|A man should never be ashamed to own he has been in the wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that he is wiser today than he was yesterday. - Jonathan Swift|
No. 180, Part II, 15 September 1995
This is Part II of the Open Media Research Institute's Daily Digest. Part II is a compilation of news concerning Central, Eastern, 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 CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE UPDATE ON BELARUSIAN BALLOON DOWNING. International agencies on 14 September reported that Maj.-Gen. Valerii Kastenka, commander of the Belarusian air defense forces, was responsible for ordering the shooting down of a hot air balloon that flew into Belarusian air space while competing in an international race (see OMRI Daily Digest, 15 September 1995). The central command of the Belarusian air defense forces said it had received no information on balloons entering Belarusian territory. Belarusian authorities claim they attempted to establish radio contact with the balloon but got no response. A combat helicopter was sent to intercept it, and the pilots apparently did not see anyone in the balloon even after firing warning shots. Deputy Foreign Minister Valeryi Tsyapkala admitted that Belarus was guilty to a certain extent and said an investigation would be launched. Two other balloons responded to radio contact and were forced to land. Belarusian officials complained that the balloon pilots did not have visas, and the crew of one balloon went to Poland the following day with the proper documentation. Some U.S. officials have expressed outrage over the incident, and the American embassy in Minsk expressed concern that it was not informed of the event until 24 hours later. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. HEAD OF BELARUSIAN NATIONAL BANK FIRED. International agencies on 15 September reported that President Alyaksandr Lukashenka accepted the resignation of Stanislau Bahdankevich, head of the National Bank of Belarus. Bahdankevich was reportedly advised to resign by a senior member of Lukashenka's administration last week. A special commission is to be established to monitor the bank, and Bahdankevich's deputy, Mykola Kuzmich, will act as head. Bahdankevich opposed many of Lukashenka's policies, including monetary union and the merger of a state bank with a commercial one, which, he said, was meant to enhance the president's control over the economy. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN BRUSSELS. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Hennadii Udovenko on 14 September signed an individual cooperation program for Ukraine with NATO within the Partnership for Peace program, Ukrainian Radio reported. The agreement states that any expansion of NATO must be aimed at enhancing European security. After signing the agreement with NATO Secretary-General Willy Claes in Brussels, Udovenko said Ukraine is convinced that its participation in the cooperation program will be instrumental in developing relations between Kiev and NATO countries. Ukraine is the second country--after Russia--out of the 26 participating in the Partnership for Peace program to have an individual "16 plus one" program . -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. UKRAINIAN ECONOMIC NEWS. President Leonid Kuchma, speaking to a meeting of leading Ukrainian economists, predicted that Ukraine's economy will recover from its crisis in one to two years, Ukrainian TV reported on 14 September. He said the country cannot simply copy Western economic models but should come up with a blueprint in which the government continues to play a major role in the economy. Kuchma added that the state sector's share of production has fallen to 60% and that the government plans to reduce the number of state-owned enterprises to between 15% and 25%. Kuchma said it will be difficult to keep its promises to the IMF to cut monthly inflation to 1-2% by December and halt the decline in industrial and agricultural production at the same time. Meanwhile, the parliament voted the same day to approve a new law on financial-industrial groups, chiefly aimed at encouraging Russian investment in Ukrainian industry to save ailing Ukrainian enterprises, Radio Ukraine reported. -- Chrystyna Lapychak, OMRI, Inc. UKRAINE TO SELL TWO SPACE-MONITORING SHIPS. Ukraine will be forced to sell two of the former Soviet Union's largest space monitoring ships because it cannot afford to maintain them, Gen. Valery Litvinov, chief of the agency for missile-space armaments in the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, told ITAR-TASS on 14 September. One of these ships is Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the world's largest ship fitted for scientific activities; the other is Academician Sergei Koroleva, a similar ship bristling with electronic tracking and communications equipment. Ukraine inherited the two ships, formerly used to monitor and control Soviet space flights, because they happened to be registered in the Ukrainian port. While Litvinov would not name the country that wants to buy them, the press has speculated that it is China. He said Ukraine may need them itself in five years but cannot afford the money needed to repair and maintain them. -- Doug Clarke, OMRI, Inc. ESTONIAN ECONOMICS MINISTER TO FACE NO CONFIDENCE VOTE? Estonia media on 14 September reported that opposition deputy Tunne Kelam submitted a no confidence bill against Minister of Economy Liina Tonisson. The bill was backed by 22 deputies from the opposition. According to Kelam, there are serious questions about privatization and the country's national interests. Privatization has reportedly slowed in Estonia, and there have been a number of scandals connected with the process. -- Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc. POLISH COMMISSION RULES CONCORDAT DOES NOT VIOLATE CONSTITUTION. The Parliament Commission on the Concordat, headed by Democratic Left Alliance deputy Zbigniew Siemiatkowski, decided on 14 September that the concordat--signed by Poland and the Holy See on 28 July 1993 and not ratified yet--does not violate existing Polish "constitutional laws." The commission, created in July 1994, has also been empowered to decide whether the Concordat violates the Polish constitution that is currently being drafted, Polish media reported on 15 September. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc. POLISH PRESS ON RUSSIAN COMECON MEMORANDUM. Polish dailies on 15 September reported that a memorandum on economic cooperation was sent by the Russian Foreign Ministry to the Moscow embassies of the former COMECON countries. The memorandum proposes cooperation between the CIS countries and former COMECON countries, thus excluding the Baltic States. Gazeta Wyborcza reports that it was impossible to find out who was responsible for sending the memorandum. It also comments that Moscow wants to see if there is support for COMECON's reconstruction. -- Jakub Karpinski, OMRI, Inc. CZECH COALITION PARTIES AGREE ON CREATION OF SENATE. Leaders of the four parties in the Czech governing coalition on 14 September finally agreed on how to create a second parliamentary chamber, Czech media reported. The issue has divided the parties for almost 18 months, but now a proposal from the dominant Civic Democratic Party (ODS) to elect one senator in each of the 81 constituencies has been accepted. If the parliament approves the plan, senatorial elections could be held jointly with the parliamentary elections due next June. The coalition leaders also accepted ODS proposals on other issues to be tackled before the elections but remained divided on some important points such as Church restitution and the creation of new administrative regions. The latter, like the creation of the Senate, is stipulated in the 1992 constitution but has yet to be implemented. -- Steve Kettle, OMRI, Inc. AUSTRIAN COURT REFUSES BAIL TO SLOVAK PRESIDENT'S SON. An Austrian judge on 14 September refused to release Michal Kovac Jr. on bail two weeks after he was kidnapped, dumped in Austria, and arrested on fraud charges, international media reported. A Munich prosecutor issued an international arrest warrant for Kovac Jr. in November for an alleged $2.3 million fraud, and Germany has asked Austria for his extradition. It is widely suspected in Slovakia that the abduction of the president's son was politically motivated, as Kovac Sr. has been involved in a long- running dispute with Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar. President Kovac, in an interview with Narodna obroda on 14 September, said he would not resign over the matter and would be willing to leave office only if he were "deeply convinced that it would help Slovakia, democracy, truth, and justice." -- Sharon Fisher, OMRI, Inc. HUNGARY FEELS INCREASINGLY ENDANGERED BY BOSNIAN CONFLICT. The possibility of a military conflict involving Hungary has slightly increased because the situation in the former Yugoslavia is still full of question marks, Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs said to Hungarian newspapers on 14 September. He noted that while the chances of settling the neighboring conflict have improved, Hungary "is more endangered than before." Since the Croatian occupation of Krajina, tension has increased along Hungary's borders, with the recent flood of Krajina refugees upsetting the delicate balance of ethnic Hungarians in Serbia's northern province of Vojvodina. -- Zsofia Szilagyi, OMRI, Inc. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE NATO SUSPENDS AIR STRIKES AGAINST BOSNIAN SERBS . . . The UN and NATO on 14 September agreed to halt air strikes against the Bosnian Serbs following meetings between US envoy and assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, international media reported. Also on 14 September, Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladic and his civilian counterpart, Radovan Karadzic, agreed in Belgrade to the weapons withdrawal around Sarajevo. Milosevic has pledged to exercise his influence over the Bosnian Serb leadership in a bid to have them keep their word, but the extent of his influence is unclear. According to a UN statement, air strikes may resume after a 72-hour period should the Bosnian Serbs fail to comply with their pledge to withdraw heavy artillery around the capital of Sarajevo to outside the 20-km exclusion zone or should Bosnian Serb forces attack safe areas. Karadzic on 15 September vowed the withdrawal would be carried out. Meanwhile, international media have speculated that the Rapid Reaction Force around Sarajevo may soon be replaced by Italian and Russian troops. -- Stan Markotich, OMRI, Inc. . . . WHILE BOSNIAN CROAT TROOPS ADVANCE. Reuters on 15 September quotes Bosnian government radio as reporting that the Bosnian army's fifth corps from Bihac captured the northwestern town of Bosanski Petrovac from Bosnian Serb forces earlier the same day. Only hours earlier government troops entered the nearby town of Kulen Vakuf. The offensive has forced Serbian soldiers and civilians northward toward Banja Luka. UN officials said they could not determine whether the Serbs were carrying out a tactical retreat or had been routed. There were few signs of any organized resistance around recently capture Jajce. Bosnian Radio claims that many Serbian soldiers were captured in Bosanski Petrovac. NATO Secretary General Willy Claes and his UN counterpart, Boutros Boutros Ghali, called on "all the parties to cease immediately all offensive military activities and hostile acts." They said they were also "disturbed by reports of the exodus of large numbers of civilians from the affected areas." -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc. OTHER BOSNIAN NEWS. Reuters on 14 September says a taped telephone call between the Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and an army officer at the Lukavica barracks proves they tried to dupe the world into thinking they were pulling their heavy weapons back from Sarajevo earlier this month. Karadzic is quoted as telling the officer: "You have to prepare something to start moving towards Trnovo in order for the cameras to record it and send it to the world even if it means returning it during the night." Meanwhile, a doctor in Doboj is quoted as saying that "145 [people have been] wounded [and] some 27 to 30 civilians have been killed" since NATO air raids began on areas of eastern and northern Bosnia. It remains unclear whether some of those were casualties of the shelling of Doboj by government forces. Meanwhile the ICRC published a report saying that about 8,000 Muslims from Srebrenica are still missing and cannot be accounted for, international agencies reported. -- Fabian Schmidt, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIAN PRESIDENT WANTS TO BREAK HUNGARIAN IMPASSE. Ion Iliescu told a Reuters correspondent on 14 September that he wanted to take the lead with a "definitive step" toward rapprochement with Hungary. He added that Hungarian Prime Minister Gyula Horn was receptive but gave no details. Iliescu was speaking before a meeting with leaders of all parliamentary parties that was aimed at enlisting support for his ideas. Romanian TV reported that Iliescu presented three sets of documents about to be sent to Budapest, one of which was a "code of conduct" for dealing with the problem of national minorities. Iliescu last month called for a "historic reconciliation" between Romania and Hungary. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. VOIGT WARNS ROMANIANS AGAINST EXTREMISM. North Atlantic Assembly President Karsten Voigt told Radio Bucharest that Bucharest's chances for NATO entry depended, among other things, on improving the country's image abroad. Following a meeting with Ion Iliescu, Voigt said he told the president that "if in the German parliament we had a group calling itself Greater Germany, discontent and restlessness would be evident in many countries. . . . [If] I were to learn that a group calling itself Greater Romania is not only in the parliament but is also a member of the government coalition, it would take a lot of explaining to convince me that this does not mean the modification of borders." Meanwhile, Corneliu Vadim Tudor, leader of the Greater Romania Party, wrote in the party's weekly Politica that he would now wage "total war" against director of the Romanian Information Service Virgil Magureanu. His declaration follows the publication of documents released by the RIS showing that Tudor was an informer of the Securitate, Nicolae Ceausescu's secret police. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. ROMANIAN PENAL CODE WOULD RESTRICT PRESS FREEDOM. The Chamber of Deputies on 14 September approved an article in the Penal Code that would send journalists to jail for up to two years for offending a person's honor or reputation, Radio Bucharest reported. A similar version of the article was approved earlier this year by the Senate. Journalists and some opposition members protested the new article, saying its wording was vague and could be used to clamp down on reporters who criticized the government. Following debates in the Chamber of Deputies, President Ion Iliescu has to promulgate the text agreed on by the two chambers after mediation. -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. SNEGUR ON NEGOTIATIONS WITH TIRASPOL. Moldovan President Mircea Snegur has told Dmitrii Ryurikov, foreign policy adviser to Russian President Boris Yeltsin, that Moldova is ready to consider new proposals for solving the dispute with the breakaway republic of Transdniester in order to continue dialogue and prevent a new outbreak of the armed conflict. Infotag on 14 September reported that Moldovan officials expressed "concern" to Ryurikov about information published in the media on the delivery to the Tiraspol authorities of combat machinery and other military equipment by the Russian contingent. Chisinau also expressed discontent about the participation of Russian troops in the recent celebrations of Transdniester's "independence day." -- Michael Shafir, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIA NOT INVOLVED IN ATTEMPT TO KILL POPE? Ali Agca, the man who tried to kill Pope John Paul II in 1981, has said that Bulgaria was not involved in the plot, Bulgarian newspapers reported on 13 September, citing BTA reports from the previous day. Agca told Italian judges and his lawyer that "the Bulgarian connection was completely fabricated." According to 24 chasa, Agca said the CIA urged him to speak about a Bulgarian involvement. Standart claims that a KGB agent was involved in the attempt. Former BTA Director Boyan Traykov, in an article in Trud on 15 September, said Bulgarian officials now have to seek Bulgaria's total rehabilitation. Demokratsiya, however, noted that Agca was branded a liar, lunatic, and terrorist by people in Bulgaria who now say he is a credible witness in an attempt to whitewash over the affair. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. BULGARIAN MUSLIMS STAGE ANTI-GOVERNMENT PROTEST. Several hundred Muslims demonstrated in Sofia on 14 September against what they described as government interference in their religious affairs, Reuters reported the same day. They accused the government of trying to "control [their] fate . . . by administrative decree" and demanded the resignation of Hristo Matanov, director of the government's Religions Directorate. The demonstration was headed by Fikri Salih, who was elected chief mufti by part of the Bulgarian Muslim community. His followers have protested government backing for his rival, Nedim Gendzhev, who was chief Mufti before 1989 and whose reelection to this post in 1994 is not recognized by Salih followers. A statement issued by them said Gendzhev has "nothing to do with religion" and "continues to promote atheism among the Muslims." Matanov refused to resign, saying the Supreme Court backed the cabinet's decision to appoint Gendzhev as chief mufti. -- Stefan Krause, OMRI, Inc. MIXED REACTIONS TO GREEK-MACEDONIAN AGREEMENT. The signing on 13 September of the Greek-Macedonian agreement met with mixed reactions in both countries, AFP reported the following day. Greek government spokesman Evangelos Venizelos called the agreement a "historic step," noting that Greek arguments were "accepted in their entirety." Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov said the accord may be "a decisive event for the future of the Balkans" and praised Greece's "realistic attitude." The Greek press assessment of the accord ranged from "historic" to "betrayal" and "shameful," while opposition leader Miltiadis Evert said the agreement was unacceptable. Some 4,000 opposition supporters rallied in Skopje to protest the agreement, calling it "contrary to the . . . interests of . . . Macedonia." Opposition parties said it was a "shameful document [that harms] Macedonia's national dignity." -- Stefan Krause, 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 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
write to us
with your comments and suggestions.