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Newsline - April 30, 1998


The board of directors of the electricity giant Unified Energy System (EES) on 30 April appointed former First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais as the company's chief executive, Interfax reported. Opposition politicians and some influential businessmen have spoken out against putting Chubais in charge of EES, which owns controlling stakes in most Russian regional utilities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 April 1998). Also on 30 April, President Boris Yeltsin and Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko met at Yeltsin's residence outside Moscow to discuss the composition of the new government. At press time, no new cabinet appointments had been announced. LB


Kirienko announced during a cabinet session on 30 April that Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko's duties will be similar to those performed by former First Deputy Prime Minister Chubais in the last government, NTV reported. Khristenko will supervise budget revenues and expenditures, placing special emphasis on budget relations between the federal and regional governments. Federal officials have repeatedly said that regional authorities will have to comply with certain policies (for instance, plans to reduce subsidies for housing and utilities) in order to receive transfers from the federal budget. Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov will supervise energy policy and natural monopolies in the energy and transportation sectors, Reuters and AFP reported on 29 April, citing a document posted to Nemtsov's official page on the Internet. The third deputy prime minister will be in charge of social policies, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 April. LB


Deputy Prime Minister Khristenko is not well known in Moscow or outside the capital. Although some media have described him as a technocrat, he is no stranger to partisan politics. He managed Yeltsin's re-election campaign in Chelyabinsk Oblast in 1996, RFE/RL's correspondent in Chelyabinsk reported on 29 April. (Yeltsin outpolled Communist candidate Gennadii Zyuganov in the region by 58.5 percent to 35 percent.) After a Communist-backed candidate won the December 1996 gubernatorial election in Chelyabinsk, Khristenko lost his job as first deputy governor in charge of economic issues but was appointed presidential representative in the region. Like fellow Chelyabinsk native Aleksandr Pochinok, who became head of the State Tax Service in April 1997, Khristenko is considered an ally of Chubais. He was appointed deputy finance minister in July 1997, four months after Chubais became the head of the Finance Ministry. LB


Prime Minister Kirienko was restrained in his comments on Boris Berezovskii's appointment as executive secretary of the CIS. Kirienko said the Russian government is "ready to work with all people" oriented toward developing the commonwealth, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 April. Speaking to journalists in Israel the same day, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov said his attitude toward Berezovskii remains unchanged, adding that "I do not believe that Berezovskii can do anything useful for Russia," Interfax reported. Popular Power State Duma faction leader Nikolai Ryzhkov also criticized the appointment. In contrast, former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed told reporters in Krasnoyarsk that Berezovskii's "energy and enthusiasm" will help move CIS integration forward, Interfax reported. (Berezovskii is helping finance Lebed's gubernatorial campaign in Krasnoyarsk.) Chechen Foreign Minister Movladi Udugov also praised the appointment, describing Berezovskii as "one of the sober-minded politicians" able to assess the situation in the Caucasus. LB


Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov on 30 April described the new cabinet as the "third edition" of the government of former acting Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar, "with the teeth of Chubais," NTV reported. He argued that "the course of the new government is the same," saying Kirienko will implement policies supported by the IMF. However, Zyuganov said "the situation in the country continues to deteriorate" and again called for the formation of a "government of popular trust" in order to change Russia's policy priorities. Zyuganov said the Communist Party will not carry out "witch hunts" against members who broke party discipline by voting to confirm Kirienko, ITAR-TASS reported. He said the grassroots party organizations that nominated those people for seats in the State Duma will examine their actions and take the "necessary decisions." LB


"Tribuna" argued on 29 April that Russia's economic policies harm the interests of the country's own citizens and favor international creditors. The newspaper criticized the government and Central Bank's joint statement on economic policy for 1998, which, it said, was prepared in the IMF's Moscow office (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 April 1998). Among other things, it charged that policies outlined in that statement would allow foreign investors to buy Russia's remaining strategic natural resources. "Moskovskii komsomolets" also criticized numerous aspects of the joint policy statement in its 28 April edition, arguing that "Russia has lost all its economic sovereignty." "Tribuna" (formerly "Rabochaya tribuna") is financed by the gas monopoly Gazprom. "Moskovskii komsomolets" is close to Moscow Mayor Luzhkov, who has described Russia's "dependence" on the IMF as a "disgrace" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 December 1997). LB


Zyuganov told journalists on 30 April that "it makes no sense" to ratify the START-2 arms control treaty now, when, in his view, all aspects of Russian security have been weakened, ITAR-TASS and AFP reported. U.S. and Russian officials have expressed hope that the treaty will be ratified during the first half of 1998, paving the way for a summit between Yeltsin and U.S. President Bill Clinton later this year. But on 29 April, the State Duma's analytical department issued a report concluding that the START-2 treaty contains several clauses that "jeopardize [Russia's] national security interests," Interfax reported. The report argued that the treaty allows the U.S. to "reduce" its nuclear stockpile without "dismantling" weapons, allowing it to more than double its nuclear arsenal if an emergency arose. LB


The NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council discussed short- range nuclear weapons at a regular monthly session in Brussels on 29 April, Reuters and an RFE/RL correspondent in the Belgian capital reported. Officials from both sides confirmed that Russia and NATO are not targeting their nuclear arsenals at each other. U.S., British, and French officials gave detailed presentations about reductions of their countries' nuclear stockpiles. Russian officials at the meeting said Russia has reduced its tactical nuclear arsenal by some 50 percent, but their account was not as detailed as the presentations by their NATO counterparts. An unnamed NATO official told journalists that the Western alliance is interested in more information about what type of tactical nuclear weapons Russia plans to keep. LB


The president's commission on strengthening tax and budget discipline has approved a schedule of payments to the Pension Fund for the Tyumen Oil Company, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 April. Prime Minister Kirienko chaired the meeting and warned that if the oil company does not meet the payments schedule, the state will take all possible legal measures against it. If there are no grounds for annulling the contract under which the state sold a 40 percent stake in the company last year, Kirienko said that officials in the State Property Ministry and Russian Federal Property Fund will be punished. Kirienko recently warned that the government would annul the privatization of the Tyumen Oil Company if it did not meet its obligation to pay 600 billion old rubles ($98 million) in debts to the Pension Fund (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 April 1998). LB


Former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed's gubernatorial campaign received a boost on 29 April when the Krasnoyarsk Krai branch of the Communist Party decided to advise its supporters to vote against both Lebed and incumbent Valerii Zubov in the runoff election on 17 May. Communist candidate Petr Romanov, who received 13 percent of the vote in the first round of the election, told Interfax that he will not tell his supporters to back either Lebed or Zubov, even if the Communist Party leadership changes its mind on the matter. The Communist stand will make it even more difficult for Zubov to beat Lebed after trailing by 10 percent in the first round. LB


"Segodnya" speculated on 29 April that the ground is being prepared to annul the Krasnoyarsk election. The newspaper noted that Central Electoral Commission Chairman Aleksandr Ivanchenko has said Lebed received two warnings about violations of campaign regulations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 April 1998). The mayoral election in Nizhnii Novgorod in late March, which a controversial candidate won, was annulled because of alleged violations during the campaign. Meanwhile, Communist Party leader Zyuganov told journalists on 30 April that the violations before the first round of the Krasnoyarsk election were more flagrant than in any other regional campaign he has witnessed, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. He alleged that Lebed's campaign handed out numerous gifts for prospective voters in the countryside. Support for Lebed was strongest in rural areas and small cities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 April 1998). LB


The Constitutional Court has struck down provisions of Bashkortostan's constitution and electoral law that set residency requirements and age limits for the republic's president, "Russkii telegraf" and "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 28 April. Formally, the court did not strike down the requirement that presidential candidates know both the Bashkir and Russian languages (which would exclude most of the republic's residents) on the grounds that Bashkortostan has no legislation specifying the required level of language proficiency. Pending the adoption of such regulations, the court said that citizens' right to participate in the electoral process should not depend on language proficiency. The court has therefore ordered that language restrictions not be applied during the runup to the presidential election in Bashkortostan, scheduled for 14 June. LB


"Russkii telegraf" noted on 28 April that language restrictions on candidates for political office violate both the Russian Constitution and the law on guarantees of voters' rights. But Bashkortostan is not the only republic with such requirements for presidential candidates. According to the 28 April edition of "Kommersant-Daily," Buryatia, Sakha (Yakutia), North Ossetia, Ingushetia, Tatarstan, Tyva, and Adygea also require that presidential candidates know the republic's titular language as well as Russian. LB


Eduard Shevardnadze told Interfax on 29 April that the document on resolving the Abkhaz conflict endorsed by eight of the 11 CIS summit participants defines Georgia as a federation of which Abkhazia is a constituent part. It also proposes that an Abkhaz should head the federal Senate. Shevardnadze expressed satisfaction that the summit agreed to the redeployment of the CIS Abkhaz peacekeeping force throughout Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion. He also greeted the appointment of Major-General Sergei Korobko to command that force, as did Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba. But Ardzinba has warned that Abkhazia will resort to armed resistance if the peacekeeping force is redeployed without its consent, while the Confederation of Peoples of the Caucasus has offered Abkhazia military support, "Izvestiya" reported on 30 April. The previous day, eight Abkhaz were killed in a clash with Georgian guerrillas in Gali, Caucasus Press reported. LF


The Azerbaijani Supreme Court on 29 April sentenced former army Captain Azer Aslanov to life imprisonment for masterminding a bomb explosion in the Baku metro in April 1994 that killed 13 people, Turan and Interfax reported. Aslanov, an ethnic Lezgin, pleaded not guilty to the charges. He said he was taken prisoner by Armenia in January 1994 and coerced into organizing the bombing; later, he said, he served in a private military formation in Dagestan. Armenian officials have denied any connection with Aslanov, whom the Russian Federal Security Service extradited to Azerbaijan in 1996. Seven other Lezgins were sentenced in March,1997 for their role in the explosion (see "OMRI Daily Digest," 21 February and 20 March 1997). LF


An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman on 29 April said the consignment of stainless steel plates intercepted by Azerbaijani customs officials on the Azerbaijani-Iranian frontier last month was not intended for the production of ballistic missiles (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April 1998). He added that the alloy could have been ordered by a company in the private sector for civilian use. LF


Ararat Zurabian, the deputy chairman of the former ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement (ARFD), was arrested in Yerevan on 27 April, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Zurabian has been charged with assault after he and a group of associates beat up Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun (HHSh) party member Aghvan Vartanian in a Yerevan cafe. Vartanian is close to President Robert Kocharian and was his press spokesman during recent presidential election campaign. The ARFD newspaper "Yerkir" reported on 29 April that HHSh chairman Vano Siradeghian was in the cafe and "watched calmly" as Vartanian was beaten up. Siradeghian refused to comment on the incident when asked by RFE/RL the previous day. LF


Askar Akayev wrapped up his five-day official visit to China on 30 April, RFE/RL correspondents in Beijing reported. During his visit, Akayev met with Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji and speaker of the parliament Li Peng. Zhu noted that trade with Kyrgyzstan has increased 1,000 percent since 1992. Akayev invited China to buy antimony and hydro-electric power from Kyrgyzstan and invest in Kyrgyz hydro-electric projects. Talks with Li Peng centered on the CIS-Chinese border agreement, to which Russia, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan are also parties. BP


In a statement released on 27 April, Akayev and Chinese President Jiang Zemin praised the confidence- building measures provided in the CIS-Chinese border agreement, Beijing's Xinhua news agency reported. They agreed to further develop economic ties, improve road, rail, and aviation links, increase cooperation in environmental protection, and work together to fight organized crime, terrorism, and drug and arms smuggling. Kyrgyzstan affirmed its recognition of Beijing's position on Taiwan, Tibet, and Xinjiang. In return, China agreed to a "nuclear-free Central Asia," which is particularly important for the Kyrgyz as China's Lop Nor nuclear testing site is close to Kyrgyzstan's eastern border. BP


Fighting broke out between forces of the Tajik government and the United Tajik Opposition 10 kilometers east of Dushanbe on 30 April, RFE/RL correspondents reported. At least three government soldiers are reported dead and eight wounded . UTO casualties have not been reported. Opposition fighters attacked a road checkpoint outside the town of Rokhaty. Gun fire was also reported in the Kofarnikhon region, where last month the most severe fighting between government and UTO forces took place since the signing last June of the peace accord. BP


U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who is currently on a tour of Asia, said on 29 April that Ukraine remains eligible for U.S. financial aid, Reuters reported. The U.S. Congress suspended aid worth $100 million after U.S. firms investing in Ukraine complained of unfair treatment and an unfavorable business climate in Ukraine. According to State Department spokesman James Rubin, Kyiv has "made significant progress toward resolving U.S. investor complaints." Albright agreed to releasing $80 million and withholding $20 million until the remaining problems faced by U.S. investors in Ukraine are resolved. JM


The new parliament of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea began its first session on 29 April, Ukrainian Television reported. Communist pickets outside the parliament building called on deputies to elect Communist leader Leonid Hrach as speaker. However, in the vote for the parliamentary speaker, neither Hrach nor former speaker Anatoliy Hrytsenko won the required 51 votes to be elected. The following day, the Communists refused to participate in the session, ITAR-TASS reported. Hrach told journalists that his faction will paralyze the work of the parliament unless a "normal, democratic situation" is created within it. He said that the elections of the parliamentary speaker are taking place under pressure from the government. JM


Mikhail Padhayny, head of the Belarusian State Committee for the Press, told journalists in Minsk on 29 April that the press enjoys full freedom in Belarus, Reuters reported. "There is no censorship.... Out of the 44 newspapers in the republic, only five are state-controlled," he asserted. Padhayny said the government is opposed to an alleged directive forbidding officials to give information to or buy advertisement space in the independent media (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 April 1998). "This directive came from one official and was not supported by the authorities," Padhayny said. JM


Prime Minister Mart Siimann met with the opposition Reform, Fatherland, and Moderate Parties on 30 April to discuss the possibility of early elections, ETA reported. The previous day, the Coalition Party, the senior partner in the ruling coalition, authorized Siimann to begin such discussions. The opposition parties are to decide by next week whether to support an early ballot. Siimann has said early elections are necessary because his minority government has failed to increase its support in the parliament. However, the junior coalition members--the Country People's Party, the Rural Union, and the Pensioners and Families League--are opposed to early elections and want Siimann to continue as premier. Parliamentary elections are scheduled to be held in Estonia next March. JC


Prime Minister Guntars Krasts on 29 April made several changes to his government, one day before the cabinet is to face a vote of confidence in the parliament. The most important changes are the appointments of Andrej Krastins (National Reform Party) and Laimonis Strujevich (Farmers' Union) as interior and economy ministers, respectively. They replace members of the Democratic Party Saimnieks, which recently quit the ruling coalition. The National Reform Party and the Green Party, both centrist formations, have been included in the coalition to replace the leftist Saimnieks. Krasts said the support of the coalition parties will give him 47 votes in the 100-seat parliament and that he is counting on the backing of up to eight independent deputies to give him a majority, Reuters reported. JC


The Main Statistical Office (GUS) has released data showing that in the first quarter of 1998, the economy continued to grow, "Rzeczpospolita" reported on 30 April. Growth rates in the industrial and construction sectors were higher than in the past two years, while investments rose by 25 percent compared with the same period last year. The average monthly real wage in the national economic sector increased by 6.8 percent. JM


Ryszard Czarnecki, chairman of the Committee for European Integration, said on 29 April that the European Commission will earmark 50 million ecus to support Poland's restructuring of the coal mining and metallurgy sectors, "Rzeczpospolita" reported. Restructuring will entail considerable layoffs, and the EU funds will be spent on creating new jobs for dismissed employees. Meanwhile, South Korean automobile manufacturer Daewoo has said it will invest $450 million in a new factory in Lublin to produce light industrial vehicles, AFP reported on 30 April. The company plans to provide 30,000 new jobs. JM


Doctors at the University Clinic in Innsbruck on 29 April said that one day earlier, Czech President Vaclav Havel was able to speak for the first time in almost 10 days and tried to walk. They added that Havel has recovered from the effects of his week-long sedation, CTK reported. MS


A special panel set up by the government on 29 April issued a report rejecting U.S. criticism over investments by the Malta-based Corinthia Group in the country's hotel industry. The U.S. last month warned its nationals not to stay in several hotels owned by the group because of partial Libyan ownership. The report says the Libyan firm's co-ownership does not violate UN resolutions or Czech law. It also points out that the Libyan company--which has had a 48 percent stake in the Corinthia Group since 1974--is not considered a Libyan subject under UN regulations. MS


In the last polls to be published before the 10 May elections, there is agreement that the main race will be between the governing Hungarian Socialist Party and the opposition Federation of Young Democrats-Hungarian Civic Party (FIDESZ-MPP). Most pollsters give the Socialists a slight lead, but analysts believe the matter is likely to be decided by the size of the turnout and second-round voting. Szonda Ipsos says a turnout of 65 percent or less would favor the Socialists, while a high turnout and/or a second-round ballot appear to favor FIDESZ-MPP. MSZ


Diplomats representing the U.S., U.K., Germany, France, and Italy agreed in Rome on 29 April to freeze Yugoslav assets abroad in response to President Slobodan Milosevic's failure to withdraw special police forces from Kosova and begin talks with the Kosovar leadership. If Belgrade fails to launch negotiations with the Kosovars by 9 May, the Contact Group will block any new foreign investment in Serbia. If Belgrade does start talks, it will be welcomed back into international institutions. Russia did not agree to the sanctions but joined the other five countries in urging an end to the "unacceptable status-quo in Kosova." Representatives of the six countries also warned that "the risk of an escalating conflict requires immediate action.... If unresolved, the situation in Kosova threatens to spill over to other parts of the region." The six also slammed the "excessive use of force by the Yugoslav army and the proliferation of arms in the territory." PM


A State Department spokesman said in Washington on 29 April that the Contact Group's sanctions package is a "good one" that will offer Milosevic a "stark choice." In Belgrade, Serbian bankers expressed fears that the ban on investments will cripple the government's privatization plans, which are based on the assumption that large amounts of foreign capital will be available. Opposition leader Zoran Djindjic said on 30 April that the sanctions will hit ordinary Serbs more than they will affect the government. In Bonn, Kosovar shadow- state Prime Minister Bujar Bukoshi expressed similar views. He said the elite around Milosevic has its money deposited in secret accounts on Cyprus and that this elite knows from its experiences during the wars of 1991-1995 how to profit personally from sanctions. Bukoshi called instead for tougher measures that will directly affect Belgrade's power centers. PM


Unidentified gunmen attacked a police car near Duha on 29 April, killing one of the occupants and injuring another. Near Decan, police killed a man at the funeral of three Kosovars whom Serbian forces recently shot. Some mourners at the funeral said that police physically abused some of those present and fired into the crowd. A police spokesman said that armed members of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) fired first at the police and that the dead man was one of the uniformed guerrillas present. Elsewhere in the Decan area, Kosovar sources said there was gunfire in some villages, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM


Brother Sava Janjatic, who is a spokesman for the Orthodox Church in Kosova, said in Decan on 29 April that ethnic Albanians continue to intimidate and physically abuse local Serbs. For several weeks, dozens of Serbs have fled their homes in mainly Albanian areas and sought shelter near the medieval Serbian monastery in Decan. Brother Sava called for a dialogue between Serbs and Albanians. He is close to Bishop Artemije Radosavljevic, who opposes Milosevic and urges reconciliation between Kosova's ethnic communities. In Prishtina, "Koha Ditore" wrote that Hafir Shala, an ethnic Albanian physician, has been held incommunicado by the police since 10 April. The police refuse to provide any information about his whereabouts or health, and his family fears he may be dead. PM


The Prishtina daily "Bujku," which is close to the shadow-state government, said in a commentary on 27 April that "the existence of an armed wing [of the ethnic Albanian national movement] leaves much to be desired." The editorial chided the guerrillas for having limited their operations "to the murder of a few forest rangers" and noted that "there was not a single sign [of the UCK] giving the slightest help" to innocent civilians when the Serbian forces launched their crackdown at the end of February. The UCK has frequently criticized the mainstream civilian leadership as weak and ineffective (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 April 1998). PM


Fatos Nano told the parliament on 29 April that the "worsening of the situation in Kosova and the risk of an expanding armed conflict leaves us no alternative but to call for the deployment of an armed NATO force on our border." He added that unspecified people "both from within [Albania] and from the other side" of the frontier have recently caused provocations along the border. He said "these individuals and groups, by issuing declarations and conducting [illicit] trade, want to give the Serbs a pretext to cause bloodshed," "Zeri i Popullit" reported. He did not elaborate but stressed that Albania is opposed to terrorism and arms trafficking. NATO turned down Tirana's previous request for NATO troops to patrol its own border with Yugoslavia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 March 1998). NATO nonetheless recently sent a succession of small teams to inspect the area. FS


Lawmakers on 29 April endorsed the new cabinet, despite criticism from both the opposition and within the governing Socialist Party (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 27 April 1998). Socialist deputy Halil Lalaj doubted whether the new cabinet will be able to tackle the country's problems better than the previous one, "Koha Jone" reported. He also objected that no northern Albanian is included in the cabinet. Opposition leader Sali Berisha attacked the previous government for raising taxes and failing to reduce poverty, and he demanded new elections. After Berisha's speech, most Socialist deputies who had previously criticized the government gave their support to Nano. FS


President Emil Constantinescu has accepted the 29 April resignation of Nicu Anghel, the chief of the Security and Guard Service, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Anghel had approved the leave of absence of Colonel Gheorghe Trutulescu, who has been missing since the uncovering the so-called "cigarette affair." Media reports say the two were friends since the 1970s, when both served in the communist secret police's army intelligence. Also on 29 April, deputy Adrian Moroinanu of the opposition Alliance for Romania said he has his own sources confirming media reports that the plane that unloaded cigarettes at Bucharest's military airport on 16 April smuggled military equipment out of Romania when it took off. Meanwhile, the Prosecutor-General's Office has extended to 30 days the detention of both the military commander of the airport and the owner of the warehouse to which the cigarettes were transported. MS


At least 250,000 Roma were deported to concentration camps in the Transdniester under the regime of Marshal Ion Antonescu, of whom only 10,000 survived, Romani Party leader Nicolae Paun said on 29 April. He added that the figure could be as high as 400,000. Paun's party was recently given access to the archives of the Romanian Intelligence Service and the Ministry of Interior, where documents providing evidence of the Roma holocaust are stored. Paun said the Roma will demand compensation from the government, but he added that, given the country's poor economic situation, the Roma realize that for the time being, compensation can be "moral" only, in the form of a "public apology" from the authorities, Mediafax reported. AFP reported that the Romani might ask for compensation from the German government as well. MS


The Democratic Convention of Moldova (CDM) on 29 April chose Valentin Dolganciuc, a member of the Christian Democratic Popular Front (FPCD), as premier- designate. President Petru Lucinschi has yet to agree to that appointment, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The FPCD is one of the two main components of the CDM, and observers say Dolganciuc's selection may meet with resistance from the president, as the FPCD is in favor of union with Romania. Dolganciuc said after his election that he no longer considers himself to be a member of any political formation, but rather to represent the center- right Alliance for Democracy as a whole. That alliance includes the CDM and the pro-presidential For a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova Bloc and was set up on 21 April by the two formations. MS


The World Bank has approved a $15.9 million loan to promote land privatization in Moldova, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported on 28 April. The loan is to help set up a land property registration system. An additional $4.7 million is to be granted to the project by international donors, including Switzerland, Sweden, and Norway. Chisinau will contribute $ 4 million to the project. MS


In a letter to Prime Minister Ivan Kostov, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl says Bonn strongly supports Bulgaria's Western integration and wants to help create the necessary political, economic, and legal conditions for a stronger German involvement in Bulgaria's privatization process, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported on 29 April. The same day, Finance Minster Muravei Radev announced that the World Bank has endorsed a program of "aggressive strategy" in support of Bulgarian economic reforms over the next three years, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported. Sofia anticipates that the bank will soon approve a $700 million loan for Bulgaria. MS


Ivan Shilyashki, the chief of Bulgaria's State Energy Committee, told an international conference in Sofia on 29 April that the government plans to begin partly privatizing the state-owned Bulgargas monopoly after 2001. He said the state will keep a majority stake in the enterprise and added that the selling of shares in Bulgargas is intended to adapt the company to free market conditions and bring in new technologies, Reuters reported. MS


by Jan Maksymiuk

One month after the 29 March parliamentary elections in Ukraine, the Central Electoral Commission is still counting votes. A flood of complaints about election fraud and irregularities has delayed the announcement of the final results. On 18 April, the commission published an incomplete list of 413 deputies, adding eight names to that list several days later.

However, the lineup of the Supreme Council is more or less clear even before the final results are announced. The Communist Party scored an indisputable victory, with a total of 111 mandates gained on the nationwide party lists and single-mandate districts (nearly 25 percent of seats in the 450-strong legislature). But that victory has not strengthened the party's foothold in the legislature. Even in a coalition with the Socialists/Peasants bloc (34 seats)- -their most likely partner--they will not have a legislative majority. One Ukrainian newspaper observed that had the 1994 parliamentary elections been held under the current majority-proportional election system, the Communists would have fared much better at the time.

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma seems to fear that the new parliament spells trouble for him. With the ailing economy, deep-rooted corruption, soaring wage and pension arrears, and an uncooperative legislature, he may have few opportunities to improve his ratings in the presidential elections scheduled for October 1999. Since 29 March, he has made a series of uncoordinated maneuvers--most of them strongly reminiscent of the Soviet era --in a bid to reassure both himself and his political foes that he is still in control.

There were two "presidential" parties in the campaign--the Popular Democratic Party, led by Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko, and the Agrarian Party, both of which were created to secure a pro-Kuchma bloc in the legislature. The former won only 28 seats, while the latter failed even to overcome the 4 percent threshold, gaining a mere seven seats in the single-mandate districts.

Kuchma reacted immediately by replacing three oblast administration heads in the regions where his parties fared badly. In a further move to reinforce his grip on local administration, he demanded that all his regional administration chiefs either decide on their party affiliation by mid-May or face dismissal. Administration executives, according to Kuchma, are allowed to join not only the "presidential" parties but also those of a "centrist and constructive orientation."

The president also lashed out at his ministers for their poor performance and threatened a reshuffle at a 9 April cabinet session. At the same session, he ordered that the 1999 budget deficit be cut to 2.5 percent of GDP and 1998 budget spending trimmed in a bid to curry favor with reluctant Western creditors.

Kuchma then fired the head of the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast administration and went on to deal an even heavier blow. Presenting the new administration chief, Kuchma warned Dnipropetrovsk managers that the "democracy game is over" for them. He added that unless they find a cure for economic ailments at their enterprises by the end of the year, they will also have to look for new jobs.

Moreover, Kuchma has had to deal with former Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, leader of the Hromada Party (which gained 23 seats in last month's elections) and chairman of the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast Council. Lazarenko's party garnered some 700,000 votes--nearly two-thirds of the ballots cast for the party nationwide--in that oblast. This was a personal insult to Kuchma, who in the Soviet era had been a powerful party boss at Ukraine's famous Yuzhmash rocket-building plant in Dnipropetrovsk. Kuchma accused Lazarenko of exacerbating tensions in the region and the country as a whole and demanded that the Prosecutor-General's Office examine Lazarenko's "negative barter schemes." It is widely believed that Lazarenko will run against Kuchma in the 1999 presidential race.

Still, Kuchma's gravest concern is Oleksandr Moroz, the leader of the Socialist Party and current parliamentary speaker, whom the left-wing camp would certainly prefer over Petro Symonenko, head of the Communist Party, as its presidential candidate. Kuchma has indicated his desire to remove Moroz from the parliamentary spotlight by replacing him--as he put it--with an "unengaged politician." Hennadiy Udovenko, who resigned his post of foreign minister and is reportedly seeking Moroz's job, may be an ideal replacement.

And on 21 April, Kuchma held a meeting with newly elected deputies from business circles. More than one- third of the new legislature is composed of entrepreneurs and bankers, to whom Kuchma has appealed for support, regardless of their party affiliations and political preferences. He stressed that further confrontation between the executive and legislative branches would be "deliberate suicide" and made it clear that he categorically opposes the formation of a left-wing government.

This latest move by Kuchma has reportedly had one very promising result for the president. According to some Ukrainian newspapers, the Popular Democratic Party's parliamentary faction has already managed to enlist more than 40 independent deputies to form pro- Kuchma faction in the Supreme Council. If those reports are accurate, Kuchma's chances are better than they seemed early this month. But he has only 18 months left of his presidential term to achieve what he has largely failed to do in the past four years.