MORE ACCUSATIONS LEVELED AGAINST CHERNOMYRDIN BLOC . . .
resolution advanced by the Communist and Agrarian parties, the State Duma asked
the Justice Ministry to examine the legality of the organizing tactics used by
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's center-right bloc Our Home Is Russia,
Interfax reported on 19 May. Communist Duma deputy Anatoly Lukyanov said
Chernomyrdin's movement had violated President Boris Yeltsin's June 1991 decree
banning local branches of political parties at work enterprises. That decree
was aimed at destroying the Communist Party's network of local branches, and
Lukyanov said the ban should apply to all political parties equally. Also on 19
May, Duma Security Committee Chairman and Communist Party member Viktor
Ilyukhin filed a request with the Prosecutor General's Office to examine
whether state funds were illegally used to finance the founding congress of Our
Home Is Russia. Meanwhile, although Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai has
been a leading figure in Chernomyrdin's bloc, the Urals regional branch of
Shakhrai's Party of Russian Unity and Accord (PRES) announced that it would not
cooperate with representatives of the authorities who have led Russia "into a
blind alley," Segodnya reported. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.
. . . WHILE CHERNOMYRDIN EXPRESSES OPTIMISM.
Appearing on the NTV
current events program "Itogi" on 21 May, Chernomyrdin said he is confident his
bloc will win a large number of seats in the next Duma. He said, "the people
will understand who is who and whom to follow," since opposition parties only
criticize without offering constructive programs. Chernomyrdin confirmed that
his movement will continue its activities during the 1996 presidential campaign
but denied he would run for president. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.
MORE MIXED SIGNALS FROM RYBKIN ON CENTER-LEFT BLOC.
Duma Speaker Ivan
Rybkin said he has not yet finalized his election plans, Interfax reported on
19 May. Rybkin has been offered the leadership of the new political movement
Concord and met with Russian United Industrial Party (ROPP) leader Vladimir
Shcherbakov to discuss a possible alliance. Also on 19 May, Duma deputies from
the "Russia" group asked Rybkin to lead a center-left bloc. Russia faction
member Igor Shichanin told Interfax only a few deputies from his group had
joined Chernomyrdin's movement, while the majority prefer a bloc headed by
Rybkin, whom he called "an outstanding politician" with "a spotless
reputation." Rybkin insists that he is still a member of the Agrarian Party,
which has refused to join a broad electoral alliance. For his part, Agrarian
Party leader Mikhail Lapshin described the chances that Rybkin would lead a
center-left bloc as "doubtful," NTV reported on 21 May. -- Laura Belin, OMRI,
RUMORS OF LUZHKOV'S DISMISSAL DENIED.
Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov said
false rumors of his imminent dismissal were planted by people who want to
provoke a quarrel between him and the president, Ekho Moskvy reported on 20
May. Citing a high-ranking Kremlin official, Ekho Moskvy reported that a decree
to fire Luzhkov had been prepared but not yet signed by Yeltsin. The weekly
Argumenty i fakty reported that Yeltsin was planning to replace Luzhkov
with First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets, but a spokesman for Soskovets
told Interfax the article was a "blatant lie" and "absolutely groundless." --
Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.
GAIDAR: YAVLINSKY'S POSITION "BETRAYAL."
At a meeting of his party's
Moscow council, Russia's Democratic Choice leader Yegor Gaidar called Yabloko
leader Grigory Yavlinsky's refusal to form a united democratic electoral
alliance a "betrayal" and a "stab in the back," NTV and Russian Public
Television reported on 20 May. Gaidar said his party would still work to create
a democratic and anti-communist front for the upcoming parliamentary campaign.
He said Russia's "capitalist revolution," begun in 1991, had succeeded in
making a capitalist economy "a reality" in Russia. -- Laura Belin, OMRI, Inc.
CABINET DISCUSSES 1996 BUDGET.
In an interview with Radio Mayak on 20
May First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais discussed the 1996 draft
budget, which the government hopes will be adopted by the end of the year. The
draft budget concept will be submitted to the Duma on 15 June. The draft
envisages an annual inflation rate of 20% to 25% and an exchange rate of 6,000
rubles to $1. It sets revenues at 273 trillion rubles and spending at 349
trillion rubles. As in 1995, the deficit--4% of GDP--is to be covered by
noninflationary sources, Segodnya reported on 19 May. Chubais said tax
policy is to be changed considerably with the aim of reducing the burden on
producers by scrapping the special tax on enterprises, making tax collection
more efficient, and eliminating tax breaks. The government expects to make
considerable gains in revenue by reinstating the state monopoly on alcohol
products. Chubais said defense spending would remain at the 1995 level. At the
cabinet's budget session on 18 May, First Deputy Defense Minister Andrei
Kokoshin demanded an increase in military spending. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI,
YELTSIN VETOES LAW ON CHECHEN TALKS.
On 19 May, Russian President Boris
Yeltsin vetoed a law, passed by both houses of the Russian parliament calling
for unconditional talks with the Dudaev leadership, on the grounds that it
violates the Russian Constitution and that such talks could further destabilize
the situation rather than lead to a settlement of the conflict, Reuters and
Interfax reported, quoting the presidential press service. On 21 May, Interfax
quoted State Duma Defense Committee Chairman Sergei Yushenkov as expressing
regret at the veto; both Yushenkov and Duma Communist faction leader Anatoly
Lukyanov questioned Yeltsin's argument that the law is unconstitutional. -- Liz
Fuller, OMRI, Inc.
NEW RUSSIAN OFFENSIVE IN CHECHNYA.
Russian troops launched a new
full-scale offensive against Chechen positions to the southwest and east of
Grozny on 19 May, but met fierce resistance, Western agencies reported. A
Chechen military spokesman told journalists on 21 May that some 29 Chechens had
been killed and 50 wounded in three days of fighting. He also told AFP that the
Russian troops had used chemical defoliants; a Russian spokesman denied the
allegation. Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov denied Russian claims that federal
troops had taken the village of Chiri Yurt in southern Chechnya on 20 May,
according to Russian news agencies. Interfax on 19 May quoted Chechen President
Dzhokhar Dudaev as rejecting Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's
proposal of round-table talks; Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev denied
reports he would meet with Maskhadov on 22 May, adding that he would only hold
talks with Chechen military representatives after they complied with demands
for a ceasefire and surrendered their arms. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.
CHANGES IN LAND TENURE.
State Committee on Land Chairman Nikolai Komov
told Interfax on 20 May that despite "weak legislative guarantees," there have
been "significant structural changes" in land tenure since 1991. He said that
since then, the amount of land held by state farms has shrunk from 124 million
hectares to 34 million, while the cooperative sector's holdings have increased
from 85 million to 137 million hectares and the private sector's from 4 million
to 23 million hectares. He added that the number of "land users"
(zemlepolzovateli) has increased from 300,000 to 45 million. -- Penny
Morvant, OMRI, Inc.
RUSSIAN EXPERT ON ISLAMIC REVOLUTION IN CENTRAL ASIA.
Conference Organization, the World Islamic League, and World Islamic Congress
are engaged in efforts to strengthen Islam as a force in Central Asia,
according to allegations by an unnamed source in the Russian Ministry of
Foreign Affairs, Interfax reported on 19 May. The source claimed Muslim
extremists have been entering the region through porous borders and have
penetrated various parts of Uzbekistan, including the Ferghana valley,
Samarkand, and Bukhara. The source said diplomatic and intelligence services of
unspecified Muslim countries are involved in the dissemination of religious
propaganda and recruiting activities and funds are also being funneled "to
virtually every mosque" by Saudi sheiks and the Iranian Corps of Revolutionary
Guards. The source also noted that Uzbeks in the Kunduz province of Afghanistan
are receiving military and ideological training and illegal groups of Uzbek
theological students supported by extremist organizations exist in Saudi Arabia
and Egypt. There are 20,000 mosques in Uzbekistan at present, according to the
source, and the Islamic Renaissance Party of Uzbekistan and Adolat, both banned
by the authorities three years ago, are once again active, mainly in the
Ferghana valley. If current trends continue, an Islamic revolution is
conceivable in five to 10 years, the source predicted. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI,
ISLAMIC STUDIES CENTER TO OPEN IN TASHKENT.
Uzbek President Islam
Karimov signed a decree establishing an international Islamic studies center in
Tashkent, Interfax reported on 20 May. The center is to be founded at the
behest of the state-controlled Muslim spiritual board of Maverannahr and is
slated to be funded equally by the state and the spiritual board, according the
presidential decree. The center will enjoy the status of a research institute
within the framework of the Uzbek Academy of Sciences. It will "study the
teachings and philosophy of Islam and explore the religious, historic, and
cultural heritage of the people of Uzbekistan." -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc.
TAJIK CEASEFIRE EXTENDED BY THREE MONTHS.
Tajik President Imomali
Rakhmonov and opposition leader Sayid Abdullo Nuri concluded their talks and
agreed on 19 May to extend the shaky ceasefire, due to end on 26 May, by an
additional three months, Reuters reported. The fourth round of the UN-sponsored
peace talks to be held in Almaty, Kazakhstan, has been rescheduled from 22 May
to 24 May. Kazakh spokesman Farkhad Abdukhalikov said the date was changed
because the opposition delegation had not yet arrived in the Kazakh capital,
according to Reuters. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc.
NO BREAKTHROUGH IN KARABAKH TALKS.
The OSCE-mediated talks on a
settlement to the Karabakh conflict, which resumed in Moscow on 15 May after a
three-month hiatus, reportedly achieved little of substance, according to AFP
and Interfax. Interfax quoted Finnish diplomat Rene Nyberg on 19 May as stating
that the four days of talks had taken place in a "businesslike and open
atmosphere," and resulted in unspecified progress towards coordinating a draft
agreement. However, the head of the Armenian delegation, deputy foreign
minister Vardan Oskanyan, told AFP that the talks ended in "semi-failure"
although for the first time the participants discussed the future political
status of the disputed enclave. -- Liz Fuller, OMRI, Inc.
RUSSIA ON UNIFICATION WITH BELARUS.
President Yeltsin sent an agreement
on friendship and cooperation with Belarus to the Russian State Duma for
ratification on 18 May, Belarusian radio reported the following day. On 19 May,
the Duma voted 249 to zero to prepare for a national Russian referendum on
uniting Russia with Belarus. That follows a referendum in Belarus on 14 May
which saw a large majority voting in favor of closer economic integration with
Russia. Duma deputy Sergei Baburin proposed that the referendum take place on
12 December, the same day as the parliamentary elections. Pravda
described the referendum as the first step towards rebuilding the Soviet Union.
On 18 May, Belarusian television reported that Russian and Belarusian customs
officials have begun working together to bring the country a step closer to a
customs union. Meanwhile, the Polish daily Gazeta wyborcza confirmed
that Russian customs officers are jointly guarding the Belarusian border. --
Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.
ACTING UKRAINIAN PREMIER ASKED TO FORM NEW GOVERNMENT.
President Leonid Kuchma has asked acting Prime Minister Yevhen Marchuk to form
a new government, AFP reported on 19 May. Marchuk told Interfax that he wanted
to form a cabinet of highly qualified professionals but did not mention any
names. The final makeup of the cabinet is to be decided by Kuchma. Meanwhile,
some 300 U.S. troops arrived in Ukraine to hold the first joint peacekeeping
exercises with Ukrainian troops, AFP reported. About 400 Ukrainian servicemen
will participate in the maneuvers, which are part of NATO's Partnership for
Peace program. The exercises will be observed by Ukrainian Defense Minister
Valerii Shmarov and U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry. -- Ustina
Markus, OMRI, Inc.
BELARUSIAN BANK SAYS IT WILL NOT ISSUE NEW BANK NOTES IN 1995.
National Bank of Belarus has no plans to issue bank notes with new symbols this
year, Belarusian radio reported on 19 May. The electorate voted in a legally
binding referendum of 14 May in favor of bringing back Soviet-era state symbols
to replace current ones. According to bank officials, replacing the bank notes
will cost at least $7 million, which, they say, the bank does not have. --
Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.
ENERGY NEWS FROM BELARUS.
Belarusian Radio on 19 May reported that the
Russian Energy Ministry is ready to supply Belarus with energy at "negotiated"
rates rather than world prices. Russian Energy Minister Yury Shafranik was
quoted as saying that energy prices should not be "fixed" but subject to
negotiation. The statement comes in the wake of the Belarusian referendum, in
which the electorate voted in favor of closer economic integration with Russia.
Belarus is already receiving energy from Russia at reduced rates. In other
news, the Belarusian government has agreed to include 12 Belarusian gas and oil
enterprises in the joint Russian-Belarusian energy concern Slavneft. -- Ustina
Markus, OMRI, Inc.
COUNCIL OF BALTIC SEA COUNTRIES MEETS.
Foreign ministers from the
Council of Baltic Sea Countries discussed regional economic cooperation at
their annual meeting in Gdansk on 18-19 May, international agencies reported.
Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev complained about the group's lack of
action and the continued infringement of the civil rights of Russian-speakers
in Latvia and Estonia. He stressed that Moscow supported the council because
"regional cooperation is an element of the new model for European security."
Polish Foreign Minister Wladyslaw Bartoszewski said the regional group could
play an important role in the EU's strategy to accept new members. -- Michael
Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.
LATVIAN FINANCE MINISTER RESIGNS.
Andris Piebalgs, at an extraordinary
session of the Saeima on 19 May, announced he was submitting his resignation as
finance minister and would give up his mandate in the legislature, which was
suspended when he became minister, BNS reported. Piebalgs also said he would
withdraw his candidacy for the fall parliament elections. He noted that the
state budget deficit of 70 million lati ($134 million) had been caused by the
crisis in the banking system. Prime Minister Maris Gailis refused to accept the
resignation, saying he would try to persuade Piebalgs to stay on. -- Saulius
Girnius, OMRI, Inc.
COMMUNIST DIPLOMAS VALID AGAIN IN LITHUANIA.
The Seimas on 18 May voted
by 47 to 42 to restore the validity of diplomas issued by higher communist
party schools, BNS reported the next day. The vote revoked the 1990 decision by
the Lithuanian Supreme Council not to recognize such diplomas. All parliament
groups, except for the Lithuanian Democratic Labor Party, strongly opposed the
measure, seeing it as an attempt to help place former Communists in positions
that require diplomas from higher schools. Rolandas Pavilionis, the chairman of
the Lithuanian Rectors' Conference, criticized the vote and said that
universities, in accordance with their constitutional right to autonomy, have
the right not to recognize the diplomas of higher party schools. -- Saulius
Girnius, OMRI, Inc.
POLISH PRESIDENT ON RADIO "FREE CAUCASUS."
Lech Walesa on 19 May sought
to ease Russian concerns about Radio "Free Caucasus," which plans to broadcast
from Poland, by saying that Poland "is not interested in a conflict with
Russia," Polish media reported. Russia Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev said
Walesa told him that Polish law does not issue licenses to stations such as
"Free Caucasus." Polish and international agencies stress, however, that Walesa
does not have direct authority over the matter. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI,
POPE IN CZECH REPUBLIC, POLAND.
John Paul II, during his visit to the
Czech Republic from 20 to 22 May, held talks with President Vaclav Havel, met
Church leaders, and held a service at a Prague stadium. According to Rude
pravo, the stadium, which can hold more than 100,000 people, was
half-empty. Some 250,000 people attended the canonization ceremony in Olomouc
on 21 May of Jan Sarkander and Zdislava of Lemberk. The next day, the pope
traveled to Skoczow to attend an ecumenical service in a Lutheran church. Some
80,000 Lutherans live in Poland, half of them in the Skoczow region. -- Steve
Kettle and Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc.
SLOVAK OPPOSITION PARTY SETS UP SHADOW CABINET.
The Republican Council
of the Party of the Democratic Left on 20 May voted to set up a 15-member
shadow cabinet that will include chairman Juraj Hrasko and deputy chairpersons
Brigita Schmoegnerova (socio-economic issues), Lubomir Fogas (legislation), and
Pavol Kanis (non-industrial sector). The party issued a statement saying that
the government coalition, rather than solving the country's economic and social
problems, is intent on "strengthening its economic and political power, causing
conflicts and politically motivated purges, dividing the trade unions, and
attacking the president," Pravda reported. In other political news, a
congress of the extraparliamentary Christian Social Union on 20 May elected
Viliam Oberhauser as party chairman. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc.
HUNGARY SIGNS INTELLIGENCE SHARING PACT WITH U.S . . .
become the first former East bloc country to sign an agreement on sharing
military secrets with the U.S., Western media reported on 20 May. Agreements on
general defense cooperation and defense industrial research and development
were also signed. Hungarian Defense Minister Gyorgy Keleti said that U.S.
Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke had assured him that despite
Russia objections, the U.S. remained undeterred in its drive for NATO
expansion. Keleti also said that Hungarian units will participate in
Partnership for Peace exercises in Louisiana in August and that Hungary intends
to send units to Western-dominated UN peacekeeping operations in the Sinai and
Cyprus. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.
. . . AND SAYS IT WILL DESTROY "SCUD" MISSILES.
Minister Gyorgy Keleti on 20 May announced that Hungary is to begin destroying
its "Scud" surface-to-surface missiles in advance of a NATO meeting in
Budapest, Radio Kossuth reported. Keleti, who had just returned from a five-day
visit to the U.S., indicated that the U.S. would help in the destruction of the
missiles. The Scud is a short-range guided missile with a range of up to 300
kilometers capable of carrying conventional, nuclear, or chemical weapons
warheads. It was introduced into all Warsaw Pact armies in the mid-1960s.
Hungary had one brigade with nine launchers and 24 missiles. In November 1990,
then Defense Minister Lajos Fur announced that all the missiles and launchers
would be scrapped "without delay." However, later reports suggested that while
the launchers were dismantled, the missiles were put into storage. -- Doug
Clarke, OMRI, Inc.
KARADZIC THREATENS TO OVERRUN "SAFE AREAS."
Bosnian Serb leader Radovan
Karadzic has said he will take UN troops in Bosnia-Herzegovina hostage if air
strikes are ordered against his forces. He also threatened to capture the
mainly Muslim UN-declared "safe areas" in eastern Bosnia--Srebrenica, Zepa, and
Gorazde--which the UN is considering abandoning under a new plan to scale down
its presence. Nasa Borba on 22 May also quotes Karadzic as promising
that Bosnian Serb forces will not give up. He added that his government alone
among Serbs can recognize the Bosnian government and that it has no intention
of doing so. This last remark is in apparent response to media reports that
U.S. and British diplomats think they can extract the recognition of the
Sarajevo government from Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. Karadzic is
taking part in a session of the Bosnian Serb parliament in Banja Luka, during
which his differences with the military are expected to hold center stage. --
Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.
KRAJINA SERBS REJECT UNCRO.
The Krajina Serb legislature, meeting in the
Slavonian town of Borovo Selo over the weekend, passed resolutions in favor of
unity with the Bosnian Serbs and rejecting the new UN mandate for peacekeepers
in Croatia. The peacekeeping force's new name contains the word "Croatia,"
which the Krajina Serbs feel is an automatic negation of their claim to
independence. Vreme on 22 May reported on rifts within the leadership,
namely between those reluctant to attract the ire of Milosevic and those who
fear he has already sold out their interests to the Croats. Nasa Borba
on 19 May noted how these tensions have extended to the local media and
that journalists staged a brief strike the previous day. -- Patrick Moore,
OTHER DEVELOPMENTS IN BOSNIA AND CROATIA.
International media reported
that there was intense fighting around Brcko in the Posavina corridor on 19-20
May but that the battle fronts in Bosnia were fairly quiet on 21 May. In Banja
Luka, the local Roman Catholic bishop continues a hunger strike he began on 18
May to protest Bosnian Serb "terror" against Croats and the destruction of
churches. Vecernji list on 22 May says he has received wide support from
Bosnian Catholics. Finally, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung quotes UN
sources as claiming that some 1,400 Croatian troops failed to leave buffer
zones in the Dalmatian hinterland as of the 20 May. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI,
SERBIAN PATRIARCH DEFENDED BY STATE PRESS.
Borba on 22 May defended Patriarch Pavle against what it called a gross
affront by the Ljubljana government against the religious Orthodox leader and
Slovenia's 22,000-strong Serbian community. Ljubljana authorities on 18 May
denied Pavle an entry visa, saying that while it was not their intention to
interfere with religious freedoms, they feared that the Patriarch's arrival
could trigger ethnic tensions within Slovenia. Borba, however, insisted
that Ljubljana's decision was the product of "cynicism" and "two-facedness." --
Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.
SESELJ IN KOSOVO.
Vojislav Seselj, leader of the Radical Serbian Party
and alleged war criminal, called for Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's
resignation on 20 May, accusing him of abandoning the Bosnian Serb republic and
the Republic of Serbian Krajina "to satisfy the demands of major powers."
Seselj was taking part in a rally outside the medieval orthodox monastery of
Gracanica, which was attended by only some 200 people from the 200,000-strong
Serbian community in Kosovo. He also criticized Milosevic for not taking
"urgent measures to protect Serbs" against the ethnic Albanian majority in
Kosovo. The gathering adopted a declaration and formed a National Council for
Kosovo, which includes Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and Krajina Serb
leader Milan Martic, international agencies reported. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI,
ETHNIC ALBANIAN LEADER SENTENCED IN MACEDONIA.
Nevzat Halili, leader of
the ethnic Albanian Party for Democratic Prosperity--Party for the Peoples'
Unity, has been sentenced to 18 months in prison, international agencies
reported on 19 May. Halili was convicted for preventing police from carrying
out their duties in connection with a police raid on the self-proclaimed
Albanian-language university in Tetovo. The 17 February raid led to clashes
between ethnic Albanians and police in which one Albanian was killed. -- Fabian
Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.
ROMANIAN CABINET DISCUSSES MINORITIES BILL.
The Romanian government on
19 May discussed a draft law on national minorities, Radio Bucharest reported.
Cabinet spokesman Ioan Rosca said that a series of amendments were proposed
following the draft's first reading. He commented that the law will seek to
define the concept of national minorities and offer guarantees that their
members enjoy all fundamental human rights and freedoms. Rosca added that the
draft will be discussed again and possibly approved on 24 May, when the
government is scheduled to review progress to date in bringing Romanian
legislation on minorities into line with Council of Europe documents. -- Dan
Ionescu, OMRI, Inc.
ROMANIAN NATIONALIST LEADER SEEKS LEGAL ACTION AGAINST HUNGARIAN PARTY.
Gheorghe Funar, controversial leader of the extreme nationalist Party of
Romanian National Unity (PUNR), has urged that legal action be taken against
the country's main ethnic Hungarian organization, Radio Bucharest reported on
19 May. Funar, in an open letter to Romanian Prosecutor-General Vasile Manea
Dragulin, accused the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) of
seeking to divide Romania by advocating territorial autonomy based on ethnic
criteria and the annexation of some territories to Hungary. He claimed that the
UDMR was jeopardizing democratic institutions and the rule of law in Romania.
-- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc.
DUMA DELEGATION IN MOLDOVA.
A Russian State Duma delegation led by
Konstantin Zatulin arrived in Chisinau on 20 May, Interfax reported. Zatulin
said the visit was aimed at assessing the chances for a settlement to the
conflict in the Dniester region and clarifying the situation of the 14th
Russian Army, headquartered in Tiraspol. The delegation was received by
Moldovan parliament deputy chairman Nicolae Andronic and also held talks in
Tiraspol with Igor Smirnov, the president of the self-proclaimed Dniester
republic. Smirnov told the delegation that he was categorically opposed to the
withdrawal of the 14th Army because that would "disrupt the balance of forces
in the region and destabilize the situation." -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc.
RUSSIAN PRIME MINISTER IN BULGARIA.
Reuters quoted foreign diplomats as
saying that Viktor Chernomyrdin's visit to Bulgaria on 18-19 May gave a boost
to bilateral relations. Talks between Chernomyrdin and his Bulgarian
counterpart, Zhan Videnov, focused on liberalization of bilateral trade,
rebuilding industrial cooperation, and energy projects. A declaration and 15
economic, cultural, and scientific accords were signed, including one on
building a pipeline to transport Russian gas from Bulgaria to other Balkan
countries. Chernomyrdin warned that rapid expansion of NATO may lead to a new
Cold War and a division of Europe. He added that the question of Bulgaria's
possible membership in NATO was not discussed in any depth during his visit.
Joining NATO is a controversial subject in Bulgaria. President Zhelyu Zhelev
advocates membership, while Videnov says NATO has to be reformed first. --
Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.
MEETING OF BULGARIAN TRADE UNION LEADERS.
For the first time in three
years, leaders of the two biggest trade unions in Bulgaria met to discuss their
position on government policy, Standart reported on 20 May. Konstantin
Trenchev of Podkrepa and Krastyo Petkov of the Confederation of Independent
Trade Unions in Bulgaria signed a declaration to jointly oppose the
government's "monetarist and anti-union policy." They also agreed on further
talks to coordinate their positions on social and trade-union issues. Trenchev
refused to say whether Podkrepa will change its official decision not to hold
talks with the confederation, which it considers to be procommunist. In other
domestic news, former Bulgarian party leader and head of state Todor Zhivkov
was allowed to leave Sofia on 21 May, Reuters reported the same day. Zhivkov
went to his home town, Pravets, where he was received by hundreds of people
chanting "Long live Zhivkov." -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.
GREECE'S WEU MEMBERSHIP IN DOUBT.
Greece's membership in the Western
European Union has been put in doubt after the country unilaterally added a
special clause to the document ratifying its entry to the defense alliance, AFP
reported on 19 May. The clause says Greece will not accept the International
Court of Jurisdiction's competence in matters related to national defense.
Greece was admitted to the WEU in March on the basis of a document, signed by
other members in 1992, in which the court's competence is accepted without any
reservation. Alfonso Cuco, a Spanish senator, said the Greek clause can be
valid only with the formal agreement of other WEU members. -- Stefan Krause,
ALBANIAN SUPREME COURT JUDGE REJECTS DRAFT ON JUDICIARY.
Court Judge Zef Brozi has accused the Justice Ministry and the ruling
Democratic Party of trying to undermine the independence of the judiciary,
Reuters reported on 19 May. According to Brozi, a new draft law placing the
judiciary under the financial and administrative authority of the Ministry of
Justice is an attempt to muzzle the courts. He also claimed that the government
earlier this year tried to undermine the independence of the judiciary by
asking the parliament to lift his immunity. The majority of legislators,
however, rejected the move. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.
[As of 12:00 CET]
Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave