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Newsline - June 5, 1996

Russian and Chechen delegations opened peace talks in the Ingush capital, Nazran, on 4 June, Russian and Western agencies reported. AFP quoted Chechen delegation head Said-Hassan Abdumuslimov as stating that he would demand a referendum on Chechnya's future political status, a postponement of the scheduled 16 June election to a new Chechen People's Assembly, and the withdrawal of all Russian troops by a specified date. The Russian military insist that a withdrawal of Russian troops by 1 August is contingent on the Chechens disarming. The talks focused on procedural issues; two working commissions were created to discuss military issues as well as the exchange of hostages and prisoners of war on an "all for all" basis. Despite the ceasefire, there was sporadic small arms and machine gunfire in Grozny during the night of 4-5 June, Reuters reported. -- Liz Fuller

Communist presidential candidate Gennadii Zyuganov announced on 4 June in Novosibirsk that he would offer members of the "Third Force"--fellow candidates Grigorii Yavlinskii, Aleksandr Lebed, and Svyatoslav Fedorov--positions in his "government of popular trust," ITAR-TASS reported. Zyuganov said that the candidates could consider his statement an "official invitation." Zyuganov is hoping to revive his flagging campaign by trying to convince Third Force supporters that he would represent their interests better than Yeltsin. However, all three candidates have stated that they will not withdraw from the race before the first round, and their actions before a possible runoff remain unpredictable. -- Robert Orttung

Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin denied that he has been "in the shadows" in recent months, according to an interview published in Komsomolskaya pravda on 4 June. He remarked "I am prime minister, not a television star." He urged voters to re-elect President Yeltsin and see through the reforms, instead of abandoning them half-way as has been the case so often in Russian history. Chernomyrdin said he paid no attention to rumors of his resignation. He said "Boris Yeltsin never took me by the hand," but let him run things his own way. As for Chechnya, he said the peace talks "were not between victors and vanquished"; and noted that he recently signed a 604 billion ruble ($120 million) decree for postwar reconstruction. -- Peter Rutland

The Central Electoral Commission (TsIK) is conducting an investigation of Defense Minister Pavel Grachev's assertion that the sailors who voted early had unanimously supported President Yeltsin. Revealing the initial findings of the study, TsIK Chairman Nikolai Ryabov said on 4 June that "the secrecy of the ballots had not been violated" and that Grachev's comments reflect his personal opinion, ITAR-TASS reported. According to the electoral law, results cannot be reported until voting is completed on 16 June. Izvestiya on 5 June commented that Grachev's remarks suggest that the military is not being permitted to vote freely and secretly, and serve as further grounds for his dismissal. -- Robert Orttung

Communist campaign manager Valentin Kuptsov repeated on 4 June that his party plans to deploy 200,000 poll watchers who will obtain copies of the voting protocols from each electoral commission to make sure that there is no cheating, ITAR-TASS reported. He rejected presidential aide Georgii Satarov's recent assertions that these people would merely disrupt the voting. Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin announced that he had send a letter to the Central Electoral Commission listing dozens of electoral law violations by President Yeltsin's team. Meanwhile, Moskovskii komsomolets charged on 4 June that one third of the local electoral commissions are sympathetic to the Communists. Rossiiskie vesti on 5 June asserted that any "falsification of the election results is impossible" because the electoral commissions are composed of representatives from different parties. -- Robert Orttung

President Yeltsin on 1 June signed the law on defense, Krasnaya zvezda reported on 4 June. The law, which was approved by the Duma on 24 April and the Federation Council on 15 May, delineates the powers and duties of federal and regional bodies involved in Russia's defense and the rights and obligations of Russian civilians (see OMRI Daily Digest, 25 April and 16 May 1996). The military newspaper stressed that, unlike the old defense law, the new legislation requires state bodies that include armed formations to abide by unified mobilization and combat-training plans. -- Penny Morvant

Former Vladivostok Mayor Viktor Cherepkov, who began a hunger strike on 28 May, vowed on 4 June to continue until a criminal case is opened against those who ousted him unlawfully and a court reviews his appeal against a December 1994 presidential decree. Cherepkov became Vladivostok's first democratically elected mayor in 1993 but was removed in March 1994 on corruption charges later proven false (see OMRI Daily Digest, 29 May 1996). Primorskii Krai authorities then used fraudulent documents to persuade President Yeltsin to issue a decree removing him from office, Cherepkov claims. In his view, Yeltsin's decree violated the constitution and various federal laws, but courts have postponed his appeal more than a dozen times. Despite his hunger strike, Cherepkov told OMRI that he plans to vote for Yeltsin this June. -- Laura Belin

Representatives from 73 of Russia's 89 federal subjects have signed a constituent treaty of the Russian Union of Local Authorities, Russian media reported on 4 June. The union, constituted in December last year, aims at coordinating the activities of the country's local self-government institutions, effectively upholding their rights, and promoting their interests in relations with federal and regional authorities. Union leader and Duma deputy Roman Popkovich said tha a presidential decree on support for local authorities has been prepared and will be signed after the union is officially registered. -- Anna Paretskaya

Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov rejected reports by Western agencies that he had told his NATO counterparts in Berlin that Russia could accept Eastern European countries joining NATO so long as foreign troops were not deployed there, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 June. Primakov said that although Russia could accept the political expansion of NATO, Moscow would oppose any eastward extension of NATO's military infrastructure, which he said included not just troops, but also joint military command structures, air defense systems, intelligence sharing, and similar measures. Nevertheless, Primakov expressed satisfaction with the results of the Berlin meeting, saying that NATO "had for the first time begun to move in the direction of adapting to new realities." He also said that Western leaders are beginning to understand that NATO cannot expand "without an intensive dialog with Russia" about the terms of expansion. -- Scott Parrish

Writing in Nezavisimaya gazeta on 4 June, Communist deputy Aleksei Podberezkin, deputy chairman of the Duma International Affairs Committee and a foreign policy adviser to Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov, proposes guidelines for Russia to follow while implementing existing arms control agreements and negotiating new ones. First, Russia should only implement agreements that bolster its security, and propose amendments to existing ones that no longer do so; second, Russia cannot afford to trade military concessions for political good will; third, Russia must link arms control agreements to the behavior of other states; and fourth, Russia can only spend modest sums on arms control. Podberezkin's comments suggest the approach that a Zyuganov administration might take toward agreements like START-2, CFE, the Chemical Weapons Convention, and the proposed Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, all of which he said need modification to meet his criteria. -- Scott Parrish

Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Demurin announced on 4 June that the Foreign Ministry and Foreign Trade Ministry are encouraging Russian firms to open commercial links with Iraq under the terms of the oil-for-aid deal that Baghdad recently signed with the UN, ITAR-TASS reported. Demurin said that under the terms of UN Resolution 986, which allows Iraq to sell a limited amount of oil to purchase food and medicine, Russian firms can conclude contracts with Iraq to purchase and transport oil. -- Scott Parrish

Pursuant to a 1994 agreement, the first joint Russian-U.S. tactical anti-missile defense exercises have started at the Falcon military base in Colorado, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 June. A team of 18 Russian anti-missile experts headed by General Viktor Niruk and 20 U.S. experts will practice coordinated anti-missile defense operations that could be used during future joint peacekeeping missions. Meanwhile, Russian and U.S. naval officers meeting in Hawaii agreed to hold a third joint naval exercise, entitled "Assistance at Sea-96," in August near the Russian port of Vladivostok, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 June. -- Constantine Dmitriev

The number of unemployed officially registered with the Federal Employment Service has risen by about 500,000 since the beginning of the year to 2.77 million, or 3.8% of the working population, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 June. Unemployment rates are highest in Ingushetiya (more than 22%) and lowest in Moscow (0.6%). There are an average of nine applicants for every vacancy. Most openings are in low-paying sectors, such as agriculture and education. The employment service has found jobs for more than 580,000 people since the beginning of the year and sent 200,000 on retraining courses. On the basis of survey data, Goskomstat estimated that the actual unemployment rate was 8.6% at the end of March. Meanwhile, participants in a conference on labor safety said about 300,000 to 400,000 people sustain industrial injuries every year, with 7,000 to 8,000 losing their lives. -- Penny Morvant

Aleksandr Kazakov, the head of the State Privatization Commission, was appointed the chairman of the board of directors of Gazprom at its annual general meeting, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 4 June. Rem Vyakhirev remains the president of the company's management (CEO). Under the law on joint stock companies which came into effect on 1 January 1996, the posts of CEO and board chairman cannot be held by the same person. The federal government still holds 40% of Gazprom shares. It is common to appoint government officials (usually deputy ministers) to sit on the boards of major companies in which the state has a block of shares, but this obviously raises the question of a conflict of interest. The allocation of the remaining Gazprom shares is not known. Up to 1 million individuals hold shares in the company, including its 370,000 workers and other residents of gas-producing regions. -- Peter Rutland

With sales of 123 trillion rubles ($30 billion) in 1995, Gazprom ranks among the world's top 50 companies. Its output is equal to 8% of the entire Russian GDP. It was owed 43 trillion rubles ($10.2 billion) by customers at the end of 1995, rising to 57 trillion rubles as of May 1996. The author of the Nezavisimaya gazeta report, Tatyana Koshkareva, suggests that Gazprom has displaced the Central Bank as the most important source of credits in the Russian economy. -- Peter Rutland

A consortium of European, Russian, Iranian, and Turkish oil companies signed a major agreement estimated at $3-4 billion in Baku on 4 June to develop Azerbaijan's Shah-Deniz off-shore oil and gas fields, ITAR-TASS and AFP reported. Shah-Deniz contains reserves of 200 million metric tons of oil and gas condensate and 400 billion cubic meters of natural gas. BP and Norway's Statoil--which are the largest partners in the consortium to develop the Chirag, Azeri, and Gyuneshli fields--have a 51% stake in the contract; Russia's Lukoil and the Iranian state oil company have 10% each. -- Liz Fuller

Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan arrived in Tbilisi on 4 June, Russian media reported same day. Ter-Petrossyan and his Georgian counterpart, Eduard Shevardnadze, are to sign several bilateral agreements and a communique emphasizing the inviolability of the Armenian-Georgian border. -- Irakli Tsereteli

Nezavisimaya gazeta on 4 June speculated that the declining cooperation with Russian journalists in Uzbekistan is linked to RFE/RL broadcasts to the country. The article alleges that RFE/RL has taken a pro-government, anti-imperial slant in its Uzbek reporting in an attempt to prevent the country from falling back into the Russian orbit. The paper also noted that the radio is supported by the U.S. Congress. While Uzbek President Islam Karimov assured Russian journalists in February that accredited reporters would be allowed to disseminate information in the country, the paper observed that shortly afterward Russian journalist Sergei Grebinyuk was found dead and that two other Russian journalists subsequently left the country. The article claimed that an "iron curtain" had fallen between the two countries in the sphere of information exchange. -- Bruce Pannier

Pavel Grachev and William Perry with their Ukrainian counterpart Valerii Shmarov traveled to the Pervomaisk missile base in Ukraine and planted sunflowers over a former silo, international agencies reported. The ceremony marked the removal of all nuclear weapons from Ukraine's territory. Perry said the action will ensure that future generations will live in peace. Kazakhstan delivered the last of its nuclear weapons to Russia a year ago, while Belarus had delayed transferring the last of its warheads because of financial difficulties. The U.S. signed an agreement allocating $43 million to help build housing for retired rocket forces. -- Ustina Markus

Ukrainian lawmakers voted on 4 June to preliminarily approve the draft of a new post-Soviet constitution, international agencies reported. Supporters of the draft managed to win a simple majority after President Leonid Kuchma threatened to call a national referendum on the main points in the document. They hailed the vote as a big step toward consolidating Ukrainian statehood. The draft enshrines Ukrainian as the only state language and limits Crimean autonomy, which is expected to elicit protests from pro-Russian forces in the region. It also schedules the next parliamentary elections for March 1998 and presidential elections for October 1999. Leftist forces said the draft is undemocratic, giving strong powers to the president and dismantling the old system of the soviets. Observers doubt the Democrats can muster the two-thirds majority vote they need to adopt the constitution in its second reading. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

Syamyon Sharetsky told the parliament that all changes in Belarus since the Soviet totalitarian system collapsed have been for the worse, Reuters reported on 4 June. He went on to criticize President Alyaksandr Lukashenka for "hotheadedness, a mistrust toward others, and a will to take sole control of everything." Sharetsky's statements signal the parliament's increasing disillusionment with the president. The same day, an RFE/RL correspondent reported that Justice Minister Valyantsin Sukalo sent a second letter to the Belarusian Popular Front (BPF) warning against unsanctioned rallies. Under Belarusian law, the justice minister has the right to unilaterally ban an organization after it has been issued two warnings. Opposition members have voiced concern that the authorities are taking steps aimed at banning the BPF since political demonstrations against Lukashenka's policies began in March. -- Ustina Markus

The International Civil Aviation Organization issued a report blaming Belarus for the downing of a hot air balloon last September that resulted in the deaths of the two pilots, AFP reported on 5 June. The American pilots were competing in an international ballooning competition and were shot down by the Belarusian air defense forces while flying over Belarusian territory. An international investigation commission looked into the affair and found that the Belarusian military failed to identify the balloon correctly and then did not take appropriate steps in attempting to communicate with the balloon's pilots. Belarusian authorities expressed regret for the shooting, but did not apologize. -- Ustina Markus

At a meeting of the foreign ministers of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council in Berlin on 4 June, Latvian and Estonian Foreign Ministers Valdis Birkavs and Siim Kallas expressed concern about one of the planned amendments to the treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe, which was agreed to at a recent Vienna conference, BNS reported. The amendment would increase from 180 to 600 the number of tanks that Russia would be allowed to station in the Pskov region bordering on Latvia and Estonia. Birkavs told U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher that the Baltic states should be compensated for the increased security threat they would face. The amendment will become effective if the 30 signatories of the treaty ratify it by 15 December. -- Saulius Girnius

Polish Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz said in a radio interview on 4 May that the mysterious agent O., identified for a long time with Cimoszewicz's predecessor Jozef Oleksy, might not be a real Russian agent in Poland but a Polish secret service officer who acted on orders and deliberately misled Russian intelligence. Gen. Gromoslaw Czempinski, former chief of the State Security Office, refused to evaluate numerous hypotheses on O.'s identity but said that if the case involves "an operational game," nobody, not even the prime minister, should make speculations. Rzeczpospolita on 5 May suggested that O. might have been a double agent in the case of Marek Zielinski whom the Polish secret services caught in 1993 transmitting intelligence materials to Col. Vladymir Lomakin, the Russian military attache in Warsaw. The Russian text referring to O. may be based on Zielinski's report, Rzeczpospolita wrote.
-- Jakub Karpinski

Vaclav Klaus, the incumbent prime minister and leader of the Civic Democratic party (ODS) that won the 31 May-1 June parliamentary elections, criticized President Vaclav Havel on 4 June for not designating quickly a new prime minister. Klaus, whose ODS-led coalition lost its parliamentary majority, said after a meeting of the ODS's leadership that Havel should not wait, as he has indicated he will, until after the new parliament meets to appoint a prime minister. The ODS demands that Klaus be charged with leading the new government. Meanwhile, the Social Democrats have indicated that they may support a Klaus-led minority government if certain conditions are met, for example that Labor Minister Jindrich Vodicka, Internal Affairs Minister Jan Ruml, Economic Minister Karel Dyba, and Minister without Portfolio Igor Nemec be excluded from the new government. -- Jiri Pehe

Post office authorities in the northern Bohemian town Most told CTK on 4 June that they will stop delivering mail to the Chanov housing estate inhabited mostly by Roma. The post office claimed that delivery is too difficult because there are no names on apartment doors and no mailboxes. However, mailboxes have been absent from the premises for 15 years, and the city and landlord, not the tenants, assign numbers to buildings and apartments. The city already cut off the hot water supply to Chanov in January because none of the residents could pay the rent. With mail service discontinued, finding and retaining employment will become even more difficult, as will surmounting other bureaucratic hurdles such as completing citizenship applications. -- Alaina Lemon

Bratislava has been buzzing with rumors about the illness of Vladimir Meciar, who briefly appeared at a cabinet session on 4 June, Slovak media reported. Meciar is expected to be absent from work for another two weeks, reportedly because of a respiratory and inner ear infection. He has not appeared in public since the broadcast in mid-May of a controversial conversation between Interior Minister Ludovit Hudek and Slovak Information Service chief Ivan Lexa. Meanwhile, Radio Twist on 4 June reported that experts from Prague's Research Institute for Radio and TV confirmed the authenticity of the cassette recording of the conversation. In other news, the cabinet on 4 June issued a declaration distancing itself from "all statements that attempt to defend fascism." It was apparently reacting to statements on Jews made last month by Slovak National Party (SNS) deputy Bartolomej Kunc (see OMRI Daily Digest, 30 May). -- Sharon Fisher

In Meciar's absence, his coalition appears to be crumbling, and it is unclear whether he will be able to attend a meeting scheduled for 5 June to deal with the growing conflicts. SNS chairman Jan Slota, who recently criticized the policies of Meciar's party, the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), called the meeting. Criticism has also come from Meciar's other junior coalition partner--the Association of Workers of Slovakia--and from within the HZDS, mainly from deputy Frantisek Gaulieder. Opposition deputies remain suspicious of the SNS's sudden rebellion and note that it is likely connected to the party's lack of control over privatization. Particular attention has centered on the change of management at the insurance firm Slovenska poistovna on 31 May; the new leadership reportedly consists of individuals with strong HZDS ties. -- Sharon Fisher

U.S. and Italian peacekeepers on 4 June spotted Slavko Aleksic, the former kingpin of Grbavica, in Lukavica near Sarajevo. He was carrying a pistol and a hand grenade in violation of the Dayton agreements. When the soldiers tried to arrest him, up to 300 Serb civilians formed a hostile crowd and surrounded the troops. Some 30 French rapid reaction soldiers then arrived on the scene, helped disarm Aleksic, and turned him over to waiting Serb police who had begun to disperse the crowd as soon as the French appeared. Dayton requires that civilians carrying illegal weapons be handed over to the local police, who in Lukavica are Serbs, Nasa Borba pointed out. Bosnian Serb parliament speaker Momcilo Krajisnik told AFP that there could have been much violence. Serbian propaganda has recently stressed that provocation of the Serbs could result in pandemonium. -- Patrick Moore

Confusion continues among NATO officials as to whether or not they have a new mandate to catch war criminals (see OMRI Daily Digest, 3 June 1996), but peacekeepers acted decisively to disband a regular press briefing in Pale to protest the presence of a picture of Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic in the briefing room, Onasa reported on 4 June. Meanwhile in Foca, some 5,000 Serbs demonstrated in favor of Karadzic and fellow indicted war criminal Gen. Ratko Mladic, AFP noted. "The attacks on President Karadzic...and General Mladic are attacks against the Serb people," said Bozidar Vucurovic, the mayor of Trebinje in eastern Herzegovina. Krajisnik said the Bosnian Serbs have so far completed all the preparations for the elections, Onasa reported on 4 June. In Banja Luka, journalists at the government-backed paper Glas srpski announced a strike unless the state authorities change a planned new media budget. The journalists said the program favors Pale at the expense of Banja Luka, Nasa Borba reported on 5 June. -- Patrick Moore

Bosnian Croat authorities announced that a site has been unearthed near Jajce containing the bodies of at least 36 persons, mainly women. Spokesman Jerko Radic said, "I think we made a mistake in our [original] calculations because we thought there were 33 bodies, but there will be around 50. All of them are civilians and mostly female as you can see. The fact that these were civilians and mainly females shows the Serbs carried out genocide and that all those who were not Serbs were killed, regardless of their age," AFP on 4 June quoted him as saying. Jajce fell to the Serbs early in the war but was retaken by the Croats last September. Before the war its population was 39% Muslim and 35% Croatian. -- Patrick Moore

Greek and international media coverage of a deal between the Greek telecommunications company OTE and the Republika Srpska (RS) has prompted OTE's management to half-heartedly deny any violation of the Dayton agreement, AFP reported. State-controlled OTE struck a deal with the RS to develop a "master plan" for a modern telecommunications network for the Bosnian Serbs (see OMRI Special Report, 21 May 1996), which would include military communications and establish links between Pale, Banja Luka, and Belgrade but not between the RS and the Croatian-Muslim federation. Elevtherotypia and the Financial Times on 4 June reported that the deal totaling $248,000 violates the Dayton agreement and was protested by the international community's High Representative Carl Bildt. OTE chairman Dimitris Papoulias said his company carried out the study for free and did not breach the Dayton agreement. Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas backed OTE's decision. -- Stefan Krause

Despite pressure from the major European powers to keep Bosnia's first postwar elections on schedule, OSCE chairman Flavio Cotti said reasonably free and fair conditions must exist first, Reuters reported on 4 June. Foreign ministers from the five countries representing the contact group on Bosnia at their 4 June meeting in Berlin insisted that adhering to the timetable is of central importance for the implementation of the peace plan. But, Cotti informed them that intimidation and discrimination have increased in Bosnia and election preparations are behind schedule. He clearly stated that he will not automatically give his approval for elections unless certain minimum prerequisite conditions are fulfilled, "so that the concepts `free, fair, and democratic' ... retain their meaning," Reuters quoted him as saying. -- Daria Sito Sucic

Meeting with a European Council delegation on 4 June in Zagreb, Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic said Croatia is ready to accept the European conditions for Croatian membership to the Council of Europe (see OMRI Daily Digest, 4 June 1996), Nasa Borba reported the next day. Granic's statement contrasted with Croatian President Franjo Tudjman's recent claim that Croatia will accept no more dictates. Slobodna Dalmacija in its editorial on 5 June commented that Croatia has already accepted and partly fulfilled these "new conditions." Granic announced he will visit Belgrade by the end of June to discuss the normalization of relations between Croatia and rump Yugoslavia. -- Daria Sito Sucic

The retired Bishop of Kotor, Ivo Gugic, was found dead in his home on 4 June, Montena-fax reported the same day. The 75 year-old clergyman became Bishop of Kotor in 1982 and was also working with the Montenegrin government committee for the protection of minority and ethnic group rights. Police already have a man in custody who has reportedly confessed to the murder. -- Stan Markotich

The Sobranie on 4 June ruled that it is not competent to decide on a petition drive for early elections, Nova Makedonija reported. The majority decided that while the parliament can dissolve itself, it cannot initiate a referendum on early elections. A petition carrying more than 170,000 valid signatures and demanding early elections was submitted to the parliament earlier this year. The parliament also ratified an agreement with the U.S. providing for the presence of U.S. troops in Macedonia if UNPREDEP is scaled down or its mission terminated, AFP reported. The accord also defines rules for participation of U.S. and other troops in military exercises in Macedonia under the Partnership for Peace program and provides for training of Macedonian officers in the U.S. -- Stefan Krause

Senior U.S. government officials have urged the Congress to approve legislation granting Romania permanent "most favored nation" (MFN) trade status, an RFE/RL correspondent reported on 4 June. Iowa Republican Senator Charles Grassley said Romania is the only U.S. trading partner that has acceded to the World Trade Organization and has conditional MFN status, Reuters reported. Romania's preferential treatment has to be approved each year following a review of its compliance with international human rights accords. U.S. State Department official Marshall Adair also spoke in favor of extending the MFN status clause indefinitely. However, Republican Congressman David Funderburk, a former U.S. ambassador to Bucharest, expressed reservations about awarding MFN status to Romania on a permanent basis before national elections set for this fall. MFN gives a nation's exports to the U.S. non-discriminatory tariff treatment. -- Dan Ionescu

Zhelyu Zhelev on 4 June accepted the result of the 1 June primary elections and said he will not run in the upcoming presidential elections, Reuters reported. He said he will support the winner, Petar Stoyanov of the Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) "so that Bulgaria will again have a democratic president." Earlier that day, the leaders of the SDS, the People's Union (NS), and the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedom (DPS) formally approved Stoyanov as their common presidential candidate. Ivaylo Trifonov, the director of Zhelev's presidential chancellery, and Yulia Gurkovska, the head of his cabinet, resigned because of Zhelev's bad showing in the primary. Meanwhile, the DPS and the Bulgarian Business Bloc announced they will support the no-confidence motion in the Socialist government initiated by the SDS and the NS. The big trade unions also voiced their support. -- Stefan Krause

After the government banned public demonstrations in Tirana on 4 June saying former secret police officers and Socialist Party (PS) leaders "planned to cause trouble," massive police forces prevented opposition supporters from gathering outside the PS headquarters, Western media reported. Some 200 people managed to gather near the building, which was encircled by two lines of special police forces, while the rest were pushed away. Police vans also blocked Skanderbeg Square, the scene of violent clashes between protesters and police one week earlier. Meanwhile, 76 leading PS members ended their hunger strike over alleged manipulations of the parliamentary elections, saying the strike had achieved its main goal of denouncing President Sali Berisha and his Democratic Party. They hope their move will calm political tension and open a dialogue with the Democrats. -- Stefan Krause

[As of 1200 CET]
Compiled by Victor Gomez and Deborah Michaels