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Newsline - January 10, 1995

In an appeal carried by ITAR-TASS on 9 January and summarized by Western agencies, the Russian government, "at the president's instigation," offered Chechen forces a 48-hour cease-fire beginning at 8 a.m. local time on 10 January and announced that Russian forces will cease hostilities during the same period; it also repeated the amnesty offer contained in Yeltsin's ultimatum of 13 December to all Chechen fighters who lay down their arms. No formal response has yet been made by the Chechen leadership. AFP reported on 10 January that after a two-hour lull beginning at approximately 8 a.m., Russian forces resumed shelling Grozny. The cease-fire offer was predicted by Russian Television newscasts earlier in the evening of 9 January on the basis of Russian Human Rights Commissioner Sergei Kovalev's disclosure to Interfax that Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin told him by telephone that he had reached an agreement with the Russian military on a cease-fire. Interfax and Western agencies reported on 9 January that despite fierce resistance, Russian infantry reinforcements advanced to within 200 meters of the presidential palace in central Grozny and now controlled two-thirds of the city. * Liz Fuller & Julia Wishnevsky

In an interview given to Liberation and quoted by The Washington Post on 10 January, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe again raised the possibility of unspecified countermeasures by the international community in response to the Russian military incursion and human rights violations in Chechnya. NATO Secretary-General Willy Claes also urged Russia to halt the fighting in Chechnya "without delay." OSCE Executive Secretary Istvan Gyarmati, who previously headed a CSCE mission to South Ossetia and is thus familiar with the Caucasus, left for Moscow on 9 January for talks with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Nikolai Afanasevsky on the situation in Chechnya, AFP reported on 9 January, quoting MTI. * Liz Fuller

Izvestiya on 9 January carried an account of an OMON detachment from Ekaterinburg which left Chechnya when its superiors would not provide it with written orders. The 101-man unit had been called up on 2 December and was part of the column commanded by Maj.-Gen. Viktor Vorobev that advanced on Grozny several days later. Its main mission seemed to have been to keep an eye on the inexperienced paratroopers in a neighboring unit. One OMON officer described the airborne soldiers as "boys who were totally unprepared for combat operations." The OMON unit's tour of duty was to end on 2 January but was extended to 26 January. The officers were told that their mission was "to safeguard public order" in a war involving tanks and artillery, but they were equipped with only small arms and crowd-control agents. Virtually the entire unit returned to Ekaterinburg when Moscow refused to provide it with written orders to use its weapons or with the cards authorizing it to carry weapons in a state of emergency. * Doug Clarke

Top Russian officials have been accusing each other of providing Dudaev with the ammunition used by Chechen fighters against Russian forces. The controversy reached a peak on 8 January in an interview on "Vesti" with the last Soviet defense minister, Evgenii Shaposhnikov, who displayed a document signed in 1992 by Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev stating that the weaponry of the Red Army division stationed in Chechnya before it declared itself independent should be divided between the Russian and Chechen armies on a 50-50 basis. On 9 January, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Boris Gromov confirmed Shaposhnikov's revelation in an interview with Ostankino Television news "Vremya." Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai, for his part, told Russian Television on 7 January that Shaposhnikov and his deputies--Gromov and Grachev--had agreed to turn over to Dudaev Soviet Army heavy artillery and aircraft that "today are firing at Russian soldiers." Shaposhnikov and Gromov responded by saying that in 1992, Grachev was acting in his capacity as head of the Russian Defense Committee, rather than as Shaposhnikov's deputy, as Shakhrai claimed. * Julia Wishnevsky

The mothers of Russian conscripts serving in Chechnya rallied on 9 January in front of the Russian General Staff headquarters in Moscow. "Vesti" showed footage of crying women displaying placards and demanding that the military be put under public control. One of the mothers told "Vesti" that the army has not informed parents about the whereabouts of their sons. The parents demanded that the Security Council, which is widely regarded as responsible for the decision to invade Chechnya, be dissolved, and that Defense Minister Grachev resign and be replaced with a civilian. The demonstrators resolved to picket the General Staff every day. * Julia Wishnevsky

Writing in Izvestiya on 10 January, Duma member Boris Fedorov called for immediate presidential elections. He criticized Yeltsin for his inability to impose order and argued that if one part of the country is not obeying the law the government has a duty to stop illegal activities there. Additionally, he claimed that the fighting in Chechnya has demonstrated that the armed forces are not battle ready. Fedorov said the military should be streamlined and the practice of conscripting soldiers ended. He also criticized democratic politicians, including members of Russia's Democratic Choice, for not leaving the government and their lack of a principled position in not protesting the presence of Russian troops in such hot spots as Tajikistan, Georgia, Moldova, Armenia, and Turkmenistan. * Robert Orttung

Chairman of the State Duma Defense Committee Sergei Yushenko told a press conference in Moscow January 6 that a public commission would begin investigating violations of the Russian Constitution and military crimes in Chechnya, Interfax reported. The commission will collect information that will be used for "bringing to criminal accountability those mainly responsible for the tragedy." At the same press conference, Duma Deputy Ella Pamfilova said that Yeltsin could not be blamed for everything: "much of what is happening in Russia is done by Bolsheviks under disguised as democrats, thus discrediting democracy in the eyes of the people." * Robert Orttung

The Russian Security Council's Commission on the Defense Industry has recommended that more money be given to Russia's ailing defense enterprises. Yuri Andreyev, the commission's secretary, was quoted by Interfax on 7 January as saying cuts in procurement and research and development funds in recent years had led to an end of production of 175 different types of arms. He warned that if current practices were followed, only 10% of the equipment of the Russian military would be modern weapons by the year 2000. The commission was recommending that the defense budget be a certain--and undisclosed--percentage of the GNP. It was also calling for consolidation within the industry and more effective medium-term (5 years) and long-term planning for military procurement, research and development. * Doug Clarke

A visit by Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev to Japan scheduled to take place this month has been postponed, Japanese Foreign Minister Yohei Kono told AFP on 10 January. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Panov reportedly informed the Japanese ambassador in Moscow that it would be "difficult" for Kozyrev to leave Moscow now because of the fighting in Chechnya. * Liz Fuller

Pravda reported on 10 January that the Communist Party of the Russian Federation denounced the decision of Valentin Kovalev, a member of the Communists' Duma faction, to join the government as minister of justice. The Central Executive Committee issued a statement saying that "there can be no discussion of the Communists joining the government" while the president and government continue their current policies. The Communists characterized the nomination of Kovalev as an attempt to discredit their party by giving the appearance that they were in coalition with the Yeltsin leadership. * Robert Orttung

Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Zaveryukha said Russia is likely to import 25-30 million tons of grain in 1995, making it one of the world's largest importers, Interfax reported on 9 January. Zaveryukha said last year's draft budget initially reserved 18.1 trillion rubles ($4.9 billion) for agriculture but was then trimmed to about 10 trillion rubles ($2.7 billion). The 1995 draft budget provides for investing 8 trillion rubles ($2.2 billion) in agriculture. A leading member of the Agrarian Party parliamentary faction, Zaveryukha said this was less than 4% of total spending plans and was "clearly inadequate." Zaveryukha's comments suggest there will be a battle for cash between powerful lobby groups and the Finance and Economic Ministries during the second reading of the draft budget expected later this month, Russian and Western agencies reported. The prime minister said the Agrarian Party will argue for a 2% increase in VAT to support agriculture. An alternative to this might be a special tax on profits from all enterprises, he said. * Thomas Sigel

Banks on the brink of collapse will now be liquidated either by decision of its owners or by court arbitration, the Central Bank told Interfax on 6 January. Under existing legislation, licenses can be revoked from banks that lose money and banks engaged in risky credit procedures that could jeopardize the interests of creditors and investors. The legislation also provides for voluntary liquidation of a debtor bank under the supervision of the creditors. A decision to voluntarily liquidate the debtor bank and officially announce its bankruptcy will be made by the bank managers, together with the creditors and approved by the bank owners. Once a liquidation commission has been established in a commercial bank, the Central Bank will transfer to its account the money from a compulsory reserve fund. The bank customers and creditors will then have to apply either to the bank or the bank board to resolve issues related to the liquidation. Of the nearly 2,500 commercial banks registered in Russia, over 20% lost money by the third quarter of 1994, according to Paramonova. Tighter regulations and requirements need to be established if banks are to succeed. * Thomas Sigel

Reuters reported on 7 January that Eckart Werthebach, head of Germany's Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, said in a recent interview with Focus magazine that Russia's spies, frequently using the cloak of diplomacy, remain highly active throughout Germany. This disclosure was made despite German and Russian security and espionage services effectively cooperating in areas such as drug trafficking and terrorism. According to Werthebach, industry is currently the favored target of Russian agents, with spies frequently able to function in German industries, "operating like fish in water." Werthebach's conclusion simply is that "the number of legal residents we have identified (as spies) must be massively reduced. . . . This is the job of politicians." * Stan Markotich

Speaking on national television on 6 January, Armenian security chief David Shakhnazaryan reiterated that the arrests in late December of several members of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsyutyun) were motivated by the need "to put an end to terror and new political assassinations which had only one purpose--to destabilize the country," according to Interfax on 7 January. Shakhnazaryan further denied the existence of any political prisoners in Armenia. Dashnak spokesman Ruben Akopyan told journalists on 9 January that the ban on the party was illegal and that it would continue its activities, Ekho Moskvy reported. * Liz Fuller

Ukrainian radio reported on 9 January that President Leonid Kuchma arrived in Tbilisi on an official visit. Kuchma met with Georgian Parliament Chairman Eduard Shevardnadze and signed a series of documents on socioeconomic relations, trade and coordinating their activities in international affairs. The head of Kuchma's administration, Dmytro Tabchnyk, said that the meeting signaled a new strategic partnership between Georgia and Ukraine. * Ustina Markus

The Fourth Force, Better Estonia/Estonian Citizen, and Our Homeland is Estonia coalitions registered for the 5 March Estonian parliament elections on 9 January, bringing the number of groupings to seven, BNS reports. The Fourth Force combines the Royalist and Greens parties. Our Homeland is Estonia unites three Russian-speaking parties: Estonian People's Assembly Party, Russian Party of Estonia, and Russian People's Party of Estonia. The other four registered coalitions are the Moderates, The Pro-Patria and National Independence Party Union, Coalition Party and Country People's League and Justice. Eight other parties (Center Party, Rightists, Reform Party, Estonia of the Future Party, Estonian Blue Party, Estonian National League, Forest Party, and Estonian Farmer's Party) have so far announced they will run on individual tickets. Parties and coalitions are required to submit their candidatures by 19 January. * Saulius Girnius

At a press conference on 9 January, Homeland Union Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis sharply criticized the policies of Adolfas Slezevicius over military transit, RFE/RL's Lithuanian Service reports. Landsbergis said he feared that Slezevicius, in planned talks with his Russian counterpart, Viktor Chernomyrdyn, later this month in Moscow, may agree to sign a separate military transit agreement with Russia in exchange for getting most-favored-nation trade status. Landsbergis noted that the premier's "inclination to improvisations" in foreign policy had resulted in misunderstandings in talks with Poland, Belarus, and Latvia.* Saulius Girnius

Uladzimir Syanko flew to Brussels to sign NATO's Partnership for Peace Program, Belarusian Radio reported on 9 January. The head of the parliament Commission on National Security, Anatol Novikau, said that although Belarus is joining the program the republic will not change its military equipment to bring it into line with NATO's and will not participate in joint NATO exercises. Belarusian officials earlier said the country cannot afford the exercises or any modification to its military equipment. * Ustina Markus

Polish President Lech Walesa on 9 January launched his strongest attack to date on Prime Minister Waldemar Pawlak. In an interview with Polityka reported by Gazeta Wyborcza, Walesa proposed that Pawlak go on vacation because his abilities were overtaxed. Descxribing Pawlak as "a young and inexperienced politician who should not be punished further," the president again hinted that Democratic Left Alliance leader Aleksander Kwasniewski should take over as prime minister. Asked if Pawlak intended to resign, however, the government press office commented simply that "the prime minister will have his own interview in Polityka next week." The regular Monday meeting between the president and prime minister was canceled. In another sign of the breakdown in cooperation and communication within the government and between the president's camp and the prime minister, Foreign Minister Andrzej Olechowski on 9 January sent letters to Pawlak rejecting charges of dereliction of duty and restating his offer to resign, with or without presidential approval. * Louisa Vinton

In an annual survey taken by the International Sociological Institute in Kiev, 64% of Ukrainians polled said they continue to favor their country's independence, state-run Ukrainian Television News reported on 9 January. This represents an 8% increase over the previous December but is much lower than the more than 90% who voted for a separate Ukrainian state in a referendum on 1 December 1991, the institute's director, Volodymyr Khmelko, said. Extreme left political groups, led by the Communist Party, are collecting signatures for a petition, mostly in the more Russified eastern regions of Ukraine, to hold a referendum on the reestablishment of the former Soviet Union. * Chrystyna Lapychak

During a tour of collective farms in the northern Chernihiv region, Ukrainian Prime Minister Vitalii Masol told farm workers he believes the cash-strapped Ukrainian government should continue to subsidize the still mostly state-owned agricultural sector, as well as private farmers, and bail out any potential bankruptcies, state television news reported on 9 January. His statements contradict President Leonid Kuchma's plans to overhaul radically the beleaguered state financing system for the farm sector and push ahead with privatization of farms and related industry. * Chrystyna Lapychak

Kamil Cermak, spokesman for the Czech Ministry of Trade and Industry, told journalists on 9 January that deliveries of crude oil from Russia to the Czech Republic have been cut for a second time since the New Year. He suggested that deliveries will resume on 10 January. If that does not happen, the government will have to release oil from state reserves, but Cermak said the extent of the reserves was "a state secret." The country's biggest refineries announced that they have enough oil for several more days. The Czech Republic is heavily dependent on Russian oil, delivered by pipeline through Ukraine and Slovakia. Officials said supplies were interrupted because of annual negotiations over pipeline transit fees. They said Ukraine wanted to increase fees five-fold for pumping oil through its territory. * Jiri Pehe and Steve Kettle

More than 15,000 Czechs have registered since a law enabling them to claim compensation for persecution under the Nazi occupation came into effect at the beginning of December 1994, Czech media reported on 10 January. A special compensation fund has so far paid out over 30 million koruny ($1.3 million) but many claims have been sent back because they were incomplete. Former political prisoners, or their surviving spouses, can claim 2,300 koruny for every month spent in jail or internment. Widows, widowers, or offspring of those who died under interrogation, in jails, or in concentration camps, can receive up to 100,000 koruny. * Steve Kettle

At a press conference on 9 January, Party of the Democratic Left Chairman Peter Weiss said his party will join other opposition forces in asking the Constitutional Court to review two laws passed by the parliament concerning privatization. Weiss accused the governing coalition of an increasing tendency to disregard the constitution, citing also the cabinet's delay in submitting its manifesto to the parliament. Weiss stressed that within 30 days, the document has to be presented to the parliament for a vote, not just to parliamentary committees. PDL deputy Brigita Schmoegnerova said the delay in presenting the program manifesto shows that the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia is not prepared to govern. She stated that the opposition will carefully follow how closely the cabinet manifesto follows the basic promises the MDS made to its voters, noting that the provisional budget was clearly lacking. Weiss also criticized Slovak Television and Radio for presenting only the opinions of the ruling coalition and stressed that, as public institutions, they should be expected to present the views of all parliamentary parties, including the opinions of the opposition on government activities. Weiss encouraged STV to broadcast live the parliamentary discussion of the cabinet manifesto. * Sharon Fisher

Two issues are preoccupying top UN officials in Bosnia and Herzegovina, who are working to maintain the current truce. The first is the situation around Sarajevo, where government forces have yet to confirm that they have completely withdrawn from the demilitarized zone around Mt. Igman. The Serbs, furthermore, have demanded that the mainly Muslim troops pull back even further. Reuters on 10 January quoted a UN spokesman as saying that talks on 8 January between UN commander General Sir Michael Rose and Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic "were not overly positive." UN chief envoy Yasushi Akashi said that agreements have been signed and must now be speedily implemented without additional demands. The second point of attention is the Bihac pocket, where UN officials are trying to get the Krajina Serbs to sign the ceasefire. Bosnian Vice President Ejup Ganic told Reuters that Akashi is sending a delegation to Krajina and will contact the Security Council if Knin continues to balk. * Patrick Moore

Vjesnik reports on 10 January that President Franjo Tudjman the previous day received a top-level delegation from the Croatian-Muslim federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, including President Kresimir Zubak, Vice President Ganic, and the defense ministers of both countries. The visit appears to be the latest in a series of moves to shore up the federation. These moves have greatly improved living conditions in much of the embattled republic but have often been hindered by local warlords. On a different note, the independent Feral Tribune on 10 January writes critically about what government officials call "a Croatian orientation" in the press. The paper asks how a publication staffed by Croats in Croatia and writing in the local language cannot be Croatian, but it concludes that what the authorities really mean by "a Croatian orientation" is servility. Most of the media are in the hands of the ruling party, and the director of state-run television has said that television must be "a cathedral of the Croatian spirit." * Patrick Moore

The International Federation of Journalists has come to the aid of the independent besieged rump Yugoslav media, hoping to raise some $5,000 per day to keep the independent Belgrade daily Borba operational, international media reported on 9 January. At a Brussels meeting the same day, organized by the IFJ, representatives of other independent media from rump Yugoslavia joined with Borba staff members, such as deputy managing director Branislav Milosevic, in appealing for additional help to stay afloat. They stressed that without outside support it may be only a question of time, perhaps no more than several weeks, before independent media become a thing of the past because of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's ongoing efforts to silence all opposition. Since Milosevic's bid in late December to take overBorba, the hardships imposed on the daily have forced circulation to plummet to an estimated 10,000 copies a day from at least 35,000. * Stan Markotich

The president of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania, Bela Marko, said the situation of the Hungarian minority in Romania is the only real point of contention between the two countries. In an interview with the BBC summarized by Radio Bucharest on 9 January, Marko said no basic bilateral treaty will be successful without providing a solution to this problem. Marco said Magyar minorities living in other countries are confronted with similar situations. The Hungarian minority in Ukraine, he explained, has achieved cultural autonomy and the issues of bilingual street signs, education in the minority language, and the use of national symbols, have been resolved. Marco added that, during a recent visit to Moldova, he witnessed how the problem of the Gagauz minority was dealt with successfully. The special status granted by the Moldovan parliament to regions inhabited by compact national minorities resembles the HDFR's proposals for Romania, apart from the right to secession granted to the Gagauz in special situations, he said. * Michael Shafir

The chairman of a private Romanian bank has been taken into custody just before he was to travel to the United States for a conference sponsored by President Bill Clinton, an RFE/RL correspondent in Bucharest reported on 9 January. Marcel Ivan of the Credit Bank was detained by police in Bucharest on 7 January on charges of fraud and manipulating the bank's credit policies for personal gain. Romanian police issued a statement saying the charges against Ivan are the result of an investigation conducted by Romania's Central Bank last fall. Ivan was a member of a delegation of Romanian government officials and businessmen who will attend the "White House Conference for Trade and Investment in CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE," to open on 12 January in Cleveland, Ohio. * Michael Shafir

Local residents burned down two houses in the southern Romanian village of Bacu in Giurgiu county, Radio Bucharest reported on 9 January. Police intervened and prevented them from setting fire to other houses. Several persons, both Gypsies and Romanians, were injured; some were hospitalized, but none was reported to be in a serious condition. * Michael Shafir

An article in 24 chasa on 10 January reports that in 1984, the then-governing Bulgarian Communist Party was about to grant political and social rights to the country's ethnic Turks. Party leader Todor Zhivkov supported a document recognizing "the national consciousness of the Bulgarian Turks." In late 1984, however, the position of the party and the government changed, resulting in massive repression and the forceful Bulgarization of the names of the ethnic Turks. It has remained unclear why the BCP's position on this question changed. A commentary published in Kontinent on 10 January states that even a decade later the Bulgarian public still does not know what led to the so-called "renaissance process." The author assumes, however, that this is "a political time-bomb, the explosion of which might lead to the political death of many [politicians]." * Stefan Krause

The members of the new Bulgarian government will be selected by the end of this week, Duma reported on 10 January, citing Socialist Deputy Chairman Yanaki Stoilov. Bulgarian Socialist Party legislator Aleksandar Marinov told Trud the same day that by 20 January, BSP leader Zhan Videnov must have a mandate to form a new government. He also stated that the government's legislative projects will have priority in the National Assembly's legislative work. According to articles published in Demokratsiya and Zemya on 10 January, there will be five or six new ministries. The Committees for Energy and for Post and Telecommunications will certainly be turned into ministries, while there will probably be a Ministry for European Affairs. Demokratsiya also reported that there are three candidates for every ministry, citing unnamed BSP officials. Standard reported the same day that former Prime Minister Lyuben Berov offered his help to the BSP as a counselor for the economic part of the new government's program. Before being appointed prime minister in late 1992, Berov was economic adviser to the Union of Democratic Forces and to President Zhelyu Zhelev. * Stefan Krause

Two colleagues of Chief Supreme Court Judge Zef Brozi called his decision to release a Greek citizen accused of drug smuggling "a flagrant violation of the law and an arbitrary act," Gazeta Shqiptare reported on 10 January. Judges Metush Saraci and Zef Nika also said in an interview with Albanian Television on 9 January that Brozi took the decision against the advice of other judges. Brozi reacted to the charges by saying that "all this is a big fraud" and adding that "the question has nothing to do with the release of the Greek but with the quick elimination of myself." Brozi has become a political enemy of President Sali Berisha by suggesting that the president is corrupt and by criticizing Berisha's referendum on the constitution. Parliament has refused to lift Brozi's immunity, as requested by Chief Prosecutor Alush Dragoshi in late December. * Fabian Schmidt

Albanian Socialist Party Leader Fatos Nano, who is serving a jail term for corruption, will be heard as a witness in a bank scandal trial that began on 6 January. Former Prime Minister Vilson Ahmeti is being tried for a second time, together with former Trade Bank Director Agron Saliu and his deputy Agim Tartari. They were sentenced to between two and seven years in prison, but a court of appeal ordered the retrial on the basis of new evidence that also implicated former National Bank Governor Ilir Hoti and former Trade Bank Director Ardian Xhyheri. The five officials are charged with misappropriating $1.2 million, which was paid in 1991 to a French citizen to negotiate forgiveness of Albania's foreign debts. Other witnesses in the trial will be former Economy Ministers Gramoz Pashko and Genc Ruli and former Foreign Trade Minister Ylli Cabiri, Gazeta Shqiptare and Aleanca reported on 10 January. * Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Pete Baumgartner and Steve Kettle