|Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. - Vladimir Nabokov|
No. 250, Part II, 28 December 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, 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/Index.html ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^TODAY'S TOP STORY^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ IZETBEGOVIC PROTESTS SMITH'S MESSAGE TO SERBS. Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic formally objected to statements by NATO commander Admiral Leighton Smith that he would consider a Serb request to delay the transfer of authoriity in Serb-held Sarajevo suburbs (See OMRI Daily Digest, 27 December 1995). The VOA's Croatian Service and the BBC said that the president was disappointed that Smith would have even considered such a move. Bosnian Foreign Minister Muhamed Sacirbey set down his government's objections in talks with U.S. officials, saying that the Serbs were trying "to break the back" of the accord, the International Herald Tribune reported on 28 December. Minister for relations with NATO Hasan Muratovic told news agencies that "this is not the job of IFOR." The Bosnian authorities fear that the Serbs will use such moves to delay implementing the peace plan. Muratovic added that if Smith's forces would not carry out the transfer on time, his government would demand they be replaced with those who could, AFP reported. -- Patrick Moore ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE NUKE WITHDRAWAL FROM UKRAINE ON SCHEDULE. Russian television and Interfax reported on 26 and 27 December that the removal of nuclear weapons from Ukraine is proceeding on schedule for this year. By the end of October all 46 SS-24 and 80 out of 130 SS-19 missiles in Ukraine had been scrapped. 32 of Ukraine's SS-19 missiles are being redeployed in Russia. The U.S. has been monitoring the weapons removal and has promised Ukraine $350 million towards the effort. -- Ustina Markus GROMOV ON BLACK SEA FLEET. The Commander of the Russian navy, Admiral Feliks Gromov, sent a message to the Black Sea Fleet command outlining Russia's position on the fleet after the transitional joint-control period between Russia and Ukraine expires on 1 January 1996, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 22 December. The message stated that no agreements on the status of Russian naval forces in Ukraine has been signed and the fleet's division has not been clearly defined. Thus, Russia will maintain its position that all facilities in Sevastopol and some infrastructure in other parts of Crimea will be used by the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Gromov also said a draft agreement on the status of the fleet had basically been agreed on which assumes that Russian fleet personnel serving on Ukrainian territory will be subject to Russian law. -- Ustina Markus UNIONS THREATEN STRIKES IN BELARUS. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka assured workers and trade unions that there was no reason to strike and that striking would only "speed up the fall into the economic abyss," Belapan reported on 26 December. The statement came in response to a declaration by the head of the Federation of Trade Unions, Uladzimir Hancharyk, that trade unions were preparing to organize protest actions in January. Workers in a number of enterprises throughout the country have been holding meetings demanding the immediate payment of back wages. In August, transport workers went on strike over the same issue. Lukashenka broke the strike by bringing in temporary workers and paying them several times as much as transport workers earn. The president said any new strikes would be met with "appropriate action," but did not specify what that would be. -- Ustina Markus OLEKSY RESPONDS TO CALLS FOR HIS RESIGNATION. Polish Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy, accused by outgoing Internal Affairs Minister Andrzej Milczanowski of spying for Moscow, rejected calls for his resignation or of taking a temporary leave, saying in a 27 December radio interview that he would keep on working. He said he will demand an explanation as to how top secret materials, unknown to him, found their way from the Internal Affairs Ministry to the media. Opposition deputies have demanded Oleksy's resignation or at least a temporary absence from office until military prosecutors and a special parliamentary committee investigate the case. New president Aleksander Kwasniewski said he was waiting for the charges against Oleksy to be dealt with by military prosecutors and courts because he did not want to influence proceedings, Polish and Western media reported on 28 December. -- Jakub Karpinski LITHUANIAN BANKING CRISIS. Prime Minister Adolfas Slezevicius said on 27 December that the government would present the next day to the Seimas a resolution on emergency measures for solving banking problems, ELTA reported. The measures call for an audit of the Litimpeks and Akcinis Inovacinis Banks (LAIB) by the international audit company Ernst and Young and the creation of a plan by 20 January for returning the deposits to these banks. Christian Democratic Party faction leader Ignacas Uzdavinys said that the government and the Bank of Lithuania were responsible for the banking crisis since they had had information about questionable loans for a long time, but did nothing. -- Saulius Girnius HAVEL PARDONS CZECH UNPROFOR SOLDIER. President Vaclav Havel has pardoned a Czech soldier who was accused of cowardice while serving with UNPROFOR in Croatia, Pravo reported on 27 December. The soldier, identified only as Marek F., allegedly handed over his weapons and pleaded with Serbian troops who surrounded his unit last March not to shoot him and his colleagues. He was charged with endangering the moral state of his unit and could have faced life imprisonment under military law. -- Steve Kettle SETTING PRECEDENTS: ROMA IN CZECH AND INTERNATIONAL LEGAL DEBATES. The Brno district attorney's office has appealed the district court's sentence of a 21-year-old Czech for the murder of a Romani man, the state attorney told CTK on 27 December. The district attorney disputes the Brno court's decision that the attack was not racially motivated, which would have carried a higher sentence, according to laws on racially motivated crimes adopted earlier this year, just after the Brno murder. The Czech man received a 12-year sentence, but could have received 15 if convicted of a racially motivated murder. Meanwhile, a 26 December feature in The New York Times on the Czech citizenship law and discriminatory practices towards Roma challenged the common view of the Czech Republic as a "bastion of tolerance." It said that UN officials are concerned about the precedents such policies could set for other countries preparing new citizenship laws, such as Croatia and Macedonia, although it did not mention similar discriminatory policies and practices that exist in some Western countries. -- Alaina Lemon CZECH TRADE AND CURRENT ACCOUNT DEFICITS AGAIN RISE SHARPLY . . . The Czech Republic in November recorded its third highest monthly current account deficit of the year, according to figures released by the Statistics Office on 27 December. The shortfall in November was 10.6 billion koruny ($398 million), compared with 12 billion koruny ($451 million) in October, the worst result so far this year. For the first 11 months of 1995, the cumulative trade deficit was 86.7 billion koruny ($3.26 billion), more than seven times higher than for the same period last year. In November, imports were 29.6% higher than in November 1994, while exports were only 10.7% higher. -- Steve Kettle . . . WHILE SLOVAKIA RECORDS TRADE DEFICIT, CURRENT ACCOUNT SURPLUS. Slovakia recorded a foreign trade deficit of 542 million koruny ($18.31 million) in November, but its current account for the first 11 months of 1995 remained in surplus, at 3.3 billion koruny ($111.5 million), Sme reported on 28 December. Imports in November were 22.8 billion koruny while exports were 22.3 billion koruny. -- Steve Kettle SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE SARAJEVO DISENGAGEMENT COMPLETED. IFOR authorities on 27 December said that Bosnian Serb and government forces ended their withdrawal from 40 key frontline positions, two hours ahead of schedule. The VOA's Serbian Service called it "the first big test" for NATO in its efforts to supervise the disengagement of forces in line with the Dayton agreement. The BBC noted that both sides cooperated in the first stage of setting up a "zone of separation" despite the difficulties in executing such a pullback in a city. The next deadline is 19 January, when a two- kilometer zone is to be set up and demined. -- Patrick Moore MLADIC ABUSED FRENCH PILOTS. The French Defense Ministry on 27 December admitted that Bosnian Serb forces had mistreated the two French airmen captured at the end of August and released on 12 December, news agencies reported. The ministry thus went back on previous official statements that the men had been well treated, but it denied charges in Le Canard Enchaine that the authorities had forced the pilots to lie about what had happened. They were kicked, beaten, isolated in ice-cold bunkers, and put through mock executions. Indicted war criminal General Ratko Mladic, the pilots said, "was the boss from beginning to end. He decided what our fate would be," threatening to torture and kill them. The Serbs kicked the men's injured legs and threw them only occasional food. The revelations again fueled speculation that the French made a deal to free them, involving plea-bargaining for Mladic at the Hague war crimes tribunal or better terms for the Sarajevo Serbian suburbs. -- Patrick Moore INTERNATIONAL RED CROSS PROTESTS LACK OF ACCESS TO PRISONERS. International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) officials warned on 27 December that all sides were violating provisions of the peace accord related to the exchange of prisoners of war, Hina reported the same day. During the recent release of 245 prisoners (See OMRI Daily Digest, 27 December 1995), both the Bosnian Serb and government forces denied the ICRC access to prisoners as set down in the Dayton agreement. The VOA's Serbian Service reported that the ICRC stated that prisoners have been released without a prior interview with Red Cross officials and that such releases amount to an expulsion. The ICRC lists 700 to 800 prisoners, but this number is not final because its officials have not had unimpeded access to all prisons and detention camps. -- Patrick Moore and Daria Sito Sucic CROATIAN HIGH COURT RULES FOR GOVERNMENT, AGAINST COUNCILMEN. The Constitutional Court on 27 December rejected the appeal by 45 newly- elected councilmen from opposition parties against the government's decision to annul their work in the Zagreb City and County Councils (See OMRI Daily Digest, 18 December 1995), Hina reported the same day. The Court upheld the government's case and ruled that a new constituent session should be held on 2 January. Should that fail, the government will appoint its own administrator for Zagreb and new elections will be called. Meanwhile, negotiations between the government and opposition are underway about a compromise solution, but the opposition has made clear that it will insist on holding the mayor's job, Novi list wrote on 28 December. -- Daria Sito Sucic UPDATE ON IFOR ARRIVAL IN BOSNIA. AFP reported on 28 December that 35,000 IFOR soldiers were deployed on the territory of former Yugoslavia, with 28,000 in Bosnia and the rest in Croatia. In spite of bad weather and the difficulties inherent in coordinating 60,000 soldiers from 32 countries, more than 50% of IFOR's scheduled personnel are in the area only a week after NATO started its biggest military operation, a NATO spokesman said on 27 December. Most of the soldiers there are British and French who had already served with UNPROFOR. Out of 20,000 Americans, only 1,400 have arrived, Nasa Borba reported on 28 December. -- Daria Sito Sucic NASTY WEATHER HITS WESTERN BALKANS . . . Heavy rains held up U.S. troops in building two pontoon bridges over the Sava River, while floods following a dam burst wiped out a French Foreign Legion base near Mostar. The men were evacuated by helicopter, news agencies reported. But an Italian policeman was killed in a road accident and military vehicles were washed away. The French have evacuated 600 Muslims from Mostar amid fears that another dam may burst. The Muslim authorities wanted to burst the dam as a preventive measure but local Croat officials refused. Meanwhile, widespread flooding cut off villages and forced about 2,000 people to evacuate their homes in northern Albania, Reuters reported on 27 December. At least 5,000 hectares of land were submerged and hundreds of houses have been destroyed. High water is also threatening two hydropower stations on the Drin River. -- Patrick Moore and Fabian Schmidt . . . AND ROMANIA. Several people were killed and hundreds of people were forced to leave their homes by heavy floods that hit Romania this week, Radio Bucharest reported on 26-27 December. Particularly affected are the eastern, the northern, and northwestern parts of the country. Rompres reported that the floods cut off telephone lines, water and power supplies, and disrupted traffic in several counties. A government press release said 1,369 dwellings had been flooded, six bridges were destroyed, and numerous roads closed. -- Michael Shafir POLL SHOWS ILIESCU WINNING IN 1996. A poll conducted by the Romanian Institute for Public Opinion Surveying shows 67% of Romanians are of the opinion that incumbent President Ion Iliescu will win the presidential election scheduled for autumn 1996. Romanian television reported on 26 December that 57% believe Iliescu's party, the Party of Social Democracy in Romania, will win the parliamentary elections to be held at the same time. The report did not specify what proportion of respondents mentioned the Democratic Convention of Romania or its candidate, Emil Constantinescu, as likely to win the parliamentary and the presidential elections, respectively. -- Michael Shafir TRANSDNIESTRIAN ELECTIONS AND REACTIONS. According to data from Infotag on 27 December, the results of the referendum that was held concomitantly with parliamentary elections in the breakaway region of Transdniester are slightly different from those reported the previous day. The constitution was approved by 82.7% of the voters and 89.7% were in favor of joining the CIS. Voter participation was 62.4%. Moldovan President Mircea Snegur said the sole objectives of the vote were to strengthen Tiraspol's position concerning independence and undermine negotiations with Chisinau. He also attacked parliament chairman Petru Lucinschi for publicly backing forces in the Transdniester that favor the region's re-integration with Moldova instead of denouncing the unconstitutionality of the exercise. Presidential adviser Victor Josu told journalists in Chisinau that the presence, allegedly as observers, of Russian Duma deputies in the Transdniester had been a "gross violation of international law" and an "interference in the internal affairs of the Republic of Moldova." On the other hand, Oleg Mirnov, who headed the Duma delegation, spoke in the Tiraspol parliament, praising the elections and stating that the referendum has shown the population's "enthusiasm and wish for integration, first and foremost with Russia." -- Michael Shafir MOLDOVA, UKRAINE SIGN MILITARY COOPERATION AGREEMENTS. Visiting Ukrainian Defense Minister Valerii Shmarov and his Moldovan counterpart Pavel Creanga signed in Chisinau on 27 December a number of agreements on cooperation between their ministries. The first such agreements had been signed in 1993 and since then ties had been successfully developing. Shmarov said the proximity of the Transdniester region to his country's borders makes Ukraine particularly interested in a peaceful settlement of the conflict. Though Ukraine could "theoretically" deploy peacekeeping units, it would prefer the conflict to be settled by "political means, without military interference." Smarov said that considering "the recent history of the former Russian 14th Army," the "current Russian contingent in Transdniester cannot receive the status of a peacekeeping force." Such a force could be provided by "other military units, maybe even an international force that included CIS participation." Creanga said granting peacekeeping status to the Russian contingent would lead to a violation of the 1992 agreement between Moscow and Chisinau. -- Michael Shafir UDF BOYCOTTS BULGARIAN ASSEMBLY AS BNB SUCCESSION DISCUSSED. Trud on 27 December reported that the Governor of the Bulgarian National Bank, Todor Valchev, has submitted his resignation for the third time. Deputies from the opposition Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) on 22 December boycotted an extraordinary parliamentary session at which the ruling socialists intended to approve his successor, Demokratsiya reported on 23 December. The UDF motivated its action, which deprived the parliament of a quorum, by noting that before voting on a successor, parliament must pass amendments to the law on the BNB and ratify Valchev's resignation. The BSP proposes replacing Valchev, whose term is up in January, with Atanas Paparizov, a deputy minister in the last communist regime, party member, and internationally respected economist (see OMRI Daily Digest, 18 December 1995). In other news, Bulgarian media on 22 December reported that Bulgarian Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski and his Greek counterpart Karolos Papoulias signed agreements opening three new border checkpoints between the two countries and on mutual rights over the Mesta river. -- Michael Wyzan and Stan Markotich PROSECUTOR DEMANDS TWO YEARS PRISON IN ALBANIAN PRINTING MACHINE SCANDAL. Tirana prosecutor Shkelqin Danaj demanded a two-year prison sentence for former Zeri I Popullit editor in chief Perparim Xhixha, Gazeta Shqiptare reported on 27 December. Xhixha is accused of misappropriating $400,000 that were given to the daily in 1991 to buy a printing machine in Canada, which never materialized. Xhixha's lawyers argued that there is not enough evidence against him. -- Fabian Schmidt [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Pete Baumgartner 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. 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