|I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of my existence, and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race. - James Joyce|
No. 120, 27 June 1994
RUSSIA BOTH HOUSES APPROVE 1994 BUDGET. In a fourth ballot on 24 June, the State Duma finally mustered the majority required to pass the Russian budget for 1994, Interfax reported. The vote was 277 to 80, with 8 abstentions. A few hours later, the Federation Council voted, 100 to 19, to give the budget final approval. The Federation Council opted to forego debate or any attempt to amend, despite earlier threats to raise defense spending from 40 trillion to 55 trillion rubles, as military lobbies had urged. The budget now needs only President Boris Yeltsin's signature to take force. As proposed by the finance ministry, the budget plans revenues of 124.4 trillion rubles ($65 trillion) and spending of 194.4 trillion rubles ($102 billion). The deficit of 70 trillion rubles ($37 billion) amounts to 36% of spending and 9.6% of GDP. Many proreform deputies, including Grigorii Yavlinsky's Yabloko faction, voted against the budget, on the grounds that its revenue and spending targets are impossible to achieve. Only 10% of the taxes due in the first half of 1994 have been collected, Yavlinsky said, making revenue plans for the year "completely unrealistic." Egor Gaidar's Russia's Choice, however, reversed its stance and voted for the budget on 24 June, arguing that there is no hope that the parliament, as currently constituted, can produce a better budget. Louisa Vinton, RFE/RL, Inc. DUMA ADOPTS LAW ON CONSTITUTIONAL COURT. The Russian State Duma adopted a law on the functioning of the Constitutional Court, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Moscow on 24 June. The court's chief mandate is to decide whether federal laws, parliamentary acts, and presidential decrees conform with the Russian constitution. The new law says the Constitutional Court will include 19 judges appointed by the Federation Council on the recommendation of the Russian president. The Federation Council also demands the right to appoint the court's chairman, but the law stipulates that the chairman is elected by the judges. The new law gives the court far fewer rights than did the previous law on the Constitutional Court. (The earlier court and law were suspended by President Yeltsin in the fall of 1993.) Vera Tolz, RFE/RL, Inc FIGHT OVER ORGANIZED CRIME MEASURES AND ANTI-CORRUPTION LEGISLATION. Yeltsin's decree on combating organized crime violates both the Russian Constitution and the Criminal Code, Chairman of the Presidential Human Rights Committee Sergei Kovalev told Izvestiya on 24 June. The decree, which was prepared by the Federal Counterintelligence Service (FSK) and the MVD, gives to law enforcement agencies very broad prerogatives, including the right to detain suspects for up to 30 days without making formal charges and the right to search commercial and private premises. Moskovskie novosti, Izvestiya, Nezavisimaya gazeta, and Russian television on 24 and 25 June all criticized Yeltsin's decree. Deputy MVD Minister Mikhail Egorov said however that the decree will be implemented despite the fact it was suspended by the Russian parliament last week. Meanwhile, Boris Yeltsin, in his turn, is suspending the anti-corruption legislation prepared by the Russian parliament. In his letter to Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin, Yeltsin complained that the anti-corruption law was unusually broad. One of the main provisions of the law is the mandatory declaration of income by civil servants. Victor Yasmann, RFE/RL, Inc. RUSSIAN TROOPS MARCH IN BERLIN. Some 1,500 Russian troops marched through the streets of Berlin on 25 June before what was described by Reuters as an unexpectedly large and enthusiastic crowd of 40,000. The event, marking the withdrawal of the Russian troops from Germany, followed by one week a ceremony for departing Western troops. Russian forces had originally hoped to take part in a common ceremony with allied troops, and the refusal of Western leaders to support that proposal left many of the Russians bitter. Western agencies reported that the Russian ceremony had a more martial air than the allied ceremony that preceded it; the procession was said to have included scores of anti-aircraft batteries and small tanks. The last of the Russian troops are to leave Germany in September. Stephen Foye, RFE/RL, Inc. INDIAN PRIME MINISTER TO RUSSIA. AFP reported on 27 June that talks on defense cooperation would be high on the agenda during a visit to Russia by Indian Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao. He is scheduled to arrive in Moscow on 29 June. India's Minister of State for External Affairs, R.L. Bhatia, who will accompany Rao, was quoted as saying that "India has been quite dependent on Russia for defense material" and that the visit "will be an occasion to discuss spare parts that India needs urgently." Bhatia also noted that India had once been one of the USSR's closest allies and suggested that it would be in Moscow's interest to once again balance its foreign policy between East and West. AFP reported that although shipment of spare parts to India has resumed, New Delhi hopes that delivery can be accelerated. The issue of India's accession to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty remains one of area of possible tension between the two countries; Russia would like India to sign the Treaty but, Bhatia said, India intends to indicate firmly that it considers the Treaty to discriminate between nuclear haves and have-nots. Stephen Foye, RFE/RL, Inc. RUSSIA DENIES CHEMICAL WEAPONS CHARGE. Reuters reported on 24 June that US Secretary of State Warren Christopher had been told by Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin that there was "no chemical weapons development going on in Russia." The denial was in reaction to a report published in the New York Times on 23 June, and congressional testimony by CIA Director James Woolsey on the same day, suggesting that "contradictions" in Russian data on chemical weapons raised suspicions that development of binary chemical weapons was continuing. On 24 June ITAR-TASS quoted a "highly placed" Russian Foreign Ministry official who criticized "public polemics over unclear questions" and noted that Russia also "has serious questions" about US data. The diplomat expressed hope that these would be addressed at a joint US-Russian meeting on the issue. John Lepingwell, RFE/RL, Inc. CIS RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPERS DEPLOYED ALONG INGURI RIVER. Following the clearance by Russian engineers of mines from the banks of the Inguri river, which marks the frontier between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia, the setting up of control points on the Inguri bridge to monitor the return of Georgian refugees to their homes in Abkhazia, and the introduction of a curfew in the 12-kilometer security zone, two battalions of Russian troops began taking up their positions in the security zone on 24 June, Interfax and Western agencies reported. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov, who discussed the peacekeeping operation and the prospects for a political settlement of the conflict with Abkhaz parliament chairman Vladislav Ardzinba on 24 June, told AFP on 26 June that both Georgian and Abkhaz troops and heavy artillery were already being withdrawn from the buffer zone; intermittent skirmishing continues, however, in the Kodori gorge in north-eastern Abkhazia, where a UN monitor recently came under artillery fire. Liz Fuller, RFE/RL, Inc. ARMENIAN OUTMIGRATION TO RUSSIA. Some 10,000 Armenians have registered with the Russian Embassy in Erevan as wishing to apply for Russian citizenship as a preliminary to emigrating to the Russian Federation, Russian Ambassador Vladimir Stupishin told Interfax on 24 June. Of Armenia's total population (over three million), an estimated 20 percent have left the country over the past two years to escape economic hardship. Liz Fuller, RFE/RL, Inc. RUSSIAN-MOLDOVAN AGREEMENT ON INTELLIGENCE. The head of Russia's Federal Counterintelligence Service, Sergei Stepashin, and Moldova's National Security Minister, Vasile Calmoi, signed on 24 June in Chisinau an agreement for cooperation among the two agencies in sharing information, preventing illegal migration westwards across their countries, and combating cross-border crime including smuggling, terrorism, and arms and drug trafficking. The two agencies shall also refrain from using force or subversion against each other, Basapress, Interfax, and ITAR-TASS reported. Stepashin said at a news briefing that "the very signing of the agreement proves" that Russia plans no hostile acts against Moldova and that it recognizes its independence and territorial integrity; and added that his agency will, "within its legal competency, contribute to a peaceful resolution of the Dniester conflict." Stepashin also met separately with President Mircea Snegur and with Lt.-General Aleksandr Lebed, commander of Russia's 14th Army. Moldova has had a comparable agreement with Ukraine since 1993. Vladimir Socor, RFE/RL, Inc. RUSSIAN-IRANIAN TALKS ON KARABAKH. Russian special envoy for the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict Vladimir Kazimirov held talks in Tehran on 25 June with senior Iranian foreign minister official Morteza Banq on the rival Russian and CSCE Karabakh peace plans, ITAR-TASS reported. The Iranian side reportedly approved Russia's peace initiative as "close to the requirements of reality." Also on 25 June, Kazimirov met in Baku with Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev, who continues to insist on unifying the attempts of Russia, the CSCE, Iran, and Turkey in the search for a solution to the Karabakh conflict. Meanwhile Russian President Boris Yeltsin's request on 23 June on the eve of the EU summit in Corfu for an endorsement of CIS peacekeeeping activities under the aegis of the UN was rejected, according to AFP of 24 June. Liz Fuller, RFE/RL, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA GEORGIAN CP REVIVED. The founding congress of the renewed Georgian Communist Party (not to be confused with either the Georgian Communist Workers' Party or the Alliance of Communists of Georgia) took place in Tbilisi on 25 June, Interfax reported. Its leader is Major-General Panteleimon Giorgadze, father of Georgian Minister of National Security, Igor Giorgadze. Liz Fuller, RFE/RL, Inc. TAJIK TALKS ENDING WITHOUT AGREEMENT. Talks in Tehran between representatives of the Tajik government and the Tajik opposition in exile headed into their last day on 27 June with little prospect of even an agreement on a temporary ceasefire being reached, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 June. Representatives of the two sides at the talks, the second round of negotiations between the Tajik government and opposition aimed at ending fighting within Tajikistan and also on the Tajik-Afghan border, blamed each other for the lack of progress. A Russian observer told ITAR-TASS that the opposition might drop its insistence that a ceasefire be coupled with an amnesty for political prisoners and restoration of a free press and the rights of political parties. Bess Brown, RFE/RL, Inc. CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE PRELIMINARY ELECTION RESULTS IN UKRAINE. Early results in Ukraine's presidential elections suggest that President Leonid Kravchuk and former Prime Minister Leonid Kuchma will compete for office in the second round on 10 July. According to Interfax and the independent Ukrainian press agency "Haryacha Liniya," voter participation ranged from a high of 95.7% in Ivano-Frankivsk oblast to 66.5% in Crimea. In all, 69% of the electorate (or 25.8 million people) cast ballots. Kravchuk did well in western Ukraine, where he received 82% of the vote in Ternopil oblast and 70% in Rovno. As expected, Kuchma fared better in eastern Ukraine and Crimea; in Crimea, he won 82.5% of the vote while Kravchuk received only 7.4%. In Kiev, preliminary results show Kravchuk leading with 42%, followed by Volodymyr Lanovy, with 26%; Kuchma, 19%; and Oleksandr Moroz, 8%. The remaining 5% went to the other three candidates: Valerii Babich, Ivan Plyushch, and Petro Talanchuk. Runoff elections are to be held if, as is anticipated, no candidate wins 50% in the first round. Citing preliminary results, ITAR-TASS reports that Kravchuk has finished ahead of Kuchma, "with a minimal lead." PAP reports from Kiev that Lanovy appears to have played a significant role, finishing second in many regions to either Kravchuk or Kuchma but too far behind overall to qualify for the second round. Ustina Markus and Louisa Vinton, RFE/RL, Inc. BELARUSIANS CHOOSE COMMUNIST MAVERICK. Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who seems set to defeat prime minister Vyacheslau Kebich two weeks from now in Belarus's presidential runoff election, has at least a three-year record of rocking the political establishment. In June 1991, on the eve of the failed Soviet coup, he openly denounced the Belarusian Communist Party leadership for being out of touch with the people and attempted to launch a "reform" movement within the CP. One year ago, Kebich's government encouraged Lukashenka to turn his crusading zeal against then head of state Stanislau Shushkevich, with the result that Shushkevich was removed from the post of Supreme Council chairman last January. Lukashenka then "got out of control," as one Belarusian newspaper has written, and directed his attacks against the prime minister and dozens of his ministers and officials. Lukashenka has been a leading member of the procommunist and pro-Russian "Belarus" faction in parliament. Kathy Mihalisko, RFE/RL, Inc. HUNGARIAN COALITION PACT SIGNED, CABINET CHOSEN. MTI reported on 24 June that the Hungarian Socialist Party (HSP) and the Alliance of Free Democrats (AFD) had signed a government coalition agreement after three weeks of negotiations. They also agreed on the makeup of the 14-member government. HSP Chairman Gyula Horn, 62, whose party received 53% of the votes in the general elections, will be prime minister. The newly created post of deputy prime minister goes to the AFD's Gabor Kuncze, 44, his party's candidate for prime minister. Kuncze will also have the important interior minister job. Two additional ministries, transportation and education, will also be headed by the AFD; the HSP gets the rest. The HSP's Laszlo Bekesi, 52, will head the ministry of finance. Bekesi held the same post in the reform communist government headed by Miklos Nemeth in 1989-1990. The congresses of both parties ratified the coalition agreement on 26 June. The parties also agreed to replace the head of the National Bank of Hungary, the respected Peter Akos Bod, who was a Hungarian Democratic Forum official. "The time has come that instead of divisive opposition and past grievances, we turn our attention to the future and to common goals," said Horn, commenting on the coalition agreement. AFD Chairman Ivan Peto hailed the agreement as a good one for his party, which received about 20% of the vote and said that the AFD's liberal economic ideas survived the coalition negotiations. The new government is expected to be in operation by mid-July. Karoly Okolicsanyi, RFE/RL, Inc. GERMAN PRESIDENT MAKES FAREWELL VISIT TO POLAND. In a gesture meant to underline the reconciliation achieved between Germany and Poland since 1989, German President Richard von Weizsaecker chose Warsaw as the destination for his final foreign visit before leaving office on 1 July. Von Weizsaecker presented President Lech Walesa with the highest German order on 25 June; Walesa reciprocated. Walesa thanked von Weizsaecker for promoting friendly cooperation with Poland from the start of its democratic transition. Von Weizsaecker thanked Poland for spearheading the liberation of Europe. Speaking at a Warsaw conference on a "New Germany in a New World," von Weizsaecker argued that close cooperation among Germany, France, and Poland is the key to European security. Germany wishes to take a "pioneering" role in expanding the EU to encompass new states, including Poland. German TV reports that von Weizsaecker's successor, Roman Herzog, may make Poland the destination for his first foreign visit, to mark the Warsaw Uprising. The chairman of a Polish-German government commission predicted on 24 June that German investment in Poland will surge from the current total of $370 million to $800 million in 1994, PAP reports. Although Germany is Poland's largest trading partner, it ranks only fourth or fifth in terms of investment. A stable legal framework is expected to encourage a new flood of capital this year. Louisa Vinton, RFE/RL, Inc. SHAKE-UP IN POLISH FINANCE MINISTRY. Citing well-informed government sources, PAP reports that Finance Minister Grzegorz Kolodko plans to remove two veteran deputy finance ministers from their posts. Deputy Minister Henryk Chmielak confirmed on 24 June that he intends to leave for new job in the business world. Chmielak ran the ministry after Marek Borowski resigned in March. More important, rumors swept Warsaw on 24 June that Wojciech Misiag, the deputy minister with chief responsibility for drafting the annual budget, will also be ousted. Misiag is the last high-ranking official at the finance ministry who dates from the era of economic reform architect Leszek Balcerowicz. His number-crunching skills are legendary. (Former Labor Minister Jacek Kuron once noted that Misiag "talks about taxes the way Baudelaire talks about women.") Gazeta Wyborcza commented on 25 June that "the ease with which [Prime Minister Waldemar] Pawlak's team disposes of the best professionals at every level of the government and ministerial administration prompts amazement and dismay." Louisa Vinton, RFE/RL, Inc. STORM OVER SKUBISZEWSKI IN SEJM. "A scandal without precedent" and "an unacceptable act of political revenge" was how the opposition Freedom Union described the work of a Sejm subcommittee set up to review the hiring practices of Foreign Affairs Minister Krzysztof Skubiszewski in 1989-93. The subcommittee, formed at the urging of postcommunist deputies, presented its report, along with a controversial addendum, to the Sejm's foreign affairs committee on 22 June. The addendum is a compilation of anonymous grievances from communist-era ministry employees who charge Skubiszewski with conducting "purges" in a "Stalinist style," PAP reports. After stormy debate, the foreign affairs committee voted to suppress the addendum but accept the report, which charges Skubiszewski with selecting subordinates on the basis of acquaintance rather than professional criteria. The subcommittee's work reflects the postcommunist parties' attempt to relativize communist rule by suggesting that four years of Solidarity governments offered more of the same, or even worse. Foreign Affairs Minister Andrzej Olechowski called the report "unpleasant and shameful." In an alarmed letter to Olechowski on 23 June, President Lech Walesa expressed his "unwavering trust" in both the foreign minister and the entire diplomatic corps. Louisa Vinton, RFE/RL, Inc. SLOVAKIA SIGNS DEBT AGREEMENT WITH RUSSIA. On 24 June Slovak Deputy Premier Brigita Schmoegnerova returned from Moscow following the signing of an agreement with her Russian counterpart Yuri Yarov to settle the former Soviet Union's debts to Slovakia. The governmental debt to Slovakia totals $1.6 billion, while the debt of enterprises will be set only after Slovak and Czech claims are clarified in bilateral discussions. Schmoegnerova said that many products manufactured in Slovakia were sold to the Soviet Union by foreign trade companies based in Prague, and the Czech Republic now claims debts resulting from these sales which Russia agreed to repay in a recent agreement with the Czech Republic. Schmoegnerova said that Slovak-Czech talks should be held as soon as possible to discuss the approximately $140 million which should allegedly be paid to Slovak rather than to Czech firms. Slovakia and Russia also signed an agreement to eliminate double taxation, TASR reported. Sharon Fisher, RFE/RL, Inc. SLOVAK CABINET MARKS FIRST HUNDRED DAYS IN OFFICE. On the occasion of the present government's first 100 days in office, the Slovak TV program Kroky featured a debate between the chairmen of Slovakia's political parties on 26 June. Premier and Democratic Union Chairman Jozef Moravcik noted that in 100 days his government has shown that it is possible to solve basic social problems within the framework of parliamentary democracy. Moravcik stressed the importance of solving the problems of the ethnic minorities in Slovakia and promoting greater cooperation with Hungary. He also encouraged the ethnic Hungarian parties to cooperate with their Slovak counterparts rather than to focus on minority issues. He noted the difficult economic situation his cabinet faced upon taking office, which he blamed on the previous government's policies. Movement for a Democratic Slovakia Chairman and former Premier Vladimir Meciar characterized the present coalition government as "an experiment" that is not sustainable, claiming it came to power in a parliamentary putsch. He said it would take a year to repair the present government's mistakes. Moravcik responded by calling Meciar's statements "typical Meciar. Three lies can be found in each word." Slovak National Party Chairman Jan Slota also took part in the debate, criticizing the present government's economic policies and arguing that the ethnic Hungarian parties, rather than the SNP, are extremist. Sharon Fisher, RFE/RL, Inc. CZECH PREMIER REJECTS CESKY DENIK CHARGES. Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus reacted angrily to accusations published in Cesky Denik on 23 June that a former KGB agent is among his closest friends. The charges appeared in an article by Josef Kudlacek, the daily's publisher, who has recently founded a political party strongly opposed to Klaus's Civic Democratic Party. Kudlacek alleged that former Czech intelligence agent Karel Koecher, who in 1985 was convicted in the US on charges of spying against CIA and later exchanged for Anatolii Scharanski, is among Klaus's best friends. Kudlacek further wrote that Klaus has close ties to Fidelius Schlee, a newspaper publisher, alleging that the two men are jointly involved in a luxury construction project in Switzerland. Kudlacek also wrote that two top Czech politicians, whose identities he would not reveal, are KGB agents. In a reply to Kudlacek published in Cesky Denik on 25 June, Klaus noted he had never spoken with Koecher, his former colleague at the Institute of Forecasting, and he termed as "a lie" the allegations of close contacts between him and Schlee. "The assertions of Mr. Kudlacek are so absurd and patently senseless that it almost makes no sense to challenge them," wrote the premier. Jiri Pehe, RFE/RL, Inc. HAVEL ON NATO. In his regular radio address Czech President Vaclav Havel said on 26 June that NATO-Russian cooperation is inevitable and in the world's best interests, but he praised Western nations for not giving Russia special status within NATO's Partnership for Peace plan. Havel said Moscow should not feel threatened by NATO's possible expansion, "which would expand the zone of democracy and peace." He rejected as "almost senseless" the idea of Russian membership in NATO. Jiri Pehe, RFE/RL, Inc. ETHNIC HUNGARIANS PROTEST IN CLUJ. Several thousand ethnic Hungarians staged a demonstration in the Romanian city of Cluj on 24 June to protest plans by the city's nationalist mayor, Gheorghe Funar, to conduct archeological digs at the site of a monument to a medieval Hungarian king, Western agencies report. The ethnic Hungarians fear that the excavations are a pretext to remove the statue of King Mathias permanently. The tension over the statue is only the latest in a series conflicts between the Hungarian minority, which comprises roughly one-fourth of the population of Cluj, and the city's mayor. A spokesman for President Ion Iliescu told reporters on 24 June that the president wants a peaceful solution to the ethnic tension in Cluj but dismissed the dispute over the planned excavation as "artificial." Louisa Vinton, RFE/RL, Inc. BOSNIA CEASE-FIRE TALKS SCRAPPED . . . On 25 June international media reported that talks scheduled for that day between Bosnia's warring sides had broken down over disputes about who would and could participate. The central objective of the talks was to have been to find a way to make the 10 June cease-fire workable and extend it beyond the 8 July expiration point. In other developments, AFP and DPA reported that on 24 June Bosnian Muslim and Croat forces signed an accord in Gornji Vakuf specifying the terms of troop withdrawals from former battle lines. Stan Markotich, RFE/RL, Inc. . . . AS HEAVY FIGHTING CONTINUES. Meanwhile, on 26 and 27 June international media report that Bosnian government forces have wrested territory from the Bosnian Serb side in heavy fighting raging throughout the north-central part of the country. According to reports, a UN spokesman in Sarajevo has said that advancing Bosnian government forces have gained Serb-controlled territory south of Doboj, in addition to territories around Zavidovici. Officials of the five-member "contact group," consisting of Western and Russian negotiators, are to meet in Paris on 27 June to iron out a peace-plan proposal for Bosnia, which would see 51% of the country granted to the Muslim-Croat federation. Recent developments have once again made any general acceptance of the peace plan unlikely. On 26 June Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, speaking in the Serb-held town of Banja Luka, said he doubted that Bosnian Serbs would accept the terms of the current proposal. His remarks were reported by SRNA, and are carried in Politika on 27 June. Finally, on 24 June Oslobodjenje reported that Bosnian army General Rasim Delic said that Serb battlefield losses showed that "a war of liberation" was now a distinct possibility with the tide of events favoring the Muslim-Croat side. Stan Markotich, RFE/RL, Inc. SERB SOLDIERS IN MACEDONIA. On 26 June international media reported that Serb soldiers have moved into Macedonia, where they have dug trenches and are refusing to leave. According to a Reuters report, UN sources say that twelve Serb soldiers have erected tents on a hill that Macedonian officials say is at least some 150 meters inside Macedonia's territory. Rump Yugoslavia's foreign ministry, however, has denied the charge that Serb soldiers are encroaching on Macedonian territory, issuing a statement calling the allegation "groundless." The rump Yugoslavia has a documented history, however, of committing border violations against Macedonia. Stan Markotich, RFE/RL, Inc. SWEDEN'S KING RECEIVES BALTIC VETERANS. Karl XVI Gustav received 39 World War II veterans from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, LETA reported on 21 and 22 June. Later on 21 June they were also received by Foreign Minister Margaretha Af Ugglas. The receptions were given to honor the veterans and to make amends for a highly controversial decision by the Swedish government in 1945 to deport to the Soviet Union Baltic soldiers who had sought refuge in Sweden at the end of World War II. Most of the deported soldiers, who had been conscripted into the German armed forces, did not survive the repressions that they subsequently suffered from the Soviet regime. Ugglas called the deportations "one of the darker sides of the history of Sweden," BNS reported on 25 May. Dzintra Bungs, RFE/RL, Inc. LATVIA TO END EXCHANGE OF LATVIAN RUBLES. BNS reported on 22 June that the Bank of Latvia will end on 30 June the exchange of the Latvian ruble--which served as interim currency in the transition from the Russian ruble to Latvia's own currency--at its central office in Riga and its branch offices in Daugavpils, Rezekne, Jelgava, Liepaja, and Valmiera. The exchange rate is one 1 lats for 200 Latvian rubles. The bank has issued a total of 28,510,345,000 Latvian rubles since May 1992. The introduction of Latvia's permanent currency, the lats, began on 5 March 1993 and the lats became Latvia's only legal tender on 18 October 1993. Dzintra Bungs, RFE/RL, Inc. POPULARITY POLL IN LITHUANIA. A poll conducted by the British-Lithuanian Baltic Studies on 8 to 15 June of 1,183 people in 104 localities indicated that President Algirdas Brazauskas remains the most popular political figure in Lithuania, Interfax reported on 24 June, quoting the newspaper Respublika. His rating rose from 53 points in May to 55 in June. Parliament Deputy Chairman Egidijus Bickauskas was second with 49 points in both months. Center Union Chairman Romualdas Ozolas was third with 43 points, an increase of 1 point from May. Former Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius's rating increased from 29 points in May to 34 in June, the same total that his Homeland Union colleague Vytautas Landsbergis had in both months. Saulius Girnius, RFE/RL, Inc. [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Suzanne Crow and Louisa Vinton The RFE/RL DAILY REPORT, 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, is available through electronic mail by subscribing to RFERL-L at LISTSERV@UBVM.CC.BUFFALO.EDU. This report is also available by postal mail, as are the other publications of the Institute, and by fax. 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