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Newsline - May 10, 1995

Veterans from the Chechen campaign were sighted in the parade that marched through Red Square on 9 May, news agencies reported. Several Western leaders had earlier said they would only attend the ceremonies if there was no Chechnya connection. However, U.S. National Security Adviser Anthony Lake said he was satisfied that the Russians had kept their pledge. After the parade of veterans and soldiers on Red Square, Russia put on a display of its most advanced military hardware, sending tanks, rocket launchers, and columns of troops past a new war monument on Poklonnaya Gora in western Moscow, while aircraft flew overhead. The military parade was not held in Red Square for the first time as a concession to Western leaders who refused to attend a parade displaying military equipment. During a 45-minute meeting with Yeltsin, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl told him that the ongoing Chechen conflict is harming Russia's relationship with the West. According to AFP, Clinton made no mention of Chechnya in his public statements during the day, but an administration official said it is sure to come up during their talks on 10 May. In St. Petersburg, thousands of people filled the city's cemeteries to mourn their relatives who died in the Nazi siege of Leningrad. * Robert Orttung

Thousands of demonstrators waving red flags and carrying portraits of Josef Stalin marched through the capital in an alternative Victory Day rally, Russian and Western agencies reported on 9 May. The march was organized by various opposition groups, including the Communist Party, Viktor Anpilov's Workers' Russia, and the Officers' Union, and attracted an unusually large turnout. Police said about 30,000 people took part, including many veterans. Participants argued that Yeltsin has no right to lead celebrations marking the victory over Nazi Germany. One veteran quoted by AFP said 1945 marked "the victory of the Soviet people and not that of these traitors to the Soviet Union who are running Russia." In his address, Anpilov said Yeltsin had put too much emphasis on Russia's rather than the Soviet Union's contribution to the war, while General Valentin Varennikov argued that "what Hitler failed to do, the current regime has done through betrayal and lies." Speakers called for the restoration of a unified state on the territory of the CIS and for bringing "patriotic forces" to power in Russia. The Moscow authorities had initially tried to prevent the opposition from rallying in central Moscow. * Penny Morvant

In his talks with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl on 9 May, President Yeltsin stressed that Russia would honor its contract to complete the nuclear power reactors in Iran, Interfax reported the same day. Yeltsin's foreign policy aide, Dmitry Ryurikov, said the president once again asserted the peaceful nature of the deal. Yeltsin said Germany's positions on nuclear aid to Iran and the "Chechen problem" are not as "tough" as those of the U.S., ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Economic Relations Oleg Davydov said a decision on supplying equipment for the nuclear power reactors to Iran would be put off until after the 10 May summit between Yeltsin and U.S. President Bill Clinton. While Davydov said a compromise is possible, "one should not forget that Iran is Russia's neighbor and it is not in our interests to create opposition on our southern borders." Davydov also confirmed that the U.S. has "familiarized the Russian leadership with studies according to which one can draw the conclusion that Iran intends to come closer to creating nuclear weapons." * Michael Mihalka

Russian President Boris Yeltsin reiterated his opposition to the hasty expansion of NATO in his talks with British Prime Minister John Major on 9 May, Interfax reported the same day. According to Yeltsin's foreign policy aide, Dmitri Ryurikov, the Russian president stressed that "a solution [must] be found in the interests of Europe, Russia, and the world as a whole." Meanwhile, Russian State Duma Chairman Ivan Rybkin held talks with Bulgarian Prime Minister Zhan Videnov on 9 May about methods for developing a collective security system in Europe based on the OSCE. Rybkin spoke against haste in expanding NATO and added that Russian membership in NATO would create a "lasting belt of peace from Vancouver to Vladivostok." * Michael Mihalka

Russia has drafted an economic package which endorses continued bilateral economic cooperation with the U.S., Russian Minister for Foreign Economic Relations Oleg Davydov told Interfax on 9 May. Davydov said U.S. President Bill Clinton's visit to Russia for the upcoming summit will be significant if the U.S. continues to support Russian economic reforms, including foreign debt restructuring and Russia's membership in the World Trade Organization. * Thomas Sigel

In a speech at the 9 May ceremonies on Poklonnaya Gora in Moscow, Defense Minister Pavel Grachev said the Russian armed forces are "battleworthy, under control, and ready to defend the state from any encroachment and guarantee the country's national security," First Channel TV network reported. In it, he said the military should "only serve the people and their state." While acknowledging that the confrontation of the Cold War was a thing of the past, he cautioned that regional armed conflict is capable of sparking another major war. As long as there is "a complex combination of historical, territorial, political, economic, and inter-ethnic contradictions, we must strengthen and qualitatively renew our armed forces," he said. * Doug Clarke

The political commentator Sergei Parkhomenko charged in the 30 April-7 May edition of Moskovskie novosti that presidential security operatives are maintaining a "slush fund" for Yeltsin's re-election campaign. Quoting anonymous sources within the government, parliament, and counterintelligence service, Parkhomenko said the president's "inner circle" has given up plans to cancel the elections and is now concentrating on acquiring campaign funds. He asserted that money is being obtained from Russia's most profitable sectors: the oil industry, the arms trade, and the precious metals and stones industry. Parkhomenko named Maj.-Gen. Georgy Rogozin, a close associate of presidential security service chief Alexander Korzhakov, as the most likely head of the "slush fund." * Laura Belin

Acting Prosecutor General Alexei Ilyushenko issued an order demanding "uncompromising efforts against manifestations of fascism and other forms of political extremism," Interfax reported on 6 May. He urged all prosecutors to better enforce both laws on the equality of citizens and bans on associations that call for changing the constitutional order by force. The order also instructs prosecutors to apply tougher measures against people who circulate fascist and extremist materials. At the same time, Ilyushenko ordered judicial bodies and agencies in charge of media registration to ensure stricter observance of laws protecting freedom of the press and media, Ekho Moskvy reported. On 23 March, Yeltsin issued a decree instructing government officials at all levels to step up the battle against fascism in Russia. * Laura Belin

The fourth congress of the National Salvation Front and the Union of Deceived Investors of the "Tibet" Concern agreed to form a new electoral bloc called Russia's Patriotic Front, Radio Mayak reported on 6 May. Vladimir Voronin, leader of the Tibet investors, said the bloc will win widespread support among Russia's approximately 80 million deceived investors, who have no chance of getting their money back under the current regime. He said the main competition for Russia's Patriotic Front would be Alexander Rutskoi's Derzhava movement and Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party. National Salvation Front chairman Ilya Konstantinov told Russian TV that the new bloc is preparing "scandalous actions" for the near future, but he refused to be more specific about the group's campaign plans. * Laura Belin

The top American arms control official said on 8 May that the CFE treaty could be amended to meet Russian objections if Moscow continues to comply with the pact. Reuters reported that John Holum, director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, said Washington is "dead set" against any changes before the May 1996 review conference, but would be receptive to "revisiting" some portions of the treaty at that time "because of changes in the security situation." Russia has objected to the terms which limit the amount of weapons they can deploy in the North Caucasus Military District. Those limits go into effect in November, at which time the Russians will almost certainly have more arms in the region than the treaty permits. Holum speculated that discussions might be held before November about the changes to be considered the following May, and implied that the Americans might overlook those Russian excesses "so long as the Russians are committed to live up to their obligations." * Doug Clarke

The youngest and most talented scientists are abandoning the research sector, creating a brain drain that will have a damaging impact on Russia, according to a 5 May report in Kuranty. Between 1990 and 1993, the number of scientists fell by 1.2 million, or by almost a third. Most go into business, where wages are considerably higher. In 1993, for example, the average wage for scientists was 38% lower than that in industry. The brain drain abroad is on a smaller scale, but also significant. The report said 34,000 scientists had emigrated over the last six years, mostly to Israel, Germany, or the U.S. No data are available for the number working abroad on temporary contracts, but it is likely to be higher. Spending on scientific research and development as a percentage of national income is now a quarter of what it was in 1985, while GNP itself has fallen by nearly half. Fundamental research has suffered the most, with 60% of the money allocated for it being spent on wages, leaving virtually no money to purchase equipment. * Penny Morvant and Thomas Sigel

An agreement to double Russian natural gas supplies to Turkey has been reached, Russian media reported on 9 May. Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Ciller held talks with her Russian counterpart Viktor Chernomyrdin in conjunction with her visit to Moscow for V-E day celebrations. The talks focused on economic relations between the two countries with Russia registering its willingness to increase its natural gas exports to Turkey from nearly 5 billion cubic meters to 9.2 billion cubic meters. In addition to announcing their mutual aim to boost bilateral trade, currently estimated at $2.2 billion a year, Chernomyrdin assured his Turkish counterpart that Russia had not and will not help Kurdish separatists in any way. * Lowell Bezanis

The majority of unprofitable industrial enterprises are located in Western Siberia, Eastern Siberia, and the Far East, Russian Radio announced on 4 May. According to a Russian Economics Ministry report, the unprofitable enterprises represent 30% of the entire industrial potential in those areas. In contrast, the number of unprofitable enterprises in Northwestern Russia and Central Russia amounts to only 18%. As for Moscow, St. Petersburg, and the Moscow and Yaroslavl regions, only 10% of industrial enterprises are unprofitable. * Thomas Sigel

Former Azerbaijani President Ayaz Mutalibov, who has been living in Moscow since his abortive attempt to regain power in May 1992, was detained by Russian security services on 7 May, Interfax reported on 9 May. Successive Azerbaijani leaderships have demanded Mutalibov's extradition. He faces charges of complicity in the January 1990 Soviet military crackdown in Baku and the February 1992 killings of Azerbaijanis in the Karabakh villages of Khodzhaly, and of involvement in the alleged coup attempts of October 1994 and March 1995. * Liz Fuller

Armenian Prime Minister Hrant Bagratyan signed ten agreements on economic, technical, and political cooperation with Iran during a four-day official visit to the country ending on 6 May, Russian and Western agencies reported. The economic agreements include one under which Iran will supply Armenia with natural gas for a period of 20 years through a pipeline specially constructed for that purpose; Iran will also supply electricity, according to Interfax. Armenia's energy sector has been crippled for the past three years by repeated sabotage of the pipeline that supplies Turkmen gas to it via Georgia. * Liz Fuller

Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev said on 9 May that Russia's peacekeeping activities in the CIS are getting "full support" from UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Interfax reported the same day. Kozyrev said President Yeltsin pressed Boutros-Ghali on the need for the UN to eliminate the double standard of financing peacekeeping in Bosnia and Croatia but not in the CIS. Boutros-Ghali said his talks with Kozyrev centered on economic issues, not peacekeeping. * Michael Mihalka

During a military march marking VE-Day, Valerii Shmarov stressed the need to increase the combat readiness of the Ukrainian armed forces as a sign of what he called the strictly defensive nature of the former Soviet republic's military doctrine, Interfax-Ukraine and Reuters reported on 9 May. But he added that political measures and friendly relations with Ukraine's neighbors and other CIS countries "united by a common history" were the key to preventing future conflicts. "The creation of a strong, law-abiding Ukraine will be the best memorial for those who gave their lives," Shmarov said. Unlike Moscow, the Kiev celebrations featured no display of military hardware, only a parade of soldiers and veterans. In western Ukraine, local radical nationalists tried to tear up a red Soviet-era flag carried by Red Army veterans during a parade. Veterans of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, who fought both the Nazis and Soviet forces, held a separate commemoration in Lviv. Crimean festivities were disrupted as officers of the disputed Black Sea Fleet left their seats when Ukrainian servicemen marched past. * Chrystyna Lapychak

Pro-Russian sentiment prevailed during a military parade in Minsk which marked the 50th anniversary of the Allied victory in Europe and which took place less than a week before elections and a referendum on greater integration with the young country's giant neighbor, international news agencies reported on 9 May. Thousands lined the streets carrying mainly the red flags of the ex-USSR, overwhelming the few flags of post-Soviet Belarus. President Aleksandr Lukashenka delivered a nostalgic address of "a unified homeland from Brest to the Kuriles and from the Black Sea to the Barents Sea." Belarus suffered higher proportional losses as a World War II battleground than any other European country, with nearly 2.25 million dead out of a population of eight million. * Chrystyna Lapychak

Education and Science Minister Janis Vaivads submitted his resignation to Prime Minister Maris Gailis on 8 May, BNS reported the next day. Vaivads said he resigned because he could not fulfill financial promises made to teachers. Chairman of the For the Homeland and Freedom faction Maris Grinblats, who had asked for Vaivads's resignation several weeks earlier, said that a new minister would be unlikely to resolve the teachers' problems. Vaivads will return to the Saeima as a deputy. * Saulius Girnius

The consumer price index for April in Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia rose 1.0%, 1.4%, and 1.9%, respectively, BNS reported on 9 May. In Estonia, the cost of services increased by 1.2% while goods rose by 0.9% (0.6% for food and 1.5% for manufactured goods). In Latvia, food prices rose by 0.7%, the greatest increases being for potatoes (12.1%) and cabbage (23%). Household expenses grew by 1.3%, transport costs by 3.7%, entertainment by 4.8%. Cumulative inflation for the first four months of 1995 was 7.9% in Estonia, 11.7% in Latvia, and 12.9% in Lithuania. * Saulius Girnius

Maj. Gen. Guy Bastien and George Katsirdaki of NATO's International Military Staff told reporters in Vilnius that Lithuania's armed forces make a very good impression and should be able to reach NATO standards in two or three years time, BNS reported on 9 May. They, however, declined to speculate on the possible date for such admission. The two were in Vilnius for an international seminar, attended by more than 70 delegates from 22 countries, on the planning of military exercises and the training of forces for peacekeeping, search and rescue, and humanitarian operations. Defense Minister Linas Linkevicius said Lithuania intends to participate in six of the 14 planned Partnership for Peace programs. * Saulius Girnius

Solidarity workers at one of Poland's most important defense plants began a strike on 9 May, Reuters reported. Some 1,000 workers at the Pronit explosives factory in Pionki, south of Warsaw, walked off their jobs and Solidarity warned that the strike might be extended to other defense factories unless the government provides more aid to the embattled arms industry. Pronit is one of four arms plants the Polish government considers crucial to state defense. Reuters quoted Deputy Industry Minister Roman Czerwinski as saying the strike was "illegal and self-destructive." He said the government could not buy more arms from Polish producers without altering the budget "and that's not going to happen." The Polish arms industry has been hit by bans on exports to Iraq and the former Yugoslavia and unpaid money owed by the former Soviet Union. Meanwhile, workers at the state-owned tractor company Ursus began an indefinite strike on 8 May, calling for the government measures to improve the firm's finances. * Doug Clarke and Jakub Karpinski

Polish Foreign Minister Wladyslaw Bartoszewski on 9 May began a four-day visit to Israel, during which he is taking part in ceremonies marking the 50th anniversary of the Allied victory in Europe. On 9 May, he was a honorary guest at the "victory celebration" in the Knesset courtyard, Polish media report. Bartoszewski has held honorary Israeli citizenship since 1992; in 1963 he was awarded the title of "Righteous Gentile." * Jakub Karpinski

The National Property Fund, the state holding organization for property in the process of privatization, is owed more than four billion koruny by companies that have passed the deadline for paying for their acquisition of businesses, Hospodarske noviny reported on 10 May. The first list published by the Fund shows that full or partial payment is still outstanding for 148 firms privatized in 1992 and 1993. At least six purchasing companies or investment funds owe more than 150 million koruny each. The total amount owing to the Fund was estimated to stand at the end of March at 7.5 billion koruny, a reduction of 500 million koruny from five months earlier, Hospodarske noviny wrote. It quoted Fund official Pavel Suchy as saying publishing the list could pressure some defaulters into paying; in some cases, the Fund has sued debtors, filed for their liquidation or proposed canceling sale contracts. * Steve Kettle

Representatives of the Slovak opposition have expressed concern following the parliament's no-confidence vote in Michal Kovac of 5 May, while government parties have defended the move. On 8 May, the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) presented a declaration stating that Kovac's two years in office confirm that "he is not capable of further carrying out his duties" because he is causing a polarization of society, his actions do not reflect impartiality, and he has failed to respect the seriousness of the "democratic decisions" approved by the parliament, and thus also the will of the majority of Slovak citizens. For these reasons, the HZDS stressed that Kovac should resign from his post, Pravda reported on 9 May. In an interview with Pravda on 10 May, Milan Ftacnik, deputy chairman of the opposition Party of the Democratic Left, stressed that "the first place in the polarization of society" has long belonged to Premier and HZDS Chairman Vladimir Meciar. At a press conference on 9 May, Ftacnik expressed concern that in the half year since the elections, the HZDS has worked only to strengthen its own power. * Sharon Fisher

According to an opinion poll carried out by the Slovak Statistical Office from 20-31 March, 48% of respondents said they trusted the institution of the presidency, compared with only 39% for the government and 35% for the parliament, Pravda reports on 10 May. Meanwhile, 41% distrusted the president, 51% the government and 53% the parliament. Trust in the president was higher among residents of Slovakia's largest towns and those with more education while trust in the parliament was higher among older people and lower among ethnic Hungarians. * Sharon Fisher

UN special envoy Yasushi Akashi on 9 May met in Belgrade with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and heads of the self-styled Republic of Serbian Krajina, including RSK President Milan Martic and Premier Borislav Mikelic, Nasa Borba reports the following day. Akashi urged Martic and the other Krajina leaders to refrain from any drastic measures or retaliatory actions in response to Croatia's recent retaking of territory in western Slavonia formerly under rebel Serb control (see OMRI Daily Digest 2 May 1995). For his part, however, Martic said that conditions and tensions were such that they "can escalate into bigger conflicts," Reuters reported. Discussions with Milosevic were reportedly aimed at winning over the Serbian president for the purpose of averting a wider regional conflict. * Stan Markotich

Reuters reported on 9 May that the UN moved into the once Serb-held enclave in Croatia's western Slavonia to evacuate local Serbs to Bosnia after "Serb leaders threatened reprisals if they were not allowed to go." Two buses were slated to transport up to 100 people to Bosnia, and UN officials have said they expect that many more individuals will leave, likely causing the "evacuation program" to continue for at least several days. Meanwhile, on 9 May Hina, citing Croatian army sources, reported that Serb paramilitary forces some 80 kilometers southeast of Zagreb are amassing heavy weapons and "building up troops." The news agency also reported that Bosnian Serb forces fired three shells at targets near the Croatian city of Dubrovnik. * Stan Markotich

According to HABENA reports of 9 May, Bosnian Serbs shelled the northeastern Bosnian city of Tuzla that day, allegedly causing "significant damage" but evidently no casualties. Meanwhile, international media continue to report on fighting throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina. On 9 May, AFP reported that representatives of the international Contact Group will meet on 12 May, and the topic of using NATO airpower against the Bosnian Serb side is likely to be broached. On 8 May, UN officials decided against using the threat of airstrikes against the Bosnian Serbs in response to the 7 May Serb mortar attack on a Sarajevo suburb which resulted in 11 deaths. * Stan Markotich

Adrian Nastase, executive chairman of the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), told journalists on 9 May that there is a "broad opinion stream" within his party in favor of supporting Ion Iliescu's candidature in the 1996 presidential election. Nastase added that Iliescu's official nomination would be announced at a future party gathering (probably the national conference). He said that Iliescu's participation in the VE-Day Celebrations in London, Paris and Moscow both recognized Romania's war efforts on the allies' side and acknowledged Iliescu's "role as a national referee [in preserving] stability and social peace in the country." Iliescu told Radio Bucharest that the celebrations in Moscow had "the strongest political charge," including a clear message that Russia "cannot and should not be isolated" internationally. * Dan Ionescu

In a message marking the 10th of May, Romania's national day in the pre-communist era, former King Michael remembered Romania's decision to take up arms against Nazi Germany in August 1944. The message, which was published in several independent dailies, said that Romanians "deserved more than they could achieve in the last five years" and that they had the duty to carry through the democratic revival of 1944 and 1945. Michael's message was sent from London, where he took part in the VE-Day celebrations. On 7 May, President Ion Iliescu told the Romanian Service of the BBC he had not been upset by the British government's invitation to Michael to take part in the ceremonies. * Dan Ionescu

VE-Day celebrations in Sofia on 9 May highlighted conflicting views of Bulgaria's communist past. dpa reported the same day that representatives of the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) laid wreaths at the monument of the Soviet Army, while opposition parties boycotted the ceremonies. The ambassadors of Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, and Armenia took part in the ceremonies, which were accompanied by Soviet military songs and chants of "eternal friendship." A BSP statement honored the contribution of Bulgarian soldiers and partisans to the victory over Germany, but contained no criticism of communist rule after the war. Bulgaria was allied with Germany until September 1944, and changed sides after being occupied by the Red Army. * Stefan Krause

Zhelyu Zhelev and Zhan Videnov on 9 May attended the VE-Day celebrations in Moscow, arriving separately and following different programs, Bulgarian newspapers reported the following day. Videnov attended the celebrations on Red Square and the military parade at Poklonnaya Gora, and also met with Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Ivan Rybkin, chairman of the State Duma. Zhelev, who attended the celebrations on Red Square, met with Bulgarians living in Russia, Trud reported. Most papers noted that the two politicians did not even greet each other on Red Square and tried to avoid contact. * Stefan Krause

A meeting on 8 May between US businessman George Soros and Blagovest Sendov, chairman of the National Assembly, failed to resolve a conflict over the role of the Soros-sponsored Open Society Fund, Bulgarian newspapers reported the following day. The parliament canceled a 42 million leva ($ 646,000) contribution to the fund last week. The Fund's budget is $6.2 million without the government contribution, $6 million of which is provided by Soros himself. It finances the American University in Blagoevgrad, scholarships, scientific projects and exchanges. Sendov was cited by 24 chasa as saying that Soros is trying to "interfere in domestic affairs," while Education Minister Ilcho Dimitrov told Duma that Bulgaria is thankful for any help, provided "it does not offend our national sovereignty and honor." According to the Fund's Managing Director Georgi Prohaski, Soros during the meeting with Sendov "expressed his concern over some recent publications . . . which showed signs of xenophobia and reluctance of the government to develop ties with the Western world," international agencies reported. Soros himself told Demokratsiya that he will continue to finance the Fund. Prime Minister Zhan Videnov declined to meet Soros. * Stefan Krause

Greek government spokesman Evangelos Venizelos on 9 May denounced Turkish allegations that his country is training Kurdish rebels, international news agencies reported on the same day. He was replying to statements made by an alleged Kurdish rebel in Izmir on 8 May. Mehmet Kavak, who was captured along with two other suspected Kurdish rebels, said he received two months of military training at a camp 200 kilometers from Athens. Venizelos said this is "not the first time that a Kurd who has been arrested is forced to confess . . . that he allegedly was trained . . . in Greece." He added that Greece "is accessible to all and is transparent," so that "anyone can conduct a journalistic investigation here to see what is going on." Greece has repeatedly denied Turkish claims that Kurds are trained on its territory. * Stefan Krause

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Steve Kettle