Accessibility links

Newsline - May 15, 1996


BASAEV THREATENS YELTSIN; PEACE TALKS TO BEGIN SOON.
Following a meeting on 14 May of the Russian government commission charged with implementing President Boris Yeltsin's Chechen peace proposals, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said that peace talks could begin within days, Russian media reported. Ekho Moskvy reported that in the initial stage, which will exclude Doku Zavgaev's pro-Moscow leadership, the talks will focus on military issues. The Zavgaev group will be included in later political and economic discussions. It is unclear whether the commission discussed Yeltsin's proposed visit to Chechnya. Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev said Yeltsin's visit to Chechnya constitutes an insult to the Chechen people, and that "we intend to give him such a warm welcome that he will never leave," NTV reported. Also on 14 May, Russian military aircraft continued their bombardment of the villages of Bamut and Stary Achkhoi, according to ORT. -- Liz Fuller

ZYUGANOV PROMISES NO WHOLESALE NATIONALIZATION OR REPRESSION.
Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov pledged to support a mixed economy and not to renationalize privatized enterprises as long as they "pay their taxes honestly and properly" in a 14 May free air time appearance on Radio Yunost monitored by the BBC. He explained, "If you start taking things away tomorrow, then I can assure you the result will be turmoil worse than in Chechnya." Zyuganov also promised that persecution of political opponents will be prohibited by law if he is elected. He observed, "proper democratic development is impossible without political competition and opposition. The [Communist Party of the Soviet Union] rotted and fell apart because it just couldn't remove from office a general secretary who sold it out and betrayed it." -- Laura Belin

LEBED APPEALS TO "ORDINARY PEOPLE."
During a 14 May free air time campaign appearance on Radio Mayak, Aleksandr Lebed said he belongs to no party and stands for the 60% of the electorate who are "ordinary people" and who support neither President Yeltsin nor Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov. In his broadcast, reported by the BBC, Lebed slammed the bureaucrats who have brought Russia crime, corruption, and "nomenklatura capitalism." He promised to help citizens "win our freedom with sensible laws." Appearing on RTR the same day, the marginal presidential candidate Martin Shakkum said experts at the Reform Foundation, which he helped found along with Stanislav Shatalin, have the political and economic knowledge to tackle corruption and other problems facing Russia. -- Laura Belin

BABURIN: GOVERNMENT SHOULD NOT CHANGE CONSIDERABLY AFTER ELECTION.
Duma Deputy Speaker Sergei Baburin, leader of the nationalist Russian Public Union (ROS), said that a considerable number of the professionals who are now in the government should keep their positions regardless of the presidential election results, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 May. Since Baburin regards professionalism as more important than political affiliation, he says a new government should be formed that retains the most competent member of the present administration. He also supports the election of a new president and considers Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov to be the best candidate. In early April, Baburin, who was running for the Duma as number two on the party list of Nikolai Ryzhkov's unsuccessful Power to the People bloc as well as in a single-mandate district, joined the "popular-patriotic bloc" supporting Zyuganov. -- Anna Paretskaya

AGRICULTURE MINISTER REAPPOINTED.
President Yeltsin on 14 May reappointed Viktor Khlystun to the post of agriculture minister, ORT reported. Khlystun first held this office from 1991 to the fall of 1994, when he was dismissed under pressure from the agrarian lobby in the Duma, which accused him of not doing enough to help state farms. Khlystun was replaced by Aleksandr Nazarchuk, a member of the Agrarian Party (APR) and champion of state support for agriculture. Nazarchuk was fired in a government reshuffle in January, and Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Zaveryukha, another agrarian, was made acting minister. Zaveryukha was subsequently forced out of the APR for his part in drafting a presidential decree allowing the sale of farmland. Before his reappointment, Khlystun served as first vice president of the commercial Agroprombank. Also on 14 May, the second congress of the Union of Landowners, which supports the private ownership of farmland, called on rural dwellers to vote for Yeltsin. -- Penny Morvant and Laura Belin

CASE OPENS IN JOURNALIST'S DEATH.
A court case opened in Stavropol Krai concerning the death of Russian journalist Natalya Alyakina in June 1995, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 May. Alyakina, a correspondent for the German magazine Focus, was allowed to pass through a checkpoint near the southern Russian city of Budennovsk on 17 June during a hostage crisis. However, moments later two shots were fired at her car. The soldier who fired the fatal shots has been charged with carelessly handling a firearm. According to Oleg Panfilov of the Glasnost Defense Foundation, this case marks the first time since the war in Chechnya began that a person responsible for a journalist's death has been brought to trial. Since December 1994, 18 Russian and foreign journalists have been killed while covering events in Chechnya. -- Laura Belin

FSB: LYSENKO BLEW UP HIS OWN OFFICE.
Former Duma deputy Nikolai Lysenko was arrested on 13 May on charges of staging an attack on his own office, ITAR-TASS reported. Lysenko's Duma office suffered more than 100 million rubles' ($20,800) worth of damage on 5 December last year when a home-made bomb went off in a briefcase (see OMRI Daily Digest, 6 and 7 December 1995). The Federal Security Service, which investigated the incident, said that Lysenko, leader of the extremist National Republican Party of Russia, and an aide, Mikhail Rogozin, had planned the attack. At the time, Lysenko blamed it on the "Caucasian mafia." Rogozin was arrested on 18 April. Lysenko is known for his extreme views and scandalous behavior. -- Penny Morvant

RUSSIAN, BELARUSIAN MILITARY OFFICIALS MEET . . .
The collegiums of the Russian and Belarusian Defense ministries signed 10 military cooperation agreements at a 13-14 May meeting in Moscow, ITAR-TASS reported. Among the accords were a protocol on creating a single regional air defense system, a concept for a joint defense policy, joint training, and joint use of military bases and facilities. -- Doug Clarke

. . . GRACHEV ON NATO EXPANSION.
While denying that current Russian-Belarusian military cooperation is aimed against NATO, Grachev added that the two countries are prepared to take certain countermeasures if the alliance expands, Russian media reported. The defense minister declared that the deployment of "a powerful Russian-Belarusian military force" had not been ruled out as one possible response to NATO enlargement, a view he said was shared by Belarusian president Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Grachev expressed special concern that Polish and Lithuanian membership in NATO would isolate the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. But Grachev was careful to keep his threats conditional, saying that countermeasures would only be implemented if NATO ignores Russian objections to its expansion. -- Scott Parrish

BORDER GUARDS FIRE AT JAPANESE TRAWLERS.
Russian patrol boats on 13 May fired warning shots at 10 Japanese trawlers that were about to enter Russian territorial waters near the disputed southern Kuril Islands, Western agencies reported the next day, citing Interfax. Five rounds of Russian-Japanese talks on fishing rights in the waters around the islands have failed to produce agreement, leading to a series of incidents in which Russian patrols have fired upon Japanese fishing vessels, including one last September that wounded a Japanese fisherman. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Panov told ITAR-TASS on 11 May that the sixth round of the fishing talks is scheduled to open in Moscow in 2-3 weeks. -- Scott Parrish

FOREIGN MINISTRY BLASTS ESTONIA.
In the latest salvo in the ongoing war of words between Moscow and Tallinn, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigorii Karasin accused Estonia of continuing "to undermine relations with Russia," ITAR-TASS reported on 14 May. Blaming Estonia for the current strained state of bilateral ties, Karasin cited public statements by Estonian Ambassador to Russia Mart Helme that he claimed "go beyond...accepted diplomatic norms." He also complained that Estonia has not responded to Russian requests to establish additional polling stations for Russian citizens living in Estonia to vote in the June presidential election. Meanwhile, on 14 May Komsomolskaya pravda published an article detailing allegations by the Federal Security Service (FSB) that the Estonian volunteer defense force Kaitseliit had provided arms and explosives to the IRA. Estonian officials have denied the charges. -- Scott Parrish

SATELLITE DESTROYED IN ROCKET BLAST.
A Russian booster Soyuz U carrying on board a Kosmos-type military satellite exploded five minutes after take off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, ITAR-TASS and AFP reported on 14 May. Under the Russian-American SPIN-2 project, which was signed in July 1995 by the Russian firm Sovinformsputnik and the U.S. company Aerial Images, the satellite was to take high-resolution photographs of parts of the U.S. The explosion is believed to have been caused by a structural flaw in the booster's front shield. The project was insured for $2,7 million. In March 1996, Russia lost three more communications satellites launched under the Russian-Israeli and Russian-Mexican projects in a similar accident at the Plessetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia. -- Natalia Gurushina

INDUSTRIALISTS' CONGRESS OPENS.
The seventh congress of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs convened in Moscow on 14 May, NTV reported. The union's chairman, Arkadii Volskii, criticized the government's privatization policy and called for price controls on energy and transport. Volskii complained that Zbigniew Brzezinski has removed Russia from his list of great powers, and warned that "Americans should not put their feet on the table in Russia." Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin told the congress participants that taxes will be lowered in 1997. On 16 May, the political party formed by the union, the United Industrial Party, is expected to declare its support for President Yeltsin. The union has 4,500 firms as members. While it has not been very successful in establishing its presence as the centrist force in Russian politics, it has some backdoor lobbying power. The current economics minister, Yevgenii Yasin, was formerly the head of the union's Expert Institute. -- Peter Rutland

NEW BOOK PREDICTS ECONOMIC BOOM IN RUSSIA.
Russia will become a leading industrial power by the end of the century, provided there are no major political changes in the country, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 May, citing a new book by the director of the Center for Economic Research of the London School of Economics and Political Science, Richard Layard, and deputy editor of The Economist, John Parker. The authors argue that Russia has passed the most difficult transitory period in its recent history and is on the eve of a period of an unprecedented economic growth. They say Russia's rich mineral resources, huge intellectual potential, and unique geographical position will be the most important factors in its future success. -- Natalia Gurushina



TROOPS FIRE ON DEMONSTRATORS IN NORTHERN TAJIKISTAN . . .
Five people died during a demonstration in the northern Tajik city of Ura-Tyube on 14 May after troops fired on the crowd of about 200 people, ITAR-TASS reported. The demonstration began the day before as people gathered outside the local administration building to protest the killing of a businessman the previous day. On 14 May, the demonstrators began breaking windows and started fires at the administration building, the chief prosecutor's office, a militia building, and the mayor's house. AFP reported that some of the protesters were armed. Reinforcements from the Tajik Interior Ministry are being sent to the city. The disturbance comes as demonstrations involving thousands are going on in the Tajik city of Khojent and fighting continued between government and opposition forces in the Tavil-Dara region. -- Bruce Pannier

. . . RUSSIA EXPRESSES CONCERN.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigorii Karasin said on 14 May that his government is gravely concerned at "the deteriorating situation in Tajikistan," according to ITAR-TASS. Karasin did not say how far Russia would go to protect Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov's government but did state that events in Tajikistan have "a direct effect on the strategic interests of Russia." Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev ruled out the possibility of Russian military involvement in the Tavil-Dara fighting but did say Russian troops had been ordered "to guard and defend state and important military facilities," ORT reported. -- Bruce Pannier

ECO SUMMIT RUMPUS.
Amidst much acrimony, a two-day summit of the 10-member Economic Cooperation Organization opened in Ashgabat on 14 May, Reuters reported. Following talks between the foreign ministers of member states earlier in the week, heads of state agreed to expand the organization's structure and move ahead with revising the founding treaty. A 22-point Ashgabat declaration calling for priority action in transport and communications, trade and energy was also signed. Irked by Iran's verbal attacks on Israel, Uzbek President Islam Karimov threatened to withdraw his country from the grouping, indicating he opposes "transforming the organization into a military-political unit." Karimov's position was supported by his counterparts from Kazakhstan (who left the summit early) and Tajikistan. The ECO was founded in the 1960s by Iran, Turkey, and Pakistan and in 1992 expanded to include all the former Soviet Central Asian republics plus Afghanistan and Azerbaijan. -- Lowell Bezanis



UKRAINE SHORTENS TERM OF MILITARY SERVICE.
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma issued a decree on 12 May shortening the length of mandatory military service for conscripts from 24 to 18 months, UNIAR reported on 13 May. The decree also cuts the length of service for draftees with higher education degrees from 18 to 12 months. The terms of service in the Ukrainian navy remain unchanged. The measure is part of a planned reduction in the Ukrainian armed forces. Some 80,000 conscripts signed up for military duty this spring. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

LEFTIST DEPUTIES WITHDRAW FROM COMMISSION REVIEWING DRAFT UKRAINIAN CONSTITUTION.
Representatives of the Communist caucus and Peasant Party of Ukraine have withdrawn from a special parliamentary commission reviewing the draft Ukrainian constitution, Ukrainian TV reported on 15 May. Ivan Popescu, a commission member, said the lawmakers left when the body rejected their demands for a change in voting procedures. The deputies insisted voting rights within the 28-member commission, made up of representatives of parliamentary caucuses, be proportional to the size of each caucus. Currently each member has one vote. The commission has completed work on 26 articles but reached consensus on only one article. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

ANTI-PRESIDENT RALLY IN MINSK.
About 5,000 demonstrators marched through the streets of Minsk on 14 May demanding the release of two activists facing charges over the 26 April protest against the pro-Russian policies of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Reuters reported. Belarusian Popular Front leaders Yury Khadyka and Vyachaslau Siuchyk have been on a hunger strike since their arrest 17 days ago. The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights also issued a statement asking for their release. It noted that they could be jailed for up to three years and that the legal process so far "gives little hope that the trial will be fair and open." The demonstrators shouted in front of Lukashenka's residence until he departed by car. They then moved toward the parliament building but dispersed quietly after being stopped by a police cordon. -- Saulius Girnius

POLISH UNION LEADER DEPORTED FROM BELARUS.
Solidarity trade union President Marian Krzaklewski was detained in Belarus for several hours on 14 May and deported later in the evening. Krzaklewski, two other Solidarity activists, and a driver were in Minsk on the invitation of the Belarusian independent trade unions. Krzaklewski and his colleagues were detained for five hours by security forces after a meeting with employees of a Minsk factory. Krzaklewski said he was "brutally forced into a car" by police in plain clothes. The Polish trade unionists were brought under military guard to the Poland-Belarus border. A duty officer with the Belarusian Committee for State Security said, "our organization didn't detain a single person today." A spokesman at the Belarusian Interior Ministry said he had no information about any such case. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka publicly accused Solidarity of inciting an "anti-governmental atmosphere" in Belarus, Polish and international media reported. -- Jakub Karpinski

ESTONIAN PARLIAMENT AGREES TO AMEND LOCAL ELECTIONS LAW.
The parliament agreed on 14 May to amend the local elections law it had passed on 17 April, ETA reported. President Lennart Meri rejected the law on 7 May saying it contradicted the Estonian Constitution and the UN convention on civil rights because it required candidates who did not graduate from Estonian language high schools to pass written and oral Estonian language examinations. Even those who rejected the validity of Meri's arguments voted for making amendments, realizing that opponents of the law would otherwise ask for a Supreme Court ruling on its constitutionality, and such a delay would probably mean that the elections in October would be carried out under the old and not the new law. -- Saulius Girnius

IMPRISONED FORMER COMMUNIST NOMINATED FOR LATVIA'S PRESIDENT.
The left-wing Equality of Rights caucus in the Saeima has nominated Alfreds Rubiks, former Latvian Communist Party First Secretary, for president even though he is currently imprisoned for plotting an overthrow of the Latvian government in 1991, BNS reported on 14 May. Two other parties have nominated their presidential candidates: parliamentary chairwoman Ilga Kreituse will represent the Democratic Party Saimnieks and Imants Liepa is the Popular Movement for Latvia's candidate. Incumbent president Guntis Ulmanis was nominated by the Farmers' Union, but his formal application has not yet been presented. -- Saulius Girnius

LITHUANIA'S PARLIAMENT RATIFIES NATO SOFA AGREEMENT.
The Seimas on 14 May ratified the NATO Status of Forces Agreement, BNS reported. Defense Minister Linas Linkevicius called the ratification vital since more Lithuanian soldiers are being sent to exercises in NATO countries as the republic's involvement in the Partnership for Peace program increases. President Algirdas Brazauskas also sent the association agreement with the European Union to the Seimas for approval. This document was signed on 12 June 1995 and already ratified by the parliaments of several EU countries. The Seimas will rule on the agreement only after it approves for the second time (on 20 June or later) an amendment to Article 47 of the Constitution that now bans foreigners from owning land in Lithuania. -- Saulius Girnius

POLISH GOVERNMENT ON GDANSK SHIPYARD.
The Polish government said on 14 May that bankruptcy would be the only way to save the Gdansk shipyard where Solidarity trade union was born in 1980. Some 4,000 of the shipyard's 7,000 workers demonstrated on 10 May in protest against the authorities' refusal to pay their April salaries. An official declaration of bankruptcy for the shipyard, in which the government holds a 61% stake, would be made in early June at the annual meeting of its shareholders. The Korean LG Group declared its interest in the Polish shipyard industry, but Polish Privatization Minister Wieslaw Kaczmarek expressed doubts in the Koreans' willingness to invest in the debt-ridden firm, Polish and international media reported. -- Jakub Karpinski

CZECH ELECTION CAMPAIGN BEGINS.
A 14-day parliamentary election campaign officially started on 15 May in the Czech Republic. The 20 political parties and coalitions that have registered for the elections to the parliament's lower chamber will share equally 14 hours of broadcasting time on public radio and TV. The Constitutional Court is to rule later today on the opposition's complaint that the election law is unconstitutional in demanding that each of the registered parties pay a ballot-printing fee of 200,000 crowns (about $7,400) to each election district in which it competes. Some smaller parties have refused to pay the fee. President Vaclav Havel said on 12 May that parties that are unable to pay this amount are not viable and should not compete in the elections. The elections will be held on 31 May and 1 June. -- Jiri Pehe

SLOVAKS RALLY TO DEMAND INTERIOR MINISTER'S RESIGNATION.
Up to 8,000 people gathered in Bratislava's main square on 14 May and demanded that Interior Minister Ludovit Hudek resign over security officials' involvement in the kidnapping of President Michal Kovac's son, Slovak and international media reported. The rally, organized by the opposition Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) and Democratic Union, was a reaction to the broadcast tape recording of a conversation in which Hudek and Slovak Information Service Director Ivan Lexa discussed aspects of the case (see OMRI Daily Digest, 14 May 1996). Hudek said that broadcasting the tape infringed on his privacy but did not deny its content. Earlier, KDH deputy and former Interior Minister Ladislav Pittner presented the report of an independent commission he chaired, which investigated the abduction of Michal Kovac Jr. The report said the kidnapping was part of political attacks on the president since 1993, and Pittner called on Hudek, Lexa, and Prosecutor-General Michal Valo to resign. -- Steve Kettle



COUNCIL OF EUROPE MAKES UNPRECEDENTED MOVE AGAINST CROATIA . . .
Foreign ministers of the 39-member Council of Europe voted on 14 May to delay action until the end this month on Croatia's application for membership. They cited Zagreb's failure to act on a 21-point program on democracy and human rights that it had agreed on with the council in April. Spokesmen added that specific issues included press freedom, the status of the Zagreb city council, cooperation with the war crimes tribunal in The Hague, and the reunification of Mostar. Croatia's application had already been approved, first by a committee and then on 24 April by the parliamentary assembly. The action of the ministers at the third, and hitherto purely formal stage of the admission process, is unprecedented, Reuters and the BBC noted. Many in Strasbourg were angry with the Croatian government's moves since 24 April against the independent media and the opposition-dominated Zagreb council. -- Patrick Moore

. . . WHILE ZAGREB MULLS OVER ITS RESPONSE.
There was no immediate official comment in Croatia, but Vjesnik, a daily closely associated with the government, suggested on 15 May that democracy was not the real issue and that Croatia had been singled out for "special treatment" because of national interests among the European Council's members. The paper added that Croatia must now either comply if it wants to join the council or reconsider the importance of membership in European institutions. Slobodna Dalmacija added that London was the main culprit in blocking Croatia during the meeting, which generally demonstrated little consensus on the Croatian question. Many Croats regard Britain and France as hostile to their country's independence and believe the two countries are bent on restoring a Serb-dominated Yugoslavia. The council's move may backfire by strengthening a small but growing and influential number of people wary of European integration, who support instead strong bilateral ties with individual Central European states and above all with the U.S. -- Patrick Moore

U.S. OFFICIAL RESIGNS OVER SCHEDULING OF BOSNIAN ELECTIONS . . .
William Steubner, chief of staff of the OSCE mission, has resigned in protest against a decision to hold Bosnian elections in the fall, AFP reported on 15 May. Steubner believes Bosnia will not meet by that time OSCE conditions for the elections, such as a free media, the right of refugees and displaced people to return to their pre-war homes to vote, and the exclusion of indicted war criminals from the electoral process. Robert Frowick, the head of the OSCE mission in Bosnia, told The Washington Post he was greatly pressured to guarantee that the Bosnian elections would be held in September, as scheduled in the Dayton peace accord. Frowick stressed that the dangers of postponing the vote were greater than those of holding it on time. -- Daria Sito Sucic

. . . WHILE KARADZIC ANNOUNCES HIS PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDACY.
Radovan Karadzic, an indicted war criminal and president of the Republika Srpska, said he will run in the forthcoming Bosnian elections, Nasa Borba reported on 15 May. Karadzic noted his popularity among Bosnian Serbs and the support of the parliament as justification for his candidacy. He said he is in favor of early elections in Bosnia. "My leaving the post in this moment would only cause confusion," Karadzic said. He added that the international community is just wasting its time trying to find moderate Bosnian Serbs. He denied charges that he is a war criminal and said The Hague-based international tribunal for war crimes has no evidence against him. -- Daria Sito Sucic

JUDGE INDICTS SERB AFTER KOSOVO KILLING.
A Pristina judge has indicted Serb citizen Zlatibor Jovanovic for killing on 21 April Armend Daci, an Albanian student. A wave of violence in Kosovo resulted from the killing, leaving five Serbs and one Albanian child dead. Jovanovic claims he killed Daci accidentally and said earlier he thought the student was attempting to steal his car. Meanwhile, Democratic League of Kosovo leaders Fehmi Agani and Hydajet Hyseni met with German diplomats, including the German Ambassador to Belgrade. They discussed prospects for negotiations on the Kosovo conflict. The Kosovo leaders stressed that the independence of Kosovo is the only just and viable solution, KIC reported. Meanwhile, the Democratic Union of Albanians in Germany announced a hunger strike in Bonn, demanding EU recognition of Kosovo's independence, ATSH reported. -- Fabian Schmidt

YET ANOTHER CROAT-MUSLIM MILITARY AGREEMENT.
Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic, Bosnian Croat leader and federal President Kresimir Zubak, federal Vice President Ejup Ganic, and Bosnian Prime Minister Hasan Muratovic are among the dozen or so participants attending a "forum" in Washington D.C. to shore up the shaky Croat-Muslim federation. U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher said it is important to strengthen the federation as a cornerstone of the Dayton peace agreement. He and Zubak made optimistic statements, but Ganic slammed international peacekeepers not only for failing to arrest indicted war criminals Radovan Karadzic and Gen. Ratko Mladic, but for also sharing "the same roof" with them, AFP reported on 14 May. The Croats and Muslims signed an agreement that same day to unite their armed forces under a common defense ministry within three years. They have made and reneged on several such promises before, but the rather long, and hence possibly realistic, three-year timetable is new. -- Patrick Moore

POLISH PRESIDENT IN ROMANIA.
Aleksander Kwasniewski on 14 May began a two-day visit to Romania. He met with his Romanian counterpart, Ion Iliescu, premier Nicolae Vacaroiu, the chairmen of the bi-cameral parliament, and opposition leaders. Kwasniewski also addressed a joint session of the legislature's houses. Three economic and cultural cooperation agreements were signed. The visit ends on 15 May after the Polish president travels to the northern town of Suceava, where he will meet with members of Romania's small Polish minority. -- Michael Shafir

UPDATE ON ROMANIAN TELEPHONE BUGGING SCANDAL.
Nicolae Ulieru, spokesman for the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI), admitted on 14 May that SRI recorded the private telephone conversations that were played at a conference of the Greater Romania Party one day earlier but said the surveillance had been legal. Ulieru added that Constantin Bucur, the SRI captain who divulged the tape, will be prosecuted for revealing SRI secrets. Meanwhile, also on 14 May, the Chamber of Deputies approved a new law on communication, which had been debated in the house for some time before the scandal produced by Bucur's disclosures broke out. The legislation allows eavesdropping on telephone calls under warrant from the Prosecutor-General's Office. -- Michael Shafir

MOLDOVAN, DNIESTER SUMMIT FAILS AGAIN.
Moldovan officials and leaders of the self-proclaimed Dniester republic, meeting in Tiraspol on 14 May, failed to achieve a consensus on the Interim Memorandum on Dniester conflict settlement principles, Moldovan agencies reported. The Dniester leadership has reverted to last year's stance, insisting on a full division of powers between Chisinau and Tiraspol, which practically is a call for independence. Moldovan President Mircea Snegur, Parliament Speaker Petru Lucinschi, and Premier Andrei Sangheli attended the meeting, while Igor Smirnov, leader of the self-proclaimed republic, and Grigori Marakutsa, chairman of the Tiraspol Supreme Soviet, headed the Dniester delegation. The head of the OSCE mission in Moldova and the Ukrainian and Russian presidential envoys also participated. The next summit is scheduled for 17 June. -- Matyas Szabo

BULGARIAN LABOR LEADER OPPOSES GOVERNMENT PLAN.
Krastyu Petkov, head of the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions, on 14 May announced his opposition to government plans to revive the country's ailing economy, local media reported. Petrov disapproved of restructuring plans that call for the shutdown of redundant state-run enterprises. This move would put an estimated 29,000 employees out work, which Petrov said is an unacceptable outcome. So far, he is the only major labor leader to voice his opposition to the government's economic renewal proposals. The targeted firms, which Reuters reports represent some 29% of the economy's losses, have not yet been named publicly. -- Stan Markotich

BULGARIA'S BREAD CRISIS.
Falling bread supplies and grain shortages triggered "panic" in several Bulgarian cities, Reuters reported on 14 May. Bakeries throughout the country were forced to close or limit their sales. The Bulgarian government has attempted to allay public fears by issuing a statement reassuring consumers that there "will be enough bread for everyone." However, the local media are warning that the bread shortage may soon hit Sofia. Reuters quotes Millers' Union Secretary Hristo Nikolov as saying, "Bulgaria has only a very limited amount of wheat, which will last not even a month." -- Stan Markotich

ALBANIAN SOCIALISTS CHARGE DEMOCRATS WITH FURTHER INTIMIDATION BEFORE ELECTIONS.
Local Socialist candidate Alfred Paloka issued a statement in Zeri i Popullit on 15 May saying that "known activists of the Democratic Party" intruded on a Socialist public meeting in Shengjin and shot into the air and the ground with machine guns. Paloka claims that four policemen present during the incident did not interfere. Elsewhere, the Social Democrats (PSD) charged authorities with attempting to disrupt its election campaign. The PSD leader Skender Gjinushi said plain-clothes police had blocked streets, preventing him from meeting his party's supporters in the north. Meanwhile, Socialist Secretary-General Gramoz Ruci accused the election committees of failing to post on time in all districts the voters' lists and of registering some voters more than once. He also said police detained and beat Socialist supporters. -- Fabian Schmidt

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Deborah Michaels





XS
SM
MD
LG