CHERNOMYRDIN BLOC NAMES LEADERS.
First Deputy Prime Minster Oleg
Soskovets and the governor of the Samara Oblast, Konstantin Titov, will be
deputy leaders of Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's new bloc, Interfax
reported 29 April. First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais, Deputy Prime
Minister Sergei Shakhrai, Cabinet Chief of Staff Vladimir Babichev, Labor
Minister Gennady Melikyan, Communications Minister Vladimir Bulgak, Minister
for Emergency Situations Sergei Shoigu, and the Minister for Railroads Gennady
Fadeev will join the steering committee. Industry will be represented by
directors of several industrial concerns. Regional leaders on the committee
include the presidents of Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Kabardino-Balkaria and
North Ossetia, as well as the governors of the Astrakhan, Orenburg, and Orel
regions. Leaders of the deputy groups Stability and New Regional Policies will
also join. At its 29 April meeting, the committee decided that the constituent
congress will take place 12 May. The bloc will be called Our Home--Russia. --
Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.
DERZHAVA LEADER SEES BRIGHT FUTURE FOR NEW BLOC; COMMUNIST DISAGREES.
Viktor Kobelev, Deputy Chairman of former Vice President Alexander
Rutskoi's Derzhava movement, said that Chernomyrdin's bloc had a serious chance
of winning the parliamentary elections, Interfax reported 30 April. He said
that he had been afraid that the authorities would make such a move because
people could now vote for the bloc rather than the communists, the Liberal
Democratic Party, or Derzhava. He said that he would propose that Derzhava
alter its positions to give greater support to the market economy and
liberalization. On the left-center bloc supposed to be led by Duma Speaker Ivan
Rybkin, he said that the president's advisors had let Rybkin down by declaring
that he could head the new bloc, since such an announcement would hurt Rybkin's
standing in the opinion polls. Meanwhile, State Duma Deputy Chairman Gennady
Seleznev, a member of the Communist faction, predicted that the Chernomyrdin
and Rybkin blocs would not survive the election campaign. He said that they
were artificial creations to show visitors in Moscow for the World War II
celebrations that Yeltsin had the elections under control. -- Robert Orttung,
MAY DAY PROTESTS.
Tens of thousands of people took part in May Day
rallies across Russia protesting the policies of President Boris Yeltsin and
the government, Western and Russian agencies reported. Two demonstrations were
staged in Moscow. The first, organized by trade unions, attracted about 15,000
people, according to Interfax. It was addressed by Mikhail Shmakov, the
chairman of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia (FNPR), and
Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov, both of whom spoke of the need for
unity in the run-up to the elections. The second rally, organized by hard-line
communist groups such as Viktor Anpilov's Workers' Russia, was attended by
about 8,000 people carrying red flags and banners displaying traditional
communist slogans. In St. Petersburg, about 20,000 people marched in a rally
sponsored by local trade unions and procommunist movements, which passed a
resolution condemning the government's "criminal" policy and demanding social
safeguards for working people. About 10,000 also took to the streets in
Vladivostok, according to ITAR-TASS. Estimates of the total number of
demonstrators vary widely: the FNPR claims as many as 3 million took part,
double the number it says participated in the union's 12 April day of action,
while police argue that the real figure is "a dozen times less." -- Penny
Morvant, OMRI, Inc.
DUDAEV FORCES IGNORE RUSSIAN CEASEFIRE.
The 14-day unilateral ceasefire
in Chechnya proposed by Russian President Boris Yeltsin was systematically
violated by Chechen forces after going into effect at midnight on 27 April,
Russian and Western agencies reported. In a statement carried by Interfax on 29
April, Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev rejected the ceasefire outright and
called for the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya, while Russian Prime
Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin suggested that the ceasefire could be extended as
a first step towards a lasting peace, according to Western agencies. Also on 29
April, an OSCE delegation visiting the contested village of Bamut was subjected
to machinegun fire from Russian troops, AFP reported. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI,
YELTSIN SIGNS CONSCRIPTION LAW, ADDS DEFERMENTS.
Russian President Boris
Yeltsin on 30 April signed the controversial law on compulsive military service
together with a decree that exempts some graduates and graduate students from
the draft. The new law extends military service for conscripts from 18 to 24
months. Yuri Baturin, Yeltsin's national security advisor, told Interfax that
the president had been inclined not to sign the law but had been swayed by both
the arguments of those who called for steps to ensure the country's security
and those who warned that eliminating all scholastic deferments would cripple
Russian science and state industry. Accordingly, he signed the law but added
the decree giving deferments to certain graduate students and those graduates
who are pursuing their careers in state-run organizations. Defense Minister
Pavel Grachev immediately signed an implementing order calling for the
induction of 209,800 18 to 27 year-olds in the spring draft. -- Doug Clarke,
ROLES OF MEDIA AND GOVERNMENT DISCUSSED AT JOURNALISTS' CONGRESS.
Appearing at the fourth congress of the Union of Russian Journalists, Yeltsin's
chief of staff Sergei Filatov praised the expansion of the free press in
Russia, Interfax reported. Filatov noted that by the end of 1994, 2364
newspapers, 2219 magazines, 304 television programs, 186 radio programs, and
104 information agencies had been registered. He also said the authorities
hoped the mass media would provide "understanding and participation in the
common task of building a new democratic Russia," Russian Television reported
on 28 April. Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai suggested that the
government and journalists sign an agreement on coordinating activities and
"mutual responsibility." However, Party of Economic Freedom leader Konstantin
Borovoi said showing the public "the light at the end of the tunnel" was a job
for the government, not for journalists. Borovoi said the press should be
critical of the authorities. Meanwhile, director of state-owned Radio Mayak
Vladimir Povolyaev told Interfax on 1 May that his company will run out of
money to broadcast by 7 May. Povolyaev complained that budget allocations for
state-run radio account for only 25% of his company's operating expenses. --
Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.
FINANCE MINISTRY AND CENTRAL BANK PROCLAIM MONETARY POLICY SUCCESS.
Russia's monetary and crediting policy has resulted in lower inflation,
according to the Finance Ministry and Central Bank's press service report,
Interfax reported on 30 April. The report estimated the inflation rate for
April at 8%, compared to 17.8% in January, 11% in February and 8.9% in March.
Federal revenues totaled 32.1 trillion rubles and spending amounted to 39.7
trillion rubles in the first quarter. The deficit amounted to 7.6 trillion
rubles, or 3.3% of the gross domestic product (GDP). To cover the federal
budget deficit, non-inflationary measures, such as the issuance of short-term
state bonds and technical credits were undertaken in the first quarter. The
Finance Ministry said it plans to continue to broaden the secondary financial
market. State short-term bonds will be a major instrument in shaping domestic
state debt in 1995 and are expected to generate 20 trillion rubles in income.
Since January, income gained from short-term bonds amounted to 5.4 trillion
rubles. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.
WAGE ARREARS PROBLEM REDUCED IN FIRST QUARTER.
construction, transportation and agricultural enterprises reduced their wage
debt in the first quarter, Interfax reported on 30 April. Goskomstat (the State
Statistics Committee) said that industrial enterprises, two-thirds of which are
machine-building and fuel and energy enterprises, accounted for about 54% of
the total debt of 5.687 billion rubles as of 1 April. In the gas sector, the
wage debt to the average worker stood at 1.4 million rubles as of 1 April; in
the oil sector 900,000 rubles and in the coal industry 700,000 rubles, which
equals the average monthly wage in these industries in February 1995.
Goskomstat also reported that medical and educational institutions failed to
pay 9% and 11%, respectively, of the salaries to its workers in February. --
Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.
RUBLE DROPS AGAINST DOLLAR.
The Russian ruble lost 16 points against the
dollar on 28 April with MICEX trading closing at 5,116 rubles/$1, the Financial
Information Agency reported. Initial demand was $123.99 while supply was $88.45
million. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.
RYBKIN: AMERICAN AID INADEQUATE.
The chairman of the Russian State Duma,
Ivan Rybkin, complained on 1 May that the United States has not fully delivered
on its promise to give aid to Russia, The New York Times reported 2 May.
In talks with U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, Rybkin said Russians are
becoming increasingly displeased with the U.S. failure to provide promised aid
for housing relocated Russian soldiers and dismantling nuclear submarines.
Rybkin suggested that this could lead to more Russians voting for
ultranationalists in parliamentary elections. Rybkin did indicate that "an
acceptable formula" could be reached on the Russian agreement to provide
nuclear aid to Iran, which the Clinton adminstration would like to see halted.
According to ITAR-TASS on 2 May, Rybkin also met with Vice President Albert
Gore and separately with Secretary of State Warren Christopher and his deputy
Strobe Talbott. NATO expansion, the Iranian nuclear deal, the prospects for
ratfiying START II, and the Russian law on foreign investment were reportedly
discussed. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.
KOZYREV REJECTS USE OF FORCE ON BEHALF OF RUSSIANS ABROAD.
Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev rejected the use of force and even economic
pressure as a means to protect Russian, Russian-speaking and other minorites in
the "near abroad" in a 29 April speech in the United States, ITAR-TASS reported
the same day. Nevertheless, in a reference to the Helsinki Final Act of 1975,
Kozyrev noted that that principle of "non-interference" in the domestic affairs
of other states does not apply to the protection of the rights of minorities
and said Russia will continue to act to protect the rights of Russians abroad.
-- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.
REFERENDUM RESULTS IN KAZAKHSTAN.
In a referendum held on 29 April,
95.4% of the ballots cast supported extending the rule of Kazakh President
Nursultan Nazarbayev until December 2000, Western and Russian media reported.
Of 8.9 million registered voters, 91.3% turned out to vote. Nazarbayev, whilst
committing himself to a full liberalization course and promising parliamentary
elections this year, interpreted the results of the referendum as a decisive
"no" to "trouble and tremors in society." He termed talk of his rule being
increasingly dictatorial as "baseless and irresponsible." Speaking at a press
conference after the referendum, he suggested that key legislation, notably on
private land ownership and the status of the Russian language, would also be
put to a popular vote. Criticism of the referendum and its results in
Kazakhstan have been limited to small groups such as the Kazakh nationalists
connected to Azat or Alash or the pro-Slav Lad movement. -- Lowell Bezanis,
RADIOACTIVE MATERIAL FOUND AT BAKU AIRPORT.
A container with 763
kilograms of caesium-137, americium-241 and beryllium sent from Amsterdam in
December 1993 but never claimed has been discovered at Baku airport, according
to AFP of 29 April quoting the Azerbaijan Procurator-general. -- Liz Fuller,
MAY DAY RALLIES IN UKRAINE PROTEST ECONOMIC REFORMS.
leftists throughout Ukraine marked May Day by protesting President Leonid
Kuchma's market-oriented reforms, Interfax-Ukraine and UNIAR reported the same
day. Between 4,000 and 5,000 people rallied in Kiev and were addressed by such
leftist leaders as parliament speaker Oleksander Moroz and Ukrainian Communist
Party Chairman Petro Symonenko. In the Crimean capital of Simferopol, some
3,000 to 5,000 residents protested Kiev's recent crackdown on Crimean
separatism and demanded Kuchma's resignation. Several thousand so-called
national democrats held an alternative rally in Kiev calling for
anti-communists to unite against the leftist movement. -- Chrystyna
Lapychak, OMRI, Inc.
BELARUSIAN ELECTION UPDATE.
Segodnya on 28 April reported that
the Belarusian media have refrained from reporting on the election campaign so
as not to anger President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who has threatened severe
penalties against publications that write about any candidate. Candidates are
allowed to spend only $50 on their campaigns, which is sufficient to print one
plain leaflet per 15 voters. A mere 20 billion Belarusian rubles have been
allotted for the elections, while more than 100 billion rubles have been set
aside for World War II victory celebrations. The first round of the elections
are scheduled to take place on 14 May. Runoff elections are unlikely,
especially if the nationalist opposition (which is highly critical of
Lukashenka) fares well. According to media reports, many voters do not know the
names of candidates in their districts or even when the elections are to take
place. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.
ESTONIAN FOREIGN POLICY TO REMAIN UNCHANGED.
New Estonian Prime Minister
Tiit Vahi, in a speech to foreign diplomats in Tallinn on 28 April, said he
will make no changes in the country's foreign policy, BNS reported. Vahi noted
that the main objectives were normalization of relations with Russia and
integration into European structures. He said that Foreign Minister Riivo
Sinijarv is scheduled to sign an association agreement with the European Union
on 29 May. The next priority will then be joining GATT or the World Trade
Organization. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.
LATVIA DEPORTS ASIAN REFUGEES AGAIN.
Latvia on 28 April expelled again
the five refugees whom it sent to Russia on 26 April but who were returned the
next day, BNS reported. One of the refugees, an Indian whose documents showed
that he had arrived from Belarus and not Russia, was sent to Belarus. An Afghan
woman with three children who had not completed all departure formalities was
sent to an unnamed CIS country. Interior Ministry Police Department Head Aldis
Lieljuksis told a press conference that four Kurdish refugees who were being
held at the Olaine detention camp would also be deported to Belarus at their
own request. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.
BRZEZINSKI IN LITHUANIA.
President Jimmy Carter's national security
adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, addressed a Polish-Lithuanian conference in
Vilnius on 29-30 April. Brzezinski, meeting with Lithuanian President Algirdas
Brazauskas on 1 May, said that Lithuania has made great progress in reforms but
much more was needed to be accepted as a member of the European Union, RFE/RL
reported. Brzezinski also held talks with Foreign Minister Povilas Gylys and
gave a lecture at the University of Vilnius. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.
POLISH FOREIGN MINISTER ADDRESSES GERMAN PARLIAMENT.
Bartoszewski, a survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp, addressed the two
chambers of the German parliament on 28 April in a session held to mark the
50th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe. He recalled how Stalin
had prevented Poland from being recognized as one of the victorious allies at
the end of the war. Bartoszewski, the only foreign speaker invited to the
commemorative session, appealed to the West not to sell out Poland again
because of Russian interests. He received a standing ovation. Bartoszewski was
only the fourth foreign dignitary to address the German parliament. The
previous three were presidents: Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and Francois
Mitterrand. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc.
GERMAN PRESIDENT IN CZECH REPUBLIC.
Roman Herzog arrived in the Czech
Republic on 1 May for a two-day private visit at the invitation of President
Vaclav Havel, Czech media reported. Havel, in his regular weekly radio talk on
30 April, said the Czech-German dialog has begun to accelerate recently and
should help remove obstacles to improving bilateral relations. Herzog is due on
2 May to lay a wreath at the Terezin (Theresienstadt) concentration camp, north
of Prague, to mark the 50th anniversary of its liberation. -- Steve Kettle,
SLOVAK OPPOSITION TO REMOVE EDUCATION MINISTER?
Opposition deputy Jan
Langos, at a press conference on 28 April, said the participation of Eva
Slavkovska in the current government "damages the interests of Slovakia on its
path to the EU and NATO." He added that the opposition will try to remove
Slavkovska from her post at the next parliament session, scheduled to begin on
3 May. Reasons for the decision include Slavkovska's past as a historian, when
she took part in "a falsification of history," as well as her moves against the
Hungarian minority, particularly the decision to implement "alternative"
(bilingual) education in Hungarian schools, CTK reported. Slavkovska recently
attended an exhibit celebrating the achievements of Slovakia's World War II
President Jozef Tiso. The opposition Party of the Democratic Left has said that
the governing Movement for a Democratic Slovakia and the Association of Workers
should distance themselves from attempts by Slavkovska's Slovak National Party
to rehabilitate Tiso. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.
HUNGARIAN PUBLIC EMPLOYEES DEMONSTRATE.
About 5,000 public employees,
mostly teachers, marched through Budapest on 1 May to protest planned
government austerity measures, Western news agencies reported. Laszlo Kispap,
chairman of the Union of Higher Education Teachers, warned that planned tuition
fees of 2,000 forint per month for university students "will spell the end of
equal opportunity." Until now, higher education has been free in Hungary. Union
members representing government employees also took part in the rallies to
protest plans to cut ministry staff by 10-20%. -- Edith Oltay, OMRI, Inc.
HUNGARIAN PARTY CHANGES ITS NAME, RE-ELECTS PRESIDENT.
smallest parliament party, the Alliance of Young Democrats, voted
overwhelmingly on 30 April to add "Hungarian Civic Party" to its Hungarian
acronym, FIDESZ. It also re-elected its 31-year-old leader, Victor Orban,
Western news agencies reported. The party is seeking new political allies after
its former liberal associate, the Alliance of Free Democrats, joined a
coalition government with the Hungarian Socialist Party. Orban said surveys
showed that most of his party's supporters are in favor of an alliance with the
center-right Hungarian Democratic Forum and Christian Democratic People's
Party. -- Edith Oltay, OMRI, Inc.
CROATIA LAUNCHES NEW OFFENSIVE.
At dawn on 1 May, several thousand
Croatian troops began an attack from the north, west, and east into Sector West
of Krajina. It was the Croatian army's biggest offensive since Operation
Maslenica in January 1993, which also had the stated goal of a limited
strategic objective. The current thrust officially aims at securing the section
of the Zagreb-Belgrade highway between Novska and Nova Gradiska following a
series of incidents there on 28-29 April. But Croatian forces also took several
villages and UN observation posts not only in Sector West but in Sector South
as well. Troops in Sector West captured the site of the World War II
concentration camp at Jasenovac and seem to be trying to take Okocani to the
north of the highway. On 1-2 May, the Croats also sought unsuccessfully to bomb
the bridge connecting Krajina with Bosanska Gradiska and Bosnian Serb supply
routes beyond. International media added that the UN Security Council on 1 May
called on the Croats to end their attack, while UN mediators tried to hammer
out some sort of cease-fire agreement between Croats and Serbs. -- Patrick
Moore, OMRI, Inc.
WHAT LIES BEHIND THE CROATIAN ATTACK?
The size, speed, and scope of the
attack suggest that it was well planned in advance and that the incidents on
the highway, including the fatal stabbing of a Serb at a gasoline station, may
not have been entirely spontaneous. Vecernji list on 2 May referred to
the operation going according to plan, while Nasa Borba on 29 April
noted that President Franjo Tudjman was holding a series of mass meetings aimed
at mobilizing support for him and his government. The state-run media in
Croatia have joined in the enthusiasm for the current offensive. Vjesnik ran a
headline on 2 April calling it "a legitimate act of self-defense." The timing
of the move is also suspect, coming just as the Bosnian cease-fire expires and
UNCRO's mandate is about to be more clearly defined. Zagreb may well have
calculated that a thrust aimed at securing the free flow of traffic on the
highway would bring it little criticism from abroad. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI,
WHAT WILL THE SERBS DO?
The first important response by Krajina forces
in Sector West was to retrieve their big guns stored under UN supervision. But
Sector West is their weak link and was reassigned to Croatia under the Z-4
peace plan earlier this year. International media on 2 May quoted Krajina
leader Milan Martic as threatening to shell Croatian cities. Bosnian Serb
leader Radovan Karadzic promised help; and on 1 May, his men shelled Dubrovnik.
It appears, however, that the Croats and Bosnian government forces may be
launching a concerted campaign to force the Serbs to fight on several fronts at
once and thereby prevent them from concentrating their overextended forces. The
obvious question now is not only what can Knin and Pale do to regain their
footing but what will Belgrade do to back them. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI,
BOSNIAN CEASE-FIRE ENDS.
As the cease-fire in Bosnia-Herzegovina came to
an end on 1 May, Yasushi Akashi, UN envoy to the former Yugoslavia, expressed
hope that hostilities would not escalate, AFP reported on 1 May. Akashi, who
was in Sarajevo attempting to hammer out a new cease-fire agreement to no
avail, said "each of the parties has separately assured me that it will
demonstrate maximum restraint." Prior to the expiry of the cease-fire, the BBC
on 29 April reported that two Galeb fighters entered Bosnian's northwestern
Bihac pocket from the Serb-occupied Croatian region of Krajina. In a separate
development, Bosnian Serb forces shelled the central Bosnian town of Maglaj on
29 April, using phosphorus bombs. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.
BULGARIAN PREMIER, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT IN ROMANIA.
during a one-day visit to Romania on 28 April, met with President Ion Iliescu
and his Romanian counterpart, Nicolae Vacaroiu. The two premiers said at a
joint press conference that it was necessary to strengthen economic cooperation
in the areas of transportation networks (including the construction of a new
bridge over the Danube) and tourism, Radio Bucharest reported the same day.
They also agreed to increase collaboration on joint foreign policy aims, such
as integration into European structures and compensation for losses suffered as
a result of the embargo on rump Yugoslavia. Meanwhile, former U.S. President
George Bush paid a two-day private visit to Romania at the invitation of Invest
Group, an organization uniting private entrepreneurs. Bush, in a speech
broadcast live by Radio Bucharest on 29 April, said that Bucharest must
accelerate economic reforms if the 1989 revolution is not to become a
meaningless event. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.
ROMANIAN TV STAFF RE-ELECT COUNCIL REPRESENTATIVES.
Liiceanu and Neculai Constantin Munteanu, a former RFE/RL editor, head the list
of four candidates elected by Romanian TV employees to represent them on the
Radio and TV Administrative Council, Radio Bucharest reported on 28 April. The
TV staff has thus ignored the stance of the major coalition partner, the Party
of Social Democracy in Romania, that only TV employees can be elected to the
council. Both Liiceanu and Munteanu were elected on 25 July 1994, the first
time a ballot for the council was held. Liiceanu refused to appear before the
Senate's commission on mass media because that body is chaired by former
dictator Nicolae Ceausescu's court poet Adrian Paunescu. Munteanu's candidacy
was endorsed by the parliament commissions on mass media but failed to receive
the backing of the parliament's joint plenum. The latest elections were held in
order to fill the council seats that remained unoccupied after the
legislature's vote on 4 April (see OMRI Daily Digest, 5 April 1995). --
Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.
MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT SAYS UNIFICATION WITH ROMANIA NOT POSSIBLE.
Snegur told a Japanese publication that he sees no possibility whatever for
Moldova to be reunified with Romania, Radio Bucharest reported on 29 April,
citing the BBC. He said Moldova will remain independent and expressed the hope
that future bilateral relations will be similar to those between the U.S. and
Canada. Moldova, he added, will continue to make efforts to forge close links
with Bucharest, including taking such steps as abolishing visa requirements and
setting up a free exchange zone between the two countries. -- Michael Shafir,
MOLDOVAN LEADER SAYS RUSSIA OPPOSES 14TH ARMY WITHDRAWAL.
Andronic, deputy chairman of the Moldovan parliament, told Interfax on 28 April
that Russia opposes the withdrawal of the 14th Army and that Chisinau must seek
the support of international organizations on the matter. Also on 28 April,
Interfax reported that the Russian Foreign Ministry released a statement saying
that the 14th army "plays an important positive role in stabilizing the
situation" in the Transdniester region and that its withdrawal should not be
"immediate and hasty." In a related development, Interfax reported that the
commander of the 14th Army, General Alexander Lebed, received a Defense
Ministry directive dated 19 April stating that the army's 220-strong officer
corps must be halved. Lebed said he would resign if forced to abandon his own
proposed plans for reform. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.
COUNCIL OF EUROPE SETS CONDITIONS FOR MOLDOVA, ALBANIA.
Committee of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly has linked Moldova
and Albania's admission to the council with progress on human rights, Radio
Bucharest and Reuters reported on 28 March. The Assembly will vote in June
whether to grant Moldova and Albania membership status. The committee said
membership for Moldova should be tied to its treatment of separatists in the
Dniester region and that Albania should abolish the death penalty and ratify
the European convention on safeguarding minority rights. -- Michael Shafir,
BULGARIAN SOCIALISTS HOLD MAY DAY RALLY.
The ruling Bulgarian Socialist
Party, for the first time since the demise of communism, celebrated May Day
with a rally, AFP reported. Prime Minister and BSP Chairman Zhan Videnov said
that "the situation that we have inherited is especially serious" and that
people are "living poorly and with difficulty." He noted that the government is
committed to its pre-election promises and will continue to fight inflation and
unemployment. Some 30,000 people took part in the rally, but the Confederation
of Independent Trade Unions refused to participate. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI,
BULGARIAN OPPOSITION HOLDS NATIONAL CONFERENCE, REELECTS LEADER.
Union of Democratic Forces, at its seventh National Conference on 29-30 April,
re-elected Ivan Kostov as chairman of the National Coordinating Council,
Demokratsiya reported on 2 May. It also established a National Executive
Council, which will take decisions between sessions of the Coordinating
Council. The latter's membership was enlarged from 15 to 140 to include
representatives of parliament factions and regional organizations. The
conference abolished a ban on former communist party members becoming members
of the UDF. Kostov said that the UDF must be open to all non-socialist voters
and must broaden its program beyond anti-communist rhetoric. The conference
proposed the cooperation of all non-socialist forces in the October local
elections. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.
ALBANIAN POLICE BAN MAY DAY DEMONSTRATIONS.
May Day demonstrations
planned by the Confederation of Albanian Trade Unions in Tirana were banned by
the police, Koha Jone reported on 29 April. Only private meetings
outside the city were reportedly allowed. Police argued that demonstrations in
downtown Tirana would endanger public order and cause traffic chaos in the
capital. Meanwhile, more than 3,000 people on 29 April protested the killing of
an Albanian by Montenegrin border guards two weeks earlier, international
agencies reported the same day. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.
ALBANIA CLOSES BORDERS TO KURDISH IMMIGRANTS.
Following reports about
the illegal smuggling by boat of mainly Kurdish, Chinese, and Pakistani
immigrants from Albania to Italy, Albania has closed its borders to Kurdish
immigrants, Koha Jone reported on 30 April. The Interior Ministry
allegedly ordered border checkpoints to refuse entrance to all those people
"who have no justified reason" to enter the country, international agencies
reported. Albania does not require visas for Turkish and many other citizens,
but media reports failed to say whether visa requirements are now in force. --
Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.
[As of 12:00 CET]
Compiled by Pete Baumgartner and Jan Cleave