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Newsline - June 26, 1996

President Boris Yeltsin on 25 June fired seven top generals, international and Russian media reported. All had close ties to fired Defense Minister Pavel Grachev. They included three deputy chiefs of the General Staff: Col.-Gen. Viktor Barynkin, Col.-Gen. Anatolii Bogdanov, and Col.-Gen. Vyacheslav Zherebtsov. Also removed were Lt.-Gen. Sergei Zdorikov, the head of the ministry's Main Directorate for Educational Work; Lt.-Gen. Dmitrii Kharchenko, who headed the International Military Cooperation Directorate; the head of the ministry's administrative staff, Col.-Gen. Valerii Lapshov; and a deputy commander of the Ground Forces, Lt.-Gen. Vladimir Shulikov. Four of them had been named by Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed as participants in an attempted coup--a charge Lebed later retracted. Lapshov, Kharchenko, and Zdorikov were military academy classmates of Grachev, and Kharchenko's daughter was married to Grachev's son. The same day, ITAR-TASS reported that Yeltsin appointed Lebed to head the commission which vets candidates for the highest military posts. -- Doug Clarke

President Yeltsin on 25 June dismissed two deputy secretaries of the Security Council, Vladimir Rubanov and Aleksandr Troshin, ITAR-TASS reported. Two new deputies--Vladimir Denisov and Sergei Kharlamov--were appointed. Former Federal Security Service head Mikhail Barsukov also lost his seat on the council. Yeltsin decreed on 25 June that the Security Council secretary will have one first deputy and three deputies and that the council's staff should be cut to 183. Yeltsin also instructed Lebed to draft a new statute governing the work of the council, its structure, and staff. According to presidential press secretary Sergei Medvedev, Yeltsin wants to broaden the functions of the council. -- Penny Morvant

President Boris Yeltsin has transformed his presidential Social Chamber, created in 1994, into a Political Consultative Council (PKS) to incorporate the opinions of a wider body of political parties and movements into the process of defining political and economic policy, ITAR-TASS reported on 25 June. Yeltsin invited the political parties represented in the Duma, as well as those parties that did not gain seats in the December elections, to join the body. Gennadii Zyuganov made a similar proposal on 24 June and published a long list of the members he would include in his council in the 25 June edition of Sovetskaya Rossiya. Yeltsin's proposal is merely cosmetic since he expects to win the 3 July presidential vote without establishing a broad coalition with the communists. -- Robert Orttung

Presidential spokesman Sergei Medvedev criticized Zyuganov's call for a coalition government, saying it was a pity that he concluded the need for "civil peace and accord" only after losing the first round of the elections, ITAR-TASS reported 25 June. Medvedev also rejected the idea of creating the Council on National Accord, saying that the Constitution did not make a provision for it and that it was not necessary. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii and Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev also rejected Zyuganov's overtures, as did a host of other regional leaders, such as Novosibirsk Governor Vitalii Mukha. NTV declared that Zyuganov's announcement of the plan was well-timed since it did not have to compete with other events and brought him a lot of attention, but that his initiative is faltering since he has nothing new to add to it. -- Robert Orttung

Zyuganov rejected the assertion of key campaign aide Aleksei Podberezkin that the communists were out of money for the election campaign, NTV reported on 25 June. He said that his staff had just sent 1,000 workers to the provinces and that he was concentrating on forming a coalition government in Moscow. Podberezkin, the head of the Spiritual Heritage think tank which is supporting Zyuganov, had blamed Zyuganov's low visibility on his lack of funds and a bias in the media, Reuters reported. Zyuganov said he was confident of victory in the second round and called the reports of the numerous rebuffs to his coalition government proposal incorrect. Zyuganov also played volleyball on 25 June to demonstrate his vigorous health, NTV reported. -- Robert Orttung

Deputy Chairman of the All-Russian Movement for the Social Support of the President (ODOPP) Vyacheslav Nikonov said that the president expects turnout at 64% and that Yeltsin will win 50.8%, while Zyuganov will take 46.8%. If turnout is below 60%, Nikonov warned, Zyuganov could win, NTV reported on 25 June. Nikonov claimed that, in the first round on 16 June, Zyuganov was leading before 6 p.m. and that Yeltsin's supporters only voted in the evening, demonstrating their "lack of discipline and even irresponsibility," ITAR-TASS reported. -- Robert Orttung

President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree on 25 June calling for the "gradual withdrawal of forces and material" from Chechnya, Xinhua reported. The withdrawal is to be completed by 1 September. Previously, military sources had indicated that troops not permanently assigned to the North Caucasus military district would be pulled out. These include forces from the Leningrad, Moscow, Volga, and Urals MDs. The same day, NTV quoted the deputy commander of the North Caucasus MD as saying that the 205th Motorized Rifle Brigade would remain in Chechnya, with its 204th Regiment to be stationed in the foothills near the village of Shali. Novosti quoted Lt. Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, the commander of the federal forces in Chechnya, as saying the pullout would begin on 28 June with troops from the 245th regiment. -- Doug Clarke

In a speech to the Moscow State Institute of International Affairs last week, Foreign Minister Yevgennii Primakov laid out the main principles behind Russian foreign policy, Trud reported on 25 June. He challenged some widespread ideas about the character of the international system, denying that there had been "winners" and "losers" in the Cold War, or that the U.S. was the sole superpower in a "unipolar" world. Primakov also argued that the opening of Russia's economy did not condemn it to the position of a "raw materials appendage." He said it was a "very important priority" to build relations with China as a strategic partner. He warned against excessive focus on relations with the U.S., and argued that Russia should not seek to join "the club of civilized nations" at any price. His two leading concerns at present are NATO expansion and Western objections to CIS integration, which he described as the "main task" of his ministry. -- Peter Rutland

A Nezavisimaya gazeta report on 25 June claimed that the U.S. has adopted a deliberate policy of trying to block sales of Russian weapons in Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America. For example, the paper alleged that U.S. officials are trying to prevent the sale of Russian helicopters to Colombia, Peru and Ecuador, even arguing that the "fabrication" of evidence of corruption among Russian officials may be part of the strategy. -- Peter Rutland

The Russian-Belarusian Parliamentary Assembly met for the first time on 25 June in Smolensk, Russian and Belarusian agencies reported. The assembly is meant to provide a basis for the merger of the two countries' economies, and some other government functions under the terms of the 2 April Agreement on the Formation of a Community. Belarusian parliamentary speaker Syamyon Sharetsky was elected Chairman of the Assembly, and Russian State Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev was voted first deputy chairman. Six commissions were set up: legal affairs, economics, social issues, foreign policy, crime, and ecology. The first three are chaired by Russians, and the remaining three by Belarusians. The assembly is to meet at least four times a year. The next session will take place in the fall. -- Ustina Markus

Murmansk Oblast has asked Norway for a loan to help pay wages, a Norwegian Foreign Ministry spokesman said on 25 June. Spokesman Ingvard Havnen said the oblast had asked for $12 million to help cover expenses such as the wages of teachers and doctors, AFP reported. Havnen said Norway would normally turn down requests to cover running expenses but added that the application would be considered. In 1995 Norway gave Murmansk more than $11 million in aid to help clean up pollution and improve the region's infrastructure. Meanwhile, Izvestiya reported on 26 June that opposition parties in the Norwegian parliament have spoken out against a joint Russian-Norwegian project to ensure the safety of nuclear waste dumps on the Kola Peninsula. Norway has said it will allocate about $24 million to the program. Its opponents claim it will help Russia increase its nuclear potential. -- Penny Morvant

Sources in the U.S. embassy in Moscow leaked a copy of a State Department memorandum, issued on 4 June, that specifies the rules governing romantic relations between U.S. embassy employees and local personnel, Western media reported on 25 June. According to the reports, it was only last year that the rules were relaxed for U.S. personnel: in future, they must officially report all "continuing" intimate relations with Russian citizens. The memorandum reportedly stated that Russia still represents a "formidable" intelligence threat to the U.S. A State Department spokeswoman denied that there had been a change of policy, and said the document merely reaffirmed previous practice. -- Peter Rutland

Galina Borodina, acting head of the Moscow Oblast Justice Administration, was shot dead in the stairwell of her apartment block in Podolsk, south of Moscow, on 25 June, ITAR-TASS reported. It was the second murder of a justice official within a month. In late May Deputy Justice Minister Anatolii Stepanov was found dead in his apartment near Moscow. Meanwhile, Moskovskie novosti (issue 25) reported that the All-Russian Council of Judges has adopted a resolution expressing lack of confidence in Justice Minister Valentin Kovalev. The council said that courts have received less than one-fifth of the sums required to cover administrative costs and other expenses, and that some courts have had to stop hearing cases. The judges want responsibility for financing and administering courts to be transferred from the Justice Ministry to the Supreme Court's Judicial Department. -- Penny Morvant

Finance Minister Vladimir Panskov provided the latest budget information in Ekonomika i zhizn no. 25. By 1 June budget receipts from all sources totaled 103 trillion rubles ($20.3 billion), or 11.6% of GDP. Only 53% of receipts were taxes and other payments. The remaining income came from the sale of treasury bonds (29%), foreign currency (15%), and precious metals (6%). The share of the federal budget in the consolidated budget fell abruptly from 48% in March to 35% in April, showing that regional authorities were better able to generate tax revenue than was Moscow. Tax arrears by the end of April stood at 21 trillion rubles for regional budgets and 38 trillion for the federal budget. -- Peter Rutland

After meeting with the presidents of the three Baltic States, U.S. President Bill Clinton had talks with visiting Uzbek President Islam Karimov in Washington on 25 June, Reuters and AFP reported. White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry said later the two discussed "key political, economic, and security issues of mutual interest, including progress in political and economic reform." Before the presidents met, McCurry told a press conference that human rights would be a topic but downplayed the issue. Uzbekistan attempted to improve its poor image on human rights by announcing at the start of June that it would release some 80 political prisoners. However, the Washington Post noted in a 25 June article that only a handful had been freed and Radio Liberty could confirm the release of only five. -- Bruce Pannier

Kazakhstan's chief energy inspector, Yeset Zhumabekov, has urged its citizens to collect their own winter fuel--including dung--given the inability of the country's power sector to meet consumer demands, a BBC monitoring of a 20 June article in Karavan-Blitz reported. Kazakhstan's power sector is bankrupt and has no prospects of collecting the $1 billion debt owed by its consumers. Kazakhstan's debt to CIS countries for electricity exceeds $400 million. -- Bhavna Dave

A 24 June report from ITAR-TASS quoted the Tajik opposition press service as saying its forces had "resolutely rebuffed the Dushanbe elite troops" in fighting near Tavil-Dara and Sagirdasht in central Tajikistan. The opposition claimed to have killed at least 21 government soldiers. Meanwhile, as many as 70 opposition fighters attacked a police station in Komsomolabad, a town on a strategic road linking the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, to the eastern regions of the country, according to Reuters. During the 12-hour attack, the opposition killed five militiamen before retreating into the hills. -- Bruce Pannier

The Georgian government is preparing to return to Germany some 120,000 books from the 1600-1900s that were confiscated from libraries in Bremen and Magdeburg by Soviet troops in 1945, Die Welt reported on 26 June, quoting the Georgian Ambassador to Germany, Konstantine Gabashvili. He said that Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze had wanted to give several of the most valuable volumes to his German counterpart Roman Herzog during the latter's visit to Tbilisi earlier this month, but had been pressured not to do so by Moscow. -- Liz Fuller

More than 300 of 340 deputies attending the 25 June session of parliament voted to ban foreign military bases on Ukrainian territory, Russian Public Television reported. The vote was part of an article-by-article review of the draft Ukrainian constitution. Since the Russian Black Sea Fleet is still based in Ukraine, deputies allowed for a transition period of an unspecified length during which the Russian fleet would be allowed to remain in Ukraine. -- Ustina Markus

Lawmakers reviewed another 10 articles of the draft Ukrainian constitution on 24 June, but again failed to approve many key provisions, UNIAN and Holos Ukrainy reported on 24-25 June. The legislature approved articles outlining foreign-policy objectives and promoting nation-building, political pluralism, and environmental protection. Deputies rejected provisions on the rule of law, the validity of international treaties on Ukrainian territory, use of the state language, and a ban on formation of armed groups. Leftist opposition to a land market prevented the approval of an article on land-ownership rights. Unapproved provisions within articles that have been adopted are to be rescheduled for another reading. Legislators were scheduled to review the next section, on "the rights, freedoms, and duties of a person and a citizen," on 25 June. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

Ukrainian agencies reported on 24 June that national democratic forces in Ukraine, led by the Rukh party, have collected 2 million signatures for a petition demanding a ban on the Communist Party of Ukraine (CPU). Rukh leader Vyacheslav Chornovil has presented the petition to President Leonid Kuchma. Rukh activists have been collecting signatures since late April. Rukh has long lobbied for a ban on the CPU, which it claims is deliberately sabotaging the adoption of a new Ukrainian constitution because it is fundamentally opposed to Ukrainian independence. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

Russian Duma Deputy and professor of psychology Galina Starovoytova said Belarusian deputy Stanislau Shushkevich is mentally healthy, NTV reported on 24 June. Her statement was in response to the Belarusian president's chief ideologue Uladzimir Zamyatalin's demand that Shushkevich undergo a psychiatric examination because of his criticism of the Belarusian regime. According to Starovoytova, Shushkevich's "intellect is considerably more highly developed than the average CIS level." In other news, Reuters reported on 25 June that liberal politicians have denounced the beating of the wife of an RFE/RL correspondent. The woman was attacked by unknown assailants in her home, apparently to intimidate her husband, who works for RFE/RL and the banned independent weekly, Belarusskaya delovaya gazeta. -- Ustina Markus

Presidents Lennart Meri (Estonia), Guntis Ulmanis (Latvia), and Algirdas Brazauskas (Lithuania) only partially achieved their aims in their meeting with U.S. President Bill Clinton in Washington on 25 June, RFE/RL reported. Clinton did not accept the Lithuanian formula of "who, not when" on NATO enlargement, but affirmed that "the first nations admitted will not be the last." The talks were not limited to the topic of NATO. Meri asked for help in countering Moscow's "disinformation and destabilization" campaign in the region, while Ulmanis focused on the importance of economic integration into Europe. Brazauskas stressed his concern about changes in the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty that allow Russia to station more tanks in the Pskov Oblast, which borders Latvia and Estonia. -- Saulius Girnius

The Latvian and Lithuanian delegations to the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly made an appeal on 25 June in Strasbourg to the member states of the CFE treaty to provide them with adequate security guarantees, BNS reported. The head of the Estonian delegation, Kristiina Ojuland, did not join the appeal, arguing that the assembly was not the place to discuss military issues. Lithuanian delegate Vytautas Landsbergis suggested that the Baltic states be given 600 anti-tank missiles to match the 600 tanks that Russia will be permitted to station in the Pskov Oblast. -- Saulius Girnius

Leonid Kuchma arrived in Warsaw on 25 June for a two-day trip to cement the partnership between the two neighbors, international media reported. Kuchma and Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski signed a declaration on bilateral relations that included assurances that Ukraine will not oppose Poland's aim to join NATO. Poland in turn promised that future NATO membership will not be aimed against any country, Kwasniewski's spokesman said. Ukraine, however, remained opposed to any nuclear arms on Polish soil. Kuchma called Poland Ukraine's "special strategic partner" in its bid to move closer to European structures and said his country will seek associate NATO membership if the alliance expands. The two presidents also signed four economic accords, including one on regulating visa-free travel between the two countries and the return of artwork. Also, Poland promised to support Ukraine's bid to join the Central European Free Trade Agreement. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

The 200 deputies elected to the new Czech parliament took their oath of office on 25 June at the assembly's first session. The election of a parliamentary chairman, expected to be Social Democrat leader Milos Zeman, will take place later this week, along with the nomination of other officials, Czech media reported. Meanwhile, leaders of the three parties trying to form a minority government met again and reported to President Vaclav Havel, who said a coalition agreement could be signed imminently. The parties have almost reached agreement on the distribution of posts in a 16-member cabinet whereby the Civic Democratic Party of Prime Minister-designate Vaclav Klaus will have eight seats and the two other parties four each. According to lists published in Czech dailies on 26 June, the outgoing ministers of finance, foreign affairs, internal affairs, and industry will retain their posts. -- Steve Kettle

The parliament on 25 June interrupted its session until 1 July, delaying a vote on changes in the boards overseeing the National Property Fund (FNM), Slovak and international media reported. The adjournment was supported by the three coalition parties and the Party of the Democratic Left (SDL), which recently said it would support a minority government led by Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar under certain conditions. SDL deputy chairman Robert Fico said more time is needed to determine whether the ruling coalition, led by Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), remains together. Other opposition parties have been highly critical of the SDL's behavior, beginning with the party's 21 June violation of an opposition agreement on the expansion of the board that oversees the Slovak Information Service. SDL deputy Viliam Sopko was appointed to the board while other opposition candidates were rejected. -- Sharon Fisher

Speculation about the coalition's future currently dominates the Slovak media and will continue at least until the parliament reconvenes on 1 July. Association of Workers of Slovakia (ZRS) chairman Jan Luptak told Slovak Radio on 25 June that the coalition agreement remains "firmly in force," and that "the HZDS will never have a better coalition partner than the ZRS." Slovak National Party chairman Jan Slota also insisted that the coalition agreement remains valid, as shown by the votes on the foundations law and the adjournment of the current parliament session. Luptak said the coalition parties "reached agreement" during secret talks on 25 June. On 24 June, Meciar said that Slota and FNM presidium president Stefan Gavornik (a ZRS member) are "unacceptable partners," and Slota reportedly said someone other than Meciar should be prime minister. -- Sharon Fisher

Tatiana Repkova, editor-in-chief of the opposition daily Narodna obroda, reported on 26 June that the eastern Slovak steel giant VSZ now has a controlling stake in her paper's publisher, NOFRA. Repkova explained that while VSZ already had some shares in NOFRA, it recently bought another 49% that was previously held by a German company. The sale will likely mean the end of the paper's independence; VSZ has close ties to the government, marked by the recent appointment of Julius Rezes--the 26-year-old son of Slovakia's transport and communications minister--as the firm's vice president. Meanwhile, the daily Nova Smena mladych is closing due to low circulation, CTK reported on 25 June. The paper came into existence on 2 January thanks to funding from the Meciar government, which saw a need for another pro-government daily. -- Sharon Fisher

Parliament on 25 June passed a bill "immortalizing the memory" of the martyred prime minister Imre Nagy, leader of Hungary's 1956 uprising against Soviet domination, Hungarian and international media reported. Most votes in favor of the controversial bill came from the Socialist Party (MSZP), while the junior coalition partner Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ) abstained and most opposition deputies voted against it. The bill, which sparked emotional exchanges before approval, declares that "the personality, behavior and morality of Imre Nagy is inseparable from the 1956 revolution, from the idea of democracy and national independence." The MSZP has embraced Nagy as a means of distancing itself from its predecessor, which collaborated with the Soviets in crushing the revolution. Opponents of the bill said the MSZP had no business celebrating a man their predecessors killed. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

OSCE chairman Flavio Cotti announced on 25 June that the Bosnian general elections will take place on the last possible date set down in the Dayton peace agreement. The elections have been described as the most complicated in history and will take place on seven different levels in the Croat-Muslim federation and in the Republika Srpska. An OSCE diplomat told the BBC that the upcoming elections will give an impetus to all sides to respect the civilian provisions of the treaty, such as freedom of movement and open media. But to date such provisions have largely been ignored, and, as long as IFOR refuses to enforce them, they are likely to be ignored in the future. -- Patrick Moore

Bosnian Vice President Ejup Ganic welcomed the announcement of the vote, saying: "we think the elections will reinforce the stability of Bosnia-Herzegovina." But his government also stressed that the Serbs' non-compliance with the civilian aspects of Dayton threatens to render the electoral process meaningless. Cotti himself added that the vote could face "serious problems" if Serbian war criminals remain in power, AFP reported on 25 June. The Clinton administration and some other Western governments have been pressuring the OSCE to press ahead with the elections regardless. The White House wants the vote out of the way before the U.S. elections in November. -- Patrick Moore

The Bosnian Serb parliament in Pale debated the fate of Republika Srpska President and indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic, AFP reported on 26 June. Parliament speaker Momcilo Krajisnik said the deputies debated Bosnian Serb officials' recent talks with High Representative Carl Bildt and rump Yugoslav officials. Bildt threatened Krajisnik the day before that sanctions would be reimposed on the Bosnian Serbs if Karadzic was not removed. Krajisnik said Karadzic would be ready to step down from office "if it was in the interest of the Serb people," and that parliament deputies had decided to eliminate "all obstacles" to holding elections. BBC reported on 25 June that Karadzic will resign as the Bosnian Serb leader at a 28 June congress of his Serb Democratic Party (SDS), while Belgrade media reported that Karadzic has hired a Belgrade lawyer to advocate his interests in The Hague. -- Daria Sito Sucic

Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, along with his federal counterpart Zoran Lilic and Montenegrin President Momir Bulatovic, have delivered Karadzic an ultimatum demanding his immediate departure from the Bosnian Serb presidency, Nasa Borba reported on 26 June. According to the ultimatum, Karadzic's noncompliance with the terms of the Dayton deal warrants his ouster, and his failure to leave office would result in a renewed round of sanctions against the Republika Srpska by rump Yugoslavia. Reuters observed that the ultimatum "came after months of lobbying by U.S. and European officials who believe Karadzic's continued presence in office is a threat to the Bosnian peace process," and adds that with Karadzic's ouster, other Bosnian Serb hardliners may become easier to prosecute at The Hague. -- Stan Markotich

UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali has submitted a report to the Security Council that criticizes the human rights situation in Croatia, AFP reported on 25 June. Since the UN's last critical report on the situation in Croatia, published in February, Ghali has said that there has been no improvement either in investigating numerous human rights violations, particularly in sectors formerly held by Serbs, or in the repatriation of the 200,000 Croatian Serbs who fled to rump Yugoslavia after the Croat offensive in Krajina in summer 1995. -- Daria Sito Sucic

The Council of Europe condemned alleged brutality on the part of Slovenia's police on 26 June, Reuters reported. According to a report from the council's Committee for the Prevention of Torture, "a number of people have stated that they have been subjected to excessive force, in particular baton blows, from the police when they were arrested." The council also requested the Slovenian government to assert authority over the country's police forces. -- Stan Markotich

Ion Iliescu was received by his German counterpart Roman Herzog on 25 June at the start of a four-day state visit to Germany, Western and Romanian media reported. On the same day, he met with Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who stressed Germany's support for Romania's bid for closer ties to Euro-Atlantic structures and asked Bucharest to continue its course of democratic, legal, and economic reforms. Iliescu, who described Germany as a key trade and security partner for Romania, is also scheduled to meet with German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel, Finance Minister Theo Waigel, Bundestag President Rita Suessmuth, and other senior German officials and businessmen. The two sides are due to sign accords on investment protection, transportation, and war graves. -- Dan Ionescu

The Party of Democratic Forces (PFD) claimed to be the first organization to officially announce its participation in the upcoming presidential elections and to have already nominated its candidate, Infotag reported on 25 June. The statement was made at a press conference staged by the PFD two days after its national congress, which nominated party chairman Valeriu Matei as the party's candidate for the November presidential elections. PFD deputy chairman Alexandru Mosanu said his party's stance is that Moldova should quit the structures of the Commonwealth of Independent States. He also criticized a draft memorandum for the settlement of the Dniester crisis for allegedly "creating a state within a state," which he said could lead to the "Dniesterization" of the entire Republic of Moldova. -- Dan Ionescu

A record high 120,000 women in Bulgaria had an abortion in the first five months of 1996, Trud and Kontinent reported on 26 June, of which 100,000 were legal and the rest illegal. According to official data, 150,000 pregnancies were interrupted in 1995, while only 72,000 babies were born. Sociologists believe that within a few years, one out of four families will have only one child. Among the educated, the young, and the rich, the desire to have children is constantly declining. -- Stefan Krause

A Tirana court charged ten people with taking part in a 28 May rally, Reuters reported on 25 June. The Socialists, the Social Democrats, the Democratic Alliance, and the Party for National Unity had called the rally to protest election fraud. The rally was quickly and bloodily broken up by police, who severely injured many demonstrators. The protesters are now charged with ignoring "numerous and continuous warnings made by the Interior Ministry" and with provoking the police. OMRI correspondents at the scene of the demonstration saw no provocation by the demonstrators other than their meeting in Tirana's main square. The government news agency ATSH called the defendants "Socialist Party militants and ex-employees and collaborators of the communist secret police." They face penalties of up to 200,000 leks ($2,000) or up to three months in jail. -- Fabian Schmidt

Two Albanian towns were blacked out when a mouse caused a short circuit and sparked a $10,000 power-plant blaze, Reuters reported on 25 June. The fire burned down a high-voltage distribution center in Kruja, causing a second blaze at a power station in Fushe-Kruje. Local power supplies were cut for several hours and bread supplies were subsequently disrupted. The power-plant machinery was designed to shut down in the event of a short circuit to stop power surges but there was a technical fault and the machinery went up in smoke. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Steve Kettle and Tom Warner