|We are all apt to believe what the world believes about us. - George Eliot|
No. 80, Part II, 24 April 1995
This is Part II of the Open Media Research Institute's Daily Digest. Part II is a compilation of news concerning East-Central and Southeastern Europe. Part I, covering Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia, and the CIS, is distributed simultaneously as a second document. Back issues of the Daily Digest, and other information about OMRI, are available through OMRI's WWW pages: http://www.omri.cz/OMRI.html EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT APPEALS FOR INTERNATIONAL AID TO CLOSE CHORNOBYL. The Ukrainian government on 21 April appealed to the international community for financial assistance in closing down the Chornobyl nuclear power plant by 2000, Interfax-Ukraine and Radio Ukraine reported the same day. The statement said that the closure would cost $4 billion. It noted that Ukraine was concerned, among other things, about locating and building safe storage sites for spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste from the plant. The appeal also emphasized Kiev's inability to shut down the station earlier than promised because of a shortage of energy and lack of funds to pay for energy imports. But it stressed that the government is willing to shut down either of the plant's two functioning reactors if they prove unsafe. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. UPDATE ON UKRAINE'S GAS DEBT. Kievskie vedomosti on 21 April reported that Ukraine's gas debt to Russia stood at $2.5 billion and that Ukraine is paying for only 50% of deliveries. The Russian company Gazprom has proposed that Ukraine sign over shares in its gas pipelines and storage facilities to pay off the debt, but the Ukrainian Ministry of External Economic Relations has rejected the proposal. Under Ukrainian legislation, such properties cannot be privatized. Ukrainian Radio quoted Acting Prime Minister Yevhen Marchuk as saying that enterprises that have not paid their debts will have their supplies cut. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT REJECTS RUSSIAN PROPOSAL ON UKRAINIAN BORDER. Alyaksandr Lukashenka has criticized a Russian proposal to station Russian customs officials along the Belarusian-Ukrainian border, Radio Rossii reported on 23 April. Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin sent a letter to Lukashenka proposing that 100 Russian customs officers be deployed along that border since Kiev has refused to join a customs union with Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus. Lukashenka responded that Belarus was capable of controlling its Ukrainian border itself and that Russia should trust Belarus. He added that Russian Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Bolshakov was responsible for the letter. According to Lukashenka, Bolshakov gave Chernomyrdin the letter to sign and the prime minister did so without reading it. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. BALTIC ASSEMBLY AND COUNCIL SESSIONS. The sixth session of the Baltic Assembly and first session of the Baltic Council took place in Riga on 21-22 April, BNS reported. The Baltic Council is formed by the Baltic Assembly and the Baltic Council of Ministers. Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis stressed that the three states must coordinate their actions more closely in solving economic problems and preparing for integration into European institutions. Estonian and Lithuanian Prime Ministers Tiit Vahi and Adolfas Slezevicius did not attend the sessions because of previous engagements. The Baltic Assembly expressed concern over the statement by Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev that Russia might use military force to protect its compatriots abroad. It also appealed to the UN to examine the issue of "the right of the Chechen people to self-determination and freedom from colonialism." -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. LATVIA, ESTONIA SIGN SEA BORDER MEMORANDUM. Latvian and Estonian Foreign Ministers Valdis Birkavs and Riivo Sinijarv signed in Riga on 21 April a memorandum pledging to avoid incidents on their maritime border, BNS reported. Tensions emerged when Estonian coast guard ships repeatedly stopped Latvian boats from fishing near the Estonian island of Ruhnu. The talks on preparing a bilateral treaty on the maritime border and economic zones will continue on 5 May in the Estonian seaside resort of Parnu. The ministers also pledged that agreements simplifying border crossing procedures and promoting free movement of goods between the two states will be signed soon. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. CEI MEETING IN CRACOW. Representatives of the Central European Initiative countries, meeting in Cracow on 21-22 April, appealed to all sides in the Bosnian conflict to extend their cease-fire beyond 30 April. They also condemned Serbian attacks on Bihac, the killing of two French UN peacekeepers, and the "terrorist bombing" of Dubrovnik airport. Poland and Bosnia-Herzegovina signed a declaration on national minorities, endorsed previously by Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Italy, and Macedonia. The creation of a permanent Secretariat and the admission of the five associate members (Albania, Belarus, Bulgaria, Romania, and Ukraine) is to be discussed at the next CEI meeting, in Warsaw on 6-7 October. Poland, which is chairing the CEI in 1995, backs the full admission of the five associate members, according to Polish CEI representative Jozef Wiejacz. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc. POLISH LAW ON POST AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS AMENDED. The Polish parliament on 21 April amended the law on post and telecommunications, empowering the government to auction off licenses for telecommunication operators and courier services. The bill preserves the state-owned Polish Telecommunications' monopoly on international telephone calls. The Polish Post maintains its monopoly on handling regular letters and parcels up to 2 kilograms. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc. CZECH OPPOSITION LEADER RE-ELECTED. Milos Zeman on 22 April was re- elected unopposed as chairman of the opposition Czech Social Democrats (CSSD). Zeman, whose party is in a strong second place in the polls with around 20% support, said the Social Democrats aim to win the next parliament elections, due in June 1996. He said he will run directly against Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus if the premier stands in Northern Moravia. Petra Buzkova and Kvetoslava Korinkova gained the most votes of the five deputy chairpersons elected at the congress, giving the CSSD the strongest high-level representation by women of all Czech parties. Meanwhile, the founding congress of the Party of Czechoslovak Communists (SCK) elected former hard-line communist leader Miroslav Stepan as its general-secretary. Stepan said the aim of the party is to re-establish socialism, Lidove noviny reported. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc. SLOVAK PREMIER IN ITALY. Vladimir Meciar, during his working visit to Italy and the Vatican from 20-23 April, met with Pope John Paul II, Italian President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, and Foreign Minister Susanna Agnelli, Slovak media reported. Meciar was quoted as saying that the meeting with the pope was of "great importance," not just in terms of the pontiff's visit to Slovakia scheduled for this summer. At a meeting with other Catholic officials, the Slovak premier discussed Church-state relations and the founding of a Catholic University in Slovakia. Stressing that Italian businessmen lack sufficient information on investments in Slovakia, Meciar promised to issue them a list of firms to be privatized. The Italian energy company ENI reportedly expressed "great interest" in the privatization of Benzinol, Slovnaft, and the gas industry. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. NUCLEAR MATERIAL SEIZED IN EASTERN SLOVAKIA. Slovak Interior Ministry spokesman Peter Ondera on 21 April announced that one week earlier police seized 17 kilograms of radioactive material and detained nine suspects from Ukraine, Hungary, and Slovakia. According to Ondera, specialists are currently investigating whether the material is weapons- grade uranium. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. HUNGARY'S RAILROAD WORKERS END STRIKE. Hungarian Radio on 23 April reported that the country's railroad workers ended a four-day strike after reaching a new labor agreement with Hungarian State Railways management. The 86-hour strike, which halted most domestic services and all international traffic to and via Hungary, was the first indefinite work stoppage on Hungary's railroads since 1904. Most of the country's 70,000 railroad employees took part in the protest. -- Jiri Pehe, OMRI, Inc. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE KARADZIC BANS DIPLOMATS FROM SARAJEVO AIRPORT. International media reported on 23 April that Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic has announced that Sarajevo airport "is a Serbian airport" and that no diplomats or other political visitors to the Bosnian government in Sarajevo will be allowed to use it. He added that the Contact Group diplomats are not welcome and that the Bosnian Serbs "will not accept the Contact Group [peace] plan, never, ever." He sent packing a group of U.S. and German diplomats who had spent the night of 22 April in sleeping bags on the airport floor. UN mediator Yasushi Akashi also got no farther than the airport on an attempted visit to Sarajevo. Karadzic gave a variety of reasons for his stand, which international media agreed is outrageous even by the standards of this conflict. But Reuters stressed that his toughness is the outcome of a deepening rift between the Bosnian Serb military and civilian establishments. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. FRENCH CHIEF-OF-STAFF IN SARAJEVO. France's highest army officer, General Marc Monchal, arrived in the Bosnian capital on 23 April to escort home the bodies of three peacekeepers who died in a munitions accident the day before. These deaths brought French UNPROFOR fatalities to a total of 36. AFP said that President Francois Mitterrand has invited the presidents of Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia- Herzegovina, and rump Yugoslavia to ceremonies in Paris on 8 May marking the end of World War Two in Europe. It is unclear whether Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic was also on the list. His presence would be crucial if the French were to try to use the occasion to stage the Yugoslav-area summit they have been pressing for. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. MILITARY DEVELOPMENTS IN YUGOSLAV AREA. The 24 April Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports that the battlefields were largely quiet during the Orthodox Easter weekend. The main exception was around Brcko, in the narrow north Bosnian Posavina supply corridor, which links Serbia with its conquests in Croatia and Bosnia. Croatian Radio, for its part, said that armed Krajina Serbs blocked the reopened Zagreb-Belgrade highway in two places. Hina reported the previous day that Croatian Defense Minister Gojko Susak met with his Slovak counterpart, Jan Sitek, who was visiting Slovak UNPROFOR troops. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. MILOSEVIC MEETS LEADERS FROM KRAJINA AND BOSNIA. Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic met with Krajina Prime Minister Borislav Mikelic, Bosnian Muslim kingpin Fikret Abdic, and Bosnian Serb commander General Ratko Mladic at Milosevic's residence in Belgrade, Nasa Borba reported on 22 April. The men subsequently dodged reporters, who were unable to obtain any further information. AFP commented on 24 April that the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague may also want to speak to Mladic. The dispatch notes that Mladic and Karadzic are suspected of war crimes, but no formal charges have been made. The Los Angeles Times on 22 April reported that Germany has agreed to extradite Dusan Tadic for trial in The Hague. Tadic is suspected of being the Bosnian Serb concentration camp guard who killed at least 32 people and tortured 61 others at Omarska. His trial would be the first international one for war crimes since the end of World War Two. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. BOUTROS GHALI THREATENS TO WITHDRAW PEACEKEEPERS FROM CROATIA. UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali has announced he may have to withdraw UNCRO contingents if the Zagreb and Knin authorities do not approve the peacekeepers' new mandate, AFP reported on 22 April. The Serbs and Croats differ strongly over the number of soldiers needed, where they should come from, what they should do, and where they should do it. Reuters the next day reported on observances by Croatian Jews to mark the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Jasenovac. That concentration camp was the worst in wartime Croatia, where the Ustasha regime carried out its genocidal policies against Jews, Serbs, and Gypsies. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. UN TAKES TOUGHER APPROACH ON RUMP YUGOSLAV SANCTIONS. According to Nasa Borba on 22-23 April, UN Security Council Resolution 988 provides for sanctions against the rump Yugoslavia to be partially lifted for periods of 75 days rather than 100 days, as stipulated by Resolution 943. The council also voted to impose stricter conditions for the easing of sanctions against Belgrade. According to ITAR-TASS on 22 April, Russia has already made known its objections to the council's decision. Russian representative to the UN Sergei Lavrov was quoted as saying that Moscow objects, among other things, to additional limits on deliveries of aviation fuel to Belgrade. Nasa Borba on 24 April reported that all Serbian parties are highly critical of Resolution 988. Leader of the Serbian Radical Party and accused war criminal Vojislav Seselj commented that the endorsement of the new resolution is "evidence of [Serbian President Slobodan] Milosevic's incompetence." -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. KOSOVAR OFFICIALS ON POSSIBLE DIALOG WITH SERBIA. Fehmi Agani, deputy leader of the Democratic League of Kosovo, has made clear his views on a possible Kosovar-Serbian dialog by saying "Kosovo is not a Serbian internal question," Nasa Borba reported on 24 April. The Kosovars are demanding that a solution to Kosovar-Serbian differences be found within the framework of the Geneva Conference on Former Yugoslavia. Meanwhile, Kosovar President Ibrahim Rugova has said that such a solution would be either an independent Republic of Kosovo or a confederation with Albania, in the event that "confederations are established on the territory of the former Yugoslavia." The Serbs, however, reject international meditation in the Kosovar-Serbian issue. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc. HEAD OF ROMANIAN PYRAMID SCHEME GOES ON TRIAL. Ion Stoica, head of "Caritas," Romania's biggest ever pyramid scheme, went on trial on 21 April on fraud charges, Reuters reports. He is accused of having taken some 90 million lei ($45,000) from Caritas donations for humanitarian projects in the Transylvanian town of Cluj. Stoica faces up to 20 years in jail if convicted. Stoica has been in custody since his arrest in August 1994. Prosecutors are still investigating complaints from 600,000 people who lost their savings when the "get-rich-quick" scheme collapsed in early 1994. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. STOCK EXCHANGE TO BE SET UP IN ROMANIA. The decision to set up Romania's first postcommunist stock exchange was announced at a press conference on 21 April, Radio Bucharest and Romanian TV reported. The stock exchange will temporarily be housed in the building of the National Bank of Romania and its managerial board appointed by 10 May. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. PRELIMINARY RESULTS OF MOLDOVAN LOCAL ELECTIONS. The Moldovan Central Electoral Commission on 21 April announced the preliminary results of the 16 April local elections, Interfax reported. The ruling Agrarian- Democratic Party won almost 50% of the mandates (more than 640 out of 1,290). The opposition Democratic Forces Alliance received 275 mandates (21.5%); the Moldovan Communist Party 205 (nearly 16%); and the bloc of left-wing forces, formed by the Socialist Party and the Unity Movement, 90. In Chisinau and other cities, the elections were declared invalid because of low turnouts and are to be repeated on 30 April. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES STATE BUDGET. The parliament's Socialist majority on 21 April passed the 1995 state budget, BTA and international agencies reported the same day. The budget was approved by 123 to seven after an all-night session. Opposition deputies in the 240-member assembly left before the vote, saying they had to attend Mass on Orthodox Good Friday. The budget deficit is projected at 48.8 billion leva ($746 million), or 6% of estimated GDP. Inflation is projected to reach 45-50% in 1995. But Kontinent on 21 April reported that non- government institutes estimate inflation will reach 60-120% this year. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIA MAY CLOSE DOWN NUCLEAR REACTORS EARLY. Yanko Yanev, chairman of Bulgaria's Atomic Energy Committee, said on 21 April that the two oldest reactors at the Kozloduy nuclear power plant may be closed down years ahead of schedule, Reuters reported the same day. Yanev said he will propose to the parliament that a fund be set up for the decommissioning of the two 440 megawatt reactors if reconstruction proves too expensive. New safety systems, additional filters and earthquake protection are needed, at an estimated cost of some $70 million. Reactor No. 1, the oldest at the power plant, has already been closed down for inspections. Yanev did not mention the two 1,000 megawatt reactors at Kozloduy, which are also Soviet-built. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. ALBANIAN OIL SMUGGLING REACHES LOW POINT. Reuters on 23 April reported that profits gained by Albanians smuggling black-market fuel into rump Yugoslavia have dropped from about $30 to $3.20 for one 200-liter container since Bulgaria and Romania have grabbed a bigger share of the illegal market. An Albanian official is quoted as saying that "trading here is at a low point. It is about twenty times less than it once was." Elsewhere, Italian coast guards held an Albanian cargo ship suspected of carrying radioactive cargo for three days in Pescara. Police found no trace of radioactive material, international agencies reported on 22 April. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc. [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Jan Cleave The OMRI Daily Digest offers the latest news from the former Soviet Union and East-Central and Southeastern Europe. It is published Monday through Friday by the Open Media Research Institute. The Daily Digest is distributed electronically via the OMRI-L list. 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