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No. 4, 7 January 1994
RUSSIA RUSSIAãS RESPONSE TO LITHUANIAãS APPLICATION TO NATO. On 5 January Russian Presidential press secretary Vyacheslav Kostikov announced that Yeltsin was alarmed by the prospect of NATO expanding to admit new members from Eastern Europe, including the Baltic States, Interfax reported. Kostikov argued that since the new military doctrine of democratic Russia rules out any manifestations of aggressiveness in its foreign policy, the motives cited for seeking NATO membership àare unconvincingá, and that encouraging the tendency to expand the bloc system contradicts declared intentions to build relations on the principles of trust, partnership, and equilibrium. On 6 January Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigorii Karasin told a news briefing that the speed with which Lithuania had applied for NATO membership àlooks odd and counterproductive.á While asserting that opposing Lithuaniaãs move did not mean that Russia regards the Baltic States as being in its sphere of influence, Karasin said that they were part of the ànear abroad,á àa sphere of Russiaãs vital interest.á He said that there were no changes in Russiaãs foreign policy and that the rights of ethnic minorities in these countries, including Russian speakers, have ànaturally remained in the forefront of our attention.á ¥ Saulius Girnius ESTONIA, LATVIA SUPPORT LITHUANIA ON NATO MEMBERSHIP. On 5 January the Latvian Foreign Ministry issued a statement supporting Lithuaniaãs bid for NATO membership and stressing the need for realistic security guarantees from NATO for all states that have expressed the wish to become NATO members. The statement also emphasized that cooperation with NATO is a priority of Latviaãs foreign policy, which envisages Latviaãs gradual integration into the political and military structures of NATO. Latvian Foreign Minister Georgs Andrejevs explained that Latvia does not foresee applying for NATO membership in the next six months since Russian troops are still deployed on its territory. Estonian president Lennart Meri said that his country understands the urgency that Lithuanians are giving to the NATO question and will follow with interest how NATO responds to Lithuaniaãs bid, Interfax and Western agencies reported on 5 January. ¥©Dzintra Bungs EDITORS MEET CHERNOMYRDIN, CALL OFF NEWSPAPERS STRIKE. The editors of major newspapers and leaders of Russian journalistsã organizations decided on 6 January after their first meeting with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to call off their planned strike, Russian television newscasts reported. The editors had previously announced they would suspend publication of all pro-reform Russian newspapers from 10 ï17 of Januaryïi.e., during the Yeltsin-Clinton summit and opening sessions of the newly elected State Duma. The rationale given for the strike was the government resolution raising six times the costs of printing and distribution of the newspapers. At the meeting, Chernomyrdin agreed to suspend the resolution temporarily and to set up a joint committee together with the editors and journalistsã organizations to resolve their financial problems. ¥ Julia Wishnevsky IMF & WORLD BANK MEMORANDUM ON RUSSIAN ECONOMIC REFORM. On 5 January, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank released a joint memorandum on Russian economic reform ahead of President Bill Clintonãs visit to Moscow, Western agencies reported. The five-page document reaffirms their known position on the pace of reform. àDespite announced policy intentions, Russia has pursued an extremely gradual approach to the reduction of inflation. Experience elsewhere suggests that this is not an effective way of minimizing economic hardship or maximizing political supportá. Russia needs to impose hard budget constraints on state enterprises in order to control budget deficits and inflation. The thrust of the memorandum is that the Russian authorities should speed up the pace of reform, not slow it, as has been suggested by certain members of President Clintonãs administration. To ameliorate the impact of massive lay-offs resulting from the closure of unviable plants, the memorandum advocates a àtargeted social safety netá rather than global subsidies on food and energy. ¥ Keith Bush MINOR COMMUNIST PARTIES UNITE. ITAR-TASS reported on 6 January that Russiaãs five minor communist parties have decided to form a Union of Communist Parties. The All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks, the Russian Communist Workersã Party, the Russian Party of Communists, the Union of Communists, and the Leninist Platform of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation are tiny splinter groups of the former Russian and Soviet Communist Parties and refused to participate in the December 1993 elections. According to the leader of the Union of Communists, Aleksei Prigarin, their reason for uniting now is their opposition to Russiaãs major Communist Party, the CP-RF, which gained 65 seats in the new parliament. Prigarin said that the CP-RF had adopted a social-democratic standpoint. ¥ Wendy Slater OPPOSITION GROUPS WILL DEMONSTRATE AGAINST NEW PARLIAMENT. The Moscow city government decided to permit rallies by some hardline opposition groups to mark the opening of the new parliament, AFP reported on 5 January. The Russian All-Peopleãs Union, led by parliamentary deputy Sergei Baburin, the National Salvation Front, and the Communist Workersã Party, which were both banned after the October events, are to be allowed to picket the new parliament when it meets for its first session on 11©January. However, the city authorities refused the groupsã requests to be allowed to demonstrate in front of the Kremlin and to march through the city center. Baburinãs group plans to hold a demonstration on 9 January in front of the former parliament building in commemoration of the forcible dissolution of the Congress of Peopleãs Deputies in early October. ¥©Wendy Slater VOLKOGONOV ON MILITARY. President Yeltsinãs advisor on military affairs, Dmitrii Volkogonov, told Krasnaya zvezda in an interview published on 5©January that reports of a sweeping reorganization of the Ministry of Defense were just rumors. Several Russian newspapers have carried reports suggesting that Yeltsin is planning to subordinate the General Staff directly to himself, while leaving the defense minister with only non-operational responsibilities. Reports have indicated that this move was being considered in response to the militaryãs slow reaction to the 3 October violence. Volkogonov also noted that he felt that the Russian military should move very slowly towards a civilian defense ministry and that a rapid civilianization of the ministry would increase instability. ¥©John Lepingwell NO IMMUNITY FOR DEFENDERS OF THE AUGUST 1991 COUP TRIAL. The defenders at the August 1991 coup trial, former speaker of the USSR parliament Anatolii Lukyanov and the collective farm chairman Vasilii Starodubtsev, who were elected to the State Duma on 12 December 1993, will not enjoy immunity at least as far as this case is concerned, the military collegium of the Russian Supreme Court decided on 5 January. The trial was resumed that day and again postponed until 10 January. The Russian television newscasts of 5 January broadcast part of the address of Lukyanovãs lawyer, Ganrikh Padva, reading a letter from Yeltsin to his client, in which Yeltsin congratulates Lukyanov on his election success and expresses his hopes for future cooperation in the Duma. On the following day, however, ITAR-TASS distributed a statement of Yeltsinãs press office, claiming that the letter in question was a standard text addressed to every deputy elected, rather than Yeltsinãs personal appeal to Lukyanov as the newscasts had implied. ¥ Julia Wishnevsky GOSKOMFEDERATSIYA TO BE REORGANIZED? àSources in presidential circlesá told Interfax on 6©January that the State Committee for Federation Affairs and Nationalities was likely to be subsumed in a new structure headed by Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Yarov. The committee is at present headed by Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai, whom most commentators agree is likely to be dropped from the government. Shakhrai himself told Interfax on 6 January that there was a plan to subordinate the committee to the presidential administration. Shakhrai angered the administration further on 5 January when he held a meeting with deputies to the State Duma from the republics and 15 of them agreed to set up a group to nominate Shakhrai as speaker. An anonymous member of the presidential staff accused Shakhrai of engaging in divisive activity, Interfax reported on 6 January. ¥ Ann Sheehy MEDVEDEV ON REPUBLICAN CONSTITUTIONS. Nikolai Medvedev, head of the department for territories of the presidential administration told Interfax on 6 January that experts in the department had called on Yeltsin to set up a commission to bring the constitutions of the republics into line with the federal constitution. The Chechen, Sakha, and Tatarstan constitutions adopted some time ago, and also the Bashkortostan and Tyva constitutions which have only just been adopted all violate the Russian constitution in many respects, while Mordovia remains a soviet socialist republic in spite of instructions to drop àsoviet, socialistá from its title. Medvedev said the matter was urgent in view of the fact that elections to many republican parliaments were being held in the near future. He did not indicate, however, what sanctions would be used to make the republics conform. ¥ Ann Sheehy ELECTIONS TO FEDERAL ASSEMBLY FIXED FOR 13©MARCH IN TATARSTAN AND CHECHNYA. The Central Electoral Commission has fixed 13 March for the election of deputies to the Federal Assembly from Tatarstan and Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported on 6©January. Chechnya refused to hold the elections on 12©December on the grounds that it was not part of Russia, and official Groznyi described the latest announcement as an ultimatum that would aggravate confrontation, Interfax reported. No deputies were elected from Tatarstan on 12 December either because not enough candidates stood or the turnout was too low for the elections to be valid. There is nothing to indicate that the nationalists, with the tacit support of the leadership, will not be equally successful at sabotaging the elections on 13 March. ¥ Ann Sheehy CIS NUCLEAR WARHEADS NEGOTIATIONS, WARNINGS. According to the UNIAR press agency, trilateral negotiations in Washington between Ukrainian, Russian, and US delegations on the dismantling of Ukraineãs nuclear weapons have made progress. It is expected that further discussions will be held during President Clintonãs forthcoming visit to Russia, even though no visit to Kiev is planned. Krasnaya zvezda on 5 January published an interview with Stanislav Voronin, a chief designer of nuclear weapons, in which he reiterated warnings that the warheads in Ukraine are in increasingly dangerous condition. Voroninãs comments on warhead maintenance schedules and dangers were more specific than previous such warnings. He also noted that continued nuclear testing would be desirable to field improved nuclear weapons, including those incorporating new safety features. ¥©John Lepingwell BELARUS CLOSER TO RE-ENTERING RUBLE ZONE. Belarus and Russia will sign agreements unifying the two countriesã monetary systems in the second half of this month, according to an official statement released after a meeting between Russian President Boris Yeltsin, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, and Belarusian Prime Minister Vyacheslav Kebich on 5 January. Kebich said the Belarusian rubel would be exchanged for the Russian ruble at a rate of 1 to 1 over a period of three to six months, but gave no indication of when the process might begin, ITAR-TASS reported. Andrei Illarionov of the Russian governmentãs Center for Economic Reforms, according to Interfax, warned that the two countriesã monetary union would be achieved at the expense of Russiaãs macroeconomic stabilityïan opinion common among the radical reformers in the Russian government. ¥©Erik Whitlock TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA GAMSAKHURDIAãS DEATH: WAS IT SUICIDE? Confusion still surrounds the circumstances of the death of ex-President Zviad Gamsakhurdia. The initial Interfax report of 5 January quotes his widow as claiming that he committed suicide in the village of Dzhikaskari near Zugdidi on 31 December, as an act of defiance against the current Georgian leadership, after being surrounded by unidentified persons. The press service of the Mkhedrioni paramilitary organization, as cited by ITAR-TASS on 6 January, claimed that Gamsakhurdia had been wounded in fighting in Chechnya on 31 December and died on 5 January. Reuters quoted an aide to Gamsakhurdia as claiming he had seen him alive on 1 January. After reportedly receiving confirmation of Gamsakhurdiaãs demise on 5 January from a visiting Chechen delegation, Georgian parliament chairman Eduard Shevardnadze sent a procuracy investigating team to Western Georgia on 6 January to clarify what had happened, Western agencies reported. Shevardnadze played down the significance of Gamsakhurdiaãs death, but reportedly raised no objections to his being buried next to his father and sister in the grounds of their Tbilisi home. ¥ Liz Fuller CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE CZECH DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS NO TO VISEGRAD MEETING. Speaking to reporters in Prague on 6 January, Czech Defense Minister Antonin Baudys said that he would not attend the 7 January meeting in Warsaw of defense ministers from the Visegrad countries (Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic). The meeting was called to discuss joint strategy in seeking NATO membership. Baudys said the Czech government does not believe it would be useful for the Visegrad group to coordinate their positions on seeking NATO membership. àPrague does not want to create any new groupings,á said the minister. Meanwhile, in Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia, some politicians and news media have criticized the Czech Republic, in particular Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus, for resisting Visegrad group cooperation and thwarting efforts to hold a joint meeting of all leaders of the Visegrad group countries with US President Bill Clinton during his visit to Prague on 11 and 12 January; instead, bilateral meetings between Clinton and the heads of Visegrad countries are planned. ¥©Jiri Pehe KLAUS ON NATO. Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus told reporters in Prague on 6 January that his government accepts the US Partnership for Peace plan to be submitted at the NATO summit in Brussels on 10 and 11 January. Klaus said his government àaccepts the USAãs gradual approach to NATO cooperation with Eastern and Central European countries.á Responding to Russian President Boris Yeltsinãs appeal against NATO membership for Central European countries, Klaus said he was aware that NATOãs possible expansion eastward àis a sensitive question for Russia,á and noted that the question is not of immediate importance because àno one is offering us NATO membership.á The premier expressed understanding for the cautious approach of the West to NATO expansion, saying that unlike àthe small countriesá of Central Europe, Russia is a superpower that must be respected. ¥©Jiri Pehe ROMANIA WELCOMES ALBRIGHT REMARKS. The Romanian Foreign Ministry expressed satisfaction with what it called the United Statesã intention to treat all East European countries as equally important strategically. A spokesman for the ministry, quoted by Radio Bucharest on 5 January, said this intention was reflected in remarks made by Madeleine Albright, the United Statesã UN ambassador in a 4 January interview with Radio Bucharest, in advance of her visit to Romania and several other East European countries. The spokesman also said that last monthãs letter from President Ion Iliescu, reiterating Romaniaãs desire to join NATO, had been well received by officials of the alliance. ¥©Michael Shafir ALBRIGHT IN CROATIA. On 5 January the international media reported on Albrightãs arrival in the Croatian capital of Zagreb for talks with President Franjo Tudjman and other government officials. Albright warned the Croatian government against becoming directly involved in the Bosnian war, as such a move could lead to UN sanctions being applied against Zagreb. Tudjman has repeatedly said that Zagreb would intervene in Bosnia should Croat civilians continue to feel threatened by Muslim troops. The Croatian media emphasized Albrightãs visit to a mass grave near the city of Vukovar, a city controlled by rebel Serbs. Vjesnik on 7 January quoted Albrightãs remark that it was very important for her to see what she saw. Albright pledged US support for the prosecution of alleged war criminals. In other Croatian developments, on 6 January Reuters reported that the editor of The Feral Tribune, one of only a few independent Croatian papers, has been arrested for failing to fulfill his military obligations. ¥©Stan Markotich LEADERS TALK PEACE WHILE SHELLING OF SARAJEVO CONTINUES. Western agencies report that some of the heaviest Serb shelling of Sarajevo took place on 5 January. That same day Croatian foreign minister Mate Granic and Bosnian Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic, emerging from two days of talks in Vienna, issued a joint declaration in which they vowed to make àfirm effortsá to halt the Bosnian war but stopped short of announcing that a concrete ceasefire deal had been reached. According to Reuters, the plan hammered out between Granic and Silajdzic is to be discussed at a Bonn summit meeting on 8 January attended by Croatian President Tudjman and Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic. On 6 January Izetbegovic, speaking over Bosnian state radio, asked the UN to intervene against the Bosnian Serbian side in order to end the shelling of Sarajevo. ¥©Stan Markotich BOSNIA CONSULTATIONS IN BUDAPEST. On 5 January, David Owen and Thornvald Stoltenberg, returning from a Belgrade peace mission as representatives of the European Union and the United Nations Organization, stopped over in Budapest for consultations with Hungarian Foreign Minister Geza Jeszenszky, MTI reports. Jeszenszky told reporters that Owen and Stoltenberg are aware of the economic burdens imposed on Hungary because of the Yugoslav sanctions. According to Jeszenszky, Hungary has lost up to one billion dollars. ¥©Judith Pataki POLANDãS BUDGET DEBATE BEGINS. After twelve hours of debate on 6 January, the Sejm voted overwhelmingly on 7 January to send the governmentãs proposed budget for 1994 to commission, PAP reports. A final vote is expected in February; in the meantime, the governmentãs draft has legal force. The government plans revenues of 610 trillion zloty ($28 billion), expenditures of 693 trillion ($32 billion), and a deficit of 83 trillion zloty ($4 billion), or 4.1% of GDP. The economy is expected to grow 4.5% in 1994, with investment rising 6%; exports, 6%; and imports, 2.5%. Inflation is expected to drop to an average of 27%. Agriculture is to be the main beneficiary of new tax and privatization revenues. Finance Minister Marek Borowski warned that domestic debt servicing will cost 82 trillion zloty ($3.9 billion), equal to the entire deficit, while servicing Polandãs foreign debt will consume a further 30 trillion zloty ($1.4 billion). Borowski warned state firms that the excess wage tax is still in force and that debt relief will be extended only to those firms in good standing with the treasury. (Many state firms stopped paying taxes when the new government took power.) Borowski indicated that the government is under pressure from leftist forces to impose a tax on stock market gains but warned that this would likely reduce rather than increase budget revenues. ¥©Louisa Vinton BUDGET DEBATE SHOWS COALITIONãS WEAKNESS. The governmentãs proposals met with criticism from opposition and ruling parties alike, although only the Confederation for an Independent Poland demanded its outright rejection and threatened to take the budget battle àto the streets.á The forces associated with former Prime Minister Hanna Suchocka argued that the new government is overstating revenues and underestimating spending. The new draft assumes that 20 trillion zloty ($930 million) more can be collected in revenues than the original version of the budget formulated by the Suchocka government. Although Democratic Left Alliance leader Aleksander Kwasniewski led off the debate by arguing that àin the economy there are no miracles,á numerous deputies from the ruling partiesïparticularly trade unionists and Polish Peasant Party membersïcriticized the governmentãs draft for allotting insufficient funds to such areas as education, agriculture, defense, and social welfare. ¥©Louisa Vinton UPDATE ON MEETING OF ETHNIC HUNGARIANS IN KOMARNO. Laszlo Nagy, chairman of the extraparliamentary Hungarian Civic Party in Slovakia, told TASR on 5 January that his party àdoes not identifyá with the Association of the Zitny Ostrov Towns and Villages, which meets on 8 January in Komarno to discuss territorial autonomy in southern Slovakia. Nagy offered to serve as mediator between Slovaks and Hungarians to àremove mutual distrust.á At a press conference on 5 January, Eva Mitrova, head of the Slovak Foreign Ministryãs mission to the Council of Europe, said that a delegation of CE experts will arrive in Slovakia on 17 January to help draft a law on regional administration. Mitrova said this will àguarantee that the proposal will be acceptable to all parties,á and suggested the Komarno meeting be postponed until after the CE expertsã visit. CE Secretary General Catherine Lalumiere, who was invited to the Komarno meeting by Hungarian Christian Democratic Movement Chairman Vojtech Bugar, will not attend, nor will other top CE officials, TASR reported on 6 January. ¥©Sharon Fisher UDF AND BSP LEADERS CONSIDER PARLIAMENTãS VIABILITY. On 5 January, the Chairman of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, Jean Videnov, was received by his main opponent in Bulgarian politics, Filip Dimitrov of the Union of Democratic Forces. A BSP spokeswoman said after the highly unusual meeting that the two discussed primarily how to ensure the proper functioning of the National Assembly, whatever political turbulence 1994 might bring. According to a UDF statement, Dimitrov told Videnov that the parliamentary order would best be served by early general elections, which are scheduled for 1995. Dimitrov reportedly agreed with the BSP leader that there is no need for the special law on the status and tasks of caretaker cabinets, and he said the coalition supports amendment of the constitution to that effect. There was no agreement on the BSPãs proposal to change the rules for electing jurists to the Supreme Judicial Councilïwhich would prompt the replacement of the UDF-oriented BJC chairman and the Prosecutor General. Dimitrov called the proposal unconstitutional, but Videnov made it clear the BSP would not reconsider its position. Videnov also refused to answer Dimitrovãs direct question whether the BSP will continue backing the present government. ¥©Kjell Engelbrekt BULGARIAãS CENTRAL BANK DEFENDS THE LEV. On 5 January the Bulgarian National Bank doubled the interest rate on short term deposits in order to defend the steeply falling national currency. Reuters reports that the BNB raised the interest rates from 27% to 53% after the value of the lev had fallen to a record low, 35 against one dollar. Despite the measure, on 6 January the dollar was traded for 36.2 lev and bankers told Otechestven vestnik that they believed the negative trend would not change without a more decisive intervention on the part of the BNB. ¥©Kjell Engelbrekt PETRE ROMAN RULES OUT COALITION WITH THE PSDR. The leader of Romaniaãs opposition Democratic Party-National Salvation Front, Petre Roman, said at a press conference on 6 January that his party will not join in a coalition with the ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Bucharest. Roman also said Romanian membership in NATO was àvital, but hardly possible,á the major obstacle being that Romania was not a true democracy. He blamed the nationalist and extreme Left parties for the delay in democratization. ¥©Michael Shafir 10,000 RUSSIAN TROOPS STILL IN LATVIA? Ilgonis Upmalis, head of the office on monitoring Russian forcesã departures from Latvia, told Diena on 5 January that there are about 10,000 Russian troops in Latvia: 217 units, stationed in 288 military facilities; in addition there are still 25 Russian warships and 8 submarines in Latviaãs waters. Upmalis said that Latvia has accepted 31 August 1994, as proposed by Russia, for the final troop withdrawal. BNS reported on 6 January that the next round of talks on the pullout of Russian troops from Latvia is scheduled to start in Jurmala on 10 January. ¥©Dzintra Bungs LITHUANIAN AGRICULTURAL STRIKE. On 6 January Prime Minister Adolfas Slezevicius met with Jonas Ciulevicius, head of the Lithuanian Union of Farmers, to discuss the threatened strike by farmers, scheduled for 10 February, BNS reports. Farmers plan to cease milk and meat deliveries to food processors who are slow to make payment, and organize direct sales in public markets. Ciulevicius said the meeting was successful and if the agreements reached in the talks were implemented, the strike would not be held. Slezevicius asked Agriculture Minister Rimantas Karazija to carry out the agreements by 1 February. ¥©Saulius Girnius UKRAINIAN TV IMPLIES US SNUBBING UKRAINE. A terse announcement on Ukrainian TV on 6 January, that is, on Ukrainian Christmas eve, informed viewers that US President Bill Clinton will not be meeting with Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk during his visit to Europe next week. It added that the US State Department had announced àthat the Clinton administration intends to keep relations with Ukraine on a low level until the issue of Ukraineãs nuclear disarmament is resolved.á ¥©Bohdan Nahaylo FURTHER SPLIT AMONG UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX. On 5 January, the Kiev newspaper Nezavisimost carried a statement by five hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kievan Patriarchate (UOC-KP) announcing that they are going over to the rival Ukrainian Orthodox Church which remains loyal to the Moscow Patriarchate. Stressing that they remain committed to the idea of an autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the bishops, led by Metropolitan Antonyi (Masendych), accused Metropolitan Filaret, a controversial figure who is widely regarded as being the real power behind the patriarchal throne of the UOC-KP, of abusing power and church rules, and of failing to secure canonical recognition of the UOC-KP from the Patriarch of Constantinople after it broke away from the Russian Orthodox Church. Defenders of the UOP-KP, such as parliamentary deputy Oles Shevchenko, maintain that the real reason for the new split is the thwarted personal ambition of Metropolitan Antonyi, who last year failed to be elected Patriarch of the UOC-KP. There is also a third Orthodox churchïthe Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Churchïwhich sees itself as the continuation of the independent Ukrainian Orthodox church, which was persecuted and then suppressed under Stalin and his successors. ¥©Bohdan Nahaylo UKRAINE PREPARES FOR ELECTIONS. Preparations are underway in Ukraine for parliamentary elections on 27 March and a presidential election in Crimea on 16 January. According to the head of the Central Electoral Commission, Oleksandr Yemets, who was interviewed on Radio Ukraine on 6 January, 20 political parties intending to field candidates in the parliamentary elections have been registered to date. The largest of these are the Communist Party of Ukraine with 122,560 members, the Peasantsã Party (65,970), the Popular Movement of Ukraine, or Rukh (50,518), and the Christian-Democratic Party (30,095). In the autonomous Crimean republic, the presidential campaign is entering its final stages. Six candidates have been registered, and several more are still reported to be collecting the 5,000 signatures necessary for registration. Several of the registered candidates are representatives of pro-Russian or pro-Communist parties. The Crimean Tatar Mejlis, or Council, has called for a boycott of the elections and official Kiev and the Ukrainian media are following developments with considerable nervousness. ¥©Bohdan Nahaylo [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Elizabeth Fuller & Anna Swidlicka
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