CHECHENS RELEASE HOSTAGES.
Chechen militants handed over some 46
hostages seized in Kizlyar and Pervomaiskoe to Dagestani officials in the
Chechen village of Novogroznenskaya on 24 January in return for the bodies of
42 Chechens killed during the Pervomaiskoe fighting, Russian media reported.
Negotiations on the release of 29 Russian power plant workers abducted on 16
January are continuing. Also on 24 January, Chechen guerrilla leader Shamil
Basaev threatened to renew hostilities unless the Russian 506th regiment is
withdrawn from its present position in Vedeno Raion, according to NTV. -- Liz
YELTSIN ORDERS AID TO CHECHNYA.
President Yeltsin ordered the spending
of 16.2 trillion rubles ($3.5 billion) and up to $1 billion in 1996 to rebuild
the social and economic infrastructure of Chechnya, Russian Public TV (ORT)
reported on 24 January. The spending would come on top of the agreed 1996
budget. Duma Budget Committee Chairman Mikhail Zadornov called the move "a
terrible economic and political mistake," saying the investment program for the
entire country is only 27 trillion rubles, Ekho Moskvy reported. Presidential
economic adviser Aleksandr Livshits remarked that it is better to stop the
destruction of buildings before starting to reconstruct them. -- Robert
PRESIDENTIAL COUNCIL LOSES ANOTHER MEMBER.
Academician Sergei Alekseev
resigned from the consultative Presidential Council and the presidential Human
Rights Commission on 24 January in protest of the war in Chechnya, one day
after human rights advocate Sergei Kovalev did the same, Russian media
reported. Izvestiya commentator Otto Latsis and Russia's Democratic
Choice leader Yegor Gaidar also have quit the 28-member council in recent days.
Presidential adviser Georgii Satarov criticized those who resigned for "leaving
the ship in a very difficult situation," NTV reported. -- Laura Belin
SOSKOVETS TO CLARIFY WORK OF PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN HQ.
Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets, the head of the new presidential campaign
headquarters, has agreed to answer questions about its work in the State Duma
on 31 January, Russian media reported on 24 January. Soskovets insists that the
headquarters is not President Yeltsin's personal campaign committee, since the
president has not decided whether he will run for re-election. Also on 24
January, the Central Electoral Commission (TsIK) agreed to examine the legal
status of the new campaign headquarters, NTV reported. TsIK Chairman Nikolai
Ryabov has said that only the TsIK is authorized to organize and supervise the
June presidential elections. -- Laura Belin
SOSKOVETS OUTLINES NEW COURSE.
Addressing a meeting of industrial
leaders on 24 January, First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets promised a
"speedy financial restructuring" to address social questions, Russian media
reported. "Today there cannot be any opponents of reform," Soskovets said,
while condemning efforts to transplant foreign models of the market economy
onto "Russian soil." The meeting brought together the heads of 28
financial-industrial groups uniting 4,500 firms. On 25 January, ITAR-TASS
reported that Aleksandr Kazakov was appointed as the new head of the State
Privatization Committee and as deputy prime minister. He was formerly the head
of the department for territorial administration in the presidential apparatus.
These developments appear to confirm that the conservative Soskovets will be
filling the gap left by the departure of Anatolii Chubais. -- Peter Rutland
METAL INDUSTRY DIRECTORS BACK YELTSIN.
At a meeting of the Russian
Metallurgy Committee on 24 January, the directors of 10 large steel and
aluminum plants formed an initiative group to nominate Boris Yeltsin for
president, Rossiiskaya gazeta reported the next day. However,
metalworker trade union representatives refused to support the proposal and
walked out of the meeting. Three candidates backed by the metalworkers' union
were elected to the Duma on the Yabloko ticket. -- Peter Rutland
FEDERATION COUNCIL WITHDRAWS CONSTITUTIONAL COURT SUIT.
Council voted on 24 January to withdraw its request that the Constitutional
Court determine whether the method of forming the Council was constitutional,
Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. The previous Federation Council had filed the
request on 9 December 1995. Some members of the old Council, who had been
elected in December 1993 and did not necessarily hold local offices, objected
to filling the Council ex officio with the executive and legislative heads of
each of Russia's republics and regions. The Council also elected four deputy
speakers, representing the four major regions of Russia: the Volga, Central
Russia, Siberia, and the North Caucasus. -- Robert Orttung
TRANSFER OF PARATROOPS STIRS CONTROVERSY.
The State Duma, spurred on by
ex-paratrooper Aleksandr Lebed, has appealed to President Yeltsin to overrule
the Defense Ministry's recent decision to subordinate several elite Airborne
Assault units to various military district commands, Ekho Moskvy reported on 23
January. General Mikhail Kolesnikov, the chief of staff explained that the four
separate brigades would be transferred to the jurisdiction of the North
Caucasus, Siberian, Transbaykal, and Far Eastern Military Districts. Two of
Russia's five airborne divisions would also be subordinated to military
districts rather than Moscow: the 76th to the Leningrad MD and the 7th to the
North Caucasus MD. The three remaining divisions would stay as part of the
strategic reserve. The move marks a significant step away from the
highly-vaunted program to form Mobile Forces which were to be built around the
airborne troops. -- Doug Clarke
CHRISTOPHER DECLINES PRIMAKOV INVITATION.
U.S. Secretary of State Warren
Christopher has declined an invitation from his recently appointed Russian
counterpart, Yevgenii Primakov, to visit Moscow for talks, Russian and Western
agencies reported on 24 January. Citing Christopher's heavy travel schedule,
the State Department expressed a preference for "a very brief meeting" with
Primakov "in a third country." Christopher's decision hints at Washington's
displeasure with recent actions by President Yeltsin, including the dismissal
of several prominent liberals from his cabinet and the assault on Pervomaiskoe.
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin is scheduled to visit Washington on 29-30
January. -- Scott Parrish
PRIMAKOV ON REGIONS AND FOREIGN POLICY.
In a meeting with
representatives of Russia's 89 constituent regions, Foreign Minister Yevgenii
Primakov suggested he will tighten central control over their foreign ties,
Russian media reported on 24 January. Primakov was addressing a session of the
ministry's Consultative Council of Russian Federation Subjects on International
and Foreign Economic Relations, which was formed in December 1994. The council
was ineffective under former Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, but Primakov
hopes to use it to limit international freelancing by regional elites, which
sometimes contradicts federal government policy. -- Scott Parrish
ESTONIAN-RUSSIAN BORDER TALKS RESUME.
The latest round in the
long-running Estonian-Russian border talks will open in Tallinn on 25 January,
ITAR-TASS reported. The previous round ended on 21 December without reaching
agreement (see OMRI Daily Digest, 22 December 1995). The main stumbling
block in the talks concerns the status of the 1920 Tartu Treaty, which Estonia
argues is still valid, while Russia refuses to recognize it. Accepting the
boundaries specified in the treaty would mean transferring about 2,000 sq km of
territory currently under Russian control to Estonia. However, Estonian
diplomats say they want Russia to recognize as valid only those clauses of the
treaty that recognize Estonian independence, not those demarcating the border,
and insist that Estonia has no territorial claims on Russia. -- Scott
DUMA SEEKS INCREASE IN MINIMUM WAGE AND PENSION.
On 23 January, the Duma
adopted on first reading bills raising the minimum wage and minimum pension
from 63,250 rubles ($14) a month to 75,900 rubles ($17) as of 1 February,
Russian media reported. The bill, sponsored by Duma Labor and Social Policy
Committee Chairman Sergei Kalashnikov (LDPR), was severely criticized by Budget
Committee Chairman Mikhail Zadornov (Yabloko), who described it as a populist
measure that would only result in a new round of payments arrears. Kalashnikov
admitted that the adoption of the bills contravened parliamentary procedure,
which requires that such bills first be screened by the government and Pension
Fund, but argued that the government is legally obliged to index these payments
every three months, and the last indexation occurred on 1 November,
Izvestiya reported on 25 January. -- Penny Morvant
MINERS PICKET RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT BUILDING.
Up to 1,000 miners began a
three-day picket of the Russian government building in Moscow on 24 January to
demand the payment of wage arrears and more support for the coal industry,
Russian media reported. In an attempt to avert industrial action, Prime
Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin had met with representatives of the Coal Industry
Workers' Union on 23 January. According to Izvestiya on 25 January,
Chernomyrdin ordered the Economics Ministry to pay the miners 400 billion
rubles ($88 million) owed from 1995 and promised that $500 million in World
Bank loans would be invested in socioeconomic programs for coal regions. The
miners are still considering whether to call a national strike on 1 February.
-- Penny Morvant
GOVERNMENT OFFERS PARTIAL TAX HOLIDAY.
President Yeltsin has signed a
decree (no. 65) launching a new scheme to tackle the problem of tax arrears,
Izvestiya reported on 25 January. Firms currently owe the federal
government about 30 trillion rubles ($6.5 billion)--almost one third of the
total taxes due in 1995. Under the new plan, devised by Anatolii Chubais before
he left office, firms that meet their current tax payments on time will be
allowed to reschedule their outstanding tax debt over two years. Critics argue
that the plan gives too much discretion to tax inspectors and the regional
governors who supervise their work. Many firms are not in a position to pay
current taxes, and probably will not be eligible for the plan. Tax arrears are
penalized by fines of 0.7% per day (20% per month). -- Peter Rutland
NEW CHAIRMAN FOR SBERBANK.
On 23 January, shareholders in Sberbank
(Savings Bank), Russia's largest bank, elected 37-year-old Andrei Kazmin as its
new chairman, Russian media reported the same day. Kazmin was formerly a Deputy
Finance Minister. According to Kommersant-daily, Central Bank Chairman
Sergei Dubinin wants to assert stronger control over Sberbank. The Central Bank
owns 51% of Sberbank shares: no other owner holds more than 1%. Sberbank has
been criticized for advancing credits to state enterprises at interest rates
below the rate of inflation. -- Natalia Gurushina
AZERBAIJANI POPULAR FRONT MEMBERS SENTENCED.
Twenty-one members of the
Nakhichevan branch of the opposition Azerbaijani Popular Front who were
arrested in August 1994 have been sentenced to a total of 208 years of
imprisonment on charges of creating illegal armed formations, illegal
possession of arms, and violence against members of the police, Turan reported
on 24 January. Defense lawyers plan to appeal the verdict in a higher court. --
KINKEL IN TBILISI.
On a one-day visit to Georgia on 25 January, German
Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said his country will provide an additional DM 20
million in aid to Georgia, mainly to support the energy sector, Western
agencies reported. Kinkel said the aid is an acknowledgment of Georgian
President Eduard Shevardnadze's role in bringing about German unification
during his stint as Soviet foreign minister. He further pledged support for
Georgia's territorial integrity but declined to mediate in the ongoing
conflicts between the central government in Tbilisi and the breakaway regions
of Abkhazia and South Ossetiya. -- Liz Fuller
IRAN UPSET WITH TAJIK STATEMENT.
Iran has rejected the Tajik
government's accusations on 22 January that it is responsible, along with
Pakistan and Afghanistan, for helping to train guerrillas "to terrorize the
people of Tajikistan," Reuters reported. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman
Mahmoud Mohammadi deplored Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov's allegation that
Iran is "teaching terrorist acts," according to the Iranian daily paper
Salam on 24 January. Rakhmonov's comments came in response to the murder
of Mufti Fatkhullo Sharifzoda on 21 January. -- Bruce Pannier
POLISH PRIME MINISTER RESIGNS.
Jozef Oleksy, who is facing a military
investigation concerning his alleged spy activities, said on 24 January that he
will resign from his post and fight to clear his name. Oleksy, who has held
office since March 1995, claimed he had only social contacts with Vladimir
Alganov, who proved to be a top Soviet spy in Poland. "I never betrayed
Poland," said Oleksy, accusing former President Lech Walesa's supporters of
misusing the secret services in order to regain power. After accepting Oleksy's
resignation, Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski has 14 days to nominate a
new prime minister, who has to be approved by the Sejm. -- Jakub Karpinski
INQUIRY LAUNCHED INTO POLISH PRIME MINISTER SPY ALLEGATIONS.
military prosecutor's office on 24 January launched an investigation into Jozef
Oleksy's alleged spy activities. The inquiry, which is also directed against
former Soviet and Russian diplomats Vladimir Alganov and Grigory Yakimishin,
follows a motion put forward by former Interior Minister Andrzej Milczanowski
on 19 December 1995 which was leaked to the media that same day (see OMRI
Daily Digest 20 December 1995). The prosecutor's office stated that
materials provided by the Interior Ministry have been "operational" (collected
by the counterintelligence officers) and have to be verified through formal
penal law procedures, Polish and international agencies reported. -- Jakub
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT VOWS TO SPEED UP PRIVATIZATION.
Leonid Kuchma told a
meeting of top ministers and regional governors that privatization will
accelerate in 1996 through the issuance of new decrees expanding the number of
enterprises available and improving conditions for foreign investors, Ukrainian
radio and Interfax-Ukraine reported 24 January. Poor results of last year's
scheme prompted the IMF last week to delay issuance of the fourth tranche of a
standby loan, worth $350 million. On 23 January a presidential aide told
reporters that Kiev had managed to privatize only 60% of small-scale
enterprises and 40% of some 8,000 large-scale firms slated for privatization
last year. State Property Fund Chairman Yurii Yekhanurov said his agency plans
to complete small-scale privatization by June and its large-scale privatization
program by December. -- Chrystyna Lapychak
UKRAINE TO PROVIDE PEACEKEEPERS IN BOSNIA.
Deputy Foreign Minister
Volodymyr Khandozy announced on 24 January that the 550 Ukrainian soldiers
currently in Bosnia will stay and take part in the IFOR peace implementation
mission, Reuters reported. He also disclosed that UN Secretary General Boutros
Boutros Ghali invited Ukraine to send an additional force to eastern Slavonia.
-- Doug Clarke
BELARUSIAN KGB OPENS CONFIDENTIAL PHONE LINE.
In a move reminiscent of
the Stalin-era, the Belarusian KGB announced it has opened a confidential phone
line for people to call-in and report any information they have on crimes,
Reuters reported on 24 January. Colonel Yauhen Babrau, who helps run the phone
service, denied that it is meant to recreate an informant network as had
existed in the former Soviet Union. News of the phone service comes just a week
after the head of the President's Control Service, Uladzimir Bandarenka, gave
an interview in which he said that 3,200 individuals had gone to the control
service with their grievances against people engaged in unfair economic
practices last year, and announced the control service's telephone numbers in
all of the country's main cities for people to call in. -- Ustina Markus
RUSSIAN-UKRAINIAN OIL TALKS SUSPENDED.
Failing to reach any agreement
over Ukraine's decision to raise its transit fee for Russian oil, Russia's
Mintopenergo and Ukraine's Ukrhazprom broke off talks until 2 February,
ITAR-TASS reported on 24 January. Russia insists that the tariff increase was a
unilateral move on Ukraine's part, and such hikes should only be done through
agreement at the highest levels of government. For its part, Ukraine is
displeased with Russia's efforts to tie the cost of transit to the cost of
Russian oil supplies to Ukraine. Yevhen Dovzhok, who heads Ukrhazprom, said
Russia's approach was "more than inappropriate." Meanwhile, Russia has stopped
supplying Ukraine's Drohobych oil refinery with oil, in a move which is
interpreted in Ukraine as a pressure tactic to force Ukraine to rescind the new
tariff. -- Ustina Markus
ESTONIAN PRIME MINISTER IN BELGIUM.
Tiit Vahi began a four day visit to
Belgium on 23 January, holding meetings with European Commission President
Jacques Santer and other EU officials. Vahi noted that Estonia's economy was
making progress, which should help it be among the first countries to begin
negotiations on EU membership. In talks the next day with NATO Secretary
General Javier Solana, Vahi said Russian extremists pose a threat to his
country's security and called on NATO to admit the Baltic states as members.
Later that day, he signed an investment protection agreement with Belgian
Deputy Premier Philippe Maystadt and met with his Belgian counterpart, Jean Luc
Dehaene, BNS reported. -- Saulius Girnius
LITHUANIAN PRIME MINISTER ASKED TO RESIGN.
President Algirdas Brazauskas
has asked Adolfas Slezevicius to resign, Radio Lithuania reported on 24
January. If Slezevicius does not do so, Brazauskas will allegedly ask the
Seimas to remove him from office. Slezevicius told Lithuanian radio later that
day that talk of his resignation was premature. Meanwhile, the prosecutor
general's office announced it had begun criminal proceedings related to the
exorbitant interest paid to the prime minister's account at LAIB bank. Formal
charges cannot be brought against Slezevicius without approval from the Seimas.
-- Saulius Girnius
SLOVAK SUPREME COURT CHAIRMAN RESIGNS.
The Slovak government on 24
January approved the resignation of Karol Plank, replacing him with Milan
Karabin, who was recommended for the post by Justice Minister Jozef Liscak.
Karabin, who since 1989 has served as chairman of the Supreme Court's Senate,
has worked as a judge for 22 years. Plank told TASR "the motivation for my
decision is nothing else but a need to free myself from the demanding work and
to make way for younger people." However, Democratic Union deputy chairman Jan
Budaj expressed fear that Plank resigned under pressure. In November, the
Supreme Court reversed a controversial decision by the Finance Ministry to
cancel the license of the investment firm PSIS. Also on 24 January, the cabinet
approved a bill allowing for the establishment of supplementary retirement
insurance, Narodna obroda reported. -- Sharon Fisher
HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON RELATIONS WITH SLOVAKIA.
Laszlo Kovacs, the status of the ethnic-Hungarian minority in Slovakia could
improve in the future, due to expanding bilateral Slovak-Hungarian trade
relations, Hungarian media reported. Speaking in the west Hungarian town of
Gyor, near the Slovak border, Kovacs said it is regrettable that moves like the
passing of Slovakia's language law offer a chance to curb minority rights. He
said the government believes the problem can be solved by providing accurate
information to the EU, the OSCE, the European Parliament and other
international organizations. -- Zsofia Szilagyi
HUNGARY AND NATO SIGN IFOR AGREEMENT.
NATO Secretary General Javier
Solana and Hungarian delegate to NATO Andras Simonyi signed an agreement in
Brussels on 24 January regulating Hungary's participation in IFOR operations
and marking NATO's formal acceptance of the Hungarian technical contingent,
Magyar Hirlap reported. A separate financial settlement was signed as
well, stipulating that all costs of the Hungarian contingent's operation,
including board, accommodation, various services, medical supplies and fuel
will be borne by Hungary. According to the document, Hungary agrees to
participate in the peacekeeping operation until 31 December 1996. -- Zsofia
SERBS, CROATS, AND MUSLIMS MEET IN SARAJEVO.
community's High Representative for civilian affairs, Carl Bildt, met on 24
January with leading representatives of the political "entities" party to the
Dayton agreement. The Bosnian government was represented by outgoing Prime
Minister Haris Silajdzic and his designated successor Hasan Muratovic; the
Muslim and Croat Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina by Prime Minister-designate
Izudin Kapetanovic; and the Republika Srpska by Prime Minister Rajko Kasagic.
Reuters said the participants spoke favorably about the session, with Silajdzic
calling it "relatively relaxed." Kasagic added that "the war is behind us, the
war is over. We must now build the bridges of peace." Bildt stressed the
importance of access to the media for the coming elections, and the
participants set up a working group to sort out radio and television
frequencies. -- Patrick Moore
CROATS PREPARE FOR NEXT STAGE OF BOSNIAN PEACE . . .
Oslobodjenje's Onasa News Agency reported on 24 January that the
Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) met in Mostar and nominated its candidates
for posts in the new federal and republican governments. The leading Croatian
party selected Jandranko Prlic to head the republic's foreign ministry, and
Drago Bilandzija to be federal deputy prime minister and finance minister.
Vladimir Soljic will head the federal defense ministry, while Mato Tadic will
be at justice. The party also agreed to transfer its executive functions to the
federation in keeping with the Dayton agreement, and called on the Muslims to
do the same. -- Patrick Moore
. . . ON BOTH CIVILIAN AND MILITARY FRONTS.
The existing Croatian
Community of Herzeg-Bosna would thus become a political organization and give
up its governmental role. Many Croats have been uneasy about what they regard
as subordinating their role to the Muslims in the federation. The head of the
Bosnian Croat army (HVO) general staff, General Zivko Budimir, told Vecernji
list of 25 January that the Croats will have their own national units in
the new federal army and thus be able to maintain "their national identity . .
. and the traditions of the HVO." -- Patrick Moore
POLITICKING STARTING UP IN BOSNIA.
The first weeks of the implementation
of the Dayton agreement have witnessed various parties and politicians gearing
up for the elections slated for later this year. Onasa said on 24 January that
Silajdzic refuses to rule out forming a new political party. If he does set up
a new organization, it could be a big step in breaking up a political landscape
hitherto dominated by three large ethnically-based parties. The small Social
Democratic Party called for free and democratic conditions for the elections.
Its Vice President Gradimir Gojer denied that his civic-based party is
a-national or godless, claiming he is at least as good a Croat as the HDZ's
Kresimir Zubak, and noting that SDP members observe Christmas or Ramadan.
Meanwhile in Serbia, Nasa Borba on 25 January quoted Democratic Party
leader Vojislav Kostunica as saying his group would not set up a Bosnian branch
to take part in the elections, unlike some other Serbian parties. -- Patrick
FOUR PEACEKEEPERS KILLED IN SARAJEVO BLAST.
Four IFOR peacekeepers were
killed and six injured in a blast on 25 January at the Zetra Olympic stadium in
Sarajevo, international media reported. Improper handling of ammunition was the
suspected cause. Unconfirmed reports said two victims were Portuguese and one
Italian. Elsewhere, four French soldiers were injured by an explosion during a
training mission near Sarajevo. In another incident on 25 January, a mine
explosion injured four Danish soldiers. -- Michael Mihalka
WORLD BANK TO PROVIDE BOSNIA WITH $150 MILLION.
The World Bank confirmed
in Sarajevo on 24 January that it will provide $150 million in emergency aid
for Bosnian reconstruction, international agencies reported. The funds, which
come in addition to the some $500 million promised at a Brussels conference on
Bosnia reconstruction last month, are primarily intended to help rebuild the
country's devastated utilities. The World Bank estimates that Bosnia needs $5.1
billion over the next three years for reconstruction. -- Michael Mihalka
BELGRADE SIGNALS COOPERATION WITH THE HAGUE?
Uros Klikovac, federal
deputy premier and justice minister, announced on 24 January that an office of
the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia shall open in
rump Yugoslavia in the near future, Nasa Borba reported. He suggested
that this marked the start of cooperation between Belgrade and the Hague, as
outlined in the Dayton accord, but stressed it did not signal that Belgrade
would extradite suspected war criminals. Klikavac maintained that Dayton
obliged Belgrade to cooperate but said the agreement did not specify "the
means" of cooperation. "Insofar as [rump] Yugoslavia learns of someone being
involved in war crimes, then our [legal] authorities are obliged to bring
proceedings against such a person. As far as I know, precisely these kinds of
proceedings are already being undertaken," he said. -- Stan Markotich
BELGRADE-ZAGREB HIGHWAY TO REOPEN.
UN officials announced that the main
Belgrade-Zagreb highway will reopen on 25 January, but only to UN and NATO
military traffic, Politika reported the same day. Formerly the highway
of the "Brotherhood and Unity," connecting Slovenia in the north and Macedonia
in the south, the busiest road in former Yugoslavia was closed ever since the
war started in summer 1991, thus becoming a symbol of separation of the former
Yugoslav republics. -- Daria Sito Sucic
ROMANIAN PRIME MINISTER VISITS SLOVENIA.
Nicolae Vacaroiu on 24 January
began a three-day tour through former Yugoslavia, Romanian and Western media
reported. Accompanied by a group of economic experts, Vacaroiu discussed with
Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek and President Milan Kucan ways of
expanding mutual economic cooperation. -- Matyas Szabo
REBEL DNIESTER TO TAX MOLDOVAN TRANSIT CARGOES.
The president of the
self-proclaimed Dniester republic on 23 January decreed drastic customs control
on Moldovan cargoes transiting the region, BASA-press reported the following
day. The decree provides for duties on all goods exported or imported by
Moldova through Dniester territory but gives no details of the new tariffs. A
spokesman for Moldovan President Mircea Snegur said the move came as a shock,
since it occurred the same day the Dniester leaders were discussing in Chisinau
ways to de-block negotiations over the future legal status of the region. --
WAS MAXWELL THE "KING OF BULGARIA" . . .
Bulgarian newspapers on 24
January reported on an article in The Guardian the previous day entitled
"King of Bulgaria," which deals with the connections between late media tycoon
Robert Maxwell and former Bulgarian Communist leaders. The article, based on
the Maxwell biography "Foreign Body" by Russell Davies, says Maxwell, former
Bulgarian Communist Dictator Todor Zhivkov, former Prime Minister Andrey
Lukanov, and former Communist Party Politburo member Ognyan Doynov had
developed "perfect channels" to transfer some $2 billion in foreign currency
out of Bulgaria. Maxwell reportedly helped the Communist leaders to launder
money, mainly through joint ventures set up in the West with Bulgarian capital.
-- Stefan Krause
. . . OR NOT?
Lukanov in an interview with RFE/RL's Bulgarian Service on
24 January said articles such as the one in The Guardian are simply
attempts by newspapers to boost their sales. He added that Maxwell's investment
policy in Bulgaria prior to 1989 was "good for the country." Pari on 25
January cited Lukanov as saying "Bulgaria did not transfer $2 billion because
it simply did not have it." Doynov, who worked for Maxwell for one year after
1989, told the BBC on 23 January that he has no knowledge about trade deals
between Bulgaria and Maxwell and that no money was transferred out of Bulgaria
while he was a Politburo member. Former Premier Dimitar Popov repeatedly
asserted that $2 billion of foreign reserves "vanished during Lukanov's
tenure." -- Stefan Krause
HUNGARIAN PRESIDENT VISITS ALBANIA.
Hungarian President Arpad Goncz
visited Albania on 23-24 January, signing agreements on transport cooperation
and the protection of investments with his Albanian counterpart Sali Berisha,
Republika and international agencies reported. Goncz and Berisha
expressed hope that the Dayton agreement will increase chances for a solution
of the conflicts in Kosovo and Vojvodina and committed themselves "to
contributing to the peaceful solution of these problems." -- Fabian Schmidt
ALBANIAN STATE MEDIA ACCUSE OPPOSITION OF ESPIONAGE . . .
Albania, Rilindja Demokratike, and public television on 24
January accused the independent media and the Socialist party of espionage. The
allegations are based on an Italian news agency interview with a former
Albanian secret police officer. Albania said "tens of millions of
Italian lira" are being paid monthly by the "communist world," including
"Moscow and Serbia," to direct a network of spies which aims to "control the
policy of the Tirana government." Albania further claims that "Serbian
Communists are financing the [communist-era Albanian] secret police, the
Socialists, the [independent daily] Koha Jone and [the Socialist party
daily] Zeri I Popullit." -- Fabian Schmidt
. . . DEMOCRATS DEMAND INVESTIGATIONS.
The Democratic Party reacted to
the allegations by calling for a parliamentary investigation, the Albanian
language service of Deutsche Welle reported on 24 January. The party also
called on the prosecutor's office and secret police to investigate all funding
and revenues of the Socialists and Koha Jone "to bring the culprits to
justice," international agencies reported on 25 January. The Socialists said
the charges are part of the election campaign. Koha Jone and Zeri i
Popullit on 25 January denied receiving any money from Serbia. -- Fabian
[As of 1200 CET]
Compiled by Victor Gomez and Sharon Fisher