YELTSIN CHASTISES PROCURATOR-GENERAL.
President Boris Yeltsin on 4 March
ordered Yurii Skuratov to put the Procurator's Office in order. In televised
remarks, the president said society is "seething" over a number of unsolved
high-profile murders, including the March 1995 slaying of TV executive
Vladislav Listev. "Despite your repeated assertions that the Listev case is
nearing an end, this and other cases are virtually buried. This is
impermissible," Yeltsin said. He berated Skuratov for failing to take part in a
1 March Russian Public TV (ORT) documentary on Listev's assassination and
accused him of relaxing control over the Procurator's Office, saying
"discipline is low or absent altogether." -- Penny Morvant
YELTSIN, CHERNOMYRDIN AGREE ON CABINET RESHUFFLE.
Yeltsin met Prime
Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on 4 March and agreed on proposals to reshuffle
and restructure the government, Russian and Western agencies reported. The
changes are to be announced on 6 March. According to presidential spokesman
Sergei Yastrzhembskii, Yeltsin approved Chernomyrdin's plans to visit China,
the Czech Republic, and Slovakia during the next few months--yet another sign
that the prime minister will keep his job. Several ministers responsible for
economic matters are expected to be replaced, and current Presidential Chief of
Staff Anatolii Chubais may become first deputy prime minister in charge of the
economy. Meanwhile, State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev argued that cabinet
posts should be divided among the four groups that gained more than 5% of the
vote in the December 1995 parliamentary election (the Communist Party, Liberal
Democratic Party of Russia, Our Home Is Russia, and Yabloko). -- Laura Belin
FEDERATION COUNCIL REJECTS CONSTITUTIONAL COURT CANDIDATE.
Federation Council on 5 March rejected Yeltsin's appointment of Mikhail Fedotov
to the Constitutional Court by a vote of 69-54. Prime Minister Chernomyrdin
personally appealed to the upper house to confirm Fedotov as a member of the
court, ITAR-TASS reported. The Russian legislature also rejected Fedotov's
appointment to the Constitutional Court in the fall of 1991. At that time, he
had been nominated by Democratic Russia. -- Robert Orttung
DUMA PASSES LAW ON OPPOSITION.
The Duma on 5 March approved a law
guaranteeing the right of opposition activity in Russia by a vote of 266-48
with one abstention, ITAR-TASS reported. The law seeks to protect the right of
citizens to make alternative proposals to the policies of the president and the
government. It provides for the introduction of alternative bills in the
legislature, public criticism of the executive's policy, and the right to
demonstrate. It also guarantees the right of the opposition to create a shadow
cabinet. If that cabinet receives the support of one-third of Duma deputies,
its members can be invited to participate in executive branch meetings with a
consultative vote. Yeltsin is likely to veto the bill on the grounds that it
would violate the separation of powers and because rights such as free speech
are already enshrined in the constitution. -- Robert Orttung
TWO RUSSIAN JOURNALISTS KIDNAPPED IN GROZNY.
Nikolai Zagnoiko and an unidentified Radio Rossii correspondent were kidnapped
by armed men who stopped their car in Grozny on 4 March, ITAR-TASS reported.
Mauro Galligani, an Italian journalist abducted last month, remains in
captivity. No conditions for his release have yet been made. Two Russian Public
TV (ORT) reporters were recently released, but the authorities did not make
clear if they had paid a ransom. President Aslan Maskhadov recently introduced
the death penalty to stem the rash of kidnappings. -- Robert Orttung
WOMEN'S CHARTER SIGNED.
Thirty-eight women's organizations have signed a
charter of solidarity, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 March. The charter provides for
cooperation among women's non-governmental organizations in defending human
rights and dealing with discrimination in the labor market. State Duma Deputy
Yekaterina Lakhova, a charter signatory, said that a special law on equal
rights and opportunities for women should be adopted and that all legislation
should be examined for passages that discriminate against women. According to
the Moscow department of labor and employment, 70% of the unemployed registered
in the capital are women. The constitution provides for the equality of men and
women. -- Nikolai Iakoubovski
OSCE SECRETARY-GENERAL IN MOSCOW.
At a 4 March meeting with visiting
OSCE Secretary-General Giancarlo Aragona, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii
Primakov emphasized Moscow's view that the 55-member OSCE should play a
"coordinating role" vis-a-vis other European and Atlantic security
organizations, ITAR-TASS reported. Russian officials have long tried,
unsuccessfully, to promote a strengthened and restructured OSCE as an
alternative to NATO expansion. -- Scott Parrish
ZAVTRA, SOVETSKAYA ROSSIYA BACK RODIONOV.
A front-page editorial
in the 4 March edition of the pro-communist Sovetskaya Rossiya strongly
supported embattled Defense Minister Igor Rodionov, denouncing attempts to
remove him as part of a plot to destroy the Russian military. Co-authored by
Sovetskaya Rossiya chief editor Valentin Chikin and the chief editor of
the extremist weekly Zavtra, Aleksandr Prokhanov, the article claimed
that President Yeltsin plans to replace Rodionov with Defense Council Secretary
Yurii Baturin, whose "pro-Western" policies would "completely destroy the
country's armed forces." On 27 February Rodionov met with leading Russian
bankers and industrialists, in an unusual attempt to bolster his political
support. Kommersant-daily speculated the next day that banks designated
to handle military accounts can make large profits, giving the defense minister
a potential source of political support. -- Scott Parrish
YAKUTIYA SUES MILITARY SPACE FORCES.
A Sakha (Yakutiya) government
official is suing Russia's Military Space Forces (VKS) over the 4 March rocket
launch from the new Svobodnyi cosmodrome (see OMRI Daily Digest, 4 March
1996). Sakha Deputy Prime Minister Yegor Borisov told ITAR-TASS that he will go
to court against acting VKS commander Valerii Grin because the VKS ignored
Sakha's demand that the launch be postponed until it received further safety
guarantees. Borisov called on the Sakha parliament to abrogate a treaty the
republic signed with the Defense Ministry in June 1996 allowing rocket stages
to fall on its territory. In further bad news for the space sector, a cargo
rocket carrying supplies to the Russian space station Mir failed to complete a
planned docking with the manned orbiting module. -- Penny Morvant
GENERAL STAFF ON 1997 REDUCTIONS IN ARMED FORCES.
In a 5 March interview
with Krasnya zvezda, Col.-Gen. Leonid Zolotov, the head of the Main
Operations Directorate of the Russian General Staff, outlined plans for cutting
the armed forces by 200,000 servicemen. President Yeltsin ordered such cuts in
a 12 February decree (see OMRI Daily Digest, 19 February 1997). Zolotov,
who described the force reductions as a "compromise" between the country's
defense needs and its economic potential, said administrative staff would be
reduced and undermanned units consolidated, especially in logistical support.
Estimating that some 30,000-50,000 officers would be discharged, Zolotov
revealed that the heaviest cuts in combat units would fall on the Ground
Forces. He added that Russia's "deterrent" forces, including the Strategic
Rocket Forces and submarine fleet, would be shielded from the cuts. -- Scott
DEFENSE CONVERSION STALLED.
The Duma has criticized the implementation
of the 1995-1997 state defense conversion program, ITAR-TASS reported on 4
March. In 1996, the military-industrial sector received only 66% of the funds
alloted to it in the federal budget. Production in the sector dropped by 28% in
1996, and the work force by 13%. A large number of those working in the sector
are either pensioners or about to retire. The state owes plants in the sector
29 trillion rubles ($5.1 billion), while their own debts total 66 trillion
rubles. -- Natalia Gurushina
DEFENSE INDUSTRY PROTESTS.
About 2,000 disgruntled workers from the
Zvezda nuclear submarine repair plant in Primorskii Krai blocked the highway
running between Vadivostok and the port of Nakhodka for three hours on 5 March,
ITAR-TASS reported. The workers, who last year blocked the Trans-Siberian
railroad, are demanding the payment of back wages owed since September 1996.
According to Radio Mayak on 4 March, several engineers from a nuclear submarine
plant in the northern town of Severodvinsk threatened to tamper with a nuclear
reactor if they were not paid their wages. After 48 hours of negotiations with
Federal Security Service officers, they were persuaded to leave the reactor
room. * Penny Morvant
CENTRAL BANK TIGHTENS ITS GRIP ON COMMERCIAL BANKS.
The Central Bank
(TsB) has approved several measures to increase stability in the banking
sector, Finansovye izvestiya reported on 4 March. They include changes
in calculating the size of banks' capital, which may result in a 10-15%
reduction in the volume of the capital, and a gradual increase in the ratio of
banks' capital to their other assets from 6% to 7%-11%, depending on the size
of the capital. Effective from 1999, banks with a capital of between 1 million
and 5 million ECU will be allowed to operate only on the domestic market.
Financial institutions with capital below 1 million ECU will not be registered
as banks. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Chernomyrdin assured leading Russian
bankers that there will be no radical change in economic policy and suggested
that banks buy more longer-term state securities, ITAR-TASS reported. --
END OF "ULYANOVSK MIRACLE."
Ulyanovsk Oblast prided itself on cushioning
the impact of market reform by holding down food prices. However, in recent
weeks prices have risen to the same level as neighboring regions,
Izvestiya reports on 5 March. A loaf of white bread has risen from 800
to 2,500 rubles (50 cents). Izvestiya argues that prices were
artificially subsidized in 1995-96 by the diversion of federal credits of
around 200 billion rubles per year which were supposed to be used to help
farmers buy inputs. Governor Yurii Goryachev narrowly won election on 22
December, although neither the communists nor pro-Yeltsin parties supported
him. Izvestiya reveals that Goryachev's son, a former state farm
director, heads the private company "Food," which includes some of the region's
best farms, a meat plant, retail stores, and even has its own bank. Similarly,
the son of deputy governor Vyacheslav Gurinovich runs his own company, which
deals in fuel supplies. -- Peter Rutland
HIGH-LEVEL TALKS BETWEEN GEORGIA, SOUTH OSSETIA BEGIN IN MOSCOW.
round of negotiations between Georgia and its breakaway region of South Ossetia
got under way in Moscow on 4 March, Russian media reported. Representatives of
Russia, the OSCE, and the Russian Republic of North Ossetia are also attending
the talks. The Georgian delegation, which is led by Foreign Minister Irakli
Menagarashvili, wants recognition of Georgia's territorial integrity but,
according to a North Ossetian representative, may agree to grant South Ossetia
an autonomous status. In an interview with Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Kosta
Dzugaev, speaker of the South Ossetian parliament, said a final settlement of
the conflict is impossible without "special relations" between North and South
Ossetia. -- Emil Danielyan
ARMENIA TO HOLD MILITARY EXERCISES.
Defense Minister Vazgen Sarkisyan,
speaking on state TV, said Armenia will hold military exercises at the end of
March to enhance the "combat capacity and discipline" of its army, ITAR-TASS
reported on 4 March. Reserve servicemen will be mobilized for three days to
take part in the exercises. Sarkisyan complained that both society and
Armenians abroad are "indifferent to possible aggravation of the situation in
the region." Meanwhile, Azerbaijani President Haidar Aliyev and his Armenian
counterpart, Levon Ter-Petrossyan, have said they are determined not to
preserve the current cease-fire regime, Russian media reported on 4 March. In a
telephone conversation the previous night, they also discussed stepping up the
OSCE-sponsored Minsk negotiations over Nagorno Karabakh. -- Emil Danielyan and
CLASH AT ARAL SEA SUMMIT?
According to Nezavismaya Gazeta on 4
March, Central Asian leaders clashed when discussing the Aral Sea in Almaty on
28 February. Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov reportedly was opposed to
making his Uzbek counterpart, Islam Karimov, head of the International Aral Sea
Salvation Fund. -- Lowell Bezanis
ALMATY ON NATO EXPANSION.
Kazakstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev
warned against the dangers of NATO enlargement, Russian media reported on 4
March. Nazarbayev said undue haste in expanding the alliance puts Russia's
pro-democracy camp in a tough position. During recent visits to Moscow, the
Kazakstani defense and foreign ministers as well as the parliamentary speaker
all stressed that NATO expansion should not encroach on Moscow's interests.
NATO ties to Central Asian states--and those countries' views on the alliance's
enlargement--are to be discussed later this month when NATO Secretary-General
Javier Solana visits the region's capitals. -- Lowell Bezanis
NEW KAZAKSTANI CAPITAL CAUSES MORE HEADACHES.
The controversial move of
the capital from Almaty to the northern central city of Akmola is falling
behind schedule, RFE/RL reported on 4 March. The Transportation,
Communications, and Agriculture Ministries were moved to Akmola in December
1996, but 90% of officials at those ministries reportedly returned to Almaty by
January. None of the ministry buildings has yet been completed. Construction of
the new presidential palace and upgrading rail links to the airport in Akmola
will cost an estimated $500 million. Opposition movements in Kazakstan, notably
Azamat and the Communist Party, are calling on the government to first pay wage
and pension arrears, which are approaching $1 billion. -- Bruce Pannier and
UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON NATO.
Hennadii Udovenko cautioned NATO
against developing ties with Russia at Ukraine's expense, the German daily the
Frankfurter Allgemeine reported on 4 March. He voiced concern that a
NATO-Russia agreement would lead to a new division of spheres of influence in
Europe, with Russia being allowed to dominate the CIS in exchange for its
acceptance of new members into the Western alliance. Udovenko said Kyiv would
like a legally binding agreement with NATO that would offer security guarantees
to Ukraine, but did not believe that NATO would offer more than consultations.
Unlike Russia, Ukraine is not opposed to NATO expansion, and does not preclude
its own membership in the organization in the future. The same day, ITAR-TASS
reported NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said NATO should work out its
relationship with Ukraine before the July summit in Madrid. -- Ustina Markus
ZVYAHILSKY RETURNS TO UKRAINE FROM ISRAEL.
Former Ukrainian acting prime
minister and current member of the parliament, Yukhym Zvyahilsky, returned to
his home city of Donetsk after more than two years in Israel, international
agencies reported on 4 March. Zviahilsky fled to Israel in 1994, facing
accusations of embezzling $25 million through the illegal sale of aviation fuel
and foreign exchange operations. He rejected the allegations, accusing the
former prosecutor general of political revanchism. The Ukrainian parliament
restored Zvyahilsky's parliamentary immunity last month, but the prosecutor's
office said the investigation against him is not finished. In Donetsk,
Zvyahilsky told a miners' rally he will continue to sit in parliament but will
never take an official post in Kyiv. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev
BELARUSIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT SWORN IN.
The new Constitutional Court,
appointed after the November constitutional referendum, was sworn in on 4
March, Belarusian radio and NTV reported. The court is made up of 11 justices,
six of whom were president's appointees, including Chief Justice Ryhor
Vasilevich. Four of the justices had served on the previous Constitutional
Court. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka presided over the ceremony, and gave
each justice a copy of the new constitution with his autograph. A number of
journalists were not allowed into the ceremony. -- Ustina Markus
BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR SEPARATE DEAL WITH NATO.
Lukashenka unexpectedly called for a separate deal between NATO and Belarus,
international agencies reported on 4 March. Lukashenka voiced concern that
Belarus was being sidetracked and isolated in talks about European security. He
said only European states could establish a new order in Europe, and that
should be done without the participation of countries from "across the ocean."
The reference was directed against the U.S., which has downgraded its ties with
Belarus to a minimal level. Lukashenka had been an ardent opponent of NATO
expansion, and his call for a dialogue may have been prompted by NATO's
separate talks with Russia and Ukraine. NTV speculated the sudden initiative
may also be a way of forcing Russia to take more serious steps toward
integration with Belarus. -- Ustina Markus
HUNGARIAN PRESIDENT IN LITHUANIA.
Arpad Goncz, accompanied by about 30
businessmen, began an official three-day visit to Lithuania on 4 March with
talks with President Algirdas Brazauskas, Radio Lithuania reported. Interior
Minister Vidmantas Ziemelis and Hungarian Interior Ministry Political Secretary
Gabor Vilagos signed an agreement on combating terrorism, drug trafficking, and
organized crime. Goncz assured Seimas Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis of
Hungary's support for Lithuania's efforts to join NATO and the EU and said that
a free trade treaty between the two countries will be signed within two months.
The businessmen are holding talks with Lithuanian manufacturing and trading
firms. -- Saulius Girnius
POLISH GOVERNMENT ON SCREENING LAW.
The Polish government criticized on
4 March the Sejm's draft lustration (screening) law, Polish media reported. The
draft includes the obligation for people occupying important state posts and
candidates for those posts to state whether they were employees or
collaborators of communist secret services in 1944-1990. The statements will be
verified by a lustration court. According to Marek Sadowski, a Justice Ministry
official, the law should provide a more precise definition of collaboration and
should distinguish between a willing collaboration and collaboration under
duress. The lustration court, he added, would combine too many functions:
conduct investigations and be a prosecutor's office; which reminds one of
inquisition procedures, said Sadowski. Andrzej Rzeplinski, the Sejm's expert on
lustration, defended the draft. He reminded that the lustration court would
make public its judgment only in the case a statement proves to be false. --
POLISH SENATE ON POLES ABROAD.
Senate Speaker Adam Struzik, opening the
Senate debate on 4 March, said that Polish citizens living abroad should have
the right to vote in parliamentary elections and in both rounds of presidential
elections (they currently do not have the right to vote in the second round of
presidential elections). The Senate is scheduled to vote today on a statement
calling on the authorities for "restitution of Polish citizenship to all our
compatriots who wish it, particularly in the East." -- Jakub Karpinski
CZECH DEFENSE MINISTRY DENIES IT LOST NATO DOCUMENTS.
The Czech Defense
Ministry announced on 4 March that it had not lost any NATO documents, Czech
media reported. Various media reports had alleged that the ministry was unable
to find 100 of the 700 documents that NATO started giving to Partnership for
Peace countries in 1994. "We have not lost any documents. We are not missing
any ... Reports alleging we lost any documents were misleading," Defense
Minister Miloslav Vyborny told journalists on 4 March. However, Mlada Fronta
Dnes quoted various army officials as saying that the ministry did not know
where various documents were and began looking for them only after media
reports alleged they were lost. -- Jiri Pehe
SLOVAK REACTIONS TO HUNGARIAN ARGUMENTS IN THE HAGUE.
Peter Tomka, head
of Slovakia's delegation in that country's dispute with Hungary at the
International Court of Justice in The Hague, on 4 March criticized the
Hungarian arguments, TASR reported. At the close of the second day during which
Hungary presented its case, Tomka said the Hungarian delegation seems to be
trying to convince the court "on the basis of forecasts and probabilities,"
while "the decision must be based on legal norms and proven facts." Julius
Binder, the director of the firm that built the Gabcikovo dam, told Slovak
Radio that the Hungarian statements made before the International Court of
Justice constituted "demagoguery." He accused Laszlo Valki, one of the
Hungarian representatives in the case, of "irredentism," saying he wants to
annul the post-war Paris treaty that delineated the Slovak-Hungarian border. --
HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT ACTS ON HOLOCAUST VICTIM COMPENSATION.
on 4 March acted to implement the 1947 Paris Peace Treaty's call for
compensation for Holocaust victims and authorized the government to deposit 4
billion forints ($46.5 million) worth of compensation coupons at nominal value,
Hungarian media reported. The coupons, convertible to life annuity, will be
managed by a public foundation that was recently established to compensate the
Jewish community. Life annuity will be available for Jews who are over 60 years
old, are Hungarian citizens and are permanent residents of Hungary. Three
opposition parties -- the Christian Democrats, the Young Democrats and the
Democratic Forum -- abstained from voting. Forum politicians contended that the
bill does not exclude former members of the state security office AVH and those
members of the law enforcement agencies who helped crush the 1956 revolution.
-- Zsofia Szilagyi
ALBANIA ON THE BRINK OF CIVIL WAR?
According to eyewitness reports,
tensions and violence continue unabated throughout southern Albania. Citizens
have ignored a curfew and appear bent on venting frustration against President
Sali Berisha's government. Armed civilians on 5 March fought with army forces
in Fiari, a village some ten kilometers outside Sarande. At least four people
have been injured in the incident, AFP reported, citing Greek television. The
fighting reportedly broke out when four military trucks arrived in the village
and soldiers deployed. Civilians then attacked the military personnel with
automatic weapons and grenades. For his part, Berisha met with political
opponents on 4 March in order to resolve the crisis, but government sources
have publicly admitted that the port cities of Vlora and Sarande remain firmly
out of government control. Security forces deployed from Tirana have orders to
shoot on sight those failing to surrender their arms. -- Stan Markotich
ALBANIAN PRESIDENT UNDER FIRE.
Sali Berisha is coming under increasing
international criticism for his handling of the domestic situation. Among the
most recent critics has been British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind, who on
4 March in an interview with BBC radio, said "We are not prepared to give
support when [Berisha] acts in an authoritarian and dictatorial way and that,
sadly, has been an increasing feature of his regime ... The Albanian government
has not been properly respecting either the rule of law or fundamental
democratic principles of free media and free activity for the opposition."
Countries bordering Albania have voiced their own concerns about the gravity of
the domestic Albanian situation. CNN on 5 March reported that Greece has
deployed along its border with Albania and fears a possible flood of refugees.
-- Stan Markotich
MACEDONIAN ARMY PLACED ON WAR FOOTING.
Macedonia has reacted to the
ongoing chaos in southern Albania by putting its military in a state of
war-preparedness, effective from the evening of 2 March, Nova Makedonija
reported on 5 March. The move was motivated by concerns over possible waves of
illegal immigrants pouring in from Albania or armed attacks on posts along the
border. Coincidentally, the UN observer mission closed one of three posts on
the Albania border (near Debar) on 3 March, as part of a scaling back of the
number of its soldiers in Macedonia from 1,050 to 750. All three posts are
scheduled for closure, as are three of the six on the Serbian border. So far
there are no signs of an influx of would-be Albanian refugees; only 124 people
tried to enter Macedonia illegally from Albania in January and February. --
BOMB DAMAGES CATHOLIC CHURCH IN SARAJEVO.
A Catholic church in downtown
Sarajevo was rocked by an explosion that damaged windows and nearby cars on 4
March, international and local media reported. The blast was the latest in a
series of attacks on Catholic churches in the Croat-Muslim federation that
started after the violent incident in Mostar on 10 February. A hand grenade was
thrown at another Catholic church and a convent in Sarajevo, and a church in
the central Bosnian town of Gornji Vakuf was mined and damaged last week. The
Bosnian Federation government announced special police protection of Catholic
churches during a period preceding the visit of Pope John Paul II to Sarajevo.
Sarajevo cantonal police suspended the four officers who were guarding the
church damaged in yesterday's blast. Croatia's Deputy Foreign Minister Hido
Biscevic asked Bosnia's Muslim authorities to stop the pressure and violence
against Croats, Hina reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic
SERBS IN EASTERN SLAVONIA TO FORM PARTY AHEAD OF ELECTIONS.
eastern Slavonia will on 5 March form their own political party that will run
in Croatia's local vote scheduled for 13 April, AFP reported, citing Tanjug.
The new Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) will be based in Vukovar, a
major town of this still Serb-held region slated to revert to Croatia's legal
authorities, and registered in Zagreb. Meanwhile, the UN said that eastern
Slavonia Serbs were unlikely to stage a referendum on their electoral status,
because their demand for a single district had already been rejected by both
the Croatian government and the UN Security Council, Reuters reported on 4
March. Serbs want the region to have a status of a single territorial unit
within Croatia, but Zagreb wants it divided into two counties. -- Daria Sito
SERBIAN HARD-LINER DEFIES PUBLIC OPINION.
Dragutin Velickovic, the
pro-Milosevic rector of Belgrade University, on 4 March brushed aside student
demands for his resignation, Nasa Borba reported the following day.
Speaking at a press conference, Velickovic not only openly defied student
protesters by categorically announcing his refusal to leave his post but also
countered with his own demand that the institute heads and 13 faculty deans who
openly supported the student demonstrators be sacked. Student representative
Dusan Vasiljevic summed up Velickovic's press conference remarks with the
observation that "the whole thing is another of Velickovic's sick jokes,"
Reuters reported. In another development, Nasa Borba on 5 March reported
that the previous day a group of about 150 student protesters crashed a
reception for diplomats and members of the press hosted by Serbia's new
Information Minister Radmila Milentijevic, chanting "Red Bandits" and at one
point forming a circle around Milentijevic. -- Stan Markotich
SERBIAN RULING PARTIES LAUNCH THEIR ELECTION CAMPAIGNS.
Socialists and their communist allies in the Yugoslav United Left (JUL) on 4
March de facto launched their campaign for republican presidential and
parliamentary races to be held later this year (on a date yet to be
determined). It is apparent that the main focus will be on attacks against the
opposition Zajedno parties. A statement issued by the ruling left, and reported
by Tanjug, maintained that the "state will protect its citizens from all
political parties that are financed and instructed from abroad with the aim to
topple the legal authorities and jeopardize the independence and sovereignty of
the country." -- Stan Markotich
KING MIHAI TO LOBBY FOR ROMANIA'S EARLY NATO ENTRY.
King Mihai on 4
March pledged to do "all he could to help Romania" in its bid for quick
integration into NATO, Radio Bucharest reported. The former monarch met
President Emil Constantinescu, who asked Mihai to support Romania's diplomatic
efforts in NATO member countries, especially those with constitutional
monarchies. In related news, Italian Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Piero
Fassino on 4 March said in Bucharest that his country would back Romania's
efforts for quick NATO entry, Reuters reported. According to Fassino, Italy
favored a "simultaneous beginning of talks between NATO and all candidates," in
order to avoid "feelings of exclusion or frustration." Meanwhile, Senate
Chairman Petre Roman, who is paying a visit to Spain, said that Madrid would
also like to see Romania in the first group of countries to be admitted to
NATO, Romanian television reported. -- Zsolt Mato
MOLDOVA AND NATO EXPANSION.
Moldova's ambassador to the U.S., Nicolae
Tau, says his country has one major concern about NATO expansion: it does not
want to end up as a buffer zone with Russian troops on its territory, RFE/RL
reported on 4 March citing the Washington Times. The statement is
ill-timed for Romania, which is pressing hard for NATO membership, but may well
serve Russian interests opposing the expansion. Moldova, though participating
in the Partnership for Peace Program, is not applying for membership and wants
to stay neutral. That position was stressed again by Foreign Minister Mihai
Popov in an interview with Infotag on 4 March. He added that the country's
foreign policy under President Petru Lucinschi will not change, but more
emphasis will be laid on the strive for European integration. -- Michael
TIRASPOL ATTACKS OSCE MISSION IN MOLDOVA.
Moldovan agencies reported on
4 March that the Transdniester delegation to the Joint Control Commission
refused to participate in the commission scheduled meeting in protest of the
position of Donald Johnson, the head of the OSCE mission to Moldova. At the
OSCE Permanent Council meeting in Vienna on 19 February, Johnson said that OSCE
representatives do not have free access to military sites in the security zone;
criticized the introduction there of a modified GRAD truck-mounted rocket-
launcher system; reminded that the Tiraspol authorities had not allowed
participation in the Moldovan presidential election; and came against the
intention to sign the memorandum for long-term settlement of the conflict,
which had been agreed on last year between Chisinau and Tiraspol. Also on 4
March, a visiting delegation of the CIS Parliamentary Assembly preparing a
conference on conflict settlement in the CIS met with Johnson and Moldovan
officials. -- Michael Shafir
CURRENCY-BOARD PURIST BECOMES ADVISOR TO BULGARIAN PRESIDENT.
Hanke, the world's best known advocate of currency boards, has become an
advisor to Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov, Pari reported on 5 March.
Hanke advocates a pure form in which the currency is more than 100% backed by
foreign currency and the national bank does not take reserve deposits from
commercial banks nor buy and sell foreign currency with the public. That form
is practiced only in Hong Kong and Brunei, while Estonia, Lithuania, and
Argentina have softer versions. He also recommends that the lev be tied to the
dollar and that the board be introduced at once and not in stages. Meanwhile,
the IMF -- citing the strengthening lev and the primary budget surplus -- is
willing to provide fresh credits to Bulgaria within two weeks, while the World
Bank is taking a wait-and-see attitude, according to Pari. -- Michael
EUROPEAN COMMISSION EMERGENCY GRANT FOR BULGARIA.
Commission will make a 1.1 million ECU emergency grant to Bulgaria to help
overcome shortages of food and medical material, RFE/RL and AFP reported on 4
March. The commission said the aid should help hospitals cope with the constant
rise in prices of medical material, which is no longer subsidized by the
government. Prices in Bulgaria rose by 44% in January alone, while the overall
inflation in 1996 stood at 310%. In other news, the 20 million ECU from another
recently made European Commission's social assistance grant will be distributed
among 500,000 most needy Bulgarians as of 18 March. -- Maria Koinova
[As of 1200 CET]
Compiled by Jan Cleave and Sava Tatic