RUSSIAN TROOPS ACCUSED OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN CHECHNYA.
Rights Watch/Helsinki representatives who visited Chechnya earlier in February
charged at a news conference in Nazran on 24 February that Russian troops had
committed gross abuses in Chechnya and that the civilian population continues
to suffer, Russian and Western agencies reported. On 25 February, Chechen
Muslim clergy met in Nazran with representatives of the Russian federal
authorities to discuss how to end hostilities, ITAR-TASS reported. A spokesman
for Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev told Interfax on 26 February that it is
still not too late to resolve the Chechen conflict by peaceful means. In its
24-27 February issue, Komsomolskaya pravda printed what it claimed was
the transcript of a second telephone conversation between Dudaev and Iskander
Hamidov, the leader of the Azeri opposition party Boz Gurd, in which Dudaev
vowed to force "Yeltsin and his bandit grouping" to flee and to put Yeltsin,
Federation Council speaker Vladimir Shumeiko, Duma speaker Ivan Rybkin, and
Defense Minister Pavel Grachev on trial. Meanwhile, fighting in the southeast
and southwest suburbs of Grozny and around Argun and Gudermes continued on
24-26 February.-- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.
OVER 1,500 RUSSIANS DEAD OR MISSING IN CHECHNYA.
Volkogonov, chairman of the president's commission on prisoners of war and
missing in action, announced that 1,146 officers and men of the Russian federal
forces had been killed in combat in Chechnya and another 374 were missing in
action, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 February. He said the figures had come
directly from the 27 military units fighting in the break-away republic. Nine
doctors were among the dead. The official death toll stood at 394 on 12 January
and 1,020 on 8 February. Meanwhile, an additional 25 servicemen--most of them
from an OMON Interior Ministry special purpose unit--were killed in Grozny on
25 February when an electrical short-circuit caused an anti-mine device to
explode prematurely, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.
DUMA PASSES 1995 BUDGET ON THIRD READING.
The State Duma passed the 1995
budget after the third reading in a vote of 268 to 93, with three abstentions,
Russian and Western sources reported on 24 February. The approval cleared the
way for continued negotiations with the IMF concerning a $6.3 billion loan
which Russia considers an important source of non-inflationary financing, and a
critical contributor to taming inflation and stabilizing the economy. The
budget foresees expenditures of 248 trillion rubles ($56.36 billion), revenues
of 175 trillion rubles ($39.77 billion), and a deficit of 73 trillion ($17
billion) equivalent to 7.7% of GDP. The draft budget still requires a fourth
reading, approval by the Federation Council, and a final signing by President
Boris Yeltsin before it becomes law. Those requirements are seen as a
formality. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.
POLITICAL FACTIONS, EXCEPT COMMUNISTS, BACK 1995 BUDGET.
Premier Anatoly Chubais, who is in charge of economic policy, said that the
passage of the budget "confirms that the government is sticking to its course
of political reform and is capable of reaching a compromise with all factions
in the Duma except the communists," AFP reported. The greatest support came
from Russia's Choice (61 votes for and one against), the Liberal Democratic
Party of Russia (49-1), the Party of Russian Unity and Concord (20-1), Women of
Russia (21-0), and the Agrarian Party (48-1), Interfax reported. Thirty-seven
members of the New Regional Policy deputy group, uniting deputies elected in
single-mandate constituencies, voted in favor of the budget with six votes
"against" and two abstentions. The 18 members of the Yabloko faction who were
present voted against the draft budget, while only one member of the Communist
Party voted for it and 41 members turned it down. One deputy of the Democratic
Party faction voted in favor of the draft while seven members rejected it.
Thirty independent deputies supported the draft and seven members rejected it.
Finance Minister Vladimir Panskov said the vote was the first time in the three
years since the break-up of the Soviet Union that the Duma has passed a budget
so early in the year. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.
ECONOMICS MINISTER SAYS EXTRA BENEFITS WILL NOT AFFECT BUDGET.
signed by the president to increase benefits to low-income groups will not
require additional budget allocations, Yegeny Yasin told Interfax on 24
February. The decree, issued by Yeltsin after he vetoed legislation which more
than doubled the minimum wage, provides for a 70% increase in benefits to
families with many children, students, and other social groups whose benefits
are calculated as a multiple of the minimum wage. Unlike the proposed increase,
Yasin said the extra benefits were "selective and designed for those who
actually need help" and had been included in the draft budget for 1995. --
Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.
ZYUGANOV CALLS FOR AN OVERHAUL OF RUSSIA'S POLITICAL INSTITUTIONS.
existing state structures could ruin the country, Gennady Zyuganov, leader of
the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, told a press conference in Kazan
24 February, Interfax reported. He favored ending direct elections for the
presidency and setting up a system that would allow representatives of the 89
republics and regions, as well as national, religious, and social groups to
choose the president. Zyuganov did not deny that he would seek the presidency,
but added that he first wants to build a coalition to include 15-20 politicians
of "left-center orientation." He called on Yeltsin to either resign or call
early presidential elections. Zyuganov was in Tatarstan to support the local
Communist Party's campaign for the 5 March elections to the republic's State
Council. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.
DEMOCRATIC RUSSIA CHANGES NAME, CHARTER BUT NOT IDEAS.
its political positions unchanged, the federal committee of the Democratic
Russia (DR) party decided to alter its charter and change its name from a
"federal" to a "federative" party, Interfax reported on 26 February. Anatoly
Korotich, the executive committee chairman of the DR, said the Justice Ministry
had recommended the changes after reviewing party registration documents.
Korotich charged that Justice Minister Valentin Kovalev had demanded the
changes due to the DR's sharp criticism of government policy in Chechnya.
Korotich also said that since Yegor Gaidar had split from the DR to form the
Russia's Choice party, only around 20 regional branches had followed him, while
more than 50 branches had remained. He estimated that Russia's Choice has
approximately 600 party members, while his party has 1000. The DR plans to form
a bloc with other democratic parties and movements for the upcoming
parliamentary elections. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.
SHUMEIKO AGAINST ENLARGING RUSSIAN REGIONS.
Federation Council chairman
Shumeiko said he opposes combining the federation's 89 constituent members into
ten larger regions, Interfax reported on 24 February. Sergei Shakhrai, former
minister for nationalities and regional policy and now deputy prime minister,
had proposed the system. The plan would group regions that depend on government
subsidies with more prosperous areas, which supporters claim would improve the
general state of the economy and reduce the desire for separatism. Shumeiko
dismissed the idea that combining regions would quickly improve the economy. He
said the federation treaty and in particular the principle of equality of all
89 constituent members had provided the foundation for a unified Russian state.
-- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.
DUMA PASSES LAW ON AIDS TESTS FOR FOREIGNERS.
The Duma passed an amended
draft law on AIDS that requires most foreigners visiting Russia for more than
three months to provide proof that they are HIV-free, agencies reported on 24
February. The vote was 276 to 0 with 3 abstentions. Diplomats are exempt from
the compulsory test. The law, which will go into effect on 1 August if it is
signed by President Yeltsin, is a softened variant of a draft first passed by
the Duma in November that caused a storm of protest because it mandated HIV
tests for all travelers to Russia. The new law is also likely to be criticized
on the grounds that it infringes human rights and is medically senseless.
According to figures released in May 1994, 105 people in Russia have died of
AIDS since 1987 and another 740 have tested positive. Gay rights groups,
however, say the true figure for those infected is much higher. -- Penny
Morvant, OMRI, Inc.
ELECTIONS IN TAJIKISTAN.
Local and parliamentary elections took place as
scheduled in Tajikistan on 26 February, but without the participation of either
radical Islamic or moderate opposition parties, Russian and Western agencies
reported. A total of 354 candidates contested 181 seats in the new parliament.
The moderate opposition Party of People's Unity had announced on 24 February
that it would boycott the elections and ignore the results of the Tajik Central
Electoral Commission which rejected the candidacies of two party members
including its leader Abdumalik Abdullodzhonov, the former prime minister who
ran against President Imomali Rakhmonov in last November's presidential
election. Local officials estimated voter participation at 84%, Reuters
reported. Rakhmonov insisted the elections were "democratic and free," despite
minor infringements. International human rights organizations had expressed
concern that voting conditions were "seriously flawed" and declined to send
observers, although Russia, the CIS Inter-Parliamentary Assembly, and several
CIS states did so, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.
UZBEKISTAN TO HOLD REFERENDUM ON EXTENDING PRESIDENT'S MANDATE.
Uzbek parliament voted to hold a referendum on 26 March on extending until the
year 2000 the mandate of President Islam Karimov, Interfax reported on 24
February. Parliament speaker Erkin Khalilov argued this would "ensure harmony
in relations between the president, government, and parliament and promote
domestic stability." -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.
NUCLEAR BOMB BURIED IN KAZAKHSTAN.
An unexploded nuclear weapon left
over from an incomplete Soviet test series is still in its test silo near
Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan, Moskovsky Komsomolets reported on 24
February. The story called it "an A-bomb ready for use guarded by 25 interior
troops," and said it had been planted for underground testing in the late
1980s. In 1994, the British publication Jane's Intelligence Review
reported on a nuclear device that had been buried at the Degelen Mountain area
of the Semipalatinsk test site. That device was said to have been installed in
1990 or 1991 as part of a cooperative test program to calibrate U.S. seismic
monitoring stations. Degelen Mountain is some 220 kilometers southwest of the
city of Semipalatinsk. In September 1993, Interfax reported on "a small yield
nuclear installation" that had been planted in "silo 108K" of the test site. At
that time, Russia and Kazakhstan were working on an agreement to remove the
nuclear device and return it to Russia. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.
UN: "DRASTIC INCREASE" IN DRUG CRIMES IN CENTRAL ASIA.
International Narcotics Control Board said on 27 February that drug-related
crime was on the increase in the Central Asian republics. The report said,
"Chronic budgetary deficits, galloping inflation, negative industrial growth,
constantly increasing unemployment, ethnic conflicts, and open civil war (in
Tajikistan) have contributed to a drastic increase in crime in general and
drug-related crime in particular." The countries are important sources of
cannabis, opium, and ephedrine for the other CIS states. A lack of proper
technical and communications training, among other things, hampers effective
law enforcement in the area. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.
KUCHMA ANNULS CRIMEAN PRESIDENTIAL DECREES.
Ukrainian President Leonid
Kuchma has annulled decrees issued by Crimean President Yurii Meshkov on
dissolving the Crimean parliament and local councils and on holding a
referendum on a draft Crimean constitution for 9 April, Interfax-Ukraine and
AFP reported on 25 February. Kuchma said the decrees contravened the Ukrainian
Constitution, which stipulates that only the Ukrainian legislature has the
authority to dismiss the Crimean parliament and local councils. Ukrainian law
also states that councils, and not executive officials, have the power to
schedule local plebiscites. The Crimean president and parliament have been
locked in a power struggle since 1994. Crimean legislators stripped Meshkov of
most of his powers last September and granted them to a new prime minister.
Meanwhile, several explosions have recently been reported in the Crimean
capital of Simferopol, believed to have been caused by rival gangs in an effort
to intimidate one another. No injuries were reported. -- Chrystyna Lapychak,
UKRAINE SEEKS TO SECURE IMF LOAN.
Reuters reported on 24 February that
the Ukrainian government is still working out the details of its budget to
clinch the $1.3 billion IMF loan. According to Mykola Azarov, the head of the
parliament budget commission, Ukraine cannot maintain the 5% budget deficit
demanded by the IMF. President Leonid Kuchma has been at odds with the
parliament over economic reforms, and the passage of the budget is likely to
rest on his ability to persuade deputies to approve it. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI,
CONFLICTING STATEMENTS ON CFE CUTS IN BELARUS.
Following last week's
announcement that Belarus has stopped dismantling military equipment to be
destroyed under the CFE Treaty, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and
the Foreign Ministry have issued somewhat contradictory statements on the
reason for the suspension. Lukashenka stressed the disruption of the balance of
power in Europe that would be caused by NATO's expansion as the primary motive.
But Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Khvastau cited financial problems. The head
of the Belarusian Security Council, Viktar Sheiman, stated the country's
official position on 26 February. The decision to suspend the disarmament was
caused by financial considerations, Sheiman noted. Minsk has been claiming for
more than a year that aid donated by the West for disarmament is insufficient.
-- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.
LITHUANIAN AND RUSSIAN PRIME MINISTERS MEET.
Adolfas Slezevicius, during
an official visit to Moscow on 24 February, held talks with Viktor
Chernomyrdin. Slezevicius called the discussions "constructive, businesslike,
and benevolent" and said they should give new impetus to bilateral relations,
Interfax reported. Agreements were signed on cooperation in customs and on
border check-points. The two premiers also discussed the return of Lithuania's
embassies in Paris and Rome and of Lithuanian deposits in Russia's
Vneshekonombank, but no timetable was established. Chernomyrdin said Russia
could not stop Lithuania becoming a member of NATO but hoped it would not join
at a rapid pace. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.
WALESA WANTS BIGGER SAY IN COMPOSITION OF CABINET.
The tone of the
meeting between President Lech Walesa and prime minister candidate Jozef Oleksy
on 27 February will decide whether Poland gets a new government or faces new
parliament elections. On his return from South America on 26 February, Walesa
said he intends to express his opinion on all proposed cabinet members, not
just the three "presidential" ministries required by the constitution. "The
names of a couple of ministers are the result more of horse-trading than their
abilities," Walesa explained. The president's objections center on Finance
Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Grzegorz Kolodko, who he has not yet decided
whether to take a post in the cabinet. Oleksy has adopted a flexible approach
to the meeting and intends to propose two candidates for each of the contested
posts (defense and foreign affairs) or even to offer the president control over
one in exchange for the coalition's control over the other. Oleksy indicated
that he may still abandon the mission if presidential resistance is strong. "I
cannot imagine how [the government] can function if it is in conflict with the
president from the very start," he said. Oleksy's withdrawal would make new
elections almost inevitable (which, in turn, would give Walesa a pretext to
attempt to extend his term of office). At his 26 February press conference,
Walesa said he has not decided whether to accept the resignation of legal
adviser Lech Falandysz. He noted he would not remove his controversial minister
of state, Mieczyslaw Wachowski. "I have no complaints [about him]," Walesa
said. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc.
CZECH PREMIER SUPPORTS HAVEL'S STANCE ON CZECH-GERMAN RELATIONS.
Klaus, speaking in Hamburg on 24 February, said Czech-German relations must not
be crippled by arguments about the past but built on trust and with a view to
the future. Echoing President Vaclav Havel's speech on the same subject in
Prague a week earlier, Klaus said every country has its extremists and
nationalists who play on people's prejudices and fears. "It seems to me,
however, that these forces do not play a significant role on either the Czech
or the German side," Klaus added. "I have the feeling that the young
generation, which is not burdened by the past, agrees with this point of view."
During his two-day visit to Hamburg, Klaus also said that Czech-German
relations are good and that the Czech Republic will be a reliable partner both
for Germany and for Europe as a whole. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc.
ITALIAN PRESIDENT VISITS CZECH REPUBLIC.
Oscar Luigi Scalfaro began a
two-day visit to the Czech Republic on 26 February amid exceptionally tight
security. Scalfaro is due to meet with President Vaclav Havel, Prime Minister
Vaclav Klaus, and parliament speaker Milan Uhde. He is also scheduled to visit
Brno. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc.
SLOVAKIA PREPARES FOR SECOND WAVE OF PRIVATIZATION.
Trencianske Teplice on 25 February, Slovak economic ministers, along with the
minister of health and representatives of the National Property Fund, discussed
preparations for the second privatization wave. Property with a combined value
of 220 billion koruny will be sold, of which real estate worth approximately 50
billion koruny will be sold through the coupon method. Former Minister of
Transportation Mikulas Dzurinda, in an interview with Sme on 27
February, noted that the previous government's program had provided for the
sale of at least 70 billion koruny worth of property through coupon
privatization. He said that current figures mean that the value of property for
each coupon holder will fall from about 20,000 to 14,000 koruny. -- Sharon
Fisher, OMRI, Inc.
HOLBROOKE STRESSES IMPORTANCE OF POLITICAL STABILITY IN SLOVAKIA . . .
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke, during his two-day visit
to Slovakia, stressed that countries wanting to join NATO will be judged in
accordance with two requirements: military compatibility and political
stability. Pravda on 25 February quoted Holbrooke as telling Slovak
President Michal Kovac that by mid-1995, a NATO mission will visit Slovakia as
well as other signatories to the Partnership for Peace program, although he
warned that no decisions will be made this year. At the same time, he noted
that the U.S. strongly supports Slovakia's entry into NATO. Holbrooke and Prime
Minister Vladimir Meciar discussed security issues and Slovak relations with
Hungary, and Meciar noted that there were no "basic differences." But in his
meeting with parliament chairman Ivan Gasparovic, Holbrooke said the U.S. is
dissatisfied with the confrontational tone on Slovakia's domestic political
scene. Gasparovic stressed that the changes in television and radio are aimed
at improving programming and broadcasting. Holbrooke also met with
representatives of three opposition parties to discuss the stability of the
presidential office, the mandates of the Democratic Union deputies, and press
freedom. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.
. . . AND PRAISES U.S.-HUNGARIAN RELATIONS.
In Budapest for a meeting of
U.S. ambassadors to eight Central and East European nations on how the region
can integrate with Western institutions, Richard Holbrooke, together with
Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs, told a press conference that Hungary
and the U.S. are already partners and are on their way to becoming allies, MTI
reported on 24 February. Holbrooke praised Hungary's efforts to conclude basic
treaties with Romania and Slovakia and reiterated that NATO will not accept
countries involved in conflicts with their neighbors. In talks with Prime
Minister Gyula Horn on 25 February, Holbrooke stressed that the basic treaties
will promote the stability and security of the region. -- Edith Oltay, OMRI,
HUNGARY'S OUTGOING FINANCE MINISTER WARNS OF STAGNATION.
at a press conference on 24 February, warned that Hungary's economy was at a
crossroads between long-term stagnation and growth, MTI reports. Bekesi, who
resigned last month effective 1 March, said that 3% growth and increased
exports in 1994 compared with the previous year were accompanied by worsening
balances and increasing debts. He said the growth could not be maintained or
financed and that urgent measures were needed to stabilize the economy. Bekesi
recommended that the new finance minister aim to cut the current $4 billion
current account deficit by at least $1.5 billion and reduce the planned 282
billion forint budget deficit to 200 billion forint. Bekesi said many Hungarian
Socialist Party politicians, including Prime Minister Gyula Horn, believed
there was an easy way out of the economic crisis and had prepared programs
aimed at maintaining growth at the expense of further indebtedness. -- Edith
Oltay, OMRI, Inc.
SERBS START "FRESH TERROR CAMPAIGN AGAINST MUSLIMS."
Reuters on 25
February reported that Bosnian Serb forces are completing their campaign of
"ethnic cleansing" in the Gradiska area of northern Bosnia. Their methods
include robbery, beatings, intimidation, and threat of rape or execution. UN
representatives said they hold the Bosnian Serb authorities directly
responsible: "We are not buying excuses that these are rogue elements or . . .
people out of control." Elsewhere, Vjesnik noted continued Serbian
helicopter flights over Bosnia and attacks on Croatian units there. The
Independent on 26 February said that the U.S. is arming the Muslims through
clandestine flights to Tuzla. The BBC's Serbian Service reports on growing
tensions between UNPROFOR and Bosnian government forces, whose blockade of UN
troops in Gornji Vakuf has entered its third day. Meanwhile, Vjesnik on
27 February notes yet another example of clerics active across battle lines,
namely the visit two days earlier by Roman Catholic Cardinal Vinko Puljic to
Serb-held Banja Luka. There have been a number of cross-border visits by
Catholic and Serbian Orthodox figures in recent days, often in connection with
charity groups and relief work. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.
TUDJMAN ADDRESSES PARTY CONVENTION.
Vjesnik on 27 February
carries the text of Croatian President Franjo Tudjman's speech to the party
faithful of his Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ). The convention marked the
fifth anniversary of the HDZ's founding and provided Tudjman with the
opportunity to take stock. He stressed that the party's policies have been
consistent and correct and that the HDZ remains a party of the center that
rejects extremism from either the Right or the Left. He identified upcoming
tasks, including the reintegration of Serb-held territories and of the Serb
population, but did not explicitly refer to the top issue in Croatia today,
namely his decision to cancel UNPROFOR's mandate and the possibility of a new
Croatian-Serbian war as a result. Novi list on 25 February nonetheless
reported on a meeting of the Defense and National Security Council, which
discussed the possibility of keeping on "international observers" once
UNPROFOR's stay is formally ended. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.
AKASHI MEETS MILOSEVIC.
Nasa Borba on 25-26 February reported
that Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and UN special envoy Yasushi Akashi,
meeting in Belgrade on 24 February, discussed the humanitarian and military
situation in the northwest Bihac pocket of Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as
conditions in Croatia, from where UN peacekeeping troops may withdraw soon.
According to a Reuters report on 24 February, "Akashi's trip was the latest in
a week of secretive efforts to persuade Milosevic...to help avert fresh
fighting." Milosevic also met with representatives of the international Contact
Group on 23 February. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.
SITUATION IN MACEDONIA REMAINS TENSE.
Supporters of the self-proclaimed
Albanian-language university in Tetovo have continued their protests,
Flaka reported on 27 February. Some 1,000 people gathered the previous
day to honor Abdylselam Emini, who died in a shooting incident between Albanian
students and Macedonian police on 17 February. The meeting was attended by
representatives of all ethnic Albanian parties and the Albanian Writers Union
of Macedonia. According to Flaka, the Albanians are preparing a "quiet
civic revolt." The Senate of the Albanian-language university said it has found
ways to continue the university's work. Meanwhile, Macedonian parliament
deputies from Tetovo have denounced the university as illegal and
unconstitutional. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.
TWO PARTIES QUIT ROMANIAN OPPOSITION ALLIANCE.
Democratic Party (PSDR) leader Sergiu Cunescu on 24 February reiterated that
his formation will not sign the revised protocols of the Democratic Convention
of Romania (CDR), a decision amounting to that party's withdrawal from the
country's main opposition alliance. Radio Bucharest quoted Cunescu as saying he
favored the setting up of a new, unofficial grand coalition of opposition
forces. He denied rumors of an imminent split in the PSDR but said some members
may consider quitting the party following its break with the CDR. The Council
of the Representatives of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania, the
main political organization of Romania's large Hungarian minority, issued a
statement in Targu Mures on 26 February saying that some documents adopted
recently by the CDR implied that the HDFR and other political parties belonging
to the coalition would separate from the coalition. In a related development,
Nicolae Manolescu, chairman of the Party of Civic Alliance (another CDR
member), on 25 February sent an open letter to Constantinescu accusing him of
having provoked "the dismemberment" of the coalition. Constantinescu announced
the previous day that the CDR will change its name to the Romanian Democratic
Convention and that its future election symbol will be a key in a square
instead of a circle. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc.
UKRAINE TO HELP MOLDOVA SOLVE DNIESTER CONFLICT.
Minister Hennadii Udovenko on 24 February told journalists in Chisinau that his
country was prepared to mediate in the conflict between the Republic of Moldova
and the breakaway Dniester republic. He and his Moldovan counterpart, Mihai
Popov, hailed the outcome of the visit as marking a new stage in relations
between their countries. The two signed a number of agreements aimed at
boosting bilateral ties. Udovenko met with both Moldovan and Dniester officials
during his two-day official visit to Moldova. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc.
BULGARIAN BAN ON EX-COMMUNIST ACADEMICS LIFTED.
The Bulgarian parliament
on 23 February scrapped a law preventing former communists from holding higher
academic posts, Reuters reported the next day. It also called for new elections
for the heads of state-run scientific bodies by the end of October. The old
law, which was introduced in 1992, prevented former senior communist officials
from taking up positions in governing bodies of universities, research
institutes, and the Central Examination Board. It was criticized by
international human rights organizations and by the Council of Europe. The
Bulgarian Socialist Party had declared that one of its first goals was to
overturn the 1992 law. It is now feared however, that new purges in education
and science are imminent. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.
BULGARIAN PRESIDENT AND SOCIALISTS CLASH OVER ROLE OF MEDIA.
Zhelev on 24 February accused the governing Socialists of censoring state
television, Demokratsiya and Trud reported the following day.
Demokratsiya cited Zhelev as saying Socialist deputy Klara Marinova was
responsible for television censorship. Claiming to have been a victim himself,
he reported on how some of his statements at a recent press conference had been
cut and as a result his original meaning distorted. Zhelev was speaking at a
meeting of intellectuals and artists who had gathered to defend a highly
controversial film about the forceful Bulgarization of ethnic Turks' names
during the 1980s. Marinova accused Zhelev in a letter published by
Otechestven Front on 27 February of "losing his nerve" and not supplying
any evidence against her. She added that in a state based on the rule of law,
"such defamations are reason enough to meet at court." -- Stefan Krause, OMRI,
GREEK BORDER GUARDS KILL ALBANIAN.
An 18-year-old Albanian was killed
when he tried to cross illegally into Greece with another 17 Albanians, Reuters
reported on 26 February. According to Greek police, the Albanian drew a knife
before he was shot by a policeman. It was the second Albanian-Greek border
incident in two weeks. A 24-year-old Albanian was injured on 18 February as he
tried to cross the same border. Greek Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias will
discuss border issues during a visit to Albania in mid-March. -- Fabian
Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.
[As of 12:00 CET]
Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave