OSCE SEES INTENSIFICATION OF PROBLEMS IN CHECHNYA.
As Russian forces
continue to pound areas around the towns of Shali and Germenchuk using planes,
tanks, helicopters, and artillery bombardment, an OSCE diplomat has raised
fears that the situation is deteriorating at an alarming pace. Istvan Gyarmati
told reporters in Moscow, "It seems the danger of the war spreading to the
neighboring republics is much greater than at the time of my last visit one and
half months ago," according to AFP. Gyarmati warned that, as Chechen fighters
retreated towards the borders of Ingushetia and Dagestan, the chances increased
that the fighting would spill over into those areas as well. Another problem
voiced by Gyarmati was threat that the number of refugees in the region would
increase. Estimates indicate there are more than 200,000 refugees in Ingushetia
alone. The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees claims
that 1,000 refugees a day are pouring into Dagestan, up from 500 last week. Ron
Redmond, a UNHCR spokesman, told Reuters in a 28 March report that, in
addition,"local authorities think 30,000 [refugees] are leaving or have already
left and are within a triangle," referring to the zone between Argun, Shali,
and Gudermes. He added, "We're afraid of cholera this spring" because of poor
sanitation in the crowded refugee camps. The OSCE plans to establish a
permanent mission in Grozny as early as mid-April. Gyarmati warned the, as yet,
unnamed head of the mission, "As an encouragement, I would like to tell my
would-be colleague that these six months will probably be the most interesting
experience of his life--if he survives," reported AFP. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI,
YEGOROV DESCRIBES EVOLUTION OF CHECHEN CRISIS.
Deputy Prime Minister and
Minister for Nationalities Nikolai Yegorov said federal authorities could not
have used force against Chechnya three years ago, Interfax and Russian
television reported 28 March. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, many of
the Russian republics and regions began declaring sovereignty, he said. At that
time, the use of force against the Chechen leadership could have caused an
explosion throughout the Northern Caucasus as well as in other parts of the
country. According to Yegorov, Chechen leader Dzhokhar Dudaev understood the
state of affairs at the time, but did not take into account that the situation
in Russia would eventually change, and one republic could not continue to test
the strength of the entire country. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.
"STABILITY" DEFENDS USE OF FORCE IN CHECHNYA.
In its first official
press conference as a registered Duma faction, the Stability group called the
use of force in Chechnya justified in order to defend the Russian Constitution
and the country's territorial integrity, Ekho Moskvy reported on 25 March. The
group's political coordinator Alexei Alexandrov told journalists that the
period of "emotional democracy" in Russia was finished, and that Stability
would fight for "organized and pragmatic democracy, with a strong state
system," NTV reported. Stability, which calls itself a "centrist" group, was
created in February to provide a base of support for Yeltsin in the Duma.
Alexei Levushkin, a co-chairman of the group, did not rule out the creation of
an all-Russian Stability movement to participate in the December 1995
elections. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.
KOZYREV: HASTY NATO EXPANSION HELPS ULTRA-NATIONALISTS.
for his trip to the Middle East, Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev again
waved the ultra-nationalist card to dissuade NATO expansion, Interfax reported
on 28 March. Kozyrev cited the recent budget deal as a significant step forward
for Russian reforms but cautioned that the West should not "undercut" the
progress made so far by being too hasty with NATO expansion ideas, especially
in light of the upcoming election campaign. He thinks such action will "provide
the ultra-nationalist forces with arguments, though artificial, for encouraging
xenophobia." He pleaded with Western leaders to "act more carefully so as not
to hinder the efforts of Russia's president and government, rather than simply
proclaiming their sympathy with our reforms." Nevertheless, most opinion polls
suggest that despite the rightist bombast, the Russian electorate is much more
preoccupied with domestic and economic issues than foreign policy. -- Michael
Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.
RUSSIAN DUMA MEMBERS DENOUNCE TURKISH INCURSION.
A group of 30 Russian
State Duma deputies signed an appeal against what they called the "genocide" of
the Kurdish people in Southern (Iraqi) Kurdistan by Turkish forces, Interfax
reported on 25 March. According to them, the problem of the Kurdish people
should be resolved using political means at a round-table conference "where the
Kurdish side should be recognized as an equitable participant in the talks."
They recommended that the Russian Foreign Ministry call on the UN Security
Council to consider the "numerous violations of international commitments by
Turkey." -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc.
SETBACK FOR RUSSIAN SPACE BUSINESS.
A new Russian space booster based on
the SS-25 intercontinental ballistic missile apparently failed to place three
satellites in orbit following a 28 March launch. ITAR-TASS had first reported
the successful launch of a "Start" booster rocket from the Plesetsk launch site
in northwestern Russia but several hours later said that no contact could be
established with the three satellites sent aloft. The Russians have been
touting the "Start" as a flexible and reliable launch system that can place
small loads into geostationary orbit from virtually any spot on the globe.
Interfax indicated that the payload included an Israeli satellite and a joint
Russian-Mexican effort, raising the possibility that Russia will have to pay
compensation to its foreign partners. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.
FUNDING TO COME BEFORE DEFENSE ORDERS.
Presidential aide Alexander
Livshitz said defense orders in 1995 will be placed "exclusively on the basis
of the budget," Interfax reported on 28 March. He said the government is
determined not to repeat last year's difficulties caused by military orders
being placed before a source for funding had been found. Livshitz indicated
that defense enterprises could be helped if President Yeltsin's 1994 decree on
reducing unfunded war reserve stocks in factories would be "made to work." In
the past, factories had to set aside capacities and personnel in order to be
prepared to meet their secret military wartime orders but were not compensated
for those efforts. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.
AGRICULTURE AND FOOD MINISTRY TO COMPLETE AGRO-INDUSTRIAL PRIVATIZATION.
The Russian Agriculture and Food Ministry plans to complete the conversion of
the country's collective and state-run agroindustrial enterprises into
joint-stock companies in the third quarter of 1995, Interfax reported on 28
March. Only 1,302 out of 2,327 agricultural businesses to be privatized have
reached that goal. The ministry said the privatization process has moved slowly
and indicated that not one agroindustrial enterprise in the Arkhangelsk,
Ulyanovsk, Kurgan and Kemerovo oblasts, and the republic of Kalmykia has been
denationalized. The Novosibirsk, Tomsk, and Irkutsk oblasts have privatized up
to 13% of enterprises in the sector. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.
GOVERNMENT AND FARMERS SIGN AGREEMENT ON MUTUAL OBLIGATIONS.
Association of Russian Farmers and Agricultural Cooperatives has signed an
agreement with the government on mutual obligations that gives farmers the
right to a share of state subsidies proportional to the amount of land they
cultivate, association president Vladimir Bash-machnikov told Interfax on 28
March. He said up until now farmers in the non-state sector had received only
2%-5% of the money spent on agriculture although they worked 10% of the land.
Now, however, the government has committed itself to allocating 10% of loans,
subsidies, and other funds directly to the farmers. In exchange, the farmers'
association, which unites about 70% of Russia's private farmers, will organize
the delivery of agricultural produce to federal and regional food funds in
volumes set jointly by the association and the Federal Food Corporation.
According to Bashmachnikov, pricing policy is now being discussed. Last year,
Russia's 300,000 non-state farmers harvested 5.7% of the total yield of grain,
5.7% of sugar beets, and 14% of sunflower seeds. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.
LITTLE INVESTMENT IN MACHINE-BUILDING SECTOR.
The State Committee for
Machine-Building has failed to attract private investors, Interfax reported on
28 March. The committee blamed high inflation, disadvantageous tax laws, and a
lack of coherent business plans in the machine-building enterprises themselves
for the poor results. The machine-building sector has suffered a severe fall in
output since the onset of market reforms. In the early part of last year,
production declined by almost 50% in comparison with the same period in 1993.
The situation subsequently improved slightly, but output is still falling. --
Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.
CHAIRMAN OF PRIMORSKY DUMA THREATENS STRIKE.
If the Russian government
does not provide financial assistance to the Primorsky Krai, its residents will
hold a territorial strike and block the Trans-Siberian Railroad and seaports,
Chairman of the Primorsky Duma Igor Lebedinets announced on 28 March in
Vladivostok, Interfax reported. The Duma has sent a letter to the federal
authorities demanding immediate action. The Russian armed forces owe Primorsky
defense enterprises 200 billion rubles, while the government has never provided
the 144 billion rubles allocated for the upkeep of municipal housing. Under
present circumstances, the territory has a deficit of more than 400 billion
rubles. The deputies demanded that a meeting take place of the Russian
government in the krai by 1 May. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.
KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT OPENS.
The deputies of Kyrgyzstan's new parliament
held their first session on 28 March. One of their first accomplishments was to
elect Mukar Cholponbayev as chairman of the Legislative Assembly, the lower
house. Cholponbayev, 50, who was previously Kyrgyzstan's justice minister, told
journalists that the main objectives would be to pass bills on facilitating
economic expansion and improving law and order, according to Interfax. About 25
draft laws are ready for review, including electoral reforms, a new tax code, a
package of economic reforms, and rules on foreign investment, Reuters reported.
Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev is scheduled to address a joint session of
parliament on 29 March, and a debate on the agenda is also expected to begin.
Although the assembly has begun work, not all of the seats in the legislature
are filled. Several electoral areas did not register the minimum required
turnout of 50%, leaving six seats vacant in the Legislative Assembly and 10 in
the People's Assembly, the so-called part-time upper house. Runoff elections
are scheduled for 29 April, Interfax reported. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc.
KARIMOV ON UZBEK REFERENDUM.
The Uzbek Electoral Commission announced
that 99.6% of eligible voters, or 11.25 million people, cast ballots in the 26
March referendum extending President Islam Karimov's rule until the year 2000,
Reuters reported on 28 March. In a televised speech the day after the
referendum, Karimov said he was "amazed" at the unanimous support for his
policies, Interfax reported on 29 March. He pledged to work for stability and
peace in Uzbekistan and said all branches of power should "function in the same
vein." -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc.
UKRAINE PROTESTS OVER RUSSIAN ACTIVITIES IN CRIMEA.
Deputy Prime Minister Borys Tarasyuk said his government has formally asked
Russia to halt the activities of its consular workers in Crimea, AFP reported
on 28 March. The workers had been handling requests for Russian citizenship
instead of providing other services for Russian citizens in the region.
Tarasyuk said this violated his country's law and Russia had not notified
Ukraine about the mission's activities in Simferopol. The head of the mission,
Aleksis Molochkov, would not say how many Russian passports had been handed out
and there was no immediate response from the Russian Foreign Ministry to Kiev's
request. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT AND CRIMEAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER MEET IN KIEV.
Kuchma and Serhii Tsekov met in Kiev on 27 March to try to resolve the
constitutional standoff over Crimea's status, Interfax-Ukraine reported the
next day. Kuchma told reporters after the meeting he was ready to cooperate
with the Crimean parliament if it respected Ukrainian law. He said he had
refrained from calling for the dissolution of the Crimean legislature during
the recent crisis because there was no guarantee that new elections would bring
a "better" parliament to power. Tsekov told reporters he was pleased with the
results of the meeting and expected progress within weeks on resolving the
standoff. Tensions have been high between Ukraine and Crimea since the
Ukrainian parliament annulled what it views as Crimea's separatist constitution
and abolished its Presidency on 17 March. Crimean deputies retaliated on 22
March by dismissing Crimean Prime Minister Anatolii Franchuk, whom they
consider close to Kiev. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc.
LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT IN KIEV.
Algirdas Brazauskas signed several
agreements on partnership and cooperation with his Ukrainian counterpart,
Leonid Kuchma, in Kiev on 28 March, Ukrainian Radio reported. The two
presidents spoke positively about increasing cooperation between their
countries. Kuchma said his only regret over the visit was that the parliament
was not meeting and so he could not ask his Lithuanian guest to attend a
session to explain the difference between legislative rule and executive rule.
-- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.
BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT VISITS CHORNOBYL.
Alyaksandr Luka-shenka, after
touring Belarusian regions affected by the 1986 Chornobyl disaster, visited the
Ukrainian nuclear power station, Ukrainian Radio reported on 28 March. He was
accompanied by Ukrainian Defense Minister Valerii Shmarov. Ukrainian President
Leonid Kuchma said that the nuclear facility is primarily a political problem
and that Ukraine was prepared to close the plant, provided that all problems
related to its closure were resolved at the same time. Lukashenka extended an
official invitation to Kuchma to visit Belarus. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.
IMF CRITICIZES BELARUSIAN ECONOMIC REFORMS.
Willem Middlekoop, the IMF
representative to Belarus, said that the fund has postponed considering a $250
million stand-by loan to Belarus because of the country's failure to adhere to
its economic stabilization program, Interfax reported on 28 March. The program
was approved by the IMF in February. Inflation has been running at 33.7%, not
10%, as foreseen by the program. None of the 371 enterprises slated for
privatization by the end of March has been privatized. And inefficient and
insolvent enterprises have not been declared bankrupt by the government. --
Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.
ESTONIA NEARING COMPLETION OF LARGE-SCALE PRIVATIZATION.
Liia Hanni told a news conference on 28 March that the majority of state-owned
companies have been sold into private hands, BNS reported. The Privatization
Agency sold 339 companies for 1.4 billion kroons ($112 million) in 1994, but as
most contracts provided for payment by installments, privatization income
amounted to only 431 million kroons. Among the major companies still to be
privatized are Estonian Energy, Estonian Shipping Company, Estonian Railways,
Estonian Air, and Estonian Oil Shale. After hearing Hanni's report, the
government said that more attention should be paid to environmental protection
during the privatization of companies. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.
LITHUANIA, LATVIA IN DISPUTE OVER ASIAN REFUGEES.
The Lithuanian Foreign
Ministry on 28 March handed a note to the Latvian embassy in Vilnius protesting
Latvia's decision to send a train with about 100 Kurdish, Palestinian, and
Afghan refugees to Lithuania, Reuters reported. The refugees were sent back to
Latvia on 24 March, and both Russia and Lithuania have refused to accept them.
Laurens Jolles, a UNHCR spokesman in Moscow, said the agency planned to send
two people on 29 March to investigate the situation. "We want to find out who
they are, if we know them, if Russia will admit, or re-admit them, what's
happened to them and what the conditions are like," Jolles said. Officials
believe that organized crime is behind the expanding business of smuggling
people from Asia through the CIS and the Baltic States to Scandinavia. --
Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.
POLISH COALITION SPLIT OVER CONCORDAT.
The Polish Peasant Party (PSL)
has proposed that the Sejm revise its July 1994 resolution on the concordat
with the Vatican to eliminate the requirement that a vote on ratification be
postponed until the new constitution is completed. The party argues that
consideration of the concordat cannot be held up because of a document that
does not yet exist. The motion will be considered during the Sejm session
beginning on 29 March, as will the report by the special commission that ruled
the concordat does not violate the current constitution. The parliament is
almost evenly split on the issue. The Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) and the
Union of Labor will vote against, while most Freedom Union deputies and other
opposition parties will back the motion. There has been press speculation that
SLD leaders would be relieved to see the concordat approved (to avoid further
conflict with the Catholic hierarchy), provided they themselves do not have to
provide the necessary votes. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc.
POLISH GOVERNMENT PREPARES RESTITUTION LAW.
Wieslaw Kaczmarek on 28 March announced that the government will submit a draft
law on restitution to the Sejm in May, Rzeczpospolita reported. Of the
many drafts considered and rejected since 1989, the current proposal would
place the smallest burden on the budget. Only property confiscated between 1944
and 1962 in violation of the law at the time would be covered. Compensation
would be paid out in "privatization coupons" valid for the purchase of shares
in privatized firms. No restitution in kind would be possible, though former
owners would have first refusal if former assets were put up for sale. The
larger the property, the smaller the proportion of its value the state would
restore. Former owners have so far lodged 500,000 claims for property worth 20
billion zloty ($14 billion), or a quarter of the annual budget. -- Louisa
Vinton, OMRI, Inc.
CZECH INTELLECTUALS DEMAND DIALOGUE WITH SUDETEN GERMANS.
noviny reported on 29 March that 105 Czech intellectuals have signed a
statement urging the Czech government to start talks with representatives of
Sudeten Germans. They said no question considered important by either side
should be omitted from such talks. Former Czech Prime Minister Petr Pithart and
a number of former dissidents are among the signatories. The Czech Ministry of
Foreign Affairs responded by stressing its position that the Czech government
will discuss Czech-German relations and Sudeten German questions only with the
German government. President Vaclav Havel, in a partial reversal of previous
statements apologizing for the postwar expulsion of some 3 million Sudeten
Germans from Czechoslovakia, said on 15 March that the Czech Republic and
Germany must stop making apologies to each other for past deeds. Some leading
German politicians refuse to consider the Sudeten German question closed and
have suggested that the Czech government start a dialogue with former
Czechoslovak citizens of German origin. -- Jiri Pehe, OMRI, Inc.
CZECHS OFFER TO FINISH MOCHOVCE.
Slovakia has received an offer from the
Czech firm Skoda Praha to finish two reactors at its nuclear plant at Mochovce,
Sme reports on 29 March. The EBRD was to have decided on 27 March
whether to grant a loan to Slovakia to allow a Slovak-French joint venture to
complete the project, but Slovak Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Sergej
Kozlik asked the EBRD to delay its decision until April. Kozlik said the
request was based on the European Parliament's 15 March resolution stating that
funding to finish the plant should be delayed until various safety measures
have been addressed, but he added that the Economy and Finance Ministries have
not yet completed their analysis for the project's financing. The Czech offer
undercuts that of Electricite de France by one-third, but it remains unclear
whether Western safety standards would be guaranteed. Russia has also expressed
interest in helping to complete the plant. It offered to put up $150 million in
February. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.
SLOVAK POLITICAL NEWS.
The Slovak cabinet on 28 March removed Zdenko
Kovac from his post as chairman of the Anti-Monopoly Office, replacing him with
Pavol Frano. It also approved proposals for several draft laws to be discussed
at the next parliament session on 5 April. Bills on Slovak Television (STV) and
Slovak Radio (SRo) would provide for members of the boards overseeing these
bodies, who are currently unpaid, to receive compensation from the STV and SRo
budgets. The government also approved the budget of the Employment Fund. In
preparation for Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's scheduled visit to Ukraine
from 4-5 April, an intergovernment agreement was passed on international
transport. A memorandum on the liberalization of Slovak-Bulgarian trade was
approved. And for the third consecutive week, the cabinet refused to take part
in a press conference, sending instead its new 23-year-old spokesman, Tomas
Hasala, who studied in the U.S. and worked as a journalist for several French
dailies, Pravda reported on 29 March. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.
IZETBEGOVIC FIRM ON PRECONDITIONS FOR TALKS.
International media on 28
March reported that Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic, addressing the
congress of his Party of Democratic Action, reaffirmed "the two minimal
conditions" necessary for him to agree to peace talks: Serbia's recognition of
Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Bosnian Serbs' acceptance of the Contact Group's
peace plan. Meanwhile, Nasa Borba on 29 March writes that the Contact
Group has decided there will be no more "solo trips" by its individual members
to Belgrade. American and Russian diplomats in particular have repeatedly tried
to woo Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic in recent weeks. The diplomats in
Brussels agreed on the basic form of their next offer to Milosevic, namely that
he recognize his neighbors, accept current peace plans, and allow effective
monitoring of his border with the Bosnian Serbs before sanctions are suspended.
He has repeatedly refused to budge until the sanctions are completely lifted,
however. Moscow may in any event be preparing to offer him another "solo
initiative" more to his liking, the independent Belgrade daily reports. --
Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.
CONFUSION STILL SURROUNDS BOSNIAN FIGHTING.
Both the Bosnian government
and Serbian rebels continue to claim success in the current fighting amid heavy
snowfall in central and northeastern Bosnia. Both also seem equally determined
to prevent UN observers and the media from independently checking out those
claims. The stakes are high: Nasa Borba on 29 March notes that 90% of
Serbian communications travel via the transmitter on Mt. Vlasic near Travnik
and via another one at Stolice, in the Majevica hills near Tuzla, to the
northeast. The paper adds that controlling these television relay stations is
more important than taking cities and that government control of them would
open up vast reaches of the republic to Sarajevo television broadcasts. It also
quotes UN observers as saying the government wants to test the combat readiness
of the Serbs. Vecernji list on 28 March suggests that the Bosnian
government has not lost sight of its ultimate strategic goals in the northeast,
namely liberating the Semberija region and cutting the vital Posavina land
corridor linking Serbia with its conquests in Bosnia and Croatia. Finally in
Sarajevo, the UN-sponsored airlift on 29 March marks its 1,000th day. --
Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.
CELEBRATIONS OF "SERBIAN NATIONAL DAY" IN KOSOVO.
in Kosovo celebrated the sixth anniversary of the current Serbian Constitution
on 28 March. Following protests in Kosovo in which 22 Albanians were killed by
Serbian police in 1989, the Serbian legislature passed amendments to the
republic's constitution effectively abrogating the autonomy of the Serbian
regions of Kosovo and Vojvodina. The Albanian language-service of Deutsche
Welle noted the same day that Albanian-language education was banned in
elementary schools in recognition of the Serbian holiday. Meanwhile, Bosnian
Serb leader Radovan Karadzic sent a greetings message to Serbian President
Slobodan Milosevic saying that "the stability of Serbia guarantees the freedom
of all Serbs," Nasa Borba reported on 29 March. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI,
ROMANIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH POPE.
Pope John Paul II on 28 March
received Romanian President Ion Iliescu, who is currently paying an official
visit to Italy and the Vatican. They discussed bilateral relations as well as
the return of Greek-Catholic Church properties confiscated by the Communists in
the late 1940s and early 1950s. Most of those properties eventually ended up in
the hands of the Romanian Orthodox Church. Iliescu, in an interview with Radio
Bucharest after the meeting, said he was confident that dialogue between the
two Churches would result in a solution to the issue. He praised the Vatican's
stance as "constructive." This was Iliescu's third meeting with the Pope,
following audiences in 1991 and 1992. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc.
DUMA DEPUTIES SAY RUSSIAN TROOPS MUST STAY IN MOLDOVA.
who monitored the 26 March elections and referendum in Moldova's breakaway
Dniester region say they are convinced that the Russian 14th Army must remain
there. Interfax quoted members of the Russian delegation as saying the best
solution would be to give the area the status of a Russian military base. The
deputies, who are in the Dniester region on an unofficial visit, belong to the
Liberal Democratic and Socialist Parties as well as to the Communist and
Agrarian factions. Moldova's Foreign Ministry protested the deputies presence
in the Dniester Republic, saying it encroached on Moldova's sovereignty and
violated international law. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc.
MOLDOVAN STUDENT PROTESTS SUSPENDED.
Radio Bucharest, citing Moldpres,
reported on 28 March that students and teachers in Chisinau agreed to suspend
their protests until negotiations with the government are concluded. According
to the same source, the Education Ministry in Chisinau has decided to revise
plans to replace the study of the Romanian language and Romanian history with
Moldovan language and history courses. The decision was taken after a new round
of talks between a government commission and representatives of the students,
who have been on strike for almost two weeks. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc.
BULGARIA, RUSSIA REACH AGREEMENT ON DEBTS.
Russia will repay its $100
million debt to Bulgaria by providing equipment, spare parts, and repair
services for its air force as well as industrial equipment, Duma
reported on 29 March. An agreement on mutual obligations was signed the
previous day in Moscow by Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Trade
Kiril Tsochev and Russian Finance Minister Vladimir Panskov. Tsochev also held
talks with Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, who reaffirmed his
intention to visit Bulgaria in mid-May. Tsochev said that 15 accords to promote
trade and cooperation in the transportation and construction fields have
already been drafted for the visit. He stressed that Bulgaria wants closer
military technological cooperation with Russia. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.
BULGARIAN BUSINESS BLOC ABOUT TO SPLIT?
A joint meeting of the Bulgarian
Business Bloc's executive council and parliament faction failed to resolve
political frictions, Demokratsiya reported on 29 March. The meeting was
aimed at preventing the 12-member faction from splitting. BBB deputies have
recently threatened to leave the party if BBB leader Georges Ganchev does not
change party policies and his own leadership style. Orlin Draganov, a member of
the BBB faction, accused Ganchev of pursuing "a leftist policy despite the
[party's] rightist platform." A declaration stating that the faction "remains
united and will fulfill its election program" was signed by just eight of the
party's deputies. If more than two deputies leave the group, it will lose its
status of parliament faction. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.
BULGARIAN NAVY IN TROUBLE.
Rear Admiral Hristo Kontrov, acting commander
of the Bulgarian Navy, warned that Bulgaria would have only three medium-sized
and six small warships by 2000 unless urgent measures were taken, BTA reported
on 24 March. Kontrov said the navy needed 11 billion leva for repairs,
maintenance, and a recommended ship-building program. Of the four ex-Soviet
Romeo-class submarines once in the navy, two have been sold, one is used only
for exercises, and the fourth needs new batteries. Kontrov also complained that
the navy was severely undermanned. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.
ALBANIAN SOCIALIST LEADER CHARGED WITH CORRUPTION.
Namik Dokle, deputy
leader of the Socialist Party, has been accused by the Democratic Party
newspaper Rilindja Demokratike of embezzling some $400,000, the
Albanian-language service of Deutsche Welle reported on 28 March. Dokle, who
has denied the charges, allegedly received that sum in 1991 from communist-era
President Ramiz Alia to buy a printing machine in Canada for the Socialist
Party newspaper Zeri i Popullit. At the time, Dokle was chief editor of
the newspaper. He claims the machine was bought but says he does not know of
its whereabouts. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.
[As of 12:00 CET]
Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave