|As courage endagers life even so fear preserves it. - Leonardo Da Vinci|
Vol. 1, No. 9, 12 January 1995
We welcome you to the Open Media Research Institute's Daily Digest--a compilation of news concerning the former Soviet Union and East- Central and Southeastern Europe. The Daily Digest picks up where the RFE/RL Daily Report, which recently ceased publication, left off. Contributors include OMRI's 30-member staff of analysts, plus selected freelance specialists. OMRI is a unique public-private venture between the Open Society Institute and the U.S. Board for International Broadcasting. RUSSIA KOVALEV SAYS "CHECHNYA TRUCE FAILED." Interfax on 11 January quoted the Russian government's press service as reporting that the situation in Grozny remained tense, with fighting for control of the presidential palace continuing and small groups of pro-Dudaev forces still subjecting Russian troops to sniper fire. AFP reported on 12 January that Russian artillery bombardment of central Grozny resumed at 8 a.m. local time on expiry of the 48-hour cease-fire. Russian Human Rights Commissioner Sergei Kovalev expressed regret to Interfax that the truce had failed and laid the blame on leading generals, who, he claimed, were opposed to talks "because they do not want anyone to count the number of dead bodies." At a press conference in Moscow on 11 January, State Duma deputy Aivars Lezdynsh, who returned from Grozny the previous day, similarly told Interfax that the number of Russian servicemen killed had been considerably understated and that "the generals continue the bloodshed for the sole reason that they have to cover up the traces of their crimes." Also on 11 January, Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev surfaced to hold a press conference in Grozny and affirmed that the ongoing conflict could be resolved "in one day, in one hour" by means of government-level negotiations, Reuters and Knight-Ridder Newspapers report on 12 January. A close associate of Dudaev told Reuters in The Hague on 11 January that Chechnya would consider retracting its demand for full independence and agree to "an economic, monetary and security confederation" with Russia. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. INTERNATIONAL REACTION. Austrian Foreign Minister Alois Mock said on 11 January that although Austria recognized that Chechnya was an integral part of Russia, it is ready to support economic sanctions against Moscow in retaliation for human rights violations in Chechnya, AFP reported. In Paris, the president of Socialist International, former French Prime Minister Pierre Mauroy, condemned Russia's use of force in Chechnya and affirmed support for the Hungarian proposal to send an OSCE delegation to assess the human rights situation there. The Turkish parliament issued a statement on 11 January condemning "atrocities" in Chechnya and calling on other parliaments to "contribute to a just, durable, and honorable solution based on respect for human rights." It also requested that the OSCE and the UN expedite a cease-fire. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. YELTSIN TAKES CONTROL OF MILITARY? Russian President Boris Yeltsin, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, Federation Council chairman Vladimir Shumeiko, and State Duma chairman Ivan Rybkin, meeting in Moscow on 11 January, discussed the possibility of detaching the Russian Army General Staff from the Defense Ministry, subordinating it directly to Yeltsin, and limiting the role of the Defense Ministry to improving the combat readiness of the armed forces, AFP reported on 12 January. Chief of General Staff General Mikhail Kolesnikov said he was totally surprised by the idea. He did feel, however, that the General Staff needed to play a larger role in essential security decisions and thought its chief should be a member of the National Security Council. -- Liz Fuller and Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIAN LEADERS DISCUSS CHECHNYA. At the same meeting, Chernomyrdin briefed the group on steps taken during the lull in the fighting and on initial contacts with Chechen elders and clan representatives taking part in negotiations. Earlier, in a meeting with leaders of the North Caucasian republics and territories surrounding Chechnya, Chernomyrdin reported that the Security Council had adopted a resolution directing the federal authorities and the regions surrounding Chechnya to take steps to restore the Chechen economy. He asked each region to designate a leader to coordinate those activities, with First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets supervising from Moscow. Chernomyrdin stressed that "there should be no delays in this process" and that it was necessary to set up an administration in Chechnya "with which it was possible to work." -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc. DUMA FAILS TO ADOPT RESOLUTION ON CHECHEN CRISIS. At its extraordinary session on 11 January, the State Duma postponed adopting a resolution on the Chechen crisis until its next session. The liberal faction Russia's Choice, led by former acting Prime Minister Egor Gaidar, had called the session in order to submit a bill banning the use of the military inside Russia, which failed to gain the necessary majority vote. Three democratic factions--Russia's Choice, Grigorii Yavlinsky's Yabloko, and the Democratic Party of Russia, currently chaired by Sergei Glazev, the opposition spokesman on economic affairs--opposed the war, along with the Communists. The Agrarian Party, the former ally of the Communists, joined the ultranationalist factions--Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party and Sergei Baburin's Russian Path--in supporting the use of force against Chechnya, as did two progovernment factions, Sergei Shakhrai's Party of Russian Unity and Concord and Vladimir Medvedev's New National Policy group. Former Finance Minister Boris Fedorov, who has supported in principle the use of force against Chechnya, said he was disappointed by the way it had been implemented. He demanded a vote of no confidence in the government. Among Yeltsin's new allies was Aleksandr Nevzorov, the hard-line TV director, whose show "600 Seconds" was banned by a Yeltsin decree in October 1993 for its ultranationalist content and incitement to violence. -- Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc. EGOROV ON CHECHEN CRISIS. In an interview with "Vremya" on 10 January, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Egorov said opponents of the Russian army's actions in Chechnya-- namely, former acting Prime Minister Egor Gaidar; his minister for social issues, Ella Panfilova; and Human Rights Commissioner Sergei Kovalev, who has spent three weeks in the beseiged Chechen capital--all have vested interests in siding with the Chechens because of the republic's oil industry. Egorov, Russian President Boris Yeltsin's representative in the North Caucasus, added that those people "risk nothing" while the Chechen "gangsters" might avenge themselves on the families of Russian officials. Egorov dismissed as insignificant the Russian bombing of a Grozny orphanage, saying the Chechens had raped children and their teacher at a local kindergarten. He added that the teacher had been too frightened to appear on television to confirm her ordeal. -- Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA MAY JOIN COUNCIL OF EUROPE ON SCHEDULE. Deputy Foreign Minister Nikolai Afanasevsky said Russia may still be accepted into the Council of Europe in May, as scheduled, "if light appears at the end of the Chechen tunnel," Interfax reported. The 33-member council froze Russia's application for membership on 10 January to protest its indiscriminate use of force against civilians in Chechnya. Afansevsky welcomed the less hard-line reaction of the OSCE, which has stressed it wants to cooperate with Moscow. In an interview with Interfax on 11 January, Afanasevsky termed the CE decision counterproductive, given that "the very purpose our membership is to use the potential of the organization to strengthen a law-governed state in Russia and respect human rights." -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. AGRARIAN PARTY ANGERED AT DRAFT BUDGET, AGRICULTURE ALLOCATIONS. Agrarian Party leader Mikhail Lapshin, at a news conference on 10 January, called on President Boris Yeltsin and the government to take emergency steps to support farmers. Lapshin warned that spring sowing allocations might be reduced unless farmers were given more funds, according to Russian and Western agency reports. Lapshin also said food supplies are threatened due to a sharp drop in cattle and poultry numbers during the winter. The Agrarian Party, the fourth- largest parliamentary faction and an ally of the Communists, reported startling statistics: since 1990, annual agricultural output has fallen by 45-50%, compared with the 1986-90 average, and the number of cattle has declined by 20 million (24%), pigs by 11 million (36%), and sheep and goats by 17 million (40%). Lapshin also reported that farmers are short of fuel and equipment; fertilizer usage is 8.5 times less than in 1990 and 20 times less than in EU countries. Lapshin proposed adopting a draft resolution that would ensure sufficient supplies for spring sowing by providing for credits to farmers at interest rates of no more than 10%, as opposed to 200% last year. Lapshin also suggested a special fuel reserve and subsidized fertilizers. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc. COLD WAR MENTALITY SURVIVES IN THE WEST? An anchor for Ostankino TV's "Vremya" on 10 January said Britain's recent expulsion for security reasons of Ostankino's correspondent in London, Aleksei Malikov, was "a tragic mistake." Citing a statement by Russian Foreign Intelligence spokeswoman Tatyana Samolis and the opinions of Malikov's colleagues, the Ostankino anchor maintained that Malikov had never been a spy and that the British move was simply a revival of the Cold War mentality. The same day, Nezavisimaya gazeta published long excerpts from a study by the Federal Counterintelligence Service (the former KGB) accusing some 500 Western research institutes of subversive activities in Russia. Among those centers named were the RAND corporation, the George Soros Foundation, the Society for the Defense of Human Rights, the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies, and particularly the Hoover, Harvard, and Yale centers for East European and international studies. According to FSK experts, "the real purpose of [the centers'] activities is to help realize US foreign policy, aimed at keeping Russia in check as the state potentially capable of competing with the only superpower [the US]." The report accused the Western research and philanthropic centers of collecting information for investigative services, setting up centers of foreign influence in Russia, and orchestrating the "brain drain" from Russia. To quell such subversive activities, the FSK suggests making it difficult for Russian scholars going abroad. -- Julia Wishnevsky, OMRI, Inc. WOMEN AND YOUTH DOMINATE JOBLESS. Women and young people accounted for two-thirds of Russia's unemployed in 1994, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 January. Of the jobless registered with the unemployment services, 60% were classified as workers and 23% as office personnel. There are currently 4.6 million unemployed in Russia, or 6% of the working population. According to Economics Ministry data cited by Radio Rossii on 10 January, at the beginning of December 1994, the number of unemployed and partly unemployed totaled 10 million, or more than 13% of the working population. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA KYRGYZSTAN HOPES TO INCREASE GOLD PRODUCTION. Kyrgyzstan hopes to increase gold production from more than 2 tons in 1994 to more than 20 tons by 1998, Interfax reports on 11 January, citing Prime Minister Apas Dzhumagulov. Dzhumagulov estimated that the joint development of the Kumtor deposit with the Canadian Cameco Corporation would yield 16 tons annually, while the Dzherui deposit would produce 3 tons and the Taldy-Bulak and other mines a total of 5.5 tons. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc. CIS TRADE CONFERENCE IN CHISINAU. A four-day conference on promoting trade and economic cooperation between the CIS and the Baltic States began on 9 January in the Moldovan capital of Chisinau. Radio Moldova and Western news agencies report. Moldovan President Mircea Snegur, in his address to the opening session, described the setting up of a common economic space within the CIS as "vital" but added that the creation of adequate cooperation mechanisms has proved difficult. Snegur said he hoped the economic integration of both the CIS and the Baltic States into the European and world economy will continue. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY DENIES BACKING DUDAEV. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 11 January denying reports by Radio Mayak that it had confirmed that some 50 Ukrainian ultranationalists were participating in the fighting in Chechnya on the side of Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev, Ukrainian Radio reported. The ministry charged the Russian media with provocative reporting and asked that Radio Mayak broadcast a correction. It said it has no official information regarding the participation of Ukrainians in the fighting in Chechnya. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. VALUE OF UKRAINIAN KARBOVANETS REMAINS STABLE SINCE 1 DECEMBER. The official exchange rate of Ukraine's beleaguered temporary currency, the karbovanets, against the US dollar has remained stable at 104,000 karbovantsi to $1 since 1 December, "UNIAR News" reported on 11 January. But there is still a marked difference between the official and the black market rate, where the dollar buys between 150,000 and 152,000 karbovantsi. The karbovanets has been devalued by some 50% since the summer when the parliament ordered the National Bank of Ukraine to print some 70 trillion unbacked karbovantsi for cheap credits to farmers. Viktor Pynzenyk, deputy premier in charge of economic reform, told Ukrainian Radio on 10 January that the National Bank has issued no new credits since November, in line with the government's efforts to tighten fiscal policy. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. BELARUSIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES LAW ON PRESIDENCY. Belarusian Radio on 11 January reported that the Belarusian parliament has passed a law on the Presidency. Interfax reported the same day that the new law will allow the parliament to vote the president out of office by a two- thirds majority vote. According to Interfax, the president could lose his post if 70 deputies backed a motion to impeach him, if he violated the constitution, or if he were unable to carry out his duties because of illness. It also reaffirmed that the president did not have the right to disband the parliament. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. NEW ESTONIAN-RUSSIAN BORDER TREATY? At a meeting with Prime Minister Andres Tarand on 11 January, members of the parliament Foreign Affairs Commission supported the idea of Estonia signing a new border treaty with Russia, BNS reports. Tonu Randlu, an adviser to the commission, said there were no political reasons why the current unclear situation on the border should continue. Estonia holds that the border was set by the Tartu Peace Treaty of 1920, while Russia says the borders of the former Estonian SSR with the Russian Federation should be used. Tarand stated on 16 December in Helsinki that Estonia wanted Russia's formal recognition of the Tartu Treaty as its sole condition for beginning talks on a new border treaty. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. CRIME IN LITHUANIA. Interior Minister Romasis Vaitekunas told a press conference in Vilnius on 10 January that the number of crimes in 1994 exceeded 58,500, down 2.9% on the 60,371 registered the previous year, BNS reports. The number of crimes per year has increased sharply since 1988, when 21,337 crimes were registered. The incidence of serious crimes increased by 13.9%. The authorities success rate in solving crimes was 40.8%, though this figure varied significantly from category to category: 88% for murders and 18% for auto thefts, whose number almost doubled in 1994. Vaitekunas also noted that his ministry has approved only 265 of the more than 2,000 applications to purchase firearms for personal protection. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. NEW TWIST IN POLISH TAX CONFLICT. On the eve of a ruling by the Constitutional Tribunal on 12 January, President Lech Walesa submitted a new, more sweeping objection to the government's tax bill, Rzeczpospolita reports. The government wants to retain the higher tax rates (21%, 33%, and 45%) adopted as a temporary measure for 1994. The Sejm overrode Walesa's veto in December and the president then sent the bill to the tribunal for review. But he failed to send a representative to the hearing on 29 December, effectively blocking any decision before the start of the New Year (and thus laying a trap for the government, as the tribunal has always ruled that tax rates imposed retroactively are unlawful). The government proclaimed the tax rates on the basis of the provisional 1995 budget. Walesa's initial objection was based on a single point in the tax law, which the government remedied by decree in December. His new objection is based on the broader "retroactive" argument, but the tribunal may first have to rule whether the new submission itself is permissible, as the constitution gives the president only seven days (long expired) to file objections. Additional delay is virtually inevitable. The Sejm can override tribunal verdicts with a two-thirds majority. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc. ANOTHER POLISH REFORMER RESIGNS. Antimonopoly Office chief Anna Fornalczyk has resigned, Gazeta Wyborcza reported on 11 January. At a press conference the previous day, she cited long-standing policy differences with the ruling coalition and revealed she had submitted her resignation once before, in October 1994. Formalczyk had headed the office since it was founded in April 1990. She attributed her resignation partly to the government's refusal to reduce tariffs on small car imports as a way of counterbalancing price hikes by Fiat Auto Poland, which controls over 80% of Poland's compact market. The choice of a successor is up to the prime minister. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc. CZECH REPUBLIC STILL WITHOUT RUSSIAN OIL SUPPLIES. Crude oil deliveries from Russia to the Czech Republic were interrupted for the third consecutive day on 12 January, Czech media report. The petrochemical company Chemopetrol has had to start using state oil reserves, while another large petrochemical company, Kaucuk Kralupy, has enough oil for several more days. Russian oil exporters maintain that they have renewed oil deliveries via the pipeline originating in Russia but that Ukraine is blocking those deliveries. Czech officials said there are large supplies of processed oil products and that car owners should not anticipate an increase in gasoline prices. The Adria pipeline--which the Czech Republic relied on for oil deliveries (along with the pipeline originating in Russia) until it was incapacitated by the war in former Yugoslavia- -is to be reopened on 23 January. -- Jiri Pehe, OMRI, Inc. SLOVAK OPPOSITION CRITICAL OF GOVERNMENT'S PROGRAM. Social Democratic Party Chairman Jaroslav Volf, at a press conference on 11 January, criticized parliament chairman Ivan Gasparovic, saying it is up to him to respect the constitution's requirement that the government's program be presented to the parliament within 30 days of the government's installation (which took place on 13 December). Although Gasparovic made the cabinet manifesto available to parliament deputies on 11 January, parliament committees will not meet until 16 January. Moreover, the parliament will not discuss the program until 19 January. Volf also complained that the program is not concrete enough, noting, for example, that the cabinet does not specify how it plans to bring unemployment below 10%. National Democratic Party Chairman Ludovit Cernak also criticized the manifesto as too general, Narodna obroda reports. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. PRIVATE SLOVAK CABLE TV TO BEGIN BROADCASTING. On 16 January, a new private Slovak television station, Danubius Cable TV (DCTV), will begin broadcasts on cable and satellite TV. Regular programming is expected to start on 14 February. The station will broadcast to Slovakia and the Czech Republic through cable and a total of 60 countries through satellite, TASR reported on 10 January. DCTV will be the first private Slovak station with the ability to reach a wide audience. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. US COMPANY CANCELS HUNGARIAN HOTEL PURCHASE. A multimillion dollar deal fell through on 11 January when the Dallas-based American General Hospitality withdrew a bid to buy 51% of the shares in 14 Hungarian hotels, MTI reports. The State Property Agency accepted the AGH's bid last month to buy the chain for $57.5 million, but it raised the price to $67 million shortly thereafter, under the orders of Prime Minister Gyula Horn. The premier intervened because he deemed the price too low. AGH representatives said the company's offer was "favorable and fair" and would not be modified. The hotel deal was widely seen by economists as a litmus test of the Horn government's intentions on privatization. It is likely to send negative signals to foreign investors at a time when Hungary badly needs foreign capital. -- Edith Oltay, OMRI, Inc. HUNGARY SEIZES SMUGGLED URANIUM. Hungarian border guards have seized 1.7 kg of uranium, most likely originating in the Commonwealth of Independent States, and arrested four Slovak citizens, MTI and Western news agencies report. The seizure was made on the Hungarian- Austrian border on 10 December but had been kept secret to facilitate investigations. In separate news, the Hungary's Paks nuclear power plant is soon to send to Russia by train via Ukraine about 55 tons of used fuel from the plant, Western news agencies report. A spokesman for the plant said on 11 January that this will be the first transport since Russia stopped such shipments nearly three years ago because of environmental concerns. -- Edith Oltay, OMRI, Inc. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE GENERAL ROSE HAMMERS OUT NEW BOSNIAN AGREEMENT. International media report on 12 January that UN Commander in Bosnia and Herzegovina General Sir Michael Rose persuaded the government and Serbian and Croatian commanders to sign a new pact following ten hours of talks at Sarajevo airport the previous day. The Los Angeles Times says Rose's most significant accomplishment may well be to have brought Generals Resim Delic, Ratko Mladic, and Tihomir Blasic together in one room for the negotiations. The new document aims at consolidating the four-month cease-fire that took effect on 1 January. One key provision is joint inspection of the demilitarized zone around Sarajevo by 14 January to confirm that government troops have indeed left the DMZ. The BBC on 12 January said this reflects Rose's hands-on approach to directly involve the various officers in monitoring the truce. It is not known what became of earlier Serbian demands that the Muslims leave some surrounding areas as well. A second central aspect of the pact is that the Serbs agreed again to reopen the "blue routes" leading into Sarajevo for civilian and humanitarian traffic. They closed those roads in July. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. UN OFFICIAL SAYS BELGRADE UNITS FIGHTING IN BIHAC. AFP on 12 January quotes an unnamed UN official in Zagreb as saying the elite rump-Yugoslav Red Berets are commanding Krajina Serb forces fighting in Bihac. Combat in that area seems to have died down, but the UN is trying to get the Krajina Serbs to sign the existing four-month cease-fire, which calls for all foreign troops to leave Bosnia. Reuters on 11 January notes that the Red Cross succeeded in getting its first aid convoy since October into Bihac. UN officials said they have gotten only four food convoys through since early December. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. DIPLOMATS CONTINUE SHUTTLE DIPLOMACY OVER BOSNIAN CRISIS. Contact Group representatives on 11 January met with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, who called the diplomats' latest efforts "a perspective for successful peace negotiations," according to Reuters. The Contact Group has gone back on its earlier stance that the July proposal is essentially a final offer and instead has taken the Serbian view that it should be only a starting point for further talks. But Borba reported on 10-11 January that the Contact Group may alter boundaries to give the Serbs more urban and industrial areas but that it will not change the basic ratio of assigning 51% of the land to the Croat- Muslim federation and 49% to the Serbs. The diplomats are nonetheless expected to receive a cool reception from the Bosnian government on 12 January. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. CROATIA PRAISES PROGRESS IN KRAJINA ECONOMIC TALKS. Chief Croatian negotiator Hrvoje Sarinic told Reuters on 11 January that his meeting that day with Krajina economic negotiators was "very positive" and "the first time in these talks I can say we did a good job." Their December agreement led to the reopening of the Zagreb-Slavonia highway. The latest talks appear to have led to a breakthrough on reopening the Adria oil pipeline, which connects the Croatian coast with Hungary and beyond. Sarinic said the Adria will come into operation again by 23 January, although Croats and Serbs still dispute points of ownership. They have also agreed that the Serbs will remove their national emblems from the east-west highway by 17 January, in return for which the Croats will deliver the generators they agreed to give the Serbs. The next round of talks, scheduled for next week, is expected to center on restoring rail links between Zagreb and Split and between Slavonia and Zagreb. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. SEVEN LEADERS QUIT ROMANIAN SOCIALIST LABOR PARTY. Seven prominent leaders of the Romanian Socialist Labor Party resigned on 11 January, Radio Bucharest announced the same day. Deputy chairmen Tudor Mohora, Traian Dudas, and Marian Lazar, as well as four SLP secretaries, told a press conference they could not "passively watch the confiscation and burial of socialist ideas." They called on those who wish to give socialism a chance in Romania to join them in setting up a new political party of a "modern, European, and democratic" orientation. The leaders, who in the past have criticized Chairman Ilie Verdet and Deputy Chairman Adrian Paunescu for their leadership style, are known to oppose the intention to formalize the alliance with the Party of Social Democracy in Romania, the Party of Romanian National Unity, and the Greater Romania Party. This agreement paves the way for the SLP and the GRP to join the formal PSDR-PRNU government coalition. The split in the SLP has postponed for one week the signing of the recent agreement between the four parties. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT TRIES TO PUSH PRIVATIZATION. The government and representatives of the Private Ownership Funds agreed on 11 January to change the value of ownership certificates distributed among Romania's adult population, in accordance with Law 58 of 1991. The value of a five- certificate booklet was raised to 875,000 lei, Radio Bucharest reported. The measure has been taken in preparation for the next phase of the executive's privatization program. The Chamber of Deputies is currently debating a new legal framework for mass privatization, which has already been approved by the Senate. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIAN PREMIER URGES PROTESTERS TO STOP BLOCKING WATER WORKS. Interim Prime Minister Reneta Indzhova urged protesters to cease blocking a water works construction site in the Rila Mountains, Reuters reported on 11 January. At a rally in Sapareva Banya the same day, Indzhova said work on the new pipeline linking two rivers to the Iskar dam will continue. The dam provides Sofia's main water supplies. But the demonstrators greeted the premier with jeers and said they would continue to form human chains and stop machines from working. The construction, which began last month, is part of the extraordinary measures to end Sofia's water crisis. Those measures are being opposed by the residents of the Sapareva Banya region and by ecologists. Sofia has been subjected to strict water rationing for the last two months, and most of its residents have been without water since the beginning of January. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIAN NUCLEAR POWER PLANT WILL BE PARTLY SHUT DOWN FOR INSPECTION. Block One of the Kozloduy nuclear power plant in northern Bulgaria will be shut down this month to allow for an inspection of the metal casing, General Director of the National Electricity Company Dyanko Dobrev told Duma in an interview on 9 January. Dobrev said that the casing will probably be in good condition and that the block "will certainly continue" to be used. The inspection will be carried out by two independent crews, one Russian and the other from the West. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. ALBANIAN TRIAL UPDATE. The trial of legislator Arben Lika will be presided over by Chief Supreme Court Judge Zef Brozi, Populli PO reported on 12 January. Lika, the first legislator from the Democratic Party to be put on trial, is charged with cigarette smuggling. According to Populli PO, "the trial may be problematic for many of Lika's former colleagues," meaning that they may have been involved in shady dealings of their own. Brozi will also preside over the continuation on 8 February of the trial of five ethnic Greeks sentenced to between six and eight years for espionage. The Greeks' sentences have been reduced, and one was released in an amnesty in November and December. Populli PO said that freeing the Greeks might be welcomed by President Sali Berisha, who is under pressure from Greece to release the prisoners. Berisha nonetheless said he does not challenge the court's decisions. Whether Brozi presides over the trials depends on a parliament session on 16 January, when the legislators have to decide again on lifting his immunity. Earlier in January, they refused to do so at the request of Chief Prosecutor Alush Dragoshi, who charged Brozi with wrongdoing in another trial. The trial of interim Prime Minister Vilson Ahmeti and four former high-ranking bank officials will resume on 13 January. They are charged with misappropriating about $1.2 million. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc. [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Jan Cleave The OMRI Daily Digest offers the latest news from the former Soviet Union and East-Central and Southeastern Europe. It is published Monday through Friday by the Open Media Research Institute. The Daily Digest is distributed electronically via the OMRI-L list. To subscribe, send a LISTSERV subscribe command to email@example.com The publication can also be obtained for a fee in printed form by fax and postal mail. 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