Crimea’s First Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Safontsev died yesterday as a result of wounds received in a February 5 assassination attempt. (UNIAN, February 23) Within the Crimean government, Safontsev was in charge of trade, foreign economic ties, the defense industry, energy and privatization.
No one has claimed responsibility for the remotely controlled bomb that detonated in trash can outside the minister’s Simferopol home. The Ukrainian authorities say they suspect local criminal gangs. The two major gangs in Crimea — "Seilem" and "Bashmaki" — both have close links to the peninsula’s leading political parties. A number of deputies to the Crimean parliament are understood already to have been questioned in connection with the blast. (Radio Mayak, February 9)
Meanwhile, a standoff continues between Kyiv and Simferopol over the timing of the next elections to the Crimean parliament, the Supreme Soviet. The Supreme Soviet has called for elections on September 27; Kyiv says that elections must be held on March 29, along with the general election throughout the country. The central authorities say the Crimean Supreme Soviet’s choice of September amounts to an illegal six-month extension of its powers. Yesterday, President Leonid Kuchma issued a thinly veiled warning telling the parliament to reschedule the elections for March 29. Otherwise, Kuchma’s statement said, Kyiv "will be forced to apply measures stipulated by the constitution." These measures were not spelled out but the implication is that the president might declare presidential rule in the peninsula. (Ukrainian Radio, Radio Russia, February 22)
Kyiv Cites Yeltsin to Refute Luzhkov.