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No. 74, 19 April 1994
RUSSIA LATEST ON PARTNERSHIP FOR PEACE. Russia's objection to NATO's Partnership for Peace program due to the use of NATO airstrikes may ease somewhat if Churkin's renunciation of the Bosnian Serbs becomes official Russian policy. Meanwhile, according to unnamed NATO officials quoted by Western agencies, the alliance is hopeful that Russia will take part. In Moscow, Sergei Yushenkov, chairman of the State Duma's committee on defense and a member of the Russia's Choice faction, said at a news conference on 18 April that Russia should join the Partnership for Peace program or else face the return to a cold war situation. He said that the Partnership need not reflect Russia's status as a nuclear power at the outset, and he stressed that joining the program would not lock Russia into becoming a full-fledged member of NATO, ITAR-TASS reported. Suzanne Crow, RFE/RL, Inc. RUSSIA HOPEFUL ON COUNCIL OF EUROPE. According to Interfax reports of 18 April, Russian officials are optimistic about Russia's acceptance into the Council of Europe early next year. The head of the Foreign Ministry's Department of Cooperation in Europe, Yurii Ushakov, noted that Russia had already complied with two basic demands set by the Council for entry -- Russia had adopted a new constitution and held democratic parliamentary elections. Ushakov noted that the failure to withdraw from Estonia and Latvia would delay entry into the Council. Ivan Rybkin, the Chairman of the State Duma, said during a three-day visit to Finland that Russia's admission to the Council of Europe had been linked too much to the presence of Russian troops in the Baltics. Rybkin's delegation used the visit to Finland to ask that country to act as mediator in the question of the troop withdrawals from Estonia. Rybkin also said without elaboration that Finland was ready to support Russia's admission into the Council. Suzanne Crow, RFE/RL, Inc. YELTSIN FORMS EXPERT COUNCIL. On 16 April, Russian President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree to set up a group of eight experts to draft proposals regarding the implementation of the president's decisions in the economic sphere, compile his speeches, and prepare memoranda, Mayak Radio reported. These experts have not yet been identified. Suzanne Crow, RFE/RL, Inc. NEW RUSSIAN SECURITY COUNCIL MEMBER. ITAR-TASS reported on 18 April the decree of Russian President Boris Yeltsin to make Aleksandr Nikolaev, the commander-in-chief of the Russian border troops, a member of the Security Council. ITAR-TASS did not specify whether Nikolaev was made a permanent member (with voting rights) or a non-permanent member (without voting rights). The number of permanent members prior to Nikolaev's appointment was ten. Suzanne Crow, RFE/RL, Inc. MINERS URGE GENERAL STRIKE. Vorkuta coal miners have called all workers of Russia to begin a general strike on 1 May , Russian TV "Vesti" reported on 18 April. The miners are demanding repayment of their wages for the past several months. They also advanced some political demands, such as the resignation of the Chernomyrdin government and early presidential elections. Julia Wishnevsky, RFE/RL, Inc. DUMA DISCUSSES ELECTIONS IN ST. PETERSBURG. Grave violations of law during the recent local elections in St. Petersburg have been discussed at a session of the State Duma, RFE/RL stringer Viktor Rezunkov reported on 18 April. On the eve of the elections, St. Petersburg mayor Anatolii Sobchak had unilaterally amended the Russian law on the elections to prevent certain individuals from competing for seats in the city assembly. He also ordered the elections to last two days instead of one, as required by the law. According to Rezunkov, the mutual disapproval of Sobchak has brought all the feuding factions of the Duma closer together. The proposal to declare the elections null and void because of Sobchak's arbitrariness was made by the radical pro-reform Russia's Choice deputies. It failed, however, because reformists did not agree with another suggestion, proposed by communists and their allies, to urge the president that Sobchak be removed from his position. Julia Wishnevsky, RFE/RL, Inc. GLOOMY POPULATION FORECAST . . . If present trends continue, the population of the Russian Federation could halve in 50 years, ITAR-TASS was told in the Institute of Social and Political Research of the Russian Academy of Sciences on 15 April. There were one million fewer births in 1993 than in 1992, and the population declined by 300,000. The population decreased in 68 regions where 93 percent of the population live. An excess of births over deaths was registered only in the republics of the North Caucasus, Kalmykia, in the Altay, Tuva, Yakutia, Chukotka, and in Tyumen and Chita oblasts. According to the forecasts of the State Statistical Committee, the birth rate will rise and the mortality rate decline only in the 21st century. The Russians and nationalities close to the Russians will be most affected by the decline in the birth rate, and the share of the Russian population could drop to 70 percent. Ann Sheehy, RFE/RL, Inc. . . . AND MIGRATION TRENDS. No mention is made in the report of the effects of migration. It is known that in 1993 there was substantial net immigration into Russia from the "near abroad", although not enough to offset the natural population decline during that year. Reliable figures on net emigration from Russia to the West are not available, since many short-term visits to the West are not recorded as emigration, but some visitors do not return. Whether a good measure of net emigration to the "far abroad" would show it outweighing immigration from the "near abroad" is not clear; but in any case the outcome of births, deaths, and migration has been a falling population. Philip Hanson, RFE/RL, Inc. VANDALISM AT ST. PETERSBURG JEWISH CEMETERY. Moscow Jewish and anti-Nazi organizations have urged St. Petersburg mayor Anatolii Sobchak that an immediate investigation be initiated into a recent act of vandalism at a Jewish cemetery in his city and that the culprits be brought to justice, Interfax reported on 15 April. Altogether 160 graves were damaged by unidentified individuals who went on a rampage of vandalism at the local Jewish cemetery approximately a decade earlier. The St. Petersburg police have initiated a criminal case of the incident. Although similar attacks took place at the cemetery in 1992 and 1993, Interfax noted, the police have failed to track down the culprits on all of these occasions. Julia Wishnevsky, RFE/RL, Inc. CIS BALTIN ON FLEET AGREEMENT. The commander of the Black Sea Fleet, Admiral Eduard Baltin, has criticized the latest agreement on dividing the Black Sea Fleet, Reuters reported on 18 April. According to Baltin, the deal could encourage Ukraine to take unilateral steps to bring the fleet's facilities under its control. Ukraine claims all facilities on its territory in the agreement. Since the Cheleken incident on 9 April Ukraine has taken over a number of Black Sea Fleet units, including the 318th division in Odessa and a river boat unit in Izmail. It has also set up Ukrainian commands for the units in Ochakov and Mykolaiv to act as counterparts to their Black Sea Fleet commands. Ustina Markus, RFE/RL, Inc. IS A RUSSIAN-UKRAINIAN TREATY FINALLY ON THE AGENDA? Apart from reaching agreement on the divison of the Black Sea Fleet, the main result of the meeting between Presidents Yeltsin and Kravchuk on 15 April ( see Daily Report, 18 April 1994) appears to have been the decision to move ahead with the drawing up of a bilateral agreement on friendship and cooperation between the two countries. No full fledged inter-state treaty of this sort has been signed between the two countries since Ukraine became independent. The Ukrainian side has apparently pressed Moscow all along for such a treaty, regarding the formal recognition in such a document by Russia of Ukraine's independence and territorial integrity as the basis for the "normalization" of relations between the two neighbors. Ukrainian diplomats have made it known that until now, behind the scenes, the Russian side has been unwilling to commit itself to the recognition of Ukraine's territorial integrity, or have made this conditional on Ukraine's remaining a member of the CIS. At their summit meeting, the two presidents agreed to instruct their respective foreign ministries to prepare such a treaty, Russian and Western agencies reported. After the meeting, President Kravchuk expressed his hope that such a document would be ready in the first half of 1994 and would be followed by an official visit to Kiev by President Yeltsin, presumably to sign the historic accord. Bohdan Nahaylo, RFE/RL, Inc. TURKMENISTAN RESUMES GAS SUPPLY TO UKRAINE. Turkmenistan's President Saparmurad Niyazov met with his Ukrainian counterpart Leonid Kravchuk during the CIS summit on 15 April and confirmed that Turkmenistan would resume gas shipments to Ukraine that day, ITAR-TASS reported. Turkmenistan had shut off gas supplies to Ukraine after the latter had failed to pay for gas shipped in late 1993 and in 1994. Discussions between the two countries resulted in a payment by Ukraine of $10 million and $60 million worth of supplies and an agreement that each quarter Ukraine will pay $78 million in cash plus $200 million in supplies. As is the case with the Transcaucasian states, Ukraine is heavily dependent on gas from Turkmenistan, which has been using this dependence to enforce its demands for payment from its financially-strapped neighbors. Bess Brown, RFE/RL, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA NEW FOREIGN MINISTERS IN KAZAKHSTAN, KYRGYZSTAN. Kazakhstan's Foreign Minister, Tuleutai Suleimenov, has been replaced by Kanat Saudabaev, Kazakhstan's Ambassador to Turkey, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 April. Suleimenov, who has been ambassador for much of the period since Kazakhstan became independent, had a reputation as an unreconstructed Soviet bureaucrat. His replacement, who was Minister of Culture prior to Kazakhstan's independence, had been designated USSR Ambassador to Turkey; when the Soviet Union disintegrated, Saudabaev became Kazakhstan's Ambassador. Also on 18 April Kyrgyzstan's energetic Ambassador to the US, Roza Otunbaeva, was named Foreign Minister. She had already held the post prior to Kyrgyzstan's independence and in the immediate post-independence period. Bess Brown, RFE/RL, Inc. CHINESE PREMIER IN UZBEKISTAN. China's Prime Minister Li Peng began a tour of Central Asian countries on 18 April with a stop in Tashkent, Western and Russian agencies reported. Li's visit is part of a Chinese effort to expand economic cooperation and trade, particularly the export to China of inexpensive natural resources and the importation of Chinese consumer goods. According to an AFP report, 71 Chinese-Uzbek joint ventures have been set up, but are bedevilled by Soviet-era bureaucracy and the weakness of Uzbekistan's currency. Bess Brown, RFE/RL, Inc. CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE SERBS POUND GORAZDE. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported on 19 April that Serb gunners had hit the embattled eastern Bosnian Muslim enclave on the average of once every 20 seconds in the course of the previous day. The hospital was among the buildings affected, and the BBC said that panic had taken hold of the 65,000 inhabitants and refugees packed into the town. In the course of the night UN observers left Gorazde, the New York Times noted. CNN quoted a local ham operator as calling it "the most difficult day for Gorazde since the beginning of the war." The Serbs learned early in their wars against their neighbors that an infantry assault against an enemy town is likely to cause them many casualties, so they generally prefer to shell a place into submission rather than take it head-on. Meanwhile, the Serbs have announced--another ceasefire. Patrick Moore, RFE/RL, Inc. "WESTERN INDECISION MEETS SERB RESOLVE AT GORAZDE." This is the way the 19 April Washington Post summed up the political and diplomatic situation now surrounding the Bosnian crisis. CNN quoted UN commander Gen. Sir Michael Rose as calling it "a sad week for the world," while Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali was seeking authority to be able to call out air strikes in the way he can already ask for "close air support." News agencies quoted US Secretary of State Warren Christopher as saying that the Serbs had engaged in a "tangle of lies" and that their assault on Gorazde was "flagrant aggression." Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Vitaly Churkin said that "the time has come for Russia to stop all discussion with the Bosnian Serbs," who must learn that Russia is and will act like a great power "and not a banana republic." Churkin added that "a group of Bosnian Serb extremists has fallen ill with the madness of war" and were trying to "use Russian policy as a cover," AFP reported on 18 April. The Los Angeles Times on 19 April stated that Serb Gen. Ratko Mladic's "rampage against Gorazde is believed to be pursued on the orders of Serb strongman Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade." Finally, the Washington Post suggested Serb forces are on the verge of a new offensive in the Brcko-Doboj area in northern Bosnia. Patrick Moore, RFE/RL, Inc. NERVOUSNESS IN TURKEY AND ALBANIA. Turkey, which has strong cultural and historical links to the Bosnian Muslims, is watching the latest developments anxiously. Milliyet on 19 April quoted President Suleyman Demirel as saying that the Gorazde imbroglio could be a sign that the international system is collapsing, while Huriyet the previous day noted that Foreign Minister Hikmet Cetin was meeting with a task force and had warned that NATO had become "helpless." Meanwhile in Tirana, Reuters reported that Albania had protested sharply to rump Yugoslavia over the alleged murder of two young men by Serbian border guards on 15 April. The statement suggested that the deaths were linked to the killing of two Albanian soldiers by an armed Greek band on 10 April, and concluded that "the combination of such monstrous acts aims at expanding further south the flames of war in former Yugoslavia." Patrick Moore and Yalcin Tokgozoglu, RFE/RL, Inc. REACTION TO BELGRADE'S MEDIA CRACKDOWN. On 18 April The Christian Science Monitor reported that its officials have filed a protest with the rump Yugoslavia's Ministry of Information and with the rump Yugoslav embassy in Washington. Prompting the action was Belgrade's recent decision to ban foreign journalists, including a reporter for The Christian Science Monitor. In a related story, Radio Free Europe has also officially protested to the rump Yugoslav government over Belgrade's media crackdown, and has called for Eli Yurukova, an RFE correspondent, to be reinstated "and be accorded the full respect, courtesy and protection" after having her credentials revoked on 15 April. The RFE letter of protest to the Ministry of Information stresses that Belgrade's actions appear to be at odds with the Helsinki Final Act, which Belgrade has endorsed. Stan Markotich, RFE/RL, Inc. US PEACE KEEPERS REACH MACEDONIA, SUPPLIES ARRIVING VIA BULGARIA. On 18 April 46 US infantrymen who are to serve as UN peace keepers were flown into the Macedonian capital of Skopje, Western agencies report. In all, 180 soldiers are scheduled to arrive within the next few days, thereby augmenting the some 300 American troops stationed there since July 1993. The newcomers, who normally are based in Germany, will be replacing Swedish forces which are slated to be redeployed to Bosnia. Meanwhile in Bulgaria, reports say a trainload of UN military and other equipment is now moving through the country toward Macedonia. On 15 April a UN request to transit the equipment was approved by the Bulgarian parliament despite strong resistance from the influential Bulgarian Socialist Party, which said the act would represent a departure from Sofia's policy of non-interference in the Balkan conflict. Kjell Engelbrekt, RFE/RL, Inc. KOSOVO UPDATE. A delegation of the peace group Peace for the Balkans has visited Kosovo, Borba reported on 13 April. The delegation, which was made up of English, French and US citizens, wants to initiate a dialog between Albanians and Serbs. In Pristina it met with Serbs and Albanians to "help the Serbs and Albanians to come to a common coexistence in the region," and to urge people from "different nations and with opposing points of view to live together and solve problems together." The atmosphere in Kosovo has become even more tense since the Bosnian Serbs made it clear that they would not join in the Croat-Muslim federation. This fed speculation that Serb militants might try to stir trouble in Kosovo. Fabian Schmidt, RFE/RL, Inc. POLAND SCHEDULES LOCAL ELECTIONS. Polish Prime Minister Waldemar Pawlak on 18 April officially called local government elections for 19 June, PAP reports. The prime minister's press secretary announced that the elections will be conducted in accordance with the old electoral law dating from 8 March 1990. Pawlak scheduled the elections without waiting for President Lech Walesa to take formal action on amendments to the law that were approved by the parliament in March 1994. Walesa has vowed to veto the amended version on the grounds that it would overly "politicize" the local elections; he has until 21 April to take action. The amendments, backed by the ruling Democratic Left Alliance, would place greater stress on voting for parties than for specific candidates by lowering from 40,000 to 15,000 the minimum size of towns in which proportional balloting would apply. Pawlak's decision makes legal confusion inevitable if Walesa fails to veto the amended bill or the Sejm musters the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto. The last local elections, in May 1990, were regarded as a crucial step in completing Poland's transition to democracy and devolving power to local communities. Louisa Vinton, RFE/RL, Inc. POLISH PRODUCTION, WAGES RISE. Poland's Main Statistical Office (GUS) reported on 16 April that industrial production in March was 16.6% higher than in February and 12.3% higher than in March 1993. Industrial wages were also higher, rising 14.8% above levels in February. This rate of wage growth may worry the government, which has been unable in recent weeks to adopt a consistent stance on the question of wage controls in state firms. Consumer prices rose 2% in March, PAP reports. In other financial news, Barbara Slomska, the director of the finance ministry's tax control office, told PAP on 18 April that the "gray sphere" of semilegal economic activity accounts for 20% of Polish GDP, or 340 trillion zloty ($15.5 billion). GUS reports that the gray sphere makes up 30% of GDP in the USA and 40% in Italy. Finance ministry officials said that most Polish gray sphere activities are not strictly criminal but rather involve unregistered trade or services performed by legal firms. Louisa Vinton, RFE/RL, Inc. US EXPRESSES SUPPORT FOR SLOVAK REFORMS. US Secretary of State Warren Christopher, meeting in Washington with Slovak Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan on 18 April, said the US has a "great deal of interest, concern and support" for Slovakia's political and economic reform efforts. Kukan noted that it was important for Slovakia to strengthen its ties to the West and attract Western investment. On 16 April, US Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright met with Kukan in New York and expressed the US government's support for the new Slovak cabinet, TASR reports. Kukan said a top priority of the current government is privatization. During talks with UN Deputy Secretary General Marrat Goulding on 15 April, Kukan stressed that Slovakia's main foreign policy goal is integration into Europe. This does not mean, however, that Slovakia has "an anti-Russian orientation," Kukan stated. Concerning Hungary, Kukan said that emotions have cooled although relations have not yet reached a turning point. According to Kukan, the government intends to propose legislation to meet the demands of the Hungarian minority, including a law on bilingual road signs. Kukan began his visit to the US on 13 April, and on 19 April he will travel to Canada. Sharon Fisher, RFE/RL, Inc. SLOVAK UNEMPLOYMENT, BIRTHRATE FALL. According to a report by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs released on 18 April, the unemployment rate fell from 14.76% in February to 14.54% in March. At the end of March there were 370,493 Slovaks registered as unemployed, a drop of 5,537 from February, of which 98,666 were receiving benefits. The district with the highest unemployment rate in March was Rimavska Sobota, with 26.3%, while the lowest was in Bratislava, with 4.27%. The number of vacancies rose in March by 12.94%, and for each vacancy there were 40 individuals registered as unemployed. Also on 18 April TASR reported that the birthrate in Slovakia has fallen by 8.6% over the past five years. While in 1989 there were 15.2 births per 1,000 inhabitants, by 1993 this ratio had fallen to 13.8 per 1,000. Sharon Fisher, RFE/RL, Inc. SLOVAK LANGUAGE SCHOOL OPENED IN NORTHERN HUNGARY. Prime Minister Peter Boross on 18 April inaugurated a new bilingual elementary school in Lucfalva, a Nograd County village near the Slovak border with close to 1,000 ethnic Slovak inhabitants. Nearly 100 children will receive instruction in Slovak and Hungarian. Boross urged minorities to preserve their ethnic roots and the name of their fathers and grandfathers, and local municipalities to support, with government assistance, minority efforts aimed at preserving their own culture. Alfred Reisch, RFE/RL, Inc. HUNGARIAN PARTY LEADER PREDICTS STABLE POST-ELECTION GOVERNMENT. Ivan Peto, Chairman of the liberal Alliance of Free Democrats opposition party, said on 18 April that in spite of the fact that some parties were trying to scare the electorate, Hungary will have a stable government after the May elections. In his view, the voters will decide whether the the liberal or the socialist parties will form the next government, and a coalition government enjoying a 60% majority would guarantee a stable government, MTI reports. On 16 April, the AFD's premier-designate, Gabor Kuncze, told an electoral rally that his party was able to govern and stabilize the economy. Alfred Reisch, RFE/RL, Inc. LONDON CLUB, BULGARIA NEARING DEBT SETTLEMENT. Handelsblatt of 18 April reports that a top-level Bulgarian delegation together with a negotiating team of the London Club of commercial creditors have presented a tentative agreement involving the rescheduling of $6.7 billion of the debt principal plus $2 billion interest owed. Peter Tils of the Deutsche Bank--which has been chairing the negotiations--confirmed that the deal offered to the some 400 creditors was based on an understanding reached last November and would entail a major reduction of Bulgaria's commercial debt. According to the now tabled proposal, creditors would be able to transform their claims either into Discount Bonds (worth 50% of the nominal value), Front Load Interest Reduction Bonds (to be adjusted in accordance with market rates over 7 years), or have them repurchased by the Bulgarian state (at 25% of the nominal value). The exact size of the debt reduction will be announced on 9 May, when the creditors have selected one of the three options, and the settlement is to be concluded by 30 June. Finance Minister Stoyan Aleksandrov, who headed the Bulgarian delegation, said his country plans immediately to buy back debt originally worth $1.2 billion. Kjell Engelbrekt, RFE/RL, Inc. ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN BUCHAREST. On 18 April Vahan Papazian started an official visit to Romania. The visit, which is the first ever by an Armenian foreign minister, will last until 24 April. On the same day, Papazian held a first round of talks with his Romanian counterpart, Teodor Melescanu. The two called for the conclusion of a basic political treaty to be signed in the near future by the presidents of the two countries. Papazian is scheduled to inaugurate his country's embassy in Bucharest. In an interview with Radio Bucharest, he praised the ties between Armenia and Romania which, he said, were "free of political problems." He further stressed his country's interest in stepping up economic cooperation with Romania. Dan Ionescu, RFE/RL, Inc. MORE UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES NOMINATED. More candidates have been nominated for the presidential election on 26 June, Ukrainian media report. On 16 April, the Socialist Party of Ukraine nominated its leader Oleksander Moroz, while on 18 April, the Communist Party of Ukraine proposed its leader Petro Symonenko after the writer Boris Oliinyk had declined to offer his candidacy. Meanwhile, at its congress on 17 April, after reflecting on its disappointing showing in the parliamentary elections, the main democratic party, Rukh, decided not to field a candidate. Rukh's leader Vyacheslav Chornovil told the delegates that the country's "most dangerous enemy" is not the Communists, but presidential candidate Leonid Kuchma, who is calling for closer ties with Russia. Kuchma, who has become increasingly outspoken in his criticism of the current Ukrainian leadership, was also attacked in a statement issued last week by the Cabinet of Ministers which condemned his record as prime minister. The registration of presidential candidates closes on 26 April and President Kravchuk and Parliamentary speaker Ivan Plyushch have still to announce if they will be running. Bohdan Nahaylo, RFE/RL, Inc. MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT MEETS GAGAUZ LEADER. The Moldovan parliament will shortly discuss a draft law on granting a special status to the Gagauz-inhabited parts of southern Moldova, Moldovan President Mircea Snegur said on 18 April after a meeting with Stepan Topal, the leader of the so-called Gagauz republic. According to ITAR-TASS, the draft law will grant the Gagauz broad self-government and economic and cultural autonomy within the framework of a single Moldova. Snegur said that the matter should be settled without delay since the establishment of stability in the republic would encourage an inflow of foreign capital. A previous attempt to solve the Gagauz question foundered in summer 1993 when discussion of the draft law was blocked by pro-Romanian deputies who objected to the provision that the Gagauz would have the right to self-determination if Moldova united with Romania. Ann Sheehy, RFE/RL, Inc. ESTONIA REDUCES ITS HARD CURRENCY, GOLD RESERVES. Estonian savings bank official Aavo Kokk told the press on 16 April that the Bank of Estonia reduced its gold and hard currency reserves by about 1.5% owing to increased demands for hard currency. He explained that the demand for hard currency coincided with a sharp rise in the demand for imported fuel and lubricants following the announcement of higher excise taxes on fuel starting in May. Malle Lind of the Estonian Small Business Association noted that consumer prices rose 8.9% in March, the highest monthly increase in more than a year. Estonian officials had reckoned earlier with an annual inflation rate of 25% but are now revising their estimates to about 45%, BNS and Interfax reported on 16 April. Dzintra Bungs, RFE/RL, Inc. [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Roman Solchanyk & Edith Oltay 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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