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Newsline - March 30, 1995

President Yeltsin has canceled his plans for a cross-country train journey and decided to remain in his dacha near Kislovodsk, ITAR-TASS reported. The third change in plans since the vacation began three days ago again stirred speculation that Yeltsin's health was deteriorating. Additionally, Yeltsin's security staff may have urged him to abandon the trip for fear it exposed the president to unacceptable risks, as Mikhail Berger, a political commentator for Izvestiya, told the Los Angeles Times. During Yeltsin's 19 February visit to Almaty, the president's most recent trip out of Moscow before his vacation, television footage showed him receiving assistance to climb stairs. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

Yegor Gaidar, the leader of Russia's Democratic Choice Party, rejected the idea of postponing the federal elections in an interview published in the 26 March-4 April edition of Moskovskie novosti. The most visible advocate of delaying the balloting now is Oleg Boiko, a successful banker who recently resigned from the leadership of Gaidar's party. Gaidar told the newspaper, "I do not think the ruling authorities will take this extremely dangerous path. However, this option cannot be fully ruled out." Vladimir Semago, a State Duma member from the Communist Party, said in the same issue, "it is clear who wants to retain the current `stability:' those who have established personal contacts with the executive authority." He argued that if the elections bring new groups to power, it will dramatically hurt the financial interests of the banks associated with Boiko. Meanwhile, Federation Council Chairman Vladimir Shumeiko warned that Russia may run into a political impasse by holding the parliamentary elections in 1995 because an electoral law is unlikely to be passed this year, Segodnya reported on 29 March. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

Despite official reassurances, Russia's increasingly powerful and centralized security services have made the "reanimation of the KGB" entirely possible, according to a 30 March article in Nezavisimaya gazeta. The article claimed that Yeltsin's 28 March decree, which created the Federal Security Service (FSB) out of the Federal Counterintelligence Service (FSK), vastly broadened the authority of the special services. The author cited "independent experts" speculating that Alexander Korzhakov, the head of Yeltsin's personal security service, might be behind the reorganization. Nezavisimaya gazeta asserted that Korzhakov's "future plans" might include becoming the head of the powerful FSB in the run-up to the 1996 presidential elections. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

Russian troops have encircled the town of Shali, Interfax reported. Only the road leading directly to the south remains open and it is constantly under fire. The town is one of the last bastions of resistance for troops loyal to Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev. The Russians began their final push to capture Shali on 27 March with day-long air raids, artillery barrages, and tank advances, backed by helicopter gunships, AFP reported. Some Chechen fighters managed to slip out through gaps in the Russian lines. Uvaz Natiyev, a doctor who made his escape before Shali was completely surrounded, said, "They pulled out. They decided it was useless." The press center of the joint command of federal troops told Interfax that Gudermes, the only other stronghold of resistance, was also encircled. AFP cited unconfirmed reports that the town had been stormed. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc.

The Committee of Soldiers' Mothers picketed the Defense Ministry in Moscow to protest a ban on their peace march to Grozny, Russian TV reported on 29 March. On 26 March, OMON troops blocked the road from Nazran to Grozny and turned back the mothers, who had pledged to bring their sons back from the front. Col.-Gen. Anatoly Kulikov said he could not guarantee the mothers' safety from "provocation" by Chechen fighters. However, representatives of the mothers' committee told Russian TV that armed troops had "held the defenseless mothers hostage" on 26 March and forced them to leave the next morning. Maria Kirbasova, the leader of the nationwide Soldiers' Mothers Committee, told Interfax on 27 March that the peace marchers were "more afraid of provocation from the federal troops than of shelling by illegal armed formations," Interfax reported. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev promoted Vladimir Zhirinovsky to the rank of reserve lieutenant colonel on 27 March, Interfax reported on 29 March. The press office of Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) told the agency that the promotion came on the eve of their leader's fiftieth birthday and was in recognition of his "outstanding contribution to strengthening Russia's defense capability . . . " -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

Russian Public Television will begin broadcasting as scheduled on 1 April, Russian and Western agencies reported. Russian Public Television was created in November 1994 to take over broadcasting on Channel One from the state-run Ostankino company, but the reorganization plan has been controversial and highly unpopular among Ostankino employees. Prime Minister Viktor Cherno-myrdin mediated talks on 29 March between representatives of both companies, and he promised that the state would continue to order cultural and educational programs produced by Ostankino radio and television, Interfax reported. In addition, officials from Ostankino and Russian Public Television agreed to create a fund to support Ostankino employees whose jobs are to be eliminated in the restructuring, AFP reported. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev is using his current Mideast trip to promote the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Interfax reported on 29 March. At a 28 March press conference in Cairo, Kozyrev said one of the major purposes of his trip was "to estimate the contribution which the Russian party can make in the nuclear non-proliferation regime both on the global and the regional level." He applauded Egypt's stance on the NPT as "well-balanced and just" and criticized Israel for failing to adhere to the treaty. Although Russia favors an indefinite extension of the NPT, Egypt is refusing to support renewal until Israel agrees to reciprocate. Alluding to Russian nuclear aid to Iran, he said, "All member-countries of the NPT should have access to the peaceful utilization of atomic energy. This is the essence of the treaty." Egypt does not favor an indefinite extension of the NPT as promoted by Russia. Arriving in Damascus March 29, Kozyrev expressed satisfaction with the talks, saying he and his Egyptian counterparts were on the "same wavelength." ITAR-TASS reported that Kozyrev is scheduled to meet with Syrian President Hafez al-Assad and Foreign Minister Faruq al-Shar' on 30 March. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.

Russian economic recovery is impossible without improving the investment climate, Economics Minister Yevgeny Yasin said at a conference on investment incentives in Moscow on 29 March, Interfax reported. Yasin spoke of a rapid decrease of capital investment in the Russian economy in recent years and noted that investment fell by 26% in 1994 from the previous year. Almost 50% of investments were channeled to housing construction. The minister said the government must now shift to a "new investment regime" which includes financial stabilization, government support for private investment, and lower investment risks caused by crime, corruption, and bureaucracy. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

Teenagers committed 60 murders in Moscow in 1994, compared to only three in 1991, Russian and Western agencies reported on 29 March. "The modern juvenile criminal is much younger than his predecessors; he is not studying or working and often commits a crime without reason and with extreme cruelty," commented Tatyana Maximova, an Interior Ministry spokeswoman. Maximova cited a gang of children led by a 10-year-old, which robbed shops, kiosks, and state institutions and surprised the police with their effectiveness. Under Russian law, criminals under the age of 14 cannot be held responsible for their crimes, but their parents can be fined. Although a 1993 presidential decree called for the establishment of reform schools for juvenile criminals, no such schools have been established in Moscow, according to Maximova. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

About 30 miners in the city of Partizansk in far eastern Russia began a hunger strike on 29 March against the Avangarde mine in an effort to obtain three months of back pay, AFP and Interfax reported. Vladimir Guetoun, the Avangarde mine director, said negotiations were underway to remedy the situation. Miners at Vorkuta in the far north of Russia staged a strike in mid-March for the same reason. Miners' unions in many regions of Russia have threatened for two months to strike for back pay, but have delayed the protest several times. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.


Fourteen Azerbaijani newspapers have indefinitely suspended publication to protest alleged government censorship, international media reported on 29 March. Following the suppression of a rebellion by a special police force earlier this month, Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev has clamped down on opposition parties and newspapers. Government officials have been censoring all articles that refer to the failed mutiny. Newspapers in Azerbaijan currently have to pass three official censors: military, political, and state of emergency. They also must have presidential approval to publish. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc.

Following the banning of the third congress of the Azerbaijan Popular Front in Baku on 25 March, four of its leaders have been arrested, AFP reported on 29 March. Three vice presidents--Asim Mollazade, Ibragim Ibragimli, and Mirmakhmud Fattayev--and the head of the front's women's section, Nouvella Dzhafarova, were detained at front headquarters in Baku and taken to a police station, according to party sources. Some 400 arrests have been made in the wake of a failed special police revolt earlier this month. The four front leaders are charged with "having organized mass demonstrations in violation of regulations under the state of emergency" which has been in force since autumn in Baku and Gandzha. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc.

Prosecutor General Buritosh Musta-fayev struck out at the professionalism of Uzbekistan's managerial corps in an interview with the pro-government newspaper, Narodnoye Slovo, saying they do not meet the "scope and standards" of economic reforms, Interfax reported on 29 March. He noted that 19,000 officials faced varying degrees of punishment last year and suggested the figures would be much lower if managers were more competent both "legally and professionally." -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc.


A CIS peacekeeping exercise was scheduled to begin on 29 March in Tajikistan, Interfax reported on 28 March. Russian Ground Forces Commander Vladimir Semenov said in Dushanbe that the exercise has an important political component, arguing that it will provide "a display of force for those who may cherish plans to destabilize the situation in the region." Russian and Uzbek units, totaling 1,500 troops, are to be involved. Tajik government forces cannot participate because of a 26 April cease-fire agreement with the opposition. It is the third such exercise to be held since 1993. Meanwhile, Russian and Armenian forces are holding their first joint exercises, from 28 March to 1 April at a Russian training center in the Caucasus, as part of the CIS collective security agreement. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.

Lennart Meri, in an interview with Die Welt on 29 March, said he would not attend the celebrations in Moscow marking the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II before Russia "properly apologized" for its occupation and annexation of the Baltic States, BNS reported. Die Welt noted that President Boris Yeltsin has apologized to the people of Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary for the actions of the Red Army. But the newspaper commented that "Moscow has not distanced itself by so much as a single word from the Soviet policy of violence against the Baltic States." The presidents of the Baltic States received invitations to the ceremonies in Moscow but decided, as a sign of Baltic solidarity, that either all three or none would attend the Moscow celebrations. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.

Two 18-year-old Russian soldiers stationed in Kaliningrad were detained by Lithuanian police near Vilnius on 25 March, Interfax and BNS reported. Aleksandr Vaselkov and Ruslan Kurdiukov wanted to avoid being sent to fight in Chechnya and had sent letters on 27 March to the Lithuanian president and parliament asking for political asylum. Russian officials have demanded the soldiers extradition. Russian Ambassador in Vilnius Nikolai Obertyshev told Lithuanian Foreign Ministry Secretary Albinas Januska that Russian embassy officials should at least be allowed to talk to the deserters. Seimas Deputy Chairman Aloyzas Sakalas was quoted by Interfax on 29 March as saying that the Seimas's Committee on Human Rights and Nationalities had recommended that the soldiers not be extradited. Since there is no legislative basis for extraditing deserters to Russia, it is likely that the Seimas will make the final decision on their future. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.

The International Monetary Fund on 29 March announced that it is postponing a final decision on granting Ukraine a $1.8 billion credit package pending the passage in the parliament of the 1995 budget, international agencies reported. The loan was to be considered by the IMF board on 31 March. Oleksander Sundatov, the IMF's representative in Kiev, said that although Ukraine's parliament had approved the budget on its first reading the previous week, the document did not list all revenues and expenditures. A final vote on the budget is not expected for a month. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.

The presidential press service has announced that Minsk courts have been unable to confirm any of the corruption charges made by deputy Syarhei Antonchyk in his December report against the head of presidential affairs, Ivan Tsitsyankou, according to Belarusian Radio on 29 March. Antonchyk's report has been dismissed as a ploy to gain attention in his bid for a parliament seat in May. Belarusian Television reported the same day that 71 deputies have signed an appeal to the Constitutional Court to review President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's decree dismissing Iosif Syaryedzich, chief editor of the parliament newspaper Narodna hazeta, and creating an oversight committee for mass information. Finally, it was reported on 28 March that an international meeting was held in Minsk to discuss the coordination of legal affairs between Belarus's Ministry of Justice and the parliament. Representatives from the Council of Europe said the two bodies must regulate procedures for
concluding and implementing international agreements. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.

The Sejm on 29 March voted 184 to 166 to remove from the agenda of its current session the report declaring that the concordat does not violate the current constitution. The vote was carried by Democratic Left Alliance and Union of Labor deputies; the Polish Peasant Party (PSL) and most opposition deputies favored debate. The Sejm also voted down a PSL motion that would have made possible a vote to ratify the concordat before the new constitution is completed. The final deadline for the ratification vote remains 31 December 1995. Gazeta Wyborcza on 30 March argued that the two votes show that anti-clerical forces are better organized and more motivated than parties sympathetic to the Church and that compromise on Church-state relations in the new constitution is becoming less likely. "Attacking the concordat is the result of political calculation," Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek commented from Rome. Pieronek added that the Church would accept a formulation on "worldview neutrality" in the new constitution if there were an explicit guarantee that the state would not promote atheism. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc.

President Lech Walesa, speaking to reporters before departing for an official visit to Sweden on 29 March, argued that presidential elections should be held only after work on the new constitution is completed, Gazeta Wyborcza reported. Walesa also proposed that citizens be asked in the constitutional referendum to grant the president the right to rule by decree for five to ten years. Constitutional Commission Chairman Alek-sander Kwasniewski said that work on the new constitution could be completed within two months but that the timing depended largely on Walesa, who has six months to propose changes to the draft approved by the parliament. Kwasniewski argued that the presidential elections should take place according to the current legal schedule--between 22 October and 22 December, on a date to be set by the Sejm speaker. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc.

The Czech government on 29 March announced that citizens will be able to learn the names of former communist secret police agents when a new law enabling them to inspect files comes into effect next year, Czech media report. Files of the StB security service are classified according to code names given to agents and collaborators, but the cabinet decided that real names will be disclosed. But Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus said the names of some informants will be blacked out to distinguish between who was "a chattering neighbor and who was an agent who worked purposely, knowingly, and to order for the StB." A list of thousands of purported StB agents, with real and code names, was published several years ago by a Czechoslovak newspaper. The official files will be open for inspection for five years from 1 January 1996. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc.

Vladimir Meciar on 29 March evaluated the first 100 days of his government as "successful," Slovak media reported. He said his cabinet's accomplishments include the preparation of two budgets (one of which was provisional), the passage of the "clean hands" program to fight corruption, the creation of a construction ministry, and the signing of the Slovak-Hungarian treaty. Meciar said coupon privat-ization will start in June, and property worth 55 billion koruny will be sold. He criticized opposition parties for not cooperating with his government, saying that only his coalition partners are willing to work together in the interest of Slovak citizens. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.

Representatives of the Slovak National Party, a member of the ruling coalition, have said the party will not
support the ratification of the Slovak-Hungarian treaty. But Meciar said on 29 March he believes the parliament will support it anyway, Slovenska Republika reported. Jan Luptak, chairman of Meciar's other coalition partner, the Association of Slovak Workers, told the newspaper that he viewed the government's progress on the treaty positively but added that the inclusion of the Council of Europe Recommendation 1201 is "unacceptable" to his party. Hungarian Christian Democratic Movement Deputy Chairman Pal Farkas said it is necessary to start implementing the agreement and stressed that the government should finally start discussions with representatives of minorities. Another ethnic Hungarian party in Slovakia, the Coexistence movement, has called for constitutional changes to give minorities the right to self-government. At a press conference on 28 March, the party said that cultural and educational autonomy cannot exist without territorial autonomy. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.

Hungarian Defense Minister Gyorgy Keleti has said that within the next three years, Hungary will complete the reforms necessary to prepare its armed forces for full integration into NATO. He told Reuters on 28 March that Hungary will meet all the military and technical requirements for NATO membership. He also said that Hungary will make its military and civilian air traffic control systems NATO-compatible within the same time frame, allowing the country to take part in joint air defense operations with NATO. Meanwhile, Slovak Foreign Minister Juraj Schenk, in an interview with The Washington Times on 28 March, stressed his country's position that the Visegrad countries should enter NATO as a bloc and not individually, as advocated by the Czechs. He said "the partial, individual approach can end in undesirable results." He also commented that NATO should reach an understanding with Russia on eastward expansion "so that Russia doesn't feel in danger." -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.

Hungarian Internal Affairs Minister Gabor Kuncze and his Austrian counterpart, Franz Loeschnak, met at the Austrian-Hungarian border on 29 March to discuss the impact of the so-called Schengen agreements. Under those accords, seven member countries of the European Union recently abolished border controls at their joint borders, causing huge traffic jams at border crossings between EU and non-EU states in particular. Austria is planning to sign the Schengen agreements next month and implement them fully within two years. Hungarian media report an unnamed Hungarian official as saying that Hungary would find Austria's implementation of the agreements "discriminatory" toward Hungarians. He warned that Hungary's tourist trade could be threatened if tourists had to wait for hours at border crossings to enter or leave Hungary. Poland recently protested attempts to separate EU and non-EU traffic at its border with Germany, saying it would not allow Poles to be treated like "second class citizens." -- Jiri Pehe, OMRI, Inc.

Newsday reports on 30 March that the Russian commander of UN forces in Serbian-occupied eastern Croatia told Belgian troops recently not to block a Serbian military convoy moving in from Serbia. The shipment involved at least 900 rump Yugoslav soldiers, up to 20 tanks, ground-to-ground rockets, and various other weapons. The paper says that "this was the largest movement of Yugoslav troops into the zone since they withdrew as part of a ceasefire negotiated in 1991." It also notes that the arrival of new M-84 and T-72 tanks tips the military balance in the area in the Serbs' favor. Croatia has protested the development as proof of the UN's inefficiency and of Belgrade's direct involvement in the conflict. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

Slobodna Dalmacija on 30 March quotes Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic as telling his mainly Muslim party's convention two days earlier that Serbian President Slobadan Milosevic has cut ties to Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic but that Milosevic remains close to the Bosnian Serb military establishment. He also noted that the Serbian president still aims at setting up a greater Serbia at the expense of Croatia and Bosnia. Meanwhile on the Bosnian battle fronts, the VOA says that heavy snowfalls have reduced fighting to sporadic levels, while Vjesnik reports that Serbian forces still control the key television transmitter in the Majevica hills northeast of Tuzla. Nasa Borba covers Karadzic's latest statements, in which he threatens to take Tuzla and Sarajevo if the government offensive continues. He also said he will consider UN forces hostile if the world body calls in NATO air strikes against his troops. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

Bedredin Ibrahimi, secretary of the ethnic Albanian Democratic People's Party (PDP), and other party representatives met with the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel, Flaka reported on 30 March. The PDP representatives claimed that the Macedonian government is making no serious effort to eliminate discrimination against ethnic Albanians and to improve the human rights situation in the country. The PDP recently boycotted parliament sessions following a police crackdown on the self-declared Albanian-language university in Tetovo in February. Van der Stoel called on the Albanians to continue a dialogue with the Macedonian government in order to solve the university conflict and other problems. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.

Nova Makedonija on 30 March reported that Macedonia is seeking loans totaling $85 million from the EBRD and the World Bank. The money is intended for Macedonia's private sector, primarily for small industrial, agricultural, and tourist companies. Deputy Minister for Development Spase Lazarevski was quoted as saying that talks with the EBRD are about to start, while negotiations with the World Bank have reached the final stage. It was also reported that a fund aimed at creating and securing new jobs in the private sector will be set up. Macedonia and Germany will each pay 10 million German marks ($7 million) into the fund. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.

Television Union leader Dumitru Iuga, who has been on a hunger strike for the past 28 days to protest alleged political interference in state television, talked for four hours to journalists on 29 March. He vowed to continue his protest and said the parliament was dragging its feet over the confirmation of a new TV management board, whose members were elected by the staff on 25 July 1994. According to Iuga, the administration is seeking to put its appointees in top management posts. Radio Bucharest reported that groups of demonstrators picketed the TV building in a show of support for the union leader, whose condition was said to be deteriorating rapidly. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc.

Students continued to strike in the Moldovan capital on 29 March, despite reports the previous day that a compromise had been reached with the Moldovan government, Reuters reported. Some 5,000 students rallied in front of the government building, while hundreds of others marched through the city calling on residents to join them. The students are protesting plans to replace courses in the history of the Romanians with courses in the history of Moldova. Moldovan President Mircea Snegur met the same day with representatives of students and teaching staff in an attempt to defuse the crisis. Romanian TV, citing Moldpres, said that Snegur proposed a moratorium until a solution was found. He also suggested that the controversial Article 13 of the country's constitution, which defines the official language as Moldovan rather than Romanian, could be revised by the parliament. In a related development, a spokesman for the Romanian Foreign Ministry dismissed speculation in the Moldovan media that the Romanian embassy in Chisinau had been involved in the protests. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc.

The Supreme Judicial Council on 29 March recommended that Ani Kruleva, director of the National Investigation Service, be dismissed for incompetence, BTA reported the same day. The 25-member council voted in a secret ballot to relieve Kruleva of her duties. Under Bulgarian law, President Zhelyu Zhelev has to approve the decision. Kruleva, who was appointed by Zhelev in 1992, came under fire when eight members of the council introduced a motion for her dismissal on 15 March on the grounds of serving political interests, incompetence, and lack of professionalism. The Presi-dent's Office did not comment on the council's vote, but Kruleva was cited by Reuters as saying that "only a presidential decree can relieve me from my post . . . . I am still NIS director until such a decree is issued." -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.

The leaders of the Albanian Socialist Party and the Democratic Alliance passed a declaration on 29 March saying that their parties "are not in conflict," Gazeta Shqiptare reported the following day. The Democratic Alliance considers itself a center-right party, while the SP is the successor of the Communists. SP deputy leader Namik Dokle stressed that both parties cooperate on "many important political questions, such as supporting the creation of a constitutional state, the battle against corruption, the protection of human rights, and especially efforts to base privatization on a law passed in the parliament and not on decisions by the government." -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave