YELTSIN OFFERS NEMTSOV GOVERNMENT POST.
President Boris Yeltsin offered
Nizhnii Novgorod Governor Boris Nemtsov the position of first deputy prime
minister at a meeting on 17 March, ITAR-TASS reported. Anatolii Chubais has
already been named a first deputy prime minister, and the president said that
the two could form the rest of the government as they wished. Nemtsov announced
that he will accept the post, despite saying as recently as 15 March that he
intended to continue serving as governor. Nemtsov will be responsible for
social affairs and the reform of natural monopolies. On 16 March, Samara
Governor Konstantin Titov rejected an offer to serve as deputy prime minister,
citing his desire to finish the job he started in Samara. -- Robert Orttung
RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN WASHINGTON.
arrived in Washington on 15 March for talks with his American counterpart
Madeleine Albright, U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen, and President Bill
Clinton, Russian and Western agencies reported. Primakov will focus on
preparations for the rescheduled 20-21 March U.S.-Russian summit in Helsinki,
which was postponed one day to allow Clinton to recover from a minor knee
surgery. Meanwhile, in another step to allay Russian concerns about NATO
expansion, NATO Secretary General Javier Solana announced on 14 March that "in
the current and foreseeable security environment," the alliance does not plan
"additional permanent stationing of substantial combat forces" in Europe.
Moscow has previously dismissed such assurances as insufficient, instead
demanding that any NATO-Russia charter impose legally binding limits on NATO
deployments in new East European members. -- Scott Parrish
YELTSIN STAKES OUT TOUGH POSITION ON NATO.
In a 14 March
interview, President Yeltsin cautioned that his upcoming meeting with Clinton
might not resolve the dispute over NATO enlargement, saying the session would
be "the hardest in the history of Russian-American relations," Reuters
reported. Yeltsin insisted that a "categorical condition" of any Russia-NATO
agreement was that the alliance not offer membership to former Soviet
republics. He expressed "alarm" at NATO efforts to build ties with those
states, including NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana's recent Central Asian
tour. In an interview with the Finnish paper Helsingin Sanomat on 16
March, Yeltsin reiterated Moscow's view that any agreement with NATO must be a
binding treaty subject to parliamentary ratification. -- Scott Parrish
CHIEF OF GENERAL STAFF: OFFICER CORPS DECAYING.
Minister Igor Rodionov and top military brass met on 14 March to discuss the
morale of the Russian officer corps, ITAR-TASS reported. Afterwards, Army
General Viktor Samsonov, chief of the general staff, blamed abysmal living
conditions and chronic wage arrears for causing 500 officers to commit suicide
in 1996. Another 20% of the officer corps have already submitted resignation
requests, he revealed. Samsonov warned that "if we destroy the core of the
officer corps, it will be difficult to revive the armed forces, even if we have
sufficient financing." -- Scott Parrish
INCUMBENTS ONE FOR TWO IN REGIONAL VOTING.
The former Chairman
of the Evenk Legislative Assembly Aleksandr Bokovikov defeated incumbent
Governor Anatolii Yakimov in the Evenk Autonomous Okrug's three-candidate
gubernatorial elections on 16 March, with more than 60% turnout, ITAR-TASS
reported. The results of the 22 December Evenk elections were canceled after
the local electoral commission found numerous irregularities. Then, preliminary
results showed challenger Bokovikov in the lead, but the final tally gave the
race to incumbent Yakimov. Tyva Republican President Sherig-ool Oorzhak leads
his race and may have won more than 50% of the vote, making a second round
unnecessary, ITAR-TASS reported. Final results are expected Tuesday. Oorzhak
leads the local branch of the pro-government Our Home is Russia. -- Robert
LEBED PARTY HOLDS FIRST CONGRESS.
Former Security Council
Secretary Aleksandr Lebed's Russian People's Republican Party held its first
congress in Moscow on 14-15 March. Lebed called on Yeltsin to resign and
proposed that Russia take a "third course" that differs from "totalitarian
socialism" and "criminal capitalism," Russian Public TV (ORT) reported. Lebed
claims 10,000 members for the party. He also announced the formation of a new
political bloc Union - Third Force, which includes Chess Champion Garri
Kasparov and numerous small parties but not Lebed's former allies, the Congress
of Russian Communities and the Democratic Party of Russia, ITAR-TASS reported.
Lebed threw Georgii Getman, Chairman of the officers' club "Shield," out of the
hall after he read an anti-Semitic verse. -- Robert Orttung
DUMA ATTACKS PRESIDENT.
The State Duma passed a bill that would
force the president to retire if he could not carry out all of his duties for a
period of more than four months because of health reasons, by a vote of 287 to
23, with one abstention, ITAR-TASS reported. Yeltsin is likely to veto the
bill, as he has rejected similar measures in the past. Also, the Duma on 14
March voted 176 to 75 to reject a moratorium on the death penalty. Russia
agreed to abolish the penalty within three years as part of its commitment on
joining the Council of Europe in February 1996. Additionally, the Duma voted to
make 4 October a "memorial day" to honor 1993's parliamentary uprising against
Yeltsin, AFP reported. -- Robert Orttung
RYBKIN IN NALCHIK.
At a meeting with President Valerii Kokov
and other members of the leadership of Kabardino-Balkariya in the republic's
capital, Nalchik, on 15 March, Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin
discussed Russia's draft economic agreement with Chechnya, Russian media
reported. Russian security officials who also attended the meeting argued that
peace in the north Caucasus is contingent on the Chechen leadership
neutralizing freelance armed groups. On 16 March, NTV reported that a meeting
of Chechen field commanders in Grozny, including maverick Salman Raduev, had
agreed that all illicit military formations should be dissolved and Chechnya's
standing army should not exceed 2,000 men. -- Liz Fuller
GEORGIAN, CHECHEN, INGUSH OFFICIALS DISCUSS MUTUAL RELATIONS...
Georgia's Defense Minister Vardiko Nadibaidze met on 14-15 March in the Ingush
capital, Nazran, with the presidents of Chechnya and Ingushetiya, Aslan
Maskhadov and Ruslan Aushev, Russian media reported. Topics discussed included
furthering peace in the Caucasus; guarding Georgia's border with Chechnya and
Ingushetiya; and a possible meeting between Maskhadov and Georgian President
Eduard Shevardnadze, according to NTV. Last December Shevardnadze said
Georgia's future relations with Chechnya would be governed by the constitutions
of Georgia and the Russian Federation; he declined to attend Maskhadov's
inauguration last month. -- Liz Fuller
... AND FATE OF MISSING JOURNALISTS.
The three presidents also
discussed ways of securing the release of the four ITAR-TASS and Radio Rossii
journalists abducted in Chechnya on 4 March, one of whom, Nikolai Mamulashvili,
is a citizen of Georgia, ITAR-TASS reported. Chechen Vice President Vakha
Arsanov said on 14 March that securing the journalists' release is "a matter of
honor" for the Chechen leadership. -- Liz Fuller
CHILD KIDNAPPINGS IN MOSCOW.
Last week, Moscow police freed two
children held hostage for ransom, Kommersant Daily reported on 14 March.
Police captured five Georgians who were holding the 10-year-old son of a
Georgian businessman, seized on his way home from school on 14 February. Also
last week an 8-year-old daughter of a businessmen who had been snatched in
Kharkiv (Ukraine) on 13 December was freed by police in Moscow. The kidnappers
were demanding $1 million and $1.5 million respectively. A third
hostage-freeing operation ended in a shoot-out on the banks of the river Moskva
on 14 March, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Peter Rutland
BUDGET REVENUE BELOW TARGET.
During the first two months of
1997 the federal government collected 34.1 trillion rubles of budgetary
revenue, only 55% of the expected level, ITAR-TASS and Segodnya reported
on 14-15 March. Spending totaled 39.6 trillion rubles, or 50% of the projected
level. The tax arrears included 12 trillion rubles of VAT, 8.6 trillion rubles
of excise tax, and 5.3 trillion rubles profit tax. -- Natalia Gurushina
DUMA AMMENDS TAX LEGISLATION.
The State Duma passed amendments
to the law on the Russian tax system, Kommersant-Daily reported on 15
March. The changes increase commercial banks' financial responsibility for
transferring tax payments to the budget by imposing higher fines for each day
of delay. Delay fines for taxpayers are now substantially reduced.
Organizations will now be considered as having paid their taxes from the moment
they submit payment documents to the bank, provided they have enough money in
their accounts. The new law also bars retroactive tax increases. -- Natalia
SHEVARDNADZE COMMENTS ON INTERCEPTION OF TURKISH FISHING
The Turkish government demands the return of the Turkish fishing
vessel intercepted by Russian coast guards on 12 March for poaching in Georgian
territorial waters, Turkey's ambassador to Georgia told Georgian President
Eduard Shevardnadze on 14 March. Criminal proceedings have been brought against
the owner of the vessel, according to ITAR-TASS. Shevardnadze expressed his
regrets at the death of one of the Turkish crew when the Russian coast guards
opened fire, adding that "the Georgian authorities have had serious problems
with Russian border guards working on Georgian territory," according to Reuters
quoting the Georgian presidential press service. Also on 14 March, Shevardnadze
proposed to a session of Georgia's National Security Council that "we should
clarify relations with Russian border guards once for all," and urged the
Georgian parliament to pass a related law that is currently under discussion,
ITAR -TASS reported. -- Liz Fuller
RUSSIAN, AZERBAIJANI REACTION TO ARMENIAN ARMS DISCLOSURE.
head of the Russian Army's General Staff, General Viktor Samsonov, and the
chairman of the Russian Duma's Defense Committee, Lev Rokhlin, both told
Russian TV (RTR) on 14 March that they thought Defense Minister Igor Rodionov
had acted "absolutely correctly" in confirming the allegations of illicit
Russian arms transfers to Armenia. Samsonov added that the investigation into
the allegations had been conducted by the Presidential Main Control Department.
Also on 14 March, Azerbaijan's parliament appealed to Yeltsin and to the
Russian parliament to investigate the allegations, punish those responsible,
and ensure that the weaponry in question is withdrawn from Armenia, ITAR-TASS
reported. Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister Hasan Hasanov summoned foreign
ambassadors on 15 March and read a statement calling for an international
inspection of Armenia's military hardware under the terms of the 1990 CFE
Treaty, Turan reported. Responding to U.S. Ambassador Richard Kauzlarich,
Hasanov dismissed as "an outrageous lie" Armenian claims that Azerbaijan had
received arms, including hundreds of tanks, since 1994.-- Liz Fuller
SOLANA ENDS CENTRAL ASIAN TOUR.
NATO Secretary-General Javier
Solana visited Uzbekistan on 13-14 March, holding talks with government
officials, Western and Russian sources reported. Solana focused on NATO's new
Atlantic Partnership Council, an extension of the Partnership for Peace
program. Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov brought up Russia's concerns
about NATO expansion saying "without Russia, there can be no real European
security," but added that the decision on joining any alliance is a "sovereign
right of any state." Solana moved on to Turkmenistan on 14 March. Confronted
with questions about NATO expansion or participation in a multi-country
military exercise scheduled for September in Kazakstan, Turkmen President
Saparmurat Niyazov again stressed Turkmenistan's neutrality and added "(NATO)
expansion westward or eastward doesn't worry us." Turkmenistan will not send
troops to the September military exercise. -- Bruce Pannier
KAZAK, KYRGYZ, UZBEK PRIME MINISTERS MEET.
The Prime Ministers of
Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan met in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek on 14
March, RFE/RL and Radio Mayak reported. The three were seeking to broaden
cooperation in the Economic Union the three countries formed in 1994. At the
conclusion, 13 agreements were signed covering industrial cooperation, a legal
base for the free movement of labor among the three countries, coordination on
migration, and others. The most important document was on the creation of a
common economic area during 1997-1998. The presidency of the Economic Union
shifted from Kazakstani Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin to his Kyrgyz
counterpart, Apas Jumagulov. -- Bruce Pannier and Naryn Idinov
JOINT OPERATION CAPTURES TAJIK TERRORIST.
Bahrom Sadirov, whose
group was responsible for taking 16 foreigners hostage in February and 23
people hostage in December 1996, was captured on 14 February, in a joint
operation by forces of the Tajik government and the Tajik opposition, Russian
and Western sources reported. Sadirov ransomed UN workers and Russian
journalists for the return of his brother from Afghanistan. The action was
notable for being the first instance when government troops worked together
with forces loyal to the United Tajik Opposition. Sadirov's brother Rezvon was
not caught and his whereabouts are unknown. -- Bruce Pannier
UN OBSERVER-FORCE MANDATE IN TAJIKISTAN EXTENDED.
Security Council voted on 14 March to extend the mandate of its military
observer mission in Tajikistan by another three months, ITAR-TASS and Reuters
reported. The council noted great progress in the situation in Tajikistan,
particularly the military protocol signed in Moscow during the 28 February-8
March talks between representatives of the Tajik government and the United
Tajik Opposition. -- Bruce Pannier
MORE DEMONSTRATIONS IN BELARUS.
Some 10,000 people marched
through the center of Minsk on 15 March to mark the day the 1994 constitution
was adopted, international media reported. Despite the presence of large
numbers of security forces, no clashes were reported. The day before, police
arrested up to 100 people, including two Americans and two Germans, at a rally
of about 1,000 people protesting President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's policies.
The four foreigners were released after several hours. Opposition leader Yuryi
Khadyka was arrested on 13 March in a late-night raid intended to stem the
protests, Reuters reported. He has begun a hunger strike. Last spring, when
Khadyka was arrested for participating in anti-Lukashenka demonstrations, he
went on a three-week hunger strike before being released. Khadyka's wife said
the new hunger strike was in protest of his being sentenced to five days'
incarceration for resisting arrest. -- Ustina Markus
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT'S INCOME.
In line with his campaign to
improve tax collection, Leonid Kuchma declared his 1996 income and assets,
Reuters reported on 15 March. Last year the Ukrainian president earned 13,355
hryvnyas ($7,300). He also owns a dacha outside Dnipropetrovsk worth $8,000.
Kuchma said he had no income from business activities in Ukraine or abroad. --
UKRAINIAN JOURNALIST'S MYSTERIOUS DEATH.
The body of Petro
Shevchenko, 43, a correspondent from Kiyevskiye vedomosti, was found
hanging in an abandoned boiler room on 13 March, Ukrainian radio reported the
following day. Shevchenko had filed a series of stories on disputes between
Luhansk Mayor Oleksandr Danilov and the local branch of Ukraine's security
service. Days before his death, Shevchenko told colleagues he was afraid the
security service was after him. Although a suicide note was reportedly found,
the editors of Kiyevskiye vidomosti do not believe Shevchenko killed
himself and have started their own investigation. There are a number of
unsolved cases of suspicious deaths of journalists in Ukraine. On 15 March,
President Leonid Kuchma responded by empowering the prosecutor general, the
head of the Security Service, and the interior minister with responsibility for
investigating the case. -- Ustina Markus
ESTONIAN PRESIDENT APPROVES NEW GOVERNMENT.
Lennart Meri on 16
March approved the new government of Mart Siimann, international media
reported. The new government is similar to the government of former Prime
Minister Tiit Vahi, who quit last month after 22 months in office amid
accusations that he was involved in dubious real estate deals in Tallinn. Only
two ministers changed portfolios. Andres Varik, secretary general of the
Country People's Party, is to succeed Ilmar Mandmets as agriculture minister.
Education Minister Rein Loik, who decided to step down, is to be replaced by
Mait Klaassen. Regional Affairs Minister Tiit Kubri's position will remain
vacant for the time being, BNS reported. Siimann has already promised to
continue the previous government's economic policies and reforms. -- Jiri
EBRD: ESTONIA IS BEST DEVELOPED IN EASTERN EUROPE.
Bank for Reconstruction and Development considers Estonia the best-developed
nation in Eastern Europe, BNS on 16 March quoted EBRD board member David Hexter
as saying in Tallinn. According to Hexter, EBRD loans are higher per head to
Estonia than to any other country in Eastern Europe. He said the reason for the
extensive lending is a strong ethic in Estonia's business sphere and a large
number of strong banks. -- Jiri Pehe
LATVIA CRITICAL OF YELTSIN'S STAND ON NATO.
The Latvian Foreign Ministry
authorities on 15 March condemned as "unacceptable" Russian President Boris
Yeltsin's strong opposition to the Baltic states' joining NATO. Yeltsin said in
a statement on 14 March that Russia is against any of the ex-Soviet Republics'
joining NATO in any form. The ministry's statement said that Yeltsin's
statement was inconsistent with the principles of the United Nations and the
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The ministry
further said that those principles recognize the sovereign rights of all
countries to choose their means of security, including membership of defense
organizations and alliances. -- Jiri Pehe
IMF PRAISES LATVIA'S FISCAL POLICY.
The head of the visiting
IMF mission to Latvia, Emanuel van der Mensbrugghe, said on 13 March that the
Latvian economy improved last year as inflation fell from 23 percent in 1995 to
13 percent, BNS reported. Mensbrugghe attributed the improvement to a strict
fiscal policy under which the state budget deficit was reduced considerably.
The IMF mission head also praised monetary policy by the Bank of Latvia, in
particular the bank's efforts to increase its foreign currency reserves to the
level of three months' imports. -- Jiri Pehe
GOD IN THE POLISH CONSTITUTION.
Constitutional Commission on 14 March compromised on the thorny issue of how to
refer to God in the preamble to the draft constitution, Polish media reported.
The compromise preamble, proposed by Freedom Union leader and former Prime
Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki, refers to people's responsibility before God or
their own conscience. The Roman Catholic Episcopate proposed that the word "or"
be replaced by "and" or a comma, but Mazowiecki said nobody should force
non-believers to refer to God. The episcopate's secretary, Bishop Tadeusz
Pieronek, said the alternative "God or conscience" is unacceptable. The
episcopate's attitude is crucial if the draft is to be accepted in a popular
referendum. The next stage for the draft constitution is the Sejm and Senate
joint session, scheduled for 21-22 March. -- Jakub Karpinski
SOLIDARITY LEADING IN POLLS.
Half a year before the
parliamentary elections scheduled for fall 1997, Solidarity Electoral Action
(AWS) is leading the co-ruling Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) in popularity,
Rzeczpospolita reported on 17 March. According to a public opinion poll
conducted on 8 and 9 March, 29% of respondents would vote for the AWS and 26%
for the SLD. The co-ruling Polish Peasant Party, like the opposition centrist
Freedom Union, would get 12%, the Labor Union 9%, the Movement for Poland's
Reconstruction 8%. -- Jakub Karpinski
CZECH SOCIAL DEMOCRATS RE-ELECT ZEMAN AS LEADER.
Democratic Party (CSSD), the largest opposition party in the Czech parliament,
re-elected Milos Zeman chairman at its congress held 14-16 March in Bohumin,
Czech media reported. The congress did not re-elect Karel Machovec as one of
the CSSD's five deputy chairmen. Until the congress, Machovec had been the
strongest opponent of Zeman in the party leadership. Petra Buzkova, who is also
critical of some of Zeman's policies, was re-elected a deputy chairman. The
congress endorsed Zeman's speech, in which he called for confrontational
policies toward the right-of-center coalition government. In what appeared to
be a change of one of the party's most controversial stances, the congress
stopped short of demanding a referendum on the Czech Republic's membership in
NATO; it merely recommended that a referendum be held. -- Jiri Pehe
SLOVAK CATHOLIC CHURCH OFFICIAL SUPPORTS PROTESTING ACTORS.
Rudolf Balaz, head of the Slovak Bishops' Conference, expressed support
in Pravda on 15 March for the country's opposition, actors, and
students, who have been protesting against government policies. "I support
trade unions, representatives of culture, actors, students, and all other
citizens who demand a dialogue with the ruling political power and the
restoration of government respect for the citizens," Balaz said. Balaz called
for the ruling coalition -- consisting of the Movement for a Democratic
Slovakia, the ultra-right Slovak National Party, and the extreme-left Workers
Party -- to change their way of governing the country. The government rejected
Balaz's arguments, saying it was "unusual for a high representative of the
Catholic Church to call for citizens to protest against a democratically
elected government." -- Jiri Pehe
LARGE EXTREME-RIGHTIST RALLY ON HUNGARY'S NATIONAL DAY.
50,000 people gathered for a rally organized by the Hungarian Justice and Life
Party on 15 March to protest government policies, Hungarian media reported. The
extra-parliamentary party's leader, Istvan Csurka, demanded the registration of
all foreigners in Hungary and spoke against European integration efforts. "The
demands imposed on the nation by the International Monetary Fund, the World
Bank, and [billionaire philanthropist George] Soros cannot be met," Csurka
said, suggesting Hungary was being exploited by foreign banking interests and
presumably including Soros because he is a Hungarian-born Jew. Another rally
was held in front of the U.S. Embassy by a neo-Nazi party led by Albert Szabo,
who told some 300 uniformed followers and a few onlookers that they are
"fighting Zionist capitalism's takeover of Hungary." A national holiday in
commemoration of the 1848-1849 fight against Austrian rule, the 15 March
anniversary has been exploited by extremist groups for years. -- Zsofia
HUNGARY CELEBRATES NATIONAL DAY WITH ROMANIAN PREMIER.
Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea joined thousands of Hungarians across
Hungary and in neighboring countries in marking the 149th anniversary of the
1848-1849 revolution. His greeting of the Hungarian national day -- both in
Romanian and in Hungarian- was unprecedented in recent democratic politics and
was subsequently criticized by Romanian nationalists. Speakers urged national
cohesion and promoted social and economic progress as inevitable for the
advancement of the nation. Simultaneously with government speeches, opposition
politicians also held rallies, campaigning against the government. -- Zsofia
ALBANIAN UNREST PERSISTS.
EU officials are due in Tirana on 17
March to assess Albania's needs after a countrywide spree of rioting and
looting, international agencies reported. EU foreign ministers decided to send
advisers to Tirana but failed to agree on any peacekeeping or military
intervention. Tirana's airport remains closed and tensions high. Though periods
of calm returned on 16 March, most cities remain largely in the hands of armed
civilians. Newly free opposition leader Fatos Nano says he supports the
recently formed coalition government that is trying to restore order. But the
Socialist Party leader says he will not cooperate with President Sali Berisha.
Nano had been in a Tirana jail since
he managed to escape
during the unrest which swept the capital and was subsequently pardoned by
Berisha. Berisha announced a new coalition government and elections, but his
grip on power remains tenuous. -- Michael Shafir
BOSNIAN SERBS ENDORSE AGREEMENT WITH YUGOSLAVIA.
Srpska parliament on 15 March ratified a treaty establishing special relations
between Bosnian Serbs and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, despite Republika
Srpska President Biljana Plavsic's initial urging against it, international and
local media reported. Out of 72 deputies, 61 voted for the agreement, which was
signed last month by the Bosnian presidency's Serbian member, Momcilo
Krajisnik, and Yugoslav President Zoran Lilic. The pact was controversial
because it was signed by Krajisnik rather than Plavsic, who is the president of
the Bosnian Serb entity. Serb nationalists said that Krajisnik's signature de
facto concedes that Bosnia-Herzegovina is a single state. Plavsic had said the
pact was against the Serbian constitution and the Dayton peace agreement. Under
pressure from other deputies, however, Plavsic backed down and agreed to the
pact. -- Daria Sito Sucic
CROATIAN PRESIDENT IN MOSTAR.
Franjo Tudjman on 15 March was a
guest at the dedication of an aluminum factory south of the divided town of
Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina, local and international media reported. He also
visited Medjugorje, the Catholic shrine in Herzegovina, where some 7,000 Croat
teenagers were bused in to cheer him, according to AFP. Tudjman praised the
Croats of Bosnia-Herzegovina for their part in fighting Serbs and "other
extremists who wanted to endanger this area," referring to the Croat-Muslim
war. He said Bosnian Croats in many ways set an example for all Croatians.
Meanwhile, the deputy high representative in Mostar, Sir Martin Garrod, walked
out of the factory-dedicating ceremony because of insulting remarks about the
EU and Hans Koschnick, a city former EU administrator, by the factory's
president, Mijo Brajkovic, a former mayor of the Croat-held part of Mostar. --
Daria Sito Sucic
$75 MILLION DONATED FOR RECONSTRUCTION OF EASTERN SLAVONIA.
international donor conference held on 14 March in Zagreb promised a further
$21.8 million toward the reconstruction of eastern Slavonia, the last Serb-held
region of Croatia, bringing the total amount pledged to $75 million, Novi
List reported on 17 March. But the aid is less than the international
officials were hoping for. Croatian Reconstruction and Development Minister
Jure Radic said about $2 billion is necessary for reconstruction and for the
return of displaced persons, Hina reported. Croatia can promise $1 billion, but
the rest will have to be collected from the international community, Radic
said. In other news, the U.S. said it abstained from voting on a new IMF loan
to Croatia to send a strong message of displeasure with Zagreb's failure to
turn over indicted war criminals to the Hague-based war-crimes tribunal,
Reuters reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic
ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES DRAFT BUDGET.
The draft of the
1997 budget was approved by the Romanian government on 15 March and will be
submitted for parliament's approval on 19 March, the media reported on the same
day. Most of the expenditure in the budget (over 10% of the GDP) will go to
social protection, Finance Minister Mircea Ciumara told the press. The
government constructed the budget on the assumption that inflation in the first
half of the year will be 90%, dropping sharply to 30% in the second half of
1997. -- Michael Shafir
ROMANIA'S HUNGARIANS CELEBRATE 1848 REVOLUTION.
towns in Transylvania, Romania's Magyar community on 15 March marked the
anniversary of the 1848 revolution. Unlike in previous years, when the
celebrations met the hostility of the government and of Romanian nationalists
who attribute to the Magyars irredentist intentions over Transylvania, this
year Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea sent a message to the Romanian Hungarian
minority and government officials participated in the ceremonies. The Party of
Social Democracy in Romania, on the other hand, protested that the government
was marking "the anniversary of another state" and recalled "atrocities"
committed by the 1848 revolutionaries against ethnic Romanians in Transylvania.
As expected, the Party of Romanian National Unity and the Greater Romania Party
also protested against the celebrations. -- Michael Shafir
ROMANIAN BANK DIRECTOR UNDER POLICE INVESTIGATION.
Temesan, the head of Romania's largest commercial bank, Bacorex, was detained
by police on 14 March on charges of abuse of office. Although released, he
remains under investigation on suspicion of having cost the state some $100,000
by approving payment of more than $1 million to a private company at an
exchange rate lower than the official rate, Romanian television reported on 14
and 15 March. Bancorex fired Temesan and his deputy a few hours before his
arrest. In a related development, President Emil Constantinescu on 14 March
told a seminar of police and army officers that Romania cannot join the
Euro-Atlantic structures unless it can stop organized crime, illegal
emigration, and terrorism. -- Michael Shafir
ANTI-NATO COMMITTEE IN TRANSDNIESTER.
The council of war
veterans and reservists from Rabnita, in the breakaway Transdniester region of
Moldova, set up a group to create an "anti- NATO committee," BASA-press
reported on 14 March. In a press release, the council said that "NATO's true
purpose is to weaken and diminish the military and economic potential of the
CIS and particularly that of Russia" and called for anti-NATO groups to be set
up in every settlement. A group representing Cossacks who came to the region to
fight on the separatist side also expressed concern over the possible expansion
of NATO and called on President Boris Yeltsin to renounce his intention to
withdraw the troops. -- Michael Shafir
FORMER BULGARIAN PREMIER TO BE PROSECUTED.
Bogumil Bonev on 16 March told the state radio that former Premier Zhan Videnov
is to be prosecuted for criminal negligence that resulted in a severe bread
shortage, RFE/RL reported. Bonev said both Videnov and his adviser, Kasimir
Raidovsky, have been banned from leaving the country. He said Videnov neglected
problems with the grain balance in Bulgaria and, when informed about the
problem, did not stop exporting grain. Videnov was forced to resign on 28
December last year. -- Michael Shafir
The Socialist Party has signed a coalition
agreement with the left-wing Agrarians and Ecologists in preparation for the 19
April early elections, RFE/RL reported on 15 March. Former President Zhelyu
Zhelev on 14 March became chairman of a new seven-party coalition called the
Alliance to Save Bulgaria. The alliance envisions itself as an alternative to
the main anti-Communist opposition coalition led by the Union of Democratic
Forces. In other news, U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Walter Slocum, on an
official visit to Sofia, said Washington understands Bulgaria's desire to join
NATO, RFE/RL reported on 16 March. Slocum said all applications of NATO
candidates will be considered "very seriously" and added that the U.S. supports
the efforts of the interim Bulgarian cabinet and President Petar Stoyanov to
reform the economy. -- Michael Shafir
[As of 1200 CET]
Compiled by Susan Caskie and Sava Tatic