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Newsline - April 18, 1995

"In my speech to the Federation Assembly, I stressed that the elections will take place in the period dictated by the constitution. I have no intention of changing this position," President Boris Yeltsin told ITAR-TASS on 15 April as he wrapped up his vacation in Sochi. Presidential Chief of Staff Sergei Filatov told Interfax on 17 April that the "irreconcilable opposition" had started rumors that the elections would be postponed because it was to their advantage "to keep society in a state of lack of confidence and even fear for the future." Yeltsin's legal aide Mikhail Krasnov also ruled out the possibility of holding a referendum on prolonging the terms in office of the president and the parliament, describing the idea as "absolutely unreal." Filatov said it is still to early to say whether or not Yeltsin will run because the electoral law has not been adopted yet, Vremya reported. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

The Moscow City Duma has sent a bill outlawing extremist groups to the State Duma for adoption as a federal law, Russian Radio and Interfax reported. The bill proposes shutting down parties that "publicly call for establishing dictatorship, overthrowing the constitutional system by force, warmongering, setting up armed units, and fanning social, racial, ethnic, and religious strife." Moscow Duma deputy Yevgeny Proshechkin said there are more than 100 extremist organizations and 200 extremist publications in the country. He said Yeltsin's decree on fighting fascism is not sufficient because it is not a law. He believes the current State Duma will not pass the bill on extremism, but that by rejecting it, the chamber will show "who is who." -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

The State Duma has amended its regulations to prevent political factions from calling for a no-confidence vote in the government, Interfax reported on 14 April. The initiation of such a vote will now require the support of at least 90 deputies. The Democratic Party of Russia had earlier declared its intention to place a no-confidence vote on the agenda, but Communist deputy Vladimir Bokov, a member of the Procedural Committee, pointed out that the faction only has eight members, a number he considers too small for deciding such an important issue. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.

The Spiritual Heritage Association, a patriotic movement committed to "leading Russia out of the crisis" and "defending the interests and rights of Russians," joined an electoral bloc with the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, Russian Public Television reported on 14 April. Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov said recent regional elections demonstrated the need for cooperation among all patriotic forces, Segodnya reported on 15 April. Alexei Podberezkin, a leader of Spiritual Heritage, praised the Communists for their commitment to patriotic values. Podberezkin added that his association's decision to form the electoral bloc was influenced by the idea that "if you have to join someone, it should be the strongest." -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

Representatives from 40 Russian regions met in Moscow to plan election strategy for the Movement for Democratic Reform, Russian Radio reported on 16 April. Former Moscow Mayor Gavriil Popov, the leader of the movement, sharply criticized Russia's current "anti-democratic" and "bureaucratic" regime and said his movement's most important task would be to convince voters not to ignore the elections, Interfax reported the same day. Board members invited all political groups to help form public election committees to ensure that parliamentary and presidential elections are held on schedule in December 1995 and June 1996. At the same time, although he did not rule out cooperation with like-minded political forces, Popov said the Movement for Democratic Reform intended to run for parliament independently, Russian Radio reported. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

The Prosecutor's Office has initiated legal proceedings against Rosvooruzhenie for tax evasion and illegal foreign currency dealings, Radio Rossii reported on 15 April. The weapons company, which has a monopoly on the import and export of arms in Russia, has been accused of concealing profits of 137 billion rubles ($27.4 million), thus depriving the state of 44 billion rubles in taxes, and carrying out foreign currency transactions worth $90 million without a license from the Central Bank. According to Reuters on 17 April, Russia exported $1.7 billion worth of arms and military equipment in 1994. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.

About 30% to 40% of Russians earn less than the 249,000 rubles a month viewed as the average minimum subsistence level, Reuters reported on 17 April, citing Vyacheslav Bobkov, head of the All-Russian Center for Living Standards attached to the Labor Ministry. According to Ekho Moskvy, the number of Russians living below the poverty line increased in the first quarter of this year. On 12 April, the Duma approved at the second reading a draft law on the subsistence minimum that would entitle those on low incomes to receive state benefits, Interfax reported. The benefit would be equal to the difference between a family's average per capita income and the official subsistence minimum, which the draft legislation sets at 40% of the average wage. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.

Russia will promote the indefinite extension of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) at the international review conference which opened on 17 April, Interfax reported. Mikhail Kokeyev, a Russian Foreign Ministry official, said the treaty, while not perfect, is the best one available. He said Russia, the U.S., and the U.K. have a common position supporting the treaty. He added that he thought a majority of the treaty's adherents will support an indefinite extension but conference organizers are especially concerned about the reservations of Israel, Mexico, and the Arab countries toward the treaty. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.

Russia requires a "stable setting" to implement the CFE treaty, Defense Minister Pavel Grachev told Interfax on 16 April. He said the situation has changed significantly in the Northern Caucasus since the treaty was signed and the "leaders of the former Soviet Union did a wrong thing agreeing to sign this document." Grachev said there are ways to circumvent the treaty but said he preferred to revise it. He said Russia cannot observe all of the flank restrictions agreed to by the former Soviet Union. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.

Russian nuclear aid to Iran "will undoubtedly lead to the creation of nuclear weapons in Iran," argued two Russian scientists in a letter to Izvestiya published on 18 April. Since the safety aspects of the nuclear reactor are underfunded, the "chief aim is plutonium production and not a safe" power station, the scientists said. They expressed concern at the prospects of an Iranian nuclear weapon, especially after the "colossal harm" done the Islamic people of Chechnya. Nevertheless, they argued that the deal should go ahead because if Russia refrained, another country would provide Iran with the reactors, and "the possibility of big opening," something the "impoverished families of scientists" have been awaiting for several years now. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.

Up to 30 Russian troops were killed on 14 April in two unsuccessful attempts to dislodge supporters of Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev from the village of Bamut in southwestern Chechnya, Russian and Western agencies reported. A Russian military spokesman denied Chechen claims that one Russian fighter aircraft and two combat helicopters were shot down during the assault. Following the Chechen resistance fighters' rejection on 16 April of a Russian ultimatum to surrender their weapons and retreat from the village, Russian artillery bombardment of Bamut resumed on 17 April according to ITAR-TASS. Also on 17 April, Interfax quoted the head of the Chechen Government of National Rebirth, Salambek Khadzhiev, as claiming that both former Russian parliament Chairman Ruslan Khasbulatov and former Chechen-Ingush Obkom First Secretary Doku Zavgaev had rejected an offer to be named Chechen prime minister. Meanwhile, former Chechen parliament Chairman Yusup Soslambekov has drawn up yet another draft proposal, summarized by Interfax, for resolving the Chechen conflict and regulating future relations between Chechnya and the Russian Federation. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.

A new election law is to be submitted to the Azerbaijan People's Assembly shortly and then subjected to a nationwide referendum in preparation for parliamentary elections scheduled for October 1995, according to President Heidar Aliyev as quoted by Interfax on 16 April. A new constitution will also be adopted this year after nationwide discussion. On 17 April, the head of the opposition Democratic Party of Azerbaijan, Leila Yunusova, told a press conference in Baku that the current Azerbaijani leadership is seeking to impose a dictatorship, and therefore seized upon the police rebellion last month as a pretext for large-scale repression even though none of the existing political parties in Azerbaijan had supported the revolt, Interfax reported. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.

Although Russian officials continue to deny that CIS planes are making strikes in Afghanistan, Kabul Radio reported a series of attacks in the Takhar province recently. Provincial officials said the Chai Ab and Farkhar districts were pounded by Russian jets on 11 and 12 April but the worst bombing occurred in Taloqan on 13 April. Estimates cite some 100 dead and 120 wounded in the attack which came on the weekly bazaar day, a time when the city is filled with people from adjoining villages, AFP reported. A European-based emergency relief organization, Medecins Sans Frontieres, received a convoy of medicines in order to treat the victims, according to AFP. Taloqan is considered to be a base for Tajik opposition forces, a Western source said. In response to Moscow's accusations that Afghanistan is aiding the Tajik opposition, Kabul claimed that it has given only "humanitarian aid" to Tajik refugees. The Afghan embassy in Moscow protested the "attack on a foreign country which violated all international rules," AFP reported. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc.

The U.S. oil company Mobil announced that it had concluded a deal with Kazakhstan on 17 April to explore for oil and gas in Kazakhstan's northwestern area. Mobil Oil Tulpar, a subsidiary of Mobil Oil, announced the signing of a joint venture to be called Tulpar Munai which will explore and develop 1.6 million hectares of territory, Interfax reported. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc.


Ukraine's acting Prime Minister Yevhen Marchuk is scheduled to arrive in Moscow on 17 April for further talks with Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets on the Russian-Ukrainian friendship treaty, international agencies reported. The latest round of talks is to focus on the issue of where to base the countries' respective shares of the Black Sea Fleet. On 15 April, Reuters reported that President Yeltsin said he would not sign the treaty unless the Crimean issue is resolved, which represents a departure from Moscow's earlier stance that treated it as an internal Ukrainian affair. It was Yeltsin's first official reaction to Kiev's recent annulment of the Crimean Constitution and the abolition of the Crimean Presidency in March. The moves had led to heated debates in the Russian State Duma and several deputies as well as Crimean officials have been appealing to the Russian government to take decisive steps to protect the Russian majority in Crimea. On 17 April, Yeltsin spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart Leonid Kuchma on the phone and said he would meet with Marchuk during the latest round of talks, Interfax reported. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.

UNIAR on 14 April quoted President Leonid Kuchma as saying he will not dissolve parliament over the dispute on presidential and local powers. But he added that he may organize a poll in May on whether citizens have confidence in the president and in the parliament. Under Ukrainian law, a poll is not legally binding but will strengthen the president's hand in dealing with the legislature. Kuchma has reportedly been considering such a poll since the debate began over his decree on state government and local authority. Also on 14 April, Kuchma issued a decree rescinding five resolutions passed by the Crimean parliament that contravened Ukraine's legislation, UNIAN reported. The resolutions dealt with excise duties, exports, and land rentals in Crimea. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.

Oleksandr Serdyuk, head of Ukraine's nuclear forces control center, said on 17 April that Ukraine has transferred to Russia some 40% of the nuclear arms once on its territory, UNIAN and Interfax reported. Serdyuk was apparently including tactical nuclear weapons in this total, since he confirmed that only 40 of the 176 strategic missiles in Ukraine have been dismantled. He also announced that two more strategic nuclear regiments would be taken off duty at the end of April and the warheads on their 20 SS-19 missiles returned to Russia. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

The Constitutional Court has ruled that President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's decree authorizing state television to issue broadcasting licenses to other companies violates anti-monopoly laws, Reuters reported on 14 April. State television was ordered to reorganize by 1 July. But the court upheld Lukashenka's decree subordinating the state publishing house to the president's office. It also supported Lukashenka's decree on state television and radio. Opposition deputies accused Lukashenka of trying to monopolize the country's electronic media and printing facilities. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.

Alyaksandr Abramovich, head of the Central Election Commission, has said the government has allocated only half of the 68 million Belarusian rubles ($6.5 million) promised to finance the elections, Interfax reported on 17 April. Abramovich warned earlier that the elections may not take place at all because of a lack of funds. He also said that 10% of the registered candidates were disqualified because of violations of the election law. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.

President Lennart Meri on 17 April swore in the new government of Prime Minister Tiit Vahi, BNS reported. Meri pledged his full support for the new government "which has committed itself clearly and unambiguously to the priorities of Estonia's national security--namely, the continuation of reforms and speedy integration into the European Union and European defense structures." The parliament must elect a new deputy chairman, since Edgar Savisaar vacates that post on becoming interior minister and deputy prime minister. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.

Estonian coast guard boats on 14-15 April stopped two Latvian fishing boats near the Estonian island of Ruhnu some 2-3 nautical miles inside its 12-mile economic zone and ordered them to leave, BNS reported on 17 April. Latvia has never agreed to Estonia's unilateral demarcation in March 1993 of its maritime borders in the Bay of Riga. It argues that the borders should be set by an interstate agreement. Latvia's Fish-Farming Board senior specialist Uldis Rinkis said there have been no conflicts between Latvian and Estonian fishermen. He also noted that the number of fish caught by both countries is regulated by the International Baltic Sea Fishing Committee. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.

The World Bank has approved an unusually flexible loan to Lithuania to help strengthen its banking system and support the development of private and newly privatized enterprises, RFE/RL reported on 14 April. The loan consists of $22 million and 4.5 million German marks ($6.3 million). Half is to be repaid in a single payment at the end of 10 years; the other half over 20 years. Sweden has agreed to provide another $10 million to increase the capital funds of commercial banks. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.

Direct foreign investment in the Czech Republic increased by almost 52% in 1994 to $862,400,000, Rude pravo reported on 18 April. Citing data released by the Czech National Bank, the paper said Germany accounted for by far the largest share of last year's investment, with 48.4%. It was followed by Austria (9.2%), France (8.9%), and the U.S. (4.6%). Since the demise of communism, almost $3.1 billion have been invested in the Czech Republic. Volkswagen's stake in the Skoda auto company, which became a majority holding in 1994, is the biggest element in Germany's 36.2% share of the total foreign investment since 1989. The U.S. comes next with 21.2%, followed by France (11.6%), Austria (7%), and Belgium (6%). -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc.

Representatives of the opposition Democratic Union and Party of the Democratic Left, meeting on 13 April to discuss ways to cooperate in the parliament, agreed that "an authoritarian regime with a concentration of economic power" is being built in Slovakia, Narodna obroda and Pravda reported on 15 April. PDL Chairman Peter Weiss warned that the policies of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia are becoming "right-wing to extreme right-wing." DU Chairman Jozef Moravcik added that privatization is benefiting a narrow group of individuals rather than citizens in general. He added that the parliament can ratify the Hungarian-Slovak treaty only after the conflict over the inclusion of Council of Europe Recommendation 1201 is cleared up. Both parties warned that recent declarations by Slovak National Party members glorifying Jozef Tiso, who was Slovak president during World War II, are damaging the country's image abroad. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.

The Hungarian government, in a bid to channel illegal revenues from the black economy to the state budget, has decided to set up a group charged with investigating black market activities, Magyar Hirlap reported on 14 April. Elemer Kiss, state secretary in the Prime Minister's Office, announced that the group will be composed of officials from the National Police Headquarters, the Tax Office, the National Customs and Excise Office, the Border Guards, and the National Security Office. He said the group, to be headed by an official from the Prime Minister's Office, will "strictly apply current legislation and exclude publicity." An additional 250 police officers are to investigate economic crimes. -- Edith Oltay, OMRI, Inc.

At a two-day session of the Bosnian Serb parliament in Sanski Most, General Ratko Mladic spoke for nearly three hours and lambasted the politicians for not doing enough to win the war against the Bosnian government, Nasa Borba reported on 17 April. The BBC said that the Bosnian Serb army is well integrated with the armed forces of Serbia-Montenegro and Krajina and that its only real problem is a shortage of manpower. But Mladic and his fellow officers feel, the broadcast continued, that Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and other civilians are interested in prolonging the conflict so that they can profit from the black market in fuel and other goods. Karadzic nonetheless told the parliament that he will press for a military victory if a political solution proves impossible, Vecernji list reported on 18 April. He also stressed the need to unite the Bosnian Serb territories with Krajina. Nasa Borba, however, stresses that Karadzic's aggressive words ring hollow in view of the deep divisions between the military and civilians. Politika adds that the parliament was characterized by a militant "Patton syndrome." -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

Montenegrin President Momir Bulatovic has said that relations between the Bosnian Serbs and rump Yugoslavia are getting better, according to Nasa Borba on 14 April. Meanwhile in Sarajevo, two French peacekeepers were killed in separate incidents over the Easter weekend. French television showed the second killing, and Minister of Defense Francois Leotard flew to the Bosnian capital to investigate the soldier's death at Serbian hands. The minister threatened to withdraw French peacekeepers unless safety improves, but Politika senses that Leotard's dramatic words may have been prompted chiefly by considerations stemming from the upcoming French presidential election. Vjesnik on 18 April quoted Bosnian Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic as saying that the solution to the conflict in his republic lies in the hands of the international community. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

Nasa Borba on 18 April suggested that relations between Zoran Djindjic, leader of the Democratic Party (DS), and former rump Yugoslav President Dobrica Cosic are improving and may be aimed at a political alliance. The daily quotes Djindjic as saying that Cosic is "one of the people that we [the DS] are counting on" to exercise a decisive influence over Serbian politics. Cosic responded by saying that "I believe in the DS." Also on 18 April, the independent Belgrade daily ran an article suggesting that sources in Russia are aiding Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's crackdown on Serbia's independent media. It reported that shipments of much-needed production materials are being prevented from reaching their destinations in Serbia. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.

A Macedonian border patrol killed a 19-year-old Albanian who illegally crossed the border to Macedonia in the night of 14-15 April, international agencies reported. The Macedonian Interior Ministry said police were tipped off that a criminal group would try to sneak across the border near Debar. There were reports that the man was killed in a shoot-out, but the Albanian Interior Ministry said he died immediately and made no mention of a shoot-out. Reuters quoted the ministry as saying that a "commission of Albanian experts concluded that it was a premeditated killing by Macedonian authorities." Albania has protested the killing. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.

International media on 17 April reported that former Defense Minister Janez Jansa and former Interior Minister Igor Bavcar have been formally charged in connection with a 1992 arms smuggling plot. Police sources confirm that an additional four suspects have also been charged, but so far no names have been released. This is the biggest political scandal to have erupted in independent Slovenia. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.

Radio Bucharest on 17 April reported that the Free Trade Union of Radio and TV Employees has declared the conflict over elections to the Radio and TV Administrative Council reopened. The parliament voted on 4 April to hold new elections for unoccupied seats on the council, and the legislature's committees on the mass media defined the criteria according to which employees can participate in the elections. The Free Trade Union announced it has forwarded to the management proposals on organizing the elections along the lines established by the parliament. It said management's role should be limited to supervising the elections. But management responded that the trade union representatives were elected to negotiate salaries, not organize elections. It also noted that the Free Trade Union is one of five unions representing TV and radio employees and that each should have two representatives participating in the organization and supervision of the elections. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.

The committee representing striking teachers and students in Chisinau decided on 15 April to suspend the protest until 4 May, Radio Bucharest and international agencies reported. The strike will resume if the protesters' demands have not been met by that date. Anatoli Petrenco, leader of the strikers' committee, told Interfax that the decision was taken in the wake of President Mircea Snegur's moratorium on implementing the decree that is to replace Romanian history courses with Moldovan history instruction and his forwarding to the Constitutional Court a draft law on changing Article 13 of the country's constitution. Snegur told the press on 16 April that the bill tends toward defining the state language as Romanian rather than "Moldovan," which is one of the strikers' main demands. Meanwhile, students in the northeastern Romanian town of Iasi held a meeting of solidarity with the Moldovan students on 15 April. They decided to send a delegation to Chisinau that is to "become involved directly" in the events in the Moldovan capital. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.

Local elections were held in Moldova on 16 April, international agencies reported. Radio Bucharest, citing the Moldovan Central Electoral Commission, reported on 17 April that preliminary results indicate that the ruling Agrarian Democratic Party won most of the votes. Turnout was very low in urban areas, including the capital city of Chisinau, where less than 50% of the voters went to the polls. The final results are expected within a few days. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.

The Constitutional Court has ruled that the election of Georges Ganchev to the parliament was illegal, Bulgarian newspapers reported on 14 April. He was stripped of his parliament seat because he had dual citizenship at the time of the December 1994 elections. Under the Bulgarian Constitution, a Bulgarian citizen who holds another citizenship cannot run for the parliament. Ganchev claimed that President Zhelyu Zhelev and the opposition Union of Democratic Forces were responsible for his ousting. He said he would appeal the ruling to the European Court of Justice. Constitutional Judge Mladen Danailov said that Ganchev's dual citizenship was proved in a letter from U.S. Ambassador William Montgomery, Demokratsiya reported. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.

The Socialist parliament majority has passed a controversial amendment to the land restitution law, Reuters reported on 14 April. The amendment states that owners wishing to sell their land have to offer it first to the state, which has two months to decide whether to buy it. It also restricts the right to sell small plots that are part of larger land blocks and to plant crops different from the ones in the rest of the block. The opposition boycotted the vote on the amendment. Vladislav Kostov of the Union of Democratic Forces said his party will take the matter to the Constitutional Court, Demokratsiya reported on 15 April. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.

The Bulgarian, Greek, and Russian foreign ministers have agreed to speed up the construction of a pipeline that will bring Russian crude oil from the Urals via the Bulgarian port of Burgas to the Greek harbor of Alexandroupolis, Reuters reported on 14 April. The $700 million pipeline is to be completed in 1997 and will have a daily capacity of 600,000 barrels of oil. Greek Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias was quoted as saying that experts from the three countries will meet in Moscow soon to discuss details and sign a protocol agreement. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.

Greek Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias and his Russian counterpart, Andrei Kozyrev, on 15 April signed an accord on bilateral relations, AFP reported the same day. Greece will open consulates in Saint Petersburg and Novorossiisk, while Russia will open a consulate in Thessaloniki. Kozyrev said he and Papoulias also discussed cooperation in resolving problems in Bosnia-Herzegovina and elsewhere in the former Yugoslavia. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.

The Black Sea Economic Cooperation organization ended its conference in Athens on 15 April with an agreement to develop an international center to study the economics, industry, and technology of the region, Western agencies reported. Member countries are Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Greece, Georgia, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine. The group failed to agree to a Greek proposal to demand that sanctions against rump Yugoslavia be lifted. But Bulgaria, Moldova, Romania, and Ukraine joined Greece in sending a statement to the UN requesting that the sanctions be lifted because of the long-term damage to the region's economy. Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev said Russia did not add its signature to the statement because it felt it was too far away geographically to be hurt by the embargo. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave