GOVERNMENT SUBMITS 1998 PRIVATIZATION PROGRAM TO DUMA
State Property Committee Chairman Maksim Boiko on 26 August announced details of the government's draft 1998 privatization program, which was submitted to the State Duma the previous day along with the draft 1998 budget. In accordance with a new privatization law that recently went into effect, the government must seek parliamentary approval for its annual privatization plans. The 1998 program includes a list of 37 companies in which some state-owned shares may be sold. However, "Kommersant-Daily" argued on 27 August that Duma deputies are likely to advocate shortening that list and passing special laws on the largest privatization deals. The program also would provide more social protection and insurance for privatization officials. Boiko said the recent assassination of St. Petersburg Property Committee head Mikhail Manevich underscored the need for such measures.
RUSSIA DENIES SUPPLYING MISSILE TECHNOLOGY TO IRAN
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin on 26 August rejected as "unfounded" the claims by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Russia is helping Tehran develop guidance and delivery systems for long-range ballistic missiles, Russian media reported. Nesterushkin said that Russian-Iranian military cooperation does not violate either international law or international agreements on nuclear non-proliferation that Moscow has signed. Nesterushkin confirmed that Netanyahu recently wrote to Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov. But Nesterushkin said the subject of that letter was not alleged nuclear technology transfers but the Middle East peace process, to which, he said, Russia remains committed.
ARMS CONTRACT SIGNED WITH CHINA
A $100 million contract for military equipment was signed in Moscow on 27 August by the arms manufacturer Rosvooruzhenie and the chairman of China's Central Military Council, Liu Huaqing, ITAR-TASS reported. The signing took place during a session of the Russian-Chinese intergovernmental commission for military-technical cooperation. Also discussed at the session was construction of Russian Sovremenny-class destroyers for China, payment of Russian debt to China with military hardware and when to handover to the Chinese the blueprint for the assembly of the Russian Sukhoi-27 fighter. Liu and the Chinese military delegation will tour Russian military facilities in Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk, and Khabarovsk before returning to China on 4 September.
JAPANESE BOATS TRESPASS RUSSIAN WATERS
A Russian border guard vessel chased four Japanese fishing boats from Russian waters on 26 August, ITAR-TASS reported. The Russian ship spotted the Japanese boats at a point, off Sakhalin Island, about 12 kilometers inside Russian waters. It fired a warning shot when the fishing boats failed to respond to radio and light signals. In a separate incident the same day, a Japanese fishing boat was detained by the Russian coast guard and taken to the port of Nevelsk. On 27 August, the command of the Russian Pacific Border Guard District announced it will double patrols in Russian waters.
FOREIGN MINISTRY REQUESTS RELEASE OF VESSEL DETAINED BY U.S.
The Foreign Ministry on 27 August sent a note to the U.S. government requesting the release of a Russian trawler detained in the Alaskan port of Kodiak since 18 August, ITAR-TASS reported. The trawler was detained by the U.S. Coast Guard for trespassing U.S. waters in the Bering Sea. The captain of the trawler denies he was in U.S. waters and said that in any case he was not fishing. U.S. authorities are conducting an investigation and have confiscated the ship's log. They stress, however, that those sailors who wish to return to Russia and have money to do so may leave. Russia has sent diplomats based in the U.S. to Kodiak and is asking for copies of the ship's log.
YELTSIN ON WAGE ARREARS, MILITARY REFORM
President Boris Yeltsin on 26 August promised that all wage arrears to military personnel will be paid by 1 September, Interfax reported. Speaking to journalists during a one-day visit to Saratov Oblast, Yeltsin praised the efforts of Defense Minister Igor Sergeev: "He does not whine like his predecessor [Igor Rodionov] but works" to advance military reform. Yeltsin replaced Rodionov with Sergeev in May, and Rodionov has since been an outspoken critic of military reform plans.
WILL SOLDIERS' WAGES BE PAID ON TIME?
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 26 August said the government has not transferred enough funds to pay off all wage arrears to military personnel. The Finance Ministry recently allocated 5.9 trillion rubles ($1 billion) to the Defense Ministry to cover back wages. Finance Ministry officials have warned that local commanders will be to blame if some soldiers are still unpaid on 1 September. But according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta," Defense Ministry figures indicate that wage arrears to military personnel total more than 5.9 trillion rubles. Defense Ministry data also show that as of 18 August, only 48 percent of planned 1997 defense spending was allocated. The Defense Ministry has received only 37 percent of planned budget funding so far this year, if the budget cuts imposed by the government in the spring are not taken into account.
YELTSIN AWARDS RTR RIGHT TO OPERATE NEW CHANNEL
Yeltsin on 25 August signed a decree awarding state-owned Russian Television (RTR) the right to operate a new nationwide television network, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Under the decree, the head of the new network, called Kultura, will be appointed and dismissed directly by the president (as is the chairman of RTR). Kultura will essentially be a division of RTR and will produce its largely cultural programs in Moscow. It will start broadcasting nationwide on 1 November, except in the city of St. Petersburg and in Leningrad Oblast, where it will broadcast for at least three hours a day on the wavelength currently used by the state-run network St. Petersburg Channel 5. Under the decree, Channel 5 will be reorganized into a joint-stock company to be 51 percent controlled by St. Petersburg city authorities.
WHO WILL CONTROL NEW NETWORK'S FINANCING?
The decree making Kultura fully state-owned is a blow to powerful financial groups that had sought to gain a stake in the new network and broaden their influence over the electronic media. Kultura and RTR will receive joint financing from the state budget totaling some 2 trillion rubles ($340 million) annually. However, RTR and Kultura will likely need at least 300 billion rubles in additional funding, according to RFE/RL's Moscow bureau. Since Kultura will not run commercial advertising, sponsors will have to provide the extra financing. RTR Deputy Chairman Mikhail Lesin is expected to have a strong say in choosing those sponsors. He was one of the creators of the Video-International advertising agency and is considered to have been an influential figure in Yeltsin's 1996 election campaign.
DUMA TO REDUCE NUMBER OF ACCREDITED CORRESPONDENTS
The number of journalists with permanent accreditation to work in the Duma will be cut from 1,500 to about 300 in September, Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev told Interfax on 26 August. Another 200 journalists will receive temporary accreditation, he added. Seleznev also said that for now, the lower house of parliament will not prohibit television companies from filming in the Duma chamber. Earlier this year, the Duma voted to ban television cameras from the chamber and to provide journalists with videos prepared by the Duma's press service (see RFE/RL Newsline, 17 April 1997). The Duma will again consider that issue in early 1998, Seleznev said. The Duma speaker also blasted what he called biased coverage of the Duma's activities in the electronic media and on state-controlled television, in particular. Major television networks frequently portray the Duma in an unflattering light.
OFFICIAL NAMES CELEBRITY TAX DODGERS
Col. Yurii Korotkii, first deputy head of the operations department of the Tax Police, has accused world chess champion Garry Kasparov and several other Russian celebrities of evading taxes, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 August. Korotkii said Kasparov and popular singers Aleksandr Mailinin, Dmitrii Malikov, Vika Tsyganova, Aleksandr Buinov, and Filipp Kirkorov have not submitted income declarations for 1995. Meanwhile, Sergei Frolov, first deputy of the investigation department of the Tax Police, told Interfax on 26 August that Russian law enforcement agencies and Interpol are conducting an international search for Vadim Kisin, former deputy CIS Affairs minister. Frolov said Kisin, who disappeared three months ago, has not paid taxes on some $400,000 in income. Former State Duma deputy Sergei Mavrodi, founder of the infamous MMM pyramid scheme, is also being sought on suspicion of fraud and tax evasion, according to Frolov.
COURT ORDERS FURTHER INVESTIGATION IN BANKRUPTCY CASE
The Saratov Oblast Court on 26 August referred the case against Federal Bankruptcy Administration deputy head Petr Karpov to the Moscow City Procurator's Office for further investigation, ITAR-TASS reported. The court ruled that procedural violations were committed during the investigation against Karpov, who is accused of taking a 5 million ruble ($860) bribe from a Saratov businessman in 1994. Karpov spent three months in pre-trial detention in 1996 and more than one month in custody earlier this year on the bribery charge (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 June 1997). Some observers have claimed the case against Karpov is intended to silence him from revealing methods used by companies to evade taxes.
YELTSIN PRAISES SARATOV GOVERNOR
During his visit to Saratov Oblast on 26 August, his first trip to the region since 1992, Yeltsin said Saratov has "good leaders and a good team," Interfax reported. Yeltsin also said, "We should give more rights to [Russian] Federation subjects," according to ITAR-TASS. Speaking to journalists after meeting with the president, Saratov Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov said his region's officials have "never had problems" with the federal authorities, Interfax reported. Yeltsin appointed Ayatskov as governor in April 1996. Ayatskov easily won an election to that post in September of that year. Saratov officials signed a power-sharing agreement with federal authorities in July 1997.
SARATOV GOVERNOR ON PRESIDENT'S REGIONAL REPRESENTATIVES
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 26 August published an interview with Saratov Governor Ayatskov in which he warned that if the powers of appointed presidential representatives in the regions are enhanced, "I will liquidate the post of presidential representative in Saratov Oblast, because [that post] is unconstitutional." A July presidential decree vastly expanded the powers of Yeltsin's representatives in the regions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 July 1997). The Federation Council, which is made up of regional leaders, is expected to contest the legality of that decree.
YELTSIN RENAMES MILITARY ACADEMY AFTER PETER THE GREAT
Yeltsin has issued a decree changing the name of the Feliks Dzerzhinskii Military Academy to the Peter the Great Academy of Strategic Missile Forces "in order to revive historical traditions of the Russian military and to recognize the unique contribution of [Tsar] Peter I" toward creating a Russian army, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported on 26 August. Located in Moscow, the academy is an elite officers' training school. During the Civil War, Dzerzhinskii founded the Cheka, the first in a series of notorious Soviet-era security services.
OREL GOVERNOR LOWERS BREAD PRICES
Yegor Stroev, who is Federation Council Speaker and governor of Orel Oblast, has ordered cuts in local bread prices, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 August. The price of a loaf of black bread is to fall by 200 rubles to 1700 rubles ($0.29). Stroev told ITAR-TASS that "administrative intervention" on bread prices did not contradict the rules of a market economy but rather took into account the situation on the market. He noted that a bumper harvest of cereal crops made the price reduction possible. Stroev, who was elected governor of Orel in 1993, faces an election on 26 October to retain his post. Losing the Orel gubernatorial race would force Stroev to give up his seat in the Federation Council as well.
NEW PRIME MINISTER IN DAGESTAN
The People's Council of Dagestan on 25 August unanimously approved former Audit Chamber chairman Khizri Shakhsaidov as prime minister, ITAR-TASS reported. An ethnic Kumyk, Shakhsaidov was proposed for that post following the dismissal of Abdurazak Mirabekov. "Segodnya" on 25 August said Shakhsaidov's appointment was intended to maintain the balance between the two largest of Dagestan's numerous ethnic groups. According to tradition, if the post of chairman of the People's Council is held by an Avar (as is currently the case), the prime minister must be a Kumyk. A similar correlation is observed at local council level.
AZERBAIJAN THREATENS COURT ACTION OVER PIPELINE
Following Chechen Vice President Vakha Arsanov's disclosure in Baku on 25 August that repairs to the Chechen sector of the Baku-Grozny-Tikhoretsk oil pipeline have not yet begun, Azerbaijani officials are considering other options. Natik Aliev, the deputy president of Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR, told Interfax that Azerbaijan may choose to refine the oil in Baku or to export it by rail to Batumi. In the latter case, shipping the oil to world markets would depend on Turkey's willingness to allow increased tanker traffic through the Turkish Straits. Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem will visit Baku in September. Prime Minister Artur Rasi-Zade hinted that Azerbaijan may sue Russia in an international court for breach of contract if the repairs to the pipeline are not completed in time for the export of the first "early" Caspian oil to begin on 1 October.
WORLD BANK APPROVES LOANS TO ARMENIA
The World Bank on 26 August announced that it has approved two International Development Association credits to Armenia worth $65 million, Reuters and dpa reported. The first $60 million credit is intended to help consolidate macroeconomic stability and lay the foundations for sustained growth led by the private sector. The second loan is to finance technical assistance to underpin the government's economic reform program.
MAYOR FLEES FROM STRIKING MINERS IN GEORGIA
The mayor of the west Georgian town of Chiatura has fled to Tbilisi to escape enraged miners and pensioners, the Caucasian Institute for Peace, Democracy and Development reported on 26 August, citing "Rezonansi". Several hundred miners from the Chiatura Manganese Joint Stock Company, one of 14 enterprises that have declared bankruptcy, launched a strike on 20 August to protest not having been paid for 15 months. Together with local residents who have not received their pensions, the miners then began blockading the mayor's office and called on President Eduard Shevardnadze to dismiss him. The government has transferred to Chiatura an unspecified sum for payment of back wages and pensions.
BELARUS ACCUSES ORT OF PROVOCATION
Belarus on 26 August again accused the management of Russian Public Television (ORT) of planning what it called a "large-scale provocation" against Belarus, Belapan reported. Two ORT crews have been detained in Belarus over the past month and accused of violating Belarus's border with Lithuania. Members of the second crew have been released under pressure from the Russian government. A statement issued by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's office. said the crew was released to prevent the incident being used to damage Russian-Belarusian relations. Two members of the first ORT crew that was detained -- both Belarusian citizens --remain in jail. The authorities have also refused to drop criminal charges against their driver, who has been released from detention.
RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER IN UKRAINE
Igor Sergeev was in Ukraine on 26 August for talks on military cooperation and implementing the Black Sea Fleet agreement between the two countries. Ukrainian Defense Minister Olexander Kuzmuk and Sergeev signed a military intelligence accord pledging the countries' military forces will not spy on each other. They also discussed the fate of 42 Soviet strategic bombers that remain on Ukrainian territory. Russia initially wanted to buy them but has since changed its mind. The two ministers agreed that experts from both countries will discuss for which purposes the bombers will be used. Also on 26 August, President Leonid Kuchma said that military cooperation between Ukraine and Russia must be "put right". Russia has criticized the "Sea Breeze 97" naval exercises off the Crimean coast in which Ukraine is taking part with the U.S., Turkey, Georgia, Romania, and Bulgaria.
RUSSIAN OFFICIAL WARNS AGAINST BALTICS' JOINING NATO
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Avdeev said on 26 August that if NATO expansion includes the Baltic States, Russia will have to revise its relations both with NATO member states and with the states that aspire to become members," BNS and ETA reported. Avdeev was addressing the Nordic Council security conference in Helsinki. He also accused the Baltic States, and Estonia in particular, of discriminating against their Russian-speaking minorities, noting that Tallinn's citizenship examination on the Estonian language and history is "too tough." Minority problems in the Baltic States could be solved through a constructive dialogue with the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the Baltic Sea States Council, he added.
TALLINN SOON TO HAVE SYNAGOGUE
BNS reported on 26 August that the Estonian government has assigned a 1,000 square meter plot in downtown Tallinn on which a four-story building for the local Jewish community will be erected. The building will comprise a synagogue, a community center, and accommodation for visiting rabbis. David Slomka, head of Estonia's Jewish community, told the news agency that the new building will help solve questions of care for the elderly and religious instruction for the young. According to Slomka, Tallinn is currently the only European capital without a synagogue.
President Guntis Ulmanis has said he wants the number of aliens in Latvia to decline considerably over the next decade, BNS reported on 26 August. Asked about his vision of Latvia in the future, Ulmanis said he would like the proportion of non-citizens to fall from 30 percent to around 10 percent of the population. In other news, the Russian Embassy in Riga has asked the Latvian Foreign Ministry to explain why a monument to Soviet soldiers was recently dismantled. The daily "Diena" reported that the monument, situated in the main square in Jelgava, was dismantled because it was in danger of collapsing. The Russian embassy noted that press reports suggesting that it had agreed to the dismantling were "false."
COMPROMISE SAVES POLISH COALITION
The Peasant Party (PSL) on 26 August withdrew plans to seek a vote of no confidence in Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, after reaching a compromise with Cimoszewicz's Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), its senior coalition partner, on farm policies. The SLD agreed that the government will buy at least 300,000 tons of grain from farmers who were affected by the recent disastrous floods. PSL spokesman Aleksander Bentkowski told journalists that following the government decision to increase state purchases of grain from farmers, a party no-confidence motion had become "groundless." The compromise has saved the four-year-old coalition from collapse less than one month before general elections.
POLAND, AZERBAIJAN SIGN AGREEMENTS
Presidents Aleksander Kwasniewski and Heidar Aliyev on 26 August attended a signing ceremony in Warsaw of six bilateral accords. An aviation agreement paves the way for commercial flights between the two capitals. The two countries also signed an agreement on friendly relations and cooperation. The presidents told a news conference they had discussed initial proposals for Poland to participate in Azerbaijani oil and gas projects but gave no details.
SWISS FOREIGN MINISTER IN PRAGUE
Flavio Cotti said in Prague on 26 August that his country is interested in participating in the upcoming privatization of large Czech banks. CTK quoted Cotti as saying the Czech Republic's economic development is "exemplary" and that Switzerland is willing to strengthen its role in investments. Cotti's comments came after talks with his Czech counterpart, Josef Zieleniec. Meanwhile, Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, who was also in Prague on 26 August, told Czech President Vaclav Havel that EU is not a "one-way street" and does not concern only the states seeking to join but also the EU itself. Luxembourg holds the EU's rotating presidency until the end of this year.
SLOVAK COALITION BOYCOTTS PARLIAMENTARY SESSION
Members of the ruling coalition on 26 August boycotted a parliamentary session that was to decide the fate of deputy Frantisek Gaulieder. Gaulieder -- who was stripped of his mandate in November 1996, one month after he quit Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia -- says he was dismissed on the basis of a forged letter of resignation. The Constitutional Court in July decided that the parliament acted unconstitutionally, and U.S. and EU officials have criticized Meciar's government repeatedly over the Gaulieder case. Sixty-four deputies, all from the opposition, attended the parliamentary session but were 12 short of a quorum. A statement signed by all opposition party leaders said the ruling coalition's attitude to the session proved its lack of respect for the constitution. RFE/RL's Bratislava correspondent reported that the parliament has rescheduled discussion of Gaulieder's case for 27 August.
LUXEMBOURG PREMIER IN SLOVAKIA
Jean-Claude Juncker said in Bratislava on 26 August that it is important for Slovak leaders to overcome "personal disputes" and begin to cooperate for the good of Slovakia. The Luxembourg premier spoke at a press conference after meeting with Meciar. Juncker said the European Commission did not recommend beginning accession talks with Slovakia because of the "different views of the EU and Bratislava on resolving political and institutional issues in Slovakia." He argued that "the EU and Slovakia must find a new starting point for the integration of Slovakia." Meciar said that if "certain" concessions were made by the parliamentary opposition and President Michal Kovac, Slovakia could still send a "positive signal" to the EU before the December summit.
HUNGARIAN OFFICIAL CRITICIZES ANTI-ROMA MEASURES
Jeno Kaltenbach, the ombudsman for minority rights, is to launch a "comprehensive investigation" into a decision by the local authorities of Satoraljaujhely, in northeastern Hungary, aimed at forcing members of the Roma minority to leave the town. The local authorities there recently decided that "certain people" who are "unable to adjust to life in towns" and 'threaten public security" may be removed, even if that requires "using illegitimate means." Kaltenbach termed the decision "local apartheid," Hungarian media reported. The mayor of Satoraljaujhely recently said on Hungarian television that the decision was prompted by "hygienic reasons." Kaltenbach said the Satoraljaujhely case was not an isolated one.
HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER CRITICIZES ATTACKS ON FOREIGN POLICY
Laszlo Kovacs on 26 August said the Alliance of Young Democrats' (FIDESZ) recent criticism of the country's foreign policy (See "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 1997) is a "bad omen" for the 1998 election campaign. He said FIDESZ aims at undermining Budapest's relations with its neighbors and with Hungarian minorities abroad. Also on 26 August, Victor Orban, the chairman of FIDESZ, expressed regret that other opposition parties, excluding the Hungarian Democratic Forum, are not willing to back FIDESZ's proposal that the results of the planned referendum on NATO membership be binding on the government, Hungarian media reported.
STANDOFF BETWEEN PLAVSIC, BOSNIAN SERB ARMY COMMAND
Chief-of-Staff Gen. Pero Colic and other members of the General Staff did not attend a meeting with Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic in Banja Luka on 26 August. Colic refused an offer from SFOR troops to bring him from Sarajevo to Plavsic's headquarters. About half of the total membership of the staff met with Plavsic, but there was no official announcement after the meeting. Observers in Banja Luka suggested she may soon fire Colic, who recently accused Plavsic of trying to split the Bosnian Serb state. Likely candidates to replace him are Plavsic loyalists Generals Momir Talic and Novica Simic. Almost all key Bosnian Serb institutions have split into two factions, one loyal to Plavsic and the other to her rival Radovan Karadzic (see "RFE/RL Bosnia Report," 27 August 1997).
BOSNIAN SERB PARLIAMENT REJECTS LOCAL ELECTIONS
Only 45 of the 83 parliamentary deputies attended a 26 August session called by hard-liners near Sarajevo. The Karadzic loyalists rejected holding local elections in September because of what they called a lack of security. They also declared void Plavsic's invitation for the OSCE to monitor the vote and stripped her of her command over the army. The parliament asked the government and Interior Ministry to prepare a plan "for the defense of the constitutional order" within 24 hours. Another resolution called for Plavsic's loyalists to end their independent radio and television broadcasts by 29 August. The deputies accused SFOR of siding with Plavsic and trying to turn the Bosnian Serb republic into a "protectorate" of the international community. The legislature also approved a cabinet reshuffle in which Interior Minister Dragan Kijac became deputy prime minister and Slavko Paleksic replaced Kijac.
MILOSEVIC CALLS FOR PRESIDENTIAL, LEGISLATIVE ELECTIONS FOR BOSNIAN SERBS
Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic told OSCE envoy Robert Frowick in Belgrade on 26 August that the only way to solve the Bosnian Serb political crisis is to hold presidential and parliamentary elections at the same time. It is unclear how Frowick responded. Milosevic made the same proposal on 21 August to German diplomats, who called it "unacceptable." The international community endorses Plavsic's call for parliamentary elections in October but rejects demands by her rivals in Pale for a new presidential vote. In related news, Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Pavle began a peace mission to the rival Bosnian Serb factions in Pale on 27 August. Meanwhile in the area of Mt. Kozara, SFOR intensified patrols around Plavsic's TV relay station on 26 August. In Sarajevo, SFOR commander Gen. Eric Shinseki warned Serbian, Croatian, and Muslim generals to stay out of politics.
MORE AID FOR BOSNIA
The German government announced on 26 August that it will resume aid to the Jajce region, which was suspended recently after local Croats chased out returning Muslim refugees. Turkish government spokesmen said that Ankara will provide Bosnia with an additional $10 million in reconstruction aid. The money will help restore the historical Old Bridge in Mostar and provide housing for displaced Muslims.
NEWS FROM FORMER YUGOSLAVIA
Croatian President Franjo Tudjman on 26 August endorsed a recent British proposal to try some indicted war criminals in Bosnia rather than in The Hague (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 August 1997). In Ljubljana, the Slovenian government asked representatives of the international community to protect Slovenian citizens' property in Serbia and Montenegro from forcible sale under a new Yugoslav privatization law. Meanwhile in Skopje, Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov urged NATO commander Gen. Wesley Clark on 25 August not to reduce the number of peacekeepers stationed in Macedonia. Observers in Skopje said that the Macedonian operation is the first mission in UN history aimed at preventing a conflict from spilling over into a region at peace.
ALBANIAN DEMOCRATS' DEMAND FOR AIR TIME REJECTED
The parliamentary media commission on 26 August rejected a demand by the Democratic Party that one-third of news broadcasting time be given to the opposition. Commission Secretary Nikolle Lesi, an independent parliamentary deputy and owner of the daily "Koha Jone," told "Republika" that the Democrats' proposal, if implemented, would put journalists under pressure to create news artificially and hence would reduce the standards of news reporting. During the run-up to the June parliamentary elections, state television had divided air time among the parties, which led to pressure on journalists to broadcast party statements rather than analysis. Former parliamentary speaker Pjeter Arbnori has, meanwhile, begun his eighth day of a hunger strike to support his party's demands for guaranteed air time..
ALBANIAN PRESIDENT LAUNCHES JUDICIAL REFORM
Rexhep Meidani presented a draft law on 26 August to increase the independence of the nine-member High Judicial Council, which appoints most judges and state prosecutors, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. The new law was prepared by the parliamentary commission on the courts and provides for four members to be elected by the legislature, three by the National Association of Jurists, and two by the National Association of Lawyers. Currently, the nine jurists are elected jointly by the Supreme Court and the Prosecutor-General's Office. The non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch/Helsinki charged in a 1996 report that the council was a vehicle by which former President Sali Berisha controlled the judiciary.
VLORA POLICE WITHHOLDING INFORMATION ON GANGS?
During the trial in Tirana of 11 members of the Vlora-based Zani Caushi gang, prosecutors said that special police troops in Vlora failed to provide all evidence available about the accused. Prosecutor Blerim Tominaj said on 26 August that "we will start legal proceedings against [some] police officers" if they do not deliver the missing material, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. Meanwhile, Democratic Party leader Sali Berisha proposed a multi-party round table about disarming civilians, "Republika" reported. The government had ordered that all weapons looted by rebels or handed out to Democratic Party loyalists by police be surrendered by 25 August, but so far only some 15,000 out of several hundred thousand arms have been returned.
ROMANIAN MILITARY INTELLIGENCE CHIEF APPOINTED
Col. Cristian Dumitru Bernevig has been appointed new chief of military intelligence, Romanian media reported on 26 August. He replaces Gen. Decebal Ilina, who recently resigned (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July 1997). The 43-year-old Bernevig was until now deputy chief of the Strategic Planning Directorate of the General Staff.
ROMANIAN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL ON HIS DISMISSAL
Nicolae Cochinescu told a press conference in Bucharest on 26 August that his dismissal as prosecutor-general the previous day was "politically motivated" and "unlawful." He said because he had been appointed by former President Ion Iliescu, members of the present government viewed him as a partisan of the former administration. He dismissed as "inaccurate" accusations that he had blocked investigations into the miners' rampage in Bucharest in 1990-1991 and that he had hindered the investigation into cases of children illegally adopted by foreigners, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. He said that "out of respect" for President Emil Constantinescu, he will not appeal the dismissal.
WORLD BANK REJECTS CRITICISM OF FORMER ROMANIAN PREMIER
The Bucharest office of the World Bank on 26 August said former Premier Theodor Stolojan has never been involved in negotiations between the bank and Romania and is not familiar with details of those talks. In an interview with the daily "National" the previous day, Stolojan, who is now a World Bank official, harshly criticized both Victor Ciorbea's cabinet and World Bank negotiators. He said the latest privatization drive is based on concepts that are "outdated" and no longer used by the World Bank in other countries. He also accused Ciorbea's cabinet of deciding which companies to liquidate on the basis of political criteria rather than economic performance, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported.
MOLDOVAN PARTIES AGAINST POSTPONING ELECTIONS
Parliamentary chairman Dumitru Motpan has called for postponing the 1998 parliamentary elections and holding them at the same time as the 1999 local elections. Motpan said holding the elections on schedule would "further polarize society and further destabilize the already tense social and political situation" as well as "lead to unnecessary expenditures," Infotag reported. Dumitru Diacov, the chairman of the pro-presidential Movement for Democratic and Prosperous Moldova, said the proposal reflected an "Asian mode of political behavior and contradicts the Moldovan constitution." Nicolae Andronic, the chairman of the Party of Revival and Accord, said Motpan somehow "'forgot'" to explain that the ruling Democratic Agrarian Party of Moldova was responsible for the existing crisis, Infotag and BASA-press reported on 26 August.
MOLDOVAN CABINET TO MEET WITH BESSARABIAN CHURCH REPRESENTATIVES
Vlad Cubreacov, the lawyer who represents the Bessarabian Metropolitan Church, told BASA-press on 26 August that Premier Ion Ciubuc has promised him not to appeal the court decision to register the Bessarabian Church before the government holds talks with representatives of the Church. The Bessarabian Church has proposed that President Petru Lucinschi mediate the talks. Ciubuc told journalists on 24 August that the government will appeal the decision if the registration of the Church poses any danger for the country's stability.
RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY CRITICIZES TIRASPOL
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin on 26 August responded to the recent announcement by the leadership of the Tiraspol breakaway region that it will begin demarcating its state borders (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 August 1997). Nesterushkin said the announcement "complicates the process" of solving the conflict in the region and "contradicts" the memorandum signed by Chisinau and Tiraspol in Moscow on 8 May. He said that by signing the memorandum, the sides undertook to build relations "within the framework of a single state," ITAR-TASS reported.
BULGARIA TO EXTRADITE ILLEGAL KURDISH MIGRANTS
Bulgarian police have said they will extradite 52 Kurds who were arrested at the Romanian-Bulgarian border on 26 August, BTA reported. The Kurds were trying to reach Germany and had paid $3,000 each to a smugglers' ring. BTA said they were arrested when they stepped out of a truck on the Romanian side of the border to avoid suffocation.
Albanian Government Makes Personnel Changes
by Fabian Schmidt
One month since the Socialist government of Prime Minister Fatos Nano took office, numerous new people have been appointed to top administrative positions. It is not yet clear, however, whether the Socialists are making appointments primarily on the basis of party loyalty or of professional competence.
Fundamental changes have taken place in the presidency since the appointment of Rexhep Meidani, a professor of physics, who only recently became a member of the Socialist Party. Meidani has deliberately adopted a mainly ceremonial role as president in keeping with the Socialists' campaign promise to change the form of government from a presidential republic to a parliamentary one. The staff of the presidency has been reduced by one-quarter since Berisha was in office. Meidani's chief advisers, Mentor Nazarko and Prec Zogaj, both worked for the independent daily "Dita Informacion." Nazarko does not belong to any political party, while Zogaj is a member of the small civic-oriented Democratic Alliance party.
Interior Minister Neritan Ceka probably has the most difficult task. Regarded by many local observers as a man of democratic principles, Ceka advocated civil liberties, human rights, and rule of law while serving as chairman of the Democratic Alliance before joining the cabinet. As interior minister, he has shown a commitment to crack down on crime. Within a few days of his appointment, he strengthened police control over the south of the country, which has been plagued by lawlessness since March. Moreover, police have collected more than 15,000 weapons looted from army stores and arrested a large number of wanted criminals, including more than 20 members of a particularly notorious gang in the south.
Ceka has achieved those successes without major personnel changes in the police force. Observers suggest that he knows he needs the support of a loyal police force to stop the crime wave and that he cannot risk losing support from his employees by carrying out political purges.
Major changes, however, seem likely in the secret service. Arben Karkini, a Republican, was replaced as head of the service on 21 August by Fatos Klosi, a professor of pedagogy who does not belong to any party. Karkini was appointed on 30 May by the interim multi-party government, but the new government accused him of failing to reform and depoliticize the service, which had used violence against opposition figures in the past.
House-cleaning is already under way in the army. General Chief of Staff Adem Copani was sacked by Socialist Defense Minister Sabit Brokaj, who, in turn, pledged to fire another 25 generals. In an interview with the magazine "Klan," Brokaj argued that Albania's relatively small army does not need as many generals as it currently has. But this appeared to be a justification for political purges, since he had previously criticized unspecified generals for having "violated the constitution" by sending the army against anti-government protesters. The army, however, was primarily involved in protecting government buildings and roads during the unrest and did not move against the rebels in the south until toward the end of the unrest.
Other leading appointments at the Defense Ministry include Brokaj's new state secretary and adviser. Perikli Teta is a former defense minister in a 1991 transition government who later joined the Democratic Alliance as a parliamentary deputy. He has a sound reputation as a politician who worked hard to bring the army under civilian control and modernize its structure.
Similarly, appointments in the state media indicate that the Socialists have not installed only loyalists in leading positions. The director-general of state radio and television is Albert Minga, a former film director and head of a cultural television program. The heads of the radio and television divisions, respectively, are Eduard Mazi, an experienced radio producer, and Martin Leka, a journalist from the daily "Koha Jone." The state news agency is run by Frrok Cupi from the same daily.
Thus the signals are mixed as to whether the Socialists are making appointments on political rather than professional grounds. Government spokesman Vladimir Prela claims that the new government "respects the professionalism of state employees." But in anticipation of possible political purges, the Democratic Party has already opened an office to give legal advice to those dismissed.
The author is a Tirana-based Balkan specialist focusing on Albanian, Kosovar, and Macedonian affairs.