YELTSIN RETURNS TO KREMLIN.
Russian President Boris Yeltsin
returned to his office in the Kremlin on the morning of 29 December after a
two-month absence due to heart trouble. In an interview with ITAR-TASS, Yeltsin
said the two most important international events of the year were the 50th
anniversary of the UN and the Dayton peace accord. The most important domestic
events were the holding of the Duma election and, for himself, the birth of his
fourth grandchild. -- Peter Rutland
GOVERNMENT PURGE IN OFFING?
On 28 December, President Boris Yeltsin gave
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin two days to fire those responsible for
"sabotaging" the government's economic program, NTV reported the same day.
Presidential spokesman Sergei Medvedev said the president was angry with the
Economics Ministry because it had failed to provide the investments he had
promised during a visit to the Krasnoyarsk combine plant last year. The Finance
Ministry is also being criticized for failing to release routine budget funds.
The acting head of the Defense Ministry's finance department, General Vasilii
Kuznetsov, said that his ministry did not receive any money in December,
according to Interfax of 28 December. ITAR-TASS on 25 December quoted Yurii
Malyshev, the head of Rosugol, as saying that the 500 billion rubles ($108
million) the government promised for coal miner's wages had also not been paid.
-- Peter Rutland
OUR HOME IS RUSSIA SUPPORTS YELTSIN FOR RE-ELECTION.
Chernomyrdin is frequently mentioned as a presidential contender,
representatives of his bloc, Our Home Is Russia (NDR), continue to express
loyalty to President Yeltsin. Sergei Belyaev, leader of the NDR Duma faction,
said his party will select a presidential candidate at a conference in January
or February, and will support Yeltsin if he runs for re-election, Russian media
reported on 28 December. He also said the NDR will have as many as 80-100
deputies in the new Duma, providing the only real competition for the
Communists in parliament. The KPRF will have at least 158 Duma seats. NDR won
44 on the party list and 10 single-member districts, but Belyaev said many
independents were joining the faction as well. -- Laura Belin
LEBED TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT.
Retired general Aleksandr Lebed, a leader of
the Congress of Russian Communities (KRO), announced on 28 December that he
intends to run for president in 1996, Russian and Western media reported. Lebed
reportedly hopes that his candidacy will be supported by the Communist Party of
the Russian Federation (KPRF). During the campaign he suggested several times
that KRO and the Communists form an alliance, but the idea was rebuked by Yurii
Skokov, another KRO leader. KRO had a disappointing showing in parliamentary
elections and failed to make the 5% cut-off. However, most Russian commentators
are already saying that if Lebed were to win Communist backing he would be the
clear favorite in June's presidential race. -- Laura Belin
COMPETITION LIKELY FOR COMMUNIST PRESIDENTIAL NOMINATION.
announcement adds another wrinkle to the KPRF's plans to choose a presidential
candidate in January. The party has not yet formally responded to Lebed's offer
of an alliance during the presidential campaign. KPRF leader Gennadii Zyuganov,
who is considered to lack the charisma needed to win a presidential election,
has insisted that the Communists will unite behind a single candidate. Aman
Tuleev, the outspoken governor of Kemerovo who was third on the KPRF party list
for the Duma elections, told Radio Rossii on 26 December that he will run for
president if Yeltsin runs for re-election. (Tuleev finished fourth in the 1991
presidential elections with 6.8% of the vote.) Furthermore, Petr Romanov, a
prominent Krasnoyarsk factory director elected to the Duma on the KPRF list,
continues to prepare for a presidential bid. -- Laura Belin
GORBACHEV ALSO LEANING TOWARD PRESIDENTIAL BID.
Former Soviet President
Mikhail Gorbachev said he is leaning toward running for president in 1996 as
part of a "broad coalition of democratic forces," Izvestiya reported on
28 December. He added, "I cannot remain on the sidelines during a time of
difficult ordeals for Russia." -- Laura Belin
EX-DEPUTIES TO BE GIVEN GOVERNMENT JOBS.
According to a statement issued
by Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin, all the deputies who failed to be re-elected in
December will be given positions in top government agencies and Moscow
residency permits, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 December. Only 93 of the Duma's 450
deputies won re-election on 17 December. Officials of the Moscow Mayor's Office
complain that almost all the deputies who lost their seats in the recent
election are refusing to leave the apartments they received from the city, NTV
reported on 26 December. The city has supplied 250 deputies with apartments
since 1993. The deputies should in theory leave their apartments by the end of
January. In the meantime, new deputies will be accommodated in the Hotel
Rossiya. -- Peter Rutland
PRESIDENTIAL COUNCIL RECOMMENDS 20 DECREES ON LOCAL SELF-GOVERNMENT . . .
The Presidential Council on Local Self-Government ruled that the federal
government should issue about 20 decrees to make the law on self-government
workable, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 December. Sergei Filatov, head of the
presidential administration, said bills are urgently needed in the areas of
self-government structure, local financing, and taxation. Filatov added that he
fears that local governments could become "sovietized" following the Communist
Party's recent electoral victory. -- Anna Paretskaya
. . . WHILE REGIONAL LAWS TO BE EXAMINED.
Filatov also said the
Presidential State Legal Administration (GPU) has prepared Constitutional Court
cases against various bills passed in 70 of the country's 89 federation
subjects that allegedly contradict the Russian constitution, Segodnya
reported on 27 December. Filatov said President Yeltsin would soon
establish a commission to harmonize local legislation with the constitution.
GPU experts say they have also found several examples of federal laws that
contradict the constitution as well as other federal legislation. On 29
December, President Yeltsin vetoed a Duma bill on relations between krais and
oblasts composed of autonomous okrugs, saying it contradicted the constitution.
-- Anna Paretskaya
INGUSH PARLIAMENT CALLS FOR ABOLITION OF INTERIM COMMITTEE.
December, the Ingush parliament appealed to President Boris Yeltsin and the
Russian government to abolish the interim committee created to deal with the
situation in North Ossetiya's disputed Prigorodny Raion following violent
clashes between Ossetiyans and Ingush in the autumn of 1992, ITAR-TASS
reported. The parliament argues that the committee has not been able to
stabilize the situation in Prigorodnyi Raion and proposed that special rule be
imposed on the districts that have been set aside for the repatriation of
Ingush refugees. The presidents of North Ossetiya and Ingushetiya, Akhsarbek
Galazov and Ruslan Aushev, met with Yeltsin's aide for nationality issues,
Nikolai Yegorov, in Moscow on 16-17 December and subsequently ratified an
agreement on normalizing relations between their respective republics. -- Liz
FOREIGN TRADE MINISTER IN TEHRAN.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister and
Minister of Foreign Trade Oleg Davydov initialed two intergovernmental economic
protocols with his Iranian counterpart during a three-day visit to Tehran,
Russian and Western agencies reported on 28 December. One of the protocols
covers mutual debt repayment. The other which outlines bilateral economic
cooperation for the next 10 years, calls for the creation of joint oil and gas
companies, a move certain to draw criticism from the U.S. which has imposed a
unilateral trade embargo on Iran. At a press conference Davydov termed Iran a
"strategic partner" for Russia. The two ministers indirectly threatened
Azerbaijan by jointly declaring that under a pending agreement on a new legal
regime for the Caspian Sea, no single country will be permitted to exploit the
sea's mineral resources. -- Scott Parrish
YELTSIN SUSPENDS SANCTIONS AGAINST RUMP YUGOSLAVIA.
On 28 December,
President Yeltsin issued a directive ordering the suspension of UN economic
sanctions against rump Yugoslavia, Russian and Western agencies reported. The
directive was issued in accordance with UN Security Resolution 1,022, passed on
22 November, which suspends the sanctions as part of the Dayton agreement. The
directive does not suspend Russian participation in sanctions against the
Serb-held areas of Bosnia, however, which remain in place until Bosnian Serb
military forces withdraw behind demarcation lines laid out in the Dayton
accord. Meanwhile, in New York, Russian UN Delegate Sergei Lavrov called on the
Security Council to adopt a resolution condemning the "gross and mass
violations of human rights" by Croatian authorities in Krajina, citing a recent
report on the issue by the UN secretary general. -- Scott Parrish
RUSSIA TO RESTRICT TEXTILE IMPORTS.
Dmitrii Sukhoparov, the head of the
department for regulating foreign trade at the Foreign Economic Relations
Ministry, announced that Russia will soon introduce quotas limiting textile
imports from the EU, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 December. Sukhoparov complained
that the EU limits Russian textile exports to $180 million a year while it
sells $740 million worth of its own textiles to Russia. The Russian Justice
Ministry recently prepared a document authorizing the imposition of such
anti-dumping measures, which Sukhoparov claimed are fully in accord with GATT
and WTO rules. Import quotas are also being considered for other items, such as
cash registers. -- Peter Rutland
GOVERNMENT SELLS 16% STAKE IN LUKOIL.
The Russian investment company
Nikoil has won a share auction for a 16% stake in LUKoil, Russia's largest oil
company, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 December. Nikoil's offer to invest 800
billion rubles ($170 million) in LUKoil in return for the shares beat out the
sole rival bidder. Earlier this month, the State Privatization Committee
transferred a 5% federal stake in LUKoil to the company itself and Imperial
Bank in exchange for a $35 million loan. Nikoil is thought to be a front
company for LUKoil, having been created in order to trade in the shares of
LUKoil and other petroleum companies. If so, it will be another entry on the
list of auctions with predetermined outcomes. Earlier this week, one of the few
privatization auctions to be won by an outsider, STET's bid for a stake in
Svyazinvest, fell through. -- Natalia Gurushina
TWO MORE OIL COMPANIES HOLD AUCTIONS.
On 28 December, Neftyannaya
Finansovaya Kompaniya and Stolichnyi Bank bought 51% of the shares in Sibneft
with a Menatep Bank guarantee, ITAR-TASS reported. The bid was $100.3 million,
$300,000 above the start price. On the same day, the auction of 15% of the
shares in Nafta-Moskva, the former Soyuznefteeksport, was held for the second
time. It was won with a bid of $20.01 million by Nafta Moskva and Unibestbank,
with a guarantee from Onekismbank (which also organized the auction). The bid
was just $10,000 above the reserve price. The first sale of Nafta shares, on 17
November, was reversed after the winner proved unable to come up with the
money. -- Peter Rutland
NEW CHAIRMAN OF UZBEK CONSTITUTIONAL COURT ELECTED BY PARLIAMENT.
Uzbek Oliy Majlis elected Bahodir Ishanov to head the country's Constitutional
Court, according to an Uzbek Radio report cited by the BBC on 28 December.
Ishanov, who was President Islam Karimov's nominee, is currently a the chairman
of the Oliy Majlis Committee on Legislation and Court Issues. Under Uzbek law,
Ishanov must step down from his position in the Oliy Majlis to assume his new
post. A deputy chairman and two standing members were also elected to the
Constitutional Court. -- Roger Kangas
107 DEAD AS CYCLONE WRECKS NORTH KAZAKHSTAN.
At least 107 people are
dead and many more are missing following a devastating cyclone and bitter cold
weather in the Akmola, Kokshetau, Kostanai, and Karaganda oblasts in
north-central Kazakhstan, Karavan-Blitz reported on 28 December. --
Bhavna Dave in Almaty
OBSERVERS SATISFIED WITH KYRGYZ ELECTIONS.
Representatives of the UN
Development Program and the OSCE in Kyrgyzstan released a statement on 28
December describing the country's recent presidential election as "generally
free and open" despite some violations of voting procedure, Reuters reported.
The statement noted that there had been some reported cases of the titular head
of a household voting on behalf of an entire family. Pre-election registration
rules for candidates and the exclusion of three candidates from the election
for allegedly violating those rules "raised some legal and constitutional
concerns," but the observers "for the most part found the presidential
elections to be a step forward" from the country's February parliamentary
elections. The final results show that with 86% of eligible voters
participating, Akayev won 71.6% of the vote. -- Bruce Pannier
EXPORT-IMPORT BANK TO LEND $230 MILLION TO UKRAINE.
bank of Japan will lend Ukraine 24 billion yen ($230 million) to cover the
financial aid the Japanese government has committed itself to offering Ukraine,
AFP reported on 28 December. The bulk of the credit, 18 billion yen, will be
extended in syndicated loans in cooperation with the World Bank, and only six
billion yen would come directly from the Export-Import Bank. Japan promised the
aid last March to help Ukraine stabilize its economy and dismantle the nuclear
weapons on its soil. -- Ustina Markus
UKRAINE WILL NOT PARTICIPATE IN BOSNIAN PEACE FORCE.
informed the NATO peace Implementation Force (IFOR) that it would not be able
to participate in its operations in Bosnia because of financial difficulties,
AFP reported on 28 December. IFOR chief-of-staff Lt. Gen. William Carter said
Ukraine's withdrawal should not be a setback for the NATO-led force since other
countries have come forward with greater contributions than anticipated.
Ukraine will continue to provide Antonov transport craft for the Bosnian
operations. -- Ustina Markus
HEAD OF BELARUSIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT ASKED TO RESIGN.
The head of
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's administration, Mikhail Myasnikovich, has
asked the head of the Constitutional Court, Valerii Tikhinya, to resign, radio
Ekho Moskvy reported on 28 December. Myasnikovich reportedly told Tikhinya that
if he did not leave his post willingly, a decision to remove him would be made
by the president. Lukashenka has reportedly been putting pressure on Tikhinya
for some time. The court has found seven of Lukashenka's presidential decrees
to be unconstitutional. In other news, Belarusian radio reported that although
the cabinet of ministers has allocated three billion Belarusian rubles to the
new parliament so that it can open, the money has not appeared on the
secretariat's account. -- Ustina Markus
BELARUSIAN TRADE UNIONS SUSPEND STRIKE PLANS.
Belapan reported on 28
December that The Federation of Trade Unions has decided to remove
its January agenda plans to hold a national strike. The decision was taken
because the cabinet of ministers is reportedly taking the unions demands into
consideration. The Independent Trade Unions of Belarus are reportedly planning
to go ahead with their preparations for a national strike in January. The
announcement came soon after President Alyaksandr Lukashenka warned that any
mass protest actions could destabilize the country. The Federation of Trade
Unions was the official union during the Soviet era and has often been more
amenable towards the government than the Independent Trade Unions. -- Ustina
TWO PRIVATE ESTONIAN TV STATIONS TO MERGE.
The private television
stations RTV and EVTV--which currently broadcast on alternate days on the same
channel--will combine their programs from the beginning of 1996 as the first
step toward their full merger as new station TV3, BNS reported on 27 December.
Some 70-80% of RTV's current shareholders are to take part in the founding of
the new station while only one shareholder, Sweden's Kinnevik, will participate
from EVTV. -- Saulius Girnius
FORMER LATVIAN AGRICULTURE MINISTER INDICTED.
A prosecutor told BNS on
28 December that Dainis Gegeris has been indicted for neglect of duty and abuse
of service authority. The charges were brought in the case against the Lata
International firm that was founded in 1992 to service foreign loans, but
squandered the money. It was declared bankrupt by the Latvian Commercial Court
on 22 November. The prosecutor noted that the new prime minister, Andris Skele,
who was deputy agriculture minister at that time, did not play any role in the
Lata case. -- Saulius Girnius
UNPRODUCTIVE LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT SESSION ON BANK CRISIS.
extraordinary Seimas session called on 28 December to pass a government
resolution on guaranteeing the stability of banks did not achieve its purpose,
Radio Lithuania reported. After the opposition proposed an alternative measure,
President Algirdas Brazauskas called the government resolution "somewhat
abstract" and proposed the formation of a work group that would present a
combined proposal to the parliament the next day. He said that the blame for
the current problems should be shared by the government, the Bank of Lithuania,
the leaders of commercial banks, as well as the credit givers and receivers. He
urged the creation of a better bank supervision system. -- Saulius Girnius
NEGOTIATIONS ON MINISTERIAL NOMINATIONS IN POLAND.
of the ruling coalition of the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) and the Polish
Peasant Party initially agreed on 28 December on the appointment of Jerzy
Konieczny as Internal Affairs Minister, and Dariusz Rosati as Foreign Affairs
Minister, Rzeczpospolita reported on 29 December. Konieczny, a professor
of law, headed the State Security Office in 1992-1993 and declared his support
for Lech Walesa. Rosati, a professor of economics and former Communist Party
member, was the SLD candidate to be Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister
in 1994, when Walesa blocked his nomination. The choice of the Defense Minister
has not been decided, and, according to Polish dailies of 29 December, the SLD
would like to nominate former Deputy Minister Jerzy Milewski, who was a Walesa
supporter and then became President Aleksander Kwasniewski's security advisor.
-- Jakub Karpinski
POLISH SECURITY OFFICE PROMISES SUPPLEMENTARY EVIDENCE IN OLEKSY'S CASE.
The Deputy Chief of the State Protection Office (UOP), Jerzy Nozka, said after
a meeting with Sejm speaker Jozef Zych on 28 December that his office would
give military prosecutors the supplementary evidence referring to alleged
contacts between Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy and foreign (Soviet/Russian)
intelligence, before 20 January. The prosecutors office formulated 12 questions
to the UOP concerning the material former Internal Affairs Minister Andrzej
Milczanowski delivered on 19 December. The chief of the Military Information
Service (WSI), General Konstanty Malejczyk, said before the end of the year the
WSI would provide the prosecutors with information on the activities of foreign
countries' secret services in Poland (the prosecutors had demanded such a
report). Contradicting what he said on 27 December, Oleksy said he does not
exclude taking a temporary leave of office, Rzeczpospolita reported on
29 December. -- Jakub Karpinski
POLISH CONSTITUTIONAL TRIBUNAL ON TAXES.
The Polish Constitutional
Tribunal has ruled that the tax law adopted for the first time by the Sejm on
13 October is unconstitutional, saying that vacatio legis, or the period for
adaptation of the law, was too short. The law provided for a six-grade taxation
scale of 19, 21, 24, 31, 38, and 45%, instead of the current 21, 33, and 45%.
The last three thresholds will be in force for 1996, the Polish press reported
on 29 December. The court's decision ended the legal fight between former
President Lech Walesa on the one side and the government and parliament on the
other. Walesa vetoed the bill on 27 November, and the Sejm overrode the
president's veto on 1 December. Instead of signing the bill, Walesa sent it to
the tribunal on 4 December. -- Jakub Karpinski
FIRE AT CZECH NUCLEAR PLANT.
A small fire broke out on 28 December at
the nuclear power station at Dukovany in southern Moravia but was extinguished
within 20 minutes, Czech media reported. Officials of the state nuclear
security agency said the fire started in a transformer serving the plant's
lighting system. No one was injured and the fire did not cause any safety
problems. The plant is near the border with Austria, which has repeatedly asked
the Czech government to close the station on safety grounds. Officials said the
Austrian embassy in Prague was informed of the fire. They stressed that similar
incidents happen about twice yearly, but so far Dukovany's reactor and safety
systems have not been affected. -- Steve Kettle
U.S. LIFTS SANCTIONS AGAINST RUMP YUGOSLAVIA.
Bill Clinton announced on 28 December that Washington has suspended its
sanctions regime against Belgrade. The suspension, which went into effect
immediately, opened the way for fuel supplies and mechanical equipment to flow
from the U.S. to Serbia, halted by presidential orders issued from June 1992.
Clinton said in his statement that "we insisted on a credible reimposition
mechanism to ensure no backsliding on the commitments made by the Serbs."
Nasa Borba on 29 December reported that on the previous day
Russia also suspended sanctions against the rump Yugoslavia. -- Stan
NATO PLEASED WITH IMPLEMENTATION OF BOSNIAN TREATY.
The commander of
NATO ground forces, Lieutenant General Sir Michael Walker, said that "it
appears that all parties are demonstrating a spirit of cooperation in complying
with the peace agreement . . . We are [however] in [the] early days, it is a
honeymoon period." He added that the first 30 days would be decisive because
all three sides must disarm their militias and civilians by 20 January. IFOR
commander Admiral Leighton Smith echoed Walker's optimism, saying that he was
"very happy at what has been achieved in the first week of the mission." The
International Herald Tribune and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
carried the reports on 29 December. -- Patrick Moore
TOP NATO OFFICIAL IN BELGRADE.
NATO commander for Europe, U.S. General
George Joulwan, arrived in Belgrade on 28 December and met with several rump
Yugoslav officials, including army chief of staff Momcilo Perisic and Serbian
President Slobodan Milosevic. Following his two-hour talks with Milosevic,
Joulwan said the meetings were "very productive" and conveyed "appreciation for
the transit of IFOR, particularly American aircraft here in Belgrade, and
allowing forces to transit through Serbia to Bosnia." Joulwan was accompanied
on his visit by 54 U.S. soldiers, who shall become the first NATO troops to
cross into Bosnia from the rump Yugoslavia. -- Stan Markotich
WEATHER PROVES TO BE IFOR'S BIG ENEMY.
NATO troops have been having to
deal with threats not from the locals but from the elements (See OMRI Daily
Digest, 28 December 1995). International media reported on 29 December that
U.S. efforts to build a 310-meter pontoon bridge over the Sava River for U.S.
troops have been held up by the floods. The waters also hit their camp at
Zupanja after destroying a protective barrier. Senior U.S. and Croatian army
officers have agreed to work together on the construction of the bridge.
Meanwhile, the Czech daily Mlada fronta Dnes said that American soldiers
are preparing for a longer stay than planned at their bases in Hungary. --
Patrick Moore and Daria Sito Sucic
BOSNIAN SERBS WAIT FOR SMITH'S DECISION.
In accordance with the Bosnian
Serbs' request to IFOR commander Admiral Leighton Smith, asking for about a
year's delay in the transfer of authority of the Serb-held parts of Sarajevo to
the Bosnian government (See OMRI Daily Digest, 27 December 1995),
Bosnian Serb Parliamentary Speaker Momcilo Krajisnik said at Pale that they
will wait for the decision until 30 January. "If [the] response is negative,
we'll still have enough time to displace people, property and state
enterprises," Beta quoted Krajisnik as saying on 29 December. Krajisnik also
claimed that an agreement on certain corrections of Dayton's territorial maps
was reached with the "Muslim side" relating to swaps of some Muslim and Serb
villages in eastern Bosnia. -- Daria Sito Sucic
HUNGARIAN RESPONSE TO ROMANIAN RECONCILIATION INITIATIVE.
daily Evenimentul zilei reports on 29 December that the Romanian
ambassador to Budapest, Ioan Donca, has received the Hungarian response to
President Ion Iliescu's initiative for a "historic reconciliation" between the
two countries. No details were provided. The daily also wrote that Foreign
Minister Teodor Melescanu sent a letter to his Hungarian counterpart, Laszlo
Kovacs, including Bucharest's response to the latest proposals made by Hungary
on the basic treaty between the two countries. -- Michael Shafir
MOLDOVA REJECTS TURNING RUSSIAN CONTINGENT INTO PEACEKEEPING FORCE.
Moldovan delegation to the Joint Control Commission on 28 December issued a
statement rejecting the proposal to turn the Russian contingent in
Transdniester into a peacekeeping force. The proposal was made earlier this
year by Lt. Gen. Aleksandr Sokolov, deputy commander of the Russian Land Force.
According to Infotag, the statement says the proposal is unacceptable "due to a
certain politicization of the contingent servicemen and their failure to remain
unbiased in the conflict." -- Michael Shafir
BULGARIAN PRESIDENT DEMANDS MEDIA CHIEF'S OUSTER . . .
publicly demanded that Vecheslav Tunev, Director-General of Bulgarian National
Radio, submit his resignation, international media reported on 28 December.
Prompting the call was an incident on 18 December, when seven state radio
employees were dismissed by Tunev after alleging that management was censoring
their work and following assurances by Tunev himself that they would not be
fired (See OMRI Daily Digest, 19 December 1995). Zhelev called the
firings "an outrage" and added that the one responsible "should not go
unpunished." The president made his remarks following meetings with members of
Free Speech Forum, a journalists' organization devoted to tracking the
conditions affecting the freedoms of the media. -- Stan Markotich
. . . AND PARDONS CONVICTED COMMUNIST OFFICIAL.
Reuters on 28 December
reported that Zhelev exercised his constitutional prerogative and pardoned
Stoyan Ovcharov, a former Minister of Economy and Planning under communist
dictator Todor Zhivkov. Ovcharov was in the second year of a nine-year sentence
for embezzling funds that went to finance the education of Zhivkov's grandson.
Zhelev cited Ovcharov's ill health, and said that humanitarian considerations
led to the pardon. Former Prime Minister Georgi Atanasov (Ovcharov's
co-defendant) was pardoned in 1994 after serving less than one year of his
ten-year sentence. -- Stan Markotich
MACEDONIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES BUDGET WITH SMALL DEFICIT.
parliament on 27 December approved the 1996 budget, which will be in deficit by
about 3 billion denars ($79 million), about 4.5% of the GDP, Nova
Makendonija reported the next day. The shortfall will be covered entirely
by credits from international financial institutions. The budget is based upon
a macroeconomic framework assuming 6% inflation, an exchange rate of 27
denar/DM, 2% growth of social product, a freeze of salaries in the budget
sphere at the level of August 1995, the abolition of vacation pay, a reduction
in the number of social welfare recipients, and continued reform of the banking
system and customs service. In parliamentary discussions, cuts in agricultural
subsidies and social welfare spending sparked the most controversy. -- Michael
BULGARIAN ATHLETES OPEN BANK, BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT TO OPEN ROADS.
group of prominent athletes, including soccer great Hristo Stoichkov,
established a commercial banking enterprise on 26 December, dubbed National,
24 Chasa reported the following day. Among the first acts undertaken by
management was to offer 101 free shares, each valued at roughly $1.5, to former
communist dictator Todor Zhivkov, in what is widely regarded in the Bulgarian
media as a publicity stunt. It is unclear whether Zhivkov, under house arrest,
has claimed the shares. In a separate development, Reuters on the same day
reported that the Bulgarian government plans a massive upgrading of the
country's infrastructure over the next three years. Transport Minister Stamen
Stamenov was quoted as saying that they will be able to rehabilitate some 2,000
kms of roads between Bulgaria and the Middle East by 1998, which he said would
help the country get in line with EU standards. -- Stan Markotich
BANS ON GRAIN, OILSEED EXPORTS EXTENDED THROUGH 1996.
cabinet on 28 December extended for another year the ban on the export of bread
and feed grain and oil-bearing seeds and their derivatives, Demokratsiya
reported the next day. The move had been controversial, even within the
cabinet, with Trade Minister Kiril Tsochev (also a Deputy Prime Minister)
against it because it would harm the country's chances of joining the World
Trade Organization, as well as the interests of producers. The move comes on
the heels of this year's "grain crisis": this year's harvest is the lowest in
the last 15 years, except for 1985, and bread and grain have been scarce this
fall. The cabinet also proposed that the export of meat, coal, and liquid fuels
be subject to registration and that licenses be required for the export of gold
and silver. -- Michael Wyzan
EU SUPPORTS ALBANIAN INFRASTRUCTURE.
The EU and the Albanian government
have signed an agreement providing about 25 million ECU ($32.5 million) in aid
for infrastructure development on 22 December, international agencies reported.
The aid includes a program of 16 million ECU ($20.8 million) for ports and
roads and an additional 9 million ECU for roads along the Adriatic Sea. Since
1991, the EU has provided $671.6 million in aid to Albania, making it the
country's leading donor. -- Fabian Schmidt
SEARCH FOR TURKISH PILOT OFF MITILINI.
Greek and Turkish military
aircraft are searching for the pilot of a Turkish F-4 jet fighter which crashed
near the Greek island of Mitilini, Western media reported on 28 December. The
plane, one of two which Athens claims violated Greek airspace, crashed due to
mechanical failure after being intercepted by Greek warplanes. Greek and
Turkish warplanes regularly engage in mock dogfights in the Aegean where the
two countries dispute the extent of their respective territorial waters. In
February a Turkish F-16 was lost in a similar incident. -- Lowell Bezanis
[As of 1200 CET]
Compiled by Victor Gomez and Pete Baumgartner