|Old age is the most unexpected of all the things that happen to a man. - Leon Trotsky|
No. 90, Part II, 10 May 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 UKRAINE DEFENSE MINISTER STRESSES NEED FOR GREATER COMBAT READINESS. During a military march marking VE-Day, Valerii Shmarov stressed the need to increase the combat readiness of the Ukrainian armed forces as a sign of what he called the strictly defensive nature of the former Soviet republic's military doctrine, Interfax-Ukraine and Reuters reported on 9 May. But he added that political measures and friendly relations with Ukraine's neighbors and other CIS countries "united by a common history" were the key to preventing future conflicts. "The creation of a strong, law-abiding Ukraine will be the best memorial for those who gave their lives," Shmarov said. Unlike Moscow, the Kiev celebrations featured no display of military hardware, only a parade of soldiers and veterans. In western Ukraine, local radical nationalists tried to tear up a red Soviet-era flag carried by Red Army veterans during a parade. Veterans of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, who fought both the Nazis and Soviet forces, held a separate commemoration in Lviv. Crimean festivities were disrupted as officers of the disputed Black Sea Fleet left their seats when Ukrainian servicemen marched past. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. PARADE IN BELARUS DOMINATED BY PRO-RUSSIAN SENTIMENT. Pro-Russian sentiment prevailed during a military parade in Minsk which marked the 50th anniversary of the Allied victory in Europe and which took place less than a week before elections and a referendum on greater integration with the young country's giant neighbor, international news agencies reported on 9 May. Thousands lined the streets carrying mainly the red flags of the ex-USSR, overwhelming the few flags of post-Soviet Belarus. President Aleksandr Lukashenka delivered a nostalgic address of "a unified homeland from Brest to the Kuriles and from the Black Sea to the Barents Sea." Belarus suffered higher proportional losses as a World War II battleground than any other European country, with nearly 2.25 million dead out of a population of eight million. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. LATVIAN EDUCATION MINISTER RESIGNS. Education and Science Minister Janis Vaivads submitted his resignation to Prime Minister Maris Gailis on 8 May, BNS reported the next day. Vaivads said he resigned because he could not fulfill financial promises made to teachers. Chairman of the For the Homeland and Freedom faction Maris Grinblats, who had asked for Vaivads's resignation several weeks earlier, said that a new minister would be unlikely to resolve the teachers' problems. Vaivads will return to the Saeima as a deputy. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. APRIL INFLATION IN THE BALTIC STATES. The consumer price index for April in Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia rose 1.0%, 1.4%, and 1.9%, respectively, BNS reported on 9 May. In Estonia, the cost of services increased by 1.2% while goods rose by 0.9% (0.6% for food and 1.5% for manufactured goods). In Latvia, food prices rose by 0.7%, the greatest increases being for potatoes (12.1%) and cabbage (23%). Household expenses grew by 1.3%, transport costs by 3.7%, entertainment by 4.8%. Cumulative inflation for the first four months of 1995 was 7.9% in Estonia, 11.7% in Latvia, and 12.9% in Lithuania. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. NATO REPRESENTATIVES COMPLIMENT LITHUANIAN ARMED FORCES. Maj. Gen. Guy Bastien and George Katsirdaki of NATO's International Military Staff told reporters in Vilnius that Lithuania's armed forces make a very good impression and should be able to reach NATO standards in two or three years time, BNS reported on 9 May. They, however, declined to speculate on the possible date for such admission. The two were in Vilnius for an international seminar, attended by more than 70 delegates from 22 countries, on the planning of military exercises and the training of forces for peacekeeping, search and rescue, and humanitarian operations. Defense Minister Linas Linkevicius said Lithuania intends to participate in six of the 14 planned Partnership for Peace programs this year. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. POLISH ARMS AND TRACTOR WORKERS ON STRIKE. Solidarity workers at one of Poland's most important defense plants began a strike on 9 May, Reuters reported. Some 1,000 workers at the Pronit explosives factory in Pionki, south of Warsaw, walked off their jobs and Solidarity warned that the strike might be extended to other defense factories unless the government provides more aid to the embattled arms industry. Pronit is one of four arms plants the Polish government considers crucial to state defense. Reuters quoted Deputy Industry Minister Roman Czerwinski as saying the strike was "illegal and self-destructive." He said the government could not buy more arms from Polish producers without altering the budget "and that's not going to happen." The Polish arms industry has been hit by bans on exports to Iraq and the former Yugoslavia and unpaid money owed by the former Soviet Union. Meanwhile, workers at the state-owned tractor company Ursus began an indefinite strike on 8 May, calling for the government measures to improve the firm's finances. -- Doug Clarke and Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc. POLISH FOREIGN MINISTER IN ISRAEL. Polish Foreign Minister Wladyslaw Bartoszewski on 9 May began a four-day visit to Israel, during which he is taking part in ceremonies marking the 50th anniversary of the Allied victory in Europe. On 9 May, he was a honorary guest at the "victory celebration" in the Knesset courtyard, Polish media report. Bartoszewski has held honorary Israeli citizenship since 1992; in 1963 he was awarded the title of "Righteous Gentile." -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc. CZECH PRIVATIZATION FUND OWED 4 BILLION KORUNY IN BAD DEBTS. The National Property Fund, the state holding organization for property in the process of privatization, is owed more than four billion koruny by companies that have passed the deadline for paying for their acquisition of businesses, Hospodarske noviny reported on 10 May. The first list published by the Fund shows that full or partial payment is still outstanding for 148 firms privatized in 1992 and 1993. At least six purchasing companies or investment funds owe more than 150 million koruny each. The total amount owing to the Fund was estimated to stand at the end of March at 7.5 billion koruny, a reduction of 500 million koruny from five months earlier, Hospodarske noviny wrote. It quoted Fund official Pavel Suchy as saying publishing the list could pressure some defaulters into paying; in some cases, the Fund has sued debtors, filed for their liquidation or proposed canceling sale contracts. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc. REACTIONS TO NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE IN SLOVAK PRESIDENT . . . Representatives of the Slovak opposition have expressed concern following the parliament's no-confidence vote in Michal Kovac of 5 May, while government parties have defended the move. On 8 May, the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) presented a declaration stating that Kovac's two years in office confirm that "he is not capable of further carrying out his duties" because he is causing a polarization of society, his actions do not reflect impartiality, and he has failed to respect the seriousness of the "democratic decisions" approved by the parliament, and thus also the will of the majority of Slovak citizens. For these reasons, the HZDS stressed that Kovac should resign from his post, Pravda reported on 9 May. In an interview with Pravda on 10 May, Milan Ftacnik, deputy chairman of the opposition Party of the Democratic Left, stressed that "the first place in the polarization of society" has long belonged to Premier and HZDS Chairman Vladimir Meciar. At a press conference on 9 May, Ftacnik expressed concern that in the half year since the elections, the HZDS has worked only to strengthen its own power. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. . . . WHILE CITIZENS TRUST PRESIDENT MORE THAN PARLIAMENT. According to an opinion poll carried out by the Slovak Statistical Office from 20-31 March, 48% of respondents said they trusted the institution of the presidency, compared with only 39% for the government and 35% for the parliament, Pravda reports on 10 May. Meanwhile, 41% distrusted the president, 51% the government and 53% the parliament. Trust in the president was higher among residents of Slovakia's largest towns and those with more education while trust in the parliament was higher among older people and lower among ethnic Hungarians. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE AKASHI MEETS SERB LEADERS. UN special envoy Yasushi Akashi on 9 May met in Belgrade with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and heads of the self-styled Republic of Serbian Krajina, including RSK President Milan Martic and Premier Borislav Mikelic, Nasa Borba reports the following day. Akashi urged Martic and the other Krajina leaders to refrain from any drastic measures or retaliatory actions in response to Croatia's recent retaking of territory in western Slavonia formerly under rebel Serb control (see OMRI Daily Digest 2 May 1995). For his part, however, Martic said that conditions and tensions were such that they "can escalate into bigger conflicts," Reuters reported. Discussions with Milosevic were reportedly aimed at winning over the Serbian president for the purpose of averting a wider regional conflict. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. SERBS LEAVE FOR BOSNIA. Reuters reported on 9 May that the UN moved into the once Serb-held enclave in Croatia's western Slavonia to evacuate local Serbs to Bosnia after "Serb leaders threatened reprisals if they were not allowed to go." Two buses were slated to transport up to 100 people to Bosnia, and UN officials have said they expect that many more individuals will leave, likely causing the "evacuation program" to continue for at least several days. Meanwhile, on 9 May Hina, citing Croatian army sources, reported that Serb paramilitary forces some 80 kilometers southeast of Zagreb are amassing heavy weapons and "building up troops." The news agency also reported that Bosnian Serb forces fired three shells at targets near the Croatian city of Dubrovnik. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. BOSNIAN UPDATE. According to HABENA reports of 9 May, Bosnian Serbs shelled the northeastern Bosnian city of Tuzla that day, allegedly causing "significant damage" but evidently no casualties. Meanwhile, international media continue to report on fighting throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina. On 9 May, AFP reported that representatives of the international Contact Group will meet on 12 May, and the topic of using NATO airpower against the Bosnian Serb side is likely to be broached. On 8 May, UN officials decided against using the threat of airstrikes against the Bosnian Serbs in response to the 7 May Serb mortar attack on a Sarajevo suburb which resulted in 11 deaths. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. RULING PARTY BACKS ILIESCU FOR NEW PRESIDENTIAL TERM. Adrian Nastase, executive chairman of the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), told journalists on 9 May that there is a "broad opinion stream" within his party in favor of supporting Ion Iliescu's candidature in the 1996 presidential election. Nastase added that Iliescu's official nomination would be announced at a future party gathering (probably the national conference). He said that Iliescu's participation in the VE-Day Celebrations in London, Paris and Moscow both recognized Romania's war efforts on the allies' side and acknowledged Iliescu's "role as a national referee [in preserving] stability and social peace in the country." Iliescu told Radio Bucharest that the celebrations in Moscow had "the strongest political charge," including a clear message that Russia "cannot and should not be isolated" internationally. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. FORMER KING ADDRESSES ROMANIANS. In a message marking the 10th of May, Romania's national day in the pre-communist era, former King Michael remembered Romania's decision to take up arms against Nazi Germany in August 1944. The message, which was published in several independent dailies, said that Romanians "deserved more than they could achieve in the last five years" and that they had the duty to carry through the democratic revival of 1944 and 1945. Michael's message was sent from London, where he took part in the VE-Day celebrations. On 7 May, President Ion Iliescu told the Romanian Service of the BBC he had not been upset by the British government's invitation to Michael to take part in the ceremonies. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. VE-DAY IN BULGARIA MARKED BY POLITICAL DIFFERENCES. VE-Day celebrations in Sofia on 9 May highlighted conflicting views of Bulgaria's communist past. dpa reported the same day that representatives of the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) laid wreaths at the monument of the Soviet Army, while opposition parties boycotted the ceremonies. The ambassadors of Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, and Armenia took part in the ceremonies, which were accompanied by Soviet military songs and chants of "eternal friendship." A BSP statement honored the contribution of Bulgarian soldiers and partisans to the victory over Germany, but contained no criticism of communist rule after the war. Bulgaria was allied with Germany until September 1944, and changed sides after being occupied by the Red Army. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIAN PRESIDENT AND PRIME MINISTER IN MOSCOW. Zhelyu Zhelev and Zhan Videnov on 9 May attended the VE-Day celebrations in Moscow, arriving separately and following different programs, Bulgarian newspapers reported the following day. Videnov attended the celebrations on Red Square and the military parade at Poklonnaya Gora, and also met with Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Ivan Rybkin, chairman of the State Duma. Zhelev, who attended the celebrations on Red Square, met with Bulgarians living in Russia, Trud reported. Most papers noted that the two politicians did not even greet each other on Red Square and tried to avoid contact. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. ROW BETWEEN BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT AND SOROS FUND. A meeting on 8 May between US businessman George Soros and Blagovest Sendov, chairman of the National Assembly, failed to resolve a conflict over the role of the Soros-sponsored Open Society Fund, Bulgarian newspapers reported the following day. The parliament canceled a 42 million leva ($ 646,000) contribution to the fund last week. The Fund's budget is $6.2 million without the government contribution, $6 million of which is provided by Soros himself. It finances the American University in Blagoevgrad, scholarships, scientific projects and exchanges. Sendov was cited by 24 chasa as saying that Soros is trying to "interfere in domestic affairs," while Education Minister Ilcho Dimitrov told Duma that Bulgaria is thankful for any help, provided "it does not offend our national sovereignty and honor." According to the Fund's Managing Director Georgi Prohaski, Soros during the meeting with Sendov "expressed his concern over some recent publications . . . which showed signs of xenophobia and reluctance of the government to develop ties with the Western world," international agencies reported. Soros himself told Demokratsiya that he will continue to finance the Fund. Prime Minister Zhan Videnov declined to meet Soros. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. GREECE DENIES TRAINING KURDISH REBELS. Greek government spokesman Evangelos Venizelos on 9 May denounced Turkish allegations that his country is training Kurdish rebels, international news agencies reported on the same day. He was replying to statements made by an alleged Kurdish rebel in Izmir on 8 May. Mehmet Kavak, who was captured along with two other suspected Kurdish rebels, said he received two months of military training at a camp 200 kilometers from Athens. Venizelos said this is "not the first time that a Kurd who has been arrested is forced to confess . . . that he allegedly was trained . . . in Greece." He added that Greece "is accessible to all and is transparent," so that "anyone can conduct a journalistic investigation here to see what is going on." Greece has repeatedly denied Turkish claims that Kurds are trained on its territory. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Steve Kettle 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. 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