TAX POLICE COLONEL IN CORRUPTION SCANDAL.
A senior officer of the
Federal Tax Police Service has been arrested for allegedly demanding a $200,000
bribe from a commercial company, NTV reported on 5 April. Federal Security
Service officers arrested Colonel Pavel Glebov and Andrei Shavaev, a former KGB
officer who currently heads the private security agency Academy of Economic
Security, as they were accepting $38,000 in bribes, ITAR-TASS reported.
Corruption in state bodies is rampant, but few bribe-takers are punished
despite the current high-profile anti-corruption campaign. -- Penny Morvant
YELTSIN DELAYS ANNOUNCING PROGRAM.
President Boris Yeltsin addressed a
congress of his supporters on 6 April but will wait until next month to release
his program, ITAR-TASS reported. Yeltsin explained the delay as a way to
prevent his opponents from "distorting or using" his program. Instead, Yeltsin
stuck to broad themes of the family, fighting crime, ending the war in
Chechnya, and strengthening CIS integration. Yeltsin said that he would win so
that "these elections will not be the last," Russian TV reported. He added that
he is dissatisfied with his campaign staff and would personally take charge
while placing financial questions in the hands of Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin, Ekho Moskvy reported. Yeltsin also announced that Tatar President
Mintimer Shaimiev and Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev are beginning
to set up negotiations as intermediaries with Chechen rebel leader Dzhokhar
Dudaev. -- Robert Orttung
ZHIRINOVSKY REGISTERS AS CANDIDATE.
Liberal Democratic Party leader
Vladimir Zhirinovsky became the third officially registered presidential
candidate on 5 April, Reuters reported. Zhirinovsky came in third in the 1991
presidential voting with 6 million votes, 8% of the total, and his party won
almost 8 million votes (11%) in the 1995 Duma elections. He is running at less
than 10% in recent opinion polls. -- Robert Orttung
DUMA BACKS RUSSO-BELARUSIAN COMMUNITY.
The Duma endorsed the 2 April
union agreement between Moscow and Minsk by a vote of 320-8 with five
abstentions on 5 April, RFE/RL reported. Although Grigorii Yavlinskii's Yabloko
initially criticized the agreement, it joined in supporting the treaty. The
Duma and Federation Council have yet to formally ratify the treaty. -- Robert
MILITARY LIMITS VISITS BY POLITICIANS.
General Mikhail Kolesnikov, the
Russian armed forces chief of staff, issued a directive on 8 April restricting
visits of politicians to military units, ITAR-TASS reported. The directive is
based on Article 18 of the defense law which prohibits "any form of political
agitation, including pre-election agitation, on the territory of units and
formations for the armed forces." A source in the Defense Ministry was said to
have told the agency that the directive was brought about because of recent
instances in which deputies with military rank have used their status to ask
commanders to let them address their troops. -- Doug Clarke
CHERNOMYRDIN REJECTS DUDAEV'S OFFER OF DIRECT TALKS.
Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on 8 April rejected Chechen President Dzhokhar
Dudaev's offer of direct peace talks with the Russian leadership, Russian and
Western agencies reported. Fighting continued on 5-7 April in southern
Chechnya; on 7 April, the head of the North Caucasus Military District, Col.
Gen. Anatolii Kvashnin, said that over the previous seven days more than 100
Russian troops had been killed. On 7-8 April, Russian forces launched a
full-scale offensive against the settlements of Vedeno and Dargo in southeast
Chechnya. On 8 April, Chechens demonstrated in Grozny and Shali to demand the
withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya. On 6 April, Azerbaijani President
Heidar Aliyev rejected as slanderous and totally unfounded allegations that
Chechen aircraft belonging to Dudaev had carried out the bombing of Shaladzhi
on 2-3 April from airfields on Azerbaijani territory, Radio Rossii reported. --
MAYORAL CANDIDATE OPPOSES ELECTION DATE CHANGE.
St. Petersburg mayoral
election candidates Aleksei Levashov and Igor Artemev have decided to contest
the city legislature's decision to change the election date from 16 June to 19
May in the municipal court, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 6 April.
They claim that a shorter election campaign will only benefit Mayor Anatolii
Sobchak. The City Legislative Assembly voted to change the election date after
President Yeltsin set 19 May as the election date in March (see OMRI Daily
Digest, 14 March 1996). -- Anna Paretskaya in Moscow
POLISH PRESIDENT VISITS RUSSIA.
Aleksander Kwasniewski began a three-day
visit to Russia by laying a wreath at a memorial in Smolensk Oblast marking the
site at Katyn where 15,000 Polish officers were executed in 1940 by the Soviet
political police, Russian and Western agencies reported on 8 April. Kwasniewski
said the site should be not just a "wound" but also a "memorial" so that "such
things may never happen again" between Russia and Poland. Krasnaya
zvezda reported that Moscow hopes the visit will thaw bilateral relations,
which have been strained by the issue of NATO expansion. Despite political
differences, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 April that Russo-Polish trade totaled $3.5
billion in 1995. Russia ran an $800 million trade surplus with Poland, with oil
and gas accounting for 74% percent of its exports. -- Scott Parrish
CANADIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN MOSCOW.
Lloyd Axworthy met with his Russian
counterpart, Yevgenii Primakov, and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to
discuss NATO expansion, Arctic regional cooperation, and nuclear safety,
Russian and Western agencies reported on 8 April. Primakov said that although
he and Axworthy agreed on the need to find a mutually acceptable compromise,
Canada and Russia remain divided on the issue of NATO expansion. Axworthy
invited Primakov to Canada later this year for the signing of an agreement
founding a new multilateral Arctic Council, on which he said "almost full
agreement" had been reached. AFP reported that the two leaders had agreed on
the terms of several unspecified bilateral nuclear cooperation agreements.
Under a 1994 agreement, Canadian specialists are already helping upgrade safety
at Russian nuclear plants. -- Scott Parrish
REPORT: RUSSIAN ARMS TRADED FOR FRENCH PILOTS.
The independent French
television channel TF1 on 6 April charged that Russian weapons bought by the
French government were delivered by Russia to the Bosnian Serbs to secure the
release of two French pilots shot down over Bosnia last August, theLondon
Times reported on 8 April. Colonel Vladimir Kulich, a member of the Russian
foreign intelligence agency, claimed to have been involved in the negotiations.
The French Defense Ministry has denied that the Bosnian Serbs were compensated
for the release of the pilots. -- Doug Clarke
U.S. REMOVES RUSSIA FROM ARMS PROSCRIBED LIST.
The U.S. State Department
on 4 April removed Russia from the International Traffic in Arms Regulations
(ITAR) proscribed list. In a statement issued by Glyn Davies, acting press
spokesman, the department said the step is in line with the Clinton
administration's policy to update U.S. laws and regulations to reflect the end
of the Cold War. Accordingly, it will no longer be U.S. policy to "deny
licenses or other approvals for exports and imports of defense articles and
defense services destined for or originating in Russia." In the future, each
request for such license or approval will be analyzed carefully on a
case-by-case basis and will no longer be automatically disapproved. -- Doug
RUSSIA LAUNCHES U.S.-BUILT SATELLITE.
Russia has launched a U.S.-built
satellite for the first time, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 April. The
telecommunications satellite Astra-1F, built by General Motors' Hughes unit at
the request of the Societe Europeenne des Satellites, was launched by the
Proton-K booster rocket from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The launch
cost $60 million and is part of the $1 billion deal signed by Khrunichev space
center and the International Launch Services, a joint-venture set up in 1993 by
Khrunichev with the Energiya corporation and the U.S. Lockheed-Martin group.
The program envisages 20 more unmanned flights by the year 2000. -- Natalia
YELTSIN SIGNS DECREE ON PENSIONS. . .
Following the March onslaught on
wage arrears, President Yeltsin has now pledged to eliminate pension arrears by
the end of April. According to ITAR-TASS, Yeltsin issued a decree on 8 April
ordering the government to grant a six-month loan of 4 trillion rubles ($818
million) to the Pension Fund. Presidential economics adviser Aleksandr Livshits
said the money for the loan would come from operations on the short-term bond
market and tax revenue. The state owes pensioners more than 6 trillion rubles
in overdue payments (see OMRI Daily Digest, 3 April 1996). -- Penny
. . . AND SAVINGS.
Continuing his emphasis on social issues ahead of the
presidential elections, Yeltsin also decreed the partial restoration of savings
wiped out by inflation as a result of the economic reforms begun at the end of
1991. The decree orders the government, the Central Bank, and Sberbank to draw
up a federal program within three months on a mechanism to repay savings
devalued between 1991 and 1995. The total Sberbank debt is estimated at 800
trillion rubles ($160 billion) in current prices. Livshits said that
compensation payments will begin to be paid in 1997 in a process that will take
decades to complete. -- Penny Morvant
YELTSIN SIGNS DECREE ON SMALL BUSINESSES.
President Yeltsin has decreed
that supporting small businesses should become a government priority,
Finansovye izvestiya reported on 9 April. The decree promises 500
billion rubles ($102 million) for investment credits to small businesses, and
$200 million worth in guarantees to foreign companies that open credit lines to
small businesses in Russia. The Federal Fund for Small Business Support should
receive 5% of the privatization revenue annually, which means that in 1996
small companies should get 707 billion rubles (in 1995 small businesses
received 50 billion rubles from this source). Small businesses in Russia
repeatedly complain that high taxes and interest rates make it very difficult
for them to survive. -- Natalia Gurushina
GAZPROM LOSES TAX PRIVILEGE.
President Yeltsin signed a decree on 4
April merging Gazprom's special tax-exempt "stabilization fund" with the
general federal budget, Segodnya reported the next day. This was one of
the conditions for the $10.1 billion loan the IMF granted in March. However, at
the same time Yeltsin took other steps to compensate the gas monopoly, such as
cutting the duty on pipe imports and lowering the gas excise duty by changing
the basis upon which it is calculated. -- Peter Rutland
CENTRAL ASIAN ECONOMIC COOPERATION.
Uzbek Prime Minister Utkir Sultanov
met with his Kyrgyz and Kazakhstani counterparts, Apas Jumagulov and Akezhan
Kazhegeldin, in Tashkent on 5 April to sign 12 cooperative accords, Radio
Rossii reported on 6 April. They discussed energy and water resource
management, transportation and communication links, and drug smuggling. In a 6
April interview with Pravda vostoka cited by the BBC, Uzbek President
Islam Karimov said the recent Moscow treaty signed by Russia, Belarus,
Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan would "not damage" cooperation among the three.
Meanwhile, a 5 April Turkmen Foreign Ministry statement stated that Ashgabat
"has no plans" to alter its present relationship with the CIS, according to a
RIA news agency report cited by the BBC. The statement read that Turkmenistan
prefers "bilateral relations" and rejects "entry into rigid supranational
structures" as "politically inexpedient and legally inapplicable."-- Roger
Kangas and Lowell Bezanis
RUSSIA CUTS ELECTRICITY SUPPLY TO KAZAKHSTAN.
Russia has cut the amout
of electricity it supplies to the Aktyobe Oblast in north Kazakhstan for its
failure to pay a $24.5 million debt, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 April. Aktyobe
will now receive only 35 MW, instead of its regular 300 MW. The recently-opened
Aktyobe power station is working irregularly and even at its full capacity can
only fulfill a third of the country's electricity needs. Electricity has been
cut in all southern oblasts of Kazakhstan, and only industrial enterprises,
transport, and the communications networks of major cities have a normal
electricity supply. Kazakhstan's electricity debts to Russia and other CIS
countries have been variously reported at between $150 million and $400 million
in the Russian media. Uzbekistan has totally cut off its electricity supply to
Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan has also restricted its supply. Kazakhstan is
holding talks with Russia and Kyrgyzstan on forming an energy union. -- Bhavna
DUMA RATIFIES LEASE OF BAIKONUR.
The Russian State Duma has ratified an
agreement on a 20-year Russian lease of the Baikonur space launch site from
Kazakhstan, ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL reported on 5 April. The Duma ratification
settles a dispute between the two countries on conditions for using Baikonur as
a major Russian launch site for all manned space flights. Russia will pay
Kazakhstan $115 million in rent annually for 20 years, with an option to lease
the cosmodrome for an additional 10 years, RFE/RL added. -- Bhavna Dave
ALARMING NUMBER OF URANIUM THEFTS IN KAZAKHSTAN.
Karavan-Blitz has reported numerous thefts of highly radioactive
materials from the Ulba metalworks plant near the city of Ust-Kamenogorsk in
East Kazakhstan, according to a BBC report on 4 April. About 100 kg of U-235
uranium was stolen in November and another 150 kg of uranium and 400 kg of
radioactive thorium were stolen in December, according to reports in the 4
April and 26 March issues of Karavan-Blitz. An official of the State
Investigation Committee on combating crime told the paper that such thefts at
the Ulba plant have become common, and are committed by workers with the
complicity of the guards. Most of the stolen uranium has been sold to firms in
Russia. Kazakhstan has about a quarter of the world's uranium reserves. --
TEMPORARY BAN ON UIGHUR SOCIETY IN KYRGYZSTAN.
The Kyrgyz Justice
Ministry has suspended the Uighur organization Ittipak (Unity) from campaigning
in the media and from holding any public meetings for three months after it
failed to curb its "separatist activities" despite earlier official warnings,
according to a 4 April Kyrgyz Radio report monitored by the BBC. The activities
of Ittipak violated the Kyrgyz constitution's provisions on public
associations, as well as the Kyrgyz-China communique of 16 May 1992 on
non-interference in internal affairs. There are about 5.5 million Uighur across
the border in China's Xinjiang province. Some 40,000 Uighurs live in
Kyrgyzstan. -- Bhavna Dave
MORE DEPUTIES ELECTED IN UKRAINE.
Six more deputies have been elected to
the Ukrainian parliament in a fifth round of elections, Reuters reported on 8
April. This brings the total number of deputies in the 450-seat legislature to
425. Ukraine's voting system demands a minimum 50% voter turnout and that the
successful candidate garner at least 50% of the vote. As a result, a number of
constituencies are without elected deputies. Meanwhile, Ukrainian Radio on 6
April reported that parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Moroz was hospitalized
following a heart attack. -- Ustina Markus
UKRAINE, VIETNAM SIGN AGREEMENT.
President Leonid Kravchuk and his
Vietnamese counterpart, Le Duc Anh, meeting in Hanoi on 8 April, signed an
agreement on cooperation, international agencies reported. Accords on consular
protection, avoidance of double taxation, and scientific cooperation were also
signed. Kuchma is on the first leg of a week-long tour of Indonesia and Vietnam
intended to boost bilateral trade. Trade between Ukraine and Vietnam stood at a
mere $15 million last year. Meanwhile, the issue of Vietnam's debts to former
Soviet republics remains unresolved. -- Ustina Markus
UN DOWNGRADES UKRAINE.
The U.N. has agreed to downgrade Ukraine's status
from the "B" group of states to the "C" group, Reuters reported on 5 April.
Kyiv asked for the downgrading during President Leonid Kravchuk's
administration since the move means a reduction in Ukraine's fees to the UN.
Ukraine owes the UN $243 million in unpaid dues. Volodymyr Yelchenko, head of
the Foreign Ministry's UN department, said the decision to downgrade Ukraine's
status meant one of Ukraine's main foreign-policy objectives had been achieved.
-- Ustina Markus
BELARUS TO SELL TANKS TO HUNGARY.
An agreement was signed in Minsk on 4
April providing for the sale of 100 Belarusian T-72 tanks to Hungary, AFP
reported the following day. The tanks would have had to be destroyed by Belarus
under the terms of the CFE treaty. Ironically, they will be used instead to
replace Hungarian T-55 tanks, which were dismantled under the same treaty. The
value of the deal was not made public at Belarus's request. -- Ustina Markus
RUSSIA WANTS COMPENSATION FROM ESTONIA FOR MISSING RUBLES.
government has requested that Estonia offer compensation for rubles it failed
to return to Russia some four years ago, Reuters reported on 8 April. In summer
1992, Estonia introduced its own currency, the kroon, but failed to give back
to Russia the 2.6 billion rubles still in circulation, which were worth some
$170 million at the June 1992 exchange rate. It has been alleged that most of
the rubles were sold to the Chechen Republic via intermediaries. Estonian
authorities have already started criminal proceedings over the sale of the
rubles. -- Natalia Gurushina
UPDATE: LATVIAN-ESTONIAN BORDER TALKS.
Talks on the Latvian-Estonian sea
border have made no progress, BNS reported on 6 April. Latvia has demarcated a
line on the map, saying it will use naval forces to guarantee the safety of its
fishing vessels in that zone if necessary. Latvian Foreign Minister Valdis
Birkavs on 8 April commented that the dispute has been exaggerated and would
not lead to war between the two countries. He added that the chances of finding
a solution are good but will take time. The Latvian and Estonian prime
ministers are to discuss the issue again during a Baltic Assembly meeting this
week. -- Ustina Markus
INCENDIARY DEVICES HURLED AT POLISH EMBASSY IN ROME.
devices were hurled at the Polish embassy in Rome on 8 April, Polish and
international media reported. The attack has been linked to a demonstration
outside the Auschwitz concentration camp on 6 April that was organized by the
Polish National Community, a fringe political group campaigning under the
slogan "Poland for the Poles." The demonstrators rallied in support of plans to
build a shopping mall near the camp, where the Nazis exterminated some 1.5
million people, mostly Jews. Diplomats in Rome believe that Italian Jews were
behind the attack in protest against the Auschwitz demonstrations. -- Dagmar
CZECH-GERMAN DECLARATION WILL NOT BE READY BEFORE ELECTIONS.
Czech-German declaration to be adopted by the two countries' parliaments will
not be ready before the 31 May-1 June Czech parliamentary elections, Prime
Minister Vaclav Klaus told Czech TV on 8 April. The document is intended to
help Czechs and Germans put the traumas of their recent common past behind
them. Czech media reported last week that in the declaration, the Czech
Republic will apologize to Germany for some aspects of the expulsion of Sudeten
Germans from Czechoslovakia after World War II. In exchange, Germany is to
express willingness to abandon Sudeten Germans' property claims related to the
expulsion. According to a survey by the Factum agency and published in Mlada
fronta Dnes on 9 April, only 7% of Czechs want their government to
apologize for the post-war expulsions, saying they would vote for political
parties that favor making an apology. Some 86% of the respondents said they
would not vote for such a party. -- Jiri Pehe
SLOVAK TRADE UPDATE.
Slovak imports reached 51.191 billion crowns in the
first two months of 1996, up 37% on the same period last year, TASR reported on
4 April. The largest volume of imports came from the Czech Republic (24.8%),
followed by Russia (19.9%), and Germany (13.3%). Imports from EU countries,
which accounted for 30% of Slovak imports, increased by 30.5%. Exports grew by
only 6.3% compared with the first two months of 1995, reaching 39.713 billion
crowns. The Czech Republic (32.6%) and Germany (20.2%) were Slovakia's biggest
export markets. The opposition Democratic Union on 4 April pointed out that
although 19,000 Slovak firms are involved in exports, only 60 of them are of
decisive importance. -- Sharon Fisher
EUROPEAN COMMISSION PRESIDENT IN HUNGARY.
Jacques Santer on 5 April said
that it is more likely that East European states will be admitted to the EU one
by one rather than in groups, as has been the practice, Hungarian media
reported. Santer, who was in Budapest for two-day talks on the eastward
expansion of the EU, commented that negotiations with the East European
associate countries could begin in early 1998. Prime Minister Gyula Horn said
Hungary expects the EU to make a selective approach on the basis of candidates'
individual performance. The European Commission is soon to hand over a 100-page
questionnaire to EU associates to assess their preparations for membership.
Santer urged Hungary to annul the 8% customs surcharge on EU exports to Hungary
by the end of June 1997 and to decrease its subsidies for agricultural exports.
-- Zsofia Szilagyi
BELGRADE, SKOPJE ESTABLISH DIPLOMATIC TIES.
Rump Yugoslav Foreign
Minister Milan Milutinovic and his Macedonian counterpart, Ljubomir Frckovski,
met in Belgrade on 8 April to sign an accord establishing bilateral diplomatic
relations. Frckovski hailed the agreement as opening "a new chapter" in
relations with Belgrade. Milutinovic said that the accord represents progress
in "strengthening" the regional peace process. Under the accord, both parties
are to respect the "principles of equality, non-interference in internal
affairs,...sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity." Nasa
Borba, however, noted that the use of the term "Republic of Macedonia" in
the agreement is likely to stir controversy. -- Stan Markotich
REACTIONS TO RUMP YUGOSLAV-MACEDONIAN RECOGNITION.
Greece on 8 April
voiced its dissatisfaction with the mutual recognition agreement between rump
Yugoslavia and Macedonia, AFP reported. Foreign Ministry spokesman Konstantinos
Bikas said recognition of Macedonia under that name "does not help stability in
the region and cannot be considered a friendly act towards Greece." Bulgaria
welcomed the agreement, saying it will "contribute to stabilizing the climate
in the Balkans." Meanwhile, Vuk Draskovic, leader of the opposition Serbian
Renewal Movement, said the agreement means "that Macedonia will now be Serbia's
bridge to Greece and Serbia will be Macedonia's bridge to Europe." Milorad
Jovanovic, representative of the Democratic Party of Serbia, was more cautious,
saying the establishment of diplomatic relations was "a little hasty" because
talks over the official name of Macedonia have not yet been concluded. --
Stefan Krause and Stan Markotich
BOSNIAN SERBS PRESENT EVIDENCE OF WAR CRIMES.
Serbian pathologists have
spent some days examining the bodies of at least 181 people from a mass grave
near Mrkonjic Grad in western Bosnia. The area was held by Bosnian Serb forces
for most of the war but fell to Croatian units last fall. Doctors say that 102
out of the 181 show evidence of having been beaten to death, Nasa Borba
reported on 9 April. -- Patrick Moore
President Alija Izetbegovic warned that moves by former
Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic to found his own centrist party could split the
Muslim vote. He added that his own political future would depend on his health,
Oslobodjenje reported on 7 April. The daily two days later discussed
concern over the rapid loss of value of the Bosnian dinar. A rise in the legal
limits on personal income and recent large payments to workers in state
enterprises led to the fall in confidence in the currency, Vjesnik
wrote. On 5 April, government forces freed 18 POWs, while the Croats released
28, the Onasa news agency reported. Controversy continues over whether the
Serbs will be allowed to attend the upcoming conference on reconstruction aid
if they do not free all their remaining prisoners. -- Patrick Moore
CROATIA ARRESTS FOUR BOSNIANS ON TERRORISM CHARGES.
Ministry on 4 April arrested four armed Bosnians in the Adriatic town of Senj
on suspicion that they intended to carry out terrorist activities in Croatia,
Vjesnik said on 8 April. The four reportedly had documents from the
Bosnian Interior Ministry in Bihac, and it thought they may have been sent to
assassinate former Bihac kingpin Fikret Abdic. The renegade Muslim leader has
been living quietly in Croatia since last fall, after Croatian and Bosnian
government forces put an end to his self-declared mini-state, which had become
a client of the Krajina Serbs. Abdic is currently based in Rijeka, north of
Senj. -- Patrick Moore
MORE MOVES AGAINST PRESS FREEDOM IN CROATIA.
Tax authorities have
presented the country's only independent daily, Rijeka's Novi list, with
a bill for DM 4 million. Customs authorities assessed the Italian minority's
periodical Unija as owing similar amounts, Nasa Borba reported on
7 April. Opposition groups charged that the move is an attempt to crush what
little press freedom there is in Croatia, Novi list wrote on 9 April.
The tax and customs bills recall the earlier attempt to drive the independent
weekly Feral Tribune out of business with a pornography tax. The latest
measures come on the heels of two new major restrictive pieces of legislation
and the impending closure of the independent Zagreb radio station "101." --
SERBIAN CRACKDOWN ON ALBANIAN-LANGUAGE MEDIA IN KOSOVO.
in Kosovo have closed down the printing house of the Albanian-language weekly
Koha, local media reported. The authorities had insisted that last
week's issue be censored by the prosecutor-general's office before being
printed but the weekly had refused to comply. That office has since initiated
legal proceedings against Koha. The prosecutor-general reportedly took
exception to photograph montages of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic
standing next to men in Nazi uniforms under the title "Anschluss 1989." The
montages appeared in an issue commemorating the abolition of Kosovo's
autonomous status. Koha Editor in Chief Veton Surroi said he stands
"firmly behind the main messages" of the satirical montage. He added that the
prosecutor-general's action indicates that the weekly was right and that his
office is trying conceal what happened. -- Fabian Schmidt
ROMANIAN ELECTION UPDATE.
Nicolae Manolescu, leader of the Party of
Civic Alliance, said the Liberal Party `93 may soon join the pact concluded by
his party and the Social Democratic Union for the local elections in May, Radio
Bucharest reported on 7 April. The pact, which was announced on 4 April,
provides for the signatories to jointly monitor election procedures and to
support one another in the second round. Meanwhile, a new party calling itself
Romania's Alternative held its first congress in Bucharest on 5 April. Also on
5 April, the Romanian Ecological Movement merged with the Ecological
Convention, the National Agrarian Party and several non-government
organizations to form a party called The Ecologists. -- Michael Shafir
MOLDOVAN PREMIER REFUSES TO NOMINATE DEFENSE MINISTER.
Andrei Sangheli has refused to nominate a new defense minister, accusing
President Mircea Snegur of ignoring a Constitutional Court ruling (see OMRI
Daily Digest, 5 April 1996). Sangheli wants Pavel Creanga to remain in his
post, but Snegur, in a letter to Sangheli dated 6 April, said investigations
have "unequivocally" established that there is corruption within the Defense
Ministry and that Creanga has failed to take appropriate measures, BASA-press
reported on 6 and 8 April. Snegur also pointed to a statement by 100 army
officers on 5 April saying Creanga cannot remain Defense Minister and that the
court's ruling has only "aggravated" the situation. The officers say that until
the problem is resolved, they will obey only orders from Snegur in his capacity
as commander in chief of the military. Creanga says he intends to resume
office. -- Michael Shafir
MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH TRANSDNIESTER LEADER.
Snegur on 8 April
met with the leader of the breakaway Transdniester region, Igor Smirnov, in
Tiraspol to discuss political and socio-economic issues, Moldovan media
reported. Snegur asked Smirnov to pardon the so-called Ilascu-group, whose
leader, Ilie Ilascu, was sentenced to death in 1992 for alleged terrorist
activities. His sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment. Meanwhile,
Romanian Justice Minister Iosif Gavril Chiuzbaian has urged France to intervene
to secure the release of Ilascu, whom Bucharest is proposing for the Nobel
Peace Prize, AFP reported on 8 April. -- Michael Shafir
BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT DENIES LACK OF SUPPORT FOR ROVER.
Economic Development Rumen Gechev on 8 April rejected as "absolutely
groundless" charges by the Rover Group that the closure of the company's
assembly plant in Varna was dictated by bureaucratic obstacles and lack of
government support, Demokratsiya reported. Rover on 4 April had announced its
decision to stop assembling cars in Bulgaria after only seven months (see
OMRI Daily Digest, 5 April 1996). Gechev said the main reasons for
Rover's failure were uncompetitive products, a wrong marketing strategy, and
lack of funding from the Bank for Agricultural Credit, which owns Rover's
partner, Daru Group. He said the government will help Rover to find a new
partner in the form of a "stable state-owned firm." Meanwhile, Standart
reported that rump Yugoslav car maker Zastava has proposed assembling cars in
Bulgaria. -- Stefan Krause
BULGARIAN POLITICAL ROUNDUP.
Hristo Miladinov, Bulgarian ambassador in
Moscow, has handed a note to the Russian Foreign Ministry protesting Russian
President Boris Yeltsin's remark that Bulgaria may join the integration
agreement recently signed by Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, 24
chasa reported. Miladinov noted that relations with Russia nonetheless
remain a top foreign-policy priority for Bulgaria. Bulgarian President Zhelyu
Zhelev has insisted that the government officially reject Yeltsin's proposal.
Meanwhile, Standart reported that Zhelev and Petar Stoyanov have vowed
to conduct a fair campaign for primary elections scheduled for 1 June, which
are aimed at finding a presidential candidate for the united opposition. Zhelev
and Stoyanov are the only candidates in the primaries. -- Stefan Krause
ALBANIAN DEMOCRATS ELECT NEW PARTY LEADER.
More than one year after
party leader Eduard Selami was fired, the Albanian Democrats have elected
Tritan Shehu as his successor, Albanian media reported. Shehu has been acting
party leader since Selami's dispute with President Sali Berisha in March 1995,
which led to his dismissal. Selami offended Berisha by supporting the
opposition view that the constitution should be adopted by the parliament. He
also demanded that the position of party leader and prime minister be combined.
Meanwhile, Berisha has pledged that the Democrats will promote "both pre- and
post-election cooperation" among right-wing parties, Reuters reported. The
Democrats' most likely coalition partner is the Republican Party, led by
historian Sabri Godot. Godot has said that the two parties have the common aim
of "fighting communism." -- Fabian Schmidt
[As of 1200 CET]
Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave