FEDERAL FORCES POUND BAMUT.
Russian aircraft and artillery bombarded
rebel positions near the western Chechen village of Bamut on 13 March, Russian
and Western agencies reported. Military spokesmen refuted earlier reports that
the Chechen fighters in Bamut had taken federal troops hostage and had
threatened to shoot them if the village were attacked. Meanwhile, sporadic
fighting continued in Grozny, where Russian troops told AFP that about 400
servicemen had been killed in the recent fighting, many more than the official
death toll of 79 reported by Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov. -- Scott
DUDAEV: RADUEV, MASKHADOV STILL ALIVE.
In an exclusive telephone
interview with RFE/RL, separatist Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev refuted
recent reports that field commander Salman Raduev had been killed and Chechen
Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov seriously wounded. Dudaev said both Raduev and
Maskhadov would be willing to meet with Russian officials to confirm his
claims. He added that the recent Chechen attack on Grozny had been "revenge"
for Russian violence against the Chechen people. Meanwhile, in Moscow, the
State Duma defeated a proposal by Deputy Konstantin Borovoi to grant Dudaev
amnesty. Borovoi argued that negotiations with Dudaev are the only way to
resolve the conflict. -- Scott Parrish
YELTSIN AT ANTI-TERRORISM SUMMIT.
Addressing a 13 March meeting of world
leaders in Sharm-el-Sheik, Egypt, President Boris Yeltsin condemned terrorism
and called for united action by the international community to oppose it,
Russian and Western agencies reported. Yeltsin denounced Chechen President
Dudaev as a "criminal" disguising himself as a "freedom fighter." In an oblique
request for support in Chechnya, the Russian president declared that "terrorism
is the same everywhere," and contended that "double standards cannot be
tolerated" in the struggle against it. While in Egypt, Yeltsin also met with
U.S. President Bill Clinton. -- Scott Parrish
DUMA QUESTIONS YELTSIN'S SIGNATURE COLLECTION.
The Duma has asked the
Procurator General's Office to look into how President Boris Yeltsin's campaign
has collected signatures, Radio Rossii reported on 13 March. According to
Sergei Filatov, one of Yeltsin's top campaign organizers, 8 million signatures
have already been collected supporting the president. There have been numerous
allegations, however, that workers in the Railways and Communications
Ministries were forced to sign the petitions by their superiors (see OMRI
Daily Digest, 15 February 1996). -- Laura Belin
ZYUGANOV FIRST TO RECEIVE CAMPAIGN FUNDS.
Communist Party leader
Gennadii Zyuganov, the first registered presidential candidate, became the
first to receive 150 million rubles ($31,000) from the Central Electoral
Commission for his campaign fund, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 13 March.
The commission will give all registered candidates an additional 50 million
rubles later in the campaign. -- Laura Belin
OUR HOME IS RUSSIA TO PUBLISH WEEKLY NEWSPAPER.
The pro-government Our
Home Is Russia (NDR) movement will launch its own weekly newspaper by the end
of March, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 March. The paper will be a supplement to the
official government newspaper Rossiiskaya gazeta, which has a
circulation of about 500,000, and extra copies will be distributed by regional
NDR branches. According to Segodnya on 13 March, NDR claims to have
branches in 86 regions of the Russian Federation, but insiders say only 40 of
those are "active." -- Laura Belin
LEBED PROPOSES COMMISSION ON CAPITAL FLIGHT.
Duma member and
presidential candidate Aleksandr Lebed offered to help create and lead a
federal commission to track down and return money that has been taken out of
Russia illegally during the last several years, Russian media reported on 13
March. Earlier, Izvestiya reported that a government representative had
offered the post to Lebed in what appeared to be an attempt to co-opt him (see
OMRI Daily Digest, 12 March 1996). Lebed told RFE/RL that with the help
of Interpol, he could return about $10 billion to Russia. -- Laura Belin
YAVLINSKII IN RACE TO STAY.
Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii told
supporters at Moscow's Dom Kino that he will not withdraw his candidacy for
president and will not cooperate with the so-called "third force" alliance,
which may nominate either Aleksandr Lebed or Svyatoslav Fedorov, Russian media
reported on 13 March. Portraying himself as the only viable alternative to
President Yeltsin and Communist leader Zyuganov, he declined to say whom he
would support if those two candidates face each other in the second round of
presidential elections. Yavlinskii also said he will continue to push for a
vote of no confidence in the government; so far Yabloko has collected only 58
of the 90 deputies needed to put a confidence vote on the Duma's agenda. --
FASCISTS SENTENCED IN YAROSLAVL.
A Yaroslavl court sentenced two members
of the neo-Nazi group Werewolf Legion, including its leader Igor Pirozhok, to
five- and nine-year prison terms for murder and stirring up ethnic hatred, the
first guilty verdicts ever brought under Article 74 of the Criminal Code
(inciting ethnic hatred), NTV reported on 13 March. Pirozhok admitted to
Izvestiya that his group commits terrorist acts against "Jews,
communists, and democrats." -- Laura Belin
DEFENSE MINISTRY COLLEGIUM SUPPORTS GRACHEV.
The Collegium of the
Defense Ministry issued a statement of support for Defense Minister Pavel
Grachev, Ekho Moskvy reported on 13 March. The statement comes on the heels of
confusion over a reported meeting of the collegium earlier this week (see
OMRI Daily Digest, 13 March 1996). -- Constantine Dmitriev
DUMA OVERRIDES FEDERATION COUNCIL VETO ON PENSION HIKE.
The Duma on 13
March overrode the Federation Council veto on a bill raising the monthly
minimum pension to 75,900 rubles as of 1 March, ITAR-TASS reported. President
Yeltsin is unlikely to sign the bill, however, since the government has argued
consistently that there are not enough funds available to finance such an
increase (see OMRI Daily Digest, 25 January and 8 and 23 February 1996).
-- Penny Morvant
DECREE ON POWER-SHARING SIGNED.
President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree
on power-sharing between the federal and regional authorities on 12 March,
ITAR-TASS reported. The decree sets out the conditions and procedures for
signing individual power-sharing agreements with the federation's subjects.
Under the decree, such agreements cannot change the constitutional status of
federation members or violate the supremacy of the federal constitution. --
MAYORAL ELECTIONS IN ST. PETERSBURG SCHEDULED FOR MAY.
has set 19 May as the date for the mayoral election in St. Petersburg, Russian
media reported. Although St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak supports the
presidential decree, the city legislative assembly failed to approve it at a 13
March session because the Communist deputies, who oppose early mayoral
elections, staged a walkout causing the assembly to lose its quorum, NTV
reported on 13 March. Earlier this year, the city legislature voted to hold the
poll on 16 June along with the presidential election. -- Anna Paretskaya
TRIAL BALLOON ON NATO EXPANSION?
Russian Ambassador to the Czech
Republic Aleksandr Lebedev told CTK on 13 March that Russia is prepared to
hammer out a compromise on the question of NATO expansion. The Russian diplomat
suggested that while Moscow could not accept the extension of NATO military
infrastructure into Eastern Europe, it could live with the enlargement of
NATO's political institutions and even accept the extension of certain military
guarantees by NATO to the East European states. His comments resemble recent
remarks made by Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov, who suggested a
compromise on NATO expansion might be possible if NATO agreed to refrain from
deploying military forces on the territory of new members. -- Scott
RUSSIA SIGNS MILITARY PACT WITH COLOMBIA.
Russia and Colombia signed an
agreement on military and technical cooperation in Bogota on 12 March,
ITAR-TASS reported the following day. The agency reported that the pact was the
first of its kind between Russia and a Latin American state. The five-year
agreement calls for Russia to supply Colombia with arms, ammunition, and other
military equipment as well as license Colombian firms to produce
Russian-designed weapons, Reuters reported on 13 March. -- Doug Clarke
DUMA RESPONSE TO LAND DECREE.
Agrarian Party deputies in the Duma
submitted a draft law on land on 13 March that bars foreigners from owning land
and puts a two year moratorium on the resale of land which was given free to
farm workers, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 March. The draft is a response to the
land decree that President Yeltsin issued on 7 March. The Duma also instructed
one of their committees to investigate the constitutionality of Yeltsin's
decree. The Russian Constitution (part 3, article 36) states that the use of
land is regulated by federal laws. Also on 13 March, the Agrarian Party
announced that it is revoking the membership of Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr
Zaveryukha. -- Peter Rutland
CHERNOMYRDIN VISITS KHRUNICHEV SPACE CENTER.
Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin visited the Khrunichev space scientific-industrial center in
Moscow on 13 March, ITAR-TASS reported. The government owes the space industry
nearly 437 billion rubles ($91 million). The federal financing of the space
program continues to slide--the 1996 space budget is only 1.5 trillion rubles.
In these circumstances, budgetary funds form only 30% of the Khrunichev
center's revenue. The remainder comes from commercial launches of Russian and
foreign satellites, and from participation in international space programs,
such as the construction of Alfa orbital station modules. The center
manufactures Russia's most powerful rocket booster Proton, and the new boosters
Rokot and Angara. -- Natalia Gurushina
U.S. DELEGATION SEEKS RESOLUTION TO NAGORNO-KARABAKH CONFLICT.
Representatives of the Clinton administration, including Deputy Secretary of
State Strobe Talbott and Deputy National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, are
scheduled to meet with Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev and Armenian
President Levon Ter-Petrossyan in an effort to resolve the two countries'
ongoing dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh, ITAR-TASS and Western media reported on
13 March. A resolution to the dispute could facilitate oil pipeline deals in
the region. The same day Karen Baburjan, the chairman of the self-proclaimed
Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, was replaced by Arthur Tavmosian, Radio Mayak
reported. -- Roger Kangas
IMF LOAN TO AZERBAIJAN.
The IMF will extend an enhanced structural
adjustment facility loan of $80 million to Azerbaijan, ITAR-TASS reported
following a meeting between Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev and IMF Managing
Director Michel Camdessus in Baku on 12 March. An additional $260-$350 million
will be made available when Azerbaijan completes its economic restructuring
plan. Camdessus was positive about the recent turnaround in the Azerbaijani
economy, noting that the monthly inflation rate had fallen from 50% to 2.5%
over the past year. -- Roger Kangas
MUTINEER APPOINTED TO PRESIDENTIAL GUARD.
commander of the Tajik Army's First Brigade has been appointed deputy head of
the presidential guard, ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL reported on 13 March.
Khudaberdiyev made news in late January when he captured the city of
Kurgan-Tyube and advanced to within 15 km of the Tajik capital Dushanbe (see
OMRI Daily Digest, 31 January 1996). -- Bruce Pannier
NAZARBAYEV FORMS NEW MINISTRY OF SCIENCES, SUPREME COURT COUNCIL.
President Nursultan Nazarbayev on 11 March merged the National Academy of
Sciences, Kazakh Academy of Agricultural Sciences, and the Ministry of Science
and New Technologies to create a new Ministry of Sciences and Academy of
Sciences, ITAR-TASS reported. Vladimir Shkolnik, the former minister of
science, will head the new ministry. Nazarbayev also created a Supreme Court
Council with himself as its chairman. The council will comprise the chairman of
the Constitutional Council, the head of the Supreme Court and some of its
members, the rector of the Law Institute, two parliamentary deputies, and
representatives of oblast, city, and regional courts. -- Bhavna Dave
TOP SECRET KAZAKHSTANI MAP SEIZED IN MOSCOW.
Customs officials in Moscow
seized a box labeled "top secret" which contained maps showing the location of
gold and silver mining sites in Kazakhstan, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 March. The
box was on its way to a private address in the U.K. from Kazakhstan. -- Bhavna
BBC TO BEGIN BROADCASTING ON MEDIUM WAVE IN UZBEKISTAN.
reached between the BBC and the Uzbek Ministry of Communication on 12 March
will permit the radio station to broadcast on medium wave in the country,
RFE/RL reported the next day. Until now, BBC listeners in Uzbekistan have been
able to receive programming in Uzbek, Russian, and English on shortwave only.
The agreement represents a slight relaxation of Uzbekistan's strict information
policy that makes it difficult to receive any foreign broadcasting. Later this
month, RFE/RL is expected to open an office in Tashkent. -- Lowell Bezanis and
NEW UKRAINIAN CHIEF OF GENERAL STAFF APPOINTED.
President Leonid Kuchma
has issued a decree appointing Lt.-Gen. Oleksandr Zatynaiko as chief of the
general staff of Ukraine's armed forces, Ukrainian Radio reported on 12 March.
The position also carries the rank of first deputy defense minister. Zatynaiko
has been acting chief of staff since Kuchma dismissed Anatolii Lopata from the
post last month. Defense Ministry spokesman Valerii Korol on 13 March said the
army would be trimmed down from its current size of 420,000 to 350,000 by the
end of the year, Reuters reported. This means Ukraine's army will no longer be
Europe's second largest; rather, it will occupy fourth place after Russia,
Germany, and France. -- Ustina Markus
UKRAINE CUTS SUBSIDIES FOR RENTS, UTILITIES.
Deputy Prime Minister
Viktor Pynzenyk said Ukraine this year will cut subsidies for consumer rents
and utilities by 20%, Ukrainian agencies reported 12 March. He added that the
government is planning to eliminate these subsidies altogether in 1997. --
TV DEBATE OVER RUSSIAN-BELARUSIAN ACCORDS.
Syarhei Kalyakin, head of the
Party of Communists of Belarus, and Mykola Statkevich, head of the Social
Democratic Hramada, took part in a Belarusian TV debate on 12 March over
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's recent visit to Russia. Kalyakin said he did
not feel agreements reached during the visit infringed on Belarusian
sovereignty, since they were not of a political nature. Statkevich responded
that this argument, which has also been made by the Belarusian press, appears
logical. But he stressed that the creation of supranational structures and the
presence of foreign troops on Belarusian territory--which are ignored by the
press--do present a threat to the country's sovereignty. -- Ustina Markus
ESTONIAN PARLIAMENT'S CENTER CAUCUS SPLITS.
Seven of the 16 members of
the Center Party on 13 March decided to form a new liberal-centrist caucus, ETA
reported. They back current party head Andra Veidemann, who is opposed by
supporters of former party chairman Edgar Savisaar. Savisaar resigned as
interior minister and chairman in the fall over his alleged involvement in the
secret taping of conversations with other Estonian officials. Veidemann said
that all the caucus members will remain in the party until it holds its
congress on 30 March. -- Saulius Girnius
FORMER LATVIAN NKVD HEAD DIES IN PRISON.
Alfons Noviks, head of the NKVD
Soviet security police in Latvia from 1940 to 1953, died in prison of 12 March,
Western agencies reported the next day. A Riga court sentenced the 88-year-old
Noviks to life imprisonment on 13 December 1995 for crimes against humanity. He
was convicted of being one of the chief organizers of mass deportations,
persecutions, and murders of thousands of Latvians. -- Saulius Girnius
POLISH PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEES TO CONSIDER LIBERALIZING ABORTION LAW.
The parliament on 13 March sent a bill liberalizing the anti-abortion law
to legislative committees for further discussion, Polish media reported.
Parliamentary committees for social policy, justice, and human rights will
examine the draft law, which would allow women to terminate a pregnancy up to
the 12th week if they are in a difficult social situation or have financial
problems. Gazeta Wyborcza on 14 March reported that a group of some 150
pro-life activists staged a demonstration outside the parliament. The current
law, which has the support of the Roman Catholic Church, provides for two-year
prison sentences for doctors who perform abortions. Polish women have had to
seek terminations either abroad or illegally in Poland. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz
POLISH FILM DIRECTOR DIES.
Krzysztof Kieslowski on 13 March died of a
heart attack following by-pass surgery, Polish and international media
reported. Born in 1941, Kieslowski attended Poland's Lodz Film School and was a
student of renowned Polish director Andrzej Wajda. He was best known for his
trilogy Three Colors--Blue, White, Red, which explored contemporary
moral dilemmas. In 1994, Kieslowski announced he was giving up filmmaking, but
he was later reported to have envisaged a return to directing. -- Dagmar
SLOVAK OPPOSITION TO COOPERATE.
Slovak opposition parties on 13 March
announced they will not call the extraordinary parliamentary session on which
they had agreed two days earlier. Instead, they will try to expand the session
beginning on 20 March by seven points, Slovak media reported. Those points will
deal mainly with the kidnapping of President Michal Kovac's son, the role of
the Slovak Information Service, and privatization. Democratic Party chairman
Jan Langos noted it is the "first time ever" that opposition parties have
agreed on a joint strategy. The session promises to be a stormy one, since
topics of discussion proposed by the coalition include the territorial
administration bill, the law on the protection of the republic, and the
Slovak-Hungarian treaty. -- Sharon Fisher
SLOVAKS SUPPORT RATIFICATION OF TREATY WITH HUNGARY.
A FOCUS poll
carried out in mid-February showed that 50.8% of Slovaks favor the
Slovak-Hungarian treaty, while 15.5% are opposed and 33.7% are uncertain or
uninterested, Narodna obroda reported on 14 March. Ethnic Hungarians
were most likely to favor the treaty, while supporters of the Association of
Workers of Slovakia and the Slovak National Party were most likely to reject
it. In other news, Hungarian Foreign Ministry State Secretary Istvan
Szent-Ivanyi has said the draft law on Slovakia's new territorial arrangement
conflicts with the treaty. Szent-Ivanyi's Slovak counterpart, Jozef Sestak,
denied those claims in an interview with Pravda on 14 March. -- Sharon
HUNGARY APPROVES SOCIAL SECURITY BUDGET.
The Hungarian parliament on 12
March approved Hungary's 1996 social security budget, Reuters and AFP reported
on 13 March. The budget aims to cut the social security deficit for 1996 to
17.8 billion forints ($122 million) from 47.2 billion last year. Officials said
the budget complies fully with IMF conditions and that the country's overall
budget deficit should fall to below 4% of GDP. The government plans to reduce
the shortfall in the social security budget by collecting unpaid contributions;
but this could increase the budget deficit, since state-owned firms reportedly
owe most of the arrears. -- Sharon Fisher
HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES LAW AGAINST RACIAL INCITEMENT.
parliament on 13 March approved an amendment to the Penal Code allowing courts
to take more powerful action against extremists, AFP reported. Under the new
law, anyone who incites hatred against any national, ethnic, racial, religious,
or social group is subject to imprisonment of up to three years. Ethnic
violence is punishable by up to five years in jail. The bill, which was
approved by a margin of 212 to eight with 44 abstentions, follows the recent
acquittal of two Hungarian neo-Nazi leaders. -- Sharon Fisher
TENSIONS BETWEEN CROATIAN, MUSLIM POLICE IN ILIDZA.
Muslim federal police on 12 and 13 March turned back from Ilidza detachments of
Croatian police from Kiseljak, AFP reported. The ostensible reason was that the
Croats were wearing their own blue uniforms instead of the federal green,
Oslobodjenje pointed out on 14 March. The real problem, however, is
underlying mistrust or even bad faith. Mladen Tolo, the Croatian commander of
Kiseljak's police and one of those turned away, said: "This means there is no
federation. The [Muslims are] not accepting us as partners and allies." This is
the second transfer of a Sarajevo suburb from Serbian to federal control that
has been marked by tensions between the Croatian and federal police. -- Patrick
VIOLENCE AGAINST SERBS IN ILIDZA.
Muslim gangs from Sarajevo continue to
terrorize the Serbs who resisted arson and intimidation from their own side to
stay in their homes in Ilidza, the BBC reported on 13 March. There has been
some increase in police protection, but over 100 cases of actions against Serbs
have been reported. Muslims have been telling Serbs they intend to move into
their homes, and many Serbs have fled or are wondering what to do next, Reuters
noted. The key issue for IFOR is to prevent a repeat in Grbavica of the events
of recent days in Ilidza. Crack French and Italian patrols have accordingly
been stepped up in Grbavica, the next suburb slated to pass to federal control.
Reports are nonetheless already coming in of Serbian "intimidation squads" on
the move, AFP stated. -- Patrick Moore
FRANCE, SERBIA OPPOSED TO LIFTING ARMS EMBARGO.
The ban on light arms
sales to the former Yugoslav republics was lifted on 14 March in keeping with
the Dayton agreement. The aim of the American architects of the treaty was to
allow the Muslims and Croats to achieve some kind of parity with the heavily
armed Serbs and thereby deter the latter from new aggression. U.S. officials
said they plan to go ahead with a military assistance plan costing some
$700-800 million, AFP reported. Rump Yugoslav President Zoran Lilic said,
however, that "it would be unreasonable while the peace process is in progress
to undertake to arm any party." Serbia's traditional ally, France, has taken a
similar view; and Foreign Ministry spokesman Yves Dutriaux told reporters that
"France has two priorities in the region, stability and reconstruction.
Rearmament is not a priority." This view will be represented by the EU at the
15 March conference in Ankara on arming the federation. -- Patrick
SARAJEVO MAYOR RESIGNS OVER CANTON ISSUE.
Tarik Kupusovic has resigned
over the Sarajevo authorities' decision to make the city a canton,
Oslobodjenje and Onasa reported. The Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ)
says it considers Sarajevo's cantonal arrangement unconstitutional, but Omer
Ibrahimagic, president of the city commission in charge of transforming
Sarajevo into a canton, has said it is in accordance with the federal
constitution. Ibrahimagic noted that under the new arrangement, the mandates of
the old city assembly deputies and officials, including that of the mayor,
cease to exist. Meanwhile, the HDZ has appealed to Croatian President Franjo
Tudjman for support in protecting Bosnian Croat political and national
interests. It has also urged Croatian officials in the Bosnian Federation to
halt their involvement in implementing the civilian part of the Dayton peace
accord. -- Daria Sito Sucic
OIC PLEDGES TO HELP BOSNIA.
An Islamic aid mobilization group on 12
March pledged to help Bosnia in its reconstruction and in pursuing trials of
war criminals, Onasa reported, citing Reuters. The pledge came after a two-day
meeting of the 51-nation Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC). The OIC said
the Islamic contribution would be within the framework of the Dayton peace
accord, and it asked OIC member states to actively contribute to the
rehabilitation and reconstruction of Bosnia. In another development, Russia has
said it disapproves of the U.S. decision to grant military aid to the Bosnian
Federation. It noted that it will not take part in the 15 March Ankara
Conference on military aid for the Bosnian Federation, which is sponsored by
the U.S. -- Daria Sito Sucic
SERBIAN OPPOSITION LEADER ON CROATIAN, RUMP YUGOSLAV RELATIONS.
of the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) Vojislav Kostunica on 13 March said
that relations between Croatia and rump Yugoslavia "certainly must be
normalized." He stressed, however, that any improvement in bilateral relations
would entail addressing "the question of the remaining Serbs in Croatia as well
as those Serbs who left Croatia," Beta reported. Kostunica also commented that
Foreign Minister Milan Milutinovic had no intention to discuss the topic with
Croatian officials. Kostunica alleged that the interests of the Serbs outside
the rump Yugoslavia were being harmed by Western powers, notably the U.S. --
MONTENEGRINS WARY OF SERBIAN "LINGUISTIC OCCUPATION."
PEN club's committee for the use of language and history of literature on 11
March protested what it dubbed the "Serbianization" of the Montenegrin
language. According to the Club, the preference given to the Ekavian variant of
the language--which is spoken in Serbia--over the local Montenegrin Ijekavian
is clear evidence of creeping "Serbianization." Montena-fax quoted club members
as saying that since "1989, there has been a grave process of linguistic
Serbianization in Montenegro--clearly under way in [many walks of] life, in the
military, police, political, cultural, and economic occupation of Montenegro."
-- Stan Markotich
ROMANIAN BANKING SCANDAL.
The Romanian National Bank has dismissed 10
executives from a leading commercial bank, the Cluj-based Dacia-Felix, and
assumed direct supervision over it. Romanian TV on 13 March said bank president
Ioan Sima, its vice presidents, and the entire administrative council were
dismissed and banned from holding leading positions in the banking system for
the next five years. Dacia-Felix was accused of "grave" irregularities,
especially in credit operations and hard-currency transactions. National Bank
Governor,Mugur Isarescu told Adevarul on 14 March that the losses of the
bank currently amount to 800 billion lei ($300 million). -- Michael Shafir
HUNGARIAN MINORITY PARTY IN ROMANIA TO APPEAL TO COUNCIL OF EUROPE.
Iuliu Vida, leader of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR)
caucus in the Chamber of Deputies, said the draft law on local administration
adopted by the chamber on 12 March will have a negative impact on the right of
minorities to safeguard their national identity. Vida told a press conference
that the UDMR will appeal the bill before the Council of Europe. The
legislation stipulates that the Romanian language must be used at local council
meetings even in regions where the majority is not Romanian. He said there were
no other legal venues to appeal the bill, since it cannot be taken to the
Constitutional Court, Radio Bucharest reported on 13 March. -- Michael Shafir
MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT, OFFICIALS DISCUSS CORRUPTION.
Mircea Snegur on 13
March discussed with senior Interior Ministry officials ways to combat
corruption, BASA-press and Moldpres reported. Snegur said that corruption had
spread to most branches of the administration. He added that his "declaration
of war" on corruption has resulted in a "political offensive" against him.
Meanwhile, the government's Commission for Foreign Trade Regulation rejected
accusations made by Snegur during a recent parliamentary debate on corruption.
The president had claimed that the commission authorized the export of "huge
quantities" of sun-flower seeds and non-ferrous metals under dubious
circumstances. -- Steliana Hanganu
BULGARIA, SLOVENIA AGREE TO BOOST COOPERATION.
Slovenian President Milan
Kucan and his Bulgarian counterpart, Zhelyu Zhelev, meeting in Sofia on 13
March, agreed to improve cooperation between their countries, Bulgarian and
Western media reported. They also agreed to sign accords on protection of
investments and on avoiding double taxation. Kucan said that while Slovenia
supports Bulgaria's initiative for a meeting of Balkan foreign ministers, it
will attend only as an observer because "Slovenia looks at the Balkans through
the eyes of a Central European country." Kucan also met with Prime Minister
Zhan Videnov and Parliamentary President Blagovest Sendov. In other news,
Videnov on 14 March began a two-day official visit to Russia, Duma
reported. -- Stefan Krause
GREECE, BULGARIA DISAGREE OVER OIL PIPELINE PROJECT.
Greece and Bulgaria
disagree over which companies should take part in a $700 million oil pipeline
project, Reuters reported on 13 March. The pipeline will have a capacity of
600,000 barrels a day and will transport Russian crude oil from the Bulgarian
port of Burgas to the Greek harbor town of Alexandroupolis. It will be built
and operated by a Russian-Bulgarian-Greek company. Sofia wants fewer Greek
construction firms involved, while Athens reportedly has promised a big share
of the spoils to private Greek firms. Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister and
Construction Minister Doncho Konakchiev said feasibility studies and economic
reports must be completed before deciding which companies take part. -- Stefan
ONE ALBANIAN DROWNS, 30 MISSING AFTER BOAT CAPSIZES.
drowned and another 30 are missing after a boat capsized near Otranto, Zeri
i Popullit reported on 14 March. The group came from Maqella in the Dibra
region and wanted to illegally immigrate to Italy. The accident is the latest
in a series of maritime accidents. Small motor boats crossing the Adriatic are
mostly overfilled, and fires often occur, since the boats carry additional fuel
in canisters. -- Fabian Schmidt
UPDATE ON ALBANIAN JOURNALISTS' TRIALS.
Populli Po chief editor
Arben Hasani was fined $1,000 on 12 March for publishing an article saying that
the Kosovars brought drugs and prostitution to Albania, Koha Jone
reported. The cultural organization Kosova brought the charges against Hasani.
On 18 March, he is to stand trial again--this time on charges of reporting
incorrect information. The Albanian secret service SHIK claims that Hasani
wrongly reported that a policeman in Shkoder had accused SHIK of involvement in
the killing of a local opposition politician. Meanwhile, Koha Jone chief
editor Aleksander Frangaj went on trial on 13 March for publishing an article
about alleged corruption among police officers in Gjirokastra. -- Fabian
[As of 1200 CET]
Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave