YELTSIN OPERATION DELAYED SIX TO TEN WEEKS.
Doctors attending President
Boris Yeltsin decided on 25 September to delay his heart operation by six to 10
weeks, and Yeltsin will rest until then in the hospital or the Barvikha
sanatorium. He will also need about six to eight weeks to recover from the
procedure, NTV reported. American doctors would perform the operation quickly
to avoid the risk of a serious heart attack during the delay, The
Washington Post argued. Yeltsin's doctors stressed that his kidneys,
lungs, and liver were functioning normally, but that he was suffering from
anemia. The continued uncertainty surrounding the president will undoubtedly
encourage more infighting among his closest lieutenants. -- Robert Orttung
YANDARBIEV, KHARLAMOV WRAP UP TALKS.
Russian Security Council Deputy
Secretary Sergei Kharlamov on 25 September ended talks with the Chechen
leadership on the agenda for acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev's upcoming
meeting with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Security Council Secretary
Aleksandr Lebed in Moscow, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. In Moscow, Lebed
chaired a closed meeting to discuss implementation of the agreements on
demilitarization. Meanwhile, the withdrawal of Russian troops and Interior
Ministry forces from Chechnya is proceeding according to schedule, although the
situation there remains tense. The Russian military procuracy has instigated
criminal proceedings against the former commander of the Russian interior
ministry forces in Chechnya, Maj.-Gen. Partagen Andrievskii, for negligence
during the defense of Grozny against a massed attack by Chechen forces in
March. -- Liz Fuller
LEBED HOPES CHECHNYA WILL NOT SECEDE.
Lebed, in an interview published
in Izvestiya on 26 September, said that Chechens will likely vote to
remain within the Russian Federation in the envisioned referendum five year
from now, but that their decision depends on how well the Russian government
meets its commitments to the republic. Lebed defended his advisor Sergei
Glazev's attacks on the government's economic policies as "normal" and giving
no cause for removing him. He sees the Security Council's job as determining
the direction of defense, social, information, and economic security, while the
government implements policy. Lebed said that he "did not rule out" supporting
former Director of the Presidential Security Service Aleksandr Korzhakov if he
ran for the Duma seat in Tula that Lebed had to resign when he joined Yeltsin's
administration. He described the situation in Tula as "criminal" and suggested
that Korzhakov might be able to improve it. -- Robert Orttung
RUTSKOI FOUNDS POPULAR-PATRIOTIC UNION.
The Justice Ministry has
registered a new movement called the Popular-Patriotic Union, whose honorary
chairman is former Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi, Pravda-5 and
Kommersant-Daily reported on 26 September. The movement is separate
from Gennadii Zyuganov's Popular-Patriotic Union of Russia (NPSR), which was
founded in August but has not yet been officially registered, although Rutskoi
remains on the NPSR's executive committee. The papers said the new movement
could strengthen Rutskoi's hand in the opposition camp. Kommersant-Daily
also speculated that Rutskoi is taking revenge against Zyuganov's Communist
Party for not doing more to help him register as a gubernatorial candidate in
Kursk Oblast. Communists in the Kursk legislature, who have a majority, could
have repealed the residency requirement under which the local electoral
commission denied Rutskoi registration, the paper argued. Rutskoi has appealed
to the Supreme Court, claiming the residency requirement is illegal. -- Laura
FSB ARRESTS ALLEGED CIA AGENT.
Federal Security Service (FSB) agents
have arrested a Russian citizen on charges of spying for the U.S., an FSB
official told ITAR-TASS on 25 September. The accused spy, identified only as
Finkel, worked at a naval scientific research institute, and was recruited a
year ago by the CIA, which wanted information on the latest generation of
Russian nuclear submarines, according to the FSB source. The FSB official
claimed that Finkel had been recruited by a CIA field officer named John
Satter, whom he described as working under the cover of a consular position at
the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. Finkel, who was arrested "some time ago," allegedly
hoped to trade classified information for political asylum in the U.S. -- Scott
CHERNOMYRDIN MEETS MILITARY LEADERS.
Chernomyrdin met with Defense
Minister Col.-Gen. Igor Rodionov and other top Defense Ministry officials on 25
September to discuss the financial situation of the armed forces, ITAR-TASS
reported. The meeting took place on the same day as Lebed harshly criticized
the government for neglecting the financial needs of the military (see OMRI
Daily Digest, 25 September 1996). The meeting suggests that Chernomyrdin
may be assuming more responsibility for the military due to Yeltsin's illness.
Meanwhile, Krasnaya Zvezda on 25 September reported that 123 servicemen
had committed suicide this year, which it attributed to the demeaning material
conditions of military service. The same day, Izvestiya reported that
pilots of an air defense unit in Kamchatka, unpaid since May, had gone on a
hunger strike in protest. -- Scott Parrish
PAPERS TAKE HARD LINE ON NATO.
On the eve of Rodionov's meeting with his
NATO counterparts in Bergen, Norway, Izvestiya on 24 September lambasted
U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry's recent proposal for a European
"security ring" as "only a new verbal strategy" to cover NATO expansion. The
next day, Nezavisimya gazeta panned another Perry proposal to give
Russia a "special status" in its relationship with NATO, complaining that while
Poland and Estonia would be admitted to NATO, Russia would be "shown the door."
It attributed this "unfair treatment" to Western unwillingness to help defend
Russia, and to fears that Moscow would not "march to the American tune" if
admitted to the alliance. Izvestiya on 26 September said that Rodionov
faced a "hard task" in Bergen, trying to persuade his Western colleagues to
accept Russian views on the "depressing subject of NATO's eastward expansion."
-- Scott Parrish
CONTROVERSY SURROUNDS AMUR GOVERNOR ELECTION.
Commission Chairman Nikolai Ryabov has recommended that the Amur Oblast
Commission defer announcing the final results of the 22 September gubernatorial
elections in Amur until all complaints about procedural violations have been
examined, Radio Rossii reported on 25 September. Complaints have reportedly
been filed by residents of remote regions unable to vote because of bad
weather. Preliminary unofficial results put Communist challenger Anatolii
Belonogov, the chairman of the oblast legislature, less than 200 votes ahead of
incumbent Yurii Lyashko, who was appointed by Yeltsin only three months ago.
The Communists have done well in previous elections in Amur Oblast.
Kommersant-Daily likened the delay in announcing the results to the
situation in Tatarstan during the first round of the presidential election,
when early reports gave Zyuganov more votes than Yeltsin but the final results
reversed the situation. -- Penny Morvant
REFERENDUM IN VLADIVOSTOK?
Viktor Cherepkov, the newly reinstated mayor
of Vladivostok, told Russian Television (RTR) on 25 September that he doubted
whether a referendum called by his opponents in the city administration would
be fair. The first deputy head of the Vladivostok city administration said the
same day that 30,988 signatures had been gathered in favor of a referendum on
ending Cherepkov's term in office prematurely and that it would take place on
27 October. Signatures began to be collected in August after a Moscow court
ruled that Cherepkov's dismissal was unlawful. Cherepkov's replacement,
Konstantin Tolstoshein, refused to comment on Yeltsin's decree of 24 September
reinstating Cherepkov until he had seen the original rather than a faxed copy,
ORT reported on 25 November. The decree was published in Rossiisaya
gazeta on 26 September. -- Penny Morvant
FOREIGN INVESTMENT IN CIS.
The United Nations Conference on Trade and
Development (UNCTAD) has issued a report on foreign direct investment in 1995,
ITAR-TASS reported on 25 September. Russia received a mere $2 billion, compared
to $3.5 billion for Hungary, and $2.5 billion each for Poland and the Czech
Republic. Other CIS countries also fared poorly. Kazakstan received $284
million, Ukraine $200 million, Uzbekistan $115 million, Azerbaijan $110
million, Moldova $32 million, Belarus $20 million, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan
$15 million each. The total flow of investment worldwide was $315 billion, of
which $38 billion went to China. -- Peter Rutland
GLAZEV'S APPROACH TO ECONOMIC POLICY.
In an interview with Trud
on 25 September, the Deputy Secretary of the Security Council in charge of
economic affairs, Sergei Glazev, said the Russian economy has entered a stage
of deep decline following a short period of stabilization in 1995. In July 1996
GDP fell by 9%, industrial output by 7%, agricultural production by 13%, and
investment by 20% over the same period in 1995. He stressed that Russia is
losing its status in the world and may become an economy of the colonial type.
According to Glazev, the government's focus of attention should shift from
monetary targets to the real sector. In order to overcome the industrial
crisis, Glazev suggested introducing strict price and currency controls, export
duties on raw materials, and tax exemptions for the part of companies' profits
spent on the development of production. -- Natalia Gurushina
WAGE ARREARS CONTINUE TO MOUNT.
Minister of Labor and Social Development
Gennadii Melikyan is concerned that wage arrears have reached a total of 36.5
trillion rubles ($6.8 billion) and continue to increase by 5-6% a month,
ITAR-TASS reported on 25 September. Wage arrears in budget organizations amount
to 6.6 trillion rubles, of which 1 trillion is owed by the federal budget. The
Federation of Independent Trade Unions intends to stage a national day of
protest against wage arrears on 5 November, Ekho Moskvy reported on 25
September. -- Ritsuko Sasaki
NEW COMMISSION TO TACKLE MONOPOLY POLICY.
A special government
interdepartmental commission has been created and instructed to recommend by
the end of the year a new policy for regulating energy and communications
monopolies, Segodnya reported on 25 September. The report said that the
government has agreed with the IMF to reduce state shareholding in the "natural
monopolies" and remove their tax privileges -- which are seen as a major reason
for the shortfall in budget revenues. The government also plans to turn
Gazprom's extracting firms into judicially independent daughter companies, who
will bid for access to gas pipelines. The newspaper also reported that a decree
reintroducing export duties on oil and gas condensate will be issued shortly.
-- Peter Rutland
OPPOSITION SUPPORTERS STORM ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT.
Following a session of
the Central Electoral Commission on 25 September, four commission members
issued a statement rejecting as inaccurate the preliminary presidential
election returns released on 24 September by CEC Chairman Khachatour Bezirjian.
The four claimed that opposition candidate and National Democratic Union
Chairman Vazgen Manukyan polled 55% of the vote as opposed to 37% for incumbent
Levon Ter-Petrossyan, Western agencies reported. Some 10,000 Manukyan
supporters marched to the building housing the CEC and the Armenian parliament,
which was cordoned off by special police. Some 45 minutes after Manukyan
entered the building, Paruir Hairikyan, chairman of the radical Union for
National Self-Determination and one of three presidential contenders who
withdrew to support Manukyan, announced (mistakenly) that the latter had been
arrested, whereupon demonstrators broke through the perimeter fence and forced
their way into the building. Riot police used water cannon and fired over the
heads of the demonstrators; parliament Chairman Babken Ararktsyan and his
deputy were hospitalized after being beaten by demonstrators. According to
Noyan Tapan, Western agencies, and The New York Times of 26 September,
one person was killed in the clashes and up to 50 others, including former
presidential candidate Lenser Agahalovyan, were injured -- Liz Fuller
Presidential spokesman Shahen Karamanukyan and
Interior Minister Vano Siradeghyan denounced the attack on the parliament
building as "an attempted fascist coup ordered by one of the leaders of the
National Democratic Union," Reuters and AFP reported. ITAR-TASS quoted
Siradeghyan as stating that three organizers of the protest had been arrested;
Prosecutor General Artavazd Gevorkyan announced that the organizers would be
charged with attempting to stage a coup d'etat and the attempted murder of the
parliament speaker and his deputy, according to AFP. Speaking on state
television on the morning of 26 September, President Ter-Petrossyan imposed a
ban on all unsanctioned meetings and demonstrations. Early the same day, riot
police surrounded the presidential palace, which is close to the parliament
building, and tanks and armored personnel carriers cordoned off Yerevan's main
square and the nearby headquarters of the NDU. On the morning of 26 September,
the Armenian parliament voted by an overwhelming majority to lift Manukyan's
immunity. He and several other opposition leaders were subsequently arrested,
Western agencies reported. -- Liz Fuller
AZERIS DISTURBED BY JOINT RUSSIAN-ARMENIAN EXERCISE.
Foreign Ministry on 25 September expressed concern at the recent joint
Russian-Armenian military exercises, ITAR-TASS reported. A ministry statement
charged that the maneuvers were aimed at enhancing the combat effectiveness of
the "Armenian occupation forces" in Nagorno-Karabakh. The Azeris were
particularly concerned that officials from Nagorno-Karabakh attended the
exercises, as did the Armenian president and Russian Chief of Staff Col.-Gen.
Mikhail Kolesnikov. -- Doug Clarke
ELECTION OUTCOME IN ADZHARIA, GEORGIA.
According to the Central Election
Commission in Batumi, 93.8% of the electorate voted in the 22 September
parliamentary elections in Adzharia, ITAR-TASS reported on 25 September. As
widely predicted, the ruling coalition and election bloc composed of the
All-Georgian Revival Union, led by parliamentary chairman Aslan Abashidze, and
the ruling party in Georgia led by President Eduard Shevardnadze, the Union of
Georgian Citizens, secured 83% of the vote. One seat each is known to have been
secured by the Union of Georgian Traditionalists and the Tavisupleba [Freedom]
bloc. The number of seats secured by the Adzharian regional branch of the
United Communist Party of Georgia, which took over 5% of the vote, is still
unclear. -- Lowell Bezanis
REACTION TO WARNING OF POSSIBLE EXPLOSION AT CHORNOBYL.
experts and officials have tried to minimize or have openly contradicted
Environment Minister Yurii Kostenko's warning that another explosion is
possible at Chornobyl, RFE/RL and Ukrainian agencies reported on 25 September.
National Security Council Secretary Volodymyr Horbulin said Kostenko is
mistaken in concluding that three recent increases in neutron emissions
signaled a chemical reaction that could lead to a thermal explosion in the
fourth reactor. Chornobyl plant director Serhii Parashyn denied there had been
any rise in radiation at the plant. He said torrential rains had seeped under
the encased reactor, causing the measuring equipment to malfunction and
register a change in the density of neutron flux. A spokesman for the
International Atomic Energy Agency agreed with that assessment, although he
said a full explanation for the recorded rises in radiation may never be found.
He stressed that no Western experts believe another explosion is likely. --
Delegates have been elected to the All-Belarusian
People's Congress, which is to debate President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's
proposed constitution, Belarusian radio reported on 25 September. Lukashenka
had originally planned that 6,000 delegates attend the congress. The report did
not specify how many were ultimately elected but noted that between six and 18
delegates were elected in rural raions, and 166 in oblasts. Some 40% of the
elected delegates are directors of enterprises or representatives of the
president's so-called "vertical" structures. -- Ustina Markus
Following Lukashenka's recent announcement
that Russia is to help finance Belarus's air defense forces (see OMRI Daily
Digest, 23 September 1996) Izvestiya quoted on 24 September a
Russian air defense official as saying Russia is prepared to pay for its own
anti-aircraft defense but not for Belarus's. He added that Russian-Belarusian
military cooperation is such that neither is in fact paying the other, only
mutually waiving costs. The following day, Trud wrote that Lukashenka
has suggested that certain Russian circles are opposed to him. Those "circles"
were taken to mean Security Council chief Aleksandr Lebed and Communist leader
Gennadii Zyuganov. Both have recently visited Belarus but refrained from
offering Lukashenka their support. -- Ustina Markus
FORMER ESTONIAN DISSIDENT SENTENCED FOR TREASON.
A Tallinn city court on
25 September sentenced former dissident Tiit Madisson to two-and-a-half years
in prison for treason, ETA reported. Madisson was arrested on 31 May for
circulating a document on behalf of the Liberation Army in Estonia, whose
declared aim is to overthrow the post-communist regime and impose a military
dictatorship. Madisson denied all charges, saying the document was intended
only to collect funds toward the founding of a voluntary military organization
called the Defense League. -- Saulius Girnius
LATVIAN PRESIDENT ANNOUNCES DEATH PENALTY MORATORIUM.
addressing the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly in Strasbourg on 24
September, announced a moratorium on the death penalty pending a formal
parliamentary vote to abolish it altogether, Reuters reported. The council had
stipulated its abolition as one of the conditions Latvia has to fulfill to gain
membership. Earlier this year, it urged Latvia, along with Russia and Ukraine,
to end the death penalty. An Amnesty International Report released at that time
noted that Latvia executed two people by firing squad in January 1996 and two
others were on death row. Lithuanian President Algirdas Brazauskas on 25
September granted pardons to 38 convicts. The amnesty commission, however, did
not discuss four appeals to commute the death sentence because it is waiting
for parliament action, BNS reported. -- Saulius Girnius
POLISH-RUSSIAN GAS CONTRACT SIGNED.
The Polish state-run gas company on
25 September signed a major contract with Gazprom, international media
reported. Three billion cubic meters are to be supplied in 1997. Thereafter,
supplies will be increased gradually; and after 2010, Poland will be supplied
12 billion cubic meters of Russian gas annually by the Yamal-Western Europe
pipeline, which transits Poland. President Aleksander Kwasniewski and the
government dismissed fears that the contract would endanger Polish sovereignty
by making the country dependent on Russian energy supplies. Polish Industry
Minister Klemens Scierski stressed that Poland will continue to utilize its own
gas sources. He added that the contract is advantageous because of the low cost
of Russian gas and the potential it offers for the creation of new jobs.
Currently, 60% of Poland's gas supplies come from Russia. -- Jakub Karpinski
and Beata Pasek
SEJM LUSTRATION COMMISSION ORDERS MINISTRIES NOT TO DESTROY SECRET POLICE
The Sejm lustration commission has ordered the Ministries of Defense
and Internal Affairs not to destroy files created before 1 August 1990, Polish
media reported. Deputy Internal Affairs Minister Jerzy Zimowski responded that
the order is superfluous because destroying files is a crime that the ministry
is not about to commit. He added that before February 1990, secret police files
were systematically destroyed; as a result, 40-50% of materials are missing.
Antoni Zielinski, director of the State Security Office archives, noted that
the amount of files destroyed differs from province to province and that in
Gdansk only 5% were disposed of. Former Internal Affairs Minister Krzysztof
Kozlowski commented that the most important agents did not sign anything and
that members of the political, cultural, and church elites were too reluctant
to do so. -- Jakub Karpinski
CZECH GOVERNMENT ON RESTITUTION OF CHURCH PROPERTY.
The government has
decided to return some church property confiscated by the communist regime,
Czech media reported on 25 September. Only those buildings (and the land on
which they were built) that are currently in the possession of the state will
be restituted. The churches have until 30 November to reclaim their property.
The Catholic church has demanded the return of all its former forests, but the
government's decision omitted any such reference. Both the opposition Social
Democrats and Communists have threatened to block a large-scale restitution of
church property that included forests. -- Jiri Pehe
CZECH TRADE DEFICIT REMAINS STEADY.
Czech Premier Vaclav Klaus told
journalists on 25 September that the country's foreign trade deficit reached
100 billion crowns ($3.7 billion) at the end of August, Czech media reported.
This figure is equal to the trade deficit for 1995. Klaus has asked five of his
ministers to prepare analyses of the situation and suggest solutions within two
weeks. Some economists and exporters have urged the government to devalue the
crown, but the government has so far refused such pressure. -- Jiri Pehe
SLOVAK PREMIER IN GERMANY.
Vladimir Meciar on 25 September began a
two-day unofficial visit to the German states of Hessen and Baden-Wuerttemberg,
Slovak media reported. He met in Frankfurt-am-Main with the head of Germany's
largest private bank, Deutsche Bank, to discuss foreign investment in Slovakia.
Meciar also met with Hessen Prime Minister Hans Eichel. He is due to arrive in
Stuttgart today to meet with Baden-Wuerttemberg Premier Erwin Teufel. -- Jiri
HUNGARIAN NAMED BEST REGIONAL BANKER.
The British financial monthly
Euromoney has named Hungarian Central Bank Governor Gyorgy Suranyi as
the top banker in CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE in 1996, Hungarian dailies
reported on 26 September. Euromoney wrote that the stabilization policy
conceived by Suranyi and former Finance Minister Lajos Bokros has reinstated
Hungary's financial equilibrium. Readers of the latest edition of the U.S.
financial magazine Global Finance also gave Suranyi an excellent rating.
The magazine notes that during Suranyi's 18-month term in office, the
independence of the central bank has been reinforced, inflation has shrunk, and
the introduction of "crawling peg" devaluation has stabilized the national
currency. -- Zsofia Szilagyi
IZETBEGOVIC WARNS OF NEW WAR IN BOSNIA.
President Alija Izetbegovic
warned the UN General Assembly that the conflict could resume in
Bosnia-Herzegovina if the Dayton peace accord is not enforced. He argued that
an international military presence will be necessary "for a certain and limited
period of time" and criticized the local Croats for maintaining their
para-state of Herceg-Bosna, despite numerous promises to dissolve it.
Izetbegovic singled out the Bosnian Serbs for criticism because they block
Muslim and Croatian refugees from going home and because they refuse to hand
over indicted war criminals to the Hague-based tribunal. Oslobodjenje on
26 September quoted him as saying that "if genocide without punishment is
possible, then Bosnia and Herzegovina is not possible." With regard to the new
government for the entire country, he said that it should include
representation from the opposition and seek to enforce the Dayton agreement and
promote media freedom. -- Patrick Moore
NATO PLANS FOR NEW ROLE IN BOSNIA.
Croatian Foreign Minister Mate
Granic, who is currently in New York, has rejected any extension of the
one-year mandate for UN peacekeepers in eastern Slavonia, Vjesnik
reported on 25 September. The local Serbs want the foreign troops to stay on
for at least another year. In Bergen, Norway, NATO defense ministers announced
for the first time that the alliance will start planning a possible role in
Bosnia after IFOR's mandate expires at the end of the year. No concrete
measures are likely to be announced until after the U.S. elections in November,
the BBC reported. British Defense Secretary Michael Portillo said that "we
can't abandon the investment we've made there" in promoting peace and
stability. In Paris, Foreign Minister Herve de Charette announced that a major
international meeting on Bosnia will take place in early November to deal with
the future of Bosnian state institutions, AFP reported on 26 September. --
CONTINUING IMBROGLIO OVER MUSLIM REFUGEES.
Tensions continue to run high
over the village of Jusici on Bosnian Serb-held territory, where armed Muslims
have returned to rebuild their homes. The UNHCR is expected to clarify the
matter soon, Oslobodjenje reported on 25 September. But U.S. General
George Casey said later that day that the Muslims must first leave and process
the necessary paperwork before they can live there. Nasa Borba stated on
26 September that Bosnian Prime Minister Hasan Muratovic has agreed to this
formula. It appears, however, that the Muslims are determined to force the
issue of their right to go home, as specified in the Dayton agreement, and that
the original number of returnees has grown from 100 to 300, Reuters said. A UN
police spokesman accused the Muslims of taunting the local Serbian police. --
COLD WEATHER FORCES END TO BOSNIAN EXHUMATIONS.
have suspended their excavation of mass graves in eastern Bosnia until next
spring. They have uncovered nearly 500 bodies this year, virtually all of whom
are Muslim males from Srebrenica who appear to have been executed,
international news agencies noted on 25 September. The experts stressed that it
is necessary for Bosnians to know the truth about war crimes if they are to
begin looking toward the future. Izetbegovic recently made the same point at
the UN. -- Patrick Moore
UN REFUSES TO LIFT SANCTIONS AGAINST SERBIA.
The UN Security Council on
24 September decided not to lift sanctions against the rump Yugoslavia, AFP
reported. But diplomats said they expected Washington and Moscow to agree on a
solution shortly. Russian UN Ambassador Sergei Lavrov has drawn up a document
that, in accordance with the Dayton agreements, ends sanctions 10 days after
the elections take place. He argues that since the ballot took place on 14
September, the sanctions should have been lifted on 24 September. The U.S.,
however, has rejected his plan, saying the election results have not yet been
validated. -- Fabian Schmidt
The strike at the Kragujevac Zastava arms and automobile
works has entered its 29th day. Workers demonstrating in front of the local
municipal parliament on 25 September demanded back wages and talks with the
government and the plant management. Former Central Bank governor Dragoslav
Avramovic has announced he will visit the factory on 26 September to talk to
the strikers. Meanwhile, Vuk Draskovic, leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement
(SPO), has denied earlier reports that Avramovic is planning a political career
with the SPO and other opposition parties in the Zajedno (Together)
coalition. Draskovic claims the report was "part of a plan to discredit"
Avramovic and the leaders of Zajedno, Nasa Borba reported on 26
September. -- Fabian Schmidt
TWO CROATIAN JOURNALISTS ACQUITTED IN KEY RIGHTS CASE.
Mrcela on 26 September acquitted editor in chief Viktor Ivancic and journalist
Marinko Culic on charges of slandering President Franjo Tudjman (see OMRI
Daily Digest, 25 September 1996), AFP reported. The two men work for the
outspoken Split-based satirical weekly Feral Tribune, which has often
been a thorn in the side of the government and the governing Croatian
Democratic Community (HDZ). The acquittal signals a major victory for freedom
of the press because it is the first such case under a new media law aimed at
silencing critics of the government and HDZ. Croatia has been warned by the
Council of Europe and other international bodies that the new law is
unacceptable if that country wants to join European institutions. -- Patrick
ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT OFFERS NEW PAY INCREASE.
Romania's cabinet on 25
September announced a 6% increase in state employees' wages as of 1 October,
Radio Bucharest reported. The hike in the average wage amounts to 23,600 lei
(some $7). Employees will also receive the second tranche, worth 6,000 lei
(less than $2), of compensation for energy, fuel, and bread price increases.
Finance Minister Florin Georgescu said the move will help compensate for most
of this year's inflation, which he estimated at about 30%. But domestic media
expressed doubts over the minister's statement, suggesting that the real reason
for the increase was to gain electoral support for the ruling Party of Social
Democracy in Romania. -- Dan Ionescu
MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT, DEFENSE MINISTER RESUME HOSTILITIES.
Minister Gen. Pavel Creanga has rejected the "serious accusations" brought
against him by President Mircea Snegur in late June as "groundless," BASA-press
reported on 25 September. Creanga said Snegur had asked the prosecutor-general
to investigate his actions under the suspicion that he was trying to split the
army and destabilize the political situation in the country. Snegur had also
accused him of disseminating confidential information and of conspiring against
the president. Creanga demanded that the results of the prosecutor's
investigation be made public. A presidential spokesman said that most of the
accusations against Creanga have proven valid but that the president does not
intend to discuss the matter with Creanga through the media. -- Dan Ionescu
BULGARIA'S MASS PRIVATIZATION TO START.
The government has announced
that the long-delayed mass privatization will begin on 7 October, RFE/RL
reported on 25 September. Some 3 million Bulgarians are expected to bid for
shares in 968 out of a total of 1,063 state companies up for sale. Under the
mass privatization scheme, the state will continue to exert control over
"strategic companies" such as oil refineries and tourist offices; only 25% of
their shares will be offered to investors. Banks, arms factories, railroads,
power plants, and companies offering services will not be privatized. About 65%
of shares in medium-sized companies and 90% in small ones will be privatized.
Results of the bids will be announced by the end of November. -- Maria
Ivan Marazov, the Democratic Left's presidential
candidate, said in Bonn on 25 September that Bulgarian institutions are "at
war," international agencies reported. He blamed President Zhelyu Zhelev for
making too liberal use of his right to veto bills passed by the parliament.
During his visit to Bonn, Marazov met with German government officials and
deputies. In other news, two tons of hashish have been seized at the
Bulgarian-Greek border checkpoint of Kulata, Reuters reported on 24 September.
The drugs were hidden in a truck containing marble slabs on its way from Greece
to Bulgaria. -- Maria Koinova
ALBANIAN LOCAL ELECTION WRAPUP.
The opposition on 25 September expressed
concern for the local elections next month, most of the international monitors
will come from the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly and not from the
OSCE, Koha Jone reported on 26 September. The latter had issued a more
critical report on the May parliamentary elections. Meanwhile, the Center Pole
coalition has sent a protest letter to the Central Election Commission saying
that President Sali Berisha and government members have violated the electoral
law by participating in the election campaign. It also argued that the
municipality of Tirana should not be allowed to organize the ruling Democratic
Party's public rallies, as was the case on 22 September, Poli i Qendres
reported on 26 September. -- Fabian Schmidt
[As of 1200 CET]
Compiled by Steve Kettle and Jan Cleave