The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion. - Thomas Paine
RFE/RL Daily Report

No. 55, 21 March 1994

RUSSIA

CHERNOMYRDIN, KOKOSHIN ON NATO PARTNERSHIP. Following talks in
Moscow with US Defense Secretary William Perry on 18 March,
Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said that Russia was
prepared to join the NATO Partnership for Peace Program without
demanding any special conditions or status, ITAR-TASS and Interfax
reported. Interfax also claimed that Boris Yeltsin had already
issued the instructions that would send Foreign Minister Andrei
Kozyrev to Brussels to formalize Russias decision. On the same
day, however, Interfax quoted Russian First Deputy Defense
Minister Andrei Kokoshin as saying that it was still too early to
speak of finalizing Russias participation, and that the NATO
partnership should be viewed only as an element in a broader
relationship between Russia and the West that would have to take
into account Russias CIS security commitments. Stephen Foye,
RFE/RL, Inc.

DISCORDANT NOTE FROM THE FOREIGN MINISTRY? An article in
Nezavisimaya gazeta on 19 March suggested hesitation in the
Foreign Ministry as well on the issue of joining the partnership.
It quoted Yurii Ushakov, director of the department overseeing
cooperation with Europe, as saying that, in fact, special
conditions that reflect Russias status as a nuclear power will
have to be created for Moscow before it accedes to participation
in the NATO program. Foreign Ministry officials also reportedly
cast some doubt on recent statements by Defense Minister Pavel
Grachev to the effect that Russia would sign on to the partnership
at the end of March, indicating that the signing might not come
until later; they suggested that the issue had to be studied
further and that it still had not been decided whether to send
Grachev or Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev to Brussels for the
ceremony. Stephen Foye, RFE/RL, Inc.

CHEMICAL WEAPONS EXCEEDED ESTIMATES. According to Aleksei
Yablokov, the head of the Russian Security Councils Commission on
Ecological Security, the Soviet Union produced approximately
400,000 tons of chemical weapons (CW) during the period of its
existence. The Interfax report of 17 March also cites one of the
commissions consultants, Valeriy Menshikov, as stating that the
Russian CW stockpile exceeded the amount declared during
negotiations over the chemical weapons convention and that
chemical weapons were secretly destroyed in the summer and fall of
1993, leaving approximately 40,000 tons. Many Western experts
believed that Russia was underestimating its CW stockpile and this
appears to confirm those suspicions. How and where secret
destruction could have been carried out is unclear--the main plant
for destroying CW has never been operated because of environmental
concerns. John Lepingwell, RFE/RL, Inc.

LOW TURNOUT AT REGIONAL ELECTIONS. Turnout was low at elections on
20 March to regional and local legislatures in fifteen regions
across the Russian Federation, including the city of St.
Petersburg and the Belgorod, Vologda, Kamchatka and Leningrad
oblasts, the Russian media reported. St. Petersburg mayor Anatolii
Sobchak ordered the deadline for the elections to the 50-seat city
assembly to be extended by another day because the required level
of 25 percent turnout had not been attained, ITAR-TASS reported.
In other areas turnout reportedly ranged from 6 to 50 percent.
Earlier this year, members of the presidential apparatus warned of
a possible low turnout and called for the postponement of the
regional and local elections until the summer or the fall. Vera
Tolz, RFE/RL, Inc.

DENIALS ON YELTSINS HEALTH AND COUP RUMORS. The head of the
presidential administration, Sergei Filatov, denied rumors that
President Boris Yeltsin was sick. Filatov told Ostankino TVs
Novosti on 19 March that the rumors are spread by the opposition
in order to destabilize the country. He said that the president
was working during his vacations in Sochi and that the
presidential administration was receiving instructions from him on
a daily basis. Yeltsins political advisor, Georgii Satarov, told
Russian TVs Podrobnosti on 18 March that rumors of a coup in the
Kremlin or of Yeltsins sickness might have been spread by a
respectable political figure of the present political elite who
has no chance to become president in democratic elections but who
could gain power by different means. Satarov declined to
elaborate. Alexander Rahr, RFE/RL, Inc.

LUZHKOV NOT TO RUN FOR PRESIDENCY. Moscow mayor Yurii Luzhkov told
ITAR-TASS on 15 March that he does not intend to run for the
Russian presidency, even if Im nominated. According to recent
surveys, Luzhkov is considered Russias third most powerful
politician after President Boris Yeltsin and Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin. But Luzhkov, who sympathizes with the Russian
Movement of Democratic Reform led by former Moscow mayor Gavriil
Popov, said that he regards the improvement of the lives of Moscow
citizens as his main duty. Izvestiya on 15 March named six
politicians as the most likely candidates for the presidency. They
are: Yeltsin, Chernomyrdin, Luzhkov, former Vice-President
Aleksandr Rutskoi and the speakers of the upper and lower chamber
of the parliament, Vladimir Shumeiko and Ivan Rybkin. Alexander
Rahr, RFE/RL, Inc.

ZHIRINOVSKY ON PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS. The leader of the
nationalist Liberal-Democratic Party, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, told a
congress of his party that the Russian people now primarily
support the idea of the resurrection of the Russian empire,
Russian TV Vesti reported on 19 March. Zhirinovsky also called
upon his party to start preparations for presidential elections
which could take place any moment. He stated that the democrats do
not have a suitable candidate and that the youth will not vote for
the communists. He added that former Vice President Aleksandr
Rutskoi has forged a coalition with Economics Minister Aleksandr
Shokhin but that this coalition is also doomed to fail at the next
presidential elections. Finally, he said that he believes new
anti-constitutional actions will take place soon. Alexander Rahr,
RFE/RL, Inc.

REGIONAL COURT OVERRULES DECISION INVALIDATING ZHIRINOVSKY
ELECTION. The Moscow Oblast court has overruled an earlier
decision of the Shchelkovo city court which in February proclaimed
invalid the election of Vladimir Zhirinovsky to the State Duma in
the 114 Shchelkovo single-candidate electoral district, ITAR-TASS
reported on 18 February. The Shchelkovo city court invalidated the
election results after confirming the falsification of a number of
electoral protocols in the 114 electoral district. In overruling
this decision, the Moscow Oblast court stated that the decision
was inconsistent and surpassed the courts competency. Only the
Central Electoral Commission is empowered to annul Zhirinovskys
election, the Moscow Oblast court stated. Vera Tolz, RFE/RL, Inc.

CRIMINAL CASE AGAINST OUSTED MAYOR OF VLADIVOSTOK SUSPENDED. The
office of the Russian Prosecutor General has suspended a criminal
case against the former mayor of Vladivostok, Viktor Cherepkov,
Russian Televisions Vesti reported on 19 March. The case had been
initiated by the prosecutors office of Primorski Krai. The Office
of the Prosecutor General has sent an investigator from Moscow,
Konstantin Mavrin, to look into the case. According to Vesti, a
delegation of deputies from the State Duma has also gone to
Vladivostok. On 17 March, the police forcefully removed Cherepkov
from office after he had been accused of bribe-taking. The removal
of Cherepkov was organized by the administration of the region,
with which Cherepkov had had a long standing conflict. The
forceful removal of the Vladivostok mayor provoked protests on the
part of the citys residents. (See RFE/RL Daily Report of 18
March.) Vera Tolz, RFE/RL, Inc.

CONCERN OVER NUCLEAR SAFETY. An official of the nuclear energy and
nuclear industry unions told Interfax on 18 March of the alarming
situation at nuclear power stations arising from the arrears in
payments by energy consumers. He claimed that the stations were
unable to buy nuclear fuel and chemicals and could not carry out
routine maintenance and repair work. In Ukraine, President Leonid
Kravchuk is reported by environmental activists to have signed a
decree on 23 February to restart the number two reactor at
Chernobyl in 1995, The Financial Times reported on 19 March. This
reactor was closed after a devastating fire in 1991 and is widely
regarded as unsafe. Ukrainian officials refused to confirm or deny
the existence of the 23 February decree. Keith Bush, RFE/RL, Inc.

WARNING OF DIPHTHERIA OUTBREAK. The deputy head of the State
Epidemiological Inspectorate has called for a massive vaccination
program against diptheria, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported on 18
March. A total of 468 deaths from the disease were reported in
1993, while 50 more died in January 1994. Keith Bush, RFE/RL, Inc.

                  TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

EXPLOSION IN BAKU SUBWAY. On 19 March, an explosion occurred in a
crowded carriage of the Baku subway, Azeri, Russian, and Western
agencies reported. The latest count gave 12 persons killed and 53
injured. The subway was put out of action. The Azeri Interior
Ministry stated that the explosion was caused by a bomb with a
timing mechanism. In 1993, about 20 people were killed when a bomb
exploded on a train at the border with Dagestan, and about 30 were
killed in February by an explosion on board a railway train in
Baku. Keith Bush, RFE/RL, Inc.

IRANIAN TRANSPORT CRASHES NEAR STEPANAKERT. An Iranian C-130
transport aircraft crashed on the outskirts of the
Nagorno-Karabakh capital of Stepanakert on the evening of 17
March, Russian and Western agencies reported. The plane was
carrying family members of the Iranian Embassy in Moscow to
Teheran. All 19 passengers and 13 crew members were killed.
According to some accounts, the pilot had reported engine trouble
and/or loss of pressure before the crash and the aircraft was said
to be well off course. Both Azeri and Armenian spokespersons have
accused the other side of shooting down the Iranian aircraft. A
Karabakh commission has been assigned to investigate the crash.
Keith Bush, RFE/RL, Inc.

PERRY IN KAZAKHSTAN. During his visit to Kazakhstan on 19-20
March, US Secretary of Defense William Perry signed an agreement
with the Kazakhstani government providing for $15 million in aid
for defense industry conversion. Perry also noted that
negotiations are continuing over an accord, to be signed by the
US, the UK, Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus, that would
provide for the mutual recognition of sovereignty and prohibit the
use of force to resolve disputes between the states. Such an
accord has been requested by Ukraine and Kazakhstan to bolster
their security as they give up their nuclear weapons. Perry also
visited the Baikonur launch site, and discussed
US-Kazakhstani-Russian space cooperation. Perrys visit was
reported by AFP and other press agencies. John Lepingwell, RFE/RL,
Inc.

ASSURANCES ON NUCLEAR WEAPONS IN KAZAKHSTAN. Perry received
assurances from President Nazarbaev that all of the SS-18 ICBMs in
Kazkahstan will be shipped to Russia for dismantling. So far, 12
missiles have been sent to Russia, as have all the strategic
bombers in Kazakhstan. It does not appear, however, that the
warheads from the missiles have been transferred. According to
Nazarbaev, Kazakhstan and Russia may reach an agreement concerning
compensation for the highly enriched uranium contained in the
warheads within the next month. Such an agreement would open the
way for the transfer of the warheads. John Lepingwell, RFE/RL,
Inc.

                    CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE

CROATS, MUSLIMS INK ACCORD . . . On 18 March the international
media reported that representatives from Croatia and Bosnia signed
a set of accords in Washington designed to create a federation
within Bosnia and Herzegovina, and to link the federation into a
confederation with Croatia. Bosnian Premier Haris Silajdzic and
Bosnian Croat representative Kresimir Zubac signed the accord
dealing with the federation, while Bosnian President Alija
Izetbegovic and Croatian President Franjo Tudjman signed to
endorse the confederation with Croatia. International reaction to
the accords has been supportive, with US President Bill Clinton
remarking that the signing represented a moment of hope. AFP
reports that British Prime Minister John Major, who arrived in
Sarajevo on 18 March, called the agreements a step in the
direction towards a real peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Moreover, Reuters on 19 March reported that a prisoner exchange,
involving some 800 prisoners of war, took place between the
Bosnian Muslim and Croat sides following the signing of the
agreements. Stan Markotich, RFE/RL, Inc.

. . . BUT SERB SIDE TO STAY OUT IN THE COLD? International media
reports suggest that the Bosnian Serb side, which is not included
in the recent accords reached between the Muslim and Croat sides,
may be angling to stay aloof from the current peace initiatives.
On 19 March Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, speaking over
Belgrade Radio, stated that the lifting of the UN sanctions
against the rump Yugoslavia would be an absolutely necessary
precondition for the Serb side to make peace in Bosnia. Also, on
18 March, Momcilo Krajisnik, leader of the Bosnian Serb
parliament, was cited by Radio Jagodina as saying that the accords
reached between the Muslim and Croat sides were unnatural, and
predicted that they would soon fall apart. For his part, Croatian
President Tudjman, during a 19 March interview with Croatian TV,
said that the Bosnian Serbs have little or no desire to live in
Croat or Muslim communities, and thus it remains only remotely
possible that the Serb side will opt to join a federation
agreement. Meanwhile, on 20 March, Reuters reports that Tudjman
has once again reiterated the demand that Krajina, currently held
by rebel Serbs, be returned to Croatia before a comprehensive deal
can be reached between Croatia and the Serb side. Tudjman
reportedly feels that his recent involvement in the Croat-Muslim
accords may win him international support and sympathy for the
reintegration of Krajina. Tudjman has noted that the Bosnian
Serbs, whom he believes are likely to eventually form a
confederation with Serbia, will have to compensate for such an
eventuality by giving up control over such territories as Krajina.
Stan Markotich, RFE/RL, Inc.

RELIEF CONVOYS IN MAGLAJ. On 21 March international media continue
to report on the entry of relief convoys into the Serb-besieged
town of Maglaj. On 20 March relief supplies, the first to enter
the city in about five months, arrived. Reuters reports that a
second relief convoy is expected to arrive on 21 March. Stan
Markotich, RFE/RL, Inc.

END OF STRIKES IN SIGHT? Prime Minister Waldemar Pawlak met
separately on Friday with leaders of four labor unions to resolve
the industrial conflict instigated by Solidarity. Gazeta Wyborcza
reported on 20 March that Pawlak said afterward that the such
conflicts should be dealt with by a commission set up by the
government, the unions, and representatives of the employers.
Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski told the press that the
unions experts and government officials would meet this week to
propose changes in the legislation to satisfy the unions demands.
Krzaklewski said that the union would end strikes if the talks
with the government produce acceptable results. Jan de Weydenthal,
RFE/RL, Inc.

UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN POLAND. Ukrainian Foreign Minister
Anatolii Zlenko arrived in Warsaw on 21 March for talks with
President Lech Walesa and other Polish government leaders on
economic and cultural cooperation, PAP reported. Polish Foreign
Minister Andrzej Olechowski has recently announced in a Sejm
speech that Ukraines independence had a strategic importance for
Poland and that the Warsaw government would do its utmost to
support Ukrainian interests in international forums. Jan de
Weydenthal, RFE/RL, Inc.

SLOVAK PARLIAMENT ON PRIVATIZATION, TELEVISION. In its 18 March
session, the Slovak parliament again voted to break ties between
the cabinet and the National Property Fund, thus giving the
parliament control over the privatization process. The vote was 77
in favor and 6 against, with 35 abstentions. The parliament had
already approved the law on 17 February, before the removal of the
government of Premier Vladimir Meciar. (Meciar had wanted cabinet
members to sit on the Presidium and supervisory board of the NPF.)
After the vote, new Privatization Minister Milan Janicina said
that according to a preliminary audit of privatization projects
approved by Meciars cabinet in mid-February, there were 13 cases
in which the law was clearly violated, including the sale of the
Piestany spa. Janicina asked Finance Minister Rudolf Filkus to
temporarily freeze the NPFs account, while deputy chairman of the
parliaments privatization committee, Jan Plesnik, asked the
Supreme Supervisory Office to conduct an investigation of the
former cabinets actions. Also on 18 March, the parliament rejected
the candidate who was proposed by the Board for Radio and
Television Broadcasting to undertake the partial privatization of
the second national television station (STV 2). Creative
Television (CTV), which is partly owned by the German Commerzbank
and Reuters, had been chosen by the board on 29 December from a
field of twelve candidates, which included CNN. The vote was 34
against and 31 in favor, with 47 abstentions, TASR reported.
Sharon Fisher, RFE/RL, Inc.

HUNGARY MARKS ANNIVERSARY OF NAZI INVASION. On 18 March the
Hungarian government issued a statement that paid tribute to the
hundreds of thousands who died innocently, following the German
invasion of Hungary on 19 March 1944. The government condemned the
coldly calculated and highly organized extermination of Jews as a
holocaust that can never be forgotten. It pledged to take steps
against all phenomena based on extremist ideas, which contradict
the principles of the constitution and could poison the atmosphere
in the country and revive old fears. There has been an increase
recently in the number of physical and verbal attacks against Jews
in Hungary by skinheads and members of extremist parties. Edith
Oltay, RFE/RL, Inc.

JOURNALIST GROUP BLASTS HUNGARY FOR SACKING RADIO EMPLOYEES. On 18
March the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) accused
the Hungarian government of involvement in the sacking of 129
radio employees, MTI and Western news agencies report. IFJ, which
groups 300,000 journalists from 90 countries, sent a mission to
Hungary after the dismissals stirred up political furor in the
run-up to the national elections. The Hungarian government denied
that it played any role in the dismissals, and deputy radio
chairman Laszlo Csucs said that budgetary restraints triggered the
dismissals. The head of the IFJ mission Gustl Glattfelder told a
news conference that he was convinced that there were political
reasons behind the sackings. He pointed out that most of the
dismissed journalists were critical of the government, and that
those dismissed were suspended from their duties immediately while
still technically employed until April. Glattfelder called for the
reinstatement of those dismissed who were under the age of
retirement and for a code of practice to be drawn up for Hungarian
radio coverage of the election campaign. He also recommended that
parliament set up an independent inquiry commission to study the
radios economic problems and that the new parliament give priority
to passing a media law. Edith Oltay, RFE/RL, Inc.

ILIESCU SHIELDS NEW DEFENSE MINISTER. On 18 March Romanias
Presidency rejected a call from the opposition for a probe into
reports that the newly-appointed defense minister, Gheorghe Tinca,
had had ties with the former political police, Securitate. Traian
Chebeleu, a spokesman for Ion Iliescu, was quoted by Reuters as
saying that Tinca served only in the foreign ministry, he did not
work for any other service. Chebeleu also said that the ministers
nomination was constitutional and did not need to be vetted by
parliament. According to reports in the Romanian media, Tinca, who
was a career diplomat under late communist dictator Nicolae
Ceausescu, had closely cooperated with the Securitate. Leading
figures in the democratic opposition urged last week that the
charges be thoroughly investigated. Dan Ionescu, RFE/RL, Inc.

BULGARIAN LEV FALLS TO RECORD LOW. Dailies report on 21 March that
the Bulgarian National Bank has now set the exchange rate for the
domestic currency to 49.146 against one US dollar. The new rate is
15 leva below that of 1 January, the currency having dropped 5
leva during the past two weeks. The steep fall has served to
intensify the debate on the progress of economic reforms, with
both politicians and economic analysts assuming various positions.
Whereas some financial commentators accused the BNB of mainly
pursuing short-term financial goals, others said that the causes
for the currency crisis are more deep-rooted. In an interview with
Bulgarian radio on 20 March, Deputy Premier and Trade Minister
Valentin Karabashev seemed to accept part of the blame, saying
that the government indeed has been slow in privatizing
large-scale enterprises. Finance Minister Stoyan Aleksandrov,
meanwhile, said that the BNB is still in control of the situation.
Kjell Engelbrekt, RFE/RL, Inc.

ZHELEV PREDICTS AUTUMN ELECTIONS. In an interview with Bulgarian
TV on 18 March, President Zhelyu Zhelev said he believed new
parliamentary elections should be held during autumn 1994, and in
any case no later than November. Zhelev said the Bulgarian people
want radical change, and this change they associate with
elections. Kjell Engelbrekt, RFE/RL, Inc.

UKRAINIAN NAVY ACCUSES BLACK SEA FLEET OF UNAUTHORIZED MOVES. A
senior spokesman for the Ukrainian naval command described yet
another provocative incident regarding the Black Sea Fleet,
Interfax reported on 18 March. On 17 March the Black Sea Fleet
command put twenty-five warships, two submarines and five
auxiliary ships to sea for training purposes without informing the
Ukrainian defense ministry. This violates Ukrainian law which
requires that the Black Sea Fleet command inform the Ukrainian
defense ministry of any fleet movements. Ustina Markus, RFE/RL,
Inc.

MORE CRIMEAN NEWS. Ukrainian Radio and Interfax reported on 19
March that Ukraine had reduced Crimeas electricity supply by a
third. According to Mykhailo Pobehailo, deputy head of Ukraines
power grid, Crimeas energy debt amounts to some 300 billion
karbovantsy ($8 million) making it the countrys largest defaulter.
The director of the Sevastopol department of Krymenergo, Volodymyr
Pechnikov, said the city was brought to a standstill on 18 March
as a result of the power cut. Pechnikov said Sevastopols debts to
power producers exceeded 40 billion karbovantsy. He added that the
Black Sea Fleet was the biggest chronic debtor in Crimea. On 20
March Ostankino reported that Ukraines president, Leonid Kravchuk,
said the electricity cut-off was not politically motivated. He
also reiterated his rejection of the upcoming referendum on
Crimeas status. According to Kravchuk, there are more pressing
issues than Crimeas status and the 27 March referendum amounts to
only an opinion survey which would have no legally binding force.
Kravchuk had ordered the cancellation of the referendum, but
Crimean president, Yurii Meshkov, has pledged to go ahead with the
poll. Ustina Markus, RFE/RL, Inc.

PERRY IN UKRAINE. US Secretary of Defense William Perry arrived in
Kiev on 20 March and on 21 March signed an agreement providing an
additional $100 million in Nunn-Lugar disarmament aid to Ukraine,
Reuter's reported. Of this amount $50 million will be provided for
the environmentally sound destruction of ICBM silos. (The
destruction of missile silos has been resisted by Ukraine because
of fear of environmental damage, despite its being required by the
START-1 treaty.) In addition, $40 million will be allocated to
assist defense industry conversion and $10 million will be
provided for equipment to monitor the fissile materials in the
warheads. This new aid package comes in addition to $135 million
already allocated to Ukraine. Perry is expected to tour the
Pervomaisk ICBM site during his three-day stay in Ukraine. John
Lepingwell, RFE/RL, Inc.

RUSSIAN MEDIATION IN MOLDOVA. Senior Russian diplomat Vladlen
Vasev, Yeltsins special envoy to mediate the conflict in Moldova,
arrived in Moldova on 17 March and has since conferred with
President Mircea Snegur in Chisinau and with Dniester leader Igor
Smirnov in Tiraspol. Vasev says that he is submitting ideas for a
settlement based on Moldovas territorial integrity but granting
substantial autonomy to Transdniester, Moldovan media report.
Moscow has in the past implied that it would interpret Moldovas
division into two federated republics as consistent with the
countrys territorial integrity. In recent messages to Snegur and
Smirnov, Yeltsin proposed taking the CSCEs settlement plan--which
Moldova has accepted--as a basis for the Russian-mediated talks.
Chisinau is concerned that Dniester intransigence, encouraged by
Russias military presence, may by used by Moscow as a pretext for
departing substantially from the CSCEs plan. Vladimir Socor,
RFE/RL, Inc.

LITHUANIA, POLAND INITIAL FRIENDSHIP AGREEMENT. On 18 March
Lithuanian and Polish Foreign Ministers Povilas Gylys and Andrzej
Olechowski initialed a friendship and cooperation agreement in
Warsaw that had been negotiated for more than two years, Radio
Lithuania reports. The major issue that had blocked its signing,
Lithuanias demand that the agreement condemn Polands occupation of
Vilnius in 1920, was resolved by not mentioning any past events
and stressing future good relations. It is expected that Polish
President Lech Walesa will visit Vilnius probably in April and
sign the agreement with his Lithuanian counterpart, Algirdas
Brazauskas, who had issued a formal invitation to Walesa in a
telephone talk on 15 March. Saulius Girnius, RFE/RL, Inc.

LITHUANIA TO TIE LITAS TO HARD CURRENCY. On 17 March the Seimas,
by a vote of 62 to 37 with 3 abstentions, passed a law requiring
the government to choose a specific hard currency to which the
litas would be tied at a fixed exchange rate from 1 April, the
RFE/RL Lithuanian Service reports. The measure, backed by Prime
Minister Adolfas Slezevicius, received approval only from
Lithuanian Democratic Labor Party faction deputies, but Economics
Minister Julius Veselka and Foreign Minister Povilas Gylys voted
against it. Veselka said that he would resign as minister if
President Algirdas Brazauskas signs the law. Bank of Lithuania
chairman Kazys Ratkevicius opposed the law arguing that the bank
would no longer be able to issue credits to commercial banks or
the government since the amount of Lithuanian currency would be
strictly determined by the banks hard currency reserves. Saulius
Girnius, RFE/RL, Inc.

LATVIAN PRESIDENT VISITS ITALY, VATICAN. On 18 March Guntis
Ulmanis returned to Riga from a three-day visit to Italy, Diena
reports. On 16 April he held talks with his Italian counterpart
Oscar Luigi Scalfaro in which he stressed Latvias desire to
integrate more fully into Europe and discussed the withdrawal of
Russian troops from Latvia. Foreign Ministers Georgs Andrejevs and
Beniamino Andreatta signed an agreement on economic, technical,
and scientific cooperation. On 17March Ulmanis had a forty minute
audience with Pope John Paul II that primarily focused on the
troop withdrawal issue. Saulius Girnius, RFE/RL, Inc.

LATVIAN DISSATISFACTION WITH RUSSIA TREATY. Although the 14 March
initialing of the agreement calling for Russian troop withdrawal
from Latvia was praised by the CSCE, US, and Estonia, Latvias more
radical right-wing groups criticized the agreement as betraying
the Latvian people, BNS reports. On 17 March the Fatherland and
Freedom and National Independence Movement factions organized a
protest picket at the Saeima, attended by 300 people. Twenty-two
parliamentary deputies sent a letter to President Guntis Ulmanis
urging him not to sign the withdrawal agreement and proposing that
a public opinion poll be held on 29 May together with the local
elections to allow the people to express their opinion on the
continued maintenance of the Skrunda radar base. The agreement
text was published in Latvijas Vestnesis on 18 March. Saulius
Girnius, RFE/RL, Inc.

  [As of 1200 CET]
  Compiled  by  Keith  Bush  and  Stan Markotich
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