DUMA HOLDS SECOND HEARING ON CHECHNYA.
The State Duma commission
investigating the causes of the Chechen war examined Dzhokhar Dudaev's fall
1991 rise to power, Interfax reported on 20 March. Sergei Bekov, Chechnya's
former prime minister, said that contrary to Dudaev's assertions, his cabinet
did not back the August 1991 Moscow coup nor provide any money for the election
of Dudaev as republican president. Doku Zavgayev, former chairman of the
Chechen-Ingush republican legislature and now in the Russian president's
administration, said the dissolution of the republic's parliament on 15
September 1991 was planned in Moscow. He asserted that Dudaev held "intensive
telephone talks" with Russian parliamentary leaders and that several carloads
of weapons were delivered to Dudaev from Moscow. He also said that on 25 August
1991, former Russian Supreme Soviet Chairman Ruslan Khasbulatov sent him a
telegram accusing him of supporting the Moscow coup and demanding that he
convene parliament to elect a new chairman, otherwise the parliament would be
dissolved. Khasbulatov, present at the Duma hearing, admitted that he had sent
such a telegram. He said it was at President Boris Yeltsin's initiative but did
not remember who in Yeltsin's team had originally proposed the idea. -- Robert
Orttung, OMRI, Inc.
NEW GENERAL DIRECTOR OF RUSSIAN PUBLIC TELEVISION APPOINTED. . .
Blagovolin, an economist with the analytical center of Russian Public
Television, has been appointed to succeed Vladislav Listev as the new company's
executive director, Reuters reported on 20 March. Blagovolin also serves on
President Yeltsin's advisory council. Russian Public Television is scheduled to
take over broadcasting on Channel One from Ostankino on 1 April. -- Laura
Belin, OMRI, Inc.
. . . AS CONTROVERSY OVER OSTANKINO RESTRUCTURING CONTINUES.
staff at the Moscow Ostankino station produced a 10-minute special program that
was broadcast during the evening news on 20 March, Ostankino television
reported. The program, entitled "Ostankino--SOS," featured an appeal to Yeltsin
to revoke his November 1994 decree on reorganizing Ostankino into Russian
Public Television. The restructuring plan has been criticized for auctioning
49% of Ostankino's shares to selected corporations in secret under the
supervision of a small group of cadres. The Moscow Ostankino employees also
denounced Alexander Yakovlev, who resigned as Ostankino chairman on 16 March
and will be the chairman of the board of Russian Public Television. On 10
March, the State Duma passed a draft resolution to suspend all privatization of
state television for the next five years. However, Russian Public Television
still plans to start broadcasting on 1 April. The Duma is scheduled to hold
more hearings on the privatization of Russian television on 21 March,
Nezavisimaya gazeta reported. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.
YELTSIN'S TV REORGANIZATION AIMED AT ELECTIONS.
reorganization of Ostankino is an attempt to control the electoral process,
according to an article in Nezavisimaya gazeta on 21 March. If the
elections are held, Yeltsin will need to conduct a media campaign to elect
sympathetic candidates; if they are canceled, he will need to explain that move
to the population. The article speculates, however, that Yeltsin is unhappy
with both Ostankino and Russian Public Television, which will succeed it.
Accordingly, he may use the parliament's opposition to the reorganization as a
face-saving measure to back away from his earlier plans. The article also
suggests that board chairman Yakovlev may not fully support the president. It
paraphrased Yakovlev as saying that his new Russian Party of Social Democracy
might not support Yeltsin for reelection because of the increasing danger that
he will impose a totalitarian regime. The article contradicts the current
wisdom about Yeltsin's intentions and Yakovlev's support for the president. --
Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.
CLOSED DOOR MEETING HELD TO DISCUSS ECONOMIC REFORM.
government held a closed-door meeting on 18 March to discuss the economic
reform program for 1995-97, Segodnya reported. According to government
sources, Economics Minister Yevgeny Yasin delivered a report outlining the
program's key provisions. Those include slashing the pace of inflation by 1-2%
per month, cutting the budget deficit to 5-6%, and raising at least $10 billion
in currency reserves. On 20 March, Yasin commented to news agencies that the
government's key goal is to attain financial stability within the economy.
Reduced inflation will be achieved by giving up Central Bank funding of the
budget deficit and turning instead to the domestic bond market and
international lenders, he said. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.
CLINTON TO ATTEND VE-DAY CELEBRATIONS.
U.S. President Bill Clinton has
agreed to attend celebrations in Moscow on 9 May marking the 50th anniversary
of the allied victory over Nazi Germany, international agencies reported on 21
March. His attendance had long been in doubt and the decision to go ahead seems
to have been based in part on Russia's agreeing to tone down the military
aspect of the parade and simply display World War II vintage equipment. In
addition, Russia has also agreed in principle to allow a permanent OSCE mission
to be stationed in Chechnya. Clinton has come under fire from the Republican
Party for his decision. The head of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations
Committee, Jesse Helms, said the visit "will be perceived as an implicit show
of support for the policies of the Russian government" and provide an implicit
endorsement of "Russian aggression in Chechnya, nuclear sales to Iran, and
meddling by Russian agents in the affairs of former Soviet Republics." --
Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.
CHIEF OF STAFF: NATO SHOULD BE DISSOLVED.
General Mikhail Kolesnikov,
chief of the Russian General Staff, told a German newspaper recently that the
General Staff fully supported President Yeltsin's resistance to the eastward
expansion of NATO and, in fact, was demanding that the western alliance be
immediately dissolved. His remarks were published in Die Welt on 20
March. Kolesnikov recognized that NATO had been important to the West during
the Cold War but said that today its existence was "absolutely pointless."
Speaking on Deuschlandfunk radio the same day, German Foreign Minister Klaus
Kinkel rejected Kolesnikov's demand as "totally absurd." -- Doug Clarke, OMRI,
RUSSIA APPROVES BASIC CONDITIONS FOR RESTRUCTURING DEBTS TO FOREIGN
A Russian government commission on foreign debts and assets
approved the basic conditions on restructuring debts for deliveries of foreign
goods to the former USSR before January 1992, the Financial Information Agency
reported on 20 March. Mikhail Kasyanov, a Finance Ministry representative, said
"the final terms of restructuring and repaying debts to companies will be
negotiated with regional creditor clubs." He said more than 80% of the foreign
companies with financial claims on Russia have formed regional clubs, the
biggest of which are located in Germany, Japan, Italy, Britain, Austria, and
Finland. Kasyanov also noted that after the IMF agreement and the final
approval of the federal budget, there is every reason to believe that by the
end of 1995, Russia will manage to resolve its problems related to
restructuring Soviet foreign debts. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.
RUBLE LOSES 19 POINTS TO U.S. DOLLAR.
The Russian ruble lost 19 points
in MICEX trading on 20 March, closing at 4,807 rubles to $1, the Financial
Information Agency reported. A total of $14.92 million was sold, with the
initial demand at $64.97 million and the initial supply at $50.05 million.
Forty-six commercial banks participated. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.
VORKUTA PENSIONERS "HOSTAGES OF THE NORTH."
The deputy chairman of the
Independent Union of Vorkuta Miners, Viktor Semenov, said 38,000 Vorkuta
pensioners have become "hostages of the north," Interfax reported on 19 March.
One of the local union's demands is for a state program to move former mine
workers from the polar region. Twenty of the union's activists began a hunger
strike on 16 March. The miners' main grievance is nonpayment of wages. Interfax
on 20 March quoted Yury Vishnevsky, the chairman of the Vorkuta branch of the
Russian Coal Workers' Union, as saying the activists are ready to compromise
and are currently waiting for the arrival of an interdepartmental commission on
labor disputes and a Fuel and Energy Ministry commission. -- Penny Morvant,
Aliyev IMPLICATES TURKEY IN COUP ATTEMPT.
Addressing law enforcement
officials in Baku on 19 March, Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev claimed
foreign intelligence services were involved in last week's failed coup,
Interfax reported on 20 March. In that connection, Aliyev named a Turkish
national who served as an adviser to the Azerbaijani parliament. Aliyev further
claimed that "forces that wish to change the political situation" are still
operating both within and outside Azerbaijan. Prosecutor-General Eldar Gasanov
said 38 people were killed in the fighting including six civilians, which are
lower figures than Western correspondents' estimates. He said 362 people have
been arrested. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.
UZBEKISTAN TO RECEIVE WORLD BANK FUNDS FOR ARAL SEA PROGRAM.
Bank is to provide Uzbekistan with $32 million to help save the Aral Sea, and
it is considering additional loans totaling $200 million over the next three
years, international news agencies reported on 20 March. Under the program,
experts from several countries will be invited to assess the extent of the
disaster. The World Bank will help fund analyses of new ways to handle water
resources, deal with soil salinity, restore the deltas of the Amu and Syr Darya
rivers, and improve the health of local people. The Aral Sea, once the world's
largest inland body of water, has shrunk dramatically due to over-exploitation
of the Syr and Amu Darya rivers which feed it. Some 10 million people are
believed to have been affected by the ecological disaster. -- Lowell Bezanis,
OSCE KARABAKH TALKS POSTPONED.
The OSCE talks on a settlement of the
Karabakh conflict, scheduled to take place in Stockholm on 20-24 March, have
been postponed, Interfax reported on 18 March. Various explanations have been
given: an OSCE spokesman said conditions for a dialogue have not been created;
an Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman told Interfax that Azerbaijan had
requested a postponement because of domestic political instability; while
Karabakh presidential spokesman Alexandr Grigoryan told journalists on 20 March
that the mediators were to blame for failing to propose a mutually acceptable
solution. Die Presse on 16 March quoted a Western diplomat involved in
the OSCE Karabakh mediation as complaining that every time a breakthrough
appears imminent, one of the conflicting parties backs down. -- Liz Fuller,
SOSKOVETS IN KIEV.
Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets
arrived in Kiev for further negotiations on the Russian-Ukrainian friendship
and cooperation treaty, international agencies reported on 20 March. One of the
main issues on the agenda was a rescheduling of Kiev's $2.7 billion debt to
Moscow. The Russian government proposed that Kiev repay one-fifth of the debt
annually until 2001, but reserved the right to annul the agreement if Ukraine
missed payments. Under the current agreement, Ukraine is obliged to pay Moscow
$635 million in 1994 and $485 million in 1995 and 1996. The issue of the Black
Sea Fleet reportedly remains unresolved. Russia continues to insist that its
navy alone be based in Sevastopol and that the Ukrainian Navy move to Donuzlav.
The Ukrainian Navy says it will not abandon Sevastopol and the base will have
to be shared. At the end of the meeting Soskovets signed agreements on debt
restructuring with his Ukrainian counterpart Yevhen Marchuk. -- Ustina Markus,
GRACHEV IN TBILISI.
Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev arrived in
Tbilisi on 20 March to discuss bilateral military and technical cooperation
within the parameters of the CIS Collective Security Treaty, Interfax reported.
Serious disagreements exist within the collegium of the Georgian Defense
Ministry over the issue of Russian military bases in Georgia, according to
Interfax on 17 March. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.
EU STABILITY PACT SIGNED.
Ministers from the 52 member states of the
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe signed an EU-sponsored
Stability Pact on 20 March, international agencies reported. The purpose of the
pact is to "render irreversible the advances of democracy and institute durable
good-neighborliness in Europe." The pact was signed on the first day of the
final session of the EU Conference on European Stability, which has focused on
resolving territorial disputes and the question of minority rights. The EU has
insisted that these issues be settled before applicants from Eastern Europe can
join. More than 90 bilateral and multilateral agreements included in the treaty
have been negotiated since the Conference opened last year. The most
significant of these agreements is the bilateral treaty signed by Hungary and
Slovakia on 19 March in Paris. The implementation of the stability pact will be
overseen by the OSCE. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.
ROMANIAN AND HUNGARIAN PREMIERS SIGN JOINT DECLARATION.
and Gyula Horn signed a joint declaration "five minutes before the opening" of
the EU Conference on the Pact of Stability in Paris, Radio Bucharest reported
on 20 March. The two leaders said that negotiations on a basic treaty between
their countries were "nearly concluded" and would resume in April. Vacaroiu,
addressing the conference, pledged to establish good-neighborly relations with
Hungary. He began his official visit to France the same day, meeting with
French Premier Edouard Balladur, who said he was "satisfied" with the joint
Romanian-Hungarian declaration. Vacaroiu also held talks with Slovak Premier
Vladimir Meciar, saying that Slovakia's acceptance of Recommendation 1201 will
put other countries under pressure to approve it. But he added that Romania was
"adamant" in its rejection of the recommendation. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI,
HUNGARIAN GOVERNMENT UNDER FIRE FOR CONCLUDING TREATY WITH SLOVAKIA.
Hungary's opposition parties, in a heated parliament debate on 20 March,
accused the government of hurting the interests of the Hungarian minority in
Slovakia by signing a bilateral treaty with that country, MTI and Western news
agencies report. The opposition parties said the treaty could not be enforced
as it contained no provision for monitoring the observance of minority rights.
They also charged that Slovakia interpreted the treaty differently from
Hungary, pointing out that, according to Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar,
the treaty does not give political autonomy to ethnic Hungarians. Jozsef
Torgyan, chairman of the Independent Smallholders' Party, criticized the
government "for selling the basic rights of Hungarians." -- Edith Oltay, OMRI,
SLOVAK REACTIONS TO TREATY WITH HUNGARY.
Democratic Union deputy and
former Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan on 20 March said the Slovak-Hungarian
treaty exceeds European standards and allows for multiple interpretations,
particularly of the Council of Europe Recommendation 1201, which grants
minorities the right to set up autonomous organizations. Christian Democratic
Movement Chairman Jan Carnogursky expressed support for the treaty but noted
that just last year, Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar and his allies were
accusing the Hungarian minority of betraying Slovakia. Slovak National Party
Chairman Jan Slota, whose party is a member of the governing coalition,
expressed concern in interviews with Pravda and Slovenska
Republika about the inclusion of Recommendation 1201, which he called
"unsuitable." He also expressed sympathy with the standpoint of the Romanian
government, which has delayed signing the agreement. Meanwhile, Meciar,
attending the Conference on the Pact of Stability in Paris, said that autonomy
for minorities is unacceptable. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.
CRIMEAN PARLIAMENT LEADERSHIP WANTS TALKS WITH KIEV.
The Presidium of
the Crimean legislature on 20 March announced it will ask deputies to approve
its plan to send a five-member delegation to Kiev for talks with the Ukrainian
parliament over its recent moves to annul Crimea's constitution and abolish its
Presidency, Interfax-Ukraine reported the same day. Serhii Tsekov, recently
reinstated as parliament speaker, said the Crimean legislators would continue
drafting a bill on the Crimean Presidency, despite Ukraine's move. Meanwhile,
Crimean President Yurii Meshkov has claimed he is still in charge of the
region, and he called the Ukrainian parliament's decision unconstitutional.
Meshkov, who is under criminal investigation for promoting Crimea's secession
from Ukraine, was ordered on 20 March to turn over weapons he had been given
for his personal protection. The situation in Crimea is generally calm, despite
the standoff. Some 40 Crimeans lined up outside the newly opened Russian
consulate in Simferopol on 20 March to apply for Russian citizenship, although
dual Ukrainian-Russian citizenship is illegal. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI,
BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT DISMISSES NEWSPAPER EDITOR.
on 19 March reported that Alyaksandr Lukashenka has issued a decree dismissing
Iosif Syaryedzich, chief editor of parliament news- paper Narodna hazeta.
The report did not say why Lukashenka had dismissed Syaryedzich but noted
that the president had met with the newspapers editors and told them "We will
be sued." Lukashenka's government came under severe criticism in December for
censoring newspapers that reported on a sensational speech by a parliament
deputy on corruption in his administration. Interfax reported on 20 March that
the parliament opposition had included Syaryedzich's dismissal on the session's
agenda, saying it was illegal. According to deputy Uladzimir Zamyatalin,
Syaryedzich was dismissed for publishing an anonymous letter calling for civil
disobedience. Zamyatalin said Lukashenka did not have the right to dismiss
Syaryedzich since he had been appointed by the parliament. -- Ustina Markus,
NEW ESTONIAN PARLIAMENT HOLDS FIRST SESSION.
The Estonian parliament
elected on 5 March held its first session on 21 March, BNS reported. Reform
Party deputy Toomas Savi was elected chairman, defeating rightist deputy Ulo
Nugis by a vote of 52 to 48. The government of Prime Minister Andres Tarand
will continue to work until a new government is approved by the parliament.
Meri has two weeks to nominate a new prime minister, who will then form a
government. Slightly less than half (48) of the 101 deputies were members of
the former parliament and 23 members of the former Soviet Estonian Supreme
Council. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.
NEW LATVIAN STATE MINISTER.
Prime Minister Maris Gailis has asked
Latvia's Way parliament deputy Raimonds Jonitis to become the first Industrial
Policy and Privatization State Minister at the Economics Ministry, BNS reported
on 20 March. Gailis had proposed that the Privatization Ministry be abolished,
but his coalition partner, the Political Union of Economists, was opposed. A
compromise was reached by his agreeing to combine the post with that of the
industrial policy minister. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.
WALESA ISSUES ULTIMATUM.
Polish President Lech Walesa on 20 March
complained that Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy's government has so far "done
nothing" to solve the problems facing Poland. The president said he would give
the government one to two months to sort things out; if it failed to meet this
deadline, he would impose his own solutions. Such reprimands have long been
Walesa's custom, but this latest example comes relatively early in the new
government's tenure. In remarks to Radio Warsaw, Oleksy described Walesa's
comments as "an attack on a government that has been in office for fifteen
days." If relations with the president were to continue on this course, "things
will become really interesting," Oleksy said. Walesa also endorsed the Polish
episcopate's stance on Church-state relations in the new constitution. He
argued that the constitution must respect national traditions, noting that
whereas the communists had ruled for only half a century, the Church had been
present in Poland for a millennium. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc.
POLAND TO SHUN NEW TANK ORDERS FROM IRAN.
Foreign Minister Wladyslaw
Bartoszewski, in an attempt to end the confusion over Poland's stance on tank
sales to Iran (see OMRI Daily Digest, 16 March 1995), has said that
current orders will be carried out but new contracts will likely not be sought.
Gazeta Wyborcza reported that some government officials were dismayed by
Bartoszewski's public disclosure of the decision by the previous government to
end the tank sales, apparently under U.S. pressure. As Bartoszewski was meeting
with reporters, some 2,000 Solidarity unionists from the arms industry staged a
protest march in Warsaw to demand new government contracts and free shares in
their enterprises. Unionists said that roughly half of arms industry employees
have lost their jobs since 1990. Polish arms exports declined from $400 million
in 1990 to $100 million in 1993 before rising slightly to $150 million last
year, according to Gazeta Wyborcza on 18-19 March. -- Louisa Vinton,
THOUSANDS OF CZECHS RECEIVE COMPENSATION FOR NAZI CRIMES.
22,000 Czechs have applied for grants since a special government fund to
compensate victims of the wartime Nazi occupation was set up in early 1995,
Mlada fronta dnes reported on 21 March. The paper quoted Labor and
Social Affairs Minister Jindrich Vodicka as saying the fund has paid out almost
644 million koruny to some 11,000 people and a further 6,700 claims are being
processed. The deadline for claims to be lodged is the end of May. -- Steve
Kettle, OMRI, Inc.
BOSNIAN GOVERNMENT FORCES LAUNCH OFFENSIVE.
International media on 21
March reported that Bosnian government forces the previous day launched a
two-pronged thrust in the center and the north of the republic. They attacked
the strategic Mt. Vlasic, north of Travnik, which the Serbs then shelled in
response. The government's Second Corps based in Tuzla moved against Mt.
Majevica, which controls access to the Posavina land corridor linking Serbia
with its territorial conquests in Bosnia and Croatia and which is the site of a
key communications tower. The Serbs responded by shelling Tuzla as well,
killing 30 government soldiers and wounding 80, according to Vjesnik.
The BBC quotes Bosnian Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic as saying that the
government had no choice but to attack since the Contact Group's diplomatic
efforts have run out of steam. The New York Times suggests that the move
may have come out of desperation or out of confidence that the Serbs can be
beaten. A UN spokesman called it the worst fighting since the current
four-month cease-fire began on 1 January. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.
SERBS SEAL OFF SARAJEVO.
The New York Times on 21 March says that
Serbian forces have effectively sealed off the Bosnian capital after shelling
the airport and closing the Mt. Igman road over the weekend. The paper suggests
that Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic is impatient and fears that time is
on the side of the more numerous and better organized Muslim-Croatian alliance
forces. It also speculates that Karadzic may now be tempted to move against the
eastern Muslim enclaves of Gorazde, Zepa, and Srebrenica. News agencies on 20
March reported that government and Serbian forces nonetheless went ahead with a
planned prisoner swap on Sarajevo's Brotherhood and Unity Bridge, which
involved about 30 people. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.
NO UNFIC FOR KNIN.
Nasa Borba reports on 21 March that Krajina
Serb leader Milan Martic told UN mediator Thorvald Stoltenberg in Belgrade that
Knin rejects any changes in UNPROFOR's mandate that would place peacekeepers on
Krajina's borders with Serbia and Bosnia. Martic added that Knin also opposes
the proposed new name for the peacekeepers, namely United Nations Forces in
Croatia (UNFIC). Martic argues that this name assumes a political settlement,
namely, that Krajina is indeed part of Croatia. The Serbs there declared their
independence in 1991 as the Republic of Serbian Krajina. -- Patrick Moore,
BELGRADE INTENSIFIES LIBEL CAMPAIGN.
Rump Yugoslav authorities appear to
be intensifying their attacks against charitable organizations, notably the
Soros Foundation (see OMRI Daily Digest, 13 March 1995). The government
daily Borba on 20 March ran the headline "Ban the Soros Foundation." The
same day Soros Foundation head in Belgrade Sonja Licht vowed at a press
conference that the organization would continue its charity work, adding "We
are determined to keep going as long as possible." Licht added that the
foundation is considering legal action. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.
MACEDONIA WANTS GREECE TO LIFT EMBARGO BEFORE TALKS.
Macedonia will not
hold direct talks with Greece unless Athens first lifts the embargo imposed in
February 1994, AFP reported on 20 March. A Macedonian Foreign Ministry
spokesman was quoted as saying that "true negotiations...cannot be held if an
embargo is still in force." The Foreign Ministry statement said that the name
of Macedonia will not be changed, but "all the rest is open to discussion."
Greek Government Spokesman Evangelos Venizelos said he sees hopes for lifting
the embargo, as there are signs that Macedonia is ready to make concessions. On
19 March, Greek Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias had announced that direct
talks between the two countries will begin in April, but he said that the
embargo would remain in force during the talks. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.
FINANCIAL AID FOR MOLDOVA.
The Consultative Group for Moldova, meeting
in Paris on 20 March under the chairmanship of the World Bank, agreed to cover
Moldova's $290 million debt-financing requirements for 1995 and to provide
additional "significant sums" for technical support and investments in
infrastructure. The group's chairman, World Bank official Basil Kavalsky, said
Moldova has put in place "a solid framework of policy reforms," including price
liberalization, accelerated privatization, and significant improvements in the
social safety net. Moldovan Prime Minister Andrei Sangheli told the group that
Moldova's economic reforms are irreversible. In a related development, Western
agencies reported on 20 March that at a meeting of the EU's finance ministers
in Brussels, it was decided to lend Moldova an additional 15 million ecus ($19
million). -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.
MOLDOVA CUTS PHONE LINES FROM DNIESTER REPUBLIC.
Valery Yefimets, who is
information and communications minister in the self-styled Dniester republic,
told Reuters on 20 March that Moldovan authorities were cutting most
direct-dial telephone links from the region for political reasons. Moldova's
move comes five days before scheduled local elections. But Director-General of
Moldtelecom Vasile Grumeza said the lines were cut to force the authorities in
the breakaway republic to pay their bills. He said the region owes Moldtelecom
some 8 million Moldovan lei ($1.8 million). The Dniester authorities have
offered to pay the phone bills with their own coupon currency, introduced in
August 1994. But Moldova does not recognize the coupons and says payments must
be made in the Moldovan currency. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.
NEW OPPOSITION COALITION FORMED IN BULGARIA.
More than 20 parties from
the extreme Left and Right met in Sofia on 20 March to form a coalition,
Standart reported the following day. Slavomir Tsankov, chairman of the
Union of Democratic Parties and Movements ERA-3, proposed that the
extra-parliament parties unite in response to a draft bill stipulating that all
parties that received less than 1% in the last elections have to re-register
and must collect 5,000 signatures in order to do so. Meanwhile, the new Party
of the Democratic Center said it will support President Zhelyu Zhelev in the
next presidential elections. Party leader Ventseslav Dimitrov met with Zhelev
on 20 March. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.
BULGARIAN AIR FORCE MAY BE GROUNDED.
The head of the Bulgarian Air
Force, Lt. Gen. Mikho Mikhov, warned that his aircraft may be grounded before
the end of the year unless the service receives more money. He was quoted by
BTA on 17 March as saying that the air force needed 17 billion leva in 1995,
while that amount would probably be budgeted for the entire armed forces.
Mikhov said that 47% of Bulgaria's combat planes were non-operational and the
percentage of grounded helicopters was even higher. Most pilots have only 20
flight hours per year, instead of the planned 80, leading to a higher accident
rate. Mikhov revealed that three planes were lost in 1994, compared with none
in 1993. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.
GREEK POLICE ARREST SEVEN ARMED MEN NEAR ALBANIAN BORDER.
arrested seven armed men near the Albanian border on 19 March, international
agencies reported the next day. According to the police in Ioannina, four of
the men were ethnic Greeks from Albania. The other three men were reportedly
Greek citizens from Athens, including a former military officer and a former
police officer. Police found six Kalashnikovs and other paramilitary gear in a
car. They later raided houses in Athens where they discovered pamphlets of the
Northern Epirus Liberation Front. Greek Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou, at
an emergency meeting with his foreign and internal affairs ministers, said
Greece is determined to neutralize ultra-nationalist groups. Albanian
authorities called the arrests a new sign of Greek goodwill. -- Fabian Schmidt,
[As of 12:00 CET]
Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave