OMRI DAILY DIGEST
Vol. 1, No. 103, 29 May 1995
RUSSIAN REACTION TO BOSNIAN CRISIS . . .
In the wake of the 25 and 26 May NATO air strikes on Bosnian Serbs and the subsequent hostage-taking by Bosnian Serbs of UN peacekeepers, Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin called for a peaceful resolution to the crisis, NTV reported on 27 May. He reiterated Moscow's hope and expectation that the conflict could be resolved "at the negotiating table." Moscow, however, remains adamant that NATO force is an inappropriate tool for regional problem-solving in the Balkans. Chernomyrdin also said, "the foreign and defense ministers...[left Moscow] to talk again to the leaders and to convince them to stop the military actions between them today, so there will not be such powerful [air] strikes." On 29 May, however, Nasa Borba reported that no Russian ministers had arrived in Belgrade. The day before, Interfax reported that Defense Minister Pavel Grachev had not left Moscow and that Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev "was working in his Moscow office on Sunday." -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.
. . . AND TO HOSTAGE SITUATION.
Foreign Minister Kozyrev and President Boris Yeltsin are "taking measures to free UN servicemen taken hostage in Bosnia," Interfax reported on 27 May without providing details. Russian troops were among those initially detained by Bosnian Serb forces. On 28 May, however, Russian TV's "Novosti" reported that the Bosnian Serb command had released all Russian UN peacekeepers that day, but that Bosnian Serb forces are continuing to restrict the "movement of Russian peacekeepers in some parts [of Bosnia] under Bosnian Serb control." -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.
CHECHEN FIGHTING CONTINUES AFTER PEACE TALKS FAIL.
Russia began bombing Chechen positions less than 24 hours after ending fruitless peace talks on 25 May. Chechen soldiers reported that the village of Serzhen Yurt, which has held out against Russian attacks for two months, was surrounded 28 May, trapping an unknown number of Chechen fighters, according to AFP. The same day, Russian forces heavily bombed Vedeno, 16 km away. The Russian Defense Ministry described heavy fighting in Agishty, 5 km south of Shali, according to Interfax. ITAR-TASS reported that Russian forces have blocked off many of the roads leading to the highland areas. The agency also carried a statement from Ruslan Gelaev, Chechen commander of the southeastern front, that his troops would kill five Russian PoWs if the bombing did not stop. But Aslan Maskhadov, chief of staff of Chechnya's armed forces, told Ekho Moskvy that "we have not sunk to such bestial methods." On 27 May, President Yeltsin's chief of staff, Sergei Filatov, told a session of the Russian President's Public Chamber that the Russian president and government are open for talks with Dudaev supporters at any level, although no future talks have been scheduled. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.
FEDERAL TROOPS MISSING IN ACTION IN CHECHNYA.
A total of 243 Russian troops have been reported as missing in action in Chechnya, an official of the General Staff told the State Duma on 26 May. He said 90 are being held prisoner by the militants, while another 161 Russian servicemen have been released, some for ransom, Interfax reported. The official said negotiations are underway on the release of the Russian prisoners, and indicated that the militants want freedom for their members held in Russian jails. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.
BODY NOT CUNY'S.
A Russian doctor has confirmed that a body found in Chechnya was erroneously identified as that of Fred Cuny, a former Soros consultant who disappeared in the region in mid-April, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 May. A Moscow traumatologist connected with the Soros foundation, Vladimir Polotnyanko, examined the body and concluded it is not Cuny's because it has no steel rod in the thighbone. A representative for the Chechen separatists, Usman Imayev, said the search for Cuny would continue. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.
RYBKIN FACES DIFFICULTY BUILDING LEFT-CENTER BLOC.
Presidential aide Georgy Satarov said he is confident that Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin will form an electoral bloc, Russian Public Television reported on 27 May. He said Rybkin has been slow in forming the new bloc because he does not have access to the same organizational resources as Prime Minister Chernomyrdin. Obshchaya gazeta reported that although the chairmen of Russia's regional legislatures are providing support for the bloc, Rybkin has had to work in secrecy because the president's unveiling of the bloc has scared away many potential allies. Lyudmila Vartazarova, chairwoman of the Socialist Party of the Working People, confirmed that analysis by saying, "No opposition bloc can be set up by instructions from the top leader," Interfax reported on 26 May. Her party plans to maintain contact with Rybkin's bloc but is not ready to join it. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.
STABLE RUSSIA NOT TO JOIN CHERNOMYRDIN BLOC.
Stability leaders Alexei Alexandrov, Alexei Leushkin, and Bembya Khulkhachiev said the Stable Russia movement will campaign independently in the parliamentary elections and that the Stability deputy group is still undecided about whether to join Chernomyrdin's bloc, Interfax reported 26 May. Yeltsin first announced the formation of the Chernomyrdin and Rybkin blocs while meeting with Stability deputies. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.
GOVERNMENT SUPPORT FOR NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA?
The Russian government intends to provide financial support for Nezavisimaya gazeta, which recently had to close down because it could not meet its expenses, Russian media reported. Chernomyrdin essentially told Russian Public Television on 27 May that he dislikes the paper but wants it to have the right to express its point of view. Editor Vitaly Tretyakov told Russian TV on 25 May that he is ready to let the paper die with honor. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.
SPIRITUAL HERITAGE HOLDS FOUNDING CONGRESS.
The organization Spiritual Heritage (Duk-hovnoe nasledie) held its founding congress in Krasnogorsk, Radio Mayak reported on 27 May. Alexei Pod-berezkin, chairman of the new organization, said its purpose is to bring together all those who support a strong state. The group's ruling body includes Gennady Zyuganov, leader of the Communist Party of Russia, and Valery Vorotnikov, former deputy chairman of the Soviet KGB and now the director of a department in the MOST group. The organization will help the Communist Party during the elections. More than 300 delegates from 50 regions of Russia attended the congress. The group's name refers to the state ideology that members claim died with the USSR, Russian Public Television reported. -- Robert Orttung, OMRI, Inc.
EARTHQUAKE HITS SAKHALIN.
An earthquake measuring 7.5 on the Richter scale devastated northern Sakhalin on 27 May, Russian and Western agencies reported. The quake flattened the oil town of Neftegorsk, trapping up to 3,000 people; 300 deaths were officially confirmed by the morning of 29 May. Japan offered to send help to the region, but First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets, in charge of the relief operation, was quoted by Reuters as saying Russia did not need foreign aid. He added that he had asked the Finance Ministry for 30 billion rubles to cover the initial costs of the relief effort. Viktor Gurevich, the deputy governor of Sakhalin Oblast, rejected claims that the quake could cause an ecological catastrophe. A local oil official had earlier reported more than 15 ruptures along a 90 km stretch of oil pipeline on the island and the destruction of all oil wells in the affected region. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.
YELTSIN VETOES LAW ON UNIONS.
President Yeltsin has rejected the Law on Trade Unions, Their Rights, and Guarantees, passed by the Duma on 14 April, according to Segodnya on 27 May. In a letter to Duma Speaker Rybkin, Yeltsin said the law contravened the constitution, Civil Code, and international accords signed by Russia. Alexei Surikov, first deputy head of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia (FNPR), said he did not understand the president's decision, contending that "such generalities" can be applied to any law. The head of the Union of Workers of the Agroindustrial Complex called the veto a serious mistake and warned that it would set the unions against the president in the election campaign. In early May, Russia's free trade unions picketed the Federation Council to protest the draft law, arguing that it would give the FNPR a monopoly. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.
DUMA RAISES MINIMUM PENSION.
On 26 May, the parliament's lower house voted to increase the minimum pension to 52,486 rubles ($10.46) a month as of 1 June, Segodnya reported on 27 May. The government opposes the move, arguing that pensions should not be increased more than once every three months. Pensions were raised from 34,440 rubles ($6.86) a month to 43,739 rubles ($8.72) on 1 May. A government spokesman also said the Pension Fund did not have the resources to cover such a hike, that the projected increase exceeded the rate of inflation, and that it would cause delays in the payment of pensions. -- Penny Morvant, OMRI, Inc.
MISSILE CHIEF UPDATES WEAPONS IN NEAR ABROAD.
Col. Gen. Viktor Yasin, head of Russia's Strategic Missile Troops, said on 26 May that Russia still has operational control of 93 strategic missiles in Ukraine and 18 in Belarus. Interfax quoted him as saying his command has good relations with the Ukrainian General Staff. Yasin said the warheads on the missiles in Ukraine would be destroyed by June 1996, while those in Belarus would be returned to Russia this year. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc.
OMRI DAILY DIGEST
Vol. 1, No. 103, 29 May 1995
UN THREATENS TO WITHDRAW MISSION FROM TAJIKISTAN.
UN envoy, Ramiro Piriz Ballon, warned that the UN might not extend the mandate of its mission in Tajikistan, saying there is "no agreement between the two sides on any constructive step." The peace talks have gone on for a week now with the opposition proposing to share power with the Tajik government, Interfax reported. The Tajik government representatives at the talks in Almaty flatly refused to accept such a deal. Tajik First Deputy Prime Minister Makhmadsaid Ubaidullaiyev noted that 88% of the voters in last November's referendum voted for the present constitution. A UN proposal to set up a consultative committee on drafting constitutional changes also met with little success, according to Reuters. The UN envoy said, "The Security Council is very clear: if there is no progress, we will end our presence in Tajikistan," AFP reported. -- Bruce Pannier, OMRI, Inc.
KARIMOV'S CRITIQUE OF CIS SUMMIT.
Commenting on the results of the CIS summit in Minsk, Uzbek President Islam Karimov said "the future of the CIS countries depends on Russia," Interfax reported on 28 May. Speaking on Uzbek TV, he noted that although the CIS was conceived as an equitable alliance of independent states, only those initiatives advanced by Russia are carried out. Karimov stressed the need for Russia to "understand" that all CIS members have equal rights and noted that the CIS lacked a mechanism for implementing adopted documents, which he said number more than 500. -- Lowell Bezanis, OMRI, Inc.
OMRI DAILY DIGEST
Vol. 1, No. 103, 29 May 1995
LITTLE PROGRESS AT CIS TALKS IN MINSK.
The CIS made little progress toward integration at its 26 May summit in Minsk, international agencies reported. There was considerable disagreement among member states on an interstate currency committee for settling mutual accounts, a human rights convention, and collective security. However, Yeltsin cited the customs union with Belarus as one concrete result of the summit. Prime Minister Chernomyrdin called the customs treaty "a breakthrough" and indicated that Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, who did not attend the summit because of health reasons, had confirmed that Kazakhstan would also join the union. In addition, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, Georgia, and Tajikistan tentatively agreed to a collective security arrangement which could place Russian troops on their outer borders. The summit also extended the peacekeeping mandates in Tajikistan and Abkhazia, and a "comprehensive plan" was adopted for settling the conflict in Tajikistan. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma continued to express skepticism about the organization's future. He said the CIS has yet to register economic results. -- Michael Mihalka, OMRI, Inc.
BELARUSIAN VOTERS FAIL TO ELECT PARLIAMENT.
Belarusians on 28 May went to the polls for the second round of parliament elections but failed to elect enough deputies to form a new legislature, international agencies reported. According to preliminary results released by the Central Electoral Commission, just over half of the eligible electorate voted and some 86 of the 260 parliament seats were filled, well below the two- thirds that must be filled for the new parliament to resume its work. Elections were declared invalid in 26 districts with less than 50% voter turnout. Not a single seat in the 42 electoral districts in Minsk was filled, although well-known figures such as opposition leader Zyanon Paznyak, former parliament speaker Stanislau Shushkevich, and head of the National Bank Stanislau Bahdankevich were running there. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka initially said he would not vote and that he had spoiled his ballot in the first round of elections on 14 May because all of the candidates "would deceive voters in the country." But the president said he did cast his ballot in the second round because the country could not "exist without a parliament." The old Soviet-era legislature will continue to function while the president meets with it to decide what to do next. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.
CENTRAL EUROPEAN PRESIDENTS MEET IN HUNGARY.
The presidents of Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia met on 27 May in the Hungarian town of Keszthely to discuss regional cooperation and East European countries' prospects for integration into the EU, international media reported. A number of bilateral meetings also took place. Slovak President Michal Kovac and his Hungarian counterpart, Arpad Goencz, discussed bilateral relations, including the sensitive question of the Hungarian minority in Slovakia, TASR reported. Both presidents voiced their belief that the Slovak- Hungarian treaty, which addresses the question of minorities, will be ratified, despite opposition to it in both countries. Kovac stressed that he is in favor of dialogue with representatives of minorities but warned that territorial autonomy for ethnic Hungarians "is not supported by any Slovaks or the president." The escalating conflict in Bosnia was also high on the presidents' agenda. Czech President Vaclav Havel told journalists that in his opinion "military force should have been used in Bosnia a long time ago. Many human lives could have been saved that way." -- Jiri Pehe, OMRI, Inc.
CONSORTIUM OF WESTERN FIRMS TO DESIGN PLAN FOR CHORNOBYL SHUTDOWN.
The Ukrainian government and a consortium of Western firms on 27 May signed a memorandum to design a joint project for shutting down the Chornobyl nuclear power station by 2000 and building a thermal plant to replace it, international and Ukrainian news agencies reported the same day. The group, led by the German-based Asea Brown Boveri, was hired to ensure the safe closure of the two still-functioning reactors at Chornobyl. The cost of decommissioning those reactors was estimated at $1.7 billion and constructing the new plant at $2 billion. A representative of the consortium said the group would draw on the experience of nuclear plants decommissioned in the U.S. and converted to other forms of energy generation. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc.
LATVIAN, ESTONIAN PRIME MINISTERS MEET.
Maris Gailis and Tiit Vahi met in the Estonian town of Parnu on 26 May to discuss ways to settle the dispute over their sea border, BNS reported. The two leaders expressed willingness to compromise, but it is expected that the issue will not be resolved for several more months. They also discussed issues relating to a free trade treaty between the two countries and plans to introduce special border crossing regulations for local residents in the twin border towns of Valga and Valka. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc.
SOLIDARITY ACTIVISTS SCUFFLE WITH POLICE IN WARSAW.
Some 6,000-10,000 Solidarity activists demonstrated in Warsaw on 26 May, Western and Polish media reported. The demonstration turned into an ugly battle with the police when demonstrators began hurling stones, bolts, and bags of dust and paint at government buildings. Police used water canons and dogs against the demonstrators. Up to 20 protesters and two policemen were injured. The protesters, most of whom arrived by bus from Silesia, shouted anti-communist slogans directed at Jozef Oleksy's post-communist coalition government. Increased economic assistance for Silesia was one of the demonstrators' key demands. Internal Affairs Minister Andrzej Milczanowski said in an interview with Gazeta Wyborcza on 29 May that intervention was necessary but that he would never order the use of fire arms against demonstrators. The demonstrations were the most unruly Poland's capital has experienced since 1989. They also constitute the most serious grass-roots challenge to the post-communist governing coalition since it took power in October 1993. -- Jakub Karpinski and Ben Slay, OMRI, Inc.
POLAND'S SUPREME AUDIT CHAMBER PRESIDENT REMOVED.
The Sejm on 26 May voted by 204 to 85 to remove Lech Kaczynski from his post. In an interview with Gazeta Wyborcza on 29 May, Kaczynski said he had no illusions concerning the ruling left-wing coalition and was convinced that it would not tolerate the head of an important institution whom it is unable to control. The Senate has 30 days to accept the Sejm's decision. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc.
CZECH RAIL WORKERS THREAT-EN ALL-OUT STRIKE.
The Czech rail workers' union said on 27 May they are prepared to call a nationwide, all-out strike if their wage demands are not met by the end of June, Czech media reported on 29 May. The union claims wages should rise by up to 60% to put rail workers on par with other comparable groups. It also says much railroad equipment is antiquated and some in dangerous condition, and The chairman of Czech Railways, Emanuel Sip, who attended a union meeting in Ceska Trebova over the weekend, said wages could rise by 15% over two years if up to 10,000 workers were let go this year. -- Steve Kettle , OMRI, Inc.
DOMESTIC POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS IN SLOVAKIA.
The Democratic Union, in a statement released on 27 May, said it is protesting "the policy of breaking laws..., which creates the conditions for establishing a new totalitarian system" in Slovakia. The party was particularly concerned about the Slovak police's decision to check signatures on the petition lists that the DU submitted to run in the October 1994 elections. Despite the Constitutional Court's ruling in the DU's favor, Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) has continued to allege that a number of signatures on the DU lists were forged and that the DU should therefore have not been allowed to participate in the elections. -- Jiri Pehe, OMRI, Inc.
OMRI DAILY DIGEST
Vol. 1, No. 103, 29 May 1995
BOSNIAN SERBS ROUND UP PEACEKEEPERS.
Following the NATO air strikes against Bosnian Serb positions on 25-26 May, Bosnian Serb forces shelled Tuzla on 27 May and continued to take UN peacekeepers hostage throughout the weekend. The Serbs clashed with French troops in Sarajevo the next day and had taken between 320 and 350 UN soldiers captive by the morning of 29 May, among them Czechs, Egyptians, and Ghanaians as well as Serbia's traditional allies: British, French, and Russians. At least three men have been chained to potential military targets, and at least six more are being used as human shields to deter further NATO air strikes. The Serbs say the men will be freed only when Pale has complete assurance there will be no more air attacks, international media reported. A UN spokesman said the Serbs were behaving like a "terrorist organization." -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.
MOST GOVERNMENTS WAFFLE IN THE FACE OF SERB DEFIANCE.
General reaction from major capitals over the weekend was confusion and indecision, key European dailies noted on 29 May. Many governments seem willing to defer any hard decisions until after a series of meetings in the course of the week, including those of the Contact Group, the EU foreign ministers, and the UN Security Council. Washington called for "strengthening" the position of the UN but still refuses to send any troops. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung quotes German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel as saying that UNPROFOR should stay on in Bosnia-Herzegovina, but Bonn also has no intention of sending in any ground forces. -- Patrick Moore , OMRI, Inc.
FRANCE IS INDIGNANT AT ITS ALLIES.
The BBC on 29 May said that French Prime Minister Alain Juppe the previous day called the air strikes ill- prepared and demanded that the UN make UNPROFOR's mandate tougher. Paris and London have long wanted the troops more concentrated as well, which would probably mean abandoning at least the three Muslim enclaves in eastern Bosnia. Juppe almost seemed more upset with his allies than with the Serbs and once again hinted that France is considering withdrawing its peacekeepers. It has the largest single contingent in UNPROFOR, but President Jacques Chirac campaigned in the recent elections in favor of more air strikes and against withdrawal. An aircraft carrier has nonetheless been sent to the Adriatic. The BBC said the new government is anxious to carry out its domestic agenda and is irked that the Bosnian crisis is threatening to divert its attention. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.
BRITAIN TO SEND 5,000 MORE TROOPS TO BOSNIA.
British Prime Minister John Major is not only against withdrawal but is dispatching 5,000 additional forces to Bosnia. The BBC said on 29 May that the units are some of the best and toughest in the British army and will bring along heavy artillery. The move indicates that Bosnia has become an important matter of British national interest following the Serbian capture of 33 British UNPROFOR troops. The broadcast noted that the new force will be under British--not UN --command and that "military action seems imminent." -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.
SERBIAN MODERATES CALL FOR OVERTHROW OF KARADZIC.
Nasa Borba on 29 May reports that the Sarajevo-based Serbian Citizens' Council has urged Serbs living under Pale's control to "rise up against [Bosnian Serb leader Radovan] Karadzic." The council represents at least 200,000 "forgotten Serbs" who want a multi-ethnic Bosnia-Herzegovina and oppose nationalism. It still remains unclear why Karadzic and his military chose their present defiant course and took even Russian, French, and British hostages. Pale has friends in the Belgrade Serbian military, the nationalist parties, and the Serbian Orthodox Church and may be trying to exacerbate the crisis in hopes of forging closer Serbian unity. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.
BELGRADE REACTS TO HOSTAGE-TAKING, NATO AIR STRIKES.
International media on 29 May reported that rump Yugoslav Foreign Minister Vladislav Jovanovic has condemned the Bosnian Serbs' decision to take UN peacekeepers hostage. Jovanovic said the hostage-taking would aggravate regional tensions. He also reiterated the position that only "peaceful" dialogue could lead to a resolution of regional tension. Earlier, on 26 May, Belgrade signaled opposition to developments in Bosnia-Herzegovina following NATO air strikes against Bosnian Serb targets near the self- styled Bosnian Serb capital of Pale. According to a government statement reported on 26 May by Tanjug, Belgrade is "deeply concerned over yet another escalation of armed clashes" in Bosnia, which, it believes, is "playing into the hands of those who advocate violent solutions." -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc.
BOSNIAN FOREIGN MINISTER KILLED.
International media reported on 28 May that Irfan Ljubijankic died near Bihac when Krajina Serb forces shot down his helicopter. They said it had violated their air space. He was the highest official on any side in the conflict in the former Yugoslavia to be killed in combat. Meanwhile in Zagreb, Novi list reported on 29 May that the Bosnian and Croatian Prime Ministers, Haris Silajdzic and Nikica Valentic, met Iranian Vice President Hasan Habibi the previous day. Teheran is a strong supporter of the Croatian-Muslim confederation in Bosnia-Herzegovina. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc.
CONGRESS OF HUNGARIAN MINORITY PARTY IN ROMANIA.
The Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) re-elected Bela Marko as its chairman and Reformed Bishop Laszlo Tokes as its honorary chairman at its congress in Cluj on 26-28 May, Radio Bucharest reported. It also adopted its new program and statutes. In line with a proposal by the "radical" faction, headed by Tokes, the designation of Romania's Hungarians was changed from "Magyar minority" to "Magyar National Community of Romania." The gathering approved by an overwhelming majority Tokes's demand for territorial autonomy. Tokes criticized President Ion Iliescu for his attempt to "interfere" in UDMR affairs by supporting the "moderate" faction in a message read out on the first day of the congress. Tokes also criticized the U.S. and the Hungarian government for pressing the UDMR to moderate its positions. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.
ROMANIAN NATIONAL BLOC ENLARGED.
Corneliu Vadim Tudor, leader of the chauvinistic Greater Romania Party (GRP), told a press conference on 26 May that the National Bloc set up by the GRP and the Bratianu Liberal Union in mid-March was enlarged on 24 May to six parties. Radio Bucharest quoted Tudor as saying the Romanian Party for the New Society, the People's Republican Party, the Republican Union Party and the Young Democracy Party have joined the bloc. All are fringe formations with no parliamentary representation. Political observers consider most of them "Ceausescu-nostalgic." -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.
OSCE ENVOY BACKS RUSSIAN ARMY PULLOUT FROM MOLDOVA.
Istvan Gyarmati, special envoy of the OSCE secretary-general to Moldova, said at the end of a visit to Chisinau that Russia should withdraw its army from the breakaway Dniester region as soon as possible, Reuters and Interfax reported on 26 May. Gyarmati added that "strict international control" was needed over all pullout procedures, especially in order to ensure the safety of the 14th Army's "huge ammunition depots." He noted that Lt. Gen. Alexander Lebed's proposal for defining the role of the 14th Army as peace-making was "utterly unacceptable" because "peace-making functions cannot be performed by the armed forces of [just] one country." -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.
Voters in the Moldovan autonomous Gagauz region went to polls on 28 May to elect the region's leader and the 35-member regional parliament and to decide whether the region's capital should be Comrat or Ciadar Lunga. ITAR-TASS reported the next day that George Tabunshik, former first secretary of the Comrat Communist Party district branch, and Mikhail Kendigelean, chairman of the outgoing parliament, received most votes for the region's leader and will face each other in a second round. Thirty-one parliamentarians were elected; the remaining four seats will be decided in run-offs. Voters opted in favor of Comrat as the region's capital. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc.
THREE BULGARIAN INVESTMENT FUNDS FOLD.
International news agencies reported that three investment funds in the town of Varna folded on 25 May. BAMS, Spireli, and Tako Import-Export have stopped paying dividends and closed their offices, leaving thousands of shareholders in panic. Police said that some 25,000 investors lost a total of 10 billion leva ($151.5 million). The owners of the companies are reported to have fled abroad. The companies are suspected to be pyramid schemes. They offered a monthly yield of 14-18%, compared with 3-4% in most banks. -- Stefan Krause , OMRI, Inc.
BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT FAILS TO ADOPT COMMON POSITION ON NATO.
The National Assembly on 26 May failed to agree to a common position on cooperation with NATO and possible Bulgarian membership, despite a consensus reached the previous day by the parliament commissions on foreign policy and national security, Pari reported. The Socialist majority reportedly changed its position after Russia confirmed its objections to an expansion of NATO. The opposition issued a joint declaration saying Bulgaria has to adhere to its declared foreign-policy priorities. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc.
ALBANIA, ITALY FORM WORKING GROUP ON MIGRATION.
Italian Foreign Ministers Susanna Agnelli and her Albanian counterpart, Alfred Serreqi, have agreed to form a working group on migration, Reuters reported on 27 May. Agnelli told reporters that Albania has already taken measures at its borders with Macedonia and Greece to prevent the entry of illegal immigrants, mainly Kurds from Turkey and former Yugoslav citizens. The two ministers also agreed Italy will open a second consulate in the Albanian city of Vlora, Gazeta Shqiptare reported on 28 May. Meanwhile, Albania's parliament has passed an emigration law that creates a legal framework for Albanians wishing to work abroad and for foreigners wishing to live in Albania. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.
ALBANIANS ARRESTED FOR FOUNDING COMMUNIST PARTY.
Four men have been arrested in Gjirokastra for trying to found a communist party, international agencies reported. Communist parties, including Enver Hoxha's Party of Labor of Albania, have been banned since 1992. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc.