YELTSIN TO MEET WITH DUDAEV'S WIDOW?
Russian President Boris Yeltsin may
meet in Moscow during the next few days with Alla Dudaeva, widow of the Chechen
president, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported on 2 May. Speaking in Yaroslavl on 2
May, Yeltsin also reaffirmed his intention to visit Chechnya in order to thank
Russian troops serving there and give impetus to the peace progress, perhaps by
meeting with Chechen field commanders. Meanwhile, Russian federal forces
extended for 48 hours their ultimatum to some 300 Chechen fighters in the
besieged town of Shali, 30 km southeast of Grozny, to surrender their arms. The
town's residents have already begun to flee in anticipation of a Russian
assault. -- Liz Fuller
YELTSIN WOOS LEBED.
President Boris Yeltsin met with rival presidential
candidate Aleksandr Lebed on 2 May to discuss the election campaign, Russian
and Western media reported. On 30 April, Yeltsin campaign organizer Sergei
Filatov had told ITAR-TASS that Yeltsin hoped to convince some of his opponents
to quit the race and support him. However, when he emerged from the half-hour
session, Lebed told NTV that "we established the fact that I will be
participating in the election." Lebed denied reports that Yeltsin had offered
him a government post, such as defense minister, in return for his support but
said he and Yeltsin had agreed that all candidates should refrain from inciting
ethnic and class tensions. According to the former general, Yeltsin also
suggested that all candidates sign a formal pledge not to challenge the
election results, a move Lebed endorsed. -- Scott Parrish
YELTSIN SIGNS DECREES ON ECONOMIC SECURITY . . .
signed a decree on 30 April on state strategy for ensuring "economic security,"
Radio Mayak reported the following day. The decree deals with the nature of
internal and external threats to economic security and policy mechanisms to
protect Russia's national interests in this regard. Among the threats
identified by Yeltsin are the high degree of poverty and large differentials in
wealth distribution in the country; deformations in the structure of the
economy, such as the increased dependence on the energy sector, the large
number of loss-making companies, the dominance of imports over domestically
produced goods; and the criminalization of society and the economy. -- Penny
. . . AND SUPPORT FOR VETERANS.
Also on 30 April, Yeltsin issued a
decree ordering additional measures to implement the Law on Veterans, Radio
Rossii reported on 2 May. A series of financial benefits outlined in the law
have not been paid, causing discontent that Yeltsin, with an eye to the
elections, is keen to minimize. The decree orders the president's envoys in the
regions to report back to the Main Control Administration on implementation of
the law and the Procurator's Office to increase its monitoring. ITAR-TASS
reported on 23 April that this year's budget allocates 6.5 trillion rubles
($1.4 billion) to assisting veterans--enough to cover the cost of only a fifth
of the benefits they are entitled to. -- Penny Morvant
COSSACKS CALL ON YELTSIN, ZYUGANOV TO NEGOTIATE.
The Cossacks' Union has
called on presidential candidates Boris Yeltsin and Gennadii Zyuganov to hold
pre-election negotiations and all other candidates to withdraw from the race,
Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 2 May. The union claims that a sharp change
in the country's political course could lead to an armed confrontation and the
collapse of Russian statehood. The Cossacks' request follows a similar appeal
by 13 leading bankers and entrepreneurs last week (see OMRI Daily
Digest, 29 April 1996). The majority of the Cossacks support Yeltsin's
candidacy. -- Anna Paretskaya
MILLIONAIRE STANDS FOR SOCIALISM.
Millionaire presidential candidate
Vladimir Bryntsalov said he is forming a party to be called the Russian
Socialist Party (RSP), which will stand for a "truly Russian model of
socialism." The party program, published as a paid advertisement in Trud
on 30 April, proposes that presidential powers be limited and that the
victorious party in a parliamentary election be given authority to form the
government. The RSP, one of several new socialist parties, rejects radical
political views, including fascism and communism. In April, former Duma Speaker
Ivan Rybkin and another presidential candidate, Martin Shakkum, formed the
Socialist Party of Russia and the Socialist Popular Party of Russia,
respectively. -- Anna Paretskaya
PRIMAKOV AT COUNCIL OF EUROPE MEETING.
Foreign Minister Yevgenii
Primakov arrived in Strasbourg on 2 May to attend Russia's first session of the
Council of Europe Ministerial Committee as a full member of the council.
Addressing an informal gathering of foreign ministers that evening, Primakov
declared that Russia attaches great importance to the council and hopes to
"work effectively" with it. He said Russia expects the council to take "more
consistent and vigorous" steps to protect the rights of Russians living in the
Baltic states, and elaborated on Moscow's plans to resolve the Chechen
conflict, which were recently criticized by the council's Parliamentary
Assembly. In remarks linked to Russian opposition to NATO expansion, Primakov
also suggested that Moscow would like to see the council as the "cornerstone"
of a new all-European security system "without dividing lines or blocs." --
JOINT RUSSIAN/U.S. STUDY ON PLUTONIUM RECYCLING.
The Russian Ministry of
Nuclear Energy is cooperating with its U.S. counterpart in studying methods of
recycling the plutonium recovered from dismantled nuclear warheads, Deputy
Nuclear Energy Minister Nikolai Yegorov reported on 2 May. Radio Rossii quoted
him as saying that at least six methods are under investigation, ranging from
deep underground burial to reprocessing the plutonium into fuel for atomic
power reactors. He said the studies are to be completed by June of this year.
-- Doug Clarke
RUSSIA, SWEDEN SIGN AGREEMENTS.
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and
his Swedish counterpart, Goeran Persson, signed several agreements on closer
coordination between Russian and Swedish police and border control agencies in
Stockholm on 2 May, Russian and Western agencies reported. In his meetings with
Swedish officials, Chernomyrdin emphasized the importance of foreign investment
in making economic reform in Russia "irreversible." He urged Sweden, which
currently ranks 33rd in foreign investment in Russia, to take a more active
role in this area. The Russian leader also raised security issues with his
hosts, however, including NATO expansion, which Russia opposes, and the
situation of the Russian minority in the Baltic states. Moscow may hope for
some indirect support from Stockholm on these issues because of Sweden's
traditional stands in support of neutrality and human rights. -- Scott
ANTI-WAR DEMO IN MOSCOW.
Activists from a number of public
organizations, including the Radical Party and Memorial, took part in a
demonstration on 2 May in Moscow to protest the war in Chechnya,
Ekspress-khronikha reported. The demonstrators carried banners reading
"Human life is more precious than the territorial integrity of Russia and the
independence of Chechnya," "Peace in Russia! Life to our sons!" and "Troops go
home, calm in Chechnya!" Organizer Irina Bagantseva told Ekho Moskvy that
similar demonstrations will be held every Thursday in May and June. More than
120 Russian soldiers and many civilians have been killed in Chechnya in the
first half of April despite the peace plan announced by Yeltsin on 31 March. --
LIVING STANDARDS IN MOSCOW.
According to the Moscow Federation of Trade
Unions, only 45,000 people are officially registered as unemployed in the
capital, which has a population of more than 9 million. Many workers, however,
are not being paid on time: the unions say 450 enterprises owe a total of 347
billion rubles ($70 million) to their employees. Workers in the fuel industry
earned the highest wages in the capital--2.7 million ($545) a month in March.
The average monthly wage in the capital is almost 920,000, while the
subsistence minimum is 690,000, according to the federation. -- Penny Morvant
RUBLE HOLDS VALUE, ECONOMY SLUGGISH.
In April, monthly inflation was
less than 2.8%, Economy Minister Yevgenii Yasin told ITAR-TASS on 30 April.
However, industrial output fell by a disturbing 7% in the first quarter of the
year. The low inflation has meant that the ruble has only slipped to
4,940/$1--still within the declared corridor of 4,550-5,150/$1, which was set
for six months in January 1996. The Central Bank has been allowing a creeping
devaluation of 3-4 rubles a day. However, NTV reported on 2 May that for the
past three weeks speculative pressure against the ruble has been increasing in
the off-exchange interbank market. -- Peter Rutland
ECONOMIC INTEGRATION WITHIN THE CIS.
Vladimir Pokrovskii, deputy
chairman of the Interstate Economic Committee, discussed the development of
economic cooperation within the CIS on Radio Mayak on 2 May. He explained that
by "an accident of history" there are three alliances within the CIS: the
Central Asian Union, the union of the four (Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, and
Kazakhstan), and the union of the two (Belarus and Russia). He argued that
these bodies form a "pyramid" of increasing integration. The "foursome" is
focusing on building a customs union, while the "twosome" is looking at a
payments union and the creation of a common currency. Pokrovskii conceded that
monitoring the implementation of the 600 plus agreements signed by CIS member
states is a difficult challenge. -- Peter Rutland
ADZHARIA DENIES ISSUING ULTIMATUM.
The press center of the Adzhar
Supreme Soviet has refuted Georgian and Western reports that Adzhar leader
Aslan Abashidze demanded that the Georgian leadership bestow presidential
status on Adzharia (see OMRI Daily Digest, 2 May), according to
ITAR-TASS and Radio Rossii. -- Liz Fuller
GRACHEV IN ARMENIA.
Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev visited
Yerevan on 2 May to sign several military cooperation agreements, including
protocols on joint military planning and training, and cooperation in air
defense, ITAR-TASS reported. He told Russian Public Television (ORT) that
Russia's military cooperation with Armenia was the best of all the CIS member
states, and that the two sides were planning the "coalition deployment" of the
two countries' armed forces if circumstances required such a step. Radio Rossii
reported that Grachev and Patriarch Aleksii II, who is also visiting Armenia,
will lay wreaths at a memorial to Russians who died in the 1827 war with
Persia. -- Doug Clarke
OFFICIAL NAME CHANGES IN UZBEKISTAN.
In one of its first acts, the Uzbek
Oliy Majlis (parliament) voted to change two more place names from their
Soviet-era designations, Narodnoye slovo reported on 30 April. In the
region of Jizzak, the town of Ulyanovo has been changed to Dashtobod, while in
Andijan, the Komsomolabad District has been renamed Ulugnor District. Both
changes were requested by the regional councils of the respective areas. --
UN DRUG SEMINAR IN TASHKENT.
A UN-sponsored conference on narcotics
trafficking opened in Tashkent on 3 May, ITAR-TASS reported. Participants will
discuss the logistical problems of implementing a supraregional three-year
program on government cooperation, as well as special technical projects to
help curb the flow of drugs in the region. Representatives from the Central
Asian states, Russia, the U.S., U.K., Iran, Turkey, India, Afghanistan, and
other states are among the 200 delegates. The conference will focus on the
drug-corridors through the Tajik city of Murgab, the Kyrgyz city of Osh, and
the Uzbek city of Andijan. -- Roger Kangas
TAJIK GOVERNMENT ANXIOUS TO EXTEND CEASEFIRE, RESUME TALKS.
President Imomali Rakhmonov on 30 April expressed his desire to once again
extend a fragile ceasefire agreement with the Tajik opposition that expires on
26 May, the BBC reported. Rakhmonov, speaking to U.S. Ambassador to Tajikistan
Grant Smith, said his government would do everything possible to achieve
results at peace talks. Meanwhile, the Radio Voice of Free Tajikistan reported
on 1 May that two representatives of the Democratic Party of Tajikistan (DPT)
were arrested on 22 April in the northern town of Ura-Tyube. An Iranian source,
Salam, reported that 40 students from Tajikistan who were accepted at
Qazvin International University in Iran were denied permission to travel to
that country. The Tajik Education Ministry claimed it was concerned about the
influence of Islamic fundamentalism. -- Bruce Pannier
BANK SCANDAL IN KYRGYZSTAN.
At a 29 April meeting of the government
commission fighting economic crimes, Kyrgyz prosecutors charged 17 bank
directors with misusing credits, according to a 30 April Kyrgyz Radio broadcast
monitored by the BBC. The heads of 17 joint-stock banks are charged with
illegally allocating nearly 28 million som (about $2.5 million) in credits
between the period of early 1995 and the first quarter of 1996. More than 5
million som has been recovered. -- Bruce Pannier
UKRAINIAN JUSTICE MINISTER ON CONSTITUTIONAL REFERENDUM.
Holovaty, who also heads the Constitutional Commission, said that according to
the current constitutional accord, a national referendum on adopting the
constitution can only take place if both the president and the parliament agree
to it, Ukrainian radio reported on 30 April. The mechanism for adopting the new
constitution has not yet been decided. It will be difficult for any draft
constitution to win the necessary two-thirds majority in parliament and it has
been proposed that the constitution be passed by a simple majority in
parliament and then put to a national referendum. -- Ustina Markus
UKRAINE ROTATES IN BOSNIAN PEACEKEEPING FORCES.
The rotation of
Ukraine's 240th peacekeeping battalion, which is part of the multinational
forces in Bosnia, began on 3 May, ITAR-TASS reported. The battalion is under
French command because Ukraine could not afford to pay for the unit's upkeep.
As a neutral state, Ukraine also decided it was inappropriate to subordinate
its forces directly to NATO command. The first 500 Ukrainian servicemen have
been flown to Bosnia. -- Ustina Markus
JOURNALISTS CRITICIZE CENSORSHIP IN BELARUS.
The Belarusian Association
of Journalists issued a statement criticizing the intimidation of journalists
during the 26 April demonstrations, Ekho Moskvy reported on 2 May. The
association said several journalists were beaten and two arrested. A journalist
working for Belarusian radio, Uladzimir Dzyuba, is still being held by the
police. The statement claims that during the 1 May demonstrations, unidentified
security personnel confiscated camera equipment from NTV journalists and
workers from the president's security service detained Respublika's
photographer, Leanid Kushnera. The association called upon journalists from
democratic countries to unite with their Belarusian collegues against
dictatorship and violation of human rights. Journalists from Gazeta
wyborcza and RFE/RL echoed the association's complaints. -- Ustina Markus
HUNGARIAN PRESIDENT VISITS ESTONIA.
Arpad Goncz, accompanied by a
delegation of businessmen, began a three-day visit to Estonia on 2 May by
meeting with President Lennart Meri, ETA reported. He pledged Hungary's full
support for Estonia's aspirations to become an EU and NATO member. In talks
with Prime Minister Tiit Vahi, Goncz called for increased contact between the
two countries' parliaments and between their Interior and Environment
Ministries. Vahi and Goncz said it is necessary to adopt agreements on mutual
investment protection and free-trade,
which may be signed before the end
of the year. -- Saulius Girnius
PRIVATIZATION OF LATVIA'S VENTSPILS NAFTA.
During a recent visit to
Moscow, Eriks Kaza, state minister of Industry, Property, and Privatization,
held talks with Russian Energy and Fuel Minister Yurii Shafrannikh, BNS
reported on 2 May. They signed an intention protocol stating that Russia wants
at least 30% of the capital when the Ventspils Nafta (VN) terminal is
privatized. Shafrannikh noted that Russia has started building a new oil
terminal at Primorsk which would be a competitor of VN. He said that if Russia
were to get the 30% share of VN, it would guarantee that oil shipments through
Ventspils would not be decreased. Kaza said that more decisive talks with
Russia on VN can be held after the Russian presidential elections. -- Saulius
POLISH ANTI-SMOKING LAW TAKES EFFECT.
A law limiting smoking to
designated areas in the workplace, public buildings, hospitals, schools, and
sports centers took effect on 1 May in Poland, international media reported the
same day. The law also bans tobacco advertising in the broadcast media,
cinemas, and youth and children's publications. It stipulates that 20% of the
space in tobacco ads must consist of health warnings. Cigarette packets will
have to carry at least two health warnings covering 30% of their surface.
Parliament rejected a proposal to ban all cigarette ads, fearing it would harm
independent publications and plans to privatize Poland's large state-owned
tobacco industry. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz
TRUST IN CZECH GOVERNMENT, PARLIAMENT DROPS.
An opinion poll conducted
by the Institute for Public Opinion Research and published in Mlada fronta
Dnes on 3 May indicates that only 48% of Czechs trusted their government in
April, a drop from 55% in March. The same poll shows that only 24% of the
respondents trusted the parliament, while in March the figure stood at 31%. --
SLOVAK OPPOSITION LEADER CALLS CAR EXPLOSION "POLITICAL MURDER."
Frantisek Miklosko, deputy chairman of the Christian Democratic Movement, on 2
May alleged that the death of Robert Remias in a car explosion three days
earlier (see OMRI Daily Digest, 2 May 1996) was "the first political
murder since November 1989." Miklosko pointed out that Remias was "thoroughly
acquainted with all the circumstances surrounding the participation of [former
Slovak Information Service agent] Oskar F. in the kidnapping of Michal Kovac
Jr." Interior Ministry spokesman Peter Ondera called Miklosko's statement
"ill-considered and shocking," noting that the investigation into the explosion
has not revealed any evidence of murder. In other news, the Constitutional
Court on 2 May rejected an amendment to the referendum law that would have
curtailed presidential powers. -- Sharon Fisher
SLOVAK PRIME MINISTER LISTED AS ONE OF 10 "WORST ENEMIES OF THE PRESS."
The Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) on 2 May presented its
list of the 10 "worst enemies of the press," which includes Vladimir Meciar,
along with top officials from Tajikistan, Turkey, China, Cuba, and other
countries, RFE/RL reported. The CPJ stressed that there were "renewed attempts
by the ruling coalition to limit freedom of expression in Slovakia in 1995,"
noting in particular the situation at state radio and TV. The Slovak government
office has protested Meciar's inclusion on the list, saying that "since 1989 no
case of persecution, imprisonment, or violent death of a journalist because of
his journalistic activities has been recorded in Slovakia." Meciar's party--the
Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS)--responded to the criticism by
blaming "the current opposition, headed by President Michal Kovac," Narodna
obroda reported. -- Sharon Fisher
HUNGARIAN ECONOMIC GROWTH EXPECTED TO SLOW.
Analysts at the Postabank
and the economics research firm GKI Gazdasagkutato Rt. have published their
forecasts projecting that economic growth will fall to just 1% this year, down
from 1.5% in 1995, Hungarian media reported on 2 May. Meanwhile, unemployment
is expected to rise from 496,000 individuals in 1995 to 520,000 in 1996.
Inflation will fall to 24-25%, slightly lower than last year's 28.2% rate. The
inflow of foreign capital in 1996 is projected to total $2-2.5 billion, down
from $4.5 billion last year. The current account deficit is to decrease to $2
billion, compared with $2.5 billion in 1995. The foreign trade deficit should
also fall, from $2.6 billion in 1995 to $2-2.3 billion this year. Exports are
expected to increase by 9-10%. -- Sharon Fisher
BOSNIAN GOVERNMENT-IFOR RELATIONS WORSEN.
The local branch of the
Bosnian federal police in Trnovo near Sarajevo said the presence of IFOR and
the International Police Task Force (IPTF) in the area is "not desired" and
that their security cannot be guaranteed, Onasa reported on 2 May. The
statement followed recent incidents in which Serbs prevented Muslims from
visiting their homes and gravesites during the holiday Kurban Bajram. Two
people died in the clashes. A federal police commander said "Serbs will not be
allowed freedom of movement," adding that his officers will block the roads
linking Trnovo with Lukavica and Dobrinja and cut off all telephone wires in
the area. His forces have already set up a checkpoint in Trnovo. IPTF
commissioner Peter Fitzgerald will meet with federal Interior Minister Avdo
Hebib to discuss these developments. -- Fabian Schmidt
BOSNIAN SERBS RELEASE FOUR BOSNIAN CROATS.
Bosnian Serbs on 2 May
released four Bosnian Croats who had been held as suspected war criminals. The
release followed a statement by the International Criminal Tribunal for the
former Yugoslavia that it will not try the men. The men said they were not
harassed during their detention. The Dayton agreement demanded that all
prisoners of war be released by 19 January. According to the UN, however, the
Bosnian Serbs are still holding seven war crimes suspects and the Bosnian
government five. -- Fabian Schmidt
TWO MUSLIM WAR CRIME SUSPECTS ARRESTED.
The Bosnian authorities have
arrested two Muslims wanted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the
former Yugoslavia, AFP reported on 2 May. It is the first international arrest
warrant that has been honored by any of the Bosnian parties. The 31-year-old
Hazim Delic is suspected of killing at least 14 people, torture, rape, and
beatings. The 23-year-old Esad Landzo is wanted for murder and torture. Both
allegedly committed the crimes at the Celebici detention center near Konjic in
central Bosnia in 1992. Another Muslim, the 48-year-old Zejnil Delalic, who was
arrested by the German authorities on 18 March, is to be handed over to the
Tribunal soon. -- Fabian Schmidt
CROATIAN INDEPENDENT PAPER SHUT DOWN.
Croatian state financial police on
1 May closed down the independent Croatian newspaper Panorama for
allegedly violating national environmental and property legislation. The
paper's deputy editor, Andrej Rora, has publicly speculated that the
government's move was in response to statements the paper published criticizing
Croatian President Franjo Tudjman. Rora said Panaroma hopes to resume
publishing. Reuters meanwhile reported on 2 May that in recent weeks Zagreb
authorities have clamped down on independent media. Authorities fined the daily
Novi list in April some $2.5 million for alleged unlawful use of
equipment imported from Italy. -- Stan Markotich
ZAGREB MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT DISSOLVED . . .
dissolved Zagreb's democratically elected municipal council on 30 April,
following Croatia's Constitutional Court's decision that a budget submitted by
the opposition-dominated local authority was illegal. A coalition of opposition
parties held a majority of 30-20 seats in the capital following October 1995
elections. Hina reported that the Croatian government has appointed a
commissioner to run city affairs for the 60 days prior to new local elections.
Representatives from the opposition parties said that the dissolution was not
entirely unexpected and that "this [dissolution] is in fact the culmination of
Zagreb's undemocratic policies." -- Stan Markotich
. . . AND CROATIAN PRESIDENT CRITICAL OF OPPOSITION.
Franjo Tudjman criticized Zagreb's dismissed opposition municipal authorities,
saying they were unrepresentative, harmful politically for Croatia, and
disrespectful of Croatia's constitution. On 2 May, AFP quoted Tudjman as saying
"the rise of Nazism in Germany was made possible by lack of firmness in the
democracy. We must therefore stop people who don't represent the majority from
coming to power." Tudjman made his remarks in the town of Okucani, some 120
kilometers east of Zagreb, on the first anniversary of Croatia's retaking of
Western Slavonia from rebel Serbs. -- Stan Markotich
BOSNIAN SERB PREMIER SIDES WITH SERBIAN PRESIDENT.
Rajko Kasagic openly
sided with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic in a move signaling an ever
growing rift between the premier and the Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic.
In a 2 May interview with Le Monde, Kasagic said "I feel close to
Milosevic; he is a realist." Kasagic, who has in the past sided with Milosevic,
is regarded by some observers as a possible successor to Karadzic. -- Stan
UN HUMAN RIGHTS ENVOY VISITS KOSOVO.
Elisabeth Rehn, after a meeting
with shadow state President Ibrahim Rugova, said she was "very concerned" about
the situation in Kosovo and called for negotiations with Belgrade under
international mediation, AFP reported on 2 May. Rugova declined comment after
the meeting. Rehn also visited Velika Reka, where a child was killed in a bomb
explosion last week, and met with the head of the Human Rights Council, Adem
Demaci. Rehn will later visit the Muslim majority region of Sandzak between
Serbia and Montenegro. Elsewhere, Reuters reported that the international
community's High Representative Carl Bildt warned that "peace in Bosnia depends
on the stability of the whole region and the political leadership in Belgrade;
Kosovo and Tirana must seek a political solution and prevent a major crisis."
-- Fabian Schmidt
GROUP CLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY FOR KOSOVO VIOLENCE.
An organization calling
itself the Kosovo Liberation Army claimed responsibility for recent shootings
in which five Serbs were killed last week, AFP reported. The group had sent a
letter to the Albanian-language service of the BBC warning that as long as
there is "support for the Serb aggressor and disrespect for the requests of the
oppressed Albanian people" the armed conflict in Kosovo and the Balkans will
continue. The message added that "the armed conflict in Kosovo is a war of
liberation...[not] terrorism, interethnic, or religious confrontation." The
group made itself known for the first time in February when it claimed
responsibility for attacks on Serbian refugees' homes. The Kosovar shadow state
government has condemned the attacks. -- Fabian Schmidt
CRIME MARS ROMANIAN ELECTORAL CAMPAIGN.
Opposition leaders on 2 May
accused the ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) of encouraging
crime before the local elections scheduled for 2 June, Radio Bucharest
reported. Emil Constantinescu, chairman of the Democratic Convention of
Romania, and Mircea Ionescu-Quintus, leader of the National Liberal Party, told
journalists that burglars broke into their parties' offices in the town of
Botosani and stole documents. Constantinescu said that the incidents were aimed
at creating confusion to facilitate election-rigging. Last week, local rowdies
in the town of Sascut stoned the car of Petre Roman, former premier and current
head of the Democratic Party. Roman's party accused a local PDSR leader of
leading the mob. Ionescu-Quintus said the incidents have overshadowed NATO
Secretary-General Javier Solana's visit to Bucharest that started on 3 May. --
POLL ON SOCIAL AND POLITICAL ISSUES IN MOLDOVA.
Some 70% of respondents
in a recent poll described the political and social situation in their country
as "bad" and "very bad," Moldovan news agencies reported on 30 April. The
results also showed that 82% of those questioned were dissatisfied with the
level of democracy in Moldova, 67% with the activity of the parliament, 61%
with the cabinet's performance, and 49% with the presidential office. According
to 25% of those polled, the old, communist system lives on in Moldova under new
names. The poll was conducted by the independent Opinia agency jointly with the
Chisinau branch of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems. -- Dan
NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL IN SOFIA.
Javier Solana on 2 May arrived in
Bulgaria on a two-day visit, Reuters and Pari reported. Solana met with
President Zhelyu Zhelev, Prime Minister Zhan Videnov, Foreign Minister Georgi
Pirinski, and Defense Minister Dimitar Pavlov. Solana said Bulgaria contributed
positively to NATO's Partnership for Peace program, but he agreed with Zhelev
that "it is clear there is no consensus [in Bulgaria] about [NATO] membership."
Zhelev said membership would make Bulgaria's transition to democracy
irreversible and that Bulgaria's "special contribution" to NATO would be its
strategic location in the Balkans. Videnov said that the government will state
on 6 May its position on membership. The Union of Democratic Forces handed a
memorandum to Solana, reaffirming its pro-NATO position and asking for
consultations between NATO and the Bulgarian opposition. -- Stefan Krause
RFE/RL JOURNALIST BEATEN UP AT BULGARIAN MAY DAY RALLY.
demonstrators at the central May Day rally of the ruling Bulgarian Socialist
Party (BSP) beat up Georgi Koritarov of RFE/RL's Sofia office. He is suffering
a concussion, after being attacked while trying to interview the Kurds, who
shouted at him "you have to die" and "the police sent you," 24 chasa
reported on 2 May. One Kurd claimed Koritarov had provoked them. Another Kurd
said the BSP had invited them to the rally, which BSP spokeswoman Klara
Marinova denied, Standart reported. A police statement blamed the
incident on an "independently organized group of foreign students." RFE/RL has
come under fire from the BSP because of the station's critical position on the
Socialist government and its license may be endangered after a recent
government decision to review all private licenses (see OMRI Daily
Digest, 30 April 1996). -- Stefan Krause
National Police Director Ivan Dimov on 2 May
announced that the crime rate in the first quarter of 1996 was 21% lower than
during the same period last year, Bulgarian media and Reuters reported. This
marked the first drop in the crime rate since 1990. Dimov said that economic
crime rose by 16% compared to last year, but 40% of all crimes were solved as
opposed to 8% last year. Meanwhile, Trud on 3 May reported that the
British Foreign Office issued a travel advisory warning tourists of incidents
involving theft and violence against foreigners. In other news, the Bulgarian
lev continues its free fall against the U.S. dollar. On 3 May, the Bulgarian
National Bank fixing was 95.323 leva to the U.S. dollar, compared to 87.978 lev
one week earlier. But Duma reported that the U.S. currency was selling
the previous day for 115-120 leva in exchange offices. -- Stefan Krause
[As of 1200 CET]
Compiled by Victor Gomez and Deborah Michaels