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Newsline - November 6, 1996

President Boris Yeltsin regained consciousness at 6:45 p.m. Moscow time on 5 November, less than five hours after the end of the operation during which his heart was stopped for 68 minutes, Russian and Western media reported. He was taken off a respirator on the morning of 6 November. Renat Akchurin, the surgeon who headed the surgery, said his team had completed five bypasses, The Washington Post reported. Akchurin also said five or six days must pass before he will be able to determine when Yeltsin might resume work. According to Reuters, top cardiologists said the 48 hours after the operation are crucial in Yeltsin's recovery. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski

Yeltsin signed a decree terminating Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's tenure as acting president at 6 a.m. on 6 November, only 23 hours after transfering all his powers to the prime minister, Russian and Western agencies reported. Although Yeltsin once again controls the so-called "nuclear suitcase," Chernomyrdin will continue to perform some presidential functions, such as chairing Security Council meetings, until Yeltsin has fully recovered. The same morning, Chernomyrdin and Yeltsin met for about 15 minutes, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Laura Belin

Workers took to the streets on 5 November in nationwide demonstrations coordinated by the Federation of Independent Trade Unions, Russian and Western media reported. Their main demand was the payment of wage arrears, which now total 43 trillion rubles ($7.9 billion). The protests were the largest since 1993. The unions claim 15 million people participated in various ways, while the Interior Ministry put the figure of street demonstrators at 320,000, spread over 50 regions. Some 40,000 marched in Moscow but only 8,000 in St. Petersburg. Turnout was high in the Far East: 20,000 in Vladivostok and 15,000 in Khabarovsk. In some regions, such as Yaroslavl, workers also staged two-hour strikes. Chernomyrdin addressed the crowd in Moscow, saying that he regretted the non-payment of wages but saw no easy solution. The government said it has already released 320 billion rubles to pay wages owed to culture, education and health workers. Radical communist leader Viktor Anpilov complained that union officials tried to prevent the display of red flags, NTV reported. -- Peter Rutland

State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev has been hospitalized with asthma and bronchitis, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 November. It was not clear whether he will be released from Moscow's Central Clinical Hospital in time for the Duma's next plenary session on 10 November. Seleznev had already announced plans to boycott this week's planned inaugural session of the Consultative Council if presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais is present (see OMRI Daily Digest, 30 and 31 October 1996). The council, informally known as the "permanent four," consists of Chernomyrdin, Chubais, Seleznev, and Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev. -- Laura Belin

The head of the Interior Ministry administration for St. Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast, Yurii Loskutov, has been suspended while prosecutors investigate some of his recent business trips abroad. Loskutov has been replaced temporarily by Anatolii Ponidelko, a former colleague of Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov. The head of the economic crimes administration, Nikolai Danilov, has also been suspended following charges that a number of his officers were involved in extortion, NTV reported on 1 November. Last but not least, the head of the St. Petersburg legislative assembly, Yurii Kravtsov, has been accused of abuse of office and bribe-taking, but as a Federation Council member he cannot be sued without the permission of that body. The investigation was started after the St. Petersburg newspaper Chas pik published an article saying that Kravtsov had spent 350 million rubles ($65,000) from the city budget to renovate his apartment, Moskovskie novosti (no.44) reported. -- Penny Morvant in St. Petersburg

Russian Security Council Deputy Secretary Leonid Mayorov and the newly appointed permanent representative of the federal government in Chechnya, Georgii Kurin, on 5 November met in Grozny with the commander of the Russian federal forces in Chechnya, Maj.-Gen. Vladimir Sukhoruchenko, and interim Chechen Prime Minister Aslan Maskhadov, Russian Television (RTR) reported. They discussed the situation of Russian troops still in Chechnya and the timetable for their withdrawal, which according to Mayorov is to proceed in three stages. Kurin and Maskhadov also discussed economic restoration and preparations for the winter. -- Liz Fuller

The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. John Shalikashvili, met in Moscow with the chief of the Russian General Staff, Gen. Viktor Samsonov, Russian and Western media reported on 5 November. They discussed security issues including the future of the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Bosnia and bilateral military cooperation. Samsonov told ITAR-TASS that "complete understanding" had been reached on extending the presence of U.S. and Russian peacekeepers in Bosnia. He added that the two countries plan to deepen bilateral military cooperation by increasing contacts not only between top brass, but at lower organizational levels. The General Staff is considering holding joint military exercises with the U.S. during 1997 if financing is available, Samsonov said. -- Scott Parrish

Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov rejected Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin's 30 October suggestion that Russia join NATO's political structures, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 November. Commenting in Petrozavodsk on the possibility of Russia joining NATO, he sarcastically asked, "Who wants that?" Primakov said NATO "isn't really interested" in Russian membership, and Moscow doesn't want it either. Primakov quipped that Security Council secretaries "have developed a hobby" of discussing Russian ties with NATO, but insisted that the Foreign Ministry formulates policy, adding that he continues to oppose NATO enlargement. Primakov's remarks quash speculation that Rybkin's comments signaled a new tack in Russian policy toward NATO. -- Scott Parrish

A former diplomat, Vladimir Malshev, has been dispatched to Taipei, where he will open a non-governmental Russian mission before the end of the year, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 November. An analogous Taiwanese mission has been operating in Moscow since 1993. The mission's main function is to promote economic ties; Taiwanese-Russian trade reached $1.8 billion in 1995 and totaled $842 million in the first eight months of 1996. Russia accepts mainland China's "one China" policy, and does not recognize Taiwan. The opening of the informal mission was discussed with the Chinese ambassador in Moscow, Li Fenglin, who told ITAR-TASS that Russia has pledged the mission will not have any official political or diplomatic functions. -- Scott Parrish

In a rare interview published in Komsomolskya pravda on 5 November, Col.-Gen. Fedor Ladygin, head of the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) of the Russian General Staff, contended that "Despite all their assurances of friendship, the developed countries do not want Russia to be a strong power and are undertaking decisive measures to weaken it." Ladygin said that, as a result, one of his organization's top priorities is military-related economic and technical espionage, to help prevent Russia from "falling into the ranks of third-rate countries." He revealed that the GRU is not immune from the military's financial crisis, saying his staff only recently received their August salaries. -- Scott Parrish

The Moscow city government has promised more financial help to publishing and printing houses, television and radio stations, news agencies, and newspapers, Ekho Moskvy and ITAR-TASS reported on 5 November. Media organizations will continue to pay rent far below market prices; beginning on 1 January their rates for utilities will be reduced and they will be exempt from taxes on building maintenance and for education. Mayor Yurii Luzhkov said the new measures would cost the city about 80 billion rubles ($15 million), but said it was worth it to guarantee that even the poorest citizens could still afford to buy newspapers. Luzhkov's generosity will also carry political dividends; he is hardly ever criticized in the mass media, a fact many observers attribute to the media's financial dependence on the Moscow city administration. -- Laura Belin

More than 500 Russian citizens are on the Interpol wanted list, according to Maj.-Gen. Ivan Sardak, the head of the Russian Interpol bureau, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 November. So far this year, Russia has received 10 criminals from abroad, and in turn has extradited 11 foreign suspects to other countries. The Russian Interpol bureau was formed in 1991, but only received legal status through presidential and governmental decrees in June and October of this year. -- Peter Rutland

The joint parliament and government budget commission has agreed to propose the introduction of new taxes on financial operations, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 November. Interest on bank deposits above a certain rate will be taxed at 15%, as will profits from operations in state, regional and municipal securities. A 1.5% tax will be levied on purchases of foreign currency, although state organizations will be exempt from this tax. Such a measure would likely boost the black market trade in foreign currency. In the first six months of this year, foreign currency purchases by the population totaled $30 billion. -- Natalia Gurushina

The Procurator General's Office has started criminal procedures against Russia's principal producer and exporter of uncut diamonds, Almazy Rossii-Sakha (ARS), ITAR-TASS reported on 5 November. The company is charged with concealing profits, resulting in the non-payment of 46 billion rubles ($8.2 million) in taxes. In addition, as of April 1996, ARS owed 3.1 trillion rubles in tax arrears. ARS is also accused of conducting illegal operations with foreign currency and precious stones and metals, from which it received nearly $87 million. Company officials deny all charges, claiming that the move is aimed at disrupting the conclusion of a deal with South Africa's De Beers. The special tax commission has asked the President of Yakutiya (Sakha) to dismiss local government officials responsible for ARS's activity. -- Natalia Gurushina

The chairman of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, Xavier Ruperes, held talks in Baku on 5 November with Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliev, Foreign Minister Hasan Hasanov, and representatives of the opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front and Party of National Independence of Azerbaijan, Turan and ITAR-TASS reported. Ruperes advocated direct bilateral talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan to expedite a political solution to the Karabakh conflict. On 4 November, Aliev's special advisor, Vafa Gulu-Zade, left Baku to meet at an undisclosed European location with his Armenian counterpart, Zhirair Liparitian. They were to discuss the progress achieved on the Declaration of Principles that is due to be signed by the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan at the OSCE heads of state summit in Lisbon in early December. -- Liz Fuller

Shavarsh Kocharyan, the Constitutional Court representative of defeated presidential candidate Vazgen Manukyan, said the court "violates the principles of equality and transparency" in validating the 22 September election results, Noyan Tapan reported on 5 November. The opposition appealed to the court on 24 October, asking it to annul the vote. Kocharyan claimed that numerous documented cases of irregularities are not being addressed. According to him, Manukyan asked the court to return property and documents from his campaign headquarters seized by the Interior Ministry, but this was refused on the grounds that the court "is not empowered to solve this problem." Kocharyan said the Ministry's actions amount to a virtual suspension of the party, which, according to Armenian law, only the Constitutional Court has the right to decide. -- Emil Danielyan

Pavlo Lazarenko arrived in Tbilisi on 4 November for a three-day visit and met with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze to discuss bilateral cooperation, ITAR-TASS reported. On 5 November Ukrainian and Georgian officials signed a series of bilateral agreements, including one on military technical cooperation. The issue of transporting Caspian oil from Azerbaijan via Georgia to Ukraine was also discussed, according to Radio Mayak. -- Liz Fuller

Since the start of November, both the Tajik government and opposition have made overtures to the National Revival Movement founded last spring by three former prime ministers. The United Tajik Opposition (UTO) announced that the movement would be included at the next round of peace talks, and that one UTO leader, Ali Akbar Turajonzoda, had met with the movement's co-founder, Abdumalik Abdullajonov, in Tashkent recently. Following this meeting, UTO leader Said Abdullo Nuri said that cooperation with the movement was possible, according to a Voice of Free Tajikistan radio broadcast monitored by the BBC. ITAR-TASS reported on 5 November that President Imomali Rakhmonov met with the other two leaders of the movement, Jamshed Karimov and Abdujalil Samadov, after they arrived in Dushanbe on 3 November, and appointed Karimov as a senior aide for foreign affairs. -- Bruce Pannier

Interior Minister Yurii Kravchenko, General Prosecutor Hryhorii Vorsinov and Security Service Chairman Volodymyr Radchenko arrived in Donetsk to investigate Yevhen Shcherban's murder, Ukrainian media reported on 4 November. Shcherban, a prominent parliamentarian and head of Aton Transnational trading corporation, was killed at the Donetsk airport on 3 November in a gunfire attack. Ukrainian officials claim competitors for metal and gas markets and local rival clans are behind the killing. The Liberal Party political council, of which Shcherban was a member, and Yevhen Marchuk, former prime minister and leader of Parliament's Social Market Choice faction, claim the murder was political. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev

The chiefs of Ukraine's top law enforcement bodies have revealed that crime has fallen by 5% in the country so far this year, but corruption has skyrocketed, Ukrainian TV reported on 5 November. Interior Minister Yurii Kravchenko told parliament that violent crime had decreased by 7%, although Security Service Chief Volodymyr Radchenko said the number of investigations of government officials for corruption had jumped 32%. Radchenko recommended the parliament retain capital punishment for violent crimes at least through the next expected wave of privatization of some of the country's most coveted firms. He claimed to have evidence that foreign criminal groups have planned to wrest control of some of these highly profitable companies. Meanwhile, Supreme Court Chief Justice Vitalii Boyko said 754 individuals were convicted of murder in 1995 and 125 of those were sentenced to death. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

The deputy head of Ukraine's military-industrial-complex, Volodymyr Karkanytsya, said three arms-export firms, Progress, Ukrinmash, and Ukroboronservice, will merge into one new company, Ukrspetsexport, to increase state control of weapons sales abroad, Reuters reported on 5 November. Ukraine had hoped to use its sizable military-industrial-complex to earn revenues from arms sales after becoming independent, but lack of investment and dependence on other former Soviet republics for military parts have blocked Ukraine's breaking into the international arms market. Last year, Western estimates said Ukraine earned $74 million from arms sales. Ukrainian estimates put the number closer to $100 million. -- Ustina Markus

Following the Constitutional Court's ruling that the 24 November constitutional referendum would not be legally binding and that parliament is to decide what actions to take over the results, the head of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's administration, Mikhail Myasnikovich, read a letter from the president to parliament, Belarusian radio reported on 5 November. In it, Lukashenka said would take all measures to hold the referendum, and had made a number of compromises to avoid confrontation. He blamed the parliamentary speaker for trying to derail the referendum, and said the Constitutional Court had exceeded its powers by ruling on the referendum. The ruling deprived the people of their constitutional rights, and the "court played out the role assigned to it by the enemies of the people." He called on parliament to stop trying to impede the referendum, and said he was "convinced of the wisdom of the people despite the striving of enemies of true democracy." -- Ustina Markus

A bilateral agreement on the rights of Russians moving to Belarus and Belarusians moving to Russia was signed on 4 November in Minsk, Belarusian Radio reported on 5 November. The agreement was signed by the Belarusian Minister of Labor, Alyaksandr Sasnou, and the director of the Russian Federal Migration Service, Tatiana Regent. The document is intended to protect personal and property rights of settlers in both countries as well as to specify aid to settlers. The Minister Sasnou also mentioned that similar agreements may soon be signed with Latvia and several other countries of the former USSR. -- Sergei Solodovnikov

Siim Kallas and Yevgenii Primakov, meeting on 5 November in the Russian town of Petrazavodsk, appear to have made progress in settling the border dispute, BNS reported. Kallas apparently agreed to accept a technical agreement that would more or less correspond to the current border and not demand a border treaty that would include references to the validity of the 1920 Tartu Peace Treaty. The ministers also agreed to form a panel of legal experts from both countries to offer recommendations for improving the situation of Russian-speakers in Estonia. Kallas said that since all the details of the final text of the agreement have not been settled, its text could not be made public. Even if a border agreement is signed, it must still be ratified by both the Estonian and Russian parliaments. -- Saulius Girnius

A 1991 attack by Soviet troops on an unarmed crowd that left 13 dead will be the focus of the trial of former pro-Moscow Lithuanian Communist Party leaders that opened in Vilnius on 5 November, Radio Lithuania reported. If found guilty, former party First Secretary Mykolas Burokevicius and ideological department head Juozas Jermalavicius may face the death penalty for the attack at the Vilnius TV tower, while four other defendants face 3-10 years in prision. The Russian Duma plans to send observers to the trial, which may last more than six months. Prosecutors introduced 330 volumes of evidence and plan to call more than a thousand witnesses. The trial was adjourned until 12 November to allow one of the defendants to become better acquainted with the charges against him. -- Saulius Girnius

The Polish cabinet has approved draft legislation to reduce military service from 18 months to 12 months, Polish and international media reported on 6 November. The new law seeks to eliminate loopholes in the current legislation while upholding provisions requiring conscientious objectors--who seek to substitute military service with community service--to apply to a special commission. Those who refuse to carry weapons while in the military will be denied permission to carry arms later on. The new system is to be introduced by 1999. According to the Polish constitution, military service is obligatory. -- Beata Pasek

Frantisek Gaulieder, a founding member of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), announced on 5 November his decision to leave the HZDS parliamentary caucus, accusing his party of failing to keep its pre-election promises and passing unconstitutional legislation, Slovak media reported. His reasons included a lack of transparency in privatization, the failure to resolve the kidnapping of President Michal Kovac's son, and the controversial policies of Culture Minister Ivan Hudec. In recent months, Gaulieder has frequently criticized the government and voted against the ruling coalition. Gaulieder's departure leaves the HZDS with 60 deputies in the 150-member parliament and brings the coalition's total support down to 81. Gaulieder said he will also lose his place on the parliamentary board OKO, which oversees SIS. -- Sharon Fisher

Some 60 employees from two recently privatized firms--Selekt Bucany and Paliva Bratislava--staged a demonstration outside the parliament on 5 November, RFE/RL's Slovak Service reported. The participants were protesting the National Property Fund's privatization policies. The fund recently approved the sale of Paliva to the firm Slovpal, despite the fact that the employees' company Paugass was the only candidate bidding. In the case of Selekt, the winning candidate submitted a lower offer than the employees' group. Selekt employees lost their bid despite an agreement signed with the Association of Workers (ZRS)--a junior coalition party--stating that the party would support their bid if the firm transferred 500,000 crowns ($16,000) to the party yearly for an indefinite period. The employees demanded a meeting with ZRS Chairman Jan Luptak but he refused. -- Sharon Fisher

Gyula Horn on 5 November recognized that a cabinet compelled to implement stabilization measures cannot be popular, Hungarian media reported. But the steps are bringing results, he said, adding that forecasts show economic growth could begin next year, and living conditions will remain stable. Hungarian media reported on 6 November that Welfare Minister Gyorgy Szabo tendered his resignation on 30 October citing family reasons, but Horn refused to accept it. Meanwhile, on 5 November, Education Ministry official Maria Honti announced that a scandal at her ministry is being investigated involving a tender launched in December by the National Institute for Public Education. Also on 5 November, Young Democrat Deputy Zoltan Pokorni alleged that Istvan Korda, portfolio director of the state privatization company APV and president of Antenna Hungaria, wants to illegally transfer ownership of Antenna --which owns all the country's wavelengths--to the U.S.-based Global TeleSystems Group. -- Sharon Fisher

Hungarian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gabor Szentivanyi declared that Hungary welcomed Romania's election results, Reuters reported on 5 November. Szentivanyi said he was pleased that most votes went to parties that support the friendship treaty between the two countries, signed on 16 September. However, the Bucharest based Curierul National noted the treaty's ratification is not part of the Hungarian Parliament's short-term agenda, but is expected to be ratified by the end of the year. The treaty, already ratified by Romania, was seen as a condition for both countries' integration into NATO and the EU. -- Sharon Fisher and Zsolt Mato

The three members of Bosnia's presidency on 5 November failed to agree on cabinet portfolios, AFP reported. According to a Western diplomatic source in Sarajevo, the disagreement of Bosnian Muslim Alija Izetbegovic, Bosnian Serb Momcilo Krajisnik, and Bosnian Croat Kresimir Zubak is due to the competing interests of Bosnia's communities. The presidency is responsible for foreign policy, the budget, and appointing ambassadors, while each of the two entities is in charge of its own interior, justice, and defense ministries. Krajisnik has complained about some of Bosnia's ambassadors, whom he felt were representing only Muslims. The prime minister's post also represents a problem; it should go to a Bosnian Serb, as it is the country's second-biggest community, but it is unlikely representatives will propose a moderate rather than a hardliner, whom the other communities are unlikely to accept. -- Daria Sito Sucic

With nearly 85% of the votes tabulated from the 3 November federal elections, the leftist coalition of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and those parties supportive of the left are projected to have secured at least 64 of 138 seats. The main opposition Zajedno coalition trails with 22 seats, while the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party controls 16. Vecernje novosti on 5 November reported that 63.11% of eligible voters cast ballots federally. The daily also observed that of the 30 federal seats apportioned to Montenegro, a full 21 may be controlled by the Montenegrin governing party, the Democratic Socialist Party. Meanwhile, in Montenegrin republican elections, the governing party won 45 of 71 legislative seats. Its main rival, the National Unity coalition, picked up 19, while the Party of Democratic Action won 3, and the Democratic League of Montenegro and the Democratic League of Albanians each won two. -- Stan Markotich

Belgrade's independent daily Nasa Borba on 6 November continues to probe into allegations of electoral improprieties. Harun Hadzic, leader of the Party of Democratic Action, which secured 3 seats in Montenegro and one federally, observed that overall the elections "were neither free nor democratic," the paper reported. In addition to charges already leveled, Hadzic said that names of voters were not included on some rolls, thereby precluding eligible voters from exercising their franchise. -- Stan Markotich

Dragoljub Stosic, head of the Belgrade municipal transit union, may still be in custody. Beta, on 4 November, reported that lawyers for the imprisoned Belgrade trade union leader were seeking his release by petitioning justices of the Fourth Municipal Court in Belgrade. On 1 November, public prosecutors raised objections and halted moves that may have resulted in Stosic's release. Stosic was arrested in late October when Belgrade police--including paramilitaries--broke up a transit strike (see OMRI Daily Digest 30 October 1996). Witnesses said Stosic was not involved in any criminal wrongdoing. And for their part, trade unionists involved in the strike have maintained their job action was both lawful and peaceful. -- Stan Markotich

Croatia became the 40th member of the Council of Europe on 6 November, international media reported. Membership was first approved in April, then delayed in May in an unprecedented decision over misgivings about Croatia at home and abroad. In October, the Council agreed to admit Croatia, citing its cooperation with Bosnia's peace accord, improvement of human rights and a "satisfactory" record of cooperation with the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia. But deputy head of the Croatian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights Zarko Puhovski said that Croatia "has not met all the conditions," AFP reported on 5 November. The UN Security Council has repeatedly criticized Croatia for its treatment of Croatian Serbs in that country. The International Crisis Group, a watchdog organization, on 5 November protested Croatia's admission to the Council before turning over indicted war criminals, Onasa reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic

Foreign Minister Mate Granic said on 5 November that Croatia is opposed to the EU's group approach to bids for membership by the countries of former Yugoslavia, AFP reported. Granic said that making Croatia's entry into the EU conditional upon an association with the countries of southeast Europe was unacceptable. Granic said to his Italian counterpart Lamberto Dini that Croatia insists on an individual approach "taking into account the level of development and democratization of each of the states concerned." Italy and Croatia on 5 November signed a treaty on protection for Croatia's Italian minority, and a treaty on the promotion and protection of bilateral investments, Hina reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic

With 99% of the votes counted in the 3 November elections, the Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR) seems a sure winner, capturing around 30% of the votes, Romanian media reported. Observers from the Council of Europe and the OSCE on 5 November described the elections as free and generally fair. The monitors, however, cited irregularities and some lack of transparency. Meanwhile, the Bucharest-based Adevarul on 6 November wrote that talks for forming a new cabinet had already begun between the CDR and the Social Democratic Union (USD) of former Premier Petre Roman, which came in third with around 13% of the votes. The USD is said to claim 30% of cabinet portfolios, while the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania, another potential participant in the coalition ruling, wants the justice and finance cabinet posts. -- Dan Ionescu and Zsolt Mato

A gang of masked men attacked a former Soviet military barracks in the Dniester region and stole more than 30 automatic rifles, Reuters reported on 5 November. The incident, in which one sentry was killed, took place in the town of Bendery. According to a local official, the guns were stolen by a group of Dniester gangsters to settle scores with rival criminal groups. Gang warfare has become endemic in the region. -- Dan Ionescu

Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) Chairman Ivan Kostov on 5 November said the opposition will not form a coalition with the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) "in this parliament," international media reported. He called on the BSP to continue restitution of farmland, privatization of state-owned enterprises, and to protect the private sector. Kostov's statement came only one day after 19 leading BSP members from various inner-party platforms demanded Prime Minister Zhan Videnov's resignation, and two days after the opposition's Petar Stoyanov won the presidential elections with a 20% margin over the BSP candidate, Culture Minister Ivan Marazov. Recently, speculation sprung up that the BSP might try to form a coalition government, but also that early elections might be held next spring if the crisis within the BSP is not resolved or splits the party. -- Stefan Krause

The appeals court led by chief judge Prel Martini on 5 November has upheld prison sentences of up to 20 years on nine high ranking communist-era officials, Reuters reported on 6 November. The nine were sentenced on 28 September for sending thousands of dissidents into internal exile. They included party leaders from Tirana, Lushnja, Fier, and Kruja, as well as secret police and Interior Ministry officials. -- Fabian Schmidt

An explosion wrecked the apartment of appeals court judge Martini shortly after midnight on 6 November, Reuters reported. The bomb severely injured his five-year-old daughter and also wounded Martini, his seven-year-old son and two women in adjoining apartments. The fourth and fifth floors of the building in central Tirana were badly damaged. Prime Minister Alexander Meksi visited the scene and described the explosion as a terrorist act with a political motive. -- Fabian Schmidt