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Newsline - April 26, 1996


RUSSIA, CHINA SIGN ACCORDS.
President Boris Yeltsin and his Chinese counterpart, Jiang Zemin, issued a joint statement regarding the 15 agreements signed on 25 April, Russian and Western media reported. In it, they outline their desire to create a strategic partnership, which will include a mechanism for information exchanges, military cooperation, nuclear cooperation, and border stability. Yeltsin also relayed the message that China is now willing to consider signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty as early as the end of September. The Clinton administration welcomed the news, saying it was "very encouraged" by the progress Yeltsin made in prompting this decision, AFP reported. -- Roger Kangas

RUSSIA, CHINA SIGN ECONOMIC AGREEMENTS.
Russia and China signed on 25 April a series of accords to boost economic relations and cooperation in the energy and nuclear energy sectors and space exploration, ITAR-TASS, Reuters, and AFP reported. The countries signed a protocol aimed at increasing two-way trade from $5.46 billion in 1995 to an annual total of $20 billion eventually. In the first two months of 1996, the volume of mutual trade rose by 20% on a year-to-year basis. The nuclear agreements confirm Russia's participation in the construction of a $4 billion nuclear power plant in northern China. Russia also hopes to win a bid to supply turbo generators to China's Three Gorges Dam. Other accords included agreements on the protection of intellectual property rights, quality controls for exports and imports, and the elimination of illegal monopolies and illegal currency operations. -- Natalia Gurushina

YANDARBIEV VOWS REVENGE FOR DUDAEV'S DEATH.
Speaking at a press conference at an undisclosed location in Chechnya on 25 April, acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev confirmed the death of Dzhokhar Dudaev and said that Chechen field commanders intend to exact revenge on those members of the Russian intelligence responsible for the rocket attack that killed him, NTV reported. He added that the revenge will not be directed against "peaceful citizens of Russia." Yandarbiev added that an investigation is underway to establish who gave the orders to kill Dudaev, and ruled out the possibility of peace talks if evidence comes to light that either President Yeltsin or Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin was directly involved. Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev told RIA that Dudaev's death removed any need for him to act as a mediator between Yeltsin and the Chechen leadership. Russian Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov also confirmed Dudaev's death to Ekho Moskvy, adding that some unnamed Chechen field commanders are now ready to cease hostilities. -- Liz Fuller

YELTSIN THANKS CHORNOBYL CLEAN-UP WORKERS.
Exactly 10 years after the Chornobyl disaster, President Yeltsin thanked those who fought the fire at the power station and said safety at nuclear power plants needs to be stepped up, Reuters reported on 26 April. In a speech broadcast nationwide on radio and television, Yeltsin said the victims of the world's worst nuclear accident would never be forgotten. On the eve of the anniversary, the Duma called on the government to increase social benefits to the victims of the disaster. The Chornobyl Union said that about 300,000 Russians participated in the clean-up operation; about 8,000 of them have died, while another 30,000 are invalids. -- Penny Morvant

HARD-LINE COMMUNISTS DEBATE ALLIANCE WITH ZYUGANOV.
The 5th congress of the Russian Communist Workers' Party (RKRP) heatedly debated whether the party should support Gennadii Zyuganov in the presidential campaign, Moskovskii komsomolets reported on 25 April. The congress removed Workers' Russia leader Viktor Anpilov, who has signed on with Zyuganov, from the position of secretary of the Central Committee and stripped his newspaper, Molniya, of RKRP financing and its status as a Central Committee publication. However, the congress stopped short of expelling him because many members support an alliance with Zyuganov and the anti-Zyuganov faction feared provoking a split. The party will only agree to support Zyuganov if his Communist Party of the Russian Federation signs a bilateral treaty with the RKRP. -- Robert Orttung

BABURIN: ZYUGANOV MUST WIDEN CAMPAIGN APPEALS.
According to State Duma Deputy Speaker Sergei Baburin, Gennadii Zyuganov's presidential campaign is "too cautious" and too narrowly focused on people who already support the Communist Party, in particular the elderly, the latest edition of Pravda-5 reported. Baburin, a leading figure in Nikolai Ryzhkov's Power to the People movement and its Duma faction Popular Power, said Zyuganov must work with other social groups who might be inclined to support a "popular-patriotic" candidate. Although Ryzhkov endorsed Zyuganov in January, Baburin withheld his support and even flirted with joining the "third force" group before finally announcing his support for the Communist Party leader in early April. -- Laura Belin

OUR HOME IS RUSSIA BACKS YELTSIN AT THIRD CONGRESS.
To no one's surprise, the 3rd congress of Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's Our Home Is Russia movement endorsed President Yeltsin as the only person capable of preventing new revolutionary upheavals in Russia. An appeal issued to voters stressed that "We have gone too far toward the stabilization and strengthening of Russia to allow the country to turn back," Russian media reported on 25 April. Chernomyrdin told delegates that a "fierce political battle" will be waged in the coming weeks, but he told reporters later in the day that the president's campaign should focus on consolidation, not just confrontation: "One can't build a campaign exclusively on anti-communist slogans." Preserving Russia's fragile stability was a constant refrain during Our Home Is Russia's parliamentary campaign last year. -- Laura Belin

ZHIRINOVSKY CELEBRATES 50TH BIRTHDAY.
Well-wishers offered gifts, drank Zhirinovsky-brand vodka, and lavishly praised Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky on the occasion of his 50th birthday, Russian media reported on 25 April. The North Ossetiyan branch of the LDPR presented Zhirinovsky with a race horse. On the same day, the LDPR hosted an "international congress of patriotic parties and movements" in the party's State Duma offices. Members of right-wing groups from Austria, Germany, Greece, Belarus, Ukraine, Hungary, and Serbia discussed plans to create an international "patrintern" of patriotic parties before adjourning to the birthday celebrations, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Laura Belin

MILITARY ELECTORATE BACKS OPPOSITION.
The military electorate--servicemen, retirees, employees of the military-industrial complex, and their families comprising 18-20 million people--will probably not support President Yeltsin in the 16 June election, Nezavisimaya gazeta's military supplement Voennoe obozrenie reported on 25 April. According to data from the security ministries, 80-90% of military men voted in the December Duma elections, well above the overall turnout figure of about 65%, making them about a quarter of the active electorate. In districts where the military make up the majority of voters, the vast majority supported the opposition during the December elections--23% voted for the Communists, 21% for the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, 17% for the Congress of Russian Communities, and only 12% for the pro-government Our Home Is Russia. The military is unhappy with the government because of its slowness in providing housing, the Chechen war, and delays in paying salaries. -- Robert Orttung

RUSSIAN REGIONS HAVE LITTLE LOVE FOR STALIN, BREZHNEV.
Former Soviet leaders Josef Stalin and Leonid Brezhnev have few supporters in the Russian countryside, according to research conducted by the Russian Independent Institute of Social and National Problems, Moskovskaya pravda reported on 26 April. Lenin, however, is still revered by many. Yurii Andropov is also popular for his attempts to impose discipline on Soviet enterprises and government and for his attacks on bureaucratic corruption. The study found a strong social basis for a return to authoritarian rule since many people said they feel "shame for the present state of our country," "a sense of injustice about what is happening around me," and "fear of crime." -- Robert Orttung

NATIONAL SECURITY POLICY DRAFT UNVEILED.
A working group under the direction of presidential national security adviser Yurii Baturin has drafted a 47-page paper entitled "Russia's National Security Policy," which defines the military and security interests of the Yeltsin administration, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 25 April. The document notes that Russia "abandons the principle of military-strategic parity with the United States," condemns all forms of military aggression, and reiterates its commitment to collective security, as established by the 15 May 1992 Tashkent Treaty. While supportive of drastic reductions in nuclear weapons, the draft paper stresses that Russia will remain a nuclear power for the foreseeable future. It also urges further reform measures in the structure and organization of the armed forces, a process already underway through recent legislation (see OMRI Daily Digest, 25 April 1996). -- Roger Kangas

DUMA AMENDS LAW ON MILITARY SERVICE.
The State Duma adopted an amendment to the law on military service, passed in November 1995, that would shorten the term of service from 24 to 18 months for soldiers serving in areas of armed conflicts, Russian media reported on 25 April. ITAR-TASS estimated that tens of thousands of soldiers who have already served for 18 months in so-called "hot spots" could be discharged if the amendment goes into effect. In December, Yeltsin vetoed a similar amendment citing procedural violations but issued his own decree allowing troops to be discharged after 18 months if they are wounded or have been involved in combat duty for at least one month (see OMRI Daily Digest, 5 December 1995). In February, the Duma failed to override that presidential veto, but the new amendment was passed with a veto-proof majority of 325 votes. -- Laura Belin

TAX CODE GOES TO CONCILIATION COMMISSION.
The Duma voted on 24 April to set up a conciliation commission consisting of representatives of the legislature, president, and government to further discuss the general section of the draft Tax Code, Segodnya reported the following day. The section was submitted to parliament three months ago, but the deputies agreed that it needed further work before they would vote on it. Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Shatalov said that the other three sections of the code should be submitted to the parliament, government, and regional leaders for discussion within a week. According to Shatalov, the code envisages a reduction in the number of taxes from 150 to 30, reduces the overall tax burden, and reduces the severity of penalties for tax violations. He argued that it will provide a stimulus to investment and production and allow for a much needed improvement in tax collection. -- Penny Morvant

CORRUPTION SCANDAL IN PERM.
The head of the Perm Oblast Employment Center, Vladimir Brokhin, has been arrested on corruption charges, Radio Rossii reported on 25 April. Brokhin, who is reported to possess a number of bank accounts in the U.S. and several apartments, allegedly made money by distributing about 6 billion rubles ($6.4 million) in government credits for job creation schemes to commercial companies. He is said to have received a cut of the loans in bribes, while the rest of the money simply disappeared. In the meantime, there have been long delays in the payment of unemployment benefits in more than half the oblast's raions. The heads of the Perm Mandatory Health Insurance Fund and the Housing and Communal Services Center were also arrested recently. -- Penny Morvant

PEPSI-COLA TO EXPAND IN RUSSIA.
The Pepsi-Cola company has announced that it intends to invest $550 million in Russia over the next five years, ITAR-TASS reported on 25 April. In order to expand its production and distribution network in the central, northwest, and eastern regions of Russia, the company plans to build 11 new plants and 50 new warehouses, install 29 new production lines, and buy 450 trucks and thousands of new refrigeration units. This will create 5,000 new jobs in Russia. The head of Pepsi-Cola's division for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, David Jones, said the company aims to make Pepsi's soft drinks available to 90% of the Russian population by the year 2000. -- Natalia Gurushina



BORDER SUMMIT IN SHANGHAI.
Following the Beijing meeting of the Russian and Chinese presidents, the two traveled to the city of Shanghai where they joined the presidents of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan for the 27 April signing of the agreement "On Confidence on the Frontier Area," Russian and Western media reported. The agreement calls for the reduction of military units along the border that China shares with the four CIS states. The agreement also states that the signatory nations will neither attack nor direct military exercises against one another, along the 8,000 km border, ITAR-TASS reported. Prior to the meeting, Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev noted that Russian President Boris Yeltsin will visit Kazakhstan shortly after the signing to work out a mutually acceptable plan on connecting a pipeline between the Tengiz oil fields and the Russian port of Novorossiisk, Izvestiya reported on 25 April. -- Roger Kangas



UKRAINIANS MARK 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF CHORNOBYL ACCIDENT.
Thousands of people have gathered in the town of Slavutich, just outside the 30 km Chornobyl exclusion zone, to mark the tenth anniversary of the nuclear disaster, international agencies reported on 26 April. At 1:24 a.m. local time, people joined hands and maintained silence to commemorate the exact time the no. 4 reactor exploded. So far, 4,229 people have died as a result of the accident, of whom 2,929 took part in the clean-up operation. As many as 3 million more have been affected by the explosion, which released 200 times more radiation into the atmosphere than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The previous day a small radiation leak at the nuclear power plant raised the level of radiation to seven times above normal. The leak was the latest in a series of accidents. President Leonid Kuchma has promised to close the oldest no. 1 reactor by the end of the year. The only other working reactor should be shut down by the end of the decade. -- Ustina Markus

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT ON ALLOWING FORMER RESIDENTS TO RETURN TO CHORNOBYL ZONE.
Alyaksandr Lukashenka has said authorities have no moral right to stop people from moving back to their former homes in areas evacuated because of contamination from the Chornobyl accident, Reuters reported on 25 April. Lukashenka, speaking on nationwide TV, said it was neither Christian nor human to stop people returning to their homes in the Chornobyl zone. He called the evacuation from the areas a "hastily organized" operation, adding that the contaminated areas will eventually produce "ecologically pure food." The 10th anniversary of the Chornobyl disaster is to be marked by a ceremony and Church service in Minsk, but the nationalist Belarusian Popular Front has been banned from staging a demonstration to mark the event. Lukashenka warned against using the tragedy as a "tool for political ambitions." -- Ustina Markus

LVIV NAMES STREET AFTER DUDAEV.
The City Council of the west Ukrainian city of Lviv approved a proposal by the nationalist Ukrainian National Assembly to rename a street after Chechen leader Dzhokar Dudaev, Reuters and AFP reported on 25 April. The street in question had been named after the Russian poet Mikhail Lermontov. The City Council also voted to change Pushkin street to Taras Chuprynka street. Chuprynka commanded the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, which waged a guerrilla war against Soviet rule in western Ukraine after World War II. -- Ustina Markus

ESTONIAN TOBACCO MANUFACTURER CEASES PRODUCTION.
The board of Estonia's largest tobacco manufacturer, Eesti Tubakas, announced on 25 April that it will wind up production and lay off 140 people, BNS reported. The company, which is owned by Sweden's Svenska Tobaks AB (67%) and the Estonian government (33%), will transfer its production to the Swedish company's main plant in Malmo. The company's sales have dropped by almost two-thirds since last year largely owing to the Finance Ministry's decision to end lower excise taxes for local cigarettes. The move prompted an increase in the smuggling of cigarettes. -- Saulius Girnius

RUSSIAN INTERIOR MINISTER IN LATVIA.
Anatolii Kulikov on 25 April met with Prime Minister Andris Skele to discuss crime in the region and problems related to the war in Chechnya, BNS reported. Kulikov noted that while serious crime was declining in Russia, the fight against organized crime and economic crimes was unsuccessful owing to insufficient legislation. He is scheduled today to meet with his Latvian counterpart, Dainis Turlais, on curbing illegal migration and smuggling. The ministers are expected to sign a cooperation agreement on curbing organized crime. -- Saulius Girnius

POLISH COURT RULES IT CANNOT TRY MARTIAL LAW LEADER.
A district court in Gdansk on 25 April ruled it is not competent to try former head of state Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski and former Interior Minister Kazimierz Switala for their roles in the killings of more than 40 people in 1970, international agencies reported. The judge, accepting Jaruzelski's submission that the court has no authority in the case because he is charged with breaching the constitution, referred the case to the State Tribunal. The trial began last month. Prosecutors said they may appeal the ruling. Jaruzelski was defense minister in 1970 when troops and police were ordered to use force to break up protests over food price hikes. At least 44 people were shot dead and hundreds of others wounded. -- Steve Kettle

POLISH PREMIER REJECTS EUROPARLIAMENT'S RACISM CHARGE.
Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz on 25 April told the European Parliament that Poland will preserve the site of the former Auschwitz death camp, Reuters reported. But, in a letter to the parliament, he said that Poles need no lessons about racism. The parliament last week adopted a resolution condemning plans to build a supermarket near Auschwitz and criticizing local authorities for allowing an extreme rightist group to hold a demonstration at the camp. The resolution urged the European Commission to back moves to strengthen Poles' awareness of racism. "Treating incidental and deplorable demonstrations of xenophobia and anti-Semitism as representing the feelings of the whole of Polish society is deeply unjust," Cimoszewicz wrote. He said his government has halted the supermarket project and condemned the demonstration. -- Steve Kettle

CZECH PREMIER'S PARTY EMBROILED IN FINANCIAL SCANDAL.
Leaders of the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) on 25 April admitted they do not know the origin of two donations of 3.75 million crowns ($135,000) each made to the ODS last year, Czech media reported. In the party's list of sponsors submitted to the parliament, one amount was registered under the name of a Hungarian who died 14 years ago and the other allegedly came from a citizen of Mauritius. "We will obviously try to determine who this sponsor is," Prime Minister and ODS Chairman Vaclav Klaus said. ODS Executive Deputy Chairman Libor Novak said party officials could not find documents about the donations, admitting that "it was possibly our stupidity" not to have checked their origin. According to the law on political parties, all donations of more than 100,000 crowns ($3,600) must be declared with the real name and address of the donor. -- Steve Kettle

AUSTRIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON SLOVAK PROSPECTS FOR EU MEMBERSHIP. "
A country that wants to join the EU must respect the EU legal situation and, by extension, the highest standard of human rights in the world," Wolfgang Schuessel told Austrian ORF radio on 25 April before leaving for a one-day visit to Slovakia. He added that, "If Slovakia wants to become an EU member, it must do much more than now." The "unclear circumstances" of the kidnapping of President Michal Kovac's son last August are "more than unpleasant," he commented. Nonetheless, Schuessel stressed that Austria wants all its neighbors to enter the EU. He met with Kovac and Foreign Minister Juraj Schenk, but Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar avoided meeting him by traveling to northern Slovakia to inspect highway construction, possibly because of Schuessel's criticism of the bill on the protection of the republic. -- Sharon Fisher

HUNGARIAN UPDATE.
The cabinet on 25 April approved a health care bill that would eliminate 10,000 hospital beds this year, Hungarian media reported. Some 15,000 health care employees would be affected. The cabinet also opted to grant additional subsidies worth a total of 2.5 billion forints ($16.8 million) to Hungarian TV and Radio and Duna Television to compensate for arrears in broadcasting fees and lost revenues from unpaid subscription fees. Finally, the cabinet decided to use loans from West European sources for highway construction in eastern Hungary. -- Sharon Fisher



U.S. TROOPS TO STAY IN BOSNIA UNTIL DECEMBER.
Secretary of Defense William Perry says that NATO commander Gen. George Joulwan has asked that U.S. forces remain in Bosnia at "essentially a full capability" through December, the International Herald Tribune reported on 25 April. The American exit strategy has never been fully stated in public, but it was expected that the GIs would be out by 20 December, about one year after the Dayton treaty was signed. Joulwan seems especially concerned that NATO be present in full force to provide security for September's elections. Other European allies have been discussing contingency plans for keeping NATO forces in Bosnia beyond one year. Perry said he sees the success of the mission in restoring basic security to the embattled republic. He would therefore consider extending the mandate beyond one year to "deter a war [but not ] to unify the country." The secretary stressed that the political future of Bosnia is a matter for the local people themselves to decided. -- Patrick Moore

HAGUE COURT THREATENS BELGRADE, PALE WITH SANCTIONS.
Antonio Cassese, president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, has said that Serbia and the Bosnian Serbs should be punished with sanctions unless they begin to cooperate seriously with the court. In particular, they must begin handing over indicted war criminals, the BBC and Vecernji list stated on 26 April. In Bosnia, Prime Minister Hasan Muratovic denied Croatian reports that the six Bosnians arrested near Senj on terrorism charges were Bosnian agents trained by Iran, news agencies noted on 25 April. Sarajevo argues that it has nothing to do with the shadowy six and that the whole affair might be a publicity stunt by their alleged victim, Bihac pocket kingpin Fikret Abdic, to aid his attempt at a political comeback. Abdic, who is wanted in Sarajevo for war crimes, met with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic on 25 April, Onasa added. -- Patrick Moore

CROATS, MUSLIMS REACH AGREEMENT ON POLICE FORCE . . .
Senior Muslim and Bosnian Croat officials met with German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel, the international community's Michael Steiner, and other negotiators at Petersberg near Bonn on 25 April, Oslobodjenje reported. The Muslims and Croats agreed to end their acrimonious dispute over the nature of the federal police force by disbanding half of their respective forces, merging the rest, and issuing them neutral gray uniforms. Kinkel threatened the two sides with sanctions if they did not reach and stick to agreements to bolster their shaky federation, Nasa Borba noted. -- Patrick Moore

. . . BUT SPAR OVER ARMY.
Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic has meanwhile called for an integrated federal army, Onasa added on 25 April. His representative Muhamed Sacirbey said that officers on active duty would be barred from "elected office...or being high functionaries within political parties." Izetbegovic's Party for Democratic Action (SDA) has, however, been consolidating its hold over the military. Its governing bodies at all levels contain officers, and two generals serve on the top SDA steering committee. Croatian Defense Minister Gojko Susak on 24 April said the Bosnian Croat military must remain separate in order to guarantee the Croats' security. -- Patrick Moore

SERBIAN OPPOSITION LEADER FACES LIBEL INVESTIGATION.
A Serbian district court on 25 April cleared the way for authorities to launch an investigation into Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic's alleged libel activities. Serbian Premier Mirko Marjanovic recently took action against the weekly Telegraf, which in January ran a Democratic Party advertisement alleging corruption and fraud within his government. Djindjic took responsibility for the advertisement, thereby setting himself up to be the target of such an investigation, Reuters reported on 25 April. -- Stan Markotich

RUMP YUGOSLAV BANK GOVERNOR FINDS SUPPORTERS.
Ivan Kovacevic, spokesman for the opposition Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO), has said that his party "will under all circumstances...defend [National Bank Governor Dragoslav] Avramovic and his policies," Nasa Borba reported on 26 April. Avramovic earlier this week was removed as rump Yugoslavia's chief negotiator with the IMF. Federal Finance Minister Jovan Zebic will now assume that role. SPO leader Vuk Draskovic said that this move effectively meant that Avramovic was being removed as bank governor in all but name. Montenegrin Premier Milo Djukanovic, currently in the U.S., has also voiced support for Avramovic and for his role as negotiator with international financial institutions. -- Stan Markotich

ACTIVISTS CALL FOR MASS DEMONSTRATIONS IN KOSOVO.
Unidentified ethnic Albanian activists have distributed leaflets calling for mass demonstrations in Kosovo, the BBC reported on 26 April. The appeal does not have the support of any of the shadow-state's political parties, which have called on the population to remain calm. The head of the Kosova Information Center in London warned that the situation in Kosovo is tense and that the shadow-state government may lose control over more radical activists. Meanwhile, Albanian President Sali Berisha also called on Kosovars to stay calm and urged the international community to take swift measures to solve ethnic problems in the region, Reuters reported. Since five Serbs were shot dead in separate incidents following the murder of an Albanian by a Serbian civilian last week, police have arrested more than 100 Albanians, mainly in Decani and Stimlje, ATSH reported. -- Fabian Schmidt

BLACK SEA SUMMIT OPENS IN BUCHAREST.
A high-level conference on economic cooperation in the Black Sea region opened in Bucharest on 25 April, Radio Bucharest and Western media reported. Political leaders and businessmen from 11 countries , including Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov and the premier of rump Yugoslavia, Radoje Kontic, are attending. Gligorov launched an impassioned appeal for the Black Sea states to help rebuild former Yugoslavia after almost five years of war. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov is expected to join the conference at the weekend. He also plans to discuss the final details of the long-delayed basic treaty between Romania and Russia. -- Dan Ionescu

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT URGES PARLIAMENT TO DISMISS CABINET.
Mircea Snegur has called on the parliament to sack the government because of alleged incompetence and involvement in corruption, Reuters reported on 25 April. The agency quoted Snegur as saying that people "want to know if elected representatives can sack those unable to carry out their duties and nominate others able to cope with difficulties and get the country out of the abyss of poverty." Snegur said the government was responsible for growing unemployment as well as wage and pension arrears, which exceeded $70 million by mid-April. Snegur's appeal came after he unsuccessfully attempted to sack Defense Minister Pavel Creanga on corruption charges in mid-March, without consulting Andrei Sangheli's government. The Constitutional Court later reinstated Creanga. -- Dan Ionescu

BULGARIAN SUPREME COURT CONFIRMS ELECTION OF KARDZHALI MAYOR.
The Supreme Court, overruling a Kardzhali Regional Court decision, has reinstated Rasim Musa as mayor of Kardzhali, RFE/RL reported on 25 April. Musa, a member of the mainly ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedom, was declared winner of November 1995 elections when he beat out a candidate backed by the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party by a margin of one percentage point. The BSP demanded that the election be invalidated on grounds of irregularities, which the Regional Court did in early February. The Supreme Court has now ruled that the irregularities were "insignificant" and did not affect the outcome. In other news, the parliament has overruled President Zhelyu Zhelev's veto of an agreement with Greece on joint use of water from the River Mesta/Nestos, Reuters reported. -- Stefan Krause

BULGARIA RAISES INTEREST RATE BY 18%.
The Bulgarian National Bank on 25 April announced it will raise the prime interest rate from 49% to 67% beginning today, Bulgarian and Western media reported. The move is aimed at stopping the continuing devaluation of the lev, which has lost some 18 percentage points against the U.S. dollar since the beginning of the year. BNB Governor Lyubomir Filipov said the central bank "prefers to raise the prime interest rate rather than intervene on the foreign exchange markets." -- Stefan Krause

BULGARIAN TV BOSS STAYS ON.
The BSP caucus on 25 April voted not to remove Bulgarian National TV (BNT) Director-General Ivan Granitski, Kontinent reported. The deputies rejected the BSP Executive Bureau's recommendation that Granitski be sacked. Officially, the BSP blamed Granitski for financial irregularities at BNT and for poor management. But the BSP daily Duma yesterday reported that Prime Minister and BSP Chairman Zhan Videnov does not approve of BNT's newscasts, co-productions, and sociological analyses. Standart on 26 April reported that Videnov told the BSP deputies that "it's either me or Granitski." -- Stefan Krause

ALBANIANS KILLED WHILE SMUGGLING REFUGEES.
In a shoot-out off the Corfu coast, Greek coast guards have killed an Albanian sailor who was trying to smuggle illegal immigrants into Greece, AFP reported on 25 April. The smuggler reportedly opened fire on a Greek patrol boat during a chase. Shortly before that incident, Greek patrols arrested another Albanian who also opened fire on a Greek vessel. Meanwhile, an Albanian smuggler was killed when his motorboat hit an Italian Navy vessel during a boat chase on 24 April, Reuters reported. -- Fabian Schmidt

GREECE RECOGNIZES YUGOSLAV SUCCESSOR STATES.
Greece on 25 April officially recognized rump Yugoslavia as one of the successor states of the former Yugoslavia, AFP and Reuters reported. It also recognized "all the countries created by the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia," a Foreign Ministry statement said. However, the Greeks recognize Macedonia only under the name "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia." In related news, Nova Makedonija reported that the Macedonian parliament ratified the rump Yugoslav-Macedonian agreement on mutual recognition. -- Stefan Krause

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave





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