Accessibility links

Breaking News

Newsline - January 31, 1997

Ruslan Kutaev, one of the officials organizing the inauguration of Aslan Maskhadov, said the new president would be sworn in on 10 February, after the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, AFP reported on 30 January. Kutaev said that in addition to top Russian officials and regional leaders, representatives from Middle Eastern and Islamic countries, the Baltic States, South Korea, and Japan would be invited to attend. He claimed Grozny has "serious contacts" with those states. Chechen leaders view Maskahdov's inauguration as a symbol of their republic's independence, which Moscow denies, and their claims would be bolstered by an international presence. In Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry again warned that Russia would take "harsh measures," including breaking off diplomatic relations, against any country which recognized Chechnya, although none have shown signs of doing so. -- Scott Parrish

A spokesman for the presumed Chechen president-elect Maskhadov said that the Chechen armed forces and Interior Ministry would take "tough steps" to suppress any illegal terrorist actions by renegade field commander Salman Raduev, Russian and Western agencies reported on 30 January. Raduev had threatened the day before to launch a terrorist campaign against Russia if Moscow refuses to recognize Chechen independence. Vakha Arsanov, Maskhadov's vice-presidential running mate, derided Raduev's threat as "not even worth commenting on." Meanwhile, beginning talks with other Chechen leaders about forming a government, Maskhadov met with former field commander Shamil Basaev on 30 January. Basaev, who finished second in the presidential polls, and acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, who finished third, have both complained about minor election irregularities, although neither disputes the results. OSCE mission head Tim Guldimann said on 30 January that the polls were "exemplary and free." -- Scott Parrish

President Boris Yeltsin met with retiring Chairman of the Constitutional Court Vladimir Tumanov on 30 January on his third visit to the Kremlin since being released from the hospital. According to the law on the Constitutional Court, Tumanov had to step down because he turned 70 on 20 October 1996. Rossiiskie vesti named Justices Tamara Morshchakova, Vladimir Strekozov, and Marat Baglai as possible successors to Tumanov. The president will fill the vacancy in the court by choosing a nominee from a list prepared by a congress of judges, the Justice Ministry, and the Academy of Sciences. The Federation Council must approve his choice. Tumanov said that the president, who turns 66 on 1 February, looked "better in real life than on television, but it is obvious that his illness is still taking its toll," NTV reported. -- Robert Orttung

With his dominance of recent public opinion polls and unpredictable actions if he came to office, former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed evokes fear among Russian politicians who support the status quo. Former Presidential Press Secretary Vyacheslav Kostikov warned that "people striving to run the state out of personal ambition" pose a greater threat to the current elite than the Communist Party," RIA Novosti reported on 30 January. Kostikov noted that "the political elite is panicking, partly because their destiny is completely tied up with that of the president," AFP reported. Meanwhile, Izvestiya on 31 March published an analysis claiming that the "party of power" and the communists will join forces against Lebed by recreating the post of the vice presidency and naming Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov to the position. The article argues that the policy positions of Yeltsin and the communists have become nearly identical and that a Yeltsin-Zyuganov hand-off would ensure a "peaceful transition of power." -- Robert Orttung

Speaking in Davos, Switzerland, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said that NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana, who addressed the economic forum earlier, "is wrong" to contend that enlarging NATO will bolster European security. NATO expansion "will overburden our continent with new suspicions and contradictions," he added, saying that Russia would prefer to concentrate on "business cooperation" rather than wasting time on "unproductive military and political plans." Chernomyrdin later said that Russia wants to join the NATO political council as its "full and equal" 17th member, saying Moscow is not satisfied with consultations under the current "16 +1" formula. While stressing that Moscow wants to cooperate with the alliance, he added that "Russia will never sign a formal document that would determine its attitude toward NATO," although Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov and Solana are scheduled to continue talks on a proposed Russia-NATO agreement on 23 February. -- Scott Parrish

Speaking during a tour of Sakhalin Island, Japanese Ambassador to Russia Takeshiro Togo denied on 31 January that Tokyo was redeploying U.S. troops to Hokkaido, the northernmost of the Japanese home islands, AFP reported. Russian Defense Council Secretary Yurii Baturin on 29 January had charged that the U.S. and Japan were "bolstering their military potential" in the region even "as we are withdrawing troops from the Kuril islands." Togo said that U.S. troops, based in Japan since 1945, had merely been recently granted a base on Hokkaido to "ease pressure on the local population" during naval exercises. Meanwhile, Russian Transport Minister Nikolai Sakh accepted a Japanese proposal for a joint investigation into the 2 January sinking of the Russian tanker Nakhodka, which caused oil slicks that contaminated the Japanese coastline and fishing grounds. -- Scott Parrish

The U.S. State Department's annual review of human rights in 194 countries gave Russia a mixed review, AFP and Reuters reported on 30 January. The survey described the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya in late 1996 as a "bright spot," but it blamed President Yeltsin and Russia's military leadership for the war's heavy casualties, noting that "violations committed by Russian forces continued to occur on a much larger scale than those of the Chechen rebels." It also faulted the country for torture in prisons, the practice of hazing new recruits in the army, and high rates of crime and corruption, among other things. It concluded that there had been "little progress" on human rights, calling democratic gains "fragile" and elections "subject to manipulation." -- Penny Morvant

Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said on 30 January that Russia will adhere to its pledge to introduce a moratorium on capital punishment, but he added that "in some recent cases it was impossible not to execute," international agencies reported. Chernomyrdin was responding to a resolution adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe the previous day warning Russia that if it continues to execute prisoners, the Council will next year consider suspending the powers of the assembly's Russian delegation. Delegation head Vladimir Lukin described the resolution as "correct" but not "timely," according to ITAR-TASS. He argued that it could prove "counterproductive," creating problems during the Duma debate on the abolition of the death penalty scheduled for 12 February. Duma international affairs deputy chairman Aleksei Podberzkin, a Communist, described the resolution as "pressure on Russia." -- Penny Morvant

Russians today are noticeably less interested in emigrating or living abroad temporarily than they were in 1992, according to the results of a Public Opinion Foundation poll released on 30 January. Of the 1,500 people interviewed across Russia, only 6% said they wanted to emigrate, down from 11% in a similar 1992 survey. The share of respondents saying they would like to go abroad for a limited period to earn money fell from 17% to 11%, while those interested in studying abroad fell from 6% to 3%. The percentage of people saying they would not want to leave under any circumstances rose from 49% five years ago to 64%, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. The findings suggest that Russians may be less pessimistic about their country's prospects and their own situation than is often believed. -- Penny Morvant

The Russian Central Bank announced on 30 January that is has eased rules for individual Russians wishing to take foreign currency across the country's borders, international agencies reported. Vladimir Smirnov, head of the bank's department for foreign currency supervision, said individuals are no longer required to have a special foreign-currency bank account or to obtain special permission to carry out cross-border cash transfers for non-commercial purposes. Russians can transfer up to $2,000 a day provided that they present either a foreign exchange transaction receipt or a customs declaration. Additional documentation is still required for larger transfers. -- Penny Morvant

The Security Council has approved another six-month extension of the 125-member UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) which, with some 1,500 Russian peacekeepers, is stationed along the border with the breakaway Republic of Abkhazia, Western agencies reported. The council reaffirmed its support for Georgia's territorial integrity in the Abkhaz conflict and condemned the Abkhaz leadership for holding "illegitimate and self-styled" parliamentary elections in November 1996. -- Emil Danielyan

The Armenian government on 30 January approved an agreement on surveys for oil and natural gas in a large area around Yerevan that was signed between the Energy Ministry and the Armenian-American oil company in October 1996, Noyan Tapan and ITAR-TASS reported. Geological exploration works will begin in February and Energy Minister Gagik Martirosyan said that by next summer it will be clear whether Armenia will extract its own oil and gas. He said that the American side will invest some $100 million in the project. Martirosyan added that an unnamed "American oil company operating in Baku" will get a concession to develop the prospective oil fields. Martirosyan did not deny that the company might be the U.S. Amoco corporation, according to RFE/RL. -- Emil Danielyan

The former Deputy Chairman of the Popular Front of Azerbaijan, Faraj Guliev, was sentenced to 1.5 years imprisonment for his involvement in an attempt on the life of President Heidar Aliyev in 1993, Turan reported on 30 January. Three other defendants, Sahib Huseinov, Fazil Kerimov, and Bayram Ahmedov received between 11 and 12 years each. -- Lowell Bezanis

The U.S. State Department's annual global human rights report, issued on 30 January, said the human rights situation deteriorated in Central Asia in 1996, RFE/RL reported. The report noted that abuses in Turkmenistan and Tajikistan were the worst in the region. Uzbekistan was not much better, despite steps to improve its human rights record. The growth of presidential power in Kazakstan and Kyrgyzstan caused them to lag in the development of democracy and human rights. -- Lowell Bezanis

The Tajik government, in accordance with a ceasefire agreement signed in Moscow in December, released another seven opposition prisoners on 29 January, Reuters reported. This brings the number of opposition fighters freed by the government to 13. However, the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) noted that they had set free 111 government soldiers during the same period and that, while the release of opposition prisoners was encouraging, the UTO estimates there are still about 600 more held by the government. The government says there are still 300 of its prisoners held in central Tajikistan though the opposition claims it captured many more during 1996. -- Bruce Pannier

According to Tajikistan's National Custom's Committee and Statistics Services, the country had a foreign trade volume of $1.4 billion in 1996, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 January. Exports amounted to $768 million and imports $657 million, a surplus of $111 million. Prime Minister Yakhye Azimov, in an interview in the 31 January edition of Nezavisimaya Gazeta, claimed the country had not yet reached even half its economic potential. Azimov said that the "internal conflict" had held the country back but also noted successes in the privatization of agriculture and small businesses as an encouraging sign. The Prime Minister said the establishment of peace following an agreement signed between the government and United Tajik Opposition in December would hopefully create the stability needed to attract foreign investment and raise wages, currently among the lowest in the CIS. -- Bruce Pannier

An olive branch motif is to be added to Turkmenistan's national flag, RFE/RL reported on 30 January. According to a presidential decree issued the day before, the branch, which is similar to the olive branch on the UN flag, is to appear below the five motifs situated on the flag's left corner. The decree noted the olive branch is to symbolize the peace-loving nature of the Turkmen people as well as the country's "neutral" status. Changes to the Turkmen national anthem and alphabet have also been made by presidential decree. -- Lowell Bezanis

Borys Olijnyk, vice president of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly, has said "it is impossible to fully abolish capital punishment in Ukraine at present," ITAR-TASS reported on 30 January. His statement comes in the wake of harsh criticism from the Council of Europe for failing to honor its commitment to put a stop to the death penalty (see OMRI Daily Digest, 30 January 1997). Ukrainian authorities registered 4,896 premeditated murders in 1996, most of which were in the economically developed regions of Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk, Luhansk, Odesa, Crimea, and Kyiv. The number of contract killings grew from eight in 1993 to 210 in 1995, while 400 per 100,000 of the Ukrainian population received prison sentences last year. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev

Leonid Kuchma has been assured by French President Jacques Chirac that France will support G-7 financing of the Chornobyl nuclear plant closure, international agencies reported on 30 January. Kuchma, who is on a two-day official visit to France, said Chornobyl will be shut down in 2000, revoking earlier threats that Ukraine might backslide on its promise to shut the plant owing to economic problems. The G-7 has pledged $3.1 billion to assist the closure, but Ukraine has demanded the money sooner than planned. France will finance building nuclear plants at Rivne and Khmelnitsky to replace Chornobyl. The same day, an agreement was signed to establish a joint economic commission to boost bilateral trade. France is the last of the G-7 countries to receive a visit from Kuchma. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev

NATO has rejected Alyaksandr Lukashenka's proposal to create a nuclear-free zone in CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE, AFP reported on 30 January. The zone would have included Belarus, Ukraine, the Baltic states, Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said in a letter to Lukashenka that the alliance welcomes the withdrawal of all nuclear weapons from Belarusian territory but cannot support creating a denuclearized zone in the region. It also said that member countries of the alliance have "no intention, plan or motive to deploy nuclear arms on the territory of the new members." Meanwhile, Belarusian Foreign Minister Ivan Antanovich confirmed that the Russian and Belarusian position on NATO enlargement remains unchanged, Nezavisimaya gazeta wrote. He stressed that if the alliance were to be enlarged, Belarus and Russia would be compelled to revise their security policies. -- Sergei Solodovnikov

The Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly on 30 January voted to end monitoring whether Estonia is honoring the commitments it made on becoming a member in May 1993, RFE/RL reported. The assembly, however, recommended that Estonia make greater efforts in four areas: abolishing the death penalty, improving treatment of refugees and asylum-seekers, granting citizenship to non-ethnic Estonian residents, and improving conditions in prisons. The Russian Foreign Ministry earlier that day announced that Estonia was failing to keep its promise to end discrimination against ethnic Russians. The assembly, however, rejected Russian delegates' appeals to extend the monitoring period. -- Saulius Girnius

A Sejm commission has approved draft legislation providing for the screening of high-ranking officials and candidates for top state posts to determine whether they collaborated with the communist-era secret service, Polish media reported on 31 January. A special lustration court will be set up to rule in individual cases. However, the draft law does not prohibit someone who admits to having been a collaborator from holding a high state post. In the case of appointed officials, the final decision is to be made by a higher authority. In the case of parliamentary candidates, voters will have the final say. Danuta Waniek, head of the Presidential Office, said President Aleksander Kwasniewski will probably veto the bill if parliament clears it in its current form. The opposition Freedom Union and the Labor Union are in favor of the draft, while the ruling postcommunist Democratic Left Alliance is opposed. It remains unclear whether the co-governing Polish Peasant Party will support it in the Sejm. -- Beata Pasek

The Bundestag on 30 January approved the Czech-German declaration by a vote of 578 to 20 with 23 abstentions, international media reported. Most deputies of Bavaria's Christian Social Union, which has criticized the declaration, voted in its favor. Czech opposition leader and parliamentary speaker Milos Zeman had traveled to Germany earlier this week to try to convince German politicians that a preamble closing all property issues was needed. But the German parliament ignored his proposal. German Chancellor Helmut Kohl said before the vote that Germany respects Czech laws. "We Czechs and Germans want to be good neighbors," he said. -- Jiri Pehe

The U.S. State Department's annual report on human rights says disturbing trends away from democratic principles continued throughout 1996 in Slovakia, RFE/RL reported. The report, released on 30 January, cites human rights monitors as reporting police brutality against Roma. It also points to "credible allegations" that the secret service spied on senior political figures and their spouses and that the dismissal of some public officials was politically motivated. The Slovak government's failure to seriously investigate the 1995 kidnapping of President Michal Kovac's son "undermines its commitment to the rule of law," the report asserts. The Slovak press is considered free and uncensored, but the report cites several libel cases instigated by the government. Nonetheless, it concludes that the government generally respected most of its citizens' human rights. -- Sharon Fisher

Michal Kovac on 30 January met with the leaders of opposition parties for the fifth time, TASR reported. The main aim of the meeting was to ensure cooperation among all opposition parties. The participants also discussed the country's integration into European structures, especially the intention of the ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia to hold a referendum on Slovakia's membership in NATO. Kovac does not intend to hold talks with the representatives of government parties, presidential spokesman Vladimir Stefko said. Those parties have been invited several times to attend the meetings but their answer was always negative or arrogant, he added. -- Anna Siskova

Two Chinese women were killed shortly after midnight on 31 January when a hand grenade exploded in a toilet of a Chinese restaurant in Budapest, international media reported. The victims of the Yugoslav-made grenade were the wife and daughter of the restaurant's owner. Police said the attack occurred after closing time and was apparently part of a growing conflict among protection money gangs. Some 15 similar attacks have taken place in Budapest recently, with targets including businesses, nightclubs, and car showrooms. This attack was the first to single out foreigners, AFP reported. -- Sharon Fisher

In a 97-0 vote, the legislature agreed to compensate the victims of the failed Xhaferi and Populli pyramid schemes, international media reported on 30 January. The government had frozen the two companies' assets, worth up to $300 million, which will be used toward compensating the victims in cash payments and in guaranteed savings accounts with rates of interest above those of inflation. It is unclear whether the compensation will be 100%--President Sali Berisha had earlier said it would not be--or whether the legislation will affect those who lost their money in other failed pyramid schemes. Reimbursement will start on 15 February. -- Patrick Moore

At least seven opposition parties from across the political spectrum agreed on 30 January to launch the Forum for Democracy, international media reported. In the wake of the pyramid scheme protests, they demand the resignation of the government led by the Democratic Party, the setting up of an interim government of technocrats, and the holding of new elections. The new coalition brings together the ex-communist Socialist Party and the vehemently anti-communist Association of Political Prisoners and the monarchist Legality Movement. The former prisoners' spokesman said: "The police state of Berisha is pushing Albania into a new communist dictatorship." Meanwhile, the number of persons detained by the police in the wake of the protests has been put at between 149 and 200. -- Patrick Moore

The opposition on 30 January rejected a proposal by Interior Minister Nikolay Dobrev, the Bulgarian Socialist Party's (BSP) premier-designate, that a government headed by him would serve only for three to five months and that early parliamentary elections would then be held, RFE/RL and Reuters reported. The opposition is demanding that elections take place by May and that no BSP-led government be formed in the meantime. BSP Chairman Georgi Parvanov again invited all parliamentary parties to discuss "the type, the task, and the working period of the new government." Meanwhile, protests and work stoppages continued throughout the country, and roads to Greece and Turkey were blocked. A spokesman for the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria said 250,000 people had joined strikes and that 1.5 million had taken part in some form of protest. -- Stefan Krause

President Petar Stoyanov, meeting with European Commission President Jacques Santer and EU commissioners in Brussels on 30 January in a bid to secure EU help, was told that any aid to Bulgaria will depend on political stability, Reuters reported. A European Commission statement said the EU will consider launching an international aid effort "as soon as the political situation in Bulgaria allows it." EU External Relations Commissioner Hans van den Broek called on the Bulgarian parties to resolve their differences and create a climate in which economic reforms can succeed. Stoyanov said meeting international debt obligations could have "unpredictable social consequences" if international help were not forthcoming. In other news, former Tsar Simeon II has for the first time spoken out in favor of restoring the monarchy. He believes that, in his capacity as king, he could have a calming effect, international media reported. -- Stefan Krause

Zoran Lilic, speaking in Montenegro on 30 January, said that Zajedno opposition victories in the November local elections should be recognized. However, he added that protesters were making unacceptable demands, especially by calling for Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's resignation, Tanjug reported. The opposition "needs to be aware of its responsibility not to insist on demands that are not following the will of the people and are not linked to the local elections," he commented. Meanwhile, the Serbian government met to discuss the ongoing protests. It was decided to withhold or slash state funds to educational institutions whose students have taken part in the protest. In a statement, the government said that student actions have breached several major laws, and it resolved "to apply the law strictly against the offending establishments and withhold funds from them for the period they were not working." -- Stan Markotich

A group of 28 Muslims returned to the village of Gajevi just inside Serbian lines on 30 January, Oslobodjenje reported. They had all completed procedures agreed on by the Serbs, Muslims, and the UN, and SFOR had checked them for weapons. Joint patrols involving the UN's International Police Task Force and the Republika Srpska police have also begun. Some 36 families in all are slated to return to Gajevi, in keeping with the Dayton agreement, but have been delayed by a series of violent incidents. Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic told the international community's Carl Bildt that she will issue instructions to local authorities on the procedures regarding the border area. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will meet today with Chief Prosecutor Louise Arbour to discuss ways of bolstering the effectiveness of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, VOA reported. -- Patrick Moore

Croatia's Interior Minister Ivan Penic on 30 January said Croatia is not expecting many Serbs to move into Republika Srpska--Bosnia's Serbian entity--after the reintegration of eastern Slavonia into the rest of Croatia, Hina reported. Penic was meeting with SFOR commander Gen. Klaus Fruehhaber in Zagreb to discuss the possible destabilization of neighboring Bosnia in the event that a considerable number of Serbs left eastern Slavonia and moved to that country. The two officials also discussed incidents at the border between Croatia and Bosnia, at a section controlled by Bosnian Serbs. Meanwhile, Gen. Pero Colic, head of Republika Srpska Army General staff, said the army will defend the disputed Bosnian region of Brcko "even with military resources if needed," Onasa reported on 30 January, citing Beta. At a meeting with SFOR Deputy Commander Gen. Cordy Simson, Colic expressed the hope that SFOR "understands the significance" of Brcko for Bosnian Serbs and "our determination to defend it with all our means." -- Daria Sito Sucic

The Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), the leading Albanian political organization in the mainly ethnic Albanian province, said that Serbian police have arrested 37 ethnic Albanians in recent days, news agencies reported on 30 January. The LDK said that the police had "exercised brute force against those arrested and members of their families during systematic house searches," and that at least one man was badly beaten. This comes amid much speculation by Serbian opposition leaders that President Slobodan Milosevic will try to provoke a crisis in Kosovo as an excuse for declaring a state of emergency throughout the country. The LDK also suggested that Milosevic is cracking down in Kosovo to divert attention from his problems in Serbia proper. Elsewhere, on 29 January a joint Serbian-Albanian commission met in Belgrade to discuss implementing the 1 September agreement on education in Kosovo, Deutsche Welle's Albanian Service reported. -- Patrick Moore and Fabian Schmidt

Culture Minister Slobodan Unkovski on 30 January arrived in Greece for an official visit--the first
by a high-ranking official from Macedonia since that country gained independence, Nova Makedonija and AFP reported. Unkovski was in Thessaloniki for the city's inauguration as 1997 European culture capital. He also met with his counterparts from Greece, Albania, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Romania, and Serbia. In other news, the U.S. State Department's annual report on human rights says that Macedonia generally respects the human rights of its citizens, according to RFE/RL. But the report pointed out that problems exist between the government and the ethnic Albanian minority and that ethnic Macedonians hold a disproportionately high number of positions in state institutions. It also noted discrimination against women and occasional police brutality. -- Stefan Krause

Victor Ciorbea told a 30 January press conference broadcast live on radio and TV that the tough reform program being drafted by the government
is the last chance to avoid Romania's "Bulgarization." Also present at the press conference were representatives of the World Bank and the EU, which are helping draft the program. Ciorbea again accused the former government of giving false reports on economic performance and failing to take timely measures to fight economic deterioration. He pledged to introduce the necessary reforms "whatever the political price" the government may have to pay. Ciorbea predicted the economy would register a negative growth in 1997, but he expressed confidence that, soon thereafter, it would take off. Noting that the reform package will contain measures to protect the socially disadvantaged, Ciorbea said it will be made public within two weeks. -- Dan Ionescu.

U.S. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns on 30 January said the U.S. administration is "impressed by the progress Romania has made politically and economically. " He added that Romania should not be ruled out as a potential member of NATO. The same day, U.S. Senator Tom Lantos said in Bucharest that he will support Romania's bid to join NATO at the same time as other Central European states, Reuters reported. Russian Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznyov, also on a visit to Romania on 30 January, said Romania does not need to join NATO, which he called "archaic" and "very expensive." Meanwhile, Romanian Defense Minister Victor Babiuc has announced Romania's decision to create its first Rapid Reaction Force. The unit will be compatible with NATO forces and will consist of some 5,000 soldiers. It is scheduled to be operational in the last quarter of this year. -- Zsolt Mato

A U.S. State Department report on human rights released on 30 January says that human rights are generally respected by the Moldovan government but are being abused in the Transdniester breakaway region, RFE/RL reported. The Tiraspol authorities continue to put pressure on the media, make questionable detentions, and discriminate against Romanian speakers. The report also cites several isolated cases of potential human rights abuses in Moldova, including the mysterious disappearance of a deputy chairman of an independent television station who was abducted by men in police uniform in January 1996. The Interior Ministry says its personnel was not involved and attributes the abduction to a private settling of accounts among criminals. -- Dan Ionescu

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Steve Kettle and Jan Cleave