CONVENTIONAL ARMS TALKS IN VIENNA COLLAPSE.
Russian objections have
torpedoed multilateral discussions in Vienna on creating a new international
regime to control worldwide exports of arms and weapons technologies, Western
agencies reported on 4 April. Russia, wary of interference in its arms trade,
rejected a U.S. proposal that members of the new regime, called the Wassenaar
agreement (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20 December 1995), give early
notification of arms sales. While U.S. officials blamed Russia for the
deadlock, it should be noted that France also had objections to the U.S.
initiative. It is also ironic that the U.S. emerged from the talks looking like
an advocate of arms control, since it exported about $29 billion worth of arms
in 1995--about 10 times more than Russia. -- Scott Parrish
YELTSIN STUMPS IN COMMUNIST STRONGHOLD.
President Boris Yeltsin arrived
in Belgorod on 4 April to launch his re-election campaign, with promises of
financial support for local farms and factories, Russian TV reported. Yeltsin
said that the "most complicated and difficult" period of reform is over and
that he would now focus on social programs and raising the level of production,
ITAR-TASS reported. The Communist Party won 32% in the December Duma election's
party-list voting and the city elected former USSR Prime Minister Nikolai
Ryzhkov. Yeltsin said that Ryzhkov and his Duma colleague Valentin Varennikov,
a 1991 coup plotter, should be imprisoned, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. --
BABURIN BACKS ZYUGANOV.
Nationalist Sergei Baburin, after considerable
vacillation, announced that his Russian All-People's Union will back Communist
leader Gennadii Zyuganov in the June presidential election, ITAR-TASS reported.
More than 70 organizations have now signed on to Zyuganov's "popular-patriotic
bloc." In the Duma campaign, Baburin formed an alliance with Ryzhkov in the
Power to the People bloc and faced a Communist opponent in his successful bid
to win a seat in Omsk. Meanwhile, former USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev
turned in 1.4 million signatures to the Central Electoral Commission to
register as a presidential candidate, Radio Rossii reported. -- Robert
DUMA PREPARES LAW ON THE TRANSITION OF POWER.
The Duma is working on a
law that will regulate the two months between the presidential election and the
time when the new president takes his oath of office, Izvestiya reported
on 5 April. The sharpest dispute is over whether the president should renounce
his party membership. The Communists and Vladimir Zhirinovsky are strongly
against such a requirement. Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev refused to renounce
his Communist Party membership after gaining his new position. -- Robert
SHOTS FIRED NEAR YELTSIN HOME.
An unidentified gunman fired three shots
on 3 April in the vicinity of President Yeltsin's home in the Moscow suburb of
Krylatskoe, Russian and Western media reported the next day. Prime Minister
Viktor Chernomyrdin and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov also live in the same
six-story apartment bloc alongside Yeltsin. On 4 April, ITAR-TASS reported that
St. Petersburg has the highest crime rate in Russia, with 77 businessmen and
more than 50 criminal gang members killed last year. -- Peter Rutland
DUMA COMMISSION BLASTS PRIVATIZATION.
The Audit Chamber set up last
October by the Duma has prepared a report condemning the privatization program
launched in 1992, Russian and Western media reported on 4 April. Veniamin
Sokolov, the head of the commission, said on Russian Public TV (ORT) that the
privatization was based on a succession of unclear laws, decrees, and
regulations--each of which contradicted those that went before. He said it was
a violation of national interests and a vehicle for extensive corruption, and
called for the reversal of some of the privatizations. Sokolov passed on to the
procurator-general evidence of alleged wrongdoing by Petr Mostovoi, the head of
the Federal Insolvency Administration, and Alfred Kokh, deputy head of the
State Privatization Committee (GKI), NTV reported. The loan/share auctions
conducted last November-December look particularly vulnerable to reversal. --
TATAR PRESIDENT TO MEDIATE WITH DUDAEV?
Tatar President Mintimer
Shaimiev is prepared to meet with an emissary of Chechen President Dzhokhar
Dudaev to discuss the implementation of President Yeltsin's Chechen peace
proposals, NTV reported after 3-4 April meetings in Kazan between Shaimiev and
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. On 4 April, Yeltsin signed a decree on the
composition of the government commission that will monitor the implementation
of his peace plan; it includes Shaimiev, the chairmen of both chambers of the
Russian parliament, Security Council Secretary Oleg Lobov, and the president of
Kabardino-Balkariya. Meanwhile, a Russian SU25 military aircraft was shot down
over the village of Goiskoe in southern Chechnya on 4 April by what Russian
military sources identified as a U.S. made Stinger missile, Russian Public TV
(ORT) reported. -- Liz Fuller
RUSSIA BLASTS UN REPORT ON CHECHNYA.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman
Grigorii Karasin criticized the recent UN report on human rights in Chechnya
(see OMRI Daily Digest, 3 April 1995) as "incorrect," Russian and
Western agencies reported on 4 April. The report, citing non-governmental human
rights agencies, focuses on the excessive use of force by federal troops in the
breakaway republic. AFP quoted Karasin as complaining that the report failed to
note that separatist fighters "resorted to outright terror" and "violated the
peace accords," a reference to the failed 30 July military agreement. Karasin
also complained that the report ignored what he termed an "intensive dialogue
on the issue between Russia and the UN Commissioner for Human Rights." -- Scott
BORDER DEMARCATION COMMISSION MEMBER RESIGNS.
Maj. Gen. Valerii Rozov,
chairman of the Russo-Chinese border demarcation commission for Primorsk Krai,
resigned on 4 April, saying he could not supervise the transfer of
"strategically important Russian lands" to China, ITAR-TASS reported. The
commission is demarcating disputed segments of the border along the Tuman River
under a May 1991 Soviet-Chinese agreement which calls for the transfer of about
1,500 hectares of disputed territory to China. Rozov said Russia had an
"indisputable right" to the territory, where the location of nine border
markers has yet to be determined, adding that its transfer to China would
undermine Russia's position in the Asian-Pacific region. The resignation is
embarrassing for Russia, as Yeltsin is scheduled to visit China on 24 April. --
CIS MEETINGS IN DUSHANBE, MOSCOW.
The heads of the CIS security services
met in Dushanbe on 4 April for discussion that focused on cooperation in
fighting drugs and arms smuggling and coordinating information-gathering
procedures along the lines of Interpol, Russian media reported. The meeting was
chaired by Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) Director General Mikhail
Barsukov, who also met privately with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov, RFE/RL
reported on 3 April. No details of their discussion were available. In other
CIS news, foreign economic ministers of the member states met in Moscow on 4-5
April to discuss the parameters of a free trade zone, ITAR-TASS reported. --
SUPREME COURT OVERTURNS YELTSIN DECREE ON NUCLEAR WASTE DISPOSAL . . .
The Supreme Court has settled the dispute between the Nuclear Energy Ministry
and Greenpeace by overturning the presidential decree that allows nuclear waste
to be imported into Russia, Ekho Moskvy reported on 4 April. The construction
of the nuclear waste disposal plant in Krasnoyarsk (Siberia) is not finished
yet, and the ministry needs to find an additional $4 billion to do so. The
ministry hoped to get credits in countries that intended to use the plant,
allowing them to store their nuclear waste in Russia in the meantime. The
Supreme Court ruled that it would be possible to import nuclear fuel to Russia
if a relevant international agreement is signed. -- Natalia Gurushina
. . . WHILE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OVERRULES APARTMENT TAX.
Constitutional Court overruled the Moscow authorities' decision to impose
special taxes on apartment owners in the capital, ITAR-TASS reported on 4
April. The authorities levied a lump-sum tax of 500 times the minimum wage on
any person buying a flat in Moscow who did not already have a resident permit
for the city. The court also ruled unconstitutional the introduction by the
Moscow region authorities of a `license fee for the right to migrate to the
Moscow region.' -- Natalia Gurushina
DUBININ ON THE RUBLE, UNION WITH BELARUS.
Central Bank Chairman Sergei
Dubinin told ITAR-TASS in Paris on 5 April that the ruble will soon become
convertible for current operations, as the remaining restrictions on currency
transfers will be lifted. He also said that the new relationship with Belarus
"must not result in a weakening of the Russian ruble." He expects the exchange
rates of the Belarusian ruble and the Russian ruble to be tied, in a manner
similar to the European Monetary System. Russia will not shore up the
Belarusian currency: Minsk must pursue the policies necessary to maintain the
value of the Belarusian ruble. Meanwhile, in Moscow it was announced that
inflation in March is just 2.8%--the same as in February. On 4 April, the ruble
was trading at 4,873 to the U.S. dollar. -- Peter Rutland
PROPOSAL TO TIGHTEN CONTROL OF BANK ACCOUNTS.
By the end of March, tax
arrears to the federal budget had risen to 41 trillion rubles ($8.4 billion),
Segodnya reported on 4 April. The problem is partly that firms hide
their revenues through barter and cash transactions, and partly that tax
service efforts to seize funds in firms' bank accounts are not effective. Two
new draft presidential decrees have been prepared that will force firms to have
a single bank account for all current operations. However, the Central Bank is
objecting, on the grounds that a court might find this a violation of current
banking legislation. -- Peter Rutland
TELECOMMUNICATIONS PROJECTS ON HOLD.
It looks increasingly unlikely that
the ambitious 50/50 project to modernize the Russian telephone network will
actually move forward. France Telecom, which together with U.S. West and
Deutsche Telecom launched the project in October 1994, is now pursuing the more
modest task of installing new card phones in Moscow, ITAR-TASS and AFP reported
on 4 April. The company has already installed 300 new phones in Moscow hotels
and metro stations, one of which was ceremonially used by Moscow Mayor Yurii
Luzhkov to call his Paris counterpart. Meanwhile, the Italian firm STET, which
in December 1995 backed out of its contract to buy a 25% stake in Svyazinvest,
reiterated its willingness to renew negotiations about the acquisition. --
ROADS OFF LIMITS.
As usual, some 43,000 km of main roads and 477,000 km
of local roads will be barred to trucks until 15 May, ITAR-TASS reported on 4
April. The Transport Ministry imposes the restrictions during the spring thaw
to keep the roads in usable condition. -- Peter Rutland
ARMENIAN COMMUNISTS NOMINATE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE.
A recent plenum of
the Central Committee of the Armenian Communist Party nominated the party's
senior secretary, Sergei Badalyan, as its candidate for the 21 September
presidential election, Pravda reported on 4 April. A former first
secretary of the Yerevan Gorkom, Badalyan was elected first secretary of the
party when it split following the failed coup of August 1991. On 3 April, the
Armenian parliament adopted a law on the presidential election, Noyan Tapan
reported the same day. -- Liz Fuller
KAZAKHSTAN'S PARLIAMENT PASSES A LAW ON PUBLIC ORGANIZATIONS.
Kazakhstan's parliament passed a law defining the rights and permitted
activities of public organizations, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 April. Details of
are not yet available. Omirbek Baigeldiyev, the chairman of the Senate stated
that the new law will regulate relations between public organizations and
government organs and will serve as a basis for further legislation. The
parliament is expected to pass a law regulating the activities of political
parties and trade unions. Kazakhstan's existing laws that curtail the freedoms
of organizations have been criticized by the opposition and independent media.
-- Bhavna Dave
KAZAKHSTANI COURT FINES SUPPORTERS OF DUMA BELAVEZHA DENUNCIATION.
number of people in Kazakhstan who staged rallies on 16-17 March in support of
the Russian State Duma's resolution denouncing the Belavezha accords have been
fined for organizing "unsanctioned meetings," ITAR-TASS reported on 4 April.
Among those fined were Boris Godunov, chairman of the Almaty City Committee on
human rights, and Petr Khalov, the chairman of the Almaty Workers' Movement.
Kazakhstan's procurator-general said that calls for a restoration of the USSR
contravene the republic's constitution, and instructed all oblast procurators
to take legal action against such activities. As a follow up, the oblast
justice administration of East Kazakhstan issued an order banning the
activities of local branches of the groups Russkaya obshchina, Slavic Culture,
and Lad, organizations which claim to promote the interests of the local
Russian population. The Pavlodar Oblast authorities are considering the
dissolution of the local Communist Party organization. -- Bhavna Dave
U.S. AMBASSADOR CALLS FOR CLOSER CENTRAL ASIAN TIES WITH NATO.
Ambassador to NATO Robert Hunter said in Almaty on 4 April that NATO wants to
step up its cooperation with the former Soviet Republics in Central Asia.
Reuters quoted him as saying it is in Western interests to "reach out to the
countries in the region." He noted that while Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan,
Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan had joined the Partnership for Peace program, none
had yet sent a full-time military representative to the partnership
coordination cell in Mons, Belgium. He said that he expects Kazakhstan to be
the first to do so. -- Doug Clarke
BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT THREATENS TO EXPEL DIPLOMATS.
threatened on 4 April to expel diplomats who attended mass rallies denouncing
his pro-Russian policies, international media reported. Some 20,000 people
demonstrated in Minsk on 2 April against the recently signed union treaty with
Russia. Lukashenka also vowed to withdraw accreditations from journalists who
covered the events. He said he had started "active talks" with Russian TV
channels whose journalists covered the rally. "These journalists will not be
working here for many more days," he said. Lukashenka added that Belarus has
asked a number of countries to recall diplomats from Minsk for organizing the
demonstrations. He did not name those countries but noted that, in his view,
those diplomats had "violated the laws of our country." -- Jiri Pehe
UKRAINE APPROVES CRIMEAN CONSTITUTION BUT REJECTS "SEPARATIST" ARTICLES.
The Ukrainian parliament on 4 April approved the new Crimean constitution
but rejected 20 articles it considers "separatist," UNIAN reported. Those
articles provide for "internal Crimean citizenship" and symbols of sovereignty
such as a Crimean flag, emblem, and anthem. The constitution gives Crimea an
autonomous status but states that it is an "integral part of Ukraine." It was
adopted in November by the Crimean parliament but had also to be approved by
the Ukrainian legislature. Crimean deputies must now reconsider and resubmit
the articles to Kiev for approval. Crimea, whose population is two-thirds
ethnic Russian, has repeatedly threatened to break away and join Russia since
Ukraine became independent in December 1991 -- Jiri Pehe
LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT AMENDS MEDIA BILL.
The Lithuanian parliament on 4
April voted to allow information about the private lives of politicians to be
made public, BNS reported. Article 8 was changed to read that such information
can be published if it has a bearing on public life. The vote took place during
debates on the media bill that started two months ago. Deputies had initially
attempted to prevent the publication of details about their and other
officials' private lives. Journalist criticized this stand, accusing them of
trying to limit freedom of expression for the sake of protecting their own
reputation. The amended article won support from all parties in the parliament.
-- Dan Ionescu
ASIAN MIGRANTS END HUNGER STRIKE IN LITHUANIA.
The Foreign Ministry on 4
April announced that a group of Asian asylum-seekers who began a hunger strike
three days ago have ended their protest, Reuters reported. The 44 refugees, who
arrived in Lithuania via Belarus, launched their protest at a camp at Visaginas
to back claims for refugee status. They had threatened to commit mass suicide
if their applications were not accepted. According to U.N. officials, there are
some 500 refugees stranded in Lithuania and hoping to reach the affluent
Scandinavian states. -- Dan Ionescu
RUSSIAN DEPUTY PREMIER IN POLAND.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Oleg
Davydov, on an official visit to Warsaw from 1-4 April, met with Prime Minister
Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz and Foreign Trade Minister Jacek Buchacz to discuss
developing bilateral trade, Polish and international media reported. Buchacz
said Poland was interested in buying fighter airplanes from Russia, while
Davydov said that Polish and Russian banks will help exporters in each country.
The two sides also discussed waiving visas for Poles and Russians wishing to
visit each other's country. Other possible areas of cooperation are the
construction of a Paris-Moscow highway and a gas pipeline from the Yamal
peninsula to Germany. Russia is Poland's third-largest trading partner, after
Germany and Italy. -- Jakub Karpinski
PREPARATIONS FOR KWASNIEWSKI'S VISIT TO MOSCOW.
Aleksander Kwasniewski on 4 April met with opposition party leaders to seek
advice on his visit to Russia from 8-11 April. Bronislaw Gieremek, head of the
Sejm International Affairs Committee, said he should present Poland's position
on NATO enlargement very clearly. Before going to Moscow, Kwasniewski will
visit Katyn, site of the 1940 massacre of Polish officers. -- Jakub Karpinski
EU COMMISSION CHIEF IN PRAGUE.
Jacques Santer on 4 April said
negotiations with the Czech Republic and other candidates for EU membership
could begin in early 1998, Czech media reported. At a seminar in Prague, Santer
warned Czech politicians who have criticized aspects of the EU's functioning
not to be skeptical and said that joining the EU must be based on enthusiasm
for membership. He said the process of harmonizing laws with EU norms will be
"long and sometimes difficult," but it must be carried out without
interruptions. After meetings with President Vaclav Havel and Prime Minister
Vaclav Klaus, Santer praised the Czech Republic's reforms, stressing that they
have taken place without causing political or social instability. -- Steve
SLOVAK OFFICIALS DEFEND LAW ON PROTECTION OF REPUBLIC.
Juraj Schenk on 4 April criticized the EU for knocking the law on the
protection of the republic "before it came into force." Following a meeting
with three EU envoys, Schenk told TASR that he regrets that the EU expressed an
opinion without first giving Slovakia the chance to make its views known, thus
violating the EU association agreement. Meanwhile, Deputy Premier Jozef Kalman
said pressure from EU leaders "must be considered [to represent] their point of
view." New U.S. Ambassador to Slovakia Ralph Johnson, sworn in on 4 April,
promised that the U.S. will closely follow developments in Slovakia and point
out any deviations from the path toward integration with Western structures. --
SLOVAK TV CONTINUES CASE AGAINST PRESIDENT'S SON.
Slovak TV (STV) on 4
April featured an interview with Ladislav Matt, a witness in the Technopol
fraud, in which Michal Kovac Jr. is implicated. Matt, a former Technopol
manager, said the director-general allowed him to conclude contracts that cost
the firm $2.3 million. In connection with those contracts, he named Marian K.,
against whom Technopol filed a lawsuit one year ago, Michal Kovac Jr., and
President Michal Kovac. Matt is the latest in a series of witnesses who have
appeared on STV claiming that the kidnapping was a fake and giving details of
Kovac Jr.'s alleged involvement in the Technopol fraud. -- Sharon Fisher
HUNGARY REJECTS SLOVAK INTERPRETATION OF BASIC TREATY.
government on 4 April told Slovakia that the exchange of ratification documents
on the bilateral treaty will not take place if Slovakia attaches its so-called
"interpretation" clauses, MTI reported. State Secretary at the Foreign Ministry
Istvan Szent-Ivanyi said Hungary has already informed the Slovak government of
its decision. Szent-Ivanyi warned that attaching interpretation clauses is
"virtually unprecedented in international law." The Slovak parliament approved
an addendum last week that includes a unilateral interpretation of the
Slovak-Hungarian treaty. -- Zsofia Szilagyi
HUNGARY TO PRIVATIZE ROYAL GRAND HOTEL, AMUSEMENT PARK.
Hungary is to
sell Budapest's century-old Royal Grand Hotel and amusement park, Hungarian
media reported on 5 April. The four-star Royal Hotel, once the biggest hotel in
the Austro-Hungarian empire, is up for sale at a provisional price of $6.8
million. It has been closed since October 1991 pending renovation. Following
two unsuccessful attempts to sell it, the buyer is now obliged only to preserve
its facade. The amusement park, located in the City Park, is to be sold because
the municipality lacks funds to modernize it. -- Zsofia Szilagyi
IFOR SAYS NO MORE FIXED CHECKPOINTS IN BOSNIA.
NATO peacekeepers have
said that all fixed control posts have been removed in northwestern Bosnia
around Banja Luka, Prijedor, and Bihac, and in central Bosnia around Travnik.
Mobile checkpoints are still allowed, provided they do not stay in one place
for more than 30 minutes, Onasa news agency reported on 4 April. It is unclear
what has happened to the control posts around Mostar in Herzegovina. The Dayton
treaty is quite specific about the need for freedom of movement across Bosnia,
but IFOR at first said it would not do "police work," even though the
international police force was greatly understaffed and unable to do its job.
IFOR recently changed its position and has removed checkpoints. -- Patrick
REACTIONS TO U.S. SECRETARY OF COMMERCE'S DEATH IN CROATIA.
media responded to Ron Brown's death in a plane crash outside Dubrovnik,
Croatia, on 3 April by noting he was at the center of reconstruction efforts
and that it will not be easy to find someone to replace him. The Croatian
government ordered flags flown at half-mast and entertainment shows canceled
following the crash, in which 35 people are reported to have died. The Bosnian
and Croatian prime ministers said their respective countries had lost a friend,
local news agencies reported. The crash in heavy rain may have been caused by
the malfunction of a rudder, which has happened before on Boeing 737s. Croatian
officials said that the crash could not be blamed on air safety standards in
their republic, Slobodna Dalmacija wrote on 5 April. The Serbian daily
Nasa Borba said that pilot error was the most likely cause and that
gunfire could be ruled out. -- Patrick Moore
KARADZIC TURNS DOWN OFFER OF ASYLUM IN MONASTERY.
Bosnian Serb leader
Radovan Karadzic has declined an offer of refuge by the Serbian Orthodox
Shilandar monastery on Mt. Athos, which enjoys extraterritorial status. The
leadership of the church proposed that the internationally wanted war criminal
become a monk there, AFP on 5 April quoted the Montenegrin weekly
Monitor as saying. Karadzic, a licensed psychiatrist, said he intends to
set up a private mental hospital with his wife, who is a doctor, and his
daughter, who studies medicine. -- Patrick Moore
ANOTHER OPPOSITION LEADER FALLS FOUL OF SERBIAN PRESIDENT?
Djindjic, leader of the Democratic Party, appears to be the latest target of
Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's crackdown on the opposition. Tanjug on 3
April reported that the Belgrade District Public Prosecutor's Office has
requested that an investigation be launched into Djindjic in connection with a
short piece he placed in the daily Telegraf accusing Serbian government
ministers of abusing their official position to buy wheat at very low prices
and then sell it for a huge profit. The prosecution claims that Djindjic
committed a "criminal offense against the reputation of the Republic of
Serbia." -- Stefan Krause and Stan Markotich
GERMAN FOREIGN MINISTER REPLIES TO SERBIAN OPPOSITION LEADER.
Kinkel, in a reply to a letter sent by Serbian Renewal Movement leader Vuk
Draskovic to several foreign ministers (see OMRI Daily Digest, 27 March
1996), said the democratization of rump Yugoslavia is a precondition for its
readmission into European structures, Nasa Borba reported on 4 April. He
said that it was particularly important that democratic institutions be
established and human and minority rights respected. Klaus also noted that
Germany and its EU partners see certain developments in rump Yugoslavia as
"incompatible with the obligations your country undertook within the framework
of the peace and stabilization process." -- Stefan Krause
CROATIA WANTS NO REGIONAL GROUPINGS.
Croatian Foreign Minister Mate
Granic told his visiting Albanian counterpart, Alfred Serreqi, that Croatia
wants good relations with all countries in the region, including rump
Yugoslavia. He stressed, however, that Zagreb does not want "any [regional]
association, nor will [it] join any kind of Balkan conferences," Vecernjli
list reported on 4 April. Croatia, like Slovenia, has repeatedly pointed
out since 1991 that it wants nothing to do with any grouping that smacks in any
way of being some kind of new Yugoslavia. Granic added that Croatia's "basic
strategic goal is to join the Euro-Atlantic political and security
associations." It also wants "direct relations with the EU" rather than any
regional grouping, which Croatia regards as a half-way house. The two men
discussed bilateral relations, with Serreqi paying "special attention to the
Kosovo question." -- Patrick Moore
ROMANI ELECTION ALLIANCE FORMED IN ROMANIA.
The Roma Party of Romania
announced last week that it and 11 other Romani organizations have agreed to
run on joint lists in the local elections, Radio Bucharest reported on 2 April.
The groups will compete as the Roma Alliance. Gheorghe Raducanu, executive
chairman of the Roma Party, said that any other Romani parties who wish to join
have until 9 April to do so. The local elections are expected to take place in
May. -- Alaina Lemon
MOLDOVAN COURT RULES AGAINST SNEGUR.
Moldova's Constitutional Court has
ruled that President Mircea Snegur's dismissal of Defense Minister Pavel
Creanga last month was illegal, international agencies reported on 4 April.
Under the constitution, cabinet members can be fired only by the premier or
through a vote in the parliament. Snegur's legal adviser said after the court's
ruling that Creanga was now "free to return to office." Creanga said the
decision was a "victory of the truth." Prime Minister Andrei Sangheli commented
that he thanked God that no bloodshed was caused by Snegur's decision, although
"we were only inches away from it." -- Michael Shafir
ROVER CLOSES BULGARIAN PLANT.
Rover Group on 4 April announced that it
will stop assembling automobiles at its Bulgarian plant, RFE/RL and Reuters
reported. Rover owns a 51% stake in Rodacar, Bulgaria's only car maker. The
other 49% is held by Daru Group, which has been experiencing severe financial
difficulties. The plant, located in Varna, was opened less than seven months
ago. Rover was the biggest foreign investor in Bulgaria outside the food
sector. A Rodacar spokesman said, "We were led to believe that we could rely on
government support in setting up our plant here, but that support failed to
materialize." -- Stefan Krause
BULGARIAN PRIVATIZATION DEADLINE EXTENDED.
The Bulgarian parliament on 4
April voted to extend the deadline for selling privatization vouchers, RFE/RL
reported. The initial deadline was 8 April, but legislators decided to extend
it by one month because so far vouchers have been bought by only 18.4% of those
eligible to do so. Some 1,063 companies are to privatized. Also on 4 April,
Industry Minister Kliment Vuchev returned from a three-day visit to Slovenia
where he signed a protocol on economic and trade cooperation. Other economic
agreements with Slovenia will be signed soon, Vuchev said. -- Stefan Krause
BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN GREECE.
Georgi Pirinski, on an official
visit to Athens, held talks with his Greek counterpart, Theodoros Pangalos, on
4 April, RFE/RL reported. Pirinski also met with Prime Minister Kostas Simitis,
President Kostis Stephanopoulos, and Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis.
Pirinski and Pangalos discussed the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline, the
proposed meeting of Balkan foreign ministers in Sofia, and closer economic
cooperation. Pirinski said he believes Greece and Bulgaria are ready "to
discuss [the pipeline] constructively." Pangalos assured Pirinski that the
Greek parliament will ratify bilateral accords on the use of water from the
River Mesta/Nestos and on the opening of new border crossings, which the
Bulgarian parliament ratified last month. -- Stefan Krause
ALBANIAN PRESIDENT KICKS OFF ELECTION CAMPAIGN.
Sali Berisha on 4 April
kicked off the parliamentary election campaign by addressing a congress of his
Democratic Party, Reuters reported. Berisha urged Albanians to support the
Democrats, which he called "the locomotive of the development of democracy, a
market economy, and the country's integration in Europe." He said that if the
Democrats win the elections, they will cut taxes and privatize banks, mines,
the oil sector, hydroelectric power stations, and telecommunications within two
years. -- Stefan Krause
[As of 1200 CET]
Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave