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Newsline - May 16, 1995


Vol. 1, No. 94, 16 May 1995
Cosmonaut Col. Gen. German Titov won the State Duma seat in the Moscow region's 107th Kolomna constituency, Russian and Western agencies reported on 15 May. In a crowded field of eleven candidates, Titov won the by-election with just 44,000 votes, or 8.5% of the ballots cast. Factory director Mikhail Guberman received about 38,000 votes (7.3%), and former model Yelena Mavrodi, wife of the MMM investment fund chief Sergei Mavrodi, won 26,500 votes (5.1%). Lt. Col. Stanislav Terekhov, leader of the military dissident group Officers' Union, came in fourth with some 23,000 votes (4.4%). Ultra-nationalist Alexei Vedenkin was far behind the leaders. On 16 May, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported that the Kolomna results confirmed the Communist Party's position as the favorite before nationwide parliamentary elections in December. The Kolomna seat was previously held by Liberal Democratic Party deputy Sergei Skorochkin, who was murdered in February. -- Laura Belin and Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

Shattering rumors that he had agreed to cooperate with Yegor Gaidar, Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky announced, "There will be no parliamentary electoral bloc between Yabloko and Russia's Choice under any circumstances," Ekho Moskvy reported on 15 May. On 14 May, in a joint live appearance with Gaidar on NTV, Yavlinsky had suggested forming a partnership of democratic forces for parliamentary and presidential elections. Gaidar welcomed Yavlinsky's proposal as "sensible and constructive" and said his party would discuss a possible electoral alliance with Yabloko. However, the next day Yavlinsky ruled out a united democratic front, noting "essential differences" between his party and Russia's Choice. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

Declaring his intention to concentrate on economic issues instead of campaign activities, First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais suspended his membership in the Russia's Democratic Choice party and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's bloc Our Home Is Russia until the December parliamentary elections, Interfax reported on 15 May. The move resolves a dilemma for Chubais, who was caught between the "party of the idea" and the "party of power," Izvestiya suggested on 16 May. Chubais has long been one of the leading figures of Russia's Democratic Choice, along with Yegor Gaidar, but on 29 April, as a high-ranking cabinet member, he was named to the steering committee of Chernomyrdin's bloc. On 10 May, Gaidar announced that his party would not join Our Home Is Russia and would consider the question of Chubais' simultaneous participation in both parties. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.

The Sheremetevo pilots' union called on its members to work to rule for a week beginning 15 May, but airline officials say flights are operating normally, Russian and Western agencies reported. An Aeroflot official said "more than 90% of scheduled international flights from Moscow left according to schedule on Monday. We had only five flights delayed for several minutes because of technical problems," Reuters reported. Kuranty (no. 87) speculated that the central aim of the action was to demonstrate to the company's general director that the union is still a powerful force. The latter has staged a number of protests in recent months to demand changes in Aeroflot's privatization plan. Two strikes announced last month were called off at the last minute, but Aeroflot is suing the union for damages in lost ticket sales. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.

Aman Tuleev, a Federation Council deputy and chairman of the Kemerovo Oblast legislative assembly, has set up an electoral bloc uniting various communist, agrarian, and trade union groups in the Kuzbass, Sovetskaya Rossiya reported on 16 May. In an interview with the paper, Tuleev said his aim is to combat "the party of power" and the threat of a "powerful dictatorship of the executive over the legislative branch." He wants to change the "anti-popular" course of reform and restore the Soviets. Tuleev claims that funds from the state budget will be used to support the campaign of the Kemerovo Oblast administration. He says he has been refused permission to speak on live television. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.

Sergei Yushenkov, chairman of the State Duma Defense Committee, suggested on 15 May that Russia should be given associate membership in NATO. Interfax quoted him as saying such a relationship "would contribute to the formation of a new security system in the framework of OSCE on the basis of existing NATO structures." The treaty does not provide for associate membership and NATO governments have always rejected such proposals. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

Individuals from the OSCE permanent mission in Chechnya seeking the whereabouts of Fred Cuny, a former adviser to the Open Society Institute who has been missing since April, came under fire from Russian units on 13 May, Hungarian Radio reported on 15 May. Earlier reports that a member of the OSCE team had been killed in the incident that occurred in the Shali district were later denied, according ITAR-TASS on 14 May. Hungarian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gabor Szentivanyi stressed that the individuals involved, including the American member of the delegation, were acting under the auspices of the U.S., not the OSCE. Szentivanyi said the incident is under investigation. Meanwhile, a body believed to be Cuny's was found near Geldugin in the Chechen Shali region, Interfax reported on 15 May. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.

Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev is heading a high level delegation to China to discuss military cooperation, international agencies reported on 15 May. Chinese Defense Minister Chi Haotian hailed Grachev as "an old friend of the Chinese army." They are scheduled to discuss the possibility of allowing Beijing to manufacture Sukhoi-27 aircraft under license and further arms sales. Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry expressed "regret and anxiety" that the Chinese exploded a nuclear device on 14 May, ITAR-TASS reported the next day. The ministry statement said China's action does not promote "a favorable atmosphere for the multilateral Geneva talks on a comprehensive ban on nuclear tests," which Moscow supports. Grachev said, "Russia responded calmly to the nuclear test, conducted by China, but is following closely the developments connected with it." The Kazakh government has also made an official protest, according to Reuters. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.

The giant Leningrad Northern Military Complex in St. Petersburg--which produces Russia's latest S-300 air defense system among other military products--is on the verge of financial collapse according to an article in the latest edition of the English-language St. Petersburg Press. The paper reported that the plant owes 2 billion rubles ($400,000) to the local water and electric power authorities and another 1.5 billion rubles ($300,000) to the city's pensioners' fund. Its workers have not been paid since January and the money recently allocated by the federal government to help pay the salaries would cover only 80% of those owed for January alone. The factory's directory said only a small portion of the complex is operating at below normal levels "thanks to the workers' sense of responsibility and understanding." The management has high hopes for a project to build civilian helicopters for CIS countries if they can raise the capital to carry it out. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.

The Russian ruble strengthened 32 points against the dollar in 15 May MICEX trading closing at 5,056 rubles to $1, Russian and Western agencies reported. After losing more than 30% of its value against the dollar in the first quarter, the ruble has rebounded to gain nearly 1% and economists attribute the surge partly to moves by the Central Bank, including a sharp tightening of banks' currency reserve requirements and high yields on government treasury bills that make them more profitable to invest in than the dollar. But pressures are expected to increase on the government to loosen its monetary policy, especially from export related industries such as oil and gas producers who lose money when the ruble rises. Igor Doronin, a MICEX analyst, said the surging ruble could prove dangerous for the economy if it continued, fueling inflation if people sell their hard-currency savings and spend them. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

The Russian government issued a resolution confirming the new import customs duties which came into effect on 10 May, Interfax reported on 15 May. The tariff provides for a maximum duty of 30%, except on alcohol, tobacco, and some luxury goods. Import duties on all other goods vary from nothing to 30%. The zero duty was "imposed" on raw materials which Russia does not have. The key feature of the new tariff is that the import duties on food products were raised in an effort to protect national agricultural producers from competition with cheaper Western products. Import duties on meat and meat products were raised from 8% to 15%, on poultry from 20% to 25%, on sausage from 8% to 20%, on butter from 15% to 20%, on fish from 5% to 10%, on white sugar from 20% to 25%, and on vegetables from 5% to 15%. Russia set 10% import duties for roasted coffee beans and packaged tea. Import duties on milk and dairy products remain at 15%. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.

Russian Minister of Foreign Trade Oleg Davydov doubts the effectiveness of the new import duty measures that will cause imported food prices to rise an average of 17% to 20%. In a 15 May interview with Interfax, Davydov said the move to protect Russian food producers from foreign competitors would only be effective if it stimulated the supply of Russian produced foodstuffs on the domestic market. However, the persistent shortages of domestic meat, vegetable oil, and sugar will bring about the opposite results, he said. The minister explained that the increase in import tariffs on meat and vegetable oil in 1994 caused prices of those products to rise and destabilized the food market. As a result, President Yeltsin issued a directive to sharply lower customs duties on meat and vegetable oil. Davydov said the new tariff scheme may seriously complicate talks on Russia's membership in the GATT and the World Trade Organization (WTO), the first round of which is to begin sometime in June. -- Thomas Sigel, OMRI, Inc.


Vol. 1, No. 94, 16 May 1995
Tajik opposition leader Sayid Abdullo Nuri was flown by an Afghan military helicopter to Kabul on 15 May in preparation for a meeting with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov on 17 May, according to Reuters. Tajik government officials including Security Minister Saidamar Zukhurov and Deputy Foreign Minister Erik Rahmatulayev arrived in the Afghan capital on the previous day to hold preliminary talks with the opposition. According to a Tajik Foreign Ministry statement, the talks will focus on socio-political stability, the situation on the Tajik-Afghan border, and the repatriation of Tajik refugees in Afghanistan would be on the agenda. The meeting in Kabul could lay the groundwork for the fourth round of peace talks scheduled to be held in Almaty, Kazakhstan on 22 May, AFP reported. Within the last week, at least six Tajik servicemen, a Tajik police officer, and 10 rebels were killed. Also more than 20 people were arrested in connection with a plot to assassinate the Tajik president, Interfax reported. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc.

Former Defense Minister Rahim Gaziev has been sentenced to death in absentia by a Baku court on charges of embezzling $500,000 and surrendering the towns of Shusha and Lachin to Armenian forces in the spring of 1992, AFP reported on 14 May quoting Turan news agency. Gaziev was arrested in November 1993 but escaped from the Baku prison where he was being held in September 1994. He is currently in Moscow. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.


Following the UN Security Council's decision on 11 May to extend the mandate of its 136-man observer force in Abkhazia until January 1996, Russian Foreign Ministry officials told Interfax on 15 May that although no firm decision had been taken on renewing the mandate of the Russian peacekeeping troops currently deployed there under the auspices of the CIS, "there is no talk" about their withdrawal once their mandate expires on 15 May. Georgian Defense Minister Lt. Gen. Vardiko Nadibaidze similarly told Interfax that a proposal by the Georgian and Abkhaz leaderships that the Russian peacekeepers remain in Abkhazia through 1995 had been approved at the CIS Defense Ministers' April meeting in Moscow, and the final decision would be endorsed at the CIS summit on 26 May. On 10 May, Georgian refugees forced to flee Abkhazia in 1993 had appealed to UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali and to the Russian and Georgian leaderships not to extend the peacekeepers' mandate before the large-scale repatriation of refugees begins. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.


Vol. 1, No. 94, 16 May 1995


Belarusian and international news agencies reported on 15 May that 64.7% of all registered voters in Belarus cast ballots in the elections to the country's first post-Soviet parliament. In the referendum on closer ties with Russia, all four questions proposed by Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka were overwhelmingly approved: 83.1% agreed that Russian have equal status with Belarusian as a state language; 82.4% voted in favor of Lukashenka's efforts at economic integration with Russia; 75% supported the return of Belarus's Soviet-era state emblem and flag, and 77.6% favored giving the president the authority to dissolve the parliament if it violated the constitution. Only the results of the first three questions are legally binding. ITAR-TASS reported that only 18 out of a total 260 seats in the new parliament were filled because of the large number of registered candidates (some 2,400). The second round of elections, scheduled for 28 May, will limit the race to the top vote-getters in each district. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc.

The foreign ministers of Belarus and Ukraine initialed a bilateral friendship and cooperation treaty on 15 May in Minsk, Interfax reported the same day. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Henadii Udovenko arrived in the Belarusian capital on 15 May for two days of talks with his Belarusian counterpart, Uladzimir Senko. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc.

Serhii Parashin, director of the Chornobyl nuclear power plant, told journalists that a plan devised by Ukrainian experts on the gradual decommissioning of the facility was being presented to the Ukrainian government on 15 May, international agencies reported the same day. He said the timetable depended on Western financing for construction of an alternative gas-fired power station and rebuilding a cracked concrete sarcophagus encasing Chornobyl's fourth reactor. Parashin added that the plan called for the gradual shutdown of the two remaining reactors, as alternative power units were introduced to replace the 7% of energy provided by the Chornobyl plant. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc.

Juri Tikk, the Estonian government special representative to Paldiski, has said that Russia will spend 17 billion rubles ($3.4 million) on dismantling the nuclear reactors and cleaning up environmental damage at the former submarine base, BNS reported on 15 May. Tikk said that Russia was planning to cover one of the reactor bodies with concrete and remove from Estonia all other remaining equipment by the end of September, when Russian crews working at the base must leave. Sweden and the U.S. have also promised to assist Estonia financially to reduce the environmental damage around the base. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.

Algirdas Brazauskas has signed the controversial alcohol control law passed by the Seimas in April, BNS reported on 15 May. The law provides for stricter rules on liquor sales and bans the advertising of alcohol on television, radio, and newspapers. Under the new legislation, the sale of alcohol exceeding 100% proof as well as home-made beer and wine is banned and no alcohol may be sold before 11:00 a.m. Only one liquor license can be issued per 1,000 residents in urban areas and per 500 in rural districts. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.

Eight high-ranking officers, including General Edmund Bula, former chief of military intelligence services, went on trial on 15 May in Warsaw charged with the illegal destruction of intelligence files, Polish media reported. A special commission found that some 20,000 files have been secretly destroyed since July 1989. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc.

President Vaclav Havel on 15 May formally protested to Russian President Boris Yeltsin over the presence of troops involved in the Chechen conflict at the 9 May parade in Moscow marking the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, Czech media reported. The protest was delivered by the head of Havel's office, Lubos Dobrovsky, to Russian Ambassador Alexander Lebedev. While attending the Moscow celebrations, Havel said Russian authorities broke a promise that only World War II veterans would take part in the military parade. Havel also sent Yeltsin a personal letter expressing deep concern about the new Russian offensive in Chechnya and urging the Russian president to halt military operations there. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc.

National Bank of Slovakia Governor Vladimir Masar, in a report released on 15 May, said monthly inflation in April stood at 0.4% and annual inflation at 11.2%. He also noted that the bank's foreign currency reserves exceeded $2.3 billion by 10 May. Moody's Investors Service on 15 May granted Slovakia an investment grade rating of Baa3. Of the countries in the region, only the Czech Republic has a higher rating (Baa2). Premier Vladimir Meciar, speaking on Slovak Radio on 15 May, said the abolition of the Czech-Slovak trade clearing agreement will not mean the devaluation of the Slovak koruna. He also stressed that, like the Czech Republic, Slovakia is preparing for external convertibility of its currency. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.

Hungarian Television president Adam Horvath on 15 May announced that Janos Betlen, editor-in-chief of the major newscast, is to be replaced, Magyar Nemzet reported. Betlen was appointed to that post last summer, and his programs have been repeatedly criticized by the Hungarian Socialist Party, including Prime Minister Gyula Horn, for alleged bias and insufficient coverage of the government's views. The opposition parties protested Betlen's dismissal and accused the government of conducting political purges. Betlen's replacement comes in the wake of government plans to dismiss 1,000 television personnel. While the government says the cuts are a necessary cost-saving measure, the opposition and Hungarian TV staff believe they are politically motivated and endanger the independence of television. -- Edith Oltay, OMRI, Inc.

Foreign and defense ministers from the six East European states that have European Union association agreements as well as the three Baltic states attended the Western European Union semi-annual ministerial meeting in Lisbon on 15 May, international agencies reported the same day. The meeting agreed, among other things, to bolster the WEU's operational capabilities. All 27 European countries attending the meeting endorsed a report defining the new security threats facing the continent, including unresolved border disputes, terrorism, organized crime, migration, and proliferation of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. The East European states are not full members of the WEU, which is the nascent defense arm of the EU. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.


Vol. 1, No. 94, 16 May 1995
Bosnian Serb forces regrouped on 15 May after largely failing to dent Croatian lines following a week-long offensive. Croatian troops successfully repulsed attacks on Vidovice and Grebnice in the Orasje area, and the Serbs withdrew "to lick their wounds," as a UN spokesman put it to AFP. The Serbs are trying to widen the narrow Posavina corridor that links Serbia with its conquests in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia. The Croats received support from artillery on the Croatian side of the Sava River, but UN and Bosnian spokesmen denied Serbian media reports that the Croats had launched a counteroffensive against Serb-held Brcko. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

International media reported on 16 May that Croatia's ambassador to the UN, Mario Nobilo, has assured the Security Council that the Croatian army will complete its pull-back from buffer areas in Sector South by 5:00 p.m. local time. The leading UN body has repeatedly demanded such a move but did not indicate what it would do if the Croats stay put. AFP added that President Franjo Tudjman has announced an amnesty for 47 Croatian Serbs and a brigade commander taken prisoner during the recapture of western Slavonia on 1-2 May. Zagreb is sensitive toward the views of the international community on its treatment of the Serbs in the former Sector West and is hoping to show Serbs there and elsewhere that they have nothing to fear from the return of Croatian administration. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

General Milan Celeketic has sent his resignation to Krajina Serb President Milan Martic, saying that he no longer has "the moral force necessary" to lead his forces. Serbian and international media said it is not clear whether Martic will accept the offer. Celeketic's move reflects growing tensions among Krajina Serb leaders between allies of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and those who seek to exercise their own authority. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.

Blagoj Handziski on 15 May asked the U.S. to help his country gain exemption from the international embargo against the former Yugoslavia, Reuters reported the same day. During talks with U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry Handziski argued that Macedonia should be excluded because it has not contributed to the reasons for the embargo. He also expressed optimism that an agreement with Greece can be reached, saying that in his opinion the problems will be overcome "very soon." Perry said that the U.S. sees Macedonia as critical to the stability of the region. If necessary, the U.S. will send additional troops to Macedonia to help boost its security. At present, 500 U.S. soldiers are stationed in Macedonia in the framework of a UN mission. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.

A court in Podgorica has sentenced a journalist from the independent weekly Monitor to two months in prison for libel, Nasa Borba reported on 16 May. Seki Radoncic wrote an article claiming that retired Yugoslav army General Radomir Damjanovic had managed to obtain an expensive automobile for "little money." Radoncic is the third Monitor journalist to be sentenced since the publication was launched, Nasa Borba commented. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.

Jusuf Zejnullahu, former prime minister of the Socialist Autonomous Province of Kosovo, was arrested in Pristina on 13 May, Kosova Communication reported on 15 May. After the abolition of Kosovar autonomy and the declaration of Kosovar independence in 1990, Zejnullahu headed the shadow-government until the formation of the current coalition government in 1992. Zejnullahu was later appointed director of the Belgrade Gama Bank's branch in Pristina. He is charged with committing "criminal offenses of association aimed at hostile activity" in connection with the approval of the Kosovar Constitution of Kacanik in 1990. Zejnullahu was released on 14 May and said he has no idea why he was arrested. He added that during his detention, he was not questioned. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.

Roman Herzog on 15 May began a three-day visit to Romania, Radio Bucharest reported. He met with his Romanian counterpart, Ion Iliescu, Prime Minister Nicolae Vacaroiu, and leaders of opposition parties. Before his arrival, he told the press he hoped his visit will encourage the process of reform and democratization in Romania, RFE/RL and international agencies reported on 12 May. Herzog said that Germany will back Romania's bid for membership in NATO and the European Union but Romania must demonstrate that it can satisfy the conditions for membership. Reuters reported on 15 May that at a state banquet in his honor, Herzog called for a "change in the mentality" implanted by decades of communist rule. Without such change, he said, the establishment of a democratic government, a market economy, and respect for the rule of law are not possible. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.

Workers at the Transylvanian copper works at Abrud are continuing their wildcat strike, which began some ten days ago, Radio Bucharest reported on 15 May. They are accusing management of violating the collective labor contract and ignoring the need to improve work conditions. Management has said that the strikers must return to work by 17 May or face the temporary closure of the mine. In the Moldavian town of Botosani, a protest action that started three months ago continues to disrupt work at the Integrata de in company, Radio Bucharest reported on 12 May. Trade union leaders have met in Bucharest with officials from the Ministry for Industry but have reached no agreement on a program to save the company from bankruptcy. Health workers demonstrated in Bucharest on 12 May demanding a pay rise and additional social benefits. Meanwhile, employees of the Renel state electricity company and miners in the Motru valley staged a two-hour warning strike on 15 May to protest a government decision to link wage hikes with increased productivity. Their trade unions have threatened a general strike for 2 June. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.

Nicolae Andronic, deputy chairman of the Moldovan parliament, survived an assassination attempt on 12 May, Radio Bucharest reported three days later, citing Radio Moldova. The report said a hand grenade thrown through a window into Andronic's second floor apartment in Chisinau failed to go off. Andronic threw the grenade out of the window. The Chisinau police commissioner is quoted as saying that the device was found later and was still ready to go off. The National Security Ministry has launched an investigation into the case. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.

The Russian joint-stock company Gazprom and the Moldovan state company Moldova-Gaz have signed an agreement to set up a joint-stock company on a parity basis, Interfax reported on 15 May, citing sources close to Gazprom. The new company will guarantee the stable supply of Russian gas to Moldova and the transit of supplies to Central and Eastern Europe through Moldovan pipelines, which are to be modernized. Gazprom's contribution is to consist in canceling part of Moldova's $300 million debt for Russian gas deliveries. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.

Zhan Videnov, at a press conference on 15 May, revealed his government's program for the next four years, Bulgarian newspapers reported the following day. The five major goals are stabilizing state institutions, promoting a market economy, increasing the competitiveness of domestic products, forming a civil society that meets European standards, and improving the economy and raising living standards to a level suitable for full EU membership. The premier said his government aims at reversing the present decline in GDP, lowering inflation from 121.9% in 1994 to 15% by 1998, and curbing unemployment. But he did not explain how the government will implement austerity measures while limiting social costs, as it has promised. Zemedelsko Zname accused the government of presenting "a program in communist style," while Demokratsiya said the program contains "nothing new." -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.

According to a report by German Television on 15 May, some 500,000 liters of fuel cross the Albanian-Montenegrin border every day. The report quoted EU sanctions monitor Richardt Vork as saying that an estimated 40% of the fuel smuggled into rump Yugoslavia comes from Albania. The U.S. State Department estimates that Albanian oil imports are 50% higher than the country's needs. The reports contradicts earlier statements by the Albanian sanctions coordinator Arben Petrela, who said Albania's fuel imports dropped from 172,000 tons in the last three months of 1994 to 54,000 tons in the first quarter of 1995. Albanian Interior Minister Agron Musaraj also claims that Albanian police have seized various trucks and other vehicles used for smuggling and have exerted tight control over the border, international agencies reported on 15 May. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.

[As of 12:00 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave