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Newsline - May 31, 1996


YELTSIN UNVEILS ELECTION PLATFORM . . .
Campaigning in Perm Oblast, President Boris Yeltsin unveiled his long-awaited election platform, in which he promises to finish political and economic reforms begun during the last five years, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported on 31 May. As is his usual practice, he warned of the dangers of a Communist comeback, reminding supporters, "In recent years, we have begun to forget what empty shelves are." The 31 May issue of Izvestiya previewed the president's platform, which is 250 pages long. In the political sphere, it promises to support civil society, strengthen the multi-party system, and protect freedom of the press and voters' rights. Concerning economic policy, the platform admits that Yeltsin has made mistakes in recent years but promises, among other things, to protect citizens' incomes from inflation and "dishonest commercial structures," enact tax and agrarian reform, and implement an industrial policy to protect domestic producers. -- Laura Belin

. . . AND TRIES TO CHARM VOTERS IN BASHKORTOSTAN.
Before arriving in Perm, Yeltsin spent two days in the largely agricultural Republic of Bashkortostan, Russian media reported on 30 May. Claiming that the deal he recently concluded in Chechnya will lead to lasting peace there, he pledged to support friendship among different nationalities. (The population of Bashkortostan is about 39% ethnic Russian, 28% Tatar, and 22% Bashkir.) Visiting a state collective farm, Yeltsin promised to support private farming but not to force collectives to disband. The president also displayed his improvisational skills, dancing at a 29 May rock concert and joking with university students at a rally the next day. In the 1995 parliamentary election, parties whose leaders now support Gennadii Zyuganov gained nearly 50% of the vote in Bashkortostan. -- Laura Belin

ZYUGANOV HOPES FOR AGREEMENT WITH THIRD FORCE CANDIDATES.
Although he firmly rejected Vladimir Zhirinovsky's suggestion that he "fall on his knees" begging for an electoral alliance, Gennadii Zyuganov announced on a campaign visit to the Republic of Kabardino-Balkariya that he would like to hold consultations with Svyatoslav Fedorov and Aleksandr Lebed, NTV reported on 30 May. Fedorov said Zyuganov's offer was news to him and repeated that he favors a "national unity" government, in which Zyuganov, Zhirinovsky, socialists, and liberals would all be represented. Lebed was dismissive of the offer: "I'm not looking for the bright future anymore...Whether [Zyuganov] falls on his knees or not, it doesn't interest me." (More on Zyuganov in Southeastern Europe section.) -- Laura Belin

YAVLINSKII: DON'T BE AFRAID TO VOTE FOR ME.
Campaigning in Samara Oblast, Grigorii Yavlinskii said he is confident he can win the presidential election "if people are not afraid" to vote for him, Russian TV (RTR) reported on 30 May. Recent opinion polls measure the number of people planning to vote for Yavlinskii in the single digits, although as many as 18% say he is the candidate they would most like to see become president. News coverage of the Yabloko leader on Russia's major television networks is not so much critical as dismissive. Commentators often suggest that Yavlinskii has no chance to win, and votes cast for him will be wasted or will work in favor of Gennadii Zyuganov. -- Laura Belin

SATAROV WARNS OF COMMUNIST FALSIFICATION, DISORDER AFTER THE ELECTIONS.
Presidential adviser Georgii Satarov warned on 30 May that the Communists no longer believe that they can win the election, and are prepared to use any means necessary to take power. He told OMRI that the official vote count could be falsified at the level of vote counters who will simply count votes for other candidates as a vote for the Communist candidate. He complained that, according to the current law, observers cannot look over their shoulders and see if the vote count is accurate. He also argued that the Communists are going to conduct their own parallel vote count, potentially leading to a confrontation that could be worse than the October 1993 standoff between President Yeltsin and the Supreme Soviet. He alleged that the Communists are preparing military units that they could deploy before or after the election but refused to be more specific about the source of this information other than saying that it had been published in newspapers. -- Robert Orttung in Moscow

YELTSIN SUPPORT GROUP ACCUSES OPPOSITION OF CHEATING IN 1995 DUMA CAMPAIGN.
The All-Russian Movement for Social Support of Yeltsin issued a press release on 30 May arguing that several opposition parties, including the Communist Party of the Russian Federation and the Liberal Democratic Party, had benefited from suspicious practices during last year's Duma campaign. In many regions where the Communists are strong, as many as 40% of the votes were cast in "mobile ballot boxes" that were established to allow people who could not come to the polls to vote at a more convenient location. In Russia generally, only 4.6% of the voters used this method of voting. There was also a direct correlation between increased turnout and increased support for opposition parties. -- Robert Orttung in Moscow

ILLARIONOV: COMMUNIST ECONOMIC PROGRAM COULD BE EFFECTIVE POLITICALLY.
. .
The director of the Institute of Economic Analysis, Andrei Illarionov, on 30 May argued that even though the Communists' recently published economic program has "numerous factual errors," it could be effective at winning votes because it repeats many myths that are commonly circulated in society. He argued that the program reflects a "primitive" understanding of the social processes taking place in the country today. He pointed out that on the one hand, the Communists criticize the subsidies that are granted to other CIS countries, while on the other, they call for voluntary reintegration of the CIS which would require large subsidies to attract former Soviet republics. -- Robert Orttung in Moscow

. . .BUT MAY THWART RUSSIA'S EFFORTS TO JOIN WTO.
Senior officials at the World Trade Organization (WTO) say the unveiling of the Communist Party's economic program--which calls for restoring the state's leading role in the economy, extending subsidies to industry and agriculture, and increasing trade protectionism--may thwart Russia's efforts to join the organization, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported on 30 May. They stress that if the Communists win the election, there will be little chance to grant Russia WTO membership and "this whole exercise will be dropped." The third session of the WTO working group that is dealing with Russia's application is concentrating on intellectual rights, services, and trade aspects of investment policy. The head of Russia's delegation at the talks, First Deputy Foreign Economic Relations Minister Georgii Gabunia, emphasized the importance of conducting the negotiations in "a constructive atmosphere" on the eve of the presidential election. -- Natalia Gurushina

COMMENTATOR: GRACHEV EMERGES VICTORIOUS.
Writing in Segodnya on 30 May, military commentator Pavel Felgengauer said Defense Minister Pavel Grachev had "triumphed" over his opponents at the 29 May Moscow meeting of top military officials (see OMRI Daily Digest, 30 May 1996). Felgengauer said Grachev's harsh attacks on Col. Gen. Boris Gromov, delivered at the meeting while President Yeltsin sat silently behind him on the podium, show that Yeltsin does not plan to remove Grachev immediately, as many had speculated. Grachev suits Yeltsin, added Felgengauer, because the defense minister is so unpopular and isolated that he must remain obedient to the president, his only political supporter. Nevertheless, Felgengauer said Yeltsin may still decide to jettison Grachev before the election. Despite Yeltsin's apparent support for Grachev, Gromov continued to campaign for the president, addressing an election rally in Tambov on 30 May, according to ITAR-TASS. -- Scott Parrish

LOCAL SELF GOVERNMENT ELECTIONS NO LATER THAN FALL 1996.
The Constitutional Court has ruled that the Russian local legislative and executive bodies must be elected no later than the fall of this year, ITAR-TASS and ORT reported on 30 May. The August 1995 law on self government, which was passed by the Duma and signed by the president, requires elections to be held by March 1996. However, President Yeltsin has challenged the Duma's authority to set specific dates for the local elections. -- Anna Paretskaya

RUSSIAN-ESTONIAN POLLING STATION DISPUTE.
Russia may file a protest with the Council of Europe over Estonia's refusal to open supplementary polling stations for Russian citizens to vote in the upcoming Russian presidential election, Radio Rossii reported on 30 May. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Valentin Matvienko said Russia views the Estonian decision as a violation of the human rights of Russian citizens living in Estonia, many of whom may not be able to reach the Russian Embassy in Tallinn or the consulates in Narva and Tartu. These are currently the only places in Estonia where polling stations will be opened. Estonian officials, however, have expressed willingness to allow additional polling stations but only if Moscow provides Tallinn with a list of Russian citizens living in Estonia which substantiates the need for them. Russian diplomats have categorically rejected this Estonian request, triggering the current deadlock. -- Scott Parrish

RUSSIAN VIEWS OF TURKEY.
Turkey represents a part of the external threat to Russia's security, Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev said at the opening of a conference of leading military personnel, according to Krasnaya zvezda and other Russian media on 29 and 30 May. While Grachev's remarks mainly focused on Russia's displeasure with the prospective eastward expansion of NATO, he argued that "a number of West European countries and Turkey" are seeking to thwart CIS integration. In a thinly veiled reference to Turkey, he noted that "strategic aims" were being pursued in efforts to reduce Russia's influence in the Black Sea, Transcaucasus, and Central Asia--areas in which Turkey has officially claimed an interest. He went on to suggest that Turkey is attempting to hinder Russia's efforts to integrate these countries more closely into the CIS, and is even encouraging them to adopt a hostile attitude toward Russia. -- Lowell Bezanis

RUSSIAN PASSENGER TRAINS RE-ROUTED TO AVOID UKRAINE.
Russian passenger trains bound for popular Black Sea resorts like Sochi will be rerouted this summer to avoid passing through Ukraine, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 May. Beginning on 2 June, most trains heading to the Russian Black Sea coast from Moscow and points north will be routed through Voronezh in order to avoid lengthy delays caused by customs and passport controls at the Russian-Ukrainian border, which had to be crossed twice on the previous route. Railway Ministry officials said the new route will take less time, even though it is longer. -- Scott Parrish

PARLIAMENTARY DELEGATION IN MONGOLIA.
Russian Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev and Mongolian Prime Minister Puntsagiyn Jasray signed a bilateral parliamentary cooperation agreement in Ulaanbaatar on 30 May, ITAR-TASS reported. The agreement calls for regular exchanges of legislators and local officals from the two countries, and also commits both to harmonizing economic legislation in order to facilitate trade. Seleznev expressed satisfaction that Mongolia views Russia as a "strategic partner," and praised Ulaanbaatar for "doing everything possible" to strengthen the Russian-Mongolian partnership. -- Scott Parrish

WORLD BANK GIVES RUSSIA $89 MILLION LOAN TO DEVELOP FINANCIAL MARKETS.
The World Bank has agreed to open a $89 million credit line to Russia to support the development of the country's financial markets, AFP reported on 30 May. The credit is payable in 17 years with a five-year grace period. Part of the loan will be spent on improving the markets' regulatory infrastructure and on supplying telecommunications and computer equipment. The remaining money will be used to create a computerized system at the Finance Ministry for monitoring the issuance of government securities. -- Natalia Gurushina

CORRECTION:
In the OMRI Daily Digest of 28 May, the item "Constitutional Court Begins Review of Organized Crime Decree," the second sentence should have read: ...permitting suspects to be held for up to 30 days without charges..



ALIEV'S CRITICISM OF TURKEY.
Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev told a conference in Baku that some groups in Turkey sympathize with unnamed armed groups and individuals in Azerbaijan that are determined to undermine the country's stability, Zaman reported on 31 May. He noted that these Turkish groups are injurious to Turkish-Azerbaijani relations. Aliyev made his remarks at a conference organized by the Turkish Economic Research Foundation, entitled "Azerbaijan-Turkey Economic Cooperation." Aliyev called on Turkish businessmen to put profit "second" in considering whether to invest in Azerbaijan. -- Lowell Bezanis

STALEMATE OVER KOMSOMOLSKAYA PRAVDA NEGOTIATIONS IN KAZAKHSTAN.
Judge Iraida Fadina's efforts to resolve the dispute between the editors of Komsomolskaya pravda and the Procurator General's Office (see OMRI Daily Digest, 30 May 1996) have been inconclusive so far, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 May. Fadina said the court hearing, scheduled for 7 June, can be revoked only if the Procurator General's Office withdraws its petition for a ban on the newspaper or if Komsomolskaya pravda issues a public apology. Komsomolskaya pravda denies allegations by the Union of Writers of Kazakhstan and the procuracy that it incited ethnic tension by publishing the views of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. The chairman of the government's National Agency for Press and Mass Media, Altynbek Sarsenbayev, has endorsed the ban on the Kazakhstani edition of the Russian newspaper. -- Bhavna Dave

KINKEL VISITS UZBEKISTAN, KAZAKHSTAN.
German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel arrived in Almaty after a one-day visit to Tashkent, Russian and Western media reported on 31 March. Kinkel, who is accompanied by 20 entrepreneurs and a parliamentary delegation, described Uzbekistan as a "peaceful center in Central Asia." In Uzbekistan, Kinkel signed economic cooperation agreements in the field of chemical engineering, communications, agriculture, and energy, and agreed to take measures to improve the investment climate. Germany is among the top trading partners for both Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. -- Bhavna Dave



NEW UKRAINIAN PREMIER OFFERS BAILOUT OF COAL INDUSTRY.
Pavlo Lazarenko, Ukraine's new prime minister, announced that his government will allocate another 35 trillion karbovantsi ($189 million) to bailout the country's troubled coal industry, Ukrainian TV reported on 30 May. He said part of the funds will go toward payment of the government's 38 trillion karbovantsi wage debt to miners, while some 6 trillion karbovantsi will be used for state coal purchases. Some 40 mines are on now strike, the largest walkout since employees at 100 mines held strikes in early February demanding payment of back wages. Coal Industry Minister Serhii Polyoakov said the government plans to shut down 100 unprofitable mines, mainly in the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts. He said there are plans to transfer all social facilities and services in the country's coal mining towns to the jurisdiction of local councils. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

MORE DEMONSTRATIONS IN BELARUS.
Around 3,000 people demonstrated in front of the presidential palace in Minsk demanding the release of nine activists arrested during the 26 April Chornobyl demonstrations, international agencies reported. The crowd chanted slogans against President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, at which point security forces broke up the demonstration, beating several protesters and arresting 100-200 people. Although no political party has taken responsibility for organizing the rally, authorities accused the Belarusian Popular Front (BPF). In the past, the government has blamed solely the BPF for instigating demonstrations that were in fact organized by a number of parties and organizations. The consistent allegations that the BPF is responsible for organizing mass protests is seen as a pretext to justify banning the organization. -- Ustina Markus

ESTONIA'S FOREIGN POLICY PRESENTED.
Foreign Minister Siim Kallas gave his regular semi-annual overview of Estonia's foreign policy to the parliament on 30 May, ETA reported. Its focus was on the normalization of relations with Russia. Kallas noted that from 1991 to 1996, 24 different agreements came into force between the two countries, four more were signed, and another 47 agreements were in various stages of preparation. He considered the agreements on prevention of double taxation, protection of investments, and cooperation between interior ministries to be the most important. Kallas also pointed out that "for the first time in history we have reached equilibrium (with the Nordic countries)." Countering what he called the "unfortunate impression" that Estonia wanted to join the EU before Latvia and Lithuania, he said the three states' policies would be guided by the gentlemanly formula "one for all, all for one." -- Saulius Girnius

POLISH PARLIAMENT SLASHES EX-PRESIDENTS' PENSIONS.
The Polish Sejm decided on 30 May to approve a Senate amendment to a 12 April Sejm bill, cutting in half pensions awarded to former presidents. The Sejm approved in April a bill granting former presidents a pension equal to the current president's salary. Now the former presidents will be entitled to $800 plus secretarial expenses of $1,500 per month. The average monthly wage in Poland is around $350. The amendment affects three former presidents: Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, Lech Walesa, and Ryszard Kaczorowski who is the only living president of Poland's exile government that functioned in London until Walesa was elected in 1990. The bill awaits the current President Aleksander Kwasniewski's signature. -- Jakub Karpinski

SLOVAK PRIME MINISTER RESPONDS TO PRESIDENT'S CHARGES.
Vladimir Meciar on 30 May said the law suit brought against him the previous day by Michal Kovac is another effort by the president to discredit the prime minister and increase social and political tension in Slovakia, Slovak media reported. The prime minister's spokeswoman Magda Pospisilova issued a statement saying that if Meciar is acquitted of the charges brought against him, then Kovac will be "morally and politically obliged to resign." Laszlo Gyurovszky of the Hungarian Civic Party told CTK that the president's lawsuit makes a "mockery" of Slovakia. He noted, however, that Kovac has political justification for making the charges, adding that "in normal states it is not common for the prime minister to make groundless accusations against the head of state." -- Sharon Fisher

SLOVAK INVESTIGATOR CRITICIZES INDEPENDENT COMMISSION.
Policeman Jozef Ciz on 30 May rejected assertions made by opposition Christian Democratic Movement deputy Ladislav Pittner's commission investigating the kidnapping of Michal Kovac Jr., Slovak media reported. He called the commission's attacks on Interior Ministry officials, the prosecutor-general, and the Slovak Information Service "groundless" and criticized the commission for publicizing the full names of alleged participants in the kidnapping without offering proof. Ciz noted that SIS director Ivan Lexa has yet to say whether the Mercedes van that was parked in front of Kovac Jr.'s home before the abduction is used by the SIS. Police Investigation Department Chief Jan Kostov noted that Czech and German experts will assist in clearing up the case of former policeman Robert Remias's death in a car explosion last month. -- Sharon Fisher

HUNGARIAN GOVERNMENT SACKS PRIVATIZATION AGENCY'S HEAD.
The government on 30 May dismissed Attila Lascsik from his positions as CEO and board member of the State Privatization and Holding Co. (APV Rt.), Hungarian dailies reported. The cabinet spokesman said the personnel change will speed up the privatization of small- and medium-sized enterprises. However, analysts believe the sacking is connected to a controversial privatization deal in April, when APV Rt.'s management sold a 51% stake in a Szolnok-based oil drilling company, Koolajkutato Rt., to the Russian-owned Arhangelsk Geologia firm (AGH) despite objections from both Koolajkutato's management and the mayor of Szolnok. Privatization Minister Tamas Suchman's investigation into the affair found numerous irregularities during the invitation for tender. Also, the fact that AGH happened to be set up after APV Rt. extended the deadline for bids without any substantial reason raised many eyebrows. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

HUNGARY POSTPONES JET FIGHTER TENDER.
The Hungarian government has postponed until mid-1997 one of its most publicized tenders, a $1 billion deal to modernize its air force, international media and Hungarian dailies reported on 31 May. The government spokesman said Hungary will wait until NATO membership talks begin. Earlier, Hungary announced its intention to upgrade its ailing jet fighters with some 30 NATO-compatible jets and tender was to be announced by the end of 1996. Swedish-made Gripen, U.S.-made Lockheed F-16, McDonnell Douglas/Northrop's F-18s, and French Mirage 2000-5s are contending. -- Zsofia Szilagyi



OPPOSITION AND POLICE CLASH IN SOUTHERN ALBANIA.
Many people were injured during clashes between supporters of the opposition parties and special police forces in Permet on 30 May, Gazeta Shqiptare reported. Children and women are among the injured and four people were hospitalized in critical condition. Two policemen were also hurt. The clashes developed after thousands of people from the surrounding villages came to the city to participate in a protest rally against the ruling Democratic Party's alleged massive manipulation of the elections. The Socialist Party, the Democratic Alliance, the Social Democrats, the Agrarian Party, the Party of National Unity, and the Party of the Democratic Right had earlier applied for permission to hold the demonstration, but the Interior Ministry refused the authorization. -- Fabian Schmidt in Tirana

ALBANIAN JOURNALISTS PROTEST BEATING.
After the severe beating of Bardhok Lala, a Dita Informacion journalist, the Association of Professional Journalists sent a letter of protest to President Sali Berisha requesting a meeting. In previous days, dailies published pictures of Lala, who was beaten all over his body and face on 28 May. Koha Jone on 31 May published an interview with Lala in which he said the kidnappers were members of the secret service (SHIK) who wanted him to become a collaborator. He added that they held a gun to his head five times threatening to shoot him. -- Fabian Schmidt in Tirana

RUN-OFF IN ALBANIAN ELECTIONS ON 2 JUNE.
Koha Jone on 31 May published the list of the 10 electoral districts in which a run-off between two candidates will take place. Election results from the first round indicate that the Democratic Party is likely to win all districts, which would give them 104 out of 115 direct seats in the 140-member parliament. Right-wing Balli Kombetar and the Republican Party members will most likely vote for the Democrats' candidate. The Socialists announced they will boycott the elections. None of the Democrats received less than 41% of the vote in the first round. -- Fabian Schmidt in Tirana

CROATIAN GOVERNING PARTY TO SUE WEEKLY PAPER.
The Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) said it will sue the independent muckraking weekly Globus over a story the paper ran alleging that the HDZ intends to launch a smear campaign against 50 opposition politicians. The weekly recently wrote that the HDZ is anxious over its prospects in upcoming local elections because polls show it will lose control of some cities and perhaps take only 20% of the total vote. Voters have grown impatient with the HDZ over recurrent reports of corruption, authoritarianism, and strong-arm tactics. There is also a feeling that Croatia has put the war behind it and must now build a multi-party democracy, Reuters reported on 28 May. Globus is one of the few independent papers with a nation-wide circulation and made its name with wartime battlefield coverage, investigative journalism, and a sensationalist approach aimed primarily at young male readers. -- Patrick Moore

DUTCH TO QUERY FRENCH, UN OVER SREBRENICA ALLEGATIONS.
The Dutch Foreign Minister Hans van Mierlo said he intends to press Paris on recent British TV reports that the French allowed Srebrenica to fall as part of a deal with Bosnian Serb Gen. Ratko Mladic last summer. "The French have already denied it... but I will certainly approach the French government for more information on the matter," Reuters quoted the minister as saying on 30 May. Until now, blame has chiefly been placed on Dutch peacekeepers, whose alleged cowardice was believed to have ultimately led to Europe's worst atrocity since World War II. Mierlo's own D66 party called for an international investigation into the events leading up to the fall of the "safe area," while the opposition Christian Democrats said that the Netherlands was bypassed in the decision-making process. -- Patrick Moore

MAYOR OF BANJA LUKA THWARTS ATTEMPT TO SACK HIM.
Predrag Radic, who is widely regarded as a moderate and a rival to the hard-line Bosnian Serb leadership in Pale, has dodged an attempt by his own governing Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) to remove him. Radic successfully argued that the proposal before the city council was invalid because it was not included on the legislative agenda, Nasa Borba reported on 31 May. The mayor has frequently been at odds with the SDS, which took virtually all of the Bosnian Serb vote in the 1990 elections. Banja Luka was known for some of the most vicious ethnic cleansing during the war but has increasingly presented itself as a rival to Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his colleagues in Pale. Opposition parties are counting on a large share of the vote in Banja Luka in the elections slated for this fall. -- Patrick Moore

MOSTAR ELECTIONS SCHEDULED FOR 30 JUNE.
EU Administrator in Mostar Ricardo Peres Casado announced that the city municipal elections will be held on 30 June, Oslobodjenje reported on 31 May. Casado met with Croatian and Muslim officials on 30 May to discuss the details of the elections and to agree on a new date, AFP reported. Refugees from Mostar who left the town involuntarily will be allowed to vote in four European countries if they are unable to return to Mostar on the day of the vote. But, on the insistence of the Croatian party, Mostar's Serbian citizens will be able to vote only in Mostar. Serb representatives in Mostar protested the decision and asked that Mostar Serbs be allowed also to vote in the Republika Srpska and rump Yugoslavia. -- Daria Sito Sucic

BOSNIAN SERB SOCIALISTS ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL.
On 31 May the Belgrade weekly NIN features an extensive interview with Dragutin Ilic, head of the Socialist Party of the Republika Srpska (SPRS), who appears to have used the interview as a platform to launch the opening salvo of his election campaign. Ilic suggested his party is independent, claiming no direct ties with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia: "The SPS was created out of the former League of Communists...but the SPRS was formed as a party... which has no continuity with [any other]." Ilic also stressed his commitment to Dayton saying, "We uphold the Dayton agreement to the fullest. That means we will strengthen the statehood of the Serbian entity to its fullest, and we will work with the other entity insofar as it is in our interests." Meanwhile, AFP on 30 May quoted Zivko Radisic, SPRS vice-president, as saying that Karadzic should be allowed to run in the September elections, so that his defeat may be effected on the political front. -- Stan Markotich

UN EXTENDS PEACEKEEPERS' MANDATE IN MACEDONIA.
The UN Security Council on 30 May extended UNPREDEP's mandate for six months till the end of November, Reuters reported. Russia abstained from the vote saying the mission is too large and expensive and should have been extended only for four months. Macedonian Ambassador to the UN Denko Maleski said UNPREDEP should not be restructured or terminated because threats to Macedonia have not been overcome yet, pointing to Kosovo. UNPREDEP has 1,050 troops, 35 military observers, and 168 civilian police. Some 550 UNPREDEP members come from the U.S., followed by 362 from Finland. -- Stefan Krause

TAIWAN PROTESTS ARRESTS IN ROMANIAN STOWAWAY SCANDAL.
Taiwan protested the arrest in Canada of seven Taiwanese ship officers accused of forcing three Romanian stowaways overboard on the high seas, Romanian and Western media reported on 30 May. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrested the officers the previous day with warrants issued by Romania's Prosecutor-General. Canada says the seven could be extradited to Romania, where they face charges of first degree murder. However, the Taiwanese government maintains that Canada has no jurisdiction in the matter. Eight Filipino crew members deserted the ship in Halifax last week and disclosed the incident that took place in March aboard the Taiwanese container ship "Maersk Dubai." It has aroused a wave of indignation in Romania. -- Dan Ionescu

DNIESTER LEFT-WINGERS CALL FOR SUPPORTING ZYUGANOV.
The Tiraspol branch of the radical left-wing Bloc of Patriotic Forces called Dniester residents with Russian citizenship to vote for Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov in the Russian presidential elections, Infotag reported on 30 May. Albina Gogoleva, Chair of the Dniester Russian Community, said Zyuganov "is the best candidate able to fulfill the aspirations of most former Soviet Union residents to live together again," local media reported. There are some 30,000 Russian citizens living in the breakaway Dniester region. The Russian embassy in Chisinau said that on 16 June eight polling stations will be opened in Moldova. -- Matyas Szabo

BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCES NEW PRICE HIKES...
The Socialist government of Prime Minister Zhan Videnov on 30 May announced price hikes and new tariffs, Bulgarian and Western media reported. The VAT was raised from 18% to 22%, and gasoline prices rose by 75%. Excise duties on tobacco and alcohol will also increase sharply, Videnov announced. The government introduced a 5% tariff on imports in order to head off a feared trade deficit. The tariff will be effective for one year starting on 1 July and then be lowered by 1% each successive year. Videnov said the price of electricity, transport, telecommunications, and pharmaceutical products will go up soon too. The tax and price hikes were agreed on with the IMF. The government hopes to raise an additional 140 billion leva ($950 million) this year by implementing a strict austerity policy. -- Stefan Krause

....WHILE PROTESTS AGAINST AUSTERITY MEASURES START.
Meanwhile, people took to the streets of Sofia to protest the latest government-imposed price hikes. Thousands of demonstrators gathered in front of the government building in central Sofia on 30 May, demanding the government's resignation. The two big trade unions--the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria and the Confederation of Labor "Podkrepa"--organized the rally. Union leaders said the meeting is only the start of nationwide protests. "Podkrepa" Deputy Chairman Dimitar Manolov said government and trade unions "will meet at the barricades." Several hundred taxi drivers staged a demonstration outside the parliament building. Protests were also reported from other towns. The Union of Democratic Forces announced that it will start proceedings for a no-confidence vote. -- Stefan Krause

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Deborah Michaels









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