MASKHADOV TO BE INAUGURATED ON 10 FEBRUARY.
Ruslan Kutaev, one of the
officials organizing the inauguration of Aslan Maskhadov, said the new
president would be sworn in on 10 February, after the end of the Muslim holy
month of Ramadan, AFP reported on 30 January. Kutaev said that in addition to
top Russian officials and regional leaders, representatives from Middle Eastern
and Islamic countries, the Baltic States, South Korea, and Japan would be
invited to attend. He claimed Grozny has "serious contacts" with those states.
Chechen leaders view Maskahdov's inauguration as a symbol of their republic's
independence, which Moscow denies, and their claims would be bolstered by an
international presence. In Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry again warned
that Russia would take "harsh measures," including breaking off diplomatic
relations, against any country which recognized Chechnya, although none have
shown signs of doing so. -- Scott Parrish
MASKHADOV WARNS RADUEV.
A spokesman for the presumed Chechen
president-elect Maskhadov said that the Chechen armed forces and Interior
Ministry would take "tough steps" to suppress any illegal terrorist actions by
renegade field commander Salman Raduev, Russian and Western agencies reported
on 30 January. Raduev had threatened the day before to launch a terrorist
campaign against Russia if Moscow refuses to recognize Chechen independence.
Vakha Arsanov, Maskhadov's vice-presidential running mate, derided Raduev's
threat as "not even worth commenting on." Meanwhile, beginning talks with other
Chechen leaders about forming a government, Maskhadov met with former field
commander Shamil Basaev on 30 January. Basaev, who finished second in the
presidential polls, and acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, who finished
third, have both complained about minor election irregularities, although
neither disputes the results. OSCE mission head Tim Guldimann said on 30
January that the polls were "exemplary and free." -- Scott Parrish
YELTSIN MEETS WITH RETIRING JUDGE.
President Boris Yeltsin met with
retiring Chairman of the Constitutional Court Vladimir Tumanov on 30 January on
his third visit to the Kremlin since being released from the hospital.
According to the law on the Constitutional Court, Tumanov had to step down
because he turned 70 on 20 October 1996. Rossiiskie vesti named Justices
Tamara Morshchakova, Vladimir Strekozov, and Marat Baglai as possible
successors to Tumanov. The president will fill the vacancy in the court by
choosing a nominee from a list prepared by a congress of judges, the Justice
Ministry, and the Academy of Sciences. The Federation Council must approve his
choice. Tumanov said that the president, who turns 66 on 1 February, looked
"better in real life than on television, but it is obvious that his illness is
still taking its toll," NTV reported. -- Robert Orttung
RUSSIAN LEADERS FEAR LEBED.
With his dominance of recent public opinion
polls and unpredictable actions if he came to office, former Security Council
Secretary Aleksandr Lebed evokes fear among Russian politicians who support the
status quo. Former Presidential Press Secretary Vyacheslav Kostikov warned that
"people striving to run the state out of personal ambition" pose a greater
threat to the current elite than the Communist Party," RIA Novosti reported on
30 January. Kostikov noted that "the political elite is panicking, partly
because their destiny is completely tied up with that of the president," AFP
reported. Meanwhile, Izvestiya on 31 March published an analysis
claiming that the "party of power" and the communists will join forces against
Lebed by recreating the post of the vice presidency and naming Communist leader
Gennadii Zyuganov to the position. The article argues that the policy positions
of Yeltsin and the communists have become nearly identical and that a
Yeltsin-Zyuganov hand-off would ensure a "peaceful transition of power." --
CHERNOMYRDIN: RUSSIA WANTS TO JOIN NATO COUNCIL.
Speaking in Davos,
Switzerland, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said that NATO
Secretary-General Javier Solana, who addressed the economic forum earlier, "is
wrong" to contend that enlarging NATO will bolster European security. NATO
expansion "will overburden our continent with new suspicions and
contradictions," he added, saying that Russia would prefer to concentrate on
"business cooperation" rather than wasting time on "unproductive military and
political plans." Chernomyrdin later said that Russia wants to join the NATO
political council as its "full and equal" 17th member, saying Moscow is not
satisfied with consultations under the current "16 +1" formula. While stressing
that Moscow wants to cooperate with the alliance, he added that "Russia will
never sign a formal document that would determine its attitude toward NATO,"
although Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov and Solana are scheduled to
continue talks on a proposed Russia-NATO agreement on 23 February. -- Scott
JAPAN DENIES U.S. TROOP BUILD-UP ON HOKKAIDO.
Speaking during a tour of
Sakhalin Island, Japanese Ambassador to Russia Takeshiro Togo denied on 31
January that Tokyo was redeploying U.S. troops to Hokkaido, the northernmost of
the Japanese home islands, AFP reported. Russian Defense Council Secretary
Yurii Baturin on 29 January had charged that the U.S. and Japan were
"bolstering their military potential" in the region even "as we are withdrawing
troops from the Kuril islands." Togo said that U.S. troops, based in Japan
since 1945, had merely been recently granted a base on Hokkaido to "ease
pressure on the local population" during naval exercises. Meanwhile, Russian
Transport Minister Nikolai Sakh accepted a Japanese proposal for a joint
investigation into the 2 January sinking of the Russian tanker Nakhodka, which
caused oil slicks that contaminated the Japanese coastline and fishing grounds.
-- Scott Parrish
U.S. REPORT: LITTLE PROGRESS ON HUMAN RIGHTS IN RUSSIA.
The U.S. State
Department's annual review of human rights in 194 countries gave Russia a mixed
review, AFP and Reuters reported on 30 January. The survey described the
withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya in late 1996 as a "bright spot," but
it blamed President Yeltsin and Russia's military leadership for the war's
heavy casualties, noting that "violations committed by Russian forces continued
to occur on a much larger scale than those of the Chechen rebels." It also
faulted the country for torture in prisons, the practice of hazing new recruits
in the army, and high rates of crime and corruption, among other things. It
concluded that there had been "little progress" on human rights, calling
democratic gains "fragile" and elections "subject to manipulation." -- Penny
CHERNOMYRDIN ON DEATH PENALTY.
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said
on 30 January that Russia will adhere to its pledge to introduce a moratorium
on capital punishment, but he added that "in some recent cases it was
impossible not to execute," international agencies reported. Chernomyrdin was
responding to a resolution adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council
of Europe the previous day warning Russia that if it continues to execute
prisoners, the Council will next year consider suspending the powers of the
assembly's Russian delegation. Delegation head Vladimir Lukin described the
resolution as "correct" but not "timely," according to ITAR-TASS. He argued
that it could prove "counterproductive," creating problems during the Duma
debate on the abolition of the death penalty scheduled for 12 February. Duma
international affairs deputy chairman Aleksei Podberzkin, a Communist,
described the resolution as "pressure on Russia." -- Penny Morvant
FEWER RUSSIANS WANT TO EMIGRATE.
Russians today are noticeably less
interested in emigrating or living abroad temporarily than they were in 1992,
according to the results of a Public Opinion Foundation poll released on 30
January. Of the 1,500 people interviewed across Russia, only 6% said they
wanted to emigrate, down from 11% in a similar 1992 survey. The share of
respondents saying they would like to go abroad for a limited period to earn
money fell from 17% to 11%, while those interested in studying abroad fell from
6% to 3%. The percentage of people saying they would not want to leave under
any circumstances rose from 49% five years ago to 64%, an RFE/RL correspondent
reported. The findings suggest that Russians may be less pessimistic about
their country's prospects and their own situation than is often believed. --
FOREIGN CURRENCY TRANSACTIONS LIBERALIZED.
The Russian Central Bank
announced on 30 January that is has eased rules for individual Russians wishing
to take foreign currency across the country's borders, international agencies
reported. Vladimir Smirnov, head of the bank's department for foreign currency
supervision, said individuals are no longer required to have a special
foreign-currency bank account or to obtain special permission to carry out
cross-border cash transfers for non-commercial purposes. Russians can transfer
up to $2,000 a day provided that they present either a foreign exchange
transaction receipt or a customs declaration. Additional documentation is still
required for larger transfers. -- Penny Morvant
UN EXTENDS MANDATE OF OBSERVER MISSION IN GEORGIA.
The Security Council
has approved another six-month extension of the 125-member UN Observer Mission
in Georgia (UNOMIG) which, with some 1,500 Russian peacekeepers, is stationed
along the border with the breakaway Republic of Abkhazia, Western agencies
reported. The council reaffirmed its support for Georgia's territorial
integrity in the Abkhaz conflict and condemned the Abkhaz leadership for
holding "illegitimate and self-styled" parliamentary elections in November
1996. -- Emil Danielyan
OIL AND GAS SURVEYS TO START IN ARMENIA.
The Armenian government on 30
January approved an agreement on surveys for oil and natural gas in a large
area around Yerevan that was signed between the Energy Ministry and the
Armenian-American oil company in October 1996, Noyan Tapan and ITAR-TASS
reported. Geological exploration works will begin in February and Energy
Minister Gagik Martirosyan said that by next summer it will be clear whether
Armenia will extract its own oil and gas. He said that the American side will
invest some $100 million in the project. Martirosyan added that an unnamed
"American oil company operating in Baku" will get a concession to develop the
prospective oil fields. Martirosyan did not deny that the company might be the
U.S. Amoco corporation, according to RFE/RL. -- Emil Danielyan
TRIALS UPDATE IN AZERBAIJAN.
The former Deputy Chairman of the Popular
Front of Azerbaijan, Faraj Guliev, was sentenced to 1.5 years imprisonment for
his involvement in an attempt on the life of President Heidar Aliyev in 1993,
Turan reported on 30 January. Three other defendants, Sahib Huseinov, Fazil
Kerimov, and Bayram Ahmedov received between 11 and 12 years each. -- Lowell
U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT ON HUMAN RIGHTS IN CENTRAL ASIA.
The U.S. State
Department's annual global human rights report, issued on 30 January, said the
human rights situation deteriorated in Central Asia in 1996, RFE/RL reported.
The report noted that abuses in Turkmenistan and Tajikistan were the worst in
the region. Uzbekistan was not much better, despite steps to improve its human
rights record. The growth of presidential power in Kazakstan and Kyrgyzstan
caused them to lag in the development of democracy and human rights. -- Lowell
MORE PRISONERS EXCHANGED IN TAJIKISTAN.
The Tajik government, in
accordance with a ceasefire agreement signed in Moscow in December, released
another seven opposition prisoners on 29 January, Reuters reported. This brings
the number of opposition fighters freed by the government to 13. However, the
United Tajik Opposition (UTO) noted that they had set free 111 government
soldiers during the same period and that, while the release of opposition
prisoners was encouraging, the UTO estimates there are still about 600 more
held by the government. The government says there are still 300 of its
prisoners held in central Tajikistan though the opposition claims it captured
many more during 1996. -- Bruce Pannier
TAJIKISTAN REPORTS TRADE SURPLUS.
According to Tajikistan's National
Custom's Committee and Statistics Services, the country had a foreign trade
volume of $1.4 billion in 1996, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 January. Exports
amounted to $768 million and imports $657 million, a surplus of $111 million.
Prime Minister Yakhye Azimov, in an interview in the 31 January edition of
Nezavisimaya Gazeta, claimed the country had not yet reached even half
its economic potential. Azimov said that the "internal conflict" had held the
country back but also noted successes in the privatization of agriculture and
small businesses as an encouraging sign. The Prime Minister said the
establishment of peace following an agreement signed between the government and
United Tajik Opposition in December would hopefully create the stability needed
to attract foreign investment and raise wages, currently among the lowest in
the CIS. -- Bruce Pannier
CHANGES TO TURKMENISTAN'S FLAG.
An olive branch motif is to be added to
Turkmenistan's national flag, RFE/RL reported on 30 January. According to a
presidential decree issued the day before, the branch, which is similar to the
olive branch on the UN flag, is to appear below the five motifs situated on the
flag's left corner. The decree noted the olive branch is to symbolize the
peace-loving nature of the Turkmen people as well as the country's "neutral"
status. Changes to the Turkmen national anthem and alphabet have also been made
by presidential decree. -- Lowell Bezanis
UKRAINIAN OFFICIAL SAYS GROWING CRIME HINDERS ABOLITION OF DEATH
Borys Olijnyk, vice president of the Council of Europe's
Parliamentary Assembly, has said "it is impossible to fully abolish capital
punishment in Ukraine at present," ITAR-TASS reported on 30 January. His
statement comes in the wake of harsh criticism from the Council of Europe for
failing to honor its commitment to put a stop to the death penalty (see OMRI
Daily Digest, 30 January 1997). Ukrainian authorities registered 4,896
premeditated murders in 1996, most of which were in the economically developed
regions of Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk, Luhansk, Odesa, Crimea, and Kyiv. The
number of contract killings grew from eight in 1993 to 210 in 1995, while 400
per 100,000 of the Ukrainian population received prison sentences last year. --
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT IN FRANCE.
Leonid Kuchma has been assured by French
President Jacques Chirac that France will support G-7 financing of the
Chornobyl nuclear plant closure, international agencies reported on 30 January.
Kuchma, who is on a two-day official visit to France, said Chornobyl will be
shut down in 2000, revoking earlier threats that Ukraine might backslide on its
promise to shut the plant owing to economic problems. The G-7 has pledged $3.1
billion to assist the closure, but Ukraine has demanded the money sooner than
planned. France will finance building nuclear plants at Rivne and Khmelnitsky
to replace Chornobyl. The same day, an agreement was signed to establish a
joint economic commission to boost bilateral trade. France is the last of the
G-7 countries to receive a visit from Kuchma. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev
NATO REJECTS BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT'S PROPOSAL FOR NUCLEAR-FREE ZONE.
has rejected Alyaksandr Lukashenka's proposal to create a nuclear-free zone in
CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE, AFP reported on 30 January. The zone would have
included Belarus, Ukraine, the Baltic states, Poland, Hungary, and the Czech
Republic. NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said in a letter to Lukashenka
that the alliance welcomes the withdrawal of all nuclear weapons from
Belarusian territory but cannot support creating a denuclearized zone in the
region. It also said that member countries of the alliance have "no intention,
plan or motive to deploy nuclear arms on the territory of the new members."
Meanwhile, Belarusian Foreign Minister Ivan Antanovich confirmed that the
Russian and Belarusian position on NATO enlargement remains unchanged,
Nezavisimaya gazeta wrote. He stressed that if the alliance were to be
enlarged, Belarus and Russia would be compelled to revise their security
policies. -- Sergei Solodovnikov
COUNCIL OF EUROPE ENDS MONITORING OF ESTONIA.
The Council of Europe's
Parliamentary Assembly on 30 January voted to end monitoring whether Estonia is
honoring the commitments it made on becoming a member in May 1993, RFE/RL
reported. The assembly, however, recommended that Estonia make greater efforts
in four areas: abolishing the death penalty, improving treatment of refugees
and asylum-seekers, granting citizenship to non-ethnic Estonian residents, and
improving conditions in prisons. The Russian Foreign Ministry earlier that day
announced that Estonia was failing to keep its promise to end discrimination
against ethnic Russians. The assembly, however, rejected Russian delegates'
appeals to extend the monitoring period. -- Saulius Girnius
POLISH PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSION APPROVES LUSTRATION LAW.
commission has approved draft legislation providing for the screening of
high-ranking officials and candidates for top state posts to determine whether
they collaborated with the communist-era secret service, Polish media reported
on 31 January. A special lustration court will be set up to rule in individual
cases. However, the draft law does not prohibit someone who admits to having
been a collaborator from holding a high state post. In the case of appointed
officials, the final decision is to be made by a higher authority. In the case
of parliamentary candidates, voters will have the final say. Danuta Waniek,
head of the Presidential Office, said President Aleksander Kwasniewski will
probably veto the bill if parliament clears it in its current form. The
opposition Freedom Union and the Labor Union are in favor of the draft, while
the ruling postcommunist Democratic Left Alliance is opposed. It remains
unclear whether the co-governing Polish Peasant Party will support it in the
Sejm. -- Beata Pasek
GERMAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES CZECH-GERMAN DECLARATION.
The Bundestag on 30
January approved the Czech-German declaration by a vote of 578 to 20 with 23
abstentions, international media reported. Most deputies of Bavaria's Christian
Social Union, which has criticized the declaration, voted in its favor. Czech
opposition leader and parliamentary speaker Milos Zeman had traveled to Germany
earlier this week to try to convince German politicians that a preamble closing
all property issues was needed. But the German parliament ignored his proposal.
German Chancellor Helmut Kohl said before the vote that Germany respects Czech
laws. "We Czechs and Germans want to be good neighbors," he said. -- Jiri
U.S. EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER SLOVAK ANTI-DEMOCRATIC TRENDS.
State Department's annual report on human rights says disturbing trends away
from democratic principles continued throughout 1996 in Slovakia, RFE/RL
reported. The report, released on 30 January, cites human rights monitors as
reporting police brutality against Roma. It also points to "credible
allegations" that the secret service spied on senior political figures and
their spouses and that the dismissal of some public officials was politically
motivated. The Slovak government's failure to seriously investigate the 1995
kidnapping of President Michal Kovac's son "undermines its commitment to the
rule of law," the report asserts. The Slovak press is considered free and
uncensored, but the report cites several libel cases instigated by the
government. Nonetheless, it concludes that the government generally respected
most of its citizens' human rights. -- Sharon Fisher
SLOVAK PRESIDENT MEETS WITH OPPOSITION AGAIN.
Michal Kovac on 30 January
met with the leaders of opposition parties for the fifth time, TASR reported.
The main aim of the meeting was to ensure cooperation among all opposition
parties. The participants also discussed the country's integration into
European structures, especially the intention of the ruling Movement for a
Democratic Slovakia to hold a referendum on Slovakia's membership in NATO.
Kovac does not intend to hold talks with the representatives of government
parties, presidential spokesman Vladimir Stefko said. Those parties have been
invited several times to attend the meetings but their answer was always
negative or arrogant, he added. -- Anna Siskova
GRENADE ATTACK KILLS TWO IN BUDAPEST.
Two Chinese women were killed
shortly after midnight on 31 January when a hand grenade exploded in a toilet
of a Chinese restaurant in Budapest, international media reported. The victims
of the Yugoslav-made grenade were the wife and daughter of the restaurant's
owner. Police said the attack occurred after closing time and was apparently
part of a growing conflict among protection money gangs. Some 15 similar
attacks have taken place in Budapest recently, with targets including
businesses, nightclubs, and car showrooms. This attack was the first to single
out foreigners, AFP reported. -- Sharon Fisher
ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT VOTES TO REIMBURSE SCAM VICTIMS.
In a 97-0 vote, the
legislature agreed to compensate the victims of the failed Xhaferi and Populli
pyramid schemes, international media reported on 30 January. The government had
frozen the two companies' assets, worth up to $300 million, which will be used
toward compensating the victims in cash payments and in guaranteed savings
accounts with rates of interest above those of inflation. It is unclear whether
the compensation will be 100%--President Sali Berisha had earlier said it would
not be--or whether the legislation will affect those who lost their money in
other failed pyramid schemes. Reimbursement will start on 15 February. --
ALBANIAN OPPOSITION COALITION SET UP.
At least seven opposition parties
from across the political spectrum agreed on 30 January to launch the Forum for
Democracy, international media reported. In the wake of the pyramid scheme
protests, they demand the resignation of the government led by the Democratic
Party, the setting up of an interim government of technocrats, and the holding
of new elections. The new coalition brings together the ex-communist Socialist
Party and the vehemently anti-communist Association of Political Prisoners and
the monarchist Legality Movement. The former prisoners' spokesman said: "The
police state of Berisha is pushing Albania into a new communist dictatorship."
Meanwhile, the number of persons detained by the police in the wake of the
protests has been put at between 149 and 200. -- Patrick Moore
PROTESTS CONTINUE AS BULGARIAN OPPOSITION REJECTS SOCIALISTS' OFFER.
opposition on 30 January rejected a proposal by Interior Minister Nikolay
Dobrev, the Bulgarian Socialist Party's (BSP) premier-designate, that a
government headed by him would serve only for three to five months and that
early parliamentary elections would then be held, RFE/RL and Reuters reported.
The opposition is demanding that elections take place by May and that no
BSP-led government be formed in the meantime. BSP Chairman Georgi Parvanov
again invited all parliamentary parties to discuss "the type, the task, and the
working period of the new government." Meanwhile, protests and work stoppages
continued throughout the country, and roads to Greece and Turkey were blocked.
A spokesman for the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria said
250,000 people had joined strikes and that 1.5 million had taken part in some
form of protest. -- Stefan Krause
EU: AID TO BULGARIA IS CONTINGENT ON POLITICAL STABILITY.
Petar Stoyanov, meeting with European Commission President Jacques Santer and
EU commissioners in Brussels on 30 January in a bid to secure EU help, was told
that any aid to Bulgaria will depend on political stability, Reuters reported.
A European Commission statement said the EU will consider launching an
international aid effort "as soon as the political situation in Bulgaria allows
it." EU External Relations Commissioner Hans van den Broek called on the
Bulgarian parties to resolve their differences and create a climate in which
economic reforms can succeed. Stoyanov said meeting international debt
obligations could have "unpredictable social consequences" if international
help were not forthcoming. In other news, former Tsar Simeon II has for the
first time spoken out in favor of restoring the monarchy. He believes that, in
his capacity as king, he could have a calming effect, international media
reported. -- Stefan Krause
FEDERAL YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT ON OPPOSITION PROTESTS.
Zoran Lilic, speaking
in Montenegro on 30 January, said that Zajedno opposition victories in
the November local elections should be recognized. However, he added that
protesters were making unacceptable demands, especially by calling for Serbian
President Slobodan Milosevic's resignation, Tanjug reported. The opposition
"needs to be aware of its responsibility not to insist on demands that are not
following the will of the people and are not linked to the local elections," he
commented. Meanwhile, the Serbian government met to discuss the ongoing
protests. It was decided to withhold or slash state funds to educational
institutions whose students have taken part in the protest. In a statement, the
government said that student actions have breached several major laws, and it
resolved "to apply the law strictly against the offending establishments and
withhold funds from them for the period they were not working." -- Stan
MUSLIM REFUGEES BEGIN TO RETURN HOME.
A group of 28 Muslims returned to
the village of Gajevi just inside Serbian lines on 30 January,
Oslobodjenje reported. They had all completed procedures agreed on by
the Serbs, Muslims, and the UN, and SFOR had checked them for weapons. Joint
patrols involving the UN's International Police Task Force and the Republika
Srpska police have also begun. Some 36 families in all are slated to return to
Gajevi, in keeping with the Dayton agreement, but have been delayed by a series
of violent incidents. Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic told the
international community's Carl Bildt that she will issue instructions to local
authorities on the procedures regarding the border area. Meanwhile, Secretary
of State Madeleine Albright will meet today with Chief Prosecutor Louise Arbour
to discuss ways of bolstering the effectiveness of the International Criminal
Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, VOA reported. -- Patrick Moore
ONLY SMALL NUMBER OF SERBS TO LEAVE EASTERN SLAVONIA?
Minister Ivan Penic on 30 January said Croatia is not expecting many Serbs to
move into Republika Srpska--Bosnia's Serbian entity--after the reintegration of
eastern Slavonia into the rest of Croatia, Hina reported. Penic was meeting
with SFOR commander Gen. Klaus Fruehhaber in Zagreb to discuss the possible
destabilization of neighboring Bosnia in the event that a considerable number
of Serbs left eastern Slavonia and moved to that country. The two officials
also discussed incidents at the border between Croatia and Bosnia, at a section
controlled by Bosnian Serbs. Meanwhile, Gen. Pero Colic, head of Republika
Srpska Army General staff, said the army will defend the disputed Bosnian
region of Brcko "even with military resources if needed," Onasa reported on 30
January, citing Beta. At a meeting with SFOR Deputy Commander Gen. Cordy
Simson, Colic expressed the hope that SFOR "understands the significance" of
Brcko for Bosnian Serbs and "our determination to defend it with all our
means." -- Daria Sito Sucic
MIXED SIGNALS FROM KOSOVO.
The Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), the
leading Albanian political organization in the mainly ethnic Albanian province,
said that Serbian police have arrested 37 ethnic Albanians in recent days, news
agencies reported on 30 January. The LDK said that the police had "exercised
brute force against those arrested and members of their families during
systematic house searches," and that at least one man was badly beaten. This
comes amid much speculation by Serbian opposition leaders that President
Slobodan Milosevic will try to provoke a crisis in Kosovo as an excuse for
declaring a state of emergency throughout the country. The LDK also suggested
that Milosevic is cracking down in Kosovo to divert attention from his problems
in Serbia proper. Elsewhere, on 29 January a joint Serbian-Albanian commission
met in Belgrade to discuss implementing the 1 September agreement on education
in Kosovo, Deutsche Welle's Albanian Service reported. -- Patrick Moore and
FIRST MACEDONIAN MINISTER VISIT TO GREECE.
Culture Minister Slobodan
Unkovski on 30 January arrived in Greece for an official visit--the first
by a high-ranking official from Macedonia since that country gained
independence, Nova Makedonija and AFP reported. Unkovski was in
Thessaloniki for the city's inauguration as 1997 European culture capital. He
also met with his counterparts from Greece, Albania, Bulgaria, Montenegro,
Romania, and Serbia. In other news, the U.S. State Department's annual report
on human rights says that Macedonia generally respects the human rights of its
citizens, according to RFE/RL. But the report pointed out that problems exist
between the government and the ethnic Albanian minority and that ethnic
Macedonians hold a disproportionately high number of positions in state
institutions. It also noted discrimination against women and occasional police
brutality. -- Stefan Krause
ROMANIAN PREMIER SEEKS TO AVOID "BULGARIZATION."
Victor Ciorbea told a
30 January press conference broadcast live on radio and TV that the tough
reform program being drafted by the government
is the last chance to
avoid Romania's "Bulgarization." Also present at the press conference were
representatives of the World Bank and the EU, which are helping draft the
program. Ciorbea again accused the former government of giving false reports on
economic performance and failing to take timely measures to fight economic
deterioration. He pledged to introduce the necessary reforms "whatever the
political price" the government may have to pay. Ciorbea predicted the economy
would register a negative growth in 1997, but he expressed confidence that,
soon thereafter, it would take off. Noting that the reform package will contain
measures to protect the socially disadvantaged, Ciorbea said it will be made
public within two weeks. -- Dan Ionescu.
ROMANIA AND NATO.
U.S. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns on 30
January said the U.S. administration is "impressed by the progress Romania has
made politically and economically. " He added that Romania should not be ruled
out as a potential member of NATO. The same day, U.S. Senator Tom Lantos said
in Bucharest that he will support Romania's bid to join NATO at the same time
as other Central European states, Reuters reported. Russian Duma speaker
Gennadii Seleznyov, also on a visit to Romania on 30 January, said Romania does
not need to join NATO, which he called "archaic" and "very expensive."
Meanwhile, Romanian Defense Minister Victor Babiuc has announced Romania's
decision to create its first Rapid Reaction Force. The unit will be compatible
with NATO forces and will consist of some 5,000 soldiers. It is scheduled to be
operational in the last quarter of this year. -- Zsolt Mato
HUMAN RIGHTS IN MOLDOVA.
A U.S. State Department report on human rights
released on 30 January says that human rights are generally respected by the
Moldovan government but are being abused in the Transdniester breakaway region,
RFE/RL reported. The Tiraspol authorities continue to put pressure on the
media, make questionable detentions, and discriminate against Romanian
speakers. The report also cites several isolated cases of potential human
rights abuses in Moldova, including the mysterious disappearance of a deputy
chairman of an independent television station who was abducted by men in police
uniform in January 1996. The Interior Ministry says its personnel was not
involved and attributes the abduction to a private settling of accounts among
criminals. -- Dan Ionescu
[As of 1200 CET]
Compiled by Steve Kettle and Jan Cleave