YELTSIN CALLS FOR "ORDER," CRITICIZES GOVERNMENT ...
The need to
establish "order based on law" was the prevailing theme of President Boris
Yeltsin's annual address to the parliament on 6 March -- his first major policy
speech since his long illness. Yeltsin distributed a 66-page text to the
parliament, and delivered a 30-minute speech in the Kremlin which was televised
for the parliamentarians. Yeltsin said he is dissatisfied with the government
and will announce changes in its lineup soon, Russian and Western agencies
reported. (Anatolii Chubais evaded journalists' attempts to confirm an Ekho
Moskvy report that he had already been appointed first deputy prime
minister, ITAR-TASS reported.) Yeltsin also criticized proposed constitutional
amendments, saying the parliament should first "learn to respect" the
constitution and pass all the federal constitutional laws called for in the
document. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov told AFP that Yeltsin's
speech made him feel "ashamed," as it contained no specifics on how to solve
key problems. -- Laura Belin
... DISCUSSES CHECHNYA ...
Yeltsin admitted that the top political
leadership made mistakes in Chechnya and that the conflict has inflicted a deep
wound on Russian society and tremendous damage on the economy. He noted that a
decision on Chechnya's independence has been put off until 2001 to allow
emotions to abate, but he stressed that the negotiation process will continue.
The Chechen conflict showed that the country has weak state institutions and
suffers from the fragmentation of power and society, the president said. The
main lesson to be drawn from the conflict, he added, is "Russia needs order."
-- Robert Orttung
... FOREIGN POLICY ...
Yeltsin repeated his "profoundly negative
view" of NATO expansion, saying "times are getting critical for Europe." He
argued that "without Russia, and even more so against her," it would prove
impossible to create "an effective system of security." He reiterated Moscow's
demand that any Russia-NATO charter take the form of a legally binding
international treaty. Emphasizing that he will strive for "cooperation between
equals" at his meeting with U.S. President Bill Clinton later this month,
Yeltsin cautioned that no one country should be allowed to dominate
international affairs. He termed fostering integration with Belarus "the most
important direction" in Russian foreign policy in 1997. -- Scott Parrish
... MILITARY REFORM ...
Yeltsin declared that he will soon make "a
decision in principle" on the direction of military reform, describing its goal
as the creation of a smaller, more efficient military that maintained Russia's
capability to deter potential aggressors. He said reform will downsize and
improve the professionalism of the military, streamline the number of service
branches, reduce the number of ministries with uniformed servicemen, and create
new mobile forces in each of Russia's eight military districts. Calling for
technological modernization, he admitted that the Russian military lags five to
fifteen years behind its Western counterparts in some areas. -- Scott Parrish
... AND ECONOMICS.
Yeltsin's address contained few new economic ideas
but was rather a catalog of ills and an affirmation of the importance of
continuing reform and implementing existing policies. Yeltsin called for a
balanced budget by 1999, excluding the costs of debt servicing, and said he
intends to take the drawing up of the budget under his "personal control." He
called, predictably, for a crackdown on corruption and lamented the fact that
"the criminal world has openly challenged the state and launched into open
competition with it." -- Peter Rutland
EFFORTS INTENSIFY TO FIND JOURNALISTS KIDNAPPED IN CHECHNYA.
officials and journalists continued to seek information on the whereabouts of
four Russian journalists taken hostage in Grozny on 4 March. The four include
an ITAR-TASS correspondent and three employees of Radio Rossii. According to
initial reports, only two journalists had been captured. The Federal Security
Service claimed to have preliminary information on where the journalists are
being held, while executives from ITAR-TASS and Radio Rossii flew to Grozny to
coordinate the search efforts. Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov has ordered
his deputies to take all steps to find the journalists, Radio Rossii reported.
Komsomolskaya pravda on 6 March argued that the authorities will be
unable to accomplish much and that the correspondents' freedom will have to be
bought. -- Robert Orttung
DUMA CONCERNED ABOUT TV COVERAGE.
The State Duma has affirmed its
decision to strip Russian Public TV (ORT) correspondents of their accreditation
for one month as punishment for biased coverage, Russian media reported on 5
March. An ORT commentator complained of "political censorship," saying the
Duma's own legal experts had found that the action violated Russian media law.
Glasnost Defense Foundation head Aleksei Simonov called on all Russian
journalists to impose a one-month news blackout on the Duma in solidarity with
their ORT colleagues, according to ITAR-TASS. Also on 5 March, Deputy Prime
Minister Vitalii Ignatenko and new Russian TV (RTR) Chairman Nikolai Svanidze
appeared in the Duma to dispel rumors that part of RTR may be auctioned off. In
late 1994, Russia's Channel 1 broadcaster Ostankino was transformed into
Russian Public TV (ORT), and 49% of the company's shares were sold to select
investors. -- Laura Belin
FEDERATION COUNCIL APPROVES TROPHY ART LAW.
By a vote of 140 to 0 with
one abstention, the Federation Council has approved a law laying claim to
artworks seized by Soviet troops in Germany at the end of World War II, Russian
and Western media reported on 5 March. The new legislation states that such
works of art belong to the Russian Federation and are compensation for the
massive losses sustained by Russia during the war. Last July, the Federation
Council rejected a similar bill. Yeltsin must now sign the new law for it to go
into force. Deputy Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi said he believed Yeltsin
would not sign it "in order to save Russia from the complications" that would
follow. Russia and Germany have been disputing ownership of so-called trophy
art since the breakup of the Soviet Union. -- Jan Cleave
During his 5 March meeting with Iraqi Deputy
Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov said that
the UN economic embargo imposed on Iraq after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait
should be lifted as soon as Iraq implements UN Security Council disarmament
resolutions, Russian and Western agencies reported. Primakov said he hopes that
the upcoming April report of the UN special commission on Iraqi disarmament
will resolve outstanding problems. But on 3 March, the UN Security Council,
which includes Russia, voted to extend the embargo for another two months,
after the commission reported it still cannot verify that Iraq has destroyed
its stockpiles of nerve gas and ballistic missiles. Iraq owes Russia an
estimated $7 billion, which cannot be repaid until the embargo is lifted. --
TAX BREAK FOR FOREIGN INVESTORS.
The Federation Council on 5 March
approved amendments to article 5 of the law on value-added tax, removing VAT
from equipment imports for foreign investors, ITAR-TASS reported. The agency
also reported that the government has issued a decree laying down the procedure
for implementing the state monopoly on alcohol, which Yeltsin announced in
December 1996. Licenses will be issued by the Federal Service for the State
Monopoly on Alcohol, and quotas will be allotted to Federation subjects. The
fulfillment of quotas will be monitored by the Ministry of Agriculture and
Food, which is the responsibility of Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr
Zaveryukha, an ally of Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. -- Peter Rutland
CHERNOMYRDIN SIGNS DECREE ON MANAGING STATE DEBT.
signed a decree on creating a unified system of managing Russia's domestic and
external debt, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 March. The decree aims at reducing
debt-servicing costs by increasing the proportion of longer-term securities.
The Finance Ministry will also have the right to repurchase state securities.
The government on 3 March issued short-term state securities (GKOs) with a face
value of 262.2 trillion rubles ($46 billion). It is also trying to persuade
commercial banks to accept 10-15 trillion rubles of long-term federal bonds
(OFZs) at a 20-25% rate of interest to pay wage and pensions arrears. However,
if such an issue is placed with Russian commercial banks, they are likely to
demand a reduction in the obligatory reserve requirements. -- Natalia
GOVERNMENT INTRODUCES NEW DEBT-RESTRUCTURING PLAN.
signed a decree on restructuring companies' debts to the federal budget,
ITAR-TASS reported on 5 March. If a company's debt is smaller than its equity
capital, it will be asked to float additional share issues equal to the size of
the debt; those shares will then be transferred to the state. If the debt is
larger than the equity capital, the company will have to transfer to the
government 50% of shares plus one. In the latter case, shares will be held by
the State Property Committee, which will have the right to sell them if
companies do not meet current obligations to the budget. Repayment of the
debt's principal and interest will be spread over five and 10 years,
respectively. As of 1 January 1997, companies owed 62.1 trillion rubles ($11
billion) to the federal budget. -- Natalia Gurushina
SCIENTISTS PROTEST WAGE ARREARS.
Scientists from the Russian Academy of
Sciences demonstrated against wage arrears near government headquarters in
Moscow, Russian TV (RTR) reported on 5 March. They urged the government to
reconsider financing for science and to grant some tax concessions to producers
of goods that make use of advanced scientific methods. They also want
scientists to have the status of civil servant. The previous day, St.
Petersburg scientists and research workers called on Yeltsin and Chernomyrdin
to change the official attitude toward science and education, ITAR-TASS
reported. The federal budget owes scientific institutions some 3 trillion
rubles ($ 530 million) in back wages and unpaid research grants. -- Nikolai
MANUKYAN TAKES RESPONSIBILITY FOR POST-ELECTION UNREST IN YEREVAN.
Opposition leader and former presidential candidate Vazgen Manukyan has
said in a letter addressed to the procurator-general that he was responsible
for the 25 September attack on the parliament building, Ekho Moskvy
reported on 5 March. The attack followed reports of widespread election-rigging
in favor of incumbent President Levon Ter-Petrossyan. Manukyan argued that it
would be "logical" to conduct criminal proceedings against him but not against
the rank-and-file opposition activists who went on trial last month on charges
of inciting mass disorder. Manukyan demanded the release of the defendants and
expressed readiness to testify "only in court." -- Emil Danielyan
RUSSIAN WEAPONS TO ARMENIA VIA IRAN?
Top security officials told the
Azerbaijani parliament on 4 March that Iran is the conduit for Russian weapon
supplies to Armenia, Russian media reported. They claimed that heavy arms, 30
anti-aircraft systems, and 1,000 Strela-2 and Strela-3 missiles have been
transported by ship across the Caspian Sea and over land from Iran to Armenia.
Last week, Yerevan denied earlier charges of illegally receiving weapons from
Russia. In related news, the Azerbaijani parliament has drafted a statement
calling on the Russian Duma to identify and punish those responsible for
weapons transfers. -- Lowell Bezanis
TBILISI JUDGE FOUND DEAD IN HIS APARTMENT.
Vakhtang Alania, the
43-year-old chairman of a Tbilisi district court, was found shot dead in his
apartment, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 March. Investigators suggest that the judge
committed suicide but do not discount other scenarios. Georgian media reports
that Alania had debts totaling $5,000 and had recently said he wanted to commit
suicide. -- Emil Danielyan
KYRGYZ PLANT TO REFINE KUMTOR GOLD.
Jalgap Kazakbayev, director of the
Kara-Balta state mining company, and Leonard Homenyuk, president of Kumtor
Operating Company, have signed an agreement whereby gold extracted at Kumtor
will be refined at the Kara-Balta complex, RFE/RL reported on 5 March. KOC is a
joint venture between the Kyrgyz government and the Canadian company CAMECO.
Some 12 tons of gold are expected to be refined at Kara-Balta this year. There
are believed to be 500 metric tons of gold at the Kumtor site. Earlier reports
that gold would be refined abroad led to an outcry from opposition groups in
Kyrgyzstan. -- Naryn Idinov
ROUTING PROBLEMS FOR TURKMEN GAS.
The U.S. is attempting to foil plans,
initialed last year, to transport Turkmen natural gas to Turkey across Iran,
AFP reported on 5 February. Washington has threatened to impose an embargo on
Botas, Turkey's state pipeline company, if it goes ahead with the deal. The
U.S. has also declared its support for an alternative plan to transport natural
gas beneath the Caspian Sea to Turkey and European markets via Azerbaijan and
Georgia. Meanwhile, Turkmenistan is pressuring Kazakstan to repay $24 million
in debts for electricity supplied in 1995-96, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 March. --
UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN CANADA.
Hennadii Udovenko was in Ottawa on
5 March for an official visit, international agencies reported. Udovenko met
with his Canadian counterpart Lloyd Axworthy, Defense Minister Doug Young, and
Prime Minister Jean Chretien. NATO expansion was the main issue of discussion,
and Axworthy told Udovenko he hoped an agreement could be reached between NATO,
Russia, and Ukraine before the July summit in Madrid. Udovenko said he did not
view NATO as a threat to Ukraine, and that Kyiv's relations with NATO would
develop irrespective of Moscow's relations with the alliance. He also called
for increased foreign investment, and criticized Russia for not fully accepting
Ukraine's independence. -- Ustina Markus
UKRAINIAN MINERS THREATEN ALL-OUT STRIKE.
Coal miners are on the brink
of a mass strike, Ukrainian and Russian media reported on 5 March. The leaders
of the three biggest mining trade unions plan to stop work on 20 March,
protesting wage arrears, which currently stand at 1.5 billion hryvnyas ($800
million). Most miners have not been paid for the last seven months, some since
1995. About 20 pits stand idle daily due to wildcat strikes. The situation is
exacerbated by the imminent closure of 75 to 150 mines, which will lead to mass
unemployment. The head of the Independent Union of Miners, Mykhailo Volynets,
said 25 pits were closed in 1996. Coal Industry Minister Yurii Rusantsov has
offered to resign, Ukrainian television reported on 3 March. -- Oleg
UKRAINIAN, SLOVAK PREMIERS MEET.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Pavlo
Lazarenko met with his Slovak counterpart Vladimir Meciar on 6 March in
Uzhorod, ITAR-TASS reported. Talks focused on NATO expansion, building a
highway between the two countries, and cooperation between the Slovak Economics
Ministry and Ukraine's Machinery Ministry. Trade between Ukraine and Slovakia
stood at $418.3 million in 1996, a 36.6% increase over 1995. The two plan to
liberalize trade further between themselves. Talks also touched on the issue of
Ukrainian workers in Slovakia. According to unofficial statistics, up to 30,000
Ukrainians work illegally in Slovakia. -- Ustina Markus
BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT RESTRICTS PUBLIC GATHERINGS.
issued a decree on 5 March banning all demonstrations directed against the
ever-controversial new constitution, ITAR-TASS reported. The decree was meant
to put an end to the "orgy of street democracy" in Minsk, a reference to
persistent demonstrations by his critics. The decree prohibits demonstrators
from using unregistered flags or symbols at rallies, and defines the distance
demonstrators must keep from public buildings and transport facilities. The
opposition has been predicting that a new wave of demonstrations would begin
this spring, and the decree appears to be a preemptive measure against such
rallies. It also proclaims 2 April, the day of the signing of the Treaty on
Friendship and Cooperation with Russia, a national holiday. -- Ustina Markus
BELARUS DENIES RUSSIA'S CONTRABAND CHARGES.
dismissed charges by the Russian Customs Committee that large quantities of
goods are being smuggled through Belarus into Russia, ITAR-TASS reported on 4
March. The response from Belarusian officials followed Russia's decision to
restore checkpoints on the Belarus-Russian border as of 10 March. The First
Deputy Chairman of the Belarusian Customs Committee, Vikentiy Makarevich, said
that Russia's claims are groundless as Belarus's borders are under strict
control. Belarusian officials also said that the move violates the customs
union between Russian and Belarus. Official Belarusian media are meanwhile
concerned by the fact that the issue has surfaced ahead of the meeting of the
two countries' presidents, set for 7 March in Moscow. -- Sergei Solodovnikov
ESTONIA'S TRADE DEFICIT FALLS IN JANUARY.
The State Statistical
Department announced that the foreign trade deficit in January was 1.17 billion
kroons ($88 million), a sharp decline from December's 2 billion kroons deficit,
ETA reported on 5 March. Imports totalled 3.61 billion kroons of which 55.2%
came from European Union countries and 17.7% from CIS countries. Exports were
valued at 2.44 billion kroons of which 48.9% went to EU countries and 24.2% to
CIS countries. Imports were valued at 3.61 billion kroons, of which 55.2% came
from EU countries and 17.7% from CIS countries. Industrial machines and
equipment accounted for 24.6% of imports and 18.4% of exports, followed by food
products with 18.8% of imports and 18.0% of exports. -- Saulius Girnius
BUS DRIVERS STRIKE IN SOUTHERN POLAND.
Bus drivers blocked crucial
traffic intersections in Silesia on 5 March, crippling traffic in Poland's most
industrialized and densely populated region. The drivers demand wage increases
of 40%, more resources for municipal transport, and the modernization of a car
park. Buses surrounded the Katowice governor's office, which was picketed by
drivers. Governor Eugeniusz Ciszak, who represents the government in the
province, met with the strikers. He appealed to towns' administrations and
transport companies for negotiations with the drivers, Rzeczpospolita
reported on 6 March. -- Jakub Karpinski
CZECH SENATE APPROVES CZECH-GERMAN DECLARATION.
The upper chamber of the
Czech parliament on 5 March approved the Czech-German declaration, Czech media
reported. The measure, already signed by both governments in January and
approved by Germany's parliament and the Czech lower house, was approved by 54
votes to 25. Most Social Democratic Party (CSSD) deputies voted against the
pact after the Senate rejected a preamble demanded by the CSSD. In the
declaration, Bonn expresses its regret for the 1938-1945 occupation of the
Czech lands and Prague its sorrow for excessive brutality in the expulsion of
ethnic Germans after World War II. The German parliament approved the
declaration quickly but the debate in the Czech lower house was stormy, lasting
several days before the accord was approved by a large majority. In his
first-ever speech to the Senate, President Vaclav Havel urged the upper house
to approve the accord to ensure good relations with Germany. -- Jiri Pehe
CZECH LOWER CHAMBER CHAIRMAN IN BRUSSELS.
Milos Zeman told European
Parliament Chairman Jose Maria Gil-Robles on 5 March that in the eastward
expansion of the European Union the "role of parliaments will be bigger than
that of governments," Czech media reported. Zeman attended a meeting of Gil
Robles and the chairmen of parliaments of ten EU associate countries.
"Legislative adaptation is the essence of EU integration ... If we are to adapt
our legislation to EU standards, this will certainly be a task for parliaments,
not cabinets," Zeman told CTK after the meeting. Zeman and his counterparts
agreed that parliaments should launch a coordinated campaign explaining EU
membership, "which would define not only the advantages, but also honestly
point to the risks, problems and costs involved." What matters is to "prevent
disillusions" such as those experienced by Austrians, he added. -- Jiri Pehe
SLOVAKIA LIKELY TO HOLD TWO REFERENDUMS AT ONCE.
Slovak President Michal
Kovac on 4 March said he will probably call the referendums on NATO integration
and on the direct election of the president on the same day, CTK and TASR
reported. Kovac argued that Slovakia cannot economically afford to hold the
referendums separately. Also on 4 March, Kovac received the representatives of
the petition committee for direct presidential elections, who handed him the
lists with more than 521,580 signatures. Kovac commented that the high number
of signatures indicates that the referendum is "a way of enhancing democracy."
The president must call a referendum within 30 days of receiving a petition
with at least 350,000 signatures. -- Anna Siskova
SLOVAK PRIME MINISTER CALLS FOR TALKS WITH OPPOSITION.
Speaking on a
Slovak TV program on 5 March, Vladimir Meciar called for talks with the
opposition on bank privatization, CTK reported. On 13 February, the opposition
voted with the Association of Workers -- a junior coalition partner -- to ban
the privatization of Slovakia's financial institutions until 2003. Although
President Michal Kovac returned the bill to the parliament at the government's
request, it could easily be approved again. Meciar claimed that his government
currently does not know of anyone who would be interested in privatizing a
Slovak bank, and he called on the opposition to put forward proposals. Although
the issue has brought the government to a crisis, Meciar insists on moving
forward with bank privatization. In other economic news, the National Bank of
Slovakia on 5 March presented year-end economic results, TASR reported. Annual
inflation grew 5.4%, GDP growth reached an estimated 6.8%, foreign currency
reserves totaled $3.5 billion, and the trade deficit was 64.5 billion crowns
($2 billion). -- Sharon Fisher
HUNGARY CONTINUES PRESENTING ITS CASE AT THE HAGUE.
representatives opened up a barrage of legal arguments on 5 March against the
Gabcikovo hydropower project built by Slovakia, after it unilaterally diverted
the Danube in 1992, Hungarian media reported. Boldizsar Nagy argued that the
project called "C version" is essentially different from the power plant system
that Hungary and Czechoslovakia agreed to build in their 1977 intergovernmental
treaty. Nagy thus rejected the Slovak argument that Slovakia merely tried to
complete construction of the original project after Hungary backed out in 1989.
Hungary's representatives criticized the Slovak use of what they called
inappropriate words in the Slovak legal document. Gyorgy Szenasi, Hungary's
chief representative, said that Hungary has filed a list of words used by the
Slovaks that includes "grotesque, nonsense, twaddle, perverse and ridiculous,"
Magyar Hirlap reported. -- Zsofia Szilagyi
IS ALBANIAN CRISIS SPINNING OUT OF CONTROL?
Armed revolt against the
government of President Sali Berisha continues throughout southern Albania,
with violence and armed clashes reportedly escalating in frequency and
intensity. In one episode on 5 March, government MiG-15 warplanes released at
least several bombs near a house in the village of Delvina, situated in a
predominantly ethnic Greek region of the country, international media reported.
While casualty estimates were unavailable, the event prompted officials in
neighboring Greece to urge the Albanian authorities to refrain from using force
against Albania's ethnic Greek community. For their part, Albanian Defense
officials have categorically denied the charge that any order was given to bomb
protesters. -- Stan Markotich
DEATH TOLL RISES.
Meanwhile in Vlora, a rebel stronghold, at least
another seven people have been killed in shooting incidents since early on 5
March, AFP reported the next day. The death toll in that town now stands at 25
since violence erupted on 28 February when rioters looted a military depot. In
another serious development, a steady stream of people is moving from the south
to the north in an effort to escape the violence. Pitched battles of short
duration have been reported in several locations, such as a 5 March incident
near the Vjosa River, where rebels, situated on a mountain ridge, pounded
government troops with heavy artillery. In another development, some members of
the military have been seen defecting to the rebel side, CNN reported on 6
March. Dutch Foreign Minister and current European Union President Hans van
Mierlo is slated to travel to Tirana on 7 March for meetings with government
and opposition officials. -- Stan Markotich
BOSNIAN SHADOW GOVERNMENT FORMED.
Bosnian opposition parties and
political associations from both Bosnian entities -- the Republika Srpska (RS)
and the Bosnian (Muslim-Croat) Federation -- on 4 March formed a shadow
government in a bid to offer a political alternative to the paralyzed central
institutions, international and local media reported. The shadow government
premier, Sejfudin Tokic, a Muslim from the Union of Bosnia's Social-Democrats,
said the five ministry cabinet will try to convey a message to ordinary
Bosnians that there is an alternative to nationalism, Reuters reported. Tokic'
s deputies are Miodrag Zivanovic from the RS Social-Liberal Party and Zeljko
Ivankovic from the Croatian Peasant Party. Zivanovic rejected criticism that it
was too early to start an alternative government at the time when the official
one has not yet begun to really work, Oslobodjenje reported on 5 March.
-- Daria Sito Sucic
COHEN MAKES CLEAR U.S. TROOPS WILL NOT PROLONG STAY IN BOSNIA.
Defense Secretary William Cohen said on 4 March that American soldiers would
leave Bosnia-Herzegovina for good in mid-1998, Reuters reported. "I can't make
it any clearer," Cohen said, adding that the U.S. was determined to leave even
if war breaks out again. But he underscored that strong police forces and an
intensified civilian effort will be needed in Bosnia. Meanwhile, deployment of
an international police force in the disputed town of Brcko in northern Bosnia
will be discussed at a meeting of key nations in Vienna on 7 March, AFP
reported. Countries involved in the discussions favored increasing the numbers
of the existing UN police force, although its mandate so far has proved to be
insufficient to enforce political decisions. -- Daria Sito Sucic
BOSNIAN CROATS SUSPENDED MOSTAR POLICE CHIEF, THREE POLICEMEN.
Interior Minister of the Herzegovina-Neretva canton, Valentin Coric, suspended
west Mostar police chief Marko Radic for obstructing the investigation into the
10 February incident that resulted in one death and more than 30 injuries, Hina
reported on 5 March. Coric also temporarily suspended the three police officers
singled out in the UN report for participating in a shooting at an unarmed
Muslim crowd. The UN has requested that the three men be arrested. "Suspension
alone is not good enough," said the UN police spokesman in Bosnia, Liam
McDowall. -- Daria Sito Sucic
BOMB BLASTS IN KOSOVO.
Four persons were reportedly injured in Kosovo's
capital, Pristina, on 5 March when a bomb exploded, Nasa Borba reported
the following day. According to eyewitnesses, the device was placed in a
garbage container beside a monument to Serbian language reformer Vuk Karadzic,
near the local university. A second bomb was disarmed without incident, Tanjug
reported, but Reuters quoted a local Serbian official saying another device
went off in Prizren, and that it too was in a garbage container beside a
monument to a Serbian national icon (King Dusan). Police authorities have said
they suspect the Kosovo Liberation Army as being behind the incidents. -- Stan
TUDOR TO SAVE HIS PARLIAMENTARY IMMUNITY?
By a vote of seven to six, the
judicial commission of the Senate on 5 March recommended that the parliamentary
immunity of the leader of the extreme nationalist Greater Romania Party (PRM),
Corneliu Vadim Tudor, should not be lifted, Radio Bucharest reported. Tudor
lost his immunity in the former legislature, but was re-elected a senator in
November. The Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), which had then been
the main promoter of lifting Tudor's immunity for "insult to authority" in
denigrations targeting former President Ion Iliescu, is now opposing the
initiative, courting the collaboration of the PRM in the opposition. The
lifting of the immunity was requested by Minister of Justice Valeriu Stoica
because of a libelous article published by Tudor some years ago, that targeted
practically all prominent personalities in the democratic opposition. One
member of the ruling coalition on the commission voted against the
recommendation in the secret vote. The final decision is to be reached by the
Senate plenum, but without the support of the PDSR the coalition falls short of
the two-thirds majority needed for lifting the immunity. -- Michael Shafir
KING MIHAI ENDS VISIT TO ROMANIA.
King Mihai on 5 March ended his first
visit to Romania since regaining his citizenship, Radio Bucharest reported.
Before leaving the country, Mihai met with Foreign Minister Adrian Severin, who
said the former monarch's mission to support Romania's NATO integration bid is
to be considered as "official, but not formal." Mihai's visit stirred
widespread controversy in Romania, with opposition parties warning that the
constitutional order was in danger. Some analysts, however, interpreted the
public's mild reaction as dismissing any possibility of a return to a monarchy
in Romania. -- Zsolt Mato
MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT ELECTS CHAIRMAN.
The leader of the Democratic
Agrarian Party of Moldova, Dumitru Motpan, on 5 March was elected chairman of
the parliament, Moldovan and Western agencies reported. Motpan, who ran
unopposed, was supported by 55 of 104 deputies; of the 76 deputies who cast a
ballot, 21 deputies voted against him. He replaces Petru Lucinschi, who was
elected president in January. Following Lucinschi's election, Motpan stood for
the post but at that time (also in January) he failed to garner the minimum 53
votes and had a counter-candidate, Dumitru Diacov, the legislature's deputy
chairman and a supporter of Lucinschi. Motpan's mandate runs out in early 1998,
when new parliamentary elections are due. -- Michael Shafir
PARTIES PREPARE FOR GENERAL ELECTIONS IN BULGARIA.
The Central Electoral
Commission on 4 March opened the procedure for registration for the 19 April
parliamentary elections, RFE/RL and local media reported. All 205 sanctioned
parties are eligible to compete, but it is expected that no more than 60% of
them will register. The first registration day began with a "scandal," as three
parties wanted to have green ballot paper. In other news, after almost a month
of intensive debates, the anti-communist Union of Democratic Forces and
People's Union managed to come to an agreement for having a joint list of
candidates, RFE/RL reported on 5 March. The mainly ethnic Turkish Movement for
Rights and Freedom -- the third member of the formation that ousted Socialists
from power with street demonstrations in January -- has not yet signed the
agreement, but is expected to do so on 7 March. -- Maria Koinova
STRENGTHENING OF BULGARIAN LEV CAUSING CONCERN.
The Bulgarian National
Bank raised its official fixing for the lev to 1,667.1 per dollar on 6 March
from 2,045.5 the day before and as high as 2,936.7 on 14 February. Businessmen
are criticizing the lev's rejuvenation, arguing that it is wreaking havoc with
contracts that assumed a weaker currency, according to Trud on 6 March.
The newspaper's economic commentator argued that the rise in the lev results
from administrative measures. He said a further collapse is inevitable once
large buyers of hard currency like the Neftohim refinery return to the
foreign-exchange market to repay the debts they are building up. Meanwhile, the
daily Pari reported that an agreement with the IMF will be ready on 6
March. -- Michael Wyzan
[As of 1200 CET]
Compiled by Jan Cleave and Pete Baumgartner