HEAD OF MOSCOW MILITARY DISTRICT WANTS ELECTION TO BE POSTPONED.
Military District commander Col. Gen. Leontii Kuznetsov declared that in his
view the forthcoming presidential election should be postponed, Russian and
Western agencies reported on 7 May. Kuznetsov argued that the vote would
undermine social stability and "split the Russian population into two camps."
He added that if the opposition comes to power, it will merely "settle scores
instead of changing the political course." Kuznetsov said many officers in the
Moscow Military District share this view. -- Constantine Dmitriev
YAVLINSKII MAY STRIKE A DEAL WITH YELTSIN.
Grigorii Yavlinskii on 7 May
tried to downplay the possibility of an alliance with Boris Yeltsin, saying
that the two had to resolve numerous difficult problems, including Chechnya,
economic and social policy, and most importantly, personnel questions, Russian
TV (RTR) reported. However, on 8 May he said that he was willing to discuss
with Yeltsin the possibility of uniting the democratic candidates, Radio Rossii
reported. Yavlinskii wants to be the prime minister, but Yeltsin is only
prepared to offer him a deputy prime ministerial position, according to
Kommersant-Daily on 7 May. Communist candidate Gennadii Zyuganov said
that the negotiations "are not a surprise" and that they will end Yavlinskii's
career since people will cease to trust him, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Robert
THIRD FORCE UNRAVELS.
The abortive "third force" alliance of Grigorii
Yavlinskii, Aleksandr Lebed, and Svyatoslav Fedorov seems to have suffered a
fatal blow. Fedorov, eye surgeon and leader of the Party of Workers'
Self-Government, said he will not withdraw his presidential candidacy,
ITAR-TASS reported on 8 May. Fedorov advocates what he calls "popular
socialism," in which workers would manage their own enterprises. Fedorov added
that if Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov were elected president, he
might be willing to accept the post of prime minister. Lebed announced earlier
this week that he would not drop out of the race in favor of Yavlinskii. --
YELTSIN SCOLDS GOVERNMENT FOR PAYMENT ARREARS.
President Yeltsin on 8
May sharply criticized the government and Pension Fund for failing to ensure
the timely payment of wages and pensions despite direct instructions from his
office, Radio Rossii reported. The previous day, Pension Fund head Vasilii
Barchuk blamed delays on the government's failure to pay its debt to the fund,
which he said totals 4.6 trillion rubles for the period 1992-1995 alone.
Following the March clampdown on wage arrears, Yeltsin ordered the elimination
of all pension arrears by the end of April--a goal that has clearly not been
met. -- Penny Morvant
GOVERNMENT TRIES TO WIN OVER REGIONAL JOURNALISTS.
The government's new
regional press agency organized a 6-7 May seminar for 80 television and 60
radio journalists, scheduling meetings with high government officials and
paying all their travel and living expenses, according to the latest edition of
Moskovskie novosti. President Yeltsin told the journalists, "I am not
calling on you to campaign on behalf of candidate Yeltsin, but I expect from
you a responsible attitude toward what is happening in Russia," Russian Public
TV (ORT) reported on 6 May. Procurator-General Yurii Skuratov promised that his
office will pay special attention to protecting journalists' rights in cases
when the victim of a crime, or the accused, is a journalist. On 7 May, State
Press Committee Chairman Ivan Laptev advised the journalists on obtaining tax
and customs privileges guaranteed under the law on state support for the mass
media, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Laura Belin
YELTSIN'S CHECHEN TRIP IN JEOPARDY?
Russian President Boris Yeltsin's
planned visit to Chechnya is "impossible" at present because of security
considerations, Russian Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov told Interfax in a
report cited by AFP on 8 May. On 7 May federal forces captured the village of
Goyskoe, which has been the scene of fighting for several weeks. The same day
Russian helicopters launched a rocket attack on the raion center of Urus
Martan, killing five people in the open-air market; the Chechen procuracy has
begun an investigation. As of 9 May, the town had been sealed off by Russian
troops, according to AFP. Machine gun fire hit the Grozny home of Chechen
Interior Minister Hamid Inalov during the night of 7-8 May, but no one was
injured, according to ITAR-TASS. On 3 May, Inalov's car was fired on in Urus
Martan. -- Liz Fuller
RUSSIA, BRITAIN LOOK FOR RESOLUTION OF SPY SCANDAL.
Russia and Britain
appear to be seeking a way to back down from confrontation over the espionage
incident (see OMRI Daily Digest, 7 May 1996) that has triggered the
threatened expulsion from Russia of nine British diplomats, Russian and Western
agencies reported on 8 May. Reuters reported that talks are now focusing on the
timing and scale of the diplomats' expulsions. British Ambassador Andrew Wood
met with Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov on 7 May to discuss the
issue. British Foreign Minister Malcolm Rifkind has insisted that Russia has
not substantiated its claim that the nine British embassy staff are
intelligence agents. Meanwhile, the unidentified Russian whose arrest started
the affair has been charged with treason under Article 64 of the Russian
Criminal Code, and could face the death penalty. -- Scott Parrish
RUSSIA SIGNS INTERNATIONAL NUCLEAR LIABILITY CONVENTION.
the 1963 Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage in a ceremony
at the International Agency for Atomic Energy (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna,
ITAR-TASS reported on 8 May. The convention, which was never signed by the
Soviet Union, is part of the international regime regulating third-party
liability for damage resulting from civilian nuclear accidents. Under the
convention, primary liability for damage resulting from a nuclear reactor
accident rests on the country operating the reactor. -- Scott Parrish
TURKEY, RUSSIA SPAR OVER PIPELINE, STRAITS.
Turkish Foreign Minister
Emre Gonensay announced Turkey's willingness to fully finance a pipeline
carrying Caspian Sea oil to its Mediterranean port of Ceyhan and threatened to
institute safety measures governing the passage of ships through the Bosporus
Strait if Russia tries to transport oil through it. Such measures were adopted
in 1994 and it is not clear if Gonensay's remarks imply new measures or a
stricter application of existing ones. Russia officially termed Turkey's
position "unacceptable," saying that the new regulations are a violation of the
1936 Montreux Treaty, and insisting that Turkey adopt a "modern" navigation
system to ensure that oil spills are avoided, Russian media reported.
Gonensay's remarks reflect Turkey's discomfort with the reallocation of shares
in the Caspian Pipeline Consortium last week, which gave Russia a 44% share in
the project to move Tengiz oil to the Russian port of Novorossiisk. -- Lowell
NUCLEAR SMUGGLING ALLEGATIONS REFUTED.
A spokesman for the Federal
Security Service (FSB) in Krasnoyarsk said on 8 May that the scientist arrested
the previous day in connection with the theft of nuclear materials was not
selling plutonium or any other fissionable material, ITAR-TASS reported.
Contradicting earlier reports, the FSB denied that the stolen material was
radioactive, adding that it was very hard and heat resistant and could be used
to coat ballistic missiles as well as for civilian purposes. -- Penny Morvant
CANNIBAL KILLS AGAIN.
A Russian prisoner on death row murdered a fellow
inmate in a jail in Barnaul in Altai Krai and tried to make soup out of his
liver, Reuters reported on 8 May, citing Interfax. Last July, the cannibal,
Aleksandr Maslich, murdered another fellow prisoner and ate some of his
internal organs. Maslich was convicted on triple murder charges in 1993 and
sentenced to death last year. -- Penny Morvant
MORE HELP FOR DEFENSE PLANTS.
President Yeltsin issued a decree on 8 May
raising the status of the State Committee on Defense Industry, headed by
Zinovii Pak, to a government ministry, ITAR-TASS reported. He also instructed
the Finance Ministry to pay off state debts to defense plants, exempted them
from paying taxes until this is done, and promised help with energy bills. Pak
said that about one third of defense plants are fully state owned, one third
are fully privatized, and in one third the state owns shares. The government
now intends to buy back shares in some of the privatized defense plants. Last
month, a new Federal Commission on Defense Plant Privatization was created
under First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets to monitor defense
privatization. -- Peter Rutland
PENSION FUND OWED 23 TRILLION RUBLES.
Social Security Minister Lyudmila
Bezlepkina told a government meeting on 7 May that enterprises owe the Pension
Fund 23 trillion rubles ($4.6 billion), Rossiiskie vesti reported. She
said that last year the Russian government spent $500 million of the state's
gold and currency reserves on pensions, but payments were still delayed by
about 20 to 30 days in many parts of the country. Only about half the country's
89 republics and regions have received funds for this April's pensions.
Bezlepkina said that responsibility for collecting contributions from
enterprises should be transferred to the State Tax Service. Russia has 37
million pensioners. -- Penny Morvant
The Central Bank has now withdraw licenses from 320 of
Russia's 2,599 commercial banks, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 May. Another 465 banks
have been warned for violating banking regulations. The banks have a total
equity capital of 13 trillion rubles ($2.6 billion), but only 5% of banks have
equity capital over 20 billion rubles. General licenses were given to 260
banks, 790 banks have licenses for dealing with foreign currency, and 205 for
operations with precious metals. -- Natalia Gurushina
ARMENIAN PRESIDENT SNUBS SELEZNEV.
After staying one day longer than
planned in China, Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan stopped off in Moscow
on 7 May for talks on bilateral relations and the Karabakh conflict with
Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, who is
to visit Yerevan later this month, Russian media reported. Ter-Petrossyan said
it would be "neither wise nor advantageous" for Armenia to join the CIS Customs
Union at present, according to RFE/RL. Meanwhile, a Russian State Duma
delegation led by Speaker Gennadii Seleznev was in Armenia for a two-day visit
to meet with Armenian National Assembly Chairman Babken Ararktsyan and Prime
Minister Hrant Bagratyan. The issue of Karabakh was not on the agenda since in
a previous interview with an Azerbaijani journalist Seleznev had accused
Armenia of "aggression," Noyan Tapan reported. -- Liz Fuller
PRIMAKOV'S KARABAKH DIPLOMACY.
Russia Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov
traveled to Baku and then Yerevan on 8 May on what he termed "direct
instructions from President Boris Yeltsin" in an attempt to achieve at least
minimal progress toward a political solution of the Karabakh conflict, Russian
and Western media reported. Following an agreement between Azerbaijan, Armenia,
and the leadership of the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh on an
exchange of all prisoners of war, Primakov brought 34 former Armenian prisoners
and one ethnic Russian to Yerevan; in exchange, Armenia is to release 11
Azerbaijanis, and Karabakh Armenian authorities a further 59. -- Liz Fuller
DEMIREL IN UZBEKISTAN.
Turkish President Suleyman Demirel concluded a
three-day official visit to Tashkent on 9 May during which he signed agreements
on "eternal friendship and cooperation," environmental protection, and double
taxation with his Uzbek counterpart, Islam Karimov, ITAR-TASS reported. In
1995, Turkish-Uzbek trade was valued at $280 million, a 75% increase over the
previous year, and involves more than 200 joint ventures. This was Demirel's
first visit to Uzbekistan as Turkish president; Turgut Ozal visited in 1993. --
COCA-COLA EXPANDS PRODUCTION IN CENTRAL ASIA, TRANSCAUCASUS.
Coca-Cola Company announced that it will invest an additional $200 million into
the region over the next three years, RFE/RL reported on 8 May. Calling it the
"next frontier opportunity for soft drinks," Neville Isdell, president of the
company's Greater Europe Group, announced the opening of a $15 million bottling
plant in Almaty, Kazakhstan, as part of a joint venture with the Turkish
Anadolu Group and the Kazakhstani bottler ToNus. Plants will also open in
Bishkek and Tashkent at the cost of $16 million and $10 million, respectively.
Plans are being drawn up for similar plants in Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and
Armenia. The company already has plants operating in the Georgian capital
Tbilisi (opened in June 1993) and one in Tashkent (opened March 1994). -- Roger
CHANGES IN KAZAKHSTANI GOVERNMENT.
Kazakhstani President Nursultan
Nazarbayev on 8 May promoted Trade and Industry Minister Garri Shtoik to the
post of first deputy prime minister, RFE/RL and Reuters reported. Shtoik
replaces Vitalii Mette, who left office recently. The choice of one ethnic
German to replace another may not be coincidental as Almaty appears anxious to
have a German presence in the government. Kazakhstan's sizable German
population has the attention and support of the German government. Nazarbayev
also promoted Stepan Shutkin to the post of head of the government apparatus.
-- Bruce Pannier
VIOLENCE CONTINUES IN TAJIKISTAN.
Border guards near the Tajik city of
Khorog killed eight alleged rebels who were attempting to cross over from
Afghanistan, Russian TV (RTR) and Reuters reported on 8 May. The "rebels" were
using a route known to be a drug highway from Afghanistan to destinations in
the former Soviet Union and Europe. In the capital, Dushanbe, Lt. Gen. Kurbon
Cholov survived an assassination attempt in his apartment on 7 May, according
to ITAR-TASS. Gunmen using grenade launchers and small arms fired upon the
apartment killing Cholov's chief of staff and wounding another officer, but
Cholov was uninjured. -- Bruce Pannier
UKRAINIAN CONSTITUTIONAL UPDATE.
Corrections to the text of Ukraine's
draft constitution were almost completed by the end of last week, Ukrainian
Radio reported on 6 May. Mykhailo Syrota, leader of the "Center" caucus, said
11 parliamentary groups took part in editing the draft, which is now 80-85%
finished. The Communists, however, refused to take part in the process.
Meanwhile, the dispute over whether to have a bicameral or unicameral
parliament has been resolved. The majority of deputies prefer a single-chamber
parliament, but President Leonid Kuchma supports a bicameral one. Ukrainian TV
on 7 May reported that Kuchma has agreed to a unicameral parliament for a
five-year interim period, after which it will become bicameral. -- Ustina
INFLATION IN UKRAINE.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Statistics has announced
that inflation in April was 2.4%, Ukrainian Radio reported on 7 May. This is
the lowest rate of inflation Ukraine has had in recent years and is lower than
government predictions. At the same time, real incomes in the first quarter of
the year decreased by 19%. -- Ustina Markus
BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT ADVOCATES STATE-RUN ECONOMY.
told war veterans on 8 May--Victory Day in Belarus--that the state will be in
complete control of the country's economy and that banks will soon be back
under government control, Reuters reported on 8 May. Lukashenka plans to
increase state control over the six largest banks in Belarus, but he dismissed
Western concerns that the plan amounts to nationalization. Last year, the IMF
halted the disbursement of a $300 million standby credit to Belarus because of
the lack of market reforms in the country. Less than 10% of enterprises are
privately owned in Belarus. In a statement that will not help loosen the IMF's
purse strings, Lukashenka told war veterans they will be compensated for
savings wiped out by post-Soviet inflation. -- Ustina Markus
UPDATE ON BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION TRIALS.
Deputy leader of the Belarusian
Popular Front (BPF) Yuriy Khadyka on 7 May was formally charged with organizing
and participating in an illegal rally, an RFE/RL correspondent and Western
agencies reported. When Khadyka began a hunger strike following his arrest, his
lawyer appealed to the court to have him released on bail on grounds of his age
(Khadyka is in his late 50s). The appeal was rejected. Another arrested BPF
leader, Vyacheslau Sivchik, is also on a hunger strike but has not yet been
charged. Belapan on 6 May reported that the Justice Ministry has sent a warning
letter to the BPF, which is seen as part of a campaign to ban the organization.
-- Ustina Markus
RUSSIA, ESTONIA EXPEL DIPLOMATS.
Estonian Ambassador in Moscow Mart Helm
was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry on 8 May to be informed that
embassy official Argo Kuunemae was being expelled for "activities incompatible
with his office." Western agencies reported. The Estonian Foreign Ministry
later revealed that two weeks earlier Russia had agreed to meet Estonian
demands that Russian diplomat Sergei Andreev, who had allegedly been spying for
six months, leave Estonia without publicity. The ministry added that for this
reason, it was surprised that Russia had retaliated publicly. Meanwhile,
President Lennart Meri sent back to the parliament the law on local elections,
saying it contravenes the Estonian Constitution and the UN convention on civil
rights. The law requires local government candidates who did not graduate from
an Estonian-language high school to pass exams in written and spoken Estonian.
Russian organizations and parties have protested the law, arguing that it will
prevent many Russian candidates from running. -- Saulius Girnius
UNITY PARTY LEAVES LATVIAN RULING COALITION.
Edgars Bens, head of the
Latvian Unity Party (LVP) caucus, said on 7 May that his party is quitting the
ruling coalition, BNS reported. The move was prompted by Prime Minister Andris
Skele's dismissal the previous day of LVP Chairman Alberts Kauls as agriculture
minister. The coalition's majority in the parliament is not endangered since
the LVP had only seven deputies. Meanwhile, Kauls predicted that the government
will have to resign within two months since it is unable to tackle nationally
important problems. Ziedonis Cevers, who heads Saimnieks, the
coalition's largest party, complained that Skele fired Kauls without discussing
the issue with other coalition members. -- Saulius Girnius
LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT IN LATVIA.
Algirdas Brazauskas, during his visit to
Latvia on 6-7 May, issued a communique with President Guntis Ulmanis saying
they will "continue concerted efforts to achieve the common strategic goal of
their foreign and security policy--full NATO membership," Reuters reported. The
two leaders discussed the controversy over their joint sea border and expressed
the hope that it will be settled during the next round of talks, scheduled to
take place in Vilnius on 19-20 May. Ulmanis noted that signing a free trade
agricultural agreement would help create a unified Baltic economic zone more
likely to attract foreign investment. Brazauskas also invited his Baltic
counterparts to meet in Vilnius on 28 May to discuss common efforts to join the
EU. -- Saulius Girnius
POLISH GOVERNMENT TO LOWER TAXES NEXT YEAR.
The Polish government has
announced it will lower income taxes next year in an effort to maintain high
economic growth and low inflation. The plan, which must be approved by the
parliament, foresees cutting income taxes currently ranging from 21-45% to
20-43%, Rzeczpospolita reported on 8 May. The government also plans to
reduce corporate taxes by 2% and to abolish or reduce some tax breaks. For
example, Poles will no longer be able to deduct donations to private
individuals or expenses for vocational training. Tax exemptions for those
investing in private companies or buying government bonds will also be lifted.
The tax cuts are part of the government's four-year economic plan aimed at
bringing Poland's economy into line for future membership in the European
Union. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz
POLISH PARLIAMENT MAY ENDORSE CONCORDAT.
Sejm speaker Jozef Zych on 7
May said deputies may ratify the concordat signed three years ago by the former
Solidarity government and the Holy See. The document has not yet been ratified
because of opposition from within the parliament. Zych, following a meeting
with President Aleksander Kwasniewski, said the lower chamber will debate the
concordat in June and may ratify it sometime next year, before adopting the new
constitution, Rzeczpospolita reported on 8 May. Among other things, the
concordat regulates Church finances and confirms the Church's right to run its
own schools, newspapers, and broadcasting outlets. Many Poles, including
leftist parliamentary deputies, believe the document gives the Church too much
influence over public life. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz
SLOVAK PREMIER BACKS DOWN ON ANTI-SUBVERSION LAW.
Vladimir Meciar on 8
May said the law on the protection of the republic will not be debated again by
the Slovak parliament at its May session, Pravda and Reuters reported.
Meciar told foreign journalists that "a wider democratic discussion" is needed
to ensure that the law complies with international human rights conventions.
The law has been widely criticized by the Slovak opposition and from abroad as
a quasi-totalitarian means of stifling dissent. It was passed by the parliament
in March, but President Michal Kovac returned it to the parliament. Meciar also
denied that Slovakia was lagging behind other post-communist countries in
creating democratic structures, saying that any rapid enlargement of NATO
without Russia's prior agreement could lead to the creation of a
"Russian-Chinese-Arab grouping." Meciar also strongly criticized the Czech
Republic for its refusal to cooperate more closely with Slovakia, Poland, and
Hungary in preparing for admission to the EU and NATO. -- Steve Kettle
HUNGARIAN INTERIOR MINISTER TO VETO PREMIER'S PROPOSAL FOR INVESTIGATIVE
Gabor Kuncze has been authorized by the Alliance of Free Democrats
(SZDSZ), the junior coalition party to which he belongs, to exercise his veto
power if the cabinet decides to establish a central investigative office,
Hungarian media reported on 8 May. Prime Minister Gyula Horn has long been
promoting the idea of establishing such an office to curb large-scale
white-collar crime. However, he continues to be at odds with his coalition
partner over the issue. Magyar Hirlap reported that the SZDSZ will only
accept a solution whereby ad hoc coordination groups are established at
the initiative of the police to investigate the most serious economic crimes.
The Socialist Party is divided over Horn's proposal but Socialist ministers are
expected to back the premier. According to recent polls, 62% of Hungarians
consider a permanent investigative office unnecessary. -- Zsofia Szilagyi
CROATIA DENIES REPORT OF SECRET MEETING.
The Croatian Embassy on 7 May
denied Bosnian media reports about alleged secret talks between Croatian
President Franjo Tudjman and Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, Onasa
stated. According to a story run by the biweekly magazine Slobodna
Bosna, Karadzic had been smuggled into western Herzegovina in a car with
license plates issued by the Croatian Community of Herceg-Bosna. The embassy
said the reports are part of a local smear campaign against Croatia's policy
toward Bosnia and that the authors' ultimate goal is to destroy the
Croatian-Muslim federation. -- Patrick Moore
Bosnian government forces freed two Serbs following a
ruling by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia that
there is no reason to hold them on suspicion of war crimes. The Serbs
consequently released three Muslims they had been holding, AFP reported on 8
May. Elsewhere, IFOR commander U.S. Adm. Leighton Smith said that the Serbian
people "as a whole basically carries the blame for the atrocities that occurred
in this war. What the Serb population needs to do is to bring the people to
justice who were the cause of the atrocities, so that the blame is shifted from
the Serb population to the individuals who were responsible." IFOR has been
criticized for its reluctance to hunt down war criminals. -- Patrick Moore
LATEST KILLINGS IN BOSNIA.
Following the killing of a Russian IFOR
soldier in Bosnia on 6 May, another IFOR soldier has been found dead from a gun
shot wound in the head at Visegrad, eastern Bosnia, AFP and Nasa Borba
reported on 8 May. IFOR said there were no suspicious circumstances
surrounding the soldier's death. According to AFP, IFOR has sustained 23
fatalities and some 140 injured soldiers in Bosnia to date. Meanwhile, Nasa
Borba reported that the Serbian police and the International Police Task
Force on 6 May found the bodies of four Serbian civilians who were allegedly
kidnapped and then killed by an unknown Muslim terrorist group near Milici,
eastern Bosnia. -- Daria Sito Sucic
UN URGES BELGRADE TO ACT AGAINST WAR CRIMINALS.
The UN Security Council
on 8 May urged Belgrade to arrest three men charged with the 1991 killing of at
least 260 civilians in the Croatian city of Vukovar. The accused were named
last month in a letter from The Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for
the Former Yugoslavia, Reuters reported. The council has also issued a
statement saying it "deplores the failure to date of the Federal Republic of
Yugoslavia to execute the arrest warrants issued by the Tribunal against the
three individuals." Meanwhile, Onasa on 8 May reported that Dusan Tadic, the
first war crimes suspect to be on trial at The Hague, has sent a letter to
Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic pleading for help. -- Stan Markotich
SERBIAN PRESIDENT URGED TO COMPLY WITH DAYTON ACCORD.
Reuters on 7 May
quoted High Representative for Bosnia Carl Bildt as saying he has "stressed to
President Milosevic that he has a responsibility...in a number of ways. He has
an obligation under the peace agreement and we talked about that." Bildt said
that during his recent trip to Belgrade, he discussed a number of issues with
the Serbian president, including the war crimes tribunal at The Hague. He
declined to give details, however. -- Stan Markotich
U.S. APPOINTS TEMPORARY DIPLOMAT TO KOSOVO.
U.S. Secretary of State
Warren Christopher has assigned a U.S. diplomat to Kosovo on a temporary basis
as a first step toward opening a U.S. Information Agency office in Pristina.
According to the State Department, administrative problems had delayed the
appointment of such an official. Meanwhile, Christopher discussed the Kosovo
conflict with his Albanian counterpart, Alfred Serreqi, on 8 May, AFP reported.
-- Fabian Schmidt
CROATIAN WEEKLY WARNS OF "TOTALITARIANISM."
In the ongoing battle
between the governing Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) and the independent
media, the editor of the satirical weekly Feral Tribune, Viktor Ivancic,
has been charged with defaming Tudjman under a new press law. Critics charge
that the law is part of a package to muzzle press freedom by enabling top
officials to sue if they feel "insulted." Tudjman said he was offended by
materials in the 29 April issue of the Split-based weekly that satirized his
recent speech on national reconciliation and the Jasenovac war memorial. The
paper often tests the limits of good taste, but the authorities' latest moves
against Ivancic are part of a long-standing conflict between the HDZ and the
few remaining independent periodicals. Feral Tribune announced in
response that "totalitarian methods" are being used against Ivancic in "the
beginning of a final settling of accounts between President Tudjman and all
those who don't think like him," AFP reported on 8 May. -- Patrick Moore
SLOVENIA, U.S. SHORE UP DEFENSE TIES.
Slovenian Premier Janez Drnovsek
and U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry on 8 May signed an accord on closer
defense cooperation. The agreement includes commitments to exchange classified
military information, Reuters reported . Drnovsek also met with Vice President
Al Gore during his trip to the U.S. -- Stan Markotich
COMMUNIST NOSTALGICS PLACE CROSS ON CEAUSESCU'S GRAVE.
Workers' Party (PMR), an extraparliamentary group composed of "communist
nostalgics," have erected a cross on the presumed grave of former dictator
Nicolae Ceausescu in a Bucharest cemetery, Evenimentul zilei reported on
8 May. The day marked the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the Romanian
Communist Party. Although Ceausescu himself was an atheist, his grave is now
marked by a cross inscribed with his name and dates of birth and death. The PMR
also placed a cross on the grave of Ceausescu's predecessor, Gheorghe
Gheorghiu-Dej, whose body was removed from a pantheon to a regular cemetery. --
MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS CABINET RESHUFFLE.
The Moldovan parliament
on 8 May rejected President Mircea Snegur's proposal to reshuffle the cabinet
but urged the premier to consider whether some government officials are
suitable to hold office, Moldovan and international agencies reported. The
parliament said that the government is failing to carry out its program on
social security reform. It also ordered the cabinet to come up with a plan over
the next two weeks to deal with wage arrears. Two days earlier, Snegur said on
Moldovan TV that "many government members are simply unable to carry out their
constitutional obligations." He called upon the parliamentary majority to
cooperate with the president's office in reshuffling the cabinet, and he
threatened to call a national referendum if deputies rejected his request. --
MOLDOVA, RUSSIA TO SET UP JOINT COMMISSION ON TROOP WITHDRAWAL.
and Russian officials, meeting in Chisinau on 8 May, agreed to establish a
joint commission on procedures and deadlines for withdrawing Russian troops
from eastern Moldova, international agencies reported, quoting ITAR-TASS. The
decision came at the end of a two-day talks on the Russian troop withdrawal
from Moldova's breakaway Dniester region. The next round of talks has been
scheduled for the fall in Moscow, Infotag reported on 8 May. -- Matyas Szabo
BULGARIAN LEV PLUNGES AS IMF MISSION ARRIVES.
IMF Bulgaria mission chief
Ann McGirk arrived in Sofia on 8 May, just as the lev "decided to demonstrate
the desperate situation throughout the whole country" by dropping significantly
against the U.S. dollar, Pari reported the next day. On the interbank
market, the Bulgarian currency fell by another 30 leva, reaching 136.5 to $1 at
one bank. The Bulgarian National Bank acknowledges it is powerless to arrest
the decline because of its tiny foreign reserves ($670 million on 30 April) and
massive imminent foreign debt payments. On 9 May, it was offering an exchange
rate of 112.84 lev to $1. Dealers have observed that a reassuring
announcement--either from the IMF on a new credit or from the BNB on a policy
change--is needed to calm the market. -- Michael Wyzan
ALBANIA MOURNS BOAT VICTIMS.
Albanian President Sali Berisha announced a
day of mourning on 9 May following a boat accident in which 13 teenagers and
one adult drowned, AFP reported. The boat capsized on Lake Prespa, near the
border with Greece and Macedonia, two days earlier. Police suspect that the
boat was overloaded. The youths, aged 17-18, came from Starova and Pogradec and
had planned to visit a church on Maligradi Island. The boat was only some 100
meters from the shore when it sank, but most of the youths could not swim. Four
survived the accident. -- Fabian Schmidt
[As of 1200 CET]
Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave