CONFUSION SURROUNDS DEFENSE MINISTRY MEETING.
media reports, unidentified sources in the Defense Ministry claimed on 12 March
that the ministry's collegium did not meet the day before and did not issue a
statement rejecting criticism of Defense Minister Pavel Grachev, ITAR-TASS and
Ekho Moskvy reported (see OMRI Daily Digest, 12 March 1996). Grachev's
aides prepared the collegium's statement as well as telegrams supporting the
minister from various units, the sources claimed. Only the air force commander
supported the statement, but the commanders of other branches did not, AFP
reported. Although the statement appeared in a number of newspapers, including
Nezavisimaya gazeta and Krasnaya zvezda, ITAR-TASS withdrew its
story less than 90 minutes after it appeared, saying it was "mistaken."
Presidential spokesman Sergei Medvedev said he had no confirmation of plans to
remove Security Council Chairman Oleg Lobov and replace him with Grachev. --
CHERNOMYRDIN DISTANCES HIMSELF FROM FEDERAL MILITARY ACTIVITIES IN CHECHNYA.
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's press secretary, Viktor Konnov,
rejected criticism from Duma member Sergei Kovalev over the bombing of rebel
Chechen forces in Bamut , saying Kovalev should direct his questions to the
ministers of defense and interior, the so-called power ministers, ITAR-TASS
reported on 12 March. The power ministers are directly subordinated to the
president, not the prime minister, who has sought to resolve the conflict
through negotiations. Meanwhile, a group of Duma deputies is heading toward
Bamut to act as negotiators and defend the lives of POWs in the village. --
YELTSIN ON COUNCIL OF EUROPE.
At a meeting with the 12 Federal Assembly
deputies who will represent Russia in the Council of Europe's Parliamentary
Assembly, President Yeltsin urged the speedy ratification of the council's four
basic conventions, Russian and Western media reported on 12 March. Yeltsin said
Russia had "earned" council membership by making progress on democratization
and human rights, but contended that Russia cannot immediately implement the
council's standards, such as abolishing the death penalty. He also urged the
deputies to vigorously defend the rights of ethnic Russians in the Baltic and
CIS states. Apparently referring to the Chechen conflict, he told them to
"resolutely rebuff attempts to pressure Russia, interfere in its internal
affairs, and apply double standards." These remarks provoked a rebuke from Leni
Fischer, speaker of the council's Parliamentary Assembly, who said "human
rights are never a domestic issue." -- Scott Parrish
GORBACHEV HAS ONE MILLION SIGNATURES.
Former Soviet President Mikhail
Gorbachev has collected the 1 million signatures necessary to run in the June
presidential election, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 12 March. Raisa
Gorbachev, however, is trying to talk her husband out of participating in the
campaign, ITAR-TASS reported. Eye surgeon Svyatoslav Fedorov has amassed
900,000 signatures and Viktor Anpilov, of the Russian Communist Workers' Party,
has 500,000. Commentators do not think any of these candidates has a serious
chance at winning the presidency, since an effective campaign will cost an
estimated 30 billion rubles ($6.25 million), of which the government will only
provide 200 million rubles, Radio Rossii reported. -- Robert Orttung
YEGOROV INITIATOR OF GOVERNMENT PURGES?
Izvestiya has obtained a
report prepared for President Yeltsin by Chief of Staff Nikolai Yegorov that
seems to confirm rumors that Yegorov is one of the government's most ardent
proponents of a cabinet reshuffle. The report blames the country's wage arrears
on former First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais, saying he gave an oral
order that tied up federal budget money in commercial banks; reports to this
effect have already appeared in the mass media. The report also accuses the
Finance Ministry and the Federal Treasury of "corruption and abuse of power on
a giant scale" and proposes that Yeltsin take "adequate measures" to resolve
the problem, Izvestiya reported on 13 March. -- Anna Paretskaya
COURT: CANCELLATION OF REGIONAL ELECTION WAS UNCONSTITUTIONAL.
Kostroma Oblast Court has ruled that the oblast legislature violated the
constitution when it canceled regional elections, ITAR-TASS reported on 12
March. The election was supposed to take place in March when the Oblast Duma's
term expires, but the legislature extended its term in office until December
1997, arguing that it was acting in accordance with a September 1995
presidential decree. Earlier this year, the Novgorod Oblast Court ruled that
Article 1 of the decree--which sets December 1997 as the date for regional
legislative elections--contradicts the constitution and requested that the
Constitutional Court examine the decree (see OMRI Daily Digest, 5
February 1996). -- Anna Paretskaya
VREMYA ADOPTS NEW LOOK.
The Soviet-era evening news program "Vremya,"
which was revived several years ago on Russian Public TV, adopted a new format
on 11 March. The show will have a more "energetic rhythm" according to its
producer Kseniya Ponomareva. The revamp includes an updated version of Georgii
Sviridov's well-known melody, electronic graphics, and a studio specially
created for it, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Robert Orttung
PRESIDENTIAL DECREE BOLSTERS FOREIGN MINISTRY.
President Yeltsin has
issued a decree charging the Foreign Ministry with overall coordination of
Russian foreign policy, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 March. Presidential spokesman
Sergei Medvedev said the decree aims to ensure that all government agencies
"adhere to a single position" on foreign policy issues. He complained that on
occasion "some institutions" issued foreign policy statements that had not been
cleared with the Foreign Ministry, causing confusion about the position of the
Russian government. Medvedev admitted that previous presidential decrees had
already given the ministry this coordinating function but said the ministry
will now monitor statements made by government officials "more intensively." He
also contended that the new decree would not undermine the Presidential Foreign
Policy Council, which was created in December reportedly because former Foreign
Minister Andrei Kozyrev failed to coordinate policy effectively. -- Scott
RUSSIA LIFTS ARMS EMBARGO ON FORMER YUGOSLAVIA.
President Yeltsin signed
a directive on 12 March gradually lifting the arms embargo against the states
of the former Yugoslavia, Russian and Western agencies reported. The directive,
which presidential spokesman Sergei Medvedev described as linked to the
implementation of the Dayton accords and associated UN resolutions, allows
Russia to begin military-technical cooperation talks immediately with the
former Yugoslav states, including Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia,
Slovenia, and rump Yugoslavia. After 14 March, Russia will be permitted to sell
"defensive" weapons to these states, and after 11 June, all restrictions on
military sales to the region will end, provided the UN secretary-general
certifies that all warring parties have complied with the terms of the Dayton
accords. While consistent with Dayton, the announcement appears designed to
suggest to domestic audiences that Yeltsin is pursuing an independent course in
the Balkans. -- Scott Parrish
POWER CUTS, PROTESTS IN FAR EAST.
Authorities in the Far East have cut
energy supplies to almost all factories in the region because of growing power
shortages, Western agencies reported on 11 March. Only vital facilities and
companies are exempt. A regional official said the measure is intended to
soften the impact of the shortages on the local population, who have had to
live with severe power cuts for several weeks. Two factors are behind the
problem. The federal government owes the region about 1 trillion rubles ($208
million) in fuel subsidies, which power companies need to pay for coal. Local
energy consumers are also behind in payments, sending the power producers even
deeper into debt. Also in Primorsk Krai, workers from two military-industrial
plants in Bolshoi Kamen blocked the railway between Vladivostok and Nahodka for
an hour on 12 March to protest wage arrears. -- Penny Morvant
ALCOHOL TAKES TOLL ON RUSSIAN MEN.
Fifty percent of men and 30% of women
aged between 30 and 50 have experienced liver or heart problems as a result of
chronic heavy drinking or have suffered alcohol poisoning, Aleksandr Nemtsov of
the Alcohol Policy Center told ITAR-TASS on 12 March. Nemtsov said alcoholism
is increasingly affecting the working-age population. On 12 March, the minimum
retail price of a bottle of Russian or CIS-produced vodka or other spirits rose
to 18,400 rubles ($3.80) a liter, while the minimum price for spirits imported
from outside the CIS went up to 40,000 rubles ($8.30). ITAR-TASS said the
increase does not affect brandy. -- Penny Morvant
FEDERAL MIGRATION SERVICE TO BUILD HOUSING FOR REFUGEES.
Migration Service of Russia (FMS) plans to spend 37% of the 2.2 trillion rubles
($458.3 million) that it was allocated in the 1996 federal budget on new
housing for refugees and forced migrants, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 March.
According to FMS spokesman Andrei Sarychev, another 25% will be spent on
refugee reception centers and 20% on interest-free loans for refugees. Sarychev
said that the 1996 budget is not sufficient to resolve the housing problem of
refugees and forced migrants and added that it will take 10-15 years to build
enough apartments given the slow pace of housing construction in Russia.
Meanwhile, the FMS has to supply 130,000 refugees from Chechnya with housing.
-- Constantine Dmitriev
NEW TAX CHIEF.
President Yeltsin replaced the director of the State Tax
Service, Vladimir Gusev, with First Deputy Finance Minister Vitalii Artyukhov
on 12 March, ITAR-TASS reported. Artyukhov will also assume the rank of deputy
prime minister, of which there are currently seven. Born in 1944, Artyukhov
graduated from a mechanics institute and worked in urban transport and the
Automobile Ministry for 20 years. From 1988-91 he was deputy head of the
financial department of the Supreme Soviet, and then first deputy transport
minister, until his appointment to the Finance Ministry in January 1995.
Russian Public TV (ORT) reported that Gusev will stay on as Artyukhov's deputy.
-- Peter Rutland
REASONS FOR GUSEV'S REMOVAL.
Gusev's removal is presumably connected to
the fact that budget receipts for the first two months of this year were only
one third of the planned level (OMRI Daily Digest. 29 February 1996).
Part of the problem is the persistence of special tax breaks, which Finance
Minister Vladimir Panskov estimated will cost the budget 20 trillion rubles
($4.1 billion) in lost revenue this year, Rossiiskaya gazeta reported on
6 March. A leading beneficiary of such privileges is the monopoly Gazprom,
which is allowed to place some of its profits into a tax-exempt investment
fund. On 11 March, the Duma unanimously approved a bill removing all of
Gazprom's tax privileges, Kommersant-Daily reported. A similar measure
was introduced by Russia's Choice deputies in October 1995, but it made no
progress because deputies could not pinpoint exactly what tax privileges
Gazprom enjoys. -- Peter Rutland
EFFORT TO FREEZE FUEL PRICES FOR FARMERS.
One of Russia's largest oil
companies, YUKOS, and Menatep bank will cooperate with the government's program
to keep fuel prices for farmers unchanged during the spring sowing season,
Segodnya and ITAR-TASS reported on 13 March. They will create a new
financial-industrial group, Agropromresurs, to supply fuel to farms in nine
provinces of European Russia. YUKOS earlier announced plans to raise fuel
prices by 17-25% to offset increases in depreciation charges and property tax
due to the mandatory reevaluation of the industry's assets. The government
subsequently agreed to postpone the revaluation until the summer; hence YUKOS's
cooperation in the farm program. -- Natalia Gurushina
RUSSIAN LANGUAGE GIVEN OFFICIAL STATUS IN KYRGYZSTAN.
parliament, the Jogorku Kengesh, has passed a proposal granting the Russian
language official status in the republic, RFE/RL reported on 11 March. The
issue now goes before the Kyrgyz Constitutional Court, but the court's approval
is seen as only a formality. While the Kyrgyz constitution guarantees the right
of people to use their own language in the country, the acceptance of Russian
as an official language has been a sensitive issue. The government wants to
emphasize its independence from Moscow but cannot afford to alienate the
republic's Russian-speaking population, who make up the bulk of the country's
skilled workforce. -- Bruce Pannier
UKRAINE CUTS POWER TO 7,000 ENTERPRISES.
Ukraine's Energy Minister
Oleksii Shcheberstov on 12 March said power has been cut to 7,000 factories
that have failed to pay their electricity bills, Reuters reported.
Shcherberstov said more than 40,000 enterprises have outstanding bills
amounting to $980 million, meaning that 30% of all electricity and 50% of
heating had been supplied for nothing. He stressed that the energy ministry
could not "carry such a burden for very long." The country's energy suppliers
have been under great strain because of unusually cold temperatures, a coal
miners' strike, and Russia's decoupling Ukraine from their joint power grid
after Ukraine began using more than its normal share of electricity. -- Ustina
FATAL MINE ACCIDENTS IN UKRAINE.
Two fatal accidents took place in
Ukraine's coal mines within two days, international agencies reported. Eight
miners on 11 March were killed and four injured after a fire trapped them 900
meters below ground in Luhansk. The following day, two miners died when a rock
collapsed in another mine in Luhansk. Ukraine's mines have the highest accident
death rate in the world. In 1995 alone, more than 300 miners were killed. So
far this year, 40 have died in accidents at the workplace. -- Ustina Markus
DUTCH PRIME MINISTER IN KIEV.
Wim Kok arrived in the Ukrainian capital
on 12 March for a three-day official visit, ITAR-TASS reported. Kok met with
President Leonid Kuchma and signed a joint declaration on improving bilateral
cooperation between Ukraine and the Netherlands. Kok said that on Ukraine's
behalf, he would work with international financial organizations, especially
the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the World Bank. --
BELARUSIAN MILITARY REDUCTIONS.
The Belarusian military, already halved
since independence, is to be reduced by another third to 60,000 servicemen and
officers, Russian Public TV reported on 12 March. The military will be used
exclusively for the defense of the republic and headed by the General Staff.
There will be only two branches: ground and air defense forces. Previously, an
air assault force had been envisaged. Some garrisons are being merged, while
others will be evacuated. During the Soviet era, Belarus was the
most-militarized republic in the USSR. -- Ustina Markus
GERMAN, DANISH SUPPORT FOR BALTIC STATES' MEMBERSHIP IN EU.
Danish Foreign Ministers Klaus Kinkel and Niels Helveg Petersen, following a
meeting at Flensburg on 11 March, said that the European Union should be
expanded to include Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, Western agencies reported.
Kinkel noted: "We are of the opinion that the Baltic states must become members
of the EU as soon as possible." -- Saulius Girnius
FINNISH DEFENSE MINISTER VISITS ESTONIA.
Anneli Taina, during her visit
to Estonia on 11-12 March, held talks with her Estonian counterpart, Andrus
Oovel, President Lennart Meri, and defense forces commander Johannes Kert, BNS
reported. The defense ministers reached an agreement to resume training
Estonian officers in Finland and sending Finnish officers to Estonia as
military advisers. Former defense forces commander Aleksander Einseln reduced
military ties because Finland did not meet NATO standards. Taina also discussed
regional security questions and developments in Russia as well as visiting the
training center at Paldiski. -- Saulius Girnius
POLISH PRESIDENT INTERVENES IN AUSCHWITZ SUPERMARKET ROW.
President Aleksander Kwasniewski on 12 March criticized the proposed
construction of a shopping center opposite the gate of the Auschwitz death
camp, Polish and international media reported. Prime Minister Wlodzimierz
Cimoszewicz the same day urged the town council to reconsider the decision to
grant permission for the project, while Culture Minister Zdzislaw Podkanski
asked the authorities to immediately suspend construction of a mini-mall near
the former Nazi camp. The government had said it could not interfere because
local authorities had already given the go-ahead for the store. The Culture
Ministry is to set up a special commission to examine the legality of the
planned supermarket. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz
CZECH PRESIDENT WARNS OF "NEW MUNICH."
Vaclav Havel on 12 March called
on the West to reject Russian threats and expand NATO, international agencies
reported. "The internal transformation of NATO and its enlargement is a matter
that concerns us, the whole of Europe, and indirectly the entire world, to the
same extent," he said in a speech to the outgoing Czech parliament. U.S.
Secretary of State Warren Christopher is due to discuss European security with
Central and East European foreign ministers in Prague next week. Havel said
Czechs had already experienced the limits of European democracy and its
concessions to evil and warned: "This `Munich' danger is again hovering over
Europe." Czech media largely ignored this part of Havel's 40-minute speech,
concentrating on his evaluation of the work of the parliament and political
parties over the past four years. -- Steve Kettle
SLOVAK PRESIDENT EXPLAINS REJECTION OF AMBASSADOR.
Michal Kovac on 12
March issued a statement explaining his rejection of Labor and Social Affairs
Minister Olga Keltosova as ambassador to the UN (see OMRI Daily Digest,
8 March 1995). He noted that in "democratic countries with normally functioning
relations between constitutional institutions," such a proposal would be
discussed with the head of state before being publicized. He criticized the
cabinet's view that Keltosova is "the only possible candidate" and that
Slovakia's success or failure in gaining the position of U.N. chair is linked
with her appointment. "This view deeply underestimates the level of other
qualified citizens of this country," Kovac stressed. The cabinet responded to
Kovac's statement by saying it "confirms [his] inability to be guided in his
decisions by the political interests of Slovakia." -- Sharon Fisher
SLOVAKIA SEEKS TO BOOST TRADE WITH RUSSIA.
Economy Minister Jan Ducky on
12 March announced the cabinet's approval of measures aimed at expanding
exports to Russia, Slovak media reported. He noted that Slovakia's annual trade
deficit with Russia is more than $1 billion because of reliance on the
country's raw materials. Proposed measures include the establishment of a free
trade zone and the creation of a special export-import bank. -- Sharon
Bosnian federal officials on 12 March followed their
police into the fourth formerly Serb-held Sarajevo suburb to change hands. They
were joined by hundreds of Croats and Muslims who had been expelled from their
homes during the war, the BBC reported. These ordinary citizens often found
their dwellings destroyed and protested to the international community's High
Representative Carl Bildt that nothing had been done to guard their property,
Oslobodjenje added on 13 March. The UN police reported complaints "every
five minutes" of looting and intimidation directed against the few remaining
Serbs. IFOR earlier refused to help protect those Serbs against Serbian gangs
and arsonists, but it is now sending in additional forces to help the police.
-- Patrick Moore
SARAJEVO BECOMES CANTON, DESPITE CROATIAN DISAPPROVAL.
authorities on 11 March set up the Transitional Assembly of the Sarajevo Canton
without the consent of Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) councilors
Oslobodjenje reported. The HDZ councilors said they did not want the
Sarajevo canton to be established without consultations at the federal level,
Hina reported on 12 March. Sarajevo Mayor Tarik Kupusovic adjourned the council
session when he realized the federal partners were opposed to setting up the
canton, but 37 councilors went ahead and set it up in his absence. Kupusovic
said that he could not accept such a canton neither as mayor nor as a Sarajevo
citizen. The new canton governor argued that it had been necessary to set up a
functioning city structure in time for the elections. -- Daria Sito Sucic
NATO CONCERNED ABOUT RISING CROAT-MUSLIM TENSIONS...
Brigadier Andrew Cuming has warned of serious problems in the valleys of
central Bosnia. He noted that a situation is emerging there similar to that
which preceded the internecine conflict of 1993. Muslims and Croats are setting
up checkpoints in places like Jajce, Vitez, and Kiseljak, AFP reported on 12
March. Such controls violate both the letter of the Dayton treaty and the
spirit of the federation. Cuming added that IFOR commander Admiral Leighton
Smith "read out the riot act" to Croatian leader and Federation President
Kresimir Zubak and to Federation Vice President Ejup Ganic to urge them to
defuse the tensions. -- Patrick Moore
...WHILE UN SECRETARY-GENERAL WARNS OF CROATIAN-RUMP YUGOSLAV CLASH.
Boutros Boutros Ghali on 12 March said he is worried about a possible
military clash between Croatia and the rump Yugoslavia over the Prevlaka
peninsula, Nasa Borba reported. The two countries have been disputing
ownership of the peninsula.
Boutros Ghali said it was important for both
sides to strengthen their cooperation with UN Military Observers (UNMOP) on the
ground to enable the latter to monitor the demilitarization of Prevlaka. He
added that many violations of the Prevlaka agreement have been reported and are
threatening to increase tension. Boutros-Ghali underscored the need to have
UNMOP remain on the peninsula until the two sides are cooperating better or
some other organization takes over monitoring the demilitarization operation.
-- Daria Sito Sucic
BOSNIAN SERB GENERAL SLAMS KARADZIC.
General Milan Gvero, deputy
commander of the Bosnian Serb army (VRS), has sharply attacked the civilian
chief, Radovan Karadzic, Nasa Borba reported on 13 March. In the latest
installment of public in-fighting between Pale and its generals based at Han
Pijesak, Gvero claimed that Karadzic tried "to undermine" the VRS command
structure but did not succeed. Karadzic was allegedly preparing for the
eventuality that his party would lose in the upcoming Bosnian elections. The
general also accused Pale of a series of grave mistakes, such as courting the
political opposition in Belgrade at a time when the Bosnian Serbs were
financially dependent on the Belgrade government. Gvero argued that Pale
neglected the financial needs of the military and favored the civilian police
at the army's expense. -- Patrick Moore
BELGRADE TO COOPERATE ON WAR CRIMES ISSUE?
U.S. war crimes investigator
John Shattuck on 12 March met with Radoslav Kremenovic and Drazen Erdemovic,
the accused war criminals who were arrested by Serbian police in Novi Sad on 3
March (see OMRI Daily Digest, 8 March 1995), Nasa Borba reported.
Shattuck, who also met with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, said he
believed that rump Yugoslavia was growing more cooperative on the war crimes
issues and that Kremenovic and Erdemovic would be turned over to the
International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Meanwhile, the
tribunal's chief prosecutor, Justice Richard Goldstone, told Reuters Television
that "We seem to be getting assistance [from Belgrade] more than obstruction at
the moment." -- Stan Markotich
SERBIA OPPOSES SLOVENIA'S DEAL WITH CREDITORS.
Belgrade has said it is
fully prepared to launch a legal challenge to a recent deal between Slovenia
and its private creditors, Reuters reported on 12 March. Under the terms of the
deal, Slovenia has agreed to pay 18% of the $4 billion commercial debt incurred
by Yugoslavia prior to its breakup. Serbia's objections center on the
allegation that the deal excludes rump Yugoslav creditors. Reuters quoted one
banker involved in negotiating with Slovenia as saying that "If Serbia pursues
this challenge, I think they can say good-bye to relations with the
international financial community for a very, very long time." -- Stan
MACEDONIA CONTINUES TO CLAIM YUGOSLAV INHERITANCE.
Minister Ljubomir Frckovski has said it is "unacceptable" that Belgrade is
trying to secure Macedonian agreement that the two states have no financial
claims on each other, AFP reported on 12 March. Frckovski noted "that would
mean Macedonia renouncing its share of the heritage of the previous (Yugoslav)
state which is its by right." He added that the problem of succession rights
was complicating mutual recognition and normalization of relations between
Belgrade and Skopje. Belgrade has recognized Slovenia and Bosnia but still
refuses to recognize Croatia and Macedonia. In January, it adopted a tentative
outline agreement on recognizing Macedonia but said it would fix a later date
for signing an accord. -- Fabian Schmidt
UPDATE ON BUCHAREST SUBWAY STRIKE.
The Romanian government has begun
firing those Bucharest subway employees who have not signed a declaration of
intent to return to work, Romanian media reported on 12 March. More than 800
workers have signed the government ultimatum, but the rest are intent on
continuing the strike and continue to block tunnels. The government said the
dismissed personnel will be replaced by trained railroad workers who lost their
jobs earlier. It has also taken measures to improve the Bucharest bus
transportation system. -- Michael Shafir
ROMANIAN POLITICAL LEADER CALLS FOR TALKS WITH HUNGARY TO BE SUSPENDED.
Gheorghe Funar, leader of the Party of National Unity of Romanians (PUNR),
has called for the suspension of parleys with Hungary on the pending basic
treaty, Radio Bucharest reported on 12 March. His appeal came after a meeting
between the PUNR leadership and Virgil Magureanu, director of the Romanian
Intelligence Service (SRI). Magureanu told the PUNR that the Hungarian
Democratic Federation of Romania has made all the necessary preparations for
declaring autonomy. The meeting was criticized by Senator Vasile Vacaru,
chairman of the parliamentary commission supervising SRI activities, who said
Magureanu should report only to the commission. -- Michael Shafir
SNEGUR, SMIRNOV MEET AGAIN.
Moldovan President Mircea Snegur and the
leader of the breakaway Transdniester region, Igor Smirnov, held further talks
in Tiraspol on 11 March on granting the region a special status. Radio
Bucharest, citing Chisinau TV, said Snegur accepted Smirnov's demand for
independent foreign economic relations, a separate constitution and separate
state symbols, and three state languages (presumably Russian, "Moldovan," and
Ukrainian). But the talks on the special status of the Transdniester have not
been concluded, and Chisinau continues to demand the sole right to
representation in foreign relations. -- Michael Shafir
BULGARIAN PRESIDENT ATTACKS GOVERNMENT.
Zhelyu Zhelev on 11 March
accused the government of communist-era secrecy and an arrogant disregard of
other state institutions, Reuters reported the following day. He added that
Prime Minister Zhan Videnov had a Stalinist notion of the state being identical
with his Bulgarian Socialist Party. Zhelev was responding to the closed-door
plenary meeting of the BSP and its coalition partners on 10 March (see OMRI
Daily Digest, 11 March 1996), at which Zhelev was described as an
"anti-state symbol." The president noted that important economic ties with
foreign countries have been neglected because Videnov has banned his ministers
from joining Zhelev's delegation on visits abroad. Presidential advisers say
the lack of ministers in Zhelev's entourage is undermining Bulgaria's bid to
participate in the reconstruction of the former Yugoslavia. -- Stefan Krause
Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski on 12 March
responded to Greek Development Minister Vaso Papandreou's proposal to establish
a Balkan council by saying it is "a bit premature" to talk about
institutionalizing Balkan cooperation, Bulgarian media reported. Slovenian
President Milan Kucan arrived in Sofia on 12 March for a two-day official
visit. He called on all sides in the former Yugoslavia to work for the full
implementation of the Dayton accords and to "realize the necessity to live in
peace," international agencies reported. Bulgaria and Slovenia are preparing
accords on trade cooperation, mutual protection of investments, and avoiding
double taxation. Meanwhile, Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) Chairman Ivan
Kostov on 12 March was authorized by the SDS National Coordinating Council to
sign an agreement with other opposition forces on primary elections aimed at
finding a joint presidential candidate, Trud reported. -- Stefan
GREECE TO MEDIATE IN BULGARIAN-ROMANIAN BRIDGE DISPUTE.
mediate in the dispute between Bulgaria and Romania over the location of a
second Danube bridge linking the two countries, Reuters reported. Bulgarian
Deputy Prime Minister and Construction Minister Doncho Konakchiev on 12 March
told an economic forum in the Greek city of Thessaloniki that the foreign
ministers of the three countries will meet in the Bulgarian town of Varna on
16-17 March. Greece unsuccessfully tried to broker a compromise in August 1995.
Sofia and Bucharest so far have failed to agree on a site for the bridge (see
OMRI Daily Digest, 12 June and 10 August 1995). Konakchiev said Bulgaria
has proposed to Romania that two bridges be built, but he did not say how they
would be financed. The cost of constructing one bridge is estimated at $320-445
million. -- Stefan Krause
ALBANIAN JOURNALIST FINED FOR INCITING TERRORISM.
Populli Po journalist
Ylli Polovina has been fined 30,000 lek ($300) by a Tirana court for inciting
terrorism, Reuters reported on 12 March. Polovina was arrested after the fatal
Tirana car bombing on 26 February. Severel months earlier, he had written an
article in November 1995 saying terrorist attacks such as that which injured
Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov on 3 October, could also happen in Albania.
Polovina said he will appeal the sentence and claimed he was the "victim of a
political scheme." Three international journalists' organizations and the
Association of Professional Journalists had called for Polovina's release. --
[As of 1200 CET]
Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave