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No. 2, Part II, 3 January 1996
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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ ROW OVER MISSING MUSLIMS IN SARAJEVO. Controversy continues over the 16 Muslims the Bosnian government says were kidnapped by Bosnian Serbs in the Serb-held suburbs of Sarajevo (see OMRI Daily Digest, 2 January 1996). Serbian officials said they included several military men who had been sent into the area to frighten Serbian civilians into fleeing and leaving their property behind. They charged the government with "Muslim terrorism" and trying to destabilize the Serbian communities. The Bosnian government, for its part, asked IFOR to intervene and restore freedom of movement. In a rare positive reference to UNPROFOR, the government minister for relations with NATO, Hasan Muratovic, told the BBC on 3 January that UNPROFOR at least managed to keep roads open with its convoys. -- Patrick Moore ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE UKRAINE TO PRIVATIZE AUTO PLANT. Interfax reported on 2 January that Ukraine will privatize its only automobile plant. The Avtozaz plant in Zaporizhzhya produces 60,000 cars annually, most of which are exported to Russia. Under the privatization plan, a quarter of the company will remain in state hands; 41% of the shares will be offered to Ukrainian investment companies and joint ventures; 12% will be offered to foreign buyers; and Ukrainian citizens will be able to purchase five percent of the plant with privatization vouchers. -- Ustina Markus BELARUSIAN ECONOMIC NEWS. Belarusian trade unions and the government agreed that as of 1 January the minimum weekly wage will be raised from 60,000 Belarusian rubles to 100,000, Radio Rossii reported the following day. At the current exchange rate, which President Alyaksandr Lukashenka promised to maintain, this raises the minimum wage from $5 to $8.70. Lukashenka also spoke with Russian President Boris Yeltsin on the telephone and suggested the two countries start the new year with a "zero option," under which all debts between Russia and Belarus would be canceled. -- Ustina Markus ESTONIAN MINISTRY OF CULTURE REESTABLISHED. As part of the new law on government passed on 14 December, the Ministry of Culture and Education began working as two separate ministries from the beginning of the year, ETA reported on 2 January. New Minister of Culture Jaak Allik noted that the ministry has about 50 employees. It will receive 543 million kroons ($47 million) from the state budget in 1996. Most of these funds will finance Estonian Television, Estonian Radio, the National Library, and theaters. -- Saulius Girnius MORE ON LITHUANIAN BANKING CRISIS. President Algirdas Brazauskas met on 2 January with Premier Adolfas Slezevicius, Bank of Lithuania President Kazys Ratkevicius, and various law officials to discuss the implementation of the Seimas law of 29 December on solving banking problems, BNS reported. One step in complying with its directive to report by 20 January on the progress in recovering the "bad loans" of the Litimpeks Bank and Joint-Stock Innovative Bank (LAIB) was made by issuing a subpoena for Jonas Urka, who had received loans worth $25 million from the LAIB. News that Slezevicius withdrew his deposits from the LAIB two days before its activities were frozen have prompted calls for his resignation. -- Saulius Girnius MORE ON THE OLEKSY AFFAIR. Polish Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy, in a radio interview on 2 January, rejected pressures to step down while allegations concerning his contacts with the Soviet and Russian secret services are clarified. He said that he was unable to interfere with the work of the secret services that "concocted this type of aggression" against him, so there would not be any interference now when supplementary documents are provided. New Internal Affairs Minister Jerzy Konieczny said in a radio interview on the same day that he has reviewed "in an introductory reading" the documents referring to Oleksy and "with necessary precautions" he would consider reacting differently than former Internal Affairs Minister Andrzej Milczanowski, who on 19 December deposited the documents in the military prosecutor's office and initiated the proceedings that may lead to a formal accusation. -- Jakub Karpinski PROSECUTORS TO INVESTIGATE POLISH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES' EDUCATION. The Warsaw Prosecutor's Office on 2 January instituted an investigation relating to information on the education of current President Aleksander Kwasniewski and former President Lech Walesa, and also of a candidate in the 1990 presidential elections, former Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki. Kwasniewski and Mazowiecki were described on presidential ballot lists as having a university degree, Walesa was described as having finished a primary trade school. All three claims are questioned. Mazowiecki says he never said he had a university degree. In the wake of the 1995 presidential elections, almost 600,000 protests against Kwasniewski's election referred to misinformation concerning his university degree. -- Jakub Karpinski CENTER TO OPEN FOR STUDY OF ROMA KILLED IN WWII. Brzezinka, a section of the Auschwitz prison camp, will house a center for the study and documentation of Romani extermination during World War II, international media reported on 2 January. The center will contain a library and archives of war documents. There are estimated to be between 20,000 and 70,000 Roma in Poland, fewer than in other countries in the region. The center will make international contacts with other Holocaust centers and museums, and will be funded by U.S. and German sources as well as by the Polish Ministry of Culture and private donations. Up to 80% of Roma living in the occupied territories (a similar proportion as of Jews) may have been killed during the war, and it has been more difficult for Roma than for others to obtain reparations, partly because Germany claimed until the 1960s that they were interned as "asocials" and not according to racial criteria. -- Alaina Lemon SLOVAK POLITICAL ROUNDUP. The ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) on 2 January issued a statement criticizing President Michal Kovac's speech delivered the previous day. Denouncing Kovac's evaluation of 1995 as "a year of political retaliation," the HZDS alleged that since its establishment, the party has been acting in accordance with "Christian moral principles and patriotism," Slovenska Republika reported. According to a poll carried out by the FOCUS agency in December, 65% of Slovaks have confidence in the Constitutional Court, making it the most trustworthy institution in Slovakia. The presidency is next with 59%, followed by the parliament with 53%, and the government with 42%. Support for the Constitutional Court rose 4% over the previous year, but trust in the other three institutions fell, Narodna obroda reported on 3 January. -- Sharon Fisher SLOVAK MEDIA DEVELOPMENTS. The first edition of the daily Nova Smena mladych appeared on newsstands on 2 January. The editor-in-chief is Maros Puchovsky, who previously held that same position at the weekly Zmena, which was found by a Slovak court to be anti-Semitic. The current government gave a 15 million koruny grant to Nova Smena mladych in November, and the paper gained another 35 million koruny from the 1996 state budget, making it the only Slovak daily which receives budget subsidies, Narodna obroda reported on 3 January. In other news, a FOCUS poll taken in December showed that 44.1% of Slovaks read the tabloid- style daily Novy cas, 27.9% read the left-wing Pravda, and 18.1% read the liberal opposition daily Sme/Smena. Readership of the HZDS-owned Slovenska Republika was down to 11.8%, Sme reported on 27 December. -- Sharon Fisher UPDATE ON KIDNAPPING OF SLOVAK PRESIDENT'S SON. According to a Sme report on 3 January, a former agent of the Slovak Information Service has filed charges against Major Jozef Ciz, who is currently in charge of the investigation into the abduction of Michal Kovac Jr. in August. Oskar F., who was pardoned by the president in November after confessing that he and other SIS agents were involved in the kidnapping, filed the charges based on an interview Ciz gave to Slovak Radio on 11 December. By using Oskar F.'s full name in the interview, Ciz informed the public of private information and thereby "endangered my security and the security of my family," Oskar F. said. This is the most recent of numerous law suits relating to the Kovac Jr. case. -- Sharon Fisher PERRY AND SHALIKASHVILI VISIT HUNGARY'S TASZAR AIRBASE. U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Shalikashvili visited the U.S. IFOR forces headquarters in southern Hungary's Taszar logistics base on 2 January, Hungarian and international media reported. Perry expressed optimism about the Bosnian peace effort and Shalikashvili noted that Hungarians had thus far shown efficiency in the Partnership for Peace project and their current cooperation shows that they can rise to a challenge quickly. Perry's visit is part of a seven-day tour of Europe and the Middle East to size up the U.S. contribution towards the peace process in Bosnia and between Israelis and Palestinians. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ADMIRAL SMITH SAYS "BANDITRY" IS NOT IFOR'S BUSINESS. AFP quoted a U.S. State Department spokesman as calling the reports of the abductions of 16 Muslims (see Top Story) "troubling." But IFOR's commander, Admiral Leighton Smith, told Bosnian Serb television on 2 January that dealing with missing persons and freedom of movement are the functions of the yet-to-be-established police force, not of his troops. Some observers suggested, however, that IFOR's mandate is so tough that Smith could make the abductions his business if he so chose. The BBC said that the Serbs are testing the will of the international community, and that if they can get away with a little bit in Sarajevo now, they will get away with much more in the towns and valleys later. Reuters reported the next day that NATO and Bosnian Serb representatives will meet to discuss the abductions. -- Patrick Moore IFOR DEPLOYMENT GOING ACCORDING TO PLAN. Hina noted on 3 January that the arrival of U.S. forces is moving along on or ahead of schedule. Some 3,500 American troops have arrived in Bosnia to date as the countdown proceeds to the 19 January deadline for the separation of hostile forces. Reuters noted that the various armies are busy removing up to seven million land mines in keeping with the Dayton agreement. In his confidence-building press conference on Bosnian Serb television, Admiral Smith said that the foreign Islamic fighters backing the Bosnian government were leaving in large numbers. Reuters also discussed the problems of post-traumatic stress disorder among Sarajevans. -- Patrick Moore IZETBEGOVIC ANGRY OVER NEW YEAR'S FESTIVITIES. Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic said he felt "uncomfortable" watching pictures of revelry in restaurants and cafes on state-run television. These included behavior and symbols "strange to our people," such as Christmas trees, Santa Claus figures, and ornaments on tables sinking with food and drink. AFP on 3 January quoted him as saying that the hard partying was limited to a tiny minority: "only a few impudent and callous ones dared to get plastered and to grimace in front of the cameras as if nothing has happened while the graves and wounds are still fresh." He also attacked broadcasters for allegedly approving of "European vices such as alcohol, drugs and pornography." Religious conservatives around Izetbegovic may find it difficult to convince the Bosnian Muslims -- a secular European people -- to continue the habits of wartime austerity now that peace has returned. -- Patrick Moore CROATIAN OPPOSITION TRIUMPHS IN ZAGREB LOCAL GOVERNMENT. Opposition parties on 2 January succeeded in electing Goran Granic of the Croatian Social Liberal Party (HSLS) mayor of the capital and Zdravko Tomac of the Social Democratic Party (the reformed communists) as speaker of the county assembly. This followed over a month of obstruction by President Franjo Tudjman and deputies from his Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ). Nasa Borba wrote on 3 January that it was unexpected that the HDZ legislators ended their boycott and let the government get on with its work. The HDZ is a minority in both bodies but has enough votes to block a quorum. Its leaders apparently realized they had no hope of persuading the HSLS to join them in a coalition or in improving their standing by forcing new elections. Tomac told the Feral Tribune that the future of Croatian democracy would be made or broken in Zagreb. -- Patrick Moore SERBIAN OPPOSITION AHEAD . . . A survey conducted in November and reported in Nasa Borba on 3 January showed that opposition leaders and their parties are most popular with rump Yugoslav youth who plan to vote in upcoming elections. In the poll of some 1,200 college and university students, 26.8% of respondents chose Vojislav Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS). Zoran Djindjic's Democratic Party (DS) gained 22.8%, Vojislav Seselj's ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party (SRS) 17.5%, and Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement 11.5%. Only 6.6% said they would vote for Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), while a mere 2.8% intended to back Mirjana Markovic, Milosevic's wife and head of a small leftist party. -- Stan Markotich . . . OR IS IT? Serbia's youth, however, appear to be out of step with broader public opinion. Also conducted in November, and reported in Nasa Borba on 19 December under the banner "There's Nothing New in Serbia," a survey of some 2,000 people revealed that most of the public favored the status quo. Milosevic remained among the most popular political figures for 50.9% of respondents. Also topping the list were accused war criminals, with Bosnian Serb military leader General Ratko Mladic receiving approval from 50% of respondents, and his civilian counterpart, Radovan Karadzic, 36%. The most unpopular figures were opposition leaders Seselj (65.9%), Draskovic (60.7%) and Djindjic (57.3%). The ruling Socialist Party of Serbia remained the party of choice for most voters. -- Stan Markotich FLOODS CONTINUE IN ROMANIA. Heavy rains have continued to provoke floods in various Romanian provinces, Radio Bucharest reported on 2 and 3 January. The rivers Mures, Crisul Alb and Crisul Negru have flooded hundreds of hectares of agricultural land, dwellings, and local roads in southern Transylvania and the Banat. Floods were also registered in southern Romania, especially in the Dambovita, Prahova, and Olt counties. Hundreds of families had to be evacuated, while an eight-year- old boy reportedly drowned. Meanwhile, the Danube is expected to reach critical levels on 3 and 4 January. -- Dan Ionescu SIX BULGARIAN POLICEMEN CHARGED WITH MURDER. Bulgarian newspapers on 3 January reported that six policemen from Sofia were charged with the murder of 22-year old Hristo Hristov. Hristov was arrested for theft on 5 April 1995 and died a few hours later in police custody. The autopsy then showed that he died of a massive hemorrhage; he had a torn aorta and several broken ribs as a result of severe beating. The six policemen were arrested the following day and later placed under house arrest; if convicted, they face up to 30 years in prison or the death penalty. According to Duma, the indictment was issued on 27 December. -- Stefan Krause FORMER BULGARIAN PREMIER CRITICIZES VIDENOV. Andrey Lukanov of the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), in an interview with RFE's Bulgarian Service on 2 January, accused "a group of people" within the BSP and the government of waging a campaign against him for "clearly materialistic reasons." Lukanov said they unjustly accuse him of being hungry for power and of wanting to become prime minister again. He named people in the government's press center and the financial group Orion, which is said to be close to the government, as being behind this campaign. Lukanov said that "the government has to put its house in order" and said he expects Prime Minister Zhan Videnov to take a clear position. Orion Chairman Nikola Krivoshiev, in an interview published by 24 chasa on 3 January, said Lukanov and others in the BSP have failed to help Videnov ever since the BSP returned to power. He accused Lukanov of wanting to use economic power to achieve political power. Until September 1995, Krivoshiev held a 49% stake in the BSP daily Duma. -- Stefan Krause GREEK SOCIALISTS CALL FOR PAPANDREOU'S REPLACEMENT. Senior members of the governing Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) on 2 January called for the immediate replacement of Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou, Reuters reported the same day. They said a new premier has to be elected in order to avoid a power vacuum both in the government and in PASOK. Papandreou has been in hospital since 20 November 1995, and his lung and kidney functions are supported by machines. Government spokesman Tilemachos Hytiris said any move to elect a new prime minister is unacceptable and unconstitutional; the premier can be replaced only if he dies or resigns. Defense Minister Gerasimos Arsenis and former Industry and Trade Minister Kostas Simitis are seen as the strongest contenders to succeed Papandreou. -- Stefan Krause ALBANIAN SOCIALIST PARTY TAKES NANO OFF ITS CANDIDATES LIST. The Socialist Party scheduled its pre-election party congress for 23 March 1996 and decided to take imprisoned party leader Fatos Nano off the candidates list for June's parliamentary elections, ATSH reported on 27 December. At a previous meeting, the party leadership reportedly decided that a number of other legislators, who held office before 1991 and are banned from running for parliament by the "genocide law" adopted in September, will not attempt to stand again. They include Party General Secretary and former Interior Minister Gramoz Ruci, transition government Prime Minister Ylli Bufi, former Parliamentary Speaker Kastriot Islami, former Finance Minister Leontiev Cuci, former Health Minister Sabit Brokaj, former member of the Albanian Workers' Party's Central Committee Dritero Agolli and former Culture Minister Moikom Zeqo. -- Fabian Schmidt [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. 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