DUMA CLARIFIES POSITION ON ELECTORAL LAWS.
The State Duma agreed to
lower the number of signatures presidential candidates must collect to one
million from 1.5 million, with 340 deputies supporting the Federation Council's
recommendation, Interfax reported. By a vote of 174-100 and six abstentions,
the Duma rejected the upper house's proposal to lower the minimum voter turnout
required to make the elections valid to 25% from 50%. The Duma also rejected
President Boris Yeltsin's proposal on choosing future members of the Council.
The deputies supported a joint Duma/Council bill, by a vote of 300-14 with two
abstentions, to elect the members directly, rather than have each of the
regions' and republics' legislative and executive branches appoint a member.
The Duma also rejected the Council's amendments to the Duma electoral law. By a
vote of 259-68 with two abstentions, the Duma voted again to elect half of its
members on party lists and half in single member districts. Only 133 deputies
supported the Council's suggestion to elect all members in single-mandate
districts. If the Council rejects the bill again, and the Duma cannot muster
300 votes to overcome the upper house's veto, the two chambers will have to
resolve their differences in a conciliatory committee. Presidential Chief of
Staff Sergei Filatov said the parliamentary elections will be held on 17
December and the campaign will officially begin on 17 September. -- Robert
Orttung, OMRI, Inc.
DUMA BY-ELECTION CAMPAIGN HEATS UP.
Almost all of the eleven candidates
running to replace murdered deputy Sergei Skorochkin in the Kolomna district
by-election come from the irreconcilable opposition, according to NTV. The
station speculated that the campaign could foreshadow the tone of the December
parliamentary election. According to Ekho Moskvy, the lists of signatures
collected by registered candidates Alexei Vedenkin, who has threatened to kill
two Duma members, and Yelena Mavrodi, wife of MMM Director Sergei Mavrodi,
include falsified signatures. The local prosecutor is currently looking into
the matter. NTV broadcast Vedenkin's appeal to Kolomna district voters on 22
April: "If you vote for me, your life will be happy. I guarantee it." -- Robert
Orttung, OMRI, Inc.
CHARGES OF VOTE-RIGGING IN 1993 ELECTIONS.
Duma deputies from the
Communist Party, Russia's Choice, and Yabloko factions have asked the Central
Electoral Commission to release the full results of the December 1993
parliamentary elections and referendum on Russia's constitution, Interfax and
Russian Television reported on 21 April. Communist Anatoly Lukyanov claimed the
commission, which still has not released complete election figures from the
regions, destroyed ballot papers in order to make a re-count impossible,
Interfax reported. According to the weekly Novoe vremya, computer
results show irregularities in certain regions with strong pro-Yeltsin
constituencies, where the total number of votes tallied for and against the
constitution exceeded the official turnout. Since the adoption of the
constitution, which assigns much greater powers to the president than the
parliament, some of Yeltsin's critics have made persistent charges that the
electoral commission falsified results to achieve the necessary 50% turnout for
the vote to be legally binding. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.
KOVALEV TO REFUSE PARLIAMENTARY IMMUNITY.
Human rights advocate Sergei
Kovalev asked the Duma to adopt a special resolution depriving him of
parliamentary immunity, Russian agencies reported on 22 April. In doing so,
Kovalev noted accusations from inside and outside the Duma that he should be
prosecuted for stirring up ethnic hatred and treason. In March, the Duma voted
to remove the outspoken Kovalev from the post of Duma human rights
commissioner. On 19 April, Duma Chechnya Commission Chairman Stanislav
Govorukhin suggested opening a criminal case against Kovalev for distributing
"pro-Chechen propaganda" regarding atrocities committed by the Russian army at
Samashki. Although Kovalev continues to insist that hundreds of civilians were
killed in Samashki, Col.-Gen. Anatoly Kulikov once again asserted that even
Chechen fighters dismiss Kovalev as a "political prostitute," NTV reported on
23 April. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.
COMMUNISTS MARK LENIN'S 125TH BIRTHDAY.
More than a thousand members of
the Communist Party of the Russian Federation gathered in Moscow to celebrate
the 125th anniversary of Vladimir Ilych Lenin's birth, Russian agencies
reported on 22 April. Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov credited Lenin
with turning a war-torn country into a unified state with "a mighty army, a new
economic policy, and a stable ruble." The party adopted a resolution declaring
that the 21st century will be "a century of triumph for Leninism." Meanwhile,
at a rival demonstration held by the extremist left-wing group Workers' Russia,
Viktor Anpilov spoke of the need to employ "Bolshevik methods of battle"
against the current government, Radio Rossii reported. -- Laura Belin, OMRI,
FIGHTING CONTINUES IN CHECHNYA.
Russian reinforcements were dispatched
to the contested village of Bamut on 21 April, and launched new artillery and
air attacks against Chechen forces in the surrounding hills on 23 April,
Western agencies reported. In an appeal read to the opening session of the
Conference on National Accord on 21 April, Russian Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin reaffirmed Russia's readiness for unconditional peace talks with
Chechen military leaders. He guaranteed an amnesty to all Chechen fighters "not
guilty of grave crimes" who lay down their arms, according to ITAR-TASS and
Interfax. The conference was attended by members of the Chechen government and
commanders of troops loyal to Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev. -- Liz Fuller,
CHUBAIS NEW REPRESENTATIVE TO IMF, WORLD BANK.
Russian First Deputy
Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais will serve as his country's representative to
the IMF and the World Bank, international agencies reported on 22 April.
Chubais will replace former Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Shokhin at the IMF,
and former Central Bank head Viktor Gerashchenko at the World Bank. President
Yeltsin also appointed Economics Minister Yevgeny Yasin to serve as Chubais'
deputy at the World Bank and Finance Minister Vladimir Panskov to perform the
same function at the IMF. In addition, ITAR-TASS reported that Gerashchenko has
also been dismissed from his post as a representative to the European Bank for
Reconstruction and Development. Meanwhile, on 22 April, Kommersant-Daily
interpreted the appointment of Mikhail Sarafanov to the post of deputy foreign
trade minister as a move by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Trade
Oleg Davydov to improve his relations with the economic liberals in the
government led by Chubais. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.
RUSSIAN ARMS TO SOUTH KOREA FOR DEBT.
The South Korean Defense Ministry
reported on 21 April that South Korea has agreed to accept Russian arms as
partial repayment of its loans to Russia, Yonhap reported on 22 April. Under
the agreement, South Korea will get T-80U tanks, BMP-3 infantry fighting
vehicles, and two types of missiles. The deal--said to be worth $200
million--will also include parts and ammunition. A Defense Ministry official
said the Russian T-80U tanks are superior to North Korean tanks. The missiles
offered in the deal are the "Igla" man-portable air defense system and the
"Metis-M" wire-guided antitank missile. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.
DUMA SEEKS TO RESTRICT GOVERNMENT'S PRIVATIZATION POWERS.
On 21 April,
the Duma passed in the first reading a law that requires parliamentary approval
for most transactions involving state-owned shares in privatized enterprises,
Kommersant-Daily reported on 22 April. The draft was submitted by Sergei
Burkov, the chairman of the Property, Privatization, and Economic Activity
Committee, who has been a vocal critic of the government's privatization plans.
He argues that the government's need to raise revenue is likely to result in
the disposal of state shares in strategically important enterprises at
knock-down prices. An alternative draft by the State Property Committee, which
would have left most decision-making in the government's hands, was rejected.
The 1995 budget envisages revenues of 9.1 trillion rubles through the sale of
federally owned blocks of shares in privatized enterprises--a target the
government is unlikely to reach without resorting to such unconventional
maneuvers as borrowing money from commercial banks in return for collateral in
the form of state-owned shares. Kommersant-Daily speculated that the
clash over privatization signals the beginning of a more acrimonious phase in
relations between the parliament and the government on economic issues now that
the budget has been passed and loans from the IMF have been obtained. -- Penny
Morvant, OMRI, Inc.
RUBLE CLIMB HALTED.
After gaining in value against the dollar for three
consecutive days, the ruble fell again on 21 April, closing at 5,053 rubles to
the dollar--a drop of two points. The volume of trading was $100.03 million. --
Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.
ARMENIA DENIES REPORTS OF TROOP WITHDRAWAL OFFER.
On 21 April, the
Armenian Foreign Ministry reiterated its denial of reports by Western media
that President Levon Ter-Petrossyan had offered to withdraw Armenian troops
from Azerbaijan in exchange for a lifting of the Azerbaijani blockade on his
country, Interfax reported. According to the statement, there are no troops of
the Republic of Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh. Presidential spokesman Levon
Zurabyan told Interfax that Armenia is ready to exchange hostages and prisoners
at any time. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.
TALKS CONTINUE IN MOSCOW, SO DOES VIOLENCE ON TAJIK BORDER.
50-day extension of a ceasefire agreement signed in Tehran last September due
to expire on 26 April, diplomatic activity has accelerated from Dushanbe to the
Russian capital. Ali Akbar Turadzhonzoda, the leader of the opposition
delegation, said in Moscow that he hoped a meeting with Tajik President Emomali
Rakhmanov could take place in mid-May, according to Western agencies. Rakhmanov
said on 21 April that he is ready to meet with Islamic opposition leader Said
Abdulla Nuri "anytime, anywhere," Interfax reported. The foreign ministers of
Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan called on the warring factions
to hasten UN-sponsored negotiations. In the area along the Pyanj River, border
forces repelled a rebel attempt to cross over from Afghanistan on 23 April.
Interfax reported that five rebels were killed, but AFP cited nine deaths. No
casualties were reported among the border guards. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI,
CIS MINISTERS AGREE TO EXTEND MANDATE IN TAJIKISTAN, ABKHAZIA.
foreign and defense ministers agreed on 21 April to extend the mandate for
peacekeeping in Tajikistan and Abkhazia until the end of 1995, international
agencies reported. The CIS border guard commanders were also in attendance. The
agreement must still be approved by the CIS heads of state at their 26 May
meeting. The ministers also drew up plans to settle the Tajik and Abkhaz
conflicts, ITAR-TASS reported. In addition, Interfax reported that the director
of the CIS department in the Russian Foreign Ministry, Leonid Drachevsky, said
all matters on the meeting's agenda were agreed to in principle, except for a
CIS convention on human rights. At the meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Andrei
Kozyrev said he hoped there would be no need to use force in any former Soviet
republic state, except collectively "for safeguarding the interests of our
compatriots." The statement is a somewhat toned down variation of assertions he
had made throughout the week on the Russian right to intervene militarily to
protect the rights of ethnic Russians. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.
MARCHUK: RUSSIA CANNOT USE SEVASTOPOL AS FLEET HEADQUARTERS.
acting Prime Minister Yevgeni Marchuk said his country "will never allow the
Black Sea Fleet to be headquartered de facto--and even less so de jure--in
Sevastopol," Interfax reported on 22 April. Marchuk said that while Ukraine has
not declared the previous presidential agreements on the Black Sea Fleet null
and void, all those agreements "make no sense." He added that Russian President
Yeltsin had told him at their recent Moscow meeting that he would not visit
Kiev until the problem of dividing the fleet is resolved. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI,
UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT APPEALS FOR INTERNATIONAL AID TO CLOSE CHORNOBYL.
The Ukrainian government on 21 April appealed to the international community
for financial assistance in closing down the Chornobyl nuclear power plant by
2000, Interfax-Ukraine and Radio Ukraine reported the same day. The statement
said that the closure would cost $4 billion. It noted that Ukraine was
concerned, among other things, about locating and building safe storage sites
for spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste from the plant. The appeal also
emphasized Kiev's inability to shut down the station earlier than promised
because of a shortage of energy and lack of funds to pay for energy imports.
But it stressed that the government is willing to shut down either of the
plant's two functioning reactors if they prove unsafe. -- Chrystyna
Lapychak, OMRI, Inc.
UPDATE ON UKRAINE'S GAS DEBT.
Kievskie vedomosti on 21 April
reported that Ukraine's gas debt to Russia stood at $2.5 billion and that
Ukraine is paying for only 50% of deliveries. The Russian company Gazprom has
proposed that Ukraine sign over shares in its gas pipelines and storage
facilities to pay off the debt, but the Ukrainian Ministry of External Economic
Relations has rejected the proposal. Under Ukrainian legislation, such
properties cannot be privatized. Ukrainian Radio quoted Acting Prime Minister
Yevhen Marchuk as saying that enterprises that have not paid their debts will
have their supplies cut. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.
BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT REJECTS RUSSIAN PROPOSAL ON UKRAINIAN BORDER.
Alyaksandr Lukashenka has criticized a Russian proposal to station Russian
customs officials along the Belarusian-Ukrainian border, Radio Rossii reported
on 23 April. Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin sent a letter to
Lukashenka proposing that 100 Russian customs officers be deployed along that
border since Kiev has refused to join a customs union with Russia, Kazakhstan,
and Belarus. Lukashenka responded that Belarus was capable of controlling its
Ukrainian border itself and that Russia should trust Belarus. He added that
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Bolshakov was responsible for the letter.
According to Lukashenka, Bolshakov gave Chernomyrdin the letter to sign and the
prime minister did so without reading it. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.
BALTIC ASSEMBLY AND COUNCIL SESSIONS.
The sixth session of the Baltic
Assembly and first session of the Baltic Council took place in Riga on 21-22
April, BNS reported. The Baltic Council is formed by the Baltic Assembly and
the Baltic Council of Ministers. Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis stressed that
the three states must coordinate their actions more closely in solving economic
problems and preparing for integration into European institutions. Estonian and
Lithuanian Prime Ministers Tiit Vahi and Adolfas Slezevicius did not attend the
sessions because of previous engagements. The Baltic Assembly expressed concern
over the statement by Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev that Russia might
use military force to protect its compatriots abroad. It also appealed to the
UN to examine the issue of "the right of the Chechen people to
self-determination and freedom from colonialism." -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI,
LATVIA, ESTONIA SIGN SEA BORDER MEMORANDUM.
Latvian and Estonian Foreign
Ministers Valdis Birkavs and Riivo Sinijarv signed in Riga on 21 April a
memorandum pledging to avoid incidents on their maritime border, BNS reported.
Tensions emerged when Estonian coast guard ships repeatedly stopped Latvian
boats from fishing near the Estonian island of Ruhnu. The talks on preparing a
bilateral treaty on the maritime border and economic zones will continue on 5
May in the Estonian seaside resort of Parnu. The ministers also pledged that
agreements simplifying border crossing procedures and promoting free movement
of goods between the two states will be signed soon. -- Saulius Girnius,
CEI MEETING IN CRACOW.
Representatives of the Central European
Initiative countries, meeting in Cracow on 21-22 April, appealed to all sides
in the Bosnian conflict to extend their cease-fire beyond 30 April. They also
condemned Serbian attacks on Bihac, the killing of two French UN peacekeepers,
and the "terrorist bombing" of Dubrovnik airport. Poland and Bosnia-Herzegovina
signed a declaration on national minorities, endorsed previously by Austria,
Croatia, Hungary, Italy, and Macedonia. The creation of a permanent Secretariat
and the admission of the five associate members (Albania, Belarus, Bulgaria,
Romania, and Ukraine) is to be discussed at the next CEI meeting, in Warsaw on
6-7 October. Poland, which is chairing the CEI in 1995, backs the full
admission of the five associate members, according to Polish CEI representative
Jozef Wiejacz. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc.
POLISH LAW ON POST AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS AMENDED.
The Polish parliament
on 21 April amended the law on post and telecommunications, empowering the
government to auction off licenses for telecommunication operators and courier
services. The bill preserves the state-owned Polish Telecommunications'
monopoly on international telephone calls. The Polish Post maintains its
monopoly on handling regular letters and parcels up to 2 kilograms. -- Jakub
Karpinski, OMRI, Inc.
CZECH OPPOSITION LEADER RE-ELECTED.
Milos Zeman on 22 April was
re-elected unopposed as chairman of the opposition Czech Social Democrats
(CSSD). Zeman, whose party is in a strong second place in the polls with around
20% support, said the Social Democrats aim to win the next parliament
elections, due in June 1996. He said he will run directly against Prime
Minister Vaclav Klaus if the premier stands in Northern Moravia. Petra Buzkova
and Kvetoslava Korinkova gained the most votes of the five deputy chairpersons
elected at the congress, giving the CSSD the strongest high-level
representation by women of all Czech parties. Meanwhile, the founding congress
of the Party of Czechoslovak Communists (SCK) elected former hard-line
communist leader Miroslav Stepan as its general-secretary. Stepan said the aim
of the party is to re-establish socialism, Lidove noviny reported. --
Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc.
SLOVAK PREMIER IN ITALY.
Vladimir Meciar, during his working visit to
Italy and the Vatican from 20-23 April, met with Pope John Paul II, Italian
President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, and Foreign Minister Susanna Agnelli, Slovak
media reported. Meciar was quoted as saying that the meeting with the pope was
of "great importance," not just in terms of the pontiff's visit to Slovakia
scheduled for this summer. At a meeting with other Catholic officials, the
Slovak premier discussed Church-state relations and the founding of a Catholic
University in Slovakia. Stressing that Italian businessmen lack sufficient
information on investments in Slovakia, Meciar promised to issue them a list of
firms to be privatized. The Italian energy company ENI reportedly expressed
"great interest" in the privatization of Benzinol, Slovnaft, and the gas
industry. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.
NUCLEAR MATERIAL SEIZED IN EASTERN SLOVAKIA.
Slovak Interior Ministry
spokesman Peter Ondera on 21 April announced that one week earlier police
seized 17 kilograms of radioactive material and detained nine suspects from
Ukraine, Hungary, and Slovakia. According to Ondera, specialists are currently
investigating whether the material is weapons-grade uranium. -- Sharon
Fisher, OMRI, Inc.
HUNGARY'S RAILROAD WORKERS END STRIKE.
Hungarian Radio on 23 April
reported that the country's railroad workers ended a four-day strike after
reaching a new labor agreement with Hungarian State Railways management. The
86-hour strike, which halted most domestic services and all international
traffic to and via Hungary, was the first indefinite work stoppage on Hungary's
railroads since 1904. Most of the country's 70,000 railroad employees took part
in the protest. -- Jiri Pehe, OMRI, Inc.
KARADZIC BANS DIPLOMATS FROM SARAJEVO AIRPORT.
reported on 23 April that Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic has announced
that Sarajevo airport "is a Serbian airport" and that no diplomats or other
political visitors to the Bosnian government in Sarajevo will be allowed to use
it. He added that the Contact Group diplomats are not welcome and that the
Bosnian Serbs "will not accept the Contact Group [peace] plan, never, ever." He
sent packing a group of U.S. and German diplomats who had spent the night of 22
April in sleeping bags on the airport floor. UN mediator Yasushi Akashi also
got no farther than the airport on an attempted visit to Sarajevo. Karadzic
gave a variety of reasons for his stand, which international media agreed is
outrageous even by the standards of this conflict. But Reuters stressed that
his toughness is the outcome of a deepening rift between the Bosnian Serb
military and civilian establishments. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.
FRENCH CHIEF-OF-STAFF IN SARAJEVO.
France's highest army officer,
General Marc Monchal, arrived in the Bosnian capital on 23 April to escort home
the bodies of three peacekeepers who died in a munitions accident the day
before. These deaths brought French UNPROFOR fatalities to a total of 36. AFP
said that President Francois Mitterrand has invited the presidents of Slovenia,
Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and rump Yugoslavia to ceremonies in
Paris on 8 May marking the end of World War Two in Europe. It is unclear
whether Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic was also on the list. His presence
would be crucial if the French were to try to use the occasion to stage the
Yugoslav-area summit they have been pressing for. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI,
MILITARY DEVELOPMENTS IN YUGOSLAV AREA.
The 24 April Frankfurter
Allgemeine Zeitung reports that the battlefields were largely quiet during
the Orthodox Easter weekend. The main exception was around Brcko, in the narrow
north Bosnian Posavina supply corridor, which links Serbia with its conquests
in Croatia and Bosnia. Croatian Radio, for its part, said that armed Krajina
Serbs blocked the reopened Zagreb-Belgrade highway in two places. Hina reported
the previous day that Croatian Defense Minister Gojko Susak met with his Slovak
counterpart, Jan Sitek, who was visiting Slovak UNPROFOR troops. -- Patrick
Moore, OMRI, Inc.
MILOSEVIC MEETS LEADERS FROM KRAJINA AND BOSNIA.
Slobodan Milosevic met with Krajina Prime Minister Borislav Mikelic, Bosnian
Muslim kingpin Fikret Abdic, and Bosnian Serb commander General Ratko Mladic at
Milosevic's residence in Belgrade, Nasa Borba reported on 22 April. The
men subsequently dodged reporters, who were unable to obtain any further
information. AFP commented on 24 April that the UN war crimes tribunal in The
Hague may also want to speak to Mladic. The dispatch notes that Mladic and
Karadzic are suspected of war crimes, but no formal charges have been made.
The Los Angeles Times on 22 April reported that Germany has agreed to
extradite Dusan Tadic for trial in The Hague. Tadic is suspected of being the
Bosnian Serb concentration camp guard who killed at least 32 people and
tortured 61 others at Omarska. His trial would be the first international one
for war crimes since the end of World War Two. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.
BOUTROS GHALI THREATENS TO WITHDRAW PEACEKEEPERS FROM CROATIA.
Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali has announced he may have to withdraw
UNCRO contingents if the Zagreb and Knin authorities do not approve the
peacekeepers' new mandate, AFP reported on 22 April. The Serbs and Croats
differ strongly over the number of soldiers needed, where they should come
from, what they should do, and where they should do it. Reuters the next day
reported on observances by Croatian Jews to mark the 50th anniversary of the
liberation of Jasenovac. That concentration camp was the worst in wartime
Croatia, where the Ustasha regime carried out its genocidal policies
against Jews, Serbs, and Gypsies. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.
UN TAKES TOUGHER APPROACH ON RUMP YUGOSLAV SANCTIONS.
Nasa Borba on 22-23 April, UN Security Council Resolution 988 provides
for sanctions against the rump Yugoslavia to be partially lifted for periods of
75 days rather than 100 days, as stipulated by Resolution 943. The council also
voted to impose stricter conditions for the easing of sanctions against
Belgrade. According to ITAR-TASS on 22 April, Russia has already made known its
objections to the council's decision. Russian representative to the UN Sergei
Lavrov was quoted as saying that Moscow objects, among other things, to
additional limits on deliveries of aviation fuel to Belgrade. Nasa Borba
on 24 April reported that all Serbian parties are highly critical of Resolution
988. Leader of the Serbian Radical Party and accused war criminal Vojislav
Seselj commented that the endorsement of the new resolution is "evidence of
[Serbian President Slobodan] Milosevic's incompetence." -- Stan Markotich,
KOSOVAR OFFICIALS ON POSSIBLE DIALOG WITH SERBIA.
Fehmi Agani, deputy
leader of the Democratic League of Kosovo, has made clear his views on a
possible Kosovar-Serbian dialog by saying "Kosovo is not a Serbian internal
question," Nasa Borba reported on 24 April. The Kosovars are demanding
that a solution to Kosovar-Serbian differences be found within the framework of
the Geneva Conference on Former Yugoslavia. Meanwhile, Kosovar President
Ibrahim Rugova has said that such a solution would be either an independent
Republic of Kosovo or a confederation with Albania, in the event that
"confederations are established on the territory of the former Yugoslavia." The
Serbs, however, reject international meditation in the Kosovar-Serbian issue.
-- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.
HEAD OF ROMANIAN PYRAMID SCHEME GOES ON TRIAL.
Ion Stoica, head of
"Caritas," Romania's biggest ever pyramid scheme, went on trial on 21 April on
fraud charges, Reuters reports. He is accused of having taken some 90 million
lei ($45,000) from Caritas donations for humanitarian projects in the
Transylvanian town of Cluj. Stoica faces up to 20 years in jail if convicted.
Stoica has been in custody since his arrest in August 1994. Prosecutors are
still investigating complaints from 600,000 people who lost their savings when
the "get-rich-quick" scheme collapsed in early 1994. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI,
STOCK EXCHANGE TO BE SET UP IN ROMANIA.
The decision to set up Romania's
first postcommunist stock exchange was announced at a press conference on 21
April, Radio Bucharest and Romanian TV reported. The stock exchange will
temporarily be housed in the building of the National Bank of Romania and its
managerial board appointed by 10 May. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc.
PRELIMINARY RESULTS OF MOLDOVAN LOCAL ELECTIONS.
The Moldovan Central
Electoral Commission on 21 April announced the preliminary results of the 16
April local elections, Interfax reported. The ruling Agrarian-Democratic Party
won almost 50% of the mandates (more than 640 out of 1,290). The opposition
Democratic Forces Alliance received 275 mandates (21.5%); the Moldovan
Communist Party 205 (nearly 16%); and the bloc of left-wing forces, formed by
the Socialist Party and the Unity Movement, 90. In Chisinau and other cities,
the elections were declared invalid because of low turnouts and are to be
repeated on 30 April. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc.
BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES STATE BUDGET.
The parliament's Socialist
majority on 21 April passed the 1995 state budget, BTA and international
agencies reported the same day. The budget was approved by 123 to seven after
an all-night session. Opposition deputies in the 240-member assembly left
before the vote, saying they had to attend Mass on Orthodox Good Friday. The
budget deficit is projected at 48.8 billion leva ($746 million), or 6% of
estimated GDP. Inflation is projected to reach 45-50% in 1995. But Kontinent
on 21 April reported that non-government institutes estimate inflation will
reach 60-120% this year. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.
BULGARIA MAY CLOSE DOWN NUCLEAR REACTORS EARLY.
Yanko Yanev, chairman of
Bulgaria's Atomic Energy Committee, said on 21 April that the two oldest
reactors at the Kozloduy nuclear power plant may be closed down years ahead of
schedule, Reuters reported the same day. Yanev said he will propose to the
parliament that a fund be set up for the decommissioning of the two 440
megawatt reactors if reconstruction proves too expensive. New safety systems,
additional filters and earthquake protection are needed, at an estimated cost
of some $70 million. Reactor No. 1, the oldest at the power plant, has already
been closed down for inspections. Yanev did not mention the two 1,000 megawatt
reactors at Kozloduy, which are also Soviet-built. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI,
ALBANIAN OIL SMUGGLING REACHES LOW POINT.
Reuters on 23 April reported
that profits gained by Albanians smuggling black-market fuel into rump
Yugoslavia have dropped from about $30 to $3.20 for one 200-liter container
since Bulgaria and Romania have grabbed a bigger share of the illegal market.
An Albanian official is quoted as saying that "trading here is at a low point.
It is about twenty times less than it once was." Elsewhere, Italian coast
guards held an Albanian cargo ship suspected of carrying radioactive cargo for
three days in Pescara. Police found no trace of radioactive material,
international agencies reported on 22 April. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.
[As of 1200 CET]
Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave