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Newsline - April 6, 1995

The State Duma has overturned a presidential veto, imposed for the second time, on a draft law on the restoration and protection of citizens' savings, Interfax reported on 5 April. The law was supported by 337 deputies, seven more than the minimum required. Communist deputy Viktor Zorkaltsev, chairman of the Committee for Public Associations and Religious Organizations, said the law "guarantees that the state recognizes its commitments to 70 million citizens, whose savings lost their value when economic reform began in 1992." He rejected Yeltsin's argument that the law will destabilize the country's economy, saying it is general in character and does not specify how the money should be repaid. When he vetoed the draft on 14 March, Yeltsin said the measure could boost the budget deficit by 500 trillion rubles. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.

An initiative group in the State Duma has collected more than 100 signatures in favor of holding a no confidence vote in the government, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 6 April. CIS Affairs Committee Chairman Konstantin Zatulin initiated the move, citing two reasons. First, he argued that the Russian delegation at the negotiations with Ukraine, led by First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets, did not defend Russia's national interests. He was particularly incensed with the delay in Ukraine's repayment of its debts to Russia. Second, the government refused to cooperate with the Federal Assembly in the fight against crime, twice ignoring Duma no confidence votes in Interior Minister Viktor Yerin. Other deputies supporting the measure included Sergei Baburin, Anatoly Lukyanov, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Yury Kalmykov, and Viktor Ilyukhin, Interfax reported. The issue will be discussed in the Duma by 13 April, Russian Radio reported. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

President Yeltsin signed the bill on the Federal Security Service on 3 April, Interfax reported. It will come into force on the day of its publication. Under the law, approved by the Duma on 22 February, the Federal Counterintelligence Service will be renamed the Federal Security Service (FSB) and its powers will be broadened. The legislation has been harshly criticized: an article in Nezavisimaya gazeta on 30 March, for example, attacked it on the grounds that it could "reanimate the KGB." The article also speculated that Yeltsin's security chief, Alexander Korzhakov, might have instigated the reorganization and that he had designs on the post of director of the new service. For its part, Komsomolskaya pravda reported on 4 April that acting Prosecutor-General Alexei Ilyushenko is being considered as a candidate for the post--an appointment that does not require parliamentary confirmation. The Duma has repeatedly refused to confirm Ilyushenko as the country's chief prosecutor. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.

Russian Social Democratic Union leader Vassily Lipitsky told Interfax on 4 April that his party has agreed to a proposal made by the Federation of Independent Trade Unions on forming an electoral alliance, Interfax reported on 4 April. The federation has also asked the Communists, the Agrarians, the Socialist Party of Working People, the Federation of Manufacturers, and Women of Russia to join the alliance. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.

The Duma approved on its first reading a draft law to settle the Chechen crisis, Russian and Western agencies reported on 5 April. Communist Vladimir Semago described the vote as an opportunity to end Russia's "national shame," Interfax reported. The law would intruct the government to begin negotiations with the Chechen authorities and would create a commission to oversee peace talks. In addition, the draft would grant amnesty to Chechen fighters in exchange for a permanent ceasefire. The law passed by a vote of 228 to 56, with most dissent coming from Agrarians and the Liberal Democratic Party, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 6 April. A second reading will take place in mid-April. Meanwhile, human rights advocate Sergei Kovalev blamed the Russian government for consistently rejecting peace initiatives and warned that violence in Chechnya could continue for years if a settlement is not reached soon, Russian Radio reported on 5 April. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

By an overwhelming majority, the Duma passed a law suspending all privatization of state-owned television and radio companies until special rules are outlined, Russian and Western agencies reported on 5 April. Specifically, the law freezes all funding for the partly private Russian Public Television company, which was declared invalid and was prohibited from broadcasting on Channel One. Even if approved by the Federation Council, the law is almost certain to be vetoed by President Yeltsin, who ordered the restructuring of state-run Ostankino TV in November 1994. Advocates of the plan say bloated management and unpaid bills at Ostankino justified creating the new partly private television company. Critics have charged that the restructuring, which was carried out in secret, was designed to give the government control over television during an election year. On 1 April, Russian Public Television began broadcasting on Channel One, which is the only network reaching approximately 200 million viewers throughout the former Soviet Union. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

The Russian government intends to continue agricultural reform, primarily in the area of marketing land, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said in an address to the All Russian Assembly of Peasants in Moscow on 5 April, Interfax reported. The minister said the most urgent government task, according to the medium-term program for 1995-97, is to grant all landowners certificates of ownership. Land auctions will held to facilitate the process. The government will also discuss a draft law to permit the sale of land now occupied by enterprises. Chernomyrdin said measures will be taken to keep insolvent agricultural enterprises afloat, but first Russia must "defeat inflation in order to lower prices and attract investments into industry as well as raise efficiency." He stressed that neither the economy as a whole, nor individual sectors, including the agro-industrial complex, can survive with the current inflation rate. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

Meanwhile, delegates to the assembly said they support equality of ownership and land use but objected to private ownership and called for a ban on the sale of land, including small garden lots and summer houses owned by city residents, Interfax reported on 5 April. In a draft document, the Peasants' Assembly called for the right to obtain tracts of land for use and ownership in order to organize and develop peasant and farm households. In addition, the assembly called upon President Boris Yeltsin and the government to provide funds to carry out the spring sowing and introduce the necessary economic regulations within three days. Agrarian Party leader Mikhail Lapshin, who also chairs the Coordinating Council of Agricultural Collective Activities, said he will organize a national peasant strike if the demands are not met by 10 May. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev and Fuel and Energy Minister Yury Shafranik have agreed at a special meeting to pursue a coordinated policy in future with regard to major Caspian shelf oil and gas projects, Interfax's Petroleum Information Agency reported on 4 April. The move is clearly intended to preclude a repeat of last year's disagreement over Russian participation in the international consortium to exploit three Azerbaijani offshore oil fields. The two ministers reaffirmed their commitment to forming a coordinating committee of all Caspian littoral states and supporting Iranian participation in international Caspian oil and gas projects. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.

The Armenian National Church Council elected Syrian-born Catholicos Garegin II as the new head of the Armenian church on 4 April to succeed Vazgen I, who died in August 1994, Interfax reported. Garegin II heads the rival diaspora Cilician Catholicosate in Lebanon, which has strong links with the Armenian opposition Dashnak party. According to Nezavisimaya gazeta on 11 March, Garegin II was the preferred candidate of Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan, who hopes he will contribute to overcoming internal divisions within the Armenian church and to strengthening ties between Armenia and the diaspora. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.

The Round Table/Free Georgia coalition created in 1990 by Georgia's late President Zviad Gamsakhurdia will field candidates in the October 1995 Georgian parliamentary elections, Interfax reported on 5 April quoting Vakhtang Bochorishvili, one of the faction's leaders. The faction has recently instituted an award named after the late president, the first recipient of which is Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.

The Liberal Democratic Party faction in the State Duma has protested against Turkey's foray into northern Iraq, Interfax reported on 5 April. The LDP condemned the UN and NATO for their alleged indifference to the violation of the borders of a sovereign state and claimed, "The Turkish war machine has long conducted genocide in northern Kurdistan. Now, with the whole `civilized' and `democratic' world watching, it is victimizing people who are not even Turkish citizens." -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc.

U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry arrived in Almaty on 4 April to hold talks with President Nursultan Nazarbayev on various issues including the continued reduction of Kazakhstan's nuclear arms, conversion of military facilities to consumer industries, and U.S. aid, Interfax reported. Perry seemed satisfied with progress on dismantling nuclear weapons, noting that Kazakhstan is two to three months ahead of schedule. The U.S. will give Kazakhstan $37 million for conversion of defense industries ($15 million from the Nunn-Lugar program and the additional $22 million from four U.S. firms). The U.S. will also continue to buy uranium from Kazakhstan as it did in December 1994 when 600 kilograms were purchased, AFP reported. Perry also commented on the referendum to extend Nazarbayev's term saying, "The president reaffirmed to me . . . he is committed to moving Kazakhstan towards democracy." A senior official, traveling with Perry warned, "If we see in Kazakhstan a narrowing and constricting of the political process rather than the opposite, it will over time cause a reduction in confidence," Reuters reported. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc.


In protest over Kiev's recent moves to take control of Crimea, Duma deputy Nikolai Lysenko, a member of the right-wing National Republican Party, tore up a Ukrainian flag in the legislature and threw its shreds at parliamentary speaker Ivan Rybkin, international agencies reported on 5 April. The incident almost started a fight in the Duma when some deputies had to be restrained from advancing on Lysenko. The Duma then voted to deprive Lysenko of his right to speak in parliament until 26 April. Vladimir Zhirinovsky and members of the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party, however, supported Lysenko. There was no immediate response from Kiev to the incident which was broadcast on television throughout Russia and Ukraine. The speaker of Ukraine's parliament, Oleksandr Moroz, urged parliament not to issue an official statement condemning the action saying that would only draw attention to the event. Moroz also praised the Duma for condemning Lysenko's action and taking steps to reprimand the deputy. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.

Several hundred members and supporters of Ukrainian democratic parties and organizations picketed the parliament building on 5 April demanding the resignation of parliament speaker Oleksander Moroz and his deputy, Oleksander Tkachenko, Ukrainian Television and ITAR-TASS reported the same day. Leaders of such groups as Rukh, the Democratic Party of Ukraine, and the Ukrainian Christian Democratic Party accused Moroz and Tkachenko of blocking implementation of reforms and supporting attempts by the leftist parliament majority to revive the communist regime in Ukraine. They also charged the parliament leaders with corruption, pointing to the recent arrest of one of Moroz's close aides for allegedly embezzling government funds. Moroz maintains the charges are false and part of a politically motivated conspiracy against him. He has threatened to file libel suits against his critics. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc.

Uladzimir Kuzhanau, deputy head of the Belarusian KGB press service, has denied that the KGB has been assigned to interfere in the upcoming parliament elections in Belarus by intimidating some candidates, Radio Rossii reported on 4 April. Kuzhanau was responding to a statement by Zyanon Paznyak, the leader of the nationalist opposition Belarusian Popular Front. He said allegations of unlawful KGB activities in connection with the elections were slander and propaganda stunts by some politicians. Belarusian radio on 3 April reported that the majority of deputies will be running for re-election in May. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.

The Estonian parliament on 5 April voted 62 to 34 with one abstention to approve the nomination of Tiit Vahi, chairman of the election-winning Coalition Party and Rural Union alliance, as prime minister, BNS reported. Vahi has seven days to present his cabinet to President Lennart Meri, who will then have three days to approve it. Vahi said before the vote that the coalition partners would continue the market reforms launched by the previous government. But he added that more attention would be paid to people in rural areas by working out effective farm credit regulations. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.

The 100 or so Asian refugees whom Latvia wants to deport to Russia remain confined to two wagons on a siding at the Karsava railroad station, Western agencies reported on 5 April. Sholastika Maksimenkova, chairperson of the Ludza district Red Cross, which is taking care of the refugees, complained that her staff was allowed only limited access to the wagons and had to obtain permission from the border guard commander for each visit. Local farmers and businesses have been donating food. Interior Minister Janis Adamsons told a press conference in Riga that the refugees might be moved to a nearby camp, but upgrading the facility would take time and require $800,000--funds that Latvia does not have. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.

Russian soldiers Alexander Vaselkov and Ruslan Kurdiukov, who asked for political asylum in Lithuania on 27 March to avoid serving in Chechnya, were handed over to representatives of the Russian embassy in Vilnius on 4 April and then returned to Kaliningrad, BNS reported. They had requested to return to Russia, apparently appeased by embassy officials who assured them they would not be punished or sent to Chechnya. Lithuanian Foreign Ministry officials said they had no grounds to reject Russia's repeated requests to extradite the soldiers because the two countries signed a legal assistance treaty providing for the return of criminals. Moreover, Lithuania has not yet passed a law on refugee status and therefore cannot grant political asylum. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.

Jozef Oleksy, visiting NATO headquarters in Brussels on 5 April, said Poland expects NATO to make a "concrete decision" to expand eastward in 1996, Rzeczpospolita reported. Oleksy chose Brussels for his first trip abroad since becoming prime minister to emphasize that European integration is Poland's foreign policy priority. At a Warsaw press conference, Oleksy dismissed Russian objections to Polish membership. "This is a matter between Poland and NATO," he stressed. He told NATO ambassadors that delay in accepting Poland into NATO would disillusion the Polish public and encourage "other countries" to voice ever stronger reservations about expanding the alliance. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc.

President Lech Walesa on 5 April announced he will commemorate the 50th anniversary of Victory Day in Poland, having turned down invitations to attend ceremonies in London and Moscow. "Years after the collapse of communism and the fall of the Berlin Wall, Europe remains divided, and there are still better and worse Europeans," Walesa said in a statement quoted by Gazeta Wyborcza. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc.

The Constitutional Tribunal on 5 April ruled that its interpretations of legislation are binding from the time the law in question took force, rather than from the moment of the ruling itself. The decision was prompted by a May 1994 ruling that President Lech Walesa acted unlawfully in removing Marek Markiewicz as National Broadcasting Council chairman in connection with the granting of the country's only private TV license to the PolSat company. Walesa's lawyers argued at the time that Markiewicz could not be reinstated because the tribunal's ruling did not have retroactive effect--an argument rejected by the tribunal. Some council members argued on 5 April that Markiewicz should be reinstated. The procedural issues remain unclear, however, as the council now functions under the chairmanship of Walesa loyalist Janusz Zaorski. -- Louisa Vinton, OMRI, Inc.

The parliament on 5 April approved again two laws vetoed by President Michal Kovac, Sme reported. One of the laws transfers the power to appoint and remove the Slovak Information Service director from the president to the government, while the other deals with foreigners residing in Slovakia. Premier Vladimir Meciar told the parliament that since its creation, the SIS has opposed his Movement for a Democratic Slovakia. Of the 130 deputies present, 81 voted in favor of the SIS law. Opposition calls to allow each parliament party to have representatives in the body overseeing SIS activities were rejected. Deputies are also to consider a proposal to vote on the dismissal of Miroslav Kocnar, a breakaway member of the Association of Workers in Slovakia, from his post as chairman of the parliament Mandate and Immunity Committee. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.

Privatization Minister Peter Bisak, at a press conference on 5 April, said property worth 258 billion koruny will be sold in the second wave of privatization, Pravda reports. Of this amount, 40 billion will be sold through the coupon method and 73 billion through direct sales, while 90 billion koruny will remain state-owned. Government officials said earlier that property worth 50-55 billion koruny would be sold in the second wave of coupon privatization. The previous government, which drew up the program, planned to sell property valued at some 70 billion koruny. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.

AFP on 4 April reported that the Bosnian Serb parliament will meet next week to discuss Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic's plans for a federation with Krajina. He has been pressing for closer ties between the two rebel Serbian states, while the Krajina leadership has been divided over how far to embrace him, given that he has fallen out with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. Meanwhile, news agencies said on 5 April that a delegation of Bosnian Serbs loyal to the government in Sarajevo returned pleased from their first official visit to Serbia. They met with numerous politicians close to Milosevic and in the opposition, as well as Orthodox Patriarch Pavle. The delegates, representing 200,000 Serbs living on Bosnian government-controlled territory, expressed optimism that Serbia's political climate is changing for the better. AFP on 4 April quoted a Bosnian diplomat who met with Milosevic in late March as being similarly optimistic about the prospects for Belgrade's recognizing Sarajevo, although his first public remarks after the meetings were much more sober. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

AFP on 5 April reported that Croatian troops are quietly moving into the UN-controlled Sector West, around Daruvar in Slavonia. The UN's future mandate in the area remains unclear, and it is widely believed that Zagreb wants UNPROFOR out of the sector. UN sources speculated that Croatia is anxious to achieve the appearance of a military success at little or no real cost. The big prize remains Sector East, beyond Osijek, which is rich in oil and agricultural resources and which many think Milosevic plans to annex as his price for supporting an eventual peace settlement. Reuters reported that Krajina authorities have suspended permission for UNPROFOR patrols in eastern Croatia. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

Western and Croatian media reported on 5 April that an angry mob of Croats in Mostar abducted Bishop Ratko Peric and his secretary four days earlier. The two men were held in a car at a Franciscan monastery for eight hours before being released. Peric previously ordered that diocesan priests replace Franciscans in Mostar. Tensions between the regular clergy and the friars date back to the Middle Ages. The hierarchy in Zagreb and Rome regards the Franciscans as unruly and too nationalist, while many ordinary Croats in Herzegovina consider them to be truly close to the people. Vjesnik reported on 6 April that Croatian primate Cardinal Franjo Kuharic condemned the kidnapping in his name and in that of the pope. Nasa Borba added that Pope John Paul II marked the third anniversary of the war in Bosnia by issuing yet another call for peace and reconciliation. In Banja Luka, news agencies on 4 April reported that Bosnian Serb authorities denied a Belgian cardinal permission to visit the town's dwindling Roman Catholic community. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

Nasa Borba on 6 April reported that farmers in Serbia's Sumadija district are the latest to express a lack of confidence in the stability of rump Yugoslavia's currency, the dinar. They are now asking the government for payments in sugar refined from locally produced sugar beets, and not in cash. The "super dinar" was pegged to the value of the German mark at an exchange rate of 1:1 in January 1994. But it recently plunged in value, trading on Belgrade streets at a rate of 5:1. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.

The trial of nine ethnic Albanian former policemen and members of the Independent Trade Unions of Kosovo began in the Kosovar town of Pec on 5 April, the Albanian-language service of Deutsche Welle reported the same day. The Albanians, who were arrested during a police crackdown in November 1994 in which more than 200 people were taken into custody, are charged with separatism and creating a shadow-state police force. The accused deny the charges, saying their only concern was trade union interests. Meanwhile, Serbian police arrested the mother of Yussuf Gervalla, a Kosovar political activist who was killed in German exile in 1982 by the Yugoslav secret police. Deutsche Welle, however, said that the motives behind the arrest are unclear. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.

Gheorghe Tinca on 5 April began a three-day visit to Moscow, Rompres and ITAR-TASS reported. He met the same day with his Russian counterpart, Pavel Grachev, with whom he discussed, among other things, increased military-technology cooperation. Preliminary agreements were reached on joint military exercises, exchange programs for military experts, Russian servicing of Romanian military equipment, and the use of Russian communication satellites by Romania. Tinca and Grachev also discussed the two countries' differing views on NATO's eastward expansion. Before departing for Moscow, Tinca told ITAR-TASS that Russia was practically the only state in Eastern Europe capable of ensuring its own defense without having to join military alliances. Romania was the first state to enroll in NATO's Partnership for Peace program. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.

The U.S. Embassy in Bucharest, responding to reports that Romania tried to develop a nuclear weapon, said on 5 April that the U.S. was satisfied that Bucharest was committed to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the "exclusively peaceful use of nuclear energy," Reuters reported the same day. The embassy said that Romanian press reports resurrecting a 1992 story about plutonium production in Romania were "inaccurate and misleading." The reports cited the discovery in 1992 of 2 milligrams of plutonium that Romanian scientists had separated from a fuel rod on a research reactor. Discovery of the plutonium extraction project in 1992 prompted Washington to ban Bucharest from importing nuclear products. President Bill Clinton has waived the order, the embassy said. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.

Radio Bucharest, citing Radio Moscow, reported on 5 April that Mircea Snegur hopes to soon make proposals leading to an end to the strike in Chisinau within one month. He noted that he intends to use his presidential prerogative to initiate legislation in the parliament but added that this takes time. He appealed for an end to the protest actions and urged striking students to resume attending classes. Radio Bucharest and Romanian Television on 5 April reported that the students are calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Andrei Sangheli and Minister of Education Petru Gaugas. Members of the strikers' committee put up tents the same day in front of the parliament building, saying they would stay there as long as the strike continues. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.

The Supreme Judicial Council on 5 April elected Boyko Rashkov as interim director of the National Investigation Service, Otechestven Front reported the following day. He will hold this post until the council elects a permanent successor to Ani Kruleva. The council on 29 March voted to dismiss Kruleva as director on grounds of incompetence. Rashkov is one of six deputy directors of the National Investigation Service and head of the Sofia Investigation Service. Also on 5 April, Interior Minister Lyubomir Nachev appointed Lieut.-Col. Pavel Nikolov as deputy director of the National Security Service. He replaces Lieut.-Col. Borislav Rangelov, who was dismissed on 4 April. According to Otechestven Front, another three high-ranking officials in the National Security Service are to be fired in the next few days. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.

Radio Skopje on 4 April, citing Matthew Nimetz, U.S. President Bill Clinton's special mediator in the dispute between Greece and Macedonia, reports that the date for direct bilateral talks is still not known. Greek officials said earlier that talks were scheduled to begin in New York on 6 April under UN mediator Cyrus Vance. Macedonian Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski, in an interview with Le Monde on 4 April, said that Macedonia is willing to negotiate but "it's difficult to negotiate seriously while the [Greek embargo against Macedonia] remains in effect." The interview prompted speculations in the Greek press that Macedonia might be willing to start talks even with the embargo in place. Greece has said the embargo will remain in force during the talks, while Macedonia has insisted it will not negotiate unless the blockade is lifted. Greek diplomatic circles said there is not enough time to start talks on 6 April, the Athens daily Elevtherotypia reported on 4 April. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.

Albania has signed an agreement with the Greek-Russian company Promitheas providing it with 1 billion cubic meters of Russian natural gas per year, AFP reported on 5 April. The pipeline, which runs from Russia via Bulgaria and Greece, is still under construction. According to a Greek-Russian agreement, it is scheduled to carry 50 billion cubic meters of gas for a period of 25 years beginning in December 1995. A pipeline to Albania will also be built. Albania has a 300 km natural gas network that has been out of use since Albanian gas reserves were exhausted. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.

The case of Albanian Socialist Party leader Fatos Nano, who still has 4 years and 10 months of a 12-year prison term to serve, will probably be reviewed later this year, international agencies reported on 4 April. Nano was found guilty of embezzlement and falsification of documents. His sentence has been reduced in several amnesties following international protests, but the opposition has repeatedly called for his release. The Interparliamentary Union, which has complained about human rights violations in Nano's arrest, detention, and trial, requested that his case be reviewed. Government officials said the review may take place when a new procedural law comes into effect later this year. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave