Accessibility links

Newsline - April 3, 1996


TERMS OF RUSSIAN-BELARUSIAN TREATY.
The seven-page "Treaty on Forming a Community," signed in Moscow on 2 April calls for the formation of an integrated political and economic community based on the "sovereignty and equality" of the member-states, ITAR-TASS reported. The two sides agreed to coordinate their foreign policies and cooperate in policing their common outside border. They also pledged to form a common economic space with harmonized labor, pension, customs, taxation, and investment policies by the end of 1997. The joint activities of the community will be directed by a Supreme Council, consisting of top government officials. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka will head the council for the next two years, while Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin will chair its executive committee, which will implement the agreement. Joint projects initiated by the community will be financed from its budget, provided by contributions from the two member states. -- Scott Parrish

QUESTIONS OVER NAME OF RUSSIAN-BELARUSIAN COMMUNITY.
Several Western and Russian news agencies have been describing the new Russo-Belarusian entity as the "Community of Sovereign Republics," abbreviated as CSR in English and SSR in Russian. However, ,Presidential foreign policy aide Dmitrii Ryurikov told NTV on 2 April that this term should not be used. Ryurikov insisted that the "SSR" abbreviation is not in the text of the treaty, which he said was titled "Agreement on the Formation of a Community." A preliminary draft of the agreement obtained by OMRI said it would form a "union (community)" between the two states: the final official name of the new entity remains unclear. Russian media are using the term "Russo-Belarusian Community." -- Scott Parrish

REACTION TO RUSSIAN-BELARUSIAN TREATY.
The reaction by Russian politicians to the agreement signed on 2 April was generally positive. The leaders of both houses of the Federal Assembly, Gennadii Seleznev and Yegor Stroev, hailed it and promised speedy ratification, ITAR-TASS reported. Communist presidential candidate Gennadii Zyuganov praised the agreement, telling NTV that it outlines "concrete steps" toward strengthening bilateral economic ties, a view seconded by Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the Liberal Democratic Party leader. Liberals such as Galina Starovoitova and Boris Federov also expressed approval of the document. Some others voiced skepticism, however, with an Ekho Moskvy commentary wondering about the consequences of closer links to a country in deep economic crisis led by a president who has restricted independent media, trampled on the political opposition, and praised Adolf Hitler as a positive role model. -- Scott Parrish

YAVLINSKII SUPPORTERS SPLIT RUSSIA'S DEMOCRATIC CHOICE.
The decision of Russia's Democratic Choice members Sergei Kovalev and Arkadii Murashev to support Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii was made in violation of the party council's instructions, Duma member Sergei Yushenkov told NTV on 2 April. Yushenkov suggested that Kovalev and Murashev suspend their membership in the Yavlinskii group until Russia's Democratic Choice decides whom it will back in the presidential campaign. Murashev replied that he and Kovalev would not suspend their membership because they decided to support Yavlinskii as "private citizens," not as party members. -- Robert Orttung

YELTSIN DESIGNATES COSSACK LEADER.
President Yeltsin appointed Anatolii Semenov as the head of the main department of Cossack units subordinate to the Russian president, ITAR-TASS reported 2 April. Yeltsin created the department on 20 January 1996 to improve government-Cossack relations. The department consists of 35 people and will coordinate with a 2 million-strong force of Cossack fighters, Reuters reported. The department is part of Yeltsin's effort to win the backing of various interest groups among the Russian electorate. -- Robert Orttung

COMMUNISTS LOSE GROUND IN ALTAI LOCAL ELECTIONS.
The Communist faction in the Altai Krai legislature lost about 10 seats in the 50-seat body, failing to meet expectations for a left-wing victory in the krai's 31 March elections, Radio Rossii reported on 2 April. Even a pre-election visit by Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov did not help. A centrist bloc of Our Home Is Russia and Yabloko deputies is now about the same size as the leftists. Russia's Democratic Choice and the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia did not win a single seat. Independent deputies who have yet to announce their political leanings will probably determine the direction of the legislature. -- Robert Orttung

DUDAEV COOL OVER YELTSIN'S PEACE PLAN.
In an interview with Turan on 2 April, Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev dismissed Yeltsin's Chechen peace plan as "tactical tricks" on the eve of the Russian presidential election campaign, and stated that talks with Russian representatives at this point would be tantamount to "surrender." He said talks would be possible only after the cessation of hostilities and the withdrawal of Russian forces from Chechnya. Fighting continued in various parts of Chechnya despite the announced ceasefire by Russian forces that supposedly went into effect at midnight on 31 March, as Chechen fighters have attacked federal positions. -- Liz Fuller

COSTS OF CHECHEN WAR.
The federal government spent 6 trillion rubles ($1.2 billion) on the economic and social reconstruction of Chechnya in 1995, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 March. There are no reliable figures for military outlays, but the operational costs of the 40,000 or so troops in the breakaway republic can be assumed to have been several times that amount. A UN Human Rights Commission report released on 2 April estimated the civilian casualties in the first five months of the war at 26,550, citing a Russian non-governmental organization source, AFP reported. Tatyana Regent, the head of the Federal Migration Service, said on Radio Rossii on 1 April that in the past year her service has registered 437,000 refugees from Chechnya -- about one third of the pre-war population. Another 1 million refugees and forced migrants arrived from the former USSR. -- Peter Rutland

CLINTON DENIES TAKING SIDES IN RUSSIAN ELECTIONS.
In response to U.S. media allegations of a "secret deal" with President Yeltsin, U.S. President Bill Clinton declared that he is not taking sides in the Russian presidential elections, Reuters reported on 2 April. On 27 March, The Washington Times, citing leaked documents, alleged that when Clinton met Yeltsin at the 13 March anti-terrorism summit in Egypt, he had pledged to support Yeltsin's re-election in exchange for the Russian president's promise to resolve "difficult" bilateral disputes, including one involving U.S. poultry exports to Russia, much of which are produced in the president's home state of Arkansas. Both Russian and U.S. spokesmen have refuted the report, but the Russian Foreign Ministry criticized the U.S. Embassy in Moscow for "leaking" confidential bilateral discussions, and the Clinton administration has opened a Justice Department investigation into how the paper obtained classified information. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA BALKS AT PROVIDING ARMS SALES DATA.
Russia's refusal to disclose details of it arms exports has threatened to derail the Vienna talks on establishing a new control regime for military exports, Reuters reported on 2 April. Talks on inaugurating the so-called Wassenaar Arrangement were to take place between 31 Western and former communist states. The new apparatus is designed to replace the old COCOM system set up by NATO to prevent the transfer of advanced military technology to the former Warsaw Pact. In the preliminary talks last December, Russia had agreed to provide details of its foreign arms sales. Apparently afraid that they will lose valuable hard-currency deals, the Russians have reneged on this pledge according to diplomatic sources in Vienna. -- Doug Clarke

CIS FOREIGN MINISTERS DISCUSS INTEGRATION MEASURES.
Following on the heels of the 29 March quadripartite treaty and concurrent with the 2 April Russian-Belarusian agreement, the CIS foreign ministers met in Moscow to discuss military cooperation among member states. The ministers are seeking ways to implement the principles of the May 1992 Tashkent Treaty on Collective Security, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 April. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov underscored the value of integrating military policies. The foreign ministers also rejected the Georgian call to have peacekeepers in the Abkhaz region play a more active role, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 2 April. -- Roger Kangas

GOVERNMENT APPROVES SPACE ROCKET DEAL.
The Russian government has approved a deal for the Russian aerospace company NPO Energomash to provide RD-180 rocket engines to Pratt and Whitney that will be used in a new-generation U.S. space launch vehicle, a senior Russian Space Agency official told Reuters on 1 April. Aleksandr Kuznetsov said the controversial deal "has a green light." In January, the U.S. aerospace firm Lockheed Martin chose the RD-180 to power its new Atlas IIAP vehicle. The Russian military strongly opposed the deal, warning that the technology transfer involved would harm Russia's security. -- Doug Clarke

SOCCER PRESIDENT BANNED FOR SEASON.
Nikolai Tolstykh, the head of the Professional Soccer League and the chairman of Moscow's Dinamo club, was barred on 2 April from working as club president for the rest of the season, AFP reported. Tolstykh was accused of punching the referee after a match with Spartak Alania in which a penalty kick was awarded to Alania. -- Peter Rutland

YELTSIN SIGNS DECREE TO SUPPORT FINANCIAL INDUSTRIAL GROUPS.
President Yeltsin has signed a decree aimed at stimulating the development of financial-industrial groups (FPG), Segodnya reported on 2 April. The decree promises financial assistance from the federal budget for FPGs involved in federal economic programs. It also facilitates the concentration of assets in the head company of the FPG, and the transfer of federally-owned shares to them. As of December 1995, there were 27 FPGs in Russia uniting 414 firms and 65 financial institutions. Continuing cuts in the federal investment program, however, has put a question mark over the decree's implementation. -- Natalia Gurushina

GOVERNMENT REPAYS WAGE DEBT . . .
The federal government managed to pay off its wage debt to budget organizations by the 31 March deadline set by President Yeltsin, Izvestiya reported on 2 April. Transfers in March from the federal budget for this purpose totaled 20.7 trillion rubles ($4.3 billion). A total of 7.9 trillion rubles was spent on current wage payments, 8.1 trillion rubles on wage debts, and 4.7 trillion rubles on loans to regions to cover other wage payments. However, having spent all its available resources on wage payments, the government does not have money to finance other aspects of budget organizations' activities, such as fuel and energy bills. -- Natalia Gurushina

. . . BUT PENSION ARREARS MOUNT.
Despite the highly-publicized campaign to clear wage arrears, there is a persisting problem of late pension payments. At the beginning of April, the Federal Pension Fund was short of 3.8 trillion rubles ($780 million), ITAR-TASS reported on 2 April. The state still owes pensioners 1.6 trillion rubles for the period from 1992 to 1994, 3 trillion rubles for 1995, and more than 1.5 trillion rubles for the first three months of 1996. A spokesman for the fund, which is technically separate from the federal budget, appealed to the government for financial assistance. -- Natalia Gurushina



AZERBAIJAN ACCUSES ARMENIA OF ABETTING LEZGIN TERRORISTS.
The Azerbaijani Ministry of National Security has released the results of its investigation into the bomb explosion on a train in the Baku metro in March 1994, in which 14 people were killed, Turan reported on 2 April. The investigators concluded that the explosion was perpetrated by members of the Dagestan-based Lezgin separatist organization Sadval, at the instigation of the Armenian security service, who had provided them with the necessary training at a base in Armenia in 1992. Five persons directly involved in the Baku bomb attack and six more who had undergone training in Armenia were subsequently arrested. Since its creation in 1991, Sadval has campaigned for the creation of an independent Lezgin state comprising parts of southern Dagestan and northern Azerbaijan, which is home to 150,000-200,000 ethnic Lezgins. -- Liz Fuller

KYRGYZ INTERIOR MINISTER QUITS AFTER SCANDAL.
Kyrgyz Interior Minister Madalbek Moldashev offered his resignation following a scandal surrounding his offer of new jobs to two officials who had been sacked by the Kyrgyz government, Reuters reported on 2 April. Moldashev tendered his resignation after the newspaper Vechernii Bishkek published a secretly recorded conversation in which he made the promise to the two officials. The Kyrgyz government criticized Moldashev's "two-faced" appointment policy. President Askar Akayev is expected to sign a decree accepting Moldashev's resignation, but no successor has been found. -- Bhavna Dave

SHEVARDNADZE IN ANKARA.
Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze arrived in Ankara on 3 April to sign several unspecified agreements with his Turkish counterpart, Suleyman Demirel,Yeni Yuzyil reported the same day. Speaking during his weekly radio address two days earlier, Shevardnadze said he was surprised that Georgian-Turkish relations had developed at such a "great pace" in the past two to three years. During his visit, which follows immediately on the heels of his trip to Moscow, the two sides will likely discuss Turkey's hope to move Caspian Sea oil through Azerbaijan and Georgia to Turkey; the timing of Shevardnadze's visit is likely connected to Moscow's apparent willingness to accept this scenario. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Albert Chernyshev said on 3 April that Russia has no objections to the construction of the planned Baku-Ceyhan pipeline, providing that part of Azerbaijan's oil is also exported north through Russia, ITAR-TASS reported, citing the Anatolian News Agency. -- Lowell Bezanis and Liz Fuller



THOUSANDS DEMONSTRATE IN MINSK AGAINST TREATY WITH RUSSIA.
Some 20,000 Belarusians demonstrated in Minsk on 2 April against the union treaty signed earlier that day in Moscow by Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and his Russian counterpart, Boris Yeltsin, international media reported. A similar number of Communists had demonstrated in Minsk at the weekend in support of the treaty, which paves the way for integration with Russia in a number of areas. The 2 April demonstration took place despite an initial ban on public gatherings. Police later announced that the demonstration had been authorized but not in the city center. Unable to reach the parliament building or the main square, the demonstrators headed for the Russian Embassy but were prevented from reaching there by more than 1,000 policemen. The protest, organized the Belarus Popular Front, dispersed after some three hours. -- Jiri Pehe

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT ON STATE OF THE NATION.
Leonid Kuchma, in his annual state of the nation address, said that Ukraine made considerable progress in 1995 in its transformation to democracy and a market economy, Ukrainian agencies reported on 2 April. He called on lawmakers to help build a consensus on the nation's "fundamental values" and adopt a new constitution as soon as possible. He added that the government managed to bring down inflation, stabilize the national currency, and privatize more state enterprises in one year than in the previous three combined. Kuchma said his goals for 1996 include further lowering inflation, resolving the industrial payments crisis, accelerating privatization and restructuring, and tax reform. He called on deputies to lift a moratorium on the privatization of some 6,000 state-owned enterprises. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT IN ESTONIA.
Mircea Snegur on 2 April began a two-day official visit to Estonia, Moldovan agencies and BNS report. Snegur is scheduled to meet with his Estonian counterpart, Lennart Meri, Premier Tiit Vahi, Foreign Minister Siim Kallas, and other senior Estonian officials. The Moldovan delegation includes Foreign Minister Mihai Popov and Economics Minister Valeriu Bobutac. The two presidents are expected to sign a joint declaration of friendship and cooperation. Snegur's visit is the first by a Moldovan president to the Baltic states. He will travel to Lithuania from Estonia. -- Dan Ionescu

EIGHT FORMER COMMUNISTS INDICTED IN LATVIA.
Eight former members of the Latvian Communist Party were indicted for lying about their political activities after the party was outlawed in January 1991, Western agencies reported on 2 April. The eight, now members of the Socialist Party, have been charged with concealing communist party activities in order to participate in parliamentary elections. All of them were crossed off the election list before last fall's elections. If convicted, they face up to a year in prison or fines of up to $2,000. -- Dan Ionescu

U.S., LITHUANIAN PARATROOPERS CONDUCT JOINT EXERCISE.
Lithuanian and U.S. paratroopers on 2 April started a month-long joint military exercises at a former Soviet training ground in Lithuania, Western agencies reported. Lithuanian Defense Minister Linas Linkevicius said the exercise, code-named Bersteintal and staged in Rukla, will help "strengthen military cooperation" between the two countries. Lithuania signed a military agreement with the U.S. in 1994 and has since been participating in NATO's Partnership for Peace program. A small Lithuanian military unit is part of NATO's IFOR troops in Bosnia-Herzegovina. -- Dan Ionescu

POLISH ADMINISTRATION TO BE REFORMED.
The Polish government on 2 April amended its draft law on administration, Polish dailies reported. The amendment provides for the Internal Affairs Ministry to be transformed into the Internal Affairs and Administration Ministry. It also transfers control over the State Protection Office (UOP) from the internal affairs minister to the prime minister. The same day, Premier Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz met with heads of the 49 provincial authorities. He said the reform of territorial administration is unlikely to take place before the 1997 parliamentary elections. -- Jakub Karpinski

TWENTY GROUPS TO CONTEST CZECH ELECTIONS.
A total of 17 parties and three political movements have met the 1 April deadline to register candidates for the upcoming Czech parliamentary elections, Czech media reported. Apart from two Moravian groups, each will put up candidates in all eight electoral districts. According to recent opinion polls, only six or seven parties are likely to win the 5% of the total vote needed for parliamentary representation: the three center-right parties in the current governing coalition, the Social Democrats, the Communists, the extreme-right Republicans, and, possibly, the reformed communist Left Bloc. In the June 1992 elections, eight out of the 23 groups that ran won seats in the then Czech National Council, now the parliament. The elections will be held on 31 May and 1 June. -- Steve Kettle

COUNCIL OF EUROPE CRITICIZES TREATMENT OF ROMA IN CZECH REPUBLIC.
A recent Council of Europe report says that the Czech citizenship law does not violate international legislation, but it criticizes administrative procedures used against Roma, CTK reported on 2 April. The report singles out courts and police in northern Moravia, where Roma have been stripped of citizenship without being properly informed or given time to make contingency plans. The council expresses surprise that 78% of Roma denied citizenship so far have lived in Bohemia and Moravia for more than 20 years. According to official figures, a few hundred Roma have been denied citizenship. But civil rights organizations say that thousands more have been turned away by bureaucrats or cannot afford the fees. -- Alaina Lemon

RUSSIAN, UKRAINIAN OFFICIALS IN SLOVAKIA.
Russian Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov, at the start of a three-day visit to Slovakia on 2 April, signed a police cooperation agreement with his Slovak counterpart, Ludovit Hudek, TASR reported. Hudek stressed that criminal activities among Russian citizens in Slovakia have not increased since visa-free relations began last August. Kulikov noted that Russian citizens account for less than 1% of crime in Slovakia, while Ukrainians account for 7%. In other news, Ukrainian Defense Minister Valeri Shmarov, who also arrived for an official visit on 2 April, stressed that the decision of whether to join NATO is up to Slovakia. Christian Democratic Movement chairman Jan Carnogursky on 2 April criticized Slovak foreign policy, saying it "verbally claims orientation toward Western structures but, in fact, is pursuing policy aimed towards the East." -- Sharon Fisher

NEW PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSION ON ROMA FORMED IN HUNGARY.
The Roma Program Commission was set up by the parliament on 2 April, MTI reported. Csaba Tabajdi, political state secretary at the Prime Minister's Office, told the press after the inaugural session that the commission will consider ways to improve the situation of Gypsies and will collaborate with relevant ministries and with the National Gypsy Minority Autonomous Government. The commission will submit an action program to the government by late May. Prime Minister Gyula Horn is chairman of the commission, while Tabajdi has been appointed secretary. -- Alaina Lemon

HUNGARY TO INVITE TENDERS FOR POWER PLANTS.
The Hungarian State Privatization and Holding Co. (APV Rt.) has opened a tender for two power plants that were not sold last year, Hungarian dailies reported on 3 April. A 90% stake in Budapesti Eromu, which serves the capital, and 95% of Tiszai Eromu, in eastern Hungary, are up for sale. APV Rt. said that between 60% and 70% of the country's other three power plants will be sold off by the end of the year as well as stakes in MVM, the main electricity company. Last year, stakes in two generators and 12 electricity and gas supply companies were sold for a total of some $2 billion, mainly to German, French, and Italian investors. -- Zsofia Szilagyi



SHALIKASHVILI SAYS U.S. TROOPS WILL NOT PURSUE WAR CRIMINALS.
U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili said he is "comfortable" with NATO's planned withdrawal from Bosnia at the end of the year. He added that one year will be enough to tell whether the people in the area are serious about peace, AFP quoted the Washington Post as saying on 3 April. A debate is taking place in the U.S. and elsewhere as to whether the one-year mandate for IFOR will be sufficient. The daily noted that the U.S. commander on the ground, Adm. Leighton Smith, has not ruled out an extension. Shalikashvili also opposed any American hunt for Bosnian war criminals. He said it is the duty of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to bring the indicted Bosnian Serbs to justice and that people like Radovan Karadzic will be out of office after the upcoming elections. -- Patrick Moore

KARADZIC PICKED TO NEGOTIATE WITH INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY.
The Bosnian Serb parliament wrapped up its latest session in the early hours of 3 April, AFP reported. It selected civilian leader Radovan Karadzic to head a committee representing the Bosnian Serbs in talks with the international community. He said the committee was "indispensable" due to "the numerous attempts being made to interpret the Dayton accords to the Serbs' detriment." He added that his heading the committee was "in line with the constitution of the [Republika Srpska] under which the president of the republic represents the state." The international community does not, however, have anything to do with Karadzic, an indicted war criminal. Under the terms of an agreement between Pale and Belgrade last August, Milosevic alone represents the Bosnian Serbs in such talks. -- Patrick Moore

BILDT WARNS ABOUT SOCIAL UNREST.
The international community's High Representative in Bosnia, Carl Bildt, said economic assistance will be vital to curb unemployment, especially for tens of thousands of demobilized men, AFP reported on 2 April. He also said that war criminals must be brought to justice and the multi-ethnic nature of Bosnia preserved, the International Herald Tribune and Nasa Borba added on 3 April. In Strbac, Serbs and Croats exchanged a total of 31 prisoners, Croatian and Serbian radios noted. In Sarajevo, in a rare display of unity, President Alija Izetbegovic and former Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic issued a joint declaration saying that Bosnia must be "a multiethnic community based on human rights and freedoms," Onasa news agency said on 2 April. They were seconded by five political parties, Vecernje novine reported. -- Patrick Moore

U.S. OFFICIAL URGES SERBIAN PRESIDENT TO SEND WAR CRIMINALS TO THE HAGUE.
John Kornblum, U.S. envoy to the former Yugoslavia, met with Slobodan Milosevic on 2 April and urged him to extradite war crimes suspects to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Reuters reported. Kornblum observed that while Serbia has recently sent to the Hague two suspects implicated in the 1995 massacre of Muslim civilians near Srebrenica, others remain at large in Serbia, including three officers involved in the 1991 massacre of civilians in the Croatian city of Vukovar. In a separate development, the U.S Congress has passed a motion criticizing Belgrade for its recent clampdown on independent media and humanitarian groups, notably the Soros Foundation, Nasa Borba reported on 3 April. -- Stan Markotich

CROATIAN OPPOSITION PARTIES LAUNCH ELECTORAL PACT.
Seven key parties opposed to the governing Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) have signed a declaration on joint action for the expected upcoming elections in Zagreb, Novi list reported on 3 April. The signatories include the Croatian Social-Liberal Party, which is the largest opposition grouping and which has been criticized for its earlier reluctance to present a united electoral front against the HDZ. The opposition currently has a majority in the city council but its choice of mayor has been repeatedly rejected by President Franjo Tudjman. Polls suggest that voters are fed up with Tudjman's behavior and that the opposition will do even better in the early vote. * Patrick Moore

VOJVODINA UPDATE.
Nenad Canak, leader of the Social Democratic Party in Vojvodina, has met with Hungarian President Gyula Horn to discuss autonomy for the Serbian province, Nasa Borba reported on 2 April. Canak is slated to present his views to the Hungarian government "in detail." Before the collapse of socialist Yugoslavia Vojvodina had a population of some 2 million, roughly 22% of whom were ethnic Hungarians. In a separate development, Dragoljub Micunovic, former president of the Serbian Democratic Party, has offered his support for Vojvodina's autonomy. Micunovic, however, has stressed that he promotes cultural and economic autonomy, Nasa Borba reported. -- Stan Markotich

MACEDONIAN LIBERALS WANT DISSOLUTION OF PARLIAMENT.
The Macedonian Liberal Party on 2 April announced it will submit a motion asking for the parliament to be dissolved by 15 September, Nova Makedonija reported. The Liberals claim that the parliament is no longer representative since the coalition Union for Macedonia fell apart after the formation a new government in February. That government does not include the Liberals. The Union for Macedonia was composed of the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia, the Liberals, and the Socialist Party. Representatives of the Social Democrats and Socialists dismissed the Liberals' claim that the parliament is not legitimate. -- Stefan Krause

ROMANIA APPLIES FOR NATO MEMBERSHIP.
Romania on 2 April submitted documents to NATO officials in Brussels designed to open discussions on the country's membership in the alliance, an RFE/RL correspondent in Bucharest and local media reported. The documents were approved last month by the Supreme Council for the Country's Defense, chaired by President Ion Iliescu. Romania is the fourth country--after Latvia, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia--to submit such documents. It was also the first to sign up for NATO's Partnership for Peace Program. -- Matyas Szabo

ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT APPOINTS NEW POLICE CHIEF.
Gen. Costica Voicu on 2 April was named the country's new police chief, Romanian media and Reuters reported. Voicu, who was formerly deputy chief of police, replaces Gen. Ion Pitulescu, who resigned in mid-February in protest over alleged tolerance among judicial officials of crime and corruption. Voicu is the seventh chief of Romania's General Police Inspectorate since the fall of the Ceausescu regime in December 1989. -- Matyas Szabo

THOUSANDS PROTEST BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT'S RESPONSE TO YELTSIN REMARK.
Thousands of people gathered outside the Bulgarian government building on 2 April to protest the government's failure to clearly distance itself from a recent remark by Russian President Boris Yeltsin, RFE/RL reported. Yeltsin had said at the signing last week of the regional integration agreement with Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan that Bulgaria might also sign an integration agreement with Russia and other former Soviet republics. Union of Democratic Forces Chairman Ivan Kostov called on Prime Minister Zhan Videnov to "clearly and categorically" reject Yeltsin's statement. Bulgarian Socialist Party caucus leader Krasimir Premyanov accused President Zhelyu Zhelev of exploiting the situation for his re-election goals. He added that the opposition's protests might harm relations with Russia. Meanwhile, the government has said it is trying to balance its foreign policy priorities between the EU and the CIS. -- Stefan Krause

BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES CHANGES TO LAW ON NATIONAL BANK.
The Bulgarian parliament on 2 April amended the law on the national bank giving the power to appoint and remove the governor and three deputy governors to the legislature, Bulgarian media reported. The president retains that power vis-a-vis the other five members of the executive board. Deputies rejected a clause removing the president's right to veto changes to the board proposed by the governor. A board member's mandate may be terminated owing to his resignation, death, criminal conviction, or inability to perform his duties for more than one year. -- Michael Wyzan

U.S. TO GIVE MILITARY AID TO ALBANIA.
U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry said Washington will give military equipment worth more than $100 million to Albania, Reuters reported on 2 April. The package will include anti-tank missiles, anti-aircraft missiles, and other military supplies. Perry said the U.S. has no plans to set up a base in Albania but pointed out it would support the building of a new training center in Bize. Albanian President Sali Berisha awarded Perry the Order of Skanderbeg, the highest decoration bestowed on foreigners, at the end of his three-day visit. -- Fabian Schmidt

ALBANIAN CENTRIST PARTIES REGISTER ON JOINT LIST.
The Albanian Democratic Alliance and the Social Democratic Party have registered as a joint party for the upcoming elections in late May or early June, Gazeta Shqiptare reported on 3 April. The two parties' leaders--Neritan Ceka and Skender Gjinushihe--head the new group, which is called the Pole of the Center. Neither has ruled out the possibility of a coalition with the Socialist Party or the Party for Human Rights, which represents the country's ethnic Greeks. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave




XS
SM
MD
LG