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Newsline - February 6, 1997

A remote-controlled bomb blast damaged two cars in the motorcade of Chechen Vice President-elect Vakha Arsanov as it passed through central Grozny late on 4 February, Russian and Western agencies reported. Arsanov was unhurt, although his bodyguards suffered minor injuries. Arbi Ruslanov, Arsanov's press spokesman, alleged the attack was "a carefully planned operation by the Russian secret services," designed to destabilize Chechnya by provoking conflict between supporters of Arsanov's running mate, President-elect Aslan Maskhadov, and Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, the outgoing acting president. -- Scott Parrish

Implicitly criticizing the 4 February decision by Yandarbiev's government to expel Tim Guldimann, the head of the OSCE mission in Chechnya, Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin said it was too soon to close the mission, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 February. An anonymous senior Russian government official later said Moscow expects Chechen President-elect Maskhadov to reverse Yandarbiev's decision after his scheduled 12 February inauguration. Russian TV reported the same day that Maskhadov had invited Guldimann to attend the inauguration. Yandarbiev, meanwhile, stood by the expulsion in an interview with NTV, warning that Maskhadov would "put himself in a very awkward position" if he retracts it. Yandarbiev added that Guldimann would be in danger if he returns to Chechnya. Despite press speculation that he does not support the expulsion, Maskhadov has not yet publicly commented on it. -- Scott Parrish

The appointment of Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov to the post of deputy prime minister in charge of economic crime has been slammed in the "democratic" press but welcomed by Communists and nationalists. Several newspapers derided Kulikov's promotion, questioning his record against crime and in Chechnya. Segodnya described Kulikov's elevation as a reward for his loyalty to Yeltsin rather than for his performance as interior minister, while Izvestiya claimed the new deputy prime minister had been a failure as commander of Russian forces in Chechnya and as head of the police. Appearing on Ekho Moskvy on 5 February, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, on the other hand, described Kulikov as a professional doing his best to fight organized crime. Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky also praised the appointment and Kulikov's crime-fighting abilities, NTV reported. -- Penny Morvant and Laura Belin

The State Duma passed by a vote of 235 to 19, with 4 abstentions, a resolution accusing Presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais of not declaring his full 1996 income and failing to pay his taxes on time, Russian media reported on 5 February. The resolution, prepared by the Security Committee, asked President Boris Yeltsin to require senior civil servants to release income declarations. The Duma also sent photocopies of Chubais's bank statement and other financial documents to the Procurator-General's Office. In January, Chubais paid about 517 million rubles ($95,000) in taxes on income he said he earned through lectures and consultations during the first half of 1996. The Duma rejected an appeal by Russia's Democratic Choice member Sergei Yushenkov who claimed that many Duma deputies are far wealthier than Chubais and called on parliamentarians to release their own income declarations, NTV reported. -- Laura Belin

By an overwhelming majority, the Duma passed on 5 February a law laying claim to artworks seized by Soviet troops in Germany at the end of World War II, international agencies reported. The new legislation stipulates that such works of art "are the property of the Russian Federation and belong to the federal state." It also stresses that the artworks are compensation for the massive losses sustained by Russia during the war. The law still has to be approved by the Federation Council and President Yeltsin. Russia and Germany have been disputing the ownership of so-called trophy art since the collapse of the Soviet Union. In July 1996, the Duma passed a similar law, but the Federation Council rejected it. Following a meeting with Yeltsin in Moscow last month, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl announced that both sides wanted to resolve the dispute by the end of this year. -- Jan Cleave

Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii said on 6 February that Moscow supports the reported proposal by French President Jacques Chirac to hold a five-way summit on European security and NATO expansion this April, Russian and Western agencies reported. Citing anonymous Western diplomatic sources, AFP reported the day before that Chirac, supported by German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, had proposed that an April summit of Russia, France, Germany, Britain, and the U.S. hammer out a deal on Russian ties with NATO before the alliance issues membership invitations to prospective East European members at its scheduled July summit. The French proposal has received a cool response from American diplomats. -- Scott Parrish

Federal Migration Service head Tatyana Regent estimates that almost 1 million illegal immigrants have moved to Russia from beyond the borders of the former Soviet Union, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 February. Only 10,000, however, have applied for asylum, and significantly fewer are likely to receive it, she said. According to Regent, about 700,000 people emigrated to Russia from former Soviet countries in 1996, down from 1.1 million two years before. She attributed the decline to Russia's economic problems and the war in Chechnya. Reuters, however, quoted independent researchers as estimating that the real number of immigrants is at least 50% higher than the official statistics. -- Penny Morvant

Former miners and soldiers who took part in the clean-up operation after the 1996 Chornobyl disaster are continuing a hunger strike in Tula Oblast, although the government has released funds to pay delayed pensions and disability benefits, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 February. The former "liquidators," who declared a "dry" hunger strike on 1 February after more than two weeks of protests, decided to accept liquids and medicine when the government ordered the payment of 40 billion rubles ($7.1 million) to clean-up workers, but they say they will continue to refuse food until all the money, including an adjustment for inflation, is paid. Meanwhile, on 4 February, dozens of "liquidators" in Sverdlovsk Oblast also went on hunger strike to demand the payment of about 28 billion rubles in overdue benefits. Sverdlovsk is home to about 4,000 victims of nuclear accidents, including Chornobyl. -- Penny Morvant

Half of Russia's population is forced to drink water that does not meet acceptable hygiene standards, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 February, citing the Collegium of the Ministry of Natural Resources. The Collegium said Russian reservoirs and water purification systems are in critical condition, and the danger of dams breaking has increased. Of 30,000 water reservoirs, 12% have not been modernized for more than 50 years, while state subsidies to keep these systems in good condition are insufficient. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski

Russian Finance Minister Aleksandr Livshits and his German counterpart Theo Waigel have signed an agreement on restructuring the DM 25 billion ($15.2 billion) debt of the former USSR for which Russia assumed responsibility in April 1993, ITAR-TASS and ORT reported on 5 February. Under the deal, the principal will be repaid over 25 years, following a six-year grace period. There will be no rescheduling of interest payments, and in 1997 Russia will pay Germany some $260 million. Germany is Russia's largest creditor among members of the Paris Club, accounting for 40% of these countries' loans to the former Soviet Union. -- Natalia Gurushina

A report by the Main Control Department of the Presidential Administration (GKU) criticized the State Tax Service and accused its head Vitalii Artyukhov of failing to carry out his duties, Segodnya and Finansovye izvestiya reported on 5-6 February. The GKU said only 16% of taxpayers paid on time and in full, while 50% have tax arrears and 34% do not pay taxes. It added that in 1996, industrial companies' profits dropped 50% compared to 1995. Meanwhile, Finance Minister Aleksandr Livshits said that Russia has not achieved financial stabilization. Livshits said a major cause of the current financial crisis is "irrationally high" government expenditures. According to Economics Minister Yevgenii Yasin, they accounted for 39% of Russia's GDP in 1996 and should be brought down to at least 25-30% for economic reform to progress. -- Natalia Gurushina

The Tbilisi aircraft plant has begun production of new Su-39 low-flying assault jets, Georgian and Russian media reported on 5 February. The Su-39 is an upgraded version of the older Soviet Su-25 plane with, according to military experts, increased firepower. Georgian newspapers quoted the plant's general director as saying that the Georgian Defense Ministry has ordered 50 Su-39s, which are due to be delivered over the next seven years. -- Emil Danielyan

Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev and Denmark's representative in the OSCE Minsk Group, Susan Christiansen, held talks on resolving the impasse over which country will co-chair the stalled Nagorno-Karabakh negotiations, RFE/RL reported on 4 February. Christiansen proposed the U.S. be added as co-chairman, creating a leadership troika that would also include recently nominated France and permanent co-chairman Russia. Aliyev rejected the proposal and said the OSCE, in appointing France, had disregarded Baku's concerns. Aliyev would prefer to see the U.S. or Germany co-chair the group with Russia. -- Lowell Bezanis

Representatives of the International Monetary Fund and the government of Azerbaijan signed a memorandum of understanding in Baku on 4 February, RFE/RL reported. Satisfied with Azerbaijan's macroeconomic stabilization program of the last two years, which brought inflation down to 6.8% in 1996, the IMF, in keeping with a decision reached last December, will offer Azerbaijan two loans totaling $219 million over the next three years. -- Lowell Bezanis

Russia's pipeline concern Transneft has refused to pump Azerbaijani oil to the Black Sea in February and March, RFE/RL reported on 5 February. Transneft said it agreed with the Azerbaijan International Operating Company (AIOC) and Azerbaijan's State oil concern SOCAR to transport oil from the Chirag and Gunesli offshore fields, but not from other Azerbaijani deposits. The present rumpus, which pits SOCAR and the AIOC against Transneft, disrupts plans to export an estimated 70,000 metric tons of oil in the next two months. -- Lowell Bezanis

Three UN workers described as "local staff" and a Nigerian national accompanying them disappeared in the Tajik capital Dushanbe on 6 February, Reuters reported. The four were working for the refugee agency UNHCR. Four members of the UN military observer team and their interpreter were captured by a band loyal to renegade field commander Rezvon Sadirov on 4 February (see OMRI Daily Digest, 5 February 1997). They were allowed to contact UN offices in Dushanbe by radio and said they were not being mistreated but an Austrian member of the team was ill. Their captors are demanding safe passage for Sadirov and his group into Tajikistan from Afghanistan. -- Bruce Pannier

A Red Cross worker and interpreter on 5 February were captured by the same group which took UN military observers hostage the previous day near the town of Obigarm, according to Russian and Western media. The same day five Russian journalists were also taken by the group. Reports indicate the Red Cross employees were returning from the Tavil-Dara area were they had been engaged in humanitarian works. The Russian journalists were en route to meet with the outlaw band which holds the UN observers and now the journalists as well. Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov is ordering his government to take whatever action necessary to secure the release of all the hostages. -- Bruce Pannier

In a television broadcast on 4 February, Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov pledged to double the salaries of state employees and the military, Reuters reported the next day. Niyazov said the state had earmarked $92 million for this purpose and salaries will be raised effective 1 March. He said the increase is to be covered by fines imposed on Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan for overdue payments for Turkmen gas delivered from 1994 to 1996. -- Lowell Bezanis

The Turkmen Press News Agency, citing the State Statistics Committee, published official economic figures for 1996 on 4 February. According to the BBC-monitored report, inflation last year was 100.1%. In 1996, 4.4 million metric tons of oil and 35.2 billion cubic meters of gas were extracted. Over 90% of industrial production came from state enterprises but some 66% of retail trade is reportedly outside state control. The agency said GDP exceeded 6.6 billion manats ($1.6 billion) last year. -- Lowell Bezanis

The Crimean legislature voted by a narrow margin to dismiss its presidium, international agencies reported on 5 February. The parliament also began impeachment proceedings against speaker Vasyl Kyselyov, who claimed to be a victim in the war between rival Crimean organized crime groups. On 4 February, the parliament adopted a law stipulating that the region's government would be appointed and dismissed by its legislature, UNIAR reported. According to Ukrainian legislation, the Crimean prime minister is directly appointed by the Ukrainian president. But last month, the Crimean parliament dismissed its government, leading to a dispute with Leonid Kuchma who called the move unconstitutional. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev

Some 300,000 people in Belarus have fallen ill with respiratory infections, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 February. At the end of January, approximately 31,000 people were hospitalized with the flu and flu-related illnesses. Belarus health officials reported that children make up about 45% of all cases, and dismissed rumors that there were two deaths as a result of the epidemic. -- Sergei Solodovnikov

Toomas Hendrik Ilves completed a three-day visit to London on 5 February with talks with Defense Secretary Michael Portillo and British Council Director General Sir John Hanson, BNS reported. The previous day, he discussed European security questions and EU and NATO enlargement with his counterpart Malcolm Rifkind and economic relations with Deputy Minister for Trade Anthony Nelson. Ilves told a seminar at the University of London that attitudes toward Estonia will be the touchstone of EU enlargement. Estonia's non-admission among the first new members would indicate that geopolitical considerations, and not a country's progress in reform, might influence the date of its admission. -- Saulius Girnius

Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius said over national radio on 5 February that disagreements over reducing import duties for farm products was why the government had not signed a letter of intent with the recently departed IMF delegation, ELTA reported. Lithuania will not lower those duties to 10% later this year as promised by the previous government, because doing so would hurt the country's farmers and could even cause a financial crisis. He noted that real import duties had declined to 20% from 27.5%. Vagnorius added that the new economic policy memorandum to be signed in September would include gradually abandoning both the currency board and pegging the litas to the dollar. -- Saulius Girnius

A motion signed on 5 February by 139 deputies, mostly from the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), calls for Internal Affairs Minister Andrzej Milczanowski to stand before a state tribunal, Polish media reported. The motion was prompted by Milczanowski's spy allegations formulated in December 1995 against then-Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy. Prosecutors dropped charges against Olesky in April 1996, finding evidence against him inadequate and seriously flawed. The accusations against Milczanowski say he neglected his ministerial responsibilities to oversee the security service and therefore harmed the interests of the state and of Oleksy. He is also accused of not informing prosecutors about the suspected crime, of revealing secret information openly in the Sejm, and of sharing secret security service material with the foreign minister. -- Jakub Karpinski

Trade unions representing Czech railroad workers announced on 5 February that they will extend their 48-hour strike, which should have ended today, by another 24 hours, Czech media reported. Trade union representatives said they were unable to reach an agreement with the management of Czech Railways and the Ministry of Transportation on how to improve the railroads' efficiency and increase wages. -- Jiri Pehe

The opposition claimed the parliament on 5 February violated the law in approving Ladislav Hruska to replace the recently deceased Slovak National Party (SNS) Deputy Bartolomej Kunc, CTK reported. The election law states that vacated seats must be taken by the next candidate on the party's list, provided he won over 10% of that party's preferential votes. The seat thus should have gone to Emil Spisak, who joined the opposition Democratic Union (DU) after being expelled from the SNS two years ago. The opposition promised to take the matter to the Constitutional Court. Also on 5 February, DU Deputy Anton Hrnko announced that he was leaving his party, reportedly because of his disapproval of the opposition's referendum petition calling for direct presidential elections. DU Deputy Chairman Ludovit Cernak said Hrnko will not "join any political camp," but CTK reported that Hrnko has had frequent contacts with the ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia. -- Sharon Fisher

Jozef Migas, chairman of the opposition Party of the Democratic Left, noted on 5 February that current relations among ruling parties resemble the situation during last June's coalition crisis, CTK reported. In June, disputes over the privatization of Slovakia's largest financial institutions nearly tore apart the ruling coalition. Bank privatization was banned until 31 March, however, Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar now seems intent on carrying through with it, much to the dismay of the Association of Workers (ZRS), a junior coalition partner. Although the SNS was the instigator of last summer's crisis, the party now sides with Meciar. Both the SDL and the ZRS believe the four biggest financial institutions should not be privatized. Also on 5 February, Slovak Foreign Ministry spokesman Ivan Korcok rejected Hungarian accusations that Bratislava is violating international legal commitments by failing to approve the long-delayed minority language law, TASR reported. -- Sharon Fisher

According to Young Democrat Chairman Viktor Orban, there are two separate power groups emerging within the opposition, Magyar Hirlap reported on 6 February. Orban said one group includes the Smallholders Party and the Christian Democrats, while the other includes the Young Democrats and the Democratic Forum. (All parties have signed cooperation agreements within each group in preparation for the 1998 general elections.) Orban added that the country is now mentally ready for a change of government, and the only question is whether the Smallholders Party or the Young Democrats will replace the governing Socialists. He foresees a major defeat for the Socialists in 1998, similar to that of the Democratic Forum in 1994. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

The parliament on 4 February voted to lift Laszlo Boldvai's immunity, as requested by the prosecutor general, Hungarian dailies reported. Boldvai, the Socialist Party's treasurer and deputy, has been accused of abuse of influence after it was revealed that he arranged the transfer of 200 million forints ($1.25 million) from a privatization consultant's bank account to a company linked to the Socialist Party (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20 January 1997). Tamas Deutsch, deputy of the opposition Young Democrats and chairman of the parliamentary commission investigating illegal payments by the state privatization agency (APV) to the outside consultant, said the commission may shortly see even Prime Minister Gyula Horn and Free Democrat President Ivan Peto testify. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

U.S. Ambassador Peter Galbraith, who is widely regarded as one of the politically most important people in Croatia, joined EU ambassadors in a meeting with Foreign Minister Mate Granic. The diplomats stressed that Croatia must do all it has promised to reassure the Serbs of eastern Slavonia prior to its return to Croatian authority on 15 July. After the meeting, Galbraith said: "The process of reintegration is, I think, going very well. It is speeding up toward July 15," Reuters reported on 5 February. He goes today to eastern Slavonia to tell the Serbs that "the Croatian letter [to the UN outlining its policies in the area] represents a very positive step, that there is no more time for negotiation, that measures are in place to protect the rights of the Serbian population." Meanwhile in Vukovar, the local Serb assembly condemned recent violent incidents, which Galbraith said were the work of Serbian extremists (see OMRI Daily Digest, 5 February 1997). -- Patrick Moore

Experts from the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia on 5 February handed over to Bosnian authorities the remains of more than 300 bodies found in mass graves at Pilica and Lazete, international and local media reported. The bodies are linked to the massacre of Srebrenica Muslims by Serbs in summer 1995. Amor Masovic, head of the war crimes commission in the Bosnian Federation, said the victims were killed by gunshot. The tribunal's experts said that the bodies will provide evidence for the Hague-based tribunal prosecutions. Exhumations are also being carried out by the former warring parties themselves. Masovic said a total of 1,928 bodies had been recovered from 31 mass graves and hundreds of smaller graves throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina; 1,031 bodies had been identified. Meanwhile, in New York, a magistrate ordered indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic to stand trial in New York in a lawsuit accusing him of crimes against humanity. The suit was filed by Bosnian women refugees, international agencies reported on 6 February. -- Daria Sito Sucic

The Croatian parliament's upper house on 4 February backed a bill to begin payment of pension arrears on 3 March, local and international media reported. The opposition parliament deputies accused the ruling party of using the bill as part of a preelection campaign; it comes only two weeks before Croatia's local elections scheduled for 16 March, Novi List reported. The bill envisages payments to cover the debt that had accrued since 1 February 1995. In other news, Zvonimir Markovic, the first Croatian ambassador to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, on 5 February presented his credentials to Yugoslav President Zoran Lilic. Upon arrival at the Croatian Embassy in Belgrade's Dedinje district, Markovic raised the Croatian flag outside the building, Hina reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic

The government of Serbia submitted to parliament on 5 February a draft of legislation which calls for the recognition of local runoff election wins by the opposition Zajedno coalition in 14 municipalities, Tanjug reported. The legislature is slated to discuss the legislative proposal on 11 February. These latest moves, however, may not signal that the government of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic is interested in genuine compromise or turning over political authority at any level to the opposition. Representatives of Mirjana Markovic's Party, the Yugoslav United Left, publicly called on 5 February for an end to mass demonstrations, hinting that failure to do so may lead to renewed police aggression against peaceful protesters. Markovic is Milosevic's wife and political confidante. -- Stan Markotich

For their part, leaders of the Zajedno coalition said that while Milosevic's latest moves may represent some grounds for optimism, they do not indicate government resolve to make fundamental political changes. The leader of the Serbian Civic Alliance, Vesna Pesic, struck a note of caution while addressing the Belgrade crowd on 5 February, saying, "This is just round one ... We must change the entire system, step by step. ... [and] demand economic reform, freedom, and life with dignity." Reaction from some quarters of the international community emphasized the optimistic. OSCE chair and Danish Foreign Minister Niels Helveg Petersen remarked that Milosevic's latest moves "hopefully [represent] a step toward positive democratic development in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The installation in office of the elected candidates is expected without delay," Reuters reported on 6 February. -- Stan Markotich

A court in Kosovo has sentenced Zlatibor Jovanovic to 11 years in prison for shooting dead the ethnic Albanian Armend Daci in Pristina last April, AFP reported on 5 February. According to defense lawyers, the verdict was the harshest ruling in six years against a Serbian national in Kosovo. The murder had sparked street protests and was followed by the killing of five Serbs by unidentified attackers. -- Fabian Schmidt

After meeting for an hour with visiting Romanian President Emil Constantinescu on 5 February, French President Jaques Chirac said France will strongly plead Romania's case to its NATO allies, Romanian and international media reported. Chirac also said Paris will help Bucharest join the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, as well as its bid for membership in the European Union. Constantinescu also met with members of the Romanian emigre community there. Paris was the last stage of his tour, which included Brussels and Davos, Switzerland. Chirac is to visit Romania on 20-21 February, the first Western leader to do so after the change in government. -- Zsolt Mato

Minister of Labor Alexandru Athanasiu told a parliamentary commission on 5 February that the government will have to delay promises made during the electoral campaign to cut income taxes, Radio Bucharest reported on 5 February. He said the government cannot afford to do so now because of an expected rise in unemployment due to the planned closing or privatization of non-productive state enterprises. Athanasiu said salaries will be indexed only to 75% of the cost of living rise, but the minimum taxable salary will double from the present 97,000 lei (about $16). Meanwhile, trade union leaders said their members were losing patience and would not wait beyond 10 February for the government to announce how it intends to cover the social costs of reform. -- Dan Ionescu

Judges in some Bucharest districts refused to attend court sessions, Radio Bucharest reported on 4-5 February. While the protest is over low wages and poor working conditions, the action is not called a "strike," because the law prohibits magistrates to take labor action. After meeting with the judges, Justice Minister Valeriu Stoica said no immediate measures were possible, and the magistrates would have to wait at least two months before any action would be taken. The judges decided to continue their protest. -- Dan Ionescu

Sofia Mayor Stefan Sofiyanski agreed to head the caretaker government which will conduct early parliamentary elections in April, Pari and Kontinent reported on 6 February. According to press reports, the government will include several top advisers of President Petar Stoyanov. Krasimir Angarski is slated to become deputy premier and finance minister and will be in charge of talks with international financial institutions, while Stoyanov's adviser on international economic affairs, Valentin Dobrev, will probably become foreign minister. The cabinet will also include opposition deputies; Union of Democratic Forces Deputy Chairman Aleksandar Bozhkov is expected to become deputy premier and economics minister. But opposition deputies said the cabinet lineup is not yet ready and only Stoyanov knows the names. Meanwhile, the IMF on 5 February announced it will resume talks with Bulgaria after the formation of the caretaker government. -- Stefan Krause

The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) on 5 February decided to boycott all parliamentary sessions apart from those making changes to the electoral law, Standart reported. The BSP deputies started their boycott on 6 February, forcing one session to be called off. The boycott means that urgent legislation, including anti-crisis measures and the introduction of a currency board, cannot be passed. The decision was taken after sessions of the BSP Executive Bureau and the Socialist parliamentary caucus. The BSP asked that Stoyanov dissolve the parliament by 14 February. The orthodox Marxist platform within the BSP called for the expulsion from the BSP of Nikolay Dobrev, who, as premier-designate, returned the mandate and thus opened the way for early elections without consulting the party. The hardliners accused Dobrev of "violating party discipline and [of] national treason." Meanwhile, former President Zhelyu Zhelev called for the BSP's voluntary dissolution. -- Stefan Krause

The united opposition and the trade unions on 5 February held "victory rallies" in towns throughout Bulgaria to celebrate the BSP's refusal to form a second government and the political forces' decision to call early elections in April, national media reported. "We won our greatest victory since the totalitarian regime's collapse," SDS parliamentary caucus Leader Yordan Sokolov told tens of thousands at the central Sofia rally, 24 chasa reported. While these rallies are supposed to be the last after one month of demonstrations, strikes over economic demands continued in several enterprises. State television journalists also continued their strike against censorship. In other news, Prosecutor-General Ivan Tatarchev said he will launch investigations against several ministers of the previous BSP cabinet for causing the current economic crisis. -- Maria Koinova

Six people were injured on 5 February during armed clashes at an anti-government demonstration in Vlora, AFP reported. Three policemen and two civilians were shot and wounded during two armed incidents. The trouble began when police used clubs and a water cannon to break up a crowd of 5,000 protesters demanding their money back from the Gjallica investment company. On 6 February around 10,000 people protested in Vlora, and Reuters reported both stones and vegetables were thrown. Gjallica had promised two months ago to reimburse by 6 February its roughly 400,000 investors who had poured some $300,000 into the company. Fitim Gerxhalliu, the company's founder, announced on 5 February that there was no money left. The payout of frozen assets to investors of the Xhaferri and Populli schemes, meanwhile, continued, Radio Deutsche Welle's Albanian-language service reported. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Steve Kettle and Jan Cleave