MORE REVELATIONS ABOUT BEGINNING OF CHECHEN WAR.
On 7 February Interfax
continued to publish excerpts from the 27-page report on the Chechen war by
presidential advisers Emil Pain and Arkady Popov. The survey says Dudaev was
able to arm his forces by giving large payoffs to "smart traders clad in
military uniform." The authors reject the theses that weapons were plundered by
Dudaev's militants or extorted from Russian servicemen under duress. The survey
calls for further research into the question of who supplied the Dudaev regime
with sophisticated weapons, such as anti-aircraft weapons and rocket launchers.
Investigators must also examine how Dudaev was able to export oil through
Russian pipelines and use the money to buy weapons, and why the federal
authorities allowed special flights into and out of Grozny for suspicious
cargoes when international agencies warned that illicit drugs were being
shipped through Chechnya. Many in Moscow may have received kickbacks, the
authors conclude. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.
NEARLY 5,000 MILITARY CASUALTIES IN CHECHNYA.
Russian federal troops
have suffered nearly 5,000 casualties in Chechnya, Interfax reported on 6 and 7
February, quoting "power" ministry sources. Some 907 have been killed in
action, while more than 3,400 troops have been wounded and another 456 are
either missing in action or unidentified dead. The Ground Forces have suffered
the heaviest losses, with 537 servicemen killed and around 2,000 wounded. At
the same time, a group of experts headed by Russian Human Rights Commissioner
Sergei Kovalev estimated that 25,000 civilians have been killed in Grozny.
Ostankino's "Vremya" estimated that about 195,000 people have fled their homes
as a result of the fighting. -- Doug Clarke and Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc.
BOROVOI PEACE PROPOSAL.
Economic Freedom Party Chairman Konstantin
Borovoi told a news conference in Moscow on 7 February that he had sent
President Boris Yeltsin a proposal for a new Chechen peace plan comprising a
ceasefire, a Russian troop withdrawal, and the establishment of a demilitarized
zone, but had received no response. Borovoi, who reportedly met with Chechen
President Dzhokhar Dudaev near Grozny on 2 February, predicted that Russian
troops in Chechnya would soon be defeated, and that Chechnya would gain
international recognition "within a few months," Interfax reported. -- Liz
Fuller, OMRI, Inc.
RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN CONTENDS COUNCIL OF EUROPE OVERREACTED.
The Council of Europe overreacted to the Chechnya events when it voted to
defer Russia's application, Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigorii Karasin told
Interfax on 7 February. He said Russia's candidacy should be considered in a
broader perspective. In that context, he mentioned Russia's cooperation with
the OSCE mission to Chechnya. Expressing a contrary view, Irina Khakamada,
leader of the 12 December Liberal Democratic Union faction in parliament, said,
"The Russian parliamentary delegation did an incredible thing in achieving
adoption in Strasbourg of a 'softened' resolution by the Council of Europe on
the situation around Chechnya." She said the speech by Human Rights
Commissioner Sergei Kovalev was instrumental in "changing the sentiments of
European MPs," who "were shocked by the position taken by Vladimir Zhirinovsky,
who spoke like an open adherent of government actions in Chechnya." -- Michael
Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.
YELTSIN TO ADDRESS PARLIAMENT.
Yeltsin's annual address to parliament,
which was originally scheduled for January, will take place on 16 February. A
"presidential source" told Interfax Yeltsin will discuss military reform and
may return to the idea of giving the Russian Army General Staff new functions
and detaching it from the Defense Ministry. The Security Council discussed this
issue in January. The president will also criticize those who failed to enact
the proposals he advanced in the previous year's address. In that speech, he
stressed the need to reform local government by fall 1994. -- Robert Orttung,
FEDERATION COUNCIL REJECTS STATE OF EMERGENCY.
For the second time, the
Federation Council failed to ratify a state of emergency decree for Ingushetia
and North Ossetia issued by Yeltsin, Interfax reported on 7 February. Only 76
of the necessary 90 deputies supported the motion. The Council failed to ratify
Yeltsin's first decree on 3 February. Without the Federation Council's
approval, the decree becomes invalid in three days. The prospects for a
compromise between the president and the Federation Council are uncertain,
Piotr Shyshov, head of the Council's Defense Committee, told AFP. "We are
asking for an in-depth revision of the text, as the war situation [in
neighboring Chechnya] demands strict and concrete measures." -- Robert Orttung,
YAVLINSKY VOICES DOUBTS ABOUT THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION.
Yavlinsky, a liberal economist who is the front-runner in most opinion polls on
the presidential elections, suggested that the results may be rigged in favor
of President Boris Yeltsin, RFE/RL reported on 7 February. Yavlinsky noted
that, under the electoral draft law, votes will be cast by the Central Election
Commission appointed by the president, leaving no room for independent control
over its activities. Asked whether he is going to appeal to European human
rights agencies, Yavlinsky replied that such bodies should hire at least one
translator to enable them to read Russian laws and evaluate them on their own.
Meanwhile, a growing number of Russian public figures have voiced doubts that
the next presidential elections will even take place in June 1996, as
scheduled. -- Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc.
VORKUTA MINERS STAGE ONE-DAY WARNING STRIKE.
As the Komi Republic's new
parliament held its first session on 7 February, miners in Vorkuta staged a
24-hour warning strike in protest against nonpayment of wages and poor working
conditions, Russian media reported. The privatized Vorgashurskaya mine, the
largest pit in the area, did not participate. Miners in Rostov have been on
strike since 1 February, and the Russian Coal Industry Workers' Union, which
has about 1 million members, scheduled a nationwide one-day strike for 8
February. Miners' leaders say if the government does not heed their demands,
they will begin an indefinite strike on 1 March and press for early
presidential elections and the resignation of the government, Nezavisimaya
gazeta reported on 7 February. Following a meeting with Prime Minister
Viktor Chernomyrdin and First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais on 7
February, the general director of the state coal association "Rosugol" said the
prime minister had promised to find extra funds for the industry. -- Penny
Morvant, OMRI, Inc.
IMF FAILS TO REACH AGREEMENT ON LOAN WITH RUSSIA.
The IMF failed to
reach an agreement with Russia in the latest round of talks on a $6.4 billion
standby loan, but both Russian and IMF officials remain optimistic,
international agencies reported. IMF head Michel Camdessus stressed that Russia
badly needs a "strong, coherent, and credible" economic program, but gave no
schedule for a possible completion of the talks. Russia hopes to close an
important gap in its proposed 1995 budget with over $10 billion in funds from
international agencies. The State Duma's decision to raise the minimum wage
from $5 to $13 a month erected a major roadblock to the talks, according to
Russian presidential aide Aleksandr Livshits. However, the Federation Council
is expected to reject the increase. The Duma would then need a three-quarter
majority to pass the bill again. Other obstacles include the failure of Russia
to liberalize oil exports, expenses associated with the Chechnya war, a
threatened miners' strike, flawed macroeconomic assumptions for the budget
bill, and the fact that budget decisions sometimes emanate from the president's
private office and catch the government unawares. The IMF talks are scheduled
to resume again within two weeks. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.
COMMITTEE FINALIZES KEY INDICES OF DRAFT BUDGET.
The budget committee of
the Russian State Duma has finalized the key numbers of the 1995 draft budget
which was approved in the second reading on 25 January, Interfax reported on 7
February. Committee chairman Mikhail Zadornov told Interfax that with the
approval of the 1.5% special tax for supporting agriculture and coal mining,
the key indices are: revenue--248.3 trillion rubles (4,133 rubles/$1),
spending--175.2 trillion, deficit--73.2 trillion rubles or 29.5% of
expenditures. Zadornov said an additional 5.3 trillion rubles collected in the
form of a special tax, will be directed to "needy branches of the economy,"
which the committee will discuss in more concrete terms on 13-14 February.
Zadornov expects the third reading of the draft budget on 17 or 22 February. --
Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.
TALKS OF FIXED RUBLE RATE MAKE BANKERS UNEASY.
Bank Chairman Sergei Pugachov said a fixed ruble rate would promote the
creation of a black currency market, an increase in illegal transactions by
non-banking structures, and would result in a federal tax revenue decline. The
comments came during a 7 February Financial Information Agency interview with
top bank managers. Avtobank Chairwoman Natalya Raievskaya said a fixed rate
would first affect industrial enterprises and then the banking system. Banks
would also suffer losses on hard currency operations, she added. Most Bank
Chairman Boris Khait said the government must publish and justify the financial
reasons for such a move before implementing a fixed rate. Neftyanoi Bank Deputy
Chairman Stanislav Balakin commented that the introduction of a fixed ruble
rate is a "totally unrealistic task" due to high inflation and economic
instability. At the same time, the Russian bankers said they intended to
"support any governmental decision in order to not rock the economy."
Meanwhile, MICEX trading held steady on 7 February as the market closed at
4,133 rubles to $1. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.
UNIFIED AIR DEFENSE ON CIS AGENDA.
A unified CIS air defense system will
be one of two items on the agenda of the CIS Defense Ministers' Council meeting
in Almaty on 10 February, Interfax reported. Russian Defense Minister Pavel
Grachev is to chair the meeting. At present, only Russia and Armenia have
formally combined their air defense efforts. The second topic was said to be an
agreement on CIS external borders. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.
Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg
Soskovets arrived in Kiev on 7 February for another round of negotiations
between Russia and Ukraine, Ukrainian radio reported. Soskovets held talks with
Ukraine's First Deputy Prime Minister Yevhen Marchuk. Issues under discussion
included: the treaty on friendship and cooperation; implementation of bilateral
agreements; the Black Sea Fleet; and problems in economic relations. Nearly all
disputes over the broad treaty on friendship and cooperation have been
resolved, and President Yeltsin should visit Ukraine no later than March to
sign the agreement, Interfax reported. Marchuk said the biggest problem has
been settling Ukraine's energy arrears to Russia. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI,
POLISH COALITION OUSTS PAWLAK, SELECTS OLEKSY.
Poland's two ruling
parties, meeting on 7 February, have agreed to remove Prime Minister Waldemar
Pawlak from office and replace him with Jozef Oleksy of the Democratic Left
Alliance (SLD). Oleksy, a former communist party chief in Biala Podlaska
voivodship and the minister charged with trade union relations in Poland's last
communist government, is currently Sejm speaker. Under the new agreement, the
Polish Peasant Party's Jozef Zych will take over Oleksy's post in the
parliament leadership in exchange for the PSL's relinquishing the premiership.
The deal was one of three proposed by Pawlak (who suggested as alternatives
that SLD leader Aleksander Kwasniewski assume the posts of deputy prime
minister and foreign minister or that the PSL leave the government entirely).
Talks on the composition of the new government begin on 8 February. The
coalition expects to make the changes through a "constructive no-confidence
vote," one of the few constitutional options that does not require the
president's approval. A spokesman indicated on 7 February that the president
would sign the 1995 budget if a new government were formed under a new prime
minister. "If there were changes in the government, the issue of dissolving the
Sejm would probably not have the same urgency," the spokesman was quoted as
saying by Gazeta Wyborcza. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc.
BALANCE OF POWER SHIFTS IN POLISH COALITION.
SLD leader Aleksander
Kwasniewski has stressed that the coalition would now form a "new government"
rather than make personnel changes in the old cabinet. The SLD said in a
communique that new ministers would be chosen for their "professionalism and
high ethical standards." That has been interpreted to mean that cabinet members
currently facing corruption allegations (including Foreign Trade Minister
Leslaw Podkanski and Customs Office chief Ireneusz Sekula) will be removed.
Public administration chief Michal Strak is also likely to step down. The PSL
is promising to drive a hard bargain on the division of cabinet posts,
particularly key economic ones, so the formation of the new government could
take several weeks. But the imminent change at the top suggests that the
balance of power in the government has shifted away from the PSL to the SLD.
This could spell an end to the paralysis afflicting official policy since the
Pawlak government took power in late 1993. Movement on privatization and other
issues could help blunt charges from the Solidarity opposition that selecting a
former communist as prime minister signifies "recommunization." -- Louisa
Vinton, OMRI, Inc.
UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT DEBATE OVER CONSTITUTIONAL BILL DELAYED.
Speaker Oleksander Moroz says a controversial draft law on the separation of
government powers, submitted by President Leonid Kuchma and approved by
parliament at its first hearing in December, is not ready for a second debate
in mid-February as planned, Interfax-Ukraine reported on 7 February. Moroz told
Interfax the previous day that he was unsatisfied with the work of the
commission set up to define the main points of contention in the draft
legislation and with suggestions made by parliament deputies. Moroz said he
disagreed most with the suggestion to abolish the post of prime minister and
turn over its authority to the president. Kuchma last week also came out in
favor of retaining the post of premier. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc.
UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT ASKS PARLIAMENT TO APPROVE NEW CASH EMISSION.
Ukrainian government and the Central Bank have requested permission from the
parliament to put another 25 trillion unbacked Ukrainian karbovantsi into
circulation to meet outstanding payments for energy and fuel deliveries, pay
wages and pensions, and finance this year's spring sowing, Interfax-Ukraine
reported on 7 February. The request was prompted by the recent price
liberalization ordered by President Leonid Kuchma and the parliament's failure
to debate the 1995 budget, according to a letter sent to the parliament. The
government estimates that the emission would cause the monthly inflation rate
to jump to 30-35% in February, over 15% in January. The exchange rate of the
karbovanets is expected to fall to 131,000 karbovantsi to $1 in February and
150,000 in March, if the emission is approved (the current rate is 118,400
karbovantsi to $1). The request opposes the president's efforts at introducing
tight fiscal policy measures to cut the country's budget deficit and reduce
inflation. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc.
U.S. DELEGATION IN KIEV, MINSK.
Ukrainian Radio reported on 7 February
that a U.S. government delegation headed by Thomas Simons, the State
Department's coordinator of assistance to the newly independent states, met
with parliament speaker Oleksandr Moroz. Simons was quoted as saying that a
great deal of progress has been made toward economic reform in Ukraine. He met
the previous day with President Leonid Kuchma. The delegation arrived in Minsk
on 7 February. During its visit, the U.S. Congress is expected to debate aid to
Belarus from an $800 million fund set up on 25 May 1994 to help the former
Soviet republics. Concern has been expressed that the Republican-dominated
congress is considering cutting the aid program. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.
BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT SENDS ARMS CONTROL BILL TO PARLIAMENT FOR RATIFICATION.
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has sent a bill on chemical
weapons to the Belarusian parliament for ratification, Belarusian Television
reported on 6 February. The convention forbids the development, sale and
proliferation of chemical weapons and also calls for the destruction of such
weapons. This is the first convention which calls for the complete destruction
of a whole category of weapons. The convention calls for the government to work
out a plan for the liquidation of all chemical weapons within 30 days of its
ratification. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.
FRENCH DEFENSE OFFICIALS VISIT BALTIC STATES.
A delegation from the
French Defense Ministry's Strategic Affairs Department, headed by Deputy
Director General Alain Faupin, began a tour of the Baltic States on 6 February,
BNS reported the following day. It held discussions with Lithuanian parliament
deputies in Vilnius on national defense concepts and cooperation between the
Baltic States. On 7 and 8 February, the delegation visits Riga for meetings
with representatives of the Latvian Defense Ministry, the National Defense
Academy, and State Presidential Adviser on Military Issues Col. Dainis Turlais.
-- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.
INFLATION IN ESTONIA AND LITHUANIA.
The Estonian State Statistics Office
has announced that the consumer price index in January increased by 3.5% over
December, BNS reported on 7 February. Prices of goods rose by 2.9% (food by
3.8% and manufactured items by 1.6%), while the price of services increased by
4.2%. Meanwhile, the Lithuanian Statistics Department reported that inflation
in January reached 5.7%, mainly owing to a 8.7% increase in food prices. Prices
for tobacco and alcohol increased by 2.7%, for transportation and communication
by 2.5%, and for housing expenses by 2.2%. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI,
CSCE COMMISSIONER IN SLOVAKIA.
CSCE Commissioner on Minorities Max van
der Stoel, on a visit to Bratislava from 6-7 February, said Slovakia should
offer education in both the Slovak and Hungarian languages. Slovak President
Michal Kovac assured Van der Stoel that parents would be free to choose schools
for their children, and he agreed that an independent committee should be set
up to deal with education questions, Slovak and international press report. Van
der Stoel said that the signing of the Slovak-Hungarian basic treaty will help
bring stability to Central Europe. He stressed that the document should be
signed by 21 March, the scheduled date for signing the Pact on Stability in
Europe. Van der Stoel also met with Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, parliament
chairman Ivan Gasparovic, and leaders of several opposition parties.
Discussions focused on territorial divisions in Slovakia. -- Sharon Fisher,
NEW HUNGARIAN FINANCE MINISTER, BANK CHAIRMAN NOMINATED.
Minister Gyula Horn on 7 February nominated Budapest Bank President Lajos
Bokros as finance minister and Gyorgy Suranyi, current head of the Central
European International Bank, as Hungarian National Bank chairman, MTI reports.
Bokros and Suranyi, both in their early 40s, are regarded as competent and
independent-minded. Bokros is a former Hungarian Socialist Party parliament
deputy, while Suranyi belongs to no party but supports the HSP's coalition
partner, the Alliance of Free Democrats. The nomination of two respected
bankers is designed to restore confidence in Hungary's financial management
structure and to reassure foreign investors that the government will carry on
with economic reforms. The AFD approved the nominations, but the coalition
partners still have to reach agreement on a candidate for the post of minister
without portfolio charged with overseeing privatization. -- Edith Oltay, OMRI,
HUNGARIAN COURT RULING ON COMPENSATION.
The Hungarian Constitutional
Court has ruled that several paragraphs of a 1992 law on compensating people
deported during World War II for political reasons were discriminatory and
therefore unconstitutional, Magyar Hirlap reports on 7 February. The
court ruled that the law's description of deportations for racial, religious,
or political reasons as "mere deprival of liberty" was arbitrary. It also
nullified the provision giving only those victims compensation who were forced
to work in combat troops while denying it to those who were in noncombat units
or were sentenced without a fair trial. The court called on the parliament to
draft a new law by 30 September 1995 compensating all those left out of the
reparation process. -- Edith Oltay, OMRI, Inc.
UN REPORTS 62 HELICOPTER FLIGHTS FROM SERBIA INTO BOSNIA.
York Times on 8 February quotes UN spokesmen as saying that during the
first four days of the month, 62 helicopter sorties took place apparently from
bases in Serbia to Srebrenica, in eastern Bosnia, where Bosnian Serbs have
stepped up attacks in recent weeks. Some of the helicopters were reported to
have flown "in military formation." The U.S. is demanding a UN investigation
and wants to know why UN monitors were denied access to Serbian airfields at
Surcin and elsewhere during that time. If it can be proved that the flights
indeed came from Serbia, economic sanctions could automatically be reimposed on
that country. Meanwhile, Vjesnik reports UN sources in Croatia as saying
the number of flights of airplanes and helicopters from the Krajina Serb base
at Udbina is increasing. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.
YET ANOTHER CHANGE IN U.S. BOSNIAN POLICY.
The Clinton administration
has apparently done another flip-flop on Bosnia, The New York Times
reports on 8 February. During December and January, Washington cultivated
direct contacts with the Bosnian Serbs at Pale and Assistant Secretary of State
Richard Holbrooke was said to be the "architect" of that policy. But after
failing to persuade Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic to cooperate in
reaching a settlement, Holbrooke is now quoted as saying that "there is no
point in shuttling up the hill from Sarajevo to Pale to listen to the kind of
crap which is dished out by Karadzic." -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.
MILOSEVIC REFUSES TO RECOGNIZE CROATIA AND BOSNIA.
AFP reported on 7
February that Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic has rejected French and EU
calls for a Yugoslav-area summit, calling it "a waste of precious time." He
also ruled out Belgrade's recognition of Croatia and Bosnia, saying such a move
"would prejudge fundamental solutions," Tanjug reported. Reuters quoted rump
Yugoslav Foreign Minister Vladislav Jovanovic as saying that such recognition
was "out of the question." Croatian and Bosnian officials have long called for
Serbia to recognize them in their internationally valid frontiers as proof that
Belgrade has given up on plans to carve out a Greater Serbia at its neighbors'
expense. Hina cites Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic as noting that
President Franjo Tudjman would attend a summit "provided the meeting is
organized and thoroughly prepared." He also pointed out the connection between
holding a summit and the participants' recognition of one another's frontiers.
-- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.
BELGRADE, MOSCOW SIGN TRADE ACCORD.
Tanjug on 7 February reported that
Russian Deputy Premier Oleg Davydov and rump Yugoslav authorities signed a
bilateral trade accord paving the way for Russian deliveries of kerosene and
gas to the rump Yugoslavia until 2010. Davydov was on an official visit to the
Serbian capital. Reuters quotes him as saying Russia will deliver kerosene even
if the UN Sanctions Committee, monitoring the international embargo against
Belgrade, were to signal its disapproval. "Should the UN Sanctions Committee
fail to accept our decision, the only way out for us would be to leave the
committee, or find a way of carrying out those deliveries," he commented. --
Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.
ROMANIAN COALITION TRIES TO RESOLVE INTERNAL ROW.
The leaders of the
four ruling parties met on 7 February to resolve a dispute triggered by the
Party of Romanian National Unity leader Gheorghe Funar's attacks on President
Ion Iliescu and his position on Hungarian minority demands for autonomy, Radio
Bucharest reports. The four parties agreed to "actively support" the
presidential institution and Iliescu's role in defending "[Romanian]
independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity" and in ensuring that the
country's laws and constitution" are respected. Funar, who accused Iliescu of
failing to fulfill those duties, said after the meeting that the positions of
the PRNU and the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (the major coalition
partner) on the country's Hungarian national minority continue to differ.
Presidential spokesman Traian Chebeleu, in reply to Funar, said the government
would have to "explain how it can work with a party whose leader expresses
extremist views unacceptable to public opinion in Romania and abroad." RFE/RL's
correspondent in Bucharest reported on 7 February that 53 coalition deputies
asked the parliament to reject recent Hungarian demands for autonomy. --
Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.
ROMANIAN-HUNGARIAN TALKS ON BILATERAL TREATY RESUME.
between Hungary and Romania on the bilateral treaty resumed in Budapest on 7
February. Romanian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mircea Geoana told RFE/RL's
correspondent in Bucharest that the document may be completed and signed before
the end of March. He said the recent tensions in Romanian interethnic relations
have had a negative impact on ties with Hungary, but he added that he did not
believe those tensions are crucial. Radio Bucharest quoted Hungarian Foreign
Ministry spokesman as saying that Budapest was ready to accelerate negotiations
with both Romania and Slovakia and that the basic treaties could be signed in
March. Radio Bucharest's correspondent in Budapest said on 8 February that the
negotiations have been "constructive" but that national minority rights (one of
the two main issues over which the two sides disagree) remain a sticking point.
He noted that Hungary wants a separate document detailing the rights of the
Hungarian minority in Romania. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.
BULGARIA INCREASES ROAD TRANSIT FEES.
The Bulgarian Transport Ministry
has trebled the charges for bus and truck transits through Bulgaria, dpa
reported on 6 February. The new fees are 24,000 leva ($360) plus a highway fee
of 64 leva ($1) per kilometer. Passenger cars are exempted from the transit
payment but have to pay a highway fee of 6 leva per kilometer. The Transport
Ministry said the increases are due to the steep devaluation in 1994 of the
Bulgarian currency. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.
ALBANIAN POLICE MAKE COUNTRY'S BIGGEST-EVER DRUG HAUL.
have seized 3 kilograms of heroin in the country's biggest-ever drug haul,
Gazeta Shqiptare reported on 8 February. Four Turkish citizens were
arrested in possession of the drug on 6 February. The haul has an estimated
West European market value of about $500,000. The newspaper also noted that the
consumption of heroin, virtually unknown in Albania until 1993, has somewhat
increased. The first proof of heroin usage in Albania since the end of
communism was the case of a 17-year-old girl admitted to the hospital for an
overdose in early 1994. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.
ALBANIAN ETHNIC GREEKS' SENTENCES TO BE LIFTED?
reported on 7 February that the prison terms of four ethnic Greeks sentenced
for espionage and illegal possession of arms will likely be lifted by the
Supreme Court. Gramoz Pashko, leader of the opposition party Aleanca
Demokratike, said he is "confident" the court will make the right decision,
adding that Tirana should take a more flexible attitude toward its ethnic Greek
minority. Supreme Court chief judge Zef Brozi, who will preside over the trial,
said a recent government move to lift his immunity may have been aimed at
preventing him from freeing the four. The parliament voted against lifting his
immunity. Greece has demanded the release of the four prisoners as a
precondition for reestablishing normal diplomatic relations. -- Fabian
Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.
[As of 12:00 CET]
Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave