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Newsline - October 8, 1996

President Boris Yeltsin left the Central Clinical Hospital on 7 October for the Barvikha sanitarium, where he is to increase his work load, Rossiiskie vesti reported. In a meeting with Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev, Yeltsin said that the interests of all the residents of Chechnya, including Russians, should be taken into account during the peace negotiations. Stroev backed a peaceful resolution of the conflict but warned that Russia's territorial integrity must be preserved. On the eve of the Federation Council's 11th session, Yeltsin stressed the need to create a legal basis for the country's economic and social reforms. -- Robert Orttung

Anatolii Kulikov hit out at Security Council Secretary Lebed on 7 October, accusing him of associating with criminals. Kulikov said that Sergei Drobush, a Security Council representative in Chechnya, was implicated in the embezzlement of 200 million rubles in 1992. A Security Council spokesman denied that Drobush had been an employee of the council, but admitted that he used on one occasion as a mediator in the Chechen negotiations, Kommersant-Daily reported. Kulikov and Lebed have been bitter foes since Lebed called for the interior minister's resignation over Chechnya. In the Duma last week, Kulikov argued that the Khasavurt agreements were based on lies and could lead only to further armed conflicts, while Lebed said the attempt to resolve the Chechen problem forcibly had led to a blood bath, Russian Television (RTR) reported on 5 October. On 7 October, Kulikov refuted Lebed's estimate of the Chechen death toll, saying civilian deaths amounted to 18,500 not 80,000. He argued that "the myth of Russia's military defeat" was aimed at destabilizing the political situation. -- Penny Morvant

Kulikov said that the number of crimes recorded during the first nine months of the year dropped by 4.5% compared with the same period last year and that the police's rate of solved crimes has improved, ITAR-TASS reported. Concerning problems within the law enforcement agencies, he said more than 72,000 Interior Ministry employees have been dismissed for "unacceptable behavior" and that 600 police officers have been charged with corruption. Returning to the theme of Chechnya, Kulikov claimed that leaders of rebel factions had decided to send armed groups to Moscow to establish control over commercial banks and businesses that had earlier been under the "protection" of Chechen mobs. He warned that bloody turf wars could result between Russian and Chechen gangs. -- Penny Morvant

In an interview with Komsomolskaya pravda published on 8 October, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov had sharp words for leading government officials, ITAR-TASS reported. He described presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais as "dangerous" because he is "striving to concentrate in his hands powers which have never been the prerogative of the chief of staff, and is trying to influence the situation in the regions on the eve of local elections." Luzhkov also criticized Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, saying that he lacks strategic vision and is pandering to the energy sector, while failing to impose tax discipline. Luzhkov supported Chernomyrdin's bloc, Our Home Is Russia, in the December 1995 election. He now seems to be trying to establish himself as a candidate for the presidency. -- Peter Rutland

Several speakers at the fifth congress of the Workers' Russia movement on 5-6 October called for creating a united communist party in Russia, but such efforts seem destined to fail, judging from events at the congress. Supporters and opponents of the movement's longtime leader, Viktor Anpilov, came to blows as some delegates demanded Anpilov's expulsion, Russian media reported. Anpilov's opponents on 6 October broke off and elected their own Workers' Russia executive committee, while loyalists unanimously re-elected Anpilov and confirmed his role as editor-in-chief of the newspaper Molniya. One of the most prominent figures on Russia's far left wing, Anpilov drew criticism for supporting the presidential bid of Gennadii Zyuganov, whom many radical communists viewed as too moderate. The Russian Communist Workers' Party sacked Anpilov as head of its Moscow branch in July and expelled him altogether in September. -- Laura Belin

The gubernatorial election in Kemerovo Oblast will be postponed until next year, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 October, citing First Deputy Presidential Chief of Staff Aleksandr Kazakov. Kazakov argued that the oblast cannot elect a governor because there is no regional legislature to adopt an electoral law. The legislature could not muster a quorum to extend its term, which expired in March, or call an election. President Yeltsin issued a decree in July setting a new legislature election for December. Kazakov said that the gubernatorial election, which was also to be held in December, will take place once the new legislature adopts a law. Incumbent Governor Mikhail Kislyuk will probably face two opponents who are currently Duma members: Teimuraz Avaliani, the leader of the local Communists, and Viktor Medikov, a "democrat" popular in the southern part of the oblast, RTR reported. Observers expect a tight race. -- Robert Orttung

Pensioners in the North Ossetiyan capital of Vladikavkaz rallied on 6 October to protest a four-month delay in the payment of their pensions, Radio Rossii reported. They also called for the resignation of the government and the re-establishment of the USSR. Demonstrations by pensioners have become a relatively common occurrence in many areas of Russia because of the indebtedness of the Russian Pension Fund. According to ITAR-TASS on 7 October, the fund now owes pensioners 13.3 trillion rubles ($2.5 billion), including 300 billion owed since July and 4 trillion since August. The debt is now higher than the fund's monthly outgoings, which totaled 12.4 trillion in September. The fund is owed 40 trillion rubles by enterprises and 12.8 trillion by the Finance Ministry, according to fund official Andrei Tyshko. -- Penny Morvant

Teachers in many Russian regions staged protests on 7 October to demand the payment of wage arrears, reliable state funding for education, and constitutional recognition of the government's responsibility for education, ITAR-TASS reported. Similar protests occurred on 4 October. According to the teachers' union, wage arrears topped 3.4 trillion rubles ($630 million) on 1 October. Many teachers in Arkhangelsk, Irkutsk, Pskov, and Chita Oblasts have not been paid for seven months. Strikes have been held at 3,300 educational establishments over the past six months, and 578 schools failed to begin the new school year on 2 September. -- Penny Morvant

Emerging from talks with NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana in Brussels on 7 October, Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed declared that Russia continues to oppose NATO expansion but added that Moscow will "not go into hysterics" if the alliance accepts new members. Lebed said Russia acknowledges the "legal" right of East European countries to join NATO but warned against conflating "juridical legitimacy with political expediency," and repeated President Yeltsin's proposal that a Russia-NATO agreement detailing the alliance's relationship with Moscow be signed prior to any decision on expansion, a position NATO officials reject. Lebed added that NATO expansion should be left to "the next generation," which would be free of the Cold War's "confrontation mentality." Although refusing to give details of the "new proposals" on Russia-NATO cooperation which he discussed with Solana, Lebed said they involved creating a framework for joint decision-making. -- Scott Parrish

In recent meetings with the Estonian, Lithuanian, and Latvian ambassadors, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov threatened that Moscow will sever diplomatic relations with any country that recognizes Chechnya as an independent state, RTR reported on 7 October. The report, based on remarks made by Sergei Stepashin, head of the Russian government's administrative department (see OMRI Daily Digest, 7 October 1996), noted that the Foreign Ministry refused to either confirm or deny the story but claimed that Baltic diplomats had confirmed it. Estonian and Latvian diplomats told BNS, however, that their ambassadors have not discussed Chechnya with Russian officials for nearly a month, although they acknowledged being cautioned earlier against recognizing Chechnya. Both officials denied any plans to recognize Chechnya. The public support for Chechen independence expressed by some Latvian and Estonian politicians is a source of irritation for Moscow. -- Scott Parrish

Economics Minister Yevgenii Yasin announced that the government plans to present a restructuring program for the gas industry by the end of this year, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 October. The ministry is setting up a special committee to draw up plans for a reorganization of the monopolistic industries, which include the gas, energy, railway, and communication sectors. Yasin said the energy industry should not continue to raise prices and tariffs, but must cut production and administration costs. Yasin said that the government does not intend to forcibly break up Gazprom, but will devise a restructuring plan that will guarantee competition and more effective administration. -- Ritsuko Sasaki

Finance Minister Aleksandr Livshits told a Moscow briefing on 7 October that Russian government bonds have been awarded a 2B grade by the three leading international credit rating agencies, NTV reported. Livshits said that the 2B group includes India, Mexico, and Hungary, and places Russian state bonds ahead of those from Turkey, Venezuela, or Brazil. Livshits said, "It is true that we have a bad reputation as a persistent debtor, but a 2B rating in our pocket will reduce the harm this causes." This clears the way for Russia to issue long-term Eurobonds later this year, presumably at interest rates lower than the 55-70% required on the domestic treasury bill (GKO) market. Russia's international debts total some $130 billion, including old Soviet debts plus another $19 billion acquired since 1991. Russia is late in paying interest, let alone principal repayments, on this debt, so the favorable bond rating is surprising. -- Peter Rutland

An item titled "Confusion over Chechnya" in the OMRI Daily Digest, Vol. 2, No. 194, 7 October 1996 incorrectly attributed a comment to Sergei Shakhrai. In fact, Sergei Stepashin, who heads the Russian government's administrative department, made the comment.

The chairman of the Abkhaz parliament in exile, Tamaz Nadareishvili, said in Tbilisi on 4 October that Georgia should suspend further negotiations on ratifying the agreement on Russian military bases in Georgia, BGI reported. He said the suspension would expedite the withdrawal from the Georgian-Abkhaz border of Russian peacekeeping troops and their replacement with an international force. He further called on Interpol to issue warrants for the arrest of Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba and his associates. Nadareishvili claimed that there is a faction within the Georgian parliament that shares his view that Tbilisi would have to go to war to restore its hegemony over Abkhazia. The director of Russia's Institute of Migration and Diaspora Affairs, former State Duma deputy Konstantin Zatulin, has advocated the withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers from Abkhazia if both Tbilisi and Sukhumi agree to this, according to BGI. -- Liz Fuller

Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev on 3 October criticized the OSCE Minsk group for having accomplished nothing beyond declarations in the two years since the 1994 OSCE Budapest summit, Turan reported the following day. Aliev, who was meeting with representatives of the group, condemned the organization's "failure to explain to Armenia that the Armenian community of Karabakh will not receive the status of an independent state." He also reiterated his criticism of Russia's "one-sided" approach to the conflict. On 4 October, the OSCE delegation traveled to Stepanakert for talks with the president of the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, Noyan Tapan reported on 7 October. The Minsk conference co-chairmen, Heikki Talvitie and Valentin Lozinskii, called for a quick settlement of political negotiations on the conflict before the December OSCE summit in Lisbon. -- Liz Fuller

A spokesman for the Taliban movement claims that Central Asia has nothing to fear from the group that now controls most of Afghanistan, Rusian Public TV (ORT) reported on 7 October. The acting foreign minister of the Taliban, Muhammed Ghous, called upon the UN "to convince Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakstan, and Kyrgyzstan not to meddle in Afghanistan's internal affairs and the Taliban for their part will not interfere in the affairs of other countries." A radio broadcast originating in Pakistan on 6 October announced that the Taliban would soon send representatives to the Central Asian states as a demonstration of the group's "brotherly love" for the region, Radio Rossii reported on 6 October. However, Ghous reportedly said "we do not want Russia to forget the lesson they were taught here," referring to the Soviet military campaign in Afghanistan in the 1980s. -- Bruce Pannier

The Ukrainian legislature has elected four of the six justices it is authorized to select on the country's 18-member Constitutional Court, Ukrainian TV reported on 7 October. They are: Mykhaylo Kostytsky, Oleksander Myronenko, Vitalii Rozenko and Stanislav Yatsenko, Holos Ukrainy reported on 4 October. Deputies must still choose two more justices and approve a bill on the Constitutional Court. The president and a congress of judges have already appointed the other 12 members. Legislators also elected Viktor Musiaka, a member of the Reforms caucus, as deputy parliamentary speaker. Musiaka resigned as President Leonid Kuchma's representative in the legislature when Kuchma called a controversial referendum on the constitution, which was canceled when the parliament adopted the new basic law in June. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma arrived in Madrid on 7 October for an official visit, Ukrainian and Western agencies reported. Kuchma met with King Juan Carlos and Prime Minister Jose Mario Aznar. The purpose of the visit was to develop ties between Ukraine and Spain, especially in the area of economics, and to win Spain's support for Ukraine's entry into European structures. Kuchma was accompanied by his wife, Liudmyla, Foreign Minister Henadii Udovenko, and Defense Minister Oleksander Kuzmuk. A series of documents were signed, including an agreement on friendship and cooperation. Other accords concern relations in economy and industry, air links, social protection of citizens, military cooperation, and cultural and educational exchanges. -- Ustina Markus

Consumer prices in Ukraine increased by 2% in September, Ukrainian Radio reported on 7 October. This rate, which contrasts with the 5.7% inflation rate recorded in August, means that consumer prices have increased by 34.8% since the beginning of the year. It is also consistent with the government's agreement with the IMF. September's low inflation suggests that the impact of the temporary monetary instability that followed the introduction of the hryvnya as Ukraine's national currency was minimal. In the wake of the currency reform, government officials had predicted 8-10% inflation for September. All this should help Ukraine maintain monthly disbursements from the IMF's $867 million standby credit, as well as improve prospects for negotiating a $1.5 billion stabilization fund. Wage and payments arrears continue to choke Ukraine's financial system, however. -- Ben Slay

According to a poll of 1,500 people conducted by the Center for Sociological Research at the Belarusian State Institute for Information, 59% said the people should adopt a constitution by referendum; 23% said a constitution should be adopted by parliament; 10% said it should be done by an all-Belarusian assembly; and 5% said the president should pass a constitution through decree, Belapan reported on 7 October. Only 30% of those polled said they were familiar with President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's draft constitution; 47% said they heard something about it on TV or radio; 22% said they were not familiar with it at all. Nonetheless, 66% said they would vote in the referendum; only 7% said they would definitely not vote; and the rest were undecided. ITAR-TASS reported that Communist leader Syarhei Kalyakin said the communists would call upon the people to vote against Lukashenka's constitution, which would liquidate the "power of the soviets." -- Ustina Markus

Prime Minister Mikhail Chyhir said he hoped trade between Belarus and Murmansk would triple over the next 18 months, Radio Mayak and ITAR-TASS reported on 5 October. Chyhir was in Murmansk to establish direct ties between Belarus and the Russian region. Minsk was especially interested in getting phosphorous and fish in exchange for bartered Belarusian goods. Chyhir was also scheduled to meet with the local administration and discuss human rights. The issue is of interest to Belarus because every tenth inhabitant in Murmansk is of Belarusian descent. -- Ustina Markus

The Tallinn district court ruled on 7 October that the expulsion in March 1995 of Petr Rozhok, the former representative in Estonia of Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party, was unlawful because of procedural errors, BNS reported. The decision overturned a ruling by the Tallinn administrative court in February that the expulsion was legal. The court ruled that the Citizenship and Migration Department that had executed the expulsion did not give the district court a proper deportation order. Rozhok was represented by well-known Russian lawyer Boris Kuznetsov. Rozhok, who is a Russian citizen, said that he intends to return to his family in Tallinn. Estonian authorities have three months to appeal the decision to the state court. -- Saulius Girnius

Lithuanian and Slovenian Foreign Ministers Povilas Gylys and Davorin Kracun signed a free trade agreement in Vilnius on 4 October, Radio Lithuania reported. The agreement goes into effect on 1 January. Kracun said he hoped Lithuania could become a member of the Central European Free Trade Agreement at the end of next year when Slovenia will chair the organization. Kracun noted that the current volume of trade between the two countries of $3-4 million per year was likely to increase by at least 50% in 1997. -- Saulius Girnius

The Polish and Ukrainian internal affairs ministers, Zbigniew Siemiatkowski and Yurii Kravchenko, signed an agreement in Kyiv on 4 October providing for an exchange of information between police forces and the creation of joint police detachments, Polish media reported. The aim of the cooperation is to fight international gangs, particularly those smuggling illegal immigrants. The Polish and Ukrainian defense ministers, Stanislaw Dobrzanski and Oleksander Kuzmuk, on the same day visited a joint peacekeeping battalion, which will for the first time take part in Polish troop exercises in southern Poland. Due to financial reasons, Poland is considering reducing its peacekeeping contingent in Bosnia if the IFOR mandate is prolonged after December, Rzeczpospolita reported on 5 October. -- Beata Pasek

Prime Minister and Civic Democratic Party Chairman Vaclav Klaus, Christian Democratic leader Josef Lux, and Civic Democratic Alliance Chairman Jan Kalvoda met on 7 October to discuss the role of the three parties' minority government in light of growing pressure from the opposition, Czech media reported. Last week Klaus accused the opposition Social Democrats of trying to govern through the parliament and of attempting to reverse the post-1989 developments in the country. The statement issued by the three leaders says that the coalition parties want to complete the transformation process in the country and raise the political culture in the Czech Republic to a level common in developed parliamentary democracies. The coalition is not opposed to the controlling function of the parliament but "rejects pressure [put by the parliament on the government] going beyond the constitutional framework." -- Jiri Pehe

A September opinion poll by the FOCUS agency revealed that 78% of Slovaks favor opposition representation in the National Property Fund (FNM), the agency that controls privatization, Slovak media reported on 8 October. Opposition representation on OKO, the parliamentary commission that oversees the secret service, was supported by 75% of respondents, while 80% favored opposition members on the radio and TV boards, and 74% supported a deputy parliament chairman representing the opposition. Although one leftist opposition deputy was elected to OKO during the June coalition crisis, the FNM, radio, and TV boards consist solely of coalition representatives. Other FOCUS findings released recently show that political party preferences are almost static, with the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia remaining on top with 28% support. Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar remains the most trusted politician, followed by President Michal Kovac. -- Sharon Fisher and Anna Siskova

After a parliamentary debate on the recent privatization scandal, Gyula Horn has pledged a full investigation into the activities of the privatization agency's top-level management, Hungarian dailies reported on 8 October. Deputies agreed to set up a parliamentary commission to investigate further details of the case. Meanwhile, the press speculated on Tamas Suchman's successor as industry and trade minister. According to Nepszabadsag, Imre Karl, the commissioner in charge of examining energy costs ahead of next year's energy price increase, Socialist economist Laszlo Puch, and Ikarus and Videoton President Gabor Szeles are being considered. To calm international fears of uncertainty regarding future privatization deals, Horn stressed that "privatization policy will not change, all concluded contracts are valid and the government will honor the commitments specified therein." -- Zsofia Szilagyi

State Department Spokesman Nicholas Burns said on 7 October that the U.S. was "furious" with the Bosnian Serb member of the newly-elected presidency, Momcilo Krajisnik, who ignored the inauguration of the Bosnian assembly, international agencies reported. Krajisnik decided to skip the ceremony rather than take the oath of office and loyalty pledge to Bosnia-Herzegovina. Burns said U.S. diplomats delivered a "very stiff" note to Krajisnik on 6 October, asking him to demonstrate the Bosnian Serbs' commitment to the peace process in the following days. Otherwise, Burns said, the U.S. will bring the issue of sanctions up on the UN Security Council, which only last week lifted the sanctions against the Bosnian Serbs and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The UN Security Council pledged to monitor compliance with the peace process. -- Daria Sito Sucic

OSCE election supervisor Robert Frowick held a closed-door meeting on 7 October with Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic in Banja Luka. Nasa Borba wrote on 8 October that they most likely discussed the upcoming local elections. In Sarajevo, Bosnian Prime Minister Hasan Muratovic said that the Muslims and Croats should simply ignore the Serbian boycott of joint institutions. In the Muslim village of Jusici on Bosnian Serb territory, 60 Muslim refugees have again returned to the village after their papers were processed by the UNHCR. They had earlier returned to their destroyed homes, much to the consternation of IFOR, which feared a clash between the Muslims and the Serbs. They agreed to leave after a face-saving formula was found whereby the Muslims left for three days but began to return again on 6 October (see Pursuing Balkan Peace, 1 October 1996). -- Patrick Moore

Croatia, acting on a new general amnesty law, has released 41 Serbs detained for rebelling against the state the preceding weekend, Slobodna Dalmacija reported on 8 October. Some 18 other Serbs charged with war crimes remained in custody of the Split district court. Most of those released went to Serbia, while a few opted to stay in Croatia, according to the state-run agency Hina. Additionally, 15 Serbs charged and imprisoned for espionage against Croatia were released from Zagreb's custody on 7 October, Novi List reported the next day. Lawyers for the imprisoned announced that they were filing charges seeking compensation for those kept in custody for one year. The amnesty law pardons all Croatian Serbs who took part in the uprising after Croatia's declaration of independence in 1991, except those charged with war crimes. -- Daria Sito Sucic

Serbian police officers on 7 October arrested a third suspected terrorist, Reuters reported. The police claim that Idriz Haljiti participated in two bomb attacks on a police station and one on a refugee camp in Vucitrn. Police continued to search for other members of a group, believed to be the ominous Kosovo Liberation Army. Two other suspected terrorists were arrested last week. Meanwhile, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic refused to receive UN human rights envoy Elizabeth Rehn, Nasa Borba reported on 8 October. During a meeting with Rehn, the minister without portfolio in charge of minority rights, Margit Savovic, expressed "astonishment and concern" about statements Rehn made in Kosovo, when she discussed with Kosovar shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova the option of making Kosovo an "international protectorate." She is scheduled to visit eastern Slavonia on 8 October. -- Fabian Schmidt

In an appeal carried by Radio Bucharest on 7 October, Emil Constantinescu, the presidential candidate of the Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR), called on opposition parties to set up "a large political alliance for the defense of democracy and free elections." He accused the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) and President Ion Iliescu of heading an "oligarchy of the enriched" ready to defend its interests by any means, including the undermining of democratic institutions and the constitution and attempting to intimidate the media. The appeal was welcomed by the Social Democratic Union and by the National Liberal Alliance and was attacked by the PDSR, which claimed that "civic liberties and the freedom of elections are not endangered by anyone, with the possible exception of the CDR." -- Michael Shafir

The committee formed by teachers and parents at the Grigoriopol school in the breakaway Dniester region decided to suspend its strike and resume negotiations with local authorities, Infotag reported on 7 October. Lessons will, however, be taught using the Cyrillic script, as demanded by the authorities. This concession was agreed to in order to secure the release of three teachers detained as "strike instigators." The committee agreed to prepare all necessary documents for registering the school as a non state-run, alternative educational establishment, where Latin script may be used, and to search for an alternative location for the school. Meanwhile, the Moldovan Education Ministry accused the Tiraspol authorities of violating children's and parents' rights under UN conventions. Another strike continues in the town of Slobozia, where local authorities refuse to allow the use of the Latin script "under any circumstance" and say that unless "disobedient" teachers allow the children to attend local Russian-language schools, they will be fired. -- Michael Shafir

The Interior Ministry has begun gathering information on all big bank debtors, Standart and Kontinent reported on 7 October. Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) Deputy Gincho Pavlov said the "credit millionaires'" list will be published on the eve of the 27 October presidential elections and will include names of parliamentary deputies who were not known publicly as "credit millionaires." Bulgarian Business Bloc Leader Georges Ganchev said two of them are members of his party and that BSP faction leader Krasimir Premyanov had promised them a respite if they "vote for [the BSP presidential candidate, Culture Minister Ivan] Marazov." However, Premyanov said the big bank debtors are trying to destabilize the country, accused them indirectly of being behind former Prime Minister Andrey Lukanov's murder, and declared that the BSP will stop the chaos in Bulgaria. -- Maria Koinova

Petar Stoyanov, presidential candidate of the United Democratic Forces, laid out his foreign policy concept in a lecture at Sofia's Atlantic Club on 7 October, Bulgarian media reported. Stoyanov said Bulgaria must join NATO, noting that a refusal to join would result in isolation not only from the West but also from the Visegrad countries and Bulgaria's neighbors. Stoyanov also noted his intention to work for good relations with Russia but said that the present government's foreign policy led to an estrangement from Europe and the U.S. without bringing Bulgaria closer to Russia. On the Balkans, Stoyanov said Bulgaria must have a "completely balanced" policy. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Zhan Videnov, in a meeting with Marazov and his running mate, Deputy Foreign Minister Irina Bokova, accused the opposition of being irresponsible and said Stoyanov is working toward a "total confrontation of society." -- Stefan Krause

Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister Rumen Gechev noted on 7 October that the IMF Executive Board would consider releasing a $116 million standby tranche on 20 November, Bulgarian media reported. He observed that the delay in the release of the money, which was to be available in September, was because the IMF was waiting for completion of the first large cash privatization deal, the first voucher auction under mass privatization, and court proceedings for 64 pending bankruptcies. Finance Minister Dimitar Kostov observed that only two weeks remain for the government to close those enterprises and the national bank to resolve the fate of nine banks put under supervision on 23 September in order to receive the money. Gechev also noted that a way must be found to provide credits for grain sowing before the end of October to avoid disastrous consequences this winter. -- Michael Wyzan

The trial against communist-era President Ramiz Alia is expected to end within ten days, Dita Informacion reported on 6 October. Imprisoned Socialist Party leader Fatos Nano refused to testify against Alia, who in the previous trial against Nano took complete responsibility for his prime minister's actions. Alia is charged with crimes against humanity but the trial is likely to focus on the killing by police of protesters in Shkoder on 2 April 1991. -- Dukagjin Gorani

Police on 7 October found a priceless 13th century canvas, known as the Gllavenica epitaph, and a revolver belonging to late communist dictator Enver Hoxha, Reuters reported. A pen and ink-well belonging to Albanian renaissance poet Ando Zako Cajupi, and four religious paintings were also found while searching the house of suspect Aleksander Sota. The articles were stolen from the Albanian National Museum two years ago. -- Fabian Schmidt