Accessibility links

Breaking News

Newsline - March 14, 1995

Moscow police have arrested three men believed to be professional assassins in connection with the murder of television journalist Vladislav Listev, Izvestiya reported on 14 March. The newspaper said investigators now believe that a prominent Russian businessman and "a criminal kingpin who enjoys an illegal interest in the advertising business" conspired to murder Listev. Police sources said the investigation has been hampered by several uncooperative colleagues, business partners, and friends of the victim. They said Boris Berezovsky, the deputy chairman of Russian Public Television, has been particularly unhelpful, Izvestiya reported. * Laura Belin

Defense Minister Pavel Grachev ordered Deputy Defense Minister Boris Gromov and his staff to leave their Defense Ministry offices immediately on 13 March, an RFE/RL Moscow correspondent reported. Gromov's assistants were ordered in the morning to vacate the rooms by 2 p.m. and warned that the telephones would be disconnected by 6 p.m. Gromov told Ekho Moskvy that a senior government official like Grachev should deal with such matters in a statesmanlike way, not with "petty, vindictive arrogance." Gromov added that Grachev's orders might be acceptable in a country like Afghanistan (where both men served in the 1980s), but in Russia "such things are simply intolerable." On 13 February, President Boris Yeltsin transferred Gromov to the position of chief military expert for the Foreign Ministry, but he retained his title as deputy defense minister. The move was widely interpreted as a reaction to Gromov's criticism of Russian policy in Chechnya. * Laura Belin

A missile launched by a fighter bomber on a training flight from a base in Voronezh Oblast on 10 March exploded near a nuclear power station, Russian and Western agencies reported on 13 March. The missile hit the ground about 200 meters away from houses in the village of Archangelskoe and 4 kilometers from the Novovoronezh nuclear power station. One person in the village was injured. The reports quoted local authorities as saying they had repeatedly requested that the air base be moved. * Penny Morvant

Valentin Tsvetkov, chairman of the Federation Council's committee for the north and small ethnic groups, said on 13 March that the environment has deteriorated sharply in recent years, particularly in the north of the country, and that laws must be adopted to deal with the problem, Interfax reported. The committee is drafting a law on environmental protection, as are the government and the Duma. Tsvetkov said the north is suffering from continued "militarization" of the area and the consequences of policies geared toward maximum short-term economic benefits, which have led to serious accidents such as the Komineft oil pipeline break. He noted that a number of reactors from nuclear submarines remained in the Barents and Kara seas. * Penny Morvant

The Republican Party demanded the immediate release of one of its members, Viktor Pashinin, who is also vice president of the Association of Farmer Households and Agricultural Cooperatives, Interfax reported on 13 March. The authorities in Tambov Oblast reportedly arrested Pashinin and placed him in a psychiatric hospital. The party statement stresses that Pashinin was detained immediately before an association congress to discredit him as a public figure. The party has lodged a complaint with the Russian prosecutor general's office and the president's Human Rights Commission. * Robert Orttung

Federation Council Chairman Vladimir Shumeiko said he is against electing any of the State Duma members by party list, Interfax reported on 13 March. He added, however, that the council was ready to compromise and agree that a third of the deputies could be elected by party list. The council would reject any Duma legislation that called for electing half of the deputies by party list. He warned that conflict over the provision might prevent the electoral law from being adopted on schedule. He said the Justice Ministry has registered 60 parties, but their collective influence is extremely small. * Robert Orttung

Russia's harvest outlook for 1995 is bleak because the farm sector cannot afford supplies for spring sowing, the Ministry of Agriculture told Interfax on 13 March. Ivan Gridasov, head of the ministry's crop-growing section, said the farm sector could not afford the equipment, fertilizer, fuel, and lubricants needed for sowing. As a result, plowing conditions are poor, fields are weed-infested, and sowing will be delayed. Gridasov said the situation is "critical and even lamentable" and urged the government to find at least 6.5 trillion rubles ($1.5 billion) for farming supplies for the spring sowing. Russia's grain harvest in 1994 was 81.3 million tons, down from 99 million tons in 1993 and 106.8 million tons in 1992. * Thomas Sigel

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zaveryukha announced that the Russian government has signed an agricultural economic ordinance for 1995, which creates new mechanisms for using budget appropriations, Interfax reported. According to Zaveryukha, the ordinance will enable peasants to carry out spring sowing and will provide credits for fuels and lubricants. The government also intends to allocate 1 trillion rubles to expand the leasing of farm machinery and plans to subsidize the prices of mineral fertilizer by 50%. The ordinance anticipates a harvest of at least 82 million tons of grain, 40 million tons of wheat, and 20 million tons of sugar beets. The government also decided to transform 3 trillion rubles in farm debts for credits granted in 1992-94 into internal public debt. The debt will be paid by the farm sector over 10 years at an annual interest rate of 10%. The government plans to appropriate 314 billion rubles from the federal budget and has told local executive bodies to use local budgets to finance 15% of capital investments in private farms. * Thomas Sigel

The price of key types of fuel and energy rose an average of 13% in February, exceeding the inflation rate by 2%, according to Russia's Economic Situation Center, Russian and Western agencies reported on 13 March. The largest increase, about 17%, occurred in crude oil, which the center attributed to a surge in prices at oil fields in the Far East, North Russia, and West Siberia. The center said there was no change in the price of natural gas, with the average price standing at 7,000 rubles ($1.52) for 1,000 cubic meters of gas. Meanwhile, the eastern city of Vladivostok is low on electricity and heating supplies, ITAR-TASS reported. The city now has less than half its normal energy supplies and the region's energy sector is suffering from a lack of funds and poor equipment. The report said consumers have failed to pay bills and the government has failed to send the subsidies it promised this year. * Thomas Sigel

An inter-regional conference in Kemerovo of representatives of the Russian Coal Miners Trade Union (Rosugleprof) decided to set up a socio-political movement called "Miners of Russia," union deputy chairman Ivan Mokhnachuk told Interfax on 13 March. The movement's main aim is to oppose the decline in living standards of miners and other industrial workers by nominating candidates for legislative bodies at all levels in the upcoming elections, Radio Rossii reported. Rosugleprof leader Vitaly Budko will head the movement's executive committee. Meanwhile, miners in Vorkuta are planning to launch a new strike to protest the nonpayment of wages, AFP reported. However, the action is uncoordinated--two of the region's 12 pits have refused to take part in the strike, while others have already staged spontaneous stoppages--and morale is low. * Penny Morvant

The Federation Council Security and Defense Committee chairman, Sergei Shirshov, has accused the U.S. of "arming Croatia for struggle against the Serbs," ITAR-TASS reported on 12 March. Shirshov said he has information that the U.S. sent C-130 military cargo planes into Croatia at night without first obtaining UNPROFOR clearance. He said Russia should "take adequate measures to prevent bloodshed" by first providing "economic assistance to the Serbs." He called Russian participation in the economic sanctions against Serbia a "cruel and unforgivable mistake." * Michael Mihalka

Following the second round of voting, official results show the Communist Party won 60 out of 181 seats in the legislature. The runoff election was held on 12 March because 19 of the constituencies registered less than the required 50% turnout during the voting on 26 February. Two deputies of the opposition Tajik People's Unity Party, supporters of former President Abdumalik Abdulajanov, were elected though they ran against the wishes of their party, which had called for a boycott of the elections, AFP reported. Meanwhile, Tajik President Emomali Rakhmanov arrived in Pakistan on 14 March to meet with other Central Asian leaders including those from Iran, Afghanistan, and Turkey. He will also hold talks with the deputy chairman of the Movement of Islamic Renaissance of Tajikistan, Akbar Turadzhonzoda, to agree on a date and venue for the fourth round of negotiations, according to Interfax. * Bruce Pannier

Seventy deputies from the recently dissolved 177-seat Kazakh parliament are calling an alternative assembly on 14 March, Reuters reported. Olzhas Suleimanov, known for his work to stop nuclear testing in the Semipalatinsk area, will lead the group, which is expected to be the major opposition to Nazarbaev's administration when elections are called. Another deputy, Nurbakit Kuashybekov, said the former parliamentarians will endeavor to work within the law but added, "Our regime is becoming a fascist regime." The streets of Almaty were reported to be calm and officials said the parliament chamber was "closed for renovations." * Bruce Pannier

Pavel Kallaur, the National Bank of Belarus deputy chairman, said the bank is considering whether to withdraw its share of equity capital from the CIS Inter-State Bank, Interfax reported on 13 March. Kallaur said the Inter-State Bank, which was set up two years ago for work in the ruble zone, will not be capable of multilateral clearing and has not even begun to operate. He said settlements between CIS states have been taken over by merchant banks and there is no reason to revive the centralized system. Interfax also quoted Deputy Prime Minister Mikhail Myasnikovich as complaining about the amount of time it is taking to form a Russian-Belarusian-Kazakh customs union, even though an agreement on the union was signed two months ago. Before the end of the month, Myasnikovich said Russia and Belarus are to draft a program for setting up joint customs checkpoints. Myasnikovich added that all agreements between Russia and Belarus, which must be ratified by parliament, would be submitted to the Belarusian legislature by 20 March. * Ustina Markus

Russian Federal Counterintelligence Service director Sergei Stepashin and his Georgian counterpart, Igor Georgadze, signed an agreement in Moscow on 13 March on cooperation in combating organized crime and terrorism, including the creation of a combined data bank, Interfax reported. The agreement presumably expands a Russian-Georgian memorandum signed more than a year ago on cooperation in the fight against drug smuggling, terrorism, and corruption. * Liz Fuller

The Communist Party of Ukraine, at its second national congress on 11-12 March in Kiev, claimed it was the legal successor to the Soviet-era Ukrainian Communist Party, banned by the Ukrainian parliament after the failed August 1991 coup, Interfax-Ukraine reported on 13 March. Petro Symonenko, who was re-elected as the party's leader, demanded that the ban be lifted and the former party's property and assets restored to its successor. The party blamed the country's economic crisis on the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the introduction of capitalism in Ukraine. Symonenko also accused Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma of failing to keep his campaign promises and adopting the nationalist position of former President Leonid Kravchuk. But he added that his party was willing to cooperate with Kuchma if reforms meant that social welfare improved. Elsewhere, some 400 separatists demonstrated on 12 March in Sevastopol to demand the annulment of the Belaya Vezha accord of December 1991, which formally dissolved the Soviet Union, Interfax reported on 13 March. The rally organizers denounced what they called Ukraine's isolationist policies and called for civil disobedience in a campaign to formally re-unite Crimea with Russia. * Chrystyna Lapychak

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has issued a decree appropriating government funds and credits to the country's troubled energy sector, Interfax-Ukraine reported on 13 March. He ordered the Finance Ministry to allocate money to the Ukrainian Nuclear Energy Committee to complete construction and make fully operational the sixth reactor at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. The decree also provides for a stabilization fund for the energy sector, which currently has to deal with skyrocketing prices and huge debts for fuel imports. * Chrystyna Lapychak

The Russian gas monopoly Gazprom has drawn up a list of Ukrainian enterprises slated for privatization in which it wants shares, Interfax reported on 13 March. The list names 15 enterprises, including ferrous alloy plants and gas storage and transport facilities. All enterprises on the list are profitable and well-equipped. Gazprom wants a 30-50% share in all the enterprises as partial payment for Ukraine's $1.5 billion debt but is facing opposition within Ukraine. * Ustina Markus

Before leaving for Teheran on 12 March, Mikhail Chyhir told reporters that the main purpose of his visit is to promote economic cooperation between Belarus and Iran, Belarusian Television reported. He noted Iran's close ties with the USSR and its familiarity with Belarusian industry and technology, saying that it could provide Belarus with materials Russia can no longer supply. Trade with Iran in 1994 amounted to less than $2 million. Chyhir said this indicated that there is plenty of room to develop economic ties, especially since Belarusian enterprises are having difficulty breaking into Western markets. * Ustina Markus

Al Gore, accompanied by Estonian President Lennart Meri, flew to Tallinn from Copenhagen on 13 March for a six-hour visit, BNS reports. In a public address at Town Hall Square, Gore said: "No outside power should ever again cast a veto over your future; you must not be consigned to a `gray zone' of fear and uncertainty." He witnessed the signing of a U.S.-Estonian memorandum on environmental protection in which the U.S. pledges $2 million for the clean-up of the former Russian submarine base at Paldiski. Gore also met with prime ministers Andres Tarand (Estonia), Maris Gailis (Latvia), and Adolfas Slezevicius (Lithuania). He proposed that the three countries take part in the development of an air traffic control system in Central Europe. * Saulius Girnius

Lithuania has reached a bilateral agreement with Russia modifying the visa regulations for cross-border visits, according to Interfax on 13 March quoting Deputy Director of the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry's Consular Department Arturas Zurauskas. Beginning April 1996, citizens of one country permanently residing in the other will be able to travel to and from their "ethnic motherland" without visas if they have an invitation. There will be no charge for visas for visitors taking part in scientific-technical and cultural exchanges, sports competitions, or funerals of close relatives. Visas for children under 16 will also be free of charge. The agreement gives law enforcement and other government bodies the right to bar someone from entering the other country or limiting the length of his stay without justifying their decision. * Saulius Girnius

Attempting to ease friction in Church-state relations, Jozef Oleksy on 13 March proposed a meeting with Cardinal Jozef Glemp, saying the government "will not refrain from doing all in its power to see that the concordat [with the Vatican] is ratified," Rzeczpospolita reported. The parliament voted last year to postpone ratification until a new constitution is adopted, despite formal (if half-hearted) support from the government. Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek on 13 March signaled that a compromise may be in the offing on Article 15 of the draft constitution, which will define Church-state relations. According to Pieronek, the Constitutional Commission appears to be willing to refrain from using the terms "separation" or "division." The Catholic hierarchy favors the statement that the Church and state are "independent and autonomous" but "cooperate for the human good." Commission chairman Aleksander Kwasniewski prefers to bar religious denominations "from the exercise of public power." Elsewhere, Oleksy told a gathering of foreign diplomats on 13 March that his cabinet will pursue integration with the EU and NATO. He also said it will "continue the foreign policy undertaken after 1989, which is an achievement [to be attributed to] society and not to specific parties and thus may not be the object of domestic conflict." * Louisa Vinton

A bomb attack in Warsaw on 13 March killed two men associated with the "Wolomin gang," which reportedly runs a local protection racket. This was the 17th criminal explosion in Poland so far this year, and the 11th in Warsaw. No arrests have been made in the bombings, but police on 26 February detained Grzegorz Lindenberg, the publisher of the daily SuperExspress, after the paper's staff scheduled a press conference to demonstrate how easily explosives can be acquired in Poland. Lindenberg said he needed only three hours and $2,000 to procure explosives from the anti-terrorist brigade at Okecie Airport. He has been charged with illegal possession of explosives. * Louisa Vinton

Koloman Pranay, deputy chairman of the extraparliamentary Democratic Party, said on 13 March that the parliament's fifth session confirmed that the governing coalition places its own interests above those of society. He cited the setting up of what he called the unnecessary Ministry of Construction and Public Works, the increased powers of state secretaries, the passage of the "scandalous" budget for the National Property Fund, and the reduced budget for towns and villages, Pravda reported. Meanwhile, the Democratic Union said the session had centralized control in the hands of the governing coalition, limiting the power of one of the country's last independent institutions, the Slovak Information Service, Narodna obroda reported. Party of the Democratic Left Chairman Peter Weiss criticized the "schizophrenia" of the government parties. He said that Association of Slovak Workers Chairman Jan Luptak's declaration on Slovakia's neutrality during the recent workers' conference in Banska Bystrica conflicts with the cabinet's program. * Sharon Fisher

U.S. President Bill Clinton, in a letter to Slovak Premier Vladimir Meciar, has praised Slovak efforts at concluding a basic treaty with Hungary, Narodna obroda reports. Clinton wrote "I was pleased by the news of your efforts leading to the signing of the basic agreement with Hungary . . . Resolving the potential sources of misunderstanding and tension in Central Europe is the most important condition for stability in this region and the future of European integration." Meetings between Slovak and Hungarian officials continue in Bratislava and Budapest in an effort to secure the final wording of the treaty, which Meciar and his Hungarian counterpart, Gyula Horn, hope to sign by 20 March. If necessary, Meciar and Horn will meet later this week in an effort to work out final details, Sme reported on 13 March. * Sharon Fisher

Russian Security Council Secretary Oleg Lobov, in Slovakia for a four-day official working visit, has met with Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar and Defense Minister Jan Sitek to discuss cooperation in the production of military equipment. One project involves setting up a Russian-Slovak holding company in Povazska Bystrica for the production of RD-35 motors for Russian JAK 130 planes, Pravda reported. Lobov will also visit defense industry firms in Dubnica nad Vahom and Trencin. His visit comes after an agreement on cooperation in aircraft production signed during Russian Premier Viktor Chernomyrdin's trip to Slovakia in mid-February. * Sharon Fisher

The New York Times reported on 14 March that "in the last couple of days, there has been a considerable movement of tanks into eastern Croatia from Serbia" in apparent anticipation that international monitors will soon be stationed on that border. Reuters says that the U.S. has a draft proposal that would place about 5,000 troops in Croatia under a new mandate after UNPROFOR's expires on 31 March. Some 500-600 troops would patrol crossings on Croatia's borders with Serbia and Bosnia and the whole force might be under the supervision of the Contact Group, according to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. * Patrick Moore

American diplomats said the Krajina Serbs have already given their tacit approval to the project, but other observers doubt this. One Krajina spokesman said "no one has the right to push us toward Croatia." The New York Times suggests that Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic will have the last word in any case. The Frankfurt Allgemeine Zeitung and Nasa Borba point to a fierce power struggle in Krajina between local strong men and those taking their cues from Milosevic. The New York paper and Croatian officials call the new situation "a triumph" for President Franjo Tudjman, who has attracted international attention and obtained Western pledges for troops to be stationed between the Krajina Serbs and their allies in Serbia and Bosnia. The VOA said on 13 March that U.S. soldiers will probably play a part. Government-controlled Croatian dailies on 14 March paint a rosy picture of domestic reaction. But some opposition parties expressed doubts or criticism, while the BBC's Croatian Service quotes The Independent as saying many Croatian refugees from Krajina fear they will never be able to go home. Many Croats feel that any international presence on the front lines with the Krajina Serbs will mean the continued partition of their country. * Patrick Moore

Nasa Borba and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported on 11 March that leaders of the Bosnian Croats and Muslims concluded a pact in Bonn the previous day to strengthen their federation. Federal President Kresimir Zubak and Vice President Ejup Ganic called for a series of steps to promote joint communal and cantonal government structures as well as measures to be considered by a federal constituent assembly. Details appear sketchy, but the thrust seems to be to establish a strict timetable and to create a police system that would facilitate movement and permit refugees to go home. The two leaders stressed that the federation is open to the Bosnian Serbs. * Patrick Moore

Nasa Borba on 11 March also quoted Bosnian civilian and military authorities as saying that the Bosnian-Croatian joint staff set up on 6 March will play only a coordinating role and that Sarajevo will retain command over Bosnian forces. Previous reports suggested there would be a truly unified command headed by Croatian Chief-of-Staff General Janko Bobetko. Some sort of military integration will nonetheless be necessary, since the republics have common enemies and since close links between Zagreb and Sarajevo seem the best way of bringing Herzegovinian Croat military units into line with Bosnian government forces. Relations have soured in recent days because of what the Herzegovinian Croats call the kidnapping of General Vlado Santic in the Bihac pocket by Bosnian government forces on 8 March. * Patrick Moore

Gheorghe Funar, controversial mayor of Cluj, has banned rallies planned by ethnic Hungarians to mark Hungary's national holiday on 15 March. Funar, who is also president of the extreme nationalist Party of Romanian National Unity, was quoted by Reuters as saying he has banned all public meetings because several organizations, including Romanian nationalist groups, applied to hold rallies the same day. A leader of the Cluj branch of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania described Funar's ban as "illegal" and said that ethnic Hungarians would ignore it. Meanwhile, Radio Bucharest on 13 March reported that Funar has urged Romanian President Ion Iliescu to consult all parliament parties on the draft treaty with Hungary. Funar sharply criticized the provisions of the treaty requiring Romania to guarantee the rights of its large Hungarian minority and Hungary to recognize existing borders. * Dan Ionescu

Jiri Skalicky on 13 March began a two-day visit to Romania, Radio Bucharest reported. Skalicky, who is heading a delegation of experts, met with Mircea Cosea, head of the Romanian government's Council for Economic Coordination, Strategy, and Reform, to discuss progress toward privatization in their countries. Cosea asked for technical assistance in implementing a new Romanian law on speeding up privatization, which is expected to pass soon through the Chamber of Deputies. The two ministers also expressed willingness to expand mutual economic ties. Skalicky is scheduled to meet with Romanian President Ion Iliescu and Prime Minister Nicolae Vacaroiu. * Dan Ionescu

NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe George Joulwan arrived in Sofia on 13 March for a two-day official visit, BTA reported the same day. Joulwan, who was invited by Bulgarian Chief of Staff Tsvetan Totomirov, will discuss Bulgaria's participation in NATO's Partnership for Peace program. Asked if Russian aversion toward NATO's expansion eastward has consequences for Bulgaria's possible NATO membership, Joulwan said this is a decision only Bulgaria can take. * Stefan Krause

Reserve Colonel Stoyan Tsakov, former deputy head of the Bulgarian Defense Ministry's Supply and Trade Department, was arrested in Moscow on 10 March, 24 chasa reported on 14 March. Tsakov was dismissed last year together with his superior, Colonel Valentin Popinski. Both have been charged in connection with an alleged arms deal with Albania in which 100 mortars disappeared and probably ended up in the former Yugoslavia. "I escaped to Moscow in order not to be killed in Sofia," Tsakov was quoted as saying. * Stefan Krause

Karolos Papoulias met with Foreign Minister Alfred Serreqi in Tirana on 13 March, international agencies reported the same day. Papoulias said his government was determined to improve relations with Albania. The two ministers agreed to establish a joint committee to regulate seasonal work for Albanians in Greece. They also decided to open more border crossings and to develop economic, educational, and military cooperation. Papoulias, who expressed concern about the human rights situation of the ethnic Greek minority in Albania, will meet with Prime Minister Aleksander Meksi and President Sali Berisha on 14 March. * Fabian Schmidt

Albania and the U.S. on 10 March signed an agreement on the return to Albania of gold worth $13 million and the settlement of U.S. property claims in Albania, Gazeta Shqiptare reported the next day. The gold, appropriated by Nazi Germany during World War II, is currently in the Bank of England and remains under the jurisdiction of an Anglo-French-U.S. commission, whose three members must all agree to the return. Deputy Prime Minister Dylber Vrioni said a similar agreement will be signed with France soon, Reuters reported on 10 March. Britain gave its consent in 1992. * Fabian Schmidt

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