PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE DENIES DEATH RUMORS.
President Boris Yeltsin
met with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin 30 July, the president's press
service announced, dismissing suggestions that Yeltsin was ill or dead, Reuters
reported. Rumors about Yeltsin's condition were causing concern on
international markets. The Los Angeles Times reported on 29 July that
Yeltsin's latest disappearance "has left Kremlin watchers ever more mystified
as to who is running Russia." Although aides continue to deny that he is
seriously sick, Yeltsin has been out of the public eye for more than a month.
U.S. Vice President Al Gore, the only foreign leader to meet with Yeltsin
during this period, declared him fit. -- Robert Orttung
YELTSIN BACKS LEBED'S CHOICE AS SECURITY COUNCIL DEPUTY.
Yeltsin agreed on 29 July with Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed's
suggestion to appoint Nikolai Mikhailov as the deputy chairman of the Security
Council, NTV reported. Mikhailov, 59, has a doctorate in economics and served
as the president of Vympel Corporation, which designs and manufactures
anti-missile systems. Mikhailov was one of 13 bankers and industrialists who
published an appeal to presidential candidates Yeltsin and Gennadii Zyuganov on
26 April, calling for a political compromise to avoid splitting society (See
OMRI Daily Digest , 29 April 1996). The appointment suggests that
Yeltsin is continuing a policy of fostering competing centers of power among
his key advisors. -- Natalia Gurushina and Robert Orttung
RUSSIAN JOURNALIST RELEASED AFTER CONTROVERSIAL TRIAL . . .
court in Samara released Valerii Yerofeev, editor of the weekly
Vremya-Iks, after sentencing him to 10 months in prison, exactly the
time he had already served, the Moscow-based Globus Independent Press Syndicate
reported on 29 July. Yerofeev was arrested in September 1995 after his paper
published articles alleging that city police officers were taking bribes from
brothel owners. His trial, which lasted from 18 June to 29 July, was closed to
journalists. Watchdog groups including the U.S.-based Committee to Protect
Journalists had protested that there were no grounds to hold the trial in
closed session and that Yerofeev's prolonged pre-trial detention was
unwarranted given his poor health. -- Laura Belin
. . . AS TURKISH JOURNALISTS' SENTENCES COMMUTED.
Talip Ozshelik and
Meshmet Ali Tekin, the two Turkish journalists recently sentenced to three
years in prison by a district court in the Republic of Dagestan, have been
released, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 July. The two were found guilty of entering
Russia illegally in November 1994 (see OMRI Daily Digest, 9 July 1996).
Reviewing the case, the Dagestani Supreme Court reduced their sentences to
eight months, exactly the time served since their arrest. -- Laura Belin
CRITICAL ARTICLES REAPPEAR IN "DEMOCRATIC PRESS."
that supported President Yeltsin's re-election with one-sided coverage during
the campaign have resumed printing articles criticizing official policies, as
was their practice before the spring of this year. For example, a Moskovskii
komsomolets headline on 30 July declared, "Yeltsin apparently has
sclerosis"; commentaries claimed the president had forgotten his campaign
promises to end wage arrears and the war in Chechnya. On the same day,
Izvestiya ran a story suggesting Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev
Rokhlin, a leading member of the pro-government Our Home Is Russia movement,
may be involved in corruption. Izvestiya also recently completed a
four-part series on corruption in Primorskii Krai, whose Governor Yevgenii
Nazdratenko campaigned actively for Yeltsin. -- Laura Belin
MASKHADOV ESCAPES ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT.
For the second time this year,
Chechen chief of staff Aslan Maskhadov on 29 July escaped an assassination
attempt uninjured, Russian and Western agencies reported. A group of gunmen
opened fire on the car in which Maskhadov was traveling in Nozhai-Yurt raion in
southeast Chechnya; one attacker was shot dead by Maskhadov's bodyguard. On 9
April, 10 people were killed when a bomb exploded in a cemetery where Maskhadov
was due to speak. Akhmed Zakaev, an aide to acting Chechen President Zelimkhan
Yandabiev, told ITAR-TASS on 29 July that Chechen field commanders had
reaffirmed their readiness to continue talks with Russian representatives on
implementation of the 27 May and 10 June agreements; he also denied any splits
within the Chechen ranks. Field commander Salman Raduev, however, was quoted by
NTV as stating that he refuses to comply with Yandarbiev's orders to desist
from further terrorist acts. -- Liz Fuller
PRIMAKOV: CIS SHOULD JOINTLY OPPOSE NATO EXPANSION.
Viktor Chernomyrdin and Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov addressed a Moscow
gathering of Russian ambassadors to the CIS countries on 29 July, Russian media
reported. Primakov denounced "some forces" in the West for their "negative
attitude" toward CIS integration, which he attributed to a desire to block the
emergence of a "powerful center" in the new post-cold war multipolar world. He
argued that all CIS states have a "common interest" in the expansion of NATO's
"military structures," and urged the assembled diplomats to convince other CIS
states to support Russia's stance on the issue. Chernomyrdin said Russia will
continue pursuing a course of "pragmatic" integration with the CIS. -- Scott
RUSSIA REGRETS CHINESE NUCLEAR TEST.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman
Vladimir Andreev expressed "regret" on 29 July at the news that China had
carried out a nuclear test, ITAR-TASS reported. But Andreev hailed the
simultaneous Chinese decision to join the voluntary moratorium being observed
by the other four declared nuclear powers pending the conclusion of a
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Also on 29 July UN-sponsored multilateral
talks on the treaty opened in Geneva. While Russia, France, Great Britain, and
the United States all now support a compromise draft CTBT, China and India,
among others, still have objections to some of its provisions, and it remains
unclear when the treaty will be signed. -- Scott Parrish
PRIMAKOV MEETS KINKEL.
Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov met in
Paris with his German counterpart Klaus Kinkel on 29 July to discuss European
security, the controversial issue of so-called "trophy art" captured during WW
II, and the situation in Chechnya, international media reported. Both diplomats
are in the French capital for the 30 July G-7 sponsored anti-terrorism meeting.
Afterwards, Primakov said that Russia regards the "exaggeration" of the
"non-existent problem" of Bosnian Serb leaders and internationally-wanted war
criminals Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic as a threat to the orderly holding
of elections in Bosnia scheduled for September. While the United States has
reportedly been pressing for Karadzic's exile, Primakov argued that since both
leaders had already ended their "political activity," the elections should now
be the top priority for the international community. -- Scott Parrish
SECURITY STEPPED UP ON RAILWAYS.
The Railway Ministry's military
protection administration has been put on an emergency footing because of the
number of bomb alerts on Russia's railways in recent days, ITAR-TASS reported
on 29 July. The number of patrols on trains and stations has been increased
following one explosion and three attempted bomb attacks in the past 10 days.
-- Penny Morvant
LENINGRAD POWER WORKERS SUSPEND PROTEST.
Workers at the Leningrad
nuclear power plant on 29 July suspended a month-long protest over wage arrears
until mid-August, ITAR-TASS reported. The chairman of the plant's trade union
said that the protest had been halted because the plant's director has been
sacked and his replacement has pledged to produce a timetable by 9 August for
paying back wages totaling 25 billion rubles ($5 million). The protest began on
24 June but was temporarily suspended during the presidential elections. --
GOLD RESERVES TO MOVE TO URALS.
The largest part of Russia's gold
reserves will be moved to Sverdlovsk Oblast, President Yeltsin's home region,
NTV reported on 29 July. The gold will be placed in a secret bunker in the
woods, 70 kilometers from Yekaterinburg, the oblast's main city. According to
NTV, the bunker, which was built as a shelter in case of nuclear war, hosted
Russia's "reserve government" headed by Oleg Lobov during the coup attempt in
Moscow in August 1991. During World War II, part of the gold reserves was also
moved to Sverdlovsk Oblast. Experts say that dispersing the reserves increases
security. -- Anna Paretskaya
ACTION URGED TO PROMOTE FOREIGN INVESTMENT.
A round table of businessmen
and parliamentarians from Russia and the U.S. met in London on 29 July and
called for a redoubling of efforts to remove administrative and legal barriers
to foreign investment in Russia, ITAR-TASS reported. Minister of Fuel and
Energy Yurii Shafranik told the gathering that projects worth a total of $27
billion are under consideration. However, First Deputy Speaker of the Duma
Aleksandr Shokhin urged that projects include provision for the purchase of
equipment from Russian manufacturers. Foreign investors were shocked by the
Duma's failure on 19 July to pass amendments to bring existing legislation into
conformity with the production sharing law passed last year. -- Peter Rutland
GEORGIAN PROCURATOR ON "ABUSE OF POWER".
Georgian procurator- general
Djamlet Babilashvili, in an interview with the official government newspaper
Sakartvelos respublika on 29 July, charged that senior officials,
including prime ministers and their deputies, passed 1,500 decrees and
instructions between 1991 and 1995 that were detrimental to the country's
interests, ITAR-TASS reported. Some decrees were illegal, he said. Babilashvili
chairs a state commission investigating the financial activities of the
Georgian cabinet; he hinted that its findings could form the basis for
initiating criminal proceedings. Babilashvili's statement could herald the
arrest of former Prime Minister Tengiz Sigua, who was dismissed by President
Eduard Shevardnadze in 1993 and was compromised by his support in early 1995
for the abortive crusade by former Defense Minister Tengiz Kitovani to
reconquer the breakaway region of Abkhazia. Also on 29 July, in his weekly
Georgian radio interview, Shevardnadze again reiterated that there are no
political prisoners in Georgia. -- Liz Fuller
NEW RUSSIAN MEDIATOR FOR KARABAKH TALKS.
Yurii Yukalov, the former
ambassador to Zimbabwe, will replace Vladimir Kazimirov as chief Russian
mediator in talks over the Karabakh conflict, Noyan Tapan reported on 29 July.
Baku was reportedly unhappy with the work of Kazimirov. On 26 July a mission
from the Azerbaijan Milli Majlis (parliament) led by Zakhid Garalov concluded
its visit to Georgia. Among the issues discussed was the possible creation of a
joint force to guard the oil pipeline across Georgia. It was agreed to form a
standing conference between the Georgian and Azerbaijani parliaments. -- Peter
U.S. CONGRESS DEBATES AID TO ARMENIA, AZERBAIJAN.
On 26 July the U.S.
Senate approved a $95 million aid bill for Armenia, the largest since
independence, Groong reported on 29 July. The Senate also approved a
continuation of the ban on U.S. aid to the government of Azerbaijan, which was
introduced in 1992 in response to its blockade of Armenia. The House version of
the bill included for the first time provision for aid for the 115,000 refugees
in Nagorno-Karabakh, but this was absent from the Senate draft. Remaining
differences between the two bills will be reconciled on 31 July. -- Peter
GOVERNMENT IN CONTROL OF TAVIL-DARA.
An ITAR-TASS correspondent was
allowed into the town of Tavil-Dara on 27-28 July. The unnamed correspondent
confirmed that Tajik government forces had regained control of the town on 12
July. The date has been disputed by the opposition which claims the government
launched an offensive to reclaim the town after a ceasefire agreement had been
signed in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. There has been no other independent
confirmation of the situation in Tavil-Dara. Fighting continues in many of the
villages surrounding the town. -- Bruce Pannier
TAJIK ACADEMICIAN GUNNED DOWN IN DUSHANBE.
Mohammed Osimi, the
76-year-old former president of Tajikistan's Academy of Sciences, was shot and
killed near his home by an unidentified assailant on 29 July, ITAR-TASS and
RFE/RL reported. Osimi was the leader of the Payvand organization which keeps
in touch with Tajik communities around the world. He was not known to have been
involved in any political activity. Security services in Tajikistan speculate
the murder was aimed at further destabilizing the situation in the country but
have no leads to the murderer. -- Bruce Pannier
ALUMINUM PROJECT FOR KAZKAKHSTAN.
At a ceremony at the European Bank for
Reconstruction and Development in London on 29 July, Western investors signed
off on a seven-year, $1.5 billion plan to develop the aluminum industry in
Kazkahstan, RTR reported. The project includes the development of a new bauxite
deposit in Kostanai and new processing facilities at the main Pavlodar plant.
-- Peter Rutland
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT REORGANIZES GOVERNMENT STRUCTURES.
issued a decree on 27 July providing for the reorganization of some 20
ministries and departments in an effort to streamline the government, Ukrainian
agencies reported. The Chornobyl ministry and the Civil Defense agency have
been merged to create a Ministry for Emergency Situations. A Ministry of
Information has replaced the Ministry of Press and Information and the
Ukrinform news agency. The president also replaced the Ministry of Sport and
Youth with a Ministry of Family and Youth Affairs and a State Committee for
Physical Culture and Sport. The Ministry for Nationalities, Migration, and
Religious Issues has been abolished and a State Committee for Nationalities and
Migration created. Several former agencies have been merged into a single State
Committee for State Secrets and Technical Protection of Information. Finally, a
Ministry of Science and Technologies has been set up, and the National
Committee for AIDS Prevention has been subordinated to the Health Ministry. --
BLACK SEA FLEET UPDATE.
Black Sea Fleet commander Viktor Kravchenko said
on 28 July, Russian Navy Day, that Sevastopol will remain the main base of the
Black Sea Fleet, UNIAN reported. The previous day, Kravchenko outlined on St.
Petersburg TV the future composition of the Russian part of the Black Sea
Fleet, which, he said, would consist of a western group of forces stationed in
Crimea and an eastern group based on Russia's Caucasian coast. The fleet will
be mobile and capable of carrying out any task in the Black Sea region, he
added. -- Ustina Markus
RALLIES BANNED IN BELARUS.
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka
has announced that all political rallies are categorically banned "while the
peasant is out working in the fields" until winter, NTV reported on 29 July.
"Everyone must work instead of organizing campaigns to put the president out of
office," he said. Industrial managers and state officials would be held
responsible if political demonstrations were held. Lukashenka called on
collective farm workers to unite around him and put those "who hoped to see the
harvest fail" to shame. -- Ustina Markus
RUSSIAN DUMA SENDS APOLOGY TO BELARUS.
Aleksander Shokhin, first deputy
speaker of the Russian Duma, has sent a letter of apology to Belarusian
parliamentary speaker Syamyon Sharetsky for the provocative statements made by
Russian deputy Viktor Ilyukhin, Belarusian radio reported on 28 June. Iluykhin
last week accused the CIA of drawing up a plot to destabilize Belarus from
Poland with the help of Ukrainian radical nationalists. The allegations were
ridiculed in the Russian, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Polish, and Western press.
Shokhin said the Duma considered Ilyukhin's charges to be an expression of his
personal views. He apologized to Belarusian deputies for the statements, which,
he said, only complicated the process of integration between Russia and
Belarus. -- Ustina Markus
IMF APPROVES STAND-BY CREDIT FOR ESTONIA.
The IMF on 29 July announced
it will give a $20 million stand-by credit to Estonia to support the
government's 1996-1997 economic program, Western agencies reported. Estonian
officials. however, noted that the republic did not intend to use the credit,
except in the "unlikely event that an unexpected balance of payments need were
to emerge." Before the announcement, Prime Minister Tiit Vahi met with IMF
representatives in Tallinn to discuss Estonia's memorandum to the organization
outlining the country's economic policies. -- Saulius Girnius
EQUALITY OF RIGHTS PARTY ESTABLISHED IN LATVIA.
The public organization
Equality of Rights has founded the political party Movement for Social Justice
and Equality of Rights, BNS reported on 29 July. The organization will be
disbanded after the new party registers with the Ministry of Justice. The party
opposes Latvia's integration into either NATO or the EU and calls for granting
Latvian citizenship to all permanent residents. It also urges Latvia to abide
by the Declaration of Human Rights and stresses the need for state-guaranteed
higher education in Russian. The party was founded by 221 Latvian citizens and
will accept non-citizens into its ranks after registration. -- Saulius
PRESIDENT ORDERS MORATORIUM ON DEATH PENALTY IN LITHUANIA.
Brazauskas on 28 July signed a decree calling for an indefinite moratorium on
capital punishment in Lithuania, Western agencies reported. He said the
decision is intended to "promote Lithuania's integration with European
organizations." The parliament, which will reconvene on 10 September, must
approve the decree. Polls in Lithuania indicate that owing to the high crime
rate, some 70% of population are opposed to the abolition of the death penalty.
Nine people in Lithuania are currently sentenced to death. -- Saulius Girnius
FORMER POLISH INTERIOR MINISTER ACQUITTED.
A Warsaw court on 29 July
acquitted Gen. Czeslaw Kiszczak, interior minister from 1981 to 1989, of
charges that he had allowed police to shoot at striking miners at the Wujek and
Manifest Lipcowy collieries in 1981, Polish media reported. Nine miners were
killed and 25 injured in the shooting, which took place in December 1981,
following the declaration of martial law. Kiszczak had pleaded not guilty and
had told the court he authorized the police to shoot in self-defense. The judge
concluded that authorizing the police to fire was not the same as giving them
an order and that there was no proof that Kiszczak's action resulted directly
in the deaths. His acquittal was greeted in court with shouts of "Shame" and
"Down with Communists." Prosecutor Leszek Piotrowski said he would appeal the
verdict. -- Jakub Karpinski
POLISH OPPOSITION CRITICIZES PRIVATIZATION PROGRESS.
Privatization Minister and current opposition member Janusz Lewandowski on 29
July charged that Poland's post-communist government has permitted a "second
nationalization" of privatized firms, Polish dailies reported. He accused the
government of allowing state-owned banks and foreign-trade enterprises to
purchase significant shares in privatized state enterprises. He also criticized
the declining numbers of large firms sold after 1993 through initial public
offerings and tenders as well as the lack of progress in privatizing the
energy, chemical, pharmaceutical, telecommunications, banking, and insurance
sectors. Lewandowski's charges were dismissed by a Privatization Ministry
spokesman as having a "political character." -- Ben Slay
CZECH EXTREME-RIGHT LEADER CAUSES ANOTHER SCANDAL.
Some 300 Roma from
Brno have so far signed a petition calling for extreme-right leader Miroslav
Sladek to be severely punished for racist remarks to the parliament, Czech
media reported on 29 July. Sladek on 25 July said in front of TV cameras that
"Gypsies should be made criminally responsible right from their birth because
[their birth] is, in fact, their biggest crime." A number of Czech politicians
and groups have demanded that Sladek be punished; but since he has immunity as
a parliamentary deputy, this may be difficult to achieve. The Romani Democratic
Congress has announced it will nonetheless sue Sladek on charges of instigating
genocide and defaming a race. Some activists have suggested that the government
ask the Constitutional Court to disband Sladek's Republican Party, which
currently has 18 seats in the 200-member parliament. The parliament's Immunity
Committee will decide whether to punish Sladek following the parliamentary
summer recess. -- Jiri Pehe
CONTROVERSY AT SLOVAK NATIONAL THEATER.
Conflict has raged in the media
over Culture Minister Ivan Hudec's dismissal on 22 July of Peter Mikulik, stage
director at the Slovak National Theater (SND). Hudec replaced Mikulik with
actor Lubomir Paulovic and renamed the SND the P. O. Hviezdoslav Theater. SND
dramaturg Martin Porubjak told Narodna obroda on 30 July, "I do not
consider Paulovic a director at the P. O. Hviezdoslav Theater, since such a
theater does not exist and no court would accept his appointment.... He was
supported neither by the SND's director-general nor by a single actor."
Previously, SND department chiefs were named by the Culture Ministry at the
recommendation of the SND's director-general, but a new directive took effect
on 1 January allowing the culture minister to name department directors without
the director-general's agreement. Porubjak said the move conflicts with the
civil and labor codes. Several famous actors have announced that they will
leave the theater in protest. -- Sharon Fisher
BIGGEST HUNGARIAN REFUGEE CAMP TO CLOSE DOWN.
Owing to financing
problems, the Hungarian authorities will close down the country's biggest
refugee camp, AFP reported on 29 July, quoting an Interior Ministry official.
The Nagyatad camp currently houses some 600 refugees from the former
Yugoslavia, who will soon be transferred to a camp at Debrecen. At present,
neither camp is used to full capacity. According to the ministry, the camp must
be closed because this year's budget allocation for refugee support has been
cut from $6.54 million to $5.2 million. Since the war broke out in the former
Yugoslavia, Hungary has spent more than $1.3 million yearly on the Nagyatad
camp alone. -- Zsofia Szilagyi
HUNGARIAN TEACHERS ARE LOWEST PAID PUBLIC SERVANTS.
According to a Labor
Ministry report, employees in the education sector are the lowest paid among
public servants, Nepszabadsag reported on 30 July. Primary school and
kindergarten teachers earn 38,000 forints ($250) and 32,000 forints a month,
respectively, placing them last among professionals. High school teachers
earned an average 45,000 forints a month last year, while university and
college professors earned 53,000 forints. At the top of the list are lawyers
and financial sector employees, with average gross monthly earnings of 111,000
and 76,000 forints, respectively. -- Zsofia Szilagyi
BOSNIAN SERBS WILL MAKE NO MORE CONCESSIONS...
Gojko Klickovic, prime
minister of the Republika Srpska, has said the Bosnian Serbs are fed up with
the international community's "permanent pressure" on them and will make "no
more concessions," AFP reported on 30 July, citing SRNA reports. The hard-line
premier has repeatedly opposed any steps aimed at "reuniting [the republic]
with Bosnia-Herzegovina," thereby violating the Dayton peace accords, which
define the Republika Sprska as one of the two entities composing a single
Bosnian state. Meanwhile, the U.S. is expected to continue exerting pressure on
Bosnian Serbs to deliver indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic to The
Hague-based war crimes tribunal. Biljana Plavsic, acting president of the
Republika Srpska, noted last week that Karadzic and his military counterpart,
Ratko Mladic, "will definitely not be going to The Hague," Nasa Borba
reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic
...NOR WILL BOSNIAN CROATS.
Mile Puljic, head of the Bosnian branch of
the ruling Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ), has said the Bosnian Croats
will not yield to "international blackmail" to accept the results of the
elections in Mostar, AFP reported on 29 July. Puljic added that those results
"harm the interests of the Croats." Mijo Brajkovic, the Croatian Mostar mayor,
confirmed that the Croats will continue to boycott the city council,
Slobodna Dalmacija reported on 30 July. Both Croatian officials were
responding to Michael Steiner, the deputy of the High Representative to Bosnia,
who on 28 July said the international community will not allow to be
blackmailed by a "small group of mafiosi figures" in Mostar. -- Daria Sito
BLASTS IN CENTRAL BOSNIA.
Two blasts on 29 July rocked the Croat-held
town of Livno, AFP reported, quoting UN spokesman Alexander Ivanko. The bomb
attacks wrecked two Muslim-owned vehicles and damaged a UN car, but no
casualties were reported. Ivanko pointed out that the recent escalation of
violence indicates a rise in tensions between Muslims and Croats. In other
news, a bridge near Velika Kladusa, in northwestern Bosnia, was damaged in an
explosion on 29 July, AFP reported. The town was the base of Fikret Abdic, the
Muslim kingpin, who sided at various times with both Serbs and Croats fighting
against the Bosnian government. -- Daria Sito Sucic
RUMP YUGOSLAVIA RESPONDS TO GENOCIDE CHARGES.
The Hague-based war crimes
tribunal has announced that rump Yugoslavia will have until 23 July 1997 to
prepare a defense against charges of genocide, AFP reported on 29 July. The
government of Bosnia-Herzegovina first contacted The Hague in March 1993,
alleging Belgrade was involved in genocide against Bosnia's Muslims and Croats.
Several months later, Belgrade issued counter-charges, alleging that the
Bosnian authorities were responsible for anti-Serbian atrocities. Meanwhile,
rump Yugoslav Justice Minister Vladimir Krivokapic, in an interview with
Vecernje novosti on 29 July, said Belgrade had already answered The
Hague in the form of "a counter-plea in which [we] deny the charges." He added
that "it was the Serbian people who were the victims." -- Stan Markotich
British Defense Minister Michael Portillo on 28 July
began a three-day official visit to Romania, local and Western media reported.
Portillo and his Romanian counterpart, Gheorghe Tinca, signed agreements on
military relations, joint exercises, exchanges, and cooperation in arms
production, Portillo was also received by Romanian President Ion Iliescu and is
scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Nicolae Vacaroiu and Foreign Minister
Teodor Melescanu. In other news, a July poll conducted by the Center for Urban
and Rural Sociology and sponsored by the Soros Foundation shows a drop in the
popularity of both the ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) and
President Ion Iliescu, Cotidianul reported on 27 July. Of the
respondents, 33% said they would vote for the opposition Democratic Convention
of Romania (CDR), 29% for the PDSR, and 12% for the Social Democratic Union
(USD). Iliescu won 40% of the vote (down 7 percentage points on previous
polls), Emil Constantinescu (CDR) 28%, and Petre Roman (USD) 20%. -- Dan
MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT URGES SIGNING OF DNIESTER MEMORANDUM.
on 29 July appealed to President Mircea Snegur to sign the memorandum on the
basic principles of normalizing relations between the Republic of Moldova and
its breakaway Dniester region. The appeal pointed to
declaration signed in January by Snegur, Russian President Boris Yeltsin, and
the Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma on the reaching a political settlement to
the Dniester conflict as soon as possible. Two deadlines for signing the
agreement have already been missed. In early July, Snegur suggested that the
signing should be postponed until after the Moldovan presidential election,
scheduled for 17 November. The parliament criticized him for failing "to speed
up the [peace] process" in the region. -- Dan Ionescu
Interior Minister Nikolay Dobrev on 29 July met with
parliamentary caucus leaders to ask for support for extraordinary measures to
deal with terrorism, Bulgarian newspapers reported. Recently, there has been an
outbreak of terrorist activities and bomb threats in Bulgaria. Among other
things, Dobrev proposed increasing police presence on the streets. Meanwhile,
Ivan Georgiev, leader of the tiny ultra-nationalist Bulgarian National Radical
Party, fired five shots at the building of the Ministry for Economic
Development on 28 July, Standart reported. Georgiev claimed he wanted to
test the precision of his weapon on an improvised target in his apartment,
which is located across from the ministry. But it is speculated that Georgiev
deliberately fired at the ministry for political or personal reasons. The BNRP
dismissed such speculation as provocation by "certain anti-nationalist circles"
aimed at discrediting the party. -- Stefan Krause
BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT REVISES 1996 BUDGET.
The Bulgarian parliament has
passed a revised 1996 budget on its second reading, Bulgarian and international
media reported. The budget deficit has been increased by 38% to 80.7 billion
leva ($431.5 million) or 4.8% of GDP. Almost 53% of expenditures will be used
to service domestic and foreign debt. Meanwhile, Kalin Mitrev, director of the
Center for Mass Privatization, announced on 29 July that the deadline for
voucher holders to transfer their vouchers to investment funds or to relatives
will be extended from 31 July to 15 August. Some 1 million people have
transferred their vouchers to funds and 500,000 to relatives. -- Michael
Nine high-ranking former communist officials went on
trial in Tirana on 29 July, AFP reported. The nine are accused of genocide and
crimes against humanity and face prison terms ranging from 15 years to life
imprisonment or the death penalty. The main charge against them is mass
deportations "for political, ideological, and religious reasons." It is
Albania's fourth trial against former leading communists. So far, 15 former
Communists have been sentenced to terms ranging from 16 years to life
imprisonment. Defendants in the latest trial include former Politburo members
Lenka Cuko and Llambi Geoprifti, other top party members, and former secret
police officials. In other news, President Sali Berisha has set the date of the
local elections for 20 October. -- Stefan Krause
ALBANIAN PRISONERS IN GREECE GO ON STRIKE.
Some 250 Albanian inmates of
the Larisa prison have been on strike since the end of last week, Poli i
Qendres reported on 30 July. They are demanding to be transferred to
Albanian prisons in accordance with a bilateral convention signed in August
1995. Albanian prisoners in other prisons in Greece have joined the strike. The
inmates say they want to serve the remainder of their sentences in Albania
because they are systematically mistreated by Greek prison personnel.
Secretary-General of the Greek Justice Ministry Georgios Pavleas commented that
bureaucratic obstacles in Tirana are delaying the transfer, while the Albanian
Embassy in Athens said the new government will solve the problem soon. --
Ismije Beshiri and Stefan Krause