YELTSIN SEEKS SUPPORT OF MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX.
Yeltsin continued to use the benefits of incumbency by promising 2 trillion
rubles ($400 million) of funding for defense plants beyond what is in the
budget, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported 11 April. Yeltsin declared that for
the first time since the beginning of the reforms, the government had approved
a schedule of financing for defense orders and that he would personally monitor
its implementation. He made the announcement during a visit to Energomash,
Russia's premier rocket engine factory which has recently fallen on hard times.
In response, an unidentified group of leaders representing the "largest
military enterprises" announced that they would back Yeltsin since a Communist
victory would be "dangerous" for the high-tech industry, ITAR-TASS reported. --
ZYUGANOV PROMISES TO BACK CHURCH.
Communist presidential candidate
Gennadii Zyuganov, campaigning in Lipetsk as the country prepares for Orthodox
Easter, said that he would support and defend religion in Russia if elected
president, ITAR-TASS reported. However, he denounced "overseas priests" who
preach on Moscow television screens every Sunday and try to introduce foreign
elements to Russia's culture. He said that he regularly visits Russian Orthodox
churches and meets with church figures. Zyuganov's writings praise Stalin for
"understanding" the importance of the church during World War II. -- Robert
ZHIRINOVSKY SETS UP CHILDREN'S LEAGUE.
In an attempt to boost his
campaign for the presidency, Vladimir Zhirinovsky held a press conference on 11
April to announce the creation of a youth branch of his ultranationalist
Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, Russian and Western agencies reported.
Zhirinovsky's Young Falcons, as the league, modelled on the defunct communist
pioneers, is to be known, were dressed in blue uniforms, black neckties bearing
the name of the LDPR in gold letters, and Zhirinovsky's trademark black peaked
caps. Zhirinovsky denied that he intends to use the children for political
purposes, but Reuters quoted one of his aides as saying that they would take
part in rallies and hand out literature "supporting Vladimir Volfovich." --
SHAIMIEV, NAZARBAYEV, READY TO NEGOTIATE WITH DUDAEV.
The presidents of
Tatarstan and Kazakhstan, Mintimer Shaimiev and Nursultan Nazarbayev, have been
officially named as mediators between the Russian leadership and Chechen
President Dzhokhar Dudaev, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 11 April.
Russian Nationalities Minister Vyacheslav Mikhailov told Radio Mayak that one
of Shaimiev's representatives is already in contact with Dudaev, and Ingush
Vice President Boris Agapov predicted that a telephone conversation between the
two presidents could take place in the next few days. Dudaev's press secretary
Movladi Udugov, however, told Ekho Moskvy that fighting in Chechnya had
intensified, which he interpreted as an attempt to sabotage the peace talks.
Meanwhile, the commander of the Russian Interior Ministry troops in Chechnya,
General Anatolii Shkirko, said Dudaev's men had a choice between surrendering
or being wiped out. -- Liz Fuller
FEDERATION COUNCIL CHAIRMAN SUPPORTS FEDERATION.
The parliament's upper
house chairman, Yegor Stroev, told OMRI on 12 April that he sees no alternative
to Russia's federative structure. He added, however, that in practice Russia is
often run as a unitary state. Stroev dismissed the idea of abolishing all of
the country's ethnic republics and dividing the country into equal districts.
On the other hand, he also rejected the idea of giving a separate district to
every single one of the country's 150 distinct ethnic groups. Stroev also
denounced the federal government's current practice of signing separate
power-sharing agreements with each of Russia's federation subjects, arguing
that such agreements cause political, economic, and social inequality among the
regions. He added that although 12 federation subjects have already signed such
agreements, 80% of Russia's federation subjects are against them. -- Anna
Paretskaya in Moscow
TsIK SATISFIED WITH TATAR PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION.
The Central Electoral
Commission (TsIK) is satisfied that the 24 March presidential election in
Tatarstan--in which President Mintimer Shaimiev ran unopposed--took place in
accordance with constitutional law. TsIK spokesman Parmen Shenshin told OMRI on
12 April that although the Russian constitution prohibits candidates from
running unopposed, the Tatar constitution does not include such a restriction.
-- Anna Paretskaya in Moscow
YELTSIN: BORDER DEMARCATION CONTINUES.
President Yeltsin on 11 April
categorically refuted Primorsk Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko's claims that
the president had suspended the demarcation of a disputed section of the
Russo-Chinese border, Russian and Western agencies reported (see OMRI Daily
Digest, 11 April 1996). Yeltsin, citing his upcoming 24-26 April visit to
Beijing, claimed that he had actually signed a decree aimed at speeding up the
demarcation of the border line. Reuters reported that Yeltsin made no attempt
to hide his visible anger with Nazdratenko, whose statement he termed
"incomprehensible." The Primorsk governor is notorious for pandering to
anti-Chinese sentiment in his home region, where he was re-elected in December.
-- Scott Parrish
RUSSIA REFUSES TO SIGN CAIRO TREATY.
Troubled by reservations that the
U.S. attached to the Pelinda Treaty, which makes Africa a nuclear-free zone,
Russia refused to sign the agreement in Cairo on 11 April, international media
reported. The U.S. excluded the British-administered Indian Ocean island of
Diego Garcia, where it has a military base, from the agreement. A Russian
diplomat told AFP that Russia had viewed Diego Garcia as covered by the treaty,
and was not warned about the U.S. reservation. He said Russia will sign the
agreement after formulating its own reservations. AFP noted that the U.S. had
also initially balked at the agreement, fearing that it would prevent nuclear
retaliation against Libya if it uses chemical weapons. A White House spokesman
later announced however, that Washington does not view the treaty as
restricting such a response if Tripoli uses "weapons of mass destruction." --
RUSSO-YUGOSLAV ENERGY DEAL.
Russian Minister of Foreign Trade Oleg
Davydov and rump Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Shainovic signed an
energy deal in Moscow under which Russia will export 2.5 million metric tons of
oil and 3.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas to rump Yugoslavia annually,
AFP reported on 11 April. The fuel will be shipped via existing pipelines,
although the agreement also creates a joint venture to expand the pipeline
network in rump Yugoslavia, in which the Russian firm Gazprom has a stake.
Belgrade will pay for the fuel with unspecified goods, and it will not affect
Russia's outstanding Soviet-era debt to that country. -- Scott Parrish
RUSSO-BELARUSIAN COMMUNITY EXECUTIVE MEETS.
The executive committee of
the Russo-Belarusian Community met for the first time in Moscow on 11 April,
Russian media reported. Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, who chairs
the commission, opened the session by declaring that the new community could
succeed in attracting additional members only if its current two members
"synchronized" their economic policies. The committee subsequently issued its
first directives, granting citizens of both member states equal rights to
education and medical care on the territory of the other. -- Scott Parrish
RUSSO-NORTH KOREAN COMMISSION HOLDS "PRODUCTIVE" MEETING.
Minister Vitalii Ignatenko, leading a Russian delegation in Pyongyang, termed
the first meeting of the new economic commission "productive and fruitful,"
saying it addressed the problems of mutual debts and transport payments,
ITAR-TASS reported on 12 April. While in Pyongyang, Ignatenko, joined by Deputy
Foreign Minister Aleksandr Panov, also met with high-ranking North Korean
officials to discuss replacing the 1961 Soviet-North Korean treaty, which
expires this September. Russia wants to change the military assistance clauses
of the treaty (see OMRI Daily Digest, 8 September 1995). Meanwhile, in
Moscow, Foreign and Defense Ministry spokesmen said Russia would continue its
military-technical cooperation with North and South Korea, arguing that arms
sales to both countries do not jeopardize regional security. -- Scott Parrish
HEALTH WORKERS PROTEST.
Medical workers in 60 Russian regions held
meetings and picketed local government buildings on 11 April to demand the
payment of wage arrears, higher wages, and increased spending on health care,
ITAR-TASS reported. The deputy chairman of the Union of Health Care Workers,
Vladimir Lyalin, said that the 1996 federal budget allocation for health of 4.6
trillion rubles ($948 million) was only a fifth of the sum requested by the
Health Ministry. The financial crisis in the health care system has resulted in
shortages in medicines and equipment and a deterioration in treatment,
contributing to an increase in infectious diseases and mortality rates. --
POLICE ARREST MISSILE DESIGNER'S MURDERER.
Police in Yekaterinburg said
on 11 April that they had arrested six people in connection with the murder of
leading weapons designer Valentin Smirnov (see OMRI Daily Digest, 21
March 1996). The Sverdlovsk Oblast procurator said Yurii Pinzhenin, head of an
enterprise affiliated with Smirnov's design bureau, is suspected of having
ordered the killing after Smirnov caught him embezzling money from the
enterprise. The arrests provided a boost for law enforcement agencies, which
have been heavily criticized in recent years for failing to solve a series of
high-profile contract killings. -- Penny Morvant
FOREIGN TRADE STILL RISING.
The volume of Russia's foreign trade in the
first two months of 1996 was $19.5 billion, a 10% increase over the same period
last year, Finansovye izvestiya reported on 9 April. Exports went up by
7% (to $12.4 billion), and imports by 14% (to $7.1 billion). Oil, gas, coal,
and non-ferrous metals accounted for 61% of exports. Non-CIS countries
accounted for 79% of Russia's exports and 62% of imports. Meanwhile, during the
visit of First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Kadannikov to Rome, an agreement
was signed rescheduling Russia's $450 million debt to Italy over the next 15
years. -- Natalia Gurushina
GOVERNMENT USING BANKS TO BAIL OUT THE REGIONS.
The government has
ordered the Finance Ministry to guarantee credits given by the commercial banks
Stolichnyi Bank Sberezhenii (SBS), Menatep, and ONEKSIMbank to a number of
regional authorities, Kommersant-Daily reported on 11 April. They
include a 45 billion ruble ($9 million) SBS construction loan to the Adygeya
Republic, Menatep's 35 billion rubles wage credit to Pskov Oblast, and
ONEKSIMbank's 40 billion ruble credit to Mordoviya. These bank loans will help
plug holes in local budgets without showing up as federal government spending.
-- Natalia Gurushina
FINANCIAL PROBLEMS MAR 35TH ANNIVERSARY OF SPACE PROGRAM . . .
director of the Russian Space Agency Yurii Koptev said that work on the cargo
module of the international space station Alfa is five months behind
schedule because of a lack of funds, Russian and Western media reported on 10
April. If the delay is not eliminated by May, Russia risks exclusion from the
project. The national space program's funding has fallen to 10% of the 1989
level. In the first quarter of 1996, the industry received only 7% of the 3.3
trillion rubles ($674 million) promised in this year's budget. Russia's revenue
from commercial launches ($350 million in 1995) was spent mainly on paying off
old debts. -- Natalia Gurushina
. . . BUT YELTSIN PROMISES TAX BREAKS.
During his visit to the
Energomash scientific-industrial complex, President Yeltsin said the government
will implement a number of measures to support the space industry, ITAR-TASS
and Reuters reported on 11 April. He said a decree will be prepared to exempt
companies participating in international space programs from custom duties and
taxes. He also announced the establishment of a new space cadet school in St.
Petersburg. -- Natalia Gurushina
REBELS THWARTED FROM CROSSING TAJIK-AFGHAN BORDER.
Five armed men
attempting to smuggle drugs from Afghanistan into Tajikistan were shot dead by
border guards who seized 159 kg of opium from the smugglers, ITAR-TASS reported
on 10 April. Border guards have confiscated about 700 kg of drugs so far this
year. -- Bhavna Dave
VAN DEN BROEK IN UZBEKISTAN.
A delegation led by EU Commissioner for
External Relations Hans van den Broek met with Uzbek President Islam Karimov
and Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov in Tashkent for talks on enhancing trade
and economic relations between the EU and Uzbekistan, Uzbek Radio reported on 8
April. Karimov touted Uzbekistan's work in laying "a legal basis for a
democratic society," according to an Uzbek Radio report monitored by the BBC.
The EU envoy, for his part, allegedly praised the "serious progress" made in
ensuring that "human rights were defended and economic reforms carried out" in
the country. -- Lowell Bezanis
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT DISCUSSES SATELLITE LAUNCHES WITH INDONESIA.
Kuchma and Indonesian President Suharto have discussed the possibility of
Ukraine's launching a communications satellite from an Indonesian site, AFP
reported on 11 April. The satellite would help resolve Indonesia's
communications problems among its thousands of islands. Kuchma told Suharto
that Ukraine could launch the satellite with its rockets but would be unable to
finance the project owing to its economic difficulties. Kuchma is in Indonesia
to try to increase trade and economic cooperation between Ukraine and the Far
East. -- Ustina Markus
THREE BELARUSIAN FACTIONS APPROVE ACCORD WITH RUSSIA.
Three of the five
Belarusian parliamentary factions--the Communists, the Agrarians, and the
pro-presidential "Accord"--have approved the 2 April Russian-Belarusian
agreement on integration, Belarusian TV reported on 10 April. The three
factions voiced support for President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's policies and
urged the parliament's speedy ratification of the treaty. The two other
parliamentary factions--the Social-Democrats and Civic Action--are unlikely to
be as supportive, since their leaderships have criticized Lukashenka's
pro-Russian policies. -- Ustina Markus
ESTONIA'S RUSSIAN DEPUTIES PROPOSE EASING CITIZENSHIP RULES.
caucus in the Estonian parliament has proposed amending Estonia's citizenship
law to make it easier to obtain citizenship, BNS reported on 11 April. The
deputies want people who settled in Estonia before July 1990 and are over 55 to
be exempt from the language examination. They have also proposed automatically
granting citizenship to people married to Estonians, and ethnic Estonians who
take up residency in the country. Deputy Mart Nutt said the proposed amendments
disregard the interests of the Estonian state. He said most European countries
do not grant citizenship on the basis of marriage and that it is difficult to
define who is an ethnic Estonian. -- Ustina Markus
FISHERMEN URGE LATVIA TO SEPARATE BORDER, FISHING ISSUES.
Fish Industry Association plans to propose that the Latvian and Estonian
governments seek to resolve their maritime border problems separately from the
fishing issue, BNS reported on 11 April. Chairman of the association Mikelis
Pesse said that Latvian and Estonian fishermen have never argued over fishing
and that the issue has become "overpoliticized." The prime ministers of the two
countries are scheduled to meet on 14 April to discuss Latvia's decision to
unilaterally define a fishing area. -- Ustina Markus
POLISH PRESIDENTS TO RECEIVE PENSIONS.
The Sejm on 12 April passed a law
to grant pensions to former presidents of the Republic of Poland, Polish and
international agencies reported. Three former presidents will receive pensions
worth 6,500 zlotys a month ($2,600, the amount the current president earns):
Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, who was president when the country changed its name
to the Republic of Poland in 1990; Lech Walesa, who held office from 1990-1995;
and Ryszard Kaczorowski, who is the only living president of the Republic of
Poland's government in exile in London, which existed until Walesa's election.
Walesa appeared at the Gdansk shipyard on 2 April but did not start work,
choosing instead to go on a lecture tour in the U.S. -- Jakub Karpinski
TREATY SIGNED ON PROTECTION OF ODER RIVER.
Environment ministers from
Poland, Germany, and the Czech Republic, meeting with EU representatives in
Wroclaw on 11 April, signed a treaty on protecting the Oder River against
pollution. The treaty also aims to limit pollution brought by the Oder to the
Baltic Sea. An international commission will be established in Wroclaw to
oversee the protection of the river. Polish Environment Minister Stanislaw
Zelichowski said that Poland has bilateral arrangements with Germany and the
Czech Republic on environment issues but that a new approach was required to
ensure the Oder's protection. He added that cleaning up the river would cost
around $20 billion, Polish dailies reported on 12 April. -- Jakub Karpinski
CZECH VILLAGERS PROTEST PROPOSED CHANGES IN BORDER WITH SLOVAKIA.
five-member delegation from the village of U Sabotu on 11 April submitted to
the Czech parliament a petition signed by 21 village residents urging deputies
not to approve a Czech-Slovak border agreement signed at government level in
January, Czech and Slovak media reported. Under the agreement, the village is
to be transferred from the Czech Republic to Slovakia. The villagers point out
that a local referendum on the issue never took place. The Czech government
recently decided to offer financial compensation to those residents who want to
continue living in the Czech Republic. The petitioners, however, argue they do
not want money but just want "to live where we used to." President Vaclav Havel
unexpectedly received the delegation and commented afterward that he sees the
proposed transfer of the village to Slovakia as "the price the village's
inhabitants will have to pay for the split of Czechoslovakia... This is a price
paid by all those of us who wanted to live in a common Czechoslovak state." --
SLOVAKIA'S CREDIT RATINGS UPGRADED.
Standard & Poor's on 11 April
increased its rating of Slovakia from BB+ to BBB-, international and Slovak
media reported. Slovak National Bank Chairman Vladimir Masar told Slovak TV
that the new ratings move Slovakia for the first time from the speculative to
the "investment rating grade." Slovakia now has the same rating as Poland and
is ahead of Hungary. The Czech Republic recently received an A rating, becoming
the first post-communist country to move into that category. Standard &
Poor praised macroeconomic developments in Slovakia, where the economy grew by
7.4% last year and annual inflation was only 7.2%--the best such indicators in
Eastern Europe. It also hailed Slovakia's foreign trade and budget policies.
But at the same time, the agency warned that further upgrading may be impeded
by the country's unstable political situation and the lack of industrial
restructuring. -- Jiri Pehe
ATTACKS ON ROMA IN SLOVAKIA.
A Romani man suffered burns when three
Slovak men threw a bottle of flaming liquid into his house in Zalistie, after
having assaulted him and four other Roma, TASR reported on 10 April. According
to the European Roma Rights Center in Budapest, a group of skinheads the
previous week attacked Romani children from an orphanage attending a hockey
game, yelling "we will kill all Gypsies." The orphanage head said Slovaks who
were also attending the game did not intervene but made room for the skinheads.
Several callers to a Bratislava radio show said they approved of the attacks,
noting that the Slovak state "does not protect its citizens against Gypsies."
Several children are recovering with broken bones in the hospital. -- Alaina
BOSNIAN INMATES START RIOT IN HUNGARIAN PRISON.
Some two dozen inmates
from the former Yugoslavia on 10 April staged a riot in a Hungarian prison to
demand the acceleration of their repatriation, Hungarian and international
media reported. National Prison Authority officials said the riot was initiated
by three Bosnians. Later, 20 ethnic Albanians from Kosovo joined the protest.
They threatened to commit suicide and broke windows and furniture to press
their demands for repatriation. The riot followed the 14 March visit of a
Bosnian Embassy official who had promised the three Bosnians repatriation in a
few days. The three men were arrested for illegally entering the country. --
OPPOSITION TO HUNGARIAN PREMIER'S PROPOSAL TO ESTABLISH INVESTIGATIVE
Opposition parties, the junior coalition Alliance of Free Democrats
(SZDSZ), and many deputies from the Socialist Party oppose Gyula Horn's
initiative to set up an office to investigate white-collar economic crime,
Hungarian media reported on 12 April. Many opposition deputies fear that the
new office would mean a still larger state apparatus that is no more efficient.
SZDSZ chairman Ivan Peto stressed that his caucus would vote against the
office, as the SZDSZ has been advocating a less costly state structure. He
suggested that in order to fight corruption and black-marketeering, tax
legislation be tightened and the police force, the National Security Office and
the prosecutor-general's position all be strengthened. -- Zsofia Szilagyi
BOSNIAN AID DONOR CONFERENCE OPENS IN BRUSSELS.
The second major
international gathering to raise money for the reconstruction of
Bosnia-Herzegovina opened on 12 April in Brussels. The sponsors are the EU
Commission and the World Bank, and participants come from 55 countries and 29
international organizations. The agenda centers on plans to distribute $1.8
billion in pledged assistance and to raise an additional $1.2 billion,
international and local media reported. The World Bank's James Wolfensohn said
one of his priorities will be the creation of jobs for the 250,000 soldiers
being demobilized, Onasa and Nasa Borba noted. The international
community's High Representative Carl Bildt rejected the Bosnian Serbs' demand
that they form a separate delegation, so only delegates from the federation
were invited and are present. Bildt told the BBC that few donors are interested
in putting their money into the Republika Srpska. -- Patrick Moore
CROATIAN-MUSLIM FEDERATION NEEDS INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT.
President Kresimir Zubak told parliament that the federation is in its "most
critical period ever" because of "essential differences" between the Croatian
and Muslim sides. He called for greater involvement by the international
community to shore up the shaky federation, which is one of the cornerstones of
the Dayton agreement, AFP reported on 11 April. Vice President Ejup Ganic also
stressed that problems are numerous. The legislative session has a large
agenda, including adopting a new flag and state emblem. -- Patrick Moore
FIRST MEETING OF INDEPENDENT JOURNALISTS FROM BOSNIAN FEDERATION, REPUBLIKA
The OSCE and OMRI on 10 April sponsored the first meeting of
independent newspapers from both the federation and the Republika Srpska. The
journalists met in Banja Luka and will hold their next session in Sarajevo,
Onasa reported. The agency also said that David Rohde of the Christian
Science Monitor won the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting for his
work in investigating mass graves of Muslims murdered after the fall of
Srebrenica. In that same area, UN investigators have found evidence of
additional mass graves, Reuters noted. Serbian authorities freed 211 Muslims
from Srebrenica who had been held as prisoners at Sljivovica in rump
Yugoslavia, but they continue to detain 13 others as possible war criminals.
The UNHCR has protested, saying that all 224 people should have been freed,
Nasa Borba reported on 11 April. Meanwhile in Sarajevo, the young
Serbian man and his Muslim girlfriend who were killed as they tried to cross
front lines in 1993 were reburied in the main cemetery in an atheist ceremony,
international media noted on 10 April. -- Patrick Moore
INDEPENDENT CROATIAN DAILY TO FIGHT MOVE TO SHUT IT DOWN.
Novi list--Croatia's third-largest and only independent daily
paper--will pay a $2.5 million fine to prevent its assets from being frozen but
will also fight the charges in court. Editors said that they regard the fine as
an attempt to close the paper by bankrupting it, a technique that the governing
Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) has already used against the independent
media. The fine allegedly stems from back taxes and from having imported
printing equipment from Italy at a low rate reserved for publications for
ethnic minorities, Reuters reported on 11 April. The HDZ lost the October 1995
legislative elections in Rijeka and is unpopular in nearby Istria, where it is
regarded as the party of centralized rule from Zagreb. The editors noted that
the current move against the paper comes with local elections due this summer.
-- Patrick Moore
RUMP-YUGOSLAV INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS WRAP-UP.
Following visits to Croatia
and Bosnia, Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy arrived in the rump
Yugoslavia on 11 April. He met with President Slobodan Milosevic and Foreign
Minister Milan Milutinovic to discuss rump Yugoslavia's cooperation with the
international war crimes tribunal and bilateral economic cooperation such as
opening new airline links. Meanwhile, Sweden and Norway gave full diplomatic
recognition to rump Yugoslavia, Nasa Borba reported on 12 April. --
SERBIAN NATIONAL BANK GOVERNOR WARNS OF HYPERINFLATION.
Avramovic has warned Serbian President Milosevic that rump Yugoslavia is again
facing hyperinflation. He has threatened to stop issuing credits. According to
Avramovic, foreign-currency reserves are currently falling by $1 million a day,
Nasa Borba reported. Avramovic clashed earlier with Milosevic over
relations with the IMF. He also urged the government to sign an agreement on
new IMF loans, warning that the country otherwise faced "new inflationary
suicide." Membership talks between rump Yugoslavia and the IMF at the end of
March in Paris failed to achieve any results because the former insisted it is
the sole legal successor to the former Yugoslavia. -- Fabian Schmidt
POLICE DETAIN KOSOVAR WEEKLY'S MARKETING DIRECTOR.
Koha editor in
chief Veton Surroi has told OMRI that Serbian police on 11 April detained Ahmet
Kurtolli, the weekly's marketing director. Kurtolli was questioned about the
latest issue of the weekly, which was originally banned by the police but
appeared in kiosks with one week delay on 10 April. Following international
protests, the Pristina prosecutor-general revoked an earlier order stating that
the paper cannot be published unless censored by him. -- Fabian Schmidt
HIGH-LEVEL DEFENSE MEETINGS IN BUCHAREST.
German Defense Minister Volker
Ruehe, speaking in Bucharest on 11 April, said that Romania and Hungary have an
equal chance of joining NATO, Romanian and international media reported. Ruehe
met with his Romanian counterpart, Gheorghe Tinca, and Prime Minister Nicolae
Vacaroiu. He is scheduled to meet with President Ion Iliescu. Meanwhile,
Hungarian Chief of Staff Sandor Nemeth is also in Bucharest. At a joint press
conference with his Romanian counterpart, Gen. Dumitru Cioflina, he said
Hungary will back Romania's quest for NATO membership because it would be
detrimental for security in Europe and the region if countries belonged to
different security systems. Nemeth and Tinca also signed two military accords.
-- Michael Shafir
CONTROVERSY OVER ROMANIAN CHIEF OF STAFF STATEMENTS.
Cioflina denied having said that if the Russian elections are won by the
Communists and if Romania is not "co-opted by NATO," the former Warsaw Pact
countries (presumably excluding Moscow) will have to set up an alliance "to
counterbalance Soviet influence in this part of Europe." This statement was
reported by the daily Evenimentul zilei on 11 April. Presidential
spokesman Traian Chebeleu the same day said that the statements reported by
Romanian and international media were taken out of context and harmed Romania's
image abroad, Radio Bucharest reported. Defense Minister Gheorghe Tinca said
Cioflina's comment was simply a "reaction by a [member of the] military" to a
"hypothetical scenario." -- Michael Shafir
ROMANIAN ELECTIONS TO TAKE PLACE ON SCHEDULE AFTER ALL?
Constitutional Court on 11 April ruled that the recent laws on public
administration and local elections are constitutional, Romanian media reported.
Nicolae Manolescu, leader of the Party of Civic Alliance, rejected the Party of
Romanian National Unity's claim that elections will have to be postponed as a
result of the Constitutional Court's examination of the legislation. He said
the local election campaign will be shortened from 45 to 30 days so that the
ballot can be held on 26 May. -- Michael Shafir
MOLDOVAN FRONTIER GUARDS DETAIN BANGLADESHI CITIZENS.
guards detained 14 Bangladeshi citizens who were trying to cross the border
into Romania, BASA press reported on 11 April. The 14 had hidden in a truck
container driven by a Moldovan citizen. Last year, 3,356 Asians were detained
while trying to illegally cross the Moldovan-Romanian border, apparently on
their way to the West. -- Michael Shafir
BULGARIAN PREMIER LAUNCHES ATTACK AGAINST PRESIDENT.
Minister Zhan Videnov has accused President Zhelyu Zhelev of trying to "provoke
a catastrophe" in the country, Reuters reported on 11 April. Videnov said that
Zhelev is blocking laws, enflaming the war between state institutions, and
"mocking our national prosperity, dignity and security." Zhelev recently tried
to block controversial tax law amendments that, he argues, will damage small
businesses and stifle the country's fragile private sector. Zhelev can veto
legislation only once. The amendments were upheld by the parliament on 11 April
and will shortly become law. -- Fabian Schmidt
LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT IN BULGARIA.
Algirdas Brazauskas arrived in Sofia
on 11 April, Reuters reported. His visit was overshadowed by the long-running
feud between Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev and Premier Zhan Videnov. Atanas
Pavlov, the government's chief of protocol, criticized Zhelev for failing to
schedule a meeting with Videnov during Brazauskas' two-day visit. Lithuanian
journalists have interpreted Videnov's failure to attend a speech given by
Brazauskas in the Bulgarian parliament as a snub against Zhelev. -- Fabian
SIX ALBANIAN OPPOSITION CANDIDATES BANNED FROM RUNNING IN ELECTIONS.
election commission has banned six candidates from the opposition Democratic
Alliance from running in the 26 May elections, Gazeta Shqiptare reported
on 12 April. The controversial screening law, which was adopted last fall,
prohibits all former high-ranking communist officials from running for public
office until 2005. Among those banned are Prec Zogaj, the editor-in-chief of
Aleanca (the party mouthpiece) and former Defense Minister Perikli Teta.
Democratic Alliance leader Neritan Ceka and Secretary General Arben Imami are
both allowed to run. The composition of the commission, which is dominated by
the ruling Democratic Party and the government, was severely criticized by the
opposition. -- Fabian Schmidt
[As of 1200 CET]
Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave