YELTSIN ADDRESSES MILITARY PARADE . . .
Thousands of soldiers marched
across Red Square on 9 May to mark the 51st anniversary of the end of World War
II, Russian and Western agencies reported. President Yeltsin, flanked by
Defense Minister Pavel Grachev, reviewed the parade by 7,370 military
personnel. In contrast to Soviet times, no heavy weaponry was on show. The
occasion gave Yeltsin the opportunity to hammer home his patriotic credentials.
Atop the Lenin Mausoleum, he hailed the victory over Nazi Germany and the
soldiers and civilians who lost their lives in the struggle. He also lauded the
red Soviet-era victory flag, which flew alongside the Russian tricolor, as a
sacred symbol of the Motherland. In a bid to win the support of veterans,
Yeltsin issued a decree on 16 April restoring the flag as an official symbol
for ceremonies marking the victory over Nazi Germany. -- Penny Morvant
. . . COMMUNISTS ALSO RALLY.
While Yeltsin addressed the military
parade, Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov led an estimated 30,000-50,000
supporters on a victory rally through Moscow. The marchers included young
communists and war veterans bearing portraits of Lenin and waving Soviet flags.
Zyuganov said on 8 May that if elected president he would call a referendum on
replacing the tricolor with the Soviet flag. He argued that the Russian flag
was used by Russian collaborators who fought alongside the Germans against the
Red Army in World War II. The rally had a pre-election feel, with supporters
chanting "Victory to Zyuganov!" The communist leader himself said that Russia
is now at war again "but a war in which the main weapon is lies. We are
promised happiness and prosperity, but crime and theft have become the rule."
Zyuganov was accompanied by numerous left-wing leaders, including former
Russian Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi and former Soviet Prime Minister
-- Penny Morvant
YELTSIN VISITS VOLGOGRAD.
President Yeltsin also visited Volgograd, the
former Stalingrad, to mark the 9 May holiday, the first time since the war that
a Russian leader has left the capital during the celebrations. In the city of
the decisive World War II battle, he was met by cheering crowds who yelled "we
love you" and "Yeltsin is a democrat," according to the official ITAR-TASS
agency. The president observed a moment of silence at the memorial on the
Mamaev kurgan (a giant statue of a woman holding a sword) in the city. He also
met with young people who were mainly interested in housing questions; Yeltsin
said that he was planning to build more apartments. He also pledged 10 billion
rubles for the reconstruction of a local library. -- Robert Orttung
GORBACHEV GETS COLD RECEPTION IN VOLGOGRAD.
Former Soviet President
Mikhail Gorbachev was met by jeering protesters from the orthodox communist
Workers' Russia movement during a 9 May campaign stop in Volgograd, Russian and
Western media reported. Viktor Anpilov, leader of Workers' Russia, confronted
Gorbachev as the ex-president inched through a largely hostile crowd to place a
wreath at the memorial commemorating the battle of Stalingrad. Anpilov, backed
by banners reading "No place for traitors on the holy ground of Stalingrad,"
blasted Gorbachev for causing the collapse of the USSR. Gorbachev retorted that
inflexible communists like Anpilov and Gennadii Zyuganov wrecked his attempts
to reform the USSR. -- Scott Parrish
YAVLINSKII MOVES CLOSER TO ALLIANCE WITH YELTSIN.
Grigorii Yavlinskii moved closer to an alliance with President Boris Yeltsin,
telling the BBC that "the issue we are going to discuss would be a first in
Russian history: a political coalition between the government and democratic
opposition," Reuters reported on 9 May. Yeltsin and Yavlinskii met on 5 May and
since then Yavlinskii has been hinting that he will give the president greater
support. That meeting was only the second time the two men have spoken since
Yeltsin became president. Contradicting earlier reports that Yavlinskii wants
the prime ministerial position and that Yeltsin is not prepared to offer it,
Yavlinskii indicated that Yeltsin had raised the possibility of naming him
prime minister, but that he is "not prepared to discuss this issue." Although
Yavlinskii still has numerous reservations about working with Yeltsin, he may
have no choice but to support the president to avoid a communist victory. --
TV AND RADIO COMPANIES IN DEBT TO COMMUNICATIONS MINISTRY.
Communications Ministry is owed 720 billion rubles ($145 million) for 1995 and
the first three months of 1996 by Russian television and radio broadcasting
companies, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 May. The main debtors are the state-owned
stations Radio 1, Radio Mayak, and Radio Yunost, along with the state-owned
Russian TV network (RTR) and the 51% state-owned Russian Public TV network
(ORT). A spokesman for the ministry said that the failure of broadcasters to
pay for communications services is creating a financial crisis for
communications enterprises, which lack the funds to maintain transmission
equipment adequately. Those enterprises in turn owe about 240 billion rubles
($48 million) to power engineering workers. Wage arrears for staff of
communications enterprises are estimated at 112 billion rubles ($23 million).
-- Laura Belin
ANOTHER JOURNALIST KILLED IN CHECHNYA.
The body of Nina Yefimova, a
correspondent for the pro-Russian Chechen newspaper Vozrozhdenie, was
found in Grozny on 9 May, ITAR-TASS reported. She had been shot more than once
in the head. Colleagues suggested Yefimova's death may have been connected to a
recent series of articles she had written on crime in Chechnya. She is the 18th
journalist to be killed in Chechnya since fighting escalated in December 1994.
Most of those have been accidental deaths, but Yefimova is the second
journalist to be abducted and shot in recent weeks. In April, Obshchaya
gazeta correspondent Nadezhda Chaikova was found dead in the breakaway
republic; she had been severely beaten, blindfolded and shot execution-style in
the back of the head. -- Laura Belin
ST. PETERSBURG DEMOCRATS REFUSE TO BACK INCUMBENT MAYOR.
A number of
democratic parties have jointly decided not to support St. Petersburg Mayor
Anatolii Sobchak in the local election on 19 May, St. Petersburg Channel 5 TV
reported on 6 May. An agreement to that effect was signed by the regional
leaders of Svyatoslav Fedorov's Party of Workers' Self-Government, Irina
Khakamada's Common Cause, Boris Fedorov's Forward, Russia!, and Marina Sale's
Free Democratic Party of Russia. The bloc called on Sobchak's main rivals,
Yurii Boldyrev, Aleksandr Belyaev, and Aleksandr Belyakov, to rally behind a
single candidate who would have the best chance of defeating Sobchak. Sobchak
is running at about 30% in the polls--far ahead of the other 17 candidates. --
JEWISH CEMETERY DESECRATED IN KURSK.
Forty gravestones at an ancient
Jewish cemetery in Kursk were damaged recently, Russian TV (RTR) reported on 7
May. Kursk Jewish community members say they have been receiving an increasing
number of anonymous telephone threats. Many local Jewish residents, afraid of
violence, want to leave the area and community leaders have turned to the
Israeli Embassy, the Russian Jewish Congress, and several U.S. human rights
organizations for assistance. -- Anna Paretskaya
OFFICIAL: NO LINK BETWEEN SPY SCANDAL AND ELECTIONS.
foreign policy aide, Dmitrii Ryurikov, characterized as "idiotic" suggestions
that Russian authorities had deliberately provoked the recent espionage scandal
with Britian in order to bolster the president's re-election campaign, Russian
and Western agencies reported. Some Russian media reports suggested that the
incident was engineered so that Yeltsin could posture as a "tough" defender of
Russian national interests. Meanwhile, talks between British and Russian
officials aimed at defusing the incident continued, according to the British
Foreign Office. While Moscow has threatened to expel nine British diplomats for
spying, an official declaration of their expulsion has not yet been issued. --
SITUATION ON SECURITIES MARKET "HIGHLY UNSTABLE."
Uncertainties over the
state of financial markets after the June election have pushed interest rates
on government securities to very high levels, Kommersant-Daily reported
on 8 May. Three-month GKOs are trading at an effective annual interest rate of
160%, and six-month paper at 210%. At the 24 April sale, six-month GKOs with a
face value of 2.1 trillion rubles ($400 million) were sold at an effective rate
of 130% (i.e. 70% of nominal).
About half of them were bought by
foreigners. The current market offers rich pickings for foreign investors, who
can buy six-month GKOs and hedge against ruble depreciation by buying dollar
futures. Such an operation will yield a hard-currency return of 155% per year.
The high rates make it expensive for the government to raise money to cover the
budget deficit. The Finance Ministry issued 6 trillion rubles worth of
securities in March and 11.5 trillion in April. -- Peter Rutland
WORLD BANK FUNDS HOUSING PRIVATIZATION.
The World Bank approved on 8 May
a $300 million loan to help finance the transfer of housing from firms to new
private owners in six pilot city projects, ITAR-TASS reported. Firms have been
encouraged to divest housing since the launch of the mass privatization program
in 1992, but tenants and local councils are reluctant to take over housing
because of the burden of maintenance and utility costs. In the pilot cities,
the councils already have managed to increase the proportion of operating costs
paid for by tenants from 13% to 35%. The six cities, chosen by competition, are
Novocherkassk, Orenburg, Petrozavodsk, Ryazan, Vladimir, and Volkhov. The
Russian government will spend another $250 million on the project, mainly for
building repair and the installation of meters. -- Peter Rutland
PRIMAKOV VISITS STEPANAKERT, YEREVAN.
Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii
Primakov held talks in Stepanakert on 9 May with Robert Kocharyan, president of
the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, Russian Public TV (ORT)
reported. Primakov said he was "very satisfied" with the talks but refused to
give details. On returning to Yerevan, Primakov again discussed possible
solutions to the Karabakh conflict with President Levon Ter-Petrossyan,
according to Radio Rossii. Ter-Petrossyan noted the importance of extending the
two-year-old ceasefire until the signing of a political settlement of the
conflict, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 May. -- Liz Fuller
TURKEY WITHDRAWS FINANCING BID FOR BAKU-SUPSA PIPELINE.
withdrawn a proposal to provide $250 million for a pipeline running from Baku
to the Georgian Black Sea port of Supsa, Reuters reported on 9 May. The move
was prompted by last week's decision by the Azerbaijani International Oil
Consortium (AIOC) and Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR to reject Turkey's
conditions for building the line, which amounted to their commitment to
building another pipeline down to Turkey's Mediterranean port of Ceyhan.
Earlier in the week, the AIOC announced that it would finance the Baku-Supsa
line. Turkish Foreign Minister Emre Gonensay will travel to Washington to seek
U.S. support for the Baku-Ceyhan route. Turkey has committed itself to
exploring alternatives to the Baku-Supsa-Ceyhan line with Georgia and
Azerbaijan. -- Lowell Bezanis
ANTI-IRANIAN DEMONSTRATION IN BAKU.
Some 100 people demonstrated outside
the Iranian Embassy in Baku on 9 May to demand a halt to the persecution of
ethnic Azeris in Iran, RFE/RL reported. Hundreds of Iranian Azeris living in
Azerbaijan have reportedly been arrested for demonstrating in support of Azeris
who stood as candidates in the Iranian parliamentary election. -- Liz Fuller
MALARIA EPIDEMIC IN AZERBAIJAN.
The incidence of malaria in Azerbaijan
has skyrocketed in recent years, with 2,802 cases reported in 1995 compared
with only 23 in 1993, Western agencies reported on 9 May quoting a World Health
Organization report. The majority of those affected are reportedly persons
displaced as a result of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The WHO expressed
concern that the disease could spread to neighboring countries. -- Liz Fuller
INTEGRATION EFFORTS IN CENTRAL ASIA.
The presidents of Uzbekistan,
Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan reconfirmed their commitment to further economic
integration in a joint statement at the 6 May summit in Bishkek. In addition to
general comments on political and regional cooperation, the statement,
published in Narodnoe slovo on 7 May, stressed the need for the states
to "make effective use" of their industries and create a "mutually beneficial
division of labor." One area of expressed concern was water resource
management. In an effort to promote integrative measures, a new weekly,
Central Asia: Problems of Integration, will be launched. -- Roger
AUTHORITIES RELEASE TAJIK DEMOCRATIC PARTY MEMBERS.
The two Tajik
Democratic Party (DPT) representatives who were arrested on 1 May (OMRI
Daily Digest, 3 May 1996) have been released by the authorities, according
to an 8 May Voice of Radio Free Tajikistan report monitored by the BBC. The
still unnamed men were held for spreading anti-government propaganda and
possessing copies of the outlawed newspaper Charoghi Ruz. No reason was
given for their release. -- Bruce Pannier
RED CROSS/RED CRESCENT THREATENS TO PULL OUT OF TAJIKISTAN.
Cross/Red Crescent, which was on the verge of obtaining its own chapter in
Tajikistan, is now saying it may leave the Central Asian country all together,
according to a 7 May Radio Voice of Free Tajikistan report monitored by the
BBC. Complaining of government interference at times and total indifference at
others, the organization said it may "cease its activities in Tajikistan." The
group was instrumental in the last official exchange of prisoners between the
government and the opposition, which took place in November 1994, and has
rendered aid to Tajik refugees inside northern Afghanistan. -- Bruce Pannier
MORE CLASHES IN BELARUS . . .
OMON forces clashed with veterans in
Minsk when the latter displayed the red-and-white Belarusian flag instead of
the Soviet-style flag that replaced it following last year's referendum, Ekho
Moskvy and Russian TV reported on 9 May. The veterans were laying flowers at
the city's war memorial. The OMON command justified the action by saying that
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has issued a decree allowing only the
Soviet-type flag to be used in Victory Day celebrations. -- Ustina Markus
. . . WHILE U.S. CRITICIZES MINSK.
U.S. State Department spokesman
Nicholas Burns said that Washington has repeatedly raised the issue of human
rights violations in Belarus with the Belarusian government and its embassy in
Washington, an RFE/RL correspondent reported on 10 May. He said the case of
opposition leader Yuriy Khadyka, who was arrested during the 26 April
demonstrations and has been on a hunger strike since 28 April, has been raised
several times. Belarus was criticized for human rights violations in almost
every category included in the latest annual global human rights report
compiled by the U.S. The report pointed, among other things, to the
accumulation of power in the president's hands, his refusal to work with the
parliament, and his use of KGB and Interior Ministry troops against the
opposition. -- Ustina Markus
UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT PROMISES TO SETTLE WAGE DEBT.
Minister Petro Hermanchuk announced earlier this week that the government will
settle its wage debt by the end of May, UNIAN reported. The official said the
National Bank of Ukraine will be forced to print unbacked currency to cover
some of the wage arrears, which stood at 42 trillion karbovantsi ($227 million)
as of 28 April. He said the government would issue securities and use some
foreign aid to cover the rest. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian parliament voted to
form an ad hoc commission to examine the government debt for back wages,
pensions, and stipends, which now totals 124 trillion karbovantsi, Holos
Ukrainy reported on 8 May. The regions where the debt crisis is most severe
are Vinnytsia, Kyiv, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, Kharkiv, and Rivne. -- Chrystyna
NEW PRESIDENTIAL APPOINTMENTS IN UKRAINE.
President Leonid Kuchma has
appointed Vice Admiral Volodymyr Bezkorovainy as commander of the Ukrainian
navy and deputy defense minister, Ukrainian TV reported on 8 May. He named Gen.
Volodymyr Mykhtiuk deputy defense minister and appointed a well-known reformer,
Volodymyr Lanovy, as his adviser on economic policy. The president also
selected Oleh Dyomin, deputy speaker of the Ukrainian parliament, to head the
Kharkiv region administration. -- Chrystyna Lapychak
UKRAINIAN DEMOCRATS SET UP INFORMAL CAUCUS.
primarily national democrats, have formed a new informal caucus called
Nuremberg-2, UNIAR reported on 6 May. Their aim is to organize a symbolic
international trial on crimes committed by the former Communist Party of the
Soviet Union and Communist Party of Ukraine. The legislators plan to use the
caucus to collect evidence, hold public hearings and conferences, and maintain
links with parliaments of other former Soviet republics. The group is headed by
former political prisoners Lev Lukianenko and Yevhen Proniuk as well as the
well-known cultural activist Les Taniuk. -- Chrystyna Lapychak
UKRAINE, RUSSIA APPROVE DRAFT ON MISSILE HAND-OVER.
Ukraine and Russia
have approved a draft agreement on the hand-over to Russia of strategic
missiles and launchers stored in Ukraine's arsenals, Rossiiskiye vesti
reported on 7 May. Under the agreement, Ukraine will transfer to Russia by the
end of June ten SS-19 missiles as well as all the equipment required to launch
them. For its part, Russia will finance warranty inspections and pay for
servicing at strategic missile facilities in Ukraine. -- Ustina Markus
MORE INFORMATION RELEASED ON RUSSIAN DIPLOMAT EXPELLED FROM ESTONIA.
Estonian officials on 9 May revealed that the police had gathered evidence that
Sergei Andreev, economic adviser to the Russian embassy in Tallinn, was
involved in spy activities, BNS reported. They filmed him paying Tonu Randla,
former adviser to the parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, $1,000 for
documents. Randla had informed the Defense Police about Andreev's requests for
the documents, which did not contain anything classified. It was also revealed
that Andreev had been expelled from Finland in 1990 for similar spy activities.
Meanwhile, the Estonian Foreign Ministry has protested continued claims by the
Russia's Federal Security Service that Estonia's volunteer defense force,
Kaitseliit, sold weapons to the Irish Republican Army and Russian
criminals. -- Saulius Girnius
LATVIAN PARLIAMENT VOTES NOT TO SEND CONDOLENCES FOR DUDAEV . . .
Saeima on 9 May decided not to consider the draft resolution on sending
condolences to the Chechen people on the death of their president Dzhokhar
Dudaev, BNS reported. National Harmony Party Chairman Janis Jurkans said
although he was "emotionally indignant" about the death, sending condolences
would hinder Latvia's relations with Russia. A total of 33 deputies,
nevertheless, signed a document addressed to the Chechen people expressing
their sadness at his death and expressing their readiness to aid "those who
fight for the freedom and independence of their motherland." Deputies who voted
against the resolution were not asked to sign this document. -- Saulius
. . . WHILE POLISH SEJM PAYS TRIBUTE TO HIM.
Polish deputies paid
tribute to Dzhokhar Dudaev on 8 May as Speaker Jozef Zych was reading out a
motion from the opposition Confederation for an Independent Poland to hold a
minute of silence to honor "the heroic death of the president of the Chechen
Republic." Rather than wait for Zych to finish reading out the justification
for the motion and call a vote, some deputies rose to their feet and most
others followed suit, including the speaker. Zych commented that "further
justification is pointless" and moved on to the next point. Some members of the
coalition Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) remained seated, Polish and
international media reported. -- Jakub Karpinski
CZECH PREMIER ON EU.
Vaclav Klaus, speaking at an election rally in
Neratovice on 9 May, said he wanted the Czech Republic to enter the EU but "not
like a sugar cube thrown into coffee, where it dissolves," Rude pravo
reported. Klaus noted he did not wish to be a citizen of Europe 10 or 20 years
from now. "I want to remain a Czech citizen and pay Czech taxes," said Klaus.
He added that he is opposed to a common European currency because "Czech
citizens would wind up paying common taxes not in Prague, but in Brussels." --
CZECH PRESIDENT THREATENED WITH ASSASSINATION LAST YEAR.
office received a letter in 1995 threatening an assassination attempt on the
president in revenge for his stance on the Bosnian conflict, Czech TV reported
on 9 May. The authors of the letter claimed to belong to the fundamentalist
Islamic Jihaad. A spokesman for the Ministry of Internal Affairs told Czech TV
that the police regularly gather information on "people of Arab origin and
firms with Arab participation" based in the Czech Republic. According to the
spokesman, some of these firms are helping people from Algeria to settle in the
Czech Republic, "many of whom could be members of fundamentalist
organizations." -- Jiri Pehe
SLOVAKS DROP DISPUTED ADDITIONS TO HUNGARIAN TREATY.
The Slovak Foreign
Ministry on 9 May said the Slovak-Hungarian friendship treaty will be ratified
without an appendix added by Slovak nationalists, Reuters reported the same
day. The Slovak parliament approved the treaty in March, one year after Prime
Ministers Vladimir Meciar and Gyula Horn had signed it. But it also added a
statement that it did not recognize collective rights for Slovakia's Hungarian
minority. President Michal Kovac signed the treaty on 6 May following further
diplomatic consultations between the two countries. Foreign Ministry spokesman
Juraj Matejovsky said the final exchange of documents will consist only of the
original treaty and Kovac's approval of it. -- Steve Kettle
SLOVAK OFFICIAL ACCUSES BUDAPEST OF "SMEAR CAMPAIGN."
Ministry spokesman Juraj Matejovsky on 9 May claimed that Hungary is conducting
a "smear campaign" against Slovakia over the nomination of the OSCE
secretary-general, Hungarian dailies reported. Matejovsky was responding to
Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs's statement that the Slovak candidate
for the post was named after the official deadline for nominations expired.
Matejovsky commented that neither an official nor unofficial deadline existed.
He also noted that Hungarian politicians are deliberately remaining silent
about the fact that Istvan Gyarmati, who was named for the post, had a Polish
rival in addition to the Slovak one. The Hungarian Foreign Ministry last month
withdrew Gyarmati's nomination following Slovak protests. Most other OSCE
countries supported his nomination. -- Zsofia Szilagyi
HUNGARY'S COALITION PARTNERS STILL AT ODDS OVER INVESTIGATIVE OFFICE.
The Hungarian cabinet on 9 May put off a decision on establishing a central
investigative office, Hungarian dailies reported. Prime Minister Gyula Horn has
proposed such an office, which is expected to cost up to 800 million forints
($5.3 million). Junior coalition partner Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ)
ministers continued to express opposition, while Socialist ministers voted in
favor of the project. Following the vote, the cabinet instructed Interior
Minister Gabor Kuncze (SZDSZ) to come up with a new proposal. The SZDSZ is
against further enlarging the state apparatus and says the office--which would
come under the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister's Office--would resemble the
former state security service. -- Zsofia Szilagyi
UNHCR REJECTS DEADLINE FOR RETURN OF REFUGEES.
UN High Commissioner for
Refugees Sadako Ogata, at the end of her visit to Bosnia on 9 May, said that it
is unrealistic to set dates for the return of refugees. At best, she expects
that about 500,000 people can go home this year, most of whom are currently in
the region. The UNHCR earlier wanted to resettle in 1996 about 900,000 of the
2.4 million refugees and displaced persons. Germany, Slovenia, and some other
countries have set down timetables for the refugees' return based on the
schedules envisioned in the Dayton agreement. The civilian portions of that
treaty have been so unevenly implemented, however, that resettlement plans
based on it are less than realistic. Austria has extended the deadline for
refugees to leave there from June 1996 to August 1997, Reuters noted. --
WAR CRIMES UPDATE.
The OSCE has said that the continued presence of
indicted war criminals on Bosnian territory is a great potential danger to the
elections, which the Dayton treaty says must be held by mid-September. The
OSCE's current chairman, Swiss Foreign Minister Flavio Cotti, argued that "the
fact that [indicted war criminals] remain complicates the process of creating a
climate without violence and intimidation, which is a pre-requisite for the
holding of elections in Bosnia-Herzegovina," Reuters reported on 9 May. In The
Hague, some charges have been dropped against Dusan Tadic, the Bosnian Serb who
is the first indicted war criminal to stand trial. Potential witnesses have
been intimidated into not testifying, international media noted. Tadic will
soon have company in his prison, however, because Zejnil Delalic was handed
over to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia on 8 May,
Onasa reported the next day. He was arrested in Munich in March and is the
first Muslim to be sent to The Hague. His lawyer is Edina Residovic, who was
the public attorney at the 1983 Bosnian trial of "Islamic fundamentalists." --
U.S. WARNS SERBIA OVER KOSOVO.
Secretary of State Warren Christopher
warned Serbia on 9 May that the U.S. will maintain an "outer wall" of sanctions
until the situation in Kosovo markedly improved. This could mean blocking
Belgrade's membership in the UN, the World Bank, the IMF, and the OSCE. At a
meeting with Albanian Foreign Minister Alfred Serreqi in Washington,
Christopher expressed concern over the rising violence in the region. He also
noted that the U.S. wants to proceed rapidly with the opening of a U.S.
Information Agency office in Pristina. -- Fabian Schmidt
MAJOR STRIKES IN SERBIAN INDUSTRIAL CENTER.
Up to 15, 000 workers took
to the streets in Nis on 9 May for the second consecutive day in what is the
most serious workers' protest in Serbia for at least three years, Nasa Borba
reported. Employees from the electronics group El-Nis (consisting of 42
companies) have said they will continue to strike until their demands for wage
payments and a share in the companies are met. According to Reuters, some
workers have received no pay since December 1995. National Bank Governor
Dragoslav Avramovic has said he supports the workers' protest, adding that the
government likely faces prolonged labor unrest if the demands are not met. *
CROATIAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS SUES VJESNIK FOR LIBEL.
Cicak, head of the Croatian branch of the Helsinki Committee human rights
group, on 9 May filed a libel suit against the country's main state-run paper
over accusations that he worked for the former Yugoslav secret police (see
OMRI Daily Digest, 7 May 1996), Reuters reported. Cicak also met with
visiting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Jose Ayala-Lasso to report on
alleged abuses in Croatia, which is expected to gain membership in the Council
of Europe at its ministerial meeting on 15 May, Novi list reported. One
condition for its acceptance into that body is freedom of the media. Reporters
Without Borders noted in a recent letter to the Council of Europe "a toughening
of pressure against independent media since Croatia's admission into the
Council of Europe," Reuters reported. -- Daria Sito Sucic
MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT IN FRANCE.
Kiro Gligorov and Macedonian Foreign
Minister Ljubomir Frckovski have met with their French counterparts, Jacques
Chirac and Herve de Charette, in Paris, Reuters reported on 9 May. Chirac said
he supported both a rapprochement between the EU and Skopje and an EU
association agreement with Macedonia. He also supported NATO membership of
Macedonia Talks focused on a cooperation and trade agreement. Gligorov signed
the Paris Charter for a new Europe, which includes a commitment by signatory
states that they will not use force to change their international borders. The
charter was adopted in 1989 by 34 member countries of the CSCE. -- Fabian
ROMANIAN PREMIER'S DUTCH VISIT.
Nicolae Vacaroiu, during a two-day
official visit to Holland earlier this week, met with his Dutch counterpart,
Wim Kok, and the chairmen of the two chambers of parliament. He was also
received by Queen Beatrix. Vacaroiu discussed improving bilateral economic
relations, including boosting Dutch investments in Romania, and opened a
Romanian information office in Amsterdam. He told Radio Bucharest that Dutch
investments are the fifth largest in Romania and that trade between the two
countries grew by 60% last year, reaching about $500 million. He added that he
hoped overall trade will reach $1 billion by the end of 1996. -- Michael
MOLDOVA RECEIVES WORLD BANK LOAN FOR AGRICULTURE.
The World Bank on 8
May announced it has approved a $10 million loan to support Moldova's efforts
to boost agricultural exports and increase farmer's incomes, RFE/RL reported.
The funds will be used mainly to help develop higher-quality grape varieties,
improve wine-making procedures, and create more efficient management structures
for future projects. An estimated total of $18.5 million is required for this
first project, with additional funding coming from the Moldovan government. --
BULGARIAN NATIONAL BANK RAISES INTEREST RATE AMID DEEPENING FINANCIAL
The Bulgarian National Bank on 9 May raised its basic lending rate
from 67% to 108%, Bulgarian and international media reported. At the same time,
it increased its fixing of the lev from 112.84 to 122.56 to $1, while foreign
exchange bureaus quoted the lev at 150-160. Savers responded by withdrawing
their deposits from banks, and shops stated prices in dollars. Finance Minister
Dimitar Kostov noted that the government would soon announce the liquidation of
firms whose combined losses account for 25% of total enterprise losses.
Bulgaria also wants to sell 25% of the national telecommunications company.
An IMF mission is currently in Sofia to determine whether progress on
structural reform merits awarding a standby credit to support the lev. IMF
Bulgaria mission chief Ann McGirk noted that progress was being made at the
negotiations, but local observers fear that the government's indecisiveness
will cause hyperinflation. -- Michael Wyzan
MONARCH TO BE ALLOWED TO RETURN TO BULGARIA.
Bulgaria's former King
Simeon II will be allowed to return to Bulgaria some 50 years after leaving the
country, Bulgarian media reported on 9 May. The 58-year-old Simeon abdicated in
1946 and now lives in Spain. Authorities have renewed the ex-monarch's
passport, and he plans to return to his native Bulgaria for "a private visit."
A spokesperson for Simeon said recent reports in Bulgarian papers alleging that
the king wants to return to power are false. -- Stan Markotich
[As of 1200 CET]
Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave