RUSSIA, CHECHNYA CLOSE TO AGREEMENT.
Following another one-day round of
negotiations in Grozny, Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin and acting
Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Movladi Udugov announced on 2 March that
the federal government and Chechnya may sign a treaty "on peace and agreement"
during the first ten days of this month, Russian TV reported. Rybkin said that
a "centuries-old confrontation" is "coming to an end." The agreement provides
for Chechnya to remain within the ruble zone, but the two sides announced no
other provisions. NTV quoted early critics of the new agreement as pointing out
that Chechnya wants independence from everything but the budget. While
acknowledging that advances have been made, Udugov stressed that the question
of whether Chechnya will be independent remains unresolved, "slowing the whole
process of negotiations." -- Robert Orttung
YELTSIN ORDERS NEXT STEP TOWARD ABOLITION OF DEATH PENALTY ...
President Boris Yeltsin on 28 February ordered the Foreign Ministry to sign
Protocol 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which outlaws capital
punishment, international agencies reported. When it joined the Council of
Europe on 28 February 1996, Russia undertook to sign Protocol 6 within a year
and to ablolish the death penalty within three. Yeltsin also instructed the
Justice Ministry to work out measures to bring about the "step by step"
abolition of the death penalty in practice, but he set no timetable. Before
capital punishment can be abolished, the parliament must amend current
legislation, including the new Criminal Code. There is considerable support for
capital punishment in the Duma, which has still not passed legislation placing
a moratorium on executions. Although Russia committed itself to an immediate
moratorium when it acceded to the Council of Europe, executions continued until
August. -- Penny Morvant
... AND TO PROPOSE REFERENDUM ON MERGER WITH BELARUS.
Yeltsin, in his
6 March address to the State Duma, will announce that he and his Belarusian
counterpart, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, have agreed to hold simultaneous national
referenda on accelerating Russian-Belarusian integration, Reuters reported on 1
March, citing Interfax. Quoting anonymous sources in Yeltsin's administration,
the agency said Yeltsin will argue that the current state of "semi-unification"
between the two countries is more expensive than fuller economic and political
integration. The report gave no details and no date for the proposed referenda.
Yeltsin proposed such referenda in a January letter to Lukashenka (see OMRI
Daily Digest, 14 January 1997). To date, bilateral declarations and
agreements on Russian-Belarusian integration have had little effect in
practice. -- Scott Parrish
YELTSIN, PRIMAKOV DISCUSS NATO EXPANSION, HELSINKI SUMMIT.
Minister Yevgenii Primakov on 2 March briefed Yeltsin on his recent visits to
Brussels, Oslo, Copenhagen, and London, international agencies reported.
Primakov said "progress" had been made on the proposed Russia-NATO charter, but
he and Yeltsin agreed that any such agreement must not only address Russian
"concerns" but be legally "binding," which alliance leaders have balked at.
Yeltsin also ordered Primakov to visit Washington to finalize preparations for
the 20-21 March U.S.-Russian summit in Helsinki. Addressing the Royal Institute
of International Affairs in London on 28 February, Primakov argued that Western
policies aimed at expanding NATO and hampering CIS integration were damaging
Russia's relations with the West. He added that Moscow wants a moratorium on
NATO enlargement. The alliance is moving ahead with plans to accept new members
by 1999. -- Scott Parrish
STROEV NOT INTERESTED IN CHERNOMYRDIN'S JOB.
Federation Council Speaker
Yegor Stroev, rumored to be a possible candidate for prime minister, announced
that he has no desire to leave his current posts as governor of Orel Oblast and
head of the upper house of parliament, Russian media reported on 28 February.
Stroev's comments fueled speculation that Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin
will keep his job in the reshuffle expected on 6 March. Meanwhile, at a 28
February conference of his Reforms--New Course movement in Togliatti (Samara
Oblast), former Federation Council Speaker Vladimir Shumeiko called on Yeltsin
to dissolve the State Duma along with reshuffling the government. Shumeiko had
reportedly been considered for Chernomyrdin's job, but his latest suggestion
infuriated Duma deputies, who would have to confirm a new prime minister.
Shumeiko could still be tapped to head Yeltsin's administration, should
Anatolii Chubais take up a cabinet post. -- Laura Belin
DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF RUSSIA REPLACES GLAZEV.
The Democratic Party of
Russia (DPR) replaced its leader, Sergei Glazev, with 45-year-old Viktor
Petrov, chairman of the party's Rostov regional organization, ITAR-TASS
reported 28 February. Petrov described the DPR as "a party of strong regional
organizations" but called for a new program and set of parties rules to be
adopted in May. Glazev did not seek another term, saying he was too busy as the
head of the Federation Council's Information and Analytical Department. Another
visible DPR leader, the Duma member and filmmaker Stanislav Govorukhin has also
quit the party, which has been in crisis since its founder, Nikolai Travkin,
resigned as leader in late 1994. -- Robert Orttung
LEBED BUILDING NEW PARTY IN REGIONS.
Former Security Council Secretary
Aleksandr Lebed appeared in Chelyabinsk to found a regional branch of his
Russian People's-Republican Party (RNRP), Russian media reported on 1 March.
The RNRP, which is being organized by Lebed's Honor and Motherland movement,
will hold its nationwide founding congress later this month; it has already
established branches in Nizhnii Novgorod, Krasnoyarsk Krai, and Bashkortostan.
Also on 1 March, the Honor and Motherland headquarters in Zlatoust (Chelyabinsk
Oblast) were burned to the ground in a suspected arson attack, ITAR-TASS
reported. Meanwhile, the Congress of Russian Communities (KRO), on whose ticket
Lebed campaigned for the State Duma in 1995, held a conference in Moscow on 1
March. KRO leader Dmitrii Rogozin told ITAR-TASS that he would have to study
the program of Lebed's new party before he could determine how closely they
would cooperate in the future. -- Laura Belin
IRKUTSK WITHHOLDS FEDERAL BUDGET PAYMENTS.
Irkutsk Governor Yurii
Nozkikov has ordered that the oblast stop making payments to the federal budget
as of 1 March, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 March. The money will be allocated to
the oblast budget to pay wages in the social sector. Wage arrears in the oblast
have reached 2 trillion rubles ($360 million). Nozhikov's move follows a trip
to Moscow last week in which he met with federal officials, including Prime
Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, and made demands totaling some 3 trillion rubles,
Radio Rossii reported. -- Robert Orttung
FBI AGENT ADMITS SPYING FOR RUSSIA.
Earl Pitts, the former FBI
counterintelligence officer arrested last December on charges of selling
classified information to Russian and Soviet agents from 1987 to 1996 (see
OMRI Daily Digest, 19 December 1996), pleaded guilty on 28 February to
two espionage charges, Reuters reported. In a plea bargain negotiated with
federal prosecutors, ten other charges against Pitts were dropped in exchange
for his admission of guilt. Pitts still faces the possibility of life
imprisonment when sentenced later this month. The plea bargain allows the
government to avoid a trial in which classified information might have been
disclosed. -- Scott Parrish
MONEY BOUND FOR RUSSIA STOLEN AT LONDON AIRPORT.
About $2.5 million of
U.S. aid for Russia was stolen at London's Heathrow airport last week, British
police said on 2 March. The money was seized from a high-security cargo
compound on 25 February while awaiting transfer from a New York flight to a
plane bound for Moscow, international agencies reported. The cash was in one of
four bags, containing a total of $10 million. The Mail on Sunday said
the money, in high denomination dollar bills, came from the Republic National
Bank of New York and was being sent to the Moscow-based Tokobank as part of
U.S. aid to Russia. On 3 March, however, the U.S. embassy in Moscow denied that
USAID money had been stolen, AFP reported. "This story, as reported, is not
credible," an embassy press release said. -- Penny Morvant
CENTRAL BANK TO INTRODUCE 500,000-RUBLE BANK NOTE.
The Central Bank
(TsB) will introduce a new 500,000-ruble ($90) bank note on 17 March, ITAR-TASS
and Kommersant-Daily reported on 28 February-1 March. This move appears
to confirm the TsB's promise not to carry out monetary reform in the near
future. The new bill will feature a portrait of Peter the Great, a metallic
strip intended to prevent counterfeiting, and special signs for
visually-impaired people. It will first be introduced in the Far East and
northern Russia. -- Natalia Gurushina
PERSONAL SAVINGS IN COMMERCIAL BANKS IN JANUARY.
Personal savings kept
in the Sberbank savings bank totaled 97.6 trillion rubles ($17 billion at the
current exchange rate) in January, up 13% over December 1996, ITAR-TASS
reported on 28 February, citing the State Statistical Committee (Goskomstat).
The average personal savings deposit increased from 381,100 rubles in December
to 429,800 rubles in January. The state-owned Sberbank holds 76% of all
personal savings held in Russian commercial banks. -- Natalia Gurushina
OIL EXPORT ROUTES.
Russian oil companies are considering building a new
250 km eastern branch of the Perm-Saratov-Novorossiisk pipeline that will avoid
Ukrainian territory, Segodnya reported on 28 February. Russian firms
have to pay Ukraine $2.5 for each metric ton of oil transiting the Dnieper
pipeline, which runs to the Russian port of Novorossiisk. In 1996, Russia paid
Ukraine $200 million in oil transit fees, $75 million on the Dnieper line and
$125 million on the Druzhba line, which carries oil to Slovakia and Western
Europe. Russian TV (RTR) noted on 27 February that 90% of Russia's freight
imports come through ports in the Baltic states, which means an estimated loss
to Russia of $10 billion a year in revenue. Three new ports are to be
constructed in Leningrad Oblast as well as an oil facility at Ust-Lug and a
natural gas outlet at Primorsk. -- Peter Rutland
AIOC FUNDS BAKU-SUPSA PIPELINE.
The Azerbaijan International Operating
Company (AIOC) will spend $315 million on the construction of a pipeline from
Baku to Supsa on the Georgian Black Sea coast, Russian and Western media
reported on 28 February. Construction is to begin immediately and is scheduled
to be completed by December 1998. The pipeline will carry an estimated 115,000
barrels a day of so-called early oil. Early oil is supposed to start flowing
through the "northern route" to the Russian port of Novorossiisk in 1997. --
CENTRAL ASIAN HEADS OF STATE DISCUSS ARAL SEA ...
The presidents of
all five Central Asian States met in Almaty on 28 February to discuss the
desiccation of the Aral Sea, RFE/RL reported the same day. Following the
summit, Kazakstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev said the World Bank will
spend $2.5 million on a pilot project to help persons living near the sea. Each
republic will allocate 0.3% of its national income to the International Aral
Sea Salvation Fund. Uzbek President Islam Karimov is to head the fund over the
next three years. It was also agreed in Almaty to urge the UN to proclaim 1998
the year of environmental protection in Central Asia. -- Lowell Bezanis
... AND WARN OF TALIBAN SPRING OFFENSIVE.
The Central Asian presidents
also discussed Afghanistan, although Nazarbayev stressed "no special decision"
was taken. They expressed concern over developments there, while Tajik
President Imomali Rakhmonov and his Uzbek counterpart, Islam Karimov, went
further, saying they feared a Taliban spring offensive that could destabilize
Central Asia, international media reported. Karimov was quoted by AFP as saying
the Uzbek military has been put on alert. The five leaders also unanimously
urged all interested countries to support their concept of a nuclear
weapon-free Central Asia, Russian media reported on 28 February. -- Lowell
Tajik government and United Tajik Opposition (UTO)
representatives remain "far apart" on key military problems, Russian media
reported on 2 March. The key sticking point in the Moscow talks is the size of
the opposition forces to be integrated with those of the Tajik government. The
UTO wants platoons and companies integrated, while the government wants groups
of only 5-10 men. Meanwhile, owing to a lack of ammunition and food, fighting
between UTO and pro-Sadirov forces in the Ramid Gorge seems to have temporarily
ceased, RFE/RL reported. The Tajik Foreign Ministry has protested to Russia
over what it called the anti-Tajik campaign waged by the Russian media,
ITAR-TASS reported on 1 March. Dushanbe called on Moscow to curb the campaign
of "purposeful disinformation." Finally, the death toll from the typhoid fever
outbreak in Tajikistan has risen to over 80, Reuters reported on 28 February.
-- Lowell Bezanis
UKRAINE AND ROMANIA AGREE ON BASIC TREATY DRAFT.
Ukrainian First Deputy
Foreign Minister Anton Buteiko and his Romanian counterpart Dumitru Ceausu
initialed a draft of a basic treaty on friendship and cooperation, AFP reported
on 1 March. No date has been set for the signing of the treaty, but Romania has
been under pressure to conclude the accord in order to qualify for the first
wave of NATO expansion. The two main obstacles to the treaty have been
Romania's demand that Ukraine condemn the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentropp Pact that
made Romania give up territory in favor of the Soviet Union (Kyiv refused to do
so because it argued it could open the way for future claims to Ukrainian
territory) and the issue of the Romanian minority in Ukraine. Ukraine accepted
Romania's demands regarding the minority question, while Bucharest backed away
from its insistence that the 1939 pact be condemned. -- Ustina Markus
ANOTHER DEMONSTRATION IN BELARUS.
A gathering to mark the 930th
anniversary of the founding of Minsk turned into a demonstration against
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Reuters reported on 2 March. The rally took
place one day after the announcement that Russia and Belarus had agreed in
principle to hold simultaneous referendums on integration (see related story in
Russian section). Between 3,000 and 5,000 people participated in the
demonstration and marched to the parliament building. No serious clashes were
reported and the protesters disbanded after reaching the parliament. -- Ustina
KALININGRAD CHIEF VISITS LITHUANIA.
Leonid Gorbenko, the administrative
chief of the Kaliningrad Oblast, on 28 February discussed economic and cultural
relations with Lithuanian President Algirdas Brazauskas, Prime Minister
Gediminas Vagnorius, and Economy Minister Vincas Babilius, Radio Lithuania
reported. Gorbenko was heading a delegation of officials and businessmen at the
first Lithuania-Kaliningrad economic cooperation conference. He called for
lowering the cost of transit shipping through Lithuania in order to help both
the Kaliningrad and Klaipeda ports. He also noted that a Lithuanian language
course will be instituted this fall at the University of Kaliningrad. --
RUSSIAN DEPUTY PREMIER HOLDS TALKS IN LATVIA.
Valerii Serov held talks
with his Latvian counterpart Anatolijs Gorbunovs and President Guntis Ulmanis
in Riga on 27-28 February, ITAR-TASS and BNS reported. Serov and Gorbunovs
agreed that the first full meeting of an intergovernmental Latvian-Russian
commission -- chaired by the two men -- will meet in Moscow in April. The
commission will discuss a range of bilateral issues including transport, trade,
and educational and cultural cooperation. Serov called for granting Latvian
citizenship to Russians living in Latvia and no new cuts in education in the
Russian language. -- Saulius Girnius
CONTROVERSIES OVER POLISH CONSTITUTION CONTINUE.
During 24-28 February
Sejm and Senate proceedings on the draft constitution, 200 Polish
parliamentarians (out of 560) proposed 482 amendments to the draft constitution
elaborated by the parliamentary commission. Several Polish politicians
commented on recent Solidarity pronouncements on the constitution draft (see
OMRI Daily Digest, 28 February 1997). The co-ruling Democratic Left
Alliance rejects the priority of "natural law" over man-made law. The Polish
Peasant Party and the Freedom Union said they are ready to accept the reference
to the Polish nation in the preamble. According to a Demoskop poll conducted on
6-11 February and published by Gazeta Wyborcza on 1 March, 75% of
respondents declared their intention to participate in the constitutional
referendum and 51% said that the two drafts -- one endorsed by parliament and
the other by Solidarity -- should be submitted to a referendum (the current law
provides only for submitting the parliament's draft to a referendum). Each of
the drafts enjoyed 22% support in the poll. -- Jakub Karpinski
GREAT PRIZE OF POLISH CULTURE FOUNDATION.
On 28 February three people:
poet, translator, and essayist Stanislaw Baranczak, theater director Jerzy
Grotowski, and poet/essayist Zbigniew Herbert received the Great Prize for
1996, awarded by the Polish Culture Foundation, Polish media reported.
Baranczak was a member of the opposition
Worker's Defense Committee in
the 1970s. He currently teaches Polish literature at Harvard University. With
great understanding of the linguistic aspect of poetry, he translated many
English language poets into Polish. Grotowski was active in Poland in Opole and
Wroclaw until the 1980s, experimenting in new theater forms with his Laboratory
Theater (later he also worked abroad). One of his best known performances is
Apocalypsis Cum Figuris (1968-1974). Herbert, author of classical and
reflexive poetry, is considered by some the greatest living Polish poet and a
possible candidate for the Nobel prize. -- Jakub Karpinski
CZECH POLICE'S ARREST OF EXTREMIST LEADER CAUSES CONTROVERSY.
police on 28 February arrested extreme-right Republican Party Chairman Miroslav
Sladek only hours after the parliament had lifted Sladek's and two other
Republican deputies' immunity from prosecution, Czech media reported. The fact
that police took Sladek into custody before prosecutors received a copy of the
parliament's resolution stripping him of immunity has caused an uproar among
deputies. Parliament Chairman Milos Zeman asked Internal Affairs Minister Jan
Ruml to explain the police action; Ruml admitted the police had acted
improperly. Sladek, who received a suspended two-year prison sentence a year
ago, is now charged with spreading racial hatred in connection with public
statements he made during German Chancellor Helmut Kohl's recent visit to
Prague. Sladek said that not enough Germans were killed during World War II. --
SLOVAK NATO MEMBERSHIP DISCUSSED.
During a TV debate on 2 March, Slovak
National Party (SNS) Chairman Jan Slota said Slovakia would have to "keep its
mouth shut" if it joined NATO, CTK reported. Slota, whose party is a junior
partner in the ruling coalition, added that entering the alliance would cost
billions and could ruin Slovakia's finances. Meanwhile, opposition Party of the
Democratic Left (SDL) deputy Pavol Kanis said NATO membership is the best
solution for Slovakia. Although most SDL deputies voted in favor of holding the
controversial NATO referendum, Kanis called the plebiscite "absurd." He pointed
out that if Slovakia is not accepted to NATO, its international position would
worsen. In other news, the SNS has invited French National Front Chairman Jean
Marie Le Pen to Slovakia. Slota will soon meet Le Pen in Strasbourg to discuss
cooperation between the two parties. -- Anna Siskova
Fifteen of Slovakia's 21 theaters went on strike on 28
February, while other theaters remained on strike alert, Slovak media reported.
The theaters are protesting government cultural policy. According to
Association of Slovak Theater Unions Honorary Chairman Vladimir Durdik, the
Culture Ministry broke off the dialogue with theater unions two years ago.
Confederation of Trade Unions Deputy Chairman Jozef Kollar warned that the
strike could spread to such sectors as Danube shipping, mining, and the defense
industry. In other news, President Michal Kovac on 28 February appointed
Lubomir Dobrik as a Constitutional Court judge. Kovac was required to pick one
of two candidates nominated by the parliament last month -- Dobrik and ruling
Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) deputy Jan Cuper. Dobrik said he gave
up his HZDS membership before taking the oath. -- Sharon Fisher
HUNGARIAN DEPOSITORS PANIC.
Rumors that Hungary's second largest retail
bank is going bankrupt caused thousands of deposit holders to rush to Postabank
branches on 28 February, withdrawing 21 billion forints ($131 million) and
sending the stock exchange's BUX Index down 140 points, Hungarian media
reported on 3 March. Postabank and National Bank of Hungary (MNB) officials
immediately assured depositors that the rumor was a false alarm and that the
bank's healthy liquidity will allow it to meet its obligations. MNB also said
that its resources will be made available to ensure the cash flow, if
necessary. Suspecting a political plot behind the false alarm, Finance Ministry
State Secretary Laszlo Akar said it was no coincidence that the panic was timed
to coincide with the farmers' demonstrations and that the secret service will
investigate the origins of the rumor. Postabank manages about 200 million
forints in individual savings. -- Zsofia Szilagyi
HUNGARIAN DEMOCRATIC FORUM TO EXPAND CIRCLE OF ALLIES.
Democratic Forum wrapped up a two-day national convention on 2 March,
concluding that it will sign an election agreement not only with the opposition
Young Democrats but also the Christian Democrats, Hungarian dailies reported.
Party President Sandor Lezsak defined the Democratic Forum as a national
centrist party that identifies itself with Christian values. The party called
on the cabinet to urgently solve problems in agriculture, recently highlighted
by a farmers' road blockade in eastern Hungary. In January, the Democratic
Forum and the Young Democrats announced that they intended to field joint
candidates in the 1998 general elections, which was followed by a Christian
Democrat-Smallholders Party cooperation pact. -- Zsofia Szilagyi
STATE OF EMERGENCY DECLARED IN ALBANIA.
declared a state of emergency on 2 March in response to the violence that
erupted throughout the country after 28 February, when protests against the
collapse of several get-rich-quick pyramid schemes turned violent. At least 14
people have been killed, and an estimated 150 were injured, international media
reported. The hardest hit region was the southern part of the country, and
shooting broke out in several cities as protesters continued their calls for
the resignation of President Sali Berisha and his government and early
elections. Rampaging protesters ransacked symbols of authority, plundered arms
depots, and publicly destroyed police property. According to some eyewitness
reports, local civilian police offered little resistance, themselves possibly
big losers in pyramid scheme investments. -- Stan Markotich
VIOLENCE REACHES ALBANIAN PRESIDENT'S DOORSTEP.
Sali Berisha's summer
residence in Vlora was the site of mass looting over the weekend, CNN reported
on 3 March. An announcement that the government of Premier Alexander Meksi
would tender its resignation failed to calm the public ire. And in the latest
development, AFP, citing local reports, said on 3 March that the country's
parliament has ordered "armed rebels" to surrender their weapons by 2 p.m. CET
that same day or face reprisals from the country's security forces. The
decision follows the 2 March declaration of a state of emergency and also
includes a provision for press censorship. -- Stan Markotich
EASTERN SLAVONIAN SERBS ARE MOVING TO SERBIA, REPUBLIKA SRPSKA.
spokeswoman in Belgrade, Susan Manuel, said on 28 February that more than 1,800
Serb families have reportedly left eastern Slavonia for Serbia in February, AFP
reported. The Association of Serb refugees in Banja Luka said that around 800
eastern Slavonian Serbs moved to the Bosnian Serb entity last month,
Oslobodjenje reported on 3 March. Most were Croatian Serbs who fled to
eastern Slavonia from other parts of Croatia. They are now settling in the
Brcko area in northern Bosnia, which is a matter of dispute between Bosnian
Serbs and the Croat-Muslim federation. Meanwhile, Serb officials in eastern
Slavonia said they will hold a referendum on 6 April over the Croatian
government's plans to divide the territory into two administrative districts
once it returns to Zagreb's control, AFP reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic
BOSNIAN CROATS REJECT UN REPORT ON MOSTAR INCIDENT.
The Mostar branch of
the ruling Croatian Democratic Party (HDZ) in Bosnia-Herzegovina on 2 March
rejected the UN police report on violent Muslim-Croat clashes earlier this
month, saying it was "incomplete, one-sided and tendentious,"
Oslobodjenje reported. Mostar Croat authorities also repeated that they
will not arrest the three police officers named by the UN as suspects in the 10
shooting of unarmed Muslims, AFP reported. According to Colum
Murphy, a spokesman for the High Representative's office,
one of the
suspects is missing. Mostar Croat claims to have detained
suspects in the Mostar incident. But no international official has seen any of
the allegedly arrested criminals. Meanwhile, Croatia said it had arrested a
second suspected gangster leader from Mostar, Vinko Martinovic, following last
week's arrest of former Bosnian Croat warlord Mladen "Tuta" Naletilic. -- Daria
YUGOSLAVIA AND REPUBLIKA SRPSKA SIGN SPECIAL TIES.
The president of the
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Zoran Lilic, and the Serb member of Bosnia's
three-man presidency, Momcilo Krajisnik, signed a pact on 28 February
establishing "special ties" between Belgrade and Pale, local and international
media reported. Under the agreement, the two parties are to establish a joint
council in charge of economic cooperation and creating a single market. The
council will also deal with regional security, crossing of state borders,
citizenship, and coordinating foreign policy. The agreement said the two
parties will not allow a third party to use their territories to conduct acts
of aggression against the other. Bosnia's presidency chairman Alija Izetbegovic
strongly criticized the pact and accused Krajisnik of overstepping his
authority by signing it. Izetbegovic said the agreement shows the Belgrade
regime "has not given up its claims on Bosnia-Herzegovina," AFP reported. --
Daria Sito Sucic
IS MILOSEVIC PLAYING HIS OLD TRICKS AGAIN?
On 28 February the board of
the independent weekly NIN voted to oust its editor in chief, Dusan
Velickovic, local independent media reported. NIN, which broke with the
pro-regime Politika publishing house in 1994, and whose market share has been
rising steadily, may be the latest target in a government offensive to reassert
its control over the media. Velickovic has remarked "my replacement reminds me
of the stealing of votes in the last [17 November] local elections." Finally in
other news, over 1,000 instructors, professors, and researchers formed an
alternative administration of higher education on 2 March in Belgrade, the
latest step in their campaign for academic freedom. -- Stan Markotich
KING MIHAI IN ROMANIA.
Visibly overwhelmed by emotion, King Mihai, who
was forced to abdicate in 1947, on 28 February began a six-day visit to his
country one week after his Romanian citizenship was restored. At the airport he
was handed his new passport in the presence of several government members who
welcomed him "privately." International media reported that the crowds
welcoming the former monarch were substantially smaller than those during his
1992 visit. On 1 March he was received by Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea, whom
he told the occasion was "not merely a visit, but a return home." The former
monarch said that the government's economic measures were painful but
absolutely necessary. On 2 March he attended a church service conducted by
Orthodox Patriarch Teoctist. A spokesman for the king said he intended to move
back to Romania but he must "enjoy all the advantages that he had had in the
past." For that purpose, talks are underway with the authorities on providing
him with a residence. -- Michael Shafir
POLICE SHAKE-UP CONTINUES IN ROMANIA.
Some 20 generals and other high
police officers were replaced on 28 February following the dismissal of Gen.
Costica Voicu as head of police the previous day, Romanian media reported on 1
March. In an interview for Romanian national television on 28 February,
Interior Minister Gavril Dejeu said the changes were needed because the
officers had failed to properly fight corruption and organized crime. He said
not all the officers replaced were considered incompetent -- some will be
serving in other posts -- but all had obviously failed in their primary task.
-- Michael Shafir
MOLDOVA, UKRAINE TO SET UP CUSTOMS UNION.
The joint Moldovan-Ukrainian
commission on economic and commercial cooperation agreed at its 27-28 February
meeting in Chisinau to draft a list of "principles" for setting up a customs
union between the two states at an unspecified date in the future. Moldovan
agencies reported on 28 February that the document also deals with the
avoidance of double taxation and with facilities for transiting goods. The
commission also approved a number of accords for cooperation on border-zone
settlements, joint controls at the border crossings, as well as a protocol on
Moldovan property in Ukraine. The documents will be signed during President
Leonid Kuchma's visit to Moldova on 11-12 March. -- Michael Shafir
BULGARIAN PRESIDENT IN PRAGUE.
Petar Stoyanov on 28 February met his
Czech counterpart Vaclav Havel in the latter's first official function since
undergoing a lung cancer operation in December, international media reported.
Referring to the Czech Republic's economic reforms, Stoyanov said "Your success
is an inspiration for us." During his two lectures later that day Stoyanov said
that the country's interim government will break with the communist past and
will deepen the structural reforms to "the point of no return." Concerning the
government's statement that Bulgaria is determined to join NATO, Stoyanov
pointed out that despite Bulgarians' very "deep emotional relationship" with
Russians, Bulgaria's policy will be decided in Sofia and in no other capital in
the world. -- Maria Koinova
BULGARIAN PREMIER COMMENTS ON HIS FRENCH VISIT.
Upon his return from
France, Interim Premier Stefan Sofiyanski told reporters on 2 March that he has
won a commitment from Paris to support Bulgaria's request for rescheduling its
debt to the Paris Club of government creditors, AFP reported. Sofiyanski also
added that he had asked the Paris Club to roll over about $50 million owed this
year, saying Bulgaria's payments had been timely until recently, but that the
current economic crisis has prevented it from meeting the latest deadlines.
Sofiyanski added that French Premier Alain Juppe said he would help Bulgaria
win new credits with the Paris Club and the International Monetary Fund. --
[As of 1200 CET]
Compiled by Jan Cleave and Sava Tatic