GEORGIAN DEFENSE MINISTER CHANGES TACK OVER BLACK SEA FLEET. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 2 September quoted Georgian Defense Minister Vardiko Nadibaidze as declaring 1997 the year in which the Georgian navy will be created. He said that to accomplish this goal, Georgia would step up negotiations with Russia and Ukraine to demand a share in the Black Sea Fleet. During his visit to Kyiv in late August, Nadibaidze reportedly said that Georgia is no longer insisting on a share of the fleet's assets. Russian presidential press spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii had said in June that such demands are without any foundation.
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT CRITICIZES FORMER PREMIER. Leonid Kuchma on 2 September criticized Pavlo Lazarenko for returning to the political center stage, Interfax reported. Lazarenko was removed as premier in July amid stalled reforms and corruption allegations, but he kept his parliamentary seat. He was recently elected to lead the Yednist (Unity) faction in the 450-seat parliament. Eleven members of the faction have since quit, and now the faction consists of only 20 lawmakers. Interfax quoted Kuchma as saying Lazarenko should analyze his year as prime minister. Lazarenko, meanwhile, has said the lawmakers who quit the faction were pressured to do so by members of the group who also held posts in the Kuchma administration or the government.
UKRAINE TO PRIVATIZE OKEAN SHIPBUILDER. The State Property Fund on 2 September announced its plans to sell off more than twothirds of the state-owned Okean shipbuilding company. Okean is currently building vessels for Ukraine's Black Sea steam ship fleet. In a statement issued in Kyiv, the Property Fund said the privatization plan calls for two share blocs of 26 percent each to be sold in commercial tenders. Purchasers will be able to use cash, compensation certificates, or the tradable vouchers that were issued to Ukrainians who lost savings as the result of hyperinflation. Okean's managers and plant workers will have the first chance to purchase another 10 percent of the shares. The state plans to hold a 26 percent stake, and the remainder of shares will be sold on Ukraine's stock markets or in auctions involving compensation and privatization certificates.
STANDOFF BETWEEN CHISINAU, TIRASPOL. Igor Smirnov, the president of the self-proclaimed Transdniestr Republic, marked the seventh anniversary of Tiraspol's declaration of independence from Moldova by vowing to stand firm on independent statehood, Infotag reported on 2 September. Smirnov said Tiraspol intends to seek membership in the CIS and strengthen its ties with CIS countries. Also on 2 September, Moldovan President Petru Luchinschi said he hopes Chisinau's dispute with Tiraspol can be resolved by the end of this year with the mediation of Russia, Ukraine, and the OSCE. But Luchinschi said negotiations are advancing slowly because of Tiraspol's insistence on preserving its own statehood. Talks are under way on bringing Ukrainian peacekeepers to the breakaway region. Some 5,000 Russian troops are currently stationed there.