|I dream my painting, and then I paint my dreams. - Vincent van Gogh|
No. 246, 27 December 1993
CIS CIS SUMMIT AGREEMENTS. The fourteenth summit meeting of CIS member states in Ashgabat on 24 December resulted in a number of agreements but there was little indication of the organization's increased viability. CIS leaders agreed to start implementing an accord on economic union, despite the fact that some parliaments still have not ratified the document, thus reflecting the failure more than the success of the accord. ITAR-TASS and Western agencies reported that additional points of agreement included: a resolution on the organizational-financial aspects of the Commonwealth economic court; an agreement on state social aid to families of servicemen killed in Afghanistan; an agreement on pensions and state insurance for the staff of interior ministries; a resolution on an interstate radio-navigation system; and an agreement on interstate transportation of dangerous and hazardous cargo. * Suzanne Crow, RFE/RL, Inc. MORE ON CIS SUMMIT. Among the agreements not signed were a Russian draft accord on rights of national minorities, which was taken off the agenda because of strong opposition from several CIS states. According to a dispatch from Reuters, the leaders of the former Soviet republics spent most of their time holding separate bilateral meetings, and most of the talks did not include Russia. The final summit declaration indirectly rebuffed the policies promoted by Russian nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky in its warning against "expansionism and chauvinism." * Suzanne Crow, RFE/RL, Inc. NEW CIS POSTS, ORGANS. The Ashgabat summit elected Boris Yeltsin chairman of the CIS for a period of six months. The post is a rotating one which is primarily ceremonial. In addition, Russian diplomat Gennadii Shabannikov was appointed General Secretary of the CIS Collective Security Council, also for a period of six months. (The CIS Collective Security Treaty has yet to be implemented however, and Russia and Azerbaijan seek to amend it.) Finally, the summit set up a new body, the Council of Commonwealth Foreign Ministers, Russian agencies reported. * Suzanne Crow, RFE/RL, Inc. CIS AS INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION? ITAR-TASS REPORTED WITHOUT ELABORATION THAT ONE OF THE RESULTS OF THE CIS SUMMIT WAS AGREEMENT TO REQUEST THAT THE UN GRANT THE CIS THE STATUS OF AN INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION. The report said only that the Council of Commonwealth Foreign Ministers would make the request of the UN General Assembly. The decision suggests that CIS promoter(s) are seeking to strengthen their organization by recourse to outside bodies in the absence of sufficient support from CIS member states themselves. * Suzanne Crow, RFE/RL, Inc. CIS DEFENSE MINISTERS MEET. Reports suggest that the 23 December meeting of CIS defense ministers in Ashgabat went more smoothly than most of their previous meetings. Krasnaya zvezda reported on 24 December that the agreements on forming a joint staff have been adopted by most parties, with Russia agreeing to pay half the cost of its upkeep Colonel General Boris Pyankov, commander of the CIS forces in Tajikistan, urged Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan to fulfill their commitment to send units to Tajikistan and requested that the Uzbekistan unit be brought up to full strength. ITAR-TASS reported on 23 December that a joint meeting of foreign and defense ministers had agreed to extend the CIS peacekeeping mandate in Tajikistan for another year-the previous mandate was to expire on 1 January. Perhaps most important, however, was a bilateral meeting between Pavel Grachev and Vitalii Radetsky, the new Ukrainian defense minister, in which they reportedly found common ground on a number of key security issues. The meeting appears to reflect improving relations between the two defense ministries in the wake of an extensive change of personnel in the Ukrainian Defense Ministry. * John Lepingwell, RFE/RL, Inc. YET MORE CONFUSION OVER UKRAINIAN WEAPONS? A REPORT BY THE UNIAR PRESS AGENCY ON 25 DECEMBER CRITICIZED BOTH THE UNIAN PRESS AGENCY AND REUTERS FOR ISSUING INACCURATE REPORTS ON THE STATUS OF UKRAINIAN NUCLEAR WEAPONS. UNIAR claimed that, in fact, warheads are being removed from SS-19 ICBMs, but not SS-24 ICBMs. UNIAR is the more "official" of the two agencies, but the apparent denial comes after the decision to remove the warheads was confirmed by the Ukrainian foreign ministry and, apparently, by President Kravchuk as well. No further clarification on this issue appears to have forthcoming. * John Lepingwell, RFE/RL, Inc. UKRAINE NOT TO BLAME IN LAZEBNIKOV'S KILLING. The head of the General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces, Anatolii Lopata, stated that neither the Ukrainian navy nor army had anything to do with the murder of the head of the Black Sea Fleet press service, Andriy Lazebnikov, UNIAN reported on 23 December. Lazebnikov was killed on 15 December. According to Lopata the killing was not politically motivated. Nonetheless, it has contributed considerably towards embittering the strained relations within the Black Sea Fleet. * Ustina Markus, RFE/RL, Inc. RUSSIA FINAL RESULTS OF PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS. Final official results of the 12 December parliamentary elections for both party list voting and single-candidate districts show that the main reform bloc, Russia's Choice (RC), won the most number of seats (96) in the 450-seat lower chamber of the parliament, ITAR-TASS reported on 25 December. The ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) of Vladimir Zhirinovsky came second with 70 seats. The Communist Party (CP) came third with 65 seats. The three main anti-reform blocs (the LDP, the CP and the Agrarian Party ) won 182 altogether, whereas the four pro-reform blocs (the RC, YABLOKO, the Party of Unity and Concord, and the Russian Movement for Democratic Reform) received only 164 seats. The Women of Russia party won a total of 25 seats, while independent candidates took 30 seats altogether. * Vera Tolz, RFE/RL, Inc. YELTSIN BRINGS NEWS AGENCIES BACK UNDER GOVERNMENT CONTROL. On 22 December, President Yeltsin issued a decree turning the ITAR-TASS news agency back into a government agency after less than two years of independence. It is not clear how much the new status will change the agency's reporting. Despite the fact that it was proclaimed independent in the aftermath of the August 1991 attempt coup, ITAR-TASS largely had continued to act as if it were a government news agency, often endorsing the government's line in its reporting. On 26 December, Yeltsin brought another news agency, RIA-Novosti, back under the government control and ordered its reorganization by the government, according to Interfax. The presidential decrees on the news agencies are part of a broader move to strengthen government control over the media in light of criticism of the media's performance during the parliamentary election campaign. * Vera Tolz, RFE/RL, Inc. CONSTITUTION COMES INTO EFFECT. Russia's new constitution came into effect with the publication of its full text by the official ITAR-TASS news agency on 24 December. The document was approved by 58.4 percent of the voters casting ballots in the 12 December constitutional referendum. 54.8 percent of Russia's eligible voters took part. The constitution establishes new relations between various branches of power, in particular strengthening the powers of the president. It also includes a wide range of human rights guarantees and allows private ownership of land. * Vera Tolz, RFE/RL, Inc. HOSTAGE-TAKERS SEIZED. Reuters reported on 27 December that four hostage-takers have been captured and most of the $10 million ransom money retrieved. The incident began when four gunmen burst into a school in Rostov on Don on 23 December and took a number of schoolchildren hostage. After being provided with ransom and a helicopter they fled, with intermediate stops, to Dagestan, where they abandoned the helicopter and attempted to escape by foot. The longer-term effect of the incident may be to trigger increased calls for more law and order as well as to reinforce Russian stereotypes concerning the criminal behavior of non-Russian nationalities (at least two of the men involved were of Central Asian origin). * John Lepingwell, RFE/RL, Inc. PAYMENT FOR ARMS . . . According to a Radio Mayak report of 24 December, First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets has ordered the Ministry of Finance to pay off some 600-700 billion rubles worth of debts incurred by the defense ministry for arms purchases. The order resolves a dispute that has flared between the two ministries during recent months, for arms prices have been rising, while the defense ministry's funds have not kept pace with the rising costs. As a result, the defense ministry has run up large debts to defense plants, which the finance ministry has resisted paying, fearing that a large payment will deepen the budget deficit and increase inflationary pressures. The move will be welcomed by defense plants, however, which are suffering severe cash shortages as a result of the dispute. * John Lepingwell, RFE/RL, Inc. . . . AND ARMS INSTEAD OF PAYMENT? Izvestiya reported on 24 December that after electricity was cut off to a Far East military district base because of failure to pay its bills, the commander dispatched a tank to the electricity company to "persuade" it to reconsider its decision. Power was restored to the base rather hastily. Other recent media reports, including one on Ostankino TV's news on 23 December, indicate that conditions in military garrisons in the Far East are continuing to deteriorate, with late pay compounding the hardships of winter. * John Lepingwell, RFE/RL, Inc. KOZYREV ON US, CIS SUMMITS. Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev said the January US-Russian summit will "depict the scheme of Russian-American cooperation and partnership until the next century." Kozyrev dismissed concerns that Vladimir Zhirinovsky would negatively influence relations between Moscow and Washington and affirmed that his country's leaders would not "yield to the pressure" posed by Zhirinovsky or others who seek to create friction between Russia and other countries. Kozyrev praised the results of the CIS summit in Ashgabat as "the conclusion of a entire historic stage" in which the former Soviet republics worked through a "civilized divorce" rather than through a Yugoslav-type war. Kozyrev also emphasized the readiness of most CIS states to "enter a new level of integration," Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. * Suzanne Crow, RFE/RL, Inc. FORMER RUSSIAN FINANCE MINISTER ELECTED CHUVASH PRESIDENT. Nikolai Fedorov, formerly finance minister of the Russian Federation, was elected president of Chuvashia in repeat elections on 26 December, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 December. Fedorov defeated Lev Kurakov, rector of Chuvash University, who was supported by the Communists. Fedorov had led in the first round when there were seven candidates. * Ann Sheehy, RFE/RL, Inc. BASHKORTOSTAN ADOPTS NEW CONSTITUTION. The Bashkortostan parliament adopted a new constitution on 24 December, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. The new constitution, which was approved by 206 of the 227 deputies present, is clearly in conflict with the new Russian constitution, though it appears not to go quite so far as the Tatarstan constitution.. It states that Bashkortostan determines and conducts its domestic and foreign policy independently, that its laws have supremacy throughout its territory, and that relations with Russia, of which it forms part on a voluntary and equal basis, are determined by a treaty about the bases of interstate relations, and by other bilateral agreements. The new constitution also stipulates that Bashkortostan will allocate funds to the Russian Federation budget in amounts to be determined by an annual agreement with Moscow. * Ann Sheehy, RFE/RL, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA GEORGIAN DEFENSE, SECURITY MINISTERS FEUD. On 24 December a confrontation took place at Tbilisi airport between Defense Minister Giorgi Karkarashvili and Security Minister Igor Georgadze as the Georgian delegation returned from the CIS summit in Ashgabat, Western agencies reported. Georgadze reportedly accused Karkarashvili of having lost the war in Abkhazia, and disrupting the signing of the CIS military agreement in Ashgabat, and threatened to arrest him, whereupon the two men came to blows, according to Radio Tbilisi. That night a bomb explosion wrecked the Tbilisi headquarters of the Security Ministry, injuring two employees. Georgian parliament chairman Eduard Shevardnadze on 25 December established a commission headed by Prime Minister Otar Patsatsia to investigate the bombing, for which he held the defense ministry responsible; a defense ministry spokesman has denied the charge. * Liz Fuller, RFE/RL, Inc. RUSSIA-TURKMENISTAN DUAL CITIZENSHIP AGREEMENT. The signing of an accord on dual citizenship between Russia and Turkmenistan on 23 December marks the first such agreement on this divisive issue between two Soviet successor states. Boris Yeltsin signed the agreement in Ashgabat just prior to the CIS summit in the Turkmen capital. The agreement allows Turkmenistan's 400,000 ethnic Russians (about 10% of the total population) to hold dual citizenship, the Financial Times reported on 24 December. Russia has long pressed for such an agreement, and it may hope that Turkmenistan's acquiescence heralds the signing of similar accords between Russia and other former Soviet republics with proportionately much larger ethnic Russian populations. * Suzanne Crow, RFE/RL, Inc. CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE BOSNIA CEASEFIRE FAILS TO HOLD. Despite the fact that leaders from Bosnia's three warring factions negotiated a Christmas cease-fire that was to last until 15 January, fighting broke out throughout Bosnia over the Christmas weekend. On 26 December Reuters reported that heavy fighting broke out between Muslim and Croat forces in central Bosnia on Christmas Day, while Serb artillery shelled Sarajevo. According to AFP, Serb shelling on 24 December destroyed power lines in Sarajevo, leaving many sections of the city without electricity. The Bosnian Serb news agency SRNA alleged that Serb forces had suffered serious casualties, and Muslim-controlled Bosnian radio reported that at least 23 Muslims were killed in Christmas fighting. Croatian radio reported that on 26 December Muslim forces shelled Croats near Novi Travnik and Vitez. In a statement reported by the international press, Germany's foreign minister, Klaus Kinkel, deplored the violence and suggested that it appeared as if none of the parties involved in the fighting were interested in working for peace. International media report that sporadic fighting is continuing. * Stan Markotich, RFE/RL, Inc. CROATS, SERBS ACCUSE MUSLIMS. According to Reuters, Croatia's President Franjo Tudjman on 23 December accused the Bosnian army of ordering its troops to slaughter defenseless Bosnian Croatian civilians. Tudjman communicated this allegation to Bosnian Muslim President Alija Izetbegovic by letter, and also issued an appeal to the European Union to put pressure on the Bosnian Muslims to halt their offensives. The Croatian president informed the EU of his suspicions about the Bosnian Muslims in a letter to Belgian Foreign Minister and current EU President, Willy Claes. According to HINA, Tudjman believes the Bosnian Muslim forces received their orders over a coded radio broadcast and were instructed to "Destroy all (Croats) . . . in Novi Travnik, Nova Bila, Vitez and Busovaca. . . ." Tudjman also reportedly hinted that the Muslim actions may have a negative impact on the well-being of Croatia's 250,000 Bosnian refugees. Meanwhile, on 25 December Borba carried a report in which Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic observed that as the Serbian side was moving ever closer to a peaceful political settlement of the Bosnian crisis, the Muslim side was moving in the opposite direction. * Stan Markotich, RFE/RL, Inc. SERBIAN POLITICAL LEADERS TO MEET MILOSEVIC. Serbia's press continues to dwell on the aftermath of the parliamentary elections held on 19 December. Tanjug reports that on 28 December leaders of the major parliamentary parties are to meet with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to discuss the composition of the parliamentary government. DEPOS leader Vuk Draskovic, along with the leaders of the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party of Serbia, and the Serbian Radical Party are slated to attend. Milosevic's Socialists, who won 123 seats in the 250-seat legislature, cannot form a government without support. Western agencies reported that new balloting took place at 45 polls on 26 December where electoral irregularities were observed, but the results are not expected to alter the official returns. * Stan Markotich, RFE/RL, Inc. POLISH GOVERNMENT APPROVES TIGHT BUDGET. After deliberations lasting twenty-four hours, the Polish cabinet on 24 December accepted the draft budget for 1994. The ministers of labor and culture voted against the draft, Polish TV reports. Formal approval is expected on 27 December, when the government convenes to conclude work on its proposed privatization policy for 1994. The final version of the draft differs little from the original proposals submitted by the finance ministry. Revenues are set at 610 trillion zloty ($29 billion); expenditures at 693 trillion zloty ($33 billion), with the financing of Poland's foreign and domestic debt alone consuming 112 trillion zloty ($5.3 billion). Finance Minister Marek Borowski succeeded in drawing the line on the deficit at 83 trillion zloty ($4 billion), or 4.1% of GDP, despite demands from other cabinet members for additional spending amounting, at least initially, to double that sum. National Bank chief Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz relented somewhat on her repeated refusals to fund more than 30 trillion zloty of the deficit, announcing on 23 December that the bank will "swallow" an additional 5 trillion zloty, provided inflation does not exceed planned levels. After the cabinet session, Borowski told PAP that "the budget is very tight and must be fulfilled in a very disciplined fashion; economic policy in the coming year must be conducted so as to prevent higher inflation." Although Borowski was optimistic about the budget's chances in the Sejm, the ruling coalition may face a rebellion by many of its own deputies, as the budget suggests the government has opted to maintain a tight fiscal policy and thus forego many spending pledges made during the recent election campaign. * Louisa Vinton, RFE/RL, Inc. GLEMP'S CHRISTMAS MESSAGE. In a message to believers broadcast to the nation on Christmas Eve, Poland's Roman Catholic Primate, Cardinal Jozef Glemp, said that in today's world people were surrounded by war, hatred, violence, hunger, homelessness, alcohol and drug abuse, profanity, and economic and sexual exploitation, but that one should not overlook the many signs of positive action and human solidarity, and not succumb to a purely negative philosophy. He called on Poles to contribute to the Polish Caritas "coal for Yugoslavia" appeal. Speaking at a Warsaw parish church on 26 December, celebrated by the Catholic Church as Holy Family Sunday, Glemp stressed the need for cooperation between the church and the state in order to defend the family as the basic social unit against the dangers of today's world, PAP reported. * Anna Sabbat-Swidlicka, RFE/RL, Inc. GERMAN MINORITY PROTEST AGAINST NEW ELECTION LAW IN HUNGARY. In a statement given to MTI on 23 December, the leader of the German minority in Hungary protested strongly against a new election law just passed by parliament. Geza Hambuch said that the new law deprives minority groups in Hungary of legislative representation, despite promises to the contrary. According to the new law, minority groups cannot themselves elect deputies directly to parliament. Hambuch also said that the restriction casts dark shadows over Hungary's attempts to help its minorities in the neighboring countries and damages Hungary's international reputation. Hambuch said he is considering challenging the election law in the constitutional court. * Karoly Okolicsanyi, RFE/RL, Inc. ZHIRINOVSKY IRRITATES BULGARIANS. All major Bulgarian dailies on 27 December condemned statements by Russian nationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky, in which he suggested that his Bulgarian-born advisor should replace the country's President Zhelyu Zhelev. Speaking at a press conference in the city of Sandanski, southwestern Bulgaria, Zhirinovsky called Zhelev a "transitional figure" and said Bulgarians should elect Svetoslav Stoilov-described as Zhirinovsky's consultant on European economic affairs-who would also be "more beneficial to Russia." In a first reaction, Zhelev qualified the remarks of the leader of Russia's Liberal Democratic Party as "the delirious statements of a frivolous politician." He added that "a serious politician would never allow himself to meddle in the internal affairs of another country." BTA quoted the Russian embassy in Sofia as stressing that Zhirinovsky's comments had "a personal character and do not correspond to Russia's policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries." Zhirinovsky's visit, which his aides described as private, had not been advertised in advance. * Kjell Engelbrekt , RFE/RL, Inc. ROMANIAN PARTIES TO DISCUSS COALITION GOVERNMENT. A presidential spokesman said on 23 December that President Ion Iliescu will start consultations on 27 December with leading political parties to hear their views on the formation of a possible coalition government. Spokesman Train Chebeleu was quoted by Radio Bucharest as saying that Iliescu would try to promote agreement on a social and political pact, following which there should be no impediment to setting up a new government. On 22 December Iliescu called for national reconciliation and urged the parties to negotiate a coalition government. Chebeleu's statement follows favorable reactions from opposition parties and the ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania. The PSDR executive president, Adrian Nastase, said a reshuffle of the government was necessary, and Emil Constantinescu, the president of the Democratic Convention, the main alliance of the opposition, said his group has decided to participate in the consultations. The leader of the powerful Fratia trade union, Miron Mitrea, also backed the idea. On the other hand, a spokesman for the extreme nationalist Greater Romania Party, expressed opposition to setting up a coalition, stating that the PSDR and the main opposition party, the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (a member of the Democratic Convention), have nothing in common. * Michael Shafir, RFE/RL, Inc. DNIESTER SEPARATISTS TO HAND OVER MOLDOVANS SENTENCED FOR TERRORISM. Vasile Grozavu, a spokesman of Moldovan President Mircea Snegur, told Moldovan and Romanian radios on 24 December that the Dniester separatists would surrender six Moldovans recently sentenced for terrorism, Reuters reported. Their forthcoming release was said to be the result of an initiative by Snegur at the CIS summit in Ashgabat. Grozavu said all the participants had backed Snegur. No date was announced for the release of Ilie Ilascu, who was sentenced to death, and his five co-defendants. The sentences had raised an international outcry. * Ann Sheehy , RFE/RL, Inc. ILIESCU WELCOMES DNIESTER DECISION. President Ion Iliescu said he will welcome Ilie Ilascu and his entire family to Bucharest, once Ilascu is freed by the Dniester separatists, who sentenced him to death, Reuters reported on 24 December. * Michael Shafir, RFE/RL, Inc. ROMANIANS PAY TRIBUTE AT CEAUSESCU'S GRAVE. Dozens of people visited what is thought to be the grave of the executed dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, marking the fourth anniversary of his execution by a firing squad on 25 December 1989. Reuters reported from Bucharest that some of the visitors laid a red flag on the grave, as a tape recorder played patriotic songs from Ceausescu's era. The agency quoted some of the people as saying life was better under Ceausescu and complaining about the hardships brought on by the transition to a market economy. An argument broke out between the Ceausescu admirers and a group of young people, who threw away the flag and had harsh words to say about the former regime. * Michael Shafir, RFE/RL, Inc. LITHUANIA PASSES 1994 BUDGET. On 22 December the Seimas by a vote of 61 to 26 with 9 abstentions approved the 1994 budget, Radio Lithuania reports. It envisages a deficit of 163 million litai ($40 million) with expenditures of 2,945 million litai exceeding revenues of 2,782 million litai, both about 60% higher than in 1993. Allocations for public health, education, culture, and science will be more than doubled while subsidies to industry will practically cease due to increased privatization and greater financing through loans. The Seimas decided to extend its autumn session until February since there are a number of laws that still have to be passed. * Saulius Girnius, RFE/RL, Inc. POPULARITY POLL IN LITHUANIA. A poll, taken by the British-Lithuanian company Baltic Surveys in December, showed that President Algirdas Brazauskas has once again become the most popular political figure in Lithuania, BNS reported on 23 December. His rating increased to 62%, a 2 percentage point improvement over November's figure. The rating of Seimas deputy chairman Egidijus Bickauskas dropped 5 percentage points to 58%, while that of Center Movement Chairman Romualdas Ozolas dropped 1 percentage point to 52%. Active campaigning to increase compensations for savings held in banks in 1991 by former Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius helped to improve his rating by 4 percentage points to 35%. * Saulius Girnius, RFE/RL, Inc. LATVIAN EMBASSY BUILDING IN PARIS. French Minister on European Affairs Alain Lamassoure told Latvian Foreign Minister Georgs Andrejevs on 23 December in Paris that France would change its neutral position and support Latvia's efforts to regain the Latvian embassy building currently used by a Russian trade mission, Baltfax reports. Negotiations will be held between the French and Russian foreign ministries to resolve the issue. The ministers also discussed the possible influence of the Russian elections on Latvia's foreign policy and the withdrawal of Russian armed forces from Latvia. * Saulius Girnius, RFE/RL, Inc. CONSERVATIVES CONTINUE TO OPPOSE SHUSHKEVICH. The conservative parliamentary faction "Belarus" is continuing to collect signatures for the inclusion of the issue of confidence in the Chairman of the Supreme Soviet, Stanislau Shushkevich, on the parliament's agenda when it resumes its session in mid-January, Interfax reported on 23 December. One of the reasons the conservatives have been calling for the confidence vote is Shushkevich's failure to sign the CIS Collective Security Treaty despite specific parliamentary instructions to do so. Instead, Shushkevich had sent letters to the heads of the member-states of the security treaty notifying them of parliament's decision to join the pact. The parliamentary majority and government do not consider the letters legally binding. Shushkevich is currently hospitalized with high blood pressure, and parliament empowered the conservative Prime Minister, Vyacheslau Kebich, to sign documents at the Ashgabat summit on behalf of Belarus. * Ustina Markus, RFE/RL, Inc. BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION PAPER UNDER ATTACK. Radiofakt reported on 24 December that the Belarusian State Secretary for Crime and National Security, conservative deputy Henadz Danilau, charged the opposition newspaper Svaboda with slander. The paper was ordered to print a refutation of the offending statements and to pay Danilau almost half a million rubles in compensation. Danilau said the money will be sent to a children's home. * Ustina Markus, RFE/RL, Inc. BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION ON PARLIAMENT, STRIKES. Zyanon Paznyak, leader of the opposition Belarusian Popular Front (BPF), accused the republic's Supreme Soviet and government of following a policy that could lead to the country's political and economic annexation by Russia and loss of Belarusian sovereignty, Interfax reported on 23 December. According to Paznyak, the Supreme Soviet had decided to break its session from 22 December to January 18 in order to prevent US President Bill Clinton from appearing in the parliament during his state visit in Belarus on 15 and 16 January 1994. Paznyak also stated that the opposition intended to form strike committees throughout the republic and hold nationwide strikes in support of demands for the resignation of the Supreme Soviet and the government, as well as early elections. * Ustina Markus, RFE/RL, Inc. [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Anna Swidlicka and John LepingwellRFE/RL Daily Report
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