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Newsline - May 3, 1996


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 . . .
President Yeltsin 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 Morvant

. . . 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." -- Scott Parrish

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 Parrish

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. -- Penny Morvant

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. -- Roger Kangas

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.
Tajik 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.
Serhii 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 Girnius

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%. -- Jiri Pehe

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 . . .
Croatia's government 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.
Croatian President 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 Markotich

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. -- Dan Ionescu

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 Ionescu

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.
Kurdish 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

BULGARIAN ROUNDUP.
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









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