KREMLIN BLASTS NATO FOR "ANTI-MOSCOW" POLICY.
Sergei Yastrzhembskii on 12 February accused NATO of an "anti-Moscow" secret
agenda, arguing that "the West as a whole, and the leadership of NATO in
particular, is opposed to any form of political or military integration"
between the former republics of the Soviet Union, Reuters reported.
Yastrzhembskii said that there are "no grounds" for saying that Russia and NATO
have drawn closer on certain issues. NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana is
currently on a tour of Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. In Yerevan,
Solana expressed surprise at Yastrzhembskii's comments, RFE/RL reported. --
SURGEON: YELTSIN NEEDS ANOTHER TWO WEEKS TO RECOVER.
Yeltsin needs at least 10 to 14 more days to recover from pneumonia, surgeon
Renat Akchurin told ITAR-TASS on 12 February. Akchurin said that while the
pneumonia has not affected Yeltsin's heart, the president is somewhat weakened,
needs to gain weight, and his recuperation should not be rushed. In the
meantime, the Railway Ministry was instructed to prepare a special carriage
fitted with medical equipment for Yeltsin's trip to a meeting with Bill Clinton
in Helsinki in March, Argumenty i fakty reported on 11 February. --
FEDERATION COUNCIL PASSES 1997 BUDGET.
The Federation Council passed on
12 February the 1997 budget by 120 votes to 25 with nine abstentions, ITAR-TASS
reported. After the Council meeting, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin noted
that the budget will enable the government to control the macroeconomic
situation in the country. Responding to critics of the budget's revenue target,
Finance Minister Aleksandr Livshits noted that the government intends to
intensify the fight against tax dodgers and cut the number of available tax
benefits. The budget now goes to President Boris Yeltsin for signing. --
DUMA APPEALS TO CONSTITUTIONAL COURT ON FEDERATION COUNCIL FORMATION.
The State Duma has asked the Constitutional Court to examine the legality
of the law on the formation of the Federation Council, ITAR-TASS reported on 12
February. The law stipulates that the heads of the executive and legislative
branches in each of Russia's 89 regions automatically become members of the
upper house of parliament. Duma deputy Yelena Mizulina (Yabloko) argued that
the current law violates the principle of separation of powers by having
governors take part in passing legislation, and also allows the regional elite
to "interfere" in passing federal laws. Asked why the Duma was only now
disputing a law passed in December 1995, Mizulina said that the Duma had wanted
to make sure gubernatorial elections would be held by the end of 1996, as
stipulated by the law on the Council's formation. -- Laura Belin
Also on 12 February, the Duma passed a resolution asking
the Interior Ministry to determine whether state officials are citizens of
another country and to announce the results of the investigation by 1 April,
Russian Public TV (ORT) and ITAR-TASS reported. The resolution was inspired by
media reports last November that Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris
Berezovskii held dual citizenship with Israel (he eventually dropped his
Israeli citizenship). The Duma also ordered the Audit Chamber to investigate
the finances of state-run Russian TV (RTR). The audit will examine the
network's agreements with commercial organizations and how RTR uses federal
funds and advertising profits. The Duma also passed in the second reading a law
prohibiting public actions and the distribution of written materials promoting
"the propaganda of fascism." -- Laura Belin
DUMA PASSES DRUG LAW.
The Duma on 12 February passed in the third and
final reading a draft law on narcotic and psychotropic substances, ITAR-TASS
reported. The bill, which is aimed at combating drug trafficking, provides for
a state monopoly on the cultivation, production, development, processing, and
transportation of drugs in Russia. All drug operations will be monitored by a
government commission on drug abuse and a permanent drug monitoring committee
within the Health Ministry. -- Penny Morvant
FEDERATION COUNCIL REJECTS PENSION INCREASE.
The parliament's upper
house rejected on 12 February a bill raising the minimum pension by 10% to
76,530 rubles a month, ITAR-TASS reported. The deputies voted down the bill by
55 to 47 with 11 abstentions, although the Federation Council's social policy
committee had recommended that it be adopted. The draft was earlier vetoed by
President Yeltsin on the grounds that the country could not afford it (see
OMRI Daily Digest, 23 January 1997). It will now be reviewed by
committees in both houses of the Federal Assembly. Also on 12 February, the
Federation Council at last approved the constitutional law on the Russian
Federation Human Rights Commissioner. The bill has been more than three years
in the making (see OMRI Daily Digest, 31 December 1996).-- Penny
BEAR HUNT STORY CAUSES TROUBLE FOR OGONEK.
Officials in Prime
Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's office persuaded a Moscow bank to freeze the
credit of the popular weekly magazine Ogonek after it reported on
Chernomyrdin's lavish bear-hunting expedition in Yaroslavl last month, the
Christian Science Monitor reported on 11 February. In preparation for
the prime minister's visit, public funds were used to build a new road in the
forest near the lair of a mother bear and two cubs. Ogonek Editor Lev
Gushin immediately called the matter to the attention of Deputy Security
Council Secretary Boris Berezovskii, whose Logovaz empire is the major
financial backer of Ogonek. He cleared up the problem by phoning the
bank. The newspaper Novaya gazeta broke the bear hunt story the same
week, but it has a relatively small circulation concentrated in Moscow, whereas
Ogonek is sold nationwide. -- Laura Belin
BEREZOVSKII SUING FORBES.
Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris
Berezovskii filed a libel lawsuit in the High Court in London against the U.S.
magazine Forbes, ITAR-TASS and Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 12
February. At issue is a recent Forbes article--published
anonymously--entitled "Godfather of the Kremlin?" (see OMRI Daily
Digest, 20 December 1996). It suggested that Berezovskii built his Logovaz
empire through criminal means and was a "leading suspect" in the March 1995
assassination of journalist Vladislav Listev. Nikolai Glushkov, deputy director
of Aeroflot and a co-founder of Logovaz, is a co-plaintiff in the case. It is
easier to win a libel suit in Great Britain than in the U.S. -- Laura Belin
LIVSHITS RESPONDS TO RODIONOV ATTACK ON UNDERFUNDING.
Minister and Finance Minister Aleksandr Livshits said that the 1996 budget
called for spending more than 21 trillion rubles on the military and that his
ministry paid out more than 28 trillion. He claimed that he hoped to provide an
additional 3.2 trillion as well. His remarks came in response to Defense
Minister Igor Rodionov's 6 February charge that military underfinancing is
causing Russia to lose control of its nuclear missiles (see OMRI Daily
Digest 7 February 1997). Livshits argued that the difficulties of
collecting taxes has limited the amount of money that can be disbursed. --
U.S. WARNS RUSSIA ON IRANIAN MISSILE TRANSFER.
During Prime Minister
Viktor Chernomyrdin's recent visit to Washington, the U.S. issued a diplomatic
warning to Russia because it had allegedly. transferred SS-4 missile technology
to Iran that could threaten U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf, the Los Angeles
Times and news agencies reported on 12 February. The transfer involved
detailed instructions on how to build a delivery system for the weapon. The
SS-4 has a range of 1,250 miles, three times more than the missiles Iran
currently possesses. -- Robert Orttung
FOREIGN CURRENCY SALES IN 1996.
More than $51 billion in foreign
currency were sold in Russia in 1996, a sum roughly equal to 1996 federal
budget revenue, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 February citing sources in the Central
Bank. Sales reached a peak in December, topping $6 billion. At the end of last
year, the Duma approved a draft law introducing a 0.5% tax on the purchase of
foreign currency, but the bill was rejected by the Federation Council and is
now being reviewed by a conciliation commission. -- Penny Morvant
CHERNOMYRDIN SUGGESTS NEW APPROACH TO TAX COLLECTION.
Viktor Chernomyrdin said that the government plans to introduce a new approach
to tax collection and the reduction of non-payments in the economy, ITAR-TASS
reported on 12 February. It involves (1) using the Treasury to implement the
federal budget and (2) the transfer of budgetary accounts (and the accounts of
non-budgetary funds) to branches of the Central Bank (TsB) or Sberbank (Savings
Bank). Companies will have to make their tax payments to those accounts.
According to the TsB, the total volume of non-payments in Russia has reached
893 trillion rubles ($160 billion), Delovoi mir reported on 12 February.
-- Natalia Gurushina
CIS ENERGY DEBT TO RUSSIA REDUCED.
The debt owed by the CIS and Baltic
states for Russian supplies of fuel and energy now amounts to 7.67 trillion
rubles ($1.36 billion at the current exchange rate), down from some 16 trillion
rubles at the beginning of 1996, Segodnya reported on 12 February.
Ukraine remains Russia's largest debtor, owing 2.6 trillion rubles. Meanwhile,
Russia's giant natural gas company Gazprom warned its clients in Belarus that
it will cut gas deliveries by 30% unless Belarus adheres to the debt repayment
schedule agreed to at the end of 1996. Belarus owes Gazprom some $280 million.
-- Natalia Gurushina
SOLANA MEETS WITH ARMENIAN LEADERSHIP.
Armenian President Levon
Ter-Petrossyan told visiting NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana on 12
February that maintaining "normal relationships" with neighboring countries is
the most reliable guarantee of Armenia's national security, ITAR-TASS reported.
Both Ter-Petrossyan and Defense Minister Vazgen Sarkisyan assured Solana that
cooperation with NATO under the Partnership for Peace Program is important for
Armenia. Acknowledging "some progress" in his country's relations with NATO,
Sarkisyan said that Armenia will get more actively involved in the program in
1997, adding that the Armenian armed forces may take part in military
exercises. Sarkisyan added that Armenia is pursuing a "balanced policy" between
the CIS collective security treaty and the Partnership for Peace program.
Earlier, during his visit to Georgia, Solana argued that a European security
system would be incomplete without the Transcaucasian states. -- Emil
RUSSIAN BORDER GUARDS OUST TURKISH VESSELS FROM GEORGIAN WATERS.
border guards patrolling Georgia's territorial waters on 11 February spotted
and ousted 16 Turkish vessels engaged in illegal fishing, Russian media
reported. A spokesman for the Russian Federal Border Service claimed that the
Turkish boats ignored orders to stop and one of them rammed a Russian boat as
the latter tried to approach it. In response, the border guards "had to open
fire" on the Turkish vessels. No casualties were reported. Meanwhile, Turkey
has informed the Russian border officials that all of the poachers have been
arrested. -- Emil Danielyan
NIYAZOV SACKS SOLTANOV...
Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov
appointed Akmurad Mulkamanov to the post of first deputy defense minister and
chief of the Armed Forces General Staff on 12 February, RFE/RL reported the
same day. Mulkamanov, who earlier headed an unnamed body that coordinated the
country's national security agencies, replaced Annamurad Soltanov in both
positions. The same day, Niyazov issued a decree effectively abolishing what
was described as the government Press Committee and created a state-run
publishing house called Turkmenpishit that will be subordinated to the cabinet.
No explanation for the changes was given. -- Lowell Bezanis
... AND HEADS FOR TEHRAN.
Also on 12 February, Niyazov arrived in
Tehran for two days of official talks focusing on regional problems,
specifically Afghanistan and Tajikistan, as well as enhancing cooperation in
several areas, notably in the transport, oil, and gas sectors as well as in
trade, RFE/RL reported the same day. Over the past six years, Niyazov has
visited Tehran some 16 times; 116 bilateral agreements have been reached since
1992 and bilateral trade stands at an estimated $100 million, according to AFP.
Turkmen sources note that Iran has invested $250 million in Turkmenistan. --
HOSTAGE EXCHANGE DELAYED IN TAJIKISTAN.
The scheduled exchange of
hostages held by the Bahrom and Rezvon Sadirov for members of the brothers'
gang was delayed for technical reasons on 12 February, according to
international media. The 40 members of the Sadirov gang were picked up in
Afghanistan and flown by helicopter to the Kulyab area of southern Tajikistan,
but the helicopters which were to take them to the exchange site were unable to
leave. The Sadirovs have extended the deadline after which they had threatened
to start executing their 14 hostages, who include UN workers, Russian
journalists, and the Tajik security minister. As a sign of their good faith,
they plan to release the five Russian journalists they hold and one of the UN
observers. They also say that if there are more delays, they will ask that an
additional 95 members of their gang be brought from Afghanistan. -- Bruce
DENUNCIATION, DOUBT IN TAJIK HOSTAGE CRISIS.
The hostage crisis in
Tajikistan has prompted Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov and United Tajik
Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri to draft a joint statement condemning
terrorism in Tajikistan, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 February. The current crisis
was threatening to derail the peace process in Tajikistan. The commander of the
Russian border guards in Tajikistan, Lt.-Gen. Pavel Tarasenko, absolutely ruled
out creating a corridor to allow more of the Sadirov gang into Tajikistan--the
key demand of the hostage takers. They were brought by helicopter instead.
Russian Minister for the CIS Aman Tuleev, who is in Tajikistan on a previously
scheduled visit, commented: "A civilized exchange is beginning. The bandits
come here (to Tajikistan)--some hostages are released. The bandits are brought
to the mountains--more hostages are released." -- Bruce Pannier
UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT GRANTS IMMUNITY TO FUGITIVE FORMER PREMIER.
Legislators voted 253 to 19 to grant former acting Prime Minister Yufim
Zvyahilsky immunity from arrest if he returns to Ukraine within two months,
Reuters and Russian Public TV reported on 12 February. Zvyahilsky took refuge
in Israel in 1994 after being accused of embezzling $25 million in public
funds. Israel turned down Ukraine's request for his extradition two years ago.
Zvyahilsky has repeatedly claimed that his political enemies made the
embezzlement charges. The Ukrainian parliament voted in favor of granting him
immunity so that he can return to cooperate with the Prosecutor-General's
Office in its investigation of the case. -- Ustina Markus
GEORGIAN PRESIDENT IN UKRAINE.
Eduard Shevardnadze arrived in Kyiv on 13
February for a two-day official visit, ITAR-TASS reported. He was accompanied
by his ministers for trade and transport and the commander of the Georgian
border guards. Talks will focus on bilateral cooperation, and some 15 documents
are expected to be signed. The same day, Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister
Borys Hudyma said Ukraine was prepared to send observers to Georgian-Abkhaz
conflict zones. He added that Ukrainian officials would discuss with
Shevardnadze the possibility of having peace-keepers there. The conflict zones
are currently patrolled by Russian peacekeepers, whose mandate expires at the
end of March. Both sides involved in the conflict would have to give their
consent to Ukraine's send its peacekeepers to those zones. So far, the Abkhaz
side has refused to do so. -- Ustina Markus
POLITICAL INTIMIDATION CONTINUES IN BELARUS.
Aleksandr Stupnikov, NTV
correspondent in Belarus, was summoned to the Belarusian Foreign Ministry on 12
February to receive an official warning about NTV's "non-objective" coverage of
events in Belarus. He was informed that the Belarusian Foreign Ministry wrote
last week to its Russian counterpart complaining about NTV's Belarusian
coverage and warning that if such reporting continued, Belarus would have to
consider suspending NTV's activities in Belarus. The previous day, the office
of the Party of Communists of Belarus (PCB) was sealed off because it allegedly
was in breach of fire safety regulations, Belapan reported. PCB leader Syarhei
Kalyakin denounced the move as a political act instigated by the president's
administration. Kalyakin had sided with deputies opposed to President
Alyaksandr Lukashenka's new constitution during the November 1996 referendum.
Also on 11 February, Anatol Lyabedzka, a deputy of the dissolved 1996
parliament, was beaten at the entrance to his apartment block by unknown
assailants. Lyabedzka claimed the attack was intended to intimidate him because
of his political activities. -- Ustina Markus
BALTIC STATES REJECT RUSSIAN WARNING NOT TO JOIN NATO.
officials from all three Baltic States have rejected a warning by the Russian
president's office that membership in NATO would create a "serious barrier" and
have "a most negative impact" on long-term cooperation, BNS reported on 12
February. Vygaudas Usackas, head of the Political Department at the Lithuanian
Foreign Ministry, said a stable NATO region would contribute to the further
development of Lithuanian-Russian relations. Latvian Foreign Minister Valdis
Birkavs said Latvia's wish to consolidate its security through NATO membership
would not be a threat to Russia. Juri Arusoo, spokesman for the Estonian
Foreign Ministry, reinforced that viewpoint. -- Saulius Girnius
NEW LATVIAN GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCED.
Prime Minister-designate Andris Skele
on 12 February made public the cabinet list he plans to present to the Saeima
today, BNS reported. The most significant change in the cabinet lineup is the
replacement of Maris Grinblats of the For the Fatherland and Freedom caucus as
education and science minister by Juris Celmins of the Democratic Party
Saimnieks (DPS). The finance portfolio, also assigned to the DPS, has not yet
been filled. Skele rejected the DPS nomination that its chairman, Ziedonis
Cevers, be appointed to that post. Meanwhile, other parties belonging to the
ruling coalition have expressed support for the DPS continued participation in
the government. -- Saulius Girnius
CONTROVERSY OVER POLISH AGRICULTURE MINISTER.
The Supreme Executive
Committee of the co-ruling Polish Peasant Party (PSL) has nominated Jaroslaw
Kalinowski to replace Roman Jagielinski as deputy prime minister and
agriculture minister, international media reported on 13 February. The PSL
blamed Jagielinski for the food trade deficit and the low prices of grain and
livestock. Jagielinski, for his part, has said he is not going to resign,
pointing out that only the PSL Supreme Council can withdraw party support for
him. Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz is to take the final decision
whether to replace him. He has already said he will n not decide until Jozef
Zych, Sejm speaker and PSL Supreme Council head, returns from the U.S. The PSL
is anxious about its dwindling support among farmers in the wake of
parliamentary elections due this fall. Last November, Jagielinski, a large
landowner, unsuccessfully challenged Waldemar Pawlak for the party leadership.
Kalinowski, endorsed by the Smallholders, is a Pawlak supporter. -- Beata
CZECH OPPOSITION LEADER DEMANDS RESOLUTION ON DECLARATION.
speaker and Social Democratic Party Chairman Milos Zeman on 12 February urged
the parliament to approve the Czech-German declaration only if an accompanying
resolution is passed "clarifying" the Czech position, Czech media reported. In
the declaration, Bonn expresses regret over the 1938-45 Nazi occupation of the
Czech Lands and Prague voices sorrow for the post-war expulsion of 2.5 million
Sudeten Germans. Both sides say they will not burden bilateral relations with
legal and political claims arising from the past. Zeman and some Social
Democrats point out that the declaration does not mention the Potsdam
agreements that sanctioned the expulsions. Zeman said comments made by German
Chancellor Helmut Kohl after he signed the document and by Finance Minister
Theo Waigel more recently show that Bonn considers "property problems" to
remain unresolved. The Czech coalition government has rejected an accompanying
resolution. -- Jiri Pehe
GERMAN LEADER ON SLOVAKIA'S WESTERN INTEGRATION.
Chairwoman Rita Suessmuth, concluding a two-day visit to Slovakia on 12
February, said Germany "does not want an isolated Slovakia," Reuters reported.
Suessmuth is the most senior German official to visit Slovakia since that it
gained independence. She expressed Germany's wish that Slovakia join Western
organizations at the same time as the Czech Republic but stressed that
Slovakia's "deficit in democracy" must first be overcome. Western diplomats
praised the parliament's refusal the previous day to approve the "protection of
the republic" penal code amendment. However, they added that other steps are
needed to demonstrate Slovakia's sincerity in meeting Western democratic
standards. Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar claimed in a TV discussion the same
day that the disputed amendment is not "undemocratic" and will be approved
later this year, CTK reported. Also on 12 February, the parliament approved a
law on the protection of non-smokers and Meciar's party submitted a proposal
calling for a referendum on NATO membership. -- Sharon Fisher
SLOVAK RULING PARTY PROPOSES TALKS WITH LEFTIST OPPOSITION.
Party of the
Democratic Left (SDL) Chairman Jozef Migas on 12 February announced he has
received an offer for bilateral talks from the ruling Movement for a Democratic
Slovakia (HZDS), Narodna obroda reported. No details were given on the
timing and agenda of the discussions. Migas said the SDL wants to discuss
unemployment, low wages, control over privatization, and reform of the banking
sector. "We will not accede to purposeful political games and will not rescue
the HZDS or the government coalition," Migas stressed. Other opposition parties
have not received such an offer. In an interview with Pravda, Migas
rejected accusations by the daily Sme that he has met several times with
Slovak Information Service deputy director Jaroslav Svechota. In other news,
both opposition and ruling coalition politicians have more or less rejected
Slovak National Party Chairman Jan Slota's call for early parliamentary
elections, TASR reported on 12 February. -- Anna Siskova
HUNGARY'S FREE DEMOCRATS IN FAVOR OF SMALLER PARLIAMENT.
The Alliance of
Free Democrats (SZDSZ), the junior coalition party, has said it is in favor of
reducing the number of deputies from 386 to 250-300, Nepszava reported
on 13 February. SZDSZ leader Peter Hack said the party will also propose that
the traditional 11-week election campaign be reduced to eight weeks and that
the campaign funds available to each party be reduced. The Free Democrats would
like private contributions to election campaigns not to exceed 50,000 forints,
while the ceiling for legal entities would be set at 500,000 forints. In 1994,
some entrepreneurs practically "bought" their parliamentary mandates by
contributing several million forints to election campaigns. -- Zsofia
ALBANIAN POLICEMAN SHOT DEAD IN VLORA.
A policeman, identified as Shezai
Zani, was killed by automatic gunfire on 12 February near his home in Vlora,
Reuters reported. Police said Zani was guarding "places of special importance"
and had not taken part in this week's clashes between police and rioters. It
remains unclear if he was killed in revenge for the death of three
anti-government protesters last weekend. Earlier the same day, some 5,000
people staged peaceful protests and set up barricades in all the main streets.
Police have kept away from the city, and the local police station has
reportedly been abandoned. More than 20 speedboats confiscated on charges of
smuggling last year were reclaimed by their owners, with no resistance from the
police. Meanwhile, international criticism of the government's handling of the
crisis has intensified. The OSCE has said it is "deeply worried" about the
on-going violence. -- Fabian Schmidt
ALBANIAN DEMOCRATIC PARTY LEADER RULES OUT GOVERNMENT CHANGES.
Democratic Party leader and Foreign Minister Tritan Shehu, following a day-long
meeting with senior party officials, again blamed the current violence on
"leftist extremists," Reuters reported. He also ruled out the possibility of
any cabinet changes. Some news agencies, however, quoted party sources as
saying the possible resignation of the government was high on the agenda of the
meeting. Meanwhile, riot police in Tirana prevented the opposition from holding
a protest rally and also broke up small gatherings of people. The Socialist
Party said police have arrested a member of its presidency and many of its
supporters. The Forum for Democracy pledged more protests and demanded the
resignation of the government. It also called on all members of the armed
forces, policemen, soldiers, and officers, "to join with the people." -- Fabian
BELGRADE DEMONSTRATIONS CONTINUE.
An estimated 20,000 students turned
out on the Serbian capital's streets on 12 February to press their demands for
political reform. A group of teachers who have not received wages in months
formed a ring around the legislature, international media reported. Nasa
Borba on 13 February carries a statement by Ivan Kovacevic of the Serbian
Renewal Movement pointing out that the 11 February passage of special
legislation recognizing opposition wins in the November elections is only a
first step toward securing electoral victories. Serbian President Slobodan
Milosevic ought not to be trusted to allow the opposition to take office until
at least local councils are convened and municipal governments formed,
Kovacevic commented. -- Stan Markotich
SERBIAN GOVERNMENT ON THE OFFENSIVE?
Only days after the passage of the
legislation recognizing opposition elections wins, the ruling Socialists appear
to be waging a new media campaign against the Zajedno coalition. An
editorial in the 12 February issue of Politika Ekspres, which was
also read out during state television newscasts the same evening, suggested
that Zajedno leaders were "conniving" and deliberately reneging on
promises. "From the moment...that a favorable solution for Zajedno was
absolutely certain, it became clear that the promise made by [Zajedno leader]
Vuk Draskovic...that mass demonstrations would stop as soon as parliament
recognized the election results would come to nothing," the editorial claimed.
Meanwhile, parliamentary speaker Dragan Tomic told state radio that the
protests were "horrible...[and] a threat to citizens who don't think the same
way" as the protesters. -- Stan Markotich
CROATS, MUSLIMS REACH DEAL ON MOSTAR.
SFOR stepped up its patrols in the
divided Herzegovinian city on 12 February in an effort to put a stop to a fresh
outbreak of violence that threatens the future of the Croatian-Muslim
federation, international news agencies reported. They dismantled illegal
checkpoints and confiscated weapons. Overnight, there were nonetheless three
explosions--one in Muslim-dominated east Mostar and two in the Croat-controlled
western half of the town. International mediator Michael Steiner and the UN
police (IPTF) met late into the night with Croatian leader Kresimir Zubak and
with Muslim leaders Alija Izetbegovic and Haris Silajdzic. They agreed on a
12-point program that gives the IPTF increased powers to control the town and
detain those responsible for the shooting earlier this week in which Croats
killed one Muslim and wounded 22 (see OMRI Daily Digest, 11 February
1997). Telephone contacts between the two parts of the town will be restored
and SFOR's presence strengthened. The curfew will stay in effect and persons
evicted from their flats will be allowed to go home. -- Patrick Moore
SFOR BRACES FOR BRCKO DEADLINE.
Peacekeepers have ordered Muslim and
Serbian soldiers near the strategic northern Bosnian town to return to their
barracks as the 14 February deadline approaches for the U.S. arbitrator's
decision on Brcko's fate. SFOR troops on 12 February confiscated and intend to
destroy a Serbian T-55 tank that was spotted outside its authorized storage
place, Oslobodjenje wrote. Brcko was the one territorial issue that it
proved impossible to resolve in the Dayton peace accord. The Serbs need it to
connect the eastern and western halves of their territory, while the Muslims
and Croats demand that the "ethnic cleansing" there be reversed. Both sides
have threatened war if the other is assigned the town. The most likely outcome
is probably a complicated scheme of shared authority and international
supervision, which, as demonstrated by Mostar, is unlikely to work. -- Patrick
CROATIAN ELECTIONS POSTPONED.
President Franjo Tudjman on 12 February
announced that the vote for the upper house of the parliament and local
government offices has been postponed until 13 April, Hina reported (see
OMRI Daily Digest, 12 February 1997). Voting had been slated for 16
March, but the UN administrator for Serb-held eastern Slavonia, Jacques Klein,
said conditions there would not be ready for the March deadline. He urged the
Croats to speed up the distribution of citizenship papers, and the Serbs to
respect the April election date, Novi List wrote. The Croatian
government wants eastern Slavonia to vote at the same time as the rest of the
country to underscore that it is again part of Croatia. -- Patrick Moore
ROMANIA TO RESTORE CITIZENSHIP TO EXILED KING.
The Romanian government
on 12 February announced it will take immediate measures to restore citizenship
to exiled King Michael, Romanian media reported. The move is in response to a
letter, signed by 21 leading intellectuals, appealing to Prime Minister Victor
Ciorbea to redress the injustice done to Michael in 1948 by the Communists.
Seventy-five-year-old Michael, who was dethroned and forced into exile in late
December 1947, now lives in Versoix, Switzerland. He welcomed Ciorbea's
decision as "an act of justice" and also responded positively to an invitation
from the mayor of Iasi to visit the city in the near future. According to
Adevarul, Michael wants to re-settle in Romania. -- Zsolt Mato
RUSSIAN CONTINGENT IN MOLDOVA TO BE DOWN-SIZED.
Russian Defense Council
Secretary Yurii Baturin on 12 February said Russian troops in eastern Moldova
will be considerably reduced in number by the fall, BASA-press reported.
Baturin promised that Russia will act in the spirit of the October 1994
Russian-Moldovan agreement on the withdrawal of Russian troops from the
Dniester region. That accord has never gone into effect owing to the Russian
State Duma's refusal to ratify it. Baturin also said he believed that
"historical ties between Moldova and Russia are strong enough to prevent the
former from moving closer to NATO." His comments came one day after he had
rejected NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana's appeal for the complete
withdrawal of the 6,500-strong Russian contingent in Moldova. -- Dan Ionescu
NEW BULGARIAN PREMIER, CABINET SWORN IN.
Bulgarian President Petar
Stoyanov on 12 February swore in a caretaker cabinet headed by Sofia Mayor
Stefan Sofiyanski, international media reported. There are no Socialist
ministers in the reduced, interim government. Sofiyanski is an economist who
was elected mayor of Sofia in October 1995. Stoyanov urged him to make one of
his government's top priorities fighting crime and "purging the administration
of corrupt officials." The parliamentary parties have agreed to dissolve the
legislature today, and the new government has been granted the authority to
tackle the country's ongoing economic crisis. Also, the date for new
parliamentary elections has been set for 19 April, Demokratsiya reported
on 13 February. -- Stan Markotich
[As of 1200 CET]
Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave