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Newsline - May 30, 1996

Addressing a meeting of the military's top brass, President Yeltsin declared that Russia must ensure its military security despite the reduction in international tension since the end of the Cold War, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 May. Yeltsin condemned plans to expand NATO eastward, saying that the West is trying to "reinforce its world leadership" by advancing "the NATO military machine to the east." He said Russia must reform its military to adjust to its new strategic situation. Instead of "hundreds of divisions which exist only on paper," he said, "what we need is a few dozen divisions made up entirely of professionals." He also called the maintenance of a strong nuclear deterrent a top priority, promised to provide sufficient funds for the military, and expressed "general" satisfaction with the current Defense Ministry leadership. -- Scott Parrish

At the same meeting, Defense Minister Pavel Grachev accused unnamed, "dishonorable" generals of attempting to undermine him by fabricating rumors of his imminent dismissal, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 May. Grachev also lambasted an unnamed "colonel general" for independently presenting military reform plans to President Yeltsin and promising to implement them if appointed defense minister. Although the general claimed the reform plans as his own, they were actually copies of plans drawn up by the Russian General Staff, Grachev said. Grachev's remarks clearly refer to Col. Gen. Boris Gromov's 23 May meeting with President Yeltsin (see OMRI Daily Digest, 24 May 1996), which has triggered continuing speculation that Gromov will replace Grachev. In his remarks, Grachev also attacked the Russian media for continuing to publish stories that attempt to discredit the military and its leadership. -- Scott Parrish

Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky proposed an alliance whereby he and Aleksandr Lebed could help Gennadii Zyuganov win the election in the first round, after which Zhirinovsky would be appointed prime minister and Lebed defense minister, RTR and ITAR-TASS reported on 29 May. He said, "The trouble with the Communists is that they don't want to form a bloc with anyone and don't tolerate any opposition. However, Zyuganov still has time to fall on his knees before me and Lebed." In the past, Zhirinovsky has refused to cooperate with the Communists and has called Lebed a "traitor." Zyuganov has offered to join forces with Lebed but has consistently criticized Zhirinovsky's erratic views and voting record in parliament. LDPR Duma deputies sometimes vote with the Communists but on crucial votes often back the government. -- Laura Belin

The Yeltsin campaign headquarters in the Republic of Buryatiya is offering 1 million rubles ($200) to the person who has saved the most coupons for food and other consumer goods dating from the Brezhnev era of "developed socialism," ITAR-TASS reported on 30 May. The contest is aimed at reminding voters of the shortages and lines that were common in the Soviet period, which Yeltsin supporters warn could return if Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov is elected president. -- Laura Belin

President Yeltsin's paid political advertising campaign, which shows ordinary people explaining why they support the president but never shows Yeltsin himself, is very effective, according to Kommersant-Daily on 29 May. The advertising agency Video International, which developed the successful da-da-nyet-da campaign before the April 1993 referendum and worked less successfully with Yabloko before the 1995 parliamentary election, is responsible for the clips. The "man on the street" approach is connecting with ordinary people who see themselves in the advertisements, the paper argues. The advertisements were filmed using real people speaking without any pre-written script. The whole "soap opera" will have a surprise conclusion that the authors refuse to reveal in advance. By not showing the candidate, the paper argued, the advertisements are "unobtrusive" and do not "irritate the viewer." Yeltsin himself approved this subtle approach. -- Robert Orttung in Moscow

Former world champion weight lifter and presidential candidate Yurii Vlasov on 29 May called for a policy of "people's patriotism" and accused the Communists of stealing many of his ideas, including the name of his People's Patriotic Party (Zyuganov calls himself the leader of the "coalition of popular-patriotic forces"). Vlasov compared his brand of nationalism with French Gaullism, claiming that it is a more effective unifying force than communist or democratic ideals. In his opinion, Yeltsin's policies have pushed 40% of the population below the poverty line and brought the government only 3% of the real value of privatized state property. He said that he expects to win 6-7% of the vote and that he will support neither Yeltsin nor Zyuganov in the runoff. He is running at less than 1% in the polls and the media has largely ignored his campaign. -- Robert Orttung in Moscow

Leaders of the Movement "Nyet" on 29 May rejected accusations that their call on people to cast votes against all candidates in the second round could help Zyuganov beat Yeltsin. They admitted that Zyuganov would get 35% of the vote but argued that "against all" would gain even more votes if enough people refuse to back Yeltsin. Under the electoral law, the candidate with the most votes wins the second round as long as he gains more votes than are cast against all candidates. If "against all" wins, a new election must be held, in which case Nyet leaders predict Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin or Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov will enter the race and Aleksandr Lebed and Grigorii Yavlinskii will form an alliance, while the Communist have no other obvious leader aside from Zyuganov. The Nyet movement consists mainly of long-time human rights campaigners who claim that "we are doing what we always do: going out into the square and denouncing the current government." -- Robert Orttung in Moscow

Russian Nationalities Minister Vyacheslav Mikhailov on 29 May suggested that representatives of the Chechen opposition could participate in a future Chechen coalition government if acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev's assertion that he is in control of the Chechen military formations proves to be true, Russian TV (RTR) reported. The commander of the Russian federal forces in Chechnya, Lt. Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, stated that he had held talks with unnamed Chechen field commanders who had expressed their support for President Boris Yeltsin's peace initiative and their readiness to surrender their weapons. The draft project on power-sharing between the Russian Federation and Chechnya defines Chechnya as a sovereign state within the federation with jurisdiction over all aspects of domestic political affairs and the right to conclude international treaties and agreements, while Russia retains responsibility for foreign policy, defense and security issues, and transport, Radio Rossii reported. -- Liz Fuller

President Yeltsin dismissed Bryansk Oblast Governor Vladimir Barabanov on 29 May, ITAR-TASS reported. Barabanov was accused of misusing federal budget funds. He is the fifth governor to be fired this year for improper use of funds. On 9 April, Izvestiya reported that the leaders of 14 parties and organizations in the oblast had sent a letter to Yeltsin appealing to him to sack Barabanov, whom they accused of selling out to the Communist Party as well as squandering public money. The paper also noted that Barabanov had appointed Communists to leading positions in the oblast. Kommersant-Daily argued on 29 May that some of the signatures were falsified, adding that Barabanov, who refuted the allegations, did not meet with Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov when the latter visited the oblast on 21 May. The Communists won 35.4% in Bryansk in the December State Duma election. -- Penny Morvant

At a Kremlin ceremony, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin signed a series of power sharing agreements with Rostov Oblast Governor Vladimir Chubov and Sakhalin Oblast Governor Igor Farkhutdinov, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 May. The agreements with Rostov delineate the division of authority between the federal and regional governments in areas such as tax and budget authority, transport, law enforcement, land use, and mineral rights. The accords with Sakhalin cover land use, education, and international economic links, among other issues. To date, similar agreements have been signed with 18 federation subjects. Chernomyrdin said the federal government intends to sign similar agreements with all 89 constituent members of the Russian Federation. -- Scott Parrish

Finance Minister Theo Waigel arrived in Moscow on 29 May with the ostensible goal of signing a double-taxation treaty, Russian media reported the same day. Waigel met with Yeltsin, who affirmed his commitment to reform, and with First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Kadannikov, who described Germany as "Russia's most important and reliable partner in Europe," according to ITAR-TASS. So far this year, Germany has promised Russia DM 4 billion in loans, including a DM 1 billion ($650 million) credit announced on 25 May. Germany also holds 46% of Russia's $40 billion debt to the Paris Club, which was rescheduled in March. -- Peter Rutland

In a 29 May interview with the Italian newspaper Corrierre Della Sera , Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov said that despite tensions over issues like NATO expansion, "the Cold War will not return," but pointedly added that "Russia refuses to be regarded as the losing side." Primakov insisted that Russia remains a great power with an independent foreign policy, adding that "some in the West would like Russia to adopt a submissive stance, but they certainly will not secure this, no matter who wins the [presidential] election." He also complained that "NATO does not seem to want an understanding," referring to the rejection of various compromise offers on the expansion issue extended by Russia over the past few months. -- Scott Parrish

First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets announced on 29 May that the government will allocate an additional 2.8 trillion rubles ($558 million) to eliminate teachers' wage arrears and to cover annual leave payments, ITAR-TASS reported. Yeltsin issued a decree on 16 May ordering federal bodies to ensure the timely disbursal of holiday pay. Soskovets also said that the cabinet has decided to set up a new federal body to deal with fuel and energy supplies to vital institutions. There have been numerous cases of electricity supplies being cut to education establishments because of unpaid bills. The new working group will have the right to redistribute energy resources at the disposal of government bodies and of enterprises, regardless of their form of ownership. Teachers in Ulan-Ude in Buryatiya went on strike on 27 May to protest wage arrears. -- Penny Morvant

The local authorities in Voronezh have asked retired American Charles Swan to leave the city because of alleged irregularities in the work of the travel agency he runs, Izvestiya reported on 29 May. Swan, who used to work for the U.S. State Department, volunteers at Voronezh University as well as offering free travel services to students. Izvestiya, which is strongly anti-communist, contended that the political sympathies of officials at the local branch of the Federal Migration Service are the real reason for Swan's problems. The paper accused the authorities of taking steps against an "undesirable foreigner" because they expect a Communist victory in the presidential election. -- Penny Morvant

Federal Property Fund Deputy Chairman Vladimir Malin has announced that the government hopes to raise 12.4 trillion rubles ($2.5 billion) this year by selling stakes in major energy and communications companies, Reuters reported on 29 May. The fund intends to sell off a 34% stake in Norsi-Oil, a 29% stake in NAFTA-Moskva, and a 1.5% stake in LUKoil, as well as 25% of shares in Svyazinvest, 22% in Moscow Central Telegraph, and 1% in the national power grid EES Rossii. Malin said the government will probably not repeat the controversial loans-for-shares auctions. The future of privatization depends on the outcome of the presidential election, since Zyuganov insists on preserving state ownership in strategic sectors. -- Natalia Gurushina

The scheduled transfer of 26 government soldiers held prisoner by the Tajik opposition did not take place on 29-30 May, ITAR-TASS reported. The 26 men are among 300-400 men captured during the fighting in the Tavil-Dara region over the last eight months. The International Red Cross had arranged the deal and offered to be present at the transfer, but heavy rain is holding up the arrival of the Red Cross personnel in the Tavil-Dara region. The Tajik opposition had agreed to release the men, claiming that they were in poor health and that government blockades of the area had prevented the opposition forces from offering the prisoners basic medical care. -- Bruce Pannier

The People's Court in the Medeu region of Almaty is holding talks with the Kazakhstani Procurator-General's Office to urge it to withdraw the proposed ban on Komsomolskaya pravda , ITAR-TASS reported on 30 May. Supported by a group of Kazakh writers and political leaders, the Procurator-General's Office alleged that the newspaper had fomented ethnic discord and attacked the territorial integrity of Kazakhstan by publishing an interview with Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in its 23 April issue. Solzhenitsyn's earlier statements endorsing a recreation of "Greater Russia" by incorporating Russian-inhabited border regions have made him persona non grata in Kazakhstan. However, a large number of Kazakhstani journalists claim that the proposed ban is an attempt to undermine the freedom of the press. Komsomolskaya pravda is the most popular Russian newspaper in Kazakhstan. -- Bhavna Dave

An unidentified U.S. defense official on 29 May said that the U.S. will provide an additional $43.1 million to Ukraine for its disarmament efforts, Reuters reported. The money would bring U.S. aid to Ukraine under a "Cooperative Threat Reduction" program to $400 million. The money is earmarked for dismantling strategic weapons, cleaning up the missile bases at Pervomaisk and Khmelnitsky, and providing housing for the retired strategic rocket forces. -- Ustina Markus

Crimea's parliament added to its agenda the issue of opening an embassy in Moscow due to the peninsula's increasing trade with Russia, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 May. According to Crimea's Trade Ministry, exports to Russia account for almost half of all Crimean exports to CIS countries, while imports from Russia make up 41% of Crimea's total imports. -- Ustina Markus

Alyaksandr Lukashenka issued a decree entitled, "Measures to Regulate Banking Activities in the Republic of Belarus," stating that the country's National Bank will set all salaries in the banking sector, Belarusian radio reported on 29 May. Lukashenka had threatened to nationalize all banks in the country which the decree does not do, although it appears to have increased government control over the banking sector. -- Ustina Markus

The defense ministers of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the Baltic states had their third annual meeting in Trakai, Lithuania on 28-29 May, BNS reported. The Nordic ministers expressed their strong support for Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania's NATO and EU membership. Norwegian Defense Minister Joergen Kosmo said Russia cannot veto NATO expansion, but should not be left out of the security equation. The defense ministers also held talks with the three Baltic presidents, who thanked the Nordic countries for their assistance in the establishment and training of the Baltic Peacekeeping Battalion. The defense ministers' next meeting is scheduled for May 1997 in Saaremaa, Estonia. -- Saulius Girnius

Estonian and Slovak Foreign Ministers Siim Kallas and Juraj Schenk signed a free trade agreement in Tallinn on 29 May, BNS reported. Schenk's one-day trip was the first official visit between the two states. He also held talks with Estonian Prime Minister Tiit Vahi. Schenk invited Estonia to join the Central European Free Trade Association (CEFTA) whose current members are Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and Slovenia. He noted that European integration does not only mean EU expansion but also regional cooperation. He predicted that CEFTA will grow into a vast liberal market uniting 150 million people. -- Saulius Girnius

Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz in a TV speech on 29 May criticized the State Security Office (UOP) for the way it handled investigations into allegations that his predecessor, Jozef Oleksy, spied for Russia, Polish dailies reported the next day. A confidential report from a special internal UOP commission charged with determining whether there had been irregularities in the inquiry against Oleksy prompted Cimoszewicz's reaction. Cimoszewicz said irregularities did occur, pointing out that "some of the original recordings have disappeared and the officers ... are unable to recall what happened to these tapes. The files now contain only copies pieced together." He added that there is suspicion that some of the evidence was manipulated to fit pre-formulated theories. -- Jakub Karpinski

Cimoszewicz appointed Col. Andrzej Kapkowski as the new UOP chief. Kapkowski had been the acting UOP chief since February of this year. The Internal Affairs Minister Zbigniew Siemiatkowski nominated the new directorate chiefs in the ministry--Col. Wojciech Czerniak for intelligence, Col. Wlodzimierz Orlowski for counter-intelligence, Col. Jerzy Kucharenko for investigation-- to replace the officers fired on 27 May (see OMRI Daily Digest, 28 May 1996). Siemiatkowski is considering requesting the Prosecutor-General's Office to investigate the sources of the recent leaks of state secrets, Rzeczpospolita reported on 30 May. -- Jakub Karpinski

The Independents movement on 28 May requested Vaclav Havel to dissolve or suspend the Republic-Czechoslovak Republican Party (SPR-RSC) after Miroslav Sladek, head of the extreme-right party, placed an anti-Romani election ad on Czech TV. Sladek says in the TV spot, "The Gypsies will either behave as we do, or they can go. We don't care where, how, and who pays for it." The ad alleges that Premier Vaclav Klaus courted the Romani vote by "sending his wife to a Gypsy ball," and that "Sladek would not even let his dog there," CTK reported the previous day. Havel is still considering the petition that states the TV ad is in violation of the Charter of Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms and the constitution. Emil Scuka, Chairman of the Romani Civic Initiative, will also file suit against Sladek and Czech TV. -- Alaina Lemon

Michal Kovac on 29 May filed charges against Vladimir Meciar for slander and defamation of the head of state, Slovak media reported. Kovac was reacting to Meciar's radio interview of 24 May when Meciar accused the president of involvement in the $2.3 million fraud surrounding the Slovak firm Technopol (see OMRI Daily Digest, 27 May 1996). Besides denying involvement in the fraud, Kovac rejected Meciar's claims that Kovac influenced the investigation of the Technopol case and knew about preparations for his son's kidnapping but failed to intervene. Meciar, who missed the last two cabinet meetings and has not appeared in public since the broadcast of a controversial telephone conversation between two top officials, reportedly has "a very bad case of the flu." An April FOCUS poll published on 30 May showed that if a referendum were held, 41.4% would be against Kovac's dismissal and 28.7% for it. -- Sharon Fisher

The Central Union of Jewish Religious Communities on 28 May issued a protest against statements made early this month by Slovak National Party deputy Bartolomej Kunc on a program on the Czech TV station Nova, Slovak and international media reported the following day. Kunc said the deportation of Slovak Jews during World War II was an attempt to fix "a bad situation," in which "too much of the national wealth was owned by only a few people... There was a concentration of property in Jewish hands." He also blamed "the exploitation and impoverishment of the Slovak people" on Jews. Leaders of Slovakia's Jewish community, which now has only about 3,000 members, called Kunc's remarks, "the incarnation of the whole spectrum of anti-Semitic stereotypes formerly spread by fascist and Nazi propaganda and repeated today by sympathizers of Slovak fascism." -- Sharon Fisher

According to the Central Electoral Commission, the Democratic Party won 95 out of 115 direct seats in parliament, Gazeta Shqiptare reported on 30 May. The Socialist Party received 5 seats, and the ethnic Greek Party for the Defense of Human Rights (PBDNJ) two in Gjirokastra and Saranda. The elections will be repeated in two districts in Fier and one in Puke due to irregularities. The second round of the elections on 2 June will determine 10 more seats. The Socialist Party, the Social Democrats, the Democratic Alliance, the Party of National Unity, and the Party of the Democratic Right have announced their boycott of the elections and demand new elections. Meanwhile, the two PBDNJ deputies opposed their party leadership's decision and said they would not boycott parliament. -- Fabian Schmidt in Tirana

After police violently broke up an opposition rally the previous day in Tirana, the Socialist Party continued to hold demonstrations on 29 May in Tepelena, Vlora, Fier, Kucova, and Korca. In Fier, the police surrounded the Socialist Party headquarters in an attempt to arrest local party leader Petro Koci but failed when a large number of his supporters blocked the building's entrance. Gazeta Shqiptare said many people "among whom a majority [were] women and elderly," were injured during the clashes there. No incidents were reported elsewhere. Meanwhile, the Socialist Party blamed the secret police for the mysterious 28 May killing of a Eurosocialist (member of the Socialist's youth organization) in Tirana. The Interior Ministry, however, announced that they arrested a suspect, who is a known criminal. -- Fabian Schmidt in Tirana

Unknown persons blew up a bridge connecting the Republika Srpska with federal territory in an area where Russian IFOR troops are located. The bridge links the settlement of Teocak with the Bijeljina-Tuzla road and was the site of numerous prisoner exchanges during the war. IFOR and the international police are investigating, Nasa Borba reported on 30 May. Meanwhile, hard-line Serbs have expelled at least 100 Muslims from Teslic in central Bosnia in what UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski called "the worst wave of attacks on Muslims since the Dayton agreement was signed." Bombings, other acts of violence, and threats have been used to drive Muslims out of an area where they made up 21% of the prewar population, Reuters said on 29 May. -- Patrick Moore

A British TV documentary has produced new evidence suggesting that Jacques Chirac held up air strikes against Bosnian Serbs who were attacking Srebrenica last July. British commander Gen. Rupert Smith requested the raids that were to protect the "safe area" and had the backing of UN officials in New York. Chirac reportedly told French Gen. Bernard Janvier to hold off on the raids. The documentary indicated that the French made a deal with Bosnian Serb Gen. Ratko Mladic to end air strikes in return for freeing UN hostages held by the Serbs. The UN's chief official for Bosnia, Yasushi Akashi, supported Janvier against Smith, AFP reported on 29 May. The fall of Srebrenica led to the worst atrocity in Europe since World War II, in which up to 7,000 mainly Muslim males are presumed to have been murdered. Until now the blame has been laid chiefly on the Dutch UNPROFOR troops stationed in Srebrenica or on British elite SAS units operating nearby. -- Patrick Moore

The UN has resumed efforts at exploring sites of possible mass graves in eastern Bosnia, where many of the victims of the Srebrenica massacre are believed to be buried. In The Hague, the war crimes tribunal said it will hear testimony from Drazen Erdemovic--a Croatian veteran of the Bosnian Serb forces--who has admitted to complicity in the killings, AFP reported on 29 May. In Sarajevo, federal President Kresimir Zubak announced that the U.S. firm Military Professional Resources will train and help equip federal troops. The organization is based near Washington D.C. and is staffed by retired U.S. military personnel. The program outlined in the Dayton agreement is estimated to cost $800 million, but only the U.S. and Turkey have made any firm pledges of money so far. -- Patrick Moore

While Bosnian Serbs who fled the Sarajevo suburb of Vogosca before it reverted to the Bosnian Federation are applying to return to their homes, the Bosnian government has decided to resettle about 8,000 Muslims displaced from the Serb-held town of Doboj in northern Bosnia in abandoned Serbian houses in Sarajevo, Oslobodjenje reported on 29-30 May. The decision was made at a secret meeting of the Ministry for Refugees in the first half of May. The refugees from Doboj have been contacted and invited to come and live in Sarajevo, Oslobodjenje quoted Doboj's former municipal authorities as saying. Ekrem Ajanovic, an MP from the town of Tesanj, south of Doboj, at the parliamentary meeting on 28 May criticized the government decision, which he said runs counter to official policy and the right of refugees to return to their homes. -- Daria Sito Sucic

Yevgenii Primakov met on 29 May with his rump Yugoslav counterpart, Milan Milutinovic, for talks on the status of the Dayton peace process. Primakov did not confirm that the fates of Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and Gen. Ratko Mladic were discussed, but both ministers agreed rump Yugoslavia "fully respected and fulfilled all its duties in accordance with the Dayton-Paris agreement," Tanjug reported. Primakov's visit is roughly a week after Washington officials said they would lobby for the re-imposition of sanctions against rump Yugoslavia should Belgrade continue to fail to honor commitments concerning the extradition of accused war criminals. Primakov was to conclude his Belgrade visit after meetings with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and Montenegrin President Momir Bulatovic, Nasa Borba reported on 30 May. -- Stan Markotich

Radoje Kontic on 29 May dubbed as "black mail" the "political conditions" the IMF has made contingent for the continuation of discussions with Belgrade. Reuters quoted the premier as adding "[rump] Yugoslavia wants to see political issues dealt with by competent international political bodies and not the IMF and the World Bank." Talks between Belgrade and the financial institutions broke down in 1996, owing to rump Yugoslavia's refusal to back away from its demand to be recognized as the successor state to Tito's Yugoslavia as a precondition for accepting membership in the IMF and World bank. Kontic's latest set of remarks and Belgrade's continuing refusal to step away formally from the demand suggest that relations with the international bodies are likely to be strained through the foreseeable future. -- Stan Markotich

Romania's Prosecutor-General's Office and the Supreme Court demanded the extradition from Canada of the captain and six officers of a Taiwanese ship, Romanian and western media reported. The demand came in connection with the case of three Romanian stowaways reportedly dumped overboard on the high seas in what has been described as an "abominable crime." According to press reports, the Taiwanese captain of the "Maersk Dubai" container ship ordered his Filipino crew to force two of the Romanians into a makeshift raft on 12 March. A third Romanian stowaway disappeared six day later, while a fourth eventually reached the Canadian port of Halifax after crew members hid him. Romania announced it will dispatch two prosecutors and a police officer to Canada to investigate the case. -- Dan Ionescu

Andrei Sangheli on 28 May met Igor Smirnov, president of the self-proclaimed "Dniester republic," BASA-press reported the next day. As part of the negotiations aimed to solve the Dniester conflict, the two sides discussed financial and economic ties between Chisinau and Tiraspol, including the possibility to increase electricity production at the Cuciurgan and Dubasari power plants. Also on the agenda were the need to speed up the electrification of some railway segments, relations between the Moldovan and Dniester Chambers of Commerce and Industry, and the repayment of Russia's credit granted to the breakaway Dniester region in 1993-94. -- Matyas Szabo

Zhan Videnov on 29 May announced new austerity measures agreed on with the IMF, Reuters reported. In an address to the parliament, he said the agreement gives Bulgaria the chance "to weather successfully the hardest period in our transition," adding that the alternative is "the collapse of the country." The measures include closing down 64 unprofitable state enterprises, cutting off credits to 70 more companies, and shutting down up to five insolvent banks. The government will also raise the VAT in June, reportedly from 18% to 22%, increase excise duties on alcohol, and introduce an import tax on all goods. Videnov said the government hopes this way to collect 140 billion leva ($920 million) in 1996. He urged all political parties, the trade unions, and citizens to back the measures. -- Stefan Krause

As the grain and bread shortage in Bulgaria continues, local authorities started to introduce measures to secure a basic supply, Trud and Demokratsiya reported on 30 May. The mayors of Asenovgrad and Chiprovtsi introduced bread rationing in their towns. In other places, supplies are expected to run out within days, and 13 villages in the Rhodope mountains reportedly have not had bread for a week. In Plovdiv, Mayor Spas Garnevski ordered that only two loaves of bread be sold per customer. The country's biggest private mill in Mezdra stopped production a few days ago. Meanwhile, Socialist deputies continue to demand the resignation of several ministers, including Agriculture Minister Svetoslav Shivarov, Kontinent reported. But Premier Videnov, during a Socialist parliamentary faction meeting on 28 May, ruled out any personnel changes in the government. -- Stefan Krause

[As of 1200 CET]

Compiled by Victor Gomez and Deborah Michaels