YELTSIN MEETS WITH CHIRAC.
French President Jacques Chirac made a
one-day working visit to Moscow on 2 February, Russian and Western agencies
reported. Chirac met Russian President Boris Yeltsin at a government residence
in Novo-Ogarovo, outside Moscow, for about three hours of talks on European
security and bilateral ties. After the meeting, Chirac said he was "impressed"
with the speed of Yeltsin's recovery from heart surgery and pneumonia. The
French president said a NATO-Russia agreement could be signed before the
planned July NATO summit in Madrid, when prospective East European members will
be invited to begin membership talks. He added that France did not object to
Moscow's demand that the agreement be a legally binding treaty, but could also
accept a political declaration. Putting an upbeat spin on the meeting, NTV
argued that France wants to take a "different route" to expanding the alliance
than that favored by Washington. -- Scott Parrish
FINAL CHECHEN ELECTION RESULTS.
The Chechen Electoral Commission
released the final results of the 27 January presidential election on 2
February, ITAR-TASS reported. As expected, former Chief of Staff Aslan
Maskhadov won, with 59.3% of the vote, followed by former field commander
Shamil Basaev with 23.5%, and acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev with 10.1%.
The electoral commission said turnout was 79.4%, with 407,699 of 513,585
registered voters participating. Commission head Mumadi Saidaev said the delay
in reporting the final results, which had drawn criticism from some Russian
journalists, was permitted under Chechen law, and allowed defeated candidates
to appeal the election results if they felt it necessary. The commission said a
second round of voting in the Chechen parliamentary elections is scheduled for
15 February, although final results of the first round voting in the republic's
63 constituencies have not yet been tabulated. -- Scott Parrish
MASKHADOV MEETS RYBKIN.
Chechen President-elect Maskhadov met with
Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin in Grozny on 1 February, Russian
and Western agencies reported the next day. Although the final results of the
27 January Chechen presidential election had not yet been published, Rybkin
handed Maskhadov a congratulatory message from Yeltsin. The Russian president
termed Maskhadov's election "an important step toward defining the political
relationship" between Moscow and Grozny, while expressing hope that "dialogue
and cooperation" could resolve outstanding differences. AFP quoted Rybkin as
saying he had urged Maskhadov to begin "serious" negotiations, and added that
Moscow had already prepared several drafts of a proposed power-sharing treaty.
Maskhadov, who has insisted Moscow recognize Chechnya's independence, said he
is "ready for any talks with Moscow," but emphasized his view that Chechnya is
already a sovereign state by saying he will not participate in the Federation
Council. -- Scott Parrish
CONSTITUTIONAL COURT NOT TO EXAMINE KHASAVYURT ACCORDS.
Constitutional Court announced on 31 January that it will not consider an
appeal by 93 State Duma deputies against the Chechnya peace accords signed last
August, Ekho Moskvy and Russian TV (RTR) reported. The deputies claimed that
then-Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed exceeded his authority in
signing the accords (see OMRI Daily Digest, 9 and 17 September, 1
October 1996). However, the court ruled that it had no jurisdiction over the
issue, since the accords were a political agreement rather than a treaty
between the Russian Federation and one of its republics. The court has
periodically shied away from controversial cases by disclaiming jurisdiction;
in the famous "Chechnya case" of 1995, judges declined to pass judgment on the
legality of two presidential decrees relating to the deployment of Russian
troops in Chechnya (see OMRI Daily Digest, 1 August 1995). -- Laura
REWARD OFFERED FOR RETURN OF ORT JOURNALISTS.
Although Chechen law
enforcement officials announced last week that the safe return of two Russian
Public TV (ORT) correspondents was imminent, Roman Perevezentsev and Vyacheslav
Tibelius still have not been found. Now the Chechen Interior Ministry is
offering a 10 million ruble ($1,800) reward to the law enforcement officer who
frees the journalists or discovers information concerning their whereabouts,
Russian TV (RTR) reported on 1 February. No one has demanded a ransom payment
since the two went missing on 19 January; citing anonymous sources, ORT
speculated on 1 February that the journalists may be held captive by troops
under the control of outgoing Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev. Former
Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed on 28 January said his associates
were involved in negotiations to secure the journalists' safe return. -- Laura
ZYUGANOV FAVORS ARMING COSSACKS "UNDER STRICT CONTROL."
with Communist Party (KPRF) activists and Cossack atamans in Moscow, KPRF
leader Gennadii Zyuganov said he was in favor of arming Cossack units, provided
that such a policy was carried out under "strict" and "reliable" state control,
ITAR-TASS and Russian TV (RTR) reported on 31 January. He argued, "The greatest
crime of the current authorities is that they handed out arms to everyone
except those who should defend the country." Most Russian officials, with the
exception of Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii, have spoken
out against arming the Cossacks. Asked about Maskhadov's calls for complete
independence from Russia, Zyuganov--who has strongly criticized the Khasavyurt
peace accords signed by Lebed and Maskhadov--said the new Chechen president
will face a "a number of obligations and a complicated domestic situation" and
may be forced to change his position. -- Laura Belin
CONFLICT OVER PROCURATOR IN CHUVASHIYA.
The legislature of Chuvashiya
has asked the republic's president, former Russian Justice Minster Nikolai
Fedorov, to rescind his order firing republican Procurator Sergei Rusakov,
ITAR-TASS reported on 1 February. Fedorov fired Rusakov on 19 January, citing
rampant crime in the republic. However, the Russian procurator general, who has
the right to appoint and dismiss regional procurators, demanded that Fedorov
take back his decree since it exceeded the powers granted him by Russian law.
New Stavropol Krai Governor Aleksandr Chernogorov has also denounced his local
procurator, but has so far only threatened to appeal to the federal authorities
to remove him. As regional executives become more assertive across the country,
they may demand that the center give them greater oversight over local law
enforcement officials. Local legislatures will be able to use the conflict to
promote their own agendas. -- Robert Orttung
LARGE POPULATION DECLINE IN 1996.
Russia's population declined by
475,000 in 1996 to 147.5 million by the end of the year, ITAR-TASS reported on
31 January citing Goskomstat. By comparison, the population fell by 164,000 in
1995 and by only 60,000 in 1994, since immigration was higher in those years.
As in the preceding two years, deaths exceeded births in 1996 by about 60%. The
report did not give figures for natural loss (the population decline
attributable to an excess of deaths over births) but said that the net gain of
349,500 immigrants compensated for about 40% of the natural loss. This suggests
that natural loss in 1996 was about 870,000. Natural loss was greatest--10 to
13 per 1,000--in Pskov, Tula, Tver, Novgorod, Ivanovo, Yaroslavl, and Ryazan
oblasts. A natural increase in the population was registered in only 10
regions, most of them non-Russian republics (Ingushetiya, Dagestan, Kalmykiya,
Altai, Tyva, Sakha, Kabardino-Balkariya, Karachaevo-Cherkessiya) -- Penny
RUSSIAN OFFICIALS IN DAVOS.
Encouraging more foreign investment is a top
priority of the Russian government, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said at
the World Economic Forum in Davos, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 31
January. Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Nikolai Kovalev told
the forum that the FSB had set up a special unit to protect foreign investments
in the country, ITAR-TASS reported on 1-2 February. He also said the security
service will investigate links between Russian financial groups in Switzerland
and organized crime. Kovalev stressed, however, that the problem of the
"Russian mafia" is often exaggerated. Deputy Security Council Secretary Boris
Berezovskii and Nizhnii Novgorod Governor Boris Nemtsov said that much of
Russia's difficulty in attracting foreign capital stems from the absence of
appropriate economic legislation and inconsistency in implementing economic
reforms. -- Natalia Gurushina
PRIME MINISTER SIGNS EDICT ON ALCOHOL LICENSING.
Chernomyrdin has signed a government edict on licensing imported alcohol
products, First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Potanin told ITAR-TASS on 31
January. He said the new regulations, which authorize customs officials to
collect excise duties and VAT before alcohol products enter the country, would
go into effect on 1 February. Potanin said the measure was aimed at raising tax
revenue and reducing the amount of liquor smuggled into the country. Russia had
earlier planned to introduce quotas for alcohol imports but abandoned the idea
in favor of licensing following objections from the International Monetary
Fund. The Russian government has also taken a number of steps recently to
tighten controls on the domestic production of alcohol in an attempt to raise
revenues. -- Penny Morvant
STATE OF RUSSIA'S GOLD RESERVES.
Central Bank (TsB) spokesperson Natalya
Khomenko attributed recent press reports that Russian strategic gold reserves
had been depleted to a minterpretation of procedural changes, ITAR-TASS and
Reuters reported on 31 January. She stressed that the gold did not leave the
country but was bought by the TsB from the Finance Ministry. Hitherto, the
strategic gold reserves were kept at the State Treasure Reserve (Gokhran),
which was subordinate to the Finance Ministry. The TsB's gold reserves (which
are used to support the national currency) increased from some 380 metric tons
in October 1996 to 400 metric tons at the end of the year. Sources within
Russia's Audit Chamber, however, point out that exports of gems, platinum, and
palladium in 1996 were double the expected level of 4.5-4.6 trillion rubles
($800 million at the current exchange rate). -- Natalia Gurushina
OFFICIALS: PLOT TO ASSASSINATE SHEVARDNADZE FOILED.
A conspiracy to kill
Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze and other top government officials last
fall was thwarted, RFE/RL reported on 31 January. According to sources in
Georgia's Ministry of Interior, the conspirators planned to assassinate
Shevardnadze during the Tbilisi city festival last October and were funded and
directed by the country's former top security official, Igor Georgadze. A dozen
people have been arrested in connection with the plot. -- Lowell Bezanis
MOSCOW ON U.S. ROLE IN KARABAKH NEGOTIATIONS.
Russian Deputy Foreign
Minister Boris Pastukhov said Moscow is opposed to U.S. efforts to secure the
co-chairmanship of the OSCE-sponsored Minsk Group on the Nagorno-Karabakh
conflict, RFE/RL reported on 1 February. Pastukhov said the American proposal
is part of a wide-ranging Western campaign to challenge Russian interests in
the region and the OSCE has already selected France for the position. Armenia
welcomed the OSCE decision, announced in early January, while Azerbaijan
prefers the U.S. to take up the post. Pastukhov alleged that Iran, Turkey, the
U.S., and other NATO countries were involved in a broader campaign to edge
Russia out of the region. -- Lowell Bezanis
PIPELINE, CASPIAN UPDATE.
The victory of Aslan Maskhadov in Chechnya's
presidential election was widely interpreted as a positive sign Caspian Sea oil
will flow uninterrupted through Chechnya en route to Novorissisk and world
markets, Reuters reported on 31 January. The next day ITAR-TASS reported
Maskhadov has given promises the oil will flow and Chechen officials will begin
talks later this month with the Russian Energy Ministry on financing repairs to
the pipeline through Chechnya. In other news, Turkmen Deputy Foreign Minister
Yulbaz Kepbanov reiterated Ashgabat's view that the Azeri and Chirag Caspian
Sea fields were within its territorial waters and it would be "incorrect" for
Azerbaijan to forge ahead with drilling plans until the Caspian's status was
defined, RFE/RL reported on 1 February. -- Lowell Bezanis
DRUG PROBLEMS CONTINUE ON TAJIK-AFGHAN BORDER ...
guards shot and killed one of four men attempting to cross from Afghanistan
into Tajikistan on 31 January, ITAR-TASS reported. The other three fled back
across the Pyanj River to Afghanistan. The same night Russian border guards
apprehended another man carrying 20.6 kilos of narcotics. Radio Rossii reported
on 2 February that in January Russian border guards caught 58 people trying to
cross into Tajikistan illegally and confiscated more than 35 kilos of
narcotics. -- Bruce Pannier
... WHILE TASHKENT WARNS DUSHANBE.
Tashkent has officially expressed
"serious concern" over what it terms the increasing level of drug trafficking
into Uzbekistan from Tajikistan, RFE/RL reported on 1 February. According to
unnamed sources in the Uzbek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tashkent fears
smugglers are turning Uzbekistan into a transit country for drugs heading to
other CIS countries as well as to the West, and in some cases are involved in
smuggling weapons into Uzbekistan. Tashkent called on Dushanbe to make every
effort to halt these activities and said it would take whatever measures were
necessary to prevent future incidents. -- Lowell Bezanis
UKRAINE GOVERNMENT SEEKS TO ABOLISH DEATH PENALTY.
Serhii Holovaty said on 31 January that the government has asked the parliament
to abolish the death penalty, Reuters reported. The call for a moratorium on
executions and their replacement by life sentences was prompted by the
resolution adopted several days earlier by the Council of Europe's
Parliamentary Assembly threatening to suspend the credentials of the Ukrainian
and Russian delegations if their countries continued executions. When it joined
the CE in November 1995, Ukraine had pledged to end the death penalty within
three years. Holovaty said in the first half of 1996, Ukraine, had executed 89
people. -- Saulius Girnius
EU FACT-FINDING MISSION ENDS VISIT TO BELARUS.
Representatives from the
European Union, the Council of Europe, and the OSCE completed a six-day trip to
Belarus on 31 January, Belapan reported. Their mission was to collect
information about the 24 November referendum and constitutional reform in
Belarus for a report on the country's human rights record to be presented to
the EU Council of Ministers on 24 February. Dutch Council of State member and
head of the mission Ari Kosto said that the delegation had met with President
Alyaksandr Lukashenka, various ministers, deputies of both the old and new
parliaments, and representatives of the opposition. The delegation came at the
invitation of Lukashenka, who expressed regret that his country's application
for membership in the Council of Europe had been put on hold. -- Saulius
LATVIAN AGRICULTURE MINISTER CHANGES PARTIES.
Roberts Dilba on 31
January formally ended his affiliation with the Unity Party (LVP) and was
admitted to the Farmers' Union (LZS), BNS reported. As the only minister from
the LVP, Dilba had also served as deputy prime minister. Dilba's decision was
probably prompted by the suggestion by Prime Minister Andris Skele that his new
government would be formed without the LVP. The LZS coalition with the
Christian Democratic Union now has 10 deputies while the LVP was reduced to
six. -- Saulius Girnius
LITHUANIA-SWEDEN INITIAL VISA FREE AGREEMENT.
After three days of
negotiations in Stockholm on 31 January, Lithuanian and Swedish foreign
ministry delegations initialed treaties on the elimination of visa requirements
and the return of illegal migrants, BNS reported. The agreements are expected
to be signed during the visit of Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius to Sweden
in February and may go into effect as early as 1 May. Lithuania has had visa
free travel with Denmark and Norway for several years, but Sweden would be the
first Schengen country to be accessible to Lithuanian citizens without visas.
-- Saulius Girnius
GREAT CORRUPTION AFFAIR IN POLAND.
The Warsaw prosecutors office ended a
seven-year investigation of Boguslaw Bagsik, Andrzej Gasiorowski and others,
Polish dailies reported on 1 February. Bagsik, the main defendant, is the
former president of Art "B," a Poland-based holding company established in
1988. Bagsik was extradited from Switzerland last year and is in prison in
Warsaw. Gasiorowski, his closest collaborator, was accused in Israel of
falsifying credit cards. Art "B" multiplied its assets by receiving credit
guarantees, enabling the company to obtain other credits and then
kiting--rapidly transferring large deposits from one account to another,
earning interest on both accounts. Bagsik and Gasiorowski withdrew over $100
million from Polish banks and escaped from Poland in 1991. -- Jakub Karpinski
STRIKES IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC.
Trade unions representing Czech railroad
workers announced on 2 February that railroad workers will begin a 48-hour
strike today, Czech media reported. The unions are claiming that the current
management is not doing enough to modernize and restructure the railroads and
they want the government to step in. They also demand higher wages. Meanwhile,
Czech teachers continue holding strikes in selected schools in an effort to
push the government into agreeing to higher wages for the educational sector.
-- Jiri Pehe
SLOVAK PREMIER INSISTS ON BANK PRIVATIZATION.
Speaking on Slovak Radio,
Vladimir Meciar said on 31 January that bank privatization is a condition for
OECD membership, and if Slovakia does not privatize its four biggest financial
institutions quickly, it will miss its chance to join. A ban on bank
privatization ends on 31 March, and Meciar hopes to sell them to domestic
industrial firms. Peter Weiss, deputy chairman of the opposition Party of the
Democratic Left, told TASR on 1 February his party opposes hasty bank
privatization. The sale of large banks to big industrial firms would result in
an enormous concentration of economic and political power in the hands of a
small group of people, he said. Weiss pointed out that the World Bank and IMF
recommended a delay in Slovak bank privatization. He added that Poland and the
Czech Republic--both OECD members--are approaching bank privatization "very
cautiously." -- Sharon Fisher
HUNGARIAN DAILY PUBLISHES REPORT ON PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSION FINDINGS.
Tamas Deutsch, deputy of the opposition Young Democrats and chairman of the
parliamentary commission investigating the privatization scandal, was furious
when he learned the daily Nepszabadsag published a report on 1 February
alleging the findings of the commission. Deutsch said the daily's article
contains a number of inaccuracies, and was probably culled from several
documents. The daily's analysis of an alleged commission report assigns
responsibility to several people at the privatization agency but reveals little
new evidence. Deutsch said the aim of the leak was to divert attention from
recent revelations that the two coalition parties were implicated in the
payments fiasco. -- Zsofia Szilagyi
POLICE VIOLENCE IN BELGRADE.
Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic
confronted Belgrade demonstrators with a massive show of police violence
beginning 2 February, local independent media reported. The demonstrators are
demanding recognition of the opposition wins from the 17 November municipal
runoffs. Heavily armed riot police resorted to beatings, tear gas, and dowsing
protesters with water cannons. Eyewitness reports, some describing the city as
"a battleground," say it was the most serious display of state aggression since
1991, when Milosevic deployed tanks to put down anti-government demonstrations.
According to sources in the opposition Democratic Party, hundreds of
people--including foreign and local journalists singled out for attack--were
injured and scores arrested during the evening of 2-3 February. Throughout the
city, protesters hurled concrete slabs and lit fires in the streets in an
effort to halt police charges and water cannons. -- Stan Markotich
SERBIAN AUTHORITIES CRACK DOWN ON OPPOSITION LEADERS.
Leaders of the
Zajedno opposition coalition were among those seemingly targeted for an attack
during the continuing demonstrations in the country. Vesna Pesic, head of
Serbian Civic Alliance, was reportedly beaten about the hands, feet and ribs.
Speaking to Radio Index, she commented "I was lucky some of the protesters
tried to protect me. I suffered bruises but they saved me from worse injuries."
Pesic is now in hiding. Meanwhile, Serbian Renewal Movement head Vuk Draskovic
said he was pursued by plainclothes policemen, and his car was shot at, Radio
B92 reported. Draskovic also went into hiding. He did, however, vow that
protests would continue the afternoon of 3 February, adding the time for
"Ghandi-style resistance" had passed and urged demonstrators to bring with them
whatever they needed to defend themselves, CNN reported. -- Stan Markotich
POLICE ARRESTS AFTER KOSOVO SHOOT-OUT.
Serbian police arrested over 100
ethnic Albanians in Kosovo over the past week, according to the Democratic
League of Kosovo (LDK). The arrests reached a peak after three ethnic Albanians
were killed in a 31 January shoot-out with police near Vucitrn. Senior LDK
officials held an emergency meeting and called the situation "extremely
serious." They charged Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic with stirring
tensions in order to divert attention from the Belgrade opposition protests.
Police later claimed those killed belonged to the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK).
They also said that one of them, identified as Zahor Pajaziti, was a top UCK
official and added that during raids, a large number of weapons, explosives,
and maps of public buildings and military facilities were seized. -- Fabian
KARADZIC WARNS OF WAR OVER BRCKO ...
Former Bosnian Serb civilian
leader Radovan Karadzic told the Greek daily ElevtherosTypos: "If the
question of Brcko is not resolved, we will go to war again," AFP reported on 2
February. In a rare interview, he also taunted NATO troops for failing to
arrest him for war crimes, saying he has so far escaped detention "because I
have 2,000 men who follow me everywhere, and if [NATO tries to make an arrest],
there will be at least 500 dead." U.S. mediator Roberts Owen is slated to rule
on the future of the strategic town of Brcko on 15 February, which was the one
territorial question not settled in the Dayton agreement. Vice president of the
mainly Croat and Muslim federation Ejup Ganic is in Washington to lobby
officials regarding Brcko, and Republika Srpska Vice President Dragoljub
Mirjanic is due to arrive there shortly for the same purpose. -- Patrick
... AS DOES BOSNIAN ARMY GENERAL.
Gen. Sead Delic, commander of the
Muslim-led Bosnian Army's Second Corps, while visiting the disputed northern
town of Brcko, warned Bosnian Serbs that they faced more fighting unless they
let refugees return home, AFP reported on 1 February. Delic said the war was
not finished as long as the people cannot return home: that was not a threat
but the only way to achieve what they fought for. Meanwhile, a UN-supervised
convoy of Muslim refugees, who were supposed to return to their homes in
Croat-held Stolac, was blocked on 31 January by a group of about 300 to 400
Croat civilians. A human wall of women and children blocked the way and Muslim
refugees were kept in the coach during a one-hour standoff. It is the second
set-back for UN efforts to help Muslim refugees to return to their homes. --
Daria Sito Sucic
INCIDENTS CONTINUE IN EASTERN SLAVONIA.
An explosive device on 1
February damaged a track near the town of Vukovar on the railroad recently
reopened by the UN to connect Croatia's government-controlled territory with
the Serb-held region of eastern Slavonia, international and local agencies
reported. The same day a hand grenade was thrown in front of a Croatian pension
payment office in village of Jankovci, injuring none and causing only slight
damage, Hina reported. The agency also reported a hand grenade was thrown at
the house of a non-Serb in the town of Negoslavci, but no one was injured.
Explosions took place a day after a Belgian corporal serving with the UN force
in eastern Slavonia was shot and killed by a young Serb. A Jordanian soldier
and a civilian UN official were also wounded, and a suspect detained. The
incidents began following the UN Security Council endorsement of a Croatian
government letter of intent for reintegration of eastern Slavonia on 31
January. -- Daria Sito Sucic
FRANJO TUDJMAN TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT?
The Croatian president said on 31
January in an interview with CNN that his health was satisfactory enough to run
for president in elections later this year, and that he would step down if he
lost. "But there is no chance that I and the (ruling) Croatian Democratic
Community could lose. We have the support of the majority of the people,"
Tudjman said. He downplayed reports that he was seriously ill with stomach
cancer. Tudjman also dismissed the possibility that war criminals wanted by the
Hague-based tribunal were hiding in Croatia. Commenting on evictions of Muslims
from the Croat-held part of the divided town of Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegovina,
Tudjman blamed "extremists on both sides," but that Muslims were more to blame.
-- Daria Sito Sucic
DEAN OF TETOVO UNIVERSITY RELEASED FROM PRISON.
Fadil Sulejmani, dean of
the illegal Tetovo Albanian-language university, was released on probation from
prison on 1 February. Sulejmani was sentenced last July to two and a half years
in prison for stirring unrest during the February 1995 riots surrounding the
university. In an interview with Deutsche Welle's Albanian-language service,
Sulejmani said that Tetovo university is a reality that the Macedonian
authorities can no longer ignore. -- Fabian Schmidt
ROMANIA LAUNCHES DIPLOMATIC OFFENSIVE.
President Emil Constantinescu's
visit to Brussels today is aimed at promoting Romania's membership in the
European Community and NATO. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said in Davos,
Switzerland--where Constantinescu had met with several heads of state before
arriving in Brussels--that Romania should not be allowed to join NATO before
the signing of a basic Ukrainian/Romanian treaty. Constantinescu confirmed that
NATO's position is the same and Romania was willing to accept that demand.
Ending a one-day visit to Romania, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State John
Kornblum told Reuters on 1 February that the elections in Romania demonstrated
"political maturity," which "bodes well for relations with the U.S., and for
Romania's quest to join NATO and other Euro-Atlantic structures." But he
stopped short of backing the Romanian application. -- Zsolt Mato
CIUBUC ON MOLDOVAN GOVERNMENT PRIORITIES.
At a press conference in
Chisinau on 30 January, Premier Ion Ciubuc said he intends to break the energy
sector monopoly in order to overcome the existing crisis, BASA-press reported
on next day. He also said he would reconsider Moldova's possible participation
in the Cernavoda Romanian nuclear power station project. Asked whether he would
adopt a pro-Moscow stance to get energy deliveries from Russia, Ciubuc replied
that he was "a pro-Moldovan official" who "will do his best to have good
relations with Romania, Ukraine, and Russia." He denied statements by a
spokesman for President Petru Lucinschi that a World Bank loan of $80 million
would be used exclusively to pay off salary and pension arrears and said the
government would first try to mobilize domestic resources and only afterward to
make use of foreign loans in order to lessen that debt. -- Dan Ionescu
MOLDOVAN MILITARY ASSETS TO BE SOLD.
Presidential spokesman Andrei
Turcanu said Moldovan authorities intend to sell off some of the country's
military equipment to partly finance salary and pension arrears. The Defense
Ministry declined from commenting, but BASA-press reported on 31 January that
most likely, MiG-29 planes, which cannot be used by the Moldovan air force,
will be sold. The Moldovan government already sold off such planes three years
ago. -- Dan Ionescu
BULGARIAN POLITICAL DEADLOCK CONTINUES ...
The Bulgarian Socialist
Party (BSP) looks set to announce a new Socialist government on 3 February
after its offer for talks on a coalition government was rejected by the
opposition the previous day, RFE/RL reported. BSP Chairman Georgi Parvanov said
that if no coalition government is formed, the Socialists will name a new
government on 3 February and present it to the parliament for a vote of
confidence the next day. The Union of Democratic Forces demanded that the BSP
give up the mandate to form a government before talks begin. President Petar
Stoyanov said he can not broker talks as long as the Socialists hold the
mandate. The BSP's premier-designate, current Interior Minister Nikolay Dobrev,
on 31 January proposed that Stoyanov name a broad coalition government and said
he was willing to give up his mandate. On 2 February, the BSP leadership met to
discuss the formation of a new government. -- Stefan Krause
... AS DO PROTESTS.
As the political deadlock ensued, protests
continued throughout Bulgaria over the weekend, reaching their 28th consecutive
day on 2 February, RFE/RL and Reuters reported. The blockade of the main road
and rail link from Sofia to Greece continued for a fifth day in Dupnitsa.
Police reportedly tried to break the blockade on 1 February. Opposition leaders
said people were beaten, while the police denied the use of violence.
Duma on 3 February alleged that "40 Canadian businessmen" and Bulgarian
tennis coach Yuliya Berberyan paid the protesters a total of $20,000. Students
blocked the main roads leading into Sofia. Protesters also briefly blocked the
exit of Bulgaria's biggest oil refinery, Neftochim in Burgas. Thousands
demonstrated in Sofia and other towns. Public transport workers in Sofia went
on strike on 3 February. Dock workers in Burgas and Varna are expected to go on
strike the same day. -- Stefan Krause
MORE PROTESTS IN ALBANIA.
Despite a government ban, anti-government
demonstrations went ahead on 2 February in Tirana near the Dynamo stadium. The
demonstration was organized by the Union of Independent Trade Unions, headed by
well-known gadfly Azem Hajdari. Police reinforcements were brought in to block
off several main roads. Hajdari, who was recently expelled from the ruling
Democratic Party, demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Aleksander Meksi.
He also said his brother, Hikmete Daje, who is also the secretary general of
the union, were arrested, adding that "they are putting pressure on my family
and I am receiving threats," AFP reported. The opposition organized two other
protest marches in Durres and Lezha. About 300 Albanians demonstrated in front
of the Albanian embassy in Athens, Deutsche Welle's Albanian-language service
reported. Following last week's clashes, police have arrested about 150 people.
-- Fabian Schmidt
[As of 1200 CET]
Compiled by Steve Kettle and Valentina Huber