CHECHNYA: RENEWED CLASHES, NEW CEASE-FIRE APPEAL.
Western journalists in
Grozny reported renewed small arms fire and sporadic shelling in the south of
the city on 20 February, following the expiration of the cease-fire. In an
appeal carried by ITAR-TASS, the commander of Russian federal troops in
Chechnya, Col.-Gen. Anatoly Kulikov, called on the Chechen population to cease
hostilities immediately, release all hostages and prisoners, and surrender
heavy weapons. He then advocated the formation of new bodies of self-government
and talks with federal representatives. Chechen presidential spokesman Movladi
Udugov said the Interior Ministry commander of Russian troops in Chechnya,
General Kvashnin, had held talks with Chechen military Chief of Staff Aslan
Maskhadov and that the two men had agreed to avoid further fighting, Ekho
Moskvy reported on 20 February. They also agreed that further talks on a
settlement should be conducted by politicians rather than military
representatives. Speaking at a press conference in Moscow on 20 February, the
head of the Chechen government of national revival, Salambek Khadzhiev,
asserted that there was no point in conducting peace talks with Chechen
President Dzhokhar Dudaev. He claimed that he controlled seven of Chechnya's 12
raions, but admitted only new elections could restore "legitimate power" in
Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.
DUMA HOLDS HEARING ON CHECHNYA.
The first open session of the Duma
commission investigating the Chechen conflict, turned into a parade of former
top Soviet and Russian officials, Russian TV reported. None of the officials
still in power in Russia has agreed to address the session. The hearing opened
with a film showing scenes from the war zone. Valery Tishkov, the former
chairman of the Russian state committee on nationalities, said military
intervention was not necessary, because Dudaev had been willing to negotiate
with the Russian government on the eve of the attack. Former Russian
parliamentary speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov predicted the entire North Caucasus
would secede because of Yeltsin's mishandling of the Chechen crisis. On the eve
of the first Russian operation against Grozny on 26 November 1994, Khasbulatov
said Dudaev had been immensely unpopular in Chechnya, but the intervention has
made him a national hero. The possibility of using force against Dudaev had
been raised as early as November 1993, according to former acting Russian Prime
Minister Yegor Gaidar. Gaidar said he had managed to convince Yeltsin at the
time, that such an option could lead to major bloodshed and a guerrilla war in
the Caucasian mountains. Human Rights Commissioner Sergei Kovalev, claimed the
military attacks on civilians in Chechnya had caused tens of thousands of
deaths during the first two months of fighting. The head of the pro-Moscow
puppet Chechen government, Khadzhiev, was the only speaker at the session who
said that achieving a truce with Dudaev was impossible. All the rest demanded a
stop to the fighting. -- Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc.
SPECULATION ON ROOTS OF CHECHEN WAR AT DUMA HEARING.
Many speakers at
the Duma hearings offered opinions on who was to blame for the Chechen
Vladimir Kryuchkov, last Communist chairman of the KGB and a
leader of the August 1991 coup against former Soviet President Mikhail
Gorbachev, said the KGB detected signs of a potential explosion in the republic
before August 1991, when radicals in President Boris Yeltsin's entourage began
promoting Dudaev because of his opposition to the coup plotters. Yusup
Soslambekov, former Chechen parliament speaker under Dudaev, said the Chechen
president owed his power to Yeltsin's top democratic allies at the
time--namely, Gennady Burbulis, Mikhail Poltoranin, and Galina Starovoitova.
Soslambekov suggested that Russian forces be replaced by peacekeeping troops,
to be made up of Tartar, Backer, Calmed, and North Caucasian soldiers. Former
Russian Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi said Yeltsin must be held responsible
because he prevented the declaration of a state of emergency in Chechnya in
November 1991, before Dudaev began forming his army. -- Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI,
AIRBORNE COMMANDER BLAMES POOR PLANNING FOR INITIAL DEBACLE IN CHECHNYA.
Russian airborne commander Gen. Yevgeny Podkolzin said lack of preparation
caused the large initial losses in the Chechen operation, Interfax reported on
20 February. He also cited the failure to prepare public opinion properly, the
lack of better trained troops caused by the seasonal rotation of servicemen in
November, and the weather factor which caused aircraft to fly higher and drop
bombs with less accuracy. He added that the Federal Counterintelligence Service
(FCS) could have provided better information for the operation. The FCS later
dismissed Podkolzin's charges as "personal opinion" in a statement read on
Ostankino Television. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.
RUSSIA SHOWED RESTRAINT IN INITIAL ASSAULT ON GROZNY.
military showed restraint in its initial attack on Grozny in order to limit
casualties, according to Gen. Gennady Ivanov, who was representing Russian
Defense Minister Pavel Grachev at the Duma hearings, ITAR-TASS reported. He
said Grozny was assaulted because the military leaders feared a rear attack
after moving into Chechnya. He added, "There was no storming of Grozny, only
slow pressure" by Russian forces. A full scale assault on Grozny would have
required first mass air and artillery barrages. Only then would troops have
entered the city "where there would have been no one left to shoot and no place
to shoot from." He said the Chechen forces numbered 30,000 initially, backed by
7,000 fighters from elsewhere. Russians troops at the beginning of the campaign
numbered less than 11,000, although they had clear superiority in equipment. --
Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.
MILITARY TELLS OF DRAFT PROBLEMS.
The Defense Ministry has notified the
State Duma that it faces "a catastrophe" in recruiting unless the present rules
on deferments and length of service are changed, Interfax reported on 20
February. The military reported that only one-fifth of the men in the draft
pool are actually drafted, with the rest taking advantage of one of the 21
reasons for deferment. Unless the rules are changed, the ministry predicted it
would induct no more than 100,000 men this year--only 60% of its requirements.
To remedy this problem, the ministry proposed that vocational school students,
men having young children, and those with elderly parents no longer be allowed
to escape the draft. It also proposed that army service for inductees be
increased to 24 months from the present 18. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.
PLANS FOR GERMAN-RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPING EXERCISE CALLED OFF.
Defense Ministry has called off plans for a joint German-Russian peacekeeping
exercise originally scheduled for this summer, Interfax reported on 20
February. A Russian military official cited comments on Chechnya by the
Bundeswehr command and German Defense Minister Volker Ruehe as the reason. He
said Ruehe's statements "can be considered only as interference in Russia's
domestic affairs." -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.
YELTSIN SPOKESMAN CRITICIZES CLINTON'S POSSIBLE POSTPONEMENT OF VISIT.
President Bill Clinton has no reason to put off a visit to Russia, President
Yeltsin's spokesman Vyacheslav Kostikov said on 20 February in reaction to
reports that the U.S. president would not come until after the Chechen conflict
is resolved, AFP reported. The spokesman said there would be no reaction from
Yeltsin. The Russian government had invited Clinton to a summit to coincide
with the 50th anniversary commemoration of the Allied victory over Nazi Germany
on 8 May. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.
CONSTITUTIONAL COURT FORMS TWO EQUAL CHAMBERS.
Court passed a resolution on 20 February creating two equal chambers, Interfax
reported. Although one chamber has ten members and the other only nine, both
chambers are empowered to judge the constitutionality of federal laws and
presidential or governmental decisions. Members of the larger chamber are:
Judges Marat Baglai, Nikolai Vitruk, Gadis Gadzhiev, Anatoly Kononov, Tamara
Morshakova, Yury Rudkin, Nikolai Seleznev, Oleg Tyunov, Boris Ebzeev, and
Vladimir Yaroslavtsev. The smaller chamber is composed of: Judges Ernest
Ametistov, Nikolai Vedernikov, Yury Danilov, Valery Zorkin, Viktor Luchin,
Vladimir Aleinik, Vladimir Strekozov, Vladimir Tumanov, and Olga Khokhryakova.
Both chambers will have a rotating chairmanship. Ametistov told Interfax that
the court considered "about one third of seventy [pending] appeals" on 20
February. Most of the cases were simply sent back to the archive. Ametistov
expects the court to finish reviewing the other applications in the next
several days. He told Interfax that no appeal had been filed to consider the
constitutionality of the president's decrees authorizing the use of force in
Chechnya. On 10 February, the Federation Council had voted to ask the court to
look into this matter. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.
OSTANKINO TO BAN COMMERCIALS.
The state-run TV channel Ostankino
announced on 20 February that it would stop broadcasting commercials until
there are strict rules to regulate them in the interests of "the economic
development of society and ethical standards." The statement did not say how
the station would compensate for the resulting huge loss of revenue. Two days
earlier, Yeltsin imposed a ban on media advertising of tobacco and alcohol,
which advertising executives estimate could cost Russia as much as $1 billion
in direct investment over the next five years, agencies reported. -- Penny
Morvant, OMRI, Inc.
RUBLE PLUNGES FURTHER AGAINST DOLLAR ON MICEX TRADING.
The Russian ruble
lost 25 points on MICEX trading, closing at 4,339 rubles to $1 on 20 February,
the Financial Information Agency reported. A total of $53.5 million was sold,
with initial demand at $53.52 million and initial supply at $40.32 million.
Forty-two commercial banks participated. The Central Bank of Russia was the
most active trading participant, selling $13 million. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI,
CENTRAL BANK RECALLS LICENSES OF 10 BANKS.
Since 16 February, the
Central Bank of Russia has recalled the licenses of 10 commercial banks which
have violated policies, including issuing risky credit, Interfax reported on 20
February. From January to November 1994, the central bank recalled licenses
from 52 commercial banks. There are about 2,500 commercial banks officially
registered in Russia. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.
KYRGYZ ELECTION RESULTS DELAYED.
A press briefing scheduled to announce
the preliminary results of the Kyrgyz runoff elections on 20 February was
canceled following complaints from dissatisfied candidates and allegations of
widespread irregularities, Interfax and Reuters reported. Voter participation
was only 61%. A Central Electoral Commission spokesman said another round of
voting is scheduled for 26 February in those constituencies where less than
half the registered voters participated, Interfax reported. -- Liz Fuller,
YELTSIN IN BELARUS.
President Yeltsin arrived in Minsk on 21 February to
sign a comprehensive treaty on friendship and cooperation with Belarusian
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, international agencies reported. Belarusian
Foreign Minister Uladzimir Syanko stressed that the agreement was not merely an
arrangement to enable Belarus to receive energy supplies from Russia at reduced
prices. Rather, he said that it would ease trade barriers and that any
documents which infringed upon Belarusian sovereignty would not be signed. The
nationalist opposition Belarusian Popular Front has said it will denounce the
treaty if its members win a majority of parliamentary seats in the May
elections. Belarusian Communist Party leader Viktar Chikin also criticized the
agreement, but for different reasons, Interfax reported. "It [is] unusual for
parents and children to sign friendship and cooperation treaties," he said. --
Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.
EU COMMISSION: EASTERN EUROPE LACKS INFRASTRUCTURE TO JOIN EU.
internal European Union Commission document, leaked to the news agency Reuters,
states that Eastern Europe lacks the institutions and infrastructure to join
the EU. Reuters on 17 February reported the document as saying that attempts by
the East European countries to adopt EU rules "would be an empty exercise if
the organizational and institutional structures which must underpin the
measures are absent." -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.
DISAGREEMENT OVER NEED FOR PREMIER IN UKRAINE'S NEW CONSTITUTIONAL
Ukrainian Prime Minister Vitaliy Masol, in an interview with
Ukrainian Television, said he supported President Leonid Kuchma's efforts to
win strong executive powers and implement political reforms, but he could not
agree with the president on the need to maintain the post of prime minister,
Interfax-Ukraine reported on 20 February. Masol said a prime minister would not
be necessary if a strong Presidency were established by the constitutional bill
on the separation of government powers proposed by Kuchma. Kuchma has said that
he favors keeping the post within a reformed government. The prime minister
also voiced frustration over the lack of a new Ukrainian Constitution, which
has fueled a political struggle between parliament and the president." He said
the constitutional bill on the division of powers was only a temporary solution
and stressed the need for a new constitution to be approved within a year. --
Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc.
UKRAINE TO ISSUE BONDS TO FINANCE DEFICIT.
The Ukrainian government is
planning to issue state bonds worth $100 million this spring to finance the
country's budget deficit, Viktor Pynzenyk, deputy premier in charge of economic
reforms, told the UNIAN agency on 20 February. Pynzenyk said the bonds would
have a monthly interest rate of 5-10% and would be backed directly by the state
budget. The Ministry of Finances is currently determining how and where the
bonds will be sold. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc.
LACK OF MONEY GROUNDS MANY UKRAINIAN FIGHTERS.
Lopatin, head of the Ukrainian Air Defense Forces, told a Kiev news conference
on 20 February that up to 40% of his interceptors were unable to fly because of
a shortage of money. Interfax quotes him as saying that in 1994, his troops
were provided with only 30% of the fuel and lubricants they required. But he
nevertheless assessed the general state of Ukraine's air defenses as
satisfactory. He praised the agreement on a united CIS air defense system,
saying Ukraine would benefit in repairing equipment, buying spare parts, and
using Russian training sites. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.
EUROPEAN AID TO UKRAINE AND BELARUS.
AFP on 21 February reported that EU
finance ministers have agreed in principle to a 75 million ECU economic aid
package to Belarus, but the aid will be confirmed only after the EU has
reviewed the criteria for granting assistance to countries that may not
necessarily become members of the union. Several factors have prompted the
review, including Germany's desire to set a new standard allowing aid to
countries whose stability is of crucial importance to the union. Meanwhile,
Ukrainian radio reported on 17 February that Ukrainian Finance Minister Petro
Hermanchuk received a letter from Henning Christopherson, vice president of the
European Commission, regarding a 130 million ECU credit to Ukraine. The letter
demanded that Ukraine make payments on the credit and its interest, as agreed
when the credit was issued. Ukraine has apparently failed to meet its 1994
obligations. So far, the Ukrainian Finance Ministry has not replied to the
letter. This is jeopardizing credits from other international
organizations--including a new 85 million ecu ($111 million) credit from the
European Commission--and financing from companies in France, Italy, Germany,
and other European countries. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.
CONGRESS OF LATVIA'S FARMERS' UNION.
The congress in Jurmala on 17
February, attended by Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis and ambassador to Moscow
Janis Peters, adopted a new party program describing the Farmers' Union as a
center party whose main goal is "ensuring the welfare of Latvia's residents in
a free and independent country," Labrit reported on 18 February. Former
Agriculture Minister Janis Kinna said that talks will begin with Latvia's
Christian Democratic Union and the Latgale Democratic Party on the formation of
a pre-election coalition. The congress reelected Andris Rozentals as board
chairman, with Ansis Grundulis as Central Revision Commission chairman, and
Antonijs Zunda as secretary. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.
DISCIPLINE IN LITHUANIAN ARMED FORCES.
Lithuanian National Defense
Minister Linas Linkevicius told reporters on 20 February that members of the
armed forces committed 4,296 infractions in 1994, RFE/RL's Lithuanian Service
reports. There were 2,014 incidents of hazing by older soldiers. Ninety-six
cases were taken to courts, 46 of which ended with convictions. Twenty-two
soldiers died in 1994, of which five from beatings. Linkevicius said that
discipline in the armed forces was improving and would be helped if the
parliament passed a law on national defense and created a military police. --
Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.
POLAND RAISES INTEREST RATES.
The Polish National Bank, in an effort to
fight a new surge of inflation, has raised interest rates for the first time in
four years, Gazeta Wyborcza reported on 21 February. The rediscount rate
rose from 28% to 31%, the Lombard rate from 31% to 34%, and the refinance rate
from 33% to 35%. Prices climbed by 3.9% in January, far in excess of the
government's initial forecast of 2.6%. Higher food prices (potato prices rose
by 50% in a single month) were the chief cause. In light of anticipated high
wage growth, NBP President Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz said the bank wanted to
encourage the public to save rather than spend. The NBP slowed the monthly
devaluation rate of the zloty from 1.4% to 1.2% on 16 February to fight the
inflationary impact of growing hard currency reserves (which rose by $2.5
billion in 1994). The government approved an "anti-inflationary package,"
including duty-free imports of 1.5 million tons of grain and 100,000 tons of
sugar on 7 February. But Prime Minister Waldemar Pawlak delayed implementing
these measures, apparently because his Polish Peasant Party's farming
constituency is the chief beneficiary of higher food prices. In other economic
news, the NBP reported that last year's 24.8% increase in exports helped reduce
Poland's current account deficit to $944 million, from $2.329 billion in 1993.
-- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc.
SLOVAK FOREIGN MINISTER CONFIRMS WESTERN ORIENTATION.
visited Bonn on 17 February to confirm Slovakia's Western orientation,
Narodna obroda reported on 18 February. In a lecture to the German
Foreign Policy Association, Schenk asked NATO to extend its security guarantees
eastward to better protect Central European countries. Schenk also met with his
German counterpart, Klaus Kinkel. Meanwhile, opposition parties have been
critical of Slovakia's recent agreements with Russia, signed during Russian
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's visit to Slovakia on 13-14 February. In a
press conference on 20 February, Party of the Democratic Left Deputy Chairwoman
Brigita Schmoegnerova said that some of the twelve agreements will have a
positive effect, but she criticized others, including the accord on
military-economic cooperation, Pravda reports. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI,
PRIVATIZATION OF SLOVAK ENERGY FIRMS DISCUSSED.
Economy Minister Jan
Ducky on 20 February met with representatives of the Slovak Trade Union of
Power Engineers. Union chairman Jozef Kollar told journalists following the
meeting that discussions focused on the industry's privatization. Kollar said
he opposes privatization through the coupon method--advocated by the government
of former Prime Minister Jozef Moravcik--arguing that the firms should be
managed by experts, not coupon holders. He also stressed that profits should be
reinvested rather than distributed as dividends and that Slovakia should wait
for 3-5 years to privatize the industry, Narodna obroda reports. --
Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.
HUNGARIAN PRIVATIZATION MINISTER NOMINATED.
Hungarian Prime Minister
Gyula Horn and Alliance of Free Democrats chairman Ivan Peto on 20 February
announced the nomination of Tamas Suchman as minister without portfolio in
charge of privatization, MTI reports. Peto stressed that his party accepted
Horn's decision but did not agree with Suchman's nomination, arguing that an
expert and not a party politician should fill the post. Suchman is a member of
the Hungarian Socialist Party parliament faction and is said to belong to
circles close to Horn. According to Nepszabadsag of 8 February, Suchman
has called for a greater role for the state in the economy and advocated closer
supervision of the privatization agencies in order to combat corruption. --
Edith Oltay, OMRI, Inc.
VAN DER STOEL VISITS MACEDONIA AFTER TETOVO CLASHES.
Commissioner for Minorities Max van der Stoel called for restraint following
clashes between ethnic Albanians and Macedonian police sparked by the crackdown
on the self-proclaimed Albanian-language University in Tetovo. Van der Stoel
met with President Kiro Gligorov and advocated a more comprehensive law on
higher education. He also met with Abdurrahman Aliti, leader of the Party of
Democratic Prosperity, and other Albanian representatives, Flaka
reported on 21 February. Following the police crackdown, one ethnic Albanian
died in armed riots and seven were sentenced to 30 days in prison for
disturbing the peace. The Democratic Forum of Gostivar on 20 February released
a statement saying police raided the forum's office on 17 February, destroyed
furniture, and arrested activists. Meanwhile, vandals demolished 30 tombstones
in a Moslem graveyard in Kumanovo, international agencies reported on 20
February. Macedonian Radio linked the incident to the clashes in Tetovo. --
Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.
DID THE UN IMAGINE AIRCRAFT NEAR TUZLA?
The Washington Post
reports on 21 February about disputes between the UN and NATO over violations
of the no-fly zone over Bosnia and Herzegovina. The newspaper points out that
all sides use aircraft freely because they know there is no serious possibility
that NATO planes will go after them. In the latest development, UN observers
recently saw large transport aircraft of uncertain origin unload high-tech
equipment for Bosnian government forces near Tuzla. NATO, however, said that no
such mission took place and asked the UN to change its report. The newspaper
suggests that NATO is trying to get the UN to cover up for its own
incompetence. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.
BOSNIAN AND KRAJINA SERBS FORM JOINT WAR COUNCIL.
Nasa Borba says
on 21 February that Bosnian and Krajina Serbs set up a joint military council
at Banja Luka the previous day. Their respective leaders, Radovan Karadzic and
Milan Martic, announced the setting up of the Supreme Defense Council, which
provides for joint defense and mutual assistance in keeping with a 1993 pact
between the two rebel Serbian states. Elsewhere in Bosnia, international media
report that Krajina Serbs on 20 February stopped a UN relief convoy heading for
Bihac and forced it to Velika Kladusa, which is under the control of local
kingpin Fikret Abdic. The Serbs had promised to let the relief vehicles through
to the besieged town, where some 20% of the population is reportedly threatened
with starvation. The BBC on 21 February said the UN is trying to negotiate the
release and safe passage of the convoy. Finally, news agencies report a sharp
increase in fighting on 20 February in the narrow but strategic Posavina
corridor in northern Bosnia. The route provides a land bridge between Serbia,
on the one hand, and Serb-held territories in Bosnia and Croatia on the other.
-- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.
Vecernji list on 18 February reported that Prime
Minister Nikica Valentic visited Istria to discuss the peninsula's economic
development. Istria has a strong regional movement that is at odds with
Croatian President Franjo Tudjman, who regards any form of regionalism as
virtually identical with secession. The Constitutional Court last month struck
out key passages of a regional statute that would have provided wide autonomy
for Istria and its Italian minority. Valentic's visit was obviously aimed at
repairing some of the political damage caused by the court's ruling. Meanwhile,
Vjesnik on 20 February noted that the Roman Catholic Church would
welcome the introduction of private television. The ruling Croatian Democratic
Community (HDZ) has tried to maintain a virtual monopoly on the electronic
media, with most exceptions limited to entertainment programs. Also on 20
February, Novi list reported on the latest congress of the right-wing
Croatian Party of [Historic] Rights, led by Dobroslav Paraga. He used the
occasion to stress his party's historic support for an alliance of Muslims and
Croats and to lambaste the HDZ. Two leading politicians from the left of
center, Stipe Mesic and Silvije Degen, likewise railed against the ruling
party. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.
SLOVENIAN PREMIER RETURNS FROM CHINA.
AFP on 17 February reported that
Janez Drnovsek left Beijing the same day after an official four-day state visit
to China. In meetings with high officials, including Drnovsek's Chinese
counterpart, Li Peng, economic issues reportedly took center stage. Drnovsek
was accompanied by 20 leading Slovenian businessmen. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI,
Cluj county prefect Grigore Zanc harshly
criticized the 18 February inaugural meeting of the Hungarian Democratic
Federation of Romania's National Council for Self-Administration, composed of
locally elected HDFR representatives. Radio Bucharest on 20 February quoted him
as saying the meeting was held without his knowledge and approval, which, he
said, is proof of its "clandestine, tendentious, and anti-constitutional"
character. Also on 20 February, Zanc released a communique--signed jointly with
extreme-nationalist Mayor of Cluj Gheorghe Funar and the chairman of the Cluj
county council--saying the council contravened both the constitution and the
Law on National Security. They called on the Prosecutor-General's office to
take legal measures against the council and ordered the Cluj county local
authorities to ban its activities. Funar said in an interview with the Austrian
daily Standard on 18 February that an armed conflict between Romanians
and ethnic Hungarians in Transylvania cannot be ruled out. He also claimed that
more than half a million of the 1.7 million Magyars in Romania were Gypsies,
whom the HDFR has allegedly "blackmailed or bought" to register as ethnic
Hungarians. In reality, he said "there are no more than 300,000 Romanians of
Hungarian origin in Romania." -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.
ROMANIAN PREMIER IN MOLDOVA.
Nicolae Vacaroiu, beginning a two-day visit
to Chisinau, met with his Moldovan counterpart, Andrei Sangheli, and President
Mircea Snegur on 20 February. Vacaroiu handed Snegur a message from President
Ion Iliescu reiterating "Romania's support for the consolidation of Moldova's
independence," Radio Bucharest reported. He said it was necessary to continue
the dialogue between the two countries in order to "eliminate suspicions and
re-establish trust." He also noted that their joint aim was to "intensify the
process of economic integration" and to "consolidate relations in the common
cultural and spiritual space." He called for speeding up the process of
drafting a basic treaty between Moldova and Romania. Snegur, for his part, said
that regaining and safeguarding the Eastern markets was important for all
former communist countries, including Romania. "Moldova cannot live in
isolation" and the need for cooperation has prompted its "return to the CIS,"
he said. Interfax quoted Snegur as saying he favored the idea of establishing
free-trade zones along the Romanian-Moldovan border. On the eve of Vacaroiu's
departure to Chisinau, Radio Bucharest revealed that the premier and two of the
ministers accompanying him were born in what is now the Republic of Moldova.
The radio station, sounding an irredentist note, quoted one of the ministers as
saying "we are going home." -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.
IMF AND WORLD BANK OFFICIALS IN BULGARIA.
Delegations from the
International Monetary Fund and the World Bank asked for further price hikes on
electricity, according to the Bulgarian press on 21 February. Kontinent
reported that the delegations, on a working visit to Sofia, asked for price
increases twice as high as those announced by the Bulgarian government on 16
February. Bulgaria agreed to raise the price from 1.9 to 3.5 cents per
kilowatt-hour. In return, the IMF and the World Bank agreed to lend Bulgaria
$93 million for improvements in the country's power sector. -- Stefan Krause,
GREECE DEPORTS ILLEGAL ALBANIAN IMMIGRANTS.
Greece rounded up and
deported 889 illegal Albanian immigrants on 18-19 February, Reuters reported.
According to a police spokesman, the move followed an increase in the number of
Albanians trying to cross illegally into Greece. Border patrols have reportedly
been reinforced. About 300,000 illegal immigrants from Albania are working in
Greece. Meanwhile, Albanian Deputy Foreign Minister Arjan Starova has confirmed
that Greek Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias will visit Albania in March.
Starova said he expects the talks to focus on Albania's Greek minority,
Albanian immigrants in Greece, and border issues. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI,
[As of 12:00 CET]
Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave