YABLOKO, RUSSIA'S DEMOCRATIC CHOICE TO COOPERATE.
Grigorii Yavlinskii announced that his party plans to coordinate its candidates
in the single-member district races with Yegor Gaidar's Russia's Democratic
Choice. Yavlinskii's announcement is a major change in his election tactics,
since in recent months he has spurned numerous offers of cooperation with
Gaidar. Yavlinskii said that he regards the Communist Party as his main
opponent, NTV reported on 14 September. * Robert Orttung
AGRARIAN PARTY TO LAUNCH POLL ON PRIVATE LAND OWNERSHIP.
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's recent proposal to hold a referendum on
private land ownership,(see OMRI Daily Digest, 1 September 1995)
Agrarian Party Chairman Mikhail Lapshin told press agencies on 14 September
that his party would launch a public campaign and straw poll with the intention
of showing that the Russian public opposes private land ownership. In this way,
they intend to upstage Chernomyrdin's proposed referendum. * Thomas Sigel
YELTSIN NAMES HEAD OF NEW ANTI-TERRORISM CENTER.
President Boris Yeltsin
on 14 September appointed Col. Gen. Viktor Zorin, first deputy director of the
Federal Security Service (FSB), to head a new anti-terrorism center under the
auspices of the FSB. The center was created last week in response to concern
over terrorism in the wake of the Budennovsk hostage crisis. It will increase
the influence of the FSB at the expense of the Interior Ministry, which
previously shared responsibility for fighting terrorism. Before being appointed
to the position of FSB first deputy director six weeks ago, Zorin was
responsible for counter-intelligence operations in the security service.
Yeltsin also ordered the establishment of eight deputy directorships in the FSB
and said there should be no more than 1,520 central administrative personnel,
Russian and Western agencies reported. According to the 1995 budget, the FSB
employs 76,900 people. * Penny Morvant
NEW LOCAL ELECTIONS CREATE LOGISTICAL PROBLEMS.
The law on local
government signed by President Yeltsin on 28 August, that requires all Russia's
cities and villages to hold elections by 1 March 1996 is creating a number of
difficulties, according to Deputy Minister of Nationalities and Regional Policy
Aleksandr Kotenkov. Among the first priorities is the need to adopt or rewrite
laws on local government in Russia's 89 republics and regions, affirm municipal
boundaries, and adopt a law on local elections, ITAR-TASS reported on 14
September. Additionally, each municipality must adopt a charter defining the
structure of the local government. Kotenkov said the ministry had prepared
documents that could be used as models in carrying out these tasks. Moscow
Mayor Yurii Luzhkov and St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak have criticized
the law in recent statements, saying it damages Russian federalism. Sobchak, in
particular, warned that the law would revive local councils that would fall
under Communist control. * Robert Orttung
GOVERNMENT PROMISES JOURNALISTS FINANCIAL HELP.
Appearing at the fifth
congress of the Union of Journalists in Moscow, Deputy Prime Minister Vitalii
Ignatenko announced that the government will soon transfer the first 1 billion
to a special insurance fund for journalists, Ekho
Moskvy reported on 14 September. The government also plans to use the proceeds
of a lottery to be introduced in 1996 for supporting the media, according to
Russian Public Television. However, in his address to the congress, Union of
Journalists secretary Pavel Gutiontov blamed the president and Federation
Council for blocking legislation which he said would have improved the
financial condition of the press this year. * Laura Belin
PROCURATOR OPENS CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION OF DUMA BRAWL.
General's Office opened a criminal investigation of the 9 September brawl in
the State Duma under article 206 of the Criminal Code ("malicious
hooliganism"), Russian media reported on 14 September. The brawl started when
National-Republican Party of Russia leader Nikolai Lysenko attacked defrocked
priest Gleb Yakunin, ripping a 19th-century silver cross from his neck; it
escalated when Liberal-Democratic Party Chairman Vladimir Zhirinovsky grabbed
deputy Yevgeniya Tishkovskaya, who tried to help Yakunin, by the hair.
Zhirinovsky remains unrepentant about the fistfight, and Lysenko has refused to
return the cross to Yakunin, whom he called a "provocateur." * Laura Belin
CHERNOMYRDIN REJECTS SHAKHRAI'S PROPOSAL TO LIMIT FOREIGN FILMS.
Minister Chernomyrdin dismissed as "lacking great wisdom" Deputy Prime Minister
Sergei Shakhrai's proposal to limit foreign programs on state-controlled
television, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 September. Shakhrai advocated forcing
Russian Public Television (Channel 1) and Russian Television (Channel 2) to
reserve 71% of air time for Russian-produced programs, but Chernomyrdin
countered that such limits would only increase the popularity of foreign films.
Shakhrai, who leads the Party of Russian Unity and Concord (PRES), recently
deserted Chernomyrdin's electoral bloc Our Home Is Russia. * Laura Belin
KOZYREV, TALBOTT DISCUSS BOSNIA.
In an attempt to ease the rift between
the West and Russia over the former Yugoslavia, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State
Strobe Talbott held three hours of talks with Russian Foreign Minister Andrei
Kozyrev in Moscow on 14 September, Western and Russian agencies reported. The
BBC reported that Russian troops might be sent to Sarajevo to reassure the
Serbs, as part of a recently brokered deal which led to the suspension of NATO
air strikes. President Yeltsin on 14 September vetoed two bills passed by the
Duma at its 12 August special session, one calling for Russia to withdraw from
international sanctions against rump Yugoslavia and the other imposing a trade
embargo against Croatia. Yeltsin told Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin that the bills
violated international norms. * Scott Parrish
RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR CRITICIZES AUSTRALIA.
Speaking to the Australian
Institute of International Affairs on 14 September, Russian Ambassador to
Australia Aleksandr Losyukov accused the country of blocking Russian membership
in the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation group (APEC), Western agencies
reported. Losyukov said that Russia interpreted Australian opposition to
Russian membership as "not just an insult to our pride but also as a desire to
undermine our legitimate commercial interests." A spokesman for the Australian
government later said APEC has imposed a moratorium on accepting new members,
although criteria for new admissions will be discussed at the group's November
meeting. He added that Vietnam, not Russia, should be the next country accepted
into APEC. * Scott Parrish
ISRAEL FAILS TO BUDGE RUSSIA ON IRAN REACTOR.
Israeli Prime Minister
Yitzhak Rabin met with Russian officials on 14 September but failed to persuade
them to abandon the controversial Iranian reactor deal, Russian and Western
agencies reported. Russian Foreign Minister Kozyrev suggested that if Israel is
concerned at the spread of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, it should
reverse its own long-standing refusal to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty. Rabin also discussed bilateral trade with Prime Minister Chernomyrdin,
including new joint projects in water purification and construction.
Russian-Israeli trade totaled $360 million last year and is expected to exceed
$400 million in 1995. * Scott Parrish
RUSSIA CLOSES BORDER WITH NORTH KOREA.
In response to an outbreak of
typhoid caused by recent flooding, Russia has closed its border with North
Korea where an epidemic of the disease has infected several thousand people,
Interfax reported on 14 September. Diplomats at the North Korean consulate in
Vladivostok have refused to confirm the outbreak, but Russian authorities in
Primorsk Krai are taking steps to prevent the spread of the disease and
recently sent 50 North Korean loggers who crossed the border before its closing
back home because medical examinations indicated they were infected. The border
closing comes on the heels of Russia's announcement that it will not renew its
1961 treaty of friendship and cooperation with North Korea. * Scott Parrish
NUCLEAR-POWERED CRUISER TO BE TESTED.
The Peter the Great, the
fourth and last of the nuclear-powered Kirov-class cruisers, is being prepared
for its builders trials, the Defense Ministry told ITAR-TASS on 14 September.
Laid down in 1986 as the Yurii Andropov, the Peter the Great was
launched in 1989 but has been lying unfinished in its St. Petersburg shipyard
ever since. * Doug Clarke
SOBCHAK CALLS FOR CHANGES IN DEFENSE MINISTRY.
Budget money for
armaments will not get to defense complex enterprises "unless the Defense
Ministry leadership is changed," according to St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii
Sobchak. He said the money would "vanish somewhere along the route," Interfax
reported on 13 September. Sources in the ministry rebutted his remarks by
alleging that only 31% of the budgetary funds allocated for the purchase of
arms and military equipment between January and August of this year have been
provided to the ministry. * Doug Clarke
IMF APPROVES ECONOMIC POLICIES.
The IMF approved Russia's economic
policies on 14 September and authorized the release of another $525 million
credit to the country, Russian and Western agencies reported the same day. The
loan is an installment of the $6.3 billion credit approved by the IMF in
February, which is to be dispersed only if Russia is able to meet the IMF's
stringent economic conditions. So far, reports indicate that Russia is on track
as monthly inflation fell to 4.6% in August, the lowest rate since the country
began its economic reform program in 1992. The budget deficit is equal to 3.2%
of GDP for the first half of the year. This is below the IMF target--but this
figure may not include a considerable amount of off-budget spending. * Thomas
GOVERNMENT ACCUSES OPPOSITION OF ISSUING FALSE ECONOMIC DATA.
Working Center of Economic Reforms, a government sponsored research institute,
issued a statement on 14 September accusing government opponents of presenting
false data on the state of the Russian economy in an attempt to boost their
electoral chances. According to the statement, reported by ITAR-TASS on 14
September, critics report that industrial production fell by 7-8% in
July-August whereas official statistics recorded a rise of 2% in July over the
previous month and 1% in August. In comparison with August 1994, industrial
production this August was up 0.1%, the statement added. The statement also
refuted charges that the crisis on the interbank credit market was provoked by
nonpayment from the federal budget. * Penny Morvant
NEW CHILD BENEFIT SYSTEM GOES INTO EFFECT.
A new system for paying child
benefits in which mothers will receive five types of benefits instead of two
came into force on 4 September, Social Security Ministry department head Galina
Ogurtsova told ITAR-TASS on 12 September. The five are: a onetime payment for
future mothers; a pregnancy allowance; a onetime payment on the birth of the
child; monthly benefits until the child is 18 months old; and monthly benefits
for children up to the age of 16. On 24 May 1996, the onetime payment at birth
will be increased from five to 10 times the minimum wage. The benefit for
children up to 16 will equal 70% of the minimum wage, currently set at 55,000
rubles ($12) a month. Child benefits for some categories of single parents will
also be increased by 50%. * Penny Morvant
UN CONFERENCE ON REGIONAL SECURITY OPENS IN TASHKENT.
conference on the conflicts in Tajikistan and Afghanistan began on 15 September
in Tashkent, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 September. The foreign ministers of the
Central Asian states, as well as representatives of international
organizations, including the UN and CIS, are in attendance. Mehmoud Mestiri and
Khalid Malik, the UN secretary general's special envoys to Afghanistan and
Uzbekistan, are expected to address the conference. According to the report,
Uzbek President Islam Karimov came up with the idea of holding the conference
as early as 1993 when he discussed the matter at the 48th session of the UN
General Assembly in New York. * Roger Kangas
KYRGYZSTAN SET TO JOIN CUSTOMS UNION.
Representatives from Kyrgyzstan
are set to sign documents to gain admission into an existing customs union
between Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 September.
Entry into the union is expected to be a boost for the Kyrgyz economy, which is
experiencing severe difficulties. When Kyrgyzstan joins the customs union,
tariffs on imports from and exports to other member states will be phased out,
and such goods will not be subject to inspection. * Bruce Pannier
RUSSIA PROPOSES TAKE-OVER OF SEVERAL KAZAKH ENTERPRISES.
Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets has proposed that Kazakhstan hand over the
management of several of its enterprises to Russia in a bid to ease Almaty's
debt repayments to Moscow, Interfax reported on 13 September. Soskovets said
Russia is mainly interested in acquiring manganese ore and zinc enterprises.
Documents on the creation of a series of joint financial-industrial groups,
which Soskovets described as "one of the most promising fields of bilateral
cooperation," are currently being prepared, Interfax reported. Late in August,
Kazakhstani Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin proposed a similar scheme,
Interfax reported. * Bhavna Dave
UPDATE ON BELARUSIAN BALLOON DOWNING.
International agencies on 14
September reported that Maj.-Gen. Valerii Kastenka, commander of the Belarusian
air defense forces, was responsible for ordering the shooting down of a hot air
balloon that flew into Belarusian air space while competing in an international
race (see OMRI Daily Digest, 15 September 1995). The central command of
the Belarusian air defense forces said it had received no information on
balloons entering Belarusian territory. Belarusian authorities claim they
attempted to establish radio contact with the balloon but got no response. A
combat helicopter was sent to intercept it, and the pilots apparently did not
see anyone in the balloon even after firing warning shots. Deputy Foreign
Minister Valeryi Tsyapkala admitted that Belarus was guilty to a certain extent
and said an investigation would be launched. Two other balloons responded to
radio contact and were forced to land. Belarusian officials complained that the
balloon pilots did not have visas, and the crew of one balloon went to Poland
the following day with the proper documentation. Some U.S. officials have
expressed outrage over the incident, and the American embassy in Minsk
expressed concern that it was not informed of the event until 24 hours later. *
HEAD OF BELARUSIAN NATIONAL BANK FIRED.
International agencies on 15
September reported that President Alyaksandr Lukashenka accepted the
resignation of Stanislau Bahdankevich, head of the National Bank of Belarus.
Bahdankevich was reportedly advised to resign by a senior member of
Lukashenka's administration last week. A special commission is to be
established to monitor the bank, and Bahdankevich's deputy, Mykola Kuzmich,
will act as head. Bahdankevich opposed many of Lukashenka's policies, including
monetary union and the merger of a state bank with a commercial one, which, he
said, was meant to enhance the president's control over the economy. * Ustina
UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN BRUSSELS.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister
Hennadii Udovenko on 14 September signed an individual cooperation program for
Ukraine with NATO within the Partnership for Peace program, Ukrainian Radio
reported. The agreement states that any expansion of NATO must be aimed at
enhancing European security. After signing the agreement with NATO
Secretary-General Willy Claes in Brussels, Udovenko said Ukraine is convinced
that its participation in the cooperation program will be instrumental in
developing relations between Kiev and NATO countries. Ukraine is the second
country--after Russia--out of the 26 participating in the Partnership for Peace
program to have an individual "16 plus one" program . * Ustina Markus
UKRAINIAN ECONOMIC NEWS.
President Leonid Kuchma, speaking to a meeting
of leading Ukrainian economists, predicted that Ukraine's economy will recover
from its crisis in one to two years, Ukrainian TV reported on 14 September. He
said the country cannot simply copy Western economic models but should come up
with a blueprint in which the government continues to play a major role in the
economy. Kuchma added that the state sector's share of production has fallen to
60% and that the government plans to reduce the number of state-owned
enterprises to between 15% and 25%. Kuchma said it will be difficult to keep
its promises to the IMF to cut monthly inflation to 1-2% by December and halt
the decline in industrial and agricultural production at the same time.
Meanwhile, the parliament voted the same day to approve a new law on
financial-industrial groups, chiefly aimed at encouraging Russian investment in
Ukrainian industry to save ailing Ukrainian enterprises, Radio Ukraine
reported. * Chrystyna Lapychak
UKRAINE TO SELL TWO SPACE-MONITORING SHIPS.
Ukraine will be forced to
sell two of the former Soviet Union's largest space monitoring ships because it
cannot afford to maintain them, Gen. Valery Litvinov, chief of the agency for
missile-space armaments in the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, told ITAR-TASS on
14 September. One of these ships is Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the world's
largest ship fitted for scientific activities; the other is Academician
Sergei Koroleva, a similar ship bristling with electronic tracking and
communications equipment. Ukraine inherited the two ships, formerly used to
monitor and control Soviet space flights, because they happened to be
registered in the Ukrainian port. While Litvinov would not name the country
that wants to buy them, the press has speculated that it is China. He said
Ukraine may need them itself in five years but cannot afford the money needed
to repair and maintain them. * Doug Clarke
ESTONIAN ECONOMICS MINISTER TO FACE NO CONFIDENCE VOTE?
Estonia media on
14 September reported that opposition deputy Tunne Kelam submitted a no
confidence bill against Minister of Economy Liina Tonisson. The bill was backed
by 22 deputies from the opposition. According to Kelam, there are serious
questions about privatization and the country's national interests.
Privatization has reportedly slowed in Estonia, and there have been a number of
scandals connected with the process. * Ustina Markus
POLISH COMMISSION RULES CONCORDAT DOES NOT VIOLATE CONSTITUTION.
Parliament Commission on the Concordat, headed by Democratic Left Alliance
deputy Zbigniew Siemiatkowski, decided on 14 September that the
concordat--signed by Poland and the Holy See on 28 July 1993 and not ratified
yet--does not violate existing Polish "constitutional laws." The commission,
created in July 1994, has also been empowered to decide whether the Concordat
violates the Polish constitution that is currently being drafted, Polish media
reported on 15 September. * Jakub Karpinski
POLISH PRESS ON RUSSIAN COMECON MEMORANDUM.
Polish dailies on 15
September reported that a memorandum on economic cooperation was sent by the
Russian Foreign Ministry to the Moscow embassies of the former COMECON
countries. The memorandum proposes cooperation between the CIS countries and
former COMECON countries, thus excluding the Baltic States. Gazeta
Wyborcza reports that it was impossible to find out who was responsible for
sending the memorandum. It also comments that Moscow wants to see if there is
support for COMECON's reconstruction. * Jakub Karpinski
CZECH COALITION PARTIES AGREE ON CREATION OF SENATE.
Leaders of the four
parties in the Czech governing coalition on 14 September finally agreed on how
to create a second parliamentary chamber, Czech media reported. The issue has
divided the parties for almost 18 months, but now a proposal from the dominant
Civic Democratic Party (ODS) to elect one senator in each of the 81
constituencies has been accepted. If the parliament approves the plan,
senatorial elections could be held jointly with the parliamentary elections due
next June. The coalition leaders also accepted ODS proposals on other issues to
be tackled before the elections but remained divided on some important points
such as Church restitution and the creation of new administrative regions. The
latter, like the creation of the Senate, is stipulated in the 1992 constitution
but has yet to be implemented. * Steve Kettle
AUSTRIAN COURT REFUSES BAIL TO SLOVAK PRESIDENT'S SON.
An Austrian judge
on 14 September refused to release Michal Kovac Jr. on bail two weeks after he
was kidnapped, dumped in Austria, and arrested on fraud charges, international
media reported. A Munich prosecutor issued an international arrest warrant for
Kovac Jr. in November for an alleged $2.3 million fraud, and Germany has asked
Austria for his extradition. It is widely suspected in Slovakia that the
abduction of the president's son was politically motivated, as Kovac Sr. has
been involved in a long-running dispute with Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar.
President Kovac, in an interview with Narodna obroda on 14 September,
said he would not resign over the matter and would be willing to leave office
only if he were "deeply convinced that it would help Slovakia, democracy,
truth, and justice." * Sharon Fisher
DUTCH DEFENSE MINISTER IN SLOVAKIA.
Joris Voorhoeve on 14 September
ended a two-day visit to Slovakia at the invitation of his Slovak counterpart,
Jan Sitek. The two discussed issues related to European security and NATO
membership and signed an agreement calling for increased military cooperation,
Narodna obroda and TASR reported the same day. * Sharon Fisher
HUNGARY FEELS INCREASINGLY ENDANGERED BY BOSNIAN CONFLICT.
possibility of a military conflict involving Hungary has slightly increased
because the situation in the former Yugoslavia is still full of question marks,
Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs said to Hungarian newspapers on 14
September. He noted that while the chances of settling the neighboring conflict
have improved, Hungary "is more endangered than before." Since the Croatian
occupation of Krajina, tension has increased along Hungary's borders, with the
recent flood of Krajina refugees upsetting the delicate balance of ethnic
Hungarians in Serbia's northern province of Vojvodina. * Zsofia Szilagyi
NATO SUSPENDS AIR STRIKES AGAINST BOSNIAN SERBS...
The UN and NATO on 14
September agreed to halt air strikes against the Bosnian Serbs following
meetings between US envoy and assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke
and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, international media reported. Also on
14 September, Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladic and his civilian
counterpart, Radovan Karadzic, agreed in Belgrade to the weapons withdrawal
around Sarajevo. Milosevic has pledged to exercise his influence over the
Bosnian Serb leadership in a bid to have them keep their word, but the extent
of his influence is unclear. According to a UN statement, air strikes may
resume after a 72-hour period should the Bosnian Serbs fail to comply with
their pledge to withdraw heavy artillery around the capital of Sarajevo to
outside the 20-km exclusion zone or should Bosnian Serb forces attack safe
areas. Karadzic on 15 September vowed the withdrawal would be carried out.
Meanwhile, international media have speculated that the Rapid Reaction Force
around Sarajevo may soon be replaced by Italian and Russian troops. * Stan
...WHILE BOSNIAN CROAT TROOPS ADVANCE.
Reuters on 15 September quotes
Bosnian government radio as reporting that the Bosnian army's fifth corps from
Bihac captured the northwestern town of Bosanski Petrovac from Bosnian Serb
forces earlier the same day. Only hours earlier government troops entered the
nearby town of Kulen Vakuf. The offensive has forced Serbian soldiers and
civilians northward toward Banja Luka. UN officials said they could not
determine whether the Serbs were carrying out a tactical retreat or had been
routed. There were few signs of any organized resistance around recently
capture Jajce. Bosnian Radio claims that many Serbian soldiers were captured in
Bosanski Petrovac. NATO Secretary General Willy Claes and his UN counterpart,
Boutros Boutros Ghali, called on "all the parties to cease immediately all
offensive military activities and hostile acts." They said they were also
"disturbed by reports of the exodus of large numbers of civilians from the
affected areas." * Fabian Schmidt
OTHER BOSNIAN NEWS.
Reuters on 14 September says a taped telephone call
between the Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and an army officer at the
Lukavica barracks proves they tried to dupe the world into thinking they were
pulling their heavy weapons back from Sarajevo earlier this month. Karadzic is
quoted as telling the officer: "You have to prepare something to start moving
towards Trnovo in order for the cameras to record it and send it to the world
even if it means returning it during the night." Meanwhile, a doctor in Doboj
is quoted as saying that "145 [people have been] wounded [and] some 27 to 30
civilians have been killed" since NATO air raids began on areas of eastern and
northern Bosnia. It remains unclear whether some of those were casualties of
the shelling of Doboj by government forces. Meanwhile the ICRC published a
report saying that about 8,000 Muslims from Srebrenica are still missing and
cannot be accounted for, international agencies reported. * Fabian Schmidt
ROMANIAN PRESIDENT WANTS TO BREAK HUNGARIAN IMPASSE.
Ion Iliescu told a
Reuters correspondent on 14 September that he wanted to take the lead with a
"definitive step" toward rapprochement with Hungary. He added that Hungarian
Prime Minister Gyula Horn was receptive but gave no details. Iliescu was
speaking before a meeting with leaders of all parliamentary parties that was
aimed at enlisting support for his ideas. Romanian TV reported that Iliescu
presented three sets of documents about to be sent to Budapest, one of which
was a "code of conduct" for dealing with the problem of national minorities.
Iliescu last month called for a "historic reconciliation" between Romania and
Hungary. * Michael Shafir
VOIGT WARNS ROMANIANS AGAINST EXTREMISM.
North Atlantic Assembly
President Karsten Voigt told Radio Bucharest that Bucharest's chances for NATO
entry depended, among other things, on improving the country's image abroad.
Following a meeting with Ion Iliescu, Voigt said he told the president that "if
in the German parliament we had a group calling itself Greater Germany,
discontent and restlessness would be evident in many countries.... [If] I were
to learn that a group calling itself Greater Romania is not only in the
parliament but is also a member of the government coalition, it would take a
lot of explaining to convince me that this does not mean the modification of
borders." Meanwhile, Corneliu Vadim Tudor, leader of the Greater Romania Party,
wrote in the party's weekly Politica that he would now wage "total war"
against director of the Romanian Information Service Virgil Magureanu. His
declaration follows the publication of documents released by the RIS showing
that Tudor was an informer of the Securitate, Nicolae Ceausescu's
secret police. * Michael Shafir
ROMANIAN PENAL CODE WOULD RESTRICT PRESS FREEDOM.
The Chamber of
Deputies on 14 September approved an article in the Penal Code that would send
journalists to jail for up to two years for offending a person's honor or
reputation, Radio Bucharest reported. A similar version of the article was
approved earlier this year by the Senate. Journalists and some opposition
members protested the new article, saying its wording was vague and could be
used to clamp down on reporters who criticized the government. Following
debates in the Chamber of Deputies, President Ion Iliescu has to promulgate the
text agreed on by the two chambers after mediation. * Michael Shafir
SNEGUR ON NEGOTIATIONS WITH TIRASPOL.
Moldovan President Mircea Snegur
has told Dmitrii Ryurikov, foreign policy adviser to Russian President Boris
Yeltsin, that Moldova is ready to consider new proposals for solving the
dispute with the breakaway republic of Transdniester in order to continue
dialogue and prevent a new outbreak of the armed conflict. Infotag on 14
September reported that Moldovan officials expressed "concern" to Ryurikov
about information published in the media on the delivery to the Tiraspol
authorities of combat machinery and other military equipment by the Russian
contingent. Chisinau also expressed discontent about the participation of
Russian troops in the recent celebrations of Transdniester's "independence
day." * Michael Shafir
BULGARIA NOT INVOLVED IN ATTEMPT TO KILL POPE?
Ali Agca, the man who
tried to kill Pope John Paul II in 1981, has said that Bulgaria was not
involved in the plot, Bulgarian newspapers reported on 13 September, citing BTA
reports from the previous day. Agca told Italian judges and his lawyer that
"the Bulgarian connection was completely fabricated." According to 24
chasa, Agca said the CIA urged him to speak about a Bulgarian involvement.
Standart claims that a KGB agent was involved in the attempt. Former BTA
Director Boyan Traykov, in an article in Trud on 15 September, said
Bulgarian officials now have to seek Bulgaria's total rehabilitation.
Demokratsiya, however, noted that Agca was branded a liar, lunatic, and
terrorist by people in Bulgaria who now say he is a credible witness in an
attempt to whitewash over the affair. * Stefan Krause
BULGARIAN MUSLIMS STAGE ANTI-GOVERNMENT PROTEST.
Several hundred Muslims
demonstrated in Sofia on 14 September against what they described as government
interference in their religious affairs, Reuters reported the same day. They
accused the government of trying to "control [their] fate...by administrative
decree" and demanded the resignation of Hristo Matanov, director of the
government's Religions Directorate. The demonstration was headed by Fikri
Salih, who was elected chief mufti by part of the Bulgarian Muslim community.
His followers have protested government backing for his rival, Nedim Gendzhev,
who was chief Mufti before 1989 and whose reelection to this post in 1994 is
not recognized by Salih followers. A statement issued by them said Gendzhev has
"nothing to do with religion" and "continues to promote atheism among the
Muslims." Matanov refused to resign, saying the Supreme Court backed the
cabinet's decision to appoint Gendzhev as chief mufti. * Stefan Krause
MIXED REACTIONS TO GREEK-MACEDONIAN AGREEMENT.
The signing on 13
September of the Greek-Macedonian agreement met with mixed reactions in both
countries, AFP reported the following day. Greek government spokesman Evangelos
Venizelos called the agreement a "historic step," noting that Greek arguments
were "accepted in their entirety." Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov said the
accord may be "a decisive event for the future of the Balkans" and praised
Greece's "realistic attitude." The Greek press assessment of the accord ranged
from "historic" to "betrayal" and "shameful," while opposition leader Miltiadis
Evert said the agreement was unacceptable. Some 4,000 opposition supporters
rallied in Skopje to protest the agreement, calling it "contrary to
the...interests of...Macedonia." Opposition parties said it was a "shameful
document [that harms] Macedonia's national dignity." * Stefan Krause