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Newsline - August 21, 1996

Citizens of Grozny on 20 August continued to flee the city following the ultimatum issued the previous day by the interim commander of the Russian federal forces, Lt.-Gen. Konstantin Pulikovskii, though an estimated 150,000 people remain, Russian and Western agencies reported. Chechen spokesman Movladi Udugov told Reuters that some 100 civilians died when Russian troops blew up a bridge in Alkhan-Yurt, southwest of Grozny; AFP reported that Russian troops later blocked the only remaining route out of the city to the northeast. Pro-Moscow Chechen Prime Minister Nikolai Koshman told ITAR-TASS that the ultimatum to leave Grozny within 48 hours was "unrealistic." Lt.-Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, who resumed command of the Russian forces in Chechnya on 20 August after a vacation, affirmed that he would "use all means, political and military" to expel the Chechen fighters from Grozny, AFP reported. -- Liz Fuller

Russia's Democratic Choice called on President Boris Yeltsin to fire Lt.-Gen. Konstantin Pulikovskii and speed up the peace settlement in the separatist republic. The Chechen representative to the president denounced Pulikovskii's ultimatum as a "death sentence" for the "hundreds" of thousands of people unable to escape from Grozny, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 August. Meanwhile, the little-known Assembly of Russian National Democratic and Patriotic Forces called Lebed's negotiations "criminal" and argued that they would lead to the disintegration of Russia and civil war throughout the Caucasus region, Russian TV reported. -- Robert Orttung

Aleksandr Lebed's Security Council released a statement on 20 June expressing doubts whether President Boris Yeltsin had actually signed his instruction to "restore the order that prevailed" in Grozny before 5 August (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20 August 1996), Kommersant-Daily reported. Lebed argued that carrying out these instructions would lead to widescale military activities, heavy losses among federal troops, massive civilian deaths, and would disrupt his negotiations. Lebed insisted that no one be allowed to manipulate the president and demanded an explanation of the order's origin. The paper suggested that Lebed would only make such a statement if he were sure that Yeltsin had not signed the order, a likely scenario given Yeltsin's poor health. Chief of Staff Anatolii Chubais, a Lebed rival, is in charge of preparing all documents for the president's signature. -- Robert Orttung

The Kremlin responded to Lebed's charges in a vaguely worded statement from the presidential press service on 20 June, ITAR-TASS reported. The statement said that the federal government would not fulfill the separatists' demands while they continued shooting but that it was prepared to continue negotiations. The statement also asked Lebed not to talk about the issue with the media until he had met with Yeltsin. Lebed's charges and the nebulous response suggest that Yeltsin is no longer in direct control. -- Robert Orttung

As President Boris Yeltsin's spokesman continues to insist that the president is merely resting in the lake region of Valdai, intense speculation on Yeltsin's health has reappeared in the press. Russian journalists sympathetic to Yeltsin avoided the health issue in late June and July, even as Yeltsin's absence from public view dominated Western news coverage of Russia. Yeltsin has not been seen in public since the 9 August inauguration. Komsomolskaya pravda reported on 21 August that the president clearly needs heart surgery. On the same day, Kommersant-Daily dismissed official statements on Yeltsin's health and whereabouts as unconvincing. The latest issue of Novaya gazeta claimed that recent television footage of Yeltsin has been broadcast with no soundtrack. Meanwhile, the official newspaper Rossiiskie vesti continued to deny the rumors on Yeltsin's health, reporting on 21 August that a recent story in Time (see OMRI Daily Digest, 19 August 1996) was based on "nonexistent" sources. -- Laura Belin

Izvestiya argued on 21 August that Lebed has launched his campaign to succeed Yeltsin. The general's chances for success depend on whether he can resolve the Chechen war. Lebed figured out that Yeltsin himself is responsible for the conflict, not his hard-line advisors, often dubbed the "party of war." Therefore, guessing that the president will not live much longer, Lebed has forsaken internal Kremlin struggles for public attacks on the other members of Yeltsin's inner circle who are trying to get rid of him, the paper said. Lebed believes that public appeals for peace in Chechnya are the best way to mobilize his main resource--the more than 10 million voters who supported him in the first round of the presidential election on 16 June, Izvestiya argued. -- Robert Orttung

The bomb attack on Dagestani Finance Minister Gamid Gamidov (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20 August 1996) followed an assassination attempt on Union of Muslims of Russia leader Nadir Khachilaev, ITAR-TASS and Russian TV (RTR) reported. A hand grenade was thrown into the courtyard of Khachilaev's house in the Dagestani capital Makhachkala at about 3 a.m. on 20 August, causing a powerful explosion but no injuries. Khachilaev has recently been conducting an active campaign to stop the war in Chechnya. -- Anna Paretskaya

About 500 people rallied in support of Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko in the krai's main city Vladivostok on 20 August, Radio Rossii and Kommersant-Daily reported. They called on the regional legislative assembly to hold a referendum on confidence in the governor, who was criticized by the federal commission investigating the region's financial crisis. They also protested the decision of a Moscow court which reinstated dismissed Vladivostok Mayor Viktor Cherepkov (see OMRI Daily Digest, 15 August 1996). -- Anna Paretskaya

Moscow metro construction workers began an indefinite strike on 19 August to demand payment of wages due since May, RTR reported. Meanwhile, the workers' committee of the Leningrad atomic power plan (LAES) decided to resume protest actions on 26 August, Radio Rossii reported on 20 August. The LAES employees are demanding full payment of wage arrears, which total 8 billion rubles ($1.5 million), and an investigation of LAES management's financial activities. Nuclear Energy Minister Viktor Mikhailov claims that 5 billion rubles have been transferred to LAES' account. The LAES workers also plan to picket the Russian government building in Moscow from 30 August until 2 September. -- Anna Paretskaya

Sergei Kozlov, the former chairman of the Bryansk Oblast state property committee, has been arrested on charges of abuse of power. He is also likely to be charged with embezzlement of state funds, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 August, citing oblast Deputy Procurator Aleksandr Stupak. Kozlov, who was fired several months ago, had been issuing permits to transfer state property into private ownership, including the vast field of the old airport in the center of Bryansk. Procurator General's Office detective Petr Kuznetsov, who heads the investigation, said the case may expose other related crimes both within and outside the oblast. -- Anna Paretskaya

Russia's mortality rate declined slightly in the first five months of 1996, to 15.1 deaths per 1,000 residents, compared to 15.5 per thousand in 1995 and 15.8 per thousand in 1994, Izvestiya reported on 21 August. The incidence of cancer, heart and lung diseases was practically unchanged. However, deaths from so-called "unnatural causes" declined significantly; between January and May 1996, about 128,000 accidental deaths were recorded (down 14,000 from the same period in 1995). In particular, deaths attributed to alcohol poisoning were down by 18% compared to the first five months of 1995, murders by 12%, and suicides by 6%. Izvestiya pointed out that Russia's overall demographic picture has not improved, because the birth rate has continued to decline and the population is falling by 6 per thousand. -- Laura Belin

E. Sergei Glazev, longtime political ally of Aleksandr Lebed and head of the Democratic Party of Russia, has been appointed chief of the Russian Security Council's Economic Security Directorate, ITAR-TASS and ORT reported on 20 August. Glazev, a former minister of foreign trade, told a press conference that his team will conduct an "expert analysis" of government proposals (such as the budget or privatization plans) to assess their impact on Russia's economic dependence on other states. Glazev said steps will be taken to reverse oil contracts being signed under the production sharing law. Earlier reports suggested that Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin barred Glazev from a ministerial post because of his fierce attacks on the government's economic policy. Lebed has now found Glazev a niche in his own apparatus, and Glazev's replies to journalists made it clear that he intends to continue criticizing government policy even from his new position inside the administration. -- Peter Rutland

Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba, responding on 20 August to his Georgian counterpart Eduard Shevardnadze's call for a resumption of talks on resolving Abkhazia's future status, reiterated his readiness for a face-to-face meeting if there is a real chance of reaching a settlement, but insisted that there could be no revision of the principles outlined in the UN-mediated statement of April 1994 on repatriation, AFP and ITAR-TASS reported. The most recent round of talks on a political settlement of the Abkhaz conflict, held in Moscow in late July, failed to make any progress. -- Liz Fuller

The total number of Armenians in the world exceeds 10 million, Noyan Tapan reported on 20 August. Of these, 3.5 million live in Armenia, 2.5 million in the Russian Federation, and almost 1.5 million in the U.S. At the time of the 1989 Soviet census, the total population of the Armenian SSR was 3,304,800, of whom approximately 90% were Armenians. The figure cited for the number of Armenians currently living in Armenia is difficult to reconcile with reports that some 800,000 people, or 17% of the total population, have left Armenia since 1991, and that the sterility rate in Armenia is 20-25%, which is 10% higher than the world average. -- Liz Fuller

Vahan Hovanessyan, one of the leading members of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsyutyun) arrested on 29 July 1995 on charges of terrorism and planning a coup, was erroneously referred to in the OMRI Daily Digest of 16 August as the ARFD candidate for next month's Armenian presidential elections. The ARFD has not in fact nominated a candidate.

The Russian newspaper Segodnya on 16 August reported Tajikistan as being on the verge of collapse. The article claimed the Tajik economy is in ruins due to corruption and the emigration of both the Russian and local population, which has drained Tajikistan of qualified specialists. It also said that the Tajik government is not interested in a peaceful solution to the conflict with religious and political opponents, and that despite trade agreements with Russia only 6% of Tajikistan's goods go there, the bulk of the rest going to Western countries. The article also charged that paramilitary formations from the Popular Front, which helped the present government come to power in 1992, have formed criminal bands which virtually occupy Dushanbe, and that half of the Tajik militia are former criminals, the paper said. -- Bruce Pannier

Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov held talks with Indian Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda in New Delhi on 21 August, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. The report emphasized that New Delhi and Tashkent's positions coincide on key regional issues, particularly the need to find a peaceful resolution of the civil war in Afghanistan. Both also stressed their commitment to fighting all forms of international terrorism, including what was termed religious extremism, and to further enhance bilateral ties. Trade between India and Uzbekistan reportedly reached $20 million in 1995. -- Lowell Bezanis

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation plans to double it overseas offices from 23 to 46 over a four-year period, AFP reported on 20 August. Among other countries, the agency plans to establish a presence in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Georgia in 1998. This is part of the FBI's effort to create a "first line of defense" or early warning system to cope with what it considers to be the growing internationalization of crime and crime threats to the U.S. The report detailing these plans stressed that the agency, whose mission has been confined to domestic law enforcement and counter-intelligence, would not be engaged in espionage but would liaise with its foreign counterparts. -- Lowell Bezanis

The leftist Civic Congress of Ukraine has appealed to the Council of Europe and various international trade unions and human-rights organizations to pressure the Ukrainian government to pay its huge wage debt to public-sector employees and end its crackdown on leaders of the coal miners' union, UNIAR reported on 19 August. The group complained that the government's debt to workers is "the most blatant violation" of their rights and freedoms and claimed the wage-arrears crisis had become a deliberate policy aimed at attracting IMF credits. It said only large organized groups, such as the miners' unions, that could inflict substantial losses by striking, had a chance at dialogue with the government. The Civic Congress's appeal also demanded the release of three organizers of the July miners' strike who were arrested recently in what is seen as a crackdown on independent labor unions. It complained that the mass media have been intimidated by the government into toeing the official line on these events. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

The visit of Taiwanese Vice President Lien Chan to Ukraine has given rise to controversy, international agencies reported on 20 and 21 August. Ukraine recognizes the People's Republic of China and, in adherence to Beijing's "one China" policy, does not have official diplomatic relations with Taiwan. Ukraine's Foreign Ministry denied knowledge of Lien's trip, which was explained as an unofficial visit at the invitation of Kyiv University, where Lien was awarded an honorary degree. China condemned the visit, saying it had political overtones even if it was ostensibly a private visit. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said Beijing was preparing to lodge an official protest with Kyiv. Last year, Ukraine's trade with Taiwan totaled $224.8 million, with Ukrainian exports to Taipei accounting for $180 million. Ukraine's trade with China amounted to almost $1 billion and was also slanted in favor of Ukrainian exports. -- Ustina Markus

Leonid Kuchma has issued a decree upgrading the chairmanships of five state committees to the level of cabinet ministerships, Ukrainian TV reported on 19 August. The chiefs of the Anti-Monopoly Committee, the State Property Fund, the Secret Service of Ukraine, the State Customs Committee, and the Committee for the Defense of State Borders will now rank as ministers. In other news, Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko promised leaders of Ukraine's writers', artists', and cinematographers' unions that he would determine the feasibility of allowing them tax breaks and other privileges to support their artistic endeavors. The groups asked Lazarenko to consider such aid especially for Ukrainian-language book publishers, who have found it most difficult to adapt to market conditions. The government has allocated 455 billion karbovantsi ($2.4 million) in subsidies this year to the unions, up from 316 billion karbovantsi last year. -- Chrystyna Lapychak

The trials of seven Ukrainians arrested in Minsk for participating in the 26 April Chornobyl anniversary demonstration began on 21 August, ITAR-TASS reported. The Ukrainians allegedly belong to the radical nationalist Ukrainian National Assembly-Ukrainian Self-Defense Organization. The Belarusian press has frequently accused the organization of cooperating with the nationalist Belarusian Popular Front against Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's pro-Russian policies. The nearly four-month detention without trial of the Ukrainians has strained relations between Ukraine and Belarus. -- Ustina Markus

The leaders of some 15 parties and movements are scheduled to meet on 21 August to hold a round-table discussion on the political and socioeconomic situation in Belarus, ITAR-TASS reported. Participants in the discussion will include Agrarians, Communists, and members of the nationalist Belarusian Popular Front. It is also expected that government representatives will take part in the talks, though President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has said he will not participate. One of the key points on the agenda is a resolution calling for a five-year moratorium on amendments to the constitution. Lukashenka plans to make a number of changes to the document and have them approved in a national referendum in November. -- Ustina Markus

Latvian Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs hosted his counterparts from Estonia, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland in Riga on 20 August, Baltic agencies reported. He said the ministers agreed that the lifting of visa requirements would promote regional integration and mutual contacts at various levels. While noting that the future security structure of Europe cannot be created without the active participation of Russia, they expressed support for NATO membership for the Baltic states. They also stated that negotiations with the EU on new members should begin simultaneously for all candidate countries. It was the fourth meeting of the countries' foreign ministers. -- Saulius Girnius

Ajis Sjanits submitted his letter of accreditation to Lithuanian President Algirdas Brazauskas on 20 August, Radio Lithuania reported. The Latvian diplomat said his central task is to confirm and accelerate the unity between Lithuania and Latvia in foreign policy and in their common goal of membership in the EU and NATO. The unsettled sea border and Latvia's plans to ratify oil-exploration agreements with two foreign companies, however, cast a shadow over the accreditation. The Foreign Ministry did not host the traditional welcoming dinner for Sjanits, who also did not meet with Prime Minister Mindaugas Stankevicius. -- Saulius Girnius

Prime Minister Mindaugas Stankevicius met with Finance Minister Algimantas Krizinauskas, Energy Minister Saulius Kutas, and Lietuvos Dujos Director Kestutis Sumacheris on 20 August to discuss the problem of debts to the Russian gas supplier Gazprom, BNS reported. Kutas's promise to pay $7 million in July and $8 million in August has been only partially fulfilled; he also pledged that the republic would pay $31.7 million by the start of the heating season. Gazprom has threatened to increase the price of gas beginning on 1 September and to end gas supplies to Lithuania next year if the debts are not paid. While Lithuanian construction work in Moscow for Gazprom covers part of the debt, the bulk of the debt is to be paid with two $10 million loans from Swiss Union Bank. -- Saulius Girnius

Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz on 20 August told reporters that the Interior Ministry will present a bill to the cabinet later this week regulating private security companies, Reuters reported. He said the new legislation will specify conditions for granting licenses, stipulate whom firms can and cannot hire, and ensure that firearms are used acceptably. The move comes amid growing public concern over violence involving private security companies. In the latest such incident, a fight broke out last weekend at a border crossing with Belarus over escorting traders from the former Soviet Union to a large outdoor market in Warsaw. Hundreds of men attacked a bus carrying employees of a security firm and were halted only after an off-duty policeman on the bus fired at the ground. Seven policemen have been suspended on suspicion of moonlighting for the firm without permission. Cimoszewicz stressed that the police should be prohibited from working for security companies during their free time. -- Jan Cleave

Three Jewish cemeteries in southern Poland were rededicated on 20 August by rabbis from the U.S. and Israel, Western agencies reported. The cemeteries at Sedziszow, Strzyzow, and Debica had been left neglected after World War II, during which most of Poland's Jewish community perished at the hands of the Nazis. Many of the tombstones have been restored by the Nissenbaum Foundation, which has been working on neglected Jewish cemeteries and synagogues in Poland since 1983. In a speech during the rededication ceremony in Debica, Rabbi Hertz Frenkel noted that "Jewish life in Poland is almost extinct. The least the citizens of Poland can do is give the proper respect to those who are buried in the existing cemeteries." -- Jan Cleave

A high-level Chinese military delegation that arrived in the Czech Republic on 17 August for a five-day stay meant "to broaden and strengthen Czech-Chinese military cooperation" visited the Tatra truck plant in Koprivnice on 20 August, CTK reported. The report noted that China has been one of Tatra's best customers, purchasing 400 trucks this year. -- Doug Clarke

Marian Tolnay of the Education Ministry's university department said the university bill--passed by the government on 20 August--is "acceptable" to the academic and scientific communities, Narodna obroda and CTK reported. The cabinet refused, however, to consider the recommendations of the Slovak Rectors Conference, which, according to Tolnay "is not a partner of the government" and is "dictating" its demands. The academic community reportedly is most opposed to Article 15, which defines the ministry's powers in relation to universities, and to Article 22 on postgraduate study. If passed by the parliament, the legislation would restrict universities' autonomy by allowing a failed student or dismissed professor to appeal the decisions of academic councils to the ministry. The ministry would also control financial flows to individual institutions. Although the bill provides for the establishment of private universities, it requires that two branches of Hungarian universities in southern Slovakia ask for government approval. -- Sharon Fisher

Also on 20 August, the cabinet approved a bill on the prosecutor-general, limiting his term in office to seven years. Prosecutor-General Michal Valo told CTK that the bill would help make the public prosecution service "more independent," since dismissal would be possible only for health reasons, at the prosecutor-general's own request, or following a court decision. Presently, the prosecutor-general is elected for an unlimited term and can be dismissed at any time by the president at the parliament's recommendation. Opposition politicians have been calling for Valo's dismissal based on alleged unconstitutional moves and political bias. The government also approved the unilateral abolition of visa requirements for Canadian tourists and business people for visits of up to 90 days, TASR reported. The move "demonstrates the closeness of [the two countries'] political and economic systems and confirms [Slovakia's] interest in intensive cooperation," according to a government statement. -- Sharon Fisher

The leaders of ethnic Hungarian organizations beyond Hungary's borders have harshly criticized the draft of the Romanian-Hungarian basic treaty and demanded that yet another Hungarian minority summit be convened, Hungarian media reported on 21 August. The minority organizations oppose Budapest's plan to sign the treaty in its present form. They fear that the inclusion in the treaty of an interpretation of Council of Europe Recommendation 1201 could dash their hopes
of establishing ethnicity-based autonomy and collective rights. Hungarian Prime Minister Gyula Horn told Hungarian Radio over the weekend that he fully supports the draft and sees it as an essential step to Hungary's joining the EU. Meanwhile, a Romanian negotiating team arrived in Budapest on 20 August for consultations on the final text of the treaty. -- Zsofia Szilagyi

IFOR went ahead on 20 August with Operation Volcano, its destruction of unauthorized Bosnian Serb munitions discovered in Margetici two weeks ago (see OMRI Daily Digest, 19 August 1996). According to Onasa reports on 20 August, IFOR that day destroyed 36 tons of anti-tank and anti-personnel mines and other munitions in pits 27 meters wide and 7 meters deep. Also continuing are Bosnian Serb protests against the IFOR operation. Acting President Biljana Plavsic, complaining that the arms are being destroyed at the same time as the Muslims and Croats in the Bosnian federation are being armed, proposed that IFOR instead sell the weapons or transfer the depot, AFP reported. As part of an aggressive media campaign, the Pale-based news agency SRNA alleged that the detonations have caused cracks in the walls of "the region's oldest church." Bosnian Serb officials' litany of complaints against Operation Volcano also includes allegations that the operation is jeopardizing underground water supplies and that IFOR has been dumping radioactive waste materials. Responding to the allegations, IFOR spokesman Maj. Max Marriner has said water sources are in no danger and IFOR is "not in the business of dumping radioactive waste," Onasa reported. -- Stan Markotich and Daria Sito Sucic

IFOR troops have increased their control over goods and passengers and set up new checkpoints around the northern Bosnian town of Brcko, Onasa reported on 19 August. Brcko is becoming an increasingly important issue for both the Bosnian Serbs and the Muslim-Croat federation. While Bosnian Serb leaders have said that "Brcko is more important for Serbs than peace," Bosnian federation officials and parties also underscore its significance for their side. The status of Brcko is to be decided by 14 December through arbitration. The only traffic artery connecting Bosnian Serbs in western parts of the country with those in eastern areas and with Serbia runs through Brcko. Bosnian federation Vice President Ejup Ganic stressed that 56% of Brcko's prewar population was Muslim and that those forcibly expelled by Serbs should return to their homes. Ganic said the subject of arbitration is the whole area, including the town itself, and not just the contentious line of separation around the town, as Serbs claim. -- Daria Sito Sucic

Four people have been sentenced by a military court in the Serbian city of Nis on charges of participating in criminal activities against the state, including spying and compromising military secrets, Politika reported on 21 August. According to the report, Marjan Cop has received one and a half years' imprisonment, Ankica Brckovic five years in prison, and Zeljko Medic a two-and-a-half-year term, with each being sentenced for spying. The fourth, Josip Baric, received one year in prison for compromising military secrets. -- Stan Markotich

Two of Montenegro's main opposition parties failed to attend a 19 August meeting in Belgrade at which participating parties signed an accord on media coverage of the run-up to the 3 November federal elections. A representative of the Liberal Alliance of Montenegro explained his party's absence by noting that it was not concerned with how the state-backed media especially would provide coverage, since his party "will not be taking part in the elections," Beta reported on 19 August. In a related development, Dragisa Burzan, a representative of the Social Democratic Party of Montenegro, said that party "has yet to decide whether to run." -- Stan Markotich

The Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) on 20 August charged the presidential candidate of the Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR), Emil Constantinescu, with endangering national security. The PDSR statement was triggered by an interview with Constantinescu reprinted in the daily Jurnalul national on the same day. Constantinescu said in the interview (which was originally given to a Romanian-language U.S. publication) that he hoped for a hand-off of power to the country's "lawful leader," King Michael, after a referendum on the monarchy. The CDR said in reaction to the PDSR attack on Constantinescu that it reflected the ruling party's panic in view of its likely electoral defeat, which makes it resort to "insult and calumny" instead of rational argumentation. -- Michael Shafir

International financial experts and U.S. officials say Romania has virtually emptied its foreign-exchange reserves, has stopped paying its oil-import bills, and faces a winter without adequate fuel to heat homes or keep factories working. An RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported on 20 August that the "grave" Romanian situation has been triggered by the government's move last November to "artificially" freeze the exchange rate at around 3,000 lei to the U.S. dollar. The move was designed to hold domestic energy prices and inflation down until after the November 1996 presidential and parliamentary elections. It has, however, drained the country's foreign-currency reserves, leaving importers unable to pay for the needed crude oil. -- Michael Shafir

The executive director of the CIS, Ivan Karatchenya of Belarus, on 20 August met with Moldovan President Mircea Snegur, Prime Minister Andrei Sangheli, and parliament Chairman Petru Lucinschi. BASA-Press quoted Snegur as telling Karatchenya that Moldova aims at "integration into European structures" but will pay special attention to "mutually advantageous bilateral ties" with many of the former Soviet republics. Lucinschi told the guest that, in CIS activity, emphasis should be laid on economic, rather than political, issues. Moldova is a founding member of the CIS but participates only in the economic functions of the organization, refusing to join its political-military structures. -- Michael Shafir

Prime Minister Zhan Videnov in an interview with the Socialist daily Duma published on 21 August blamed the present grain crisis largely on producers. Videnov said farmers have not fulfilled their obligations under contracts signed with the state, for which they received money from the state agricultural fund. Videnov said the farmers tend to hold back grain in expectation of rising prices and thus threaten the living standard of the population. He said that the state would have to get more involved in pricing. Videnov admitted that the import of grain will not solve the problem and that "grain production must be stimulated by higher domestic prices, ... and on this basis we must steadily liberalize foreign trade--not just imports but also exports." Government policy aims to keep domestic prices under world market prices and at the same time tightly restricts exports of foodstuffs. -- Stefan Krause