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No. 53, 17 March 1994
RUSSIA GRACHEV PROTESTS DEFENSE BUDGET. At a news conference on 16 March, Defense Minister Pavel Grachev called for a revision of the defense allocation in the draft consolidated budget for 1994, Reuters reported. He complained that the sum earmarked for defense (37.1 trillion rubles) was less than half of the amount requested by the armed forces (80 trillion rubles) and would mean that the nation's security and its defense industry would be jeopardized. "We cannot be accused of militarism; we are only asking for the bare minimum," Grachev said. Although his first deputy, Andrei Kokoshin; former CIS Joint Forces Commander Evgenii Shaposhnikov; and other prominent members of the military-industrial complex have already protested the defense allocation for 1994, it is probably unprecedented for a defense minister to go public with his disagreement on a cabinet decision. Keith Bush, RFE/RL, Inc. GRACHEV ON MANPOWER CUTS, NUCLEAR "BUTTONS." In remarks reported by "Vesti," Grachev also said that the army's combat capabilities and the ability of the military leadership to pursue military reform are being adversely effected by funding shortfalls. He claimed that because each discharged officer must be paid a separation benefit of twenty months wages, the army's plans to cut some 400,000 officers would have to be halved. Turning to Russia's nuclear weapons and recent press speculations over why he had canceled a scheduled visit to the Leningrad Military District, Grachev said that he had remained in Moscow because he is in possession of one of the three so-called "nuclear buttons:" the other two, he said, are in the possession of the Russian president and the General Staff chief, both of whom were out of the capital. According to reports by ITAR-TASS and Pravda on 16-17 March, Grachev also defended a recent decision by Russia and the US to detarget strategic nuclear weapons, saying that the decision in no way harmed Russian security and that it was an indication of mutual trust and strategic stability. Stephen Foye, RFE/RL, Inc. CAMDESSUS IN MOSCOW. International Monetary Fund Managing Director Michel Camdessus is scheduled to start a five-day visit to Moscow on 17 March, after several postponements. An RFE/RL correspondent quotes IMF sources in Washington to the effect that a final decision on the trip was made only on 15 March. Camdessus is expected to meet Messrs. Chernomyrdin, Soskovets, Shokhin, Shumeiko, Rybkin, and Gerashchenko, among others. The IMF has been under renewed pressure from the G-7 nations to expedite the payment of the second tranche ($1.5 billion) of the systemic transformation facility, and to look again at the feasibility of extending up to $4 billion in stand-by credits. Camdessus will find a steeper fall in output, a shortfall in planned budgetary revenues, intense pressure to raise budgetary expenditures, a disagreement between government and parliament on the need for economic emergency measures, and publicly expressed doubts by the economics minister on whether a tight money policy is really necessary. Robert Lyle and Keith Bush, RFE/RL, Inc. RUTSKOI BACK IN POLITICS. In a statement marking the third anniversary of the referendum on the preservation of the USSR, former Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi proposed that the peoples of the former Soviet republics should vote on whether to form a new type of a union, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 March. Rutskoi said that "we are destined by Lord God himself to live as one family, one nation, one state--a great power." He added that "today people have fully understood the price of the irresponsible and ill-thought-out decision to liquidate the USSR" and that "reality itself has proved that the CIS cannot work." He stated that reunification should proceed peacefully. Since his release from prison, Rutskoi has devoted himself fully to rebuilding his People's Party of "Free Russia." Alexander Rahr, RFE/RL, Inc. RUSSIAN OPPOSITION FORMS FRONT TO SAVE "HISTORIC RUSSIA." Leaders of three opposition parties--the Russian Communist and Agrarian Parties, as well as the People's Party of Free Russia headed in the past by former Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi--have announced the formation of a united front called Accord for Russia. Reuters reported on 16 March that the front proclaimed as its main aim the preservation of "historic Russia" and the halting of what it called "mindless reforms." Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party did not join the front. Vera Tolz, RFE/RL, Inc. LATEST FIGURES ON CONTRACT MILITARY SERVICE. There are currently more than 160,000 soldiers and sergeants serving voluntarily in the Russian armed forces on the basis of contracts, according to Lt. Gen. Aleksandr Litvinov, deputy chief of the Russian General Staff Organizational-Mobilizational Directorate. His remarks were reported by Syn Otechestva on 11 March. Previous Defense Ministry statements had put the number of volunteers at under 120,000, but Litvinov suggested that this number had been augmented at the end of 1993 by the signing on of some 50,000 new recruits, including conscripts eligible for discharge, extended-service personnel, and previously enlisted women. President Boris Yeltsin has authorized the recruitment of an additional 150,000 volunteers this year. A number of reports have suggested that the volunteer contingent recruited in 1993 was not of the highest quality, and Litvinov emphasized that commanders would use strict criteria in making this year's selection. Stephen Foye, RFE/RL, Inc. RUSSIA PLANNING A NEW SPACEPORT? The commander of the Russian Military Space Forces is reportedly pushing for the creation of a new spaceport in the Far East at an SS-11 ICBM base located near Svobodniy. The site is due to be closed when START reductions are implemented. The proposal, as reported in Rossiiskaya gazeta on 12 March, was decried by the head of Glavkosmos as being prohibitively expensive. Nevertheless, ITAR-TASS and Reuters on 16 March claimed that planning and discussion of the option are continuing. The new spaceport would be at a lower latitude than the Plesetsk launch site, and would be able to accommodate Proton boosters, two significant advantages. Nevertheless, the high cost of creating a new facility suggests that it might be a Russian negotiating ploy to obtain better terms from Kazakhstan for use of Baikonur. Ukraine is also trying to negotiate access to the Baikonur site so it can launch payloads with its Zenit rocket. John Lepingwell, RFE/RL, Inc. SHAKHRAI ON PROSPECTS FOR RUSSIAN GERMAN STATEHOOD. Russia's Minister for Nationalities and Regional Policy, Sergei Shakhrai, said at a news conference in the State Duma on 15 March that the only way that the Russian Germans' statehood could be restored was by the adoption of a federal law on the creation of new subjects of the Russian Federation in areas populated predominantly by Germans, Interfax reported. Shakhrai pointed out that this process might take several years. The creation of new territorial units based on ethnicity would, in fact, go against the current aim of phasing out such units. Shakhrai reiterated that Russia was "interested in keeping all Russian Germans in Russia." The Russian government was setting aside 39 billion rubles and the German government 65 million Deutsche marks for assistance to ethnic Germans in Russia in 1994. Shakhrai said that German emigration from Russia decreased slightly in 1993, while the number of Germans coming to Russia from Central Asia and Kazakhstan exceeded the emigration from Russia. Ann Sheehy. RFE/RL, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA NAZARBAEV ON NUCLEAR ARMS ACCORDS. Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev told Western journalists on 16 March that his country is honoring its promise to dispose of its nuclear warheads, Reuters reported. Kazakhstan's nuclear arsenal can now be disposed of because the country has been promised compensation for the enriched uranium in the warheads, Nazarbaev said. Some Kazakhs have complained that much of the uranium contained in the weapons was mined in Kazakhstan, which should therefore retain ownership of the material. Bess Brown, RFE/RL, Inc. KYRGYZ DESERT FROM RUSSIAN BORDER UNITS. Nineteen Kyrgyz soldiers assigned to Russian border guard units on the Kyrgyz-Chinese frontier have deserted since the beginning of 1994, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 March. Unit officers were quoted as attributing the rate of desertion to friction between Kyrgyz from different regions of the country, lack of knowledge of Russian by Kyrgyz recruits from rural areas and lack of knowledge of Kyrgyz by Russian officers, and the assignment of the best recruits to the National Guard or the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Russia has just signed agreements with Armenia and Georgia to use nationals of those countries in Russian border forces stationed there; the similar use of Kyrgyz troops was cited as a model. Bess Brown, RFE/RL, Inc. CIS CIS FOREIGN MINISTERS' COUNCIL MEETING. On 16 March, the Council of CIS Foreign Ministers met in Moscow to discuss coordinating major foreign policy issues. Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan and Georgia sent their foreign ministers. Ukraine, Belarus, Beliayev, Armenia, Moldova, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan sent other diplomats or officials. Russia's Andrei Kozyrev, the chairman of the council, said in a statement following the closed-door meeting that the council had discussed ways to protect "the outer borders" of the CIS. A decision was taken at the meeting to form a consultative commission for settling differences within the CIS by peaceful means, something Kozyrev called "an important step toward ensuring onward movement for the CIS." Kozyrev noted that there is full consensus among the CIS foreign ministers that the CIS should gain the status of an international organization, Interfax reported. Suzanne Crow, RFE/RL, Inc. JOINT SESSION OF CIS FOREIGN AND DEFENSE MINISTERS. Opening a joint meeting of the CIS foreign and defense ministers, Andrei Kozyrev said that "Russia has an historic duty to guard [the Tajik-Afghan] border" because "it is a frontier of the CIS." Kozyrev added, "it is clear that except for us, no one can resolve these issues." He linked Russian efforts to resolve the situation in Tajikistan with the strengthening of the CIS as an international organization and emphasized that peacekeeping efforts do not require "international approval," Russian and Western agencies reported. Suzanne Crow, RFE/RL, Inc. RUSSIA LEANS ON CIS DEBTORS. A spokesman for the Fuel and Energy Ministry told Reuters on 16 March that Russia will pressure former Soviet republics to pay for past supplies of oil and gas. A figure of 2 trillion rubles (about $1.2 billion) was given as the amount owed to Russian fuel suppliers by other members of the Commonwealth of Independent States at the end of 1993. The official indicated that those debtor nations that do not have the cash may be asked to transfer property rights instead. Keith Bush, RFE/RL, Inc. NUCLEAR FUEL CONFUSION. Interfax reported on 16 March that a "high-ranking" official of the Ukrainian State Committee for Nuclear Energy, Viktor Stovbun, stated that Ukraine has not yet received any nuclear fuel under the terms of the trilateral agreement. Shmarov confirmed that some fuel has been received from Russia, but that this fuel was being provided under a separate contract signed in 1993 and is unrelated to the warhead transfer. Ukraine has received a letter from Russian Prime Minister Chernomyrdin stating that fuel will be supplied, and working groups to finalize the terms of the deal met in early February, but a complete agreement has not yet been signed. The second shipment of warheads, expected to be sent to Russia in early March, could be delayed while the fuel issue is worked out. John Lepingwell, RFE/RL, Inc. CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE SLOVAK PRESIDENT SWEARS IN NEW GOVERNMENT. On 16 March Michal Kovac installed the new government of Prime Minister Jozef Moravcik, which includes 17 ministers representing the five parties of the governing coalition, TASR reports. The key post of foreign minister went to the Slovak ambassador to the UN, Eduard Kukan (who was nominated by the Alliance of Democrats), while the post of defense minister went to Party of the Democratic Left (PDL) Deputy Chairman Pavol Kanis; both are expected to continue Slovakia's integration with the West. Ladislav Pittner of the Christian Democratic Movement was appointed interior minister, a post he held from 1990 to June 1992. Alliance of Democrats Deputy Chairman Rudolf Filkus was given the post of finance minister, and Peter Magvasi was appointed economy minister by the PDL. Filkus told Reuters that there is no "third way toward a market economy" and stressed that privatization needs to be accelerated. The new government includes some nonpartisan "experts," although some posts were clearly political appointments. Sharon Fisher, RFE/RL, Inc. MECIAR'S REFERENDUM INVALID. The presidential office announced on 16 March that the petition for a referendum on early elections and the mandates of those deputies who have left their original party caucuses which was handed over on 2 March by supporters of former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar is invalid, TASR reports. Although over 420,000 signatures were collected (only 350,000 were needed), many of the names and addresses were incomplete. Only about 232,000 names were valid. Sharon Fisher, RFE/RL, Inc. RFE/RL TRANSMITTERS IN SLOVAKIA TURNED OFF. Parts of Slovakia were unable to tune into RFE/RL on 16March, after a government official ordered its transmitters turned off, news agencies reported on 16 March. Some officials in the government of outgoing Prime Minister Meciar had complained about the content of RFE/RL broadcasts in the past. RFE/RL protested the shutdown in a letter to the Ministry of Transport, Communications, and Public Works. Separately, Slovak Telecommunications Director Vladimir Ondrovic apologized for the "willful behavior" of the official who ordered the action, saying that he was immediately recalled from his post. Ondrovic stressed that all contracts would be honored in the future. In the late afternoon of the same day, the transmitters were put back into service. Mikulas Dzurinda, the new Slovak minister of transport and communications, said in an interview with CTK on the same day that he would make sure that such incidents would not repeat themselves in the future. Jan Obrman, RFE/RL, Inc. UN WANTS TO LIFT MAGLAJ SIEGE. Reuters reports on 16 March about plans to end the Serb stranglehold on this north-central Bosnian town whose population is now bloated with mainly Muslim refugees. Maglaj is one of the "few remaining areas of active warfare" in the republic, and the UN is considering at least four options to get aid through. One is with Serb consent, but this has failed so far; a second is a "more muscular approach" involving declaring Maglaj a "safe area," which could then be enforced by peacekeepers and air strikes; a third is a Sarajevo-type brokered cease-fire in which heavy weapons are neutralized or withdrawn; and the fourth involves some sort of trade-off between the Serbs surrounding Maglaj and the Muslims pressuring Doboj, which the Serbs have "cleansed" of its large Muslim population, to the north. Reuters notes on 17 March that 4,500 fresh troops stand ready to go to Bosnia, either from their home countries directly or from units stationed in Croatia. The largest group is 1,050 from Britain, while other groups include 500 Czechs and 150 Argentines. On another front, the Washington Post reports that the UN aid mission to Bosnia has now lasted 20 months and has made 11,000 flights for airdrops. Patrick Moore, RFE/RL, Inc. BIG DAYS FOR CROATIAN DIPLOMACY. Vjesnik reports on 17 March about the busy schedule for President Franjo Tudjman, who is on his way to Washington to sign the Croat-Muslim peace agreement in the White House on the 18th. He will open the new embassy building on Massachusetts Avenue and attend a gala with Croatian-Americans and entertainers from Croatia. Globus of 18 March says that Foreign Minister Mate Granic is reshuffling the diplomatic corps, while Vjesnik of 16 March discussed the trials and tribulations of Zvonimir Markovic, who just arrived in Belgrade to open the new Croatian bureau there. The Belgrade media in general covered the story, but official television ignored it and the promised facilities were not ready when he arrived. Markovic nonetheless spoke optimistically about his mission. Patrick Moore, RFE/RL, Inc. CHURKIN IN BELGRADE, B 92 OFF AIR. On 17 March, both Borba and Politika report extensively on Russian special envoy Vitaly Churkin's 16 March visit to Belgrade. While in the rump Yugoslav capitol, Churkin met with Milan Martic, president of the self-proclaimed Republic of Serbian Krajina. Following their meeting, it was announced that Croatian and Krajina Serb officials will hold talks in Zagreb on 22 March in an attempt to calm the dispute over Krajina and thereby enhance prospects for regional peace. Krajina, which accounts for a third of Croatia's territory, is claimed by Zagreb as an integral part of Croatia. Meanwhile, on 17 March Borba reports that Belgrade's Radio B 92 has been taken off the air. The radio, which has been broadcasting for five years, was one of rump Yugoslavia's few independent media outlets, and was noted for its criticism of government policies. Stan Markotich, RFE/RL, Inc. BULGARIAN SANCTIONS VIOLATIONS. On 16 March Reuters reported that a UN official responsible for monitoring sanctions enforcement against the rump Yugoslavia has alleged that some 200 violations since the end of 1992 have been committed from Bulgaria. According to the UN official, "corrupt [Bulgarian] state officials" have been involved in the violations. The Bulgarian government has evidently not reacted to the charges. Meanwhile, on 16 March BTA reported that Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev communicated with UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali in order to outline his reservations about the possibility of sending Greek and Turkish peacekeepers to Bosnia. Zhelev stressed that the military participation of neighboring countries, which may bring with them deep historic enmities, could increase regional tensions, thereby heightening rather than halting the potential for conflict. Stan Markotich, RFE/RL, Inc. CZECH DEPUTIES SIGN PETITION ON BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA. Thirty-two deputies in the 200-member Czech parliament signed a petition asking the Czech government to strive, together with other countries, "for preserving the existence of Bosnia-Herzegovina within its historical boundaries and for minimizing [international] efforts to formally partition the country." The petition was initiated by Andrej Guric of Premier Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party. Klaus himself has been reluctant to support more resolute Western actions to end the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The signatories of the petition come from both coalition and opposition parties. They further demand that the Czech government use its weight to ensure that all resolutions of the UN Security Council on Bosnia-Herzegovina are enforced, and they warn that "the future of European values is being decided in Bosnia-Herzegovina." These values will be threatened if Europe accepts the results of genocide and ethnic cleansing, says the petition. The signatories see as "tragic" the fact that the democratic Europe of the end of the twentieth century "has tolerated ethnic cleansing, burning of villages, the creation of concentration camps, and mass exodus of civilians." Jiri Pehe, RFE/RL, Inc. EXTREMISM IN MACEDONIA. According to the 16 March issue of Flaka e Vllazerimit and Nova Makedonija of 17 March, the Mehmet Pasha Mosque in Titov Veles, a historic building as well as an Islamic monument, was set on fire at about 2:00 AM on 11 March. The building was reportedly destroyed. Meanwhile, in Prilep and Bitola, unknown persons installed wooden crosses atop the clock towers in the mosque compounds in those two cities. Such acts may well exacerbate tensions between Muslims and Christians. Ismije Beshiri and Duncan Perry, RFE/RL, Inc. PAWLAK APPROVES CANDIDATE FOR FINANCE MINISTER. After meeting on 16 March with the leaders of his coalition partner, the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), Premier Waldemar Pawlak approved Dariusz Rosati, the SLD's candidate to fill the post of deputy premier and finance minister that has been vacant since the resignation of the SLD's Marek Borowski on 4 February, PAP reports. Pawlak still needs to get his own party's endorsement for the candidacy before he submits the nomination to President Lech Walesa for final approval. Walesa has already indicated that his approval is an open question. Rosati has given Pawlak a position paper, in which he insists on government unanimity on the continuity of market reforms and consistent privatization. The main tenets of his economic plan are "strengthening and accelerating the trend for noninflationary growth" through increased exports and profitable investment. Anna Sabbat-Swidlicka, RFE/RL, Inc. REPRIEVE FOR BALCEROWICZ ET AL? The Sejm's Constitutional Responsibility Commission voted on 16 March to recommend that the Sejm discontinue proceedings against former Premier Jan Krzysztof Bielecki and five former government ministers, including the architect of Poland's economic reforms after 1989, Leszek Balcerowicz. The six were accused by deputies of the Confederation for an Independent Poland from the previous Sejm of having violated the budgetary laws of 1990 or 1991 and wasted public money; they were to have been tried by the State Tribunal. Jerzy Wiatr, chairman of the Sejm commission which is now dominated by the SLD, said the decision was "a clear signal that the commission is not, does not wish to be, and will not be an instrument of political revenge, regardless of changing political majorities in the Sejm," PAP reports. The commission still has to decide whether to recommend trial before the State Tribunal for General Wojciech Jaruzelski and other party leaders for having imposed martial law upon Poland. Anna Sabbat-Swidlicka, RFE/RL, Inc. MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT SIGNS PARTNERSHIP FOR PEACE... On 16 March at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Mircea Snegur signed Moldova's accession to Partnership for Peace. He did not mention the possibility of Moldova's joining NATO in future, saying only that Moldova wants to follow a policy of neutrality, a goal which Moldova has recently emphasized to strengthen its case for the withdrawal of Russian troops. NATO Secretary-General Manfred Woerner praised Moldova's political democratization and economic reforms, as well as the conduct of the recent legislative elections and plebiscite, Basapress reports. In a separate meeting with West European Union Secretary-General Willem van Ekelen, Snegur proposed a WEU-Moldova partnership agreement and invited WEU observers to Transdniester. Vladimir Socor, RFE/RL, Inc. ...SEEKS SUPPORT ON RUSSIAN WITHDRAWAL. Snegur said at NATO that Moldova particularly values the Partnership's provisions for consultation if a state considers that its independence, security, or territorial integrity are threatened. He observed that Russian troops in Moldova are putting those principles at risk and constitute the main obstacle to a settlement of the Dniester conflict, AP reports. Restating Moldova's acceptance of CSCE's plan for settling the conflict, Snegur called for the unconditional withdrawal of Russian troops. Woerner said that NATO supports an "early and complete withdrawal" of Russia's troops from Moldova, AFP reports. Vladimir Socor, RFE/RL, Inc. ILIESCU SPOKESMAN ON GENERAL PANCEA. On 16 March Traian Chebeleu, spokesman to Romanian President Ion Iliescu, confirmed that Lt. Gen. Marin Pancea, secretary of the country's Supreme Defense Council (Romania's highest military instance headed by Iliescu) had been put in reserve. Chebeleu, however, dismissed reports in the media linking the general's removal to a French spy ring as "pure fabrication". The same day a presidential communiqu~ released through Radio Bucharest rejected as a "thorough invention" a 15 March report in the top-selling daily Evenimentul zilei claiming that Iliescu had been asked to postpone his upcoming visit to France following the "Pancea case." Dan Ionescu, RFE/RL, Inc. ROMANIAN-UKRAINIAN DIFFICULTIES. On 16 March a Ukrainian delegation headed by Defense Minister Vitalii Radetsky completed a visit to Romania, during which talks were held on a future agreement for military cooperation. Basapress in Bucharest cites Romanian Deputy Defense Minister Ion Mircea Pascu, who is also a close adviser to President Ion Iliescu, as saying that the proposed treaty "does not hold any particular significance since it is the type of routine treaty between neighboring states," and it can not affect Romania's relations with the Russian Federation. Basapress adds that last year's talks on a bilateral political treaty have not borne fruit, and Iliescu canceled a planned visit to Kiev, owing to differences over pre-war Romanian areas which are now in Ukraine. Radio Ukraine on 15 March quoted Radetsky as saying that Ukraine seeks "friendly relations with Romania and to resolve all problems by political means." Vladimir Socor, RFE/RL, Inc. NIXON IN KIEV. Following his visit to Russia, former US president Richard Nixon went to Ukraine where he met with president Leonid Kravchuk on 16 March, Ukrainian radio reported. In a press conference after their discussion, Nixon said the US has no alternative but to support Ukraine. He also said that Russia's policies toward Ukraine have become more assertive since the elections but warned that in the future, there may be occasions when the US will have to decide between Russia and Ukraine. Nixon added that he regretted not having had the time to meet with Ukrainian opposition groups. Ustina Markus, RFE/RL, Inc. KRAVCHUK MEETS WITH ESTONIAN PRESIDENT. On 16 March Estonian president Lennart Meri met with Ukrainian president Leonid Kravchuk in Kiev, Ukrainian radio reported. The two discussed a wide range of issues, and agreements were signed on cooperation in technical and cultural matters, a protocol on cooperation and consultation between their foreign ministries, and an agreement on visa-free travel for diplomats. Meri also met with the parliamentary speaker Ivan Plyushch, and the two expressed their readiness to support each other in the international sphere. The Estonian delegation will return to Tallinn of 17 March. Ustina Markus and Saulius Girnius, RFE/RL, Inc. CHAIRMAN OF NATO MILITARY COMMITTEE IN BALTIC STATES. On 14 March Field Marshal Richard Vincent began a tour of the Baltic States in Riga, where he held talks with Latvian Defense Forces Commander Dainis Turlais and other officials. On 15 March he traveled to Tallinn for meetings with Estonian Defense Forces commander Maj. Gen. Aleksander Einseln and Defense Minister Indrek Kannik, before moving on to Vilnius on 16 March. In Vilnius, meetings were scheduled with Lithuanian Armed Forces commander in chief Gen. Jonas Andriskevicius and President Algirdas Brazauskas, Radio Lithuania reports. Vincent is the highest ranking NATO official to visit the Baltic States. Saulius Girnius, RFE/RL, Inc. GAZPROM LOWERS PRICE OF GAS FOR BELARUS. The press secretary of the cabinet of ministers, Uladzimir Zamyatalin, said that a delegation headed by Deputy Premier Stanislau Bril returned from Russia following negotiations with Gazprom officials, Belarusian TV reported on 15 March. During the talks Gazprom agreed to lower the price of gas for Belarus from $80 to $50 per thousand cubic meters. The price reduction is effective retroactively as of 1 January 1994, thus reducing Belarus's 400 billion ruble debt to 250 billion rubles. On 16 March Belarusian radio reported that Belarus had begun to receive its normal levels of gas supplies from Russia. Ustina Markus, RFE/RL, Inc. [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Ann Sheehy and Sharon Fisher (END) The RFE/RL Daily Report is produced by the RFE/RL Research Institute (a division of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Inc.) with the assistance of the RFE/RL News and Current Affairs Division (NCA). 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