RUSSIAN TROOPS LAUNCH NEW CHECHEN OFFENSIVE.
Despite ongoing hostilities
in the Vedeno, Nozhai-Yurt, and Itum-Kale raions of Chechnya, pro-Moscow
Chechen head of state Doku Zavgaev told representatives of the Chechen
community in Moscow on 31 July that there had been no fighting in Chechnya for
a week, AFP reported. Meanwhile, Russia began air and artillery attacks on the
village of Shatoi south of Grozny, prompting Chechen Minister of Information
Movladi Udugov to warn that the Chechens will not agree to any further talks
with the Russian military until the bombardment is halted, according to AFP.
Controversy continues over the identity of the man claiming to be field
commander Salman Raduev. Zavgaev claims that Raduev is dead and the man is an
imposter from Dagestan; ITAR-TASS cited a spokesman for the Chechen Ministry of
Information who insists that the man in question is indeed Raduev. ITAR-TASS
also quoted unnamed Chechen field commanders as stating that President Dzhokhar
Dudaev is alive and will return to Chechnya on 2 August. -- Liz Fuller
HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGNERS SLAM YELTSIN ON CHECHNYA.
the Moscow Helsinki Committee and the International Human Rights Assembly
accused President Boris Yeltsin of violating various laws and campaign promises
by allowing violence to escalate in Chechnya immediately after his re-election.
In a statement published by Ekspress-khronika on 1 August, they noted that
those long considered to make up the Kremlin's "party of war," including former
Defense Minister Pavel Grachev, Chief of Staff Nikolai Yegorov and Yeltsin's
top bodyguard Aleksandr Korzhakov, have been sacked and are therefore not to
blame for the continued fighting and human rights violations. A separate appeal
signed by human rights activists who voted against Yeltsin, including Yelena
Bonner, charged that the war in Chechnya and Yeltsin's recent decree on
fighting crime in Moscow and Moscow Oblast (see OMRI Daily Digest, 11
and 12 July 1996) violate at least seven articles of the Constitution. -- Laura
YELTSIN ORGANIZES STAFF FOR REGIONAL ELECTIONS.
President Boris Yeltsin
will personally coordinate the administration's campaign for this fall's
regional elections, Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais announced on 31 July. The
campaign headquarters will include representatives of the presidential
administration, the government, the Federation Council, the Security Council,
and political parties with influence in the regions, NTV reported. Chubais
noted that Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed has already agreed to
participate in the campaign. However, Chubais stressed the need to avoid a
situation in which "one Moscow boss supports one candidate, while another
supports someone else." The chief of staff said that the team will use the
experience gained in the presidential campaign as much as possible. -- Robert
YELTSIN BACKS CHUBAIS RESTRUCTURING OF ADMINISTRATION.
Yeltsin "showed a
high level of trust" in Chubais' proposals for restructuring the administration
on 31 July, even though several of them were unexpected, Chubais said. During
their nearly two-hour meeting, Chubais and Yeltsin discussed the candidates for
the post of first deputy prime minister covering economic issues, Russian
Public TV (ORT) reported. Yeltsin has tapped Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin
to lead the new government and he and Chubais are competing to influence its
composition, a decision that ultimately rests in Yeltsin's hands. Chubais said
that Yeltsin needs "a normal vacation," which he may take following his 9
August inauguration. -- Robert Orttung
CHERNOMYRDIN LISTENS TO COMMUNISTS.
Chernomyrdin listened to the views
of Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov and 15 members of his Duma faction
on 31 July, but they did not discuss who would be in the new government, ORT
reported. Before the meeting, Zyuganov said that it would play an important
role in the faction's decision whether to support Chernomyrdin's candidacy as
the new prime minister, ITAR-TASS reported. Neither side released any details
of the discussion. -- Robert Orttung
PRIMAKOV SUGGESTS COMPROMISE ON NATO EXPANSION.
In an interview
published in the 1 August edition of the Paris daily Le Figaro, Russian
Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov reiterated that Moscow could accept the
eastward enlargement of NATO if it does not entail the expansion of the
alliance's military infrastructure in areas near Russia. "Can you guarantee me
that the enlargement of NATO will not result in the installation of military
infrastructure?" asked Primakov. "If you reply to me yes, then I too will
respond in a positive way," he added, but complained that Western leaders had
so far not responded to his repeated overtures for a compromise along these
lines. NATO officials and East European leaders have rejected this sort of
compromise, arguing that it would relegate new members to "second class status"
in the alliance. -- Scott Parrish
ILYUKHIN STANDS BY HIS CHARGES OF CIA PLOT IN BELARUS.
In an interview
in the 1 August edition of the pro-communist daily Sovetskaya Rossiya,
Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin defended his charges that the
CIA is plotting to overthrow Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, (see
OMRI Daily Digest, 26 & 29 July 1996) and denounced Russian
politicians and journalists who questioned his allegations as "fifth
columnists." Ilyukhin asserted that the top levels of the Russian government
have been penetrated by Western intelligence agencies, which are "imposing
their views." Ilyukhin said that, despite his campaign rhetoric, President
Yeltsin does not really favor integration between Russia and the other former
Soviet republics, a position which mirrors American policy. On 31 July
ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky supported Ilyukin's charges, and warned
U.S. President Bill Clinton to "stay away from Belarusian affairs." -- Scott
NEW FIGHTER ON DISPLAY.
For the first time the new SU 37 fighter, whose
reversible thrust engine makes it highly maneuverable, was shown in public
display on 1 August, ITAR-TASS reported. According to the engineers at the
Sukhoi Design Bureau, the plane has no equivalent in other airforces and is
"the first plane of the 21st century." However, financial constraints mean that
the Ministry of Defense has given no date for the start of mass production of
the SU 37. -- Peter Rutland
SENIOR BANKRUPTCY OFFICIAL ARRESTED.
Petr Karpov, deputy head of the
Federal Bankruptcy Administration (FUDN) with the rank of deputy prime
minister, has been arrested, Russian and Western agencies reported on 31 July.
First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Kadannikov said the Saratov Procurator's
Office had begun criminal proceedings against Karpov but gave no details. NTV
said Karpov was suspected of taking bribes. Over the past year Karpov headed a
team that raised 10 trillion rubles ($2 billion) in overdue taxes from
delinquent enterprises, mainly in the oil and gas sector. His activities
reportedly made him many enemies among the industrial elite and in the Duma.
Karpov's boss, Petr Mostovoi, is also under investigation for alleged
involvement in violating privatization procedures. Segodnya argued that
the arrests could signal a campaign against the FUDN, which it described as a
leading reform agency. -- Penny Morvant
STRIKES CONTINUE IN FAR EAST.
Despite the government's announcement that
it has allocated 45 billion rubles ($8.7 million) to miners in Primorskii Krai,
protests have now spread to all 15 of the region's mines, ITAR-TASS reported on
1 August. A miners' spokesman said the protest will continue until wage debts
are cleared. He described the government statement as "political cunning,"
contending that the money had been intended to cover capital construction and
other such expenses and had thus been "taken from the miners' pockets." The
same day, Primorskugol said it will suspend deliveries to debtor enterprises,
including the power company Dalenergo. The strikes are spreading to other
regions of Russia. Some miners have also struck in Rostov Oblast, while workers
at a Krasnoyarsk mine have stopped deliveries to the local power station.
Numerous reports have highlighted the suffering endured by Primore mining
families. In one of the most shocking incidents, nine children were taken to
hospital suffering from food poisoning after eating a stray dog. Their miner
parents, who had not been paid for six months, were unable to feed them so they
had set out to find their own food. -- Penny Morvant
CONFLICTING REPORTS ON TAX SITUATION.
A State Tax Service spokesman
claimed on 31 July that tax revenues in July were 20 trillion rubles ($3.8
billion), or 97% of the planned level. Seven regions pay the bulk of the taxes:
Moscow city and oblast, Khanty-Mansii Autonomous Okrug, Sverdlovsk, Omsk, and
Samara oblasts, and St. Petersburg. However, overall tax receipts for the first
half of the year are only 60% of the expected amount. A special operational
group has been created under Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to cut
spending, according to Vek no. 20. Steps already taken include freezing
spending on reconstruction in Chechnya, on defense conversion in Tatarstan, and
on some cultural programs. Central Bank Head Sergei Dubinin said measures to be
adopted soon include excise stamps on alcohol, levying VAT on Ukrainian
imports, and a ban on all tax privileges, Radio Rossii reported on 25 July. --
NEW CUSTOM DUTIES ON IMPORTED CARS.
Effective from 1 August, the
government has introduced higher duties on imported cars, ITAR-TASS reported.
The duty on cars with engines over 1,599 cc will be 75% of the retail value.
Any car up to three years old will now be deemed "new", instead of one-year old
cars, as in the past. Russians who have lived abroad for over six months will
be allowed to import one car and pay duty of 40 cents per cubic centimeter. No
duties will be levied on foreigners importing their cars for less than a year.
-- Natalia Gurushina
GEORGIAN OPPOSITION DOWN BUT NOT [YET] OUT.
Leading figures from the 14
Georgian political parties not represented in the new parliament, who joined
forces to create a Coordinating Council, met in Tbilisi on 31 July to discuss
Georgia's future territorial-administrative system, the Abkhaz conflict, and
the Russian military presence in Georgia, NTV reported. The opposition parties
in question take a markedly harder line on all these issues than does the
Georgian leadership. On 30 July, the deputy chairman of the Round Table/Free
Georgia coalition (originally headed by now deceased ex-president Zviad
Gamsakhurdia) told BGI that the Georgian authorities were trying to prevent the
coalition from participating in the September parliamentary elections in
Adzharia, in what he claims is an ongoing campaign of reprisals against
Gamsakhurdia's supporters. -- Liz Fuller
Outgoing Russian co-chairman of the OSCE "Minsk
Group" Vladimir Kazimirov arrived in Stepanakert on 31 July to introduce his
successor, former Russian Ambassador to Zimbabwe Yurii Yukalov, to the
leadership of the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, Noyan Tapan
reported. Kazimirov, whose departure from the Karabakh negotiating process was
announced after the last round of talks in Helsinki in early July,
characterized the prospects for a settlement of the Karabakh conflict as
"favorable," despite the fact that the Azerbaijani side displayed such
intransigence at last month's round that no date has been set for a resumption
of talks. Kazimirov and Yukalov travel to Yerevan on 1 August and are scheduled
to meet with Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev in Baku on 2 August, according
to Noyan Tapan quoting the Azeri wire service ANS-Press. -- Liz Fuller
AZERBAIJAN, IRAN SIGN SECURITY AGREEMENTS.
Minister Ramil Usubov and his Iranian counterpart, Ali Mohammed Besharati,
signed two cooperation agreements in Tehran on 30 July, the Voice of the
Islamic Republic of Iran first network (monitored by the BBC) reported the same
day. The first agreement covers the creation of a border commission and the
relaxation of customs and border regulations, and would seem to undercut the
second, which is on increasing cooperation to combat drug abuse. -- Liz
UZBEK GANG LEADERS SENTENCED TO DEATH.
An Uzbek court sentenced five
members of a criminal gang to death after they were found guilty of murdering
25 local farmers, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 July. Based in a village outside of
Tashkent, the gang met with individual farmers on the pretext of buying their
produce and then killed them, taking the food. The victims' bodies were dumped
in the Keles River late last year (see OMRI Daily Digest, 11 November
1995). Other gang members were given prison terms. -- Roger Kangas
UN OBSERVERS STILL HAVEN'T REACHED TAVIL-DARA.
Despite several attempts
at fixing the positions of combatants in the Tavil-Dara region, UN observer
teams had not entered the area as of 30 July, according to the opposition's
Radio Voice of Free Tajikistan as monitored by FBIS. The UN teams were to
determine the locations of the warring factions at the time the ceasefire came
into effect on 20 July. The opposition radio report claimed that two UN teams
had been turned back at Garm and Khovaling. Another team was stopped by the
Tajik army, which, according to the radio broadcast, "turned them back with the
threats, violence and kind of treatment so characteristic of them." The report
claimed this was the last attempt by UN teams to implement their part of the
Ashgabat agreement which should have taken place on 23 July. -- Bruce Pannier
BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES DENOUNCE ASYLUM SEEKERS.
Mikhail Podhany, head of
the political information department of the president's administration, has
denied that Belarusian authorities are seeking opposition leaders Zyanon
Paznyak or Syarhei Naumchyk, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 July. Paznyak and
Naumchyk both applied for political asylum in the U.S. on 30 July, claiming
they feared for their safety if they returned to Belarus because President
Alyaksandr Lukashenka had issued a warrant for their arrest. Podhany said no
death sentences have been passed on the two and that their request for asylum
was motivated only by their desire to enjoy a comfortable life in the West as
political refugees. Neither Paznyak nor Naumchyk has said an official death
sentence was issued. Rather, they have maintained that the president would like
to have them "neutralized." -- Ustina Markus
BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT AGREES TO PRISONER SWAP.
Lukashenka has given his preliminary approval to exchanging seven members of
the Ukrainian National Assembly (UNA) currently detained in a Belarusian prison
for 14 Russian border guards held prisoner by Chechens, Belarusian radio
reported on 31 July. The UNA members were arrested for participating in the 26
April Chornobyl Day demonstrations in Belarus, which turned into an
anti-Lukashenka rally. They have still been neither tried nor sentenced. Deputy
head of UNA Dmytro Korchynsky was critical of Ukrainian officials for failing
to secure the prisoners release, Ukrainian radio reported on 31 July. Ukraine's
Foreign Ministry takes the official line that Ukrainians abroad must respect
the laws of their host country. -- Ustina Markus
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH RUSSIAN SPACE COMMANDER.
met with Russian commander of cosmic and armed forces Vladimir Ivanov in Crimea
on 31 July, Ukrainian radio reported. Kuchma is currently vacationing on the
peninsula. The meeting took place at the Russian's request. The two men
discussed cooperation on space projects, particularly creating an area in space
for peaceful purposes, joint testing of space equipment, and joint training.
The same day, Ukrainian ministers and the president's administration met to
discuss space issues, including the financing of the country's space industry.
With some 80% of the state budget spent on social programs, only limited funds
are available for subsidizing scientific research and development projects. --
UKRAINE SIGNS TANK DEAL WITH PAKISTAN.
Ukraine has signed a deal to sell
more than 300 Ukrainian-built T-80 tanks to Pakistan, Reuters reported on 31
July. The deal is worth $550 million, and the tanks are to be delivered to
Pakistan over a three-year period. The U.S. had stopped all military supplies
to Pakistan in 1990, but the deal was made possible under the Pressler
Amendment, which allows Islambalad a one-time exemption for weapons purchases,
excluding F-16 aircraft. Ukraine developed the tank at its plant in Kharkiv and
first displayed it at an arms fair in Abu-Dhabi in March 1995. -- Ustina
ESTONIA TO EXPEL PEOPLE DENIED RESIDENCE PERMITS.
Andres Kollist, head
of the Citizenship and Migration Department, said on 31 July that his
department will ask about 100 people to leave Estonia, BNS reported. Their
applications for residence permits have been turned down because they supplied
false information about themselves or because they had a criminal record. He
said he hoped that they would the country peacefully and in a civilized manner.
But he added that they would be forcibly expelled if they did not do so.
Kollist said that a far greater problem was posed by the tens of thousands of
illegal immigrants living in the country who have not applied for residence
permits. -- Saulius Girnius
A proposal by Latvia's Way to discuss "as an urgent
matter" the transfer of the border guards from the jurisdiction of the Defense
Ministry to that of the Interior Ministry has been rejected, BNS reported on 31
July. The issue will be considered, as scheduled, at the Saeima's fall session,
BNS reported. The main reason for rejecting the proposal was the two
ministries' failure to draft a program for an efficient transfer of
jurisdiction. Defense Minister Andrejs Krastins favored the rapid transfer,
arguing that the government will face difficulties in drafting next year's
budget if the issue of the transfer is not resolved. -- Saulius Girnius
LITHUANIAN PROGRAM FOR AGRICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT TO BE AMENDED.
Agriculture Minister Vytautas Einoris has said that Lithuania's national
agricultural development program will have to be changed to reflect more
accurately changes that have occurred, BNS reported on 31 July. The program was
approved by the government in 1993 and was to apply until 2005. Over the past
three years, the number of land owners has increased while the area of farm
land in use declined. The original program called for the production of 3.64
million tons of grain in 1995, but only 1.95 million tons were harvested. The
production of 208,000 tons of meat and 2.3 million tons of milk in 1995 was far
below the planned 319,000 tons and 2.3 million tons, respectively, Einoris said
the revised program would reflect the real situation and that emphasis will be
placed on increasing the competitiveness of food products, expanding exports,
and creating new jobs in the agricultural sector. -- Saulius Girnius
POLISH-U.S. AGREEMENT ON FIGHTING ORGANIZED CRIME.
Leszek Miller, chief
of the Polish Government's Office, signed an agreement on collaboration in
fighting organized crime during his recent visit to the U.S., Polish dailies
reported on 1 August. The agreement--which provides for the exchange of
information between the countries' police forces, treasuries, customs, border
guards, and judiciaries--aims at preventing the smuggling of drugs, arms, and
people as well as money-laundering. Miller noted that Poland is particularly
threatened by drug smuggling and drug trafficking since it is on the crossroads
of major communication routes. The FBI is to open a bureau in Warsaw this
fall--its second in the former East bloc, after Moscow. A U.S. Drug Enforcement
Agency bureau is also to be opened in Warsaw. -- Jakub Karpinski
MOCK TV CREW FILMED DEMONSTRATION IN POLAND.
Polish dailies reported on
1 August that a march in Gdansk last month to protest government policy in the
region (see OMRI Daily Digest, 18 July 1996) was filmed by a mock TV
crew. While the fakeTV reporters used a camera with TV Gdansk logo, the
equipment was different from cameras used by the TV station, the press noted.
The Gdansk daily Dziennik Baltycki suggested members of the Government
Protection Office had imitated TV reporters, but a spokesman for the office
denied that had been the case. The mock TV crew was filmed by real TV reporters
whose superiors gave the order not to show the tape to anyone and not to talk
with other media outlets. -- Jakub Karpinski
SLOVAK GOVERNMENT RAISES ENERGY PRICES.
As of 1 August, Slovak citizens
will have to pay more for electricity, water, and fuel. Electricity prices are
increasing by 5% for businesses and 10% for households, the cost of household
water is rising from 4 to 5 crowns per cubic meter, and maximum prices for
gasoline and diesel fuel are growing by 1.30 crowns per liter. Revenues from
the electricity price increase will be used for investment in firms producing
and distributing energy. Slovak Confederation of Trade Unions President Alojz
Englis stressed on 31 July that the price increases are a violation of the
social partnership between the government, unions, and employers, Praca
reported. Englis said the government succumbed to the pressure of industry,
transferring firms' problems to the population, "which is least able to defend
itself." -- Sharon Fisher
SLOVAK OPPOSITION CALLS FOR DEMOCRATIZATION.
Party of the Democratic
Left Deputy Chairman Peter Weiss told Narodna obroda on 1 August that
his party is initiating talks with other opposition parties to coordinate
foreign policy aimed at boosting Slovakia's NATO and the EU integration
efforts. "If Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar does not want to go down in history
as a man who damaged Slovakia's long-term interests, he has to take unavoidable
democratic steps," Weiss stressed. In other news, police official Ondrej Laciak
told TASR that it remains unclear whether the car explosion that killed former
police officer Robert Remias was caused by someone or was a technical failure.
The opposition called the death of Remias, who was connected to the kidnapping
case of the president's son, the first political murder in Slovakia since 1989.
-- Sharon Fisher
SLOVAK CULTURE MINISTRY OFFICIAL CRITICIZES THEATER POLICY.
Radio Twist on 31 July, Olga Salagova, state secretary at the Culture Ministry,
distanced herself from Culture Minister Ivan Hudec's controversial steps to
merge Slovak's theaters and make personnel changes. Although Salagova
recognized the need for change, she stressed that "we certainly could have
found an easier path than that chosen by Hudec. I do not agree with it, and I
distance myself from such actions. It is necessary to speak with our artists."
She noted that despite her high ministerial position, she is "not allowed" to
deal with the issue. Hudec told Slovenska Republika that the actors at
the Slovak National Theater--several of whom have announced their resignations
as a result of recent personnel changes--are behaving like "privileged children
of the revolution." -- Sharon Fisher
CIVIC ORGANIZATIONS ISSUE APPEAL FOR NUCLEAR-FREE HUNGARY.
More than 40
Hungarian civic organizations have issued a statement expressing concern that
the country's politicians have not dissociated themselves from a possible
deployment of nuclear weapons on Hungarian soil, Hungarian radio reported on 30
July. The statement says that the deployment of nuclear weapons in Hungary
would be tantamount to the country becoming a potential target for nuclear
attack. Istvan Gyarmati, state secretary at the Ministry of Defense, responded
by saying it is very important to hold a dialogue with civil organizations
opposed to his government's plans. He added that Hungary is not interested in
and cannot have partial NATO membership. "We want to be a member of NATO as
soon as possible, for that would best guarantee the country's security.
Stationing more and more nuclear weapons does not seem to be the current
tendency in Europe, just the opposite. NATO's expansion is unlikely to change
that," he commented. -- Zsofia Szilagyi
KORNBLUM MEETS WITH BOSNIAN SERBS.
U.S. assistant Secretary of State for
Canadian and European affairs John Kornblum on 31 July met with top Bosnian
Serbs to remind them that indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic must stay out
of politics, AFP reported. A U.S. official said the talks focused on the need
for the Bosnian Serb leadership to respect an agreement with U.S. envoy for
Bosnia Richard Holbrooke on Karadzic's withdrawal from all political
activities. However, Karadzic's photographs still appear in the Republika
Srpska media, and he is reported to have attended closed meetings of the ruling
Serbian Democratic Party. Last week Holbrooke announced that Kornblum would
attempt to force Karadzic to leave his base in Pale, but press reports did not
specify whether the issue was raised at the 31 July meeting. -- Daria Sito
WORLD BANK APPROVES $75.6 MILLION FOR BOSNIA'S RECONSTRUCTION.
Bank has agreed to grant Bosnia-Herzegovina $75.6 million in credits to finance
five reconstruction programs, AFP reported on 31 July. The projects involve
de-mining, housing reconstruction, electricity production, employment, and the
demobilization and reintegration of 425,000 Bosnian army soldiers. The loans
are interest-free and will mature in 35 years. In other news, Biljana Plavsic,
acting president of the Republika Srpska, on 30 July began her campaign for the
September general elections by touring Serb-held towns in northwestern Bosnia,
Onasa reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic
WILL SEPARATIST BOSNIAN CROATS GIVE UP THEIR STATE?
Croats have agreed to transform their mini-state, Herceg-Bosna, into a
"political community," Croatian radio reported, citing a comminqué
adopted by the Bosnian Croat leadership. But Croatian leaders in both
Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia were unavailable to clear up ambiguities in the
comminqué, AFP reported on 31 July. Bosnian Vice President Ejup Ganic,
speaking in Zagreb on 31 July, remarked that Zagreb's position on Herceg-Bosna
remains unclear, adding that Croatian President Franjo Tudjman has "not
promised to agree to the dissolution of Herceg-Bosna, but we will see [what
happens] in the next five to six days." Meanwhile, Tudjman is scheduled to
arrive in the U.S. on 1 August for what local media describe as " a working
visit" and meetings with President Bill Clinton. -- Stan Markotich
SERBIAN PREMIER IN KOSOVO.
Mirko Marjanovic, addressing ethnic Serbian
"business leaders and political officials" in the predominantly ethnic Albanian
province of Kosovo on 30 July, described Kosovo as an "integral and
inalienable" part of Serbia. Marjanovic said his government's priority was to
advocate policies promoting "peace, the rule of law, economic prosperity and
the fight against crime,...[and] equality for all citizens." The premier also
said that the leadership of the Kosovar shadow state "has put [ethnic
Albanians] in a very difficult situation by implementing polices of
self-imposed isolation," Tanjug reported. -- Stan Markotich
MACEDONIA, BRITAIN SIGN DEFENSE AGREEMENT.
Visiting British Defense
Secretary Michael Portillo and Macedonian Defense Minister Blagoj Handziski on
31 July signed a defense cooperation agreement, AFP reported. Portillo said
Britain will help Macedonia remain independent and sovereign. An official
Macedonian statement said the agreement "aims at integration of Macedonia into
Europe's collective defense and security system." -- Stefan Krause
SLOVENIAN NAVY ACQUIRES VESSEL.
A 29-meter military patrol boat,
equipped with two 20-millimeter canons, arrived in the port of Koper on 31
July, STA reported that same day. The vessel--the independent Slovenian Navy's
was purchased from an Israeli firm in 1993 but could
not be delivered until recently owing to the internationally imposed arms
embargo on all republics of the former Yugoslavia. -- Stan Markotich
Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu described his
one-day official visit to France on 31 July as part of a lobbying drive for
Romanian membership in European and Euro-Atlantic structures, Radio Bucharest
reported. Melescanu was received by French Premier Alain Juppe, and his French
counterpart, Herve de Charette, with whom he agreed to set up a working group
on bilateral economic cooperation. Meanwhile, an accord on the use of Western
European Union (WEU) documents enters into force on 1 August, Radio Bucharest
reported. The new accord allows Romania to use confidential information from
the WEU, the military arm of the EU. -- Dan Ionescu
MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT CHAIRMAN MEETS COMMUNISTS.
Petru Lucinschi on 31
July met with the leadership of the Communist Party of Moldova (PCM),
BASA-press reported. PCM Chairman Vladimir Voronin said after the meeting that
Lucinschi was clearly seeking the Communists' support in the run-up to the
presidential elections, though he did not say as much. Voronin added that
Lucinschi, who was a Central Committee Secretary of the Communist Party of the
Soviet Union in its final days, should first clarify his own "contribution to
the collapse of the party and, implicitly, of the Soviet Union" before counting
on the PCM's support. -- Dan Ionescu
The Bulgarian Socialist Party and its two tiny
coalition partners--the Bulgarian Agrarian People's Union "Aleksandar
Stamboliyski" and the Political Club "Ekoglasnost"--have signed an agreement
endorsing Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski and Culture Minister Ivan Marazov as
their joint presidential and vice presidential candidates, Duma reported on 1
August. In other news, Social Minister Mincho Koralski has announced that the
minimum wage will rise from 4,000 leva ($21.40) to 5,500 leva on 1 October,
24 chasa reported. The minimum pension will be increase from 2160 to
2760 leva and the maximum pension from 6480 to 8250 leva. Subsidies for the
socially needy will also be raised. Meanwhile, prices for electricity, fuel,
and heating went up by 22-23% on 1 August (just one month after the last hike),
while average bread prices increased by 51.8% over the past two weeks. --
U.S. EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER ALBANIA'S "AUTHORITARIAN TENDENCIES."
Secretary of State Warren Christopher on 31 July expressed disappointment with
developments in Albania, RFE/RL reported. Christopher told the U.S. House of
Representatives' International Affairs Committee that Albania is not moving
toward democracy as vigorously as it should. He added that he is "profoundly
disturbed" by recent authoritarian tendencies there. Congressman Tom Lantos
questioned whether the U.S. should continue to provide Albania with economic
assistance, saying Albania should be pressed to establish an independent
judiciary, a free press, and equal rights for the Greek minority. Meanwhile,
the Albanian parliament has invited the Council of Europe, the European
Parliament, and the OSCE to send observers to monitor the 20 October local
elections, AFP reported. It also ratified the European Convention for the
Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the European Convention
on the Ban of Tortures. -- Stefan Krause