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Newsline - April 14, 1995

At least 47 people died in a massacre in Samashki, a village of 7,000 to 15,000, on the night of 7-8 April, representatives of the Russian human rights organization Memorial told NTV. Sergei Kovalev, President Boris Yeltsin's human rights adviser, and Memorial member Andrei Blinushov, said the actual number may be as high as 211, Ekho Moskvy reported. Official Russian reports claim that troops captured 100 Chechen fighters and did nothing wrong. Memorial told Russian television that the village was given an ultimatum to turn over all its weapons within one and a half hours. When it could not comply, masked soldiers entered the town and threw grenades into basements where people were hiding and destroyed the buildings with flame-throwers. Reuters reported that many of the Russian soldiers injected themselves with drugs during the massacre and that the village was still littered with used syringes on 13 April. According to Russia's Choice Duma member Anatoly Shabad, the purpose of the massacre was to "terrorize the Chechen population so that it would not resist any further." Kovalev said it is still necessary to find out exactly what happened in Samashki. * Robert Orttung

Russian troops are now attacking Bamut, seven miles from Samashki, described as the last stronghold of the Chechen resistance, Russian TV reported 13 April. The Russian air force is participating and witnesses at the site report artillery fire. * Robert Orttung

Memorial and Human Rights Watch have appealed to Western governments to use their May visits to Moscow to protest the war in Chechnya, AFP reported. Sergei Kovalev said "Western leaders can be partially blamed for the bloodshed" because of their refusal to act. Minister of Internal Affairs Viktor Yerin, however, denounced the activists, saying "I suggest that those activists stand in the trenches with the soldiers and officers who are carrying out the special operations, walk together with them, and then give their evaluations," NTV reported. * Robert Orttung

Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev is in a military camp in the mountains near Bamut, in southern Chechnya, according to reports on Russian TV. Earlier statements by Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev that Dudaev had been killed or wounded are not true, according to Ruslan Movsaev, commander of a Chechen fighting unit, AFP reported. On 12 April, artillery destroyed the house that Dudaev had occupied only hours earlier. The exact location of the house is unclear. * Robert Orttung

The Federation Council challenged the legality of secret decrees on restoring law and order in Chechnya, Russian Public Television reported on 13 April. By a vote of 97 to one, with two abstentions, the Council decided to ask the Constitutional Court to rule on Yeltsin's decrees of 30 November and 9 December, as well as the government's 9 December resolution. Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai said Russia's armed forces were sent to Chechnya in accordance with the constitution, Interfax reported. He praised the draft law on settling the Chechen conflict, which the Duma passed on 12 April, as an example of cooperation between the legislative and executive branches. Shakhrai said a conference on reaching a peaceful settlement would be held in Grozny later this month, but he ruled out direct talks with Dudaev. * Laura Belin

Yelena Mizulina, deputy chairman of the Federation Council's Committee for Constitutional Law and Legal Matters, said Council Chairman Vladimir Shumeiko should share the blame for the escalation of violence in Chechnya, NTV reported. She said Shumeiko, who is a permanent member of Yeltsin's Security Council, failed to express the views of the upper house of parliament adequately to the president. Deputies also criticized Shumeiko and Defense and Security Committee Chairman Petr Shirshov for concealing the contents of Yeltsin's secret decrees on Chechnya from the rest of the Federation Council. Shumeiko defended the Security Council as a constitutional body and said he was obliged not to reveal state secrets. He also threatened to sue deputy Viktor Kurochkin for calling the Security Council a "gang" and accusing "the Politburo" of starting a war in Chechnya. * Laura Belin

At a cabinet meeting on 13 April, the day after workers nationwide rallied to protest wage arrears, First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets announced the government's decision to pay in full the wages it owes workers in the defense industry by the end of the week, Interfax reported. First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais reported on the improvement in the situation in Primorsky Krai (see below) and said the government would loan regional authorities 85 billion rubles to pay the wages owed to school workers and teachers, Interfax reported. Noting the low average wage in Russia, Labor Minister Gennady Melikyan conceded that trade unions had reason to be unhappy. According to Minister of Internal Affairs Yerin, 450,000 people took part in the day of action organized by the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia; union representatives said about 1.5 million participated. * Penny Morvant

Ending a week-long strike, miners in Primorsky Krai went back to work on 13 April as they began to receive their wages, Interfax reported that day, citing the Fuel and Energy Ministry. The miners were owed wages from as far back as November. In Vladivostok on 12 April, Fuel and Energy Minister Yury Shafranik said the government had found the means to pay the miners in full and that 80 billion rubles were being dispatched to the krai, Ekho Moskvy reported. Shafranik, like First Deputy Prime Minister Chubais, was very critical of the performance of the krai administration and Governor Yevgeny Nazdratenko in particular. Chubais accused Nazdratenko of exacerbating tensions, recalling that he had urged a blockade of the Trans-Siberian railway, and vowed to investigate his "political games." He was also critical of the governor's decision to leave for an EBRD meeting in London at a critical juncture. In response to the allegations, Nazdra-tenko's deputy argued that the main cause of the miners strike was delays in federal subsidies to the energy sector. On 13 April, Izvestiya questioned what had happened to a 600-billion-ruble federal subsidy sent earlier to the krai, noting that the miners had only received 20 billion of those funds, although coal provides 90% of the region's energy. The paper also said it had been unable to find any trace of Nazdratenko in London. * Penny Morvant

Vladimir Panskov told a cabinet meeting on 13 April that the reserve fund for 1995 has been completely exhausted, Interfax reported. The fund is used to cover expenditures for emergency situations and other measures not foreseen in the regular budget. He did not indicate whether measures would be taken to replenish the fund. Earlier in the week, Panskov announced a 7-trillion-ruble shortfall in first-quarter revenue, which amounts to about 14% less than calculated in the budget. * Penny Morvant

The "flanks" restrictions in the CFE treaty must be changed if the accord is to be viable, according to Grigory Karasin, a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, who was commenting on the current Vienna meeting of the treaty's Joint Consultative Group. The Russian military has long complained that the limits unfairly restrict the amount of military equipment it can deploy in the strategic North Caucasus Military District. Karasin told ITAR-TASS that Russia expected its treaty partners "to produce a constructive response" to its compromise proposals, adding that the treaty "must correspond to new realities." * Doug Clarke

Fighting in Gorno-Badakhshan continued as opposition forces shelled Khorog, and Russian border guards retaliated with missile and bomb strikes, using helicopter gunships and planes belonging to CIS peacekeeping forces, Interfax and Western agencies reported on 13 April. ITAR-TASS reported that six more frontier guards--raising the estimated number of deaths to 42--were killed the same day. An estimated 200 Tajik opposition fighters have died to date. A Tajik government delegation, led by parliament Deputy Chairman Kazidavlot Koimdodov and other high-ranking officials, left for Badakhshan to analyze the military and political situation there, Interfax reported. President Yeltsin called for "immediate measures," including dispatching technical and military aid to Tajikistan; his defense minister had earlier gone on record opposing such measures. The UN Security Council expressed its "deep concern" on 12 April and said the Tajik opposition is jeopardizing an earlier cease-fire agreement, Reuters reported. Multiple sources noted increasing coordination between the Ismaili Pamiri forces and the Afghanistan-based Islamic Tajik opposition. As both the Russian and Tajik opposition forces are said to be receiving reinforcements, the conflict looks set to continue. * Lowell Bezanis

The headquarters of the Islamic Renaissance Party in Toluqan was bombed killing 40 civilians, according to Deputy Chairman Kazi Akbar Turadzhonzoda, Interfax reported on 13 April; Kabul Radio, however, cited 100 dead and 200 wounded. Repeated strikes against alleged opposition targets in Takhar and Badakhshan provinces have occured in recent days, and the Kabul government has protested Russian bombing of its territory to the UN. * Lowell Bezanis

Azerbaijan Parliament chairman Rasul Guliev has rejected as "totally incomprehensible" Iran's angry reaction to his government's decision to cancel an agreement giving Iran a 5% share in the consortium to develop three Caspian oil fields, Interfax reported on 13 April. Instead, Azerbaijan has given a 5% stake to Exxon and another 5% to the Turkish company TPAO. Also on 13 April, a spokesman for Azerbaijan's State Oil Company SOCAR said Iran would be offered a share in the development of the Shakh Deniz oil and gas deposits as compensation. Meanwhile, an Azerbaijani government delegation traveled to Moscow on 13 April for talks on lifting the transport blockade imposed on Azerbaijan late last year. * Liz Fuller

Azerbaijani border guards have in recent days repelled numerous attempts by groups of Kurds to cross the border from Iran into the Azerbaijani enclave of Nakhichevan, AFP reported on 13 April, quoting a security ministry official in Baku. Several Kurds have been killed in the attempt. Iran has closed its border with Turkey to prevent the PKK from launching cross-border attacks. * Liz Fuller


Only 2-3 million ethnic Russians are likely to migrate to Russia from other countries in the CIS, not the tens of millions that some estimate, according to Emil Pain, a member of the Presidential Council. Interfax reported on 12 April that the main problem confronting ethnic Russians in the "near abroad" is getting used to changing economic circumstances, not ethnic discrimination. Citing opinion polls conducted in Kazakhstan and Estonia in December 1994, Pain said 66% of the Russians in Kazakhstan consider low living standards the worst problem and 87% of the Russians in Estonia said they never had any problems with the local population. However, Rossiiskaya gazeta reported on 13 April that migration from Kazakhstan to Orenburg Oblast increased dramatically in the first quarter of 1995, mainly by families interested in pursuing Russian-language education for their children. * Michael Mihalka

International agencies on 13 April reported that Ukraine has agreed to close down the Chornobyl nuclear power station by 2000. The closure is conditional on additional Western aid totaling $4.4 billion. These funds would be used to build a gas-fired station to replace Chornobyl and a new sarcophagus around the damaged No. 3 reactor as well as to provide a social plan to the 5,000 Chornobyl employees who will be laid off. If the money is not forthcoming, the plant will remain operational until the end of its planned service period in 2011. While there are no definite agreements from the EU or G-7 on how much they will contribute to close Chornobyl, Ukraine's presidential national security adviser Volodymyr Horbulin said the country will draw up a plan for the facility's closure by 15 May, He said that after this date, another G-7 summit should be held to discuss the issue. In related news, AFP reported on 12 April that the World Bank has agreed to lend Ukraine $114 million over 17 years to upgrade its eight hydropower plants and for other energy projects. * Ustina Markus

Radio Mayak on 13 April quoted Russian Finance Minister Vladimir Panskov as saying that Ukraine has given Russia $50 million toward paying off its debt. Panskov said Russia's recent agreement to restructure Ukraine's debt was a decisive factor in Kiev's decision to begin servicing its debt arrears. He also said he believes Kiev is using part of its IMF credits to pay off the debt. * Ustina Markus

Crimean parliament speaker Serhii Tsekov said he is unhappy with the results of his talks with the Ukrainian parliament on 13 April, Ekho Moskvy reported. Tsekov attended meetings with the deputy speaker of the Russian State Duma, Gennady Seleznev. According to Tsekov, Kiev is not interested in reaching a compromise with Crimea and prefers to issue ultimatums. Several days earlier, Tsekov visited Moscow, where he met with Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. Interfax quoted Ivanov as saying after the talks that Russia hoped for a constructive dialogue between Kiev and Simferopol and a solution to their problems that fully respected Ukraine's territorial integrity. * Ustina Markus

The Belarusian parliament has agreed to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's proposal to hold a referendum on pursuing economic integration with Russia, issuing new state symbols resembling those of the Soviet era, giving Russian the status of official language, and granting the president the right to dissolve the parliament, international agencies reported on 13 April. The results of the referendum will be binding, but deputies added the provision that any presidential decision on dissolving the parliament will be of an advisory nature only. The parliament several days previously rejected all referendum questions, except that on economic integration with Russia, prompting nationalist deputies to hold a hunger strike in the parliament. Belarusian Television on 12 April reported that the parliament ratified the Russian-Belarusian treaty on friendship and cooperation by a vote of 197 to one with four abstentions. Nationalist deputies refused to take part in the vote. * Ustina Markus

The Saeima on 12 April passed a law on the status of former Soviet citizens who have neither Latvian citizenship nor that of any other country, BNS reported the next day. The law allows former Soviet citizens who arrived in Latvia before 1 July 1992 and are permanently registered there to receive a non-citizens passport. This document will allow them to go abroad and return to Latvia without any other documentation. The law guarantees them the same rights and freedoms as Latvian citizens. It does not apply to individuals who retired from the Soviet armed forces after 28 January 1992 and did not live in Latvia prior to service. The status of persons who arrived after July 1992 is determined by the law on the arrival and stay in Latvia of foreigners and stateless persons. * Saulius Girnius

In an attempt to reduce the flow of illegal refugees passing through Latvia to Western Europe, the Saeima on 12 April increased the penalties for illegally crossing the Latvian border or transporting individuals across it, BNS reported the next day. The penalty for illegal crossing was increased from one year to three years in prison or a fine equivalent to 60 monthly minimum salaries as well as vehicle confiscation. The current minimum salary is 28 lati ($55). Officials who are involved in migrant trafficking and migrant traffickers convicted more than once can be imprisoned for up to seven years and have property confiscated. Individuals who bring groups of five or more refugees across the border can be imprisoned from five to 10 years in addition to property confiscation. * Saulius Girnius

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, at its annual meeting in London on 8-12 April, elected the Estonian and Canadian finance ministers as vice presidents of the bank's board of governors, BNS reported on 13 April. Estonia's new finance minister, Mart Opman, will become EBRD vice president when he is sworn in as minister on 17 April. The election is seen by Estonian officials as a sign of international approval of the country's reform policies. It will give Estonia better access to information about EBRD's policy formation and an increased role in that process. * Saulius Girnius

Polish President Lech Walesa's spokesman on 13 April said that Poland "will not be officially represented in Moscow" at ceremonies commemorating the end of World War II in Europe, Polish media reported. He noted that Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy, who has accepted an invitation to attend the Moscow celebrations, would "oppose the will of the president" if he went there. Moreover, he would attend as a private individual or as a representative of his postcommunist Alliance of the Democratic Left. Walesa's spokesman pointed to the Polish constitution, which states that the president supervises foreign policy and national security. He interpreted this provision to mean that only the president, or someone empowered by him, can represent Poland abroad. Oleksy's spokeswoman, however, said that if the premier attended, he would represent the Polish government. * Jakub Karpinski

The Moscow daily Rossiiskie Vesti on 12 April published an article on Russian-Polish relations, from both a historical and contemporary perspective. The daily praised the Polish prewar policy of keeping an equal distance from Germany and Russia. It noted that Poland should be interested in all-European security structures such as the OSCE rather than NATO and suggested that the 1992 Russian-Polish treaty on friendship and cooperation be renegotiated. Polish commentators, responding to the Rossiiskie Vesti article the next day, said that keeping an equal distance from Germany and Russia had resulted in the 1939 Ribbentrop-Molotov pact and the subsequent aggression of both signatory countries against Poland. They commented that it is now reasonable for Poland to aim at membership in the only durable and stable security structure in Europe--NATO. As a counterweight to the Rossiiskie Vesti comments, Gazeta Wyborcza published a translation of an article from the 8 April edition of the Moscow daily Sevodnia saying that NATO had brought stability to the area and that Russian politicians' sensitiveness vis-à-vis NATO is "irrational." * Jakub Karpinski

A court in Jablonec nad Nisou on 13 April sentenced three skinheads to prison terms ranging from 18 to 22 months, Czech media reported. The three men last June threw a Molotov cocktail into an apartment inhabited by Roma. One month later, they set another apartment on fire, causing serious burns to two Roma women. Meanwhile, the regional court in Ceske Budejovice has responded to an appeal to overturn a ruling made last December by a district court in Pisek. The Pisek court had ruled that it could not be proven that an attack by a group of skinheads on four Roma last September was racially motivated; it sentenced only two of the skinheads to short suspended prison terms. One Roma was killed in the attack. The Ceske Budejovice court ordered a new investigation into the case. In yet another trial, a Prague court sentenced four skinheads to suspended prison terms for shouting Nazi slogans and making Nazi salutes during a gathering of skinheads in a Prague restaurant last year. * Jiri Pehe

A Finance Ministry official on 13 April said Slovakia will not claim the third installment of its stand-by loan from the IMF, Hospodarske noviny reported. He commented that although the Slovak cabinet approved the ministry's memorandum on economic policy on 11 April, the document will serve only as "confirmation of the credibility and reliability of Slovakia's economic policy." The document was drawn up for the IMF. Slovakia's decision is based on the fact that the country's foreign currency reserves have reached $4.1 billion, while macroeconomic indicators are largely positive. Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, speaking on Slovak Television on 11 April, said "Slovakia wants to cooperate with the IMF in order to have its trust, but [the country] no longer needs and no longer intends to accept the offers that it received." Meciar criticized the IMF's recommendations that Slovakia reduce benefits for families, raise the retirement age, and radically increase energy prices for households. The memorandum nonetheless states that gas and electricity prices will go up by at least 10% this year. * Sharon Fisher

According to the Slovak Statistical Office, in February the country's monthly inflation rate was 0.5%, and its annual rate 11.5%, TASR reported on 13 April. Prices of consumer goods and services increased on average by 0.5%. Prices of nonfood items and services increased by 0.6% and 1.1%, while food prices fell by 0.3%. Living costs rose by an average of 0.3%. In January and February, industrial production grew by 7.4% over the previous year; construction output fell by 0.6% (although in February it was 11.5% up on the previous month), and the income of agricultural enterprises increased by 2.1%. Despite the passage of a restrictive state budget for the first three months of 1995, Slovakia's budget deficit reached 4.17 billion koruny by the end of February. The country also registered a trade deficit during the same period. * Sharon Fisher

International media on 13 and 14 April reported that fighting in several areas around Bosnia-Herzegovina shows little sign of abating. Croatia's Hina, citing Sarajevo Radio, reported that Serbs from Croatia's Krajina area, supported by rebel Bosnian Muslim troops, resumed their assaults on Bosnian government forces near Velika Kladusa, in northwestern Bosnia. Western news agencies described the fighting in that region as fierce. Meanwhile, Nasa Borba reported that Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, who has seemingly been feuding with Serbia's President Slobodan Milosevic, has publicly praised Milosevic for his recent unwillingness to extend recognition to Bosnia-Herzegovina. Reuters reported that Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic has advised government forces to brace for war when the cease-fire expires on 30 April. Finally, Nasa Borba also reported that on their recent visit to Belgrade, members of the international Contact Group met not only with government officials but with members of Serbia's opposition parties. * Stan Markotich

Croatian media reported that on 13 April Croatia's Adriatic city of Dubrovnik and its surrounding area were the target of artillery shelling. One person was killed, and at least three wounded. Croatian authorities have blamed "Bosnian Serb paramilitaries" for the attacks, and Reuters observes that Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic has sent "a protest letter to the UN Security Council saying the Croatian army had not retaliated but would if the Serbs attacked again." Dubrovnik is situated some 10 kilometers from Bosnian Serb-held territory. * Stan Markotich

Reuters on 13 April quotes Western sources in Zagreb as confirming that Maj. Gen. Alexander Perelyakin was ousted following allegations of corruption and favoring the Serbian side. Perelyakin was fired as commander of Belgian and Russian peacekeepers in Serb-held Croatian territories on 11 April. But Russian Foreign Ministry sources continue to flatly deny that Perel-yakin was biased in favor of the Serbs and insist there is no concrete evidence to substantiate the contrary, Interfax reports. For its part the Russian daily Izvestiya cited Russian Foreign Ministry officials as saying that Perel-yakin's ouster was calculated to drive the Russian peacekeepers from the former Yugoslavia. * Stan Markotich

International media on 13 April reported that Macedonia and Greece, in separate incidents, seized oil drilling equipment that UN sources say was bound for Serbia. AFP reports that Greek officials detained shipments of 1,866 tons of equipment, believed to have been sent by the Canadian group Triton from Iran. Meanwhile, Macedonian authorities seized 13 truck-loads of equipment at Gev-gelija, near Macedonia's border with Greece. * Stan Markotich

Macedonian Minister of Defense Blagoj Handziski and his Turkish counterpart, Mehmet Gol-han, on 13 April signed a military cooperation accord, international media reported. Under the terms of the agreement, both countries are obliged to exchange military and technological data. An already existing accord between the two nations permits Macedonian officers to train in Turkey. * Stan Markotich
Adrian Nastase, executive chairman of the ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), told journalists on 13 April that a cabinet reshuffle is "certain" to take place in the near future. He made this statement before a meeting of the PDSR's Standing Delegation, which discussed, among other things, the party's relations with the signatories to the so-called "Four-Party Protocols." Nastase said his party will hold talks with its partners early next week. In a related development, Premier Nicolae Vacaroiu and other senior cabinet members on 13 April met with the leadership of the Socialist Labor Party (PSM), Romania's reborn Communists. The PSM, which is a signatory to the four-party political pact, urged the government to offer better protection for national industry as well as low-income social groups. * Dan Ionescu

Miguel Angel Marti-nez, president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, arrived in Bucharest on 10 April for an official visit, Radio Bucharest reported. Martinez met the same day with Romanian President Ion Iliescu and on 13 April held talks with Romanian Premier Nicolae Vacaroiu, Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu, and members of Ro-mania's delegation to the Council of Europe. The talks focused on the country's integration into European structures and its democratic progress. Martinez urged Romania and Hungary to overcome differences and sign a long-delayed basic treaty. * Dan Ionescu
Grigory Marakutsa, parliament chairman of Moldova's breakaway Dniester region, told Infotag on 12 April that the continuing demonstrations in Chisinau proved once more that "the threat of [Moldova's possible] unification with Romania was still present." He added that as long as this threat existed, Tiraspol should "spare no efforts to strengthen its own statehood." Asked whether the leadership in Tiraspol would accept a special status for Transdniester within the Republic of Moldova, Marakutsa said such a status can be easily revoked or altered. By way of example, he pointed to the case of Crimea. * Dan Ionescu

Lt. Gen. Aleksandr Lebed, commander of the 14th Russian Army, headquartered in Tiraspol, told Interfax on 13 April that he believed his troops could not leave the Dniester region within the next three years. He cited political, economic, and technical reasons. The main political reason, he said, was the outcome of the 26 March referendum in Transdniester: more than 90% of the population there opposed the withdrawal of the 14th Army. Meanwhile, Basapres on 12 April quoted Dumitru Diacov, chairman of the Moldovan parliament's foreign relations commission, as saying that Chisinau intended to send a parliament delegation to the Russian State Duma to explain its stance on the 14th army issue. * Dan Ionescu

{As of 12:00 CET}

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave