|A good eater must be a good man; for a good eater must have a good digestion, and a good digestion depends upon a good conscience. - Benjamin Disraeli|
No. 17, 27 January 1993
RUSSIA RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE STATEMENT ON WEAPONS PROLIFERATION. The Russian Foreign Intelligence Agency will, for the first time, present to the public a wide- ranging analysis on the danger of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons proliferation, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 27 January. The document is to be presented by the agency's head, Evgenii Primakov, at a press conference in the Foreign Ministry on 28 January. The analysis is expected to show the extent to which third world countries are developing their own nuclear weapons. According to information obtained by Nezavisimaya gazeta, the document also warns of a lack of international control over the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. -Alexander Rahr KOZYREV URGES PARLIAMENT TO RATIFY START-2. Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev urged the ratification of the START- 2 strategic arms reduction treaty in 26 January testimony before the Russian parliament's committee for international affairs and foreign economic relations. According to Interfax, he proposed that joint hearings in the Russian parliament and the U.S. Senate should be organized. Kozyrev suggested that Russia had "nearly approached the limits of [arms] cuts...." and said that priority should now be shifted to the tasks of preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and in confidence-building measures to ensure international security and stability. Doug Clarke KOZYREV ADDRESSES PARLIAMENT. Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev offered the Russian parliament on 26 January a summary of Russia's latest foreign policy activities and a glimpse into the future. Among other things, Kozyrev noted that the number of official visits abroad will be reduced and that Russia will be receiving more foreign officials in Moscow. In any case, President Yeltsin will travel to Japan, "if Japan does not put too much pressure on Russia during the discussion of the Kuril problem." Yeltsin will also travel to Brussels to conclude an agreement with the European Community, ITAR- TASS reported on 26 January. -Suzanne Crow CONTROVERSY OVER YELTSIN'S SUPPORT FOR FRIENDLY TV COMPANY. Representatives of the Russian media have criticized President Yeltsin's recent decree stipulating that the All-Russian State TV and Radio Broadcasting Company will begin showing its programs on the first TV channel. The first channel has been occupied by Ostankino TV, whereas the All-Russian TV has been broadcasting on the second. The first TV channel is far more widely received in the Russian Federation and in most new countries of the former Soviet Union than the second channel. On 26-January, Komsomolskaya pravda reported that despite the fact that Ostankino's audience will be reduced because of the change, its popularity might increase, since it has already begun to acquire a reputation of a "suffering dissident." Ostankino's reporting is usually more critical of the policies of the Russian leadership then those of the All-Russian State TV. Vera Tolz YUSHENKOV APPOINTED TO FEDERAL INFORMATION CENTER. Interfax reported on 26-January that the deputy head of the new Federal Information Center (FIC), a media supervisory body, would be Sergei Yushenkov, a leader of the Radical Democrats parliamentary faction and a member of the parliamentary committee on the media. The FIC has been described as "illegal" by parliamentary speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov, and parliament is scheduled on 28 January to debate a motion calling on the Constitutional Court to examine President Yeltsin's December 1992 decree establishing the FIC. Meanwhile, Vladimir Lisin, newly-appointed chairman of parliamentary committee on the media, told Interfax that the committee had recommended against holding a parliamentary debate on a draft resolution covering economic and legal support for the media, and that he favored transferring responsibility for some media funding from the parliament to the press minister. Wendy Slater THE PRICE OF RUSSIAN OIL. On 1 January, Interfax reported the substance of a telegram from the Ministry of Fuel and Power Engineering to the effect that Russia was selling oil and gas to the former Soviet republics at world prices in dollars or in rubles at the commercial rate of exchange. This was widely reported and caused a stir. Mikhail Berger in Izvestiya of 15-January explains that the amounts of oil and gas involved are relatively small, since the arrangement covers only direct agreements between Russian producers and their foreign customers. The overwhelming bulk of oil and gas deliveries are covered by special intergovernment agreements based not on dollars or convertible rubles but on clearing. -Keith Bush RUSSIA'S EXTERNAL DEBT. A Russian government official participating in the Russian-Japanese trade talks in Tokyo announced that Russia's external debt at the beginning of 1993 amounted to $75.8 billion, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 January. This appears to be the most recent and authoritative estimate of Russia's foreign debt. The official claimed that Russia had appropriated $16.6 billion to service its debts in 1992. On the credit side, Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Shokhin told a news conference in Moscow on 20-January that the debts owed to the former Soviet Union [mostly by insolvent client states and other third-world countries] totaled $146 billion at the official exchange rate in 1991, Russian TV reported. Many debtor nations were proposing that current exchange rates be used to assess the debt, according to Shokhin. Keith Bush RUBLE PLUNGES. On the Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange on 26 January, the ruble fell to 568 rubles to the dollar, down from 493 rubles on 21 January. The initial demand was $99 million and the initial offer was $51 million. Turnover amounted to $85 million. The steep decline was attributed by Russian and Western agencies to a variety of factors: the fear of imminent hyperinflation; the perennial rumors of monetary reform, this time sparked by the issue of new banknotes on 26 January; the Russian Central Bank's plans to limit hard-currency trade; and Finance Minister Vasilii Barchuk's projection of a 1993 budget deficit of 3.5-trillion rubles. Meanwhile, the Russian Central Bank announced that it is preparing designs for 50,000 and 100,000 ruble banknotes. Keith Bush DUDAEV PROTESTS DUTCH VISA REQUIREMENTS. The Chechen press agency has distributed a report saying that Chechen president Dzhokhar Dudaev was unable to attend the third session of the general assembly of the Organization of Unrepresented Peoples in The Hague because of "artificial obstacles" created by the Dutch consulate in Turkey, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 January. In a statement sent to the Dutch government and the participants of the assembly session, Dudaev says that the demand that the visa application be submitted through Russia's consular offices and that a Russian citizen's passport be presented was an attempt to impose the citizenship of another state on representatives of the sovereign Chechen republic and interference in its internal affairs. Ann Sheehy AEROFLOT FLIGHTS TO GROZNYI TO BE RESUMED? INTERFAX REPORTED ON 26 JANUARY THAT TWICE-WEEKLY AEROFLOT FLIGHTS FROM MOSCOW TO THE CHECHEN CAPITAL GROZNYI WOULD BE RESUMED IN FEBRUARY IF CHECHNYA GUARANTEED THE SAFETY OF THE FLIGHTS. The flights had been stopped some months ago after a series of highjackings. Resumption of the flights was one of the chief demands of the Chechen authorities, and can be seen as part of Russia's current efforts to improve relations with Chechnya in the interests of stabilizing the situation in the North Caucasus as a whole. Ann Sheehy DATE SET FOR COUP TRIAL. Various western and Russian media reported that 14 April had been named as the opening day in the trial of participants in the failed coup of August 1991. Anatolii Ukolov, deputy chairman of the Russian Supreme Court's military division, which was handling the case, provided details at a press conference on 26 January. The 12-defendants have been formally accused of treason by plotting to seize power, and at least five of them also face a charge of abuse of power. The trial will be held in open session in Russia's Supreme Court, with eight prosecutors and 21 defense lawyers. At least 120 witnesses are to be called, including ex-USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev, Russian parliamentary speaker Khasbulatov and Russian Vice-President Rutskoi, but not, initially, President Yeltsin. The last four defendants in the case to remain in prison were released on 26 January, pending the trial. Wendy Slater RUSSIA'S CRIME RATE UP IN 1992. The Russian Federation General Public Prosecutor's Office has reported that there were 2,760,000 crimes registered in Russia in 1992, according to Interfax on 26 January. This represents a 27% increase over 1991. Thefts were the most frequently committed crime. The incidence of theft as a whole went up by 30.4%, and apartment burglaries by 48.3%. There was a 47.7% increase in murders and attempted murders. The number of reported rapes went down in 1992, but this is attributed to the fact that rape victims are not reporting the crimes rather than an actual drop in the instance of rape. -Sheila Marnie MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX CUTS 600,000 JOBS. During 1992 the number of workers employed in Russia's military-industrial complex declined by 600,000 according to figures revealed during a recent conference of defense industry officials. In a report published on 26 January, Interfax added that state orders for military hardware had decreased by 68% in the same year. It quoted conference participants as saying that one out of five defense enterprises had to either curtail or halt production entirely. As a result, they said, wages at military- industrial enterprises were 62% lower than those in other industries. They felt that the downward trend in production would continue this year. Doug Clarke TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA KYRGYZSTAN TO FIGHT BUDGET DEFICIT WITH OPIUM? BUSINESSMEN IN KYRGYZSTAN HAVE PROPOSED OVERCOMING THAT COUNTRY'S IMMENSE BUDGET DEFICIT BY GROWING OPIUM POPPIES, KYRGYZ VICE-PRESIDENT FELIKS KULOV TOLD THE DAILY SLOVO KYRGYZSTANA ACCORDING TO A 26-JANUARY NEWS REPORT ON EKHO MOSKVY. The proposal was made in response to President Askar Akaev's call for emergency measures to prevent the total collapse of Kyrgyzstan's economy. According to the radio report, the newspaper had commented that there are more opponents than supporters of the opium plan. But reports from the Central Asian states during 1992 indicated that many people have gone into the drug-producing business on their own. Bess Brown AZERBAIJANI PRIME MINISTER REPLACED. Azerbaijani Prime Minister Ragim Guseinov has resigned for unspecified reasons, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 January. In a decree of the same date, Azerbaijani President Abulfaz El'chibey appointed as Guseinov's successor his first deputy, the 40-year-old economist Ali Masimov, who had also held the position of chairman of the Azerbaijani State Committee for Economics and Planning. Liz Fuller UZBEKISTAN DEFINES MILITARY DOCTRINE. Uzbekistan's Defense Ministry has nearly completed a document setting out the country's military doctrine, Interfax reported on 22-January. The doctrine, according to the report, takes into account Uzbekistan's signature of the CIS collective security agreement in 1992 and is predicated on a rejection of war as a means of resolving international disputes and disputes between CIS states. It also declares that Uzbekistan has no territorial claims on any other state, rejects first use of force, and intends to remain non-nuclear. Bess Brown CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE HAVEL ELECTED CZECH PRESIDENT. After a stormy session of the Czech parliament on 26 January, the playwright and first president of postcommunist Czechoslovakia Vaclav Havel was elected the President of the Czech Republic. In a secret ballot Havel received the support of 109 deputies in the 200-member parliament (the ruling right-of-center coalition that proposed Havel has a total of 105 deputies). Havel will be inaugurated for his five-year term on 2 February. The other two candidates, Marie Stiborova (proposed by the Communist Party) and the leader of the extreme-right Republican Party, Miroslav Sladek, won 49 and 14-votes, respectively. Many commentators described the election process itself as unworthy of a civilized country. The Republicans delivered a series of lengthy speeches attacking and personally insulting Havel, thus postponing the vote by four hours. A bomb threat also delayed the proceedings. Shortly after the election, the new president announced that the strengthening of relations with Slovakia will be among his top priorities. -Jan Obrman SLOVAK PARLIAMENT FAILS TO ELECT PRESIDENT IN FIRST ROUND. Meanwhile, the Slovak parliament has failed to agree on one of the four presidential candidates proposed by various parties represented in the National Council. Unlike the Czech Republic, where the president is elected by a simple majority of the deputies, in Slovakia the constitution requires a three-fifths majority in Parliament. Roman Kovac, the candidate of the ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, won 69 votes (in the 150- member parliament) and Milan Ftacnik, supported by the excommunist Party of the Democratic Left, received the support of 30-deputies. Anton Neuwirth and Jozef Prokes received fewer votes and did not qualify for the second round of the election, which is to be held on 27 January. Given the fact that at least five MDS deputies voted against the official candidate of their party, some observers have noted that resistance to Prime Minister Meciar is growing within his own party. It is yet unclear whether the second round of voting will produce a winner. -Jan Obrman CROATIA FIGHTING ESCALATING. Croatia's offensive against Serbian militiamen around the Adriatic port of Zadar continued on 26 January despite a UN resolution calling for the Croats to withdraw from the UN-controlled area. Fighting also spread into areas of the self-proclaimed Serbian Republic of Krajina. Croatian President Franjo Tudjman told reporters after a meeting with military and police leaders that Croatian troops will withdraw from the Zadar area on condition that Serb forces give up their heavy weapons seized in depots controlled by the UN and allow Croatian police to control the region to ensure a return to normal life. Belgrade TV described Croat artillery barrages on Serb positions in the Zadar area as "unprecedented" and "incessant" and said that Serb reinforcements were coming in from all over Krajina. The news agency ISKRA of the "Serbian Republic of Krajina" claims more than 500 civilians, mostly women and children, were killed in an Croatian offensive that began on 22 January. -Milan Andrejevich SERBIAN REACTIONS. The commander of the Novi Sad Corps of the federal Yugoslav army said on 25-January that the army is ready to react in case of a Croat army attack on Serb-held eastern Slavonia, Baranja, or Srem regions. Federal President Dobrica Cosic told Greek TV on 26 January that "Croatia has launched an all-out war against the Serbs in Krajina. What's going on there is a genocidal war. "Bosnian Serbs promised on 26 January to give the UN time to end the fighting in Croatia before they intervene. The Serb National Council of Bosnian Krajina today urged Belgrade to intervene militarily in order to halt Croatian army attacks. Radio Serbia carried the reports. -Milan Andrejevich ARE BOSNIAN PEACE TALKS PROGRESSING? FRED ECKHARD, SPOKESMAN FOR THE UN- EC TALKS, SAID ON 26-JANUARY THAT "DEFINITE PROGRESS" WAS MADE AFTER A RARE JOINT MEETING BETWEEN BOSNIAN PRESIDENT ALIJA IZETBEGOVIC AND BOSNIAN SERB LEADER RADOVAN KARADZIC IN GENEVA. Karadzic said his side has accepted a plan put forth by mediators Cyrus Vance and Lord Owen for a central coordinating body to govern Sarajevo during the runup period to adopting a new constitution for Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Serbs also agreed to setting up a municipal body for Sarajevo with three representatives each from the Serb, Muslim, and Croat communities. Serbs and Muslims would administer the surrounding province on the basis of consensus, he said. Karadzic felt the proposal "could end the war in Sarajevo immediately if it is accepted." But Izetbegovic showed no sign of agreeing to the proposals after his 80-minute meeting with Karadzic. He described the talks as "Only a discussion, without any results." Karadzic and Izetbegovic will resume talks on 27-January, according to Radio Serbia. -Milan Andrejevich US REACTS TO EMBARGO VIOLATIONS. The United States has called for strict enforcement of the embargo imposed against rump Yugoslavia, Western agencies reported on 26 January. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the US has again told the governments of Bulgaria and Romania that they have the authority, as well as the responsibility, to stop Danube vessels suspected of sanction-busting. Boucher added that the UN Security Council Committee on Sanctions, which convened last weekend, is of the same opinion. He also revealed the State Department has been in contact with Ukraine, which is believed to have provided the fuel. Meanwhile, early on 27 January, agencies report that the fuel convoy led by the tugboat Bihac has already reached Serbian waters. Reporting from the Bulgarian port of Ruse, BTA named three more tugboats pulling barges and "navigating without impediment" on the Danube. -Kjell Engelbrekt MACEDONIAN RECOGNITION IN SIGHT? ON 25-JANUARY GREEK FOREIGN MINISTER MICHAEL PAPACONSTANTINOU ANNOUNCED THAT HIS GOVERNMENT IS PREPARED IN PRINCIPLE TO ACCEPT A PLAN THAT WOULD ENABLE THE UN SECURITY COUNCIL TO RECOMMEND ADMISSION TO THE UN FOR THE REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA. Western sources reported that the plan, coauthored by France, Great Britain, and Spain, calls for Macedonia's admission under the name "the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia." Both Greece and Macedonia would then be expected to negotiate resolution of their differences. Macedonia is likely to accept this compromise as the IMF and the World Bank already admitted the new republic using this name. On 26 January, Kiro Gligorov, President of the Republic of Macedonia, invited Greek Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis to meet with him to discuss and resolve their countries' differences. -Duncan Perry POLAND ADAPTS TO EC NORMS. The government on 26 January approved an adaptation program designed to bring the Polish legal system into conformity with EC norms. The program includes the adoption or revision of 61 laws and 53 other legal acts. Priority is given to economic legislation, including customs regulations, financial services, industrial law, copyright protection, and environmental preservation. According to experts quoted by Polish TV on 26-January, the gaps between Polish and EC standards vary greatly; laws governing corporate activity are already on a European level, while environmental regulations lag far behind. Adaptation to EC norms is one of the areas for which the government has requested "special powers." A draft bill enabling the government to issue decrees with the force of law reached the Sejm on 26 January, with a request for urgent action. -Louisa Vinton WALESA SLANDER TRIAL RESUMES. The trial of two adherents of the fringe Freedom Party resumed in Brzeg on 26 January. The two students admit they shouted "Down with Walesa-SB (secret police) agent!" at a number of rallies in 1992. Their attorneys contend that a verdict cannot be handed down until the prosecutor proves that Walesa had no ties with the SB. A number of former luminaries of the Solidarity movement, including Andrzej Gwiazda, Anna Walentynowicz, Kornel Morawiecki, and Kazimierz Switon, appeared in court or submitted statements asking that their names be added to the indictment, as they too contend that Walesa was an SB agent. All four bear grudges against Walesa and have long voiced extremist political views. Legal observers commenting on the case for Polish TV lamented that the legal system provides no effective mechanism to protect public figures from slander and character assassination. -Louisa Vinton ROMANIAN-HUNGARIAN TALKS. A Hungarian Foreign Ministry delegation arrived in Bucharest on 26-January for talks on the draft of a bilateral treaty. Radio Bucharest did not elaborate on the delegation's agenda, but said that the meeting is part of a Romanian initiative to spur relations to Hungary. Disputes between the two country's have often centered on treatment of Romania's large Hungarian minority. On the other hand, Romania insists that the new treaty should include a clause stipulating that Hungary had no territorial claims on Romania. -Dan Ionescu HUNDREDS MARK CEAUSESCU'S BIRTHDAY. Between 200 and 500 people commemorated Nicolae Ceausescu's 75th birthday at his graveside on 26 January. Western agencies report that the nondescript grave in Ghencea cemetery, generally accepted as Ceausescu's burial site, was adorned with a new headstone displaying a red star and an inscription hailing the former communist dictator as "great national hero." Participants in the ceremony, most of whom were elderly and staunch communists, said that life was better under Ceausescu, who, they claimed, was killed by "agents of the Western imperialist forces." -Dan Ionescu ALBANIA FAILS IN BID TO JOIN NATO. Reuters reported on 26 January that NATO has quietly rejected Albania's request to join the organization, the first former Warsaw Pact country formally to apply. Albania was advised to pursue closer links through the North Atlantic Consultative Council, set up to foster links with former Warsaw Pact countries. President Sali Berisha, concerned about the possible spread of the Balkan war, applied for membership last month. Meanwhile, Reuters also reports that Albanian Defense Minister Safet Zhulali met in Budapest on the 26th with his Hungarian counterpart Lajos Fur and received an offer from Hungary to help train Albanian officers and share its experience in reforming the military for postcommunist conditions. -Charles Trumbull UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT OUTLINES PLANS. The Cabinet of Ministers on 26 January approved a plan of its activities for 1993 intended to guide the country towards a market economy, Western newspapers report. The program, which is said to have the support of both liberals and conservatives in Parliament, includes a stabilization policy to reduce the budget deficit and calls for rapid privatization of small enterprises and the transformation of larger enterprises into joint stock companies. -Roman Solchanyk SMOLYAKOV ON RELATIONS WITH UKRAINE. Leonid Smolyakov, the Russian ambassador in Ukraine, is quoted by ITAR-TASS on 25 January as saying that Russia respects Ukraine's sovereignty and has absolutely no intention of interfering in its internal affairs. Speaking with journalists in Simferopol, Smolyakov said that the time has come to resolve the question of dual citizenship in Ukraine and that, in accordance with earlier agreements, a Russian consulate general should be opened in the Crimean capital. -Roman Solchanyk MOROZOV ON UKRAINIAN MILITARY LOYALTY. According to a 25 January Reuters report, Ukrainian Defense Minister Konstantin Morozov criticized officers in the Ukrainian military who swore allegiance to Ukraine in order to retain their privileges and careers. He reportedly said that anyone not fully committed to Ukrainian independence should resign. Morozov's comments were undoubtedly aimed at the large Russian majority in the Ukrainian officer corps, many of whom joined the Ukrainian military rather than facing dismissal or transfer to Russia, where housing is a severe problem. Ukrainian parliamentarians have also been critical of Morozov for his handling of the reattestation of officers and management of the armed forces. -John Lepingwell UKRAINE REJECTS BLACK SEA FLEET OFFICERS' DEMANDS. The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said that calls by the officers' assembly of the Black Sea Fleet to maintain the fleet under joint Ukrainian-Russian control and withdraw the Ukrainian navy headquarters from Sevastopol constitute interference in Ukraine's internal affairs. According to an Interfax report of 26 January Defense Minister Morozov has expressed his willingness to meet with the fleet's command to discuss the officers' demands. -John Lepingwell SHUSHKEVICH ON BELARUSIAN NUCLEAR WEAPONS. In an interview with Interfax on 25-January Parliament Chairman Stanislau Shushkevich explained his country's position on nuclear weapons. The nuclear weapons currently deployed in Belarus have been transferred to Russia and constitute part of the Russian strategic forces, according to Shushkevich. Belarus has not demanded any compensation for the transfer of the forces to Russia, and Shushkevich criticized "the superna•ve judgments of people who have no notion about fissile materials" who believe that the materials can be used for nuclear power generation. He further argued that because the weapons were made in Russia, they should belong to Russia. Shushkevich also noted that Belarus is not interested in receiving substantial funds from the US for the dismantling of nuclear weapons. -John Lepingwell MORE RUSSIAN TROOPS BROUGHT TO LITHUANIA. On 26 January Lithuanian government commissioner for Russian troop withdrawal Col. Stasys Knezys told a press briefing that although Lithuania had given permission for Russia to bring 207 soldiers to assist in the troop withdrawal, 929 soldiers were flown to Kedainiai on 19 January, BNS reports. Deputy Foreign Minister Virginijus Papirtis summoned the Russian ambassador and queried him on the introduction of more troops to Lithuania, the progress of Russian- Lithuanian talks, and the return to Lithuania of embassy buildings in Rome and Paris still occupied by Russian offices. -Saulius Girnius LAZDIJAI CUSTOMS POST OPEN AGAIN FOR BALTS. Effective 25 January, new regulations were passed that countermanded the 9 December 1991 Lithuanian government decree restricting passage through the Lazdijai customs post with Poland for citizens of the Baltic States, BNS reported on 26 January. These citizens will be able to go through the post without any special permission while CIS citizens will be able to cross only with diplomatic passports. According to Lietuvos rytas the number of cars crossing at the post increased about 20% the first day. -Saulius Girnius JOXE ATTENDS BALTIC DEFENSE SEMINAR. French Defense Minister Pierre Joxe told the press in Riga on 25-January that the presence of Russian troops in the Baltic States is a destabilizing factor posing a threat also to the security of Europe. Joxe expressed interest in closer cooperation between the Baltic States, especially in the coordination of their positions prior to talks with Russia. Joxe heads a French delegation to a seminar on Baltic defense and security issues in Riga; the participants discussed the formation of a Baltic military alliance, BNS and Diena reported on 25 and 26 January. -Dzintra Bungs NEW LUTHERAN ARCHBISHOP IN LATVIA. An RFE/RL correspondent in Riga reported on 26 January that earlier that day the synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia chose Rev. Janis Vanags, 34, as archbishop. His predecessor, Archbishop Karlis Gailitis, died in a car accident last November. -Dzintra Bungs ESTONIAN ECONOMICS MINISTER RESIGNS. According to Postimees of 26 January, Ain Saarman, who took the post in October when Prime Minister Mart Laar formed his Pro Patria-led government, reportedly stepped back for reasons of health, but government insiders say there has been considerable dissatisfaction with Saarman's performance. BNS reports on 26 January that the front runner to take over the ministry is Toomas Sildmae, general director of the Finest Hotel Group, a highly successful Finnish-Estonian joint venture. Saarman's resignation, the first from Laar's government, sparked rumors that other ministers-namely those for finance and agriculture-may follow. -Riina Kionka [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Hal Kosiba and Charles Trumbull
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