CIVILIANS FLEE GROZNY, ULTIMATUM REMAINS IN FORCE.
Citizens of Grozny on
20 August continued to flee the city following the ultimatum issued the
previous day by the interim commander of the Russian federal forces, Lt.-Gen.
Konstantin Pulikovskii, though an estimated 150,000 people remain, Russian and
Western agencies reported. Chechen spokesman Movladi Udugov told Reuters that
some 100 civilians died when Russian troops blew up a bridge in Alkhan-Yurt,
southwest of Grozny; AFP reported that Russian troops later blocked the only
remaining route out of the city to the northeast. Pro-Moscow Chechen Prime
Minister Nikolai Koshman told ITAR-TASS that the ultimatum to leave Grozny
within 48 hours was "unrealistic." Lt.-Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, who resumed
command of the Russian forces in Chechnya on 20 August after a vacation,
affirmed that he would "use all means, political and military" to expel the
Chechen fighters from Grozny, AFP reported. -- Liz Fuller
MOSCOW GROUPS DENOUNCE PULIKOVSKII ULTIMATUM.
Russia's Democratic Choice
called on President Boris Yeltsin to fire Lt.-Gen. Konstantin Pulikovskii and
speed up the peace settlement in the separatist republic. The Chechen
representative to the president denounced Pulikovskii's ultimatum as a "death
sentence" for the "hundreds" of thousands of people unable to escape from
Grozny, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 August. Meanwhile, the little-known Assembly
of Russian National Democratic and Patriotic Forces called Lebed's negotiations
"criminal" and argued that they would lead to the disintegration of Russia and
civil war throughout the Caucasus region, Russian TV reported. -- Robert
LEBED CHARGES THAT YELTSIN IS NOT SIGNING HIS OWN ORDERS . . .
Lebed's Security Council released a statement on 20 June expressing doubts
whether President Boris Yeltsin had actually signed his instruction to "restore
the order that prevailed" in Grozny before 5 August (see OMRI Daily
Digest, 20 August 1996), Kommersant-Daily reported. Lebed argued
that carrying out these instructions would lead to widescale military
activities, heavy losses among federal troops, massive civilian deaths, and
would disrupt his negotiations. Lebed insisted that no one be allowed to
manipulate the president and demanded an explanation of the order's origin. The
paper suggested that Lebed would only make such a statement if he were sure
that Yeltsin had not signed the order, a likely scenario given Yeltsin's poor
health. Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais, a Lebed rival, is in charge of
preparing all documents for the president's signature. -- Robert Orttung
. . . KREMLIN DENIES CHARGES.
The Kremlin responded to Lebed's charges
in a vaguely worded statement from the presidential press service on 20 June,
ITAR-TASS reported. The statement said that the federal government would not
fulfill the separatists' demands while they continued shooting but that it was
prepared to continue negotiations. The statement also asked Lebed not to talk
about the issue with the media until he had met with Yeltsin. Lebed's charges
and the nebulous response suggest that Yeltsin is no longer in direct control.
-- Robert Orttung
MEDIA COVERAGE OF HEALTH ISSUE INCREASES.
As President Boris Yeltsin's
spokesman continues to insist that the president is merely resting in the lake
region of Valdai, intense speculation on Yeltsin's health has reappeared in the
press. Russian journalists sympathetic to Yeltsin avoided the health issue in
late June and July, even as Yeltsin's absence from public view dominated
Western news coverage of Russia. Yeltsin has not been seen in public since the
9 August inauguration. Komsomolskaya pravda reported on 21 August that
the president clearly needs heart surgery. On the same day,
Kommersant-Daily dismissed official statements on Yeltsin's health and
whereabouts as unconvincing. The latest issue of Novaya gazeta claimed
that recent television footage of Yeltsin has been broadcast with no
soundtrack. Meanwhile, the official newspaper Rossiiskie vesti continued
to deny the rumors on Yeltsin's health, reporting on 21 August that a recent
story in Time (see OMRI Daily Digest, 19 August 1996) was based
on "nonexistent" sources. -- Laura Belin
IZVESTIYA: LEBED HAS LAUNCHED PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN.
Izvestiya argued on 21 August that Lebed has launched his campaign
to succeed Yeltsin. The general's chances for success depend on whether he can
resolve the Chechen war. Lebed figured out that Yeltsin himself is responsible
for the conflict, not his hard-line advisors, often dubbed the "party of war."
Therefore, guessing that the president will not live much longer, Lebed has
forsaken internal Kremlin struggles for public attacks on the other members of
Yeltsin's inner circle who are trying to get rid of him, the paper said. Lebed
believes that public appeals for peace in Chechnya are the best way to mobilize
his main resource--the more than 10 million voters who supported him in the
first round of the presidential election on 16 June, Izvestiya argued.
-- Robert Orttung
ANOTHER BOMB EXPLOSION IN DAGESTAN.
The bomb attack on Dagestani Finance
Minister Gamid Gamidov (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20 August 1996) followed
an assassination attempt on Union of Muslims of Russia leader Nadir Khachilaev,
ITAR-TASS and Russian TV (RTR) reported. A hand grenade was thrown into the
courtyard of Khachilaev's house in the Dagestani capital Makhachkala at about 3
a.m. on 20 August, causing a powerful explosion but no injuries. Khachilaev has
recently been conducting an active campaign to stop the war in Chechnya. --
RALLY HELD IN NAZDRATENKO'S SUPPORT.
About 500 people rallied in support
of Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko in the krai's main city
Vladivostok on 20 August, Radio Rossii and Kommersant-Daily reported.
They called on the regional legislative assembly to hold a referendum on
confidence in the governor, who was criticized by the federal commission
investigating the region's financial crisis. They also protested the decision
of a Moscow court which reinstated dismissed Vladivostok Mayor Viktor Cherepkov
(see OMRI Daily Digest, 15 August 1996). -- Anna Paretskaya
METRO CONSTRUCTION WORKERS GO ON STRIKE.
Moscow metro construction
workers began an indefinite strike on 19 August to demand payment of wages due
since May, RTR reported. Meanwhile, the workers' committee of the Leningrad
atomic power plan (LAES) decided to resume protest actions on 26 August, Radio
Rossii reported on 20 August. The LAES employees are demanding full payment of
wage arrears, which total 8 billion rubles ($1.5 million), and an investigation
of LAES management's financial activities. Nuclear Energy Minister Viktor
Mikhailov claims that 5 billion rubles have been transferred to LAES' account.
The LAES workers also plan to picket the Russian government building in Moscow
from 30 August until 2 September. -- Anna Paretskaya
REGIONAL PROPERTY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN DETAINED.
Sergei Kozlov, the former
chairman of the Bryansk Oblast state property committee, has been arrested on
charges of abuse of power. He is also likely to be charged with embezzlement of
state funds, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 August, citing oblast Deputy Procurator
Aleksandr Stupak. Kozlov, who was fired several months ago, had been issuing
permits to transfer state property into private ownership, including the vast
field of the old airport in the center of Bryansk. Procurator General's Office
detective Petr Kuznetsov, who heads the investigation, said the case may expose
other related crimes both within and outside the oblast. -- Anna Paretskaya
SLIGHT DECREASE IN MORTALITY RATE.
Russia's mortality rate declined
slightly in the first five months of 1996, to 15.1 deaths per 1,000 residents,
compared to 15.5 per thousand in 1995 and 15.8 per thousand in 1994,
Izvestiya reported on 21 August. The incidence of cancer, heart and lung
diseases was practically unchanged. However, deaths from so-called "unnatural
causes" declined significantly; between January and May 1996, about 128,000
accidental deaths were recorded (down 14,000 from the same period in 1995). In
particular, deaths attributed to alcohol poisoning were down by 18% compared to
the first five months of 1995, murders by 12%, and suicides by 6%.
Izvestiya pointed out that Russia's overall demographic picture has not
improved, because the birth rate has continued to decline and the population is
falling by 6 per thousand. -- Laura Belin
GLAZEV TO HEAD SECURITY COUNCIL ECONOMIC DIRECTORAT
E. Sergei Glazev,
longtime political ally of Aleksandr Lebed and head of the Democratic Party of
Russia, has been appointed chief of the Russian Security Council's Economic
Security Directorate, ITAR-TASS and ORT reported on 20 August. Glazev, a former
minister of foreign trade, told a press conference that his team will conduct
an "expert analysis" of government proposals (such as the budget or
privatization plans) to assess their impact on Russia's economic dependence on
other states. Glazev said steps will be taken to reverse oil contracts being
signed under the production sharing law. Earlier reports suggested that Prime
Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin barred Glazev from a ministerial post because of
his fierce attacks on the government's economic policy. Lebed has now found
Glazev a niche in his own apparatus, and Glazev's replies to journalists made
it clear that he intends to continue criticizing government policy even from
his new position inside the administration. -- Peter Rutland
ARDZINBA REITERATES READINESS TO MEET WITH SHEVARDNADZE.
President Vladislav Ardzinba, responding on 20 August to his Georgian
counterpart Eduard Shevardnadze's call for a resumption of talks on resolving
Abkhazia's future status, reiterated his readiness for a face-to-face meeting
if there is a real chance of reaching a settlement, but insisted that there
could be no revision of the principles outlined in the UN-mediated statement of
April 1994 on repatriation, AFP and ITAR-TASS reported. The most recent round
of talks on a political settlement of the Abkhaz conflict, held in Moscow in
late July, failed to make any progress. -- Liz Fuller
ARMENIAN DEMOGRAPHIC UPDATE.
The total number of Armenians in the world
exceeds 10 million, Noyan Tapan reported on 20 August. Of these, 3.5 million
live in Armenia, 2.5 million in the Russian Federation, and almost 1.5 million
in the U.S. At the time of the 1989 Soviet census, the total population of the
Armenian SSR was 3,304,800, of whom approximately 90% were Armenians. The
figure cited for the number of Armenians currently living in Armenia is
difficult to reconcile with reports that some 800,000 people, or 17% of the
total population, have left Armenia since 1991, and that the sterility rate in
Armenia is 20-25%, which is 10% higher than the world average. -- Liz Fuller
Vahan Hovanessyan, one of the leading members of the
Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsyutyun) arrested on 29 July 1995 on
charges of terrorism and planning a coup, was erroneously referred to in the
OMRI Daily Digest of 16 August as the ARFD candidate for next month's
Armenian presidential elections. The ARFD has not in fact nominated a
TAJIKISTAN SAID TO BE ON VERGE OF COLLAPSE.
The Russian newspaper
Segodnya on 16 August reported Tajikistan as being on the verge of
collapse. The article claimed the Tajik economy is in ruins due to corruption
and the emigration of both the Russian and local population, which has drained
Tajikistan of qualified specialists. It also said that the Tajik government is
not interested in a peaceful solution to the conflict with religious and
political opponents, and that despite trade agreements with Russia only 6% of
Tajikistan's goods go there, the bulk of the rest going to Western countries.
The article also charged that paramilitary formations from the Popular Front,
which helped the present government come to power in 1992, have formed criminal
bands which virtually occupy Dushanbe, and that half of the Tajik militia are
former criminals, the paper said. -- Bruce Pannier
KAMILOV IN NEW DELHI.
Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov held
talks with Indian Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda in New Delhi on 21 August,
ITAR-TASS reported the same day. The report emphasized that New Delhi and
Tashkent's positions coincide on key regional issues, particularly the need to
find a peaceful resolution of the civil war in Afghanistan. Both also stressed
their commitment to fighting all forms of international terrorism, including
what was termed religious extremism, and to further enhance bilateral ties.
Trade between India and Uzbekistan reportedly reached $20 million in 1995. --
FBI IN TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA.
The U.S. Federal Bureau of
Investigation plans to double it overseas offices from 23 to 46 over a
four-year period, AFP reported on 20 August. Among other countries, the agency
plans to establish a presence in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Georgia in 1998.
This is part of the FBI's effort to create a "first line of defense" or early
warning system to cope with what it considers to be the growing
internationalization of crime and crime threats to the U.S. The report
detailing these plans stressed that the agency, whose mission has been confined
to domestic law enforcement and counter-intelligence, would not be engaged in
espionage but would liaise with its foreign counterparts. -- Lowell Bezanis
CIVIC CONGRESS APPEALS TO COUNCIL OF EUROPE.
The leftist Civic Congress
of Ukraine has appealed to the Council of Europe and various international
trade unions and human-rights organizations to pressure the Ukrainian
government to pay its huge wage debt to public-sector employees and end its
crackdown on leaders of the coal miners' union, UNIAR reported on 19 August.
The group complained that the government's debt to workers is "the most blatant
violation" of their rights and freedoms and claimed the wage-arrears crisis had
become a deliberate policy aimed at attracting IMF credits. It said only large
organized groups, such as the miners' unions, that could inflict substantial
losses by striking, had a chance at dialogue with the government. The Civic
Congress's appeal also demanded the release of three organizers of the July
miners' strike who were arrested recently in what is seen as a crackdown on
independent labor unions. It complained that the mass media have been
intimidated by the government into toeing the official line on these events. --
MORE ON TAIWANESE OFFICIAL'S VISIT TO UKRAINE.
The visit of Taiwanese
Vice President Lien Chan to Ukraine has given rise to controversy,
international agencies reported on 20 and 21 August. Ukraine recognizes the
People's Republic of China and, in adherence to Beijing's "one China" policy,
does not have official diplomatic relations with Taiwan. Ukraine's Foreign
Ministry denied knowledge of Lien's trip, which was explained as an unofficial
visit at the invitation of Kyiv University, where Lien was awarded an honorary
degree. China condemned the visit, saying it had political overtones even if it
was ostensibly a private visit. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said
Beijing was preparing to lodge an official protest with Kyiv. Last year,
Ukraine's trade with Taiwan totaled $224.8 million, with Ukrainian exports to
Taipei accounting for $180 million. Ukraine's trade with China amounted to
almost $1 billion and was also slanted in favor of Ukrainian exports. -- Ustina
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT PROMOTES OFFICIALS.
Leonid Kuchma has issued a
decree upgrading the chairmanships of five state committees to the level of
cabinet ministerships, Ukrainian TV reported on 19 August. The chiefs of the
Anti-Monopoly Committee, the State Property Fund, the Secret Service of
Ukraine, the State Customs Committee, and the Committee for the Defense of
State Borders will now rank as ministers. In other news, Prime Minister Pavlo
Lazarenko promised leaders of Ukraine's writers', artists', and
cinematographers' unions that he would determine the feasibility of allowing
them tax breaks and other privileges to support their artistic endeavors. The
groups asked Lazarenko to consider such aid especially for Ukrainian-language
book publishers, who have found it most difficult to adapt to market
conditions. The government has allocated 455 billion karbovantsi ($2.4 million)
in subsidies this year to the unions, up from 316 billion karbovantsi last
year. -- Chrystyna Lapychak
TRIALS OF UKRAINIANS BEGIN IN BELARUS.
The trials of seven Ukrainians
arrested in Minsk for participating in the 26 April Chornobyl anniversary
demonstration began on 21 August, ITAR-TASS reported. The Ukrainians allegedly
belong to the radical nationalist Ukrainian National Assembly-Ukrainian
Self-Defense Organization. The Belarusian press has frequently accused the
organization of cooperating with the nationalist Belarusian Popular Front
against Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's pro-Russian policies. The
nearly four-month detention without trial of the Ukrainians has strained
relations between Ukraine and Belarus. -- Ustina Markus
ROUND TABLE IN BELARUS.
The leaders of some 15 parties and movements are
scheduled to meet on 21 August to hold a round-table discussion on the
political and socioeconomic situation in Belarus, ITAR-TASS reported.
Participants in the discussion will include Agrarians, Communists, and members
of the nationalist Belarusian Popular Front. It is also expected that
government representatives will take part in the talks, though President
Alyaksandr Lukashenka has said he will not participate. One of the key points
on the agenda is a resolution calling for a five-year moratorium on amendments
to the constitution. Lukashenka plans to make a number of changes to the
document and have them approved in a national referendum in November. -- Ustina
BALTIC, NORDIC FOREIGN MINISTERS MEET.
Latvian Foreign Minister Valdis
Birkavs hosted his counterparts from Estonia, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden,
Finland, Denmark, and Iceland in Riga on 20 August, Baltic agencies reported.
He said the ministers agreed that the lifting of visa requirements would
promote regional integration and mutual contacts at various levels. While
noting that the future security structure of Europe cannot be created without
the active participation of Russia, they expressed support for NATO membership
for the Baltic states. They also stated that negotiations with the EU on new
members should begin simultaneously for all candidate countries. It was the
fourth meeting of the countries' foreign ministers. -- Saulius Girnius
NEW LATVIAN AMBASSADOR TO LITHUANIA ACCREDITED.
Ajis Sjanits submitted
his letter of accreditation to Lithuanian President Algirdas Brazauskas on 20
August, Radio Lithuania reported. The Latvian diplomat said his central task is
to confirm and accelerate the unity between Lithuania and Latvia in foreign
policy and in their common goal of membership in the EU and NATO. The unsettled
sea border and Latvia's plans to ratify oil-exploration agreements with two
foreign companies, however, cast a shadow over the accreditation. The Foreign
Ministry did not host the traditional welcoming dinner for Sjanits, who also
did not meet with Prime Minister Mindaugas Stankevicius. -- Saulius Girnius
LITHUANIAN DEBTS TO GAZPROM.
Prime Minister Mindaugas Stankevicius met
with Finance Minister Algimantas Krizinauskas, Energy Minister Saulius Kutas,
and Lietuvos Dujos Director Kestutis Sumacheris on 20 August to discuss the
problem of debts to the Russian gas supplier Gazprom, BNS reported. Kutas's
promise to pay $7 million in July and $8 million in August has been only
partially fulfilled; he also pledged that the republic would pay $31.7 million
by the start of the heating season. Gazprom has threatened to increase the
price of gas beginning on 1 September and to end gas supplies to Lithuania next
year if the debts are not paid. While Lithuanian construction work in Moscow
for Gazprom covers part of the debt, the bulk of the debt is to be paid with
two $10 million loans from Swiss Union Bank. -- Saulius Girnius
POLAND TO CLAMP DOWN ON PRIVATE SECURITY COMPANIES.
Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz on 20 August told reporters that the Interior Ministry
will present a bill to the cabinet later this week regulating private security
companies, Reuters reported. He said the new legislation will specify
conditions for granting licenses, stipulate whom firms can and cannot hire, and
ensure that firearms are used acceptably. The move comes amid growing public
concern over violence involving private security companies. In the latest such
incident, a fight broke out last weekend at a border crossing with Belarus over
escorting traders from the former Soviet Union to a large outdoor market in
Warsaw. Hundreds of men attacked a bus carrying employees of a security firm
and were halted only after an off-duty policeman on the bus fired at the
ground. Seven policemen have been suspended on suspicion of moonlighting for
the firm without permission. Cimoszewicz stressed that the police should be
prohibited from working for security companies during their free time. -- Jan
JEWISH CEMETERIES IN POLAND REDEDICATED.
Three Jewish cemeteries in
southern Poland were rededicated on 20 August by rabbis from the U.S. and
Israel, Western agencies reported. The cemeteries at Sedziszow, Strzyzow, and
Debica had been left neglected after World War II, during which most of
Poland's Jewish community perished at the hands of the Nazis. Many of the
tombstones have been restored by the Nissenbaum Foundation, which has been
working on neglected Jewish cemeteries and synagogues in Poland since 1983. In
a speech during the rededication ceremony in Debica, Rabbi Hertz Frenkel noted
that "Jewish life in Poland is almost extinct. The least the citizens of Poland
can do is give the proper respect to those who are buried in the existing
cemeteries." -- Jan Cleave
CHINESE MILITARY DELEGATION VISITS CZECH REPUBLIC.
A high-level Chinese
military delegation that arrived in the Czech Republic on 17 August for a
five-day stay meant "to broaden and strengthen Czech-Chinese military
cooperation" visited the Tatra truck plant in Koprivnice on 20 August, CTK
reported. The report noted that China has been one of Tatra's best customers,
purchasing 400 trucks this year. -- Doug Clarke
SLOVAK CABINET APPROVES DRAFT UNIVERSITY LAW.
Marian Tolnay of the
Education Ministry's university department said the university bill--passed by
the government on 20 August--is "acceptable" to the academic and scientific
communities, Narodna obroda and CTK reported. The cabinet refused,
however, to consider the recommendations of the Slovak Rectors Conference,
which, according to Tolnay "is not a partner of the government" and is
"dictating" its demands. The academic community reportedly is most opposed to
Article 15, which defines the ministry's powers in relation to universities,
and to Article 22 on postgraduate study. If passed by the parliament, the
legislation would restrict universities' autonomy by allowing a failed student
or dismissed professor to appeal the decisions of academic councils to the
ministry. The ministry would also control financial flows to individual
institutions. Although the bill provides for the establishment of private
universities, it requires that two branches of Hungarian universities in
southern Slovakia ask for government approval. -- Sharon Fisher
SLOVAK BILL ON PROSECUTOR-GENERAL PASSED.
Also on 20 August, the cabinet
approved a bill on the prosecutor-general, limiting his term in office to seven
years. Prosecutor-General Michal Valo told CTK that the bill would help make
the public prosecution service "more independent," since dismissal would be
possible only for health reasons, at the prosecutor-general's own request, or
following a court decision. Presently, the prosecutor-general is elected for an
unlimited term and can be dismissed at any time by the president at the
parliament's recommendation. Opposition politicians have been calling for
Valo's dismissal based on alleged unconstitutional moves and political bias.
The government also approved the unilateral abolition of visa requirements for
Canadian tourists and business people for visits of up to 90 days, TASR
reported. The move "demonstrates the closeness of [the two countries']
political and economic systems and confirms [Slovakia's] interest in intensive
cooperation," according to a government statement. -- Sharon Fisher
ETHNIC HUNGARIAN LEADERS CALL FOR ANOTHER MINORITY SUMMIT.
of ethnic Hungarian organizations beyond Hungary's borders have harshly
criticized the draft of the Romanian-Hungarian basic treaty and demanded that
yet another Hungarian minority summit be convened, Hungarian media reported on
21 August. The minority organizations oppose Budapest's plan to sign the treaty
in its present form. They fear that the inclusion in the treaty of an
interpretation of Council of Europe Recommendation 1201 could dash their
of establishing ethnicity-based autonomy and collective rights.
Hungarian Prime Minister Gyula Horn told Hungarian Radio over the weekend that
he fully supports the draft and sees it as an essential step to Hungary's
joining the EU. Meanwhile, a Romanian negotiating team arrived in Budapest on
20 August for consultations on the final text of the treaty. -- Zsofia
'OPERATION VOLCANO' CONTINUES, AS DOES CRITICISM.
IFOR went ahead on 20
August with Operation Volcano, its destruction of unauthorized Bosnian Serb
munitions discovered in Margetici two weeks ago (see OMRI Daily Digest,
19 August 1996). According to Onasa reports on 20 August, IFOR that day
destroyed 36 tons of anti-tank and anti-personnel mines and other munitions in
pits 27 meters wide and 7 meters deep. Also continuing are Bosnian Serb
protests against the IFOR operation. Acting President Biljana Plavsic,
complaining that the arms are being destroyed at the same time as the Muslims
and Croats in the Bosnian federation are being armed, proposed that IFOR
instead sell the weapons or transfer the depot, AFP reported. As part of an
aggressive media campaign, the Pale-based news agency SRNA alleged that the
detonations have caused cracks in the walls of "the region's oldest church."
Bosnian Serb officials' litany of complaints against Operation Volcano also
includes allegations that the operation is jeopardizing underground water
supplies and that IFOR has been dumping radioactive waste materials. Responding
to the allegations, IFOR spokesman Maj. Max Marriner has said water sources are
in no danger and IFOR is "not in the business of dumping radioactive waste,"
Onasa reported. -- Stan Markotich and Daria Sito Sucic
IFOR STEPS UP CONTROL IN BRCKO REGION.
IFOR troops have increased their
control over goods and passengers and set up new checkpoints around the
northern Bosnian town of Brcko, Onasa reported on 19 August. Brcko is becoming
an increasingly important issue for both the Bosnian Serbs and the Muslim-Croat
federation. While Bosnian Serb leaders have said that "Brcko is more important
for Serbs than peace," Bosnian federation officials and parties also underscore
its significance for their side. The status of Brcko is to be decided by 14
December through arbitration. The only traffic artery connecting Bosnian Serbs
in western parts of the country with those in eastern areas and with Serbia
runs through Brcko. Bosnian federation Vice President Ejup Ganic stressed that
56% of Brcko's prewar population was Muslim and that those forcibly expelled by
Serbs should return to their homes. Ganic said the subject of arbitration is
the whole area, including the town itself, and not just the contentious line of
separation around the town, as Serbs claim. -- Daria Sito Sucic
SERBIA SENTENCES ITS `SPIES.'
Four people have been sentenced by a
military court in the Serbian city of Nis on charges of participating in
criminal activities against the state, including spying and compromising
military secrets, Politika reported on 21 August. According to the
report, Marjan Cop has received one and a half years' imprisonment, Ankica
Brckovic five years in prison, and Zeljko Medic a two-and-a-half-year term,
with each being sentenced for spying. The fourth, Josip Baric, received one
year in prison for compromising military secrets. -- Stan Markotich
MONTENEGRIN PARTIES PLAN, CONSIDER ELECTION BOYCOTT.
Two of Montenegro's
main opposition parties failed to attend a 19 August meeting in Belgrade at
which participating parties signed an accord on media coverage of the run-up to
the 3 November federal elections. A representative of the Liberal Alliance of
Montenegro explained his party's absence by noting that it was not concerned
with how the state-backed media especially would provide coverage, since his
party "will not be taking part in the elections," Beta reported on 19 August.
In a related development, Dragisa Burzan, a representative of the Social
Democratic Party of Montenegro, said that party "has yet to decide whether to
run." -- Stan Markotich
CONTROVERSY OVER ROMANIAN OPPOSITION LEADER'S PRO-MONARCHY STATEMENT.
The Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) on 20 August charged the
presidential candidate of the Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR), Emil
Constantinescu, with endangering national security. The PDSR statement was
triggered by an interview with Constantinescu reprinted in the daily
Jurnalul national on the same day. Constantinescu said in the interview
(which was originally given to a Romanian-language U.S. publication) that he
hoped for a hand-off of power to the country's "lawful leader," King Michael,
after a referendum on the monarchy. The CDR said in reaction to the PDSR attack
on Constantinescu that it reflected the ruling party's panic in view of its
likely electoral defeat, which makes it resort to "insult and calumny" instead
of rational argumentation. -- Michael Shafir
ROMANIAN ECONOMIC CRISIS.
International financial experts and U.S.
officials say Romania has virtually emptied its foreign-exchange reserves, has
stopped paying its oil-import bills, and faces a winter without adequate fuel
to heat homes or keep factories working. An RFE/RL correspondent in Washington
reported on 20 August that the "grave" Romanian situation has been triggered by
the government's move last November to "artificially" freeze the exchange rate
at around 3,000 lei to the U.S. dollar. The move was designed to hold domestic
energy prices and inflation down until after the November 1996 presidential and
parliamentary elections. It has, however, drained the country's
foreign-currency reserves, leaving importers unable to pay for the needed crude
oil. -- Michael Shafir
CIS OFFICIAL VISITS MOLDOVA.
The executive director of the CIS, Ivan
Karatchenya of Belarus, on 20 August met with Moldovan President Mircea Snegur,
Prime Minister Andrei Sangheli, and parliament Chairman Petru Lucinschi.
BASA-Press quoted Snegur as telling Karatchenya that Moldova aims at
"integration into European structures" but will pay special attention to
"mutually advantageous bilateral ties" with many of the former Soviet
republics. Lucinschi told the guest that, in CIS activity, emphasis should be
laid on economic, rather than political, issues. Moldova is a founding member
of the CIS but participates only in the economic functions of the organization,
refusing to join its political-military structures. -- Michael Shafir
BULGARIAN PREMIER CRITICIZES FARMERS.
Prime Minister Zhan Videnov in an
interview with the Socialist daily Duma published on 21 August blamed
the present grain crisis largely on producers. Videnov said farmers have not
fulfilled their obligations under contracts signed with the state, for which
they received money from the state agricultural fund. Videnov said the farmers
tend to hold back grain in expectation of rising prices and thus threaten the
living standard of the population. He said that the state would have to get
more involved in pricing. Videnov admitted that the import of grain will not
solve the problem and that "grain production must be stimulated by higher
domestic prices, ... and on this basis we must steadily liberalize foreign
trade--not just imports but also exports." Government policy aims to keep
domestic prices under world market prices and at the same time tightly
restricts exports of foodstuffs. -- Stefan Krause