CHERNOMYRDIN DENOUNCES NATO EXPANSION ...
Continuing a coordinated
campaign of public diplomacy against NATO expansion, Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin told The Washington Post in an interview published on 4
February that NATO expansion will bolster the position of Russian nationalists
who want armed confrontation with the West. "The West wants us to explain to
our people that there is nothing to fear," said Chernomyrdin, adding, "How can
we explain this? Nobody is going to listen to any explanations." Emphasizing
that "I'm worried about what might happen in Russia," Chernomyrdin derided
Western efforts "to comfort us" over the issue. He also hardened the Russian
stance on a proposed NATO-Russia security agreement, terming an informal
charter "unacceptable," and demanding that NATO sign with Russia a "binding
treaty, with verification," pledging to transform itself from a defense
alliance into a "political organization" that does not view Russia as a threat
and potential adversary. -- Scott Parrish
... AS DOES CHUBAIS.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos,
Switzerland on 3 February, presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais
declared that if NATO accepts new members without addressing Russian concerns,
it would be "the biggest mistake the West has made in 50 years," Russian and
Western agencies reported. In remarks he said were cleared with Yeltsin and
Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov, Chubais, who rarely speaks out on foreign
policy, warned that NATO expansion would trigger "serious changes" in European
politics and force Russia to reconsider its attitude toward Western economic
institutions. He argued that advocates of NATO expansion, "not understanding
the real situation in Russia," were actually playing into the hands of
"nationalists" and "anti-Western forces" in Moscow. Like Chernomyrdin, Chubais
urged NATO to conclude a "legally binding" agreement with Russia before
beginning enlargement. -- Scott Parrish
YELTSIN'S HEALTH STILL ON DUMA'S AGENDA.
Duma Security Committee
Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin, who sponsored a resolution last month to remove
President Boris Yeltsin on health grounds, told Ekho Moskvy on 3 February that
the Duma will again consider the measure this week. However, Nezavisimaya
gazeta reported on 4 February that the resolution, passed as a basis for
further discussion on 22 January (see OMRI Daily Digest, 23 January
1997), will be revised before it is put to a final vote, and will merely ask
Yeltsin to resign. Legal experts have mostly agreed that the Duma lacks the
authority to dismiss the president for health reasons. Meanwhile, presidential
Spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii announced on 3 February that other than his
regular weekly meeting with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, Yeltsin will
hold few meetings this week, as he is working on his annual message to
parliament, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. -- Laura Belin
SCANDAL AT RUSSIAN TV.
Russian TV (RTR) Chairman Eduard Sagalaev
threatened to sue current and former RTR executives who published a statement
in the latest edition of Novaya gazeta accusing him of destroying the
state-run television network, ITAR-TASS and Ekho Moskvy reported on 3 February.
The disgruntled executives blamed Sagalaev for what they called the "utter
commercialization and degradation" of RTR, Russia's Channel 2 broadcaster. One
of the signatories, RTR News Programming Director Aleksandr Nekhoroshev, told
Ekho Moskvy that Sagalaev had replaced valuable social and political programs
with light entertainment. Moskovskii komsomolets reported on 4 February
that Sagalaev, appointed RTR chairman in February 1996, may soon be sacked.
Among his possible replacements are NTV President Igor Malashenko, RTR
journalist Nikolai Svanidze, and political consultant Vyacheslav Nikonov. --
FIRST DEPUTY FINANCE MINISTER'S CAR BOMBED.
A minor explosion damaged
the official car of First Deputy Finance Minister Andrei Vavilov in central
Moscow on 3 February, but no one was hurt, Russian and Western agencies
reported. Vavilov's SAAB-9000 was standing empty near the ministry building
when the blast damaged its windshield and door. ITAR-TASS quoted an
investigator as saying the blast could have been a warning from private
companies. Vavilov's duties have included authorizing banks to handle state
funds. -- Penny Morvant
CHECHEN PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS UPDATE.
elections will take place in 55 of 63 districts in Chechnya on 15 February, the
Chechen Central Electoral Commission announced on 3 February. Field Commander
Abubakar Magomadov was one of only four candidates who managed to win more than
half of the votes in the first round, thereby earning a seat outright,
ITAR-TASS reported. In the remaining four districts, the elections will be
repeated because of various violations. The new parliament will be divided
among a number of recently created and poorly defined political parties. --
ROSVORUZHENIE PLANS TO OVERTAKE U.S. BY 1998.
Mikhail Timkin, deputy
director of the state arms export company Rosvoruzehnie, told ITAR-TASS on 3
February that the firm has developed a "strategic plan" to expand Russian arms
exports, which will allow Russia to overtake the U.S. in arms sales by 1998.
Timkin said Rosvoruzhenie plans to market 200-300 of the most advanced Russian
weapons systems, focusing on increasing sales in Asia, Latin America, and the
Middle East. In an interview with Russian TV on 2 February, Rosvoruzhenie head
Aleksandr Kotelkin said his agency was "very proud" of its recent sale of Mi-17
transport helicopters to Colombia, and confirmed that the controversial deal
selling S-300 air defense missiles to Cyprus had been approved by President
Yeltsin and would proceed despite international criticism. -- Scott Parrish
RUSSIA, MONGOLIA, SIGN DEFENSE AGREEMENT.
Defense Minister Igor Rodionov
and his Mongolian counterpart Dambiin Dorligjav signed a military cooperation
agreement for 1997 on 3 February, ITAR-TASS reported. The same day,
Izvestiya reported that although a 1993 bilateral military cooperation
agreement has produced few results, Moscow now hopes to trade military aid for
Mongolian support of Russian objections to NATO expansion. Meanwhile, the
Russian Defense Ministry continues to face a serious financial crisis. Writing
in Segodnya on 31 January, military commentator Pavel Felgengauer said
the ministry's debts now total 34 trillion rubles ($6.1 billion), including 5
trillion in wages owed to servicemen. The paper said Rodionov personally
oversees the allocation of limited funds among Russia's eight military
districts, "according to the actual situation." Felgengauer said the ministry
still hopes the financial crisis will convince the government to increase the
military budget. -- Scott Parrish
RUSSIA TO ISSUE EUROBONDS TO PAY PENSIONS.
Russia will launch two or
three Eurobonds this year to pay wages and pensions, Finance Minister Aleksandr
Livshits said on 3 February. He added that the first, of DM 1 billion ($606
million), will be issued by the end of March, AFP reported. In November, Russia
issued a five-year Eurobond offering a yield of 9.25% to raise $1 billion; the
issue was twice over-subscribed. First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Ilyushin,
meanwhile, said that in order to ensure the payment of current pensions the
Finance Ministry and Russian Pension Fund have had to rethink a timetable
agreed a week ago to pay off the bulk of pension arrears in February and March,
ITAR-TASS reported. The new agreement postpones the settlement of much of the
debt to April-June, Segodnya reported on 1 February. According to
Pension Fund Chairman Vasilii Barchuk, the debt to pensioners should fall from
17.1 trillion rubles to 14.5 trillion by the end of February. -- Penny
POTANIN SAYS 1997 PRIVATIZATION TARGET TOO HIGH.
First Deputy Prime
Minister Vladimir Potanin said that the 1997 privatization revenue target of 6
trillion rubles ($1.1 billion at the current exchange rate) is too high and
will be difficult to meet, ITAR-TASS and Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on
3-4 February. Potanin, recently appointed head of the government commission on
collecting privatization revenue for the federal budget, argued that setting
targets at the beginning of the year is "unproductive" since attempts to meet
them may cause conflicts over sales of equity stakes in certain companies.
Potanin proposed instead increasing other types of revenue, such as taxes on
production and sale of alcohol, which could net 10-12 trillion rubles a year.
-- Natalia Gurushina
CONFLICT WITHIN NORILSK NIKEL.
Employees of the Norilsk Mining and
Metallurgical Plant (NGMK) have expressed no-confidence in the management of
their parent company Norilsk Nikel and the Moscow-based ONEKSIMbank, which
holds a controlling interest in Norilsk Nikel, ITAR-TASS and Nezavisimaya
gazeta reported on 3-4 February. The workers are demanding that Norilsk
Nikel pay 1 trillion rubles ($180 million) in wage arrears, increase the
minimum wage to 500,000 rubles, and increase the wage compensation coefficient
for working in the northern region. They threatened to call for the dismissal
of Norilsk Nickel and NGMK management and the revocation of ONEKSIMbank's
controlling interest in Norilsk Nikel if their demands are not met by 20
February. Norilsk Nikel officials say the company's ability to solve the wage
problem is limited, since tax police sequestered 626 billion rubles worth of
output in July 1996. -- Natalia Gurushina
SHEVARDNADZE IN FRANCE.
Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze arrived
in Paris for a three-day state visit on 3 February, Western media reported.
Following talks with his French counterpart Jacques Chirac, Shevardnadze was
quoted as saying Georgia welcomes France's intention to conduct an "active
policy" in the Caucasus and Georgia was "moving in the direction" of the
European Union but had no ambitions to join NATO because "no one would take it
seriously." Chirac suggested Paris intends to support Tbilisi's bid to join the
Council of Europe. -- Lowell Bezanis
IRAN AND ARMENIA.
Armenian parliamentary Speaker Bakken Ararktsyan held
talks with top Iranian officials in Tehran from 1-3 February, Iranian and
Western media reported. Ararktsyan's Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Natek Nuri,
was quoted by Iranian media as saying the two sides had reached "important
decisions," including the construction of a pipeline to carry Iranian gas to
Armenia. No further details were given. Iranian Vice President Hasan Habibi
reiterated Tehran's standing offer, which is anathema to Azerbaijan, to mediate
in the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute. Ararktsyan voiced hopes that the recently
formed Iran-Armenia joint committee would speed up implementation of existing
agreements and that joint ventures in gas, tire manufacturing, transport, and
petrochemicals would be established in the future. -- Lowell Bezanis
SUSPECT SENTENCED TO DEATH FOR KILLING RUSSIAN SOLDIERS.
court on 3 February found 30-year-old Aleksandr Gayurov guilty of murdering two
Russian soldiers in February 1995 and sentenced him to be shot, NTV reported.
Gayurov's lawyer says his client received a "cursory and unprofessional trial"
and plans to appeal. In a related story, the Russian magazine Itogi on 4
February published a poll on the presence of Russian soldiers in Tajikistan.
According a VCIOM survey of 1,600 Russians, 20% said the troops should remain,
12% said their number should be increased, 50% wanted them pulled out, and 18%
had trouble answering the question. Russian soldiers make up the core of both
the 201st Motorized Division and the CIS peacekeeping force in Tajikistan.
During the last two years more than 60 have been killed, many away from the
scenes of fighting. -- Bruce Pannier
KAZAKSTANI UNIONS READY TO STRIKE.
A leader of the Kazakh Free Trade
Unions Confederation, Leonid Solomin, warned the government that if wage
arrears are not paid soon strikes could sweep the country, Reuters reported on
3 February. Solomin noted that 254 miners at the Achisaysky non-ferrous metals
plant in Kentau have occupied administrative buildings since mid-January
demanding their unpaid wages, which now total 40 million tenge ($500,000).
Solomin said many had not been paid for eight months and some for as long as
two years. Teachers in Kazakstan's northern Semipalatinsk Region are
threatening to strike later this week. Total wage and pension arrears are
estimated to be approaching $1 billion. President Nursultan Nazarbayev has
several times ordered the problem to be solved, but some fear that a sudden
payment of the outstanding wages will drastically devalue the country's
currency. -- Bruce Pannier
FUND ESTABLISHED IN MEMORY OF MURDERED U.S. JOURNALIST.
network on 3 February announced the creation of the Chris Gehring Memorial Fund
to aid journalists in Central Asia. Gehring, 28, was the head of an Internews
project in Kazakstan until he was found murdered in his Almaty apartment on 9
January. The fund will be used to continue Gehring's work, and will include an
annual prize for journalists and a legal defense fund for journalists working
in the area. Internews, a non-profit organization, provides assistance to more
than 100 independent electronic media organizations in Central Asia. -- Bruce
BRITISH DEFENSE SECRETARY VISITS UKRAINE.
In his first official trip to
Ukraine on 2-3 February, Michael Portillo urged Ukraine to seek a special
relationship with NATO, Western agencies reported. In talks with Ukrainian
National Security and Defense Council Secretary Volodymyr Horbulin and Defense
Minister Oleksander Kuzmuk on the first day, Portillo said that a special
partnership agreement could be worked out before the next NATO summit in July
during which the first candidates for NATO membership are likely to be
announced. The partnership entails cooperation, but is not full NATO
membership. The next day he met with Foreign Minister Hennadii Udovenko and
gave a speech at the Ukrainian Defense Ministry in which he said that the
partnership agreement would guarantee Ukraine's "sovereignty and integrity." --
RESIGNATION OF LITHUANIAN FINANCE MINISTER ACCEPTED.
After an hour-long
meeting with Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius on 3 February, President
Algirdas Brazauskas accepted the resignation of Rolandas Matiliauskas, Radio
Lithuania reported. When Matiliauskas submitted his letter of resignation last
month (see OMRI Daily Digest, 24 January 1997), Vagnorius asked the
procuracy to investigate his then unrepaid low-interest loan from the Kreditas
Bank. Although nothing irregular was discovered, Matiliauskas was arraigned on
31 January on criminal charges of embezzlement and foreign currency violations.
Vagnorius said that he would name a replacement soon, -- Saulius Girnius
RESIGNATION OF POLISH FINANCE MINISTER.
Polish Prime Minister
Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz said in a radio interview on 4 February he has accepted
the resignation of Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Grzegorz Kolodko.
The Polish press on 4 February reported that Kolodko submitted his resignation
on 24 January. Cimoszewicz said President Aleksander Kwasniewski, would also
accept the resignation and Kolodko would be replaced by President Aleksander
Kwasniewski's economic adviser, professor Marek Belka. -- Jakub Karpinski
POLISH, GERMAN AND FRENCH DEFENSE MINISTERS MEET.
Millon, Volker Ruehe of Germany, and Stanislaw Dobrzanski of Poland ended a two
day meeting in Warsaw on 3 February and signed a document providing for the
three armed forces to hold annual military exercises and creating a special
military coordinating group to oversee the links between the members of the
Weimar Triangle, consisting of France, Poland, and Germany. The German and
French ministers assured Warsaw that its NATO entry bid was on track despite
Russian opposition. At a joint news conference after the signing, Ruehe made
clear that the first candidates for NATO entry, widely expected to include
Poland, would be invited to start talks at a NATO summit in Madrid on July 8
and 9, whether or not the Western alliance had reached an arrangement with
Russia by then. -- Jakub Karpinski
CZECH WRITER FALLS TO HIS DEATH.
Bohumil Hrabal, considered one of the
greatest Czech writers of the 20th century, died on 3 February in tragic
accident, Czech media reported. Hrabal, who was 82 years old, fell out of a
fifth-floor hospital window while attempting to feed pigeons on the window
sill. Hrabal had been in the hospital since December for back pain. Hrabal's
works have been translated into many languages. The film adaptation of his
book, Closely Observed Trains, won the Oscar for best Foreign Film in
1967. Under the communist regime, Hrabal was allowed to publish some of his
books; others were widely distributed via samizdat publications. -- Jiri Pehe
HUNGARY URGES SLOVAKIA TO PASS MINORITY LANGUAGE LAW.
Hungary on 3
February appealed to Slovakia to approve a long-delayed minority language law,
Reuters reported. Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs said that by
delaying the law's passage, Slovakia is contravening commitments to its
Hungarian minority and to the Council of Europe. Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir
Meciar and other government officials promised to approve the legislation after
the parliament passed a controversial law on the Slovak language in November
1995. However, the minority languages bill has yet to be placed before
parliament, and the Slovak nationalities council on 21 November voted against
the approval of such a law. Although that Slovak language law took effect at
the beginning of last year, its actual implementation was delayed until 1
January 1997. In recent days, controversy has centered over the fact that
Hungarian-language schools have begun to issue grade reports only in Slovak,
although bilingual versions had been issued by such schools since 1921,
Sme reported on 1 February. -- Sharon Fisher
SLOVAK OPPOSITION AGREES TO COOPERATE.
Opposition representatives met on
3 February, agreeing to work together to renew parliamentary democracy in
Slovakia, TASR reported. They criticized the methods of the ruling coalition
parties, which aim to "strengthen their own power" and confirm that the ruling
coalition does not have an interest in creating real conditions for Slovakia's
entry into NATO and the EU. The opposition also accused Prime Minister Vladimir
Meciar of not having a real interest in holding multiparty talks. In other
news, parliament chairman Ivan Gasparovic announced on 3 February that he will
not respond to the U.S. Helsinki Commission's complaint about the stripping of
deputy Frantisek Gaulieder's parliamentary seat (see OMRI Daily Digest,
29 January 1997). He said that the Slovak Constitutional Court must first
decide on the issue. -- Sharon Fisher
HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS RUSSIA HAS OBSOLETE VIEW OF NATO.
Kovacs on 3 February told Reuters that Russia's opposition to the enlargement
of NATO was based on an obsolete view and dismissed as "nonsense" the idea that
enlargement to include the Central European states posed a threat to Moscow.
Kovacs also said that the accession of those who are widely considered the most
advanced to join the organization would not turn over the military balance in
the region. According to Kovacs, both by ruling out early membership for the
Baltic States and by stating it had no intention of stationing nuclear weapons
in Central Europe, NATO had taken away the biggest reasons for Russia to feel
threatened. -- Zsofia Szilagyi
SERBIAN PROTESTERS' RESOLVE IN FACE OF GOVERNMENT VIOLENCE.
opposition leaders on 3 January called for peaceful resistance in the face of
police crackdowns to the continuing protests. Vuk Draskovic, head of the
Serbian Renewal Movement and Zajedno leader, urged "We must all turn into a
river of non-violent resistance...All schools and faculties must close, we must
not pay any taxes and bills and we must all go on strike. They are taking money
from the citizens to pay the police who beat the people," Reuters reported.
Meanwhile, reports from 3-4 February continued to circulate of police beatings,
albeit on a scale which did not reach that of the previous evening. Nasa
Borba on 4 February, meanwhile, reported on the magnitude and severity of
the police crackdown on that night of 2-3 February under the headline "The
Police Beat Whomever They Could." -- Stan Markotich
INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY CONDEMNS CRACKDOWN IN SERBIA.
A flood of
international criticism has greeted Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and
his government for the decision to employ violence against peaceful protests.
State Department Spokesman Nicholas Burns deplored "the most serious use of
force [on 2-3 February]" and called "on the Serb police and the Serb
authorities led by President Milosevic to exercise restraint in the streets of
Belgrade," Reuters reported on 3 February. Meanwhile, U.S. charge d'affaires
Richard Miles met Foreign Minister Milan Milutinovic on 3 February to "condemn"
the police violence and "to call upon the Serbian government officially to
refrain from using police force in the streets of Belgrade." But for his part,
Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic attended a state medal awards ceremony in
which high ranking officials, including police dignitaries, were honored,
international media reported. -- Stan Markotich
SERB LEADERSHIP BREAKS OFF COOPERATION WITH CROATIAN GOVERNMENT.
Tankosic, deputy head of the Office for Transitional Administration in eastern
Slavonia, told the Croatian pro-government daily Vjesnik on 4 February
that the local Serb leadership has decided to break off all contacts and
cooperation with Croatian government representatives. Tankosic said the break
will possibly last until 5 February, when the Serb "regional assembly" will
meet and decide on a future political direction. The local Serb TV station,
Beli Manastir, reported on 3 February that local Serb leadership is very
disappointed by the UN Security Council's decision to endorse the Croatian
government's letter of intent for reintegration of eastern Slavonia into the
rest of Croatia. -- Daria Sito Sucic
ATTACK ON INDEPENDENT SARAJEVO MONTHLY.
Five people on 2 February
entered the premises of the independent Sarajevo magazine Dani and tried
to evict its staff, Onasa quoted a press release by the Sarajevo Canton
Interior Ministry. Claiming they owned the premises, the five threw tear gas
canisters and attacked the magazine's deputy editor in chief, Ozren Kebo.
Police arrested the perpetrators and said charges would be filed against them.
In other news, another cab-driver was murdered in Vogosca, a Sarajevo suburb,
on 2 February, following the murder of a cab-driver at suburb of Ilidza several
weeks ago, Onasa reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic
KARADZIC INTERVIEW PRODUCES OUTRAGE ...
In response to the public
warning by indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic that a Serbian loss of Brcko
could lead to war (see OMRI Daily Digest, 3 February 1997), Colum
Murphy, the spokesman for the international community's High Representative
Carl Bildt, said: "Dr. Karadzic's statement threatening war over Brcko is an
outrageous provocation. Dr. Karadzic has made a major mistake. He will not only
not be allowed to fan the flames of war, but by such outrageous statements he
has hastened the day when he will be able to comment only from The Hague. We
will also demand of our colleagues of the international community that indicted
war criminals should go sooner rather than later to the Hague tribunal,"
reported AFP. Bosnian co-Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic said, however, that the
international community deserved Karadzic's remarks "because they left those
war criminals running around freely for so long." -- Patrick Moore
. . . AND A DENIAL.
The Republika Srpska's Information Ministry, AFP
continued, denied the whole story, which ran in the Greek daily, Elevtheros
Typos: "At the most delicate moment in the process of arbitration ... [the
paper] inexplicably carried out an invented interview with Radovan Karadzic.
[The text runs] completely contrary to the positions of the Republika Srpska
regarding war and peace, the Dayton agreement, and the arbitration itself.
Having transferred all his powers to [Republika Srpska President] Biljana
Plavsic on 30 June 1996, Radovan Karadzic has not made any public appearances,
nor has he authorized anybody to put forward any views in public on his behalf,
particularly not views contrary to the official Serb position." Regarding
Brcko, the Bosnian Serb leadership has relied primarily on quiet diplomacy in
recent weeks, although on 16 December, Plavsic also raised the specter of war
should the arbitration go against the Serbs. The Greek journalist, for his
part, contended that the interview took place on 25 January, and his paper
published a photo of the interview in progress. -- Patrick Moore
CONSTANTINESCU IN BRUSSELS.
President Emil Constantinescu is scheduled
today to meet with NATO Secretary General Javier Solana for talks on Romania's
bid to join the alliance, international agencies reported. After meeting with
Constantinescu, European Commission President Jaques Santer said on 3 February
that the EU has been encouraged by progress in Romania since the November 1996
elections. The EU's Foreign Affairs Commissioner, Hans van der Broek, said
after talks with Constantinescu that the EU nations should release some $80
million in aid for Romania, which had been blocked when the former government
failed to meet its pledge for reforms. He also said that the commission will
"give a willful ear" to a $640 million program for aiding those likely to be
hardest hit by the envisaged reforms.
-- Zsolt Mato
CONTROVERSY OVER TREATY WITH UKRAINE?
Responding to Ukrainian President
Leonid Kuchma's opposition to Romania joining NATO without previously
recognizing the existing borders (see OMRI Daily Digest, 3 February),
Foreign Minister Adrian Severin said Kuchma's attitude was "unsuitable" and
amounted to "blackmail," the daily Jurnalul national reported. He
emphasized that his country has no territorial claims on Ukraine. Adrian
Nastase, deputy chairman of the opposition Party of Social Democracy in
Romania, said the present leaders' change of policy toward a Romanian/Ukraine
treaty was "worrying." Nastase added that the treaty should not be concluded
"at any price." The leader of the extreme nationalist Greater Romania Party,
Corneliu Vadim Tudor, said his party's very denomination indicated its position
and "we would rather forego the conclusion of the treaty than recognize the
abandon of those ancient Romanian lands." At that price, he added, "we do not
understand why we should join NATO at all." -- Zsolt Mato
ROMANIAN EX-MONARCH INVITED TO ROMANIA.
Exiled King Michael has been
invited to visit the northeastern Romanian city of Iasi by its mayor,
Constantin Simirad, Romanian television reported on 2 February. Simirad said he
sensed there was still "reluctance" on the part of the government to the king's
visit and thus wanted to test declarations that the former monarch could visit
the country at any time. The promise, first made by Foreign Minister Adrian
Severin shortly after the new government had been sworn in, was reiterated by
the secretary general of the main coalition member, the National Peasant Party
Christian Democratic. King Michael's citizenship was revoked by the communists
after his forced abdication in 1947 and has never been restored to him.
-- Dan Ionescu
TIRASPOL LEADERSHIP CONFLICT OVER GOVERNMENTAL STRUCTURE.
Transdniester Supreme Soviet has refused to approve the new government proposed
by the breakaway region's president, Igor Smirnov, BASA press reported on 3
February. On 30 January, the legislature proposed nominating a first deputy
premier, who should become prime minister following an amendment to the
existing constitution. Under the present basic law, Transdniester's president
is also prime minister. -- Dan Ionescu
BULGARIAN SOCIALISTS ANNOUNCE NEW GOVERNMENT ...
Party (BSP) premier-designate Nikolay Dobrev on 3 February announced the lineup
for his government, RFE/RL reported. Dobrev will present his cabinet to
President Petar Stoyanov on 4 February, and a confidence vote in the parliament
is scheduled for the following day. The government includes two deputy
premiers: Georgi Pirinski, who returns to the Foreign Ministry, and
newly-appointed Social Affairs Minister Nikola Koychev. More than half of the
portfolios will be headed by new ministers, including interior, defense,
industry, and justice. Gen. Sava Dzhendov will become interior minister, while
Gen. Lyuben Petrov will take over defense. Finance Minister Dimitar Kostov,
Foreign Trade Minister Atanas Paparizov, and Agriculture Minister Krastyo
Trendafilov are among the key ministers who will keep their post. Dobrev said
he will announce the ministers of economic development and of education at a
later date. A BSP plenary meeting passed the new lineup with 146 votes to 7. --
... WHILE PROTESTS MOUNT.
Protests against the formation of a new BSP
government and for early parliamentary elections intensified on 3 February,
Reuters and AFP reported. Traffic came to a virtual standstill in Sofia and
Plovdiv as public transport workers struck and students and protesters blocked
main intersections. In Sofia, 15 students were injured by angry drivers. Some
20,000 people demonstrated in the capital. Bus and train services were
suspended, while roads were blocked throughout the country. Road and train
links to Greece were blocked for a 6th consecutive day. Union of Democratic
Forces Chairman Ivan Kostov said the protests will continue until early
elections are called. Strike organizers said Sofia public transport will go on
an indefinite strike if the parliament approves the new government. Meanwhile,
Dobrev warned that "peaceful protests are understandable, but civil
disobedience is outside the law." National Police Chief Hristo Marinski called
on Stoyanov and politicians to find a way of keeping the protests peaceful. --
ALBANIAN OPPOSITION REJECTS PRESIDENT'S ROUND TABLE.
newly united in a "Forum for Democracy," dismissed the invitation of President
Sali Berisha for round table talks of about 20 political parties and
organizations. Instead, they renewed demands for the government's resignation,
Reuters reported. "The Forum is not in favor of a technical solution as
advanced by this round table but for a political solution," senior Socialist
Party leader Pandeli Majko said, adding that "we have already declared that the
first step for a political solution is the resignation of the government." The
Social Democratic Party accused Berisha of staging a public relations exercise.
Elsewhere, 24 more demonstrators have been formally charged with public
offenses in Lushnje and Berat. -- Fabian Schmidt
ALBANIAN INVESTORS TO GET MONEY BACK.
Some 350,000 distraught investors
are scheduled to receive partial refunds on 4 February. Five schemes have
folded in the past three months, but compensation has been announced only for
two pyramid schemes whose assets were seized in state banks. Bankers told state
television that investors in the Populli scheme would get back 60% of their
stake, while payments from the Xhaferri scheme would start a day later.
Depositors would be free to choose between cash or government certificates,
which could be exchanged later. A top official in the Gjallica pyramid scheme
has been arrested on fraud charges. The crisis has put pressure on the lek
currency, which has lost 30% of its value against the dollar since January.
Last week, it sank to 135 lek to the dollar, rallied at the weekend, but fell
again on 3 February to 120. -- Fabian Schmidt
[As of 1200 CET]
Compiled by Steve Kettle and Valentina Huber