Accessibility links

Newsline - April 19, 1995

Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev asserted on 18 April that Moscow reserves the right to intervene militarily to protect the rights of ethnic Russians living in the "near abroad," Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported on 19 April. Kozyrev cited the emigration of over 240,000 Russians from the CIS in 1994 as evidence of the abuse of their rights outside Russia. However, a Russian study released last week said most of the migration was economically motivated. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.

Both houses of Russia's parliament are working together to develop an electoral law for the Federation Council, Chairman of the State Duma's Committee for Legislation and Judicial Reform Vladimir Isakov told Interfax on 18 April. The two houses have very different approaches. Whereas the Duma wants voters to approve candidates nominated by the regions' and republics' executive and legislative branches, the president and the Council want the heads of local administrations and legislatures to become automatic members. Isakov believes the country needs a permanently functioning Council, in which members quit their other jobs and devote their full attention to drafting legislation. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

Democratic Russia and Russia's Democratic Choice may support human rights activist Sergei Kovalev as their presidential candidate, according to Russian TV, citing an article in Argumenty i fakty slated to be published on 20 April. Galina Starovoitova, co-chairwoman of Democratic Russia and a former adviser to President Boris Yeltsin, said "Yegor Gaidar and I have discussed the question of nominating Kovalev as a presidential candidate in the upcoming elections." She said he might become "a unifying figure as Andrei Sakharov was in his time." -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

Grigory Yavlinsky, leader of the Yabloko group, denied that he had agreed to cooperate with Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov in the upcoming presidential elections, Interfax reported on 18 April. Some Russian observers have speculated that Yavlinsky and Zyuganov made a deal to support each other if one of them qualifies for the second round of presidential elections, scheduled for June 1996. Yavlinsky called the rumor "a political provocation" and absurd as well, since his supporters are not "serfs" who can be told how to vote. He described Yabloko as the "democratic opposition [in parliament]," unlike the Communists, whom he accused of planning "to alter the political system, restore the soviets, and abolish the presidency." Kommersant-Daily reported on 13 April that Yabloko and the Communists displayed identical voting patterns in the Duma this year on many important issues, such as the budget, the creation of Russian Public Television, and the recently proposed no-confidence vote in the government. The paper also suggested that Zyuganov and Yavlinsky have a common enemy in the current government and have avoided attacking each other in public. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

The Russian United Industrial Party, created on the basis of Arkady Volsky's Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, has held its first congress in Moscow, Russian news agencies reported on 18 April. Volsky told the congress that the new "centrist" organization would not be merely a "party of directors," but would be open to everyone, Russian Television reported. He called for "real economic reforms" to enlarge the state's role in the economy, led by "realistically-minded people, who do not call for settling old scores or returning to the past," Interfax reported. Volsky said Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin is not to blame for the current economic crisis, since he was left with a "difficult inheritance" after officials "attempted to change everything and everyone at once" in 1992, NTV reported. In 1991, Volsky helped create the Movement for Democratic Reform. Volsky then formed an industrial lobby, the Union of Renewal, which later joined the centrist Civic Union bloc in 1992. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Davydov said restrictions on Russian trade to the West remain as they were during the Cold War, despite political statements to the contrary, Business World reported on 18 April. He said Russia had already removed all barriers and that the EU is using Chechnya as pretext for not proceeding with an interim trade accord, thus allowing EU-Russian trade to be regulated by an agreement reached with the former Soviet Union. Russia is not recognized as a transitional market economy and all anti-dumping and protectionist measures remain intact. He cited Russian capabilities in aerospace industry and in the production of fissionable materials, aluminum, and nickel, as areas in which Russia is more than competitive with the West. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.

A Moscow judge shut down the Russian branches of the Japanese sect Aum Shinri Kyo on 18 April and ordered its representatives in Russia to pay 20 billion rubles in damages to the group of parents who sued the sect, Russian and Western agencies reported. The judge also ordered Radio Mayak and Moscow Television to stop broadcasting Aum Shinri Kyo programs. The sect's lawyers say they will appeal the ruling--the first against a religious group in post-Soviet Russia--but the parents' group, the Youth Salvation Committee, has vowed to fight to the end. Some human rights groups fear that the ruling may signal a crackdown on religious freedoms. Aum Shinri Kyo, which has been implicated in the sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway on 20 March, has six branches in Moscow and seven in other Russian cities. Religious sects have boomed in Russia since the collapse of communism. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.

A representative of the Rosvooruzhenie weapons company said on 18 April that the charges of tax evasion and illegal financial transactions leveled the previous day by the Prosecutor's Office should be addressed to the company's former management, NTV reported. Rosvooruzhenie's current general director, Col. Alexander Kotelkin, took the job in November 1994, succeeding Lt.-Gen. Viktor Samoilov. Rosvooruzhenie was audited last year by the Control Department of the presidential administration, the Finance Ministry's Auditing Department, and a number of other specialists, including Air Marshall Yevgeny Shaposhnikov, the president's representative at the company. The results were then submitted to the Prosecutor's Office. Both the audit and the transfer of documents were ordered by President Boris Yeltsin personally, Izvestiya reported on 19 April. The inspection revealed numerous violations by arms traders while the export of military hardware continued to fall and presidential and government decisions were ignored, according to Segodnya on 18 April. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.

Defense Minister Grachev's recent warning that Russia may not fulfill some of the provisions of the CFE treaty reflected "the Russian side's real concern and requirements," according to Gregory Karasin, the Russian Foreign Ministry's chief press spokesman. In the past, the Foreign Ministry has tended to be in favor of full compliance. Karasin said Russia is counting on the U.S. "and our other partners . . . to be understanding of our position and to take account of the Russian Federation's interests," ITAR-TASS reported on 18 April. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

The Russian Defense Ministry intends to sell a unit of its most modern air defense missile system to the United States, Izvestiya reported on 14 April. For a reported $60 million, the Americans are to receive an S-300V mobile missile system--known to NATO as the SA-12 Giant--in a contract drawn up by the state arms export company Rosvooruzheniye. Although badly in need of the money, top military leaders are reportedly concerned at allowing the Americans to learn so much about one of their best weapons. There was a public furor recently when Belarus sold a similar, but less capable, system--an S-300PMU (SA-10 Grumble)--to a private company acting on behalf of the U.S. Defense Department. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

A Russian Delta III class nuclear submarine in the Barents Sea is scheduled to fire a converted SS-N-18 ballistic missile this June which will lift a recoverable German satellite into space, Interfax reported on 15 April. The launch is part of a joint project between the German Agency DARA and the Makeyev State Rocket Center Design Bureau in Miass, in the Chelyabinsk region. This civilian version of the SS-N-18--which was designed to carry as many as seven nuclear warheads--has been named "Volna." The German satellite will not be placed in orbit, but will be used to conduct a 20-minute experiment in fundamental research in conditions of little or no gravity before splashing down off the coast of Kamchatka. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

Moscow and Ankara are discussing a $120 million loan to Russia in exchange for natural gas deliveries to Turkey, Interfax reported on 18 April. The money would be used to complete construction of the first unit of a polypropylene facility in Budyonnovsk, Stavropol region, by the Turkish contractor Tekfen. The plant, estimated to cost $280 million, is to yield 100,000 metric tons of polypropylene annually. Last year, Russia provided Turkey with 5.1 billion cubic meters of natural gas. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc.

No report today.

The latest round of Russian-Ukrainian negotiations took place behind closed doors, Ukrainian radio reported on 18 April. After the talks, Ukrainian acting Prime Minister Yevhen Marchuk told journalists that President Yeltsin agreed with Ukraine's draft of the article dealing with mutual borders for the future treaty on friendship and cooperation. That version states: "Both sides respect each other's sovereignty and confirm that they will not violate the existing borders between them." Yeltsin also agreed with Marchuk that Crimea will never be a reason for any kind of conflict between Russia and Ukraine. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.

President Yeltsin and Ukrainian acting Prime Minister Yevhen Marchuk failed to reach agreement on the division of the Black Sea Fleet during their 18 April meeting in the Kremlin, and the two leaders offered two vastly different accounts of their discussion. ITAR-TASS quoted a presidential press release in which Yeltsin blamed the impasse on "the unyielding stand of the Ukrainian delegation headed by Marchuk" and said there would be no Russian compromises or concessions from their previous agreements. He added that "new tough variants" of the solution to the Black Sea Fleet problem offered by the Ukrainian government did not improve the chances of Yeltsin visiting Kiev. Marchuk, for his part, told Interfax that the two leaders had a "sincere . . . and rather constructive" dialogue on the fleet, although he admitted the issue had not been resolved. He said Ukraine is working on the April 1994 Russian-Ukrainian agreement under which the fleet would be divided in half, and then Ukraine would give two-thirds of its share to Russia as payment for its fuel debt. However, Marchuk added that the agreement contained too many "generic" provisions that need to be specified. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

The family of Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev is in Ukraine, according to parliament deputy Mykhailo Ratushny, who was cited by Ukrainian Radio on 18 April. Ratushny had accompanied members of the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists (KUN) party on a humanitarian aid mission to Chechnya earlier this month. Russian forces reportedly hindered the mission's attempts to distribute 41 tons of food, medicine, and basic commodities. Ratushny claimed that intervention by the International Red Cross cleared the cargo through customs, but most of the shipment ended up going to the Russian army and disappearing through "commercial agents." The Ukrainian cargo was reportedly the first aid shipment to reach Chechnya. KUN members said Dudaev's family has been granted asylum in Ukraine because they were subjected to a manhunt in Chechnya. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.

The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry on 18 April called in the Russian ambassador in Vilnius, Nikolai Obertyshev, to explain Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev's remarks that Russia might use military force to protect Russians living abroad, BNS reported. Kozyrev also said that Estonia and Latvia were the only two former Soviet republics in which there was talk about a deliberate policy of banishing ethnic Russians. Obertyshev promised Lithuanian Foreign Ministry Secretary Albinas Januska that he would offer an official explanation and said he was certain that the statement did not apply to Lithuania. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.

Lithuanian and Belarusian Environment Ministers Bronius Bradauskas and Mikhail Rusy signed in Minsk on 14 April an agreement on cooperation in the field of environmental protection. Gintautas Siulys, first secretary in the Lithuanian embassy in Minsk, told BNS on 18 April that a joint working group has been set up to monitor protection of water resources, vegetation, and animals as well as industrial waste recycling and other environmental projects. Bradauskas also urged Belarus to sign the Vienna convention on third countries' responsibility in dealing with the consequences of nuclear accidents, He said that Belarus's reluctance to join the convention is preventing Lithuania from receiving international assistance to upgrade its nuclear power plant at Ignalina. He was told that the Belarus Environment Ministry has advised the government to join the convention but that the matter is still under consideration. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.

The Ministry of Statistics has announced that in the first quarter of 1995, the country produced goods worth 28.7 trillion Belarusian rubles, Belarusian Television reported on 17 April. If inflation is taken into account, this figure represents an 11% drop from the same period in 1994. Consumer goods registered the biggest fall and were down by some 2 trillion rubles. The shortfall has fueled inflation. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.

The pro-Russian Crimean parliament has split over the issue of dissolving itself and founding a new legislature. Reuters reported on 18 April that 42 deputies out of a total of 98 have asked Kiev to dissolve the assembly, while Ukrainian Radio reported that 50 deputies led by Tatar leader Refat Chubarov have requested that a new parliament be formed. Also on 18 April, Ukrainian activists were prevented from hoisting a Ukrainian flag in front of Simferopol's city hall. Within minutes, the flag was torn down by an on-duty policeman. The activists had official permission to raise the flag, but deputies from the "Russia" and "Russia-Unity" factions were opposed to such a move. The militia also prevented the pro-Russian groups from raising a Russian flag. But the flag of the Crimean Republic was hoisted in front of the city hall. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.

The Ukrainian government has ordered the Ministry for Engineering and the military-industrial complex to increase exports, according to a government press release carried by Interfax. Enterprises under the ministry's supervision were reported to have established contacts with partners in 60 countries and to have exported goods worth $1.5 billion in 1994. Some of these exports would not have been military equipment. By comparison, Russia sold arms worth $1.5-1.7 billion last year. The report said that the ministry has been told to raise the export share of its total production to 20-25% in 1995 and to 25-30% next year. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

The Financial Control Office has issued a report on Polish Television's (TVP) finances, according to Gazeta Wyborcza on 18 April. The report states that TVP is not ensuring that free-lance producers keep to their submitted budgets, that it rented space for its advertising office instead of constructing a new building, and that it has no fewer than 20 people working in its legal department. These policies have been defended by the TVP management, but the Polish daily claims that the report can be used by the finance minister to recall TVP President Wieslaw Walendziak, whose independent actions have not always found favor with the government. The law on radio and TV states that only the TVP Supervisory Board has the power to recall the TVP president. The commercial code, however, states that the owner of a company can dismiss the president and board of directors if blatant mismanagement can be proven. In the case of TVP, which is state-owned, the minister of finance is empowered to act as the sole representative of the owner. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc.

Poland's first official census since 1988 will be held from 18-31 May, the Central Statistical Office announced on 18 April. Some 10,000 polling agents will visit 600,000 households to collect data on incomes, unemployment, migration, housing conditions, and other social issues. About 5% of Poland's population of 38 million will be covered by the census. A full census is not planned until 2000. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc.

Vaclav Havel's popularity has risen to its highest level since he became Czech president 28 months ago, according to an opinion poll published by the Czech press on 19 April. Havel won an approval rating of 78%, up three points since the last poll, taken by the Center for Empirical Research in February. The gap between Havel and Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus widened to 24 points. Klaus's popularity, which dropped 17 points in the year to February, remained stable at 54%. But Klaus's Civic Democratic Party stayed well ahead of other parties, with 29%. It was followed by the opposition Social Democrats (20.6%) and the Communist Party (9.7%). The Civic Democratic Alliance's rating continued to fall, to 7.9%. But the poll indicated that the four government parties would gain 119 of the 200 parliament seats if a general election were to be held now. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc.

Government spokesman Tomas Hasala on 18 April announced that Ivan Lexa, a deputy of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia and a close ally of Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, has been named director of the Slovak Information Service. The move follows the recent passage of a law transferring the power to appoint the SIS director from the president to the government. Praca reports that Meciar, in naming Lexa, referred to him as "the most competent [person] for the post." President Michal Kovac rejected Lexa for the position in 1993. Vladimir Mitro submitted his resignation as SIS director in February after a dispute with the government. Also on 18 April, Foreign Minister Juraj Schenk submitted to the cabinet a proposal on setting up a nongovernment agency aimed at improving information about Slovakia abroad. Several other ministries will participate in the project, and the final version of the law is expected to be ready by the end of May. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.

International media reported on 18 April that Paris has demanded a special meeting of the leading UN body in order to grant peacekeepers permission to use force more easily in response to attacks. France has also threatened to pull out its 4,500-member UNPROFOR contingent unless the cease-fire is extended beyond 1 May and unless peace talks resume. The demands come in the wake of the killing of two French soldiers in Bosnia and of increased Serbian shelling of Sarajevo. But the key factor behind the calls seems to be the hotly contested presidential election on 23 April in a country where the Bosnian war and the safety of peacekeepers attract voters' attention. AFP notes that Prime Minister Edouard Balladur has stressed the possibility of withdrawal, while his rival Jacques Chirac wants ultimatums to be issued and air strikes to follow. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

The 19 April edition of the Los Angeles Times reported that Bosnian Serb forces the previous day refused to guarantee the safety of an aircraft taking U.S. Ambassador Victor Jackovich from Sarajevo to his new posting in Slovenia. He was forced to use the hazardous land route instead. Secretary of State Warren Christopher noted that Bosnia "is a very dangerous place for Americans to serve" and called the Serbian move "unjustified and outrageous." But a BBC commentary on the latest French demands and on Christopher's remarks suggested that the international community's weakness in the face of aggression to date makes it unlikely that the Serbs will take the latest threats seriously. Meanwhile in Serb-controlled Bosnian territory, Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic visited Banja Luka and the front lines in central Bosnia where he promised a shakeup in the civilian and military leaderships. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

Nasa Borba on 19 April reported that Slobodan Milosevic met the previous day with UN envoy Thorvald Stoltenberg and EU mediator Lord Owen. According to Reuters, the international mediators expected to discuss Belgrade's alleged violations of the rump Yugoslavia's blockade of the Bosnian Serbs. But Tanjug reported only that the talks centered on "further activities aimed at the intensification of the peace process." Meanwhile, Politika reported that Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Pavle gave an interview to the Slovenian daily Dnevnik in which he said that before the war started, he "knew nothing" about Zeljko Raznatovic, alias Arkan, who is the leader of the Serbian paramilitary "Tigers" and currently wanted by Interpol for genocide. Pavle also noted that he first learned from the Swedish embassy in Belgrade that Arkan "listens only to the orders of the Serbian patriarch." -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.

Novi list on 14 April quoted the Croatian Independent Democrats as charging that the Interior Ministry has formed a special unit to spy on the party and bug its telephones. Other opposition parties have voiced similar complaints, and some have experienced mysterious bombings of their offices or have found their leaders evicted from their apartments. Nasa Borba on 18 April reported on other evictions, namely of Serbs, and on other violations of human rights encountered by Serbs living in areas under Croatian government control. The article was based on materials compiled by the Croatian Helsinki Committee. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

The First World Congress of Istrians, which closed in Pula on 15 April, endorsed a declaration calling for broad autonomy for Istrians in Croatia, Slovenia, and Italy as well as for minority rights, Belgrade and Zagreb dailies reported. The congress said that Istria should become a Euroregion linking the three countries, according to the full text of the meeting published in Slobodna Dalmacija on 19 April. A group loyal to the Croatian government tried to introduce an alternative resolution that did not endorse autonomy, which the Zagreb authorities regard as subversive. Vjesnik charged that autonomy would "open a Pandora's box." Politika, however, ran a headline saying "Istrians want no borders" and called the alternative resolution "an unsuccessful provocation" by Croatia's governing party. Some observers predict that Zagreb still intends to have the last word. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

Three unidentified ethnic Albanian politicians have been sentenced to two-year prison terms by the Pec local court, international agencies reported on 18 April. The accused have been charged with planning secession from Serbia. A lawyer is quoted as saying that it was "a staged political trial." Meanwhile, the number of ethnic Albanian policemen from Kosovo who have been charged with creating a shadow Kosovar Interior Ministry has risen to 71. The former policemen, who deny the charges, are among the 172 ethnic Albanian police officers who were arrested between November and December 1994. According to official sources, 11 policemen continue to evade the authorities. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.

Romanian Television on 18 April reported that the Supreme Court of Justice has overruled a government decision to dismiss Nicolae Vrabiescu, mayor of a Bucharest municipal district and a member of the opposition National Peasant Party-Christian Democratic. Vrabiescu was fired in March allegedly for abuse of power, violation of the law, and neglecting the interests of the district's residents. His name was added to the long list of opposition mayors dismissed by the government. Vrabiescu appealed the decision to a Bucharest municipal tribunal, but the hearing was repeatedly postponed. The Supreme Court, ruling that the tribunal should hear the case, reinstated Vrabiescu as mayor until a decision is reached by the lower court. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.

In an interview with Interfax on 18 April, Valery Senik, chairman of the opposition Socialist Party of Moldova, criticized President Mircea Snegur's initiative to amend the country's constitution. Snegur, responding to the demands of striking students and teachers, has proposed that Article 13, which stipulates that the state language is "Moldovan," be amended (see ORMI Daily Digest, 18 April 1995). Senik said he doubted that the parliament would approve the change, since neither Snegur's Democratic Agrarian Party nor the opposition left-wing bloc were likely to support it. Together, these factions have a majority of 84 out of 104 deputies. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.

Prime Minister Zhan Videnov on 18 April said Bulgaria is in no hurry to apply for NATO membership, Bulgarian newspapers reported the following day. He said Bulgaria's candidacy for full membership will be appropriate when NATO evolves into a "system of collective and regional security." He also noted that the government is not ready to meet the terms of full membership if these include deployment of nuclear weapons and foreign troops in Bulgaria. President Zhelyu Zhelev, in his annual speech on foreign policy, said on 17 April that his country deserves to become a member of NATO because it is an oasis of calm in the turbulent Balkan region, Reuters reported the same day. He said it is "very important that Bulgaria declares clearly and categorically its urgent request for NATO membership." Zhelev argued that Bulgaria's inclusion in the Western military alliance would create "a NATO triangle on the Balkans pitched between Ankara, Sofia, and Athens," since Bulgaria has good relations with both neighbors. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.

Greece and Albania on 18 April resumed talks on the status of the ethnic Greek minority in Albania and of Albanian workers in Greece, AFP reported the same day. The talks, which were broken off 11 months ago, are taking place in Athens at the level of state secretary. Greece is expected to press for further rights of the Greek minority in the education system, while Albania's main concern is the possible legalization of Albanians who work and live illegally in Greece. Negotiations between Athens and Tirana had been suspended after an attack on an Albanian army barrack in April 1994 and the subsequent arrest and trial of five ethnic Greeks in Albania led to serious tensions between the two countries. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.

Blerim Cela, head of the Albanian anti-corruption agency, has said that Albania trained and financed foreign terrorist groups from 1964 to 1970, international agencies reported on 18 April. He said that an $11.6 million "solidarity fund" was created and that small Marxist-Leninist groups--mainly from Sudan, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Indonesia, and Ecuador--attended training courses at Albanian military schools and in the Albanian army. About $4 million from the fund were used to support left-wing groups in Italy, Germany, and France and to promote Enver Hoxha's publications in foreign languages. Another $400,000 were reportedly appropriated by deputy party leader Namik Dokle to buy a printing machine for the party newspaper Zeri I Popullit in Denmark or Canada. The machine never materialized. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.

The son of the late Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha has been placed under house arrest on charges of calling for an uprising in an interview about his father, international agencies reported on 18 April. Hoxha reportedly said that "it was not the people who toppled the monument of my father, but the mob. The people were the ones who went out to protect him." He added that "ordinary people in Albania are afraid. They no longer have an Enver Hoxha to protect them." He is also quoted as threatening that "one day, those people who scoffed at my father and my family will have to pay for it." -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.

[As of 12:00 CET]
Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave