Old age is the most unexpected of all the things that happen to a man. - Leon Trotsky
OMRI DAILY DIGEST

No. 50, Part II, 12 March 1997

This is Part II of the Open Media Research Institute's Daily Digest.
Part II is a compilation of news concerning Central, Eastern, and
Southeastern Europe. Part I, covering Russia, Transcaucasia and Central
Asia, is distributed simultaneously as a second document. Back issues
of the OMRI Daily Digest, and other information about OMRI, are
available through OMRI's WWW pages: http://www.omri.cz/Index.html

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
In the 7 March issue of OMRI's journal, TRANSITION**:

BALKAN UNREST
- Pyramid Schemes Leave Albania on Shaky Ground
- Back to the Basics in Bulgaria
- Protests in Serbia Raise Hopes of Reconciliation in Kosovo
- In Post-Dayton Balkans, Change Comes Where It's Least Expected
PLUS...
- RUSSIA: Chernomyrdin: A Prime Minister Without Politics
- VIEWPOINT: Azerbaijan: Democracy in a State of Emergency

        and "Reviving the Black Sea"

For subscription information about OMRI's new monthly, send an e-mail
message to transition-DD@omri.cz

**See important message below on the upcoming changes to TRANSITION
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE

UPDATE ON RUSSIAN-BELARUSIAN INTEGRATION. Belarusian President
Alyaksandr Lukashenka, addressing the Russian-Belarusian parliamentary
assembly in Minsk, urged that steps be taken to speed up integration
between the two countries, international agencies reported on 11 March.
While criticizing Russia yet again for the little progress toward this
goal, Lukashenka proposed every citizen of Russia and Belarus have
"Community" citizenship as well as their national passport. He said the
equal union of Russia and Belarus was the most acceptable form of
integration but stressed there is no need for Belarus to synchronize its
economic reform with Russia's. He noted that the most significant
progress to date was the creation of a joint air-defense system.
Meanwhile, the National Bank of Belarus has promised to do away with
multiple-exchange rates in accordance with an agreement signed in Moscow
last week. -- Ustina Markus

100 ARRESTED IN MINSK DEMONSTRATION. Some 100 people, mostly youths, who
took part in a Minsk demonstration against integration with Russia, have
been detained by Belarusian security forces, Reuters reported on 11
March. They face fines and up to two weeks in prison. Despite
Lukashenka's restrictions on demonstrations, the democratic and
nationalist opposition is planning additional rallies for the spring.
Vyacheslau Siuchyk, a leader of the Belarusian Popular Front, said a
rally will be held on 15 March, the anniversary of the adoption of the
1994 constitution. -- Ustina Markus

UKRAINIAN PREMIER ON WAGE, PENSION ARREARS. Prime Minister Pavlo
Lazarenko told the parliament on 11 March that Ukraine owes 1.36 billion
hryvnyas ($750 million) in wage arrears and 1.2 billion (more than $700
million) in unpaid pensions, ITAR-TASS reported. He said the debts have
accrued because budget revenues were smaller than predicted, because
unforeseen wage increases were being financed from the budget, and
because local budgets were higher than envisaged. He also noted that
many ministries have high expenditures. Lazarenko said he hoped that 35%
of all wage arrears would be paid by May and all pensions dating from
December 1996 by the end of this month. -- Ustina Markus

VODKA PIPELINE UNEARTHED BETWEEN ESTONIA, LATVIA. Estonian and Latvian
customs officials have discovered an underground pipeline probably built
to smuggle vodka between the two countries, BNS reported on 11 March.
The 300-meter pipeline ran between two border villages alongside the
main Riga-Tallinn road. ITAR-TASS reported Estonian authorities as
saying the pipeline was discovered before it began operating. The price
of vodka in Estonia is 60% higher than in Latvia. -- Jan Cleave

LATVIAN PRESIDENT ON LOCAL ELECTIONS. Guntis Ulmanis has said that the
low turnout in the 9 March local elections was a protest against the
current situation in Latvia, BNS reported on 11 March. Less than 60% of
the electorate took part in the ballot. In Riga, the leftist Social
Democratic Party emerged as surprise victor, winning 11 of the 60 seats
on the city council (see OMRI Daily Digest, 11 March 1997). Ulmanis said
he considers no party on the Latvian political scene capable of assuming
the political responsibility of leadership. He added that he was not
surprised by the emergence of new leftist forces. -- Jan Cleave

POLISH POLITICAL UPDATE. Gen. Tadeusz Wilecki, who earlier this week was
dismissed as chief of staff (see OMRI Daily Digest, 11 March 1997), has
notified the Supreme Military Prosecutor's Office about an alleged crime
involving the abuse of the secret services for "political purposes," the
Prosecutor-General's office announced on 11 March. The office says it
has launched an investigation into the allegations. Meanwhile, some
2,000 Gdansk shipyard workers on 12 March blocked the most important
road junction in central Gdansk to protest the shipyard's closure (OMRI
Daily Digest, 7 March 1997), Polish media reported. -- Jakub Karpinski

RELEASE OF POLISH FISHING BOAT IMPOUNDED ON RUSSIAN WATERS? Polish
Foreign Minister Dariusz Rosati on 11 March said the Russian authorities
have announced the release of the Polish fishing boat Aquarius, Polish
media reported. The Polish vessel was fishing on the Sea of Okhotsk when
it was impounded last month by Russian inspectors from the Environment
Protection Ministry. Communications with Aquarius have not yet been
restored, however. The Russian authorities claim that Aquarius did not
have a fishing permit on board, while the crew said it had a temporary
permit. Rosati said the decision to release Aquarius was taken by
Russian Prime Minister Victor Chernomyrdin. Russia is demanding $200,000
to cover the costs of impounding the Aquarius. -- Jakub Karpinski

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT ADDRESSES RFE/RL IN PRAGUE. Speaking at RFE/RL's
Prague headquarters on 11 March, Emil Constantinescu reaffirmed his
support for tough economic reform and more foreign investment in
Romania, RFE/RL and international media reported. He said the
alternative would be "social chaos." Constantinescu argued that Romania
has no security alternative to NATO membership, and he urged the
alliance to support Bucharest's bid for rapid membership. Constantinescu
said that Romania had already met all NATO membership criteria, except
upgrading its military equipment to Western standards. He noted that to
pay for the upgrading, Romania first has to implement economic reform.
"That is why we speak of Romania's nomination in the first wave followed
by the effective integration when all the conditions would be
fulfilled," he said. -- Jiri Pehe

SLOVAK PRIME MINISTER REFUSES TO MEET WITH PROTESTING ACTORS, DEPUTIES.
Vladimir Meciar on 11 March refused to receive the actors and opposition
deputies who occupied the Culture Ministry the previous night, Slovak
media reported. He also prevented them from entering the government
office building to make their demands, which Democratic Union deputy
Ludovit Cernak called "illegal." The demonstrators are demanding Culture
Minister Ivan Hudec's dismissal and an investigation into police
"brutality" against protesters at the Culture Ministry on 10 March. But
Interior Minister Gustav Krajci on 11 March defended the police, saying
their steps were "fully conformed with the law." Krajci rejected reports
that the incident involved police brutality, adding that he believed it
was "a provocation." Meanwhile, Confederation of Trade Unions Vice
President Jozef Kollar said the demonstration was the result of rising
tensions between the government and Slovak citizens. He warned that
other unions might soon organize similar protests. -- Sharon Fisher

SLOVAK CABINET ASKS PRESIDENT TO ACCEPT TRANSPORT MINISTER'S
RESIGNATION. Magda Pospisilova, the prime minister's spokeswoman, told
TASR on 11 March that Meciar has asked President Michal Kovac to accept
the resignation of Transport, Postal Services, and Telecommunications
Minister Alexander Rezes. Rezes, who reportedly has health problems, is
closely connected with the east Slovak steel giant VSZ. Pospisilova said
his replacement will be one of Rezes's "close associates." The new
minister must be approved by the president. CTK reported that VSZ
President Jan Smerek is one of the candidates for the post but added
that the job will more likely go to Slovak Postal Services Director Jan
Jasovsky or to government highway construction commissioner Viktor
Spakovsky. -- Sharon Fisher

ROMANIAN PREMIER IN HUNGARY. Victor Ciorbea arrived in Budapest on 12
March, becoming the first Romanian premier to visit Hungary since
communism collapsed in 1989, Hungarian and international media reported.
Before departing, Ciorbea said it is no accident he has chosen Hungary
for his first official trip abroad. Rather, "it is proof of how
important we regard our bilateral relations and what enormous importance
we give to the active partnership with Hungary." Ciorbea's delegation
includes Gyorgy Tokay, minister responsible for ethnic minority affairs
who is an ethnic Hungarian. Boosting bilateral economic ties and the two
countries' bids to join NATO are high on the agenda. Romania has said
that Hungary and Romania should be admitted to NATO at the same time.
Hungary fully supports that position as long as it does not slow down
its integration into the alliance. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

HUNGARY GETS NEW WORLD BANK LOAN. The World Bank on 11 March announced
it has approved a $225 million loan to Hungary to help efforts to reform
the country's corporate and banking sectors, international media
reported. The funding will be disbursed in two tranches worth $112.5
million each. World Bank officials said Hungary is currently in an
advanced stage of transforming itself into a market economy and has
achieved "unprecedented progress in reforming its enterprise and
financial sectors." The funding will help the government complete
reform, including the privatization of four major banks. Meanwhile,
another World Bank agreement on an $200-250 million loan to help finance
the reform of pensions and health care is being drafted in Washington.
-- Zsofia Szilagyi

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

ALBANIAN CRISIS INTENSIFIES. The Albanian crisis has begun spreading to
the country's north, the strongest support base of President Sali
Berisha. On 11 March, rebels looted a military base in Bajram Curri,
some 215 km north of Tirana, seizing artillery and caches of ammunition,
international agencies reported. In the town of Kukes, just 16 km from
the border with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, looters seized
weapons from a local military depot. In several instances, government
troops offered little or no resistance. Meanwhile, gunshots and
explosions were heard in Tirana during the night from 11 to 12 March,
eyewitnesses said. Sources in the U.S embassy in Tirana said diplomats'
families will be leaving the country, while the Foreign Office in London
has urged all nationals to leave Albania as soon as possible. -- Stan
Markotich

NEW ALBANIAN PREMIER NAMED. Berisha on 11 March named Bashkim Fino as
prime minister in what appears to be the president's latest bid to
resolve the crisis. The 35-year old Fino is a member of the opposition
Socialists and a former mayor of Gjirokastra, a southern town currently
under rebel control. Albanian state radio and television reported that
the parliament on 11 March passed legislation granting an amnesty to all
those involved in "protests," and calling for rebels to turn in their
weapons by 20 March. But AFP reports that the president's concessions to
date have failed to calm the rebels. -- Stan Markotich

SERBIAN OPPOSITION LEADER SEEKS INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT. Zoran Djindjic,
leader of the Democratic Party and new mayor of Belgrade, has once again
urged Western governments to support the promotion of democracy in
Serbia, Reuters reported on 11 March. Speaking at the Friedrich Ebert
Foundation in Bonn, he said "we need support from abroad" and cautioned
that without it, "we can be sure the communists will be back by 1999."
In other news, Nasa Borba on 12 March reported that a delegation headed
by Montenegrin Premier Milo Djukanovic was in Washington on a working
visit. Following a meeting between Djukanovic and Assistant Secretary of
State John Kornblum, agreement was reached on releasing five Montenegrin
cargo vessels impounded for the past five years in U.S. ports. The ships
were seized in accordance with sanctions imposed on Belgrade for its
role in promoting the wars in the former Yugoslavia. -- Stan Markotich

SECURITY COUNCIL DEMANDS ARREST OF CROATS RESPONSIBLE FOR MOSTAR
SHOOTING. The UN Security Council on 11 March strongly condemned the
involvement of Bosnian Croat police in a shooting incident in Mostar
last month that left one dead and 34 wounded, AFP reported. The council
said those responsible for the incident should be arrested. But High
Representative for Bosnia-Herzegovina Carl Bildt said the Bosnian Croat
authorities were continuing to reject UN demands to arrest the three
police officers seen on photographs pointing guns at a Muslim crowd. Sir
Martin Garrod, chief of the High Representative's Office in Mostar, said
the two long-term problems in Mostar were the delay in forming a Muslim-
Croat police force and the obstruction of the multi-ethnic city
council's work, Oslobodjenje reported on 12 March. Meanwhile, U.S.
military envoy to the Balkans James Pardew said the U.S. has now
replaced Iran as Bosnia's leading military backer, AFP reported. --
Daria Sito Sucic

BOSNIA'S GAS SUPPLY TO BE CUT OFF. The Bosnin gas company Energoinvest
will cut all supplies of gas at the end of this month because of its
$12.3 million debt to the Russian concern Intergaz, AFP reported on 11
March. Intergaz reduced its pipeline supplies to Bosnia last month owing
to outstanding debts from 1996. Energoinvest said the Bosnian Federation
has paid its part of the debt, but the other Bosnian entity, the
Republika Srpska, has failed to pay its share. In other news, the
Bosnian donors conference may be postponed for a fourth time because of
delays in passing new economic legislation, AFP reported. The conference
is aimed at raising $1.4 billion for Bosnia' s reconstruction. -- Daria
Sito Sucic

KLEIN SETS ELECTIONS IN EASTERN SLAVONIA FOR NEXT MONTH. Gen. Jacques
Klein, UN transitional administrator for eastern Slavonia, has announced
that elections in the region would be held on 13 April, together with
nation-wide elections, Hina reported on 11 March. Klein said voters have
to register by 25 March and lists of candidates have to be published
within the next two weeks. But Serbs in the region are reported unhappy
with the date since they do not feel it gives them enough time to
prepare, according to AFP. UN spokesman Philip Arnold said 37% of the
local population has so far applied for Croatian citizenship, Hina
reported. Meanwhile, Croatian Deputy Premier Ivica Kostovic has said
Croatia will seek help from donors and the UNHCR to enable the return of
Croatian refugees to eastern Slavonia and the region's reconstruction.
-- Daria Sito Sucic

EU ALARMED OVER INTER-ETHNIC TENSION IN MACEDONIA. The British, French,
and Greek ambassadors to Skopje have handed over an EU declaration to
Premier Branko Crvenkovski expressing concern about rising inter-ethnic
tension in Macedonia and its effect on Balkan stability, Nova Makedonija
reported on 12 March. They pointed to Macedonia's obligations to the
OSCE and the Council of Europe to guarantee minority rights and strive
for good relations with neighboring states. The parliament convened a
special session on 12 March to discuss relations between Macedonians and
ethnic Albanians. Meanwhile, Tome Nenovski, deputy governor of the
National Bank of the Republic of Macedonia (NBRM), has resigned, while
NBRM Governor Borko Stanoevski is under growing pressure to quit over
alleged negligence and personal involvement in the scandal surrounding
the failure of the TAT savings house in Bitola (see OMRI Daily Digest,
11 March 1997). Ministers and politicians are suspected of profiting
from TAT's activities. -- Michael Wyzan

MORE LEAFLETS AGAINST ROMANIAN-UKRAINIAN TREATY. Leaflets denouncing the
government's intention to renounce any territorial claims on Ukraine in
the pending treaty with Kyiv have been discovered in the Transylvanian
town of Cluj, Romanian TV reported on 11 March. In the past, similar
leaflets found elsewhere were anonymous. But those discovered in Cluj
were signed by the Association of Christian Orthodox Students in Romania
(ASCOR). The leaflets said Romania's "access to NATO should not mean
forgetting one's own history." In a Romanian TV interview, an ASCOR
member said one cannot forgo one's right to deal with "national
problems" just for the sake of "appeasing the world powers." Orthodox
Bishop Anania refused to comment on the ASCOR initiative but said the
Romanian Orthodox Church "supports the country's reunification" within
its historical borders. -- Michael Shafir

MOLDOVA, UKRAINE SIGN CUSTOMS AGREEMENT . . . Ukrainian President Leonid
Kuchma paid a one-day visit to Moldova on 11 March, Infotag reported. He
and Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi signed five agreements, the most
important of which deals with setting up a customs union between the two
countries. Customs legislation and tariffs are to be unified, customs
controls improved, and bureaucratic obstacles to trade removed. At a
press conference in Chisinau, the two presidents said the customs union
will be totally different from that between Russia and Belarus, because
it will be based on full equality. -- Michael Shafir

. . . DISCUSS SENDING UKRAINIAN PEACEKEEPERS TO TRANSDNIESTER. Kuchma
also said at the press conference that Ukraine is willing to step up its
mediation efforts between Chisinau and Tiraspol. He said this was one of
the reasons for visiting the breakaway region after his stay in
Chisinau. He added that Ukraine is "very interested" in the withdrawal
of Russian troops from the Transdniester and that Kyiv would work out a
"mutually acceptable approach" to the issue of withdrawing Russian
troops transiting Ukrainian territory. He noted that while Russia must
pay for the transit, Ukraine would not seek to "make any profit out of
it." Following Kuchma's discussions with separatist leader Igor Smirnov,
Ukrainian Security and Defense Council head Volodymir Horbulin said both
Chisinau and Tiraspol have asked Ukraine to send peacekeeping troops to
the conflict region. -- Michael Shafir

RUSSIA OFFERS BULGARIA $1 BILLION IN JOINT PROJECTS. Visiting Russian
Deputy Premier Oleg Lobov on 11 March said that Russia will invest $1
billion in Bulgaria, Kontinent reported. Projects include the
reconstruction of a gas pipeline ($600-650 million) and a nuclear plant
($250 million) as well as participation in privatizing Balkankar,
Neftohim, and other companies. Although Lobov lost his job in the
cabinet reshuffle in Russia, he asserted that the Russian government
would honor his signature on the protocol signed during his visit.
President Petar Stoyanov told Lobov that he wants to meet with Russian
President Boris Yeltsin to discuss Bulgaria's desire to join NATO. --
Michael Wyzan

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Jan Cleave

*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!

What's in Store for the magazine Transition

We've learned much in the last two years about what sort of magazine
Transition can be and what role it should play in Central and Eastern
Europe and the former Soviet Union. Of greatest help in this process has
been the advice of readers. Among some of the desired changes are for
Transition to offer even more articles by writers in the region - lively
opinion pieces as well as fact-filled analysis and expanded departments.

Accordingly, Transition will be substantially restructured and
relaunched as a monthly with the issue dated June 1997. The last
biweekly issue will be 6 April, followed by a brief hiatus. All existing
subscriptions will be honored and extended according to the new monthly
frequency, which is priced at $65 for 12 issues. As before, we offer a
substantial discount for readers in and of the countries we cover (apply
to the contacts listed below for more information).

For engaged intellectuals, policymakers, journalists, and scholars from
the region, the new Transition will provide a rare forum for the
exchange of ideas and criticism on political, economic, and cultural
issues and events.

For more information, contact the OMRI Marketing Department at tel.
(420-2) 6114 2114, fax (420-2) 6114 3181; email: transition-DD@omri.cz

*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!

------------------------------------------------------------------------
            Copyright (c) 1997 Open Media Research Institute, Inc.
                      All rights reserved. ISSN 1211-1570
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TRANSITION
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RUSSIAN REGIONAL REPORT
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