YELTSIN CATCHES "COLD," CANCELS MEETINGS ...
Sergei Yastrzhembskii announced on 6 January that, owing to a "serious cold"
and a slightly high temperature, President Boris Yeltsin had postponed the
scheduled 8 January session of the Defense Council and several other meetings,
including a scheduled visit by Bulgarian President-elect Petar Stoyanov,
Russian and Western agencies reported. Yastrzhembskii denied that Yeltsin's
illness was connected with his 5 November heart surgery, and said the president
had probably caught the influenza virus which is currently sweeping Moscow.
Yastrzhembskii refuted reports that a special "medical council" of top doctors
had convened to discuss the president's condition. Last July, before the second
round of the presidential election, administration officials blamed a cold for
Yeltsin's failure to appear in public, although later it was revealed that the
president had suffered a heart attack. -- Scott Parrish
... ORDERS PREPARATION OF COUNTERMEASURES TO NATO ENLARGEMENT.
On 6 January, Yeltsin chaired a special meeting to discuss Russia-NATO
relations which was attended by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin,
presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais, and other top officials, Russian
and international agencies reported. Yastrzhembskii said the meeting had
"unanimously confirmed" Moscow's "explicitly negative position" on NATO
enlargement. He added that Yeltsin had directed Foreign Minister Yevgenii
Primakov to devise a flexible "action plan" of various measures which Russia
might take if the alliance accepts new Eastern European members. Meanwhile,
Western diplomatic sources told Reuters that in his 4 January meeting with
German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Yeltsin took a hard line, insisting that before
NATO invites new members to join, it offer Russia a legally binding
consultation agreement granting Moscow a voice in alliance decisions like
enlargement. NATO officials have consistently rebuffed such suggestions in the
past. -- Scott Parrish
SPLIT IN MILITARY LEADERSHIP OVER REFORM PLANS?
The Russian military
leadership is divided over how to approach the issue of military reform,
according to a 6 January Interfax report monitored by the BBC. The agency said
that the next session of the Defense Council had been postponed largely because
of disagreement among military leaders over whether to move ahead with reform
at current funding levels, or delay it until additional funds are budgeted.
Many military leaders, including Defense Minister Igor Rodionov, have insisted
that additional funding beyond the 104 trillion rubles ($18.9 billion)
contained in the 1997 draft budget is needed to begin reform, while the agency
said others believe that waiting for additional funds is "unrealistic," and
argue that the collapse of the military will accelerate unless the limited
budget funds available are used to immediately begin downsizing the military.
-- Scott Parrish
JUSTICE MINISTRY CALLS FOR ACTION ON REPUBLICAN LAWS.
Ministry considers unconstitutional regional legislation a threat to Russia's
territorial integrity, and believes that "the time for persuasion has gone. It
is time to act," sources at the ministry told ITAR-TASS on 5 January. In recent
months, prominent figures including presidential Chief of Staff Anatolii
Chubais, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, and Justice Minister
Valentin Kovalev have complained of so-called "legal separatism," noting that
provisions in the constitutions of 19 of Russia's 21 republics violate the
federal Constitution. Yeltsin has instructed Chubais, Kovalev, and
Procurator-General Yurii Skuratov to draft proposals on holding officials
responsible if they delay or hinder efforts to repeal unconstitutional local
laws. The Constitutional Court recently instructed the Republic of Marii-El to
rescind an article of the republic's constitution that imposed language
restrictions on candidates for public office. -- Laura Belin
HEAD OF VCIOM DISCUSSES YEAR-END POLLS.
For the first time in the nine
years that the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VCIOM) has
conducted year-end polls, respondents named a social problem rather than a
particular political event as the most important issue of 1996, VCIOM director
Yurii Levada wrote in the 29 December-5 January edition of Moskovskie
novosti. In 1996, 42% of respondents named chronic delays in paying
salaries and pensions as the year's most important event, followed by the peace
agreement and withdrawal of troops from Chechnya (39%), and the presidential
election (26%). In 1995, respondents cited the January assault on Grozny, the
March assassination of television journalist Vladislav Listev, and the December
parliamentary election. Levada noted that only about 20% of respondents expect
1997 to be worse than 1996, while 75% believe it will be either better or no
worse. -- Laura Belin
RUSSIA REJECTS CRITICISM OF CYPRUS MISSILE DEAL.
spokesman Grigorii Tarasov rejected as "groundless" criticism by the United
States, Britain, and Turkey of the contract under which Moscow will supply
S-300 air defense missiles to Greek-controlled Cyprus (see OMRI Daily
Digest, 6 January 1997), Russian and Western agencies reported on 6
January. The Turkish Foreign Ministry has filed a protest note with Moscow,
saying the missile deal "creates a threat to peace on Cyprus," while the U.S.
State Department termed the weapons sale "a step in the wrong direction."
Tarasov insisted that the purchase of the "defensive armaments" by the
internationally recognized Greek Cypriot government does not threaten anyone,
adding that Russia "does not see any reason to curtail its military-technical
cooperation with Cyprus." -- Scott Parrish
CHECHEN SECTION OF PIPELINE MAY NOT BE READY.
The president of
Chechnya's Southern Oil Company, Khozh-Akhmed Yarikhanov, complained to
ITAR-TASS on 7 January that the Russian Ministry of Fuel and Energy had not
signed an agreement on use of the Baku-Novorossiisk pipeline crossing Chechnya
by the 1 December deadline which had been agreed by Chernomyrdin and Aslan
Maskhadov when they met in Moscow on 23 November. Chechen President Zelimkhan
Yandarbiev recently ordered his own personal battalion to take steps to shut
down all the republic's illegal oil producers, Rossiiskaya gazeta
reported on 6 January. Apart from operating their own wells, they also siphoned
off oil from the pipeline, when it was functioning. -- Peter Rutland
PATRIARCH SLAMS WAGE ARREARS.
In his broadcast on the Orthodox Christmas
Eve, Patriarch Aleksii II said that "The Church states that the non-payment of
money for what has been earned by honest toil is a crime against the individual
and a sin against God," AFP reported on 6 January. He conducted a Christmas Eve
mass attended by Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov and other officials, in which he
called for a moral and spiritual revival of the nation. Rossiiskie vesti
of 6 January noted that there are now some 300 churches and eight monasteries
working in Moscow. -- Peter Rutland
ACADEMIC ENDS HUNGER STRIKE.
Vladimir Strakhov, the director of the
Institute of Earth Physics, ended a hunger strike which he began on 23 December
to protest non-payment of the funds allocated to his institute. He staged a
similar protest in October. The 64-year old Strakhov was reported to be
suffering from heart problems. Strakhov complained that in a meeting with
Finance Minister Aleksandr Livshits on 25 December, the latter promised to pay
off the government's 88 billion ruble ($16 million) debt to the Russian Academy
of Sciences by 5 January, but this was not done. Meanwhile, power workers in
Chita, who have not been paid since July 1996, began an open-ended strike on 5
January, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Peter Rutland
INFLATION HITS NEW LOW.
The annual inflation rate for 1996 was 21.8%,
down from 131% in 1995 and the lowest since 1990, ITAR-TASS reported on 6
January. In December, prices rose just 1.4%, and the 1997 budget sets an
inflation target of 11.8% for the year. Some analysts question the relevance of
the inflation figures, noting the growing use of barter and money surrogates.
However, another positive sign is that nominal annual interest rates on new
six-month government bonds have fallen to around 35%, down from a peak of 150%
a year ago. (Foreign purchasers of the bonds are limited to a dollar interest
rate of 13%). ITAR-TASS reported on 6 January that the federal budget deficit
for the first 10 months of 1996 was 63.3 trillion rubles, which was 24% of
total budget spending and 3.5% of GDP. It was financed by the sale of
government securities (61%--38 trillion rubles) and external borrowing (39%).
-- Peter Rutland
NTV ON TARPISHCHEV.
NTV's "Itogi" showed the second installment of its
expose on the aluminum industry on 5 January. The first program argued that
Oleg Soskovets was the patron of a clique of aluminum industrialists (see
OMRI Daily Digest 2 January 1997). The second tried to tie these
individuals to Shamil Tarpishchev, former Sports Minister and Yeltsin tennis
trainer, and to other figures allegedly linked to Moscow crime groups, such as
Oleg "Taiwanchik" Takhtakhunov and Anton Malevskii. The evidence cited was less
than conclusive. It consisted of photos of these men meeting at tennis
tournaments in Sochi and the Kremlin, and a photo from the magazine Tennis
plyus of 2 December showing them meeting the aluminum industrialist Mikhail
Cherny in Israel. The program also quoted the Kremlin visitor list for
Tarpishev from June 1995, which showed that he met with Oleg Kantor, the head
of Yugorskii bank, one month before the latter was assassinated. The program is
presumably part of an effort to discredit Tarpishev associate Aleksandr
Korzhakov. -- Peter Rutland
U.S. TO SEEK PROSECUTION OF GEORGIAN DIPLOMAT ...
The United States
will ask the Georgian government to waive immunity for a diplomat to allow his
prosecution in the U.S. for a car accident in Washington that caused the death
of a 16-year-old American girl, Western agencies reported on 6 January. Georgi
Makharadze, 35, reportedly triggered a five-car crash while drunk. The U.S.
State Department said it is awaiting police reports and a decision from the
attorney general, expected on 7 January, on whether to begin criminal
proceedings against Makharadze. An unidentified White House official told AFP
that if the Georgian government declines the request "we will ask the
government to remove the diplomat from the country." Georgian President Eduard
Shevardnadze has sent a letter of condolence to the family of the dead girl and
said Makharadze "should take responsibility." -- Emil Danielyan
... AMID CALLS TO SUSPEND U.S. AID TO GEORGIA.
A Republican senator
urged President Bill Clinton to suspend aid to Georgia unless the latter strips
Makharadze of diplomatic immunity, Reuters reported on 6 January. In a letter
to Clinton, Senator Judd Gregg said that would be the only "strong" and
"appropriate" action for the U.S. government. A spokesman for the Georgian
embassy in Washington did not comment on Gregg's letter but said any decision
on a waiver of immunity will be a "decision between the two governments."
Georgia is slated to get $30 million in financial aid from the United States
for the 1997 fiscal year. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said the
United States expressed "very, very serious" concern to the Georgian
ambassador, but defended diplomatic immunity "as a concept." -- Emil
RUSSIA, AZERBAIJAN TALKS.
A Russian delegation led by Deputy Prime
Minister Valerii Serov is in Baku for talks on a wide range of bilateral, as
well as CIS-related, issues, Russian media reported on 6 January. Talks are
expected to focus on bilateral trade and economic cooperation, the repayment of
Azerbaijan's debts to Russia, and the time-frame and volume for Azeri oil to be
transited via Russian territory. Both Azerbaijan and Russia have announced that
their respective segments of the 1411 km-long Baku-Novorossiisk pipeline are
ready to carry Azeri oil to international markets, Russian agencies reported.
Azerbaijan wants to start pumping some 30,000 metric tons of oil in February.
-- Lowell Bezanis
TAJIK TALKS OPEN IN IRAN.
With a ceasefire agreed in Moscow in December
by Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov and United Tajik Opposition (UTO) leader
Said Abdullo Nuri still holding, delegations from both sides met in the Iranian
capital Tehran on 6 January, international media reported. The talks, delayed
by one day, are to discuss the formation of a National Reconciliation
Commission which is to help pave the way for new parliamentary elections within
12-18 months. Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati welcomed members of
the delegations and called on them to "be forgiving and show understanding."
AFP reports that the formation of the commission dominated the first day of the
talks, with the government delegation rejecting a proposal for 40% of the
commission to be made up of UTO representatives. Talks are scheduled to
continue all this week. -- Bruce Pannier
TRIAL OF TURGUNALIYEV CONTINUES IN KYRGYZSTAN.
The case against
Topchubek Turgunaliyev, chairman of the Erkin Kyrgyzstan Party, continued in
Bishkek municipal court on 6 January, RFE/RL reported. Turgunaliyev is facing
embezzlement charges for the misappropriation of $10,000 from the Bishkek
Humanitarian University when he was its rector in 1994. State prosecutor Marat
Kenjakunov asked the court to seize all Turgunaliyev's property and sentence
him to a 12-year term in prison. Timur Stamkulov, the former commercial
director of the university, is a codefendant and Kenjakunov asked for him to be
sentenced to seven years in jail. Turgunaliyev's lawyers argue that
Turgunaliyev is a political victim, noting that the trial is taking place in a
criminal not a civil court and pointing out that Turgunaliyev was taken into
custody at a December demonstration where a new movement "For Deliverance from
Poverty" was founded. -- Bruce Pannier and Naryn Idinov
BABY-THEFT SCANDAL IN UKRAINE.
The trial over the illegal adoption of
babies in Ivano-Frankivsk has had political reverberations, NTV and Intelnews
reported on 6 January. The deputy head of the Lviv regional administration,
Yurii Zyma, was dismissed from his post by President Leonid Kuchma. Zyma was
charged with complicity in the illegal adoptions, along with the chief doctor
of the Lviv Oblast state hospital Bohdan Fedak; another doctor, Volodymyr
Droshenko; and the former head of the oblast administration, Zinovii Ursul.
Between 1992 and 1994, over 130 newborns from the west Ukrainian hospital were
sold to Westerners for $6,000-13,000 each, while the mothers were told their
babies had been stillborn. In all of Ukraine, 802 babies were sold without
their parents' consent. The fate of 630 is still unknown, and Interpol has been
looking into the cases. -- Ustina Markus
OUTPUT OF UKRAINE'S ZAPORIZHZHYA STATION.
Last year, the Zaporizhzhya
nuclear power station produced the most electricity in its 12-year history,
Ukrainian radio reported on 6 January. The station is the largest in Europe. In
December, it generated 3.6 billion kilowatts of electricity. -- Ustina Markus
BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT DISMISSES FOOD OFFICIALS.
dismissed several officials over the disruptions in the supply of food to the
population this winter, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 January. The officials included
the first deputy trade minister, the first deputy chairman of the board of
directors of the Belarusian Cooperative Union, the president of the Belarusian
Food Industry, a deputy chairman of the Brest regional executive committee, and
a deputy chairman of the Minsk city executive committee. Over the winter
months, there has been a shortage of butter, sour cream, sugar, and meat. An
investigation concluded there should have been an ample supply, but commercial
structures had bought up the products and then exported them for profit. --
BELARUSIAN UPPER HOUSE NEARLY COMPLETE.
The new upper chamber of
parliament is almost complete, with 53 deputies having been elected from
regions and from Minsk city, Belarusian television reported on 6 January. Under
the new constitution, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka is to appoint additional
deputies. He had to confirm the candidates nominated in the regions before they
could be elected. -- Ustina Markus
ESTONIAN POLICE LACKING CITIZENSHIP MAY BE FIRED.
A third of the police
force in Estonia's northeastern Ida-Virumaa region, 114 officers, may lose
their jobs as of 1 February because they have not obtained Estonian
citizenship, BNS reported on 6 January. Ida-Virumaa police chief Helmut Paabo
said the officers could have passed the citizenship exam if they had really
wanted to. The dismissals would leave some towns in the northeast with an
understaffed police force. In Sillamae, out of the 60-member police force, only
15 have Estonian citizenship. Paabo said authorities hope to resolve the crisis
by restructuring payroll and duties. -- Ustina Markus
UPDATE ON COMMUNIST TRIAL IN LITHUANIA.
Former Yedinstvo activist
Valerii Ivanov was expelled from the courtroom on 6 January where Lithuania's
former communist leaders are on trial for their role in the 13 January 1991
Soviet crackdown in Vilnius, BNS reported. Ivanov was asked to leave the
courtroom because he was subpoenaed as a witness in the case, and can therefore
only be present when he gives testimony. Ivanov had to be asked to leave four
times before he complied, arguing the expulsion was a violation of his rights.
After a month and a half recess, the trial resumed on 6 January. -- Ustina
LITHUANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS POLAND.
Algirdas Saudergas on 6
January began a visit to Poland, his first abroad since Lithuania's new
government was appointed in December last year. Saudergas said Poland is
Lithuania's most important geo-strategic partner. "Lithuania wants to be a
Central European country, not a Baltic republic," Gazeta Wyborcza
reported him as saying. His Polish counterpart Dariusz Rosati said Poland and
Lithuania have similar aims, among others regarding NATO membership. Both
countries intend to conclude new treaties on cultural exchanges and on joint
military action, including setting up a battalion for peace missions by next
year. The two ministers said they were watching developments in Belarus and
would consider joint initiatives. Saudergas, who speaks fluent Polish, had come
to Poland in 1991, when the Soviets were cracking down on Lithuanian
demonstrations, to prepare for the establishment of an emigre government in
Warsaw if necessary. -- Jakub Karpinski
NEW CZECH JUSTICE MINISTER APPROVED.
Vlasta Parkanova, currently a
department head at the Ministry of Internal Affairs and formerly a deputy in
the Czechoslovak federal parliament, on 6 January was approved by the three
government coalition parties as the next minister of justice, Czech media
reported. Parkanova had been officially nominated by the coalition Civic
Democratic Alliance (ODA) on 3 January. President Vaclav Havel is expected to
appoint her on 7 January. The post became vacant after Deputy Prime Minister
and Justice Minister Jan Kalvoda resigned from his government posts in response
to the fact he had falsely claimed to possess a Doctor of Law degree. The
decision on who will fill the post of deputy prime minister will not be made
until the ODA's congress in March. -- Jiri Pehe
SLOVAK OPPOSITION RESPONDS TO PRIME MINISTER'S OFFER.
Chairman Jozef Moravcik on 6 January responded to Vladimir Meciar's recent
calls for a meeting of party representatives "to agree on the rules of
political competition," TASR reported. "[Meciar's] initiative could be useful
if this meeting were not just a cover-up maneuver with which the ruling
coalition wants to stop the decline of its influence on public opinion,"
Moravcik said. After the last multi-party talks -- held during the June 1996
coalition crisis -- Meciar failed to keep his promises to the opposition Party
of the Democratic Left regarding privatization. Moravcik called for direct
presidential elections as well as changes in Slovak TV, which has been used as
a tool by the ruling coalition. -- Sharon Fisher
HUNGARIAN NEO-NAZIS COMMEMORATE FASCIST LEADER'S BIRTHDAY.
neo-Nazis gathered at the grave of Ferenc Szalasi on 6 January to mark the
100th birthday of the Hitler ally, Hungarian and international media reported.
With Nazi assistance, Szalasi became Hungary's fascist leader in October 1944.
During his short leadership, he ordered thousands of Jews, left-wingers, and
deserters killed. Szalasi was executed as a war criminal in 1946. The
Federation of Hungarian Resistance Fighters and Anti-Fascists protested the
neo-Nazis' move in a statement released through the state news agency MTI. --
HUNGARY, ISRAEL SIGN TECHNICAL COOPERATION PACT.
Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs and his Israeli counterpart David Levy on 6
January signed a technical cooperation agreement involving agricultural and
other joint projects, Hungarian dailies reported. Israel has offered $160,000
over three years to establish in Hungary a pilot farm equipped with high-tech
agricultural technology. During the first day of his three-day official visit
to Israel, Kovacs also met with a group of Israeli bankers and with Palestinian
leader Yasser Arafat. Kovacs is still scheduled to hold talks with President
Ezer Weizman, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Dan
Meridor. According to Israeli government figures, some 100 Israeli businesses
have invested around $750 million in Hungary, most notably in the areas of
telecommunications, computer software, and pharmaceutical products. Trade
between the two countries totaled about $100 million in 1996. -- Zsofia
BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA NEEDS $1.4 BILLION FOR RECONSTRUCTION IN 1997.
World Bank said on 3 January that foreign donors will need to provide $1.4
billion this year to sustain reconstruction and the return of refugees in
Bosnia-Herzegovina, international agencies reported. A donor conference in
Brussels on 9-10 January will assess progress and set priorities for 1997.
According to the World Bank's director for Bosnia, Christine Wallich,
priorities will shift from emergency intervention to sustainable
reconstruction, targeting infrastructure, refugee resettlement, job creation,
and financial institutions, AFP reported. The World Bank alone plans to approve
some $160 million in low-cost loans. Out of $5.1 billion pledged in aid to
Bosnia by foreign donors in four years, $1.2 billion was spent in 1996. But
Wallich warned that is only a fraction of what is needed in Bosnia, where war
damage is estimated at $20 billion. -- Daria Sito Sucic
CONTROVERSY OVER INDEPENDENT TV STATION IN BOSNIA.
Kosta Jovanovic, news
director of TVIN, Bosnia's internationally funded independent television
network, said on 7 January that TVIN was resuming broadcasting after having
stopped on 1 January due to satellite problems, Oslobodjenje reported.
But when the station went silent, the Bosnian Federation's state-run media
launched a campaign saying that the station had stopped broadcasting because of
a financial scandal in which local stations contributing to TVIN's broadcast
were cheated, AFP reported on 5 January. Jovanovic said the accusations were a
deliberate attempt to discredit the network before the Brussels fund-raising
conference. In other news, Bosnia-Herzegovina is supposed to take up the
presidency of the Central European Initiative (CEI) in 1997, AFP reported on 4
January. -- Daria Sito Sucic
CROATIAN INSTITUTE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS OPENED.
President of the Croatian
Constitutional Court Jadranko Crnic on 6 January opened the new Croatian
Institute for Human Rights in Novi Vinodolski, Novi List reported the
next day. Crnic came on behalf of President Franjo Tudjman and said that
respect for human rights is the greatest legacy of Croatian history. The
institute is a non-governmental organization founded by the law schools from
major Croatian cities and Croat-held Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegovina, as well as
the Police Academy, the Croatian Bar, and others. Meanwhile, State Attorney
Anto Klaric, on his return from Strasbourg where he reported to the Council of
Europe on human rights in Croatia, said that Croatia has been watched through a
magnifying glass, Slobodna Dalmacija reported on 7 January. Klaric said
the international community deputies have lost sight of who is an aggressor and
who is a victim. -- Daria Sito Sucic
HUGE ORTHODOX CHRISTMAS EVE MARCH IN BELGRADE.
A crowd of at least
200,000 people walked through the Serbian capital to St. Sava's cathedral to
mark Orthodox Christmas Eve in yet another day of protests against the
cancellation of the 17 November local election results. The protest was
typically good-natured and peaceful, except for a reported small explosion at
the headquarters of JUL, the small left-wing party led by Mirjana Markovic, the
wife of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, AFP noted on 7 January. After
Patriarch Pavle said mass at the cathedral, opposition leaders made speeches
outside and presented 5,000 gift boxes for the children of their supporters.
The usually uncommunicative police had earlier assured the demonstrators that
they would not interfere with Christmas processions. -- Patrick Moore
WILL FEDERAL YUGOSLAV ARMY UNITS MOVE AGAINST MILOSEVIC?
discussions between army Chief of Staff Gen. Momcilo Perisic and student
leaders on 6 January, the army issued a letter saying the military will not
allow itself to be used against peaceful protesters (see OMRI Daily
Digest, 6 January 1996). The text stated that problems must be solved by
peaceful and constitutional means, Nasa Borba wrote on 7 January,
thereby ruling out the possibility that Milosevic could rely on the army to
crush dissent as he did in March 1991. The London daily The Independent,
moreover, reported on 7 January that at least some units may be ready to turn
on Milosevic if he tries to declare a state of emergency, AFP wrote. The
Serbian leader has never gotten on well with the military, which resents his
building up a powerful police force as his own Praetorian Guard. -- Patrick
BOSNIAN SERB LEADERS OPPOSE MILOSEVIC.
Aleksa Buha, who succeeded
Radovan Karadzic as head of the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS), in his
Christmas message on 6 January called on Milosevic to avoid bloodshed and
respect the election results. Buha said: "It is stupid to stubbornly refuse to
recognize what the laws of civilization dictate," AFP and Nasa Borba
reported. Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic repeated her earlier
declaration of support for the students. There has long been little love lost
between Milosevic and the Pale leadership, which feels that the Serbian
president has repeatedly betrayed vital Bosnian Serb interests for his own
political purposes. Milosevic backed opponents of the SDS in last September's
Bosnian elections. -- Patrick Moore
OLD GUARD OUSTED AT ROMANIAN NATIONAL TV.
Stere Gulea, the
director-general of Romania's national television (TVR), on 6 January announced
sweeping top-level personnel changes, Romanian and Western media reported.
Eight senior news executives were replaced in the biggest shake-up at TVR since
the fall of the communist regime. The new head of the Information Department is
Alina Mungiu, a respected journalist and political analyst. TVR is the only
Romanian station with nationwide coverage and the main source of information
for isolated rural areas. Under former leftist President Ion Iliescu, TVR was
often accused of blatant pro-government bias. The former ruling party, the
Party for Social Democracy in Romania, described the changes as "political
purge." -- Dan Ionescu
UKRAINE TO SUPPORT MOLDOVA'S TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY.
Minister Hennady Udovenko on 6 January said that Ukraine "takes the Moldovan
side" on the issue of settling the conflict between Moldova and its breakaway
Dniester region, Western agencies reported. The comment was made one day after
Moldovan President-elect Petru Lucinschi met Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma
in Odessa. During the Sunday unofficial talks, Lucinschi called on Kuchma to
mediate more actively in the peaceful settlement of the dispute. On his part,
Kuchma reportedly expressed Ukraine's support for Moldova's territorial
integrity. -- Zsolt Mato
DOBREV NOMINATED AS BULGARIAN PREMIER.
The Executive Bureau of the
Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) on 7 January nominated Interior Minister
Nikolay Dobrev for the post of prime minister, Reuters reported. On 6 January,
Dobrev had agreed to be the BSP nominee for that post, although he had
previously said that he wanted to stay on as interior minister, RFE/RL and
Pari reported. Dobrev now has to be approved by the BSP's parliamentary
allies -- the Bulgarian Agrarian People's Union "Aleksandar Stamboliyski" and
the Political Club Ekoglasnost -- and by the parliament. Dobrev will succeed
Zhan Videnov, who resigned as premier in December. Dobrev, who emerged as an
outspoken Videnov critic at the recent BSP congress, has support within the
party but also within the population for his fight against corruption and
organized crime, but critics of his nomination pointed out that he lacks
experience in economics or finances . -- Stefan Krause
WILL A WAVE OF PROTESTS IN SOFIA OVERFLOW BULGARIA?
More than 30,000
people demonstrated on 6 January in front of the local BSP headquarters in
Plovdiv, Bulgarian media reported. "If we have to die, we'll die out on the
squares," Plovdiv Mayor Spas Garnevski of the Union of Democratic Forces said.
The rally follows a mass rally of 40,000 of the "new majority of the hungry"
organized by the opposition in Sofia on 3 January. Further rallies are planned
for the next few days in Sofia, Varna, Burgas, Lovech, and Montana. Krastyo
Petkov, chairman of the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria,
said his group will support the civil protests, Trud reported on 7
January. His statement contradicts an earlier Duma report that Petkov
would guarantee the civil peace needed for the functioning of a new BSP
government. -- Maria Koinova in Sofia
ALBANIAN STUDENTS STRIKE.
Up to 25,000 students in Tirana and
Gjirokastra staged a strike on 6 January, Zeri i Popullit reported. The
protest was organized by the students' union and supported by former student
leader, Democratic Party legislator and notorious dissident Azem Hajdari. The
students demanded better working and living conditions in the university and
dormitories, a doubling of their stipends, the legalization of a student radio
and newspaper, the construction of a freedom monument in Tirana's Student City,
and freedom from military service for those who attended military high schools.
Rilindja Demokratike on 7 January called the protesters "Hajdari's
Falange," implying they were a minority and charged Hajdari with running amok.
Hajdari originally had planned to hold a general strike but apparently realized
that he had insufficient workers' support, Gazeta Shqiptare reported on
5 January. -- Fabian Schmidt
[As of 1200 CET]
Compiled by Steve Kettle and Susan Caskie