News round-up

21 - 28 April 1997

Former Yeltsin advisor arrested

Sergei Stankevich, a former advisor to President Boris Yeltsin has been arrested in Warsaw after a joint operation by Russian and Polish police. Mr Stankevich, formerly Deputy Mayor of Moscow and a former deputy in the State Duma lower House of Parliament, is being detained for 30 days while a Polish court decides whether to deport him to Russia to face bribery charges. He went into hiding last year after the Moscow prosecutor ordered his arrest on charges of taking bribes.

Poland will be equal partner in NATO, says Kohl

German Chancellor Helmut Kohl has told Polish President Alexander Kwasniewski that Germany is determined the new countries NATO is taking in will not be second-class members. During an unofficial two-day visit to Poland, the Chancellor also reaffirmed that Polish membership in NATO and the European Union are important foreign policy goals for Germany.

Romanian Orthodox Church denounces homosexuality

Romania's mainstream Orthodox Church has attacked homosexuality as one of a number of scourges corrupting the country. An Easter message from Patriarch Teoctist denounced drug abuse, abortion, and "unnatural sins and debauchery", an alledged reference to homosexuality. The message also criticises Parliament for lifting a formal ban on homosexual relations last year despite overwhelming public opinion against the move.

Despite the lifting of the ban, penalties for crimes involving homosexual defendants are much tougher than for heterosexuals. Western human rights groups say Romania's criminal code on homosexuality violates both the constitution and international human rights standards. The Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly is expected to decide next week whether to end human rights monitoring of Romania. However the Orthodox Church has said that no matter how grave the danger is that its stance on homosexuality could damage Romania's EU aspirations, it will continue to condemn homosexuality as a sin.

Italian marines land in Vlore

150 Italian troops from a multinational security force have landed by sea in the rebel-held Albanian port of Vlore. The soldiers' mission will be to protect aid deliveries to the city where arms have been looted by the rebels since an insurrection in February.

Albania to vote on King

President Sali Berisha has promised to hold a referendum on restoring the Monarchy in the divided Balkan State, according to the pretender to the throne. Leka I, the self-proclaimed King of Albania, has returned to the country from exile in South Africa and discussed the issue with President Berisha. The talks were friendly, he said, but a date has not been set for the referendum.

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