|We are all apt to believe what the world believes about us. - George Eliot|
No. 158, Part II, 15 August 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 PROVISIONAL CURRENCY DECLINES SHARPLY. The value of the karbovanets has fallen from 152,000 to 167,700 to $1 on the National Bank's Interbank Currency Exchange in the past week, Ukrainian TV and Interfax reported on14 August. On the black market, it has plunged to a record low of 200,000 to $1. National Bank of Ukraine officials blame the devaluation on panic-buying of dollars by enterprises and individuals following the government's announcement that monetary reform and the introduction of a new permanent tender, the hryvna, are imminent. Beginning 1 August, Ukraine banned the use of foreign currency for cash retail and service transactions. Deputy Interior Minister Yurii Vandin told UNIAR on 14 August that some $4 billion was in circulation on the black market. Volodymyr Radchenko, chief of Ukraine's security service, said the black market serves as the primary source of income for some 2.5 million people, including up to 40% of youths in big cities. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. COAL MINERS' STRIKE AVERTED IN UKRAINE. A pledge from Ukraine's coal industry minister to settle miners' wage arrears averted a scheduled miner's rally in the Ukrainian capital, UNIAN and a Radio Liberty correspondent in Kiev reported on14 August. Organizers called off the strike after Viktor Poltavets, the minister, ordered the managers of coal enterprises to pay wages owed for May, June and July by 21 August. Poltavets also ordered the directors of the still mainly state-owned coal mines to submit proposals to the ministry by 15 August on where to find money to raise coal miners' wages. Miners rank second after teachers in the amount of back pay owed them, according to the statistics ministry. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. SEVASTOPOL PROTESTS RUSSIAN BROADCAST. The deputy chairman of Sevastopol's city executive, Borys Kucher, sent a message to the head of Russian Public Television protesting a newscast from 11 August which claimed that municipal leaders had applied to the International Court in The Hague to confirm Russian status for the city, Ukrainian Radio reported on 14 August. Several lines from Kucher's telegram were left out when it was broadcast by Russian Public Television. The telegram stated: "The Sevastopol city administration would have regarded the broadcast by Russian Public Television as just an April fool's joke if it did not have such far-reaching consequences. This concerns some hotheads who do not approve of the Russian and Ukrainian presidents' position on the Black Sea Fleet." The telegram also said that aid to Sevastopol in repairing railways after the recent accident came only from the Ukrainian side. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. EBRD CREDIT TO UKRAINE. The EBRD will open a $13 million credit line to the First Ukrainian International Bank (FUIB) to develop Ukrainian agricultural enterprises, Interfax reported on 14 April. Under the agreement signed in London last week, the FUIB will offer medium-term credits for special projects to agricultural enterprises. This is the first bank-to-bank credit line the EBRD has opened to Ukraine. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. MEETING OF LATVIAN, LITHUANIAN PRIME MINISTERS. Lithuanian Prime Minister Adolfas Slezevicius, returning from Tallinn, stopped in Riga on 13 August for talks with his Latvian counterpart Maris Gailis, RFE/RL reported the following day. By obtaining Latvia's agreement that Lithuania should control the air space over the Baltic Sea closest to its borders, Lithuania gains revenues of some $1 million a year in fees from airlines. The premiers agreed that Foreign Ministers Povilas Gylys and Valdis Birkavs would meet in the near future to discuss the demarcation of the sea border between the two countries. The next meeting of the premiers will take place in September in Ventspils. -- Saulius Girnius, OMRI, Inc. BELARUS TO INTRODUCE NEW FORM OF MILITARY SERVICE. The Defense Ministry is proposing that a new type of "reserve service" be introduced, Belarusian Radio reported on 14 August. Under the plan, a young man would learn a specialty in a military unit without quitting his civilian job. He would serve 35 weekends or their equivalent with the unit and attend a three-month camp. Other changes in the ministry's draft of a new law on universal military service include allowing 17-year-olds to enlist voluntarily. It also provides for contract service, and alternative service for citizens whose religious beliefs do not allow them to bear arms. The report said that the draft law would be submitted to the Security Council by 1 September. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. BELARUS GETTING HELP IN MEETING ITS ARMS COMMITMENTS. A source in the Belarusian Foreign Ministry told Interfax on 14 August that the republic's search for ways to cut costs while meeting its arms control commitments was having some success. The source listed an agreement with the United States in which the U.S. would pay hard currency compensation for some of the cost of hosting arms inspection teams, and a pledge by Japan to provide $5.2 million to curb nuclear proliferation. The source also said that Belarus had received the right to export 298 T-80 tanks rather then be forced to destroy them to meet the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) ceilings. It can also keep some 500 decommissioned military vehicles for domestic use. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. OPINION POLL SHOWS WHAT POLES CONDEMN. According to a Public Opinion Research Center (OBOP) survey carried out in July, almost all Polish adults consider refusal to pay alimony as a social sin. Among respondents over 16, 95% condemned this while 93% opposed possession of drugs and the same number condemned desecration of religious symbols. Persecuting persons because they are of a different nationality was disapproved by 80%, sex for money by 79%, sexual relations with a person of the same sex by 74%, hiding income in a statement for the treasury by 64%, and refusal of military service by 59%. Other subjects widely disapproved in the poll included illegal demonstrations against the authorities (58%), illegal strikes (57%), abortion (49%), euthanasia (48%), not voting in elections (39%), divorce (39%), and premarital sex (35%). Older people, those with less education, rural inhabitants, and those who declare that they are believers practicing regularly, are less tolerant than others, Polish dailies reported on 11 and 14 August. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc. CZECH CURRENCY RESERVES CONTINUE TO RISE. Hard currency reserves held by the Czech National Bank amounted to $10.1 billion as of 1 August, Hospodarske noviny reported on 15 August. It added that the total reserves in the Czech banking system were $12.6 billion, representing a modest rise in the past few weeks. Measures brought by the CNB to restrict a huge inflow of short-term speculative capital into the Czech Republic came into force on 3 August. Hospodarske noviny, however, quoted CNB spokesman Martin Svehla as saying the measures were not expected to reduce the amount of reserves overall but rather to change structurally the proportions of long-term and short-term foreign capital in the Czech economy. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc. INTERNATIONAL MILITARY EXERCISE TO BE HELD IN SLOVAKIA. The first international military exercise held in Slovakia since it gained independence in January 1993 will take place from 6 to 14 September within the Partnership for Peace program. Soldiers from the Austrian, Czech, Polish, Ukrainian, Hungarian, Romanian and Slovak armies will take part in the "Rozhodnost 95" exercise, to be held in the military training area of Lest, Slovak media report on 14 and 15 August. The main aim of the exercise is to improve understanding among Slovakia's closest neighbors. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. SLOVAK COMMUNIST REFUSES BLAME FOR 1968 INVASION. In a two-part interview with Pravda on 12 and 14 August, former high-ranking Communist Party official Vasil Bilak said he did not sign the "invitation letter" asking the Warsaw Pact armies to invade Czechoslovakia in 1968. Russian President Boris Yeltsin presented the letter to then Czechoslovak President Vaclav Havel in summer 1992, and Bilak is the only alleged signatory who is still alive. His name has been mentioned in connection with treason charges recently brought up again in the Czech Republic, but he remains free in Slovakia. Bilak confirmed that at a meeting of six Warsaw Pact member states on 3 August 1968, "a long white envelope" was handed over to the Soviet delegation which contained a resolution stating that "not only the building but also the protection of socialism is a joint task for all socialist countries." Bilak said he did not consider the resolution an invitation and stressed that Czechoslovakia would have been invaded in any case. -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE "SINISTER" DEVELOPMENT IN BANJA LUKA EXODUS. This is how UN spokesman Chris Jankowski described the Bosnian Serb announcement that Croat and Muslim males of military age will not be allowed to leave, international media reported on 15 August. Bosnian Serb officials had earlier ordered the expulsion of all Croats and Muslims from the Banja Luka region. Estimates vary as to what constitutes military age and how many Croats and Muslims still live there, but there appear to be roughly 50,000 persons remaining out of a prewar population of 500,000 non-Serbs. The Croats are being deported to Croatia and the Muslims to territory controlled by the Bosnian government, ostensibly to make room for refugees from Krajina. But there is plenty of other space available in Bosnian Serb-held regions following more than three years of systematic "ethnic cleansing." -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. SERBIA REOPENS BORDERS TO KRAJINA SERBS. Another reason that the Bosnian Serbs' excuse for the expulsions rings hollow is that most of the Krajina Serbs want to get out of Bosnia and as far away from the fighting as possible. Many plan new futures in North America or Australia, Monitor reported on 11 August, but the first stop would be Serbia. Belgrade, however, had closed the crossings at Sremska Raca, Badovinci, and Trobrnica to military-aged males in order to force them to return to Bosnian Serb territory and fight. Nasa Borba reported on 15 August that those crossings have been reopened, and AFP noted that 130,000 Krajina Serbs have entered Serbia to date. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. MILAN MARTIC CALLS FOR GUERRILLA WAR. Krajina's "president" has issued a call for Croatian Serbs to return home to fight. AFP on 14 August quoted him as speaking from "free territory" in Krajina. Martic said all government members and other Serbs should "return and liberate" their homeland. Politika reported on 15 August, however, that "Krajina" will henceforth be limited to Sector East, or eastern Slavonia. The UN is drastically scaling down its presence in Croatia following Operation Storm 10 days ago, which effectively rendered much of the peacekeepers' mission superfluous. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. BATTLEFIELD UPDATE. International media reported on 15 August that Bosnian government forces continued to advance toward Donji Vakuf in central Bosnia. In the mountains above Dubrovnik, Bosnian Serb guns on 14 August pounded the region around the medieval city for the third straight day, while Croatian forces sought to relieve the pressure by shelling the Serb stronghold of Trebinje. Mlada fronta dnes on 15 August quoted the Croatian minister for tourism as saying that vacationers could now safely return to the Dalmatian coast and islands as far south as the Dubrovnik region thanks to Operation Storm. Czech officials stressed, however, that in their opinion only Istria, Kvarner, and the coast down to Rijeka could truly be considered safe for now. -- Patrick Moore, OMRI, Inc. REFUGEE UPDATE IN MONTENEGRO. Montena-fax reported on 14 August that, according to Red Cross estimates, at least 450 refugees from Krajina have arrived in the rump Yugoslav republic. Montenegrin authorities had appealed to the international community to allow refugees to reach Montenegro via the port of Bar, which had been closed to international traffic in accordance with the international sanctions imposed against the rump Yugoslavia in May 1992 for its role in fomenting the wars throughout the former Yugoslavia. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. SERBIAN UPDATE. The leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO), Vuk Draskovic, met with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic on 14 August. BETA the same day reported that the reason for the meeting was unclear, but noted that assembled reporters were in part "awaiting the arrival" of diplomatic representatives, who did not materialize. In other news, Nasa Borba on 15 August reports that the telecommunications firm Bel Paget appears to have plans to eventually turn Belgrade "into one of the telecommunications centers of central and Eastern Europe." A company representative and Serbia's Minister of Private Enterprise Radoje Djukic reportedly discussed an initial investment of some $20 million to build a mobile telephone infrastructure. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIAN RED CROSS TO HELP KRAJINA REFUGEES. In a statement released on 14 August, the Romanian Red Cross announced that it was planning to send 20 tons of flour to help Serb refugees from Krajina. The communique, which was read on Radio Bucharest, said that the Red Cross was still awaiting the approval of the special UN Security Council committee watching over the compliance with the sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro. The Romanian Red Cross launched an appeal for further donations in favor of the refugees. In a separate development, Adrian Nastase, Executive Chairman of the ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania and a former Foreign Minister, said on 14 August that the embargo against rump Yugoslavia has lost its justification. Nastase recommended that a European summit should examine the conflicts in former Yugoslavia. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. BREAD RATIONING IN THE DNIESTER REGION. Moldova's breakaway Dniester Region announced that bread rationing would be introduced in Tiraspol as of 24 August, Reuters reported on 14 August. The ration of cheap, subsidized bread is 500 grams per day per person. Bread can also be bought freely in private shops, but it costs up to three times more than the rationed bread. The region's economy is reportedly in bad shape but local authorities, dominated by former Communists, continue to oppose market reforms. Rampant impoverishment makes even staples a luxury for ordinary Dniester inhabitants. -- Dan Ionescu, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIAN OFFICIALS INVESTIGATED FOR VIOLATING UN SANCTIONS. Bulgarian prosecutors are investigating several state railway officials for violating UN sanctions against rump Yugoslavia, Reuters reported on 14 August. The same day, Angel Ganev, head of the Prosecutor's Office Investigation Departments, said that the indictment against three officials is ready, and that charges are also being prepared against former State Railway Director-General Atanas Tonev, who was dismissed last year (see OMRI Daily Digest, 27 July 1995). Ganev said that "several additional legal cases [are] being prepared," but declined to give a figure. Bulgarian media said as many as 40 officials are under investigation for illegally exporting petroleum products, furniture, and cement to rump Yugoslavia. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT URGED TO STAY NEUTRAL IN YUGOSLAV CONFLICT. President Zhelyu Zhelev's adviser for national security Rumen Danov on 14 August told RFE/RL that the country must stick to its position of "categoric and demonstrative non-intervention" in the Yugoslav conflict, Bulgarian newspapers reported the following day. He said that a possible Russian unilateral withdrawal from UN sanctions (see OMRI Daily Digest, 14 August 1995) may be dangerous for Bulgaria as it could prompt similar reactions from other countries. He said the president's office was sure that the government "will not be so stupid" as to follow the Russian Duma's example. Meanwhile, the cabinet will not hold an extraordinary meeting to discuss the issue, Trud reports, since withdrawing from the sanctions requires a parliamentary vote. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. MAVI MEMBERS NOT INVOLVED IN ATTACK ON ALBANIAN BARRACKS? The Greek Supreme Court said it had no evidence that eight members of the Northern Epirus Liberation Front (MAVI), arrested in late March, were involved in an attack on an Albanian army barracks in Peshkepi in April 1994, Gazeta Shqiptare reported on 15 August. One of the accused was released on bail but the remaining seven still face charges of illegal possession and trafficking of weapons. With the court's ruling, charges of "endangering and troubling relations with a neighboring country [ . . . probably . . . ] leading to war" were dropped. When arrested, the MAVI members had Kalashnikov rifles that were allegedly taken from the Albanian barracks in last year's terrorist attack. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc. ALBANIAN-MACEDONIAN VISA AGREEMENT. The Albanian cabinet approved an agreement with Macedonia about the lifting of visa requirements for diplomatic and business passports and the unification of border tolls for other kinds of visa. The agreement also regulates special rights for people living in both countries' border regions, especially on paying lower border tolls. According to BETA on 14 August, there is, however, no information yet available about whether the tolls will be dropped or merely reduced. -- Fabian Schmidt, 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 OMRI 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 Please note that there is a new procedure for obtaining permission to reprint or redistribute the OMRI Daily Digest. Before reprinting or redistributing this publication, please write firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy of the new policy or look at this URL: http://www.omri.cz/Publications/Digests/DigestReprint.html 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 Copyright (C) 1995 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. ISSN 1211-1570
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