ANNIVERSARY OF DUDAEV'S DEATH PASSES
The first anniversary of the killing of Chechen
President Dzhokhar Dudaev passed uneventfully in Chechnya,
despite warnings of possible terrorist attacks both there and
elsewhere in the Russian Federation, Russian and Western
agencies reported. Up to 200,000 Chechens attended a
memorial ceremony at the site of Dudaev's death. Meanwhile,
a bomb exploded in the early morning in Nalchik, the capital of
Kabardino-Balkaria Republic, but no one was injured.
CAUTIOUS REACTION TO STANKEVICH'S ARREST.
prominent Russian politicians are willing to comment on the
recent arrest of former presidential adviser Sergei Stankevich
in Warsaw, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported yesterday.
Stankevich is accused of taking a $10,000 bribe from a British
company in 1992. Izvestiya argues today that the authorities
are seeking to make an example of Stankevich, who "can
hardly be considered the biggest Russian criminal." State
Duma deputy Vladimir Semago of the Communist Party told
RFE/RL yesterday that Stankevich is accused of accepting a
"laughable" sum of money. Semago noted that earlier this
month, Russia's procurator-general closed the case on a
presidential campaign scandal involving $500,000 (see
RFE/RL Newsline, 8 April 1997). Meanwhile, a Polish court
spokesman told Reuters yesterday that the process of
extraditing Stankevich to Russia could take months.
GAZPROM SAYS ITS DEBTORS OWE $12 BILLION.
Representatives of the gas monopoly Gazprom say the
company is owed 69.5 trillion rubles ($12.1 billion) by
delinquent domestic clients, ITAR-TASS reported yesterday.
Among the main debtors are Moscow's power stations, which
owe the company a total of 6.8 trillion rubles ($1.2 billion). The
figures released yesterday did not provide revenue or debt
figures from Gazprom's large exports. The gas monopoly has
increasingly come under pressure to pay its $2.5 billion debt
to the government. Last week, chairman Rem Vyakhirev
promised that the company will pay $1.2 billion to the federal
budget by 10 June.
NEMTSOV SAYS REGIONS MUST REFORM SOCIAL POLICY
TO RECEIVE GOVERNMENT AID.
First Deputy Prime
Minister Boris Nemtsov says only Russian regions that
implement reforms in housing policy and municipal services
will be eligible for federal support, Russian news agencies
reported yesterday. Speaking in Krasnoyarsk Krai, Nemtsov
said Yeltsin will soon issue a decree outlining a program for
housing and municipal services reform, along with documents
establishing unified standards for services. He said that
control over the prices set by monopolies in the energy sector
will lower the costs of municipal services. The government's
critics maintain that the reform will push up rents and utility
charges for most citizens. Only about 10 of Russia's 89 regions
are net contributors to the federal budget.
OFFICIAL DENIES REPORT OF NUCLEAR WARHEAD
Deputy Atomic Energy Minister Nikolai Yegorov has
denied claims that workmen stole two nuclear warheads from
a Urals weapons factory in 1993. Yegorov told Reuters
yesterday he had "never heard anything more idiotic."
Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on 20 April quoted
Russian disarmament expert Vladimir Orlov as saying two
drunken workers once stole two warheads from a Urals
weapons factory on a bet and stored them in a garage, where
they were recovered by the authorities. Western experts have
cast doubt on the story. The largest documented theft of
weapons-grade nuclear material occurred in 1994, when
German police seized 363 grams of plutonium-239 from
couriers on a flight from Moscow to Munich.
IMF MISSION IN MOSCOW.
Representatives from the IMF
have arrived in Moscow for a final week of negotiations with
government officials on Russia's economic program for 1997,
Interfax reported yesterday. The IMF's board of directors must
approve the plan before deciding whether to disburse the next
installment of the fund's three-year $10 billion loan to Russia.
Both sides say they are close to agreement. The IMF has not
paid out any money to Russia since January, citing the
government's poor tax collection record. Yesterday, ITAR-TASS
reported that federal tax revenues rose sharply during the first
half of April, reaching 84% of government targets. First Deputy
Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais announced last week that tax
collection during the first quarter of 1997 was only 39% of
NEWSPAPER EDITORS APPEAL TO YELTSIN FOR HELP.
Chief editors of more than a dozen publications have asked
President Boris Yeltsin to intervene to prevent shareholders
from forcing Izvestiya and Komsomolskaya pravda to change
their political lines. The open letter, published in today's
Izvestiya, notes that Yeltsin promised in a recent radio address
not to allow censorship to return to Russia. Unlike most
Moscow-based newspapers, which reach few readers outside
the capital, Komsomolskaya pravda and Izvestiya, whose
circulations are 1.5 million and 630,000 respectively, are
distributed in many regions. Meanwhile, today's edition of
Komsomolskaya pravda includes a sharp attack on
"nomenklatura capitalism" in Russia. The article ridicules
Yeltsin's recent promises to crack down on corruption,
Chubais's promises to balance the budget, and Nemtsov's
claims that the natural monopolies are to blame for persistent
wage and pension arrears.
CHAIRMAN OF RUSSIAN HOCKEY FEDERATION
Valentin Sych was killed today near Moscow
when his car was sprayed with automatic gun fire from a
passing vehicle, ITAR-TASS and ORT reported. Sych's wife,
who was traveling with him in the car, was wounded. Sych
had recently spoken out against growing organized crime in
Russian sports. He had claimed that players and managers
were pressured to intentionally lose games and that strong-
arm tactics were used to take over sports clubs and
IRKUTSK GOVERNOR RESIGNS.
Yurii Nozhikov has
announced his resignation as governor of Irkutsk Oblast,
citing "the deterioration of the socio-economic situation in the
region," ITAR-TASS reported yesterday. Nozhikov was
appointed by Yeltsin to the post in 1991 and won a
gubernatorial election held in spring 1994. Last week, he sent
his own economic proposals to Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin, State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev,
Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev, and the leaders of
other regions in Siberia. Among other things, Nozhikov called
for lowering energy and transportation tariffs, paying
government debts, granting tax breaks to enterprises to boost
production, and enacting a policy of "reasonable
protectionism," Delovoi mir reported on 17 April.
COMMUNIST WINS DUMA SEAT IN STAVROPOL.
Communist candidate Vasilii Khmyrov won a 20 April by-
election for a State Duma seat in Stavropol Krai, Russian news
agencies reported yesterday. Khmyrov, a deputy chairman of a
livestock farming enterprise, won about 35% of the vote in the
largely rural district. His nearest competitor won just over
13%. Khmyrov replaces former Duma deputy Aleksandr
Chernogorov, also a Communist, who was elected governor of
Stavropol last November.
ABKHAZ TALKS IN JEOPARDY?
In his weekly radio
broadcast yesterday, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze
called for the immediate resumption of both bilateral and
multilateral talks on a political solution to the Abkhaz conflict,
Interfax reported. But Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba
told a press conference in Sukhumi yesterday that he will not
agree to further talks unless Abkhazia's international
telecommunication links are again routed via Russia. Russian
engineers re-routed those links via Georgia last week at
Tbilisi's request. Ardzinba also said that Abkhazia might reject
any further Russian mediation and would consider requesting
support from Chechnya and other North Caucasian republics
if fighting resumes.
ARMENIAN PRESIDENT RULES OUT THIRD TERM IN
Levon Ter-Petrossyan said yesterday that he will not
stand for president in 2001 even if the Armenian Constitution
is amended to permit him to run for a third term. He
reaffirmed his commitment to political reconciliation and said
he would consider meeting with representatives of the
Armenian Revolutionary Federation--Dashnaktsyutyun if
invited to do so, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Ter-
Petrossyan outlawed the party's activities in 1994.
KYRGYZ PRESIDENT IN YEREVAN.
Askar Akayev was in
Yerevan yesterday for a one-day official visit, ITAR-TASS
reported. He visited the Yerevan monument to the victims of
the 1915 genocide, according to Armenpress. He is the first
Turkic head of state to make such a visit. Armenian and
Kyrgyz ministers signed intergovernmental agreements on
cooperation in transport, tourism, science, education, and
culture. Armenian President Ter-Petrossyan told journalists
that Armenian-Kyrgyz relations are "cloudless," and he
expressed the hope that the three Transcaucasian states could
emulate Central Asian cooperation. He added, however, that
ties with Russia are of "priority importance" for Armenia.
GOVERNMENT CHANGES IN KYRGYZSTAN.
Talgarbekov, deputy prime minister in charge of agriculture,
has been dismissed by presidential decree, an RFE/RL
correspondent reported yesterday. For several months, Kyrgyz
deputies had been demanding Talgarbekov's exclusion from
any political post, citing "lax financial discipline." But
President Akayev has appointed him head of the southern
Jalal-Abad Oblast. Talgarbekov is replaced by Karimsher
Abdimomunov, who until now filled the agriculture portfolio.
Jumakadyr Akineyev, head of the State Statistical Committee,
is the new agriculture minister.
LARGER ROLE FOR UN IN TAJIKISTAN?
UN special envoy
to Tajikistan Gerd Merrem says there is a possibility that the
UN will enlarge its contingent of military observers in
Tajikistan and may even send UN peacekeeping troops there,
Interfax reported. Merrem, who met with President Imomali
Rakhmonov in Dushanbe yesterday, said those issues will be
on the agenda at a UN meeting in June. Preliminary contacts
have already been made with the command of the CIS
peacekeeping force currently in Tajikistan, he said. The cease
fire in Tajikistan has now held for four months.
UKRAINE TO UNILATERALLY DELIMIT BORDER WITH
Ukraine has begun unilaterally delimiting the
Ukrainian-Russian border, Interfax reported yesterday. Leonid
Osavolyuk, a member of the Ukranian State Committee for the
Protection of the State Border, said that Moscow has rejected
Ukraine's proposals for when border talks can begin. He
argued Russia's consent is not needed to begin delimitation
because the current border between Ukraine and Russia will
UKRAINIAN FOREIGN POLICY INITIATIVES.
Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel has told his Ukrainian
counterpart, Gennady Udovenko, that it is advisable for
Ukraine to reach a special agreement with NATO as soon as
possible, RFE/RL's Ukrainian service reported. The two
politicians met in Bonn yesterday. Meanwhile, Ukrainian
parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Moroz told Austrian
politicians in Vienna yesterday that Ukraine would like to join
the traditionally neutral states of Austria, Finland, and
Switzerland in seeking to influence the evolving European
geopolitical equation, Unian reported. He said the interests of
neutral countries are being ignored as NATO prepares to
NEW PROJECTS TO INCREASE SECURITY AT
The U.S. company Westinghouse has started a
new project to increase security at Chornobyl's nuclear power
plant, Interfax reported yesterday. The project includes
construction of a storage facility for used nuclear fuel and a
facility for processing liquid nuclear waste. A separate project
is to focus on increasing security at the third reactor.
Westinghouse is to issue tenders to find partners to complete
the projects. A $134 million grant from the EBRD, which
Ukraine received late last year, is to be used to fund the
project. Meanwhile, a new round of talks on the closure of
Chornobyl begins today in Kyiv. Experts from Ukraine, the G-7
nations, and the European Commission are taking part.
Belarusian authorities say some 4
million people took part in the 19 April subbotnik--a throwback
to the Soviet-era when people were compelled to do "voluntary"
work. The committee overseeing the event told the Belta news
agency yesterday that even President Alyaksandr Lukashenka
took part. Along with Prime Minister Sergei Ling and other
government officials, Lukashenka did construction work on
Minsk's subway system. Meanwhile, Minsk officials have
sanctioned a march and rally in the capital on 26 April to
mark the 11th anniversary of the Chornobyl disaster. Some
30,000 people are expected to take part. Most of the nuclear
fallout from the 1986 catastrophe settled on Belarusian
ESTONIAN POLICE SEIZE MORE THAN $1 MILLION IN
Estonian police have seized more than $1
million in counterfeit bills from a printing shop in Tallinn, BNS
reported yesterday. In a raid on the shop last week, police
confiscated printing presses and other equipment as well as
forged customs documents, counterfeit Russian excise stamps,
and false seals of the Estonian Central Bank. The secret print
shop was producing high-quality $100 bank notes of the
design launched recently by the U.S. to discourage
counterfeiters. Two suspects have been arrested.
YELTSIN ON RUSSIAN-LATVIAN RELATIONS.
President Boris Yeltsin says that relations between Moscow
and Riga depend on the situation of the Russian minority in
the Baltic State, Interfax reported yesterday. In a letter to his
Latvian counterpart, Guntis Ulmanis, Yeltsin said that the
measures taken by the Latvian authorities to deal with the
"interests and concerns of our countrymen remain and will
remain the decisive factor" in bilateral relations. Moscow, he
said, has "grave concern" for the rights of Russians living in
Latvia. Yeltsin was responding to a letter he received from
Gulmanis last month.
RUSSIAN OFFICIAL COMMENTS ON NATO, RELATIONS
Ivan Rybkin, secretary of the Russian
Security Council, says an accord between Russia and NATO
will help "allay anxieties" in Moscow over the alliance's plans
to expand eastward. Speaking in Warsaw yesterday after his
meeting with Poland's National Security Bureau head Marek
Siwiec, Rybkin said "European security is impossible without
Russia." He urged Polish officials "not to lose old friends while
searching for new ones." Siwiec said his country wants a
dialogue with Moscow as the best way to remove doubts over
POLISH UNEMPLOYMENT LOWEST IN FIVE YEARS.
Minister Tadeusz Zielinski says the number of unemployed
dropped to 2.2 million in March, the lowest level in the past
five years. Zielinski told journalists in Warsaw yesterday that
last month, unemployment fell by 77,000 and that the
unemployment rate dropped from 13.4% in February to 13%.
He added that there were 81,000 job openings registered in
March, up by 20,000 on the previous month.
RUSSIAN, CZECH PRIME MINISTERS DISAGREE OVER
Viktor Chernomyrdin and his Czech counterpart,
Vaclav Klaus, say they clearly understand each other's
position on NATO expansion but will continue to disagree. The
two leaders, who were speaking at a press conference in
Prague yesterday, agreed that those differences must not
stand in the way of good economic relations. Meanwhile, NATO
expansion was on the agenda of the meeting between U.S.
Defense Secretary William Cohen and Czech Defense Minister
Miloslav Vyborny in Washington yesterday, RFE/RL's
Washington correspondent reported. Talks focused on how the
Czech republic can prepare for entry into NATO, including
upgrading its defense capabilities and the level of defense
spending required to achieve that goal.
SLOVAKIA, HUNGARY WANT NEW BORDER AGREEMENT.
Slovakia and Hungary are to negotiate a new agreement on
their common border to replace the accord signed 40 years
ago. Following a meeting with his Hungarian counterpart,
Gabor Kuncze, in Bratislava yesterday, Slovak Internal Affairs
Minister Gustav Krajci told journalists that "both sides agreed
that the border agreement needs updating." He pointed to
numerous changes in the Slovak-Hungarian border caused by
the regulation of rivers and other natural changes. More than
half of the 678 km border is formed by rivers. Krajci and
Kuncze also agreed to exchange information on public
HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER URGES SLOVAKIA TO
DRAFT MINORITY LANGUAGE LAW.
Affairs Minister Gabor Kuncze has urged Slovakia to draft a
law on the use of minority languages as soon as possible. At
his meeting with Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar in Bratislava
yesterday, Kuncze suggested that laws that have a "negative
effect" on national minorities should be reviewed. Meciar said
he believed the situation of ethnic Slovaks in Hungary to be
worse than that of ethnic Hungarians in Slovakia. But Kunze
rejected that argument, pointing out that under Hungarian
law, anyone can address the Hungarian parliament in his own
language. During his recent visit to Slovakia, Max van der
Stoel, the OSCE high commissioner on Minorities, urged
Slovakia to adopt a law on the use of minority languages.
UPDATE ON HUNGARIAN SECRET SERVICE SCANDAL.
Istvan Nikolitis, who is minister without portfolio in charge of
the civilian secret services, says neither Gabor Kiss nor any
other deputy has "any kind of confidential relationship with
the Intelligence Office," Hungarian media reported. Nikolitis
was speaking to reporters yesterday after briefing the Socialist
Party faction about the so-called Operation Birch Tree scandal,
which erupted after he filed an official complaint with the
Prosecutor-General's Office last month alleging that
Intelligence Office employees were gathering data on several
deputies (see RFE/RL Newsline, 18 April 1997). Nikolitis said
that the Intelligence Office is drafting an official report about
an unidentified person suspected of violating state secrets.
KOSTOV ON NEW BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT'S PROGRAM.
Ivan Kostov, leader of the United Democratic Forces, which
won the 19 April elections, says the new government's program
will comply with agreements reached with international
financial institutions earlier this year, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau
reported. He said the cabinet will declare war on organized
crime and corruption, strive for membership in the EU and
NATO, and make possible access to communist secret police
files of ministers and Supreme Court judges. Privatizing and
restructuring the state sector, freeing prices, and providing an
investor-friendly legal climate are also on the agenda, he said.
Kostov added that he hoped the Socialists would join in the
effort to stabilize the country, saying he believed a dialogue
with them was "possible." He ruled out a referendum on the
monarchy in the next few months.
BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT LIBERALIZES PRICES.
Meanwhile, the outgoing caretaker government yesterday lifted
price controls on all but eight staple foods. Trade Minister
Daniela Bobewa said that prices for flour, bread, cooking oil,
fresh sausage, milk, yogurt, some kinds of cheese, and bottled
water remain fixed, an RFE/RL Sofia correspondent reported.
The lifting of price controls was coordinated with the IMF.
Interim Finance Minister Svetoslav Gavrisky said that current
hard-currency reserves ensure Bulgaria will not default on
foreign loan payments in June.
ALBANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS JUNE ELECTION
Arjan Starova said in Vienna yesterday that the
Albanian general election will go ahead on 29 June because
the government is regaining control in the rebel south.
Speaking after talks with Austrian Foreign Minister Wolfgang
Schuessel, Starova said rebel committees holding some
southern towns are the only obstacle to the vote. Most
Albanian parties have been reluctant to commit themselves to
a date for the ballot. Western aid donor countries are
encouraging Albanian politicians to stick to the 29 June date
as a means of stabilizing the political situation.
WORLD BANK ANNOUNCES MISSION TO ALBANIA.
World Bank will send a delegation to Albania by the end of the
month to assess how much money is needed for
reconstruction projects. Franco Passacantando, an executive
director of the bank, said in Rome yesterday that the mission
will examine the damage to infrastructure caused by weeks of
armed unrest in which some 300 people have died. He added
that the bank has already set aside money for health care and
for projects to rebuild homes and schools. But Passacantando
noted that the bank will not reimburse people for their lost
investments in failed pyramid schemes. Earlier this month, the
Greek government said it will provide some money for
reimbursement lest thousands of impoverished Albanians flee
their homeland in search of work.
SERBIAN OPPOSITION COALITION BACKS DRASKOVIC
The governing body of the Zajedno
yesterday endorsed Vuk Draskovic of the Serbian Renewal
Movement as its candidate for the Serbian presidency, Nasa
Borba reported. The coalition also announced plans to broaden
its popular and institutional base. Former federal Yugoslav
Prime Minister Milan Panic said in Nis yesterday that the
entire opposition must unite behind one candidate and that
this candidate now appears to be Draskovic. Elections are to
take place before the end of the year. The only other
announced candidate is banker and broadcaster Bogoljub
Karic, who is running as an independent. Critics charge that
Zajedno is no match for the governing Socialists because the
coalition lacks real cohesion and a common program.
MILOSEVIC'S MYSTERY VISIT TO ATHENS.
reports today that President Slobodan Milosevic's unpublicized
arrival in Athens on 18 April is tied to key Yugoslav domestic
political issues. The Belgrade daily says that Greek officials
gave him a frosty reception and denied they are siding either
with him or his Montenegrin rivals. Montenegrin Prime
Minister Milo Djukanovic, an opponent of the Serbian
president, went to Greece on 17 April to bolster political and
economic ties. The increasingly self-confident Montenegrin
leadership could block Milosevic's plans to become federal
Yugoslav president this June. He is constitutionally barred
from seeking another term as Serbian president.
CROATIAN PRESIDENT IN HUNGARY...
Franjo Tudjman said
in Budapest yesterday that his country's independence is a
fact and that Zagreb will resist any European or U.S. attempts
to force it into close cooperation with the other former
Yugoslav republics. He stressed that Croatia belongs to
Central Europe and not to the Balkans. Tudjman also
suggested that Croatia and Hungary should work together to
secure integration into Euro-Atlantic structures. Hungarian
President Arpad Goencz agreed to that suggestion but added
that Hungary wants to play a bigger economic role in Croatia
and its postwar reconstruction, including in the privatization
of the Adria pipeline. Goencz also expressed interest in helping
upgrade the port of Rijeka.
...AND SAYS SLAVONIAN REFUGEES CAN START GOING
Tudjman also said in Budapest yesterday that
Croatian and Hungarian refugees can move back to their
homes soon after eastern Slavonia returns to Croatian rule in
July. He added that the refugees' right to go home is
guaranteed even if their houses were destroyed or if Serbs
have since moved into them. Meanwhile in Zagreb,
Development Minister Jure Radic said that Serbs from other
parts of Croatia who are now living in eastern Slavonia will
receive aid to help them go back to their homes. In Vukovar,
UN officials announced that the Croatian government will open
offices in six eastern Slavonian towns today to help refugees
return there, an RFE/RL correspondent in the area reported.
IZETBEGOVIC WARNS BOSNIA IS FALLING APART.
Izetbegovic, the Muslim chair of the joint presidency, told
representatives of the international Contact Group, the EU,
and the Organization of the Islamic Conference in Sarajevo
yesterday that his country is in danger of disintegrating. He
stressed that the international community must enforce the
Dayton agreement, an RFE/RL correspondent in the Bosnian
capital reported. He singled out the Serbs for special blame,
saying that the Bosnian Serbs are not letting Muslim and
Croatian refugees return to their homes on Serbian territory.
Izetbegovic also blamed federal Yugoslavia for undermining
ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN WASHINGTON.
Severin appears to have been unable to convince U.S Secretary
of State Madeleine Albright that Romania should be admitted
to NATO in the first wave of enlargement. Following their
meeting yesterday in the U.S. capital, Albright told a press
conference that she had assured Severin that "the first [new
members] shall not be the last." A Romanian Foreign Ministry
spokeswoman said Albright asked Severin about the progress
of privatization and was particularly interested in the status of
negotiations with Ukraine on the basic bilateral treaty. Severin
told her the treaty will be "signed soon," the spokeswoman
said. The foreign minister also met with Deputy Secretary of
Defense Walter Slocombe and Deputy Secretary of State Strobe
Talbott, who said Romania was a "credible aspirant" to NATO
membership, an RFE/RL Washington correspondent reported.
HUNGARIAN DEFENSE MINISTER IN ROMANIA TO
DISCUSS NATO MEMBERSHIP.
Gyorgy Keleti met with his
Romanian counterpart, Victor Babiuc, in Bucharest yesterday
to discuss their countries' quest to join NATO, RFE/RL's
Bucharest Bureau reported. The two leaders sent a joint letter
to the French and German defense ministers asking for
support to set up a Hungarian-Romanian rapid reaction force
using the model of the German-French military contingent.
Both Babiuc and Keleti emphasized that their countries are
partners rather than competitors in the quest to join NATO,
but Keleti said the admission of one country into NATO ahead
of the other would not destabilize the region. Keleti also met
with Premier Victor Ciorbea and members of the parliamentary
MOLDOVAN OPPOSITION RENEWS ATTACK ON PROPOSED
ACCORD WITH TIRASPOL.
The Party of Democratic Forces
(PFD) released a statement yesterday saying that Chisinau's
intention to sign the memorandum on settling the conflict with
the Transdniester breakaway authorities is "irresponsible and
dangerous." The PFD argued that if the Moldovan leadership
signs the document, the Tiraspol separatists will be granted a
priori "what can be granted only by the majority of the
population" in a nationwide referendum, Infotag reported. It
said the concept of a "united state," which was introduced into
last week's amended version of the memorandum, is an
"attempt to grant judicial backing to Tiraspol's demand to
transform the Republic of Moldova into a confederation." The
PFD said it is particularly concerned about Chisinau's
intention to settle the debt to Gazprom by granting Russia
shares in Moldovan companies. This will give Moscow control
over Moldovan enterprises and restrict the country's political
and economic independence, the party argued.
Bulgaria's Anti-Communist Coalition Braces Itself For
by Ron Synovitz
A majority victory in Bulgaria's parliamentary election
last weekend has put the anti-communist United Democratic
Forces (ODS) in a strong position to implement urgently
needed economic reforms. Loss-making state firms have to be
closed, the privatization of large state companies launched,
and currency reforms put in place. Reform of the collapsed
banking sector also is desperately required, along with a new
legal infrastructure to help attract foreign investment.
To push ahead with these reforms, the ODS has already
decided on three key government appointments. Bulgaria's next
prime minister will be 47-year-old ODS leader Ivan Kostov. At
least two members of the caretaker cabinet also will retain
their posts: Interior Minister Bogomil Bonev and Economic
Affairs Minister Alexander Bozhkov.
But Ivan Krastev, an unofficial adviser to the ODS, says
Kostov's government will have only "a very short time" in
office before popular support starts to wane. He says a
"popular majority rather than a parliamentary majority" is
now necessary to keep a government in power. Pressure on the
new cabinet, he continues, will be greatest after thousands
of people have lost their state jobs in bankruptcy closures
but before the benefits of shock therapy reforms are felt.
That could mean more street demonstrations later this year.
But Krastev says support for reforms from trade unions and
Euroleft, a group of Socialist Party defectors, could prevent
a populist backlash.
The ODS won 137 of Bulgaria's 240 parliamentary seats in
the 19 April ballot. The Socialist Party (BSP) now becomes an
opposition force with 57 seats, down from a 125-seat majority
in the last parliament. Three smaller parties also made it
into the National Assembly by clearing the 4% threshold. They
are the alliance of ethnic Turks and monarchists called the
Union for National Salvation (20 seats); Euroleft (14 seats);
and the populist Bulgarian Business Bloc (12 or 13 seats).
Krastev says support from Euroleft would demonstrate a
clear political will for painful but necessary economic
reforms. He says its support also would show Western leaders
that Sofia's desire to join NATO and the EU has wide backing.
The BSP opposes Bulgarian membership in NATO, but Euroleft
supports membership as long as nuclear weapons are not
deployed on Bulgarian territory.
Euroleft is led by Alexander Tomov, a former Socialist
deputy prime minister who broke away from the BSP in 1994 to
form a more centrist group. In the 1994 elections, Tomov
narrowly failed to break the 4% barrier. That loss now looks
like a blessing. By sitting out of the last parliament, he
has escaped blame for the economic collapse that began in
1995 under Socialist Prime Minister Zhan Videnov. Tomov
formed Euroleft this year as a refuge for other center-
leaning Socialist defectors. The group's ranks were swollen
by a wave of BSP defections in the final days of Videnov's
discredited cabinet, and analysts say more defections are
possible in the future.
There seems little likelihood of cooperation between
Kostov and Bulgarian Business Bloc leader George Ganchev.
Kostov has been very critical of Ganchev since January, when
the Business Bloc leader failed to support the massive anti-
Socialist street demonstrations that brought about the 19
April ballot. It is more likely that Kostov will work with
the Union for National Salvation (ONS), which is led by Ahmed
Dogan's mostly ethnic-Turkish Movement for Rights and
Freedoms (DPS). Nevertheless, cooperation between Kostov and
Dogan is a shaky proposition. The fall of former Prime
Minister Philip Dimitrov's anti-communist government in 1992
occurred because Dogan had withdrawn the support of the DPS.
When King Simeon II returned to Bulgaria for two days
last week at the invitation of monarchists in Dogan's
alliance, he urged all anti-communist reformers to unite
under a "broad coalition." The popular anti-communist
President Petar Stoyanov says he agrees with the idea. Some
members of the ODS want to expand the constitutional powers
of the president. But to amend the constitution--which was
drawn up by Bulgaria's communists in 1990 and repeatedly used
during the last seven years by the BSP to stall market
reforms--Kostov would need a two-thirds parliamentary
majority. Support from both Euroleft and the ONS would give
him that majority.
Moreover, cooperation between the ODS and Euroleft would
show that Bulgarian democracy is maturing. Anti-communists
and former communists have rarely found ground for agreement