|Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand. - Thomas Carlyle|
No. 82, Part II, 26 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 CRIMEAN LEGISLATORS VOTE TO HOLD REGIONWIDE REFERENDUM. The Crimean parliament on 25 April voted by 57 to zero to hold a non-binding regionwide referendum at the same time as the local elections on 25 June, Interfax-Ukraine and Reuters reported the same day. The poll would ask voters whether they supported the controversial Crimean Constitution, which stipulates that relations between the autonomous region and Ukraine should be governed by bilateral treaties rather than the Ukrainian Constitution. Crimeans would also be asked whether they backed Kiev's recent crackdown on Crimean separatism and whether they were in favor of political and economic union with Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus. Ukrainian Justice Minister Vasyl Onopenko and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, who is on an official visit to the Czech Republic, called the vote illegal. The Ukrainian leader said Kiev might undertake further punitive action if Crimean leaders went ahead with the unconstitutional poll. Leaders of the Ukrainian parliament said their assembly would consider overturning the Crimean deputies' decision. It would also look into dissolving the 98- member body, which has split over Kiev's crackdown. Crimean legislators also appealed to the parliaments of both Russia and Ukraine to monitor the referendum to protect the rights of the large ethnic Russian majority in the region. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. HEALTH CONSEQUENCES OF CHORNOBYL DISASTER. On the eve of the ninth anniversary of the 1986 accident at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant, a special medical seminar revealed the results of research conducted by the Ukrainian Health Ministry among 1 million residents in the three regions most affected by the blast, Interfax-Ukraine reported on 25 April. The research revealed that in Kiev, Zhytomyr, and Rivne Oblasts, the incidence of thyroid cancer has increased by 200%, heart disease 75%, respiratory diseases 130%, and digestive illnesses 280% The death rate among inhabitants has risen by 15.7% since the accident. Health care officials also revealed that health consequences are most serious among the 233,507 cleanup workers, who have been exposed to high levels of radiation. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. UKRAINIAN FOREIGN TRADE. The Ukrainian Ministry of Statistics has released figures on non-CIS trade in January and February, Ukrainian Television reported on 25 April. Ukraine exports totaled $140 million and imports just under $40 million. Ukraine's largest exports were sugar, meat, fish, alcoholic, and non-alcoholic beverages. Its biggest imports were seed, tobacco, and cocoa. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT FIRES ANOTHER EDITOR. Trud on 25 April reported that Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has issued a decree firing Mikhail Katyushenka, editor in chief of the youth newspaper Znamya yunosti. Katyushenka is the fourth editor of a nationwide newspaper to be fired by Lukashenka. Previous decrees had dismissed the editors of Sovetskaya Belorussiya, Respublika, and Narodnaya hazeta. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. BANK OF ESTONIA APPOINTS NEW PRESIDENT. The board of the Bank of Estonia has asked President Lennart Meri to appoint Vahur Kraft as the bank's new president, BNS reported on 25 April, Kraft, the bank's vice president since 1991, was recommended by former bank president Siim Kallas. Kallas submitted his resignation after being elected to the Estonian parliament in early March, but Meri approved it only last week. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. HAZING IN LATVIAN ARMED FORCES. Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis, in an effort to eliminate hazing of recruits in the armed forces, has proposed establishing the posts of general inspector and deputy commander for educational issues, BNS reported on 24 April. He also suggested that operational groups be set up to launch speedy investigations into all disciplinary infringements. According to information gathered by armed forces staff, 2,954 cases of military discipline infringement were registered in the first three months of 1995--218 fewer than in the same period of 1994, BNS reported on 25 April. Although less than 1% of these infringements were classified as recruit hazing, a survey among soldiers revealed that 32.6% had experienced hazing between two and four times, 21.3% more than 10 times, and 9.5% regularly. Some 2,000 soldiers sought medical help in 1994, of which 50-60% were for injuries and illnesses due to hazing. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. POLISH DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER IN LITHUANIA. Roman Jagielinski, who is also minister of agriculture, arrived in Vilnius on 24 April for a two- day visit to discuss expanding free trade between the two countries and to speak about Poland's experience in transforming agriculture in line with European Union standards, BNS reported. He held talks the same day with President Algirdas Brazauskas and Lithuanian Minister of Agriculture Vytautas Einoris. Jagielinski on 25 April visited the international agricultural fair "AgroBalt 95." -- Saulius Girnius UPDATE ON POLISH FOREIGN MINISTER'S VISIT TO U.S. Wladyslaw Bartoszewski said in Washington that Poland is ready for full membership in NATO but preparations for entering the EU will take more time, international agencies reported. After meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry, Bartoszewski announced that the first Polish-U.S. military exercises will start in three months. Bartoszewski on 25 April quoted U.S. Vice President Al Gore as telling him that "there will be no problem about whether Poland is going to be in NATO, but there is a problem about when and how." He called for a definitive statement from NATO that no outside country will be able to veto the entry of new members and that the enlargement process will "not be prolonged ad infinitum." Asked about Russia, Bartoszewski played down the influence of nationalist leaders such as Vladimir Zhirinovsky. He commented that "the real threat to Russian democracy stems from the generals and from defense-industrial circles, which would like to see another Afghanistan or another Chechnya because events like that simply justify their existence." -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc. UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT IN PRAGUE. Leonid Kuchma arrived in Prague on 25 April for a two-day state visit, Czech and international media reported. He told a news conference that Ukraine hopes for early integration into European institutions and that the first step would be membership in the Council of Europe. President Vaclav Havel said the Czech Republic, which is to take over the Presidency of the Council of Europe this year, will support Ukraine's application. Havel also said he hoped for expanded economic ties with Ukraine. The two presidents are due to sign a friendship and cooperation treaty on 26 April. Kuchma told Czech Television he is concerned about the possible eastward expansion of NATO, which could leave Ukraine as a buffer state between the Western alliance and a collective security bloc of the CIS. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc. TWO CZECH GOVERNING PARTIES DISCUSS POSSIBLE MERGER. Leaders of the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) and the Christian Democratic Party (KDS) held preliminary talks on 25 April about a possible merger before the June 1996 parliament elections. If the two groups merge, they will run under the banner of the ODS, the dominant force in the four-party coalition, Mlada fronta dnes reported. The ODS and the tiny KDS joined forces in the last elections as coalition partners. Leaders of both parties said talks will continue but the KDS also plans to discuss a possible merger with another governing party, the Christian Democratic Union-People's Party. A final decision cannot be taken before the party congresses, which are due in December. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc. CZECH ROCK GROUP SENTENCED FOR RACIST SONGS. A Prague court gave the six members of the Czech rock group Branik eight-month suspended sentences on 25 April for racist texts attacking blacks, gypsies, and Asians. The group broke up shortly after the offending album appeared in 1991. One song contained the lines: "Your mission is sacred, you're going to beat those swine; niggers, gypsies, and yellows, don't let them live in peace." The prosecuting state attorney immediately appealed the sentences, believing them to be too lenient, Czech media reported. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc. SLOVAK POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS. The Slovak parliament's Mandate and Immunity Committee on 25 April began disciplinary action against Democratic Union deputy Milan Knazko for referring to Slovak National Party members as "neo-fascists" and Association of Workers of Slovakia members as "neo-bolsheviks" at the last parliament session. Committee votes to bring charges against two other opposition deputies for recent statements failed to gain sufficient support, Pravda reports. Also on 25 April, the Slovak government approved amendments to the criminal code that "create conditions for a more effective fight against bribery and corruption," Slovenska Republika reports. Meanwhile, parliament chairman Ivan Gasparovic announced that at the seventh session of the parliament, scheduled to begin on 3 May, the administration of supervisory body of the Slovak Information Service will be discussed. Ivan Lexa, who was elected to the parliament last fall as a deputy of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, currently heads both the SIS and the supervisory body. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. SLOVAK COMMISSIONS CONTINUE TO INVESTIGATE "CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS," DEMOCRATIC UNION. The Slovak parliament commission charged with investigating the "constitutional crisis" of March 1994, when Vladimir Meciar was removed as prime minister in a no-confidence vote, has interviewed a number of former and current parliament deputies. Ivan Korbela, who left the MDS and was interviewed on 25 April, said the goal of the commission is to discredit President Michal Kovac and to remove him from office, Sme and Pravda reported. A second commission, set up to review the petition lists of the Democratic Union (the party needed at least 10,000 valid signatures to compete in last fall's elections), is also continuing its work, according to Dusan Macuska, an MDS deputy who heads both commissions. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE BRITISH WANT OUT OF GORAZDE. Britain on 25 April announced that it is seeking relief for its contingent of 350 peacekeepers patrolling the Bosnian Muslim enclave of Gorazde, in eastern Bosnia. "We have asked the UN to try to find a replacement . . . when [the British peacekeepers'] tour ends in September," Reuters quoted a representative of the British Ministry of Defense as saying. The latest British announcement comes in the wake of a similar Dutch request to have soldiers relieved from duty in Srebrenica. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. RUSSIA DEFENDS KARADZIC, MLADIC . . . Moscow has reacted negatively to the international war crimes tribunal decision to name Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his military counterpart, General Ratko Mladic, as possible war criminals. One senior Russian diplomat has stressed that bringing charges against them may escalate tensions throughout the country. "Such a step would be damaging to peace efforts in the Balkans . . . . [The Bosnian Serb leaders] are seen as freedom fighters by one side and as criminals by the other," he told Interfax on 25 April. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. .. . . WHILE KARADZIC WELCOMES SERBIAN PATRIARCH. Karadzic, together with speaker of the Bosnian Serb legislature Momcilo Krajisnik, received Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Pavle in the Bosnian Serb stronghold of Pale on 25 April, Nasa Borba reported. Pavle used the occasion to sharply criticize Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic for allegedly abandoning the Bosnian Serbs and imposing a blockade against them. He also gave his indirect support to Bosnian Serb military efforts, observing "It is better to die than to betray our soul." The patriarch commented that "our forefathers fought . . . in defense of their freedom, land, and faith." -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. BELGRADE STANDS FIRM ON SANCTIONS. Federal rump Yugoslav Premier Radoje Kontic is the latest major Belgrade political figure to attack recent moves by the international community to tighten requirements for lifting or suspending sanctions against rump Yugoslavia. He is quoted by Nasa Borba on 26 April as saying Belgrade "has earned a complete lifting of the sanctions." Meanwhile, Politika reported the same day that Russia continues its lobbying to have sanctions removed against its Balkan allies. According to the daily, Aleksandr Zotov, representative to the international Contact Group, has said that "until the sanctions are lifted, Belgrade is not prepared to extend diplomatic recognition to Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina." -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. MAZOWIECKI REPORT ON BOSNIA. Tadeusz Mazowiecki, special rapporteur of the UN Human Rights Commission, has submitted his 15th report since 1992 on human rights violations in former Yugoslavia, according to international agencies. The report focuses on the Banja Luka and Prijedor region, where non-Serbs have reportedly been "subjected to unrelenting terrorization and discrimination," including plundering, beating, and compulsory service on labor brigades, which often use them as human shields on the front lines. Mazowiecki notes that "the de facto Bosnian Serb authorities are very close to attaining their apparent aim of achieving 'ethnic purity' in territory under their control." The former Polish premier has been denied access to territory held by Bosnian Serbs forces, but his report was based on interviews with recent Muslim and Croatian refugees. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc. KOSOVAR SCHOOLS PREVENTED FROM RESUMING CLASSES. Serbian directors of several elementary schools in Pec, Prizren, and Pristina prevented Albanian staff and pupils from entering the buildings on 24 April, the Kosovo Information Center reported the next day. The schools are for Albanians and Serbs and offer instruction in both languages. But this week has been declared a public holiday by the Serbian authorities to celebrate the anniversary of the foundation of the rump Yugoslavia on 27 April 1992. Private schools run by all-Albanian staff are the only ones in Kosovo to continue classes. Serbian police reportedly also threatened Albanians who allowed secondary school pupils to receive instruction in their house. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIA CRITICIZES COUNCIL OF EUROPE OFFICIAL. A statement by Miguel Angel Martinez, president of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, has caused widespread controversy in Romania. A Radio Bucharest correspondent quoted Martinez as saying in Strasbourg on 24 April that the council's Recommendation 1201 on ethnic minority rights should remain valid. Radio Bucharest described the statement as "surprising" and said it contrasted with Martinez's earlier statements that the recommendation lost its importance following the adoption of the framework convention on ethnic minorities. Chamber of Deputies Chairman and former Foreign Minister Adrian Nastase, in a lengthy press release, suggested that Martinez was pressured into revising his views. Romania opposes the inclusion of a reference to Recommendation 1201 in its long-delayed basic treaty with Hungary. Meanwhile, Romanian and Hungarian experts resumed negotiations on the treaty on 25 April. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. 14TH RUSSIAN ARMY TO BE DOWNGRADED. Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev on 19 April issued instructions on reforming the 14th Russian army, based in Tiraspol, according to ITAR-TASS on 25 April. The decree provides for army headquarters to be scaled down to an office in charge of a single division by 1 July. The same source quotes Lt. Gen. Aleksandr Lebed, commander of the 14th army, as describing the decision "to chop off [his army's] head" as "criminal." Lebed added that he doubted he would be offered another position in the army and that he was not prepared to accept any other office. Reuters said the 45-year-old general planned to run in the 1996 presidential elections. Many Russians see Lebed as a firm ruler capable of restoring order in post-communist Russia. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIAN OPPOSITION WARNS OF RECOMMUNIZATION. The Union of Democratic Forces, in a memorandum to the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, has warned of attempts by the government to recommunize the country, Demokratsiya reported on 25 April. The UDF claims the Socialist government's activities have halted economic and political reform and are a step back toward a totalitarian regime. It also notes that the opposition is being denied access to the media, "which are controlled by the government." -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIAN PRIME MINISTER ON EU MEMBERSHIP. Zhan Videnov, during his visit to Brussels, said on 25 April that he hopes his country will be granted membership in the European Union within the next five years, Reuters reported the same day. He commented that Bulgaria "must prepare very thoroughly" for membership and that talks can begin only after the EU has reviewed the Maastricht treaty in 1996. At a press conference after his meeting with European Commission President Jacques Santer, Videnov said he realized that hopes for a quick admission into the EU are "wishful thinking." Videnov also met with NATO Secretary-General Willy Claes, who praised Bulgaria's participation in the Partnership for Peace program as "very useful," Demokratsiya reported on 26 April. He added, however, that NATO membership for Bulgaria and other East European countries "is not on the daily agenda." -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. ALBANIAN-U.S. NAVAL COOPERATION. Albanian Defense Minister Safet Zhulali met with a high-ranking U.S. naval official on 25 April, Rilindja reported the next day. The two men discussed developing cooperation between the two navies, especially in the field of hydrography. The U.S. navy offered the Albanians modern equipment and handed over coastal maps of American origin. -- 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. To subscribe, send "SUBSCRIBE OMRI-L YourFirstName YourLastName" (without the quotation marks and inserting your name where shown) to LISTSERV@UBVM.CC.BUFFALO.EDU No subject line or other text should be included. To receive the OMRI Daily Digest by mail or fax, please direct inquiries to OMRI Publications, Na Strzi 63, 140 62 Prague 4, Czech Republic; or electronically to OMRIPUB@OMRI.CZ Tel.: (42-2) 6114 2114; fax: (42-2) 426 396 OMRI also publishes the biweekly journal Transition, which contains expanded analysis of many of the topics in the Daily Digest. For Transition subscription information send an e-mail to TRANSITION@OMRI.CZ
write to us
with your comments and suggestions.