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Newsline - May 2, 1995

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.

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, OMRI, Inc.

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.

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, Inc.

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, OMRI, Inc.

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.

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.

Russia's industrial, 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.

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.

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.

Russian 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.

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, OMRI, Inc.

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, OMRI, Inc.

Thousands of 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.

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.

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 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.

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.

Wladyslaw 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.

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, OMRI, Inc.

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.

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.

Hungary's 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.

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.

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, Inc.

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, Inc.

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.

Zhan Videnov, 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.

Philosopher Gabriel 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.

Mircea 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, OMRI, Inc.

Nicolae 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.

The Political 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, OMRI, Inc.

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, Inc.

The 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.

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.

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