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Newsline - January 6, 1995

Despite Russian President Boris Yeltsin's order of 4 January to halt the bombing of Grozny at midnight that night, bombing raids on Grozny and neighboring villages continued on 5 January, Ostankino Television reports. Dudaev's forces remained in control of the center of Grozny but were surrounded by Russian forces, according to the Russian government press center. Ostankino further reported that on 5 January the Chechen "government of national reconciliation," headed by Salambek Khadzhiev, issued a statement supporting the restoration of constitutional order in Chechnya but condemning as "a mistake" the ongoing bombing of peaceful towns and villages that could result in nationwide protests. Speaking in Mozdok (North Ossetia) on 5 January, Federal Counter-Intelligence head Sergei Stepashin rejected the prospect of a protracted guerrilla war in Chechnya, vowing to eliminate the Chechen opposition, according to Interfax. Discussing the reasons for the failure of Russian troops to establish control in Grozny, Segodnya disclosed on 5 January that neither the Defense Ministry nor any other power structure has units specially trained for urban combat against a well-armed enemy. Spetsnaz forces are trained for acts of sabotage and reconnaissance but have never been used to storm urban areas. The Georgian government has sent troops to the Georgian border with Chechnya to prevent Chechen forces from entering Georgia, Interfax reported on 5 January. In Moscow, State Duma deputies from Russia's Choice, Yabloko and the December 12 liberal-democratic union continued to collect signatures to press for an emergency debate on Chechnya, Interfax reported on 5 January. The Democratic Russia party unveiled a new peace initiative for Chechnya comprising a cease-fire, the withdrawal of all Russian military formations and armor from Grozny, and the release by both sides of prisoners of war, to be followed by negotiations at government level on a peace settlement. * Liz Fuller

German President Helmut Kohl said on 5 January that he had informed Russian President Boris Yeltsin by phone the previous day that although he regarded the conflict in Chechnya as an internal Russian affair, he considered the civilian casualties too high, according to The New York Times of 6 January. In Washington, according to a separate report in The New York Times, senior White House aides have drafted a letter for President Clinton's approval appealing to Yeltsin to stop inflicting civilian casualties in Chechnya and to consider the proposal made earlier this month by the EU to involve the OSCE in the search for a solution to the Chechen crisis. The Washington Post of 6 January quoted US Secretary of State Warren Christopher as stating that his Russian counterpart, Andrei Kozyrev, informed him by telephone on 4 January of the Russian leadership's willingness to involve the OSCE. UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali affirmed on 5 January that the UN is likewise prepared to mediate in the Chechen dispute if asked, according to AFP. Also on 5 January the Pakistan Foreign Ministry denied charges made the previous day by the Russian Foreign Ministry that Afghan refugees were being sent from Pakistan to fight as mercenaries in Chechnya, AFP reported. * Liz Fuller

The head of the Federal Counter-Intelligence Service, Sergei Stepashin, knows the identity of the man responsible for the death in October 1994, of Moskovsky komsomolets investigative journalist Dmitri Kholodov, who was killed by an exploding briefcase, Izvestiya reported on 6 January. Spokesmen for both the FSK and for Yeltsin's office denied claims that Stepashin had sent a letter to Yeltsin a month ago informing him of the circumstances of the murder and the name of the perpetrator, whom Izvestiya identified as serving in a paratroop regiment which was at that time deployed in Sokolniki and has since been sent to Chechnya. * Liz Fuller

Valentin Kovalev, a deputy speaker of the State Duma,
has been appointed minister of justice, Russian television newscasts reported on 5 January. Elected to the Duma on the Communist Party list, Kovalev has reportedly fallen from grace within his faction, which opposed the use of force in Chechnya. At the end of December, Yeltsin appointed Valentin Kovalev the chairman of a commission that, he said, was to monitor human rights in Chechnya. He then also named human rights campaigner Sergei Kovalev as the commission's chairman, presumably to confuse the public. Kovalev's predecessor, Yurii Kalmykov, was appointed justice minister in spring 1993, after having agreed to incriminate Yeltsin's then arch-enemy, Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi. A member of a similarly small Caucasian nation (Cherkess), Kalmykov resigned his post in December 1994 in protest of use of the military in Chechnya. * Julia Wishnevsky

Russian official propaganda on the Chechen developments surpassed the Bolsheviks "and even Dr. Goebbels,"
human rights envoy Sergei Kovalev told RFE/RL at a Moscow airport on arrival from Grozny via Nazran on 5 January. According to Kovalev, Russian officials have so far failed to say "a word of truth" about the developments in Grozny. Kovalev believes that Yeltsin was misinformed by his hawkish friends and bodyguards, albeit not to the same extent as the rest of the nation, because, Kovalev explained, only a very stupid person could believe the mendacious Russian officials. Later that day, in the packed conference hall of Izvestiya, Kovalev provided a detailed account of the sufferings of Russian and Chechen civilians who fell victim to Russian air raids. Kovalev opined that without the invasion, Chechnya would have remained a part of the Russian Federation and that the military action was counterproductive in the case of Chechnya and would be so in other republics. Kovalev added that, in his view, the Chechen developments would also encourage the East Europeans to join NATO as soon as they could. "I came with the intention to look in the eye those officials responsible for the handling of Chechnya," Kovalev told the news conference as reported by Izvestiya. The human rights champion is scheduled to meet with Yeltsin on 6 January. * Julia Wishnevsky

Deputy Finance Minister Andrei Vavilov announced on 5 January that food worth about 200 billion rubles would be sent to Chechnya and that pensions had already been paid in "areas freed from illegal formations," Interfax reported. Vavilov added that the Finance Ministry would soon prepare proposals on adjusting the draft 1995 budget in light of the Chechen conflict. The previous day the Duma's budget committee had asked the government for detailed data on changes to the budget draft, Committee member Aleksandr Pochinok said he believed that if military operations continued, the country would need a special military budget. Meanwhile, the head of the Federal Migration Service, Tatyana Regent, said that there are more than 200,000 refugees from Chechnya but that only 56,000 have asked for refugee status. Regent said the worst situation was in Dagestan's Khasavyurt Raion and Ingushetia. She said the Federal Migration Service has already spent 11 billion rubles on accommodation for refugees. * Penny Morvant

On 6 January The New York Times reported that Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin signed a decree freeing oil companies from their obligation to sell over half of their production domestically at artificially low prices. Currently, Russian consumers pay only 30% of the world market price for their oil. The IMF, World Bank and the US have been pressing for the elimination of the quota for Russian oil companies. The decision may be decisive in obtaining $13 billion in hard currency loans from the IMF and World Bank which Russia has been counting on for the 1995 budget. The decree has not yet been published and The New York Times cites World Bank officials as their source. * Ustina Markus

On Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange trading on 5 January, the Central Bank sold $114 million, with the difference between supply and demand at $115.03 million, according to Interfax on 6 January. Session traders offered $254.8 million for sale, with the demand being at $369.83 million. Reports indicate that the Central Bank sold around $114 million. The Central Bank closed the trading session at 3,623 rubles to $1. Dealers believed that the sharp decline of the ruble over the first two trading days in 1995 (73 points) is related to the government's financial obligation to quell the conflict in Chechnya and restore the republic's crumbled economy. A 5 January broadcast on Russian Radio said that experts also attributed the ruble decline to the expectation of inflationary growth and also the increasing influx of hard currency in Russia. * Thomas Sigel
The State Statistics Committee reports that those Russians with the highest incomes have 15 times as much as the lowest. In a 5 January report in Vechernyaya Moskva, statistics indicated that in 1993 the ratio was 11:1 and in 1991 it was 4.5:1. In January through November 1994, 10% of the population received 30% of the total income, while the poorest 10% received only 1.9%. About 65% of the population had incomes below the average level. By the end of 1994, average salaries and wages were just over the equivalent of $100 a month. * Thomas Sigel

The Ministry of Interior's Economic Crime Department said that Russia is suffering a counterfeiting boom, according to a 5 January report in Trud. In 1993 there were more than 7,000 cases of counterfeiting and 492 trials; 9.5 billion bogus rubles, 20 million rubles worth of privatization vouchers and $2.5 million of counterfeit foreign currency were confiscated. In 1994 these activities have at least doubled, the report said. The Economic Crime Department said that forgery techniques are improving and that it is difficult to track the criminals because they find refuge throughout the CIS, notably in the Caucasus and Chechnya. * Thomas Sigel

The Dashnak Party will continue to operate in Armenia despite the "temporary" ban imposed on its activities by President Levon Ter-Petrossyan on 28 December (see Daily Digest of 2 January), according to the Snark News Agency of 5 January citing party leader Ruben Akopyan, who predicted that arrests of party activists for purely political reasons will continue. * Liz Fuller

On 5 January, Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev was appointed to the post of Interior Minister 47-year-old Colonel Madalbek Moldashev, Interfax reported. A career security officer, Moldashev worked three years in Afghanistan; he was subsequently a secretary of Akaev's presidential security council. In an interview with Interfax, Moldashev affirmed his intention of restructuring the work of the ministry and bringing in qualified professionals in order to restore public order. Also on 5 January, Akaev introduced to the staff of his administration newly-appointed Secretary of State Zhumabek Ibramov, the former head of the city administration in Bishkek. * Liz Fuller

Interfax on 5 January reported that the Russian Federal Border Service Information agency had been told by the head of the UN mission in Tajikistan, General Hassan Abbaz, that he had been informed by Akbar Turadzhonzoda, a deputy chairman of the opposition Islamic Revival Movement, that the opposition will not participate in the fourth round of UN-mediated peace talks scheduled to begin on 15 January. Also on 5 January, Tajik Presidential Press Secretary Davlatali Davlatov told journalists that despite the incident on the Tajik-Afghan border on 2 January in which nine Russian border guards were killed and eleven wounded, the Tajik government still wants to continue a political dialogue in the hope of resloving the internal conflict. * Liz Fuller

Prime Minister Adolfas Slezevicius told a
press conference in Vilnius on 5 January that Russian troops are continuing to transit Lithuania in accordance with an agreement signed in November 1993 for their withdrawal from Germany, RFE/RL's Lithuanian Service reports. Although Slezevicius has repeatedly stated that all countries have to comply with the government's rules for the transit of military and dangerous cargoes from 1 January 1995, he said intensive talks are still under way with Russia on various issues. Slezevicius might settle the transit question and other questions such as granting mutual most-favored-nation status at a planned meeting in late January with his Russian counterpart, Viktor Chernormyrdin. * Saulius Girnius

President Lech Walesa's aide Andrzej Zakrzewski on 5 January said survivors of Auschwitz, Nobel Peace Prize winners, and representatives of 26 states will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death camp's liberation at the end of the month, Reuters reports. The two-day gathering will be hosted by Walesa. On 26 January, the Nobel laureates will meet in Cracow to put the finishing touches to an appeal for worldwide peace and tolerance. The following day, a series of ceremonies will take place at Auschwitz, including a period of silence at the camp gates, speeches, wreath-laying, and finally the lighting of candles on the platform where many of the 1.5 million people killed at the camp arrived by train from all over Europe. Among the heads of states who have said they will attend are the presidents of Austria, Belarus, Croatia, Latvia and Slovenia. Germany will be represented by President Roman Herzog, Israel by the speaker of its parliament, and Russia by either President Boris Yeltsin or Premier Viktor Chernomyrdin. Invitations have been sent to 92
Jewish groups and attempts are being made to reach all Auschwitz survivors to invite them, Zakrzewski said.
* Jan Cleave

NATO press release announced that Belarusian Foreign MinisterUladzmir Syanko will visit NATO headquarters on 11 January to sign the Partnership for Peace Framework Document. Belarus will become the 24th member of the PfP, leaving Tajikistan as the only country on the territory of the former Soviet Union not to have joined. * Doug Clarke

On 4 January, Belarusian Television reported criticisms by journalists of the authorities' recent decision to ban four independent newspapers from publishing a report by deputy Syarhei Antonchyk on corruption in the administration.
The journalists said they hoped the heads of the Publishing House would reconsider their decision since the newspapers could still circulate the text of the report to their subscribers, "even if it means going beyond the country's borders." They stressed that the newspapers would continue to be published. * Ustina Markus

Ukraine intends to cut its 1995 budget deficit to 4-5% of GDP with the help of foreign credits and short-term state bonds, presidential adviser Anatoly Halchynsky told a news conference on 4 January, Reuters reports. A presidential decree and other steps are being drafted as government officials prepare to review the draft budget on 10 January before forwarding it to parliament, he said. Ukraine must pass a budget in order to qualify for a $1.5 billion IMF stand-by loan. Last year, Ukraine had to struggle with huge energy debts, a 27.8% decline in production, a 26% drop in revenue, high inflation and massive credits to the agricultural sector, in order to halve a 20% deficit to obtain a $371 million IMF loan. This year, Ukraine plans to overhaul the financing system for the farm sector and privatize large segments of the agricultural industry, Halchynsky said. * Chrystyna Lapychak

While nearly 70,000 Jews have emigrated from Ukraine in the last five years, over half a million remain, many playing an active role in the revival of Judaism since Ukraine declared its independence in 1991, Kiev-based Orthodox Rabbi Yaakov Bleich says in an article in The New York Times on 6 January. The New York-born rabbi has during the past five years presided over a renewal of Jewish life in Ukraine, including the opening of 12 Jewish schools and 38 synagogues. Although openly anti-Semitic slogans can be heard from groups such as the ultranationalist UNA-UNSO, both the Ukrainian government and the religious establishment have gone out of their way to stress reconciliation with Jews, the 30-year-old rabbi said. * Chrystyna Lapychak

The four parties in the Czech government are divided over putting the question of possible membership in the European Union to a referendum, Mlada Fronta Dnes reports on 6 January. The Christian Democratic Union on 5 January called for a plebiscite on the issue, but the Civic Democratic Alliance and the small Christian Democratic Party said it was unnecessary. CDA Deputy Chairman Daniel Kroupa said voters gave their agreement to eventual EU membership by supporting parties that advocate such a step in the 1990 and 1992 general elections. Opposition parties favor a referendum and Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus, leader of the dominant Civic Democratic Party, agrees. "Although in all other cases I have a negative view about the need for referenda, in this case I am in favor," Klaus said. * Steve Kettle

Czech Interior Ministry spokesman Jan Subert denied a report in the German weekly Der Spiegel according to which the Czech Republic sold arms to Algeria's Muslim fundamentalists. However, Subert cautioned that "it is not possible to guarantee that arms exported cannot be exported to a third country." Czech media reported Subert as saying on 4 January that Czech weapons can be found in various parts of the world. In his words, the former communist regime exported arms in such a way that it was possible for various terrorist groups and extremist organizations to obtain them. * Jiri Pehe

The Czech Republic paid a total of 300.9 million ecu to Slovakia in 1994 for overstepping the clearing account monthly limit in bilateral trade, while Slovakia paid the Czech Republic only 46 million ecu, Rude Pravo and TASR report. In December alone, the Czech Republic exceeded the 130 million ecu limit by 16.72 million ecu. Slovakia overstepped the clearing account limit several times in late 1993 and early 1994, but the situation began to improve after the government implemented a 10% import surcharge in early March. Although Slovakia hopes to continue the import surcharge in 1995, the approval of the World Trade Organization and the IMF is required. * Sharon Fisher

An official from Hungary's National Water Administration on 5 January said it will take months to remove all traces of the pollution caused by an oil spill in neighboring Romania, Reuters reported the same day. A leak from the Romanian Suplacul de Barcau oil field into the Barcau River was reported on 30 December. Oil spilled over into the Hungarian part of the river (known as the Berettyo) earlier this week. Janos Tarjan was quoted as saying that the slick had polluted a 57-kilometer stretch of the river in Romania but that Hungary had managed to contain its spread by using booms and floating barriers. Hungarian workmen have reportedly removed more than 125 cubic meters of oil sludge from the river this week. Officials said they thought oil is no longer leaking into the river but noted they have received no details from the Romanian authorities. * Jan Cleave

International media report on 6 January that the UN commander in Bosnia, General Sir Michael Rose, expects to meet with representatives of the Bosnian government and of Serbian rebels in the course of the day. He hopes to finalize an agreement on verifying the current cease-fire, which would involve joint inspections by helicopter. The first flight would probably be to Mt. Igman near Sarajevo, where government forces have delayed their withdrawal. Another outstanding issue is the fighting in the Bihac pocket. The BBC said that the UN wants 6,000 more troops to help monitor the ceasefire. * Patrick Moore

Borba reported on 5 January about the Serbs living on territory controlled by the Bosnian government. They number as many as 150,000, with up to 40,000 living in Sarajevo. They fear that they will be reduced to the legal status of a national minority (as opposed to their current position as a "people of the state") as long as the government and the outside world regard Radovan Karadzic and his self-proclaimed republic as the sole representatives of all Bosnian Serbs. The "forgotten Serbs" promote their interests in a low-key fashion and are reluctant to set up their own political party lest it is accused of being a "Trojan horse introduced by [Serbian President Slobodan] Milosevic." These Serbs have lost jobs in some companies and are often regarded with suspicion by Muslims and Croats, but they are still well represented in the media and generally have had few problems in maintaining ethnically mixed marriages and friendships. * Patrick Moore

AFP reported on 5 January that 23 trucks are stranded on a narrow mountain road on the Montenegrin-Bosnian frontier following a failed attempt to smuggle gasoline, oil and cigarettes into Bosnia and Herzegovina. They sport license plates from Montenegro, Sarajevo, Modrica, Bijeljina, Trebinje, and even Knin. Meanwhile, Politika on 6 January writes about another road, the newly reopened highway connecting Zagreb and Belgrade. One can travel through Serbian-held territory to Croatian-controlled areas, but not into Serbia itself. The Belgrade daily speculates that Slovenes and Macedonians may soon be allowed to cross that frontier and notes that Slovenes currently are free at least in theory to travel throughout all areas of the former Yugoslavia. * Patrick Moore

A heavy storm and waves up to 10 meters sank two ships in Romania's main Black Sea port of Constanta in the evening of 4 January, Radio Bucharest and Western agencies reported on 5 January. The vessels, registered in Malta and Hong Kong respectively, each had a crew of 27. They sank after hitting a barrier protecting the harbor entrance. Romanian officials said there was little hope of finding survivors because bad weather was making rescue efforts practically impossible. The bodies of at least 10 seamen were reportedly washed ashore on 5 January. In an interview with Radio Bucharest, Transport Minister Aurel Novac said that authorities had warned the ships not to approach the harbor because of high winds and seas but that the two captains apparently ignored the warning. A third vessel, a Romanian barge loaded with 976 tons of phosphates, sank near Agigea, some 20 kilometers south of Constanta. No casualties were reported. Heavy snow storms also disrupted road and rail traffic all over Romania and caused problems with central heating and water supplies in several Romanian towns, including Bucharest. * Dan Ionescu

Heavy snowfall and storms have paralyzed most of Bulgaria, domestic newspapers reported on their front pages on 5 and 6 January. Most of the secondary roads in the country are blocked by snow , while in northern Bulgaria about 200 towns and villages are cut off from electricity and partly from water. Standart reported on 5 January that two people were killed in car accidents in the Ruse area, in northeastern Bulgaria, while a third person froze to death on Mount Vitosha near Sofia. Trud reported on 6 January that the Civil Defense is prepared to evacuate residents living in villages near rivers in southeastern Bulgaria. The Black Sea ports of Varna and Burgas were closed on 4 January because of strong winds and rough seas but were reopened the following day. * Stefan Krause

Bulgaria needs an "economic dictatorship" to prevent an eventual political and military dictatorship," Socialist legislator Nikola Koychev told RFE/RL's Bulgarian Service on 5 January. He defined economic dictatorship as "well-directed and well-applied norms of economic relations" and noted that practices and ethics in the Bulgarian economy are at a very low level. While producers' prices have increased 16 times over the past four years, prices on the market are 46 times higher. The dictatorship would be directed against those who do not meet their obligations to the state and against speculators. Koychev said that it is too early for further liberalization of Bulgaria's economy, which at the moment is in a phase of "anarcholiberalism." Koychev is likely to be one of the deputy prime ministers in Bulgaria's next government headed by the Socialists. Kontinent remarked on 6 January that the BSP will guarantee itself a long-lasting dominating role in Bulgarian politics if it follows sound and moderate economic policies and successfully carries out its priorities. On the same subject, 24 chasa stated that the "BSP likes the Czech model of mass privatization." * Stefan Krause

The formation of a new government will bring about personnel changes at the top of many state-controlled enterprises, 24 chasa reported on 6 January. "Very well-informed sources" in the BSP said that the governor of the Bulgarian National Bank, Todor Valchev, is ready to resign. One of Valchev's advisers, however, said that he will not resign and will finish his term, which expires in mid-1995. Lyubomir Kolarov of the BSP said that the directors of Bulgarian Television, radio and the Bulgarian Telegraph Agency should also hand in their resignations. BTA director Stefan Gospodinov said he is ready to step down "if the new majority does not agree with our work." * Stefan Krause

In a statement to ITAR-TASS, Moldovan First Deputy Foreign Minister Nicolae Osmochescu said in Chisinau on 5 January that a final solution to the Chechen problem cannot be found by military means. Osmochescu also announced that representatives of the leaderships in Chisinau and Tiraspol, the capital of the self-styled "Dniester Republic," will meet on 11 January. The talks will focus on economic issues of mutual importance. He added that the problem of a special status for the Transdniester region will be the focus of later rounds of talks aimed at finding a compromise to the long-standing conflict between Chisinau and Tiraspol. * Dan Ionescu

According to figures from the Italian Interior Ministry, Albania is the sixth-largest source of immigration, with 32,197 legal immigrants, Koha Jone reported on 6 January. Albania, however, is in second place as far as illegal immigration is concerned: out of 500,000 illegal immigrants, about 70,000 are Albanians. Of an estimated total of 100,000 Albanians, 78% are male and 2.5% children. With regard to both legal and illegal migrants to Italy, Albania is in third place after northern Africa and ex-Yugoslavia. * Fabian Schmidt

. . . AND ABOUT 150,000 IN GREECE.
Most of the mainly illegal Albanian immigrants who returned home for the Christmas holidays "have returned to Greece normally" because Albanian-Greek relations improved in late 1994, Koha Jone reported on 6 January. Greece expelled about 70,000 illegal Albanians earlier last year following an Albanian trial of five ethnic Greeks who were charged with espionage and separatist activities. Greece demanded the prisoners' release, but their six-to-eight year prison terms were merely reduced in an amnesty on 25 November. President Sali Berisha nonetheless ordered the release of one of the five on 24 December, but Greek Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias called the release of the remaining four a "precondition for a Greek-Albanian dialogue." * Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Pete Baumgartner and Steve Kettle