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Newsline - August 2, 1995


Vol. 1, No. 149, 2 August 1995
Aslan Maskhadov and Anatolii Romanov, commanders of Chechen and federal military forces, met in Grozny on 1 August to begin the work of the joint commission charged with overseeing the military accord signed by Russian and Chechen negotiators on 30 July, NTV reported. The two commanders issued a statement saying that all military actions on both sides would cease at midnight on 2 August, local time. They also promised to release shortly a concrete timetable for the implementation of the agreement. When asked whether Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev accepted the agreement, Maskhadov said Dudaev had approved it, except for a few minor points. Maskhadov attributed Dudaev's earlier statements repudiating the agreement to the Chechen president's "hot-headedness." -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc.

Adding to doubts about the ultimate fate of the military agreement, Dudaev has fired Chechen chief negotiator Usman Imaev for "betraying the people of Chechnya." Imaev confirmed his dismissal in an exclusive interview with NTV on 2 August, adding that the decree which dismissed him had actually been signed by Dudaev on 24 July, prior to the signing of the military accord. Imaev refused to comment on how his dismissal might effect the implementation of the accord. Dudaev appointed his minister of education, Khodzha Akhmed Gelikhanov, as his new chief negotiator. Gelikhanov will lead the Chechen delegation in the next round of talks, scheduled to continue discussions on the unresolved issue of Chechnya's status. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc.

Constitutional Court Chairman Vladimir Tumanov said on 1 August that the court's majority decision in the "Chechnya case" was based on the principle that the federal government has the right to use force to prevent the secession of a federation member, Russian media reported. Four judges, Viktor Luchin, Valerii Zorkin, Boris Ebzeev, and Nikolai Vitruk, announced that they fundamentally disagreed with the majority decision. Vitruk, told Izvestiya that the majority verdict could lead to a dangerous increase in presidential power by endorsing the view that the president can "enforce" general provisions of the constitution, even without a legal basis. Vitruk also complained that the Russian legal system contains many loopholes that allow the president issue arbitrary decrees. The four dissenters, plus another three judges who disagree with particular aspects of the decision, will soon issue "special opinions" outlining their disagreements with the majority verdict, Izvestiya reported. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc.

Sergei Filatov, the presidential chief of staff, said President Boris Yeltsin decided to disband Sergei Kovalev's presidential Human Rights Commission after Kovalev called the president a "constitutional criminal" during the recent Constitutional Court case on the Yeltsin's Chechnya decrees, Segodnya reported on 1 August. Kovalev said only an organization completely independent of the state could defend individual rights and did not exclude the possibility that he will set up such a group. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

The electoral law encourages wealthy candidates to engage in deceptive practices by setting the maximum amount of money that a candidate can spend on his own campaign too low, according to Izvestiya on 1 August. The limit a candidate can contribute is 1,000 times the monthly wage which works out to 43.7 million rubles. Additionally, recent rulings by the Central Electoral Commission did not put spending caps on the amounts that can be spent on gathering signatures in support of candidates and parties. This phase of the campaign is often the most expensive since individual candidates must gather 5,000 signatures and parties need 200,000. According to Aleksandr Sobyanin, the head of an independent group researching the elections, this feature of the rules benefits Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's Our Home is Russia because it has access to considerable resources. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

The chairman of the Commission on Citizenship, Abdulah Mikitaev, told Russian agencies on 1 August that recent legislation on refugee status has had to take into account a different situation than in the past, when small numbers of political refugees came to the Soviet Union from capitalist countries for ideological reasons. Now there are thought to be tens of thousands of refugees, mostly from other former Soviet republics, Afghanistan, and Korea. Izvestiya reported on 2 August that the most likely candidates for receiving refugee status or Russian citizenship would be people such as former Azerbaijani President Ayaz Mutalibov and officers in the Afghan army under former President Najibullah. Izvestiya also reported that Kurdish immigrants would probably find few obstacles to receiving citizenship and political refugee status. -- Alaina Lemon, OMRI, Inc.

Russia's foreign trade for the first half of 1995 amounted to $56 million, a 20% increase over the same period in 1994, according to the External Economic Affairs Ministry, Radio Rossii reported on 1 August. According to the ministry, the increase in foreign trade has helped Russia achieve a positive trade balance. External trade growth was attributed to an increase in oil, gas, metal, and raw material sales. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

The deaths of three prominent businessmen are linked to the trade and production of aluminum, according to
Izvestiya on 2 August.
They cited the deaths of bankers Oleg Kantor and Vadim Iafyasov of Yugorskii Bank (see OMRI Daily Digest, 21 July) and the recent death of Sergei Brzhosnevskii, director of the Moscow branch of the Volgograd aluminum factory, who was shot on 31 July while entering his home. Izvestiya speculated that the success of aluminum stocks and ventures in recent months due to privatization has drawn the attention of criminals. -- Alaina Lemon, OMRI, Inc.

After lengthy tests, Russian epidemiological inspectors have determined that there were only four cases of malaria in Voronezh rather than 140 as earlier believed, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 July (see OMRI Daily Digest, 21 July). The epidemiologists said the main reason for the mistake is local specialists' lack of experience with malaria. The first patient had been diagnosed correctly, and then when other patients were found to have similar symptoms, the doctors panicked and decided that the region is suffering a full-blown epidemic. Moscow medical inspection official Olga Goronenkova claimed that the malaria microbe was brought into Russia from other countries of the former Soviet Union, as well as elsewhere, although she admitted that more than 60% of the 820 reservoirs in Moscow are populated by mosquitoes, some potentially carrying malaria, Vechernyaya Moskva reported on 29 July. -- Alaina Lemon, OMRI, Inc.

The State Statistics Committee announced that workers at 829 enterprises struck during the period between January and June 1995, Radio Mayak reported on 1 August. An estimated 185,000 individuals took part in the work stoppages. Most of the strikes were in educational institutions and the energy sector. The most common cause was the failure to receive wages on time. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

General Mikhail Kolesnikov, chief of staff of the Russian armed forces, told a government session on 1 August that 510 billion rubles ($110 million) will be needed in 1996 to meet Russia's commitments on destroying its stockpile of chemical weapons, ITAR-TASS reported. Russia has admitted having 40,000 tons of chemical weapons and agents. According to the report, the government had instructed the Finance Ministry to provide funds for the elimination of this stockpile in the form of a special budget line item. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

Pacific Fleet authorities signed a protocol of intent with the Dalintermet joint-stock company of Nakhodka on 1 August calling for the company to scrap two aircraft carriers, the Minsk and Novorossiisk, ITAR-TASS reported. The two warships have already been purchased by a South Korean company for their scrap metal. In April, customs authorities had blocked the transfer of the two ships, fearing that they still contained classified military equipment. Once the ships are scrapped by Dalintermet, the metal will be sent to the South Korean company. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

The Russian government has officially protested the recent attacks by Croatian forces in western Bosnia, Russian agencies reported on 1 August. The protest sent to Zagreb warned
Croatian President
Franjo Tudjman that the Croatian offensive could lead to an escalation of hostilities. Izvestiya commented on 2 August that Moscow's concern with the Croatian offensive is not shared by its Western partners in the international contact group, who hope that the Croatian attacks around Bihac will relieve them of the responsibility of carrying out their threats to use NATO air power to protect the UN "safe zone" there. The paper added that divisions between Moscow and the West will undermine recent Russian initiatives aimed at ending the Bosnian conflict. Yeltsin's proposed Bosnia peace plan evoked only skepticism from the Western powers, while his offer to send Russian troops to reinforce UN peacekeepers in Gorazde is unlikely to find acceptance because it would greatly complicate the use of NATO air power to defend the Muslim enclave. -- Scott Parrish, OMRI, Inc.

The Soviet nuclear submarine Komsomolets, which sank in the North Sea in April 1989, poses no threat to the local ecology, according to a communique issued in Brussels on 1 August by the international Komsomolets Fund. Fund representatives also said that contrary to some speculation in the media, there is no danger that either of the two nuclear warheads aboard the submarine will explode, ITAR-TASS reported. They guaranteed that there would be no plutonium leakage "in the next 20-30 years." Experts are said to be continuously monitoring the wreck with special equipment. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

Moscow's Tretyakov Art Gallery has turned to private sources to meet expenses that range from preserving paintings to paying salaries, Delovoi mir reported on 1 August. The firm Boston Consulting Group, which has worked with other large art museums of the world, is providing free services to help the Tretyakov achieve financial stability. Sponsors have contributed $300,000 to the gallery, of which 60% has already been transferred to the gallery's account. More than half of the sponsors are foreign companies. Russian corporate sponsors include the banks, Vozrozhdenie, Unikombank, Alfa-bank, and Stolichnyi Bank and the investment companies Nika, Rinako Plus, and Troika Dialog. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.


Vol. 1, No. 149, 2 August 1995
The text of Kazakhstan's new constitution, which grants the president expanded executive powers including the right to dissolve parliament, was published on 1 August, according to Reuters. According to the draft, parliament can impeach the president by a three-quarters vote at a joint session of the new two-chamber legislature, but the president has the power to choose the prime minister and personally appoint seven members of the 47-member Senate, the upper house. The president cannot introduce legislation, but parliament can vote to give him lawmaking powers for one year by a two-thirds vote at a joint session. The constitution permits private land ownership, but maintains government control over water and natural resources. The Constitutional Court will be replaced by a Constitutional Council; the president and parliament will jointly appoint its members. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc.

On 29 July Izvestiya published a lengthy article concerning the closure and seizure of the newspaper's Ashgabat bureau on 20 July. According to the article, the correspondent , Vladimir Kuleshov, was picked up on 18 July by the Committee for National Security (KNB) on charges of conducting "anti-Turkmenistan propaganda." He was interrogated by a battery of officials and police officers including the state procurator, deputy minister of justice, and the chief of the department for the fight against organized crime. They argued that he was not an accredited journalist in Turkmenistan and that he would be judged as a citizen of the republic "who lies against his own country." The paper pointed out that Kuleshov has represented Izvestiya in Turkmenistan since 1985; it also noted that Turkmenistan's Foreign Ministry did not respond to an official request to accredit Kuleshov last year. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc.

An article in Segodnya on 1 August contended that Uzbekistan benefited more than Russia from the 26-29 July bilateral talks held in Tashkent. The idea, circulated by Russian diplomats, that a "considerable advance" had been reached in the political sphere and economic problems were "finally solved," is overly optimistic, according to the newspaper. During Prime Minister Victor Chernomyrdin's visit, 15 bilateral agreements were signed. However, Uzbek diplomats managed to get accords relating to the Russian minority in Uzbekistan removed from the agenda. Likewise, an agreement on the status of the Russian media was not discussed. Segodnya argued that the protocol on broadening bilateral military relations was the only "serious" political agreement signed. Noting that Uzbekistan's debts to Russia are "ludicrously" small due to inflation, the paper pointed out that the problem of mutual debts remains unexplored. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc.


Vol. 1, No. 149, 2 August 1995
The cabinet on 1 August approved a statement expressing sorrow over the death the previous day of the Romani youth who was beaten up and set on fire by skinheads (see OMRI Daily Digest, 25 July 1995). The government condemned the "use of any kind of violence, brutality, racism, [and] civil and ethnic hatred." It also promised to implement protective measures to prevent similar occurrences in the future, Pravda reported. Meanwhile, Maria Bartosikova, parliamentary deputy for the ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), told Sme on 2 August that the incident "was not a racist attack" but simply a statement by "people who want to live in peace, who oppose those who steal from them, beat them, damage houses, and threaten their children." -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.

Slovak National Party (SNS) Chairman Jan Slota on 2 August said his party will request that discussion on amending the criminal code to provide for protection of the republic be scheduled for the September parliamentary session. On plans to implement alternative education, Slota said "every normal Slovak citizen and parent should want his child to master the state language." He also noted that Education Minister and SNS member Eva Slavkovska, who has often been attacked by the opposition, has the "full trust and support of the SNS." With regard to the frequent allegations that the SNS and ethnic Hungarian political parties cannot exist without the other, Slota noted that the SNS would be "very pleased if there were not a single Hungarian political party" in Slovakia. Slota also repeated previous allegations that the opposition is preparing a "parliamentary putsch" this fall. According to Slota, "dirty money" that will be used to "buy" deputies from the ruling coalition arrived in Slovakia last week. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.

Viktor Pynzenyk, former deputy prime minister for economic reforms, told Holos Ukrainy on 29 July that monthly inflation in Ukraine rose from 4.6% in May to 4.8% in June but that interest rates continued to fall, from 122% annually to 91.9% in the same period. Pynzenyk said the National Bank of Ukraine's annual refinancing rate fell from a high of 300% last year to 60% in June. He added that real wages in Ukraine have risen by 6.5% since last September but that the stabilization of the exchange rate meant that the average wage vis-a-vis the dollar rose from $26.40 per month in January to $47.90 in May. On a less positive note, Ukrainian Radio reported recently that Ukraine's GDP declined 12% in the first half of 1995. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc.

Viktor Bannykh and Dimitrie Luca, commanders of the Ukrainian and Romanian border guards, are preparing to sign a treaty on cooperation over border issues, Ukrainian Radio reported on 31 July. The two commanders said that the situation along the Ukrainian-Romanian border was stable and that there was no evidence of conflicts brewing there. The Ukrainian side said one problem along the frontier was the increasing number of illegal immigrants on the Ukrainian-Moldovan border who are crossing into Romania. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.

The Estonian parliament unanimously ratified the association agreement with the European Union at an extraordinary session on 1 August, BNS reported. Estonia, together with Latvia and Lithuania, signed the agreement on 12 June. The EU last year signed similar association agreements with Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania. Estonia's agreement will go into effect after the parliaments of the EU member countries ratify it. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.

Juris Kiukucans, a senior official in the Latvian National Armed Forces, told BNS on 1 August that the first candidates for the Latvian unit of the Baltic Peacekeeping Battalion will be selected early next week. Baltbat needs 130 soldiers, but only 75 troops who served in the Soviet army or are serving in the Latvian armed forces have expressed willingness to join Baltbat. Training is scheduled to begin on 16 October, and the Baltbat units will participated in UN peacekeeping missions in 1997. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.

Polish Finance Minister Grzegorz Kolodko, representing the treasury as the owner of Polish Television, announced on 1 August that he has approved the PTV Board of Director's audits for 1994, Polish media reported. The minister postponed his decision in May. His announcement puts an end to rumors that both the board and PTV chief Wieslaw Walendziak would be removed before the presidential elections. Walendziak has been accused of right-wing sympathies by the left-wing ruling coalition. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc.

Polish Defense Minister Zbigniew Okonski on 1 August announced that Poland was considering buying at least 100 U.S. F-16 fighters, CET reported the next day. U.S. Secretary of the Air Force Sheila Widnall, who was in Warsaw from 31 July-2 August, said the U.S. government has decided to let Polish experts see classified details of the F-16 and will send a team to Poland within 30 days. Okonski said that Poland needed to replace its force of 220 aging MiG-21 fighters within three years and that it was considering French, Swedish, and Russian aircraft as well as the F-16s. He said the four countries will present their candidate aircraft at the air force base in Deblin, central Poland, later this month. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

Trade and Industry Ministry spokesman Kamil Cermak on 1 August confirmed that the Czech government has authorized the sale to Kyrgyzstan of an electronic system that can detect the latest "stealth" aircraft, Mlada fronta dnes reported. The "Tamara" device, which costs around $17 million and can be mounted on trucks, is ready for export but has not left Czech territory, Cermak added. He told Czech TV that it is "highly unlikely" that a Tamara is being used by Bosnian Serbs (see OMRI Daily Digest, 31 July 1995). Cermak said no Tamara systems have been sold to former Yugoslavia but it cannot be ruled out that a customer government had re-exported one to a third country. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc.


Vol. 1, No. 149, 2 August 1995
The 2 August Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported that Krajina Serbs attacked Gospic with rockets the previous day. They also hit Croatian forces near Strmica with three Galeb jet aircraft. The International Herald Tribune quoted Bosnian government sources as saying that Belgrade has made great efforts in recent months to beef up the armed forces of the Krajina and Bosnian Serbs. Rump Yugoslavia has sent tanks, aircraft, missiles, and up to 40,000 troops, who could easily have been hidden among local Serb forces. Foreign military observers nonetheless saw troops around Zepa wearing rump Yugoslav army patches. Bosnian General Mustafa Hairulahlovic said that "the Yugoslav army is operating in the middle of our country." -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his Krajina counterpart, Milan Martic, held a crisis meeting on 1 August and urged Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to come to their aid, the BBC reported. The move is probably designed as a political ploy to force Milosevic to take a public stand on behalf of the Serbs of Bosnia and Krajina. The Serbian president has fallen out with his two former proteges over tactics and power relationships, but their strategic goals remain the same. Milosevic has made sure that in Croatia and Bosnia as well as in rump Yugoslavia, the Serbian military machine is both well integrated and funded. This was shown by Serbian payroll and other documents captured by the Croats in Western Slavonia in May. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

The House of Representatives voted 298-128 on 1 August to end the embargo against the Bosnian government. Like the measure passed in the Senate, it will only come into effect after considerable delay and does not provide for any arms sales or training. The VOA said that President Bill Clinton feels he can get enough votes to enforce his expected veto, but the bills passed both houses with strong bipartisan support. Elsewhere, NATO officials agreed on a plan to protect the remaining UN-declared Bosnian "safe areas" even if the Serbs only mass troops there and even if the Krajina Serbs attack from Croatian territory. But it remains to be seen whether NATO will want to face Serbian air defense systems and have pilots shot down. A European diplomat told the International Herald Tribune on 2 August that the problem is further complicated by the British, French, and Russian willingness to accept a Serbian project to redraw the map of Bosnia, which Washington and Bonn oppose. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

UN special envoy Yasushi Akashi will hold talks in Geneva on 3 August with Croatian and Krajina Serb representatives. The VOA said the previous day that there is little chance of a breakthrough and that Croatia agreed only because of Western pressure. Slobodna Dalmacija quoted UN officials as saying that Croatian troops are preparing to attack Knin. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported that the German Foreign Ministry has warned all German tourists to leave the Croatian coast south of Rijeka and the islands south of Split. This could further hamstring Croatia's efforts to revive its vital tourist industry. Finally, the International Herald Tribune said that the UN has accused the Bosnian army of using snipers in Sarajevo against the civilian population. The government denounced the charges, saying that "instead of doing its duty, the United Nations wishes to blame both sides equally. By doing so, [it] can justify remaining impassive." -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic on 1 August sent letters to Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladic and Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic appealing for peace, international media reported. According to Reuters, Milosevic noted that continued fighting would result in "enormous human and material losses." The letters were sent one day before the international Contact Group's scheduled meeting in Washington. The BBC on 2 August reported that Milosevic contacted Mladic and Izetbegovic just hours before Karadzic and Martic issued appeals for military backing from Belgrade. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.

U.S. special envoy Matthew Nimitz, mediating in the Greek-Macedonian dispute, ended a two-day visit to Macedonia on 1 August, Nova Makedonija reported the following day. Nimitz met with Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov and Foreign Minister Stevo Crvenkovski. Talks focused on the prospects for direct Greek-Macedonian talks and for normalization of relations. The Macedonian side stressed its willingness to participate in such talks, but only on an equal footing. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.

Two ethnic Albanians sentenced two years ago for allegedly preparing an armed uprising have been amnestied by Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov, Flaka reported on 2 August. Seven more Albanians sentenced on the same charges were released after completing their terms. Among the released were two former secretaries of the Party of Democratic Prosperity and a former deputy defense minister. The Albanians were sentenced for allegedly building up a network of people who were to take part in an armed uprising, but Albanian politicians in Macedonia claimed that the trials were staged and repeatedly demanded that the accused be released. * Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.

Romanian authorities on 1 August started the distribution of nominal coupons as part of a plan to accelerate the privatization process in accordance with a law passed this spring. In an interview with Radio Bucharest, Minister of State Mircea Cosea, chairman of the government's Council for Coordination, Strategy, and Reform, put the value of each coupon at 975,000 lei (some $485). The voucher cannot be sold but can be traded for shares in state firms slated for privatization. Romania plans to privatize some 3,000 state-run enterprises this year. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc.

Leaders of Romanian's main opposition parties on 1 August met in Bucharest to examine the government's agricultural policy, Radio Bucharest reported. They said they planned to ask the parliament to discuss at an extraordinary session the government's ability to purchase this year's wheat harvest, which totals more than 7 million tons. They were particularly critical of the fact that the state-owned Romcereal company has a monopoly on wheat purchases in Romania. The opposition also wants the parliament to pass a law on support for Romanian agriculture. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc.

The Alliance of Democratic Forces (AFD), which was initially set up as an electoral bloc, has become a permanent political alliance, Infotag announced on 31 July. The AFD comprises seven parties and organizations, including the United Democratic Congress (CDU) and the Party of Liberal Democracy. CDU Chairman Valeriu Matei said the AFD members will continue to preserve their individual political identities, though future mergers are not excluded. He dismissed speculation that AFD members may be absorbed by the Party of National Revival and Concord or the Party for Social Progress, two new formations that split from the ruling Agrarian Democratic Party of Moldova. Like the AFD, these two parties are seeking to establish themselves as centrist forces. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc.

Standart on 2 August reported that the opposition failed to agree on a common mayoral candidate for Sofia. A meeting scheduled for the previous day was canceled when representatives of the Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) did not show up. SDS Deputy Chairman Petar Stoyanov denied that a meeting was scheduled, but representatives of other parties contradicted him. Meanwhile, the Constitutional Court on 1 August announced it will review the local election law in September. Both the SDS and President Zhelyu Zhelev had asked the court to review some of the law's provisions that, they claim, contradict the constitution. Judge Ivan Grigorov was cited by Demokratsiya as saying that irrespective of its ruling, the court "will not complicate or hamper . . . the elections." -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.

Zhelyu Zhelev, in an interview with Bulgarian Radio on 1 August, said his election by the Grand National Assembly in August 1990 resulted from a deal between the Bulgarian Socialist Party and the Union of Democratic Forces. He rejected allegations that the BSP dictated the conditions for his elections. According to Zhelev, the Socialists agreed on his election in order to avoid an early ballot. He also denied allegations that the BSP tacitly supported his re-election by popular vote in 1992, saying the party did everything to remove him from office. Zhelev said that during his five years in office, restitution was stopped, privatization has not taken place, and land restitution is proceeding very slowly. These are the reasons for the growing crime rate, he added. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.

Some 70 farmers on 29 July took control of the Bovilla pumping station, north of Tirana, and cut off the water supplies to the capital to protest a dam project that would drive them from their land, Reuters reported on 1 August. Supplies were restored the same day, and the farmers were taken into custody. They have accused the government of breaking a promise to give them land and housing equivalent in value to what they would lose. The dam is expected to be completed next year. The government reportedly has declared the pumping station a strategic installation and ordered a permanent guard stationed there. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.

Bardhyl Pollo, former director of Radio Tirana's foreign service, has been appointed director of Albanian Radio and TV, Gazeta Shqiptare reported on 2 August. BETA on 1 August quoted Pollo as saying that his priorities are "professionalism, program restructuring, and increased independence for journalists." -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.

The Article 19 International Center against Censorship has sent a letter to Albanian President Sali Berisha protesting the arrest of Filip Cakuli, chief editor of the satirical magazine Hosteni 2000, and the journalist Naim Noka, Koha Jone reported on 1 August. Both journalists were detained in late June by the secret service SHIK until they agreed to change the covers of their next issues (see OMRI Daily Digest, 3 July). The German satirical magazine Titanic has also issued a protest saying that items confiscated during the arrests had been given to the Albanians during a visit to Germany in February. Elsewhere, the International Federation of Journalists protested the trial against the chief editor of Populli PO, Arban Hasani. He faces charges that his newspaper wrongly reported that a SHIK officer was arrested for ordering a killing. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave