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Newsline - August 20, 1996

Dagestani Finance Minister Gamid Gamidov was killed by a powerful car bomb that exploded outside the finance ministry building in Makhachkala on 20 August, ITAR-TASS reported. Gamidov was standing in the entrance to the building when the bomb exploded. Another three people were reported killed and dozens injured. Gamidov, an entrepreneuer, was elected to the Duma in December, but resigned his seat in order to take over the finance ministry in Dagestan. He attracted some investment to the republic, built a series of industrial enterprises, and set up several commercial banks. -- Robert Orttung

The commander of federal forces in Chechnya, Lt.-Gen. Konstantin Pulikovskii, late on 19 August ordered all civilians to evacuate Grozny within 48 hours, Russian and Western agencies reported. While denying that he was issuing an ultimatum, Pulikovskii said he "reserved the right" to launch an all-out artillery and aerial bombardment of separatist positions in the city after this deadline passed. Signaling that the Russian military are unwilling to accept their humiliating defeat in the recent Grozny fighting, Pulikovskii added early on 20 August that he saw no alternative to using force to resolve the current situation in Grozny, AFP reported. Sporadic fighting continued on 19 August, although a fragile truce seemed to be generally holding. But on the morning of 20 August, Pulikovskii announced that federal artillery had begun to bombard separatist positions in the city. -- Scott Parrish

Security Council Secretary and presidential representative in Chechnya Aleksandr Lebed said on 19 August that he opposes the resumption of air strikes in Grozny, ITAR-TASS reported. Speaking after a meeting with pro-Moscow Chechen head of state Doku Zavgaev, Lebed underlined his view that the Chechen conflict can only be resolved through peaceful means. On 20 August, Lebed said he would fly to Grozny the same day to take "extraordinary measures" to resolve the renewed tension there. He also declared that resolving the conflict was more important than either "my personal ambitions or those of [Interior Minister Anatolii] Kulikov." -- Scott Parrish

Presidential press secretary Sergei Yastrzhembskii announced on 19 August that President Yeltsin has ordered Lebed to "restore the order that prevailed" in Grozny before 5 August, when the latest Chechen separatist offensive began, Russian and Western agencies reported. He specifically instructed Lebed to "free government buildings, checkpoints, and places where Russian units are posted" in Grozny, many of which are currently encircled by separatist fighters, but also told him to observe the terms of the earlier peace agreements signed in Narzan and Moscow. He also ordered Lebed to present a plan for resolving the Chechen crisis by 26 August. Yastrzhembskii added that Yeltsin had not met with or spoken to Lebed since his return from Chechnya, when the Security Council secretary unsuccessfully demanded the sacking of Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov (see OMRI Daily Digest, 19 August 1996). -- Scott Parrish

Commentators have interpreted Yeltsin's treatment of Lebed since the Security Council secretary unsuccessfully demanded the ouster of hard-line Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov as a sign that the president supports Kulikov's position on Chechnya, Russian media reported on 20 August. Pavel Felgengauer, military correspondent for Segodnya, described the conflict between Lebed and Kulikov as a "typical Russian bureaucratic duel," adding that he expected both men to remain in the government. Pro-communist Pravda-5 suggested that the Chechen separatists would be the only winners of the bureaucratic conflict in Moscow. -- Scott Parrish

President Yeltsin has taken two days off to fly to Valdai, a lake region 200 miles northwest of Moscow, to determine whether he would like to spend a longer vacation there, his press secretary Sergei Yastrzhembskii announced on 20 August. Yeltsin is expected to return to Moscow later this week for consultations with the members of his new government, ITAR-TASS reported. Ekho Moskvy claimed that Yeltsin has been hospitalized since 15 August with heart trouble, but Yastrzhembskii called the report "utterly absurd," AFP reported. -- Robert Orttung

Yeltsin spent 3 billion rubles more than his communist challenger Gennadii Zyuganov during the presidential campaign, according to figures released by the Central Electoral Commission, Kommersant-Daily reported on 20 August. Yeltsin spent 14.4 billion rubles ($2.7 million) while Zyuganov used 11.3 billion ($2.1 million). Yeltsin spent about 10.3 billion rubles on TV and radio, while Zyuganov only bought 1.5 billion rubles worth of air time. Zyuganov concentrated his resources on the print media and flyers. Both candidates received most of their money from corporate contributions and stayed within the legal limit of 14.5 billion rubles. Few believe that these officially reported figures reflect actual campaign expenditures. -- Robert Orttung

In its 15-21 August issue, Obshchaya gazeta polled a number of Russian newspaper editors asking if they thought that journalists should unite to press for an immediate halt to the Chechen war, a pullout of troops, and granting Chechnya independence. Some, like Moskovskii komsomolets Editor Pavel Gusev, fully supported the idea. Komsomolskaya pravda's Valerii Simonov doubted the ability of the journalists to unite, while Nezavisimaya gazeta's Vitalii Tretyakov backed the idea of pressing for an immediate halt to the war, but questioned whether an immediate troop withdrawal was a realistic option. Vladimir Volin of Megapolis-Ekspress said that some sort of journalist action was needed, but could think of nothing that would get the government's attention. Obshchaya gazeta itself originated as a common newspaper put out by journalists opposed to the August 1991 coup. -- Robert Orttung

An organizing committee that grew out of the Obshchaya gazeta publication held its first meeting on 19 August, ITAR-TASS reported. Several newspapers are planning to call for a mass demonstration against the war in Chechnya in Moscow in September. Obshchaya gazeta is also planning to publish a broadsheet containing the opinions of ordinary people about the war. The newspaper first appeared during the days of the 1991 coup when it united the efforts of several publications banned by the coup makers. It also united the efforts of numerous journalists to put together a special edition on the day Dmitrii Kholodov, a Moskovskii komsomolets reporter murdered while investigating corruption in the military, was buried. -- Robert Orttung

No more than 50 people, carrying banners saying "Communism is dead," gathered outside the Russian White House to mark the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the failed putsch attempt, AFP reported on 19 August. Due to the lack of state finance, organizers gave up plans for pompous celebrations and had to be content with a modest march by defenders of the White House, the bastion of resistance to the Communist coup plotters, and sporting competitions. Likewise, a concert initially planned to take place on Red Square was moved behind St. Basil's Cathedral, a decision that led to most artists scheduled to perform pulling out. -- Anna Paretskaya

At a Moscow press conference, Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin said that deteriorating living conditions in the military had created an "explosive situation" in which more and more servicemen are openly expressing discontent, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that the military is now owed 15 trillion rubles ($2.8 billion) by the federal budget, and warned that military strike committees were forming. Rokhlin added that 392 military personnel had died from various non-combat related causes in 1995, noting that over one-third of them had committed suicide, presumably because of atrocious working and living conditions. Meanwhile, 30 soldiers from an internal troops unit in Perm Oblast deserted on 19 August, complaining of vicious hazing. A mother of one of the deserters told Russian TV that the soldiers had fled the "unbearable, prison-like" atmosphere of their unit, and would rather live in the woods than return. -- Scott Parrish

The U.S. Congressional Research Service has calculated that Russian arms sales to the developing world grew by an impressive 62% in 1995 and reached $6 billion, outpacing the United States, which sold $3.8 billion in weapons to the same countries, The New York Times reported on 20 August. Russia has thus become the largest seller of arms to the developing world, the report said, with China its biggest customer. Russian arms sales are difficult to calculate, however, due to government secrecy, weak export controls, and a blurring between signed contracts and actual deliveries. Also, Russia does not report its conventional arms sales to the UN, as do many Western countries. All sources agree that Russian arms exports surged in 1995, but the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has estimated that Russian arms exports totaled $3.9 billion in 1995, while Russian officials have placed the figure at about $2.5 billion. -- Scott Parrish

Four thousand employees of the Sokol joint stock company went on strike on 19 August, demanding immediate payment of wages they have not received since January, ITAR-TASS reported. The enterprise in Belgorod is a leading military communication systems factory. Meanwhile, miners of the Primorskii Krai Tsentralnaya pit continue their strike to demand payment of wage arrears and the reversal of a decision to close down the pit. According to the miners' trade union, wage debts to miners total about 3 trillion rubles ($550 million), while workers in all industries are owed a total of 34 trillion rubles in back wages. -- Anna Paretskaya

President Yeltsin signed a package of eight decrees on 19 August aimed at increasing taxes and cutting spending, ITAR-TASS reported. The decrees abolished all presidential privileges and tax breaks granted since the adoption of the 1996 federal budget, including most of Yeltsin's pre-election promises. Finance Minister Aleksandr Livshits said the measures were worth 50 trillion rubles ($9.4 billion). However, some extra spending plans were exempted from the freeze, including payment of pension arrears, savings compensation for pensioners, funding for the Children of Russia program, subsidies for the Nakhodka free economic zone, "and a few others." The revenue-raising measures, including the imposition of VAT on imports from Ukraine, had been widely discussed in recent weeks. -- Peter Rutland

According to Livshits, an IMF team has completed its visit to Moscow and the IMF is expected to approve the release of the delayed $340 million loan tranche from July, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 August. Reuters quoted the IMF representative in Moscow, Thomas Wolf, as saying that the mission "was reassured about the performance in July and that the necessary revenue measures are being taken." IMF approval probably has more to do with the promotion of sympathetic figures in the new government than with the actual implementation of budget-balancing measures. -- Peter Rutland

The Kazakhstani Prosecutor General's office discovered that pensioners and invalids have not been receiving all the money allocated for them, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 August. President Nursultan Nazarbayev signed a decree years ago, calculated on rising monthly wages, which raised the pensions of persons who retired prior to 1 January 1992. However, the Ministry of Social Maintenance was short of funds and slashed payments to pensioners and invalids to make up the difference. Instead of receiving 700 tenge ($10) per month, people were getting 307 tenge. Back payments owed to pensioners and invalids currently amount to more than 7 billion tenge. -- Bruce Pannier

Opposition forces occupied the central Tajikistan town of Tavil-Dara on 17 August, Reuters reported. This was admitted by a Tajik government representative to the group, Zafar Ikromov, who is monitoring the ceasefire agreement. The Tajik Defense Ministry claims its forces withdrew in order to prevent losses among the civilian population of the town. -- Bruce Pannier

The Kyrgyz government has asked Tajik authorities to speed up the repatriation of Tajik refugees in Kyrgyzstan, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 August. Kyrgyz Minister of Labor and Social Security Zafar Khakimov stated there are 15,000 Tajik refugees registered in Kyrgyzstan, mainly in the Osh and Jalalabad areas. Khakimov said the concentration of Tajik refugees in Kyrgyzstan's southern regions was creating tensions, specifically in the Betken district, an area already possessing a Tajik majority and still claimed by Dushanbe as belonging to Tajikistan. -- Bruce Pannier

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati held talks with his Turkmen counterpart Boris Shikhmuradov in Ashgabat on 19 August, IRNA reported the same day. The two discussed the intensified conflict in Tajikistan and ways to boost bilateral and regional cooperation. Velayati also announced Tehran's plans to host a regional, foreign minister-level, peace conference on Afghanistan tentatively scheduled for 28-29 October. Earlier this week the beleaguered government in Kabul rejected a proposal submitted to the UN Security Council by Pakistan and Uzbekistan to embargo the sale of arms to any of the factions fighting in Afghanistan. -- Lowell Bezanis

Taiwanese Vice President Lien Chan has made a secret journey to Ukraine, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported on 20 August. Lien reportedly disappeared from New York on 18 August and flew to Kyiv to meet with President Leonid Kuchma. Ukraine recognizes the People's Republic of China, which has a strict policy against official recognition of Taiwan. Last year, Beijing denounced the Czech Republic and Austria after Lien visited those countries, and in 1992 China recalled its charge d'affaires from Latvia because Riga had established consular relations with Taipei. Under pressure from China, Latvia formally terminated consular ties with Taiwan in 1994. Taiwanese Foreign Minister John Chang did not confirm that Lien was in Ukraine but said the vice president was in a "third country." -- Ustina Markus

A Ukrainian government commission headed by Deputy Prime Minister Vasyl Durdynets has found that the Crimean economy has continued to deteriorate at a faster pace than most other regional economies, Ukrainian TV reported on 17 August. The agriculture sector has the worst record in output and sales. Ukrainian officials revealed that the Crimean government had provided Kyiv with falsified reports enhancing grain-procurement figures for the region's grain reserve. President Leonid Kuchma fired several local officials as a result. Only the tourism sector has seen improvement, its income increasing by 17% in the first six months of the year over the same period last year. Durdynets admonished Crimean authorities for poorly implementing budgetary policy, and he revealed a number of abuses and cases of embezzlement involving officials in the Education, Social Welfare, and Culture ministries. His commission also said the resettlement of exiled Tatars in Crimea had virtually stopped because of local funding cuts. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

Five pro-Russian political parties in Crimea have refused to re-register in accordance with a Ukrainian law on public associations that acknowledges only national parties, UNIAR reported on 16 August. The parties, including the Rossiya bloc, have protested a recent order by the Justice Ministry that they re-register under the conditions of the legislation or find themselves formally outside the party system. They claim the law, which does not recognize regional parties, violates their civil rights and Crimean autonomy. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

Belarus's first deputy parliamentary speaker, Vasil Novikau, said preparations for the 24 November by-elections will continue despite statements by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka that there is no need to fill the 60 vacant parliamentary seats, Belapan reported on 19 August. Novikau did not exclude the possibility that elections would not take place. He said that because the Constitutional Court has already ruled that 16 of Lukashenka's decrees contravened the constitution, it was possible the president would ban the by-elections, and there would be nothing the legislature could do about it. -- Ustina Markus

Chinese Minister of State Li Tieying and Estonian Prime Minister Tiit Vahi on 19 August in Tallinn talked about ways of improving economic cooperation, such as signing an agreement to prevent double taxation, ETA reported. Li Tieying said that China would like to open a duty-free-goods warehouse and a department store in Estonia and use Estonia as a transit country for developing trade with the EU. The ministers also discussed the import of Chinese raw material for the production of rare-earth metals at the RAS Silmet plant. Vahi was invited to visit China with an economics and business delegation. -- Saulius Girnius

The Latvian parliament on 22 August is scheduled to discuss ratification of an agreement signed last October with Amoco and Sweden's OPAB on exploring possible oil deposits off its coast, BNS reported. Some of the area, however, is also claimed by Lithuania, and talks on determining the exact border have been unsuccessful. The two companies can cancel their agreements if the Saeima fails to ratify them by 31 October. Latvian Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs said that the optimal time to sign a border agreement would be before Lithuania's parliamentary elections on 20 October as that would allow Lithuanian politicians to demonstrate "an ability to settle relations with a very friendly country." Birkavs, however, noted that Latvia will submit a memorandum to Lithuania on its position toward Lithuania's attempt to resume construction of the Butinge floating oil terminal, which Latvian environmentalists have protested. -- Saulius Girnius

Ruling Democratic Labor Party (LDDP) caucus head Gediminas Kirkilas announced on 19 August that, due to sharp criticism from other parties, the LDDP would abandon its plan to hold a referendum on giving the president the right to call early parliamentary elections and to appoint the defense, interior, and foreign affairs ministers, BNS reported. Kirkilas nevertheless said that a referendum should be held together with the parliamentary elections on 20 October. He said the referendum should include questions on strengthening the president's power over the courts, changing the date of parliamentary elections from fall to spring, and reducing the size of the parliament from 141 to 101 members. A referendum can be held on these questions only if 71 Seimas deputies submit them to the parliament for discussion. -- Saulius Girnius

The Labor Ministry on 19 August announced that, in July, unemployment reached its lowest level since 1992, international agencies reported. Of working-age Poles, 14.1% were without jobs last month, compared with 14.3% in June and 14.9% at the end of 1995. The ministry also announced that the number of jobless registered at employment agencies in July was down 42,000 from the previous month. Unemployment is in single digits in Warsaw, while in the northern city of Slupsk it stands at 27%. -- Jan Cleave

Speaking on 19 August after a meeting in Prague with Czech Deputy Foreign Minister Sasa Vondra, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia's chief prosecutor, Richard Goldstone, criticized IFOR for not arresting leading war-crimes suspects. CTK quoted Goldstone as saying that he believes there is still time to correct a "mistaken and unfortunate policy." Goldstone, who is to quit his post at the Hague tribunal this fall after two years of service, said he is optimistic that it is only a matter of time before other suspected war criminals are arrested. Goldstone argued that all UN member states need to adopt laws that make cooperation with the tribunal mandatory. Vondra told journalists that the Czech Republic is preparing such a law. -- Jiri Pehe

Following coalition discussions on 19 August concerning Slovakia's new territorial administration, Slovak National Party (SNS) Chairman Jan Slota told Slovak Radio that the three partners are in "100%" agreement. Slota, who stirred up a coalition crisis in June over privatization, noted that the meeting's participants were "pleasantly surprised" at the willingness of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS)--the senior coalition partner--to compromise. Meanwhile, Prime Minister and HZDS Chairman Vladimir Meciar noted that all parties had left the discussion "satisfied." He confirmed that the chiefs of the eight new regions will represent the HZDS, while three deputy posts will go to the SNS and five to the Association of Workers of Slovakia. -- Sharon Fisher

Third Sector Association (GTS) representative Helena Wolekova on 19 August rejected assertions by Deputy Prime Minister Katarina Tothova that the UN approves of Slovakia's controversial law on foundations, Narodna obroda reported. Tothova, who traveled to Geneva earlier this month, said that UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Jose Ayal Lasso had no objections to the law, which was re-approved by the parliament in June after being vetoed by the president. The GTS, however, pointed out that Lasso had sent a letter expressing his reservations about the law before its re-approval. Although the law does not take effect until 1 September, Wolekova said the registrations of two foundations have already been rejected by the Interior Ministry, which will be responsible for approving new foundations. Tothova said Lasso's letter was not a "condemnation" of the law but a "challenge for discussion." -- Sharon Fisher

Hungary's political and cultural leaders on 19 August attended celebrations commemorating the 1,100th anniversary of Hungarians' arrival in the Carpathian basin, international media reported. In a public address, Prime Minister Gyula Horn paid special attention to the importance of settling relations with Hungary's neighbors. Meanwhile, the World Federation of Hungarians on 18 August announced its opposition to the Hungarian-Romanian basic treaty--particularly since collective rights for ethnic Hungarians are not guaranteed--and asked Hungary to reconsider its stance, the BBC reported two days later. Following a meeting in Budapest on 19 August with representatives of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania, Miklos Duray of the Bratislava-based Coexistence movement said Hungarian minority representatives will ask for more discussions with Horn, TASR reported. -- Sharon Fisher

The head of the OSCE office in Sarajevo, Robert Frowick, said Bosnia's elections should go ahead as planned, despite problems and appeals, Onasa reported on 16 August. Frowick's statement came after the International Crisis Group, an international monitoring team, had recommended postponement of the September elections because conditions for free and fair voting are not yet in place. But Frowick on 19 August warned that the OSCE "reserves the right to invalidate electoral results" in areas where local officials fail to comply with the Dayton accord, AFP reported. Frowick warned that if government officials continue discouraging or prohibiting freedom of movement, the return of refugees and displaced persons to their homes, freedom of the press, and freedom of expression, they will face "serious consequences," according to the 20 August Oslobodjenje. -- Daria Sito Sucic

Croatian President Franjo Tudjman on 19 August held talks on Brioni Island with senior Bosnian Croat officials to discuss the phased abolition of the Croatian ministate of Herceg-Bosna, international and local media reported. Kresimir Zubak, the president of the Muslim-Croat federation, said the Bosnian Croats will respect the 31 August deadline for Herceg-Bosna's dissolution, as agreed with their Muslim partners over the weekend. Following talks with Tudjman, Zubak said that "the ball is now in our [Muslim] partners' court." Meanwhile, Bosnian Premier Hasan Muratovic, on an official visit to The Hague, said the Bosnian general elections would be compromised if Herceg-Bosna is not dissolved by 14 September, AFP reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic

Kasim Trnka, the Bosnian ambassador to Zagreb, reproached the Croatian government for allowing election propaganda for the Bosnian branch of the Croatian Democratic Community and Fikret Abdic's Democratic People's Union on its territory, thus violating the Croatian constitution, the Dayton peace agreement, and a memorandum signed with the OSCE, Onasa reported on 18 August. Abdic, a Muslim rebel kingpin who found a safe haven in Croatia after his forces were defeated by the Bosnian army last summer, was granted Croatian citizenship by President Franjo Tudjman. He registered his political party in the Croatian portion of the Bosnian city of Mostar. Trnka complained about the OSCE decision to approve Abdic's election registration. The organization had noted that Abdic has not been accused by the war-crimes tribunal. A court in the northwestern Bosnian town of Bihac, though, indicted Abdic for war crimes on 10 August, Onasa reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic

Ivan Simonovic, Croatia's deputy foreign minister, met in Belgrade on 19 August with rump Yugoslavia's foreign minister, Milan Milutinovic, and emerged from talks observing that a number of issues, including a dispute over jurisdiction of the strategic Prevlaka peninsula, may delay the signing of a mutual-recognition agreement between Zagreb and Belgrade, Nasa Borba reported on 20 August. Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic was to travel to Belgrade on 23 August to participate in a signing ceremony, but Simonovic has now hinted that the signing may be postponed. "As far as Croatia is concerned, the quality of any agreement is much more important than the date when an accord on the normalization of relations is reached," Simonovic said on Croatian radio. -- Stan Markotich

Police arrested a 29-year-old man identified only as "Goran V." near Osijek, Croatia, on 17 August, Hina reported on 19 August. According to Croatian authorities, the suspect, an ethnic Serb allegedly involved in supporting Croatia's rebel Serbs in 1991 and 1992, faces war-crimes charges that include armed insurrection. In May, Croatia passed amnesty legislation, but on 19 August AFP reported that Croatia's Ministry of Justice has not said how many individuals remain on its wanted list for war crimes. -- Stan Markotich

Ejup Ganic met Slovenian President Milan Kucan on 19 August for discussions on bilateral relations and regional political developments. Onasa quoted Ganic as saying that "Bosnia is prepared to step up contacts with Slovenia to the maximum, from sports to science and politics." For his part, Kucan predicted that the 14 September elections in Bosnia will be a watershed, saying he hopes the balloting will "affirm Bosnia as an independent state." -- Stan Markotich

The Macedonian government on 19 August approved the draft version of the local-election law, Nova Makedonija reported. According to the draft, municipal councils would be elected by a proportional system and mayors by majority vote. The term for both council members and mayors would be four years. The first local elections are to be called by the president of the Macedonian parliament and subsequent ones by the mayors. The government also discussed the draft law on the administrative division of Macedonia, which is to define the territories of individual communities. The parliament is expected to vote on both laws soon. -- Stefan Krause

Gheorghe Funar, leader of the chauvinistic Party of Romanian National Unity, on 19 August continued to attack the recent agreement on a Romanian-Hungarian basic treaty. In a statement broadcast by Radio Bucharest, Funar rejected accusations by President Ion Iliescu's spokesman that he was "grossly misinforming" the public about the meaning of key clauses in the treaty. Funar also claimed that the negotiation of the treaty lacked transparency. He said the draft has remained unknown to the government, political parties, parliamentary commissions, and the media. Funar challenged Iliescu to take part in a public debate on national TV. -- Dan Ionescu

The run-up to the 17 November presidential election in the Republic of Moldova formally opened on 19 August, Infotag reported the same day. Out of the country's population of 4.5 million, 2.4 million are entitled to take part in the vote (of whom some 150,000 reside in Moldova's breakaway Dniester region). Ten candidates have announced their intention to run for the presidency. Initiative groups (of which four had already registered with the Central Electoral Commission on 19 August) are busy seeking the 20,000 signatures required by law to validate a presidential candidacy. -- Dan Ionescu

The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) believes that the registration of its candidate, Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski, with the Central Electoral Commission will be challenged and consequently annulled, Kontinent reported on 20 August. Pirinski's eligibility is in question after the Constitutional Court effectively ruled that he is not a "Bulgarian citizen by birth" as required by the constitution (see OMRI Daily Digest, 24 July 1996). A leading BSP member said a plenary meeting that will nominate a new candidate is already being prepared. Meanwhile, the secretary-general of the Bulgarian Communist Party (BKP) and of the Communist International, Vladimir Spasov, on 19 August said he hopes to register two women as the BKP's presidential and vice presidential candidates. -- Stefan Krause

On a visit to Bulgaria, the Russian Black Sea Fleet commander, Adm. Viktor Kravchenko, said Moscow does not approve of the presence of U.S. Navy vessels in the Black Sea, 24 chasa reported. "It is funny that the States claim that the Black Sea is a zone of strategic interest for them," Kravchenko said. He said the presence of U.S. ships in Bulgarian territorial waters contravenes the 1936 Montreux Convention, which regulates the presence of military ships of non-Black Sea countries. In 1995, 25 such ships passed through Bulgarian waters, and 20 have done so thus far in 1996. Kravchenko said Turkey's navy is the strongest in the Black Sea at present, both in terms of quantity and quality. Kravchenko admitted that the Soviet Union in 1945-50 dumped "small quantities" of chemical weapons in the Black Sea, but he said "they pose no danger." -- Stefan Krause