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Newsline - April 25, 1996


YELTSIN IN BEIJING.
Russian President Boris Yeltsin received a warm welcome in Beijing on 24 August, marked by a 21-gun salute and a bear hug from his Chinese counterpart, Jiang Zemin, international agencies reported. After a formal dinner that evening, Yeltsin and Zemin signed a joint declaration and 13 other bilateral agreements at a 25 April ceremony. Yeltsin declared that Russia and China have "no areas of disagreement." He also pointedly noted that China supports Russian opposition to the eastward expansion of NATO, and added that he believes China will soon join the other major nuclear powers in supporting a total ban on nuclear tests, a position that China has previously rejected. The two presidents also agreed to establish a direct "hot-line" between Moscow and Beijing, the first such communications link between Beijing and a foreign capital. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA, CHINA CRITICIZE U.S.
Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov and his Chinese counterpart, Qian Qichen, meeting in Beijing on 25 April, issued a joint statement saying that both Russia and China "oppose any country's attempt to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries," Russian and Western agencies reported. The statement also attacked attempts by unnamed countries to "monopolize international affairs," a thinly-veiled reference to the U.S. Moscow supports China's "one China" policy, while Beijing terms Chechnya an "internal affair" of Russia. Primakov and Qichen rejected suggestions that China and Russia intend to form a new alliance, however, asserting that the further development friendly ties between the two neighbors "is not directed against any third country." -- Scott Parrish

CONFUSION OVER DUDAEV'S DEATH.
Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev was buried on 24 April in the village of Shalazhi, NTV reported, quoting acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev and military commander Shamil Basaev, both of whom claimed to have attended the funeral. Russian media have, however, quoted both Chechen and Russian officials as continuing to doubt reports of Dudaev's demise. Russian Public TV (ORT) cited a Russian Interior Ministry official as saying that Dudaev was killed in revenge for the deaths of some 70 Russian Interior Ministry soldiers in a 16 April ambush; the commander of Russian federal forces in Chechnya, Lt. Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, told ITAR-TASS that the Russian military was not responsible for killing Dudaev. Russian Nationalities Minister Vyacheslav Mikhailov told Radio Rossii on 24 April that the search for a peaceful solution to the Chechen conflict will continue, but on 25 April Tikhomirov told Russian media that gunships inflicted considerable damage on the village of Shali, where Chechen chief of staff Aslan Maskhadov is reportedly under siege, Reuters reported. -- Liz Fuller

COUNCIL OF EUROPE CRITICIZES RUSSIA OVER CHECHNYA.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe blasted Russian policy in Chechnya on 25 April, AFP reported. Parliamentarians from the 39 member states of the council, which Russia joined in February, passed a resolution unconditionally condemning the "indiscriminate use of force" by Russian troops in the breakaway republic. The motion also accused Moscow of failing to honor its commitment to find a peaceful solution to the Chechen conflict, which Moscow promised to do when it was admitted to the council. At the request of former Lithuanian President Vytautas Landsbergis, the assembly also observed a minute of silence in memory of separatist Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev. Critics have charged that the council, which has the declared mission of promoting human rights, has not done enough to pressure Russia on the Chechnya issue. -- Scott Parrish

CANDIDATES RELY ON DIFFERENT GROUPS FOR SUPPORT.
Presidential candidates Boris Yeltsin and Gennadii Zyuganov appeal to very different social groups, according to polling data in Nezavisimaya gazeta on 24 April. Yeltsin draws support from men and women under 30, the technical and humanitarian intelligentsia, office workers, members of the military, and entrepreneurs living in big cities and oblast capitals. Zyuganov attracts men and women aged 41-60, members of the technical intelligentsia, members of the military, agricultural workers, pensioners, and residents of big cities, small towns, and villages. Looking at possible matches in the second round, Zyuganov would defeat all potential opponents, with Yeltsin giving him the most competition in a predicted outcome of 36.5% to 31.7%. -- Robert Orttung

YELTSIN LAGS IN CAMPAIGN "STREET WORK."
While thousands of Communist Party campaign volunteers have already begun to distribute leaflets promoting Gennadii Zyuganov, supporters of President Yeltsin do not yet have a single leaflet ready for mass production, Segodnya reported on 24 April. The paper said so-called "street" agitation using posters, leaflets, and rallies may be more important for the June election than they were for last December's parliamentary election, because candidates will receive less free air time in the electronic media during this campaign. Communist Party leaflets obtained by OMRI reflect several aspects of Zyuganov's strategy: some are entirely devoted to attacking Yeltsin, some emphasize Zyuganov's biography, and some focus on Zyuganov's promises to restore social guarantees to impoverished groups and protect "Russia, Motherland, [and] The People!" -- Laura Belin

YELTSIN PLAYS REGIONAL CARD IN KHABAROVSK.
Hoping to make the Far East more friendly electoral territory, President Yeltsin used his visit to Khabarovsk to hand out favors to regional constituencies. Before departing for China on 24 April, Yeltsin signed a power-sharing agreement between the federal authorities and Khabarovsk Krai, gave the federal program to develop the Far East presidential status, froze tariffs on electricity and heating for residents of the Far East, and promised to pay off debts owed by the Defense Ministry to defense enterprises in the region, Rossiiskie vesti reported on 25 April. In the December parliamentary election, the pro-government Our Home Is Russia won only about 4% of the vote in Khabarovsk Krai, compared with 16% for the Communist Party and 12% for the Liberal Democratic Party. -- Laura Belin

LEBED: COMMUNIST NOMENKLATURA RESEMBLES CURRENT AUTHORITIES.
As the presidential campaign appears more and more to be a two-man race between President Yeltsin and Gennadii Zyuganov, presidential candidate Aleksandr Lebed argued in Izvestiya on 25 April that the front-runners are not as different as they appear, since both descended from the same "old communist nomenklatura." Lebed portrayed Zyuganov and other Communist Party leaders as the "younger, unsuccessful but voracious brothers of the current authorities," who no longer believe in the dogma of the Soviet period and merely aspire to gain power. He also argued that Zyuganov plays up his party's staunch opposition to the current government, while Yeltsin plays up the communist threat, but these campaign postures are merely a "game" designed to trick voters. The idea that voters must choose the "lesser of two evils" is a threat to the prospects of third-party candidates like Lebed. -- Laura Belin

ZHIRINOVSKY'S CAMPAIGN POSTERS.
Several posters obtained by OMRI promoting the presidential candidacy of Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky use familiar slogans, such as "You will all be better off with me" and "I will raise Russia from her knees!" One leaflet shows two smiling elderly women holding pictures of Zhirinovsky, and a poster shows an elderly woman asking the LDPR leader to "Defend us from them!" Other posters show Zhirinovsky next to smiling children or an Orthodox priest. In contrast to Communist Party campaign materials, which rarely include pictures of Gennadii Zyuganov, Zhirinovsky's picture dominates every LDPR poster. Candidates are allowed to begin campaigning with posters and leaflets as soon as they are registered by the Central Electoral Commission. Campaign advertising on television will begin on 14 May. -- Laura Belin

MINERS DIVIDED.
Representatives of the Independent Coal-Industry Workers' Union (NPRUP), whose annual conference opened in Moscow on 24 April, do not support any one candidate for the Russian presidency. The union's chairman, Vitalii Budko, was quoted by Russian TV (RTR) as saying that the union would not officially endorse any of the contenders because its members have widely divergent views. Some back Zhirinovsky, others Zyuganov, and still others Yeltsin. Russian miners used to be firmly behind Yeltsin, but the downsizing of the industry and the perennial problem of wage arrears have prompted many to switch their allegiance. The union, which has about 700,000 members, is the largest representing coal miners. -- Penny Morvant

TsIK REJECTS PODOPRIGOR AS PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE.
The Central Electoral Commission (TsIK) denied registration to Vladimir Podoprigor, a former member of the Federation Council and chairman of the Assembly of Parliamentarians, on the grounds that he did not turn in 1 million valid nomination signatures, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 April. Of the 17 candidates who submitted signatures, the TsIK has registered eight, denied four, and is reviewing five. Millionaire Duma member Vladimir Bryntsalov said that the Procurator General's Office has decided that there are no grounds to withhold registration from him and that now the TsIK should carry out the Supreme Court order to register him, NTV reported. -- Robert Orttung

GORBACHEV ATTACKED ON CAMPAIGN TRAIL.
A young, unemployed engineer punched former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in the face at a campaign meeting in the Siberian city of Omsk on 24 April, ITAR-TASS reported. The man later told police he did it because of "what [Gorbachev] had done to the country." Reuters quoted Gorbachev as saying that the attack was a professional assassination attempt, but Russian agencies described the incident as "hooliganism." After the incident, Gorbachev cut short his visit to Omsk and returned to Moscow. Gorbachev is trailing badly in opinion polls, with less than 1% support. -- Penny Morvant

DUMA PASSES LAW ON DEFENSE . . .
The State Duma passed a compromise version of the law "On Defense" on 24 April, Krasnaya zvezda reported the next day. An earlier version was vetoed by President Yeltsin and sent to a conciliatory commission. Under the law, all branches of the armed forces will be placed under a single command in wartime, regardless of their ministerial subordination during peacetime. The law allows the president to deploy the armed forces for "other than their primary purpose" only with the consent of the Federation Council, the upper house of parliament. (Parliamentarians have long complained that Yeltsin waged the military campaign in Chechnya without ever taking the issue to a vote in the Federation Council.) The law also prohibits political parties and social organizations from agitating or distributing materials at military installations, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. -- Laura Belin

. . . AND ON BODYGUARDS.
The Duma also adopted a draft law on state security providing for bodyguards to be assigned to the country's top leadership, ITAR-TASS reported. The bill stipulates that the bodyguards will be assigned to the president from the day his or her election is announced officially, as well as to the prime minister, the speakers of the Duma and Federation Council, the procurator general, and the chairmen of the Constitutional, Supreme, and Arbitration courts. The president has no right to reject such measures. Former presidents will retain guards for life, but those assigned to family members will be withdrawn when the president leaves office. Segodnya on 11 April reported that there are now three times as many state bodyguards as in Soviet times. -- Penny Morvant

22 CANDIDATES SEEK GOVERNOR'S SEAT IN ST. PETERSBURG.
The electoral commission accepted nomination signatures from 22 potential candidates for the 19 May St. Petersburg gubernatorial election, ITAR-TASS reported. Among the competitors claiming to have collected the necessary 40,000 signatures are Mayor Anatolii Sobchak, Leningrad Oblast Governor Aleksandr Belyakov, former Federation Council members Yurii Boldyrev and Aleksandr Belyaev, former Liberal Democrat Duma member Vyacheslav Marychev, Deputy Mayor Vladimir Yakovlev, former Leningrad Ispolkom Chairman Vladimir Khodyrev, and Communist Yurii Sevenard, Sobchak's opponent in the 1991 mayoral campaign. So far, four of the candidates have been registered. St. Petersburg has changed the name of its executive from mayor to governor to reflect the city's status as one of the 89 components of the Russian Federation. -- Robert Orttung

GOVERNMENT APPROVES DECREE ON FINANCING SPACE PROGRAM.
The government has passed a set of financial support measures for Russia's international space program, Finansovye izvestiya reported on 23 April. The government will allocate 1.1 trillion rubles ($223.4 million)--on top of the 3.3 trillion rubles already earmarked for the space industry in this year's budget--for state purchases of serial equipment and research and development. The measures will also allow the Russian Space Agency to open special purpose credit lines worth up to 700 billion rubles in total with Russian commercial banks and banking consortiums this year. The Finance Ministry will guarantee the credits. -- Natalia Gurushina

MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX'S OUTPUT SLIDES DOWN, INDEBTEDNESS GROWS.
The output of companies in the military-industrial complex declined by 30% in March 1996 compared to the same month a year earlier, Segodnya reported on 24 April. The only firm that reported an increase (15%) was Energiya company in Voronezh. At the end of the first quarter of 1996, the military-industrial companies' debt to the federal budget topped 3 trillion rubles ($625.4 million). At the same time, the government owes the sector 4.8 trillion rubles in payments for the 1994-1995 defense order. Moreover, only 11-13% of the scheduled defense orders were financed in the first quarter of this year, Segodnya reported on 24 April. Of the 1.4 trillion rubles ($307 million) earmarked for five conversion programs in the 1995 budget, the industry received only 250 billion rubles, or 18% of the total. -- Natalia Gurushina



ARMENIA TO GET LATEST RUSSIAN AIR DEFENSE SYSTEM.
Russia plans to supply its most modern air defense missile system, the S-300, to Armenia, Turan reported on 22 April, citing sources in the Russian Caucasian Special Border District. Also known as "Buk-M1," the missile/radar complex has a range of up to 100 km and can engage up to six targets at the same time. The report noted Azerbaijani concerns that the new missiles would greatly expand Armenia's capability to strike targets over Azerbaijan. -- Doug Clarke

NAZARBAYEV TO IGNORE UIGHUR PLEAS WHILE IN CHINA.
Prior to his departure for Shanghai to attend the signing of a five-nation treaty to demilitarize the Chinese border with three Central Asian states and Russia, Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev emphasized that minority issues will not be raised at the summit, AFP reported on 25 April. Nazarbayev was referring to the Uighur population that straddles the Chinese-Central Asian border. The United National Revolutionary Front of East Turkestan, which is based in Almaty, appealed to the summit participants not to "sacrifice" the Uighurs to the Han (Chinese). The group's leader, Yusupbek Moukhlissi, warned that violence may be the only way to achieve independence, noting that there are currently 27 secret Uighur organizations active in the Xinjiang region. -- Roger Kangas



CONFLICTING REPORTS ON RADIATION LEVELS AROUND CHORNOBYL AFTER FIRES.
Reports vary over whether radiation levels have risen around Chornobyl after fires earlier this week that lifted radioactive particles into the atmosphere, international agencies reported on 24 April. Ukrainian Minister for Chornobyl Affairs Volodymyr Kholosha played down the radiation scare, saying that "increases were noted in the areas immediately around the fires, but only within several hundred meters." Other reports say that higher radiation readings were registered along a 10-20 km stretch of land adjacent to the 30 km Chornobyl exclusion zone. Belarusian Deputy Minister for Emergency Situations Ihar Rolevich said this did not affect inhabited areas. -- Ustina Markus

FIRES RAGE IN CHORNOBYL ZONE IN BELARUS, TOO.
Forest fires broke out on 23 April in southern Belarus, close to the Chornobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine, ITAR-TASS and Western agencies reported on 25 April. The fires, caused by unseasonably hot and dry weather, spread over 2,000 hectares of forest. Residents in Homel were warned against going into the woods. It is feared that radioactive dust will be distributed across a large area. -- Ustina Markus

CRIMEAN PARLIAMENT SETS 6 MAY AS CONSTITUTION DAY.
The Crimean parliament has passed a resolution stating that 6 May is Constitution Day in the Republic of Crimea, Ukrainian Radio reported on 24 April. On that day in 1992, the peninsula's parliament passed a constitution making relations between the peninsula and the rest of Ukraine contingent on bilateral treaties. That constitution was viewed by Kyiv as a virtual declaration of independence and as violating Ukraine's constitution. It was annulled by the Ukrainian parliament last year. However, a motion to make 6 May a holiday in Crimea failed to collect enough votes. -- Ustina Markus

WAGES IN UKRAINE.
Ukraine's Ministry of Statistics says the average worker's wage in March was 12.932 million karbovantsy ($68), Ukrainian Radio reported on 24 May. Collective farm workers and employees in small enterprises were excluded from the tally. The highest paid workers were employees at nuclear power stations, who earned more than 36 million karbovantsy ($190). The lowest paid were those in state stores, with less than 6 million karbovantsy ($31). -- Ustina Markus

FINNISH RESTRICTIONS ON ALCOHOL IMPORTS TO IMPACT ESTONIA.
The Finnish parliament's decision on 23 April to limit private alcohol imports is likely to reduce the number of Finns making day trips to Estonia, Western agencies reported. The law, which goes into effect on 1 May, prohibits private individuals from importing alcohol after trips by ferry, car, bus, or rail lasting less than 20 hours. Non-EU residents will also be prevented from bringing alcoholic beverages into Finland if they are staying less than three days in the country. Some ferry companies are planning to organize trips that would leave Helsinki in the evening, reach Tallinn before midnight, sail back to Helsinki without passengers leaving the ship, and return to Tallinn for a second time in the morning. After spending the day in Tallinn, passengers would return to Helsinki after more than 20 hours. -- Saulius Girnius

ANOTHER CANDIDATE PROPOSED FOR LATVIAN PRESIDENT.
The Council of the Democratic Party Saimnieks (DPS) on 24 April nominated Saeima Chairwoman Ilga Kreituse for president, BNS reported. But three other members of the ruling coalition--Latvia's Way, Latvia's National Independence Party, and the Farmers' Union--have expressed their support for incumbent Guntis Ulmanis, whose term of office expires on 7 July. DPS Chairman Ziedonis Cevers said talks on support for Kreituse's candidacy will begin with the Popular Movement for Latvia, the National Harmony Party, and Socialist Party. The DPS's decision not to support Ulmanis could result in the breakup of the ruling coalition and bring down independent Andris Skele's government. -- Saulius Girnius

LATVIA, LITHUANIAN SEA BORDER TALKS.
Juris Sinka, head of the Latvian delegation negotiating the sea border with Lithuania, said that the recent talks in Vilnius with Lithuanian Foreign Ministry Secretary Rimantas Sidlauskas were "satisfactory," BNS reported. The two sides agreed to recognize a 1927 border agreement providing for each country's territorial waters to extend 3 nautical miles from their respective coasts. They agreed to discuss the more controversial questions of the demarcation of economic zones at the next round of talks, to be held in Riga on 6-7 May, during Lithuanian President Algirdas Brazauskas's visit. -- Saulius Girnius

POLISH PREMIER IN BONN.
Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz on 24 April said Russia has no right to veto Poland's possible membership in NATO but must be consulted about European security, international agencies reported. On a one-day visit to Bonn for talks with Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Cimoszewicz said he agreed with the German leader that Russia should have a say--but not a decisive one--in the question of NATO enlargement. He also said Poland hopes negotiations on admission to the EU will start in late 1997. Cimoszewicz said there is little doubt that his country will be able to join the EU. He added that the question is when, which largely depends on Poland's progress in implementing economic reforms. -- Steve Kettle

CZECH PARLIAMENT FAILS TO RATIFY BORDER TREATY WITH SLOVAKIA.
Czech deputies on 24 April failed to pass a constitutional law making changes to the country's border with Slovakia, Czech media reported. The border treaty, already ratified by Slovakia, had been approved by a simple majority one day earlier. But a second vote, requiring a three-fifths majority of all deputies, was needed to implement it. Members of the three government coalition parties and a handful of opposition and independent deputies mustered a total of 109 votes in favor, 11 short of the target. Twenty-nine deputies voted against and 21 abstained. The issue will now be dropped until after the 31 May-1 June elections. A draft constitutional law on reorganizing local administrative districts, submitted by a junior coalition party, was also voted down, mostly by deputies from the dominant Civic Democratic Party of Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus. -- Steve Kettle

SLOVAKIA, HUNGARY CONTINUE DISPUTE OVER OSCE POST.
Slovak Foreign Ministry spokesman Juraj Matejovsky on 24 April expressed regret over Hungarian Foreign Ministry State Secretary Gabor Szentivanyi's statement that Slovakia proposed a candidate for OSCE secretary-general to prevent the Hungarian nominee from being elected, Slovak Radio reported. Matejovsky stressed that Slovakia used its "democratic right" when it came up with its own candidate last October. He emphasized that Slovakia has never questioned the "professional qualities" of Hungary's candidate, Istvan Gyarmati. But he added that Gyarmati had not been approved by all the Central European countries and therefore had failed to fulfill "the basic precondition for his election." Other countries also raised "serious reservations" against Gyarmati, Matejovsky said. Budapest officially withdrew his candidacy on 22 April. -- Sharon Fisher

REACTIONS TO SLOVAK CABINET'S APPROVAL OF BILL ON FOUNDATIONS.
The Third Sector Association on 24 April vowed to continue its campaign against the government's foundations bill, which was approved the previous day, Slovak media reported. Asked by Pravda what she considered the most dangerous provision of the draft law, association member Helena Wolekova said "the law as a whole.... We do not want to live in hypocrisy, as has happened out of necessity to people in state administration and in the business sector. We want to build an open civil society." Wolekova added that the association will turn directly to parliamentary deputies, non-governmental organizations, and the public for support. -- Sharon Fisher

KOSOVO MIGRANTS BELIEVED TO HAVE DROWNED IN DANUBE.
Hungarian police on 24 April said eight ethnic Albanians from Serbia's Kosovo province are believed to have drowned while attempting to cross the Danube River from Hungary to Slovakia, domestic and international media reported. The migrants were crossing the river in a motorboat when it capsized. Police said the boat was probably carrying twice as many passengers as it was designed for. They have rounded up 11 of the passengers, but eight men are still missing. The smuggling of migrants through Hungary to the West has increased significantly in recent years. Border guards on the Hungarian-Austrian border say they pick up around a dozen migrants every night. -- Zsofia Szilagyi



SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

HAGUE COURT FREES SERBIAN GENERAL.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia has released on humanitarian grounds Gen. Djordje Djukic, who is dying of pancreatic cancer. The court rejected demands by his lawyer that the charges against Djukic be dropped, Nasa Borba reported on 25 April. The general must keep the court informed of his address and medical condition and must return to The Hague if necessary. He is expected to undergo treatment at the military hospital in Belgrade. Meanwhile, in Bosnia, the international community's High Representative Carl Bildt announced plans for an independent television channel. The nationalist parties' domination of the media is considered a major obstacle to free and fair elections. In Sarajevo, a UN police spokesman charged that Bosnian Serbs in Pale are denying food and medical care to Muslim and Croatian prisoners, Onasa reported on 24 April. -- Patrick Moore

RUMP YUGOSLAV FINANCE MINISTER TO COORDINATE TALKS WITH IMF.
Jovan Zebic, rump Yugoslav finance minister and deputy federal premier, has been named coordinator for all future talks between rump Yugoslavia and the IMF. Nasa Borba on 25 April quoted National Bank Governor Dragoslav Avramovic, who until now has coordinated all such talks, as saying, "I really don't know what this means. That's something one has to ask [federal Premier Radoje] Kontic and Zebic." Meanwhile, Vuk Draskovic, leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement, has said that in practice, it means that Avramovic has been removed from his post "but in a profoundly underhand way." -- Stan Markotich

KOSOVARS ACCUSE SERBIAN POLICE OF STEPPING UP REPRESSION.
The Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) has accused police of increasing repressive measures in Kosovo. Following recent shoot-outs in which a total of six people were killed, police have arrested at least 80 people. The LDK also charged the police with beating up a large number of Albanian civilians and called on the local population to be as cautious as possible. Kosovar shadow state President Ibrahim Rugova, during a visit to Belgium, emphasized his support for peaceful resistance to Serbian rule in the region, Reuters reported on 24 April. -- Fabian Schmidt

CROATIA JOINS COUNCIL OF EUROPE.
Croatia has become the 40th member of the Council of Europe, Vecernji list stated on 25 April. It will have five permanent seats in the European parliament. International journalists nonetheless called attention to the government's hounding of the independent media and urged the Council to keep up pressure on Zagreb over this issue, Novi list and news agencies reported. Croatia was long denied council membership because of its treatment of the opposition, the independent media, and the Serbian minority. Critics of the government at home and abroad came to feel, however, that it was unfair discrimination against Croatia to keep it out the council following the admission of Russia. -- Patrick Moore

SLOVENIAN UPDATE.
After lengthy heated debates, Slovenian legislators voted to reject a bill that would have granted foreigners the right to purchase and own real estate in Slovenia. Radio Slovenia reported on 23 April. Deputies also decided to ask the government to prepare a bill protecting the country's environment. -- Stan Markotich

EXPERTS DISCUSS EUROPEAN SECURITY IN ROMANIA.
At the fifth annual meeting of the Atlantic Policy Advisory Group with NATO's cooperation partners, which ended in Sinaia on 24 April, experts from 32 countries discussed the new risks and challenges for European security, as well as cooperation within the framework of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council and NATO's Partnership for Peace Program, Radio Bucharest reported. NATO Deputy Secretary-General for Political Issues Gebhard von Moltke presided over the meeting. The participants agreed that the Russian Federation cannot be left out of a pan-European security system. -- Dan Ionescu

MOLDOVAN, DNIESTER PRESIDENTS MEET.
Moldovan President Mircea Snegur on 24 April met in Chisinau with the president of the self-proclaimed "Dniester republic," Igor Smirnov, BASA-press and Infotag reported. The meeting was also attended by Moldovan Premier Andrei Sangheli, Parliamentary Chairman Petru Lucinschi, Dniester Supreme Soviet Chairman Grigorii Marakutsa, as well as OSCE, Russian, and Ukrainian mediators in the Dniester conflict. The participants discussed the future status of the Dniester region but failed to agree on issues such as closer cooperation in the banking and financial sector. The next round of talks between senior officials from Moldova and the breakaway Dniester region has been scheduled for 11 May in Tiraspol. -- Dan Ionescu

TRIAL OF BULGARIAN EX-COMMUNIST LEADERS CANCELED.
The Prosecutor-General's Office on 24 April canceled the trial of 19 former communist officials charged with diverting state funds, Reuters reported. The functionaries, who include former dictator Todor Zhivkov, were charged in 1993 with diverting hard currency to Yemen and Nicaragua, leftist parties and groups in Bangladesh, Chile, and Honduras and to the Palestinian Liberation Organization between 1981-1989. They also allegedly provided those countries and groups with arms and technical assistance. The trial was canceled because two of the defendants--former Premier Andrey Lukanov and former party leader Aleksandar Lilov--have parliamentary immunity. Since the remaining were charged as accomplices, their cases cannot be treated separately. Lukanov alone was charged with diverting 120 million leva (at the time $60 million). Prosecutor-General Ivan Tatarchev claims that diversion of funds boosted Bulgaria's foreign debt by $1.2 billion from 1986-1989. -- Stefan Krause

BULGARIAN CURRENCY CONTINUES TO PLUNGE.
The lev continues to lose rapidly against the U.S. dollar, Western and Bulgarian media reported on 24 April. The Bulgarian National Bank fixed the exchange rate at 83.807 leva to $1, while some exchange offices in Sofia traded the U.S. currency for as much as 90 leva. BNB Governor Lyubomir Filipov declined to say whether the prime interest rate will be raised to defend the lev. Since the end of 1995, it has been raised from 34% to 49%, while the lev lost around 18 percentage points against the U.S. dollar during the same period. Filipov accused the commercial banks of passiveness, saying they should use their hard currency reserves to intervene. Commercial bankers, for their part, accused the BNB of ineffective monetary measures. Dealers said they fear the U.S. dollar may hit the 100 leva mark in the next few days. -- Stefan Krause

ALBANIAN COMMUNIST OFFICIALS ON TRIAL.
Five Albanian communist-era officials are on trial, Reuters reported on 24 April. They are charged with political persecution of dissidents and crimes against humanity. Haxhi Lleshi, who was Albanian president from 1953 to 1982 under late dictator Enver Hoxha, was unable to appear in court because of poor health. Also on trial are former Deputy Premier Manush Myftiu, former Deputy Interior Minister Zylyftar Ramizi, former Supreme Court Chairman Aranit Cela, and former Prosecutor-General Rrapi Mino. Two separate trials against nine other communist officials started last week. -- Fabian Schmidt

ALBANIAN SOCIALISTS, CENTER PARTIES TO FORM COALITION?
The Albanian Socialist Party has said it will join forces with five other center and leftist parties in the upcoming elections, Reuters reported on 24 April. Secretary-General Gramoz Ruci is quoted as saying "We have agreed to cooperate so that the center-left wins." He said that after the elections, "the possibility is open for further cooperation in setting up a government and other matters." The Socialists' aim is to have joint candidates in electoral districts where neither of the parties has its own candidate. Many Socialist and center coalition candidates have recently been banned from running because of their alleged communist past. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave





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