Accessibility links

Breaking News

Newsline - April 4, 1995

President Yeltsin has signed controversial legislation on AIDS that requires all foreigners, except diplomats, visiting Russia for more than three months to prove that they are not HIV-positive or face deportation, a presidential spokesman said on 3 April, according to Western agencies. AIDS activists and specialists had campaigned against the law, saying it contravened human rights and was medically senseless, but Yeltsin ignored their pleas to veto it. (Following protests from the tourist industry, Yeltsin rejected an earlier version that obliged all visitors to prove they were HIV-free.) The new law goes into effect on 1 August. It is not certain how testing of foreigners already in Russia will be carried out. Nikolai Nedzelsky, head of the Names association in Moscow, said no one seems to know how to implement the law, while Gennady Roshchupkin, coordinator of the Russian AIDS relief organization, thinks the legislation will be applied selectively to deter refugees and "other visitors whom the Russian government doesn't like." * Penny Morvant

Federation Council Chairman Vladimir Shumeiko told U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry in Moscow on 3 April that the Russian parliament will not ratify START-2 unless questions over NATO's expansion eastward are resolved, Interfax reported. While acknowledging the value that START-2 would have for nuclear nonproliferation, Shumeiko said the issues of NATO and START-2 are closely linked in the minds of Russian deputies. Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said the Russian government supports the earliest possible ratification of START-2 and, in the meantime, would like to resolve differences over the ABM treaty and financial allocations for destroying strategic offensive weapons. * Michael Mihalka

Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev warned visiting U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry on 3 April that Russia might suspend the reduction of its conventional arms as required by the 1990 treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) should NATO expand to the east. ITAR-TASS and Interfax quoted Grachev as saying the creation of new groups of armed forces "on the most threatened fronts" and closer security ties among CIS countries would be other possible countermeasures. He also said Russia is proposing a new solution to the CFE "flanks" problem--the CFE restrictions on the arms Russia can deploy in the North Caucasus and Leningrad military districts--that takes into account "the reality of the situation." This would involve excluding "areas of conflict and combat operations" from the treaty. * Doug Clarke

Despite entreaties from U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry, Russia will continue to aid the Iranian nuclear program, international agencies reported on 4 April. Following a meeting with Perry and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, Russian Nuclear Energy Minister Viktor Mikhailov said the Russian government intends to proceed with the deal which "is in accordance with international law." Perry said while the Russians "did not agree to change their position to proceed with that sale, they did state that they will take actions to reduce the proliferation risk." Meanwhile, in meetings with Defense Minister Pavel Grachev, Perry signed two accords to assist in the process for dismantling nuclear weapons: one for security in moving nuclear weapons from Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan to Russia; the other to help ensure the safety of nuclear weapons stockpiles within Russia. * Michael Mihalka

Echoing recent charges made by Alexander Rutskoi, Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin asserted that Yeltsin's staff is plotting to delay the December 1995 parliamentary elections and the June 1996 presidential elections, Interfax reported on 3 April. Ilyukhin, a member of the Communist Party, described two possible scenarios. The Federation Council, the upper house of parliament, could refuse to adopt an election law, thereby creating no legislative basis for the polls. Ilyukhin also speculated that a "very narrow circle of people" is planning to stage simulated coups in several Russian regions shortly before the elections, allowing Yeltsin to declare a state of emergency. Meanwhile, Yeltsin's allies said the president would not consider using such "costly" and "petty" tactics to extend his term. Mikhail Krasnov, Yeltsin's assistant for legal matters, said Rutskoi's charges are merely a typical strategy for presidential contenders, NTV reported. * Laura Belin

Disgruntled delegates at the third congress of the Russian Social-Democratic People's Party denounced the 24 March decision to expel party chairman Alexander Rutskoi and charged Vasily Lipitsky, Rutskoi's main rival within the organization, with betrayal, NTV reported on 3 April. At the opening session of the congress on 24 March, the majority of delegates voted with Lipitsky, but approximately 20 of the party's 46 regional branches, mostly in southern Russia, supported Rutskoi. On 3 April, dissenting regional leaders dominated the session and declared Lipitsky's actions "illegitimate." Lipitsky was accused of attempting to split the party and "betraying its interests." For his part, Rutskoi told the congress of Lipitsky's "innate" tendency to "betray" and "cheat" others, charging that 17 million rubles were missing from the party's coffers due to Lipitsky's "machinations." He expressed the hope that the congress would end the party's schism and start more "constructive work." * Laura Belin

Trade unions in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast will hold a demonstration on 12 April as part of the nationwide day of action to press for the resignation of President Yeltsin and his government, regional union leader Yakov Sherman told reporters in Birobidzhan on 3 April. According to Interfax, Sherman said the rally will be the first time Jewish unions have made political rather than purely economic demands. He attributed the change in tactics to rising unemployment and the government's failure to address the problem of wage arrears following the national day of action last October. * Penny Morvant

Former Russian parliament chairman Ruslan Khasbulatov has drawn up detailed proposals for a peaceful settlement to the Chechen conflict, Interfax reported on 3 April. They comprise an immediate cessation of hostilities to be monitored by military commanders from both sides; the disengagement and surrender of all heavy weaponry in the possession of the Chechen resistance; and a halt to Moscow's funding of the Chechen Government of National Revival and the recently created Committee for National Accord. Khasbulatov warned against conducting peace talks with either Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev or with the former opposition Provisional Council both of whom, he claimed, had minimal support among the population. Instead, he proposed negotiations--mediated by his own peace-making group--with religious leaders and with those military commanders who had distanced themselves from Dudaev. Khasbulatov further advocated electing a legislative assembly, which over the next few years should enact the legislative basis for the restoration of Chechnya's economy and public institutions. * Liz Fuller

The ruble fell slightly against the dollar on 3 April hitting 4,908 rubles to $1 against 4,899 to $1 rubles on 31 March, the Financial Information Agency reported. Volume totaled $114.27 million. Initial demand was $115.27 and initial supply $101.71 million. * Thomas Sigel

In an attempt to improve internal efficiency, the Central Bank of Russia reshuffled top management on 27 March, the Financial Information Agency reported on 31 March. Deputy Chairman Alexander Khandruyev was promoted to first deputy chairman. Tatyana Artyomova, who was on the USSR State Bank staff before 1992 and then with a Moscow commercial bank, was appointed deputy chairwoman. Olga Prokofyeva, who had been acting head of the banking supervision department, was appointed its permanent head. Alexander Rychenkov, Prokofyeva's predecessor, reportedly resigned. In response to the reshuffle, a highly-placed central bank official told the Financial Information Agency that the new appointments were "an inside exercise rather than a change for the better." He believed the bank's efficiency depended on its relations with commercial banks rather than on personnel changes. * Thomas Sigel

The Central Bank of Russia will introduce the new currency exchange certificate (No. 0406007) on 3 April, the Financial Information Agency reported on 31 March. The certificate's introduction has been delayed since February because the Central Bank wanted more time to instruct its territorial offices how to use it. The new certificate has seven degrees of protection against forging. It will be used with nine transaction functions, including cashing travelers checks, using credit cards, and exchanging 20 kinds of hard and soft currency. The new certificate will replace Document No. 377, which is now used by banks and exchange offices when individuals buy or sell currency. The new certificate will also allow people to take cash currency abroad. * Thomas Sigel

Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev met in Baku with the vice presidents of Exxon and Turkey's State Oil Company TPAO on 3 April to sign an initial agreement on the sale to each company of 5% of Azerbaijan's 20% share in the international consortium that is to exploit three Caspian oil fields, Interfax and AFP reported. The sale must be endorsed by the Azerbaijani People's Assembly. An earlier plan to fund Azerbaijan's share in the consortium by selling a 5% stake to Iran has apparently been shelved, possibly in response to US pressure. Unidentified senior Azerbaijani government officials told Interfax that Azerbaijan is still considering the use of Russian pipelines to export crude oil to the Tikhoretsk Black Sea terminal should it prove impossible to raise the necessary funding to build an alternative export pipeline through Turkey. * Liz Fuller

More than 50 members of the new Kyrgyz parliament have proposed a referendum on extending President Askar Akayev's term until the year 2000, Interfax reported on 3 April, quoting presidential press secretary, Kamil Bayalinov. He quoted Akayev as stating that a referendum cannot not be held without the appropriate legislative basis; he said a decision will be taken at the parliament's 10 April session. A member of Akayev's staff told Interfax on 29 March that the president would under no circumstances agree to a referendum on extending his mandate. * Bruce Pannier

Seven members of the Erk party, banned since 1993, have been sentenced to prison by the Supreme Court in Uzbekistan, Russian and Western agencies reported. They were found guilty of trying to overthrow the current authorities by force, keeping arms, narcotics, and distributing a prohibited newspaper, Erk. The main defendant, Murod Dzhurayev, was sentenced to 12 years in prison; the other six defendants were sentenced to terms of between five and 10 years on 31 March. The trial of the seven, who were arrested by Uzbek secret police in Almaty last summer, was interrupted by a referendum on the extension of Uzbek President Islam Karimov's rule. * Lowell Bezanis

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai met with Belarusian Prime Minister Mikhail Chyhir in Minsk to discuss setting up a TV/radio company among the CIS states to be called "Mir," Belarusian television reported on 31 March. The Belarusian parliament has not ratified the agreement allowing a Mir bureau to operate in Minsk. Some deputies oppose the financing of a third Russian television station in Belarus and argue that it would be better to fund a second Belarusian channel. * Ustina Markus

The Crimean parliament held an emergency session on 3 April to debate a response to Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma's decision to assume temporary control of the region's government, Reuters and Interfax-Ukraine reported the same day. The deputies rejected a proposal to hold a regionwide referendum on Crimea's status, voting instead to issue an appeal to the Ukrainian parliament to overturn Kuchma's decree on the grounds that it violates the Ukrainian Constitution. Several deputies told reporters they wanted to avoid further endangering ties with Ukraine. The latest standoff was sparked by the Ukrainian legislature's 17 March decision to annul the Crimean Constitution and abolish the region's Presidency. Speaker of the Ukrainian parliament Oleksander Moroz told reporters that his assembly has no intention of overturning the president's decree. * Chrystyna Lapychak

Ukrainian Defense Minister Valerii Shmarov arrived in China at the head of an official delegation, Ukrainian Radio reported on 3 April. He participated in the second meeting of a Chinese-Ukrainian commission on trade and economic cooperation. According to the report, China, which is Ukraine's second largest trading partner after Russia, is prepared to pay in cash for Ukrainian machinery, including hardware produced by the military-industrial complex. * Ustina Markus

Alyaksandr Lukashenka has signed a decree calling on local authorities to prevent unauthorized rallies urging citizens to boycott the 14 May elections, Belarusian Television reported on 31 March. The decree instructs the authorities to register cases of chauvinistic propaganda or propaganda aimed at changing the constitutional system or violating the territorial integrity of the state. It also states that civil servants must suspend their duties while campaigning for the elections. * Ustina Markus

Following a meeting between Russian Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Bolshakov and his Belarusian counterpart, Mikhail Myasnikovich, on 31 March, the head of the Belarusian Customs Committee said the implementation of the 6 January agreement on a customs union will take place in two stages, Belarusian Radio reported. The first stage is to take four months, during which period both countries will bring their legislation on trade into line with each other's. The second stage foresees the lifting of trade barriers and the establishment of a common trade zone. The relevant documents still have to be confirmed by the Belarusian parliament. There has been stiff opposition from Belarusian nationalists to the customs union. * Ustina Markus

Hans Tholen of the UNHCR told Reuters on 3 April that Latvia has been asked to free the more than 100 refugees confined to two train carriages at the railroad station at Karsava since 29 March. UNHCR representatives visited the scene and reported that the conditions on the train were very bad. Tholen said the majority of the group were political refugees who "can under no circumstances be returned to their country of origin at the moment." This contradicts Latvian government announcements calling the refugees "economic migrants." Tholen stressed that whatever their status, the refugees have to be treated "in a decent way" and not kept as hostages, as is the case at the moment. He noted that Latvia could receive financial help for the upkeep of the refugees from both the UN and the Nordic states. * Saulius Girnius

President Algirdas Brazauskas issued a statement on 3 April declaring that he and his Latvian and Estonian counterparts, Guntis Ulmanis and Mart Laar, will not attend the ceremonies in Moscow on 9 May marking the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II, Western agencies report. ITAR-TASS on 2 April erroneously reported that Brazauskas decided to attend the ceremonies after a telephone conversation with Ulmanis. Brazauskas noted that "the victory over fascism did not bring the restoration of a democratic and independent Lithuanian state. Of all the pre-war European states only the three Baltic States were not put back onto the political map of Europe after the war." * Saulius Girnius

Ole Espersen, commissioner for democratic institutions and human rights with the Council of Baltic Sea States, began a four-day trip to Estonia on 3 April, BNS reported. He visited the human rights information center in Tallinn, whose director, Larisa Yakovleva, cited several cases where Estonian citizenship was not issued to eligible applicants within the established time frame. She also questioned the legality of the expulsion without a court order of Petr Rozhok, the representative of Russia's Liberal Democratic Party in Estonia, and noted that similar expulsion orders, issued to nearly a dozen other non-citizens, have not yet been enforced. * Saulius Girnius

Speaking at ceremonies to mark the 55th anniversary of the CPSU-ordered execution of more than 21,000 Polish officers at Katyn and other sites in 1940, President Lech Walesa said that Poland expects from "our eastern neighbors" the full disclosure of all circumstances surrounding the murders, "sincere regret," and true justice, Rzeczpospolita reported on 4 April. Good relations with Russia depend on an honest reckoning with the past, Walesa said. Cardinal Jozef Glemp criticized the Allied powers for maintaining decades of silence about Soviet responsibility for the Katyn murders. * Louisa Vinton

Solidarity Chairman Marian Krzaklewski, speaking on 3 April at a conference organized by the union's Warsaw region, proposed reaching a "political contract" with nationalist and right-wing forces on a joint candidate for the presidential elections. Solidarity is the only force capable of organizing a movement to prevent "recommunization," Krzaklewski argued. The Solidarity chairman also proposed that right-wing forces campaign jointly to block approval of any new constitution adopted by the current parliament. He condemned current privatization policies as "theft," Rzeczpospolita reported. Krzaklewski's remarks were designed to present Solidarity as the pivotal force for a right-wing challenge in the presidential elections, but the union's populist stance on economic questions has so far divided the right-wing parties. * Louisa Vinton

The Czech government plans to allow firms owed large amounts to offset the money against taxes in an effort to avoid a wave of bankruptcies, Mlada fronta dnes reported on 4 April. According to some estimates, inter-company debts amount to some 200 billion koruny. It quoted Deputy Finance Minister Jan Klak as saying firms could claim one-third of unrecoverable debts against taxes or, if the company chose to take a debtor to court, the whole amount would be offset against taxes over three years. Long-term debts (that is, outstanding for more than two years) would not be covered by the scheme. Indebtedness was expected to spark a series of company failures when a bankruptcy law came into effect in 1992. In practice, only a few hundred firms--mostly small businesses--have gone under. * Steve Kettle

Slovak media on 4 April reported on internal conflicts within the Association of Slovak Workers, a member of the governing coalition. Miroslav Kocnar, one of the party's three parliament deputies who walked out of the ASW congress on 1-2 April, told reporters on 4 April that the meeting was poorly prepared. He also said that several members of the ASW had decided to create a club of independent deputies, which would continue to cooperate with the other governing parties but on a different basis. "Until now, we have done nothing for the people, we have not initiated a single law . . . ," Kocnar told Narodna obroda. He added that his party has supported things that "we thought we would never vote for" prior to the elections. * Sharon Fisher

Vladimir Meciar, speaking to Slovak Radio on 31 March, said that Slovakia's education system will have to be transformed and that raising wages is not enough, Pravda and Sme reported the following day. He commented that "if, in fact, schools want only money from the cabinet and [the government] does not have the right to interfere with or influence the entire transformation process in education, then we will reach a situation where everyone will be dissatisfied." With regard to minorities, Meciar emphasized that Slovakia's territory cannot be divided, saying the Slovak Republic is the home of "Slovaks as well as all nationalities. We will not have separation in Slovakia based on the ethnic principle. We will not create autonomy." Meanwhile, more than 52,000 ethnic Hungarians in Slovakia sent a letter to Pope John Paul II complaining about discrimination within the Catholic Church in Slovakia. The letter stated that although Hungarians make up approximately 10% of Slovakia's population, there are almost no Hungarian representatives in the Church, Narodna obroda reported on 1 April. * Sharon Fisher

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on 4 April reported that Bosnian Serbs have intensified their harassment of Western citizens. Two Swiss nationals were taken the previous day from a UN armored vehicle near Sarajevo, and two days earlier a German relief aid worker was arrested. Meanwhile, the Krajina Serbs and their local allies stepped up their attacks in the Bihac pocket on 3 April. Fierce fighting also continued in the Majevica hills northeast of Tuzla. From Mostar, EU-appointed administrator Hans Koschnick criticized the UN for not enforcing its own arms embargo on the former Yugoslavia. He said that all the embargo has meant in practice is that the various armies have to pay a bit more for their weapons. Finally, China became the 92nd country to recognize Bosnia-Herzegovina. * Patrick Moore

Nasa Borba reported on 4 April that Belgrade's ongoing campaign against charitable organizations, notably the Soros Foundation, has spilled over from Serbia proper into the other rump Yugoslav republic, Montenegro. Montenegrin Deputy Premier Rade Perovic is reported as criticizing the foundation for its "anti-Yugoslav character." Serbia's own campaign against the foundation reached fever pitch last month in the state-run media. The state-run Borba on 20 March ran a headline stating "Ban the Soros Foundation." * Stan Markotich

Radio Bucharest, citing AFP, reported on 3 April that an organization calling itself "The Hand of Allah" has claimed responsibility for the crash of the Tarom aircraft on 31 March. The head of the team investigating the accident said the wreckage shows sign of an explosion. Sorin Stoicescu told Radio Bucharest on 3 April that it was 40% certain there had been an explosion on board. The head of the Bucharest coroner's office confirmed that the victims died "before the aircraft hit the ground" and that the cause of death was an explosion. Also on 3 April, an anonymous caller reported a bomb on board a Tarom aircraft scheduled to fly from Bucharest to Paris. The plane landed in Timisoara, where passengers were evacuated by emergency measures. The authorities issued a security alert at Bucharest's international airport, Otopeni, which was temporarily evacuated. A false bomb alert on 31 March led to the evacuation of Baneasa airport, which is mostly used for domestic flights from Bucharest. Another hoax call said a bomb had been left in the Transylvanian town of Cluj, prompting the closure of a large area for over three hours. * Michael Shafir

A wildcat strike by Bucharest subway workers entered its sixth day on 4 April, causing serious traffic problems in the city. Thousands of subway workers went on strike on 30 March after a court ordered a regular strike suspended for 40 days while union demands for higher wages are discussed. The strikers blocked the subway terminals, closing the network. The daily Romania libera reported the same day that the strikers threatened to shut themselves in the subway tunnels if force were used against them. Negotiations took place with the management on 2 April but failed to bring any results. The strikers are demanding a 30% pay increase, while management is offering 8.6%, Radio Bucharest reported on 3 April. * Michael Shafir

A Rompres report, cited by Romanian Television on 3 April, said a solution to the problems that prompted the student strike in Chisinau was expected later this week. Radio Bucharest quoted Petru Lucinschi, chairman of the Moldovan parliament, as telling student representatives on 2 April that the legislature would "promptly examine those demands that are in line with the constitution" and that a solution would be "gradually found." The strikers' demands, however, include changes in the Moldovan Constitution (see OMRI Daily Digest, 3 April 1995). A commission set up by President Mircea Snegur to deal with the economic implications of the strikers' demands met again on 2 April with strike representatives. It said the government lacks funds to pay arrears in pensions for February and March, although the students received payments for March and will also receive those for April. Meanwhile, workers in two Chisinau enterprises announced they intended to go on strike, and Chisinau trolley bus workers ran substantially reduced services, saying they supported the strikers' demands for better pay. * Michael Shafir

President Zhelyu Zhelev, in talks with his South Korean counterpart, Kim Yung-sam, on 3 April in Seoul, pledged closer relations and extended economic cooperation, Bulgarian newspapers reported the following day. A South Korean spokesman said the two leaders agreed to encourage joint-venture projects in electronics and chemical goods for sale to third countries. Kim said that South Korea will actively participate in the privatization of Bulgarian enterprises, while Zhelev stressed that Bulgaria is a potentially important trade partner for South Korea because of its location. Demokratsiya reported that Bulgaria will soon receive a $50 million loan from South Korea. According to Standart, Zhelev said that Bulgaria will support South Korea's candidacy for a seat in the UN Security Council. Zhelev, who is on a four-day state visit to South Korea, is the first Bulgarian president to visit that country since diplomatic relations were established in 1990. Also on 3 April, Bulgarian Minister of Culture Georgi Kostov and his South Korean counterpart signed an agreement to increase cultural and scientific cooperation, Standart reported. * Stefan Krause

Georgi Pirinski on 3 April began a three-day visit to Bonn, Pari reported the following day. He held official talks with Minister of State Bernd Schmidtbauer on the consequences of the Schengen agreement for Bulgarian citizens, who are now subject to stricter visa requirements, Duma reported. Pirinski is also due to meet with his German counterpart, Klaus Kinkel, to discuss bilateral relations, the prospects for Bulgaria's integration into European structures, and trade losses sustained by Bulgaria owing to UN sanctions against the rump Yugoslavia. * Stefan Krause

Bulgarian dailies on 3 April gave prime coverage to a conference in Sofia dealing with the current situation in the Balkans in light of the experiences of the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913. Speakers included President Zhelyu Zhelev and former U.S. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski. The Sofia press generally gave front-page coverage to Brzezinski's remarks to the effect that NATO is unlikely to take on new members in the Balkans before the present conflict ends. Brzezinski warned the current Socialist-dominated government not to offset Bulgaria's good standing abroad by returning to Stalinist ways. He also said that the kind of militant language used in the government's recent "White Paper" was disturbing. Like numerous other participants, he praised Zhelev's cautious policy toward Macedonia, a region that many speakers feared could again find itself at the center of a general Balkan conflict. * Patrick Moore

Aleanca on 4 April alleges that there has been an "earthquake" in the Foreign Ministry. According to the daily, at least 60% of the country's diplomatic personnel, currently working in 25 embassies abroad, have been recalled to Tirana. The paper says that the staff affected, including some ambassadors, have been informed that they will be assigned new duties. The Foreign Ministry reportedly confirmed the changes, saying they are part of a new but normal practice. Aleanca, however, maintained that "the Albanian foreign policy is undergoing an almost total reform." * Fabian Schmidt

The Albanian parliament on 3 April began discussions on the 1995 budget, Gazeta Shqiptare reported the next day. The budget includes very optimistic predictions for unemployment and economic growth. Gazeta Shqiptare said that Anastas Angjeli, a member of the opposition Socialist Party who sits on the parliament Financial and Economic Commission, "praised the work of the specialists in the ministry." But he added that his party will "offer some useful proposals." The Social Democrats reportedly made similar statements. * Fabian Schmidt

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