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Newsline - May 10, 1996


YELTSIN ADDRESSES MILITARY PARADE . . .
Thousands of soldiers marched across Red Square on 9 May to mark the 51st anniversary of the end of World War II, Russian and Western agencies reported. President Yeltsin, flanked by Defense Minister Pavel Grachev, reviewed the parade by 7,370 military personnel. In contrast to Soviet times, no heavy weaponry was on show. The occasion gave Yeltsin the opportunity to hammer home his patriotic credentials. Atop the Lenin Mausoleum, he hailed the victory over Nazi Germany and the soldiers and civilians who lost their lives in the struggle. He also lauded the red Soviet-era victory flag, which flew alongside the Russian tricolor, as a sacred symbol of the Motherland. In a bid to win the support of veterans, Yeltsin issued a decree on 16 April restoring the flag as an official symbol for ceremonies marking the victory over Nazi Germany. -- Penny Morvant

. . . COMMUNISTS ALSO RALLY.
While Yeltsin addressed the military parade, Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov led an estimated 30,000-50,000 supporters on a victory rally through Moscow. The marchers included young communists and war veterans bearing portraits of Lenin and waving Soviet flags. Zyuganov said on 8 May that if elected president he would call a referendum on replacing the tricolor with the Soviet flag. He argued that the Russian flag was used by Russian collaborators who fought alongside the Germans against the Red Army in World War II. The rally had a pre-election feel, with supporters chanting "Victory to Zyuganov!" The communist leader himself said that Russia is now at war again "but a war in which the main weapon is lies. We are promised happiness and prosperity, but crime and theft have become the rule." Zyuganov was accompanied by numerous left-wing leaders, including former Russian Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi and former Soviet Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzhkov.
-- Penny Morvant

YELTSIN VISITS VOLGOGRAD.
President Yeltsin also visited Volgograd, the former Stalingrad, to mark the 9 May holiday, the first time since the war that a Russian leader has left the capital during the celebrations. In the city of the decisive World War II battle, he was met by cheering crowds who yelled "we love you" and "Yeltsin is a democrat," according to the official ITAR-TASS agency. The president observed a moment of silence at the memorial on the Mamaev kurgan (a giant statue of a woman holding a sword) in the city. He also met with young people who were mainly interested in housing questions; Yeltsin said that he was planning to build more apartments. He also pledged 10 billion rubles for the reconstruction of a local library. -- Robert Orttung

GORBACHEV GETS COLD RECEPTION IN VOLGOGRAD.
Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev was met by jeering protesters from the orthodox communist Workers' Russia movement during a 9 May campaign stop in Volgograd, Russian and Western media reported. Viktor Anpilov, leader of Workers' Russia, confronted Gorbachev as the ex-president inched through a largely hostile crowd to place a wreath at the memorial commemorating the battle of Stalingrad. Anpilov, backed by banners reading "No place for traitors on the holy ground of Stalingrad," blasted Gorbachev for causing the collapse of the USSR. Gorbachev retorted that inflexible communists like Anpilov and Gennadii Zyuganov wrecked his attempts to reform the USSR. -- Scott Parrish

YAVLINSKII MOVES CLOSER TO ALLIANCE WITH YELTSIN.
Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii moved closer to an alliance with President Boris Yeltsin, telling the BBC that "the issue we are going to discuss would be a first in Russian history: a political coalition between the government and democratic opposition," Reuters reported on 9 May. Yeltsin and Yavlinskii met on 5 May and since then Yavlinskii has been hinting that he will give the president greater support. That meeting was only the second time the two men have spoken since Yeltsin became president. Contradicting earlier reports that Yavlinskii wants the prime ministerial position and that Yeltsin is not prepared to offer it, Yavlinskii indicated that Yeltsin had raised the possibility of naming him prime minister, but that he is "not prepared to discuss this issue." Although Yavlinskii still has numerous reservations about working with Yeltsin, he may have no choice but to support the president to avoid a communist victory. -- Robert Orttung

TV AND RADIO COMPANIES IN DEBT TO COMMUNICATIONS MINISTRY.
The Communications Ministry is owed 720 billion rubles ($145 million) for 1995 and the first three months of 1996 by Russian television and radio broadcasting companies, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 May. The main debtors are the state-owned stations Radio 1, Radio Mayak, and Radio Yunost, along with the state-owned Russian TV network (RTR) and the 51% state-owned Russian Public TV network (ORT). A spokesman for the ministry said that the failure of broadcasters to pay for communications services is creating a financial crisis for communications enterprises, which lack the funds to maintain transmission equipment adequately. Those enterprises in turn owe about 240 billion rubles ($48 million) to power engineering workers. Wage arrears for staff of communications enterprises are estimated at 112 billion rubles ($23 million). -- Laura Belin

ANOTHER JOURNALIST KILLED IN CHECHNYA.
The body of Nina Yefimova, a correspondent for the pro-Russian Chechen newspaper Vozrozhdenie, was found in Grozny on 9 May, ITAR-TASS reported. She had been shot more than once in the head. Colleagues suggested Yefimova's death may have been connected to a recent series of articles she had written on crime in Chechnya. She is the 18th journalist to be killed in Chechnya since fighting escalated in December 1994. Most of those have been accidental deaths, but Yefimova is the second journalist to be abducted and shot in recent weeks. In April, Obshchaya gazeta correspondent Nadezhda Chaikova was found dead in the breakaway republic; she had been severely beaten, blindfolded and shot execution-style in the back of the head. -- Laura Belin

ST. PETERSBURG DEMOCRATS REFUSE TO BACK INCUMBENT MAYOR.
A number of democratic parties have jointly decided not to support St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak in the local election on 19 May, St. Petersburg Channel 5 TV reported on 6 May. An agreement to that effect was signed by the regional leaders of Svyatoslav Fedorov's Party of Workers' Self-Government, Irina Khakamada's Common Cause, Boris Fedorov's Forward, Russia!, and Marina Sale's Free Democratic Party of Russia. The bloc called on Sobchak's main rivals, Yurii Boldyrev, Aleksandr Belyaev, and Aleksandr Belyakov, to rally behind a single candidate who would have the best chance of defeating Sobchak. Sobchak is running at about 30% in the polls--far ahead of the other 17 candidates. -- Anna Paretskaya

JEWISH CEMETERY DESECRATED IN KURSK.
Forty gravestones at an ancient Jewish cemetery in Kursk were damaged recently, Russian TV (RTR) reported on 7 May. Kursk Jewish community members say they have been receiving an increasing number of anonymous telephone threats. Many local Jewish residents, afraid of violence, want to leave the area and community leaders have turned to the Israeli Embassy, the Russian Jewish Congress, and several U.S. human rights organizations for assistance. -- Anna Paretskaya

OFFICIAL: NO LINK BETWEEN SPY SCANDAL AND ELECTIONS.
President Yeltsin's foreign policy aide, Dmitrii Ryurikov, characterized as "idiotic" suggestions that Russian authorities had deliberately provoked the recent espionage scandal with Britian in order to bolster the president's re-election campaign, Russian and Western agencies reported. Some Russian media reports suggested that the incident was engineered so that Yeltsin could posture as a "tough" defender of Russian national interests. Meanwhile, talks between British and Russian officials aimed at defusing the incident continued, according to the British Foreign Office. While Moscow has threatened to expel nine British diplomats for spying, an official declaration of their expulsion has not yet been issued. -- Scott Parrish

SITUATION ON SECURITIES MARKET "HIGHLY UNSTABLE."
Uncertainties over the state of financial markets after the June election have pushed interest rates on government securities to very high levels, Kommersant-Daily reported on 8 May. Three-month GKOs are trading at an effective annual interest rate of 160%, and six-month paper at 210%. At the 24 April sale, six-month GKOs with a face value of 2.1 trillion rubles ($400 million) were sold at an effective rate of 130% (i.e. 70% of nominal).
About half of them were bought by foreigners. The current market offers rich pickings for foreign investors, who can buy six-month GKOs and hedge against ruble depreciation by buying dollar futures. Such an operation will yield a hard-currency return of 155% per year. The high rates make it expensive for the government to raise money to cover the budget deficit. The Finance Ministry issued 6 trillion rubles worth of securities in March and 11.5 trillion in April. -- Peter Rutland

WORLD BANK FUNDS HOUSING PRIVATIZATION.
The World Bank approved on 8 May a $300 million loan to help finance the transfer of housing from firms to new private owners in six pilot city projects, ITAR-TASS reported. Firms have been encouraged to divest housing since the launch of the mass privatization program in 1992, but tenants and local councils are reluctant to take over housing because of the burden of maintenance and utility costs. In the pilot cities, the councils already have managed to increase the proportion of operating costs paid for by tenants from 13% to 35%. The six cities, chosen by competition, are Novocherkassk, Orenburg, Petrozavodsk, Ryazan, Vladimir, and Volkhov. The Russian government will spend another $250 million on the project, mainly for building repair and the installation of meters. -- Peter Rutland



PRIMAKOV VISITS STEPANAKERT, YEREVAN.
Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov held talks in Stepanakert on 9 May with Robert Kocharyan, president of the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. Primakov said he was "very satisfied" with the talks but refused to give details. On returning to Yerevan, Primakov again discussed possible solutions to the Karabakh conflict with President Levon Ter-Petrossyan, according to Radio Rossii. Ter-Petrossyan noted the importance of extending the two-year-old ceasefire until the signing of a political settlement of the conflict, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 May. -- Liz Fuller

TURKEY WITHDRAWS FINANCING BID FOR BAKU-SUPSA PIPELINE.
Turkey has withdrawn a proposal to provide $250 million for a pipeline running from Baku to the Georgian Black Sea port of Supsa, Reuters reported on 9 May. The move was prompted by last week's decision by the Azerbaijani International Oil Consortium (AIOC) and Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR to reject Turkey's conditions for building the line, which amounted to their commitment to building another pipeline down to Turkey's Mediterranean port of Ceyhan. Earlier in the week, the AIOC announced that it would finance the Baku-Supsa line. Turkish Foreign Minister Emre Gonensay will travel to Washington to seek U.S. support for the Baku-Ceyhan route. Turkey has committed itself to exploring alternatives to the Baku-Supsa-Ceyhan line with Georgia and Azerbaijan. -- Lowell Bezanis

ANTI-IRANIAN DEMONSTRATION IN BAKU.
Some 100 people demonstrated outside the Iranian Embassy in Baku on 9 May to demand a halt to the persecution of ethnic Azeris in Iran, RFE/RL reported. Hundreds of Iranian Azeris living in Azerbaijan have reportedly been arrested for demonstrating in support of Azeris who stood as candidates in the Iranian parliamentary election. -- Liz Fuller

MALARIA EPIDEMIC IN AZERBAIJAN.
The incidence of malaria in Azerbaijan has skyrocketed in recent years, with 2,802 cases reported in 1995 compared with only 23 in 1993, Western agencies reported on 9 May quoting a World Health Organization report. The majority of those affected are reportedly persons displaced as a result of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The WHO expressed concern that the disease could spread to neighboring countries. -- Liz Fuller

INTEGRATION EFFORTS IN CENTRAL ASIA.
The presidents of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan reconfirmed their commitment to further economic integration in a joint statement at the 6 May summit in Bishkek. In addition to general comments on political and regional cooperation, the statement, published in Narodnoe slovo on 7 May, stressed the need for the states to "make effective use" of their industries and create a "mutually beneficial division of labor." One area of expressed concern was water resource management. In an effort to promote integrative measures, a new weekly, Central Asia: Problems of Integration, will be launched. -- Roger Kangas

AUTHORITIES RELEASE TAJIK DEMOCRATIC PARTY MEMBERS.
The two Tajik Democratic Party (DPT) representatives who were arrested on 1 May (OMRI Daily Digest, 3 May 1996) have been released by the authorities, according to an 8 May Voice of Radio Free Tajikistan report monitored by the BBC. The still unnamed men were held for spreading anti-government propaganda and possessing copies of the outlawed newspaper Charoghi Ruz. No reason was given for their release. -- Bruce Pannier

RED CROSS/RED CRESCENT THREATENS TO PULL OUT OF TAJIKISTAN.
The Red Cross/Red Crescent, which was on the verge of obtaining its own chapter in Tajikistan, is now saying it may leave the Central Asian country all together, according to a 7 May Radio Voice of Free Tajikistan report monitored by the BBC. Complaining of government interference at times and total indifference at others, the organization said it may "cease its activities in Tajikistan." The group was instrumental in the last official exchange of prisoners between the government and the opposition, which took place in November 1994, and has rendered aid to Tajik refugees inside northern Afghanistan. -- Bruce Pannier



MORE CLASHES IN BELARUS . . .
OMON forces clashed with veterans in Minsk when the latter displayed the red-and-white Belarusian flag instead of the Soviet-style flag that replaced it following last year's referendum, Ekho Moskvy and Russian TV reported on 9 May. The veterans were laying flowers at the city's war memorial. The OMON command justified the action by saying that President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has issued a decree allowing only the Soviet-type flag to be used in Victory Day celebrations. -- Ustina Markus

. . . WHILE U.S. CRITICIZES MINSK.
U.S. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said that Washington has repeatedly raised the issue of human rights violations in Belarus with the Belarusian government and its embassy in Washington, an RFE/RL correspondent reported on 10 May. He said the case of opposition leader Yuriy Khadyka, who was arrested during the 26 April demonstrations and has been on a hunger strike since 28 April, has been raised several times. Belarus was criticized for human rights violations in almost every category included in the latest annual global human rights report compiled by the U.S. The report pointed, among other things, to the accumulation of power in the president's hands, his refusal to work with the parliament, and his use of KGB and Interior Ministry troops against the opposition. -- Ustina Markus

UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT PROMISES TO SETTLE WAGE DEBT.
Ukrainian Finance Minister Petro Hermanchuk announced earlier this week that the government will settle its wage debt by the end of May, UNIAN reported. The official said the National Bank of Ukraine will be forced to print unbacked currency to cover some of the wage arrears, which stood at 42 trillion karbovantsi ($227 million) as of 28 April. He said the government would issue securities and use some foreign aid to cover the rest. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian parliament voted to form an ad hoc commission to examine the government debt for back wages, pensions, and stipends, which now totals 124 trillion karbovantsi, Holos Ukrainy reported on 8 May. The regions where the debt crisis is most severe are Vinnytsia, Kyiv, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, Kharkiv, and Rivne. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

NEW PRESIDENTIAL APPOINTMENTS IN UKRAINE.
President Leonid Kuchma has appointed Vice Admiral Volodymyr Bezkorovainy as commander of the Ukrainian navy and deputy defense minister, Ukrainian TV reported on 8 May. He named Gen. Volodymyr Mykhtiuk deputy defense minister and appointed a well-known reformer, Volodymyr Lanovy, as his adviser on economic policy. The president also selected Oleh Dyomin, deputy speaker of the Ukrainian parliament, to head the Kharkiv region administration. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

UKRAINIAN DEMOCRATS SET UP INFORMAL CAUCUS.
Sixty-eight lawmakers, primarily national democrats, have formed a new informal caucus called Nuremberg-2, UNIAR reported on 6 May. Their aim is to organize a symbolic international trial on crimes committed by the former Communist Party of the Soviet Union and Communist Party of Ukraine. The legislators plan to use the caucus to collect evidence, hold public hearings and conferences, and maintain links with parliaments of other former Soviet republics. The group is headed by former political prisoners Lev Lukianenko and Yevhen Proniuk as well as the well-known cultural activist Les Taniuk. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

UKRAINE, RUSSIA APPROVE DRAFT ON MISSILE HAND-OVER.
Ukraine and Russia have approved a draft agreement on the hand-over to Russia of strategic missiles and launchers stored in Ukraine's arsenals, Rossiiskiye vesti reported on 7 May. Under the agreement, Ukraine will transfer to Russia by the end of June ten SS-19 missiles as well as all the equipment required to launch them. For its part, Russia will finance warranty inspections and pay for servicing at strategic missile facilities in Ukraine. -- Ustina Markus

MORE INFORMATION RELEASED ON RUSSIAN DIPLOMAT EXPELLED FROM ESTONIA.
Estonian officials on 9 May revealed that the police had gathered evidence that Sergei Andreev, economic adviser to the Russian embassy in Tallinn, was involved in spy activities, BNS reported. They filmed him paying Tonu Randla, former adviser to the parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, $1,000 for documents. Randla had informed the Defense Police about Andreev's requests for the documents, which did not contain anything classified. It was also revealed that Andreev had been expelled from Finland in 1990 for similar spy activities. Meanwhile, the Estonian Foreign Ministry has protested continued claims by the Russia's Federal Security Service that Estonia's volunteer defense force, Kaitseliit, sold weapons to the Irish Republican Army and Russian criminals. -- Saulius Girnius

LATVIAN PARLIAMENT VOTES NOT TO SEND CONDOLENCES FOR DUDAEV . . .
The Saeima on 9 May decided not to consider the draft resolution on sending condolences to the Chechen people on the death of their president Dzhokhar Dudaev, BNS reported. National Harmony Party Chairman Janis Jurkans said although he was "emotionally indignant" about the death, sending condolences would hinder Latvia's relations with Russia. A total of 33 deputies, nevertheless, signed a document addressed to the Chechen people expressing their sadness at his death and expressing their readiness to aid "those who fight for the freedom and independence of their motherland." Deputies who voted against the resolution were not asked to sign this document. -- Saulius Girnius

. . . WHILE POLISH SEJM PAYS TRIBUTE TO HIM.
Polish deputies paid tribute to Dzhokhar Dudaev on 8 May as Speaker Jozef Zych was reading out a motion from the opposition Confederation for an Independent Poland to hold a minute of silence to honor "the heroic death of the president of the Chechen Republic." Rather than wait for Zych to finish reading out the justification for the motion and call a vote, some deputies rose to their feet and most others followed suit, including the speaker. Zych commented that "further justification is pointless" and moved on to the next point. Some members of the coalition Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) remained seated, Polish and international media reported. -- Jakub Karpinski

CZECH PREMIER ON EU.
Vaclav Klaus, speaking at an election rally in Neratovice on 9 May, said he wanted the Czech Republic to enter the EU but "not like a sugar cube thrown into coffee, where it dissolves," Rude pravo reported. Klaus noted he did not wish to be a citizen of Europe 10 or 20 years from now. "I want to remain a Czech citizen and pay Czech taxes," said Klaus. He added that he is opposed to a common European currency because "Czech citizens would wind up paying common taxes not in Prague, but in Brussels." -- Jiri Pehe

CZECH PRESIDENT THREATENED WITH ASSASSINATION LAST YEAR.
Vaclav Havel's office received a letter in 1995 threatening an assassination attempt on the president in revenge for his stance on the Bosnian conflict, Czech TV reported on 9 May. The authors of the letter claimed to belong to the fundamentalist Islamic Jihaad. A spokesman for the Ministry of Internal Affairs told Czech TV that the police regularly gather information on "people of Arab origin and firms with Arab participation" based in the Czech Republic. According to the spokesman, some of these firms are helping people from Algeria to settle in the Czech Republic, "many of whom could be members of fundamentalist organizations." -- Jiri Pehe

SLOVAKS DROP DISPUTED ADDITIONS TO HUNGARIAN TREATY.
The Slovak Foreign Ministry on 9 May said the Slovak-Hungarian friendship treaty will be ratified without an appendix added by Slovak nationalists, Reuters reported the same day. The Slovak parliament approved the treaty in March, one year after Prime Ministers Vladimir Meciar and Gyula Horn had signed it. But it also added a statement that it did not recognize collective rights for Slovakia's Hungarian minority. President Michal Kovac signed the treaty on 6 May following further diplomatic consultations between the two countries. Foreign Ministry spokesman Juraj Matejovsky said the final exchange of documents will consist only of the original treaty and Kovac's approval of it. -- Steve Kettle

SLOVAK OFFICIAL ACCUSES BUDAPEST OF "SMEAR CAMPAIGN."
Slovak Foreign Ministry spokesman Juraj Matejovsky on 9 May claimed that Hungary is conducting a "smear campaign" against Slovakia over the nomination of the OSCE secretary-general, Hungarian dailies reported. Matejovsky was responding to Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs's statement that the Slovak candidate for the post was named after the official deadline for nominations expired. Matejovsky commented that neither an official nor unofficial deadline existed. He also noted that Hungarian politicians are deliberately remaining silent about the fact that Istvan Gyarmati, who was named for the post, had a Polish rival in addition to the Slovak one. The Hungarian Foreign Ministry last month withdrew Gyarmati's nomination following Slovak protests. Most other OSCE countries supported his nomination. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

HUNGARY'S COALITION PARTNERS STILL AT ODDS OVER INVESTIGATIVE OFFICE.
The Hungarian cabinet on 9 May put off a decision on establishing a central investigative office, Hungarian dailies reported. Prime Minister Gyula Horn has proposed such an office, which is expected to cost up to 800 million forints ($5.3 million). Junior coalition partner Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ) ministers continued to express opposition, while Socialist ministers voted in favor of the project. Following the vote, the cabinet instructed Interior Minister Gabor Kuncze (SZDSZ) to come up with a new proposal. The SZDSZ is against further enlarging the state apparatus and says the office--which would come under the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister's Office--would resemble the former state security service. -- Zsofia Szilagyi



UNHCR REJECTS DEADLINE FOR RETURN OF REFUGEES.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata, at the end of her visit to Bosnia on 9 May, said that it is unrealistic to set dates for the return of refugees. At best, she expects that about 500,000 people can go home this year, most of whom are currently in the region. The UNHCR earlier wanted to resettle in 1996 about 900,000 of the 2.4 million refugees and displaced persons. Germany, Slovenia, and some other countries have set down timetables for the refugees' return based on the schedules envisioned in the Dayton agreement. The civilian portions of that treaty have been so unevenly implemented, however, that resettlement plans based on it are less than realistic. Austria has extended the deadline for refugees to leave there from June 1996 to August 1997, Reuters noted. -- Patrick Moore

WAR CRIMES UPDATE.
The OSCE has said that the continued presence of indicted war criminals on Bosnian territory is a great potential danger to the elections, which the Dayton treaty says must be held by mid-September. The OSCE's current chairman, Swiss Foreign Minister Flavio Cotti, argued that "the fact that [indicted war criminals] remain complicates the process of creating a climate without violence and intimidation, which is a pre-requisite for the holding of elections in Bosnia-Herzegovina," Reuters reported on 9 May. In The Hague, some charges have been dropped against Dusan Tadic, the Bosnian Serb who is the first indicted war criminal to stand trial. Potential witnesses have been intimidated into not testifying, international media noted. Tadic will soon have company in his prison, however, because Zejnil Delalic was handed over to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia on 8 May, Onasa reported the next day. He was arrested in Munich in March and is the first Muslim to be sent to The Hague. His lawyer is Edina Residovic, who was the public attorney at the 1983 Bosnian trial of "Islamic fundamentalists." -- Patrick Moore

U.S. WARNS SERBIA OVER KOSOVO.
Secretary of State Warren Christopher warned Serbia on 9 May that the U.S. will maintain an "outer wall" of sanctions until the situation in Kosovo markedly improved. This could mean blocking Belgrade's membership in the UN, the World Bank, the IMF, and the OSCE. At a meeting with Albanian Foreign Minister Alfred Serreqi in Washington, Christopher expressed concern over the rising violence in the region. He also noted that the U.S. wants to proceed rapidly with the opening of a U.S. Information Agency office in Pristina. -- Fabian Schmidt

MAJOR STRIKES IN SERBIAN INDUSTRIAL CENTER.
Up to 15, 000 workers took to the streets in Nis on 9 May for the second consecutive day in what is the most serious workers' protest in Serbia for at least three years, Nasa Borba reported. Employees from the electronics group El-Nis (consisting of 42 companies) have said they will continue to strike until their demands for wage payments and a share in the companies are met. According to Reuters, some workers have received no pay since December 1995. National Bank Governor Dragoslav Avramovic has said he supports the workers' protest, adding that the government likely faces prolonged labor unrest if the demands are not met. * Stan Markotich

CROATIAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS SUES VJESNIK FOR LIBEL.
Ivan Zvonimir Cicak, head of the Croatian branch of the Helsinki Committee human rights group, on 9 May filed a libel suit against the country's main state-run paper over accusations that he worked for the former Yugoslav secret police (see OMRI Daily Digest, 7 May 1996), Reuters reported. Cicak also met with visiting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Jose Ayala-Lasso to report on alleged abuses in Croatia, which is expected to gain membership in the Council of Europe at its ministerial meeting on 15 May, Novi list reported. One condition for its acceptance into that body is freedom of the media. Reporters Without Borders noted in a recent letter to the Council of Europe "a toughening of pressure against independent media since Croatia's admission into the Council of Europe," Reuters reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic

MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT IN FRANCE.
Kiro Gligorov and Macedonian Foreign Minister Ljubomir Frckovski have met with their French counterparts, Jacques Chirac and Herve de Charette, in Paris, Reuters reported on 9 May. Chirac said he supported both a rapprochement between the EU and Skopje and an EU association agreement with Macedonia. He also supported NATO membership of Macedonia Talks focused on a cooperation and trade agreement. Gligorov signed the Paris Charter for a new Europe, which includes a commitment by signatory states that they will not use force to change their international borders. The charter was adopted in 1989 by 34 member countries of the CSCE. -- Fabian Schmidt

ROMANIAN PREMIER'S DUTCH VISIT.
Nicolae Vacaroiu, during a two-day official visit to Holland earlier this week, met with his Dutch counterpart, Wim Kok, and the chairmen of the two chambers of parliament. He was also received by Queen Beatrix. Vacaroiu discussed improving bilateral economic relations, including boosting Dutch investments in Romania, and opened a Romanian information office in Amsterdam. He told Radio Bucharest that Dutch investments are the fifth largest in Romania and that trade between the two countries grew by 60% last year, reaching about $500 million. He added that he hoped overall trade will reach $1 billion by the end of 1996. -- Michael Shafir

MOLDOVA RECEIVES WORLD BANK LOAN FOR AGRICULTURE.
The World Bank on 8 May announced it has approved a $10 million loan to support Moldova's efforts to boost agricultural exports and increase farmer's incomes, RFE/RL reported. The funds will be used mainly to help develop higher-quality grape varieties, improve wine-making procedures, and create more efficient management structures for future projects. An estimated total of $18.5 million is required for this first project, with additional funding coming from the Moldovan government. -- Matyas Szabo

BULGARIAN NATIONAL BANK RAISES INTEREST RATE AMID DEEPENING FINANCIAL CRISIS.
The Bulgarian National Bank on 9 May raised its basic lending rate from 67% to 108%, Bulgarian and international media reported. At the same time, it increased its fixing of the lev from 112.84 to 122.56 to $1, while foreign exchange bureaus quoted the lev at 150-160. Savers responded by withdrawing their deposits from banks, and shops stated prices in dollars. Finance Minister Dimitar Kostov noted that the government would soon announce the liquidation of firms whose combined losses account for 25% of total enterprise losses.
Bulgaria also wants to sell 25% of the national telecommunications company. An IMF mission is currently in Sofia to determine whether progress on structural reform merits awarding a standby credit to support the lev. IMF Bulgaria mission chief Ann McGirk noted that progress was being made at the negotiations, but local observers fear that the government's indecisiveness will cause hyperinflation. -- Michael Wyzan

MONARCH TO BE ALLOWED TO RETURN TO BULGARIA.
Bulgaria's former King Simeon II will be allowed to return to Bulgaria some 50 years after leaving the country, Bulgarian media reported on 9 May. The 58-year-old Simeon abdicated in 1946 and now lives in Spain. Authorities have renewed the ex-monarch's passport, and he plans to return to his native Bulgaria for "a private visit." A spokesperson for Simeon said recent reports in Bulgarian papers alleging that the king wants to return to power are false. -- Stan Markotich

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave







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