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Newsline - April 10, 1996


ZYUGANOV DENOUNCES MEDIA "BLOCKADE."
Communist leader Zyuganov charged that the national media, particularly television, is conducting an "information blockade" of his campaign, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 April. He said that he felt greater support from the local media, which are "more independent in their conduct." Ekho Moskvy commentator Andrei Cherkizov rejected the accusations, saying "space costs money, there is more interesting material to publish, and there is a Communist press to build up Zyuganov's image." -- Robert Orttung

RUTSKOI ABANDONS PRESIDENTIAL BID.
Bowing to the inevitable, former Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi announced that he would not run for president and threw his support behind Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, Radio Rossii reported on 9 April. Rutskoi's Derzhava won 1.8 million votes (2.6%) in the December parliamentary elections. During that campaign, Rutskoi was critical of Zyuganov and the Communists for not carrying out any of their promises. -- Robert Orttung

MILITARY DENOUNCES REPORTS OF DIVISION IN THE RANKS.
The Collegium of the Defense Ministry denounced recent reports in the media claiming there are political divisions among Russia's highest military commanders, in a statement published in Rossiiskaya gazeta 10 April (see OMRI Daily Digest, 4 April 1996). The collegium announced that the data used in such studies are "falsified" and their purpose is to "disorient society and servicemen on the eve of the presidential elections and create the appearance that there is a hidden opposition among the military leadership." The statement claimed that the Defense Ministry unanimously supports the "current course of reform and the preservation of stability," themes that are emphasized in President Boris Yeltsin's campaign. -- Robert Orttung

MILITARY PARADE TO BE HELD ON RED SQUARE ON VICTORY DAY.
On 9 May, a parade by troops from the Moscow garrison will be held on Red Square to mark the 51st anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, Rossiiskaya gazeta reported on 9 April. Officially there have been no military parades on Red Square since 1990, although last year a parade of war veterans was held that included battalions of parachutists, commandos, and marines. Yeltsin's decision to order a military parade this year is intended to boost his standing among veterans and the military ahead of the June presidential election. -- Penny Morvant

ST. PETERSBURG GUBERNATORIAL RACE TURNS UGLY.
St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Vladimir Yakovlev has accused Mayor Anatolii Sobchak of trying to tell journalists how to cover the mayoral election campaign, NTV reported on 9 April. In turn, Sobchak has denounced the decision of his subordinate to run and called on him to resign. The two now communicate mainly between their assistants. Sobchak is running at 22% in the polls, 12% support other candidates, and 66% remain undecided ahead of the 19 May poll. -- Robert Orttung

RUSSIA TO ACCUSE U.S. OF NUCLEAR SAFETY VIOLATIONS.
The Russian government is preparing a position paper on alleged violations of nuclear safety standards in the U.S., which will be presented at the 19-21 April G-7 summit meeting in Moscow, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 9 April. The government report, citing U.S. Department of Energy statistics, claims that 2,108 safety violations took place at U.S. nuclear facilities during 1989-90 alone. The report was prepared as a "retaliatory blow" against anticipated Western criticism of Russian handling of fissionable materials at the summit. While admitting that "some grounds" exist for criticizing Russia's handling of its nuclear materials, the paper cited Russian experts who argue that the West has deliberately exaggerated the threat of nuclear smuggling from Russia in order to exclude it from the world nuclear fuel market. -- Scott Parrish

POLAND AND RUSSIA DISAGREE ABOUT NATO.
Emerging from a 9 April meeting with his visiting Polish counterpart Aleksander Kwasniewski, President Yeltsin announced that the two had "agreed on all issues, except one," referring to the possible expansion of NATO, ITAR-TASS reported. While Yeltsin said there is still time "to find some alternative means" of resolving the NATO expansion controversy, he added that he had "little hope" such an alternative would be found. Kwasniewski, trying to downplay the divide, said that while Poland wants to join the alliance, it "does not want to become a front-line state in the new Europe." Comparing Kwasniewski's visit to the frosty tenor of bilateral relations over the past few years under President Lech Walesa, however, NTV termed it a "breakthrough." -- Scott Parrish

SWISS EXPEL RUSSIAN DIPLOMAT.
Officials at the Swiss Justice and Police Department announced that an unnamed first secretary at the Russian embassy in Bern will be expelled from Switzerland for espionage, AFP reported on 9 April. The officials said the Russian diplomat was caught red-handed while trying to obtain unspecified information. In December, Switzerland expelled another Russian diplomat on similar charges (see OMRI Daily Digest, 8 January 1996). -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA "CONCERNED" OVER NORTH KOREAN ACTIONS.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Demurin expressed "concern" about recent tensions in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) which separates North and South Korea, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 April. Tension has increased in the zone since Pyongyang announced last week that it will no longer observe the terms of the 1953 armistice agreement ending the Korean War, which it termed "obsolete." North Korean troops have subsequently violated the DMZ on numerous occasions. Demurin criticized North Korea for undermining the security regime on the peninsula, called on Pyongyang to continue observing the armistice, and repeated a Russian proposal for an international conference on the issue. Meanwhile, two Russian delegations departed on previously scheduled visits to Pyongyang. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSO-ITALIAN ECONOMIC COOPERATION AGREEMENTS.
Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Kadannikov and Italian Foreign Minister Suzanna Angelli signed a bilateral investment protection agreement and a tax accord at the initial meeting of the Russo-Italian economic cooperation committee in Rome, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 April. The commission was formed under the terms of the October 1994 Russo-Italian Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation. RFE/RL reported that the investment accord would simplify regulations for Italian companies investing in Russia, while the tax agreement will lower taxes on Italian firms operating there. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSO-POLISH COOPERATION IN ENERGY PROJECTS.
Deputy Minister of Fuel and Energy Yurii Korsun told ITAR TASS on 9 April that Russia is keen to move forward with the plan to build a pipeline across Poland to carry natural gas from the Yamal peninsula in northern Siberia to Germany. Russia also wants to build a gas pipeline to Kaliningrad to fuel a new power plant there, easing the province's acute energy problems. There is already agreement to build a high current electricity transmission line from Russia to Germany across Poland. -- Peter Rutland

NAVY TELLS SHIPYARD TO SELL SUBMARINES ABROAD.
The Russian Navy has told the Krasnoe Sormovo shipyard in Nizhnii Novgorod to sell abroad three diesel-powered, Kilo-class submarines originally ordered for the navy, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 April. Two of the boats have already been sold to China. The director of the shipyard, Nikolai Zharkov, said the company is negotiating with another unnamed country (identified only as in Africa or Southeast Asia) for the sale of the third boat. Zharkov said that the Chinese had been pleased with the two submarines they bought but lacked the money to buy the third. The company is in serious financial difficulty and recently cut its workforce from 29,000 to 11,000. -- Doug Clarke

BELLONA ACTIVIST REFUSED BAIL.
A St. Petersburg court has rejected a bail application by Aleksandr Nikitin, a retired navy captain and employee of the Norwegian-based environmental group Bellona, AFP reported on 9 April. Nikitin, who worked on a report on radioactive contamination of Murmansk Oblast, was accused of espionage and arrested by the Federal Security Service (FSB) in February. Nikitin's supporters, who include Russian Environmental Policy Center head Aleksei Yablokov, argue that the report does not contain secret information and that the 1993 Law on State Secrets stipulates that information "on the condition of the environment" is not subject to classification, Trud reported on 23 March. -- Penny Morvant

ARMY LOW ON FOOD.
Lack of funding has forced the Russian army to use emergency food reserves to feed its troops, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 April. According to Defense Ministry official Lt. Gen. Vyacheslav Savinov, spending on food for the military was cut from 3.5 trillion to 1.7 trillion rubles last year ($350 million at current prices) and funds were disbursed only sporadically, leaving the army in debt to suppliers. This year, Savinov continued, the budget allocation will cover only about 75% of the military's food requirements. He stressed, however, that the army does have sufficient reserves to prevent its troops from starving. Recent media reports have listed several cases of malnutrition among soldiers, including one death. -- Penny Morvant

POOR FIRE SAFETY RECORD.
Fires caused 15,000 deaths and injured another 13,500 people in Russia last year, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 April. The Interior Ministry's fire service recorded 290,000 fires, which caused about 30 trillion rubles ($6.2 billion) of damage. The number of fatalities caused by fires rose from 6,888 in 1990 to 15,700 in 1994. A large number of the blazes are the result of accidents by drunks. -- Penny Morvant

DOCKERS HOLD WARNING STRIKE.
Dock workers at a number of Russian ports held a one-hour warning strike on 9 April to draw attention to the plight of Russia's northern ports, Radio Rossii and Ekho Moskvy reported. Union representative Anatolii Shalamanov said loads have declined sharply recently, with cargo increasingly being handled by ports in Ukraine and the Baltic states. High taxes and rail tariffs and outdated equipment have made Russian ports uncompetitive, and a number are on the verge of bankruptcy. The Russian Union of Dockers estimates that Russia's ports are being used to only 60% of capacity. -- Penny Morvant

STATE WILL BUY BACK OIL FIRM SHARES. . .
At a meeting of the government's Commission for Operational Problems on 9 April, Deputy Prime Minister and head of the State Privatization Committee Aleksandr Kazakov said that the government will buy back the oil firm shares that were sold in loan auctions in November and December, ITAR TASS reported. He said "the state must retain its influence over oil firms," and complained that the auctions had not led to any significant improvement in the financial situation of the firms. The problem, Kazakov noted, will be where to find the money to buy back the shares. -- Peter Rutland

. . .AND BOOST INVESTMENT.
Fuel and Energy Minister Yurii Shafranik told the same government meeting that there will be a major overhaul of the taxes and tariffs levied on oil firms in the next two months. This is presumably to compensate for the lifting of oil export duties scheduled for 1 July. Shafranik wants to cut the taxes they pay as a share of sales from the current 70% to 45%. He said that to maintain the current level of production of about 300 million metric tons a year 212 trillion rubles ($44 billion) of investment will be needed by 2000, and only half that sum appears to be available. -- Peter Rutland

LATENT RENATIONALIZATION ON ITS WAY.
A process of latent renationalization has started in Russia, according to Boris Kagarlitsky, writing in the 5-11 April issue of Vek. Since the roots of the process are in the financial relations between companies and local governments, it is unlikely to be affected by the results of the presidential election in June. Kagarlitsky argues that enterprises are now borrowing money from local authorities, using company assets as collateral. If these debts cannot be repaid, as is likely, then gradually many of these firms may return to state ownership. -- Natalia Gurushina

PROMSTROIBANK OPENS U.S. OFFICE.
Promstroibank became the first Russian bank to open a U.S. office since the breakup of the Soviet Union, AFP reported on 9 April. Permission to open the unit came from the Federal Reserve System, which supervises foreign banks. The office will provide the bank's clients in Russia with information about international financial markets but will not be allowed to give credits or receive deposits. The unit will be opened in July 1996 in New York, becoming the bank's fourth office abroad (the bank also has offices in London, Frankfurt, and Geneva). -- Natalia Gurushina

TAX RECEIPTS STILL SLUGGISH.
Tax receipts in the first quarter were just 81% of the planned level, with arrears cumulating to 41 trillion rubles by 1 March, Finansovye izvestiya reported on 9 April. The new head of the State Tax Service, Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Artyukhov, noted with concern that there appears to be no relationship between the economic performance of a given region and its level of tax payments. He complained that firms are evading taxes by resorting to barter. -- Peter Rutland



AKAYEV DISMISSES NEWSPAPER EDITORS.
Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev has dismissed the editors of two leading newspapers and the head of the State Television and Radio Committee, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 April, citing a source from the Glasnost Foundation. Akayev's press secretary was quoted by the Glasnost Foundation as saying that the decision to remove the editors of Slovo Kyrgyzstana andSvobodnye gory is consistent with the state's policy of rotating "cadres of the state-owned mass media." The new head of the State Television and Radio Committee is Amanbek Karypkulov, formerly the ideology secretary of the Kyrgyz Communist Party prior to 1991. The editorial staff of both papers have sent a letter of protest to Akayev, and are threatening to go on strike. They claim that the current ownership structure of the paper--jointly owned by its own employees and the government--is not permitted under Kyrgyz law. The Kyrgyz-American Bureau on human rights has termed the move a violation of journalists' rights -- Bhavna Dave

MAJOR DRUG STORAGE BASE DISCOVERED IN KAZAKHSTAN.
Kazakhstani customs officials and members of the State Investigation Committee raided a major narcotics shipment base in Almaty, arresting several members of a Kazakh-Tajik drug smuggling ring and seizing large quantities of raw opium and marijuana, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 April. The base was part of a route that runs from Pakistan and Afghanistan, through Central Asia, and on to Russia and other CIS states. A State Investigation Committee official told ITAR-TASS that last month's arrest at Almaty Airport of a number of Tajik citizens, who had more than 12 kg of raw opium and 5 kg of hashish valued at more than $1 million, led to the arrests at the Almaty base. Drug smuggling rings are increasingly using Kazakhstan as a transit country due to its good air links with other CIS countries and Eastern Europe. -- Bhavna Dave

CAUCASIAN LOBBY IN ANKARA.
A "7 million-strong" Caucasian diaspora in Turkey is "heavily influencing" Turkey's foreign policy, Cumhuriyet reported on 9 April. The paper identified the highjacking of the Avrasya Ferryboat in January as the event which brought attention to the alleged strength of this lobby. The article reported that Turkey is making use of the Caucasian lobby to achieve objectives--such as spreading Turkish culture--that it cannot officially realize. The article exaggerates the strength of the lobby and the size of the Caucasian diaspora but rightly points to a little noted revival of "emigre" Caucasian (especially North Caucasian) activism and its exploitation for foreign policy purposes. -- Lowell Bezanis



IMF, UKRAINE NEGOTIATE NEW CREDIT.
The IMF and Ukraine are negotiating a new stand-by credit worth $900 million, AFP reported on 9 April. The loan is intended to replace a $1.6 billion credit that expired on 6 April. Ukraine made use of only $700 million of that loan. Since it is now too late to extend and increase that credit, agreement is to be reached on a new loan. -- Ustina Markus

BELARUSIAN, UKRAINIAN LEADERS ATTEND CHORNOBYL CONFERENCE.
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and Ukrainian Prime Minister Yevhen Marchuk arrived in Vienna on 9 April to participate in a four-day conference on Chornobyl, international agencies reported. Marchuk told delegates that Ukraine intends to close down Chornobyl by 2000 but can do so only if it receives financial support. He said that support has not materialized to date. Lukashenka stressed that Belarus must use 20-25% of its annual budget to deal with the consequences of the Chornobyl accident. He appealed to foreign countries to contribute $125 billion to help in that effort. More than 700 participants are attending the conference. -- Ustina Markus

ESTONIAN PREMIER DENIES OWING RUSSIA RUBLES.
Tiit Vahi has denied there is any need for Estonia to repay Russian rubles it withdrew from circulation when the country switched to its own currency, BNS reported on 9 April. Vahi was responding to Russian demands for compensation for the missing rubles. He proposed instead that Russia compensate Estonia for money frozen in accounts in the Russian Vnesheconombank and for damage caused by Russian troops in Estonia. The Estonian Foreign Ministry has not yet given an official reply to the demands. -- Ustina Markus

LITHUANIAN POLITICAL UPDATE.
Lithuanian President Algirdas Brazauskas has appointed Antanas Zenonas as Economy Minister, BNS reported on 6 April. He has also scheduled parliamentary elections for 20 October. The last such elections were held in October 1992. -- Ustina Markus

FORMER FIRST SECRETARY ON MARTIAL LAW IN POLAND.
Stanislaw Kania, first secretary of the Polish United Workers Party from 1980-1981, on 9 April gave testimony at the trial of former Internal Affairs Minister Czeslaw Kiszczak, Polish dailies reported. Kiszczak, who held office from 1981-1990, is accused of authorizing police units to shoot at miners from Wujek and Manifest Lipcowy collieries in December 1991, when martial law was declared in Poland. Kania said he had been against martial law, although preparations for its proclamation began during his term in office under heavy Soviet pressure. Kania was replaced as first secretary in October 1981 by Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski. -- Jakub Karpinski

SLOVAK CABINET TO TAKE PRESIDENT TO CONSTITUTIONAL COURT.
The Slovak government on 9 April decided to turn to the Constitutional Court over President Michal Kovac's refusal to appoint Labor and Social Affairs Minister Olga Keltosova as ambassador to the UN, Narodna obroda reported. The cabinet argued that although the president has the constitutional right to approve or reject ambassadorial candidates, the constitution does not allow him to make an appointment conditional on certain demands being met. Kovac said he would approve Keltosova's appointment if she distanced herself from a cabinet statement issued in September calling for his resignation. She has refused to comply. -- Sharon Fisher

SLOVAK PRESIDENT VETOES LAW ON PROTECTION OF REPUBLIC.
Meanwhile, Kovac on 4 April rejected the law on the protection of the republic, asking the parliament to eliminate those provisions that "violate freedom of expression, information, and assembly," Slovak media reported on 10 April. The parliament can override Kovac by voting again for the law, but opposition parties have promised to take it to the Constitutional Court. Cardinal Jan Chryzostom Korec published a statement in Praca on 9 April stressing that, "To damage the nation, the state, and Slovakia is immoral; however, to restrict citizens' freedom of expression can be even more immoral." -- Sharon Fisher



IFOR WARNS BOSNIAN FACTIONS ABOUT WEAPONS VIOLATIONS.
Brigadier Andrew Cumming on 9 April said that IFOR has sent a letter to all three sides in Bosnia warning them that they are not complying with rules on heavy weapons, Onasa news agency reported. At issue is the storage of air defense weapons. Cumming said that "nobody is going to start flying back into Bosnia if there are a number of air defense systems loose in the country." Meanwhile in Pale, the Bosnian Serbs freed three out of the 19 or 20 prisoners they are keeping. The government side also continues to hold a number of Serbs, some of whom they have officially declared and some not. Meanwhile, war crimes tribunal authorities in The Hague took custody of Zdravko Mucic, who was delivered to Schiphol airport by Austrian police. Mucic, a Croat, is charged with war crimes against Bosnian Serbs while he was the commander of the Celebici prison camp in central Bosnia, Nasa Borba reported on 10 April. -- Patrick Moore

ISLAMIC FOREIGN MINISTERS MEET IN SARAJEVO.
The foreign ministers of Iran, Egypt, Morocco, Malaysia, Pakistan, Senegal, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey held a closed session in the Bosnian capital on 9 April to discuss offering mainly economic rather than military assistance. The eight countries constitute the Islamic Contact Group for Bosnia. The Malaysian defense minister was also in Sarajevo, where he met with his Bosnian counterpart to review the security situation. Meanwhile in Manama, UN Ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey told businessmen, officials, and bankers from six Gulf Arab states that Bosnia needs private investment to repair war damage totaling $80-$100 billion, Onasa reported. Sacirbey stressed that investment, not aid, is the key to Bosnia's future. -- Patrick Moore

BRITAIN TO RECOGNIZE RUMP YUGOSLAVIA.
A representative of the Foreign Office on 9 April said Britain will recognize the rump Yugoslavia as the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. He added that bilateral relations are to be upgraded to the ambassadorial level. Reuters quoted the spokesman as saying that "this is a welcome development which reflects the changed circumstances in the region following signature of the Bosnia Peace Agreement." -- Stan Markotich

CROATIAN UPDATE.
President Franjo Tudjman told visiting Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy that Croatia favors normalization of relations in the region but is opposed to any kind of integration or new Yugoslavia, Nasa Borba reported on 10 April. The Croatian PEN club has protested the new press law as a curb on freedom of expression, Politika noted. The PEN club, which is regarded as a highly prestigious institution among residents of the former Yugoslavia, also "disassociated itself" from its member Vladimir Seks, who is vice president of parliament, for his role in promoting the legislation. The parliament's president, Vlatko Pavletic, warned that the proposed law on cooperation with the tribunal in The Hague must be passed if Croatia wants to ensure its admission to the Council of Europe, Slobodna Dalmacija wrote. Finally, Czech President Vaclav Havel told Globus that democracy and the civil society need to be strengthened in Croatia. -- Patrick Moore

MONTENEGRIN OPPOSITION PARTY ON RECOGNITION OF MACEDONIA.
The opposition Liberal Party of Montenegro has said that Belgrade's recognition of Macedonia is likely to pave the way for improved relations between Belgrade and other states of the former Yugoslavia. But it added that the recognition of Macedonia was "overdue" and prompted by the "urging of the international community." Nada Bukilich, a Liberal Party representative, was quoted by Montena-fax on 9 April as saying that recognition is likely to smooth over outstanding differences over the question of succession. -- Stan Markotich

SLOVENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER FALLS OUT OF FAVOR?
Lojze Peterle, head of the Slovenian Christian Democratic Party, which supports the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, has said his party has no choice but to urge that Zoran Thaler be removed from the post of foreign minister. Peterle maintains that Thaler, a Liberal Democrat, has failed to mend fences with neighboring Italy, which, he said, is a necessary step for Slovenia's entry into the EU. According to the Serbian news agency Beta, Peterle has argued that Thaler's failure to improve relations with Rome has contributed to Slovenia's tarnished image within the international community. -- Stan Markotich

U.S. CONGRESSMAN TIES SUPPORT FOR ROMANIA TO EXCLUSION OF EXTREMISTS FROM GOVERNMENT...
Tom Lantos, in Bucharest on 9 April, said he is ready to help Romania obtain most-favored-nation status and join NATO--on condition that "no extremist party" is included in Romania's government after the fall elections, Reuters and Romanian media reported. Lantos was speaking after meetings with Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu, President Ion Iliescu, and Defense Minister Gheorghe Tinca. Radio Bucharest cited Lantos as saying he is ready to offer help to Budapest and Bucharest to reach an agreement on the basic treaty, but he added that he is sure this will not be necessary since the two sides will reach an agreement by themselves. He also said Romania has to improve its record of treating national minorities and singled out the issue of the Hungarian-language university in Cluj. -- Michael Shafir

...WHILE FUNAR CALLS HIM "ENVOY OF HUNGARIAN IRREDENTISM."
Gheorghe Funar, chairman of the Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR), said in a declaration broadcast by Radio Bucharest that Lantos's visit was aimed at pressuring Romania into signing the basic agreement with Hungary under conditions advantageous to Budapest. He called Lantos, who is of Hungarian origin, "an envoy of Hungarian irredentism." The PUNR is still a member of the ruling coalition, although the main coalition partner, the Party of Social Democracy in Romania, has said it intends to end its alliance with Funar's group. -- Michael Shafir

ROMANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER FORESEES "ARMS RACE IN REGION."
If Hungary were granted NATO membership before Romania, there could be an arms race in the region, Romanian Defense Minister Gheorghe Tinca said in an interview with the Hungarian daily Magyar Hirlap on 9 April. Tinca also suggested that instead of competing for NATO membership, the two countries should accelerate talks on the pending basic treaty, improve bilateral relations, and promote the so-called historic reconciliation. Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs responded that Hungary is neither in a race to improve its military arsenal nor competing for NATO membership with any country. He added that Hungary would like to see its neighbors join NATO as soon as possible because that would improve bilateral relations and the situation of ethnic Hungarian minorities. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

ROMANIAN PREMIER OPPOSES DEBATE ON RESTITUTION OF JEWISH PROPERTY.
Nicolae Vacaroiu is opposed to a parliamentary debate on a draft law allowing the restitution of Jewish property confiscated between 1938 and 1989, Evenimentul zilei and Cotidianul reported on 10 April. The bill was proposed by Adrian Severin of the Democratic Party-National Salvation Front. Vacaroiu says anti-Semitic legislation of the 1930s and early 1940s has been corrected by laws passed in the late 1940s by the communists. Any new laws, he argued, should deal with all confiscated property, not just that belonging to Jews. He also noted that the bill would place impossible burdens on the state budget. -- Michael Shafir

GUARDS BAR MOLDOVAN DEFENSE MINISTER FROM ENTERING OFFICE.
Guards barred Gen. Pavel Creanga from entering his office on 9 April, Reuters reported. Creanga told the agency that the army's actions were in defiance of a recent Constitutional Court ruling, adding that the army is still under the direct command of President Mircea Snegur. Infotag reported that Snegur has asked the parliament to appoint Chief of Staff Col. Pavel Chirau as Creanga's replacement. Parliamentary sources told the agency that the legislature is unlikely to consider the request without first hearing the opinion of Premier Andrei Sangheli, who has refused to approve Creanga's dismissal. -- Michael Shafir

BULGARIAN OPPOSITION SIGNS PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS AGREEMENT.
Bulgaria's major opposition forces on 9 April agreed to support a joint candidate in the upcoming presidential elections, Standart reported. The agreement provides for primary elections on 1 June in which members of the opposition will choose between incumbent President Zhelyu Zhelev and Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) Deputy Chairman Petar Stoyanov. Zhelev is supported by the People's Union and several smaller parties. The mainly ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedom is part of the united opposition but is to take a neutral stand in the primaries. Zhelev and Stoyanov signed the agreement in the presence of all opposition leaders. Zhelev had announced earlier that he will withdraw his candidacy for a second term if he loses to Stoyanov in the primaries. -- Stefan Krause

FORMER BULGARIAN TSAR TO VISIT SOFIA IN MAY.
Simeon II has announced he will visit Bulgaria for two weeks beginning 25 May, Bulgarian dailies reported on 10 April, citing an interview with Le Figaro. Simeon said he will travel "on a one-way ticket" but will return to Madrid if he "cannot do anything useful." He said he wants to hold talks in Sofia to find out "what the reality is there." Simeon left Bulgaria after a communist referendum abolished the monarchy in 1946, but he has retained his Bulgarian citizenship. Prime Minister Zhan Videnov on 6 April said that the government sees Simeon as an unwelcome guest but added that he can nonetheless visit the country, RFE/RL reported. The government has repeatedly called on Simeon to renounce any idea of reclaiming the throne or restoring the monarchy. -- Stefan Krause

COUNCIL OF EUROPE CHAIRWOMAN IN ALBANIA.
Lenny Fischer, chairwoman of the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe, visited Albania on 9 April, Gazeta Shqiptare reported. Albanian President Sali Berisha told Fischer that Albania is committed to respecting all its obligations as a council member. Recently, the rapporteur of the council's Legal Affairs Committee criticized the Albanian government for not keeping promises it had given when admitted to the council last summer, including guaranteeing the independence of the judiciary, Koha Jone reported. Albania has also not yet abolished capital punishment; and in several cases, judges have handed down the death sentence. Another disputed issue is the continued imprisonment of Socialist Party leader Fatos Nano, whose conviction for misappropriation of funds has not yet been reviewed. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave





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