of some 3 million Sudeten Germans from Czechoslovakia after World War II. German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel are to meet today with representatives of Sudeten Germans. "The [Bonn] coalition didn't think it necessary to inform the Sudeten Germans of the exact wording [of the declaration]," Neubauer said. "It makes little sense to discuss the wishes of the expellees if everything is already fixed. The decisions are once again being taken over the heads of those concerned." -- Jiri Pehe

SLOVAK DISSIDENT DEPUTY STRIPPED OF MANDATE.
The parliament on 4 December voted to remove the mandate of deputy Frantisek Gaulieder, who quit the ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) last month, Slovak media reported. Gaulieder, a founding member of the HZDS, had accused the party of failing to keep its pre-election promises and of passing unconstitutional legislation. Opposition Christian Democratic Movement Chairman Jan Carnogursky warned that "Slovakia is reaching the level of Belarus and Serbia." He added that the move sets "a dangerous precedent" that will negatively influence Slovakia's ties with the West. The vote took place after parliamentary chairman Ivan Gasparovic had received a letter in which Gaulieder allegedly said he wanted to give up his mandate. Gaulieder claims that the letter was forged and insists that he did not write it. He has promised to take the case to court and to international institutions. -- Sharon Fisher

SLOVAK PRIVATE TV CHALKS UP SUCCESS.
The Slovak private TV station Markiza has strengthened its influence and position on the media market, TASR reported on 5 December. Markiza began broadcasting three months ago and was able to secure a large number of viewers immediately. According to data released by the VISIO TV institute, Markiza's viewership exceeds 40% of the total population. Only 21.2% of viewers reportedly watch the state-run Slovak TV 1. In those areas where it broadcasts, Markiza has 48.3% viewership, while Slovak TV 1 has only 16.8%. Czech TV Nova also has a large share of Slovak viewers. -- Anna Siskova

DEATH THREATS ACCOMPANY INVESTIGATION INTO HUNGARIAN PRIVATIZATION SCANDAL.
Tamas Deutsch, a member of the opposition Young Democrats and chairman of the parliamentary commission investigating the recent privatization scandal, said he and his family have received death threats, Hungarian dailies reported on 5 December. In a related development, Marta Tocsik--the lawyer at the center of the scandal, who earlier this year received a record-high consultancy fee under an illegal contract with the State Privatization Agency--has been sent a two-page handwritten death threat from the self-proclaimed "Justice-Delivering Death Brigade." Tocsik's defense attorney has also received death threats. -- Zsofia Szilagyi




SERBIAN PROTESTS CONTINUE TO GROW . . .
With mass demonstrations in Belgrade well into their third consecutive week, local media report that the largest number of people so far took to the streets on 4 December. Nasa Borba estimates that 150,000 people gathered in the capital city, while other estimates put the number at more than 200,000. Students held a peaceful demonstration outside the presidential residence to demand that the state-run media give coverage to the protest actions. At a mass rally downtown, student protesters demanded that independent media be allowed to cover the demonstrations. They distributed pamphlets saying that "Enough is enough: You have closed [Radios] B-92 and Index, shameless in your arrogance, but in fact you are afraid that you won't be able to steal any more or send other peoples' children to war." -- Stan Markotich

...WHILE MILOSEVIC TAKES SOME MEASURES.
In what may be a move to appease the demonstrators, Milosevic has fired the hard-line head of the Socialist Party of Serbia branch in Nis, state radio and TV reported on 4 December. Beta and Nasa Borba reported that Milosevic intends to sack other officials, including the Serbian Information Minister Aleksandar Tijanic, following the closure of independent Radio B 92. According to some reports, Tijanic has already resigned. There are also reports that the government has closed down another independent radio station--BOOM 93, based in Milosevic's hometown of Pozarevac. Meanwhile, CNN on 4 December reported that police are arresting protesters, at least in Belgrade, and sentencing them to 25 days in prison. Finally, 90 Serbian justices are formally protesting the nullification of the results of 17 November elections. -- Stan Markotich

LONDON CONFERENCE ON BOSNIA OPENS . . .
The latest international gathering to assess implementation of the Dayton peace agreement began in London on 4 December. Speakers made the usual admonitions to the former Yugoslavs to keep their promises, and they stressed that more attention must be paid to enabling refugees to go home and to catching war criminals, international media noted. But enforcement of these provisions in 1996 has been lax to say the least, and it is difficult to see how matters can improve next year with a much smaller peacekeeping force present. Some speakers reminded the former Yugoslavs that donations of reconstruction aid will be contingent on good behavior, but so far this carrot has failed to produce the desired results. -- Patrick Moore

. . . BUT DELEGATES THINK MAINLY OF SERBIA.
Most attention at the 4 December meeting seemed to be directed toward the dramatic events in Belgrade rather than Bosnia, with speakers warning the Serbian government not to use force. U.S. envoy John Kornblum went further, saying that Serbia's "internal structure and its internal order [are] unacceptable to us." The international community's High Representative Carl Bildt noted that "peace can never be stable in Bosnia if we don't have stability throughout the region. That stability can never be built on repression." NATO's Secretary General Javier Solana, who comes from Spain, said his message for Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic was "Adios, amigo," international media reported. -- Patrick Moore

FAILURE TO ACCOUNT FOR MISSING PERSONS THREATENS BOSNIAN PEACE.
Cornelio Sommaruga, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), has said there can be no real peace in Bosnia until the fate of the 16,000 missing people can be established, AFP reported on 5 December. Sommaruga said some 13,000 of the missing are known to have been in the hands of the Bosnian Serbs, including the 8,000 who disappeared from the Muslim enclave of Srebrenica, which was taken by the Serbs last year. Another 1,500 people are thought to have been held by Muslims and 1,000 by Croats. Sommaruga said the ICRC, which under the Dayton peace accords has a mandate to reunite families, has faced "aggression" and harassment while seeking to track down the missing people. In other news, a group of 24 Bosnian refugees expelled by Germany on 4 December have returned to Bosnia, AFP reported. Thirteen were immediately detained by the police in Sarajevo on criminal charges. -- Daria Sito Sucic

DEMONSTRATION IN VUKOVAR AFTER TUDJMAN'S VISIT.
Angry Serbian demonstrators on 4 December forced UN spokesman for eastern Slavonia Philip Arnold and a group of Croatian journalists to cut short their visit to Vukovar, international and local media reported. The incident occurred one day after Croatian President Franjo Tudjman visited the town, which is located in the last Serb-held enclave in Croatia (see OMRI Daily Digest, 4 December 1996). Arnold said some 150-200 Serbs gathered in front of the town's cultural center to protest Tudjman's visit. They prevented Arnold and the Croatian journalists from entering the building. Meanwhile, the Croatian rail unions on 4 December announced that passenger traffic will resume but not commercial traffic, Vecernji List reported the next day. Union head Zlatko Pavletic said the decision was made to help ordinary citizens, but he added that the strike will continue. -- Daria Sito Sucic

NEW MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT URGES WITHDRAWAL OF RUSSIAN TROOPS.
Petru Lucinschi on 4 December called for the speedy withdrawal of all Russian troops from Moldova, Interfax and international news agencies reported. He urged the Russian side to respect the deadlines set in the October 1994 bilateral accord. That document, however, has not yet been ratified by the Russian State Duma. Lucinschi, who was a high-ranking official during the Soviet era, said he would insist that a Russian-Moldovan basic treaty be signed as soon as possible. Meanwhile, outgoing President Mircea Snegur, speaking at the OSCE summit in Lisbon, also called for the Russian troops to pull out of eastern Moldova. The 6,500-strong contingent in the breakaway Dniester region is the last Russian military unit to be based on foreign territory against the host country's will. -- Zsolt Mato

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT RATIFIES TREATY WITH UKRAINE.
The parliament on 3 December ratified a friendship and cooperation treaty with Ukraine, Infotag reported. Moldovan President Mircea Snegur and his Ukrainian counterpart, Leonid Kravchuk, signed the treaty in October 1992. The Ukrainian parliament ratified the document last month, after having insisted that border questions between the two countries be settled before ratification. According to Moldovan Deputy Foreign Minister Aurelian Danila, only a few sections of the border continue to be disputed, including areas near Basarabeasca and Giurgiulesti. -- Dan Ionescu

ONE MILLION BULGARIANS SUPPORT NATIONWIDE STRIKE.
According to strike committee data, almost 1 million people supported the nationwide one-day strike on 4 December, national media reported. The Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (KNSB) organized the strike to press for the government's resignation and to demand guarantees for the socially vulnerable throughout the winter. The other big trade union, Podkrepa, expressed only "moral support," as did some opposition forces. Meanwhile, KNSB leader Krastyo Petkov and Prime Minister Zhan Videnov met in Sofia the same day and reached some "verbal" agreements. Videnov promised compensation in the form of bonds. Trud reported that outstanding wages have been paid retroactively because of the strike. Most newspapers characterized the strike as "weak" and "sluggish." Petkov was jeered at a rally in Plovdiv, and some people in Gabrovo demanded his resignation. -- Maria Koinova

BULGARIAN ARMY FACES FINANCIAL PROBLEMS.
Defense Minister Dimitar Pavlov on 3 December acknowledged that the Bulgarian army owes suppliers some 4 billion leva ($10 million), mostly for food and uniforms, Reuters reported. Pavlov said the army cannot rely on government funds to feed the troops over the winter and has to make its own arrangements. Many army units have their own farms and are able to produce most of the meat eaten by their troops. Pavlov said the army needs at least $20 billion over the next 10 years to modernize its equipment, but he added that the state will probably be unable to provide those funds. -- Stefan Krause

ALBANIAN INDEPENDENT TRADE UNIONS THREATEN GENERAL STRIKE.
Azem Hajdari's Union of Independent Trade Unions (BSPSH) has given the government an ultimatum to meet nine demands or face a general strike, Koha Jone reported on 5 December. Among the demands are the introduction of cost of living allowances, the doubling of wages, the definition of a minimum wage, the passage of new legislation improving the social security of workers, and the implementation of measures to fight corruption within the trade unions. The BSPSH has requested a meeting with President Sali Berisha to discuss its demands and wants official recognition. The courts have so far declined to recognize Hajdari as the official leader of the BSPSH. He was elected to that post following an extraordinary congress last month. -- Fabian Schmidt




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