RUSSIAN PRIEST ABDUCTED IN CHECHNYA.
The deacon of a Russian Orthodox
church in Grozny was abducted on 29 January by Chechen militants loyal to
President Dzhokhar Dudaev, Russian media reported. Meanwhile, talks continued
on conditions for the release of 29 Russian power plant workers abducted in
Grozny on 16 January and 17 Novosibirsk police officers captured by Salman
Raduev's men in Pervomaiskoe. The Chechen side has offered to exchange the
police officers for their own men who were taken prisoner during the storming
of Pervomaiskoe, and on 30 January they released 5 of the captive policemen who
were lightly wounded. A spokesman for the Russian Interior Ministry claimed
that only Russian federal authorities--not the Dagestani intermediaries
currently conducting the talks--have the authority to release Raduev's
guerrillas. -- Liz Fuller
NEMTSOV ASKS YELTSIN TO WITHDRAW TROOPS FROM CHECHNYA . . .
Novgorod Governor Boris Nemtsov gave President Yeltsin a petition signed by one
million residents of his region demanding that the war in Chechnya be ended and
Russian troops be withdrawn, Russian media reported on 29 January. Nemtsov told
Radio Rossii that the vast number of signatures, collected in only a few weeks,
"speaks for itself." He added that Yeltsin is being cut off from information
that his advisers deem to be not good for him. Nemtsov said he will support
Yeltsin's re-election if the president changes his Chechnya policy. -- Laura
. . . BUT ROKHLIN DISAGREES.
Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev
Rokhlin, who was elected to the Duma on the pro-government Our Home Is Russia
ticket, said recalling troops from Chechnya now would only allow Chechen
President Dzhokhar Dudaev to import more weapons, ITAR-TASS reported on 29
January. He added, "Dudaev clearly is not satisfied with the territory of
Chechnya itself" and will attack neighboring republics of the Russian
Federation if "decisive measures" are not taken to destroy his armed
formations. Lt. Gen. Rokhlin led troops during the storming of Grozny in the
early weeks of the fighting but refused to accept a medal for his efforts. --
NATIONAL-SOCIALIST TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT.
Aleksandr Barkashov, the leader
of the national-socialist party Russian National Unity (RNE), announced that he
will seek the presidency, Ekho Moskvy reported on 29 January. An open admirer
of Adolf Hitler, Barkashov left the nationalist movement Pamyat in 1990 to form
the RNE. At an October 1995 party conference, he announced that he would not
run for the Duma because he considered it beneath his dignity, NTV reported on
15 October. -- Laura Belin
AGRARIANS TO BACK COMMUNIST PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE.
The Agrarian Party
will back Communist candidate Gennadii Zyuganov in the presidential elections,
party leader Mikhail Lapshin announced on 29 January, Reuters reported. Now the
three leftist blocs that competed in the Duma elections against the Communist
Party but did not clear the 5% barrier have lined up behind the victorious
party. In the pro-reform camp, Republican Party leader Ella Pamfilova has
called for a forum of "democratic and centrist" parties to support a common
candidate, but none of the major players have supported her proposal, ITAR-TASS
reported. -- Robert Orttung
33 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN GROUPS REGISTERED.
On 29 January, the Central
Electoral Commission authorized another five groups to begin collecting the 1
million signatures necessary to put forward a candidate in the presidential
election. There are now 33 groups, including six that support President Boris
Yeltsin, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. Among the latest crop of contenders
is National Republican Party leader Nikolai Lysenko, whose extreme nationalist
advertisements attracted lots of publicity but few votes (0.48%) in the Duma
campaign. The parliamentary leader of Our Home Is Russia, Sergei Belyaev,
announced on 29 January that the bloc, created initially to support Prime
Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, would now devote itself to electing Yeltsin, NTV
reported. -- Robert Orttung
YELTSIN SEEKS STRONGER REGIONAL TIES.
On 30 January, President Boris
Yeltsin signed agreements with the governors of Krasnodar Krai and Orenburg
Oblast on the division of powers with federal authorities, ITAR-TASS reported
the same day. This follows similar agreements signed on 12 January with
Sverdlovsk and Kaliningrad Oblasts. The same day, Yeltsin instructed Prime
Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to review the work of regional administrators by
the end of February and "take serious steps, including dismissal" of those who
do not carry out presidential decrees. Yeltsin said he now requires weekly
reports from each region on the fulfillment of his orders. These steps are
mainly aimed at dealing with the immediate problem of wage arrears. -- Peter
FIRED ADMINISTRATIVE HEAD OF CHITA OBLAST COMPLAINS.
Boris Ivanov, who
was removed from the top executive post in Chita Oblast on 22 January,
ostensibly "at his own request," claims he was forced to leave office, Radio
Rossii reported on 29 January. Ivanov said he was sacked because of the
disappointing Duma election results in the oblast: the Communist Party took
21.6% of the vote in Chita, the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia won 20.6%,
and the pro-government Our Home Is Russia just 4.3%. Ivanov also said the
federal government has unfairly blamed "him and him alone" for the economic
troubles of the eastern Baikal region. -- Laura Belin
DUMA MAY NOT RATIFY START II TREATY.
Leading figures in the Duma have
responded coolly to President Yeltsin's call for a quick ratification of the
START II treaty (see OMRI Daily Digest, 29 January 1995), Russian and
Western agencies reported on 29 January. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii
said the treaty should be ratified because Russia cannot afford to maintain a
large nuclear arsenal. However, the leaders of the Communist Party (KPRF), the
Popular Power faction, and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) all expressed
serious reservations about the treaty. Since those three groups hold 237 of the
Duma's 450 seats, the prospects of the treaty garnering the majority support
necessary for ratification seem slim. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov
suggested that he would not support the ratification of START II as long as
NATO expansion remains a possibility--a view supported by other opposition
deputies. -- Scott Parrish
U.S. WORRIES ABOUT NUCLEAR DEAL WITH RUSSIA.
There is concern in
Washington that Russia is not living up to the terms of a 1992 deal to sell
weapons-grade uranium to the United States, The New York Times reported
on 29 January. Under the terms of the agreement, Russia is to take the enriched
uranium out of dismantled nuclear weapons. The uranium is then diluted from 90%
U235 to 4% U235 so that it can be used as fuel in nuclear powerplant reactors.
But this dilution process is carried out in Russia and critics worry the U.S.
does not have adequate inspection rights. Russia has already shipped the
equivalent of six metric tons of enriched uranium to the U.S. in diluted form,
but some have speculated that the original uranium did not come from dismantled
weapons warheads but was either from a stockpile or from continued production.
-- Doug Clarke
CHERNOMYRDIN-GORE COMMISSION MEETS.
Prime Minster Viktor Chernomyrdin
opened the sixth session of the Russo-U.S. commission on economic and technical
cooperation in Washington on 29 January, Russian and Western agencies reported.
Chernomyrdin sought to reassure U.S. officials, and the IMF which is currently
negotiating a $9 billion three-year extended facility loan with Russia, of his
government's continued commitment to market-oriented economic reform. Russian
officials said that the commission session will produce several new bilateral
agreements, including one on increasing the number of U.S. commercial
satellites that can be launched by Russian boosters and another one on
launching joint exploration of the Timano-Pechora oil field in northern Russia.
-- Scott Parrish
PRIMAKOV ON TAJIK CONFLICT.
Returning from a three-day visit to
Tajikistan and Uzbekistan (see OMRI Daily Digest, 29 January 1995), his
first foreign trip since his appointment, Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov
told journalists that Russia will not withdraw its troops from Tajikistan soon,
Russian and Western agencies reported on 29 January. While pledging support for
the latest round of inter-Tajik talks, Primakov warned that if Russian forces
left the republic "a wave of destabilization could sweep across all Central
Asia," which he described as the strategic "underbelly" of Russia.
Rossiiskaya gazeta emphasized that Primakov's trip, which will be
followed by a visit to Kiev on 31 January, demonstrates that the CIS is a top
priority for the new foreign minister. -- Scott Parrish
OVERDUE WAGES TOTAL 13.4 TRILLION RUBLES.
Industrial and public sector
workers were owed 13.4 trillion rubles ($2.8 billion) on 1 January in late
wages, an increase of 219% in comparison with the previous year,
Izvestiya reported on 30 January. The average industrial worker is owed
529,000 rubles ($113), equal to 78% of their monthy salary. A third of the
January wage arrears (4.1 trillion rubles) are at least two months overdue. The
largest amounts are owed in Tyumen Oblast (1.5 trillion rubles); Kemerovo
Oblast (685 billion); Krasnoyarsk Krai (616 billion); and Bashkortostan (534
billion). Wage arrears have provoked several labor disputes. ITAR-TASS reported
on 29 January that more than 4,500 educational establishments would take part
in strike action scheduled to begin today. -- Penny Morvant
CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS RESTARTED AGAINST STANKEVICH.
Procurator's Office has resumed criminal proceedings against former State Duma
deputy Sergei Stankevich, Russian media reported on 29 January. Criminal
proceedings have also been restarted against MMM investment fund head Sergei
Mavrodi (see OMRI Daily Digest, 16 January 1996). Stankevich, formerly a
political adviser to President Yeltsin, was accused of accepting a bribe of
$10,000 for helping to arrange a concert of Russian classical music on Red
Square in 1992, but the criminal proceedings were suspended because of his
parliamentary immunity. -- Penny Morvant
HOUSING CONSTRUCTION EXPANDS IN 1995.
In 1995, Russia's housing
construction totaled 49 million square meters (a 25% increase over the 38.5
million square meters built in 1994), Russian agencies reported on 26 January,
citing Construction Minister Yefim Basin. Of this amount, 5 million square
meters were built in Moscow and the Moscow region. Housing construction
expanded despite the fact that the industry is owed some 8 trillion rubles
($1.7 billion) from the federal budget. Federal spending now accounts for only
a small proportion of housing construction, having given way to bank credits,
foreign investment, and spending by local authorities. -- Natalia Gurushina
GEORGIAN ECONOMY MINISTER ON ACHIEVEMENTS AND ENERGY CRISIS.
engineering, metallurgical, light, and chemical industries all posted higher
than expected production figures for 1995, bringing five years of declining
industrial output to an end, Russian media quoted Georgian Economy Minister
Vladimer Papava as saying on 28 January. Papava also said 1995 saw achievements
in financial stabilization and the successful introduction of monetary reform.
The minister described last year's annual inflation figure of 60% as "rather
promising". At the same time he warned that a "serious shortage of energy
supplies" could overshadow the country's economic achievements. -- Irakli
TAJIK PEACE TALKS RESUME IN ASHGABAT.
The fifth round of peace talks
between the Tajik government and the opposition began again in the Turkmen
capital Ashgabat on 29 January, Western media reported. The talks had broken
down almost immediately after they began in December. During his 28 January
visit to Tajikistan, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov urged the Tajik
government to come to an agreement with the opposition. The Tajik government
has replaced Deputy Prime Minister Makhmadsaid Ubadollayev with Foreign
Minister Talbak Nazarov as the chief negotiator at the talks. Ubadollayev was
alleged to be a "hardliner." A spokesman for the opposition, Ali Akbar
Turajonzoda, said the personnel change does not mark a change in the
government's position. -- Bruce Pannier
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT ORDERS PAYMENT OF MINERS WAGES ON EVE OF STRIKE.
Leonid Kuchma ordered the Ukrainian Finance Ministry and National Bank to find
an "uninflationary source" of funds to pay back wages to thousands of coal
miners, set to begin an indefinite nationwide strike on 1 February,
Interfax-Ukraine reported 29 January. The state-owned coal mines owe their
workers 78 trillion karbovantsi (around $43 million) in back wages, and many
miners have not been paid in six months. Union leaders have appealed to Russian
and Polish coal miners' unions to support them by impeding coal imports to
Ukraine. They complain that Kiev imported 20 million tons of coal for $520
million last year, but failed to pay wage arrears. ITAR-TASS reported that
leaders of Ukraine's machinists' and defense workers' unions have promised to
hold a one-day solidarity strike. -- Chrystyna Lapychak
IMF IN UKRAINE AND BELARUS.
An IMF delegation arrived in Minsk on 29
January to determine whether the next tranche of a Stand-by credit should be
released, Belarusian radio reported. The credit, worth almost $300 million, was
approved last February, but the release of funds was frequently delayed by
Minsk's non-adherence to the reform program. On 30 January AFP reported that an
IMF team arrived in Kiev to examine Ukraine's abidance to the austerity program
necessary to secure the release of the fourth tranche of its Stand-by credit.
Last year the IMF agreed to grant $1.5 billion credit to Ukraine, but the
release of the fourth tranche was delayed this month because parliament failed
to pass laws on budget revenues. -- Ustina Markus
UKRAINIAN MILITARY DELEGATION IN BELARUS.
A Ukrainian military
delegation headed by Defense Minister Valerii Shmarov arrived in Belarus on 20
January for a two day official visit, ITAR-TASS and Belarusian radio reported.
Shmarov will meet with his Belarusian counterpart Leanid Maltseu, as well as
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Prime Minister Mikhail Chyhir, and CIS
Executive Secretary Ivan Karatchenya. Documents are to be signed on cooperation
between the defense ministries of the two countries, cooperation in
air-defense, and exchanges between the defense ministries' research and
educational institutions. The defense ministries of Ukraine and Belarus have
been concluding cooperation agreements on an annual basis since independence.
-- Ustina Markus
LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT STILL WANTS PREMIER TO RESIGN.
on 29 January signed a decree asking the Seimas to vote on the removal of
Adolfas Slezevicius as prime minister on 8 February, Radio Lithuania reported.
Brazauskas said that he had not yet decided whom he would ask to be prime
minister if Slezevicius were removed and thought that the most of the ministers
in the present cabinet would retain their posts. Slezevicius, on the other
hand, asserted that he thought that there was a good possibility that early
parliament elections would be necessary. Brazauskas also signed a decree
accepting the resignation of Romasis Vaitekunas as interior minister. --
ESTONIAN PARLIAMENTARIAN SUGGESTS CONTROL LINE AND NOT BORDER TREATY WITH
Eino Tamm, the chairman of the parliament foreign affairs
commission, called on 29 January for a broad discussion on the necessity of
concluding a border treaty with Russia, BNS reported. He said that since a
Russian-Estonian border treaty could cancel the Tartu Peace Treaty of 1920 it
would be wiser for Estonia, after reaching an agreement with Russia, to declare
that its control line passed through such and such geographical points. He
noted that there were many countries that have no bilateral agreements on
borders, but boundaries recognized de facto. -- Saulius Girnius
COALITION TALKS ON FUTURE PRIME MINISTER IN POLAND.
After Prime Minister
Jozef Oleksy's resignation was accepted on 26 January, the leaders of ruling
coalition parties, the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) and the Polish Peasant
Party (PSL), agreed on 29 January that the government's economic policies would
continue. Polish dailies on 30 January reported that the candidacy of PSL's
Aleksander Luczak for prime minister was being considered seriously and the PSL
no longer insisted on the candidacy of Central Planning Office head Miroslaw
Pietrewicz. The dailies reported that the SLD is backing the candidacies of
Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz (SLD) and Marek Borowski (SLD). -- Jakub Karpinski
SLOVAK THEATERS PROTEST MINISTRY MOVE.
Association of Theater Unions of
Slovakia representative Jozef Horvath on 29 January announced that charges have
been filed at a local court following a decision by the Culture Ministry
earlier this month to join the State Theater in Kosice with the Theater of
Jonas Zaborsky in Presov, creating the East Slovak Theater, Sme
reported. The decision was made without any public discussion, and employees of
the Kosice theater have been striking, while those of the Presov theater are
also ready to strike. Despite the protests, the ministry issued a statement on
29 January refusing to change its stand. -- Sharon Fisher
SLOVAK WORKERS CHAIRMAN ON TREATY WITH HUNGARY.
Jan Luptak, chairman of
the Association of Workers of Slovakia, a junior coalition partner, told TASR
on 29 January that certain steps must be taken prior to ratification of the
Slovak-Hungarian treaty. Luptak mentioned in particular the adoption of a law
on the protection of the republic, which he said should prevent the creation of
autonomous regions. Luptak also stressed that the interpretation of the treaty
must be clear before ratification takes place, noting his frustration that the
Council of Europe has yet to clear up its position on Article 11 of its
Recommendation No. 1201, which deals with autonomy for minorities. -- Sharon
HUNGARY MAKES STEADY PROGRESS TOWARDS OECD MEMBERSHIP.
counselor Christian Schricke arrived in Hungary on 29 January to prepare the
documentation for an eventual membership agreement with the organization,
Magyar Hirlap reported. His visit follows the OECD's approval of
Hungary's tax and environment policy last week. The long-pending issue of bank
secrecy was also resolved when Hungary undertook to comply with OECD
regulations allowing tax authorities to look into the accounts of bank clients
suspected of wrongdoing. The next step in Hungary's negotiations will be in
early February when OECD officials will meet a Hungarian delegation -- led by
Finance Minister Lajos Bokros -- in Paris and examine Hungary's foreign
exchange, privatization, and economic policies. -- Zsofia Szilagyi
PRISONER RELEASE STILL INCOMPLETE.
An International Committee of the Red
Cross (ICRC) spokesman told OMRI on 30 January that Bosnian factions still hold
103 registered prisoners, at least 40 in defiance of the Dayton peace accords.
Bosnian Serbs hold 39 prisoners, five as suspected war criminals, which they
are entitled to do under the accords. All 50 prisoners held by the Croats are
classified as suspected war criminals. The Bosnian government holds 14
prisoners, eight as suspected war criminals. The ICRC stresses that the
situation remains fluid and the numbers may change. Over 500 prisoners were
handed over in last three days in an exchange that should have been completed
by 19 January. All sides claim that the others are holding many unregistered
prisoners. Serbs claim the Bosnian government holds over 200 prisoners in
Tuzla's prison and several dozen elsewhere with some 250 also imprisoned in
Croatia. The Bosnian government wants the Bosnian Serbs to account for several
thousand missing Muslim men. -- Michael Mihalka
SREBRENICA WOMEN OCCUPY ICRC SEAT IN TUZLA.
After a peaceful rally in
front of the ICRC office in Tuzla on 29 January morning, angry women refugees
from Srebrenica, fearing for the fate of 8,000 men missing after the fall of
Srebrenica, occupied local Red Cross offices, Reuters reported. The ICRC has
acknowledged 8,000 people from Srebrenica as missing, and most of them are
feared dead, for several possible mass graves had been reported in the area. A
delegation of 20 women demanded to know the truth about the missing, and to
have an IFOR escort on their way back to Srebrenica. Meanwhile, the ICRC
Sarajevo office issued a strongly-worded statement denouncing the violent
protest, defending its own position, but also calling on the Sarajevo
government to guarantee the security of ICRC staff, AFP reported. -- Daria Sito
ON REFUGEE REPATRIATION TO CROATIA AND BOSNIA.
Croatian Foreign Minister
Deputy told Vjesnik daily on 29 January that 30,000 refugees are
expected to repatriate to Croatia, and 900,000 to Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1996,
Nasa Borba reported the next day. The Croatian government estimates
57,000 Croats are refugees abroad with some 37,000 in Germany. In Croatia
itself there are 187,000 Bosnian refugees, 80,000 of whom have applied to the
UNHCR to return. The issue of the return of Croatian Serbs and the problem of
Vojvodina Croats will be solved when Croatia and rump Yugoslavia normalize
their relations, Nasa Borba cited him as saying. -- Daria Sito Sucic
BELGRADE TO RECOGNIZE MACEDONIA.
Tanjug on 29 January reported that rump
Yugoslavia adopted an agreement on the recognition of and normalization of
relations with Macedonia. The report said the agreement will be signed by both
Skopje and Belgrade at some as yet "unspecified date." Nova Makedonija
on 30 January suggested that the recognition was prompted by the hopes that it
could help it to gain European Union recognition of its own state. Meanwhile,
Nasa Borba on 30 January reports that recognition of Macedonia under the
name of "republic of Macedonia" could place a strain on Belgrade's friendly
relations with Greece, which continues to oppose usage of the name "Republic of
Macedonia." -- Stan Markotich
SLOVAK PREMIER IN RUMP YUGOSLAVIA.
Nasa Borba on 30 January
reports that Slovak premier Vladimir Meciar arrived in Belgrade the previous
day, where he met Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. Meciar's government
delegation included members of the Slovak business community, and the purpose
of the visit was to restore bilateral ties, particularly economic, in the
energy, pharmaceuticals, and tourism sectors. Meciar called his visit a
"symbol" of Slovakia's efforts to maintain balanced relations with all Balkan
countries, stressing that Slovakia never looked for the guilty party in the
conflict but was always looking for peace, TASR reported. According to AFP,
Meciar said that Slovakia will support rump Yugoslavia's membership in the UN
and the IMF, and its joining the World Trade Organization and CEFTA. He also
announced that he had proposed negotiations for the creation of a free trade
zone with Belgrade. -- Sharon Fisher and Stan Markotich
SLOVENIAN MINISTERS TO RESIGN.
Reuters on 29 January reported that four
ministers, who are members of the United List of Social Democrats (ZLSD), will
resign from their cabinet posts on 30 January, while "ten of the ZLSD's state
secretaries will offer their resignation when new ministers are appointed." On
26 January the ZLSD left the three-party governing coalition, following an
inter-party row precipitated by Premier Janez Drnovsek's call for the ouster of
Economic Activities Minister Maks Tajnikar of the ZLSD (see OMRI Daily Digest
29 January). The two remaining coalition partners, the Christian Democrats and
Liberal Democrats, hold 45 of the 90 legislature's seats, and both Drnovsek and
President Milan Kucan have ruled out the need for early elections. -- Stan
ROMANIAN RULING PARTY RESPONDS TO ALLY'S ATTACKS.
The Party of Social
Democracy in Romania (PDSR) on 29 January responded to attacks by Gheorghe
Funar, the leader of the extremist Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR). In
a statement read on Radio Bucharest, the PDSR press bureau expressed surprise
over Funar's allegations that the PDSR had struck a "secret pact" with the
Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania for the upcoming local elections.
The charge had been formulated in a letter addressed by Funar to President Ion
Iliescu. The PDSR further accused the PUNR of trying to make political capital
by artificially stirring up tension in Transylvania, where most of Romania's
ethnic Hungarians live. The PUNR has several portfolios in the PDSR-dominated
cabinet of Nicolae Vacaroiu. Romanian dailies wrote on 30 January that the
PDSR-PUNR coalition seems doomed to end soon. -- Dan Ionescu
ROMANIAN PRESIDENT HOSTS PARTY TALKS.
Romanian President Ion Iliescu on
29 January invited leaders of the political parties represented in parliament
to a meeting, Romanian and international media reported. The discussions
focused on the upcoming elections, the law on local government, the project on
the state budget, and Romania's foreign policy. Iliescu called for a civilized
electoral campaign, and expressed hopes that local elections could be held in
April and parliamentary and presidential ones in September. He asked the
participants to support the privatization process and the country's integration
in the EU. The stage of the negotiations over the bilateral basic treaties with
Hungary, Ukraine, and Russia were also discussed. The press did not have access
to the meeting. -- Matyas Szabo
HUNGARIAN AND CROATIAN ROMA PLAN EXCHANGES.
The Ministry of Education
and Sport of the Croatian Republic sponsored a conference on Romani education
last week in Krizevcima, HINA reported on 27 January. Among those invited were
representatives from the Ghandhi high school for Roma in Pecs, who told MTI on
29 January that the Hungarian and Croatian teachers should share experiences in
teaching for minorities, and would plan exchanges. The Ghandhi school
representative said that many Roma in Pecs and across the border in Croatia are
Beash and speak the same dialect, but have been separated since the Trianon
Treaty. According to the last official census, there are 6,695 Roma in Croatia,
but according to Romani organizations, there are 150,000, 80% of whom are
Beash-speaking rather than Romani-speaking. -- Alaina Lemon
GREEK-TURKISH DISPUTE OVER ISLAND ESCALATES . . .
The dispute between
Greece and Turkey over the uninhabited rock islet Imia escalated on 30 January
as both sides sent warships into the southeastern Aegean, international media
reported. Turkish frigates and patrol boats crossed between the Turkish coast
and Imia while Greece assembled several warships near the island and put all
military airfields in the Aegean on alert. Greek Defense Minister Gerasimos
Arsenis said a Turkish vessel and a helicopter violated Greek territory. "Imia
is Greek and it is the duty of the Greek armed forces to defend it," he added.
Meanwhile, Reuters reported that Greek Prime Minister Kostas Simitis on 30
January met with four ministers, including Arsenis, and Chief of Staff, Admiral
Christos Lyberis to discuss the situation. -- Stefan Krause
. . . AS BOTH SIDES STICK TO THEIR POSITION.
Turkish Prime Minister
Tansu Ciller on 29 January said Ankara will take "all necessary measures" if
Greece does not withdraw its troops from Imia "shortly." Athens denies Turkish
side claims that at least 12 Greek soldiers are on the island. Turkey will not
give up its "national rights," Ciller said, but noted Turkey's readiness to
hold talks with Athens about the status of Imia. Also on 29 January, Simitis
said Greece's response "to this and every [act of] aggressive nationalism" will
be "strong, immediate, and effective." He said that Greece "has the means and
will use them without hesitation" and that "we will accept absolutely no
questioning of our territorial rights." -- Stefan Krause
YELTSIN MEETS BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT CHAIRMAN.
President Boris Yeltsin met
with the Bulgarian parliament chairman Blagovest Sendov in Moscow on 29 January
to discuss bilateral relations and NATO expansion, Russian agencies reported.
According to the presidential press service, the two agreed that NATO expansion
is unnecessary and they both called for strengthening the "traditional
friendship" between Russia and Bulgaria. Also on 29 January, Yeltsin had a
telephone conversation with Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev during which he
underlined Russia's opposition to NATO expansion. Although they two presidents
pledged to intensify Russo-Bulgarian cooperation, Zhelev, unlike Sendov, did
not endorse Yeltsin's statement on NATO. Sendov was elected to the Bulgarian
parliament on the Socialist Party ticket and opposes NATO expansion, while
Zhelev favors Bulgarian membership in the alliance. -- Scott Parrish
ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT INVESTIGATES SOCIALIST PARTY FUNDING.
parliament set up a commission to investigate the funding of the Socialists,
AFP reported on 29 January. The move follows earlier allegations by Italian
journalist Pietro Zannoni that the Serbian government paid about $20 million to
the Socialists "to support the return of communists to power," (see OMRI Daily
Digest 25 January). The report alleged that Belgrade had acted "under orders
from Russian communists," and that the independent daily Koha Jone was
similarly financed. Meanwhile, Zannoni in an interview to the BBC, published in
Zeri I Popullit on 27 January said that he met an agent of the
communist-era secret service Sigurimi in summer 1995 in the house of a high
ranking Socialist Party official where he received two documents, proving the
charges. Zannoni failed to mention names. -- Fabian Schmidt
ALBANIAN PARTY LEADER ARRESTED FOR COMMUNIST-ERA CRIMES.
National Unity (UNIKOMB) leader Idajet Beqiri has been arrested after he was
accused with crimes against humanity, committed as a communist prosecutor,
international agencies report on 30 January. Beqiri is charged by the National
Forum of Intellectuals with ordering deportations in the early 1980s. He is the
31st former communist official to face trial following the Forum's charges.
UNIKOMB called the arrest part of the strategy of "tension and violence"
pursued by the ruling Democratic Party against the opposition. Meanwhile, in
unrelated news, the vans of the independent daily Koha Jone remain
blocked by police -- Fabian Schmidt
ALBANIAN PRESIDENT VISITS ISRAEL.
Sali Berisha met with Israeli
President Ezer Weizman and Prime Minister Shimon Peres on 29 January, AFP
reported the same day. Berisha, who is on a three-day visit is also scheduled
to hold talks with Foreign Minister Ehud Barak and Education and Culture
Minister Amnon Rubinstein. During the stay Israel and Albania will sign a
series of scientific and cultural cooperation agreements. Afterwards Berisha
will spend two days on a visit to Malta. -- Fabian Schmidt
[As of 1200 CET]
Compiled by Victor Gomez and Saulius Girnius