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Newsline - April 11, 1996


YELTSIN TO REQUEST RELOCATION OF WESTERN NUKES.
Addressing the Security Council in preparation for the 19-20 April G-7 nuclear safety summit, President Yeltsin pledged that all remaining former Soviet strategic nuclear warheads located in Ukraine and Belarus would be removed to Russia by the end of 1996, Russian and Western agencies reported on 10 April. He called on the other nuclear powers to follow suit and base nuclear weapons only on their own territory. Russian TV reported that Yeltsin would insist such a pledge be included in the final summit communique. If accepted, it would require the U.S. to remove its tactical nuclear weapons currently stationed in NATO member-states, and would preclude the deployment of such weapons to Eastern European states if they join NATO. -- Scott Parrish

DUMA STANDS FIRM ON USSR VOTE.
The Duma rejected by a vote of 186 to 65 President Yeltsin's proposal that it adopt a resolution stating that the 15 March vote to restore the Soviet Union does not challenge the legitimacy of Russia's sovereignty or annul its international commitments,
ITAR-TASS reported 10 April. However, the lower house then adopted its own statement saying essentially the same thing, adding that the vote reflected only the "political position" of the deputies and has no legal effect. The Duma also expressed its disappointment at the reaction of the leaders of Georgia, Uzbekistan, Armenia, and Moldova, who saw the 15 March vote as a "threat" from Russia. -- Robert Orttung

SUPREME COURT OVERTURNS TsIK's REFUSAL TO REGISTER BRYNTSALOV.
The Supreme Court ordered the Central Electoral Commission (TsIK) to register Duma member Vladimir Bryntsalov, one of Russia's richest individuals and the owner of several pharmaceutical factories, as a presidential candidate on 10 April, NTV reported. TsIK had rejected 450,000 of the 1.35 million nomination signatures that Bryntsalov turned in, but the court found 170,000 of them valid, meaning that Bryntsalov had crossed the 1 million signature threshold required to register as a candidate. During the Duma elections, the court overturned several TsIK decisions to deny registration to political parties, bringing the number of contestants to 43. -- Robert Orttung

COMMUNISTS PLAN TO ABOLISH PRESIDENCY IN 2-3 YEARS.
Communist leader Gennadi Zyuganov will abolish the Russian presidency in 2-3 years if he is elected in June, Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev told Izvestiya on 11 April. Seleznev favors a parliamentary system for Russia because "a presidency always begets a tug-of-war between the branches of power." -- Robert Orttung

COMMUNISTS LOSE IN MOSCOW OBLAST LOCAL ELECTIONS.
Communists lost 31 out of 34 races in Moscow Oblast's 31 March local elections, the pro-presidential Rossiiskie vesti reported on 11 April. Most of the victorious candidates were local economic managers. The paper argues that even though the Communists did well in the Duma elections, voters are now interested in competent professions and "stability," rather than leftist ideology. -- Robert Orttung

COMMISSION ON CHECHNYA CONVENES.
Boris Yeltsin on 10 April attended the second session of the government commission created to monitor implementation of his Chechen peace proposals, Russian media reported. Yeltsin submitted to the meeting the names of proposed intermediaries between the Russian leadership and Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev, but these were not made public. St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak proposed his city as the venue for peace talks, NTV reported. In Chechnya, fighting reportedly died down except in the village of Goiskoe, south of Grozny; most of Dudaev's forces were said to have regrouped near the border with Dagestan. On 9 April, Dudaev's chief of staff, Aslan Maskhadov, escaped injury when a bomb exploded in a cemetery where he was due to speak, killing 10 people, according to Radio Rossii. -- Liz Fuller

RUSSO-CHINESE BORDER DEMARCATION SUSPENDED?
Primorsk Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko announced on 11 April that President Yeltsin had suspended the demarcation of a disputed stretch of the Russo-Chinese border, Reuters reported. Nazdratenko has long opposed the 1991 border agreement that would transfer to China of 1,500 hectares of disputed territory along the Tuman River in southern Primorsk Krai, a process that is scheduled to move forward once the demarcation is completed. Nazdratenko has launched an appeal against the agreement in the Constitutional Court. The Primorsk governor said Yeltsin had reconsidered the "losses" that would result from transferring the disputed territory to China and had suspended further demarcation work pending discussions in Beijing during his scheduled 24-26 April official visit to China. Moscow has not yet officially confirmed Nazdratenko's announcement. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA MAY PROPOSE JOINING NATO POLITICAL STRUCTURES.
Russia may soon propose to NATO that it be granted membership in the alliance's political but not military structures, an article in Nezavisimaya gazeta suggested on 10 April. The article, co-authored by Sergei Kortunov, a foreign policy specialist who works in the Yeltsin administration, argued that NATO's response to such a proposal would demonstrate whether the alliance is "honest" when it claims that its enlargement is not directed against Russia. Adding Russia to the alliance's political structure would also begin the process of transforming NATO into a post-Cold War security structure, the article contended. -- Scott Parrish

BLACK SEA FLEET UPDATE.
Commander of the Black Sea Fleet Viktor Kravchenko has said that the Russian part of the fleet will consist of two military marine formations, Krasnaya zvezda reported on 9 April. The units will be based at Sevastopol and Novorossiisk. Kravchenko added that next year, the Russian Black Sea Fleet will receive new ships, submarines, and aircraft. -- Ustina Markus

AGRICULTURAL WORKERS PROTEST AGAIN.
Hundreds of agricultural workers took part in a rally outside the federal government building in Moscow on 10 April to demand state support for the agroindustrial complex, measures to protect domestic producers from cheap, low quality foreign imports, and the cancellation of the 7 March presidential decree on the sale of land, Russian TV reported. A similar protest was held on 26 March (see OMRI Daily Digest, 27 March 1996). The demonstration was addressed by Agrarian Party leader Mikhail Lapshin, whose main goal is the preservation of the system of collective and state farms and the prevention of the unrestricted sale of farmland. The party backs Communist leader Zyuganov in the presidential election. -- Penny Morvant

PROTEST IN PRIMORSK KRAI.
Workers at about 300 enterprises in Primorsk Krai held warning strikes on 10 April to draw attention to the region's economic difficulties, ITAR-TASS reported. Unions are demanding the payment of the almost 1.5 trillion ruble federal debt to the krai, a reduction in taxes, and the stabilization of energy prices. According to Russian Public TV (ORT), the strikers resolved not to allow Our Home Is Russia representative Sergei Belyaev to leave Vladivostok until he gives specific assurances that the government will meet its obligations. Fuel shortages in the krai have led to power cuts and a 20% fall in output, while wage arrears amounted to almost 500 billion rubles ($103 million), with the public sector accounting for about 10% of the total, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 April. -- Penny Morvant

FEDERATION COUNCIL APPROVES MINIMUM WAGE BILL.
The parliament's upper house voted on 10 April to approve a bill raising the minimum wage from 63,250 to 75,900 rubles ($16) a month as of 1 April, ITAR-TASS reported. The vote was preceded by a heated debate, with several deputies expressing concern that the increase could not be funded. The Duma first voted to raise the minimum wage in January, but that bill was rejected by the Federation Council. The current version was approved by the Duma on 20 March. Initial media reports said Yeltsin opposed the hike; subsequently, however, presidential press secretary Sergei Medvedev said his boss welcomed the decision. The minimum wage and pension should be indexed every three months, and the last increase took place on 1 January. -- Penny Morvant

GOVERNMENT RELIES ON SECURITIES TO COVER DEFICIT.
The head of the Finance Ministry's Department of State Securities, Bella Zlatkis, said that short-term treasury bills (GKO-OFZ) worth 25 trillion rubles ($5.1 billion) will be sold in April, up from 20 trillion in March and 17 trillion in February, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 April. Partly this is because of the need to cover maturing securities: in May, total placements on the GKO-OFZ primary market should fall to 11 trillion rubles in order to avoid a crash in the already saturated market from taking place on the eve of the presidential election. Domestic borrowing through GKOs and OFZs is the major source for covering the budget deficit--in 1995 two thirds of the deficit was financed this way. The government expects the 1996 budget deficit to be 115 trillion rubles. -- Natalia Gurushina

HOUSING UPTURN.
There are signs of recovery in the construction industry, ITAR TASS reported on 10 April. In 1995, housing construction was up 9% on the previous year. The World Bank has awarded Russia a $400 million loan to fund housing construction in five selected cities--St. Petersburg, Nizhnii Novgorod, Novgorod, Barnaul, and Tver. Only $5 million has been spent to date, but authorities hope to raise this figure to $70 million by the end of the year. Construction contracts will be awarded through competitive bids, some of which have already taken place. -- Peter Rutland

CENTRAL BANK'S NEW MEASURES TO CONTROL COMMERCIAL BANKS.
The Central Bank (TsB) intends to monitor the financial situation of Russia's 20-30 largest commercial banks by transferring their accounts to the TsB's central accounting department, Segodnya reported on 10 April. This move is designed to eliminate the system of double accounting when banks have two balances--one for internal use and another for the TsB. TsB also introduced tighter controls over banks' operations in foreign financial markets. The Central Bank insists that it will not support the "problem" banks (about 20% of the total number of 2,500). Since 1993, more than 300 banks have had their licenses revoked, and another 300 banks are in the process of being closed or merged, Segodnya reported on 6 April. A survey revealed that 54% of the members of the Association of Russian Banks consider a bank crisis "probable" in the near future, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 10 April. -- Natalia Gurushina



PAKISTANI PEACEKEEPERS FOR NAGORNO-KARABAKH?
Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev, on an official state visit to Pakistan, met on 10 April with Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to sign nine bilateral agreements on economic and other issues, Turan and AFP reported. Bhutto also announced a $1 million grant for Azerbaijanis made homeless during the Karabakh conflict. She reiterated Pakistan's condemnation of "Armenian aggression" and stated that Pakistan would be prepared to contribute a contingent to an OSCE peacekeeping force for Nagorno-Karabakh, according to Turan. -- Liz Fuller

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PAPER DEFIES CENSOR TO PRINT LETTER "WRITTEN IN HUMAN BLOOD."
In its issue for 10 April the Azerbaijani newspaper Muhalifat printed the text of an appeal, reportedly written in human blood, by a member of the OPON special police imprisoned for his participation in the March 1995 standoff with Azerbaijani government troops, Turan reported the same day. The paper's staff have been called to account for failing to submit the text to the government censor. Speaking at an official meeting to mark the first anniversary of the standoff, the head of Azerbaijan's presidential administration, Ramiz Mekhtiev, charged that all Azerbaijani opposition parties, including the Popular Front and Musavat, were implicated, possibly signaling a new wave of reprisals, Turan reported on 5 April. -- Liz Fuller

U.S. NATO AMBASSADOR IN TURKMENISTAN.
U.S. Ambassador to NATO Robert Hunter visited Ashgabat on 8 April for talks with Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov on the country's future participation in the Partnership for Peace (PfP) program, RFE/RL reported the next day. An official Turkmen Press report noted that Ashgabat's arrangements to cooperate with NATO do not contravene the country's policy of neutrality. Turkmenistan became the first Central Asian country to join the PfP in 1994 and, like its counterparts in the region, is preparing to reach an agreement on several specifics, notably officer training, budget planning, consultation, help with natural disasters, and military modernization. -- Lowell Bezanis

ALLEGED VIOLATIONS OF PRESS FREEDOMS IN KAZAKHSTAN.
The Kazakhstan-American Bureau on Human Rights alleged on 9 April that independent journalists in the country are being increasingly persecuted by the state and a new censorship regime has been introduced by the State Radio and Television Committee. Kazakhstan's constitution formally bans censorship. The bureau said that journalists who are persecuted by the state for critical reporting are habitually accused of "slander" under the country's criminal code. The report accused the state committee of banning a number of programs that criticized the policies of regional leaders, and of persecuting Erik Nurshin, the editor of the independent newspaper Dozhivem do ponedelnika, for his publication's reporting. -- Bhavna Dave

OSCE MISSION HEAD IN TAJIKISTAN URGES COMPROMISE.
The head of the OSCE mission in Tajikistan, Gancho Ganchev, warned that the emergence of "a third force" in the country is likely unless the Tajik government and opposition reach a compromise, according to an 11 April ITAR-TASS report cited by the BBC.
He said an authoritative body of government and opposition members should be formed to implement the peace agreement signed last August. Meanwhile, citizens in the towns of Tursunzoda in the west and Kurgan-Tyube in the south, where two armed rebellions took place earlier this year, protested early this week over food shortages. Protestors in Kurgan-Tyube also called for the release of Khoja Karimov, a Tajik deputy and member of the now disbanded Popular Front that helped the present government come to power, the BBC cited Interfax as reporting. -- Bhavna Dave



BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER IN CZECH REPUBLIC.
Zyanon Paznyak, leader of the Belarusian Popular Front, held a press conference at RFE/RL in Prague on 10 April, RFE/RL reported. One day earlier, he paid a visit to OMRI. Paznyak and an opposition colleague, Syarhei Naumchyk, were unable to return to Belarus from Ukraine after President Alyaksandr Lukashenka issued a warrant for their arrest for their part in organizing demonstrations against the Russian-Belarusian integration agreement. Paznyak accused Lukashenka of imposing "authoritarian and dictatorial" rule in Belarus, adding that the country was experiencing an "informational blockade." He called for solidarity among opposition forces, saying he has long been planning a trip abroad to muster support for the national democratic movement in Belarus. -- Ustina Markus

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT IN INDONESIA.
Leonid Kuchma arrived in Jakarta on 10 April for a four-day official visit, Ukrainian Radio and international agencies reported. He will hold talks with his Indonesian counterpart, Suharto. The purpose of the visit is to boost economic cooperation. Last year Ukraine's trade with Indonesia totaled $65 million. -- Ustina Markus

EU ON BALTIC STATES' MEMBERSHIP.
European Parliament President Klaus Hensch has said the EU is interested in admitting all the Baltic states into the EU simultaneously, BNS reported on 10 April. He said the organization preferred to admit groups of states with similar geostrategic positions at the same time. Talks with the Baltic States on admission will not begin before 1998, Hensch underlined. -- Ustina Markus

LATVIA ISSUES REGULATION ON CONTROLLING FISHING WATERS.
The Latvian cabinet has issued a regulation on controlling fishing waters on its side of the provisional fishing borderline with Estonia, Latvijas vestnesis reported on 10 April. The Latvian Navy is required to monitor the fishing borderline, prevent conflict situations, and implement international conventions on navigation. It has also been instructed not to interfere with Estonian fishing vessels between the fishing borderline and the maritime borderline. Naval Commander Gaidis Zeibots did not say how the regulation was to be implemented. -- Ustina Markus

POLISH PRESIDENT OFFERS DIALOGUE ON NATO EXPANSION.
Aleksander Kwasniewski, at a press conference closing his visit to Moscow, pledged that Poland will closely consult with its eastern neighbors before joining NATO, Russian and Western agencies reported. ITAR-TASS quoted Kwasniewski as saying that such discussions might "dispel suspicions about our plans" and avert "unpleasant surprises." But he did not suggest that Poland will be willing to moderate its desire for full membership in NATO, which Russia rejects. The Polish president offered an upbeat assessment of his visit, terming it "important, necessary, and essential." But some Russian and Polish commentators have expressed disappointment with its relatively meager results. -- Scott Parrish

UPDATE ON AUSCHWITZ DEMONSTRATION.
Marek Trombski, governor of the Bielsko-Biala district, offered his resignation on 10 April, Polish media reported. Trombski authorized the 6 April demonstration outside the main entrance to the Auschwitz concentration camp, at which banners were raised protesting against NATO, the EU, and Jews. He had argued that the camp site had not been desecrated because the demonstrators marched silently and with rolled-up banners. He had also said he was blackmailed by the organizers of the demonstration, who threatened that if they were not given permission to rally, they would disrupt a march commemorating Holocaust victims scheduled for 16 April. The government condemned the demonstration and asked the justice and internal affairs ministers to present a report on the activities of extremist groups in Poland. It also announced its intention to amend the law on public gatherings to reduce the possibility of similar demonstrations. -- Jakub Karpinski

CZECH GOVERNMENT WILL NOT SEEK BAN ON RADICAL COMMUNISTS.
The Czech government on 10 April decided not to ask the country's Supreme Court to ban the neo-Stalinist Party of Czechoslovak Communists, Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus said at a press conference in Prague. The party was formed in 1995 by Miroslav Stepan, a former politburo member of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSC). It sees itself as the KSC's successor and seeks the "the renewal of socialism and the Czechoslovak state." Internal Affairs Minister Jan Ruml announced last month that he will seek a ban on the party, arguing that its goals contravened the 1993 Law on the Illegality of the Communist System. A number of other communist and post-communist groups exist in the Czech Republic; some have parliamentary representation, but their programs do not appear to violate the anti-communist law. Klaus explained his government's decision not to ban Stepan's party by saying that the government is formed through free competition among political parties and that democracy in the Czech Republic is not endangered. -- Jiri Pehe

SLOVAK PRESIDENT VETOES TERRITORIAL ADMINISTRATION BILL.
Michal Kovac on 9 April refused to sign the law on Slovakia's territorial administration, which would divide the country into eight regions and 79 districts, Slovak media reported two days later. The opposition has sharply criticized the law, particularly Hungarian minority deputies, who fear that together with anticipated changes in the electoral law, it could negatively affect their parliamentary representation. Hungarian officials have said the bill contravenes the Slovak-Hungarian treaty. Kovac was mainly concerned about the provision that Bratislava would no longer have the status of an independent region. He asked that the law's implementation be delayed from 1 July 1996 to 1 January 1997. -- Sharon Fisher

AUSTRIAN CHANCELLOR IN SLOVAKIA.
Franz Vranitzky visited Slovakia on 10 April to receive an honorary doctorate from Bratislava's Economic University, Sme reported. "I consider politics the antithesis to slogans of populism and nationalism..., which arouse fear and uncertainty," Vranitzky said. He added that "as long as political reforms are concentrated only on introducing legal norms, the application of technical know-how in the economy, and the administration and management of modern political parties, there is a danger that democracy and the fundamental needs of citizens will be overlooked." Vranitzky told Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar that he considers it "very important" that Slovakia is among the first group of countries admitted to the EU. Vranitzky and Meciar also discussed a trilateral meeting--to include Hungarian Prime Minister Gyula Horn--scheduled for July in Slovakia. -- Sharon Fisher

GERMAN DEFENSE MINISTER IN HUNGARY TO DISCUSS NATO.
Volker Ruhe has said that NATO membership is not conditional on the deployment of nuclear weapons or the stationing of foreign troops on the territory of future member states, Hungarian media reported on 11 April. Following talks with his Hungarian counterpart, Gyorgy Keleti, in Budapest, Ruhe also said that NATO plans to reduce its defense capability in the near future and thus it may be the case that no nuclear weapons will be deployed in states that prefer to remain nuclear-free. Commenting on Romanian Defense Minister Gheorghe Tinca's concerns about NATO expansion (see OMRI Daily Digest, 10 April 1996), Ruhe said neither the EU nor NATO is capable of admitting all Eastern European states at the same time. He said he would ask Tinca to clarify his position. -- Zsofia Szilagyi



CROATIA CHARGES SIX MUSLIMS WITH TERRORISM.
Croatia has formally indicted six Bosnian Muslims on charges of planning to murder Bihac kingpin Fikret Abdic in Rijeka, Reuters reported on 10 April. "There is a founded suspicion that the accused intended to commit a criminal act of killing Fikret Abdic," Rijeka county public prosecutor Drago Marincel told Croatian TV. Four men and one woman have been arrested, while another man is still at large. Two of those arrested worked for the Bihac police, while the man still being sought was employed by Bosnia's security department. They reportedly had a large number of weapons stored in Croatia. Bosnia's ambassador Kasim Trnka told Onasa news agency, however, that Bosnia has no reason to send terrorists to Croatia. His embassy spokesman said those arrested were in fact Abdic's own agents trying to sabotage Zagreb-Sarajevo relations, Slobodna Dalmacija wrote on 11 April. The Croatian government has since delivered a formal protest note to the embassy over the incident, Nasa Borba reported. Meanwhile in Zagreb, eight Croatian citizens have gone on trial for killing 18 elderly Serbs after Croatian forces defeated Serbian forces last year, Hina said on 10 April. -- Patrick Moore

BOSNIAN SERBS NOT TO ATTEND AID CONFERENCE.
The international community's High Representative Carl Bildt has rejected demands by Pale that the Republika Srpska's delegation to the Brussels conference on reconstruction be separate from the federation's. Bildt said the Serbs had earlier agreed to a joint representation, in keeping with the Dayton agreement's principle that Bosnia-Herzegovina is a single state consisting of two entities. He added that he could not now invite the Serbs to come to Brussels on 12 April, the BBC reported. Speculation about the Serbs' decision centers on the theory that there is fierce infighting between hard-liners around civilian leader Radovan Karadzic based in Pale and the supposedly more moderate Banja Luka group headed by Prime Minister Rajko Kasagic. A cornerstone of the Dayton package was the hope that the promise of international aid and reconstruction money would prompt all sides to observe the terms of the treaty and be cooperative. -- Patrick Moore

MUSLIM COUNTRIES DISAPPOINT BOSNIAN HOPES FOR AID.
Representatives of 14 Islamic countries concluded a conference on helping the war-torn republic rebuild its economy and shore up its defenses, but they apparently fell short of promising a joint fixed sum for the effort. Turkey pledged $80 million and Iran $50 million, Oslobodjenje wrote on 11 April. Ten other countries were invited but did not send representatives. President Alija Izetbegovic appealed to the delegates that Bosnian needs their help. Iran used the occasion to open a cultural center, which will also coordinate reconstruction work, local media reported. -- Patrick Moore

EU PREPARES TO RECOGNIZE BELGRADE.
The EU on 10 April said that rump Yugoslavia's recognition of Macedonia "opens the way to recognition by (EU) member states of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia as one of the successor states of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia," AFP reported. In a related development, a spokesman from the Belgian Foreign Ministry said Brussels will recognize rump Yugoslavia in the near future, while German officials said they will discuss the question of recognition later this week. -- Stan Markotich

RUMP YUGOSLAV BANK GOVERNOR TO BE OUSTED?
Speculation is rife in Serbia that the ruling Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic are planning to oust National Bank Governor Dragoslav Avramovic, who played a significant role in curbing hyperinflation and introducing economic stability in 1994. Fueling the speculation are local media reports quoting Avramovic as saying the SPS sabotaged his recent efforts to secure IMF and World Bank membership by insisting those bodies recognize rump Yugoslavia as the successor to the former Yugoslavia. -- Stan Markotich

SLOVENIAN OFFICIALS ON SUCCESSION ISSUE.
Miran Mejak, head of the Slovenian committee on succession to the former Yugoslavia, has responded to Belgrade's recognition of Macedonia by saying it has "no impact" on the succession question. Mejak, in a statement reported by STA on 10 April, observed that all the successor countries of the former Yugoslavia must be regarded as "equal" and that an agreement must be reached on any decision on the division of assets belonging to the former Yugoslavia. Belgrade's Politika on 11 April reports that Slovenian Premier Janez Drnovsek has largely endorsed Mejak's viewpoint. -- Stan Markotich

ROMANIAN ELECTIONS TO BE POSTPONED?
Ioan Gavra, deputy chairman of the Party of Romanian National Unity, has pointed out that the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania's decision to take the new law on local elections to the Constitutional Court means local elections cannot be held in late May or early June, Radio Bucharest reported. General and presidential elections will also have to be postponed, since the constitution stipulates that at least six months must separate local and other elections. In a related development, Dinu Zamfirescu, a leader of the Liberal Party `93, denied that his formation will join the pact recently concluded between the Social Democratic Union and the Party of Civic Alliance for the local elections. Meanwhile, a Romanian Senate commission on 10 April voted in favor of lifting the parliamentary immunity of Corneliu Vadim Tudor, leader of the extreme nationalist Greater Romania Party. The plenum will now have to vote on the issue. -- Michael Shafir

MOLDOVAN DEFENSE MINISTER REINSTATED.
President Mircea Snegur has reinstated Defense Minister Pavel Creanga following the Constitutional Court's decision that his dismissal was illegal, Moldovan and international agencies reported on 10 April. But at the same time, Snegur has reduced Creanga's powers, citing unrest in the army. Creanga remains in charge of the day-to-day running of the army, but Snegur is to be in charge of military affairs in his capacity as commander in chief. General Tudor Dabija, whom Snegur nominated as Creanga's replacement, will continue to serve as deputy defense minister. -- Michael Shafir

NEW MOLDOVAN LAW ON PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS.
The Moldovan parliament has passed on its first reading a new law on presidential elections, Infotag and BASA-press reported on 10 April. The new legislation stipulates that presidential candidates have to be backed by at least 50,000 people from at least one-third of Moldova's electoral districts. This stipulation--which, proportionally, is twice as high as in Russia and three times as high as in Romania--has prompted protests from the opposition. Elections are to be held on the fourth Saturday of October in the year when a presidential term expires, with run-offs on the second Saturday of November. The president is to take office on 8 December, the day the first president of Moldova was elected in 1991. -- Michael Shafir

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT VETOES WATER ACCORD WITH GREECE.
Zhelyu Zhelev on 10 April vetoed the Greek-Bulgarian agreement on the division of the water of the River Mesta/Nestos (see OMRI Daily Digest, 29 March 1996), Reuters reported. He argued that the issue should be dealt with at the same time as all other disagreements between Sofia and Athens. The treaty was signed in December 1995 and was ratified by the Bulgarian parliament on 28 March, ending a decade-old dispute. In other news, Zhelev and Lithuanian President Algirdas Brazauskas signed a friendship and cooperation treaty and several other agreements. Brazauskas arrived in Sofia on 10 April for a two-day visit. -- Stefan Krause

WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO SOVIET MONUMENT IN SECOND-LARGEST BULGARIAN CITY?
The Plovdiv Municipal Council on 10 April decided to demolish the statue of a Soviet soldier popularly known as "Alyosha," Duma reported. Bulgaria's second-largest city is dominated by the anti-communist Union of Democratic Forces. Mayor Spas Garnevski promised during his election campaign last year to pull down the statue, which he called a "symbol of the Soviet occupation army." He argued that the monument has no cultural or historical value. The Russian General Consulate in Plovdiv claims that the decision violates five international conventions on the preservation of cultural heritage as well as agreements between Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev and his Russian counterpart, Boris Yeltsin. State officials have said the council's decision has no legal force since "Alyosha" is state property and therefore cannot be pulled down by the local authorities. -- Stefan Krause

ALBANIAN PRESIDENT SETS DATE FOR ELECTIONS.
Sali Berisha has scheduled Albania's third free elections for 26 May, Reuters reported on 10 April. His announcement marks the official beginning of the election campaign, which the Democratic Party unofficially launched at its congress on 4 April. Berisha also announced the dissolution of the parliament and approved the establishment of the Central Election Committee, which will be composed of nine members appointed by the government and Berisha's Democratic Party and eight by the other opposition parties. Both main parties, the Democrats and the Socialists, have said they are confident that they will win a parliamentary majority. But opinion polls are still in their infancy in Albania, making it difficult to predict the outcome. -- Fabian Schmidt

CORRECTION:
In the 9 April OMRI Daily Digest, the first sentence of the item "UKRAINE, VIETNAM SIGN AGREEMENT" should have read: "President Leonid Kuchma and his Vietnamese counterpart, Le Duc Anh, meeting in Hanoi on 8 April, signed an agreement on cooperation, international agencies reported."

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave











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