Accessibility links

Newsline - May 22, 1996


COMMUNISTS DENOUNCE MEDIA "FALSIFICATIONS" . . .
Communist campaign manager and Duma deputy Valentin Kuptsov on 21 May denounced what he described as "false" documents that have appeared in the press recently. He particularly criticized Komsomolskaya pravda for publishing on 15 May what it claimed were excerpts from the Communists' economic program and Moskovskie novosti, which in its 19-26 May issue published an allegedly Communist document concerning plans to overturn President Boris Yeltsin's 1991 decree banning political activity in the workplace. -- Robert Orttung in Moscow

. . . WHILE THE RUMOR MILL CHURNS ON.
Kuptsov and Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov also denied widespread reports of discord during an 18 May Communist Central Committee meeting, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 May. For instance, Izvestiya ran the implausible scenario that Zyuganov was about to make a deal with Yeltsin, and deliberately lose the election in exchange for being appointed to the post of prime minister. Rumors about conflict within the Communist Party (KPRF) are published almost daily in the anti-Communist press, which includes independent publications such as Izvestiya and Moskovskii komsomolets as well as official newspapers like Rossiiskaya gazeta and Rossiiskie vesti. The rumors generally highlight more extreme elements within the KPRF, presumably in order to frighten swing voters. At the same time, reports depicting Zyuganov as ready to sell out or compromise are aimed at driving a wedge between him and his Communist supporters. -- Laura Belin

CANDIDATES HAVE TROUBLE FINALIZING PROGRAMS.
Both President Yeltsin and Zyuganov have had considerable difficulty issuing detailed versions of their electoral programs. Yeltsin's most recent plan was to issue his campaign platform by 20 May, but he did not meet his self-imposed deadline. One of his campaign managers, Sergei Filatov, said that he thought it would appear soon but that the staff needed at least two more days to finish it. Duma member Tatyana Koryagina, who is working on the Communists' economic platform, also said that it would take her team a few more days to iron out the main points of the opposition's proposals. She reassured reporters that private property would be respected and that price and foreign exchange controls would not be reimposed. -- Robert Orttung in Moscow

DEMOCRATS COMMEMORATE SAKHAROV'S BIRTH.
About 50 activists in a variety of Moscow democratic political parties and 150 journalists turned out on 21 May to mark the 75th anniversary of dissident Andrei Sakharov's birth on Lyubyanka Square, under the shadow of the former KGB headquarters. The speakers recalled the large crowds that turned out to mark the physicist's death and lamented the lack of unity among today's reformers. Those present denounced Zyuganov and the possible return to power of the Communists but were divided between President Yeltsin and Yavlinskii. Also on 21 May, a square was named after Sakharov in St. Petersburg, and the apartment in Nizhnii Novgorod (formerly Gorkii) where Sakharov spent nearly seven years in internal exile was opened as a museum, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Robert Orttung in Moscow

SPECULATION ON GRACHEV'S FUTURE.
The newspaper Nezavisimaya gazeta claimed on 21 May that a presidential decree firing Defense Minister Pavel Grachev and replacing him with retired General Boris Gromov has already been drawn up and will be signed by 3 or 4 June. The military commentator for Segodnya, Pavel Felgengauer, said "Grachev's position looks more shaky than ever." Gromov's differences with Grachev over Chechnya and other issues led to his removal as deputy defense minister in February 1995. Gromov was elected to the Duma in December 1995, and is currently actively campaigning for Yeltsin's re-election, appearing frequently as a TV spokesman for the president to defend his decree abolishing the draft, for example. Aleksandr Zhilin, military expert for Moskovskie novosti, said Grachev's April speech contradicting President Yeltsin on halting military actions in Chechnya had "put Yeltsin in a very difficult position. Logically Grachev must go," he was quoted as saying, "although you can never be sure with Yeltsin." -- Doug Clarke and Scott Parrish

DUMA URGES ACTION ON CHEMICAL WEAPONS.
At hearings on 21 May, deputies called for the speedy adoption of laws on the destruction of Russia's stockpile of chemical weapons and compensating residents exposed to environmental damage from their production and destruction, ITAR-TASS reported. Russia has 40,000 metric tons of chemical weapons, which are to be processed at plants near the seven arsenals where they are stored, in the regions of Udmurtiya, Bryansk, Kirov, Penza, Kurgan, and Saratov. Duma Environment Committee Chairwoman Tamara Zlotnikova complained that in 1995 the government disbursed only one third of the funds budgeted for chemical weapons destruction, and has released no funds at all for this purpose in 1996. The deputies noted upon the government to submit for ratification the treaty banning chemical weapons which Russia signed in January 1993. -- Scott Parrish

ST. PETERSBURG RUNOFF POSTPONED.
The St. Petersburg Electoral Commission has postponed the second round of the city's gubernatorial election until 2 June, ITAR-TASS and AFP reported on 21 May. Originally, the runoff was scheduled for 26 May, but the commission's spokesman said that it needs more time for preparations. Incumbent Anatolii Sobchak and his former first deputy, Vladimir Yakovlev, finished first and second in the 19 May first round (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20 May 1996). -- Anna Paretskaya

ANOTHER MAYORAL CANDIDATE REGISTERED IN MOSCOW.
The Moscow Electoral Commission has registered Moscow Duma deputy Olga Sergeeva as a candidate in the city's 16 June mayoral election, ITAR-TASS and NTV reported. The chairman of the nationalist Officers' Union, Stanislav Terekhov, is the deputy mayoral candidate on the Sergeeva ticket. This was Sergeeva and Terekhov's second attempt to register, after more than 4,000 of their 89,509 nomination signatures were found to have been forged the first time they tried to register. The ballot will include three other pairs of candidates for mayor and deputy mayor: incumbent Yurii Luzhkov and Moscow's Southern District administration head, Valerii Shantsev; the former head of a local Communist Party organization, Aleksandr Krasnov, and the director of a joint-stock company, Nikolai Moskvichev; the heads of another joint-stock company, Vladimir Filonenko and Nikolai Chumakov. -- Anna Paretskaya

PERRY WARNS RUSSIA, UKRAINE NOT TO SEND SS-18 TECHNOLOGY TO CHINA.
It would be a "significant mistake" if either Russia or Ukraine were to provide SS-18 strategic missile technology to China, U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry told reporters at the Pentagon on 21 May. Perry had revealed Chinese interest in the SS-18 in a Washington Times interview. The SS-18 is the largest intercontinental ballistic missile in the world. Built at the giant Pivdenmash plant in Ukraine, the SS-18 formed the backbone of the Soviet strategic rocket force. While Russia still deploys 186 of them, they would be eventually banned under the START II treaty. Perry said that other than making the missile's booster available for space launches, any transfer of SS-18 technology would violate the START I treaty and the Missile Technology Control Regime. -- Doug Clarke

PRESIDENTIAL AIDE: RUSSIA WILL "WRECK" NATO EXPANSION.
In an interview with Ekho Moskvy on 21 May, President Yeltsin's foreign policy aide, Dmitrii Ryurikov, condemned plans to expand NATO as "unwise, shortsighted, and irresponsible," saying Russia "is doing everything to wreck it." Ryurikov, apparently frustrated that repeated Russian offers of some sort of compromise have been snubbed, said he hoped "common sense would prevail," but that "for now there is little sign of this happening." He blamed NATO's inflexibility for the deadlock on the issue, claiming the alliance has no "serious thoughts" about cooperation with Russia. Meanwhile, at a conference in Dublin, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kyrlov repeated earlier compromise offers, saying Russia could accept East European countries joining NATO political but not military structures. He also urged these countries to consider Ireland, which belongs to the EU, but not NATO, as a possible model. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIA HAILS IRAQI-UN OIL DEAL.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigorii Karasin described the recently-signed agreement between the UN and Iraq as "a breakthrough," ITAR-TASS reported on 21 May. Under the deal, Iraq, which is still under a UN economic embargo imposed after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, will be allowed to sell $2 billion worth of oil to purchase food and medicine under UN supervision. Karasin added, however, that Russia views the deal as a "temporary measure" which "does not replace the main task of fully unblocking" the embargo. While all members of the UN Security Council supported the deal, Russia and France hope it will foster progress toward fully lifting the embargo, while the U.S. and Britain have a more guarded stance. Iraq owes Russia about $7 billion, which it cannot repay until after the embargo is lifted. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIAN CRIMINALS AN INTERNATIONAL THREAT.
Police officials from Europe and North America attended the third international seminar on organized crime in the former Soviet Union in London on 20-21 May, ITAR-TASS reported. The seminar was organized by Britain's National Criminal Intelligence Service. Valerii Serebryakov, from the Chief Directorate for Organized Crime, reported that there are 5,000 criminal gangs in Russia with 32,000 members, 100 of them with international operations. Extortion and money-laundering feature prominently in their activities. Maj. Gen. Giovanni Verdicchio of the Italian Financial Guards said the Italian Mafia is investing in privatized businesses in Russia. Meanwhile, in Moscow NTV reported on 20 May that Boris Fedorov, the president of the National Sports Foundation and the Natsionalnyi Kredit Bank, was arrested after drugs were found at his home. Fedorov is an associate of Shamil Tarpishchev, President Yeltsin's tennis coach and a co-founder of the National Sports Foundation. -- Peter Rutland

MURDER WAVE.
The number of murders in Russia rose from 15,500 in 1990 to 32,000 in 1995, Trud reported on 18 May. Many of them involve the division of the market economy spoils: last year, there were 500 contract killings, of which only 61 were solved. "We live in conditions of criminal terror," the report concluded. While 73% of murders in the country are solved--slightly more than in the U.S.--only 40% are solved in Moscow. The paper also noted that 2,447 murders were committed in Kazakhstan in 1995, which in proportion to the population is about half the Russian rate. In the latest round of a mafia turf war in Moscow, three members of the "Kazan gang" were shot dead on 20 May while standing outside a restaurant near the luxury Olympic Penta hotel, AFP reported. -- Peter Rutland

YELTSIN ISSUES DECREE ON TAXATION.
President Yeltsin issued a decree on 21 May promising to freeze the number and level of taxes from January 1997, ITAR-TASS reported. The decree also exempts firms from the 10 trillion rubles ($2 billion) in penalty payments which they currently owe as a result of late payment of taxes, and cuts the penalty for future tax arrears from 1% to 0.3% per day. The decree was issued in the absence of a revised Tax Code, the passage of which is bogged down in the Duma. -- Natalia Gurushina

RUSSIA APPLIES FOR OECD MEMBERSHIP.
Russia became the first former Soviet republic to apply for membership in the 27-country OECD, Western agencies reported on 21 May. Russia also requested entry into OECD's affiliates, the Nuclear Energy Agency and the International Energy Agency. In December 1995, the Czech Republic became the first former socialist country to join the OECD. OECD officials privately suggest that Russia is a long way from meeting the club's membership criteria. Russia has also applied to join seven working groups of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Organization (APEC), ITAR-TASS reported on 22 May. World Bank President James Wolfensohn arrived in Moscow on 22 May to discuss loans of $350 million and $500 million for highway renovation and coal industry reconstruction. -- Natalia Gurushina



UN SECURITY COUNCIL DENOUNCES OPPOSITION OFFENSIVE.
Responding to an appeal from Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov, the UN Security Council held a session on 21 May to discuss the situation in Tajikistan, particularly in the Tavil-Dara region, Reuters and AFP reported the same day. Security Council President Qin Huasun of China read a statement condemning "the planned and organized offensive by armed Tajik opposition in the Tavil-Dara region," and saying "that all such actions further aggravate the already serious humanitarian situation in Tajikistan." The statement called the offensive "totally unacceptable" and demanded an immediate cessation of hostilities in accordance with the Tehran ceasefire agreement signed in 1994, which was extended by another three months on 19 May. -- Bruce Pannier

DEFENSE INDUSTRY CONVERSION IN UZBEKISTAN.
U.S. Department of Commerce Undersecretary Barry Carter and Uzbek Prime Minister Utkir Sultanov on 16 May signed an agreement establishing the basic principles of Uzbek defense industry conversion, the BBC reported on 18 May. Uzbek President Islam Karimov is scheduled to visit Washington, D.C. in June 1996. -- Roger Kangas



UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER MEETS WITH EU OFFICIALS.
Hennadii Udovenko met with the European Commissioner for External Relations Hans van den Broek and the foreign ministers of Italy, Ireland, and Spain on 21 May in Rome, AFP reported. The meeting focused on Ukraine's relations with the EU and on how the organization can financially assist Ukraine in its economic reform program and the eventual shutdown of the Chornobyl nuclear power plant by the year 2000. The foreign ministers also released a statement noting that the EU considers Ukrainian independence, territorial integrity, and sovereignty vital to European security. In an interview with ITAR-TASS on 22 May, Udovenko reiterated that Ukraine should not become a buffer zone between NATO and Russia and questioned NATO expansion unless some agreement can be worked out with Russia. -- Roger Kangas

SECOND BELARUSIAN HUNGER STRIKER RELEASED.
The Belarusian authorities on 21 May released Belarusian Popular Front leader Yuriy Khadyka who had staged a hunger strike for the previous 23 days, Reuters reported. Khadyka had been protesting his detention on charges of organizing a rally in Minsk on 26 April that opposed the pro-Russian policies of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. He went from prison to the Minsk hospital, where his co-hunger striker Vyachaslau Siuchyk has been receiving treatment since 17 May. The detention of the two BPF leaders prompted numerous appeals and a demonstration in Minsk for their release. The charges against the two have not been dropped, and they could face up to three years' imprisonment if convicted. -- Saulius Girnius

ESTONIA ALLOWS RUSSIA TO OPEN CONSULATE IN TARTU.
The Estonian Foreign Ministry has agreed to the opening of a Russian consular department in Tartu, ETA reported on 21 May. The ministry had rejected previous requests by Russia for such an office, arguing that Estonia was so small that the embassy in Tallinn and consular office in Narva were sufficient. The decision, announced prior to the next round of border talks between the two countries in Pskov on 22-23 May, is expected to make it easier for some Russian citizens living in Estonia to vote in the June presidential elections in Russia. -- Saulius Girnius

DATE SET FOR LATVIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS.
The Saeima Caucas Council has announced it will convene a special session of the parliament on 18 June to elect a new state president, BNS reported on 21 May. It also proposed that the parliament's spring session end on 17 June and the fall session begin on 8 August. The term of President Guntis Ulmanis expires on 7 July so there will be ample opportunity to hold a second round of voting if none of the nominees wins in the first round. The four candidates so far are Ulmanis, supported by the Farmers' Union, Christian Democratic Union, and Latvia's Way; Ilga Kreituse of the Democratic Party Saimnieks; Imants Liepa of the Popular Movement of Latvia; and imprisoned former Communist Party First Secretary Alfreds Rubiks. -- Saulius Girnius

POLES ON RUSSIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION . . .
A recent public opinion poll conducted by the Warsaw-based Public Opinion Research Center (OBOP) shows that 42% of Poles over the age of 15 are anxious about the outcome of the presidential elections in Russia next month. Only 7% of respondents were "hopeful" about the outcome, with 24% saying they were not interested and 20% declaring indifference. Of the respondents, 59% believed that Russia would like to subordinate Poland to Russian rule; only 23% did not believe this was the case, Gazeta Wyborcza reported on 22 May. -- Jakub Karpinski

. . . AND CZECHS ON CZECH-GERMAN DECLARATION.
More than 55% of the respondents in a recent opinion poll say they would accept a Czech-German declaration in which the Czechs admitted the "moral incorrectness" of the expulsion of some 3 million Sudeten Germans from Czechoslovakia after World War II if the Germans gave up property claims and compensated Czech victims of the Nazi regime. Conducted by the Factum agency and published in Mlada Fronta Dnes on 22 May, the poll revealed that such a declaration would be unacceptable to only 30% of the respondents. Previous polls have indicated that an overwhelming majority of Czechs are opposed to an official apology for the expulsion; the Factum poll used the term "admitting moral incorrectness." According to the poll, those who experienced World War II and those with leftist views are more likely to oppose any settlement of the Sudeten German issue, while young people tend to be more pragmatic. -- Jiri Pehe

SLOVAK PRESIDENT'S SON REACTS TO POLICE DECISION.
Michal Kovac Jr. on 21 May issued a statement to TASR responding to the police's decision the previous day to adjourn the investigation into his kidnapping. He wrote that, "I do not wish for anyone, even those who would rather believe in lies, to experience such an approach of the state to its citizen [as I have]." Alluding to his father, he noted that "this state has tried to discredit its citizen in every way possible in order to remove from office another citizen, coincidentally the first citizen of this state." In an attempt to reach its aim, the state "tried to use the police in order to discredit [Kovac Jr.] and put him in prison," even utilizing "the services of individuals with a criminal past," he argued. -- Sharon Fisher

SLOVAK CABINET SUES SLOVAK JOURNALIST.
The government on 21 May announced that a law suit has been filed against Sme editor Peter Toth and its publisher for "intolerance and gross and ungrounded attacks against the cabinet," TASR reported. The government is demanding a public apology and compensation "for the damage to civic honor and human dignity." Toth, who has closely covered the kidnapping of President Michal Kovac's son, has been a frequent victim of criticism from coalition representatives. He was physically attacked last October. The current charges stem from Toth's statements at former policeman Robert Remias's funeral, when he accused the Slovak Information Service and government circles of involvement in Remias's death. Sme chief editor Karol Jezik told CTK that the suit is "an attempt at intimidation," adding that the cabinet has already filed more than ten lawsuits against Sme and its editors. -- Sharon Fisher

HUNGARIAN FIGHTER PLANES LEAVE FOR POLAND WITHOUT PARLIAMENT'S APPROVAL.
Hungary's armed forces have sent MiG-29 aircraft to Poland for military exercises without the approval of the parliament, Hungarian media reported on 22 May. The Hungarian Army's official 1996 schedule provided for the deployment of eight MiG fighters to Poland on 16 May, but the parliament did not give its approval by that date. The planes were reportedly sent to Poland without even the approval of Defense Minister Gyorgy Keleti. Magyar Hirlap quotes the constitution as stating that the armed forces cannot cross the country's borders without the prior consent of parliament, except in the case of military exercises within the framework of international treaties or peacekeeping activities carried out at the request of the United Nations. The five opposition parties on 21 May unanimously demanded the dismissal of Keleti. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

HUNGARY TO GRANT COMMON LAW RIGHTS TO HOMOSEXUAL COUPLES.
The parliament on 21 May amended the Civil Code to grant common law rights to homosexual couples, Hungarian media reported. Homosexuals are now entitled to inherit property from their partners and receive a deceased partner's pension. But they will not be allowed to adopt children. The amendment was required after a Constitutional Court ruling in March 1995 extending recognition of common-law relationships to homosexual couples. -- Zsofia Szilagyi



BILDT FAILED TO OUST KARADZIC?
High Representative for Bosnia Carl Bildt and commander of IFOR ground troops Lt. Gen. Sir Michael Walker, meeting with the Bosnian Serb leadership at Pale on 21 May, failed to receive a commitment that the Bosnian Serb leader and indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic would resign, international agencies reported. Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic noted that the effort to unseat Karadzic has failed, AFP reported. Meanwhile, in an interview with the B 92 radio station, Bildt said he will ask Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to help arrest Karadzic and another indicted war criminal, Bosnian Serb Gen. Ratko Mladic. Nasa Borba on 22 May commented that if Bildt reports to the UN Contact Group that Milosevic has failed to help implement the Dayton peace agreement, sanctions to the rump Yugoslavia could be resumed. -- Daria Sito Sucic

BOSNIAN GOVERNMENT THREATENS TO BOYCOTT ELECTIONS.
Vice President Ejup Ganic has said his government will not take part in the vote slated for mid-September unless indicted war criminals Karadzic and Mladic are removed from power. He also demanded a change in the election rules to ensure that people can vote in home areas from which they have been expelled. "The danger of these elections, if they are not done correctly, is that they will verify ethnic cleansing. They will become a blueprint for how to ethnically expel people," the New York Times on 22 May quoted him as saying. Ganic's views are in keeping with the Dayton agreement, but its key architect, Richard Holbrooke, now seems to have doubts about the principles Ganic recalled. Holbrooke told the BBC on 21 May that massive and involuntary demographic changes have become "a fact of life" in Bosnia. He added, however, that elections must take place this year even if they are "flawed" lest they never be held. -- Patrick Moore

NATO NOT TO HUNT DOWN KARADZIC?
Atlantic Alliance sources on 21 May said that IFOR troops will not go after Karadzic for fear the move could lead to casualties among the peacekeepers, Onasa reported. The head of the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, Justice Richard Goldstone, said however that he cannot "believe that 60,000 [IFOR] troops would have difficulty" in arresting the war criminals, The New York Times noted on 22 May. Meanwhile in Washington, State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said the U.S. has spoken to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic about his obligation to make sure the Bosnian Serbs observe all aspects of the Dayton accord, including bringing war criminals to justice. Milosevic reportedly told the Americans that he wants the Bosnian Serbs to comply, but he did not say what he will do about it, Onasa added. Burns also called Karadzic's plans for a referendum "a lot of hot air," adding that "it won't happen because we won't let it happen," Reuters stated. -- Patrick Moore

SERBIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH NEW ACTING BOSNIAN SERB PRESIDENT.
Meanwhile, Milosevic met with Biljana Plavsic on 21 May, Nasa Borba reported the following day. Recently appointed by Karadzic, she was accompanied by vice president Nikola Koljevic. Their meeting focused on major political issues in Bosnia, with Milosevic encouraging the Bosnian Serbs to set up and respect "democratic institutions" before the elections. Milosevic recently has come under pressure from the international community to secure a change in the leadership of the Bosnian Serbs, in particular Karadzic's removal from power. -- Stan Markotich

SERBS TORTURED SEVEN MUSLIM PRISONERS.
Bosnian Serb policemen beat and abused seven uniformed Muslims arrested by U.S. IFOR troops in eastern Bosnia earlier this month and then handed them over to the local police force. A UN spokesman said the torture to obtain confessions took place in a prison in Zvornik, Oslobodjenje reported on 22 May. The men, whose origin and identity are unknown, are now being held in Bijeljina, where they have received some medical attention. The Muslims were armed, and explosions were heard before they surrendered to the Americans. Bosnian officials maintain they may be refugees from Srebrenica who have been hiding out in the woods and mountains, but NATO said they looked too well fed and groomed to have been living rough since last summer. -- Patrick Moore

SERBS BEGIN DEMILITARIZATION IN EASTERN SLAVONIA.
Jacques Klein, UN administrator for the Croatian Serb-held eastern Slavonia, has announced that Serbian demilitarization in the region began on 21 May following the full deployment of the 5,000-strong multinational UN peacekeeping force (UNTAES), international and local media reported. Demilitarization is to be completed within one month. UN sources said the Serbs have already withdrawn most of their heavy weapons to Serbia and Montenegro. Croatian Radio on 21 May reported that telephone lines between eastern Slavonia and other parts of Croatia have been partly restored as a step toward full reintegration with the rest of Croatia. -- Daria Sito Sucic

NATO TROOPS TO PARTICIPATE IN JOINT MILITARY MANEUVERS IN ROMANIA.
At the request of President Ion Iliescu, the Chamber of Deputies on 21 May approved the participation of NATO troops in six joint military exercises to be held on Romanian territory this year within the framework of the Partnership for Peace program, Radio Bucharest reported on the same day. Socialist Labor Party deputy Silviu Somacu vehemently opposed the proposal, raising arguments described by Adevarul as "typical of communist propaganda." Some deputies called him a "dirty Communist," and fist-fight was narrowly averted, Evenimentul zilei reported. -- Michael Shafir

MOLDOVAN CAPITAL WARNS OF SPREAD OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES.
The Chisinau Mayor's Office has declared a state of emergency "in connection with the danger of spread of acute diarrhea, cholera, and other infectious diseases," BASA-press reported on 20 May. Deputy Major Dumitru Gatcan said the office has banned selling perishable products on the streets. An official of the National Hygiene and Epidemology Center told BASA that the cholera danger persists this year, especially in the Transdniester region, where most cases were reported in 1995. -- Michael Shafir

OSCE MISSION HEAD'S MANDATE ENDS IN MOLDOVA.
Michael Wygant, whose mandate as head of the OSCE mission in Moldova has ended, on 20 May met with President Mircea Snegur, BASA-press reported . Snegur said the mission has helped Moldova maintain peace and take steps toward reaching a settlement to the Transdniestrian dispute. At the same time, he insisted that such a settlement "must proceed from the premise of Moldova's independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity, [which are] recognized by the mediators." Wygant said the time when "theoretical discussions will be replaced by practical action in a united, integral, and independent Moldova" was not far off. -- Michael Shafir

COUNTERFEIT WESTERN BILLS FLOOD BULGARIA.
With the lev continuing to fall against the U.S. dollar and with many Bulgarians trying to trade their lev savings for hard currency, large amounts of counterfeit U.S. and German bills are circulating in Bulgaria, Bulgarian National Bank Deputy Governor Dimitar Dimitrov told Bulgarian TV on 21 May. A senior police official estimated that "dozens of millions" of counterfeit U.S. dollars are on the Bulgarian market. According to 24 chasa, the bogus bills come from the Middle East via Turkey. In other news, Bulgaria and the EU on 21 May agreed to boost nuclear safety at the Kozloduy nuclear power plant, RFE/RL reported. Kozloduy's Reactor No. 1 was shut down for EU-sponsored safety tests last week. Bulgarian and EU experts will jointly decide when it will go back on line. -- Stefan Krause

BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES BANKING LAWS.
The Bulgarian parliament on 21 May passed on first reading a law on compensating citizens and enterprises that have lost their savings in banks facing bankruptcy proceedings, Bulgarian media reported The law envisions full compensation for citizens and 50% compensation for companies. Finance Minister Dimitar Kostov estimates these measures will cost 20 billion leva ($159 million). -- Michael Wyzan

BULGARIAN PRIME MINISTER IN CHINA.
Zhan Videnov on 21 May reaffirmed that Sofia remains committed to its "one China" policy, Trud reported. Speaking in Beijing,
he commented that Bulgaria will not establish official contacts with Taiwan. Videnov also said that Tibet is an "autonomous region" in China and that the Tibetan issue is China's internal affair. Videnov told his Chinese counterpart, Li Peng, that his government considers good relations and cooperation with Beijing one of its foreign-policy priorities. Several bilateral agreements have been signed so far, including ones on cooperation in public security, education, science, and patents. Videnov is the first Bulgarian prime minister to visit China in some 40 years. -- Stefan Krause

RECORD ECONOMIC GROWTH IN ALBANIA.
According to an IMF report, Albania continues to be the poorest European country, but its economy is the fastest-growing in Europe, AFP reported on 21 May. The report states that the economy grew by 11% last year, while the budget deficit was 7% of GDP and annual inflation only 6%. Foreign investment amounted to $2.5 billion, and remittances from Albanians working abroad reached $400-600 million. However, wages remain low--at an average of $70 a month--and unemployment is still widespread. The Frankfurter Rundschau on 22 May reported that official unemployment is 15% but soars to almost 50% in the former industrial regions in the north. -- Stefan Krause

PROSECUTOR DEMANDS LIFE IMPRISONMENT FOR FORMER ALBANIAN COMMUNISTS.
Prosecutor Arjan Sulstafa on 21 May demanded that former President Haxhi Lleshi, Deputy Prime Minister Manush Myftiu, Supreme Court Chairman Aranit Cela, and Deputy Interior Minister and head of the secret police Zylyftar Ramizi be sentenced to life imprisonment, Reuters reported. He also urged that the fifth defendant, former Prosecutor-General Rrapi Mino, receive a 25-year sentence. The five former officials are charged with crimes against humanity while in power. They are also accused of ordering the internal exile of political opponents. -- Stefan Krause

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave











XS
SM
MD
LG