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Newsline - April 3, 1995

The controversial, partly-private Russian Public Television company began broadcasting throughout the former Soviet Union on 1 April, Russian and Western agencies reported. The state owns 51% of the new company, giving the government control over all personnel decisions and broadcasting content. However, Russian Public Television board member Igor Shabdrasulov denied any possibility of censorship on Channel One, claiming the government would exercise its ownership rights "intelligently, efficiently, and tactfully," Interfax reported. News broadcasts on Russian Public Television currently are produced by the same information agency formerly used by Ostankino TV, with the same newsreaders and a similar format. Shabdrasulov said the temporary ban on Channel One advertising would be lifted after the company finished renegotiating contracts with private advertising agencies. Many have linked the planned changes in advertising rules to the 1 March murder of Russian Public Television Director General Vladislav Listev. Meanwhile, opposition to the creation of Russian Public Television remains strong. A bill to suspend the restructuring at Channel One has been submitted to the Duma for a second reading on 5 April, Interfax reported. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

Former Vice President Alexander Rutskoi has been nominated by his "Derzhava" political movement to run for president in June 1996, Russian and Western agencies reported on 2 April. At the Derzhava congress, Rutskoi blasted President Boris Yeltsin for damaging "Russian statehood" and charged that he was plotting to delay the presidential elections. Rutskoi pledged, if elected, to return Russia to its "natural historic boundaries" by reuniting with Ukraine and Belarus. After declaring his candidacy, Rutskoi told Interfax, "I have learnt a unique lesson from Yeltsin--the lesson of how the state should not be ruled." Rutskoi was an important ally of Yeltsin's during the August 1991 coup after being elected vice president earlier that year. In October 1993, Rutskoi led the rebellion against Yeltsin's order to dissolve parliament and was subsequently jailed. He was granted amnesty by the Russian parliament in February 1994. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

Gennady Zyuganov, the leader of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), announced a new coalition of groups that will include Mikhail Lapshin's Agrarian Party, Yury Skokov's Russian Association of Producers, Lyudmila Vartazarova's Socialist Party of the Working People, numerous women's organizations, and the CPRF, Interfax reported on 31 March. Zyuganov did not rule out the possibility of an alliance with former Vice President Alexander Rutskoi's Derzhava movement, noting that they had reached agreement on the basic principles of maintaining Russia's territorial integrity, avoiding wars, and promoting the well-being of all citizens. He said a coalition with Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is unlikely because the LDP parliamentary coalition is disintegrating. The new bloc is cooperating with the RAU Corporation, whose president, Alexei Podberezkin, attended the press conference. He said the Communists have long advocated the pre-eminence of the state and the new coalition is willing to work with Yeltsin's administration to meet the threat of expanding foreign capital. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

Alexei Vedenkin, who was arrested on charges of threatening to kill certain liberal members of the Duma and then released from jail the day Yeltsin issued a decree cracking down on fascism, has announced his intention to run for the late Sergei Skorochkin's Duma seat, Kommersant-Daily reported on 31 March. Skorochkin's seat became vacant when he was murdered in February. Vedenkin wants the immunity from arrest that parliamentary membership provides. According to the newspaper, he visited the electoral district in Kolomna on 28 March, violating his release agreement which confined him to Moscow. The paper speculates that Vedenkin may have powerful supporters who want to discredit the electoral process by electing a "fascist." Vedenkin's success is not guaranteed, however, because several nationalist and Communist candidates are competing in the 14 May by-election. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

Russian federal troops took the town of Shali, 30 km south of Grozny, on 31 March and finally dislodged the last Chechen defenders from Gudermes, Western agencies and ITAR-TASS reported. In Moscow, Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets said "active fighting" in Chechnya is now over and preparations for free elections are underway, while Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev predicted that hostilities in Chechnya would definitively end by late April. Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Yegorov reported that 1,436 federal troops had been killed in combat in Chechnya and slightly more than 4,500 wounded, Interfax reported on 1 April -- Liz Fuller and Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

Speaking in Moscow on 2 April, U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry said aid to Russia will continue despite his government's displeasure with Russian plans to provide nuclear aid to Iran, international agencies reported. In order to dissuade further Russian support for the Iranian nuclear program, the U.S. government has supplied a secret intelligence report to Moscow detailing the scope of Iran's nuclear weapons program, The New York Times reported on 3 April. According to the report, Iran is importing materials needed to build nuclear weapons, has attempted to buy enriched uranium form Kazakhstan, and is using techniques similar to those used by Iraq and Pakistan in their quest for a nuclear weapon. In addition, the U.S. is also apparently offering several tens of millions of dollars in nuclear cooperation if Moscow drops its $1 billion contract to help build up to four reactors in Iran. The U.S. intelligence report is intended to counter a recent one by the Russian intelligence agency which gives the Iranian nuclear program a clean bill of health. The U.S. government is hoping Yeltsin will cancel the project before President Bill Clinton's visit in May. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.

Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev gave assurances to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin that there is no reason to fear Russian aid to the Iranian nuclear program, international agencies reported. Kozyrev also urged Israel to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, but Rabin said his country would do so only after it had concluded peace accords "with all Arab countries as well as Iran." Rabin expressed unhappiness about the state of relations between Iran and Russia, re-stating his accusation that Iran "organizes international terrorism." On 1 April, Kozyrev said he had "warm and positive" talks with PLO chief Yasser Arafat in the Gaza Strip. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.

Asked what Russia's worst problems are, 70% of respondents in a recent poll named rising prices, 56% crime, 33% unemployment, and 20% pollution and corruption, the state-controlled Rossiiskaya gazeta reported on 31 March. Fifty-five percent of respondents said their economic situation had deteriorated over the past six months, 31% said it had remained the same, and 13% said it had improved. But despite the worsening situation, 38% said converting to a market economy is the right policy for Russia as opposed to 33% who thought the policy was wrong. Only 24% said mass demonstrations would improve matters, while 59% said they would not. A quarter of the respondents said they think Russia is very likely to break up while 40% said they believe such a scenario is not very likely. A majority of respondents (62%) think of themselves as Russian citizens rather than as citizens of the USSR (20%) or the CIS (4%). The poll of 2,000 people in urban and rural areas in 12 regions in European Russia, Siberia, and the Far East was carried out by the Russian Academy of Sciences' Sociological Institute, Yekaterinburg State University, and Kazan State University. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.

In 1994, the Federal Counterintelligence Service (FSK) uncovered 22 Russian agents of foreign intelligence services, an FSK official said on 31 March, Interfax reported. "The widening intelligence and subversive activities of foreign special services presents a serious threat to Russia's national security," the FSK representative said. He added that the FSK has noted activity by the intelligence services of East European and Baltic states "controlled by Western special services" and is concerned about the intelligence operations of several Muslim countries that are "striving to exploit the national religious factor in their work." According to the FSK, about 10 spies were uncovered in large state economic departments, while the "foreign special service status" of another 90 experts and advisers was "beyond doubt." More than 100 firms in the banking sphere were also said to be used as a cover by foreign agencies. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.

Higher import duties on numerous foodstuffs will result in a new rise in prices and will not help Russian agricultural producers, according to Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Economic Relations Minister Oleg Davydov. The minister told Interfax on 31 March that the government, under pressure from the Agrarian Party, is likely to hike import tariffs on foodstuffs, although it highly objects to those measures. Davydov said the government must keep people supplied with foodstuffs, rather than rendering basic staples unaffordable. Instead of implementing a "protectionist tariff," he argued that the farm sector would benefit more from credits, donations, and tax benefits which would encourage farm production. Davydov added that increased import duties could jeopardize talks on Russian membership in GATT/WTO, which are scheduled to begin in May. Protectionism in the agricultural sector can also trigger retaliatory steps in countries which sell foodstuffs on the Russian market and could harm Russian food exports, Davydov said. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

Consumer price growth in March was below 10% for the first time since October 1994, Interfax reported. March inflation ran at 8.9% compared with 11% in February and 17.8% in January. The National Board of Statistics said that in the last week of March consumer good prices were up 1.6% against 2.5% the previous week. Experts say foodstuff prices have been leveling over the past few months. Consumer good prices have risen an average of 42% since January. The basic monthly grocery list of 19 essential foodstuffs costs an average of 157,300 rubles (4,900 rubles to $1); in Moscow the cost is close to 200,000 rubles. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev delivered his state-of-the-nation address to parliament on 31 March, Interfax reported. Akayev had originally planned to speak to the new parliament on 30 March, but disagreements over the selection of government members caused him to postpone his appearance by a day. Akayev renewed his commitment to economic reform and privatization and called for strict law and order without which ". . . anarchy will await us and we will become a banana republic." Akayev said he wanted the creation of a national ideal along the lines of the "American dream," and a nationwide patriotic movement for the "well-being of Kyrgyzstan's future." -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc.


Delegations of eight CIS states signed draft accords on 30 March for cooperation in guarding their external borders, Interfax reported. Russian Federal Frontier Service director Andrei Nikolayev said the heads of the eight states would probably sign both documents with amendments. Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Ukraine refused to sign the draft texts and the Moldovan position remained unclear since that country was not represented at the meeting. Even some of the eight states who signed the draft accords, which are Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, had some reservations about the agreements. Georgia's head of frontier forces Valery Chkheidze said his government would sign only after its sovereignty is restored along the length of its borders. The meeting also addressed the complex situation along the Tajik-Afghan border. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.

Leonid Kuchma issued a decree on 1 April temporarily placing the Crimean government under his direct control and reinstating the recently deposed Crimean prime minister, Anatolii Franchuk, in his post, Reuters and Radio Ukraine reported. Crimean legislators ousted Franchuk and a deputy prime minister on 22 March in retaliation for Kiev's recent decision to annul what it saw as the separatist Crimean Constitution and to abolish the Crimean Presidency. Under the 1 April decree, the appointment of the Crimean premier and cabinet must be approved by Kuchma until the Crimean parliament has drawn up a new constitution by mid-May. That document has to be approved by Kiev, as ordered recently by the Ukrainian parliament. Kuchma last week warned Crimean deputies that he would dissolve their 94-member assembly if they failed to renounce separatism and continued to violate Ukrainian law. Serhii Tsekov, speaker of the Crimean legislature, said the decree reduced Crimea to the status of a colony. He also voiced frustration with the Russian leadership's unwillingness to come out in support of Crimea. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc.

William Perry, during a visit to Ukraine on 31 March and 1 April, met with Ukrainian Defense Minister Valerii Shmarov, Foreign Minister Henadii Udovenko, and parliament speaker Oleksandr Moroz, international agencies reported. Perry was positive about Ukraine's disarmament efforts, noting that the country had removed all warheads from its 46 SS-24 strategic missiles (which carry 10 bombs each) and almost half its 130 six-warhead SS-19 missiles ahead of schedule. He visited the Pervomaisk missile base, where he watched an SS-19 missile cut into scrap metal. Perry said the U.S. intends to give Kiev aid for involvement in the Partnership for Peace program and will cover part of the expenses connected with U.S.-Ukrainian military exercises in the Transcarpathian Military District in May. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.

Ukrainian Radio on 31 March reported that the head of Odessa Oblast Council, Mykola Bohoyavlensky, signed an agreement with a Turkish delegation from Kastamonou on economic and cultural cooperation. The two regions will open naval, trade, and cultural representations on each other's territory and will also start an air link between Odessa and Inebol. Odessa has called for economic autonomy from Kiev and demanded that it be made an economic free zone. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.

Tiit Vahi, head of the Coalition Party and Rural Union (KMU) alliance, and Center Party Chairman Edgar Savisaar signed an agreement on 31 March forming a government coalition, BNS reported. The two leaders, whose parties control 57 of the 101 parliament seats, said the coalition could be expanded if other groups were willing to accept the government program, which Vahi will have to present to the parliament by 6 April. The coalition agreement does not envision any major changes in government policies. Greater integration into the European Union and NATO remain important goals. No changes are foreseen in the laws on citizenship and aliens, and the kroon will remain pegged to the German mark. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.

Latvian Interior Minister Janis Adamsons told Reuters on 2 April, after returning from a working visit to Germany, that he will do everything possible to deport the more than 100 Iraqi, Afghan, and Palestinian refugees stranded in two railroad cars in the border town on Karsava. UNHCR officials assert that the refugees are asylum seekers who "should at least be given temporary refuge," while Adamsons said they were economic refugees who had paid Russian criminals to smuggle them to the West. An Interior Ministry official said the refugees will probably be taken to a reception center at Olaine, a small town 25 kilometer south of Riga, until they can be deported. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.

Deputy Minister of Transportation Algirdas Sakalys told a news conference on 31 March that the European Union granted Lithuania 5.2 million ECU ($6.9 million) to implement a three-year program aimed at resolving border crossing problems, BNS reported on 1 April. The money will be used primarily to develop the infrastructure at customs posts with Belarus and Kaliningrad Oblast. Sakalys made the announcement at the end of an international conference in Vilnius on transportation and customs problems, attended by representatives from the Baltic States, Russia, Belarus, Moldova, Sweden, Finland, Poland, and Bulgaria. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.

Economic reform architect Leszek Balcerowicz ousted former Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki as chairman of Poland's largest opposition party, the Freedom Union (UW), at the party's second congress on 1-2 April, Radio Warsaw reported. Mazowiecki had led the UW since its formation after his defeat in the 1990 presidential elections. Party delegates voted 313 to 174 for Balcerowicz, reflecting the desire within the UW for a more dynamic leadership. They also chose former Labor Minister and veteran opposition activist Jacek Kuron as the UW's presidential candidate. Kuron defeated former Defense Minister Janusz Onyszkiewicz by 242 to 231 in the second round of voting. Former Prime Minister Hanna Suchocka was eliminated in the first round. The vote for Onyszkiewicz showed strong support within the UW for a centrist candidate perceived as above the conflicts that have threatened to divide the party. Kuron has long topped all Polish opinion polls on public trust in politicians, but his left-wing past effectively rules out any election alliance with right-of-center post-Solidarity parties. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc.

Polish Foreign Minister Wladyslaw Bartoszewski has been invited to address the Bundestag and Bundesrat session on 28 April marking the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II. He will be the sole foreign guest to address the joint session of the German parliament, Rzeczpospolita reported. The invitation was designed to smooth ruffled feathers resulting from the failure to invite President Lech Walesa to attend ceremonies in Berlin on 8 May to which leaders from France, Britain, the U.S., and Russia were invited. Bartoszewski told reporters on 31 March that Walesa did not have time to attend the Berlin event and had not in any case expected an invitation, but both the foreign minister and presidential officials had previously protested that the failure to invite Walesa disregarded Poland's contribution to the Allied victory. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc.

The Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA) has denied speculation that it is considering leaving the government, Czech media reported. ODA leaders, meeting on 1-2 April, said a police investigation into corruption charges against the head of the party's Secretariat is politically motivated, but ODA chairman Jan Kalvoda, changing his earlier position, said the affair did not implicate the party as a whole. Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Josef Lux, head of the Christian Democratic Union-People's Party, offered a merger to the smallest group in the four-party governing coalition, the Christian Democratic Party (KDS), in advance of next year's parliament elections. The KDS is already discussing the possibility of joining forces with other parties. A poll published on 3 April showed that the government has lost six points in its popularity rating in the last month, dropping to 52%. Support for the opposition has grown five points, to 45%. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc.

The Association of Slovak Workers held a party congress on 1-2 April in Banska Bystrica, Slovak media reported. Representatives of the party's three coalition partners were present, as well as the four government members who were nominated by the ASW. Reporters from the dailies Sme, Novy Cas, and Smer dnes were not given accreditation to attend the congress. An internal party conflict prompted three of the party's parliament deputies--Miroslav Kocnar, Marian Polak ,and Klement Kolnik--to leave the congress early. Kocnar said he left "in order to avoid being jointly responsible for the ASW's future policies. This party will have big problems in the next half a year because its current methods of work cannot survive." Jan Luptak was reelected party chairman on 2 April, receiving 163 of 174 valid votes, and five new deputy chairmen were elected. According to Luptak, the departure of three deputies from the congress will not damage the party's stability. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.

International media on 3 April reported that fighting in several parts of Bosnia continues to intensify, including in the northwest pocket of Bihac. Bosnian government radio on 2 April said that waves of Serbian and rebel Muslim infantry and tanks pounded the area, notably around the town of Velika Kladusa. According to at least one local amateur radio report, "everything [was] burning from shelling." Reuters the same day quoted UN spokesman Herve Gourmelon as saying that only 185 explosions could be accounted for in the area around Velika Kladusa, a number that the UN representative dubbed "not exceptional." In other news, the U.S. ambassador to Bosnia on 2 April announced that his departure from Sarajevo would take place on 19 April. Ambassador Victor Jackovich, in a statement made available to the press, said several members of staff will also be leaving over the next few months. He added that "My departure--and that of my colleagues--should be viewed as regular rotation for a posting in an environment as difficult and risky as Bosnia." -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.

Croatian media have continued their coverage of Zagreb's official reaction to the UN Security Council's passage on 31 March of Resolution 981, which permits a scaled-down UN mandate for Croatia under the banner of UNCRO in Croatia (a derivative of UN Confidence Restoration Operation). Vjesnik reports that Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic welcomed the resolution, acknowledging that it contains the much sought-after reference to Croatia in its title and saying it "reaffirms the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Republic of Croatia." The newspaper on 1 April published the text of the resolution, which affirms that the new UN mandate is expected to see the shifting of some forces to positions along Croatia's international borders and away from monitoring positions held by Croatia's own rebel Krajina Serbs. Nasa Borba reported on 3 April that the Krajina Serb leadership has predictably emerged as the most vocal opponent of the new mandate, insisting that any change to the previous UN mandate is wholly unacceptable. Reuters on 1 April quoted Milan Martic, president of the self-styled Republic of Serbian Krajina, as saying the latest Security Council Resolution "ignored the real situation . . . [which] will bring into question our consent to the stay of peacekeepers in [Krajina]." -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.

The UN Security Council has also passed Resolution 982, permitting the UN mandate in Bosnia-Herzegovina to be extended until 30 November. Hina on 2 April reported that Resolution 983 has also received the Security Council's approval. The document stipulates that UNPROFOR in Macedonia "shall be known as the UN Preventative Deployment Force (UNPREDEP) . . . and that the mandate of UNPREDEP shall continue for a period terminating on 30 November 1995." -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.

A TAROM plane carrying 50 passengers and a crew of 10 crashed at Balotesti, in the vicinity of Bucharest, on 31 March shortly after taking off from Otopeni international airport, Romanian and international media reported. The plane, an Airbus A-310, was on a regular flight to Brussels. There were no survivors. Most of the passengers were Belgian. Romanian media on 1 April speculated whether the cause was sabotage. The daily Evenimentul zilei on 3 March reported that the French ambassador to Bucharest received an anonymous phone call saying a bomb had been planted on the plane. The caller said he did not belong to any organization. The Romanian Intelligence Service dismissed the report as "irrelevant." Nicolae Brutaru, the general manager of TAROM, ruled out pilot error but said the airline was considering every other possible cause. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.

President Ion Iliescu on 30 March described the hunger strike by TV trade union leader Dumitru Iuga as an "abuse," Radio Bucharest reported. He said the parliament had been wrong to make "too many concessions" on appointments to the Radio and Television Managerial Council and that the trade unions had "no say" in the matter. He added that the management of Romanian TV should not have let the trade unions elect the representatives of TV employees, arguing that this contravened "the spirit of the law." An additional mistake, he said, was to allow "non-professional staff" to participate in the elections. Meanwhile, Radio Bucharest on 31 March reported that Eugen Preda, former director-general of Romanian Radio, said in an open letter to the parliament that the elections to the Managerial Council (now said to have been unlawful by the majority party and its allies) were conducted after the parliament's two commissions on mass media and culture failed to clarify who was entitled to participate in the vote, though they were repeatedly asked to do so. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.

Radio Bucharest quoted Mircea Snegur as saying he would continue to "search for a compromise" with the strikers, "despite demands to end the strike by radical methods." Snegur did not say who was making such demands. He also commented that the negotiations were "encountering difficulties." The president of the strikers' committee, Anatol Petrenco, said the strike would end only if Article 1 of the constitution is changed to stipulate that Romanian, rather than "Moldovan," is the country's official language. He added that the provision saying that the state ensures the right to use Russian and other languages spoken in Moldova should be replaced by a new formulation. The strikers said that the parliament has not included a debate on Article 1 on its agenda, despite promises by Snegur. They also noted that parliament chairman Petru Lucinschi canceled a scheduled meeting with strike leaders. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.

At the end of his two-day visit to Chisinau, Islam Karimov signed with his Moldovan counterpart, Mircea Snegur, a document outlining a friendship and cooperation treaty, Interfax reported on 31 March. Seventeen other agreements on, among other things, trade and scientific and cultural cooperation were also signed. Karimov pledged firm support for Moldovan independence and said Uzbekistan believed all disputes should be solved peacefully and without external interference. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.

Bulgarian Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski and his Greek counterpart, Karolos Papoulias, meeting in Sofia on 1-2 April, called for an end to the international sanctions against rump Yugoslavia, AFP reported. They proposed a conference of the region's main countries to press for the sanctions to be lifted. Pirinski asked neighboring countries hit by trade losses resulting from the embargo to appeal jointly to the United Nations and other international organizations for compensation. Papoulias proposed that Bulgaria, Belarus, Hungary, Romania, Ukraine, and possibly Russia hold a conference in Athens later this month to discuss a common strategy. Pirinski suggested that Albania, Austria, Italy, Macedonia, and Slovenia also attend. He added that Bulgaria is ready to accept $3 million from the International Monetary Fund in compensation for trade losses due to the sanctions. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.

The chief judge of Tirana's district court and his deputies resigned on 31 March in protest at government interference in their work, international news agencies reported the same day. They accused Justice Minister Hektor Frasheri and his deputy of interfering in the court's work and trying to bring it under the jurisdiction of the Justice Ministry and government. Frasheri, they said, tried to stop certain cases from being heard and to influence the hiring and firing of even low-level employees. Gazeta Shqiptare cited chief judge Agim Bendo as saying "our resignation is a protest against the decisions of the justice minister." A Justice Ministry spokesman called the resignations "hasty and unmotivated," insisting that the Justice Ministry's actions "have been based in law." -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave