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Newsline - March 8, 1996


FIGHTING CONTINUES IN GROZNY.
Fighting between Chechen militants and Russian federal troops continued at various locations throughout Grozny on 7 March. Russian media offered contradictory assessments of the situation, quoting Russian Interior Ministry sources as claiming that by evening the situation had "somewhat stabilized" and a representative of the Russian military as estimating that the militants controlled one third of the city. Estimates of both military and civilian casualties are similarly inconsistent, but number in the hundreds. Meeting in Moscow on 7 March, the Russian Security Council agreed on the broad outline of a plan for regulating the Chechen conflict. Questioned by NTV, President Boris Yeltsin declined to disclose details but promised to do so in a special TV appearance in late March. -- Liz Fuller

YABLOKO PUSHING NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE.
Grigorii Yavlinskii's Yabloko faction is once again calling for the State Duma to hold a vote of no confidence in the government following the latest outbreak of fighting in Grozny, Radio Rossii reported on 7 March. A statement issued by Yabloko deputies noted that while the president and prime minister claim publicly to be searching for a peaceful end to the Chechen conflict, Russian forces are carrying out large-scale military operations in the republic. -- Laura Belin

YELTSIN CONGRATULATES WOMEN. . .
President Boris Yeltsin told a Kremlin reception on 6 March that the future of Russia is in women's hands, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. In his speech--in honor of International Women's Day (8 March)--Yeltsin stressed the role of women in bringing up children and said that policies to improve the lot of children are a top priority. The position of many children in Russia has deteriorated since the collapse of communism, because of falling living standards and an increase in the number of broken homes and domestic violence. -- Penny Morvant

. . .WOMEN EARN LESS.
Women make up 87% of employed Russian urban residents with a personal income of less than 100,000 rubles ($21) a month, according to the findings of a poll by the Public Opinion Fund released on the eve of International Women's Day. The higher the income bracket, the lower the proportion of women. ITAR-TASS said that women constitute 71% of those with earnings between 200,000 and 400,000 rubles; 57% of those earning 400,000 to 600,000 rubles; 45% of those with incomes between 600,000 and 1 million; 38% of those earning from 1 to 1.5 million; and only 32% of those earning more than 1.5 million. The 8,869 people surveyed by the poll all have a higher or secondary specialized education. -- Penny Morvant

CONSTITUTIONAL COURT PROTECTS JUDGES.
The Constitutional Court has ruled that judges' immunity from criminal prosecution is an exception to the general principle that all citizens are equal before the law, ITAR-TASS and NTV reported on 7 March. Immunity for judges is "not a personal privilege," but "a guarantee of judicial independence," the ruling said. However, complaints against judges can be heard by boards of judicial experts; according to NTV, last year 54 judges accused of misconduct were stripped of their posts by councils of their peers. -- Laura Belin

NEMTSOV REJECTS GAIDAR'S PROPOSAL TO RUN FOR PRESIDENCY.
Nizhnii Novgorod Governor Boris Nemtsov has said he will not run for president, NTV and Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 7 March. Russia's Democratic Choice leader Yegor Gaidar said that Nemtsov was the only democratic candidate who could offer a viable challenge to the Communists. Meanwhile, Nemtsov has proposed that limits be placed on presidential authority to mitigate the effect of a Communist victory in the election, NTV reported on 7 March. Nemtsov said the Communist deputies in the Duma should support his proposal since the Communist Party itself says that it wants to eliminate the presidency. -- Anna Paretskaya

YELTSIN APPOINTS NEW GOVERNORS.
On 7 March, President Yeltsin appointed Oleg Savchenko, his representative in Kaluga Oblast, to the post of the oblast head of administration, ITAR-TASS reported. Earlier this week, Yeltsin appointed Anatolii Yefremov, deputy head of the Arkhangelsk Oblast administration, to the post of oblast governor. The previous Kaluga governor resigned in January due to a government reshuffle following the Communist victory in the Duma elections; the former Arkhangelsk administration head was fired in February, along with some other regional leaders, for their alleged misuse of budget funds. -- Anna Paretskaya

IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS MOSCOW.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati met in Moscow with his Russian counterpart, Yevgenii Primakov, and President Yeltsin on 7 March, international media reported. After discussing the Tajik and Nagorno-Karabakh conflicts, Primakov declared that Russia and Iran share a mutual interest in the "stability of frontier regions." Primakov defended Velayati's denial that Iran had any links with the recent suicide bombings in Israel, while Velayati added that Iran opposes any expansion of NATO. Yeltsin later urged Velayati to use Iran's influence to combat international terrorism, but backtracking from earlier comments that Chechen fighters are trained in Iran, he "positively assessed" Iran's position on the Chechen conflict. -- Scott Parrish

DID RUSSIA CONDUCT A NUCLEAR TEST?
U.S. officials on 7 March offered varying assessments of allegations published in the The Washington Times that Russia conducted a nuclear test in mid-January. The paper, citing anonymous sources at the U.S. Defense Department, said Russia detonated a small nuclear device at its Novaya Zemlya test site, breaking a moratorium on nuclear tests observed since 1992. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns denied that Russia had conducted a nuclear test, saying "we believe the moratorium continues." Defense Secretary William Perry, however, told a Congressional hearing that "some evidence" suggests that a test may have taken place. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA BLASTS NATO EXPANSION PLANS AT DISARMAMENT CONFERENCE.
Ambassador Grigorii Berdennikov, head of the Russian delegation to the 38-nation UN Conference on Disarmament, declared that plans for the eastward expansion of NATO "poison the entire international climate," Russian and Western agencies reported on 7 March. Speaking at a Geneva meeting of the conference, which is negotiating a Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), he also condemned proposals by Republican members of the U.S. Congress that the U.S. withdraw from the 1972 ABM Treaty. While Berdennikov said Russia hopes to conclude a CTBT agreement in 1996, his comments suggest that Russia intends to link NATO expansion with arms control issues. -- Scott Parrish

NUCLEAR PLANTS POSE "UNACCEPTABLE" RISK.
Senior Russian ecologist Aleksei Yablokov said on 6 March that Russia's nuclear plants pose an "unacceptable risk" and that massive investment is required to bring safety standards up to those in the West, Reuters reported. Yablokov, who heads the Security Council's ecological safety commission, said several NGOs had joined forces to lobby for glasnost in the nuclear industry. An international nuclear safety summit, to be attended by President Yeltsin and G-7 leaders, will take place in Moscow on 19 April, a week before the 10th anniversary of the Chornobyl nuclear catastrophe. Environmental groups such as Yablokov's Center for Russian Environment Policy and Norway's Bellona Foundation will hold their own meeting on the eve of the summit. They will focus on secrecy in the nuclear sphere and the aftermath of Chornobyl. -- Penny Morvant

YELTSIN SIGNS ANTI-TERRORIST DECREE.
President Yeltsin signed a decree on strengthening anti-terrorist measures on 7 March, Russian media reported. The decree orders government agencies to formulate a federal law on anti-terrorism in two months, and instructs the Foreign Intelligence Service to uncover the international connections of Russian terrorist groups. The decree also urges the mass media to show restraint when covering terrorist acts and anti-terrorist operations. -- Constantine Dmitriev

ANTI-TERRORIST EXERCISES DISRUPT LIFE IN PERM.
An anti-terrorist drill in the Urals city of Perm confused the local authorities, police, and media, Russian and Western agencies reported on 7 March. Five Federal Security Service (FSB) officers, impersonating terrorists, seized a local oil-refinery and took the staff hostage. They said the building was mined, demanded a $2 million ransom, and threatened to begin killing hostages. The local police forces, who were not informed that the building was "mined," stormed the building. Meanwhile, four other FSB officers in civilian clothes armed with Kalashnikov rifles crossed the city by tram and seized the oblast administration building. Perm Deputy Governor Valerii Shchukin, a former FSB colonel, said that he plans to hold similar drills every three months. -- Constantine Dmitriev

NEW PRESIDENTIAL DECREE ON LAND OWNERSHIP.
President Yeltsin signed a new decree "On the constitutional rights of the citizen to land" on 7 March, Radio Rossii reported. The decree aims to clarify the property rights of the more than 40 million citizens who have land plots and 12 million rural workers who have been given land shares. Progress in land reform is a condition of IMF lending, but the new Land Code has been held up in parliament for more than a year by Communist and Agrarian deputies who oppose private land ownership. The decree, which only applies to land allocated before 1991, forbids local authorities from levying lease payments or forcing land holders to buy out their plot. It is not clear to what extent plot owners are free to sell their land to new owners. -- Peter Rutland

ALEKSASHENKO DENOUNCES "ZERO" AGREEMENT WITH BELARUS.
Central Bank First Deputy Chairman Sergei Aleksashenko denounced the writing off of mutual debts between Russia and Belarus, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 March. The "zero" agreement, under which Russia waived the $910 million it was owed for gas supplies, was signed by the presidents of the two countries on 27 February. Aleksashenko said Gazprom has not been compensated for its lost revenues, which may limit its ability to pay taxes. Aleksashenko also stated that national import tariffs may not in fact be raised, despite last week's announcement of a 20% increase. Also on 7 March, Gazprom signed an agreement with the Moldovan government on the repayment of the latter's $380 million debt, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Natalia Gurushina



AFGHAN PRESIDENT VISITS TAJIKISTAN.
Afghan President Burhanaddin Rabbani arrived in Dushanbe on 7 March to discuss with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov the situation on their common border, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported the same day. The Tajik-Afghan border region has been the scene of clashes between CIS border guards and forces of the Tajik opposition who are based in Afghanistan since the 1992 civil war in Tajikistan. The border is also one of the first transit points for narcotics being smuggled from the area to markets in Europe and the U.S. The presidents also discussed the repatriation of some 8,000-10,000 Tajik refugees still in Afghanistan. -- Bruce Pannier

OSCE AND U.S. DELEGATIONS IN UZBEKISTAN.
An OSCE mission under Audrey Glover and a U.S. delegation headed by James Collins are visiting Tashkent, Russian, and Western media reported on 6 and 7 March. The OSCE delegation met with Uzbek Human Rights Commissioner Shavkat Urazayev, Justice Minister Sirajuddin Mirsafayev, and representatives of the court system and Foreign Ministry to discuss human rights violations and drug control policies. The Collins mission met with Prime Minister Utkir Sultanov to discuss the implementation of military conversion strategies in Uzbekistan. Uzbek TV reported that the U.S. visit is proof that Uzbek-U.S relations "have great potential for long-term development." -- Roger Kangas

PROTESTS IN EAST KAZAKHSTAN OVER NUCLEAR TESTS COMPENSATION.
Pensioners in the city of Ust-Kamenogorsk in East Kazakhstan Oblast staged a mass protest demanding the immediate payment of pensions and compensation for those who suffered from the effects of Soviet nuclear tests conducted in the neighboring test-site of Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstani TV reported on 5 March. Similar protests over the non-payment of pensions last November resulted in the replacement of the oblast head (see OMRI Daily Digest, 4 December 1995). -- Bhavna Dave

WAGE ARREARS IN KAZAKHSTAN AMOUNT TO HALF A BILLION DOLLARS.
State enterprises in Kazakhstan owe about $485 million to their employees as wage arrears and the figure is steadily rising, Kaztag reported on 7 March. Kazakhstani First Deputy Prime Minister Nigmatzhan Isingarin said that about 70% of the debt-ridden enterprises have not paid their employees for at least three months. . Wage arrears have led to numerous strikes by miners and other workers in recent months. A two-week-old hunger strike by 28 miners who had not been paid for 15 months by a mining enterprises in Southern Kazakhstan ended last month when a Swiss company, the mining enterprise's foreign partner, offered to pay. -- Bhavna Dave



CRIMEAN LAWMAKERS ACCUSE UKRAINE OF SMOTHERING AUTONOMY.
Separatist members of the Crimean legislature have charged the Ukrainian government with attempting to strip the region of its autonomy in the new draft Ukrainian constitution, international agencies reported on 7 March. The latest draft of the country's new post-Soviet constitution was published in national newspapers on 7 March, which prompted the response from Crimean deputies. They complained that the document removes all references to Crimea as a republic and replaces the regional constitution with a charter. Legislators have called an emergency session of the Crimean assembly on 10 March and threatened to consider holding a region-wide referendum on Crimea's status. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

NO PROGRESS IN RUSSIAN-UKRAINIAN OIL TALKS.
Russian deputy Fuel and Energy Minister Piotr Nidzelsky has called for continued talks with Ukraine's State Oil and Gas Committee over Kiev's tariff hike for exporting oil through its Druzhba pipeline, Segodnya reported on 6 March. Russia claims the tariff increase from $4.60 to $5.20 was a unilateral move on Kiev's part and refuses to pay more than $5 for every ton of oil piped through 100 kilometers of Ukraine. Kiev insists that Moscow was given fair notice of the increase, and says the new rate is still well below the world price of $8. Nidzelsky said if Ukraine refused to yield, Russia would be forced to look into alternative means of transporting its oil to the West, including building a new pipeline bypassing Ukraine. Such a pipeline would reportedly cost $100 million, making it a conceivable option. -- Ustina Markus

OFFICIALS ON RUSSIAN-BELARUSIAN "ZERO OPTION."
First deputy chairman of Russia's Central Bank, Sergei Aleksashenko, criticized last month's "zero option" agreement between Russia and Belarus, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 March. Under the agreement, Russia canceled Belarus's energy debt and other credits owed to Moscow, while Belarus canceled its demands for compensation for nuclear materials in the nuclear weapons removed from its soil. According to Aleksashenko, the agreement deprives Gazprom of revenues which would have been taxed and contributed to the country's budget. Belarusian deputy Foreign Minister Ivan Antonovych defended the "zero option" as an investment by Russia into Belarus's economy. -- Ustina Markus

POLISH PRESIDENT AMENDED THE LAW ON PARTY PROPERTY.
Aleksander Kwasniewski overrode Lech Walesa's July 1994 veto and signed amendments to the law on the confiscation of property belonging to the former Polish United Workers' Party (PZPR) by the Social Democracy of Poland (SdRP), Polish dailies reported on 8 March. Although the Constitutional Tribunal in 1992 stated that there was no succession between the parties, the amendments make the SdRP the formal heir to the PZPR. The law requires former PZPR property to be taken stock of so it can be decided how to divide it between the Treasury and the SdRP. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz

DANISH FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS POLAND.
Danish Foreign Minister Niels Helveg Petersen on 7 March assured Poland of Denmark's backing for its integration in the EU and NATO, Polish and international media reported the next day. According to Petersen, negotiations on the admission of new members to NATO should begin as scheduled in 1997. Petersen also spoke with his Polish counterpart Dariusz Rosati about developing economic ties between both countries. The bilateral trade volume in 1995 exceeded $1.3 billion, and Danish investment in Poland has reached $150 million. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz

CZECH ROUNDUP.
A STEM/MARK poll showed Czech National Bank Governor Josef Tosovsky as the country's most popular personality, pushing Trade and Industry Minister Vladimir Dlouhy into second place, Czech media reported on 8 March. Also in the top 15 were former Foreign Minister Jiri Dienstbier, Foreign Minister Josef Zieleniec, Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus, Nova TV director Vladimir Zelezny, and former Czechoslovak Prime Minister, Marian Calfa, an ethnic Slovak now living in Prague. A January opinion poll, showed that the most popular Czech daily is Mlada fronta Dnes, with 20.8% of respondents saying it is their favorite. Second is Pravo with 15%, followed by Blesk with 7.4%. In other news, according to a report by the Czech Statistical Office released on 7 March, the number of children born in 1995 in the Czech lands was fewer than 100,000 for the first time in 200 years, contributing to a drop of nearly 12,000 in the country's population. -- Sharon Fisher

NURSES TO JOIN CZECH HEALTH CARE WORKERS' STRIKE.
The nurses' trade union on 7 March announced that it will join doctors in a strike scheduled for 25-26 March, meaning that all health sector trade union organizations have joined the strike, Pravo reported. The nurses union is demanding that nurses' pay reaches 120% of the average salary, which would mean a 40% increase over the current level. Private ambulance operators, who are demanding higher rates per kilometer, have also decided to strike. -- Sharon Fisher

SLOVAK PRESIDENT REJECTS NOMINEE FOR U.N. AMBASSADOR.
Michael Kovac on 7 March refused to appoint Labor and Social Affairs Minister Olga Keltosova as Ambassador to the U.N., a post which has been empty for two years, Slovak media reported. Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar nominated her, emphasizing that a strong candidate is needed because Slovakia could chair the organization in 1997. Meeting with Keltosova, Kovac said he was prepared to appoint her on the condition that she publicly distance herself from the government's call last September for his resignation. As ambassador, Keltosova would represent not only the state, but also the president, Kovac stressed. Keltosova "categorically rejected" Kovac's demand, leading the president to reject her appointment. Meciar called Kovac's refusal "regrettable" and promised to react. Keltosova was the first to call for Kovac's dismissal after his March 1994 speech which led to a no-confidence vote in Meciar's previous cabinet. -- Sharon Fisher

ECONOMIC IMPROVEMENT IN HUNGARY.
Peter Medgyessy, Hungary's new finance minister, on 7 March expressed satisfaction with budgetary developments this year, Hungarian and international media reported. Hungary ended the first two months of 1996 with a budget surplus of 23 billion forints ($157.5 million). The country's monthly inflation rate dropped from 4.4% in January to 2-2.2% in February, and the cabinet aims to limit annual inflation to 20% in 1996, down from 22.5% last year. Although GDP growth dropped slightly in February, dynamic export growth and satisfactory imports create a good basis for the 2% GDP growth projected for this year, Medgyessy said. He warned that overspending by local authorities could generate inflation, and he instructed the cabinet to work out anti-inflation measures. -- Sharon Fisher

ESTONIAN PARLIAMENT SENDS CONDOLENCES ON CHECHEN DEATH.
The Chechnya Support Group on 7 March sent a letter of condolences, signed by 64 of the 101 deputies, to Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev on the death of his son-in-law Salman Raduev, ETA and BNS reported The letter called Raduev, who headed the hostage taking operation at the Kizlyar hospital in January, "an outstanding freedom fighter." The Russian foreign and interior ministries reacted angrily calling the letter "blasphemy" because Raduev was a terrorist. The Estonian Foreign Ministry noted that the letter was not an official statement by the parliament since it was not adopted following the necessary procedures. The ministry also stressed that it "continues to condemn strongly terrorism anywhere in any form and for whatever purpose." -- Saulius Girnius

LITHUANIA'S ENERGY PROBLEMS.
Energy Minister Saulius Kutas on 7 March said that the Ignalina atomic power plant reduced its daily output from 2,400 megawatts to 1,700 megawatts due to a shortage of fuel, Radio Lithuania reported. The fuel cassettes are paid by exporting electricity to Kaliningrad. Gazprom, to which Lithuania owes $36 million for natural gas, threatened to reduce daily shipments from 11 March to 2.8 million cubic meters if it was not paid at least $16 million. Daily gas shipments were reduced from 12 million cubic meters in January to the current 5.5 million cubic meters. Kutas doubted that Lithuania would be able to find the money in time and gas supplies would be limited to home consumers. -- Saulius Girnius



US WANTS SERBIA TO TURN WAR CRIMES SUSPECTS OVER TO THE HAGUE.
International news agencies reported on 7 March that US State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns asked Belgrade to turn accused Bosnian Serb war criminals Drazen Erdemovic and Radoslav Kremenovic over to the International War Crimes Tribunal. According to Burns, the U.S. "urges [Serbian] President Slobodan Milosevic to transfer the men as requested and to cooperate fully with the tribunal." Meanwhile, Tanjug reported that Erdemovic had been arrested on 2 March by Serbian police for participation in "mass killings" of civilians following the fall of the Bosnian Muslim enclave of Srebrenica. The Serbian prosecutor's office said Kremenovic is in custody in rump Yugoslavia for sheltering Erdemovic. It is believed that Erdemovic's testimony may be key in linking Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and Gen. Ratko Mladic to atrocities. On 8 March AFP reported that the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia issued an arrest warrant for Milan Martic for ordering the bombing of Zagreb in 1995, in which civilians were reportedly targeted. -- Stan Markotich

SERBIAN OPPOSITION PREPARES FOR DEMONSTRATIONS.
Nasa Borba on 8 March reported that several opposition parties are urging public demonstrations on 9 March to protest the government of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. The Serbian Renewal Movement, the Democratic Party, and the Civic Alliance have organized the rally largely to commemorate the 9 March 1991 Belgrade rally, during which some 100,000 people protested Milosevic's authoritarian rule. At that time, Milosevic responded to the protestors by summoning police, and at least two people were killed. Opposition party leaders are urging supporters to not be intimidated by the authorities. Some opposition party leaders, notably Democratic Party of Serbia head Vojislav Kostunica, have said they will not participate in organized events. -- Stan Markotich

SLOVENIA PREPARED TO APPLY FOR EU MEMBERSHIP.
Reuters on 7 March reported that the Slovenian government has now gone on record as saying that it will apply directly for membership in the European Union if it does not succeed in signing an agreement on associate membership. Differences with Italy over the status and rights of ethnic Italians who left Slovenia after the Second World War have caused delays in Slovenia's gaining associate member status. -- Stan Markotich

FOURTH ZAGREB MAYOR ELECTED.
At a 7 March session of the Zagreb City Assembly, its members voted no confidence in Marina Matulovic-Dropulic, Zagreb Mayor and Zagreb County Prefect appointed by President Franjo Tudjman on 2 March (see OMRI Daily Digest, 5 March 1996), Croatian media reported. Twenty-eight councilors voted against the motion, while the ruling party of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) councilors did not vote. The same day, the alliance of seven opposition parties elected Ivo Skrabalo, a vice president of the Croatian Social-Liberal party (HSLS), as the new Zagreb Mayor and Zagreb County Prefect with 27 votes for and 13 votes against. The Zagreb City Assembly also elected two mayor's deputies from opposition parties, Slobodna Dalmacija reported on 8 March. Tudjman is unlikely to confirm Skrabalo as a mayor, but will appoint a commissioner for Zagreb, thus enforcing new city elections. -- Daria Sito Sucic

TENSION MOUNTS IN SARAJEVO SUBURBS.
UN officials reported a rise in tensions in Serb-held Sarajevo suburbs ahead of their transfer to government control, with gangs setting fire to homes and threatening those who want to stay, Nasa Borba reported on 8 March. Damage made in looting and dismantling industrial plants in Hadzici is estimated near DM 270 million, and the fate of 186 Bosnian Muslims and Croats detained there at the beginning of the war is still uncertain. -- Daria Sito Sucic

LABOR UNREST IN ROMANIA.
Bucharest metro workers on 7 March remained on strike for the fourth consecutive day, in defiance of a Supreme Court order to return to work, Romanian and Western media reported. A union leader told journalists that the workers were determined to go on with protests until their demands for a 28% pay rise were met. The strikers also demand better working conditions and the same benefits as railway workers. President Ion Iliescu described the wildcat strike as "illegal and cynical," saying it would only create chaos and tension. Meanwhile, some 5,000 metallurgy workers from various cities marched in downtown Bucharest demanding protection for jobs in heavy industry. The Alfa Trade Union Cartel, which staged the protest, is asking the government to pay compensation for a period this winter when workers were sent home after power cuts stopped work. -- Dan Ionescu

ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN MACEDONIA.
Teodor Melescanu on 7 March arrived on a two-day official visit to Macedonia, Romanian, Macedonian and international media reported. He met with President Kiro Gligorov, Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski, and Foreign Minister Ljubomir Frckovski. Melescanu and Frckovski discussed ways to boost bilateral relations and intensify political and economic cooperation. The two sides are expected to discuss the peace process in former Yugoslavia, as well as the situation of a Romanian-speaking minority in Macedonia. Melescanu and Frckovski will sign a cooperation protocol between the two foreign ministries. Melescanu said that his Macedonian visit rounds out the process of "settlement" of new relations between Bucharest and the former Yugoslav republics. Before the suspension of the UN embargo against the rump Yugoslav Federation, Macedonia ranked first in Romania's trade ties with the former Yugoslav republics. -- Matyas Szabo and Stefan Krause

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT CRITICIZES STATE RADIO AND TV COMPANY.
Mircea Snegur's spokesman on 6 March accused the Teleradio-Moldova state company leadership of violating the audiovisual law that stipulates priority broadcasting for incoming information from the presidency, parliament and government, Moldovan agencies reported. Referring to the frequent electric power cuts in villages, and the 10-fold reduction in the number of wired-radio outlets during the past five years, the spokesman said "some people are interested in hiding information from the public at large." He added that a governmental decree on the replacement of the outlets with wireless receivers is being implemented "with tremendous pain and surprisingly slowly." -- Matyas Szabo

HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT CRITICAL OF BULGARIA.
U.S. State Department human rights report on Bulgaria says that human rights are generally respected, but it also points to a number of problems, Demokratsiya reported on 8 March. Most notably, the report mentions the constitutional provision that political parties may not be formed on an ethnic, racial, or religious basis, lack of parliamentary control of the security services, human rights violations by police, especially against Roma, and the conditions in Bulgarian prisons. The report states that many old cadres returned to high positions in the security services in 1995. It also mentions attempts of political domination of and a "lack of balance in the state media." In other news, Duma reported that 520 persons from a list of alleged criminals published by the Interior Ministry on 22 February have been arrested as of 7 March. -- Stefan Krause

BULGARIA, UKRAINE SIGN MILITARY COOPERATION AGREEMENT. T
he defense ministers of Bulgaria and Ukraine, Dimitar Pavlov and Valerii Shmarov, on 7 March signed a bilateral military cooperation agreement, international media reported. The agreement provides for cooperation in security measures, military engineering, and personnel training. Shmarov stressed Ukraine's willingness to boost cooperation in areas of common interest. During his two-day visit, Shmarov met with President Zhelyu Zhelev, Prime Minister Zhan Videnov, and Parliamentary President Blagovest Sendov. -- Stefan Krause

FORMER ALBANIAN COMMUNIST OFFICIALS ARRESTED.
Communist-era Intelligence chief Irakli Kocollari and Interior Minister Vladimir Hysi were arrested on 5 March, international agencies reported. In 1991, under the last Socialist President Ramiz Alia, they ordered the destruction of some 30,000 to 60,000 Interior Ministry documents in order to remove evidence of human rights violations. If convicted, they face up to seven years in prison. Kocollari was appointed to head the new intelligence service SHIK after the first multiparty elections in March 1991 when parliament decided to disband the communist-era Sigurimi. Unlike Sigurimi, SHIK is not subordinated to the Interior Ministry. Hysi served as Interior Minister in the government of experts between December 1991 and April 1992. Another 35 communist officials, including Alia, are currently in prison under charges of human rights abuses. Meanwhile, present SHIK head Bashkim Gazidede on 7 March told the parliament that his organization has been fully placed under civilian control. -- Fabian Schmidt and Stefan Krause

--Compiled by Victor Gomez and Ustina Markus



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