|The burnt child shuns the fire until the next day. - Mark Twain|
No. 93, Part II, 15 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 BELARUSIANS VOTE IN PARLIAMENT ELECTIONS AND REFERENDUM. The Belarusian Central Election Commission on 14 May reported that 41.1% of eligible voters cast ballots in the republic's first parliament elections since independence, Interfax and Reuters reported the same day. Voters were also asked to take part in a referendum on four issues: economic integration with Russia, Russian as a second state language, the return of the Soviet-era state emblem and flag, and presidential authority to dissolve the parliament. A turnout of 50% plus one vote is required for the poll to be valid, and results are expected over the next several days. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, after casting his vote in Minsk, said he was confident the population would back his initiative to have two state languages, Russian and Belarusian, and move toward new "Slavic unity" with Russia and even neighboring Ukraine. He said that while presidential power to dissolve the legislature would be non-binding, public support would allow him to make political decisions of that nature. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. CLINTON ENDS VISIT TO UKRAINE. U.S. President Bill Clinton ended his two-day state visit to Ukraine on 12 May with a rousing speech to some 15,000 Ukrainians in front of Shevchenko State University in Kiev, international agencies reported on 13 May. Clinton pledged American solidarity with Ukrainians during the painful transition to democracy and a free market. He confirmed his promise to extend $250 million to Ukraine to finance critical imports in 1995 and pledged an additional $27 million, under the Nunn-Lugar amendment, for Ukrainian nuclear disarmament and defense conversion. Clinton also said he would provide more than $1 million to support Ukraine's participation in military exercises within the Partnership for Peace program in 1995. Agreement was reached that a Ukrainian cosmonaut will take part in a space mission aboard the U.S. space shuttle in October 1997. In addition, the U.S. agreed to help upgrade fire and safety conditions at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant until its planned closure by 2000. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT AGAIN THREATENS PLEBISCITE OVER BILL ON SEPARATION OF POWERS. Leonid Kuchma on 13 May again threatened to call a non- binding nationwide referendum on confidence in the parliament and president if the country's legislature rejects his proposed constitutional bill on separation of powers, Interfax-Ukraine reported the same day. The draft law, which is to be voted on later this week, would enable him to implement much-needed economic reforms. Kuchma added that the formation of a new government, following the parliament's no confidence vote in the cabinet last month, depends on the resolution of the power bill issue. He said he feared a long debate over his proposed candidates would hinder the implementation of economic reforms. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. LATVIAN BANK DIRECTOR SHOT DEAD. Moisejs Gurevics, a co-founder and board member of Latvia's largest commercial bank, Baltija Bank, was shot five times in his car on 11 May, Reuters reported the next day. Gurevics was also the president of Interpegro, a company operating a chain of food stores in Riga. Baltija Bank president Talis Freimanis said that "unknown structures" had been trying for two years to disrupt the stability of the bank and that the murder was but another attempt to achieve this goal, BNS reported on 13 May. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. LITHUANIAN-POLISH COOPERATION. Polish and Lithuanian Defense Ministers Zbigniew Okonski and Linas Linkevicius signed in Warsaw on 12 May protocols on military cooperation under NATO's Partnership for Peace program and on the creation of a joint airspace control system, BNS reported. The first protocol provides for exchanging experiences in training UN peacekeepers and establishing a peacekeeping training center in the Lithuanian town of Rukla. The second protocol calls for consultations on technical matters and how to bring the future system in line with NATO standards. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. POLISH POSTCOMMUNISTS CHOOSE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE. The Polish Social- Democratic Party (SDRP) on 13 May chose Aleksander Kwasniewski, president of the SDRP Supreme Council, as its candidate in the upcoming presidential elections. Kwasniewski, who is currently leading opinion polls with nearly 20% of the vote, was also chosen as the candidate of the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD). His nomination ends speculation about a possible left-of-center joint candidate in the first round of the elections. Support for such a candidate was recently voiced by SLD leader and Sejm deputy speaker Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz. He argued in Gazeta Wyborcza on 12 April that Jacek Kuron, nominated by the Freedom Union, and Tadeusz Zielinski, candidate for the Labor Union, would win the support of a broad electorate as left-of-center candidates. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc. CZECH PREMIER REFUSES AUSTRIAN MONEY TO STOP NUCLEAR PLANT. Vaclav Klaus on 12 May turned down an Austrian offer of 500 million schillings ($50 million) for the Czech Republic to stop construction of the controversial nuclear power plant at Temelin, in southern Bohemia, Czech media reported. The offer was made by Chancellor Franz Vranitzky during an official visit to Prague. "The full completion of the construction is a matter of overriding importance for us," Klaus told a news conference. He said the plant will have a top-grade safety system, and he agreed to improve the accident warning system at Temelin. Despite the long-running dispute over the nuclear facility, Vranitzky said bilateral relations are good. Austria supports the early entry of the Czech Republic into the European Union. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc. CZECH GOVERNMENT PARTY CALLS ON RENEGADE MEMBER TO RESIGN PARLIAMENT POST. Leaders of the Christian Democratic Party (KDS) on 13 May called on party member Pavel Tollner to resign his post as a deputy chairman of the parliament, Czech media reported. The KDS leadership was responding to the 4 May decision by Tollner and four other KDS deputies to leave the party's caucus and form their own group in protest over plans for the KDS to merge with Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party. The KDS leaders said that if Tollner does not resign voluntarily, they will discuss his removal with other parties in the governing coalition. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc. NEW HEAD OF SLOVAK COUNTERINTELLIGENCE? Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar told Slovak Radio on 14 May that he could "neither confirm nor refute" reports that former Deputy Minister for Internal Affairs Jaroslav Svechota has been appointed head of the Slovak Counterintelligence Service. Meciar was speaking after a meeting with Ivan Lexa, head of the Slovak Intelligence Service (SIS), which includes counterintelligence. He noted that he had discussed with Lexa developments within the SIS, in particular the need to "part with those who gathered information about members of my government, deputies of the parliament representing the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, and institutions and organizations that cooperated with me." -- Jiri Pehe, OMRI, Inc. HUNGARIANS PROTEST CUTS IN FAMILY ALLOWANCES. Some 10,000 Hungarians on 14 May demonstrated in front of the parliament building against planned cuts in child care benefits, Magyar Nemzet reported on 15 May. They also demanded the resignation of Finance Minister Lajos Bokros. Under an austerity package drawn up by Bokros, from July 1 the government is to pay allowances only to the poorest families. At present, all families are eligible for the benefits. The demonstration was organized by the National Association of Large Families. Several leading officials who served at the Welfare Ministry under the previous, conservative government, including former Welfare Minister Laszlo Surjan, participated in the demonstration. -- Edith Oltay, OMRI, Inc. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE FIGHTING CONTINUES IN THE POSAVINA REGION. The narrow corridor linking Serbia with its conquests in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia continued to be the main theater of fighting in Bosnia over the past few days. The Serbs stepped up pressure on the Croatian-held enclave of Orasje on the Bosnian side of the Sava River. Hina on 15 May reported that tanks and artillery were involved in the attack and that fighting in one village in particular was hand-to-hand. Nasa Borba noted the same day that the Croats responded by shelling Serbian-occupied Brcko. The UN said the Bosnian fronts were otherwise relatively quiet. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. KRAJINA SERB LEADER PRAISES RUMP YUGOSLAVIA. Rajko Lezajic, president of the Krajina Serb legislature, said that Belgrade's policies are aimed at promoting peace in the region, Nasa Borba reported on 15 May. The 13 May Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung discussed at length the "division of roles" among the various Serbian factions and spokesmen: Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and his supporters in Krajina were said to be currently taking the part of peacemakers, while Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and other Krajina officials follow a more bellicose line. Meanwhile, the BBC on 15 May said Croatian forces that had infiltrated into UN-controlled buffer zones in the Krajina's Sector South have generally withdrawn but that some units in the Gospic area are staying put. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. WHAT ROLE FOR THE U.S. IN WESTERN SLAVONIA? Novi list on 13 May and Nasa Borba two days later reported on remarks by Washington's influential Ambassador to Zagreb, Peter Galbraith. He warned against violations of the current mandate for UN peacekeepers and called Croatia's reoccupation of western Slavonia earlier this month a dangerous precedent. Galbraith pointed out that neither the Krajina Serb leadership nor the Bosnian Serbs "lifted a finger" to help the Serbs of western Slavonia. He also commented that Croatia received "not a green light but a red light" from the U.S. regarding the move. The Voice of Russia in Serbian, however, hinted on 14 May that Washington may have been behind the armed action, quoting British newspapers to the effect that the only man in Croatia more powerful than Galbraith is President Franjo Tudjman. The broadcast also carried stories that may reinforce Serbian fears that the Croatian government is fascistoid and bent on destroying Serbian national identity. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. ORDERLY EVACUATION OF SERBIAN REFUGEES CONTINUES. Serbian civilians continue to leave western Slavonia for Bosnian Serb-held territory under UN supervision. The monitors said it was probably the most orderly transfer of refugees in the Yugoslav conflict to date. International media also reported that Croatian officials have tried to convince Serbs that it is safe to remain. Many elderly people have no intention of leaving. Nasa Borba on 13 May said that a UN commission has begun work on investigating reports of massacres of Serbian civilians and that some Croatian military authorities were cooperating. Previous reports by Serbs of wholesale atrocities in western Slavonia have largely proven unsubstantiated. But this has not been the case with accounts of Bosnian Serb attacks on Croats and Roman Catholic centers in the Banja Luka area. In one such incident, a church was destroyed with monks still inside. Novi list on 13 May carried the text of the local bishop's formal protest letter to Karadzic. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. SERBIAN UPDATE. Nasa Borba on 15 May reported that its chief editor, Gordana Logar, has been elected president of the Independent Association of Journalists of Serbia. Logar defeated Radio B 92 candidate Dusan Masic at a convention of association members, netting 71 votes to Masic's 44. In other news, the UN Security Council on 11 May approved a resolution allowing rump Yugoslav ships to pass through Romainian locks along the River Danube while the locks on the rump Yugoslav side undergo repairs. The vessels had previously been barred from doing so by the international sanctions imposed against Belgrade. The resolution is slated to remain in effect for 60 days, but that period may be extended upon recommendation of sanctions inspectors. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIAN GYPSY "EMPEROR" ON HUNGER STRIKE. Romanian self-styled Gypsy "Emperor" Iulian Radulescu told Reuters on 12 May that he is on a hunger strike to protest the government's decision to change the official designation for Gypsies from "Romani" to "Tigan" (see OMRI Daily Digest, 3 May 1995). Radulescu said the decision was an "outrageous racial discrimination," since "Tigan" is commonly used pejoratively. Gypsy politician Petre Burtea said "Tigan" was a "derogatory word from old Sanskrit for beggar and thief." Radulescu warned of unrest if the government did not reconsider its decision. "There are enough of us to turn into a problem if the government won't change its decision and denigrates us," he said. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIAN LIBERAL PARTIES UNITE. The National Liberal Party (PNL) and the groups that split away in March from the Liberal Party '93 and the Party of Civic Alliance (PAC) merged on 13 May, Radio Bucharest reported. The PNL, which failed to gain parliament representation in the 1992 elections, will now have 12 parliamentarians elected as representatives of the PAC and the Liberal Party '93. But according to house regulations, parliamentarians who leave the factions on whose lists they were elected are to be regarded as independents. They can neither represent other formations nor be recognized as constituting political groups. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. COMMANDER OF 14TH ARMY CONFIRMS HE WILL NOT RESIGN. Lt. Gen. Alexander Lebed on 12 May confirmed a statement carried by ITAR-TASS the previous day saying he will not resign as commander of the 14th Army. At a news conference in Tiraspol, Lebed said he will remain in his post and will not engage in politics, international agencies reported. He reiterated his criticism of the Defense Ministry's program to reform the 14th Army command, saying this would "decapitate a well-tuned mechanism" and pose the danger of a renewed outbreak of conflict in the region. Lebed also said it would be "foolish" to remove the 14th Army from the breakaway region before a solution is found that is acceptable to all sides. In a related development, Moldovan parliament chairman Petru Lucinschi on 11 May said that Lebed was currently "the most suitable person" to command the 14th Army, Infotag reported. A source "close to Moldova's president" told the same news agency that Snegur has sent a letter to the Russian leadership requesting that Lebed be kept in his post "until armaments are withdrawn from the region." -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT LEADS IN POPULARITY POLL. Mircea Snegur is the most trusted politician in the country, according to an opinion poll conducted by the independent Opinia institute and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems. Snegur was supported by 42.3% of the respondents. Parliament chairman Petru Lucinschi gained 31.1% and Prime Minister Andrei Sangheli 8%. However, only 40.3% of the 1,700 respondents answered the question on which politician they trusted most. A majority of interviewees (59.7%) did not trust any politician. The most popular institutions were religious organizations (63.1%), the media (57.8%), and the presidency (40.7%). The results of the poll were carried on 11 May by Infotag and BASA-press. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIAN PRESIDENT WARNS OF RECOMMUNIZATION. Zhelyu Zhelev, at a press conference on 12 May, said the "real threat [for Bulgaria] is...the restoration of communism," Pari reported the following day. But he refused to blame the Socialist-led government directly, saying it is responsible to the parliament and that he will address the National Assembly if it wishes him to do so. Zhelev stressed that he is determined to exercise his constitutional rights, which include appointing ambassadors and vetoing laws. In response to government accusations that he ignores the people's will by vetoing laws, Zhelev noted that the total votes for him in the presidential elections exceeded the number who voted for the Socialist parliament majority and government by 600,000. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIAN OPPOSITION TO COOPERATE. Ivan Kostov, leader of the Union of Democratic Forces, and the co-chairmen of the People's Union, Stefan Savov and Anastasiya Dimitrova-Mozer, announced on 12 May that they will cooperate in the forthcoming local elections, Demokratsiya reported the following day. They agreed to nominate joint candidates, grant local organizations a large degree of autonomy, and require candidates to adhere to the local election platform. Extra-parliament opposition groups will also be invited to cooperate, but according to Dimitrova- Mozer, it is unclear which these will be. Talks are scheduled with the Movement for Rights and Freedom, which is supported mainly by ethnic Turks. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. ETHNIC GREEKS UNDER PRESSURE TO LEAVE ALBANIAN PUBLIC LIFE. Five ethnic Greek Albanians who are members of the minority organization Omonia and have been sentenced to suspended prison terms for separatism and espionage are under pressure from the ethnic Greek Albanian Party for the Defense of Human Rights (PBDNJ) to leave public life. The PBDNJ was founded after a court ruled that Omonia could not run as an ethnically defined party in the 1992 elections. PBDNJ leader Vasil Melo was quoted by Gazeta Shqiptare on 14 May as saying that "it would be better for [Omonia], if the five disappear from political life." -- 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. 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