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Newsline - March 9, 1995

Backtracking on his threat to resign if Moscow Prosecutor Gennady Ponomarev and police chief Viktor Pankratov do not retain their positions, Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov said he would first challenge the dismissals in court, then consult the Moscow City Duma before giving up his job, AFP reported on 8 March. President Boris Yeltsin sacked Ponomarev and Pankratov in the wake of the killing of TV journalist Vladislav Listev. The Moscow Duma protested their firing on 7 March, but added that Luzhkov's resignation would make matters worse and play into the hands of his enemies. Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov said the dispute between Luzhkov and Yeltsin boils down to a struggle over the spoils from the privatization of state property. He asserted that a fierce battle was being waged by rivals for property and power in postcommunist Russia and "competitors are being eliminated" in the course of that struggle. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.

About 300 people demonstrated on October Square, the site of Moscow's largest remaining statue of Vladimir Lenin, Russian television reported on 8 March. The speakers, including Viktor Anpilov of the hard-line Russian Communist Workers' Party, denounced President Yeltsin, the Russian government, Mikhail Gorbachev, the police, Moscow city authorities, and Mayor Luzhkov. Natalya Belokopytova, president of the Congress of Soviet Women, expressed her regret that Lenin and Stalin are not alive today. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

The Committee of Soldiers' Mothers gathered at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow to denounce the continuing violence in Chechnya, Russian television reported on 8 March. Committee president Maria Kirbasova demanded the government allow alternative service for young men, as provided for in the constitution, and complete the transition to a professional army in the next five years. Kirbasova said the anti-war activists will travel by bus from Moscow to Mineralnye Vody in the northern Caucasus, holding protests in large cities along the way. In the last week of March, Kirbasova added, Soldiers' Mothers activists from all parts of Russia will march together on foot to Grozny and take their sons back from the front if necessary. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

On the eve of International Women's Day, Col.-Gen. Vladimir Zhurbenko, deputy chief of the General Staff, discussed the role of women in the Russian army, Interfax reported on 7 March. Zhurbenko said Russia has more than 161,000 women in uniform, comprising 8.5% of the armed forces, and that women's involvement is necessary because the army is understaffed. No women currently hold the rank of general, Zhurbenko noted, and only four (0.002%) have reached the level of colonel. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

The Federation Council passed a resolution permitting Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to reprimand the cabinet members who failed to comply with February's government resolution on aiding the farming sector with the 1995 sowing campaign, Interfax reported. The council also called on the government to comply with a resolution on financial aid and credits to the agriculture sector for this year. That resolution gives the government ten days to allocate 12 trillion rubles' worth of centralized credits to the agrarian sector in the first half of 1995. Six trillion rubles are needed to purchase supplies for the sowing campaign in the first quarter. The resolution describes the agriculture sector's financial standing as "catastrophic." The government fulfilled only 5% of its funding obligations for 12 federal programs aimed at increasing farm production and only 53% of day-to-day needs in 1994. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

Six Federation Council members, who are also administration heads of the Stavropol and Krasnodar Territories and the Rostov, Saratov, Penza, and Volgograd Regions, will meet with President Yeltsin early next week to discuss legislation concerning farm product purchasing and the status of agriculture in general, Interfax reported on 8 March. Yevgeny Kuznetsov, a member of the council's agroindustrial policy committee, said the agricultural situation is "disastrous." He said the government should stabilize fuel prices, reduce the gap between the prices of industrial and farming goods, and make advance payments to agricultural producers. Kuznetsov said state structures should implement the state purchasing program, which could offer domestic agricultural producers some protection. "Russia has turned into a dumping ground for substandard foreign foodstuffs," Kuznetsov said. He noted that neglecting a political issue such as the food supply would trigger social unrest. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

The Association of Private Farmers and Landowners (AKKOR) congress, which ended on 3 March in Moscow, called on parliament to enact Article 17 of the 1994 Civil Code for legal regulation of private land ownership, AKKOR president Vladimir Bashmachnikov told Interfax on 3 March. Bashmachnikov said the enforcement of Article 17 is subject to parliamentary approval of a new land code, which has been "unjustifiably delayed" by the Duma. As a result, the president said many private farmers are unable to buy new land plots. The code should lift any restrictions on the land as provided for in the new constitution which endorses private land ownership. According to AKKOR, by early this year there were about 280,000 private farms in the country, which owned a combined total of 12 million hectares of farmland. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

Russia will establish a uniform national system for the issuance of treasury bonds beginning in mid-April, according to Alexander Smirnov from the Federal Treasury office, Interfax reported on 3 March. The uniform system will enable the Finance Ministry to save the money it currently pays as commission to commercial banks authorized to distribute bonds. Smirnov said 17 banks are now distributing 7 trillion rubles (4,558 rubles/$1) worth of bonds that have already been issued and receive commissions of up to 3%. Smirnov said the treasury will not confiscate those bonds from the banks, but bonds issued once the new policy is set in place must go through the single system. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

Lt.-Gen. Arkady Baskayev, in charge of the interior troops in Chechnya, told Interfax on 8 March that financial problems were hindering efforts to relieve his contingent. "The Finance Ministry has failed to pay . . . the funds that are needed to train personnel and I can't send cannon fodder to Chechnya," he said. Baskayev said the ministry owed his group 3 billion rubles for food alone, and there are chronic shortages of gasoline. He complained that his forces has only 5-7% of the armored vehicles they need. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

A delegation of EU foreign ministers will meet with President Yeltsin and Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev on 9 March, AFP and Reuters reported. The group includes foreign ministers Alain Juppe of France, which holds the current EU presidency, Klaus Kinkel of Germany, and Javier Solana of Spain. The visit was originally scheduled to endorse the interim trade accord between the EU and Russia, which was delayed on 6 March. The EU delegation will tell Moscow that the accord will be endorsed only after a cease-fire is confirmed in Chechnya. Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said, "If Chechnya hadn't happened, they would have found another reason for not signing [the trade accord]." -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.

President Yeltsin named his five members to the Central Electoral Commission, Russian TV reported on 8 March. The new members are: Nikolai Ryabov, named as commission chairman, Andrei Beloborodov, Yury Vedeneev, Olga Volkova, and Larisa Tkachenko. The State Duma has already named its five members and the Federation Council has confirmed four of its five candidates from Russia's regions and republics. With 14 of 15 total members, the commission now has the necessary quorum to begin working. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

The leader of the Russian National Union (ROS), Sergey Baburin, announced that his party has begun preparations for the parliamentary and presidential elections, Segodnya reported on 7 March. The ROS will discuss election plans at its fourth congress on 25 March. Baburin voiced regret that he has not been able to set up an alliance with the Communist Party of the Russian Federation and the Agrarian Party of Russia. His party is ready to participate in the elections alone or in a coalition with other parties. Baburin believes the parliamentary elections are of secondary importance and that "the opposition will come to its senses" by the time of the presidential elections and nominate a single candidate. Segodnya noted that the Communists and nationalists are having the same difficulty as the democratic parties in establishing a unified bloc. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

Labor productivity dropped by more than 15% in 1994, Interfax and Ekho Moskvy reported on 8 March. A Labor Ministry official blamed the fall on a decline in the prestige of "socially useful work" since the onset of economic reforms and on arrears in wage payments and "absurdly" low wages. "What is paid does not keep pace with inflation, so the reasonable question arises: why work?" he said. The decline in labor productivity and real wage levels since 1991 is one of the reasons why the drastic fall in Russian industrial production has not been accompanied by mass unemployment. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.

The Russian Fishing Committee announced the country's quotas for fishing in foreign economic zones in 1995, Interfax reported on 7 March. The report said foreign states granted Russia quotas amounting to 981,400 tons for 1995, while Russian fishermen, including private companies, caught only 799,000 tons of fish in 1994 given a quota of 1,009,700 tons. Last year, the Russian fishing fleet worked in the 200-mile economic zones of 17 states, including Japan, North Korea, China, Norway, and Canada. The report noted that numbers were down due to a "lack of worthy concentrations" of fish in certain areas. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

An official from the bread product ministry said Tajikistan desperately needs to purchase grain, Interfax reported. The target figure for grain was 1.5 million tons for 1994 while the actual yield came to just 0.2 million tons. In 1993, Tajikistan purchased grain from countries outside the CIS, such as Austria, Britain, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the U.S. and 1994, from Kazakhstan. At present, the country urgently needs at least 1.2 million tons of grain. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc.

Led by Foreign Minister Josef Zieleniec, a Czech government delegation visiting Central Asia arrived in Uzbekistan on 8 March, Interfax reported. The delegation, which includes forty business people, will be seeking to identify fields of cooperation. Zieleniec plans to meet with officials of the Uzbek Foreign Economic Relations Ministry and is due to meet with President Islam Karimov. According to Lidove Noviny of 8 March, Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev told Czech journalists at a press conference a day earlier that Kyrgyzstan has great interest in trade and economic relations with the Czech Republic and that negotiations on concrete projects will be initiated soon. -- Lowell A. Bezanis, OMRI, Inc.


At its first session on 7 March, Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy ordered the new cabinet to present only the government's position (and not individual or party opinions) in public. He also made attendance at all cabinet sessions mandatory. Cabinet veterans commented that Oleksy's style differed dramatically from that of his predecessor: "Deliberations run smoothly, and proposals are always followed by decisions," Transport Minister Boguslaw Liberadzki said. On 8 March, Oleksy appointed Marek Pol, the outgoing industry minister, as plenipotentiary responsible for the consolidation of the economic ministries. The Democratic Left Alliance was forced to yield the industry portfolio to the Polish Peasant Party as part of the new coalition deal, but Oleksy clearly wanted to retain Pol in some capacity. In an interview with Radio Warsaw on 9 March, the new agriculture minister, Roman Jagielinski, signaled a policy departure by arguing that only 700,000 of Poland's more than 2 million farms can survive in true market conditions. The remainder would have to find supplemental sources of income, he indicated, but these could not be provided by the state budget. As promised, President Lech Walesa signed the 1995 budget into law on 7 March. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc.

At a press conference on 7 March, the new foreign minister, Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, said his first move in office would be to appoint an ambassador to the Vatican. That post has been vacant for almost a year. He said action on the concordat is a priority but failed to indicate whether the new government as a whole supports ratification. The Foreign Ministry will be the sole source of foreign policy, and the practice of various ministries and political parties sending uncoordinated missions abroad, which flourished under the last government, will be curtailed. He also supported the establishment of an apolitical diplomatic corps. Gazeta Wyborcza quoted unofficial sources as saying that Bartoszewski plans to appoint Andrzej Ananicz as his first deputy. Ananicz served as deputy foreign minister under Foreign Minister Krzysztof Skubiszewski before moving to the president's office in February 1994. He was also one of President Lech Walesa's recent candidates for the ministerial post. Speaking at NATO headquarters in Brussels on 8 March, Deputy Defense Minister Jerzy Milewski stressed that "full membership . . . without preconditions" is Poland's strategic goal. He said Poland will not accept limited membership of the sort demanded by Russia and will not rule out stationing NATO troops in Poland. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc.

Only 20 of the 228 commercial banks registered in Ukraine had statutory capitals exceeding 500,000 ECU as of 1 January, the National Bank of Ukraine told Interfax-Ukraine on 7 March. Moreover, only 8 commercial banks in Ukraine have statutory capitals over 1 million ECU. To ensure financial stabilization of the commercial banks, the central bank issued a resolution ordering them to declare and register minimum statutory capitals of 500,000 ECU. The banks are also scheduled to be audited by private companies recommended by the National Bank. Well-known foreign firms such as KPMG Peat Marwick and Deloitte & Touche are currently auditing Prominvestbank and Hradobank, Ukraine's top commercial banks. But the law requires that those banks be audited by Ukrainian firms as well. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc.

Announcement of the final election results has been delayed pending final results from Argentina and the U.S., BNS reported on 8 March. Officials from the National Electoral Committee, however, said previous reports that the Rightists had won five seats would probably be changed because latest figures indicated that the Rightists received only 4.997% of the votes or 0.003% shy of the needed 5%. Interior Minister Kaido Kama won enough votes to gain a seat as an individual, so he may be the only Rightist in the parliament. The Coalition Party and Rural Union alliance will receive two more seats, raising their total to 43, and the Reform Party and Center Party will have one more seat each, bringing their totals to 20 and 17, respectively. The most prominent Rightist who will probably lose his seat is Ulo Nuglis, speaker of the parliament since 1992. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.

State Minister for Foreign Resources Indra Samite noted that the regulations on the distribution, use, and payment for foreign loans, adopted on 7 March, require that at least 60% of those credits go outside Riga and the Riga district, BNS reported on 8 March. The Finance Ministry will select commercial banks to process foreign loans, taking into account Bank of Latvia recommendations and reports by international auditors on the previous year's earnings. The banks will not receive loans exceeding their own capital. Foreign loans will also be used to finance national investment programs. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.

A poll conducted by the British-Lithuanian company Baltic Surveys in November as part of the European Union's Eurobarometer survey shows that dissatisfaction in the country's development is growing, BNS reported on 8 March. Only 22% believed that Lithuania was heading in the right direction, with 71% asserting the opposite. Dissatisfaction with the development of democracy was expressed by 62%. Only 22% thought that social and economic rights were respected, with 74% asserting the opposite. Support for a market economy was still expressed by 46%, with 37% saying that such an economy was wrong. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.

The Czech Constitutional Court on 8 March rejected an ethnic German's claim for the return of property confiscated from his family after World War II. Under decrees issued by President Eduard Benes, 3 million Sudeten Germans were expelled from Czechoslovakia at the end of the war and their property expropriated. Plaintiff Rudolf Dreithaler's family was not expelled but their house in the North Bohemian town of Liberec was seized under the decree on "enemy property." The court rejected Dreithaler's arguments that Benes was not empowered to issue the decree and confirmed its validity. The Munich-based Sudetendeutsche Landsmannschaft, the most vocal of the Sudeten German groups still demanding the abolition of the Benes decrees, called the Constitutional Court's decision "nationalistic and an obvious violation of the ban on discrimination," Mlada fronta dnes reported. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc.

The former chief administrator of the Czech Republic's privatization program, Jaroslav Lizner, was formally charged on 8 March with soliciting and receiving a bribe, Czech media reported. Lizner was arrested in October after meeting with businessmen and carrying more than 8 million koruny in a case. He spent more than three months in jail but was released on 2 February. State attorneys have made formal charges against Lizner, but a date for his trial has not been set. Lizner could face up to three years in jail if convicted. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc.

Czech President Vaclav Havel on 8 March told his Slovak counterpart, Michal Kovac, he is worried by undemocratic political developments in Slovakia, Czech media reported. "After President Kovac informed me about the situation in Slovakia, I expressed my disquiet about some phenomena that awaken misgivings as to what extent all [politicians] have adopted proven democratic forms of behavior," Havel said. Following their meeting at the Czech president's country residence, Kovac said some Slovaks were dissatisfied with government's actions that they view as undemocratic. He cited the discussion over whether Democratic Union deputies were properly elected to the Slovak parliament and relations between the government and himself. Both Havel and Kovac, however, judged that Czech-Slovak relations were "above average." -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc.

The Slovak parliament on 8 March approved three proposals on the budgets of the National Property Fund (FNM) and the state health and social insurance companies. The FNM budget includes a proposed sum of 65 million koruny for the purchase of apartments for fund employees, a provision that raised an uproar among opposition deputies. Democratic Union deputy Viliam Vaskovic complained that the sum is higher than the 50 million koruny for environmental protection in the state budget, which was passed the previous day. After the opposition raised a series of points about the proposed budget for the General Health Insurance Company, the parliament approved a proposal by Slovak National Party Chairman Jan Slota that the discussion be closed. Following a short discussion on the Social Insurance Company, the deputies also approved that budget. National Democratic Party deputy Anton Hrnko later complained that Slovak Television's report on the session was "one-sided" because it did not convey the mood of the discussion, Pravda reports. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.

Slovak National Bank Governor Vladimir Masar on 8 March informed journalists that the bank's foreign currency reserves exceed $2 billion, Pravda reports. Foreign currency reserves at commercial banks total $1.478 billion, pushing Slovakia's total to $3.508 billion, excluding gold. Meanwhile, a 9 March Praca report on the country's economy at the end of January showed annual inflation at 11.7%, an unemployment rate of 15.2%, a trade deficit of 0.7 billion koruny, and a state budget deficit of 2 billion koruny. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.

According to data released by the Finance Ministry on 8 March, Hungary's budget deficit at the end of February amounted to 83.6 billion forint or almost 30% of the year-end target, MTI reports. A spokesman for the ministry warned that effective measures are needed to prevent or cut the further growth of the deficit. He pointed out that revenues totaled 168.5 billion forint, which was far less than planned, while expenditures rose to 252.1 billion forint. Revenues from privatization, which were expected to reach 25 billion forint during the first two months of the year, did not materialize at all, the spokesman said. Consumption-related revenues were half of the two-month target, and net value-added tax revenues were only 0.4% of the annual target. -- Edith Oltay, OMRI, Inc.

Novi list reported on 9 March that Zagreb has never been under such pressure from its friends as it is now, following President Franjo Tudjman's decision not to renew UNPROFOR's mandate when it runs out on 31 March. The paper quotes Foreign Minister Mate Granic as saying that Croatia stands to have all its foreign relations "frozen" if it does not change its mind. Nasa Borba, however, suggests that a deal is indeed in the offing, with Croatia "seeking a high price" to allow a limited amount of peacekeepers to remain. It is unclear exactly what would be involved in such an arrangement. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

The 8 March Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung covered the talks near Bonn between Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel and the Croatian and Muslim leaders of the Bosnian federation, Kresimir Zubak and Ejup Ganic. Germany and the U.S. are in the forefront of efforts to breathe life into the federation, which still exists largely on paper. The idea seems to be that if the Bosnian Serbs cannot be brought around to a negotiated settlement, then at least a partial solution based on the Croat-Muslim state must come about. But the BBC's Croatian Service on 9 March suggests that the new Croatian-Muslim joint military command has not yet been finalized because of Muslim objections. Vjesnik, however, quotes Sarajevo's Oslobodjenje as indicating that the pact is a done deed after all. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

Oslobodjenje reports that the Croatian-Muslim pact means that the Serbs are no longer the strongest single force in the region. Nasa Borba says that the Krajina Serbs have nonetheless signed up an extra contingent of 5,000 "volunteers" and expect Serbia to mobilize if war breaks out between Zagreb and Knin. The paper also runs the story that Krajina President Milan Martic has lost a parliament vote to unseat Prime Minister Borislav Mikelic, whom the BBC describes as more open than Martic to talks with Zagreb. Should negotiations resume, a Croatian Social Democratic woman's conference has called for the inclusion of women in the talks, Novi list says. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

Nasa Borba on 9 March reported that Italian officials have warned Ljubljana that Rome is still able to block Slovenia's progress toward European Union membership. The warning comes in the wake of 6 March accounts of the EU giving officials the green light to start negotiations on an association agreement with Ljubljana. Italy recently dropped its veto on such an agreement. Meanwhile, Nasa Borba also reported that Slovenia, Croatia, and Macedonia have been extended membership in the World Bank. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.

Romanian Foreign Affairs Minister Teodor Melescanu on 8 March met with Gheorghe Funar, chairman of the Party of Romanian National Unity, and Adrian Paunescu, first deputy chairman of the Socialist Labor Party, Radio Bucharest reported. Melescanu updated the two leaders on progress toward concluding the basic treaty with Hungary. Funar told Romanian Television that he opposed some of the draft's provisions. The daily Ziua reported on 8 March that it was Funar who had leaked the draft to the press one day earlier, to the dismay of both President Ion Iliescu and the PSDR leadership. Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Mircea Geoana told a press conference in Bucharest that leaking details on negotiations went against diplomatic practice. After the 8 March meeting, Melescanu informed the parliament's Foreign Relations Commission that local autonomy could be granted to administrative territories, including those inhabited by national minorities, within the limits established by the Romanian Constitution. Greater Romania Party leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor told the meeting he opposed any mention of autonomy or of mutual "monitoring" of the treaty's implementation. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.

Nine prominent Romanian intellectuals on 8 March protested what they see as the Romanian Intelligence Service's use of methods employed by the secret police under Nicolae Ceausescu. In an open letter published in the daily Romania libera, they said an RIS agent had questioned a neighbor of the philosopher Horia R. Patapievici, claiming that the latter was involved in money-laundering. The agent is alleged to have drawn the neighbor's attention to articles critical of President Ion Iliescu published by Patapievici and to the fact that he free-lances for RFE/RL. Patapievici is at present in Germany on a fellowship. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.

Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Mircea Geoana on 8 March said that Romania has decided to "unilaterally abolish" visa requirements for U.S. citizens who visit the country for up to 30 days, beginning 15 March. The measure is aimed at improving relations and facilitating travel to Romania by American businessmen in particular. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.

The Albanian parliament has set up a commission to investigate the deaths of demonstrators during the revolt on 20 February 1991, when a statue of former communist leader Enver Hoxha was torn down. Nine people died in the clashes, including a 15-year-old youth. The commission will be made up of five deputies from the Democratic Party, two Socialists, one Social Democrat, and a representative of the other parliament parties. Democratic deputy Ali Spahiu proposed that a monument to the victims of the revolt be erected in Tirana, Dita reported on 9 March. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.

At a textile factory in Berat, 1,200 employees, including 700 women, began a hunger strike, Gazeta Shqiptare reported on 9 March. The strike is aimed at securing negotiations with the government on resuming production at the factory and on collective work-contract. The workers are also demanding that the government fight corruption within the factory. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.

Kostis Stephanopoulos was elected Greek president on 8 March, Reuters reported the following day. Of the 300 parliament deputies, 181 from the governing Panhellenic Socialist Movement and the nationalist Political Spring party voted for Stephanopoulos. Athanasios Tsaldaris of the conservative New Democracy party received 109 votes. The nine communist deputies and one conservative independent abstained. Stephanopoulos was a minister in governments led by New Democracy between 1974 and 1981. After losing a battle for the chairmanship of New Democracy, he formed the Political Renewal party, which was disbanded in 1994 after failing to win a single seat in national and European elections. Following his election as president, Stephanopoulos said his duty is "to remind [political parties] that solutions enjoying the broadest possible support are the most correct, effective, and beneficial for the country." Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou said Greece "gained a president whose character transcends party politics." Stephanopoulos is expected to be sworn in on 10 March. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.

[As of 12:00 CET]
Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave