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Newsline - April 22, 1998




YELTSIN TO MEET SPEAKERS OF PARLIAMENT

President Boris Yeltsin has agreed to meet with Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev and State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev on 23 April, one day before the Duma will vote for the third and last time on the nomination of Sergei Kirienko as prime minister, Seleznev announced on 22 April. In an interview with RFE/RL's Moscow bureau, Seleznev said he will raise three issues with the president. First, he will ask Yeltsin to come to the Duma in person to present Kirienko's candidacy. Second, he will request that Kirienko specify who will be appointed to some cabinet posts and which ministers will be kept on from the previous government. And third, he will ask Yeltsin to share with the parliament any draft documents or plans concerning the disputed Kuril Islands (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 and 21 April 1998). LB

VOTING PROCEDURE TO BE DECIDED AT LAST MINUTE

The Duma on 22 April declined to consider which procedure will be used for the final vote on Kirienko's candidacy, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Communist deputy Vladimir Semago sought to have the matter included on the Duma's agenda for the day, but the procedure will be determined on 24 April. Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky has advocated a secret ballot, and politicians and commentators alike agree such a vote would increase Kirienko's chances of being confirmed. The acting premier received less support in the Duma on 17 April, when an open vote was held on his candidacy, than in the first vote one week earlier. Duma deputy Valentin Kuptsov, a high-ranking Communist Party official, has said the Communist leadership will propose an open vote on Kirienko, Interfax reported on 21 April. LB

ZYUGANOV TO URGE COMMUNISTS TO REJECT KIRIENKO...

Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov says that at a plenary meeting of the party's Central Committee on 23 April, he will urge Communists to vote against Kirienko, Russian news agencies reported. Speaking to journalists the previous day, after he laid a wreath at the Lenin Mausoleum on the occasion of the first Bolshevik leader's birthday, Zyuganov repeated that his party is ready for new parliamentary elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 April 1998). In an interview with RFE/RL's Moscow bureau on 21 April, commentator Andrei Piontkovskii speculated that Zyuganov is pushing for new elections because he fears that he may lose the post of party leader if he agrees to let Kirienko be confirmed. Piontkovskii argued that beginning with the Communist leader's appearance on NTV on 19 April, a "new Zyuganov" has appeared who is less willing to cooperate with Yeltsin than he has been in the past. LB

...WHILE SELEZNEV TO ARGUE OPPOSITE CASE

Duma Speaker Seleznev announced on 21 April that he will try to persuade the Communist Party's Central Committee not to sacrifice the Duma and allow Yeltsin to rule by decree in the absence of a functioning parliament, Russian news agencies reported. Speaking to ITAR-TASS, Popular Power faction leader Nikolai Ryzhkov also argued against "leaving the country without a parliament," noting that Yeltsin will be able to appoint Kirienko prime minister in any case after 24 April. Ryzhkov predicted that the Duma will confirm Kirienko. However, the Popular Power faction is not united over the acting premier. Speaking in Strasbourg on 21 April, faction member Sergei Glotov said he opposes Kirienko's candidacy because, according to Glotov, Kirienko once held dual Russian-Israeli citizenship, AFP reported. LB

CHERNOMYRDIN AGAINST PUTTING CHUBAIS IN CHARGE OF ELECTRICITY GIANT

Former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin told journalists on 21 April that he opposes the possible appointment of former First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais as chief executive of the electricity utility Unified Energy System (EES). Chernomyrdin argued that Chubais is a "politician, and it would be wrong today to bring confrontation to a company like EES," Russian news agencies reported. The government owns a controlling stake in EES and consequently can choose the company's top executive, but acting Prime Minister Kirienko has refused to say whether Chubais will get the job. Speaking to RFE/RL on 22 April, Seleznev said that in his 23 April meeting with Yeltsin, he will seek assurances that Chubais will not be appointed to head EES. Seleznev claimed that Chubais was nominated "by the American side." Foreign shareholders in EES reportedly nominated Chubais to head the company. LB

GAZPROM EXECUTIVE PREDICTS ROSNEFT AUCTION TO FAIL

Petr Rodionov, former fuel and energy minister and current deputy chairman of the Gazprom board of directors, has predicted that the auction for a controlling stake in the oil company Rosneft will not take place on the scheduled date of 26 May, Interfax reported on 21 April, citing an interview with Rodionov on Russian Television. Rodionov said the gas monopoly may not bid for the stake, adding that other potential bidders may also pull out (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 April 1998). Vladimir Potanin, the head of the Interros group, on 20 April said the oil company Sidanko still plans to take part in the Rosneft auction, although Potanin argued that the government's asking price is "fairly high." Last November, British Petroleum agreed to purchase a stake in Sidanko, and the two companies formed a consortium to bid for Rosneft. LB

RUSSIA FLOATS ANOTHER EUROBOND

The Russian government on 21 April issued a five-year, 500 billion lira ($280 million) Eurobond, Russian news agencies reported. Deputy Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said the volume of the issue may be expanded to 750 billion lira if there is sufficient demand. According to ITAR-TASS, the government initially planned to float a 750 billion lira bond, and Finance Ministry officials have refused to say why the volume was reduced. It is the federal government's fifth Eurobond issue in all and the second in as many months. Russia floated a seven-year, DM 1.25 billion bond last month, one day after Yeltsin fired the entire cabinet (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 March 1998). LB

YASTRZHEMBSKII TOURS KURIL ISLANDS

Russian presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii on 21 April told residents of Iturup and Kunashir islands that although Russia "would like to solve the political and psychological problem" surrounding ownership of the disputed Kuril Islands, it has no "spare territory," Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. While Yastrzhembskii assured them that the islands will remain Russian territory and not be handed over to Japan, he also noted that the islands of Kunashir and Shitokan are "a social disaster zone." Yastrzhembskii pointed out there are no schools on Shitokan, no hospital on Iturup, and an insufficient number of jobs on Kunashir. Energy on all the islands is expensive, and although the average wage on the islands is 300 rubles ($49) a month, the cost of sending a child to kindergarten is 600 rubles a year, while an airplane ticket to Sakhalin Island costs some 700 rubles. The trip was a fact-finding mission, and Yastrzhembskii will make recommendations to the government when he returns to Moscow. BP

TROPHY ART LAW GOES INTO EFFECT

The law "on cultural valuables moved to the USSR as a result of World War II and located on Russian territory" went into effect on 21 April, when it was published in the official government newspaper "Rossiiskaya gazeta." Yeltsin's appeal to the Constitutional Court against the trophy art law was also published in the newspaper. The president claims the law violates the Russian constitution as well as Russian international obligations. Sergei Shakhrai, the president's representative in the Constitutional Court, has claimed that the law will be "dead" until the court rules on Yeltsin's appeal. However, Interfax quoted Constitutional Court Chairman Marat Baglai as saying the law will be applied fully while Yeltsin's appeal is pending. The court is not expected to rule on the legality of the trophy art law until late this year. LB

SUSPECTED MAFIA BOSS CONVICTED IN ISRAEL

A court in Jerusalem has sentenced Grigorii Lerner, a notorious suspected Russian mafia boss, to six years in prison and a fine of 5 million shekels ($1.4 million), RFE/RL's correspondent in Tel Aviv reported on 21 April. Lerner, who now goes by the name of Zvi Ben-Ari, has been held in pre-trial detention for 10 months. His sentence corresponds to a recent agreement under which Israeli authorities dropped charges of murder and attempted murder and Lerner pleaded guilty to 13 other charges against him, including fraud and attempted bribery of Israeli politicians. RFE/RL's correspondent said some opinion polls indicate that Lerner is a popular figure among the Russian-speaking Israeli population, and many people believe certain aspects of his investigation and prosecution were unfair and discriminatory. LB

PROSECUTORS REOPEN CRIMINAL CASE AGAINST JAPANESE SECT

The Prosecutor-General's office has reopened a criminal case against the Japanese sect Aum Shinri Kyo, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 April. The case was closed last month because of unspecified "changes in the situation" surrounding the case (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 March 1998). However, ITAR-TASS quoted Prosecutor- General Yurii Skuratov as saying that the decision to drop charges against the sect was hasty and not justified. He argued that it has not been proven that Aum Shinri Kyo has ceased to be a public threat. The sect was banned in Russia in April 1995. LB

FRENCH ACTOR TO CAMPAIGN FOR LEBED...

During the last week of the gubernatorial campaign in Krasnoyarsk Krai, the French film star Alain Delon is to visit Krasnoyarsk to support former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed, Russian news agencies reported on 20 April. Lebed and Delon met for dinner when Lebed visited Paris in January to mark the publication of the French edition of his memoirs, RFE/RL's correspondent in Paris reported. They are both former paratroopers and admirers of Charles de Gaulle. Meanwhile, coverage of the Krasnoyarsk campaign on the fully state-owned nationwide network Russian Television tends to support the incumbent, Valerii Zubov, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 20 April. In contrast, coverage of the race on 51 percent state-owned Russian Public Television (ORT) is more favorable to Lebed. Boris Berezovskii, an influential figure at ORT, is supporting Lebed's candidacy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April 1998). LB

...WHILE LUZHKOV CAMPAIGNS FOR INCUMBENT

Speaking in Krasnoyarsk on 21 April, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov urged voters not to support Lebed, ITAR-TASS reported. The mayor, who is backing Zubov, accused Lebed of seeking to use Krasnoyarsk to further his own political ambitions. He also criticized the August 1996 ceasefire agreement between Russia and Chechnya, which Lebed helped negotiate. According to Luzhkov, that agreement did not do enough to protect Russians. In addition, Luzhkov said Lebed's lack of opposition to NATO expansion is not in Russia's state interests. ITAR-TASS reported on 20 April that Luzhkov and Zubov were to sign an economic cooperation agreement during the mayor's visit to Krasnoyarsk. Acting on behalf of the Moscow city government, Luzhkov has signed similar agreements with the leaders of many Russian regions. LB

CHECHNYA COMMEMORATES DUDAEV'S DEATH

Several thousand Chechens congregated near the village of Gekhi- chu on 21 April to mark the second anniversary of the death in a rocket attack of President Djokhar Dudaev, ITAR-TASS reported. Chechen Vice-President Vakha Arsanov told journalists that the site of Dudaev's grave will be made public only after Chechnya's independence is recognized and a full-scale treaty to that effect is signed with Moscow. LF

TATAR DISTRICT COURT SUSPENDS PUBLICATION OF OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER

The Yar Chally municipal court on 21 April suspended publication of "Altin Urda, " the newspaper of the opposition Ittifaq party, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported, citing Tatarstan State Television. The newspaper is accused of violating the law on the honor and dignity of the republic's president. LF




MORE TURKMEN DISSIDENTS RELEASED

On the eve of Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov's meeting with U.S. President Bill Clinton in Washington, more Turkmen dissidents have been released from detention, RFE/RL correspondents reported. On 17 April, Durdymurat Khojamukhammed, a co-leader of Turkmenistan's Democratic Progress Party, was allowed to leave a psychiatric hospital in Goek-Teppe, where he had been detained since 1995. Khojamukhammed told an RFE/RL correspondent that the Turkmen authorities demanded he give up political activities. According to Erika Dailey of Human Rights Watch, Begmurat Khojayev and Batyr Sakhetliyev have also been released after being held by the authorities since they allegedly organized a demonstration in Ashgabat on 12 July 1995. Former Foreign Minister Avdy Kuliev was released from detention on 20 April, but reports suggest he remains under house arrest. BP

KAZAKH ENERGY MINISTER, OIL HEAD SACKED

President Nursultan Nazarbayev on 21 April dismissed Energy Minister Asygat Zhabagin and the head of the state oil company, Baltabek Kyandykov, RFE/RL correspondents reported. They are replaced by 35-year-old Mukhtar Ablyazov and 28-year-old Nurlan Kapparov, respectively. Both were involved until now in private business. Nazarbayev also criticized the government's performance in the first quarter of 1998, noting oil prices in the country have risen, despite a drop in prices worldwide. BP

UZBEK MINISTER POSTHUMOUSLY EXONERATED OF CHARGES

The Supreme Court on 21 April declared that evidence against former Cotton Production Minister Kahobjon Usmanov is insufficient and overturned the verdict of guilty handed down by the Supreme Court of the Soviet Union, ITAR-TASS reported. Usmanov was caught up in the cotton scandal of the mid-1980s during a Soviet anti-corruption campaign and was accused of taking bribes. Usmanov was found guilty in August 1986 and executed. BP

KYRGYZ DEPUTIES RAISE QUESTIONS OVER LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY

Three members of Kyrgyzstan's Legislative Assembly have called for the body to be dissolved, RFE/RL correspondents reported on 21 April. Parliamentary deputies Anvar Artykov, Alevtina Pronenko, and Tokon Shailieva questioned the need for 20 parliamentary commissions when the assembly currently only has 33 members. The assembly has asked the Prosecutor-General's Office to open a libel case against Artykov for an article he published in the 17 April edition of "Vecherny Bishkek" claiming that the chairmen of the 20 commissions and the speaker of the parliament and his deputy have used their two-thirds majority to turn the legislature into "a mafia-corrupted organization." BP

U.S. TO REMOVE FISSIONABLE MATERIAL FROM GEORGIAN REACTOR

The U.S. government will assist in the removal of some 4 kilos of uranium and nuclear waste from a mothballed experimental nuclear reactor near Tbilisi, Western agencies reported on 21 April. The material will be transported to the British nuclear complex at Dounreay. The operation was requested by Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze in 1996 to prevent terrorists from stealing nuclear materials. The Georgian experimental reactor was built in 1959 and closed following protests by Georgian ecologists in 1990. LF

ABKHAZIA CUTS GOVERNMENT STAFF

President Vladislav Ardzinba has fired three deputy premiers and the head of the cabinet office, Caucasus Press reported on 22 April. Financial problems will necessitate the closure of a number of ministries, and the funds saved will be used to pay salaries at the Defense and Interior Ministries, according to the news agency. LF

TURKISH ENERGY MINISTER IN BAKU

Cumhur Ersumer met with President Heidar Aliyev in Baku on 21 April to discuss the proposed Baku-Ceyhan oil export pipeline. Aliyev expressed dissatisfaction with the Turkish government's delay in beginning construction of the pipeline. He added that its planned throughput capacity should be doubled, as estimates of Azerbaijan's oil reserves have been revised upward since the project was first discussed. The pipeline will also be used to transport oil from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. Ersumer agreed that there is "no alternative" to the Baku-Ceyhan route but said that Turkey is seeking ways to reduce the estimated $2.3 billion construction costs, Interfax reported. Meeting with Prime Minister Artur Rasi-zade and Natik Aliev, president of the state oil company SOCAR, Ersumer also discussed Turkish companies' participation in developing Azerbaijani oil fields and creating a joint energy system between Turkey, Georgia, and Azerbaijan, Turan reported. LF

BAKU HALTS RETRANSMISSION OF RFE/RL AZERBAIJANI BROADCASTS

The Azerbaijani Ministry of Communications on 20 April stopped the medium-wave retransmission of RFE/RL's Azerbaijani broadcasts on the grounds that RFE/RL has failed to comply with a requirement introduced last year that all electronic media acquire a broadcasting license. The Azerbaijani authorities notified RFE/RL of that requirement only three days before halting the broadcasts. Azerbaijan Popular Front Deputy Chairman Ali Kerimli demanded in the parliament on 21 April that the decision be revoked. Press Minister Siruz Tabrizli said that retransmission will be restarted if RFE/RL acquires the necessary license, an RFE/RL correspondent in Baku reported. LF

NEW ARMENIAN PRIME MINISTER GIVES FIRST NEWS CONFERENCE

Armen Darpinian on 21 April said members of his cabinet have been appointed for one year and that an extension of their term in office will depend on their performance, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Darpinian commended Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian's "high degree of responsibility" in giving up his U.S. citizenship to become an Armenian citizen. He also praised Interior and National Security Minister Serzh Sarkisian for "the deepest sense of [Armenian] statehood" and said he "cannot imagine the Armenian army" without Defense Minister Vazgen Sarkisian. The new premier stressed that Armenia will continue to adhere to cooperation agreements it has signed with international economic organizations. He forecast economic growth of 7 percent for 1998, compared with earlier predictions of 5.2 percent, and inflation below10 percent, according to ITAR-TASS. LF

DEFEATED ARMENIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE TO RUN FOR PARLIAMENT

Karen Demirchian is one of eight candidates who will contend a vacant seat in the National Assembly, Asbarez reported on 21 April, citing the news agency Snark. The former ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement has proposed ex-National Bank chairman Bagrat Asatrian as a candidate. LF




BELARUS, GAZPROM AGREE ON GAS DEBT REPAYMENT

Belarus and Russia's Gazprom have agreed on how Belarus will repay its $220-million gas debt, ITAR-TASS reported. The agreement was reached during a meeting between Gazprom chief Rem Vyakhirev and Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and Prime Minister Syarhey Linh in Minsk on 21 April. According to Vyakhirev, Belarus is to repay 26 percent of its debt in hard currency and 74 percent in goods and services. "Belarus will be supplied with as much gas as it needs," ITAR-TASS quoted Vyakhirev as saying. JM

SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS GUILTY VERDICT ON YOUNG OPPOSITIONISTS

The Belarusian Supreme Court on 21 April upheld the Minsk regional court's ruling sentencing two young oppositionists to prison terms for painting anti -presidential graffiti on city buildings in Stoubtsy in February, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Under that ruling, 19-year-old Alyaksey Shydlouski will have to complete his 18-month sentence in a penal colony. Sixteen-year-old Vadzim Labkovich was given an identical, suspended sentence. JM

KUCHMA APPOINTS NEW ECONOMY MINISTER...

In the ongoing reshuffle of the cabinet, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has appointed Vasyl Rohovyy as new economy minister, ITAR-TASS reported. Rohovyy's predecessor, Viktor Suslov, resigned in order to take up his seat in the parliament, as did Technology Minister Vitaliy Seminozhenko. Environment Minister Yuriy Kostenko, Transport Minister Valeriy Cherep, and Acting Prosecutor General Oleh Lytvak are also expected to step down after winning parliamentary seats. JM

...PLEDGES COOPERATION WITH NEW PARLIAMENT

At a meeting with lawmakers representing various business circles on 21 April, Kuchma vowed constructive cooperation with the new Supreme Council, ITAR-TASS reported. "Continuing confrontation between the legislative and executive power would be a deliberate suicide," he was quoted as saying. JM

UKRAINE WANTS TO PROSECUTE RUSSIAN DIPLOMAT

Ukraine has asked Russia to strip a legal attache at the Russian Embassy in Kyiv of his diplomatic immunity. While driving a car, the attache hit and killed a Ukrainian citizen crossing the street. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman said the diplomat was drunk at the time of the accident but declined to take an alcohol check and medical tests. "Considering the seriousness of the accident, we want appropriate measures to be taken," Reuters quoted the spokesman as saying. JM

KYIV CRITICIZES G-8 FOR NOT ABIDING BY ACCORD ON CHORNOBYL CLOSURE

Kyiv has accused the international community of failing to keep an agreement on the shutdown of the Chornobyl nuclear plant, ITAR-TASS reported. "Our expectations of receiving financial aid from the international community have not been met," the agency quoted Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Anton Buteyko as saying. Under the 1995 deal, the G-8 (at the time G-7) pledged $3.1 billion to assist Ukraine in closing the plant. Ukrainian authorities maintain they have received only $250 million to date. JM

ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT ENDORSES 1998 PRIVATIZATION PROGRAM

The cabinet has approved this year's privatization program, ETA reported on 21 April. Under that program, the privatization of such major enterprises as Estonian Oil Shale, Estonian Railroads, Estonian Telekom, and Estonian Energy is to be launched. The government will also continue to sell shares in the country's alcohol distilleries. JC

LATVIAN GOVERNMENT SUBMITS WORKING GROUP'S PROPOSAL TO PARLIAMENT

The cabinet has submitted to the parliament the draft amendment to the citizenship law drawn up by a government working group whereby the system of "naturalization windows" is to be abolished, BNS and AFP reported on 21 April . But it wants to continue to review the draft amendments granting citizenship to children born in Latvia to non-citizens since 21 August 1991 in order to take into account changes to the language and education laws. The working group has drawn up two draft proposals: the first would allow those children to acquire citizenship if one of their parents requests it, the second provides for the children to become citizens when they are 16 years old if they can prove sufficient knowledge of the Latvian language. The working group is to draw up a final version of the amendment by next week, which will be submitted to the parliament separately. JC

RUSSIAN ORGANIZATION REFUSES TO VACATE RIGA HISTORICAL BUILDING

A small group of ethnic Russians are refusing to vacate an historical building in downtown Riga that houses the Russian Cultural Center. The so-called Peter I Palace was bought in December by an Estonian company, which had asked the center to vacate the premises by 21 April. The palace was put up for auction after the Russian Community of Latvia had not paid the rent over a lengthy period. The Russian Cultural Center, however, maintains, that the building is its property. Protesters on 21 April blocked the door to the building and refused entry to Riga Mayor Andris Berzins. Berzins, for his part, told the group that they have chosen the "wrong course" by blockading the building" and that they should "appeal through the courts." JC

NORDIC COUNTRIES DENOUNCE RUSSIAN THREAT OF SANCTIONS

The foreign ministers of the five Nordic countries issued a statement following their 21 April meeting in Stockholm saying that "political problems" in the Baltic Sea region should be solved through dialogue and calling on Russia to drop its threat of economic sanctions against Latvia. Swedish Foreign Minister Lena Hjelm-Wallen told the Swedish news agency that "we cannot accept the threat of sanctions against Latvia. They are outside the European agenda." The Nordic ministers also urged the Latvian parliament to quickly enact amendments to the citizenship law. JC

POLAND TO HOLD LOCAL ELECTIONS THIS FALL

President Aleksander Kwasniewski on 21 April signed the government's bill postponing local elections to the lowest tier of administration until this fall, "Gazeta Wyborcza" reported. In this way, Kwasniewski, a former Communist leader, demonstrated his support for the Solidarity-led government's plan to decentralize state administration. According to that plan, the number of voivodships will be reduced from 49 to 12 and the "powiat," a middle tier of administration, introduced. Local elections to all three levels of administration will be held simultaneously in the fall. JM

POLISH PREMIER ENTERS DISPUTE OVER AUSCHWITZ CROSS

Jerzy Buzek on 21 April sent an open letter to residents of the Oswiecim/Auschwitz region, warning them against any "provocation" over the "Cross of Auschwitz" issue. Some Polish and overseas Jewish organizations are demanding that a large cross erected near the site of the former death camp in 1979 be removed. Buzek says in his letter than no decision will be taken on the cross without consulting "the clergy and local people." JM

CZECH OFFICIAL CALLS FOR HAVEL'S RESIGNATION

Jaroslav Zverina, the deputy chairman of the Chamber of Deputies and a member of former Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party, has said President Vaclav Havel should consider resigning from office. Zverina, who is a medical doctor, said that Havel should not have run for re-election in view of the state of his health and that he should leave office after the June early parliamentary elections. MS

SLOVAKIA ESTIMATES ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE BY FORMER SOVIET TROOPS

The Defense Ministry says Soviet troops stationed on Slovak territory from 1968- 1991 caused environmental damage totaling nearly $27 million, Reuters reported on 21 April. By January 1998, Slovakia had spent some $20 million in the redevelopment of damaged localities. This is the first time the government in Bratislava has released an estimate of the environmental costs of the 23-year Soviet presence in the country. According to the ministry, the Soviet troops polluted the soil, rocks, and underground water in 81 localities. Most of the pollution was caused by fuel oils. So far, 50-60 percent of the polluted sites have been cleaned. MS

TWELVE HUNGARIAN PARTIES QUALIFY FOR NATIONAL LISTS

Twelve political parties have submitted enough regional lists in order to run candidates on national lists as well (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 April 1998), according to the Central Electoral Committee. An opinion poll recently conducted by Szonda Ipsos shows the Socialists continuing to lead the field with 34 percent, followed by the Young Democrats (23 percent), the Smallholders (18 percent) and the Free Democrats (10 percent). The same poll suggests no other party will pass the 5 percent threshold. But a Gallup poll indicates a much narrower gap between the Socialists (21 percent) and the Young Democrats (20 percent), with support for the Smallholders totaling 10 percent and Democratic Forum 5 percent. MS




REPORTS OF MILITARY BUILDUPS IN KOSOVA CONTINUE

A convoy of armored vehicles and troops from the Yugoslav army were reported heading toward the Kosovar town of Pec, AFP reported on 21 April. Belgrade- based B92 radio reported the same day that Yugoslav army garrisons in the Decani region have been reinforced and heavy artillery positioned near the ethnic Albanian towns of Djakuvica and Decani. Serbian sources report that the Kosova Liberation Army (KLA) is receiving arms and manpower across the border from Albanians. The Yugoslav army accused the Albanian government last week of aiding that process. Reuters reported that the KLA controls the villages of Glamocelj, Glodjane, Rznic, Dubrava, Crni Breg, Prilib, Ratise, Lubarda, and Maznik. In Prishtina, a few thousand ethnic Albanians staged a peaceful demonstration for the 12th consecutive day against Serb rule.

INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY CALLS FOR DIALOGUE

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott said that both sides in the Kosova conflict should immediately begin unconditional negotiations, an RFE/RL correspondent in Warsaw reported on 21 April. Talbott spoke after meeting with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe chairman Bronislaw Geremek. Talbott recently toured the Balkans and Moscow ahead of a meeting of the Kosova Contact Group in Rome on 29 April. Geremek reiterated that an OSCE envoy was prepared to go to the Yugoslavia to find a solution to the crisis. Belgrade has until now rejected the offer. In Brussels, EU External Relations Commissioner Hans van den Broek said that both sides should hold talks in a neutral location. Belgrade has offered to talk with ethnic Albanian officials in Kosova but only on the condition that independence for the province is not on the agenda. PB

SILAJDZIC SAYS BOSNIA PARTITION BEING CONSOLIDATED

Haris Silajdzic, the Muslim co-chairman of the Bosnian Council of Ministers, said on 21 April that the "de facto partition" of Bosnia-Herzegovina is being consolidated. Silajdzic, a Muslim, made his comments in Stockholm after meeting with Swedish Prime Minister Goeran Persson. Fellow Bosnian co-chairman Boro Bosic, a Serb, was more optimistic, saying that the "peace process is going in a positive direction." Silajdzic said that more than half of Bosnia's population are unable to return to their homes, a right guaranteed to them in the Dayton accords. Silajdzic said he "measures everything" by that fact. Bosic, Silajdzic, and their Croatian colleague Nevin Tomic were in Sweden to discuss the peace process and the plight of the some 60,000 Bosnian refugees living there. PB

UN SACKS MORE OFFICIALS IN DRVAR

The police chief of the Croatian-run town of Drvar and the local interior minister were fired on 21 April by the UN in response to the murder of a Serbian couple last week, AFP reported. Ivan Jurisic was dismissed for failing to provide a safe environment and was decertified as a policeman. He was told of the sacking in a letter from the commissioner of the UN's International Police Task Force. Barisa Letica was released from his post as interior minister of Canton 10, where Drvar is located. The Serbian couple were shot and their house set on fire, one of several house-burnings directed against Serbs returning to their pre-war homes. PB

VOLKSWAGEN TO REOPEN FACTORY IN BOSNIA

The German automaker Volkswagen said on 21 April that it will reopen its Vogosca factory near Sarajevo in July, AFP reported. The factory was first opened in 1979 but was closed and then pilfered during the war. Husein Musabegovic, the general manager of Tvornica Automobla Sarajevo, a VW partner in the operation, said they hope to produce 5,000 cars this year and 15,000 in 1999. "Oslobodenje" said the first group of employees has already begun training. PB

MACEDONIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN ANKARA

Meeting on 21 April with visiting Macedonian Foreign Minister Blagoy Handziski, President Suleyman Demirel pledged continued Turkish support for Macedonia, assessing bilateral relations as "very good," according to the "Turkish Daily News" on 22 April. Handziski requested continued Turkish support for his country's bid for NATO membership. He said that his talks the previous day with his Turkish counterpart, Ismail Cem, on increasing Turkish financial and technical aid to the Macedonian armed forces were "very productive." Referring to the ongoing tensions in Kosova, Demirel called on the region's Albanian population to "be patient and work for a peaceful solution." LF

NEW ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT NEARLY COMPLETE

Albanian President Rexhep Meidani has approved two more ministers in the reshuffled cabinet of Prime Minister Fatos Nano, Reuters reported on 21 April. The appointment of Maqo Lakrori as minister for Euro-Atlantic integration and Ilir Meta as minister for European integration leaves only two of the nine new ministers unapproved by Meidani. The president's failure to approve the cabinet last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April 1998) led the prime minister to accuse Meidani of creating a political crisis. Nano's office issued a statement on 20 April assuring the international community "that there is no...governing crisis in Albania." PB

ALBANIAN UNITS CARRY OUT EXERCISE NEAR KOSOVAR BORDER

The Albanian army held an artillery firing exercise in the northeastern town of Kukes, Albanian Television reported on 21 April. A Defense Ministry statement said the practice session was held to indicate the military's "high level of preparedness." The Albanian military was in ruins after the chaos and riots that engulfed the country last year. The government has re-established several army units in recent months and has stationed a division near Kukes, which is just a few kilometers from the Yugoslav province of Kosova. PB

ROMANIA REJECTS AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL REPORT

Both Premier Radu Vasile and Interior Minister Gavril Dejeu on 21 April rejected a report on infringements of human rights presented on the same day by Amnesty International at a press conference in Strasbourg, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Vasile and Dejeu acknowledged that there have been "isolated cases" of police violence against detainees but said they were "isolated instances" such as can also be found in Western democracies. Dejeu added that "disciplinary measures" have been taken against the perpetrators. In an interview with RFE/RL, the Council of Europe special rapporteur for Romania, Gunnar Janson, said the report was "well founded" and its conclusions "coincide in many points" with his own. A committee of the council's Parliamentary Assembly will decide on 23 April whether to place Romania on the council's special monitoring list. MS

ROMANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER DEFENDS ARMY'S ROLE IN 1989

Defense Minister Victor Babiuc, in a statement released on 21 April, says the Romanian army "deserves the gratitude of the nation" for the role it played in December 1989 and "not the harassment to which it is subjected today." Babiuc said that only the then supreme commander of the army (Nicolae Ceausescu), Defense Minister (Vasile Milea, who committed suicide) and the chief of staff (Stefan Guse, who died of natural causes) can be held personally responsible for ordering the opening of fire; the rest "followed orders," he argued. Babuic added that the " presumption of guilt" hanging over the army as a whole is "illegal, immoral, and contrary to reality." Former Defense Minister Victor Stanculescu and former Interior Minister Mihai Chitac are currently on trial for having ordered the army to open fire on demonstrators at that time. MS

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT FAILS TO ELECT CHAIRMAN

The new Moldovan parliament convened for the first time on 21 April but failed to vote on electing a chairman, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The Party of Moldovan Communists faction intended to propose its leader, Vladimir Voronin, for that post. The other three factions, however, requested a 10-minute break for consultations, and the vote had to be postponed until 22 April. President Petru Lucinschi earlier addressed the legislators, warning them against turning the "national ideal" into "an inimical and aggressive" one that could affect "inter-ethnic peace." Observers say the warning was addressed primarily at deputies from the Democratic Convention of Moldova and the Party of Democratic Forces who favor union with Romania. Lucinschi called on the deputies to cooperate "on the basis of reasonable compromises" since no faction has a majority and can claim that it alone represents voters' interests. MS

CENTER-RIGHT COALITION FORMED IN MOLDOVA

The pro-presidential For a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova Bloc (PMPD), the rightist Democratic Convention of Moldova (CDM), and the Party of Democratic Forces (PFD) on have formed a joint faction in the parliament, Romanian state radio reported on 22 April. The faction, called the Alliance for Democracy, has 61 deputies and thus is larger than that of the Party of Moldovan Communists, which is 40-strong. Former president Mircea Snegur, co-chairman of the CDM, was elected leader of the joint faction. The move paves the way for the election on 22 April of PMPD leader Dumitru Diacov as chairman of the parliament. Citing sources that requested anonymity, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on 21 April that an agreement has been reached on setting up a center-right cabinet supported by the PMPD, the CDM, and the PFD. MS




RUSSIA'S CONSTITUTIONAL COURT CHAIRMAN DISPLAYS LEGAL RESOLVE


by John Helmer

Marat Baglai, the chairman of Russia's Constitutional Court, called his first press conference in almost a year to dismiss the constitutional claims of acting Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko and the president's representative at the court, Sergei Shakhrai.

There has been no comparable rebuke to ranking government officials since Valerii Zorkin, the first chairman of the Constitutional Court, publicly told Boris Yeltsin that his presidential order disbanding the Supreme Soviet in 1993 was illegal.

Baglai, who is the third chairman in the court's six- year history, dismissed Kirienko's claim that during Yeltsin's recent visit to Japan, the acting premier would take over the presidential duties. According to Baglai, "an unconfirmed chairman of the government cannot, of course, carry out the duties of the president." Kremlin aides subsequently said Yeltsin would not delegate any of his powers while traveling.

Baglai's repudiation of Shakhrai was even more sweeping. Last week, Shakhrai had called his own press conference to announce that if the State Duma voted Kirienko down three times and were to be dissolved, the new election might be postponed until 27 September or 11 October. In the six-month interval, Shakhrai hinted, Yeltsin might rule by decree as he had done in 1993.

"It would be inhuman, "Shakhrai announced, "to fix the date of the elections in July, since in the summer the people must have an opportunity to forget about politics." Shakhrai also claimed that the new Duma elections might be conducted according to majority-vote rules that have yet to be enacted but might be ordered by presidential decree.

Baglai reacted strongly. He made it clear that the Kremlin cannot violate the article of the constitution mandating an election within three months of the dissolution of the parliament. He rejected Shakhrai's suggestion of an election postponement and warned the Kremlin against threats to impose new vote-counting rules by presidential decree. Such a decree abrogating the law is "impossible in our country," Baglai said.

Shakhrai, a lawyer by profession, is the last surviving office-holder among Yeltsin's advisers who, in December 1991, helped him break up the Soviet Union, along with the leaders of Belarus and Ukraine. He is also the last of Yeltsin's advisers from the disbanding of the 1993 Supreme Soviet to remain on the Kremlin staff.

According to Shakhrai himself, only half his time is spent on Constitutional Court and legal matters. The other half, he said recently, is spent on giving political advice to Yeltsin. When asked how often he speaks to or meets with Yeltsin, Shakhrai replied: "every day."

Shakhrai's tactics last week contrast with his earlier hesitation to answer a question about the legality of a third presidential term for Yeltsin. Shakhrai's aide, Svetlana Popova, tells RFE/RL Shakhrai did not feel he had a right to express an opinion "before the decision of the Constitutional Court."

Suggesting behind-the-scenes pressure on Constitutional Court judges to rule Yeltsin's way on a third term, Baglai said "there is no constitutional legal crisis in the country."

Recently, after the Court ruled that the president had no legal right to refuse to sign legislation on returning wartime art trophies--after parliament overrode his veto- -Yeltsin referred to the ruling as a "slap in the face." The author is a Moscow-based journalist who regularly contributes to RFE/RL.


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