CHECHENS ABANDON PRESIDENTIAL PALACE. In what Russian Defense Minister Pavel
Grachev described as a "turning point" in the war in Chechnya, Russian troops
took control of the devastated presidential palace in central Grozny during the
afternoon of 19 January after the Chechen defenders decided to abandon the
building and establish a new center of resistance elsewhere in Grozny, Interfax
and Western agencies reported. Interfax quoted Russian military intelligence
sources as claiming that the Chechens had suffered "substantial losses." In a
statement issued after the Russian military took control of the palace, Russian
President Boris Yeltsin claimed that the military stage of reestablishing
constitutional order in Chechnya was almost completed, and that Interior
Ministry forces would take over the mission of restoring law and order. Yeltsin
further voiced his respects for the Russian soldiers killed during the fighting
and for the "suffering of the civilian population." Also on 19 January, Russian
Interior Ministry forces consolidated control of eastern Chechnya, according to
Reuters. Grozny was subjected to intensive Russian artillery fire during the
night of 19 January in an attempt to wipe out remaining pockets of Chechen
resistance, AFP reported. On 20 January, Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev met
with journalists in Khasavyurt, Dagestan, and declared that Chechen resistance
would continue; as quoted by Reuters, he claimed that neither Yeltsin nor
Chernomyrdin was in control of the situation. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.
CHERNOMYRDIN REJECTS TALKS WITH DUDAEV. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin
rejected the possibility of talks with Dzhokhar Dudaev, saying "I do not talk
to gangsters," Interfax reported 19 January. He told a group of journalists
that the situation in Chechnya is often fanned by "the likes of you," implying
the media, and by "some hot heads in parliament." He said that there is no war
party in the cabinet or Russia in general. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.
KOVALEV TO MEET CHERNOMYRDIN, NOT YELTSIN. Human Rights Commissioner Sergei
Kovalev returned to Moscow from the Chechen capital Grozny on 19 January.
Russian television newscasts broadcast footage of Kovalev's news conference at
Vnukovo airport in Moscow where he stated that the Chechen war would not be
finished even after the Russian occupation of Grozny. The military has been
preparing for a guerrilla war, Kovalev added, showing a leaflet in which a
Russian commander stationed in Chechnya threatens rural villages with
destruction if they shelter Chechen fighters. Kovalev said that he was going to
meet with Viktor Chernomyrdin, not Boris Yeltsin--indirectly hinting that he
blamed the atrocities in Chechnya on Yeltsin. On the same day, Yeltsin's
closest ally, Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, told the RTV program "Details,"
that he could not name anyone in the world as knowledgeable on human rights as
Kovalev. -- Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc.
ATTEMPT TO IMPEACH YELTSIN FAILS. Following three days of heated debates, the
upper chamber of the Russian parliament approved on 19 January a resolution on
the Chechen crisis, Russian television newscasts reported that day. The
Federation Council senators rejected nearly all strong measures proposed by the
various committees of the house. Proposals included starting the impeachment
process against Yeltsin; and prosecuting him for exceeding his authority and
violating the constitution in the form of dispatching the army to Chechnya
without declaring either military or emergency rule. Although approximately
half of the senators present voted for the resolution, the total votes (61)
fell far short of the necessary 90 votes required. A vote of no confidence in
Chernomyrdin's government received 66 votes, also short of the 90 needed. A
third failed proposal entailed barring the Federation Council's speaker,
Vladimir Shumeiko, from participating in sessions of the President's Security
Council. The chamber succeeded in passing a resolution introducing amendments
into the constitution to ensure parliamentary and public control over the
executive branch of the government. Another resolution approved called on
acting Russian Prosecutor-General Aleksei Ilyushenko to bring criminal charges
against those responsible for illegal sales of Russian weaponry to Chechen
forces. (In his address to the Council of Federation, the chairman of its
Defense Committee, Petr Shirshov, named Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev
as being responsible such actions.) -- Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc.
COUNCIL OF FEDERATION EXASPERATED. The 18 January session of the Federation
Council became heated after it was snubbed by top Russian officials. On the eve
of the session, members of the chamber, who refer to themselves as "the Russian
senators," invited President Yeltsin, Prime Minister Chernomyrdin, Defense
Minister Pavel Grachev, Minister of Internal Affairs Viktor Erin, secretary of
the Security Council Oleg Lobov and acting Russian Prosecutor-General Aleksei
Ilyushenko to attend the session, which was supposed to discuss the situation
in Chechnya. Only Ilyushenko arrived, while other officials told the chamber
that they were too busy to attend the session. According to Russian Television
newscasts, the deliberate absence of the other top officials caused an uproar
in the upper chamber and its members then proposed several measures, starting
with the dissolution of the Federation Council and including demands for the
resignation of Yeltsin, Chernomyrdin and the "power" ministers. The senators
particularly lambasted the Security Council, which they hold responsible for
the decision to invade Chechnya, and their own speaker, Vladimir Shumeiko, a
Yeltsin appointee to the Security Council along with Ivan Rybkin, speaker of
the State Duma. Ostankino's "Vremya" broadcast two minutes of the footage of
the address of the famous reform-minded senator, Yurii Chernichenko, attacking
the Security Council as "the new Politburo," and the "secretive, illegal,
dictatorial body" that "has unleashed a civil war" in Russia. -- Julia
Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc.
EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT PUTS EU-RUSSIAN PARTNERSHIP ACCORD ON HOLD. The European
Parliament voted 19 January to put the partnership agreement, signed with
Russia in June, on hold, AFP reports. The European Parliament, the legislative
arm of the European Union, made the move to show its displeasure with Russian
military actions in Chechnya. The action must be approved by EU foreign
ministers, who are expected to back the suspension. The European Parliament
denounced "the totally disproportionate measures taken by the Russia
authorities, as well as the flagrant violation of human rights which results
from these measures." The European Commission had been on the verge of
implementing the economic and commercial aspects of the agreement on an interim
basis. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.
FILATOV WARNS RUSSIAN REGIONS. Sergei Filatov, President Yeltsin's Chief of
Staff, condemned various Russian regions' drive for greater autonomy as "posing
a danger to the integrity of Russia," Interfax reported 18 January. He said
that some regions' adoption of charters designed to give them more rights and
limit federal authority had resulted in numerous violations of the
constitution. Filatov ruled out "tough methods" for resolving the disputes and
suggested instead that experts from the president's State Law Administration
should try to persuade regional authorities to change their attitudes. If that
doesn't work the federal authorities plan to appeal to the Constitutional
Court. In a related development, Yeltsin met on 18 January with the president
of Tatarstan, Mintimer Shaimiev, Interfax reported. Tatarstan, like Chechnya,
refused to sign the Russian Federation Treaty but signed a bilateral
power-sharing agreement with Moscow on 3 February 1994. Shaimiev commented that
the Tatarstan model had great importance because it "showed that members of the
federation were able to establish normal relations on a peaceful basis." --
Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.
YELTSIN: YES TO PRIVATIZATION. The Russian government has no intention of
stopping its privatization program or of re-nationalizing the industries that
have already been privatized, President Yeltsin said at a news conference on 18
January. Yeltsin was referring to a controversial statement made by his newly
appointed Chairman of the State Property Committee, Vladimir Polevanov, who
told a news conference on 29 December of his plans to introduce "state control"
over some privatized industries. (According to Anatolii Chubais, who was in
charge of privatization in his capacity as Polevanov's predecessor as the State
Property Committee's Chairman, Polevanov's statement had cost Russia billions
of rubles in the form of lost foreign investments.) Yeltsin explained
Polevanov's unfortunate remarks in terms of the latter's personal vendetta
against Chubais, citing Polevanov's lack of experience in top government. The
former head of the administration of the Amur Region at the Russian-Chinese
border, Polevanov was unexpectedly promoted to an important position in Moscow,
Yeltsin said, adding that Polevanov had erred by failing to understand that he
had to work in one and the same team with Yeltsin's other ministers. In all
fairness, it may be added that Chubais' privatization scheme that distributed
the shares of formerly state-owned industries free of charge has been lambasted
by many market-oriented Russian economists, such as former Minister of Finance
Boris Fedorov. -- Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc.
PRESSURIZED RUBLE HITS RECORD LOW. The ruble plunged to a record low of 3,947
rubles/$1 in MICEX trading on 20 January, Western and Russian agencies
reported. Dealers expected the currency to hit new lows, partly due to fears
that Russia's military campaign in Chechnya will spike inflation. The ruble's
previous record low was 3,926 rubles/$1 on historic "Black Tuesday," 11 October
1994. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.
RUSSIA'S FOREIGN TRADE INCREASES 7.2% IN 1994. Due to expanding trade links,
foreign trade rose 7.2% in 1994 with a total of $76.2 billion, Russia's Foreign
Economic Relations Ministry reported to Interfax on 18 January. Among Russia's
largest trade partners were Germany (13% of total turnover), the US (7.3%),
Britain (6.4%), Italy (5.7%), China (5%), the Netherlands, Finland,
Switzerland, and Japan (from 4.2 to 4.8%), the report said. In 1994, the
majority of Russia's exports (67%), went primarily to industrialized countries
of Europe. On the import front, volume in 1994 reached $28.2 billion, up $4.3
billion, or 5.4% from 1993. The main share of imports (69%), also came from
industrially developed countries. Raw materials predominated the export scene,
while food products and consumer goods comprised 50% of the import market. --
Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.
80 COAL MINES TO CLOSE? Interfax reported on 17 January that Russia is
examining plans to close 80 unprofitable coal mines over five years; 450,000
jobs would be lost out of a total coal-mining work-force of about 800,000. An
official from the mining company Rosugol neither denied nor confirmed the
report, telling Reuters "the government still has to approve the program and
allocate funds to help cut the number of mines." According to Segodnya,
the World Bank, which plans to lend Russia $500 million to help restructure its
ailing coal industry, wants 15-25 loss-making mines to be closed a year,
cutting output to match demand. A first draft of the World Bank program,
submitted to the government in 1994, was rejected by Rosugol and trade unions.
-- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.
FORMER UZBEK VICE PRESIDENT TO FOUND NEW POLITICAL PARTY. In the wake of the
recent Uzbek parliamentary elections that resulted in an overwhelming victory
for the former Communists, Shukrulla Mirsaidov, who resigned as vice president
three years ago to protest the policies of Uzbek President Islam Karimov, told
Interfax on 18 January that he planned to found a new political party. To be
called the Social Democratic Adolat (Justice) Party, he said it would function
as a "constructive opposition" to the existing government. Mirsaidov said the
party would focus on democracy, freedom of the press, private enterprise, tax
reform and greater involvement of religious leaders in public life, and that it
already had the necessary number of supporters to gain official registration.
-- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.
UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT BACKS ODESSA OIL TERMINAL.
legislature has appropriated land for the construction of an oil terminal near
the Black sea port of Odessa in an effort to ease Ukraine's energy dependence
on Russia, Reuters reported on 19 January. Legislators voted 208 to 83 in favor
of a site 40 km east of Odessa. The project was halted in 1994 after local
officials vetoed it on grounds the terminal would damage the environment.
Ukraine is still searching for funding for the $3.4 billion terminal, which
could receive up to 40 million tons of oil annually either by tanker from the
Middle East or through a pipeline across Turkey to the Black Sea. Most of
Ukraine's oil needs, estimated at 36 million tons, are now met by Russia, which
provides 8 million tons annually through state channels. Deputies say the
terminal could be operational in 16-18 months, with an initial annual capacity
of 12 million tons. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc.
BELARUS STRIKES MULTIMILLION TRACTOR DEAL.
Interfax on 19 January
reported that Belarus has signed a multimillion dollar tractor deal with
Pakistan. Deputy Prime Minister Uladzimir Harkun says the deal provides for the
export of 12,000 Belarusian tractors to Pakistan over six months for less than
$5,000 each. When the USSR broke up, Belarus was the world's third-largest
tractor manufacturer after the U.S. and Japan. Minsk is currently trying to
negotiate a deal for the same volume of tractors with Iran. -- Ustina Markus,
BELARUS SENDS MORE RUSSIAN WEAPONS TO U.S.
The Belgian newspaper Le
Soir reports that a sophisticated missile fire control system used by the
Russians has been seized near Antwerp because customs authorities thought it
might be bound for the Middle East. The paper discovered that the
equipment--called "Rangir"--originated in Minsk and has been sold to "a
well-heeled U.S. company." The "Rangir" is a mobile missile battery command
post designed by the Agat Institute in Minsk and is used by the Russian armed
forces to control SA-15 and SA-19 air defense missiles. Le Soir revealed
that a number of even more sophisticated missile control systems, known as
MP-22-E and also from Agat, recently passed through Antwerp en route to the
U.S. from Minsk. Russian officials and commentators blasted Belarus for selling
the modern S-300-PMU missile defense system to a U.S. company that turned out
to be an agent for the U.S. government. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.
ESTONIA PASSES NEW CITIZENSHIP LAW.
The Estonian parliament on 19
January adopted a new citizenship law by a vote of 60 to 6, BNS reports. Under
the previous legislation, people could apply for citizenship after two years
residency in the country and could be naturalized one year after submitting the
application. The new law requires five years residency to apply for
citizenship. It also bans Estonian citizens from having dual citizenship but
allows such citizenship for ethnic Estonians who are citizens of another
country. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.
STATUS OF FORMER SOVIET CITIZENS IN LATVIA.
The law on the status of
former Soviet citizens who are citizens of neither Latvia nor another state has
been approved by the Saeima on its second reading, BNS and Interfax report on
19 January. The law, which will go into effect when approved on its third
reading, gives former Soviet citizens rights such as free movement within
Latvia, free exit from and entry into the country, and freedom of expression
and religion. But it does not grant them the right, enjoyed by Latvian
citizens, to take part in elections, buy land, or possess weapons for
self-defense. Noncitizen passports will be issued to people who were permanent
residents of Latvia before 1 July 1992, unless they retired from service in the
Soviet army after 4 May 1990. Saeima Chairman Anatolijs Gorbunovs said the
approval of the law on its second reading will greatly improve Latvia's chances
of becoming a member of the Council of Europe in February. -- Saulius Girnius,
RUSSIAN DUMA ASKS LITHUANIA NOT TO DEPORT EX-SOVIET ACTIVISTS.
Russian State Duma on 18 January issued an appeal to the Lithuanian parliament
not to deport four Russian citizens who were active in the pro-Soviet
organization Edinstvo. The four have been asked to leave Lithuania by 22
January. Parliament chairman Ceslovas Jursenas told RFE/RL's Lithuanian Service
on 19 January that it was unlikely the parliament would discuss a response to
the appeal but that the parliament's leadership would probably reply officially
next week after it determines whether the deportation order conforms with
Lithuanian law. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.
POLISH SEJM DEBATES MILITARY COMMAND.
President Lech Walesa on 19
January found himself isolated in a Sejm debate on the command structure of the
armed forces, which took place after nearly one year's delay . Arguing that
"military people should run the military," Walesa supported draft legislation
that would give greater power to the General Staff, reduce the role of the
Defense Ministry, and subordinate military intelligence and counterintelligence
to the General Staff. Walesa opposed any reduction in the army's size,
Rzeczpospolita reports. The ruling coalition and most of the opposition
called for a command structure in which the General Staff would answer to the
civilian Defense Ministry. Only two minor parties endorsed Walesa's version,
but there was consensus that the armed forces should be shielded from political
influence and that NATO membership is Poland's chief security goal. -- Louisa
Vinton, OMRI, Inc.
NO DECISION ON POLISH BUDGET.
President Lech Walesa told a press
conference in the Sejm on 19 January that his decision on whether to sign the
1995 budget depends on the coalition's willingness to come to terms with him.
Walesa has until 2 February to make up his mind. Asked if he planned to
dissolve the parliament, Walesa vowed not to violate the legal system but added
that "we have good laws and still better lawyers, so the impossible often
becomes possible," Gazeta Wyborcza reports. The constitution offers no
legal grounds for the president to dissolve the parliament in the current
situation. The coalition parties, fearing new legal improvisation on Walesa's
part that will block the budget, are inclined to compromise. Walesa hinted that
he had no objections to one of the coalition's rumored candidates for the
Foreign Ministry but mentioned no names. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc.
CZECH GOVERNMENT INVESTIGATES INTERNAL SPYING CHARGES.
government committee is investigating accusations that the state
counterintelligence agency BIS illegally collected information on political
parties, Czech media report. The committee is made up of one minister from each
of the four parties in the governing coalition. The main charges of BIS spying
were made by Deputy Prime Minister Jan Kalvoda. He took part in a committee
session on 19 January in place of his designated party colleague Jiri Skalicky,
who left with Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus on a visit to Egypt. Kalvoda said he
provided the committee with broader information than he submitted to a
parliament commission simultaneously investigating the issue. -- Steve Kettle,
SLOVAK PARLIAMENT DISCUSSES CABINET PROGRAM.
Addressing the parliament
on 19 January, Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar said the cabinet's most
important strategic goal is European integration, Narodna obroda
reports. He noted that to achieve this goal, the rights of all minorities must
be respected and a policy of economic revitalization and development
introduced. Slovakia plans to submit its application to the European Union by
30 June. Meciar said the country will strive to achieve a standard of living
comparable to that of industrial European countries by the year 2010. The
program has drawn criticism from the opposition as being overly ambitious and
not specific enough about how to reach its goals. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI,
AUSTRIA CANCELS HEARING ON SLOVAK NUCLEAR PLANT.
Minister Maria Rauch-Kallat on 19 January announced that Austria's hearing on
Mochovce, scheduled for 23-24 January in Vienna, will not take place because of
the refusal of the two firms building the nuclear power plant to participate.
She also said Austria would officially inform the European Bank for
Reconstruction and Development of the meeting's cancellation, Sme
reports. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.
POLL ON HUNGARIAN GOVERNMENT'S PERFORMANCE.
An opinion survey conducted
in December by Szonda Ipsos found that general satisfaction with the government
was rated 44.9 points on a scale of 0 to 100, a drop of 0.8 points compared
with November and a 3-point drop compared with October, Magyar Hirlap
reports on 19 January. The government fared even worse with regard to its
performance on the economy, the easing of social problems, and the maintenance
of law and order (a combined total of 42.9 points). The population was most
satisfied with the government's performance in developing relations with
Hungary's neighbors and in guaranteeing media freedom, with the government's
rating declining only by 1-2 points. -- Edith Oltay, OMRI, Inc.
ESCALATION OF FIGHTING AROUND VELIKA KLADUSA.
International media on 19
January reported UN officials as saying that 700 shells exploded near the
UNPROFOR compound, close to Velika Kladusa. The town is the power base of local
Muslim rebel kingpin Fikret Abdic, whose forces retook it last month with the
help of Krajina and Bosnian Serbs after losing it to government forces in the
summer. The Krajina Serbs and Abdic's units have not signed the current
four-month cease-fire, although Abdic has given his verbal approval. The UN
called the shellings a "significant increase in military activity" and reported
that Krajina Serbs are bringing up heavy guns, but it is unclear who was
responsible for how many of the latest exchanges. AFP also noted that the
Bosnian Serbs have recently advanced about 1.5 kilometers into the UN-declared
"safe area" of Srebrenica. Meanwhile, government delegates in Sarajevo walked
out of a UN-sponsored meeting to discuss procedures on the separation of forces
specified in the cease-fire agreement. The government wanted to protest the
continued lack of progress in reopening Sarajevo supply routes. Croatian
delegates joined the walkout, leaving the UN to talk with the Serbs. The Serbs,
for their part, refused to join a planned helicopter monitoring flight over Mt.
Igman, saying the area under inspection included territories outside the
demilitarized zone. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.
DIPLOMATIC INITIATIVES BY THE CONTACT GROUP AND GREECE.
Washington Post reports on 20 January that a delegation from the Contact
Group will return to Sarajevo on 21 January. The paper suggests that the
Clinton administration is anxious to be seen as taking serious action to
restore the current cease-fire and thereby prevent a rumored return visit by
former President Jimmy Carter to the area. Bosnian Vice President Ejup Ganic
was unimpressed, telling reporters that "the Contact Group comes, we give them
coffee, they ask questions, and they leave." Meanwhile, the
government-controlled edition of Borba (see below) on 20 January reports
that a representative of the Greek Foreign Ministry is visiting the Bosnian
Serb headquarters in Pale. He is reportedly presenting a message on ending the
conflict, but the paper notes that the Greek press provides no details. --
Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.
NASA BORBA LAUNCHED.
Politika on 20 January reports that
Belgrade's independent newspaper Borba, currently the target of a
government take-over bid, has now officially reincorporated and registered
itself as Nasa Borba. Gordana Logar is to stay on as editor in chief.
Publication of Nasa Borba's first issue is expected to be delayed, due
to a lack of newsprint. Meanwhile, Tanjug reports that Belgrade has asked TV
stations throughout Serbia to reduce their hours of broadcasting to between
18:30 and 23:00 local time to help conserve electricity. Power shortages and
cuts have been common throughout rump Yugoslavia this winter, with the
opposition accusing Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's regime of reducing
electricity supplies in order to barter that energy for oil with neighboring
countries. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.
Foreign Minister Mate Granic has stressed that
President Franjo Tudjman's decision not to renew UNPROFOR's mandate at the end
of March is final, Reuters reported on 18 January. He said Zagreb has
"carefully considered" the concerns expressed by the UN but also noted that "on
this occasion, it is again necessary to reiterate Croatia's decision." Much
tougher language was used by Vladimir Seks, the lower house deputy speaker and
one of the leading hard-liners in the governing party. Seks was quoted by Hina
as saying the decision was "irrevocable" and no bluff. Meanwhile, Hina and
Reuters quoted IMF officials as praising Croatia's efforts to end inflation and
stabilize the economy. One official said Croatia's inflation must be the lowest
in the world. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.
ROMANIAN PRESIDENT DISMISSES CALLS TO BAN HUNGARIAN PARTY.
Chebeleu, a spokesman for Romanian President Ion Iliescu, on 19 January
described calls to ban the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania--the main
political organization of Romania's Hungarian minority--as "extravagant."
Gheorghe Funar, the controversial leader of the ruling Party of Romanian
National Unity, recently proposed a referendum on whether to outlaw the HDFR.
But Chebeleu said a referendum can be held only in accordance with the
constitution, indicating that Funar has no constitutional right to call such a
vote. Recent demands by the HDFR for more autonomy for Romania's ethnic
Hungarians have prompted protests from nearly all other Romanian parties. --
Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc.
ROMANIA RELEASES NEW AIDS STATISTICS.
The Romanian Health Ministry on 19
January announced that as of 31 December 1994, a total of 3,119 AIDS cases had
been registered in the country, of whom 2,885 were children, Radio Bucharest
reports. The statement said 1,154 people so far had died of the disease. It
also noted that the number of new cases had recently dropped, mainly owing to
such preventive measures as the use of one-time needles and screening blood for
transfusion. Meanwhile, the parents of a child dying of AIDS continue their
legal battle against a local hospital and the Health Ministry for 200 million
lei (some $113,000) in damages. They say their daughter was infected when she
was treated for influenza in 1992 in the Santa Maria hospital in Iasi. The
Health Ministry on 17 January rejected the allegations, saying that the exact
time of the child's infection could not be established. Social workers and
lawyers expect the case to set a precedent for other child AIDS victims. -- Dan
Ionescu, OMRI, Inc.
SHEVARDNADZE IN SOFIA.
During a one-day visit to Sofia on 19 January,
Georgian parliament chairman Eduard Shevardnadze met with Bulgarian President
Zhelyu Zhelev and signed a bilateral treaty on friendship and cooperation. The
two leaders also called for a peaceful resolution to the Chechen conflict,
Western agencies report. Shevardnadze told a meeting of foreign businessmen
that Georgia has prepared the legislative base for the transition to a market
economy and is following IMF recommendations. Characterizing the domestic
political situation as "more or less stable," Shevardnadze also proposed
Georgia as the route for a new oil and gas export pipeline from Azerbaijan and
Central Asia to the Black Sea ports of Poti and Batumi. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI,
BULGARIAN NUCLEAR PLANT TEMPORARILY CLOSED.
Block 3 of the Kozloduy
nuclear power plant had to be shut down for seven hours for technical reasons
on 18 January, AFP reported the same day. The director of the plant assured the
public there was no nuclear leakage and no security risk. But he admitted that
there was a technical problem in the block. The Soviet-built plant has been
modernized several times in the past three years but still is considered unsafe
by Western experts. Bulgaria refuses to shut it down, saying that it is
dependent on the energy produced at Kozloduy, which provides some 40% of the
country's supplies. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.
ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT CAN LIFT JUDGE'S IMMUNITY.
Court ruled on 18 January that the immunity of Chief Supreme Court Judge Zef
Brozi can be lifted by the parliament, Reuters reported the next day. Brozi is
charged with corruption by Chief Prosecutor Alush Dragoshi, who claims that
Brozi illegally ordered the release of a Greek citizen involved in a narcotics
case. A member of the ruling Democratic Party, Brozi was nominated by President
Sali Berisha to stamp out corruption in the judiciary but later accused Berisha
of abandoning him in his fight. The parliament ruled on 29 December that it is
not entitled to lift a judge's immunity. Now it must decide whether to lift the
immunity of two former ministers. Prosecutors are already investigating former
Transport Minister Fatos Bitincka and Albert Gajo, an adviser to the prime
minister, on charges of abuse of power and forgery. Meanwhile, the trial of
Arben Lika, a former deputy of the Democratic Party who is charged with
smuggling cigarettes, was postponed until 24 January because of a lack of
witnesses, Koha Jone reported on 20 January. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI,
[As of 1200 CET]
Compiled by Pete Baumgartner and Jan Cleave