|We are so bound together that no man can labor for himself alone. Each blow he strikes in his own behalf helps to mold the universe. - K. Jerome|
No. 58, 25 March 1993
RUSSIA YELTSIN BACKS AWAY FROM CONFRONTATION. President Boris Yeltsin has published the final version of his decree "On the activities of executive bodies until the settlement of the crisis of power." ITAR-TASS on 24 March carried the text of the decree. It contains no reference to the introduction of "special rule" which had been mentioned in Yeltsin's TV address of 20 March--a clear sign that Yeltsin has decided to retreat from serious confrontation with the parliament and the Constitutional Court. Yeltsin confirms his intention to hold a referendum on confidence in the president; the question put on the referendum will, however, not include a vote of confidence in Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi. Yeltsin retained the call to hold a plebiscite on a new draft constitution and on a draft law on elections to a new bicameral legislature. Alexander Rahr, RFE/RL, Inc. YELTSIN RETREATS FROM HIS CONSTITUTIONAL DRAFT. Presidential spokesman Vyacheslav Kostikov told Ostankino TV "Novosti" on 24 March that President Yeltsin will submit to referendum the constitutional draft prepared by the parliamentary Constitutional Commission. That draft foresees a strong parliamentary republic. Although Yeltsin plans to propose some amendments to the draft regarding the powers of the president, it seems unlikely that the parliament will accept them. Yeltsin's speech of 20 March, in which he proclaimed special rule, had given strong hints that he wanted to submit his draft--which foresees a presidential republic--to a referendum. Yeltsin has apparently buried his earlier idea of establishing a Constitutional Assembly which would adopt the new constitution. Alexander Rahr, RFE/RL, Inc. KEY PLAYERS MEET IN KREMLIN. President Boris Yeltsin, parliamentary speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov, the chairman of the Constitutional Court Valerii Zorkin, and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin met on 24 March in the Kremlin to discuss ways out of the political crisis following the publication of Yeltsin's final decree. The meeting ended without results. Khasbulatov later told parliament that the four men had discussed the possibility of setting up a government of national consensus. Khasbulatov said that while Yeltsin favored the idea of holding a referendum, he (Khasbulatov) advocated early presidential and parliamentary elections. He also claimed that the Constitutional Court ruling on Yeltsin's address has reduced the legitimacy of presidential power, and stated that the Congress may now start the impeachment of the president. Alexander Rahr , RFE/RL, Inc. YELTSIN CONDEMNS PARLIAMENT, CRITICIZES CONSTITUTIONAL COURT. Yeltsin's press service issued a statement on 24 March, reported by ITAR-TASS and Western agencies, criticizing the parliament's "hasty" decision to convene the ninth (extraordinary) session of the Congress of People's Deputies on 26 March as being liable to "draw the country into a new spiral of political tension." Parliament confirmed its decision in the afternoon of 24 March and set an agenda for the Congress which foresaw debate "on urgent measures to defend the constitutional structure of the Russian Federation." Yeltsin's statement said that the convocation of the Congress was based on the "contentious and biased verdict of the Constitutional Court" which had put its impartiality in doubt by issuing its conclusions before studying the presidential decree. The parliamentary leadership, said the statement, was trying to replace the president and open the way to a restoration of totalitarian forces. Wendy Slater, RFE/RL, Inc. YELTSIN'S STATEMENT TO PARLIAMENT. The President's press service released a message from Yeltsin to the Russian parliament on 24 March expressing his concern over the inconsistencies in the Russian Constitution and the attitude of the legislature and the Constitutional Court toward it. In the statement, which was carried by ITAR-TASS, Yeltsin said that a vote of confidence would give the people the chance to confirm the legitimacy of elected institutions in a transitional period of Russia's statehood. He warned the parliament against "creating constitutional illusions for the people," saying that he, as Russian President, was the guarantor of constitutionality. Confirming that voting would go ahead on 25 April on a new constitution, Yeltsin warned "all bodies of state power, social movements, officials, against attacks on stability" during the transitional period. Wendy Slater, RFE/RL, Inc. KHASBULATOV THREATENS YELTSIN'S LEGAL EXPERTS. Parliamentary speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov told deputies that he has the impression that President Yeltsin "did not clearly understand the situation in Russia." Russian TV "Vesti" on 24 March carried his remarks made to the parliament. Khasbulatov also said that those aides of Yeltsin who had drafted the "unconstitutional acts" on the introduction of special rule should be "punished." The Russian Procurator General Valentin Stepankov had previously stated that the authors of Yeltsin's decree (in the version which Yeltsin quoted in his televised speech on 20 March) should be prosecuted. Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai told AFP on 22 March that Anatolii Sliva, deputy head of the president's State-Legal Department, was one of the authors of the decree on the introduction of special rule. Shakhrai is also reported to be one of the authors of the decree. Alexander Rahr, RFE/RL, Inc. KOZYREV'S SPEECH, MEETING WITH CLINTON. In a speech at American University in Washington on 24 March, Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev said that full-fledged economic partnership between Russia and the leading industrial nations was a way to resolve Russia's economic and political crisis. Among other things, Kozyrev said there should be a set timetable for Russia's admission into the G- 7. Kozyrev also held talks with US President Bill Clinton. Following the talks, Kozyrev told reporters that he is convinced US-Russian relations will grow into "real cooperation across the board" after the Vancouver summit, Russian and Western agencies reported. Suzanne Crow, RFE/RL, Inc. CRACKDOWN ON ANTI-YELTSIN MEDIA. Following President Yeltsin's decree on "protecting the independence of the mass media," the president's supporters have acted to contain the most virulent anti-Yeltsin media. ITAR-TASS reported on 24 March that Information Minister Mikhail Fedotov had asked a court to ban the hardline opposition newspapers Den and Sovetskaya Rossiya for violating the press law. No details on the alleged violations were given. In a related development, the popular St. Petersburg TV broadcast, "600 Sekund," appeared on 24 March without its usual presenter, Aleksandr Nevzorov, who is known for his nationalist views. The program as broadcast, according to Reuters, expressed support for Boris Yeltsin and reported favorably on a pro-Yeltsin demonstration held in St. Petersburg on 23 March. Bella Kurkova, the head of the St. Petersburg broadcasting company, said that Nevzorov had been temporarily suspended for suspected violations of Russian media laws. A demonstration in support of Nevzorov ended without incident. Wendy Slater, RFE/RL, Inc. DENIAL THAT ACHALOV CONDUCTING ANTI-YELTSIN ACTIVITIES. Spokesmen for the Russian Defense Ministry and for the Moscow Military District have denied reports that former USSR Deputy Defense Minister Vladislav Achalov has been conducting anti- Yeltsin agitation among troops in the Moscow region, RFE/RL's Moscow correspondent reported on 24 March. A member of Yeltsin's Presidential Council, Vladimir Tikhonov, also told RFE/RL that Achalov's activities had been discussed at the council's 23 March meeting. Achalov, currently an aide to Ruslan Khasbulatov, is reported to be the choice of a number of reactionary groups as a replacement for current Defense Minister Pavel Grachev. In 1990 Grachev served under Achalov as first deputy commander of Soviet Airborne Forces, and replaced Achalov when the latter was named a USSR Deputy Defense Minister in December of that year. Achalov was arrested in 1991 for his participation in the August coup but was never brought to trial. Stephen Foye, RFE/RL, Inc. DON COSSACKS PROCLAIM SELF-RULE. On the night of 23 March the grand assembly of Don Cossacks proclaimed self-rule, ITAR- TASS reported on 24 March. According to ITAR-TASS, the authorities of Rostov oblast disagree with the move, which came after the assembly had rejected an accord that would have allowed the gradual restoration of traditional Cossack privileges. The Cossacks acted in the wake of a decree by Yeltsin of 15 March on reforming the military structures in the North Caucasus and state support for the Cossacks, which "reflected the long-standing desires of the Cossacks for self-rule and special service in the army." ITAR-TASS said the atamans had interpreted this as the green light for immediate action. At the same time the atamans and Union of Cossacks Hosts of Russia have expressed their unwavering devotion to Yeltsin's course, ITAR-TASS reported. Ann Sheehy, RFE/RL, Inc. SOLDIERS SENTENCED FOR SPYING. Krim-TASS reported on 24 March that four Russian soldiers have been sentenced to hard labor for selling military secrets to Western intelligence agencies. Neither the lengths of their sentences nor the Western nations for which they allegedly spied were disclosed in the report. The Military Prosecutor's office said that the four had confessed to the crime. Stephen Foye, RFE/RL, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA INFORMAL PEACE TALKS ON KARABAKH IN GENEVA. Six days of informal discussions in Geneva between Armenian and Azerbaijani government officials and Russian, Turkish, US, and Italian diplomatic representatives ended on 24 March with an agreement to continue negotiations in April, AFP reported citing UN sources. The Armenian community of Nagorno-Karabakh did not send representatives to the talks, apparently fearing that an agreement would be reached that Karabakh should remain a part of Azerbaijan. Liz Fuller, RFE/RL, Inc. EBRD PUBLISHES STRATEGY FOR AZERBAIJAN. On 23 March the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development unveiled its economic strategy for Azerbaijan. The statement noted Azerbaijan's potential in terms of natural resources (oil and gas), development of which form the basis of the bank's strategy in the short term, but noted at the same time that a settlement of the Karabakh conflict was a necessary precondition for the successful exploitation of the region's economic potential, according to an RFE/RL correspondent's report. Liz Fuller, RFE/RL, Inc. ECONOMIC DECLINE IN KAZAKHSTAN. Kazakhstan's State Committee on Statistics has issued a gloomy report on the country's economic performance during the first two months of 1993, KazTAG-TASS reported on 24 March. In comparison with the same period in 1992, total output was down 14.1%, industrial output was down more than 10%, and agricultural output declined as well. The report noted that not only the output of the livestock-raising industry had declined--meat production is down 15.4% in comparison with the first two months of 1992 and the output of milk products is down by nearly a third--but the number of livestock is down as well. Workers in industry, transport and construction were reported to have average wages of 14,900 to 17,900 rubles per month, while persons employed in credit and state insurance institutions were earning up to 21,000 rubles. Employees of cultural, educational and health care institutions were averaging only 4,900 to 7,100 rubles per month. There has been little sign of widespread dissatisfaction with President Nursultan Nazarbaev's economic reform program, but the official figures suggest that it has yet to show perceptible results. Bess Brown, RFE/RL, Inc. REFUGEE SITUATION IN TAJIKISTAN. Western news agencies quoted UN officials in Dushanbe and Geneva on 24 March as saying that 8,000 refugees who were sent from the Tajik capital back to their former homes in the town of Kabodien in the southern part of the country have finally been allowed to enter the town. Other townsfolk had refused them entry, presumably because the refugees were of a different political orientation. According to a report from Geneva, at least 15 of the refugees had died. International Red Cross teams were reported to be trying to arrange for food and shelter. The same day Khovar-TASS quoted a statement by First Deputy Prime Minister Makhmadsaid Ubaidulloev in the daily Jumhuriyat that 500,000 refugees have returned to their homes, and almost none remain in Dushanbe. He apparently made no reference to the problems of returnees described by the Red Cross. Bess Brown, RFE/RL, Inc. CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE SERB SHELLING STOPS RESCUE MISSION. The Los Angeles Times reports on 25 March that the UN the previous day "aborted a rescue mission for severely wounded Bosnian Muslims É when Serb rebels rained down artillery shells on three French helicopters as they began the evacuation from É Srebrenica." The BBC added that the UN commander in Bosnia, Gen. Philippe Morillon, is on his way to Belgrade for talks with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. Morillon hopes to convince Milosevic to make the Bosnian Serbs cooperate with the evacuation. Meanwhile at the UN in New York, the Security Council has postponed for another week its vote on enforcing a no-fly zone in Bosnia. Media reports suggest that the Western powers agreed to the delay in a concession to Russia, whose government wants to be seen at home as doing what it can to promote peace and not following the Western lead in backing a measure aimed largely at the Serbs. Finally, chances that the Bosnian Serbs will accept the Vance-Owen peace seem increasingly remote, and Reuters on 24 March headlined its story: "UN Strategy for Bosnia in Tatters." Patrick Moore, RFE/RL, Inc. DIRECTOR OF CZECH RADIO RESIGNS. Ivan Mejstrik, director of Czech Radio, announced his resignation on 24 March, citing disagreements with the Board for Radio Broadcasting, an independent committee supervising Czech Radio. CTK reports that Zbynek Honys, editor-in-chief of the Radiozurnal station, which is operated by Czech Radio, also resigned. Honys told CTK that he is resigning because the Board for Radio Broadcasting has been interfering with newscasts of the station and that conditions necessary for smooth functioning of the station have not been created. Also on 24th, Zdenek Susa, chairman of the Board for Radio Broadcasting resigned from his post. Susa said the fact that he is quitting at the same time as Mejstrik and Honys is "a coincidence," but he did not give reasons for his decision. Jiri Pehe, RFE/RL, Inc. MECIAR IN MOSCOW. The Slovak Prime Minister arrived in Moscow on 24 March, where he is to meet Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and President Boris Yeltsin, Slovak and Russian media report. Meciar and Chernomyrdin are expected to sign documents on economic relations between the two countries and on cooperation between the Russian and Slovak foreign ministers. Jiri Pehe, RFE/RL, Inc. SUCHOCKA MEETS KOHL, OPENS HANNOVER TRADE FAIR. Together with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Polish Prime Minister Hanna Suchocka opened the "CeBIT '93" trade fair in Hannover on 23 March. CeBIT is the largest computer trade fair in the world; this year's theme is cooperation with Eastern Europe. In her opening remarks, Suchocka encouraged increased Western investment in Poland and said that Polish reforms cannot succeed without broader East European access to EC markets. Suchocka also held talks with Kohl on 23 and 24 March. Western agencies report that Kohl stressed Germany's readiness to reach a "fair arrangement" with Poland on the problem of asylum-seekers. He restated his support for Polish membership in the EC. Polish TV reports that Kohl also proposed appointing special envoys for contacts between the two heads of government, as was the practice in 1989-90, as well as holding monthly telephone consultations with the Polish prime minister. Louisa Vinton, RFE/RL, Inc. GERMANY RELEASES ARMS DIRECTOR TO POLAND. Citing health grounds, a German court in Hesse ordered the release of Rajmund Szwonder, the deputy director of the Lucznik arms plant, on 24 March. Caught up in a "sting" operation organized by US officials, Szwonder was arrested in Frankfurt a year ago on charges of attempting to sell arms to Iraq. He says he was trying to find markets in the Philippines. Germany had earlier agreed to extradite Szwonder to New York, but intense Polish diplomatic pressure appears to have led to a reversal of this decision. Polish Prime Minister Hanna Suchocka told reporters she raised the issue in talks with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl in Hannover on 23 March, and welcomed Szwonder's release. Szwonder was greeted on his return to Warsaw on 24 March by arms plant employees. Five Poles arrested in the affair still await trial in New York. Louisa Vinton, RFE/RL, Inc. BULGARIA TO BUILD A SECOND NUCLEAR PLANT? ENERGY OFFICIALS SAY BULGARIA MAY NEED TO RESTART CONSTRUCTION OF A SECOND NUCLEAR POWER PLANT AT BELENE BEGUN IN 1982 BUT SUSPENDED IN 1990. Ivan Sotirov of the National Electric Company told Western newsmen on 24 March that energy officials are currently investigating ways to make sure Bulgaria in the future will suffer less from power shortages. Sotirov said there are other options, such as participating in a hydroelectric project with Romania, but these would probably require investments the country presently cannot afford. Like the Kozloduy atomic power plant, Belene is situated on the Danube river. Kjell Engelbrekt, RFE/RL, Inc. COMMISSION QUESTIONS BULGARIA'S 1990 ELECTION RESULTS. A parliamentary commission says that at least 10% of the returns in the general election held on 10 and 17 June 1990, and won by the ex-communists, were based on "dubious results." On 24 March several Bulgarian dailies published excerpts of, and commentaries upon, a parliamentary report confirming previous suspicion of widespread irregularities in the data collecting and counting procedures. The commission also said its findings seem to support the theory that some 500,000 extra votes were cast, as was earlier suggested by two independent statisticians. After first demanding that the elections be declared invalid, the opposition parties later accepted the results. Kjell Engelbrekt, RFE/RL, Inc. ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER TO ITALY. On 24 March Romania's Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu began an official two-day visit to Italy and the Vatican. Melescanu will hold talks with his Italian counterpart, Emilio Colombo, and other top Italian officials, and will be received by President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro as well as by Pope John Paul II. In an interview with Radio Bucharest, Melescanu described the Romanian-Italian ties as "solid and privileged," and suggested that the talks will focus on ways to boost bilateral economic cooperation. He added that the conflicts in former Yugoslavia and the Russian crisis also figure on his agenda. Melescanu visited Bonn and London earlier this month. Dan Ionescu, RFE/RL, Inc. ROMANIAN SAILORS STAGE PROTESTS. Thousands of people rallied on 24 March in Tulcea to protest the plight of about 500 sailors on seven Romanian ships detained off the coast of Mauritania. The government of that West African country is demanding $2 million, which it says is owed by Romania's formerly state-owned fishing company. The Romanian government says the company must finance its own operations. On 23 March the seven ship captains decided to try to force their way out of Mauritanian waters and head for the Canary Islands. In a memorandum addressed to the Romanian authorities, the sailors' trade union insisted that hundreds of sailors have been stranded for months off Mauritania, South Korea, and Uruguay, "without food, water, or fuel and with no protection for their life and health." Dan Ionescu, RFE/RL, Inc. MANY ROMANIANS FAVOR DICTATORSHIP. According to a public opinion poll released on 16 March by the Romanian Institute for Public Opinion Surveys (IRSOP), more than one in four Romanians (27%) is in favor of an "iron-handed dictatorial leadership." About a third of the respondents (37%) would prefer a coalition government instead of the present government of the Democratic National Salvation Front, and 13% would want to see the opposition Democratic Convention of Romania alliance rule the country. Michael Shafir, RFE/RL, Inc. MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT SUPPORTS RUSSIAN DEMOCRACY. In a statement on 23 March "expressing the position of Moldova's leadership," Mircea Snegur said, "Moldova is directly interested in Russia becoming a truly democratic country, as only this could permanently block the restoration of the communist system and of the Soviet empire. . . . From our own standpoint the fall of Russian democracy would mean the takeover of power by the organizers of the territorial dismemberment of Moldova, the promoters of the imperial ideology." At the same time Snegur urged that "any measures taken to defend democratic achievements and to unblock radical economic reform should in no way impair civic rights and freedoms or lead to violence." Vladimir Socor, RFE/RL, Inc. MORATORIUM ON POLITICAL ACTIVITY IN SEVASTOPOL. The Sevastopol city council has decreed a three-month moratorium on all forms of political activity in the city, ITAR-TASS reports on 24 March. In addition the city lawmakers are reported to have asked Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk to ban the planned congress of Ukrainians of Sevastopol. The congress is scheduled for 28 March, the same day that the congress of Russians of Sevastopol is scheduled to convene. The Sevastopol prosecutor's office reportedly said that a ban on the congress is illegal. Roman Solchanyk, RFE/RL, Inc. UKRAINE ON STRATEGIC BOMBERS. In an article published in Izvestiya on 23 March, the commander of the Russian Air Force claimed that Ukraine must turn over its Tu-95 Bear and Tu-160 Blackjack bombers to Russia. Gen. Petr Deneikin argued that the bombers should be withdrawn before they become unflightworthy due to insufficient maintenance. He also said that Ukraine claims ownership of the bombers and has requested that Russia pay 2 billion rubles for each aircraft or the transfer of an equivalent value of conventional military aircraft to Ukraine, a request that Russia has refused. Previous reports indicated that Ukraine is considering converting at least some of the bombers into environmental monitoring aircraft. The bombers are counted under the START treaties, but START-1 does not specifically call for the bombers in Ukraine to be destroyed, nor does the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The status of the bombers thus seems to be indeterminate, even if Ukraine ratifies both treaties. John Lepingwell, RFE/RL, Inc. ZLENKO, KRAVCHUK ON START-1. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Anatolii Zlenko arrived in Washington on 24 March and met with Secretary of State Warren Christopher. According to Western press reports, Christopher reaffirmed US interest in the ratification of the START-1 treaty, but Zlenko commented that he does not feel pressured by the US administration in this regard. Zlenko also noted that ratification of the treaty is being hindered by the current political crisis in Russia. According to AFP, Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk on 24 March also reiterated his commitment to ratifying START-1, despite the possibility of a change in Russian leadership. However, on 23 March the chairman of the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, Dmytro Pavlychko, told Reuters that while he expects START-1 to be approved, he feels that the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty will not be approved. This appears to confirm recent indications that the two treaties are being considered separately, perhaps in order to leave an option for Ukraine to retain some nuclear weapons. John Lepingwell, RFE/RL, Inc. VELLISTE: RUSSIAN INSTABILITY HAMPERS RELATIONS. Estonia's Foreign Minister Trivimi Velliste told the press on 24 March that instability in Russia and the lack of a political force in Moscow that can actually get things moving are having a negative impact on Estonian-Russian relations. In reply to criticism that Estonian talks with Russia should be suspended on account of their hopelessness, Velliste stressed that while the talks have progressed very slowly, they do leave open a channel for communication. Velliste said that the most complicated issue on the agenda is the borders and that their talks also touch on the withdrawal of Russian troops and military installations from Estonia, economic relations, matters related to citizenship, and the rights of Finno-Ugric peoples in Russia, BNS reported on 24 March. Dzintra Bungs, RFE/RL, Inc. DISMANTLING RUSSIAN MILITARY INSTALLATIONS IN ESTONIA, LATVIA. Baltic media reported on 24 March that the removal of toxic nuclear fuels from the reactors at the Russian naval base in Paldiski has started. Estonian Foreign Minister Trivimi Velliste said that he will try to obtain the help of international organizations to speed along the liquidation of the Paldiski facilities. Specialists have drawn up a list of Russian military installations in Latvia that are to be dismantled. They have made it clear that they expect the sites to be left in good order and the soil ready for cultivation. The list will be submitted to the Russians, in accordance with an agreement that was made at the latest Latvian-Russian talks in Moscow. Dzintra Bungs, RFE/RL, Inc. CHANGES IN LITHUANIAN NEGOTIATING TEAM. On 24 March the Seimas foreign affairs committee approved the formation of a new Lithuanian negotiating team with Russia, headed by Seimas deputy Virgilijus Bulovas, the RFE/RL Lithuanian Service reports. Only two members of the previous delegation will remain. The members of the opposition in the committee refused to participate in the vote. Only one opposition member, Egidijus Jarasiunas, had been invited to be in the delegation, but he refused. The delegation will become official after President Algirdas Brazauskas issues a decree on its formation and no other changes are expected. Saulius Girnius, RFE/RL, Inc. LATVIAN LEGISLATION ON CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY. The Latvian Supreme Council adopted a series of amendments to the existing criminal code by specifying severe sentences for persons found guilty of crimes against humanity and war crimes and waive the statute of limitation for such crimes. Radio Riga noted that the amendments were passed on 24 March, the eve of day set aside to remember the victims of the communist terror. Dzintra Bungs, RFE/RL, Inc. DUTCH-BALTIC TRANSPORT AGREEMENTS. On 23 March in Vilnius Dutch Minister of Transportation and Social Work Hanja Maij- Weggen signed agreements on air and sea transport with Communications Minister Jonas Birziskis. Lithuanian Airlines will begin flights to Amsterdam on 30 March. On 24 March she signed similar agreements in Tallinn with Estonian Minister of Transport and Communications Andi Meister, BNS reports. Estonian Air began flights to Amsterdam on 8 January and now has flights three times a week. The Dutch carrier KLM does not plan to have flights to either Baltic capital, but opened an office in Tallinn which will assist in providing services and discounts for passengers flying from Europe to the United States. Saulius Girnius, RFE/RL, Inc. MORE LATI INTRODUCED IN LATVIA. According to Diena of 24 March, Latvia is continuing the switchover to its own currency that began on 5 March with the issuing of the five- lati bill. On 25 March the one-lats coin, worth 200 Latvian rubles, is being introduced. The two-lati and 50 santimi (1 lats = 100 santimi) coins are scheduled to be introduced in the very near future. Dzintra Bungs, RFE/RL, Inc. ART CENTER OPENS IN RIGA. BNS reported on 24 March that the Soros Center of Contemporary Art has opened in the Latvian capital. The main task of the center is to serve as an information bank for artists who live or work in Latvia, as well as to provide scholarships for Latvian art students for study abroad and to draw public attention to problems of contemporary culture. Similar centers exist in Tallinn, Budapest, Warsaw, and Prague, and others are to be opened in other East European capitals. Dzintra Bungs, RFE/RL, Inc. [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Wendy Slater and Charles TrumbullRFE/RL Daily Report
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