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Newsline - January 15, 1997


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OMRI DAILY DIGEST
No. 10, Part I, 15 January 1997

This is Part I of the Open Media Research Institute's Daily Digest. Part I is a compilation of news concerning Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia. Part II, covering Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe is distributed simultaneously as a second document. Back issues of the OMRI Daily Digest, and other information about OMRI, are available through OMRI's WWW pages: http://www.omri.cz/Index.html

RUSSIA

DUMA RESOLUTION TO REMOVE YELTSIN DRAFTED. A draft resolution calling for the removal of President Boris Yeltsin due to his poor health was drawn up by the State Duma Security Committee and submitted to the Duma's legal department for study, Russian and Western media reported on 14 January. Article 92 of the constitution stipulates that three circumstances may cause the president to leave office before his term expires: his resignation; his "persistent inability to fulfill his duties due to his state of health"; or his impeachment. However, the constitution specifies no process for determining the president's fitness or removing him on health grounds. Yeltsin's representative in parliament, Aleksandr Kotenkov, denounced the proposed Duma resolution. He claimed that Article 92 implies that the president himself would have to decide that he was unable to serve for health reasons. -- Laura Belin

YELTSIN HEALTH UPDATE. The presidential press service said Yeltsin's condition improved significantly on 14 January, allowing him to do two hours of paperwork and meet with his chief of staff, Anatolii Chubais, for about half an hour, Russian and Western media reported. Spokesmen said Yeltsin's temperature remains normal and he has only "sporadic wheeziness" in his lungs, but there was still no word on when the president might leave the Central Clinical Hospital. -- Laura Belin

CHECHEN DEVELOPMENTS. Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin announced on 14 January that preliminary agreement had been reached to allow refugees from Chechnya to vote in the presidential elections in Moscow, Rostov-on-Don, Volgograd, and Stavropol, ORT reported. Council spokesman Igor Ignatiev told AFP on 15 January that Chechen leaders have agreed to make arrangements to allow some refugees living in neighboring Dagestan and Ingushetiya to vote near their place of residence. Earlier, Chechen election officials had said that refugees, variously estimated at 230-350,000, would have to cross back into Chechnya to vote (see OMRI Daily Digest , 9 January 1997). There was no confirmation of the new policy from the Chechen side. The refugees are thought likely to vote for Aslan Maskhadov, who negotiated the end of the war. -- Peter Rutland

LEBED IN GERMANY. Former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed began a five-day private visit to Germany on 14 January at the invitation of the German-Russian Forum and the German Society for Foreign Policy, Russian and Western media reported. Commenting on NATO enlargement, Lebed said he expects the alliance to admit four new members: Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovenia, despite Moscow's objections. He argued that this "first wave" of expansion would be the last, as afterwards "internal tensions" would wrack the alliance. Lebed emphasized that he still opposed NATO enlargement, but said Russia needed to intensify contacts with the alliance to "build mutual trust," and hammer out arrangements for a new European security system. NTV reported that Lebed plans to travel to Washington to attend U.S. President Bill Clinton's 20 January inauguration. -- Scott Parrish

ZYUGANOV PANS TIMING OF YELTSIN'S BELARUS INITIATIVE. Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov on 14 January attacked Yeltsin's latest proposal to accelerate integration with Belarus as "political intrigue," the BBC reported. Zyuganov said he did not oppose union with Belarus in principle, but argued "destroyers cannot unite," referring to the communist view that holds Yeltsin responsible for the collapse of the USSR. Former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed termed Yeltsin's initiative a "political trick," designed to "divert Russian society's attention away from vital internal state problems." Meanwhile, presidential foreign policy aide Dmitrii Ryurikov denied media reports that Yeltsin's move was designed to counter NATO enlargement. He told ITAR-TASS that Russo-Belarusian unification would not threaten NATO, and pointedly noted that Moscow would respond to Western questions on the issue "just as NATO answers our claims: this is not directed against you." -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA DENOUNCES ALLEGED LETTER ON UKRAINIAN POLICY. Russian officials on 14 January angrily denounced as a "forgery" a document which the Kyiv paper Vseukrainskie vedomosti published the previous day, Russian and Western media reported (see related story in Ukrainian section). The paper claimed the document is an October 1996 letter from Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Krylov to presidential foreign policy aide Dmitrii Ryurikov, in which Kylov allegedly termed Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma's foreign policy "anti-Russian and destructive," and called for steps to engineer his ouster. Krylov said such a letter "did not and could not exist," adding that "Ukraine is a state friendly to Russia." The Russian Foreign Ministry termed the publication "a provocative falsification," blasted it as "Goebbels-like propaganda," and requested that Ukrainian authorities investigate the incident. (See related item in CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE section) -- Scott Parrish

1996 LIVING STANDARDS REVIEWED. The real income of Russian citizens remained stable in 1996 in contrast to the downturn in 1995, Vyacheslav Bobkov, the director of the All-Russian Center for Living Standards, told ITAR-TASS on 14 January. The share of total income accounted for by wages grew slightly, reversing the trend in evidence in previous years. Bobkov also noted a 15% decline in the share of the population living below the poverty line but added that the income of 11% of the population was too low even to purchase the food component of the subsistence minimum. Income differentials stabilized: the income of the richest 10% of the population is now 13 times higher than that of the poorest 10%, down from a ratio of 13.5 in 1995. All income data must be treated with caution because of underreporting to avoid taxes and delays in the payment of wages and benefits. -- Penny Morvant

FNPR PLANS NEW PROTEST. Mikhail Shmakov, head of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions (FNPR), has instructed the organization's regional branches to begin preparations for a possible one-day strike on 27 March to protest wage arrears, Russian Television (RTR) reported on 14 January. The FNPR, an umbrella body including 46 sectoral unions and 79 regional associations, regularly organizes national protests--the most recent on 5 November. Participation varies greatly from region to region, with many work collectives declaring solidarity with union demands but failing to take part in strikes and pickets. According to ITAR-TASS, the FNPR's new statutes, adopted at its third congress on 6 December, require member organizations to take part in collective actions. It remains to be seen whether this change will succeed in making the FNPR more cohesive and its protests more effective. -- Penny Morvant

NO MONEY TO PAY TAX COLLECTORS. The State Tax Service (GNS) is still owed 1.9 trillion rubles ($340 million) from the 1996 federal budget, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 14 January, citing GNS Deputy Chairman Vladimir Yevstigneev. Yevstigneev added that a decree issued by President Yeltsin last May raising wages for GNS employees by 30% has not been implemented. Many other such promises made by Yeltsin in the run-up to the presidential elections have also been ignored. The mounting debt to tax officials--upon whose efforts the current drive to improve tax collection relies--is provoking labor disputes. One tax department in Yaroslavl Oblast, for example, has resolved to go on strike until its demands are met. -- Penny Morvant

VOLSKII LOBBIES FOR SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH. Arkadii Volskii, chairman of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, called on the government to allot 4% of the federal budget to scientific research - as they are obliged to under a July 1996 law. Writing in Rossiiskaya gazeta on 15 January, Volskii noted that the 1997 budget allots just 2.67% to research. He argued that since 1991 research institutes have lost 40-70% of their personnel, and have seen their funding fall 15-fold. He noted that Russia is still living off the heritage of Soviet science: current fighter export orders, for example, are for a model which was designed in 1987. Volskii also called for tax breaks for institutes and universities, and for them to be granted a share of export earnings from high-tech exports. -- Peter Rutland

RUSSIA'S FOREIGN TRADE IN 1996. According to preliminary estimates, Russia's foreign trade in 1996 reached $133.1 billion, 5% up on 1995, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 14 January, citing Foreign Economics Relations Minister Oleg Davydov. Exports (45% of which were energy resources) went up by 8% to $86.5 billion. Machinery exports increased by 10%. Imports declined by 0.1% to $46.6 billion. Trade with CIS countries increased by 10%, and with the rest of the world by 4%. CIS countries accounted for 18% of Russia's exports and 32% of imports. Davydov said that the average import tariff in Russia was 14-15%. It will be cut by one-fifth by the year 2000 and by another one-third by 2005. -- Natalia Gurushina in Moscow



To: omri-l@ubvm.cc.buffalo.edu
From: OMRI Publications <omripub@omri.cz> Subject: OMRI Daily Digest I, No. 10, 15 Jan 97 Cc:
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OMRI DAILY DIGEST
No. 10, Part I, 15 January 1997

This is Part I of the Open Media Research Institute's Daily Digest. Part I is a compilation of news concerning Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia. Part II, covering Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe is distributed simultaneously as a second document. Back issues of the OMRI Daily Digest, and other information about OMRI, are available through OMRI's WWW pages: http://www.omri.cz/Index.html

TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

ARMENIAN, GEORGIAN FOREIGN MINISTERS MEET IN YEREVAN. Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagarashvili on 14 January met with his Armenian counterpart Aleksandr Arzumanyan, ITAR-TASS and Noyan Tapan reported. The two agreed that prospective gas pipelines from Russia to Turkey running via Georgia and Armenia and from Iran to Armenia and Georgia are in their countries' interests. "We are ready to do everything for the realization of these two projects," Menagarashvili said. The ministers said they reached "complete mutual understanding" on all the issues discussed during the talks. Menagarashvili praised Armenia for its "absolute support" for Georgia's efforts to settle the Abkhaz conflict, and added that the dispute concerns all three Transcaucasian states as it hampers their communication with the outside world. Menagarashvili was also received by Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan. -- Emil Danielyan

ARMENIAN PRIME MINISTER IN U.S. During his two-week visit to the U.S., Armen Sarkisyan met with U.S. Vice President Al Gore and Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, RFE/RL reported on 13 January. According to State Department spokeswoman Ann Johnson, Talbott urged Armenian authorities to hold early parliamentary elections and discussed with Sarkisyan the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Sarkisyan assured U.S. officials and the Armenian-American community that he and President Levon Ter-Petrossyan are committed to "strengthening democracy" and economic reforms. Sarkisyan also met with World Bank President James Wolfensohn. -- Emil Danielyan

Aliyev ON "OIL WEAPON." Azerbaijani President Haidar Aliev, speaking about resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, said "the great powers which make use of our oil...can use their influence to persuade Armenia to negotiate," AFP reported on 15 January. Aliyev was speaking at the conclusion of his state visit to France. The day before, Russian media reported that French President Jacques Chirac, following talks with Aliev, emphasized the need to respect Azerbaijan's territorial integrity. This statement was interpreted to mean Aliyev had made progress in securing traditionally pro-Armenian France's support in the dispute over the break-away ethnic Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. -- Lowell Bezanis

BOYCOTT OF KAZAKSTANI MEDIA TENDER FAILS. Though some of Kazakstan's independent stations tried to organize a boycott of the tender of broadcast frequencies, 20 of 27 private and commercial radio and television stations plan to take part, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 January. Independent stations had hoped to delay the tender but when it became clear the Transport and Communications Ministry intended to hold to the 13 January deadline for proposals many independent stations chose to take part. Licenses are due to be issued on 24 January. -- Bruce Pannier

KILLERS OF AMERICAN JOURNALIST IN KAZAKSTAN CAUGHT? Law enforcement officials in Kazakstan say they have apprehended three suspects in the murder of American journalist Chris Gehring, RFE/RL reported on 15 January. Authorities say one of the suspects, a known drug addict, admits to stealing the keys to Gehring's apartment and giving them to the other suspects. A computer, believed to be Gehring's, was found in the basement of a building where one of the suspects lives. Kazakstani authorities still maintain that Gehring surprised the thieves as they were robbing his flat and then the robbers tied his hands and feet, tortured him, and cut his throat. -- Bruce Pannier and Merhat Sharipzhan

EXCHANGE OF TAJIK POWs BEGINS. In another hopeful sign that the latest ceasefire agreement will work, the Tajik opposition on 14 January released 35 government soldiers captured in fighting in central Tajikistan in late November and early December, according to RTR and Reuters. The government had freed six opposition prisoners on 11 January. Another 20 government soldiers held in Garm will be released soon, the opposition says. The Tajik government noted that, while this step is encouraging, there are possibly hundreds of government POWs being held and not all the groups holding them are allied to the United Tajik Opposition. Some may have been captive for more than one year. -- Bruce Pannier

PROSTITUTION, CORRUPTION AND CRIME IN TURKMENISTAN. A glimpse of Turkmenistan's social problems was provided by a crackdown on prostitution in Ashgabat, RFE/RL reported on 14 January. President Saparmurat Niyazov said prostitution has become a widespread problem and noted that girls as young as 12 or 13 were engaged in the vice trade. He also charged law enforcement officials with deep involvement in the business, citing a report of the Presidential Security Council, as well as involvement in the drug trade. Niyazov noted there was a 16% rise in major crimes nationwide, 19% in Ashgabat itself and 22% in Tashavus. -- Lowell Bezanis

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Steve Kettle

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Copyright (c) 1997 Open Media Research Institute, Inc.
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OMRI DAILY DIGEST
No. 10, Part II, 15 January 1997

This is Part II of the Open Media Research Institute's Daily Digest. Part II is a compilation of news concerning Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe. Part I, covering Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia, is distributed simultaneously as a second document. Back issues of the OMRI Daily Digest, and other information about OMRI, are available through OMRI's WWW pages: http://www.omri.cz/Index.html



To: omri-l@ubvm.cc.buffalo.edu
From: OMRI Publications <omripub@omri.cz> Subject: OMRI Daily Digest I, No. 10, 15 Jan 97 Cc:
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OMRI DAILY DIGEST
No. 10, Part I, 15 January 1997

This is Part I of the Open Media Research Institute's Daily Digest. Part I is a compilation of news concerning Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia. Part II, covering Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe is distributed simultaneously as a second document. Back issues of the OMRI Daily Digest, and other information about OMRI, are available through OMRI's WWW pages: http://www.omri.cz/Index.html

CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE

UKRAINIAN NEWSPAPER PUBLISHES CONTROVERSIAL LETTER FROM RUSSIAN OFFICIAL. Vseukrainskiye vedomosti on 14 January published an allegedly top-secret letter from Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergii Krylov to Russian presidential foreign-policy advisor Dmitrii Ryurikov calling for measures to be taken against Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma in retaliation for his anti-Russian policies, international agencies reported. The letter, dated 30 October 1996, condemned Kuchma for his rejection of CIS integration and his unwillingness to discuss preserving a single Black Sea Fleet and the status of Sevastopol. It called for neutralizing Kuchma by discrediting him so that he would be impeached. Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Volodymyr Khandohy announced that if the letter is genuine, it does not correspond to civilized norms "even in such a peculiar field as diplomacy." He added that Ukraine will seek an official explanation from Russia over the letter. Meanwhile, Russia has said the letter is a hoax and has called on Ukraine to launch an investigation. (See related item in Russia section) -- Ustina Markus

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT VETOES DRAFT LAW ON COVERAGE OF PARLIAMENTARY DEBATES. Leonid Kuchma has vetoed the draft law regulating media coverage of the parliament's activities, Infobank reported on 13 January. He said the law contravenes the constitution and gives an unfair advantage to the legislative branch vis-à-vis the executive and the judiciary. He also pointed to the high costs of live TV and radio coverage at the parliament. Kuchma proposed that a law be drafted on mass media coverage of all branches of power. In other news, the Crimean parliament has convened for its first session since the Christmas holidays, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 January. Top on its agenda is adopting a new constitution. The constitutional commission says that the controversial articles that prompted the Ukrainian parliament to reject the constitution last year have been brought into line with Ukraine's basic law. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev

BELARUSIAN BANK CHIEF DISMISSED, ARRESTED. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has issued a decree dismissing National Bank of Belarus Chair Tamara Vinnikau, international agencies reported on 14 January. Immediately after her dismissal, she was arrested for causing "damage to the state of major proportions." Lukashenka appointed Vinnikau to that post last February, ignoring objections raised by the then parliament. At that time, she was considered an unwavering supporter of the president's economic policies. Later, she was critical of several of his initiatives. Presidential opponents charged that she had poor administrative skills. The same day, Paval Dik resigned as finance minister. He was replaced by Mykola Rumas. -- Ustina Markus

BELARUSIAN REACTIONS TO YELTSIN'S REFERENDUM PROPOSAL. Belarusian Foreign Minister Ivan Antonovich played down Russian President Boris Yeltsin's proposal to hold a referendum on uniting Russia and Belarus, an RFE/RL correspondent reported on 14 January. Antonovich said the proposal was "merely a working document." He also dismissed speculation that it was put forward to counter future NATO expansion. The same day, several dozen protesters took to Minsk's streets to protest Yeltsin's initiative. -- Ustina Markus

ESTONIA, NORWAY SIGN READMISSION AGREEMENT. Norwegian and Estonian Foreign Minister Bjorn Tore Godal and Toomas Hendrik Ilves, meeting in Tallinn on 14 January, signed an agreement providing for the return of illegal immigrants, BNS reported. Godel said both that measure and Estonia's ratification of the Geneva convention on refugees were needed to establishing visa-free travel between the two countries. During his one-day visit Godal also met with President Lennart Meri, Prime Minister Tiit Vahi, and parliamentary chairman Toomas Savi. -- Saulius Girnius

CONTROVERSY OVER DEATH PENALTY IN LITHUANIA. Interior Minister Vidmantas Ziemelis on 14 January commented that the reintroduction of the death penalty was necessary to stem the growth of crime in Lithuania, Radio Lithuania reported. The previous day, he had urged President Algirdas Brazauskas to lift the moratorium on death sentences. Brazauskas, however, noted that capital punishment has not been legally suspended. He explained that in July, he submitted to the parliament a draft law imposing a moratorium on the death penalty but legislators have not discussed it. He stressed that it is the parliament--not the president-- that has the power to suspend the death penalty. Since July, there has been an "informal suspension" because the presidential amnesty commission has not received the appeals for clemency from convicts condemned to death, he explained. -- Saulius Girnius

POLISH PRIME MINISTER IN ISRAEL. Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, at the start of his three-day visit to Israel from 14-16 January, met with his Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu, international agencies reported. Cimoszewicz said later that the two countries are working on several agreements that might lead to a free-trade accord. But he reported that there were still differences over Poland's demand that Israel lift the current visa requirement for Poles, noting that his country had last week nullified the "unfair and immoral agreements" reached by Poland and Switzerland after World War II. He added that he and Netanyahu had agreed on an exchange program involving 500 Polish and 500 Israeli schoolchildren. Cimoszewicz is accompanied by Polish Defense Minister Stanislaw Dobrzanski and a large delegation of government officials and businessmen. -- Jakub Karpinski

UZBEK PRESIDENT IN PRAGUE. Islam Karimov, in Prague on a three-day official visit, met with Czech Foreign Minister Josef Zieleniec, Czech media reported. Karimov is to hold talks today with Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus, President Vaclav Havel, and Senate Chairman Petr Pithart. Among the issues to be discussed are several bilateral agreements, including on double taxation and combating organized crime. Karimov is also scheduled to meet with Czech entrepreneurs. -- Jiri Pehe

SLOVAK POLITICAL UPDATE. The Slovak government has approved a proposal that a public debate take place over Slovakia's possible membership in NATO, Slovak news agencies reported on 14 January. An information campaign is to be run on nationwide TV and radio as well as in the press. While the official goverment position is to support joining the alliance, the Slovak National Party--the junior coalition partner--has come out in favor of neutrality. Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar has said a referendum on the issue will probably be held in May. Meanwhile, it is reported that, in the petition drive organized by the opposition, some 35,000 signatures have been collected so far in support of holding a referendum on direct presidential elections. A total of 350,000 signatures are needed for such a plebiscite. Deputy Premier Katarina Tothova said the petition drive was a "desperate attempt" to ensure that President Michal Kovac retains his post. -- Anna Siskova

REPORTS CONFIRM HUNGARIAN SOCIALISTS' INVOLVEMENT IN OILGATE. Recent reports on the 1996 Oilgate and privatization scandals have confirmed that several Socialist party members and Socialist-run government offices were involved in corruption, Hungarian dailies reported on 15 January. A parliamentary investigative committee's report on the Oilgate affair says that 80% of the contracts related to Russia's repayment of its $900 million state debt to Hungary were signed by Socialist- affiliated individuals, Magyar Nemzet reported on 15 January. The report blames the Finance Ministry for leaking sensitive information and not calling an open tender. Meanwhile, in its final report on last year's privatization scandal, the supervisory committee of the State Privatization and Holding Company (APV) says that among those responsible are former Privatization Minister Tamas Suchman, APV's top management, and APV's senior legal counsel--most of whom were appointees of the Socialist-dominated government. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

HUNGARIAN OPPOSITION PARTY URGES NO OUT-OF-COURT SETTLEMENT IN GABCIKOVO DAM DISPUTE. The opposition Young Democrats have called on the cabinet not to seek an out-of-court settlement with Slovakia over the Gabcikovo hydropower plant, Hungarian media reported on 15 January. They urged instead that the government wait for the Hague-based International Court of Justice to rule on the dispute. Their appeal follows Prime Minister Gyula Horn's recent remark in support of an out-of-court settlement. The Young Democrats said that the two countries have already resolved some of their differences in behind-closed-doors negotiations. The hearings in The Hague are scheduled to begin in March. -- Zsofia Szilagyi



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From: OMRI Publications <omripub@omri.cz> Subject: OMRI Daily Digest I, No. 10, 15 Jan 97 Cc:
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OMRI DAILY DIGEST
No. 10, Part I, 15 January 1997

This is Part I of the Open Media Research Institute's Daily Digest. Part I is a compilation of news concerning Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia. Part II, covering Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe is distributed simultaneously as a second document. Back issues of the OMRI Daily Digest, and other information about OMRI, are available through OMRI's WWW pages: http://www.omri.cz/Index.html

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

SERBIAN ELECTION COMMISSIONS RECOGNIZE OPPOSITION VICTORIES. Local election commissions on 14 January recognized the opposition coalition Zajedno's wins in second round of the 17 November local elections, Nasa Borba reported. The commission authorities concluded that the coalition won in Belgrade, Nis, and 12 other municipalities. But opposition leader Vuk Draskovic said the implications of the commissions' ruling was unclear, stressing there were no guarantees that the ruling Socialists and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic would honor it. The Socialists have 48 hours in which to challenge to the ruling. They have already hinted that they may not do so. Meanwhile, Milosevic seems to have responded to the ruling by purging high-ranking party members who held unequivocal points of view on the municipal returns. Belgrade Mayor Nebojsa Covic, who had maintained from early on that the opposition wins should be recognized, was sacked. But so were Belgrade party boss Branislav Ivkovic and his Nis counterpart, Mile Ilic, both hard-liners who had argued that under no circumstances should concessions be made to the opposition. -- Stan Markotich

CROATIAN CHIEF JUSTICE FIRED. The state judicial committee on 14 January announced it has sacked Supreme Court head Krunoslav Olujic, AFP reported. Olujic was suspended in November on charges of discrediting the court by allegedly associating with criminals and having sex with minors. Olujic claims a politically motivated smear campaign is being waged to get rid of him because he defends the independence of the judiciary. The authorities earlier tried to coax him out of office by offering him an ambassadorial post. Critics of the governing Croatian Democratic Community charge that the moves against Olujic are part of a broader effort by that party to take control of all aspects of public life. -- Patrick Moore

CROATIAN-UN UPDATE. The UN Security Council has extended the mandate for UN monitors on Croatia's Prevlaka peninsula until 15 July, news agencies reported on 14 January. Belgrade has laid claim to that territory because it offers direct access to the Bay of Kotor, where federal Yugoslavia's chief naval base is located. Meanwhile, details are emerging of Croatia's recommendations to the UN on reintegrating eastern Slavonia. Zagreb will exempt ethnic Serbs from military duty for two years, during which a long-term policy will be hammered out, Vjesnik wrote on 15 January. The government also plans to reserve two seats for Serbs in the upper house of the legislature, as well as advisory positions for Serbs in the Ministries of Internal Affairs, Justice, Education, and Culture. Voting rights will be extended to all Serbs who have obtained Croatian papers. Jacques Klein, UN administrator in Slavonia, has praised the Croatian proposals. -- Patrick Moore

ANOTHER ETHNIC ALBANIAN KILLED IN KOSOVO. Another ethnic Albanian has been shot dead in northern Kosovo--the second such incident within four days, international agencies reported on 14 January. A spokesman for the Democratic League of Kosovo claimed that the 47-year-old Fazil Hasani, who was killed near Srbica, had cooperated with the Serbian police. The Kosovo Liberation Army is believed to be behind the murder. That group took responsibility for the killings of policeman Faik Bellopoja last month and Socialist Party of Serbia member Maliq Sheholli on 9 January. It also issued a statement on 14 January saying that Sheholli's murder was a "warning to all other collaborators and national traitors." Meanwhile, Adem Demaci has resigned as head of the Kosovo Human Rights Council following his elections as leader of the Parliamentary Party, Deutsche Welle's Albanian-language service reported. -- Fabian Schmidt

DEMONSTRATIONS AT SKOPJE UNIVERSITY. Ethnic Albanian students at Skopje University staged a demonstration on 14 January calling for instruction in the Albanian-language at the pedagogic faculty, Flaka and Nova Makedonija reported. At the same time, ethnic Macedonian students demonstrated against Albanian-language instruction. A draft law providing for classes in the Albanian language was drawn up last year and is supported by University Dean Radmila Kiprijanova. Education Minister Sofija Todorova, meeting with Macedonian students on 14 January, asked them to present their concerns to the parliamentary education commission. The parliament will discuss the draft law next week. Meanwhile, special UN envoy Elisabeth Rehn, in Skopje for a two- day visit from 13-15 January, expressed concern about the "intolerance of Macedonian students" who were protesting against Albanian-language instruction at the university. -- Fabian Schmidt

ROMANIAN-UKRAINIAN NEGOTIATIONS ON BASIC TREATY. Another round of talks on the Romanian-Ukrainian basic treaty ended in Bucharest on 14 January, Romanian media reported. The negotiators agreed to resume talks in Kyiv after examining proposals submitted by each side. Before the meeting, Romanian Foreign Minister Adrian Severin said that Bucharest would propose a "compromise package" to settle unresolved issues. Romania wants the treaty to include a condemnation of the 1939 Ribbentrop- Molotov pact, which ceded Romanian territories to the then Soviet republic of Ukraine. It also wants guarantees for the 400,000-strong ethnic Romanian minority living in Ukraine. Romania appears to be under pressure to finalize the treaty before the July NATO summit, at which the first countries to join the alliance are expected to be named. Settling disputes with all neighbors is a condition for NATO integration. -- Zsolt Mato

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT FAILS ONCE AGAIN TO ELECT SPEAKER. For the third time in less than a week, the parliament has failed to elect a new speaker, Infotag reported on 14 January. The main contenders to replace Petru Lucinschi in that post are Dumitru Motpan, chairman of the ruling Agrarian Democratic Party, and Deputy Speaker Dumitru Diacov, a close associate of Lucinschi. However, the parliament has allowed Diacov to open and preside over the presidential inauguration ceremony, scheduled for today. Some deputies have warned of a parliamentary crisis if the issue is not resolved soon. Motpan, who chaired the 14 January session, said that later this week, the parliament will launch procedures to designate a new premier. He singled out Ion Cebuc, head of the State Accounting Office, as a possible candidate for that post. -- Dan Ionescu

EARLY ELECTIONS IN BULGARIA, BUT WHEN? The ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party on 14 January agreed to hold early parliamentary elections, RFE/RL reported. But it committed itself only to holding the vote by the end of this year. Following a meeting the same day, leaders of the BSP and its coalition partners--the Bulgarian Agrarian People's Union "Aleksandar Stamboliyski" and the Political Club Ekoglasnost--said the parliament should vote in a "government of professionals of international reputation." They also said they will prepare a 500-day government program. The opposition, for its part, has decided to open talks with the BSP on early elections. It demands that the parliament be dissolved by March and early elections held by May. Meanwhile, Pari cited legislators from the New Democracy party as saying that outgoing President Zhelyu Zhelev will not give the BSP a mandate to form a new government until tensions subside. -- Stefan Krause

PROTESTS CONTINUE IN SOFIA. Some 20,000-30,000 people continued to protest in Sofia on 14 January, RFE/RL and AFP reported. Students from several Sofia universities joined the demonstrations. Meanwhile, the parliament reconvened today for its first session since the violent clashes several days earlier between protesters and police (see OMRI Daily Digest, 13 January 1997). The building was heavily guarded by riot police, and only BSP deputies and some Bulgarian Business Bloc legislators attended. Union of Democratic Forces Chairman Ivan Kostov said the protests will continue until a date for early elections is set. The major trade unions have staged nationwide one-hour warning strikes today to back the opposition's demands. Meanwhile, the BBB has announced it will not support a new BSP government. BBB Chairman Georges Ganchev said his party will not seek a coalition with any party represented in the current parliament. -- Stefan Krause

ALBANIAN PYRAMID SCHEME INVESTORS CLASH WITH POLICE. Some 5,000 angry Albanians gathered in Tirana on 15 January to protest a recent National Bank directive limiting daily withdrawals by a single client to $300,000, Reuters reported. The ruling followed the collapse of a number of high-interest investment companies. Another 10 pyramid schemes have since been forced to shut down their offices. Most of the protesters had invested in a company run by a Roma woman, known only by the name of Sudja, who is accusing the government of trying to discredit her by blocking payments. The protesters apparently believe their money is being kept by the government. Hundreds of police used rubber batons against the protesters, who tried to force their way past a cordon to central Skanderbeg Square. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Jan Cleave

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Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc.
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