|We may live without friends; we may live without books; But civilized man cannot live without cooks. - Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton|
No. 5, 10 January 1994
CIS US, UKRAINE, RUSSIA NEAR DEAL ON NUCLEAR WEAPONS. Reports from Western press agencies on 9 January indicate that a deal on the transfer of, and payment for, nuclear weapons from Ukraine to Russia is imminent. Most of the Ukrainian delegation returned to Kiev on 7 January after meeting with President Clinton, reportedly with a draft agreement in hand, while Deputy Prime Minister Valerii Shmarov stayed in Washington to continue negotiations. While Vice President Al Gore and Secretary of State Warren Christopher warned on 9 January that complete agreement had not been reached, President Clinton said in Brussels that "a terrific amount of progress" had been made. John Lepingwell, RFE/RL, Inc. DETAILS OF PROPOSED DEAL. According to Western press reports, the deal could provide up to $12 billion to Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus in exchange for the dilution and sale of some 50 metric tons of highly enriched uranium (HEU) from former Soviet nuclear weapons. A Washington Post article of 9 January reports that the US Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), a government-operated power utility, will pay Russia $60 million after the agreement is reached, with the money being used to pay for immediate nuclear fuel deliveries to Ukraine. Some of the HEU from Ukrainian weapons will be returned to Ukraine as nuclear reactor fuel, while Russia will reportedly cancel some or all of Ukraine's estimated $2 billion debt for past energy purchases. All weapons would be removed within three years, with the HEU being diluted in Russia before being sold to the US. The deal reportedly also includes a formal recognition by Russia and the US of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, one of the key conditions set by the Ukrainian parliament in its ratification of START-1. Reuters reported that the agreement is designed so that it will not require ratification by the Ukrainian (and presumably Russian) parliament but instead can be implemented by executive orders. Whether the Ukrainian parliament will allow such a sensitive matter to be decided without its input remains unclear, however. John Lepingwell, RFE/RL, Inc. CLINTON TO KIEV? AFP reported on 10 January that Ukrainian officials were claiming that President Clinton might meet President Kravchuk in Kiev on 12 January to sign the nuclear weapons agreement. Other Western reports, citing administration officials, have suggested that a meeting is possible if the warhead deal is finalized. A joint signing of the deal by presidents Clinton, Kravchuk, and Yeltsin in Moscow has reportedly been discussed within the Clinton administration, but the location may be unacceptable to Kravchuk. Clinton's current agenda pointedly avoids Ukraine. John Lepingwell, RFE/RL, Inc. RUSSIA OPPOSITION DEMONSTRATES OUTSIDE WHITE HOUSE. The Russian All-People's Union (RAPU), which is led by Sergei Baburin, recently elected to the new parliament, held a rally outside the building of the former parliament on 9 January. Reports put the number of participants at between 2,000 (Ostankino TV "Novosti") and 10,000 (ITAR-TASS). The rally commemorated the victims of the forced dissolution of the former parliament in early October and called for an official investigation into the events. Among the speakers were well-known members of the hardline opposition such as Sazhi Umalatova and Viktor Alksnis. Mikhail Astafev, leader of the Constitutional Democratic Party, and Nikolai Pavlov of the RAPU alleged that the United States had coordinated the suspension of the parliament in October. Wendy Slater, RFE/RL, Inc. COMMUNIST PARTY PREPARES FOR OPENING OF PARLIAMENT. Some 60 deputies to the Federal Assembly elected from the Communist Party of the Russian Federation held a meeting on 9 January to prepare for the opening of the parliament on 11 January, ITAR-TASS reported. CP-RF leader Gennadii Zyuganov told Interfax that the party had prepared 16 bills covering economic reforms, anti-corruption measures, and the consequences of the December 1991 agreement dissolving the Soviet Union. Zyuganov was elected chairman of the faction. Among the speakers were representatives of other parties, including Vladimir Isakov of the Agrarian Party who was prominent in the old parliament, and the former Minister of Foreign Economics Relations Sergei Glazyev of the Democratic Party of Russia. Wendy Slater, RFE/RL, Inc. GAIDAR WARNS OF NATIONALIST-COMMUNIST FRONT. First Deputy Prime Minister, Egor Gaidar, told Ekho Moskvy radio on 7 January that he feared the emergence of a bloc formed by the main anti-reform parties in the new parliament. The Communist Party, the Agrarians, and the extreme right Liberal Democratic Party together control some 182 of the seats in the 450-seat lower house, the State Duma. Gaidar said that his pro-reform party, Russia's Choice, which has 96 seats, was withdrawing from the negotiations between these four largest parties over the nomination of the speaker of the State Duma. Wendy Slater, RFE/RL, Inc. DEMOCRATS REJECT FURTHER NEGOTIATIONS WITH RADICALS. The chief coordinator of the pro-democratic parliamentary faction Russia's Choice, Gennadii Burbulis, told Interfax on 8 January that his faction regards further negotiations with communists and pro-fascist forces as useless. He said the appetite of the communist faction and the pro-fascist faction of Vladimir Zhirinovsky has grown. The latter, for example, claims the chairmanship of the parliamentary committee for international relations. Communists want to see their representative heading the committees for defense and security. Another coordinator of Russia's Choice, Arkadii Murashov, told the RFE/RL Research Institute on 2 January that his faction will claim control over the parliamentary committees dealing with economic reform. Alexander Rahr, RFE/RL, Inc. BURBULIS STRESSES NEED FOR DEMOCRATS TO UNITE. The chief coordinator of Russia's Choice, Gennadii Burbulis, told the RFE/RL Research Institute on 3 January that Russia's Choice must first of all become a strong political party capable of winning elections even without the support of President Boris Yeltsin. He said the new party must act independently from Yeltsin and build up new strong leaders. He stated that Russia's Choice should start searching for a suitable candidate for the presidential elections in 1996. In the opinion of Burbulis and some other democratic leaders, Western fears about possible influence of Vladimir Zhirinovsky on Russian politics are exaggerated. Democratic leaders think that Yeltsin is now fully in control over the executive. Alexander Rahr, RFE/RL, Inc. RUSSIAN WAGES IN DOLLAR TERMS RISE SIGNIFICANTLY. According to the government's Center for Economic Reform, the value of Russian wages more than doubled in dollar terms over 1993, Reuters reported on 7 January. At market exchange rates, the average monthly wage increased from $40 in December 1992 to $104 in December 1993. Nominal ruble wages have been keeping up with the general increase in the level of prices over 1993 of around 900%, while the ruble dollar exchange has increased only 200%. Andrei Illarionov, deputy director of the Center noted that the increase in the ruble's real exchange value with the dollar was making Russian goods less price competitive internationally and would increase pressure for projectionist measures. Erik Whitlock, RFE/RL, Inc. NEW CUSTOMS DUTIES FOR INDIVIDUALS INTRODUCED. Effective 1 January of this year, Russia introduced new customs regulations on goods imported and exported by individuals, Aleksandr Vasiliev, head of the Administration of the Organization of Customs Control under the Russian Federation's Custom's Committee, told journalists in Moscow on 5 January, according to ITAR-TASS and Russian television. Imported goods valued at more than US$2,000 and exported goods valued above 50 times the Russian monthly minimum wage would be subject to customs duties. Separate thresholds for imported cars, according to engine size, were introduced. These regulations apply to goods intended for personal consumption, not commercial use. Erik Whitlock, RFE/RL, Inc. MVD GAINS AGAINST FSK. According to the Deputy Director of newly created Federal Counterintelligence Service (FSK), Sergei Stepashin, as quoted by Ostankino television and Western agencies on 6 January, his agency will have 75,000 officers or 46% less personnel than the disbanded Ministry of Security. The Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) headed by Yeltsin loyalist Viktor Erin, will take over several elements of its disbanded KGB predecessor. They include the infamous Lefortovo Security prison, the Investigative Branch, and the Administration for Combating Corruption and Contraband. The planned innovations may face serious criticism from the opposition. First, the MVD is considered one of the most corrupt organizations in the country and itself is in need of reform. Second, the Lefortovo prison currently houses Aleksandr Rutskoi, Ruslan Khasbulatov, and the other leaders of anti-Yeltsin armed mutiny which occurred in October 1993. The Minister of Internal Affairs, Viktor Erin, is reputed to be a personal arch-enemy of the arrested. Victor Yasmann, RFE/RL, Inc. TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA KAZAKHSTAN FREES PRICES. On 5 January all prices in Kazakhstan except that for bread were freed after having been frozen for two months in the wake of the country's introduction of its own currency, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 January. This action followed the publication of a government decree ordering that in the future, wages must be dependent on quantity and quality of work. According to the report, this innovation is being described by journalists in Kazakhstan as "shock therapy." Journalists sympathetic to the proponents of a market economy were quoted as saying that Russia survived the freeing of prices and Kazakhstan could do the same. Bess Brown, RFE/RL, Inc. PAKISTAN AND UZBEKISTAN TO WORK FOR AFGHAN CEASEFIRE. Pakistan's Foreign Minister Assef Ahmad Ali told a press conference in Tashkent on 8 January that his country would coordinate policy with Uzbekistan in an effort to arrange a permanent ceasefire among factions fighting in Afghanistan, Western news agencies reported. The Pakistani minister said that he would try to persuade the leadership of Turkmenistan, the next stop on his tour of Central Asian countries, to join the peacemaking efforts in Afghanistan. Uzbekistan is believed to have great influence in northern Afghanistan as a result of its support for the ethnic Uzbek Afghan General Abdul Rashid Dostum, whose forces have been attacking those of Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani. Bess Brown, RFE/RL, Inc. PROSPECTS FOR RUSSIAN-IRANIAN JOINT KARABAKH MEDIATION. In the wake of Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati's statement that Iran is ready to resume mediating the Karabakh conflict (see RFE/RL Daily Report, 5 January 1994), Russia's special envoy for Karabakh, Vladimir Kazimirov, has traveled to Tehran for talks with Iranian Foreign Ministry officials at the request of both the Armenian and the Azerbaijani leaderships. On 9 January Reuters quoted Kazimirov and Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mahmoud Vaezi as affirming their readiness to cooperate in seeking a solution to the conflict. Azerbaijan has in recent months repeatedly distanced itself from the ongoing CSCE mediation effort which it condemns as fruitless. Liz Fuller, RFE/RL, Inc. CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE CLINTON'S OPENING REMARKS. At the start of his eight-day trip to Europe and parts of the former Soviet Union, US President Bill Clinton told an audience in Brussels on 9 January that "Europe remains central to the interests of the United States" and that "we will help to work with our partners in seizing the opportunities before us all." Clinton said that "the coming months and years may decide whether the Russian people continue to develop a peaceful market democracy or whether, in frustration, they elect leaders who incline back toward authoritarianism and empire." Clinton linked Russia's development to the ability of Russia's neighbors "to thrive in freedom and join the ranks of non-nuclear states or founder under the strain of reform," Reuters reported. Suzanne Crow, RFE/RL, Inc. HAVEL ON NATO, VISEGRAD. In an interview with Czech Television on 9 January, President Vaclav Havel said that he hopes his meeting on 11 January with US President Bill Clinton will be open and that he will have a chance to give the Czech view on a variety of issues. Havel said he believes that NATO should be a "kind of stabilizing core of all European security." According to him, NATO has realized that in post-Cold War Europe its doctrine, position, and role have to change and said that the alliance has been seeking to do so. But Havel said that from the Czech point of view it may seem that this change has gone too slowly. Speaking on Czech Radio on 9 January, Havel argued against the efforts of the world community to view post-communist countries as belonging to various groupings, rather than as independent, individual states. Havel said that the Czech Republic is of the opinion that that each post-communist state must pursue its particular interests, which "does not mean that we cannot have the best of relations with our neighbors." Also on the 9th, the US Ambassador to the United States, Czech-born Madeleine Albright, and General John Shalikashvili, chiarman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrived in Prague to discuss the NATO's Partnership for Peace Plan with Czech leaders. Jiri Pehe, RFE/RL, Inc. HUNGARY ACCEPTS PARTNERSHIP FOR PEACE PLAN. On 8 January Hungary became the first country to agree to participate in the US plan that will allow East European countries to work more closely with NATO on military and security affairs but does not grant them security guarantees, MTI and Western news agencies report. The agreement came following a visit to Budapest by Albright and Shalikashvili. Prime Minister Peter Boross, Defense Minister Lajos Fur, and Foreign Minister Geza Jeszenszky stressed that they regarded the Partnership for Peace plan only as a step toward full NATO membership. Fur warned in Warsaw on 7 January that the plan should not be used to delay the membership of East European countries in NATO. Jeszenszky also emphasized that "in the long run, there are no valid historical, political, or strategic reasons to keep Hungary out of NATO." Edith Oltay, RFE/RL, Inc. US DELEGATION GETS TEPID RECEPTION IN WARSAW. Albright and Shalikashvili assured Polish officials in Warsaw on 7 January that Poland's security is of "direct and material interest" to the US. They also indicated that the NATO summit will issue a statement "welcoming the extension of the alliance to the democracies to the East." The two envoys stressed, however, that NATO does not intend to extend any security guarantees or set a timetable or define criteria for future membership. The "partnership" formula is not a first step toward membership, they added, although they suggested that enthusiastic participation might make eventual membership more likely. Polish leaders remained skeptical. Continuing his effort to provoke explicit commitments from NATO, President Lech Walesa admonished the US envoys, arguing that Europe ought now to "leap forward" rather than "crawl." In an interview with French Television on 9 January, Walesa added that the US plan resembled "blackmail" more than partnership. Prime Minister Waldemar Pawlak commented that the "partnership" plan is vague and the only clear detail is its name. The Polish cabinet, meeting with Walesa present, will issue an official statement on the plan on 10 January, PAP reports. Louisa Vinton, RFE/RL, Inc. VISEGRAD MINISTERS GRUDGINGLY APPROVE NATO PLAN. During their one-day visit, the US envoys also met with defense officials from Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, who gathered in Warsaw on 7 January to discuss the upcoming NATO summit. In an official statement, the four Visegrad defense officials called the Partnership for Peace plan a "step in the right direction" but demanded explicit assurances that full membership will be extended in the future. Addressing the meeting, Walesa expressed the hope that the Visegrad four "will speak with a single voice" wherever possible. The Czech Republic signaled its willingness to negotiate independently, however, by sending only a deputy defense minister to the Warsaw gathering. Czech Deputy Defense Minister Jiri Pospisil told reporters that his country is ready to act either alone or with the other Visegrad governments, depending on which approach is most promising. Louisa Vinton, RFE/RL, Inc. ALBRIGHT AND SHALIKASHVILI VISIT SLOVAKIA. On 9 January Albright and Shalikashvili visited Bratislava as part of their tour through Central and Eastern Europe, TASR reports. Albright stated that Slovakia is now among the first countries which are ready to sign NATO's Partnership for Peace Declaration. President Michal Kovac said that while Slovakia supports the initiative, Slovakia would like to become a full member of NATO. In a 7 January interview with RFE/RL, Kovac said that the Visegrad nations "cannot be left without a timetable and specific criteria" for NATO membership. Sharon Fisher, RFE/RL, Inc. UKRAINE SUPPORTS NATO PARTNERSHIP FOR PEACE PLAN. Leading Ukrainian diplomats have expressed support for the NATO Partnership for Peace Plan. Foreign Minister Anatolii Zlenko has told Reuters that "Ukraine backs the US initiative and intends to play an active part in it," the news agency reported on 9 January. Ukraine's ambassador in Brussels and to NATO, Volodymyr Vassylenko, explained in an interview published in the European edition of the Wall Street Journal on 7-8 January that "we are against a partial NATO enlargement" as this would leave Ukraine in a "gray zone between an enlarged NATO and Russia." This, he said, "would be dangerous not just for Ukraine but for Europe as well." Bohdan Nahaylo, RFE/RL, Inc. ROMANIA AND NATO. President Ion Iliescu reiterated on 7 January his country's strong desire to join NATO, an RFE/RL correspondent and Rompres reported from Bucharest. In a letter to Secretary-General Manfred Woerner and leaders of the 16 member states, Iliescu said "Romania's rightful place is with NATO" and membership would provide the "necessary security guarantees to create appropriate conditions for the implementation of democratic changes and economic reforms." Iliescu said Romania regards the Partnership for Peace plan as "an important preliminary step" toward eventual alliance membership. Also on 7 January, presidential spokesman Train Chebeleu said in a statement broadcast by Radio Bucharest that Romania welcomes Vice President Al Gore's recent statement on NATO. Romania, Chebeleu said, views it as an American "assumption of responsibility" vis-a-vis its own security, as well as that of other states from this part of Europe. Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu said on the same day in an interview summarized by Radio Bucharest that "drawing new boundaries by selecting [only] certain countries" of East and Central Europe for NATO membership would "re-create tensions." The Partnership for Peace plan, on the other hand, is a "half-open door" that will give all the new democracies a fair chance at eventual membership in the alliance. On 9 January, National Defense Minister Nicolae Spiroiu told Reuters the Partners for Peace plan is a "viable and acceptable solution for all," but added that Russia's interests should be taken into consideration to avoid any possible perception by Russia of NATO as a growing threat. Michael Shafir, RFE/RL, Inc. IZETBEGOVIC AND TUDJMAN OPEN TALKS IN BONN. The BBC on 10 January described the Yugoslav crisis as the "ghost at t he feast" in Brussels, where participants are expected to hear calls from France and others for the US to commit ground troops in Bosnia and for air strikes against Serb targets. Meanwhile, however, international media on the previous day reported on the opening of talks between the Bosnian and Croatian presidents in Bonn. The main issues are: a ceasefire; Muslim access to the sea; control of Mostar; and boundaries in central Bosnia, where Croatian forces continue to be hard pressed by a Muslim offensive. Izetbegovic's departure from Sarajevo was delayed by intense shelling by Serb forces in violation of their own ceasefire. The Bosnian president later told Reuters that he did not "expect any big progress" from the talks because of his previous experience in "negotiations with Croatians." Elsewhere, the Croatian dailies on 8 and 10 January devote much space to the talks and to the plight of the Croatian communities in central Bosnia. Patrick Moore, RFE/RL, Inc. STEPPED UP MEDIA COVERAGE FOR KRAJINA ELECTIONS. On 5 January Politika reported that voters in the self-proclaimed Republic of Serbian Krajina will have a choice when it comes to media coverage of run-off presidential elections scheduled for 23 January. Until 4 January, viewers had to rely on TV Krajina, controlled by elements supportive of Milan Babic's presidential bid. Yet a rival TV station, preparing to give favorable coverage to Milan Martic's campaign, is now set to broadcast. Martic is backed by Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, and the new TV station may be viewed as an attempt by Milosevic to influence the outcome of the balloting. In the previous election held on 12 December, Babic won just under 50% of the vote, while Martic garnered just over a quarter. Krajina, which is composed of about a third of Croatia's territory, lacks international recognition, and the elections have been denounced as illegal by Zagreb authorities. Stan Markotich, RFE/RL, Inc. ALBANIAN REPORTEDLY SHOT BY SERBS. An Albanian farmer was reportedly shot by border guards in Serbia when he strayed across the border at Zapod near Kukes on 3 January 1994, ATA said . Another Albanian was wounded in the incident. According to the report, 21 Albanians have been killed or injured recently by forces across the border in rump Yugoslavia. Ismije Beshiri, RFE/RL, Inc. GREECE TONES DOWN DEMANDS REGARDING MACEDONIA. Theodoros Pangalos, Greece's European Affairs Minister, in an interview carried by Le Figaro on 8 January, indicated that Greece would cease blocking Macedonia's admission to the CSCE if Skopje discontinues use of the flag, the centerpiece of which is the 16-pointed star of Vergina, a symbol claimed by Greece as a national treasure. Pangalos added that the issue of Macedonia's name has been set aside; however he suggested that a gesture such as this from Macedonia could lead to overcoming other impediments. Duncan Perry, RFE/RL, Inc. SLOVAKIA'S ETHNIC HUNGARIANS MEET IN KOMARNO. On 8 January 3,000 ethnic Hungarians gathered in the southern Slovak town of Komarno to discuss territorial autonomy, TASR reports. The meeting was organized by the Association of the Zitny Ostrov Towns and Villages and by the two ethnic Hungarian political parties represented in the Slovak parliament. Attracting over 260 journalists from 15 countries, the gathering was also attended by Secretary General of the Council of Europe Catherine Lalumiere, despite earlier reports that she would not be present. The only Slovak official to attend was a representative of the Office of the President. Following the meeting a statement was issued criticizing the Slovak government's plans for territorial reorganization, which would divide ethnic Hungarians into five territorial and administrative units. Participants at the meeting discussed two possible alternatives: the creation of one administrative unit stretching across southern Slovakia which would include 511 villages and towns of more than 800,000 citizens, 500,000 of which are Hungarian; or the creation of three separate administrative units. The group's statement also included demands that ethnic Hungarians be able to use their language in speaking and writing and in communication with state authorities, that bilingual official signs be allowed, and that the Hungarian language be made the official language along with Slovak in areas where Hungarians represent the majority. Despite a bomb threat, the meeting progressed peacefully. Sharon Fisher, RFE/RL, Inc. ZHIRINOVSKY INVITED TO POLAND? Gazeta Wyborcza reports on 10 January that Janusz Bryczkowski, a sinister figure on the Polish political scene with ties to both the national-communist Grunwald Patriotic Association and the radical-populist Self-Defense farmers' union, has invited Vladimir Zhirinovsky to tour Warsaw, Cracow, Oswiecim (Auschwitz), and Zakopane in mid-January. Bryczkowski has in the past boasted of close contacts with the KGB. A spokesman for President Lech Walesa on 9 January ruled out any meeting with Zhirinovsky. Louisa Vinton, RFE/RL, Inc. ZHELEV NOT TO RUN FOR ANOTHER TERM. In an interview with Bulgarian Radio on 9 January, President Zhelyu Zhelev stated that he has no intention to run for another term. He said that he had to be persuaded to become a candidate in the January 1992 presidential election -- which he won with the support of the Union of Democratic Forces -- and that over the past two years he occasionally had contemplated resigning. However, Zhelev said he now hopes to complete the current term, which ends in 1997. Regarding recent criticism of several of his advisors, Zhelev rejected the term "anti-presidential campaign" as too strong but agreed that his office repeatedly has been the subject of politically inspired attacks. Two days earlier a presidential spokesman had sharply condemned Bulgarian dailies for lending credence to the alleged "intrigues of political headquarters and groupings" claiming that the Military Cabinet attached to the Office of the President is seeking to take over the functions of the General Staff. Kjell Engelbrekt, RFE/RL, Inc. BBOR FEDERATIONS PLAN PROTEST ACTION. The leaders of Romania's three large labor union federations said on 7 January they will start a series of coordinated, nationwide protests at the end of this month. They told reporters in Bucharest the first action will be a one-hour warning strike on 28 January, an RFE/RL correspondent and Radio Bucharest reported on the same day. The warning strike will be followed by a one-day strike on 4 February. Bogdan Hossu, president of the Alfa confederation, said if these actions bring no results, an unlimited general strike will start on 16 February. The union leaders demand a new coalition government, social protection and speedier and more efficient economic reforms. Michael Shafir, RFE/RL, Inc. KRAVCHUK ACCUSED OF CONCEALING INFORMATION FROM PARLIAMENT. A member of the Presidium of the Ukrainian parliament has accused President Leonid Kravchuk of withholding from legislators documents which he signed at the recent CIS summit in Ashgabat. Les Tanyuk, who is also one of the leaders of the Rukh democratic opposition party, claims that this is giving rise to concern about what the Ukrainian president actually agreed to at the meeting, UNIAR reported on 8 January in its newscast on the independent TV Channel 7. Bohdan Nahaylo, RFE/RL, Inc. ESTONIAN PREMIER PROPOSES MINISTERIAL CHANGES. On 6 January Estonian Prime Minister Mart Laar proposed to President Lennart Meri his candidates to replace Foreign Minister Trivimi Velliste, Finance Minister Madis Uurike, Economics Minister Toomas Sildmae, and Defense Minister Juri Luik. Laar nominated Juri Luik for the position of foreign minister; Heiki Kranich as finance minister; Toivo Jurgenson as economics minister, and Indrek Kannik as defense minister. Meri's office announced on 8 January that he had concurred with the proposed new positions for Laar and Kannik and had relieved the finance minister of his duties but did not endorse the candidates for economics and finance ministers. This has left Estonia without a finance minister and led to dispute over whether the president has not exceeded the authority granted him by the constitution. Dzintra Bungs, RFE/RL, Inc. CSCE COMMISSIONER IN LATVIA. CSCE High Commissioner on Minorities Max van der Stoel did not find any human rights infringements during his visit to Latvia last week, Baltic media reported on 7 January. Van der Stoel was especially interested in the withdrawal of Russian troops from Latvia and the draft law on citizenship and naturalization that is under consideration by the Saeima. He supported the requirement of knowledge of Latvian by candidates for citizenship, but expressed reservations about plans to grant citizenship on a quota basis. Dzintra Bungs, RFE/RL, Inc. [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Patrick Moore & Suzanne Crow
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