NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL IN MOSCOW.
Javier Solana met with Russian Foreign
Minister Yevgenii Primakov on 20 January to open talks on a proposed
NATO-Russia charter, Russian and Western agencies reported. An anonymous NATO
diplomat told AFP on 17 January that despite media reports of a "new package"
of NATO incentives to defuse Russian opposition to NATO expansion, Solana was
not bringing any new proposals to Moscow. Solana will simply make a "complete
presentation" of existing proposals for a charter, the diplomat said. Speaking
in Bonn before his departure for Moscow, Solana said he hopes a charter
establishing a "durable" and "institutionalized" relationship with Moscow can
be signed before the scheduled July NATO summit, when the alliance plans to
issue the first invitations to prospective East European members. -- Scott
MEAGER RESULTS AT CIS PRIME MINISTERS MEETING.
The 17 January session of
the CIS Heads of Government Council addressed 17 proposed economic agreements
but approved only nine of them, Russian and Western media reported. Russian
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin declared that the council had "approved" an
overall concept for CIS economic integration, but Russian CIS Affairs Minister
Aman Tuleev admitted that Uzbekistan, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan
refused to support it, and at the insistence of Ukraine, the document will be
resubmitted to a scheduled 28 January meeting of the council for discussion.
Segodnya on 18 January reported that Ukrainian Foreign Minister Hennadii
Udovenko criticized the draft concept's proposals for unified CIS trade, labor,
transport, customs, and currency systems, saying they contradict the Ukrainian
constitution. Predicting that Ukraine would not agree to sign the document, the
paper sarcastically said the session had continued the CIS tradition of "paper
creativity." -- Scott Parrish
MOSCOW POLICE TARGET FOREIGN DIPLOMATS.
In a game of diplomatic
tit-for-tat reminiscent of the Cold War, officers of the Moscow directorate of
the State Automobile Inspectorate (GAI) launched "Operation Foreigner," Russian
and Western agencies reported on 17 January. The operation, during which GAI
spokesmen said 1,000 cars with foreign plates were stopped and 200 violations
discovered, is apparently in retaliation for the 29 December traffic incident
in New York involving allegedly drunk Russian and Belarusian diplomats (see
OMRI Daily Digest, 2 and 3 January 1997). U.S. diplomats were found to
be the worst offenders during the operation, according to Segodnya on 17
January. Citing GAI sources, the paper reported that a U.S. diplomat had been
stopped on 3 November for drunk driving, but officers had been unable to arrest
him as he claimed diplomatic immunity. -- Scott Parrish
LUZHKOV REJECTS UKRAINIAN PROTESTS OVER SEVASTOPOL.
Moscow Mayor Yurii
Luzhkov has rejected Ukrainian protests over his recent visit to the Crimean
port city of Sevastopol, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 January (see related story in
CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPEan section). Luzhkov declared that "no one can stop
me, I have traveled and will travel to Sevastopol, which is a Russian city." He
rejected the possibility that Kyiv might bar him from entering Ukraine, saying
that by doing so, "Ukraine would show that it is completely undemocratic."
Citing polls saying 70% of Russians believe Sevastopol belongs to Russia,
Luzhkov said "Russia will never accept the current situation," adding that
Ukraine will ultimately be forced to begin negotiations on Sevastopol's status.
Many link Luzhkov's jingoistic posturing to his presidential ambitions and
hopes to undermine Aleksandr Lebed's support among nationalist voters. -- Scott
RUSSIA, COLOMBIA SIGN ARMS CONTRACT.
Under a contract signed on 17
January in Bogota, Colombia will purchase 10 Mi-17 transport helicopters from
the Russian state-owned Rosvooruzhenie company, ITAR-TASS reported the next
day. Although the full value of the contract was not disclosed, Colombia will
pay $42 million for the first shipment of helicopters. After an open tender,
Colombia decided last year to purchase both U.S. and Russian helicopters.
Moscow accused Washington of interfering in its negotiations with Bogota last
October, fueling a diplomatic spat over the sale. -- Scott Parrish
DIFFERENT OPINIONS ON ARMING COSSACKS.
The State Duma on 17 January
instructed its law committee to work out amendments to the law on weapons that
would allow Cossack organizations to be armed, ITAR-TASS reported. While Deputy
Security Council Secretary Boris Berezovskii has supported demands of southern
Russian Cossack leaders to be allowed to create armed units (see OMRI Daily
Digest 16 January 1996), Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov opposed the
idea on 17 January, while noting that the state "must enter and protect people"
if genocide against Russians erupts in Chechnya. Speaking to Russian Public TV
(ORT) on 18 January, Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin indicated that he
is against the arming of separate Cossack units. Instead, he suggested that
they serve in the region's regular army regiments. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski
EXPLOSION KILLS ANOTHER BUSINESSMAN.
A Moscow businessman was killed on
17 January when a remote-controlled bomb exploded as he entered his office,
Russian and Western agencies reported. The businessman, Gennadii Dzen, was
director of the Roskontraktpostavka trading company and a voluntary assistant
to ultranationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky. On 20 January the owner of
the "Dolls" strip club was shot dead in Moscow, Western media reported. On 19
January, a powerful explosion in Nalchik, the capital of Kabardino-Balkariya,
damaged the republic's Procurator's Office. ITAR-TASS, quoting the local
Interior Ministry, said the explosion was caused by a gas leak, but there is
speculation that the blast was linked to an 8 January explosion at the
republican parliament building. -- Penny Morvant
KULIKOV ON CRIME AND CORRUPTION.
Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov said
on 17 January that 29,700 murders and attempted murders were committed last
year, some 2,000 fewer than in 1995, AFP reported. Of the estimated 450
contract killings, only 60 were solved. Kulikov added that 2.62 million crimes
were recorded in 1996, down from 2.75 million in 1995, Russian media reported.
However, he estimated the total number of crimes committed at 7 million.
Kulikov said more than 200 gangs were broken up by police. But while the police
scored some crime-fighting successes, corruption and other abuses within the
ministry remained high. President Yeltsin's press secretary said on 18 January
that the head of the Interior Ministry's Technical and Military Supplies Main
Administration and 30 other officers had been fired for financial abuses,
including misusing funds earmarked for salaries and prison construction.
Kulikov said 10,000 employees of Interior Ministry organs were brought to book
in 1996, including 3,500 for criminal offenses. -- Penny Morvant
NIKITIN'S WIFE HARASSED.
Tatyana Chernova, wife of environmental
activist Aleksandr Nikitin, may be prevented from returning to Russia at the
end of a six-day trip to Norway, AFP reported on 18 January. Russian customs
officials stamped Chernova's passport "exit for permanent residence abroad"
after subjecting her to a 90-minute search and interrogation when she left the
country on 15 January. The Moscow Times quoted a spokeswoman for the St.
Petersburg Visa and Registration Department as saying Chernova would have to
file for special permission to re-enter Russia. Chernova's lawyer said there
were no legal grounds for the move. Nikitin was held in a pre-trial detention
center for 10 months, on accusations that he illegally gathered data for a
report on radioactive contamination of the Kola Peninsula. He was released last
month following an international outcry, but the Federal Security Service is
reluctant to let the case drop. -- Penny Morvant
UNEMPLOYMENT UP, ARREARS PROBLEM WORSE.
In late December 1996, 9.3% of
Russia's work force was unemployed, up from 8.8% in early 1996, Russian and
Western agencies reported on 18 January, citing the State Statistics Committee.
The figures were calculated on the basis of household survey data. Some 2.5
million people, or 3.4% of the work force, were registered as unemployed with
the Federal Employment Service. The wage debt to Russian workers totaled 47.1
trillion rubles on 23 December, up from 46.6 trillion on 25 November. About
one-fifth of the total arrears--9.3 trillion--were in organizations funded by
the federal or local budgets. -- Penny Morvant
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin met IMF first
deputy managing director Stanley Fischer on 17 January to discuss a resumption
of the IMF loan, two $340 million monthly payments of which were suspended last
year, AFP reported. Chernomyrdin said, "The West should not worry. The reforms
are not going to be halted. Russia simply does not have much money at the
moment." First Deputy Chairman of the Central Bank, Sergei Aleksashenko, told
Reuters on 17 January that by the end of 1997 foreigners will be given full
access to the government bond market on the same terms as Russian
buyers--something which the IMF has been urging. One policy change which may
not please the IMF is the introduction of differentiated excise duties on oil
and gas, up to $17 per metric ton, on firms that buy at domestic prices and
then export, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 January. The new tax sounds suspiciously
like the resurrection of the oil export duty which was abolished at the IMF's
insistence in July 1996. -- Peter Rutland
NET CLOSES ON ALUMINUM MAFIA . . .
Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov
said on 17 January that his ministry has been working on the so-called aluminum
case for 18 months, ITAR-TASS and NTV reported. NTV carried an investigative
series on the "aluminum mafia" in recent weeks (see OMRI Daily Digest 13
January 1997). Kulikov said that the Trans-seas Commodities company,
represented by Lev Chernyi, paid on contracts with several aluminum plants
using money it obtained from fraudulent bank transfer documents. He also said
Moscow's Izmailovo criminal gang is involved in the aluminum business. Kulikov
called for new laws obliging citizens to reveal the sources of their income.
Former First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets denied NTV's accusations that
he maintained links with the Chernyi brothers, although he did not refute the
NTV report about his American Express account, according to an interview
published in Obshchaya gazeta on 16 January. -- Peter Rutland
... AND TIN MAFIA.
On 19 January, NTV's "Itogi" revisited the 1994
scandal around the privatization of the Novosibirsk Tin Combine (NOK). At that
time it was revealed that NOK director Aleksandr Dugelnyi had managed to
acquire a large portion of NOK shares and had also bought shares for government
officials, including Soskovets. The investigation was closed down on the orders
of then Procurator-General Aleksei Ilyushenko, who is currently in detention
under criminal investigation. NTV provided fresh documentary evidence of
Soskovets's share holding, and alleged that Dugelnyi, who is still the director
of NOK, has $1.2 million abroad in foreign bank accounts. Dugelnyi had formerly
worked with Soskovets at the Karaganda Metal Combine in Kazakstan, where an
anti-corruption probe in 1991 led to 14 arrests. -- Peter Rutland
RUSSIAN VEHICLE BLOWN UP NEAR GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ BORDER.
personnel carrier operated by Russian peacekeeping forces in the
Georgian-Abkhaz conflict zone blew up on 15 January after hitting an anti-tank
mine, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 January. According to a Sakinform report
monitored by the BBC, Georgian Deputy State Security Minister Avtandil
Ioseliani said that "soon" Russian peacekeepers will no longer be required in
the region as Georgia and Abkhazia are likely "to find a common language
without a mediator." -- Emil Danielyan
The World Bank has extended a $14.7 million credit to
Azerbaijan to promote the privatization of the country's agricultural sector,
ITAR-TASS reported on 17 January. In other news, Azerbaijan's State Oil
Company, SOCAR, has supplied 10,000 metric tons of gasoline to Iran on a trial
basis, Russian media reported on 19 January. SOCAR is hoping to deliver 120,000
tons to Iran on an annual basis. -- Lowell Bezanis
ARMENIAN OPPOSITION PARTY SAYS ITS MEMBER STILL UNDER ARREST.
chairman of a local branch of the opposition National Self-Determination Union
(AIM), Artush Hamazaspyan, is still under arrest on charges of "participation
in mass disorders" in the wake of 25 September post-election unrest in Yerevan,
Noyan Tapan reported on 17 January. Norayr Khanzadyan, an AIM representative,
said that Hamazaspyan was "severely beaten" while in custody and the
authorities are still holding him despite repeated promises that he would be
released. Out of the 27 AIM members arrested after the election, Hamazaspyan is
the only one still in custody. Khanzadyan also claimed that Interior and
National Security Minister Serzh Sarkisyan has not yet delivered on his
"promises" to compensate AIM for some 10 million drams ($21,300) in damage to
the party's headquarters. -- Emil Danielyan
TAJIK GOVERNMENT, OPPOSITION TALKS IN TEHRAN.
Two weeks of difficult
talks between the Tajik government and United Tajik Opposition (UTO) ended in
Tehran on 19 January with the signing of a joint statement approving some
important procedural issues but failing to determine how many representatives
each side will have in a prospective National Reconciliation Commission,
Western and Russian media reported on 19 January. The government wants to
dominate the commission and render it subordinate to Tajik President Immomali
Rakhmonov, while the opposition sees it as the first step toward a
redistribution of power in a post-war government. The two sides agreed on the
procedure for approving a mutual amnesty law and a central election commission
and on holding a referendum on governmental reform. -- Lowell Bezanis
TURSUN ZADE STANDOFF.
The Tajik Presidential Guards clashed with local
self-defense forces in Tursun Zade in a fight over Central Asia's largest
aluminum plant, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 January. Two were injured during the
exchange of fire and an estimated 20 local-self-defense fighters were
"detained" by the Presidential Guard. The fight was the latest development in
an ongoing struggle for control of the country's single most valuable asset. In
other news, unidentified assailants killed a junior Russian officer in
Dushanbe, Reuters reported on 18 January. -- Lowell Bezanis
MOSCOW MAYOR IN SEVASTOPOL.
Yurii Luzhkov flew unannounced to Sevastopol
on 17 January, despite Ukrainian threats to declare him a persona non grata and
his earlier assurances that he would not come but would tend to his broken leg,
Ukrainian and international agencies reported. Upon arrival, Luzhkov reiterated
his position that Sevastopol had never been handed over to Ukraine, saying when
former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev handed Crimea over to Ukraine "after a
drinking binge, Sevastopol was turned into a separate administrative entity and
was not handed over to Ukraine." He added he would continue to visit Sevastopol
and that no one can stop him. The next evening, Luzhkov and his bodyguards
spent most of the night at the airport, after customs officials refused to let
one of the bodyguards leave because he allegedly brought a gun illegally into
the country. Luzhkov's entourage denied the gun was brought in illegally, and
Luzhkov called the incident "a very primitive" act of revenge. -- Ustina
UKRAINIAN REACTIONS TO LUZHKOV VISIT.
Foreign Minister Hennadii Udovenko
said he viewed Luzhkov's visit very negatively. He said he had personally
appealed to Luzhkov not to visit Sevastopol or aggravate the situation there,
and that Luzhkov's claims to the city were not constructive for
Russian-Ukrainian relations. President Leonid Kuchma, speaking in Homel,
Belarus, during a meeting with Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, said
Russian-Ukrainian relations are deteriorating, AFP and Reuters reported on 17
January. Kuchma said it was pointless to investigate the letter published last
week by Kievskiye vedomosti, which was allegedly from one senior Russian
official to another and urged a campaign to discredit Kuchma so he could be
impeached. Russia has called the letter a fabrication. Russian Foreign Minister
Yevgenii Primakov said on 17 January that Moscow would like to rent the entire
city of Sevastopol as it main Black Sea Fleet base but had no territorial claim
to the port. -- Ustina Markus
WAR OF LAWS CONTINUES BETWEEN CRIMEA AND KYIV.
Russian-dominated Crimean parliament voted down changes to the autonomous
region's draft constitution designed to overcome the Ukrainian parliament's
objections, UNIAN reported on 15 January. Ukraine's parliament rejected the 1
November 1995 draft last year because of provisions giving Crimea the right to
determine Sevastopol's status and to grant citizenship, giving Crimeans the
right to dual citizenship, and giving Russian the status of an official
language and the language of business in Crimea. Meanwhile, President Leonid
Kuchma asked the Constitutional Court to overturn Crimean legislation imposing
taxes on barter trades, which he claims contradicts Ukrainian law, Ukrainian TV
reported on 18 January. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev
BELARUSIAN AND UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTS DISCUSS TRADE, BORDER CONTROLS.
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and Ukrainian President Leonid
Kuchma met in Homel, southeastern Belarus, on 17 January to discuss economic
cooperation and controls on their mutual border, international agencies
reported. The two leaders signed a communiqué aimed at simplifying
customs rules and fostering ties between the two countries' customs agencies,
border guards, and interior ministries. They also agreed to broaden cooperation
in industry, especially in the manufacturing of farm machinery. Lukashenka said
that "if the countries carry out the signed agreements, Belarus's relations
with Ukraine will overtake its relations with other states." Since the break-up
of the Soviet Union, Ukraine has been one of Belarus's main trade partners,
importing $714 million of Belarusian goods in 1996. -- Sergei Solodovnikov
PROTESTS CONTINUE IN BELARUS.
The nationalist Belarusian Popular Front
picketed the Russian embassy in Minsk for the fourth day in a row on 17
January, Ekho Moskvy reported. The group was protesting Russian President Boris
Yeltsin's proposal to hold a referendum on Russian-Belarusian unification.
Among the signs toted by the demonstrators was one saying: "Russia broke its
teeth on Chechnya, and will choke on Belarus." -- Ustina Markus
ESTONIAN PROGRESS PARTY COULD SPLIT.
Fourteen out of 34 members of the
Estonian Progress Party's governing council, including former council chairman
Arvo Junti, walked out of the council's meeting on 17 January in protest
against Tiit Made's leadership, BNS reported. Made was appointed head of the
council at the meeting, replacing party chairwoman Andra Veidemann, who became
a minister last year while her party was still in the ruling coalition. Junti
is calling for a party congress in March, but the council decided to hold it on
3 May provided that the party had gathered the 1,000 members it needs to be
formally registered as a political party by that time. Party board member Mart
Ummelas accused Junti of creating the split on instructions from leaders of the
Center Party, which the Progress Party split from last year. -- Saulius
POLISH JOURNALIST CHARGED WITH DISCLOSING STATE SECRETS.
of Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland's largest daily newspaper, has been charged
with identifying a Polish secret service agent in an article on the spying
allegations brought against former Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy, Polish media
reported on 20 January. Jachowicz has also been charged with obstructing
investigation of the leak by refusing to disclose his source. It was the second
time charges of obstructing criminal proceedings have been brought against
Polish journalists for refusing to reveal their sources; the previous one was
also connected to the Oleksy affair. The Supreme Court ruled in 1995 that the
criminal code provision allowing a prosecutor to require journalists to reveal
their sources overrules the media law provision on journalists' right not to
reveal their sources. Justice Minister Leszek Kubicki disagreed with that
ruling. -- Beata Pasek
CZECH PRESIDENT CASTS DOUBTS ON OPPOSITION LEADER'S CHARGES.
Havel told Czech Radio on 19 January that the documents he received last week
from Social Democratic Party Chairman and Parliament Speaker Milos Zeman do not
prove Zeman's suspicion that constitutional officials, especially from the
opposition parties, have been shadowed by the country's secret service (BIS).
Havel however conceded that the documents might justify Zeman's suspicion that
unlawful acts had been committed. Havel said the content of the documents was
"disgusting," adding that they deserved to be examined by the parliamentary
committee overseeing the BIS. The president rejected Zeman's claim that the
documents show the Czech Republic is becoming a police state. In response to
Havel's statements, Zeman said the documents were indeed disgusting. "I believe
that spying on political opponents is always disgusting," he added. -- Jiri
SLOVAK PREMIER REMINDS JOURNALISTS OF 'RESPONSIBILITY.'
government wants to restore a continuous dialogue between journalists'
organizations and the government, but new media legislation is needed to create
the right political conditions, Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar said in a
meeting with journalists on 17 January. Meciar said he "wondered" why Slovak
journalists allow themselves to be described as "not free," declaring: "You are
free and proud, so acknowledge it." But every freedom entails responsibility,
Meciar stressed, urging journalists to bear the interests of Slovakia in mind.
If journalists continue squabbling with the government this year, Meciar said,
the expansion of NATO and the European Union will pass Slovakia by. The
opposition daily Sme and Czech independent TV channel Nova were not
invited to the meeting. -- Anna Siskova
HUNGARIAN PRIVATIZATION PAYOFF TRACED TO COALITION-LINKED COMPANIES.
ongoing investigation into last year's privatization scandal provides evidence
that parts of the controversial payment by the state privatization agency to an
outside consultant were transferred to companies linked to the coalition
parties, Magyar Hirlap reported on 20 January. The paper cites a letter
from the prosecutor-general which says that Laszlo Boldvai, the Socialist
Party's treasurer and a deputy in parliament, and Gyorgy Budai, an entrepreneur
with links to the junior coalition party, the Alliance of Free Democrats, told
consultant Marta Tocsik last May that she could only keep her $5.1 million
commission from the privatization agency if she transferred 25% of that amount
to each of two companies. According to the paper, the prosecutor-general has
evidence of a series of money transfers between Tocsik and the two companies
and on 19 December requested that parliament waive Budai's immunity from
prosecution. -- Zsofia Szilagyi
OPPOSITION SEEKS DETAILS OF OUT-OF-COURT SETTLEMENT ON GABCIKOVO DAM.
Forty-five public figures have issued an appeal condemning government efforts
to reach an out-of-court settlement in the Gabcikovo dam dispute, which will
soon go before the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Hungarian media
reported on 20 January. Endorsed by such prominent Hungarians as film director
Miklos Jancso and historian Gyorgy Litvan, the appeal calls on the cabinet to
reveal details of the secret talks it has been holding with Slovakia. The
appeal follows Prime Minister Gyula Horn's 17 January denial of any secret
agreement and the opposition Young Democrats' demand that the secret
negotiations stop. Opponents of an out-of-court settlement fear that a
consensus between Bratislava and Budapest over the dam will only produce an
environmentally damaging solution. -- Zsofia Szilagyi
KOSOVO LIBERATION ARMY CONTINUES OFFENSIVE.
In a letter to Deutsche
Welle's Albanian service, the Kosovo Liberation Army claimed responsibility for
the killing of Cun Dervishi in Skenderaj on the night of 16-17 January, calling
the ethnic Albanian man
a "cooperator with the Serbian occupiers." The
secretive group also claimed responsibility for the attempted assassination on
16 January of Radivoje Papovic, dean of the state-run Pristina University, and
for the 13 January killing of Fazli Hasani, an ethnic Albanian who worked for
the Serbian police near Mitrovica. Meanwhile, some 1,000 Serbs held a
demonstration in Pristina on 18 January to protest the attack on Papovic. While
Radio Serbia put the blame for the attacks on Serbian opposition leader Vuk
Draskovic, the opposition claimed the United Yugoslav Left -- led by President
Slobodan Milosevic's wife, Mirjana Markovic -- were the real "terrorists"
responsible for the attacks and accused Milosevic of planning to use the events
in Kosovo as a pretext for declaring a state of emergency, BBC reported. AFP
quoted Draskovic claiming that "Milosevic is trying to play his last card by
preparing civil war in Kosovo without caring about the consequences and the
expected blood bath." -- Fabian Schmidt
SERBIAN OPPOSITION PROTESTS 'BEASTS IN POWER.'
While the regime of
Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic continues to resist calls to recognize the
opposition Zajedno coalition's wins in 17 November runoff municipal elections,
the opposition continues to find creative ways to protest. The latest effort to
bypass official bans on mass protests was to rally under the banner of "Pets
Against the Beasts in Power," international media reported. On 19 January, an
estimated 10,000 people gathered in downtown Belgrade, all "coincidentally" out
on the town walking their pets. Other methods of bypassing bans on mass
protests have included thousands of motorists simultaneously experiencing
mechanical difficulties in downtown Belgrade, shutting down all traffic in the
city center. Meanwhile, UN human rights envoy Elizabeth Rehn met with
government and opposition officials, and on 18 January urged Milosevic to
recognize the Zajedno election wins. After meeting with Zajedno leader Zoran
Djindjic on 19 January, German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel vowed that
international pressure against Milosevic would not abate, Nasa Borba
reported. The ruling Socialists were reported to be appealing an electoral
committee ruling recognizing the
opposition victory in the Belgrade
Assembly. Zajedno leader Vuk Draskovic, addressing the crowd of pet owners on
19 January, warned that the regime may be attempting to foment violence and
urged members of the military to side with the peaceful protesters. -- Stan
MONTENEGRIN FOREIGN MINISTER KILLED IN CAR ACCIDENT.
Janko Jeknic died
in a traffic accident on 17 January when his car slammed into a stalled bus.
The accident took place on the Podgorica-Danilovgrad road near Komanski Most,
Montena-fax reported. One other person was seriously injured in the incident.
-- Stan Markotich
EXPLOSION PARTLY DESTROYS BRIDGE IN TENSE BOSNIAN REGION.
eliminated a section of a wooden bridge near Koraj in Serb-held territory in
northern Bosnia late on 18 January. It is not clear who caused the blast, but
an electric detonation cord was found nearby, AFP reported. The region has been
a source of tension since the second half of 1996 as Muslim refugees try to
exercise their right to return to their homes just inside the Serbian side of
the interentity border. Meanwhile in Mostar, a gunman threatened Muslim
journalists in full view of UN police, Onasa wrote on 19 January. The Muslims
were waiting for news of the outcome of a meeting of the High Representative's
office and said they will boycott Carl Bildt's future meetings unless their
security is guaranteed. -- Patrick Moore
FORMER BOSNIAN SERB LEADER IN CRITICAL CONDITION AFTER SUICIDE ATTEMPT.
Nikola Koljevic, a former vice president of the Republika Srpska, is in
critical condition after shooting himself in the head in Pale on 16 January,
news agencies said. Initial reports on 17 January suggested that he was dead,
but he actually was in a coma. SFOR flew him by helicopter to Belgrade, where
he underwent emergency surgery in the military hospital. Doctors there are
"reserved" about his chances for recovery, AFP wrote on 19 January. Koljevic
had attempted several times to end his life after being replaced as vice
president following the 14 September Bosnian elections. In late 1995 he
participated in the talks that led to the Dayton agreement, and in a suicide
note for his family, he said he had done all he could for his people. --
ROMANIA'S FORMER RULING PARTY REORGANIZED.
The left-wing Party of Social
Democracy in Romania (PDSR) elected former President Ion Iliescu as its
chairman on 17 January, Romanian and Western media reported. The decision was
taken at an extraordinary national congress, at which a new party statute was
also discussed. Iliescu pledged to renew both the membership and the policies
of the party that, under different names, governed Romania from December 1989
until November 1996, when it was defeated in general elections. He singled out
the need to combat corruption within the party's own ranks in order to improve
its image, which was seriously eroded by corruption scandals in recent years.
The PDSR, now the main force in the opposition, defines itself as a center-left
political organization. Critics, however, say it is a haven for former
communists and doubt its ability to reform itself. -- Dan Ionescu
FRICTION IN ROMANIA'S RULING COALITION.
The "Romania's Alternative"
Party (PAR) announced on 19 January that it is withdrawing its "unconditional
support" for Victor Ciorbea's government, Romanian media reported. PAR, which
is a member of the Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR), complained that it
was not offered state secretary positions and local administration posts as
promised. Radu Vasile, secretary general of the National Peasant
Party-Christian Democratic (the main force in the CDR), suggested that the
Senate might reverse the nomination of PAR Chairman Varujan Vosganian to chair
its Budget and Finance Commission. -- Dan Ionescu
BULGARIAN SOCIALISTS PREPARE FOR A NEW GOVERNMENT.
nominated by his party to succeed the resigned Prime Minister Zhan Videnov,
presented the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) Executive Council on 19 January
with a short-term stabilization program aimed at improving the economy and
fighting crime and corruption, Standart and Trud reported. The
program expects a short-term government and early elections, and includes such
measures as the adoption of a currency board and procedures for closing
insolvent banks. The same day, President-elect Petar Stoyanov, who under the
constitution is expected to give Dobrev a mandate to form a new government,
made his formal oath to the constitution along with Vice President-elect Todor
Kavaldzhiev. Police cordoned off the ceremony with metal barriers, apparently
concerned protesters might again try to storm parliament as they did on 10-11
January. In his speech, Stoyanov endorsed the idea of early elections and
called for "a new social contract" between the authorities and the people. --
Maria Koinova in Sofia
ALBANIAN DEMONSTRATORS COVERED IN 'RED INK.'
Riot police used truncheons
to disperse a demonstration in Tirana organized by the Center Pole coalition
and the Socialist Party on 19 January. Out of some 10,000 demonstrators, 3,000
managed to break through a police cordon and reach central Skanderbeg Square, a
Deutsche Welle correspondent told OMRI. Another 5,000 people took to the
streets in Fier to demand the resignation of the local mayor. The Interior
Ministry subsequently issued a statement warning that it "will deliver the
deserved legal response to those responsible for violating the law ... It will
act with all the force the law entitles against anyone who does not respect
it," Reuters reported. The ministry rejected eyewitness reports that some
protesters in Tirana had been hurt in scuffles with police and accused the
opposition of encouraging people to daub themselves with red ink. Disappointed
investors in collapsed pyramid schemes had started the protests earlier in the
week; the opposition accused the government of involvement in the schemes.
Socialist Party Secretary-General Rexhep Mejdani pledged to "continue protests
for democracy until this fully anti-democratic regime is overthrown." -- Fabian
[As of 1200 CET]
Compiled by Victor Gomez and Tom Warner