SPECULATION OVER POSSIBLE DEFENSE MINISTER RESIGNATION.
Ministry on 5 January denied rumors that Igor Rodionov would use a 6 January
meeting with President Boris Yeltsin to resign over insufficient funding of the
military, NTV reported. Rossiskaya gazeta on 6 January, however,
speculated that there might be "some substance" to the rumors, since Rodionov
listed "normal financing" of the military as one of his conditions for taking
the post last July. The same day, ITAR-TASS reported that Rodionov's meeting
with Yeltsin had been postponed, although the President will chair a session of
the Defense Council on 8 January. The armed forces only received 56.6 trillion
rubles ($10.2 billion) of the 68.8 trillion rubles awarded them in the 1996
budget, Moskovskii komsomolets reported on 6 January, and of that only
37 trillion was paid in cash, the remainder in credits and securities. A Duma
staffer told ITAR-TASS that the 104 trillion rubles allocated to the military
in the 1997 draft budget falls short of the minimum 160 trillion requested by
the Defense Ministry. -- Scott Parrish
YELTSIN, KOHL DISCUSS NATO ENLARGEMENT.
After meeting with Yeltsin at
the Russian president's Zavidovo country residence on 4 January, German
Chancellor Helmut Kohl admitted that "some differences" divide Bonn and Moscow
on NATO enlargement, but he expressed the hope that a mutually acceptable
compromise solution would be found this year. Yeltsin's spokesman, Sergei
Yastrzhembskii, later said that the Russian president had laid out Russian
objections to enlargement "fairly toughly." Kohl hailed Yeltsin's speedy
recovery from his 5 November heart operation, but urged his "friend Boris" to
return to work only gradually. Yeltsin agreed to visit Germany in April to
accept a media award, and accepted Kohl's suggestion to meet with Dutch Prime
Minister Wim Kok, who currently holds the rotating EU presidency, in The Hague
on 4 February. -- Scott Parrish
LEBED: RUSSIA BECOMING AN OLIGARCHY.
Former Security Council Secretary
Aleksandr Lebed warned that Russia is evolving toward "oligarchy" rather than
democracy, AFP reported on 3 January. He argued that half the Russian economy
is controlled by "a small group of banks and financial-industrial groups, while
the other half is controlled by criminal clans." Lebed added, "Ordinary
Russians are now as far from the real levers of power as they were during
Soviet Communist Party rule." Meanwhile, 65% of 5,000 Russians surveyed by the
Russian Sociological Studies Center named Lebed "man of the year," Ekho Moskvy
reported on 30 December. The electronic media remains generally unfriendly to
Lebed, despite his popularity. For instance, a 5 January commentary on Russian
TV (RTR) acknowledged that Lebed was one of the most notable politicians of
1996 but downplayed his role in ending the war in Chechnya. -- Laura Belin
CHECHNYA FREE OF RUSSIAN TROOPS.
Lt.-Gen. Pavel Maslov, chief of staff
of the Interior Ministry troops, stated to Interfax on 5 January that: "I
officially announce that as of today not one soldier of the Interior Ministry
or Defense Ministry of the Russian Federation remains in Chechnya," Reuters
reported. Earlier reports of the withdrawal had been confusing: on 29 December
it was announced that all combat units had left but some elements were still in
place. Maslov said details of the withdrawal were kept obscure "to avoid
possible provocations," and stated that all combat troops left by 31 December.
-- Peter Rutland
CHECHEN GOVERNMENT PLANS ...
Deputy Interim Prime Minister Ruslan
Kutaev said on 3 January that the new Chechen president will not take up his
seat in the upper house of the Russian parliament which is automatically
granted him by the Russian constitution, ITAR-TASS reported. However, Chechnya
will send a commissioner to the Russian parliament for the next five years, who
will have a right to vote. The same day Kutaev said the government intends to
try ousted pro-Moscow Chechen leader Doku Zavgaev for treason (in absentia). He
also explained that 14 Chechen field commanders "had a serious conversation"
with maverick Salman Raduev to dissuade him from provocative acts. -- Peter
... AND ELECTION PREPARATIONS.
On 3 January the 16 presidential
candidates were sworn in by Chechnya's leading mufti, Akhmed-Khodzha Kadyrov,
and promised to accept the results of the elections, ITAR-TASS reported. Tim
Guldimann, the head of the OSCE mission in Chechnya, said Russian officials
assured him that international observers will be granted visas to visit
Chechnya without delay, RIA reported on 6 January. The OSCE is providing some
financing for the Chechen Electoral Commission: the OSCE will decide on 16
January whether to send its own observers. The Russian Duma has already decided
not to send observers. -- Peter Rutland
RUSSIA, CYPRUS CONCLUDE ARMS DEAL.
Cypriot officials and a
Rosvooruzhenie delegation concluded a contract for the delivery of S-300 air
defense missile systems on 4 January, international agencies reported. The
number of missiles involved and the exact value of the deal was not revealed by
either side, nor has a delivery date been specified. Unconfirmed Cypriot
sources suggest Nicosia has purchased 20 missile systems for $660 million. The
Turkish Foreign Ministry protested the deal, saying it undermines "regional
peace," while Western diplomats cited by AFP said the S-300 missiles, which
have a range of 150 km, would alter the military balance on Cyprus by
neutralizing the air superiority which Turkey has enjoyed since the 1974
division of the island into Turkish and Greek enclaves. Rosvooruzhenie
spokesman Valerii Podgrebnikov, however, termed the missiles "purely
defensive," and dismissed Turkish concerns. Russian officials had pledged
during the recent visit of Turkish Foreign Minister Tansu Ciller to deliver
only "defensive" weapons to Greek-controlled Cyprus. -- Scott Parrish
COMMUNIST ELECTED PRESIDENT OF MARII-EL.
Vyacheslav Kislitsyn won the 4 January presidential election in the Republic of
Marii-El, Russian media reported. Preliminary results indicated that he won 59%
of the vote to 36% for Duma deputy Leonid Markelov, nominated by Vladimir
Zhirinovsky's Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia. ITAR-TASS noted that local
"democrats" had supported the 33-year-old Kislitsyn in the second round, and
that the outgoing president of Marii-El, Vladislav Zotin, had inadvertently
boosted Kislitsyn's campaign by recently firing him as head of one of the
republic's raions. (Zotin was eliminated in the first round after trying
unsuccessfully to cancel the 22 December election.) Andrei Trapezni-kov, an
assistant to presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais, told ITAR-TASS on 5
January that the administration was satisfied with the Marii-El result; he
described Kislitsyn as an experienced economic manager. -- Laura Belin
YELENA MAVRODI'S ELECTION PYRAMID SCHEME IN TULA.
Yelena Mavrodi, whose
husband Sergei ran the infamous MMM pyramid scheme in 1994, is running a human
"pyramid" scheme in her bid to claim the Tula State Duma seat once held by
Aleksandr Lebed, according to Izvestiya on 5 January. Citizens can
receive 3,000 rubles ($0.55) for signing contracts to become campaign
"agitators" for Mavrodi; they are promised a chance for up to 50 million rubles
($9,000) after the February by-election, depending on "the election results in
your polling area." Agitators are then told to recruit more agitators: for each
recruit, they receive an additional 3,000 rubles. Izvestiya concluded
that the 50 million ruble promise is merely bait to recruit more "agitators"
while not appearing to be buying votes directly. Former presidential bodyguard
Aleksandr Korzhakov and chess grandmaster Anatolii Karpov are also contesting
the Tula by-election. -- Laura Belin
KAMCHATKA OIL SPILL.
The Russian oil tanker "Nakhodka" sank en route
from China to Kamchatka on 1 January, international agencies reported. Up to
4,000 tons of its 19,000-ton cargo have spilled, threatening fishing grounds
off Japan's main island of Honshu. Japan sent a dozen vessels to disperse the
50-km slick. The tanker's sinking threatens electricity supplies to the
peninsula's 400,000 population. Industrial users will be switched off and
residential areas will be cut for 4-5 hours per day until the arrival of the
next fuel oil tanker, scheduled for 17-18 January. -- Peter Rutland
PENSION CRISIS CONTINUES.
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin chaired a
government meeting on 5 January to discuss the crisis in pension payments, NTV
reported. Pension arrears now total 15.8 trillion rubles ($2.8 billion), Radio
Mayak reported on 5 January, while employers in turn owe 50 trilion rubles to
the Pension Fund. October pensions have only been paid in 59 (out of the 89)
Federation subjects, and December pensions in only 24 Federation subjects. --
RUSSIA TO CLAIM ARCTIC TERRITORIES?
Natural Resources Minister Viktor
Orlov said in an interview with Trud-7 of 4-9 January that in 1997
Russia will prepare documents in order to stake claim to 1.5 million square
kilometers of the Arctic shelf. He said the U.S. and Canada are also
contemplating such action. Orlov underlined that exploitation of Russia's
mineral resources is the key "that will help us enter the group of the world's
most developed countries." He stressed that except for a brief period in 1992
all resource development projects must be licensed in Moscow. A "dual key"
system is in operation: projects must be approved both by Orlov's ministry and
by the government of the federation subject (region or republic). He admitted
that problems can arise - for example, development of the Timan-Pechora oil
fields has been delayed for four years due to failure to reach agreement with
the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug. Only 4% of the 10,867 licenses issued since
1992 have gone to ventures with foreign participation. -- Peter Rutland
RUSSIAN RED TAPE HINDERS REMOVAL OF GEORGIAN URANIUM.
blame Russian indifference and foot-dragging for the failure of their year-long
efforts to have about 2 lbs (0.8 kg) of used reactor fuel and 9.5 lbs (4.3 kg)
of highly-enriched uranium transferred to Russia from a poorly-guarded research
institute outside Tbilisi, The New York Times reported on 5 January.
Although in 1994 Washington addressed a similar problem by directly purchasing
Kazakstani uranium and flying it to the United States, the Clinton
administration asked Russia in early 1996 to accept the Georgian uranium for
storage and reprocessing. However, months of talks on the issue have hit
repeated legal, financial, and bureaucratic snags, despite American offers to
pay for the transport and provide necessary equipment. The uranium remains at
the Georgian Institute of Physics under improved, but still inadequate,
security. -- Scott Parrish
TERRORISM IN TAJIK CAPITAL.
The bodies of two Tajik military officials
were found on the outskirts of Dushanbe on 3 January, RFE/RL reported. Both
were killed, in separate incidents, by a shot from a pistol. On 4 January two
bombs went off in downtown Dushanbe, killing one and injuring five, Russian
sources reported. The first blast occurred near a market when four servicemen
from the CIS peacekeeping force and 201st Motorized Rifle Division attempted to
start their car after buying goods at the market. One serviceman was killed,
the others were wounded along with two civilian passers-by. The other bomb went
off two hours later, destroying a police post near the presidential palace. No
casualties were reported. Just prior to these latest attacks the Russian
Foreign Ministry had expressed its alarm at the increase in attacks on
peacekeepers, noting that between 27 December and 2 January six Russian
soldiers were killed and eight wounded in or near Dushanbe. -- Bruce Pannier
NEW BORDER TARIFFS FOR KAZAKSTAN.
A decision by the Kazakstani
government to allow so-called "shuttle traders" more weight when arriving from
foreign countries went into effect on 5 January, ITAR-TASS and Radio Rossii
reported. The previous limit without a fine was 20 kg per passenger but under
the new rule the limit is 70 kg per passenger and the first 270 kg after that
is subject to a reduced tariff. The government is hoping that this new freedom
to bring goods into the country will increase products on the domestic market.
However, planes are often overloaded and Kazakstan has a poor history of air
safety, highlighted by the November mid-air collision of a Kazakstani plane
with one from Saudi Arabia over India which killed more than 300 people. --
STRENGTH OVER JUSTICE IN UZBEKISTAN.
A coat of arms for Uzbekistan's
capital, Tashkent, was issued on 4 January, ITAR-TASS reported the same day.
The emblem's components are an open gate topped by an oriental dome on a
background of a mountain and rivers framed by flowers, a grape vine and a plane
tree in blossom. Encircling all of this are the words "In Strength is Justice"
[Kuch Adolatadir], a mis-translation of the words "Rasti Rusti" [In Justice is
Strength] from Firdausi's Persian epic The Book of Kings [Shah Namah]. Since
the late October celebration of the birth of Tamerlane, the improperly rendered
text has increasingly been associated with him and is to be found on numerous
billboards, the wall of a museum erected to lionize the great
conqueror-builder, as well as the star of Samarkand state medal in Uzbekistan.
-- Lowell Bezanis
GAZPROM THREATENS BELARUS WITH GAS CUTS.
The Russian gas monopoly
Gazprom has threatened to cut gas supplies to Belarus by 40% because of
outstanding bills, AFP and Russian Public TV reported on 4 January. Last
February, Russia and Belarus signed a "zero option" agreement that wrote off
Belarus's gas debt. But since then, its gas payment arrears have climbed to
$295 million. In December, Gazprom cut supplies by 15% for three days,
prompting Minsk to hand over $10 million. -- Ustina Markus
FORMER BELARUSIAN PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER STOPPED FROM TRAVELING TO POLAND.
Stanislau Shushkevich has been prevented from traveling to Poland because
his diplomatic passport is invalid, Reuters reported on 5 January. At the end
of last year, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka decreed that diplomatic passports
held by members of the 1996 legislature were no longer valid. Previously,
Syamyon Sharetsky, speaker of the 1996 parliament, had been prevented from
traveling abroad for the same reason. Shushkevich said he tried to obtain a
regular passport, but the Interior Ministry refused to issue the document
without approval from the presidential Security Council. -- Ustina Markus
POLITICAL APPOINTMENTS IN BELARUS.
President Lukashenka has signed a
decree appointing Mikhail Myasnikovich as head of the president's
administration, Reuters reported on 5 January. He appointed Hryhor Vasilevich
as chief justice of the Constitutional Court and also named Justice Minister
Valeryi Sukalo as a member of that body . Under the new constitution,
Lukashenka has the right to appoint the chief justice and five other judges to
the 11-member court. -- Ustina Markus
UKRAINE'S CONSTITUTIONAL COURT COMES INTO BEING.
Constitutional Court formally came into being on 3 January, Ukrainian Radio
reported. The head of the court, Vitalii Boiko, met with President Leonid
Kuchma to mark the occasion. So far, 16 out of the court's 18 judges have been
appointed. The remaining two are be appointed by the parliament, which has the
right to appoint one-third of the court's justices. The same day, Kuchma
submitted his first case to be examined by the court. The case involves the
accounting department of the parliament. -- Ustina Markus
CRIMEAN DEPUTY RESIGNS OVER KYIV'S POLICIES.
Oleksandr Bobrinev, a
deputy from Sevastopol, has resigned, saying Kyiv is pursuing a policy that is
increasing tension over Sevastopol and the Black Sea Fleet, ITAR-TASS reported
on 4 January. Bobrinev said President Leonid Kuchma and parliamentary speaker
Oleksandr Moroz are reorienting the country toward the West and moving closer
to a radical nationalist position. His resignation is retroactive to the
beginning of the year. -- Ustina Markus
CITIZENSHIP POLL IN ESTONIA.
An opinion poll in Estonia shows that two
out of three ethnic Russians aged 18-29 want to apply for Estonian citizenship,
BNS reported on 3 January. Only one-tenth of young Russians in Estonia have
acquired Russian citizenship, even though the procedure is considered very
easy. Some 60% of Russian citizens said they took Russian citizenship only
because they did not want to be without any citizenship and because the
procedure for obtaining Estonian citizenship is more difficult. Twenty-one
percent said they took Russian citizenship because of their ethnic background.
Three-quarters of young Russians said they regarded Estonia as their country,
while only 27% of elderly Russians said the same. Of the 110,000 Russian
citizens in Estonia, 42% are pensioners over the age of 60. One-tenth of young
Russians could not speak any Estonian, while half of the over-60 group had no
knowledge of that language. Most of those polled said they felt it was right
for Russian children to learn Estonian. -- Ustina Markus
LITHUANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON VISIT TO POLAND.
Algirdas Saudargas, who
today begins a two-day official visit to Poland, told Rzeczpospolita
that Lithuania should be treated like Poland over the issue of NATO admission.
"We fulfill the same criteria," Saudargas said. "And, like Poland, our only
frontier with Russia is through neighboring Kaliningrad Oblast." Referring to
the controversial statement by Lithuanian Education Minister Zigmas
Zinke-vicius on Polish-Lithuanian relations (see OMRI Daily Digest, 2
January 1997), Saudargas said Lithuania will fulfill bilateral and
international agreements on minority rights. He added that Polish-Lithuanian
relations are now better than at any time in this century. This is the first
official visit by a Lithuanian foreign minister to Poland since World War II.
-- Jakub Karpinski
NEW APPOINTMENTS IN POLAND.
Internal Affairs Minister Leszek Miller has
named Marek Papala the new chief of police, Polish dailies reported last week.
Papala replaces Jerzy Stanczyk, who had headed the force since March 1995.
Papala was Stanczyk's deputy. Col. Andrzej Anklewicz, an adviser to former
Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy, was named chief of the Border Guards. The new
heads of the fire brigade and Civil Defense have also been named. Former
ombudsman Tadeusz Zielinki is the new labor minister, replacing Andrzej
Baczkowski, who died in November. -- Jakub Karpinski
CZECH PRESIDENT TIES THE KNOT.
Vaclav Havel on 4 January married actress
Dagmar Veskrnova in a private, previously unpublicized ceremony, Czech media
reported. Veskrnova has been Havel's companion for some time, but the
President's Office did not officially acknowledge their relationship until
recently. Havel's first wife, Olga Havlova, died on 27 January 1996, following
a long battle with cancer. Havel is himself recovering from lung cancer
surgery, which he underwent at the beginning of December. He told journalists
after the wedding that he sees the marriage as the beginning of new period in
his life. -- Jiri Pehe
SLOVAK POLITICAL ROUNDUP.
Christian Democratic Movement spokeswoman
Lucia Faltinova has announced that, later this week, the opposition will launch
a petition drive for a referendum on direct presidential elections, TASR
reported on 3 January. The party urged all Slovaks to support the referendum,
saying that elections would allow citizens to directly influence who becomes
the head of state and would also increase their control over that position. A
total of 350,000 signatures are needed for a referendum. An opposition proposal
for a constitutional amendment on the issue was submitted to the parliament in
December, but discussion was postponed until February. The president is
currently elected by the parliament. The ruling Movement for a Democratic
Slovakia opposes a constitutional change. Meanwhile, President Michal Kovac,
taking part in a debate on private TV Markiza on 5 January, said he considers
himself neither an enemy of the government coalition nor the leader of the
opposition. -- Sharon Fisher
HUNGARIAN PRESIDENT REJECTS AMENDMENT TO PRIVATIZATION LAW.
has sent back to the parliament an amendment to the privatization law,
Hungarian media reported on 6 January. The legislature passed the amendment
last month following a heated debate over a clause stating that, under special
circumstances, the State Privatization and Holding Co. can allocate public
assets to local governments and co-operatives free of charge. The Socialists
had insisted on including that provision. The parliamentary Constitutional
Committee recommended omitting the disputed clause, but the Socialist-dominated
parliament ignored its recommendation. Last week, Goncz rejected the law on
conflict of interests, which the parliament also passed last month. -- Zsofia
NOISY, CARNIVAL-LIKE WEEKEND IN BELGRADE.
Opposition protesters continue
to devise novel ways to circumvent the police ban on marches, which was imposed
following violence between opponents and supporters of President Slobodan
Milosevic on 24 December. On 3-4 January, the protesters once again made much
noise by blowing whistles and beating pots and other implements during Serbian
TV's evening newscast. On 5 January, they staged a "protest by traffic jam," in
which drivers of all sorts of vehicles blocked Belgrade streets amid a carnival
atmosphere, international media reported. Protesters plan to extend the traffic
jam tactic throughout Serbia should the government fail to recognize the
results of the 17 November local elections within a few days. -- Patrick
SERBIAN OPPOSITION STICKS TO ITS' DEMANDS.
The opposition Zajedno
coalition has rejected the authorities' latest offer to accept part but not all
of those election returns, CNN reported on 4 January. This time, the government
proposed to acknowledge opposition victories in Belgrade and two smaller towns
but called for a new vote in Nis. Zajedno says it will keep up its
protests until the government unconditionally respects the 17 November results.
Meanwhile, Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Pavle gave a radio address in which he
repeated the Holy Synod's recent condemnation of the Milosevic regime, the BBC
stated on 4 January. The U.S., for its part, is also keeping up the pressure on
Milosevic, who is increasingly isolated both at home and abroad, Nasa
Borba wrote on 6 January. -- Patrick Moore
BELGRADE DEMONSTRATORS APPEAL TO POLICE.
The Zajedno leadership
has called on people to stage a protest in the form a large "religious
procession" on 6 January, which is the Orthodox Christmas Eve. Meanwhile, the
students have appealed to the police not to block their marches, AFP reported
on 6 January. One of their leaders said: "We appeal to those installing police
cordons to withdraw them before January 9, so we don't have to do it for them."
On a more diplomatic note, Zajedno issued a proclamation to the police
as "dear friends," Nasa Borba wrote. The text stated: "Do not let
yourselves be abused by the [Socialist Party of Serbia] thieves and do not
allow yourselves to be pushed into a conflict with the people, whose lives are
as difficult as yours. Think hard before obeying the orders of the thieves."
The police are one of Milosevic's main pillars of support. -- Patrick Moore
FEDERAL YUGOSLAV ARMY WILL NOT OPPOSE STUDENTS.
One of the reasons
Milosevic has relied on the police is that his relations with the army (JNA)
have never been particularly good. On 6 January, Chief of Staff Gen. Momcilo
Perisic told a delegation of students that the JNA will not oppose them, AFP
reported. Army support was crucial to Milosevic in crushing protests in March
1991, which constituted the most direct challenge from the streets to his rule
prior to the current unrest. -- Patrick Moore
NEW BOSNIAN GOVERNMENT CONVENES.
Bosnia's new government convened for
the first time on 3 January in Serb-run Lukavica, near Sarajevo, international
media reported. Earlier the same day, deputies in the lower house of the
Bosnian parliament approved the government and the nomination of the two joint
prime ministers--Boro Bosic, a Serb, and Haris Silajdzic, a Muslim. Silajdzic
said the cabinet discussed who should take part in a delegation to a conference
in Brussels on 9-10 January aimed at raising funds for the reconstruction of
Bosnia. Meanwhile, Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian member of Bosnia's three-man
presidency, has said he wants to see "reconciliation and acceptance of the
characteristics of all the peoples" in Bosnia, AFP reported. -- Daria Sito
BOSNIA'S MUSLIM RULING PARTY CONFIRMS RECEIVING FUNDS FROM IRAN.
Party of Democratic Action (SDA), headed by President Alija Izetbegovic, has
confirmed that it received $500,000 from Iran in mid-1996, Oslobodjenje
reported on 4 January. But it added that the money was used for scholarships
and not for the party's election campaign. Last week, the Los Angeles Times
reported that Iran gave Izetbegovic that sum for use in the run-up to the
September elections (see OMRI Daily Digest, 2 January 1996). In other
news, Drazen Erdemovic, the first war criminal to be sentenced by the UN
International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia, has appealed his 10-year
prison term, AFP reported on 3 January. -- Daria Sito Sucic
CROATIA MAKES OFFER TO SERBS IN EASTERN SLAVONIA.
government has drafted a Memorandum on the Completion of the Peaceful
Reintegration of eastern Slavonia and handed it over to Jacques Klein, the head
of the UN Transitional Administration for eastern Slavonia, Vecernji
List reported on 4 January. The document attempts to resolve the
contentious issue of voting rights for those living in eastern Slavonia, as
well as cultural and educational rights. Ivica Vrkic, the government official
in charge of the region, said Croatian Serbs who were not living there in 1991
but had lived in another part of Croatia will be able to vote in eastern
Slavonia if they choose. Previously, the government had insisted that only
Croatian Serbs who had lived in eastern Slavonia before the war would be
allowed to vote in local elections. The memorandum also offers the Serbs
several senior posts in the government and gives Serbian men the option of not
performing compulsory military service in the Croatian Army. -- Daria Sito
KOSOVO POLITICAL UPDATE.
Kosovo human rights activist Adem Demaci has
been elected chairman of the Parliamentary Party of Kosovo, ATA reported on 5
January. Demaci, who also heads the Kosovo Human Rights Council, became a party
member in fall 1996. Albanian Foreign Minister Tritan Shehu welcomed Demaci's
election and praised the Kosovar shadow-state party system for its peaceful
policies. Demaci is expected to compete with shadow-state President Ibrahim
Rugova in upcoming presidential elections. Elsewhere, Shehu urged Belgrade to
fully respect the opposition victories in Belgrade and to allow an OSCE
monitoring mission to Kosovo, AFP reported. The last monitoring mission left
Kosovo in summer 1993 after Belgrade refused to prolong its members' visas. --
ROMANIA'S FORMER RULING PARTY LAMBASTS GOVERNMENT OVER ECONOMIC POLICY.
The Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) on 4 January accused Victor
Ciorbea's cabinet of failing to keep its election promises and not drawing up a
government program, Romanian and Western media reported. The PDSR said recent
gasoline price hikes were excessive and part of a "shock therapy" strategy. The
cabinet, dominated by the Democratic Convention of Romania, responded the next
day in a communique saying the hikes were unavoidable because of the economic
"chaos" created by the previous administration. It also pledged to counter the
effects of the price hikes through social protection programs. The price of
gasoline almost doubled as of 1 January. -- Dan Ionescu
MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH NEIGHBORING LEADERS.
President-elect Petru Lucinschi and Igor Smirnov, president of the
self-declared Dniester republic, met in Chisinau on 3 January, BASA-press
reported. The leaders discussed resuming bilateral negotiations over a special
status for the breakaway region within the framework of the Moldovan state. Two
days later, Lucinschi had an unofficial meeting with Ukrainian President Leonid
Kuchma in Odessa. He appealed to Ukraine to take a more active part in
mediating between Chisinau and Tiraspol. In 1995, Ukraine joined Russian and
OSCE efforts to broker a solution to the Moldovan-Dniester conflict. -- Dan
BULGARIAN MASS RALLY CALLS FOR EARLY ELECTIONS...
More than 40,000 Sofia
citizens on 3 January protested the Bulgarian Socialist Party's policies and
called for early elections. The rally, organized by the United Democratic
Forces (ODS), took place outside the BSP headquarters, where the Socialists
were electing a new Executive Bureau. The protesters shouted "Mafia" and "Red
rubbish" and threw eggs, pieces of bread, and stones at the building. Three
windows were broken, and one policeman injured. Riot police were deployed after
protesters broke down an iron fence in front of the BSP headquarters. Speakers
at the rally stressed that parliamentary means to resolve the present crisis
have been virtually exhausted. They said the ODS will use all legitimate
means--including street demonstrations and boycotting the parliament --to "turn
the current government crisis into a parliamentary crisis."
Koinova in Sofia
...WHILE BULGARIAN SOCIALISTS ELECT NEW LEADERSHIP.
The composition of
the new BSP Executive Bureau, the party's highest decision-making body between
party congresses, is seen as a victory for former BSP leader Zhan Videnov,
Duma reported. Videnov's most prominent opponents failed to get elected,
although some were proposed by new BSP chairman Georgi Parvanov,
including former Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski, former BSP Deputy
Chairman Yanaki Stoilov, and the head of the parliamentary Foreign Relations
Committee, Nikolay Kamov.
Videnov himself refused to run for the
Executive Bureau, saying former party leaders should not be on it. Originally,
the Executive Bureau was to have had 20 members in order to represent all major
tendencies within the party. The BSP Supreme Council, however, reduced that
number to 15. -- Stefan Krause
ALBANIAN DAILY PUBLISHES LIST OF PARDONED PRISONERS.
Albania on 4 January published the full list of people included in
President Sali Berisha's New Year amnesty. Two founders of a communist party,
54-year-old Timoshenko Pekmezi and 62-year-old Sami Meta are among those
released. They were sentenced last year to two and three years in jail,
respectively. The 15-year sentence of former Politbureau member Lenka Cuko was
reduced by five years. Cuko was sentenced last year for crimes against humanity
and for deporting dissidents into internal exile. Socialist leader Fatos Nano's
prison term for embezzlement was reduced by six months. He has another 18
months left to serve, Reuters reported. Elsewhere, police have arrested 13
Kurds from Iraq in Vlora who were waiting to cross illegally to Italy,
international agencies reported on 3 January. -- Fabian Schmidt
[As of 1200 CET]
Compiled by Steve Kettle and Jan Cleave