GRACHEV FORESEES CHECHNYA WITHDRAWAL . . .
Russian troops will be
withdrawn from Chechnya between 1 June and 1 August, Defense Minister Pavel
Grachev told a meeting of military officers in Yekaterinburg on 22 May,
ITAR-TASS reported. The same day, a high-ranking military officer told the
agency that there were more than 41,000 federal troops in the republic, some
19,000 belonging to the Defense Ministry. Grachev said that after the pullout,
only units of the North Caucasus military district would remain in Chechnya.
Previously, he had said this would include an army motorized-rifle brigade and
a division of Interior Troops. -- Doug Clarke
. . . WHILE TROOPS SUFFER HEAVY LOSSES.
At least 22 Russian servicemen
were killed and 48 wounded on 22 May while trying to capture the Chechen
village of Bamut, ITAR-TASS reported. A report on NTV put the number of Russian
dead at 70. For the past year, Chechen separatists have been holed-up in the
bunkers and tunnels of a former Soviet nuclear missile silo complex at Bamut. A
Defense Ministry spokesman said "only the taking of Bamut can open the way for
a Yeltsin visit to Chechnya," ITAR TASS reported. The Chechen prime minister,
Nikolai Koshman, claimed that Bamut was the "rebel's last stronghold" and
predicted the fighting would be over "within two or three days." -- Doug
COMMUNISTS PREDICT YELTSIN WILL STEAL ELECTION.
Duma Security Committee
Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin, a leading member of the Communist Party (KPRF),
predicted on 22 May that "Boris Yeltsin will be appointed for a second term,
although Gennadii Zyuganov will win [the election]," ITAR-TASS reported. KPRF
Duma deputy and campaign manager Valentin Kuptsov added that he considers
Central Electoral Commission Chairman Nikolai Ryabov "Yeltsin's man" and does
not trust him to carry out an honest vote count. Meanwhile, accusing Yeltsin of
being afraid of a direct dialog, Zyuganov again invited the president to debate
him on live television, Russian TV (RTR) reported. -- Laura Belin
YELTSIN DECREE BOOSTS KORZHAKOV.
President Yeltsin signed a decree on 22
April that gives Presidential Security Service (SBP) head Aleksandr Korzhakov
"the rights" of a federal minister, apparently elevating him to cabinet status,
according to the text of the decree published in Rossiiskaya gazeta on
21 May. It also designates Korzhakov as "first adviser" to the president, a
title previously reserved only for presidential adviser Viktor Ilyushin. The
SBP is granted broad powers by the decree, including "insuring the prestige of
the president," and the "exposure, prevention, and neutralization" of activity
by foreign intelligence services. The conservative Korzhakov's role in the
presidential apparatus has often been controversial, most recently when he
proposed postponing the upcoming presidential election. -- Scott Parrish
YELTSIN FIRES TOP SOCIAL WELFARE OFFICIALS.
President Yeltsin fired
Yurii Shatyrenko, head of the Social Insurance Fund, and Yevgenii Belyaev, head
of State Committee for Sanitary and Epidemiological Inspection, on 22 May,
ITAR-TASS reported. Both were accused of mismanagement leading to abuse of
funds. Shatyrenko was charged with "gross violations of his duties leading to
the financial instability of the fund and rising social tension." An audit of
the sanitary service revealed almost one quarter of the allotted funds had been
misspent. On 13 May, Yeltsin had fired the head of the Federal Employment
Service, Fedor Prokopov, for inefficiency. Also on 22 May, the Duma approved on
first reading a long-delayed bill tightening legal penalties for bribe-taking.
-- Peter Rutland
ZHIRINOVSKY BLASTS WEST.
Ultranationalist presidential candidate
Vladimir Zhirinovsky blamed the West for Russia's decline during two 10-minute
free campaign broadcasts aired by Russian Public TV (ORT) on 22 May. U.S.
President Bill Clinton, claimed Zhirinovsky, is Russia's "main enemy," adding
that Clinton "had accomplished what Hitler couldn't." He listed Russia's
"opponents" as the U.S., NATO, Turkey, and China, while urging closer ties with
Libya, Iraq, Iran, India, and Eastern Europe. Zhirinovsky slammed plans for
NATO expansion, saying NATO troops would soon be near Smolensk, and would
"swallow up the territory of Russia." Zhirinovsky also proposed abolishing
Russia's ethnic administrative units, claiming that they consume a
disproportional share of the federal budget, impoverishing the "Russian" areas
of the country. -- Scott Parrish
ITAR-TASS COMMENTATOR DEFENDS CAMPAIGN COVERAGE.
Arguing that the
"liberal Russian press" is trying to be objective, Tamara Zamyatina, a
commentator for the state-run agency ITAR-TASS, on 22 May defended journalists
against criticism that campaign coverage has been biased in favor of President
Yeltsin. She said the media are entitled to point out inaccuracies in Gennadii
Zyuganov's campaign speeches. She added that the Kremlin routinely accepts
criticism for which editors would have been fired during the Soviet era.
Zamyatina argued that journalists continue to denounce some of the president's
policies, including the war in Chechnya and personnel questions. "Not a single
publication" supported the idea of postponing the presidential election, which
was floated recently by Yeltsin's top bodyguard Aleksandr Korzhakov, she
observed. -- Laura Belin
LAW ON TRANSFER OF POWER APPROVED IN SECOND READING.
The Duma passed in
the second reading a draft law establishing the procedure for transferring
power to a newly-elected president, Russian media reported on 22 May. Under the
proposed law, the new president would be sworn in on the 30th day after
election results are officially released, at which time the government serving
under the outgoing president would have to resign. During the month before
taking office, the president-elect would be allowed to attend meetings of the
Security Council and other federal agencies. According to Communist Duma deputy
Oleg Mironov of the Legislation Committee, the Duma made nearly all the changes
recommended by President Yeltsin when the law was first proposed, RTR reported.
On the same day, the Duma again failed to override the Federation Council's
veto of the law on election monitoring (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20 May
1996), NTV reported. -- Laura Belin
DEPUTY JUSTICE MINISTER SHOT DEAD.
Deputy Justice Minister Anatolii
Stepanov was killed at his home in Moscow by a gun shot to the head on the
morning of 23 May, ITAR-TASS reported. Stepanov's responsibilities included
supervision of the work of attorneys and notaries. -- Peter Rutland
RUSSIA, CUBA SIGN AGREEMENTS.
Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov
and his Cuban counterpart, Roberto Robaina, signed a joint declaration of
principles and a cultural and technical cooperation agreement in Havana on 22
May, international media reported. Primakov, on the second stop of a
three-county Latin American tour, specifically emphasized the independence of
Russia's policy toward Cuba, saying that the recent U.S. tightening of its
long-standing embargo of the island would not affect Russian-Cuban ties. He
also branded the Helms-Burton law which toughened the embargo as
"unacceptable." On 23 May, Primakov, the first Russian foreign minister to
visit Cuba since the collapse of the USSR, also held talks with Cuban leader
Fidel Castro. -- Scott Parrish
RUSSIA DENIES SELLING MISSILE TECHNOLOGY TO CHINA.
dismissed concerns expressed by U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry that
China is attempting to purchase SS-18 missile technology from Russia, ITAR-TASS
reported on 22 March (see OMRI Daily Digest, 22 May 1993). The agency
cited anonymous "high-ranking" diplomats as saying that Perry's statement
"appears incorrect," although they added that Russia is studying the U.S.
claims. The diplomats said that since Perry had not specified exactly what type
of technology China was interested in, and had suggested that
"non-governmental" organizations in Russia might be involved in unauthorized
export activities, it would take time to fully investigate the charges. --
SAKHALIN OIL VENTURE SET TO BEGIN.
Marathon, McDermott, Mitsubishi,
Mitsui, and Shell announced on 21 May that they will start work on their
Sakhalin-2 off-shore oil venture, Reuters reported. Fuel and Energy Minister
Yurii Shafranik told ITAR TASS that the $10 billion project is the biggest
joint venture in Russia. A total of $60 million is expected to be spent on
preparatory work this year. However, Frank Duffield, head of the Sakhalin
Energy Investment Company which is running the operation, said: "A great deal
of work remains to be done before we can actually see development on the
ground." The international partners are concerned about access to export
pipelines and ambiguities in last-year's production sharing law--for example,
over recourse to international arbitration in the event of contract disputes.
Sakhalin-1, another $12 billion project involving Exxon and Japan's Sodeco, has
not yet announced when it will start operations. -- Peter Rutland
NEW LAND CODE BANS SALE OF FARM LAND.
The Duma finally passed on 22 May
a new draft land code by a vote of 288-18, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported on 22
May. However, while the bill allows Russian citizens to inherit and lease
farmland, it forbids the buying, selling, or mortgaging of such land. Under the
code, state and municipal farmland can only be sold to Russian citizens who
underwent agricultural training or have equivalent experience. Such owners are
not allowed to sell land to a new private owner: land can be redistributed only
by lease or inheritance. Foreigners are only allowed to lease farmland.
Government officials and many experts argue that the draft code contradicts the
constitutional right to free private ownership of land. It is likely that the
Federation Council and the president will veto the bill, in which case
Yeltsin's March 1996 decree allowing partial sale of land will continue to be
in force. -- Natalia Gurushina
MAJOR BANK FACES INSOLVENCY.
The Central Bank has appointed an
administrator to take over Unikombank, one of the 20 largest private banks in
Russia, Kommersant-Daily reported on 22 May. The administrator, Tatyana
Artemova, is a deputy chairwoman of the Central Bank. About six months ago,
Unikombank was finding it difficult to meet its obligations and approached the
Central Bank for a 300 billion ruble ($60 million) loan. BIN bank, who has just
spent 67 billion rubles to acquire a controlling interest in Unikombank,
objected to the appointment of the Central Bank administrator. BIN bank has
been under scrutiny for its activities in the so-called "off-shore" banking
zone in the North Caucasian republic of Ingushetiya. -- Natalia Gurushina
WORKERS SEIZE WEAPONS.
More than 1,000 workers in a defense plant in
Murom, Vladimir Oblast, have occupied a workshop in which arms are produced,
ITAR TASS reported on 23 May. They are protesting the five-month delay in the
payment of their wages. The workers are owed a total of 5 billion rubles ($1
million), and the plant claims it is owed 40 billion rubles by the government
for past deliveries. City Mayor Petr Kaurov expressed concern over how the
workers would use the weapons, and has approached the local branch of the
Savings Bank for an emergency loan of 2 billion rubles. -- Peter Rutland
ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT AGAINST RUSSIAN COMMANDER IN TBILISI?
The cars of
Col. Gen. Fedor Reut, commander of the Russian forces in Transcaucasus, and his
deputy, Maj. Gen. Vasilii Belchenko, have been shot at in Tbilisi, Russian
media reported on 22 May. The generals had been driving along Shota Rustaveli
Avenue. A bullet allegedly broke the windshield and the rear window of
Belchenko's car, but nobody was hurt. Georgian authorities denied the reports,
saying that Belchenko's car was damaged by a stone and that Reut was not in
Tbilisi that day. The same day, Reut travelled to Yerevan to join a ceremony
marking the 75th anniversary of the arrival of Soviet troops in the
Transcaucasus. -- Irakli Tsereteli
GEORGIAN COMMUNISTS DENY UNIFICATION REPORTS.
The press center of the
Georgian United Communist Party (GUCP) described recent reports that the
country's various communist groups are uniting as "misinformation (that) is
intended to discredit the communist movement in Georgia," Iprinda reported on
20 May. According to the statement, the 18 May meeting of the Stalinist
Communist Party of Georgia was "another provocative farce." -- Irakli
BOMBERS ARRESTED IN KYRGYZSTAN.
A group of former police officers who
were "dismissed for blatant violations of the law" have been arrested in
connection with a series of explosions at Interior Ministry buildings in April,
according to an 11 May article in Ekho Osha cited by the BBC. The Kyrgyz
Interior Ministry said the bombs were planted as a warning to new Interior
Minister Omurbek Kutuyev who recently launched an anti-corruption campaign. Two
bombs went off near the ministry buildings in the early morning of 20 April.
Another pipe bomb, located in one of the capital's main squares, had been
defused in early May, RFE/RL reported. No casualties or damage have been
reported. -- Bruce Pannier
BATTLE CONTINUES IN TAVIL-DARA, OPPOSITION TO RELEASE PRISONERS.
Government forces are reported to be on the offensive again in the Komsomolabad
region. Tajik presidential press secretary Zafar Saidov said government forces
are still in control of Komsomolabad though the situation is "highly
complicated," ITAR-TASS reported on 22 May. Guerrillas in the Tavil-Dara and
Garm regions have attacked repeatedly since the beginning of May, killing more
than 50 government soldiers. Meanwhile, RTR reported on 22 May that the
opposition will release 26 prisoners of war on 28 May. The 26 soldiers are
among 400 the opposition claims to have captured during recent fighting in the
Tavil-Dara area. Opposition leader Ali Akbar Turajonzoda said their relatives
could come and collect them but added that all the prisoners are in poor
condition owing to the government's refusal to allow humanitarian aid to the
region. -- Bruce Pannier
KUCHMA, CHERNOMYRDIN TO MEET IN KYIV.
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma,
speaking before his meeting today with Russian Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin, said his ability to get along personally with Chernomyrdin may
help to "reach an understanding" between the two countries international media
reported. He added that he was confident that Boris Yeltsin would be re-elected
in the upcoming Russian presidential election. Chernomyrdin's one-day working
visit will focus on resolving differences over the basing of the still-disputed
Black Sea fleet, which has been a major stumbling block in the two sides
signing a bilateral treaty on friendship and cooperation. -- Roger Kangas
UKRAINE, IRAN SIGN ECONOMIC ACCORD.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister
Anatolii Kinakh and Iranian Economic and Finance minister Morteza Mohammed Khan
signed an agreement on 22 May that will promote bilateral economic relations,
ITAR-TASS reported. The accord focuses on banking and financial cooperation and
calls for protection against double taxation. The two sides also agreed to
exchange undisclosed amounts of Ukrainian wheat for Iranian oil. The IRNA news
agency also reported that Ukraine will invest in Iran's aircraft, ship, and
auto production industries. Iran is currently seeking to improve relations with
CIS states. -- Roger Kangas
CONSTANTINOPLE WANTS ORTHODOX BISHOP IN ESTONIA REMOVED.
Meliton, secretary-general of the Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople,
has sent a letter to the Foreign Relations Department of the Moscow
Patriarchate asking for the dismissal of Archbishop Kornilii of Tallinn, BNS
reported on 22 May. The letter asserted that Kornilii was hindering the process
of finding a settlement to the disagreement between the two Patriarchates.
Kornilii has insisted on maintaining his ban on priests from the Estonian
Apostolic Orthodox Church presiding over church services, despite an agreement
that they be allowed to serve under Constantinople. Kornilii is also accused of
attempting to persuade parishes that have voted in favor of coming under
Constantinople's jurisdiction to shift their loyalties to Moscow. -- Saulius
LATVIA'S UNITY PARTY DECIDES TO REMAIN IN RULING COALITION.
Latvia's Unity Party (LVP) Alberts Kauls on 22 May said the party has reached
an agreement with Prime Minister Andris Skele "on all key issues" and will
remain a member of the ruling coalition, BNS reported. After Skele had fired
Kauls as agriculture minister earlier this month, the LVP voted to quit the
alliance. The LVP asked Skele to name party member Roberts Dilba as the new
agriculture minister and to allow the party's two state ministers to keep their
posts. At the same time, Kauls repeated his prognosis that the government will
have to step down within two months. -- Saulius Girnius
LITHUANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER IN WASHINGTON.
Linas Linkevicius held talks
in Washington on 22 May with U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry, RFE/RL
reported. Spokesman Lt. Col. Rick Scott said the two officials discussed NATO
enlargement, Lithuanian participation in Bosnian peacekeeping forces, and
military education for Lithuanian officers at U.S. schools. Scott said the
"highlight of the talks" was Lithuania's decision to upgrade its contribution
to the Bosnian implementation forces from a platoon to a company of soldiers.
Linkevicius is scheduled to meet with other senior U.S. officials and members
of Congress before returning to Lithuania on 25 May. -- Saulius Girnius
Lithuanian Ambassador to Poland Antanas
Valionis told journalists on 22 May that relations between two countries are
"normal," despite misunderstandings over recent administrative changes in the
Vilnius region and the introduction of a new education program to promote
Lithuanian as the state language. Vallonis argued that administrative changes
will not hamper the restitution process in the Vilnius region. He also
explained that the reason for introducing the new education program was that
many Russians and Poles in Lithuania do not know Lithuanian. Meanwhile, the
Polish Education Ministry noted that in northern Poland, 230 children attend
schools where all lessons taught in Lithuanian, Polish dailies reported on 23
May. -- Jakub Karpinski
VATICAN DOCUMENT LEAKED TO POLISH PRESS.
The Polish weeklies Nie
and Przeglad Tygodniowy have published a confidential letter from the
Vatican explaining that the Holy See has no objection to the Polish government
or Foreign Ministry including a declaration clarifying ambigous formualtions in
the Concordat, which still has not been ratified. Nie is known for its
anti-clerical and anti-religious stance, and the commentators regard the leak
and publication of the letter as an effort to disrupt Polish-Vatican relations.
Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz told the Sejm on 22 May that the Polish
government is ready to apologize for the leak. The Polish Foreign Ministry
spokesman added that President Aleksander Kwasniewski is sending a letter of
apology, Polish and international media reported. -- Jakub Karpinski
SLOVAK INFORMATION SERVICE CHIEF ADDRESSES PARLIAMENT.
SIS director Ivan
Lexa, addressing the parliament on 22 May, strongly attacked President Michal
Kovac, the opposition, and various media organizations, Slovak media reported.
Lexa denied SIS involvement in the kidnapping of Michal Kovac Jr. last August
and rejected the findings of the independent investigative commission headed by
Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) deputy Ladislav Pittner. Lexa was
repeatedly interrupted by jeers and calls for his resignation, while opposition
Democratic Union deputies held up banners calling to an end to "banditry" and
the "policy of crime." Democratic Party chairman Jan Langos said Lexa misused
his position by delivering a political speech rather than a report, while other
opposition deputies noted that Lexa did not even mention how the SIS has used
its substantial budgetary allocations. Government coalition deputies expressed
full support for Lexa. -- Sharon Fisher
SLOVAK PARLIAMENT APPROVES FOUNDATION LAW.
The parliament on 22 May
approved the law on foundations despite the Third Sector Association's ongoing
campaign against it, Slovak media reported. Of 154 proposed amendments to the
draft law, only 13 were accepted. Members of the ruling Movement for a
Democratic Slovakia said the law was needed to stop "foreign subversion,"
pointing in particular to Hungarian-born U.S. financier, George Soros, who
publicly criticized Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar last year. The law
states that foundations must register with the Interior Ministry and have
start-up capital of 10,000 crowns ($323), increasing to 100,000 crowns after
half a year. Critics fear the law will put an end to many small foundations and
threaten the development of a civil society. While the president has the right
to veto the law, the parliament can simply pass it again. -- Sharon Fisher
HUNGARIAN DEFENSE MINISTER OFFERS RESIGNATION.
Gyorgy Keleti on 22 May
has offered to resign following a dispute over the Hungarian armed forces'
decision to send eight MiG-29 aircraft to Poland for military exercises without
either his or the parliament's approval. Despite the opposition's sharp
criticism of Keleti, Prime Minister Gyula Horn said he would not accept the
resignation, Hungarian and Reuters reported. "The defense minister is doing a
good job and is a valuable member of the government," Horn stressed. Keleti
said an investigative commission headed by Defense Ministry political state
secretary Istvan Fodor has been established to determine who authorized the
flights. All five opposition parties have insisted on Keleti's resignation,
noting that he is politically responsible for the consequences of decisions
made by his subordinates. * Sharon Fisher
YET ANOTHER GENEVA SUMMIT.
Faced with numerous and flagrant violations
of the civilian provisions of the Dayton accord, the "international community"
has decided to summon the presidents of Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina
to Geneva, Reuters reported on 23 May. The summit, slated for 2 June, will
include representatives of the Contact Group countries. The shuttle diplomacy
and high-level meetings that the major powers use in the former Yugoslavia have
in the past led generally only to paper promises. -- Patrick Moore
U.S. WAVERS ON ARRESTING KARADZIC.
The "international community"
continues to waffle on the fate of indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic, AFP
reported. Since last week negotiators have said they hope he will "disappear
from the political scene," adding that they will not insist that he be sent to
the war crimes tribunal in The Hague, as the Dayton agreement requires. U.S.
State Department Nicholas Burns on 22 May said that "as long as [Karadzic] has
been effectively marginalized..., he won't be a candidate in the elections and
he won't prevent the elections from occurring." He noted that if this is the
case, "I think the elections can go forward and will go forward with him
sitting in his bitter isolation in Pale." Bosnian government officials have
insisted that Karadzic be ousted and sent to the International Criminal
Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia if the elections are to go ahead. -- Patrick
BRCKO SERBS WILLING TO ACCEPT ARBITRATION.
The Serbs of the strategic
northern Bosnian town of Brcko, however, seem ready to stand up to Karadzic.
The Bosnian Serb leader insisted as recently as last week that the area remain
under the control of the Republika Srpska, even though the Dayton agreement
states that arbitration later this year will determine the future of the "Brcko
corridor" connecting Serbia with western Bosnia. Zarko Cosic, Brcko's security
chief and chief local negotiator, told Reuters on 22 May that "those who have
NATO and the world behind them should work this [arbitration] out in such a way
that we can all respect it.... If we had been able to solve it on a local
level, we wouldn't have waged the war in the first place." But Karadzic's new
prime minister, Gojko Klickovic, visited the town and said that keeping it for
the Serbs is a "priority strategic interest" for his government, AFP noted. --
BOSNIAN SERB GENERAL MAKES PUBLIC APPEARANCE IN RUMP YUGOSLAVIA.
Ratko Mladic, an indicted war criminal who spends most of his time hidden from
public view at his Bosnian command post, was in Belgrade on 21 May to attend
the funeral of Bosnian Serb army Gen. Djordje Djukic, international media
reported. Mladic, who was accompanied by members of his general staff, stood
next to Djukic's family during the ceremony. Djukic was indicted by the
International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia but released on
compassionate grounds following doctors' reports that the cancer affecting his
health had reached an advanced stage. Meanwhile, observers noted that Serbian
President Milosevic has effectively failed to enforce the Dayton peace
agreement by not having the Bosnian Serb general arrested. U.S. State
Department Nicholas Burns said that, at least for the time being, Washington
will not "react emotionally just because we've seen...the video of Mladic in
Belgrade," Reuters reported. -- Stan Markotich
NO MUSLIM REFUGEES GO HOME TO REPUBLIKA SRPSKA.
UNHCR spokesman Kris
Janowski said that no Muslims have moved back to their old homes in Bosnian
Serb territory. Many attempts even to visit their native villages have been
blocked by angry Serbs wielding sticks and rocks, but other trips have been
carefully organized by the UNHCR and passed without incident. Janowski added
that the UN is not attempting to enforce the Dayton provisions on freedom of
movement and the right of refugees to go home by withholding reconstruction
aid, Onasa reported. An exception was made for the Croats in Stolac, who were
successfully threatened with an aid cut-off if they did not let in a certain
number of Muslim refugees. -- Patrick Moore
UN SECURITY COUNCIL CALLS ON CROATIA TO CHANGE AMNESTY LAW.
body of the UN on 22 May appealed to Zagreb to modify its new amnesty
legislation so as to cover all Serbs in eastern Slavonia not wanted for war
crimes as defined by international law. The current law applies only to Serbs
who lived there at the outbreak of the war but not to more recent arrivals such
as refugees from Krajina. The UN also fears that Croatia could set standards on
what constitutes a war criminal that are tougher than the international ones,
Reuters said. Eastern Slavonia is slated to revert to Croatian control by the
end of 1997 under an agreement last fall between the Serbian and Croatian
presidents. Local journalists told OMRI that many Serbs have already begun
preparations to move to Serbia proper. -- Patrick Moore
President Kiro Gligorov, visiting the headquarters of
UNPREDEP on 22 May, said he favors the extending UNPREDEP's mandate, Nova
Makedonija reported. Gligorov said its presence contributes to stability
and peace in the country and the region. In other news, Parliamentary Chairman
Tito Petkovski announced that on 4 June, the assembly will vote on a petition
drive for early general elections, the news agency MILS reported on 22 May. The
petition carries more than 170,000 valid signatures. Meanwhile, Nova
Makedonija on 23 May noted that four months before local elections are
scheduled to take place, the relevant election law has yet to be drawn up,
debated, and passed. -- Stefan Krause
SLOVENIAN UNIVERSITY EMPLOYEES JOIN STRIKE WAVE.
Some 80% of all
employees at Slovenia's two universities--in Ljubljana and Maribor--staged a
one-day strike on 22 May to demand a 10% salary increase. According to Reuters,
a professor currently earns a monthly gross salary of about 210,000 tolars
($1,510). Nearly 20,000 students were affected by the cancellation of classes.
So far this year, radio and television journalists, health-care professionals,
railway workers, and teachers have gone on strike for better pay and working
conditions. -- Stan Markotich
ROMANIAN ELECTION UPDATE.
Representatives of several opposition parties,
meeting on 22 May with President Ion Iliescu, demanded that general and
presidential elections be held separately, local media reported. The ballots
are scheduled to take place in the fall. The proposal was first advanced by the
Liberal Party `93 and is now also backed by the National Peasant
Party-Christian Democratic, the National Liberal Party-Democratic Convention,
the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania, and the Party of Romanian
National Unity, which is coalition party of the Party of Social Democracy of
Romania (PDSR). Observers believe the proposal stems from the fear that
Iliescu's popularity will boost the PDSR's performance at the polls. But the
government's position is that the elections should be held at the same time to
avoid doubling expenses and to enable the new government to concentrate on
economic restructuring. -- Michael Shafir
MOLDOVA, TURKEY SIGN BILATERAL AGREEMENTS.
Moldovan and Turkish
Presidents Mircea Snegur and Suleyman Demirel, meeting in Ankara on 22 May,
signed several accords aimed at boosting bilateral relations, Moldovan and
international agencies reported. In addition to supplementing an existing
defense and cooperation agreement, the accords provide for cooperation in
science and technology, culture, the legal sphere, trade, and sports. Demirel
thanked Snegur for Moldova's policy toward its Turcophone Christian minority,
the Gagauz, which enjoys autonomy within a unitary state. Snegur, for his part,
told the Turkish press that his country's policy was "one of the best
solutions" to the explosive issue of national minorities, the Turkish Daily
News reported. -- Matyas Szabo and Lowell Bezanis
BULGARIAN PRESIDENT SAYS COUNTRY ON VERGE OF COLLAPSE.
Zhelyu Zhelev, in
an interview with 24 chasa on 22 May, said Bulgaria is on the verge of
collapse. He blamed the situation on the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party,
adding that the devaluation of the lev and the ongoing banking crisis may lead
to that situation getting out of control. Zhelev commented that the Socialists
have failed to work out and implement a mass privatization program and are
unfit to govern. Referring to the 1 June primaries for a joint opposition
presidential candidate, Zhelev said the motto must be: "from a president of the
united opposition to a government of the united opposition." He added that the
opposition has a realistic chance of retaining the Presidency, after which it
would be able to call early elections and win them. -- Stefan Krause
BULGARIAN AGRICULTURE MINISTER UNDER FIRE.
After only four months in
office, Svetoslav Shivarov is facing widespread criticism for his failure to
resolve the ongoing grain and bread shortage, Bulgarian dailies report. The
ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party caucus on 22 May discussed the situation,
asking to be briefed by the government. When it did not receive the requested
information, it called a second meeting at which several deputies called for
Shivarov's resignation. Boncho Rashkov, chairman of the parliamentary
agricultural commission, proposed that war reserves of grain be unblocked. He
said 250,000 tons of grain have to be imported by the next harvest. Shivarov
did not attend either meeting. -- Stefan Krause
VIOLENCE AT ALBANIAN SOCIALIST PARTY RALLY.
A man wielding a screwdriver
tried to attack Socialist Party leader Servet Pellumbi during a Socialist rally
at the Durres sports arena on 22 May, Koha Jone reported. The daily
described the incident as an "assassination attempt." The culprit was arrested
after injuring Pellumbi's bodyguard in the arm. Four roads leading to the city
were blocked by police and some 100 persons temporarily detained. The meeting
was nonetheless attended by some 4,000 people. However, international monitors
who asked not to be named told OMRI they could not confirm that reported
similar incidents throughout Albania suggest systematic disruption of
opposition rallies. They said that the preparations for the elections were
taking place correctly, denying allegations in the Albanian media that some
people are registered in more than one electoral district. -- Fabian Schmidt in
[As of 1200 CET]
Compiled by Victor Gomez and Jan Cleave