|Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened. - Sir Winston Churchill|
No. 16, Part II, 23 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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ DID SERBS USE POISON GAS AT SREBRENICA? There have been occasional charges in the Wars of the Yugoslav Succession that the Serbs used poison gas, but the BBC reported on 23 January that only now has one such claim apparently been verified. A British expert said that he had seen evidence of empty BZ gas canisters and shells at Srebrenica, which fell to the Serbs after a tough fight in July. The expert also spoke to survivors, and their descriptions of the events and the exposed Bosnian soldiers' reactions afterwards strongly indicated that they had been shelled with BZ. The gas is a hallucinogen that apparently caused the previously stout defenders of Srebrenica to become disoriented and hence easy pickings for Serb gunners. The Serbs seem to have used the gas only at one point on the Bosnians' defensive line and did not use it indiscriminately against civilians. The investigator said he would pass his findings on to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague. -- Patrick Moore ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE EU TO PROVIDE HUMANITARIAN AID TO EASTERN EUROPE. The European Commission on 22 January announced it will provide $3.75 million in humanitarian aid to Eastern Europe, Reuters reported. Some $2.5 million will go to aid victims of the 1985 Chornobyl nuclear disaster in Ukraine, Belarus and the Russian federation. Orphans, the sick, the disabled, and the elderly in Romania will receive $625,000 in food and medical supplies. Another $187,500 will go toward vaccinating children in Albania against polio. -- Michael Mihalka UKRAINIAN-RUSSIAN OIL TALKS. Discussions between Russia's Mintopenergo and Ukraine's Ukrneftehazprom began on 22 January over the increase in the tariff for transporting oil through Ukraine, ITAR-TASS reported. Russia has opposed the increase, introduced on 1 January, claiming price changes have to be agreed at government level. ITAR-TASS reports that Ukraine has no intention of backing down over the increase and began the session suggesting that the price could be raised further to $6.20 per ton of oil pumped through 100 km of Ukrainian territory. The price currently stands at $5.23. After oil exporters had their supplies to Central Europe suspended for ten days earlier this month, many signed short-term agreements with Ukraine allowing their oil to be pumped through the Druzhba pipeline across Ukraine to Central Europe. -- Ustina Markus CRIMEAN DEPUTY CALLS ON KIEV TO SUBSIDIZE MILITARY INSTALLATIONS. Vasyl Shpilkin, who heads the Crimean parliamentary Commission for Economy, Budget, and Financing, has called on Kiev to allocate 27 trillion karbovantsy ($150 million) for the social protection of military personnel on the peninsula, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 January. Shpilkin warned that military personnel and their dependents are in danger of becoming unemployed as Black Sea Fleet bases are handed over to Ukraine. So far, 61 of the 130 military facilities in Crimea have been transferred to Ukraine. Another 25 are awaiting signature of the appropriate documents. No decision has been made about the fate of the remaining 44 facilities. -- Ustina Markus OSCE HIGH COMMISSIONER IN LATVIA. OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel arrived in Latvia on 21 January for a three-day visit, BNS reported the following day. Acting director of the Latvian Human Rights Bureau Kaija Gertnere said that the purpose of the visit was not connected with violations of human rights or rights of ethnic minorities but was to get acquainted with the new government and parliament. Meetings are scheduled with Prime Minister Andris Skele, Interior Minister Dainis Turlais, parliamentary speaker Ilsa Kreiture, and parliamentary deputies. -- Saulius Girnius LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT PROPOSES DISMISSAL OF CENTRAL BANK HEAD. Algirdas Brazauskas signed a decree on 22 January proposing that the Seimas relieve Kazys Ratkevicius of his duties as chairman of the Bank of Lithuania, Radio Lithuania reported. Ratkevicius offered his resignation on 8 January after the ruling Democratic Labor Party expressed dissatisfaction with his work. Brazauskas, however, delayed proposing his removal to the Seimas because he thought Ratkevicius could help IMF and World Bank experts prepare a program to restructure four Lithuanian banks with serious problems. The proposal simplifies Ratkevicius's removal by requiring a simple majority vote in the Seimas; previously, 71 deputies would have had to vote against him. Brazauskas has suggested the bank's deputy chairman, Jonas Niaura, replace Ratkevicius. -- Saulius Girnius POLISH PRIME MINISTER ON SPY ALLEGATIONS. Jozef Oleksy, in a recent interview with Polityka, has stressed that he never worked for the KGB, Gazeta Wyborcza reported on 23 January. Asked about his contacts with Vladimir Alganov, Oleksy said that with the benefit of hindsight, he could see that it had been wrong to meet with the KGB officer. Former Interior Minister Andrzej Milczanowski maintains that the Office for State Protection warned Oleksy that Alganov was a KGB agent but Oleksy did not break off his contacts with him. Meanwhile, the Public Opinion Research Center reported that public confidence in Oleksy has dropped from 61% in December to 46% this month. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz CZECH ARMY OFFICERS CHARGED WITH CORRUPTION. Two senior army officers on 22 January were charged with corruption in awarding defense contracts, Czech media reported. A lieutenant-colonel who chaired a Defense Ministry tendering committee and a colonel who also sat on the committee, are accused of misusing their positions to influence how a major contract for heating equipment was decided. Neither soldier was named. Czech Television reported that the two allegedly demanded a bribe, a share of the contract's profits, and shares in the company awarded the contract, which could have totaled 30 million koruny ($1.12 million). The two were suspended and the order was canceled in December- -the third lucrative defense contract in recent months to be annulled amid suspicions of bribery. -- Steve Kettle SLOVAKIA, UKRAINE TO IMPROVE COOPERATION. Slovak and Ukrainian government officials are meeting from 22-23 January in Slovakia's High Tatra mountains in an effort to develop a long-term program of bilateral cooperation. Stressing that trade turnover with Ukraine could be 10 times higher, Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar called for the creation of a free trade zone. Ukrainian Prime Minister Yevhen Marchuk said Slovakia could help Ukraine in its efforts to join the Central European Free Trade Agreement and the Central European Initiative. Marchuk also noted that there is opportunity for Slovak firms to take part in Ukraine's privatization program, RFE/RL's Slovak Service reported. -- Sharon Fisher SLOVAK PROSECUTOR-GENERAL ON INVESTIGATION INTO SECRET SERVICE AGENTS. Michal Valo told CTK on 22 January that his office is continuing an investigation into former top agents of the Slovak Information Service who are accused of abuse of power, endangering state secrets, and other crimes. The accusations were made in a May 1995 report by the parliamentary Separate Control Organ (OKO), which oversees the SIS and consists only of coalition deputies. The OKO accused the previous SIS leadership of cooperating with President Michal Kovac and the transitional government ijn power until the fall 1994 elections. Valo noted that he cannot question OKO members or former SIS agents until they are freed from their secrecy oath. According to Valo, the accusations could be used against a number of Slovak editors and journalists who were mentioned in the OKO report. -- Sharon Fisher HUNGARIAN PREMIER TO BOOST COUNTRY'S IMAGE ABROAD. Gyula Horn has invited 60 prominent Hungarians living abroad to take part in a conference on promoting Hungary's interests abroad, Hungarian media reported on 22 January. Among the most prominent invited guests are U.S. philanthropist and financier George Soros, Canadian real estate investor Andrew Sarlos, and U.S. congressman Tom Lantos. The conference will take place on 9-10 February. Horn, Finance Minister Lajos Bokros, Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs, and other government officials will address the delegates. -- Zsofia Szilagyi RUSSIAN TROOPS TRANSIT HUNGARY. Trains carrying Russian units expected to serve with IFOR forces in Bosnia passed through Hungary from Ukraine on 22 January, Hungarian dailies reported. This was the first time Russian troops had entered Hungarian territory since leaving the country in 1991. Polish and Czech troops transited Hungary last week. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE JUSTICE GOLDSTONE IN SARAJEVO. The head of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, Richard Goldstone, visited Sarajevo on 22 January. He told international media that his team might begin work in the field in as soon as two weeks. The investigators are concerned that the Serbs might try to destroy evidence of atrocities in the meantime, and Reuters said that the Serbs are keeping foreigners out of the Srebrenica area. Elsewhere, the International Herald Tribune reported on 23 January that the U.S. intelligence community has been told to help the tribunal, even if it means investigating charges that Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic is responsible for war crimes. Goldstone had earlier criticized the Americans for being slow to provide evidence, but Washington now seems willing to help. This apparently also means tracing atrocities to the doorstep of the man who was so central to Richard Holbrooke's diplomatic efforts last year. -- Patrick Moore NATO TO AID WAR CRIMES INVESTIGATION. IFOR commander U.S. Admiral Leighton Smith and Richard Goldstone, meeting on 22 January in Sarajevo, reached an agreement whereby NATO will help investigations into war crimes in the former Yugoslavia, international agencies reported. NATO has so far refused to guard suspected mass grave sites in the fear that it will be taking on missions other than those assigned to it in the Dayton peace accords. The Washington Post on 23 January reported Smith as telling Goldstone that "If you don't push me and make me say what I'm going to do, I'll do a lot." -- Michael Mihalka MURATOVIC RELUCTANTLY ACCEPTS NOMINATION FOR BOSNIAN PREMIERSHIP. Bosnian Minister for Relations with IFOR Hasan Muratovic has said he is accepting the post of Bosnian prime minister, albeit reluctantly. "Mr. Silajdzic is the man we need, but unfortunately he has refused to be prime minister," AFP quoted him as saying. Muratovic was nominated for the premiership at an emergency session of the executive board of the ruling Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA) on 21 January. The next day, the Bosnian collective Presidency proposed him as new premier. Muratovic, who is not a member of the SDA , was considered a close Silajdzic ally. AFP quoted Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic as telling state television on 21 January that Silajdzic's resignation from the post of prime minister was based on "caprice." -- Daria Sito Sucic CHRISTOPHER ISSUES WARNING ABOUT PRISONER EXCHANGE. U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher on 22 January warned that if the Bosnian government did not comply with the requirement to release remaining prisoners of war, it would risk losing training, equipment and reconstruction aid, international agencies reported. He stressed that the prisoner release was an "unconditional obligation" for all parties to the Dayton peace accord and noted that the Bosnian government's request for further information on other prisoners was "not a legitimate demand" entitling them "to keep back their prisoners." -- Michael Mihalka SERBIA TO CRACK DOWN ON ECONOMIC CRIME? Serbian Prosecutor-General Dragan Petkovic told TV Serbia on 21 January that the "fight against criminality"--announced by President Milosevic in his 1996 New Year's address--will focus on economic crimes. Petkovic said that while international sanctions against the rump Yugoslavia were in force, economic crimes were not only tolerated but also promoted by the regime. He added that if there had been no sanctions violators or smugglers, Serbia's banking and commercial infrastructure would have found it difficult, if not impossible, to survive. Meanwhile, Politika on 23 January reported Ivica Dacic, spokesman for the ruling Socialist Party of Serbia, as saying federal and municipal elections will be held in 1996, while elections to the Serbian legislature will not take place before the end of 1997, when the legislators' current mandates expire. -- Stan Markotich NEW ZAGREB MAJOR TO BE ELECTED. Since Croatian President Franjo Tudjman rejected to approve election of opposition candidate Goran Granic for a post of Zagreb major and a head of Zagreb county, nomination of a new candidate is expected at a session of the City Assembly scheduled for 24 January, Vecernji list reported a day before. President of Social- Democratic Party (SDP) Ivica Racan announced that united opposition parties will nominate a new candidate for a post of Zagreb major, because "it would make no sense to insist on Granic as the only candidate, and let the ruling Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) to continue to rule in the Croatian capital under an excuse of existing anarchy," BETA on 23 January quoted him as saying. If opposition would not nominate a new candidate, the Croatian President alone would have right to appoint one. -- Daria Sito Sucic CHIRAC FAVORS "PRIVILEGED RELATIONS" WITH ROMANIA. France wants to develop "privileged relations" with Romania, French President Jacques Chirac was quoted as saying on 22 January by the Bucharest daily Adevarul. Noting that Romania is the "only Latin country in Eastern Europe," he pledged to "help it develop along its chosen path." Asked whether France was "Romania's main advocate" in its bid for EU membership, Chirac said Romania could rely both on France and on "other friends who supported it." Chirac's statement came on the eve of a French-Romanian economic forum in Bucharest. -- Matyas Szabo ROMANIAN EMBASSY GUARDS ROBBED OF GUNS IN MOLDOVA. Several armed men robbed guards of their guns at the Romanian Embassy in Chisinau, Infotag reported on 22 January. Armed with knives and handguns, the assailants wounded one of the guards in their night raid on the embassy building. Police mounted a manhunt but could not find the assailants. Such incidents have occurred repeatedly in Chisinau, including last year at the Turkish Embassy, international media reported. -- Matyas Szabo MOLDOVA, RUSSIA, UKRAINE SIGN STATEMENT ON DNIESTER. Presidents Mircea Snegur, Boris Yeltsin, and Leonid Kuchma on 19 January signed a statement recognizing the Dniester region as a constituent part of Moldova, BASA-press and Infotag reported on 22 January. The three leaders stressed the need for a speedy political settlement to the Dniester conflict in accordance with the principles of the UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act, and OSCE, Council of Europe, and CIS documents. The three states support the signing of a document that would provide for a special status for the Dniester region within the Republic of Moldova, whose territorial integrity would be guaranteed. Snegur, Yeltsin, and Kuchma were attending a CIS summit conference in Moscow. -- Dan Ionescu BULGARIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH OPPOSITION LEADER. In a move generally regarded as improving relations between the Presidency and the opposition, Zhelyu Zhelev and Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) Chairman Ivan Kostov met on 22 January, Demokratsiya reported. The two leaders discussed the political situation after one year of Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) rule; both insisted that they did not talk about the next presidential elections. After their meeting, Zhelev said that "if the crisis deepens, the opposition and I will act together." He added that he and the SDS have the same views on domestic and foreign policy issues. Kostov told Standart that the government is "harmful and dangerous for Bulgaria and it must go." The BSP leadership responded by issuing a statement accusing Zhelev of "destabilizing the country." -- Stefan Krause BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES NEW MINISTERS. The National Assembly on 23 January approved Atanas Paparizov of the Bulgarian Socialist Party as trade minister and Deputy Prime Minister Svetoslav Shivarov of the Bulgarian Agrarian People's Union "Aleksandar Stamboliyski" as agriculture minister, Bulgarian media reported. Their candidacies were approved by 122 votes to two. Most opposition deputies abstained. -- Stefan Krause ALBANIAN PRISONERS TO LEAVE GREECE. Some 790 Albanians serving prison sentences in Greece are to be transferred to Albanian prisons, Gazeta Shqiptare reported on 23 January. The prisoners, including 14 women and 140 youths aged 14-20, will serve the remainder of their sentences in Albania. The transfer of the Albanian prisoners was prompted by recent violent protests by inmates, including many Albanians, over poor conditions in Greek prisons. The Greek and Albanian Justice Ministries signed a prisoner exchange agreement on 16 August 1995. -- Fabian Schmidt ALBANIA TO INVEST $200 MILLION IN ROADS THIS YEAR. Albania plans to invest some $200 million into the reconstruction of roads in 1996, international agencies reported on 22 January. A large amount of the money will be used for a highway between Durres and Tirana and an East- West corridor linking Durres with Macedonia at the border checkpoint Qafe e Thanes. Albania has 18,000 kilometers of roads, most of which are in very bad condition. -- Fabian Schmidt TURKEY TO SEND COMBAT TROOPS TO BOSNIA. The Turkish General Staff has issued a statement saying Turkey will reinforce its military unit in Zenica with combat forces this week, AFP reported on 22 January. Deployment of a mechanized infantry company, a tank company, an artillery battery, and a team specialized in eliminating mines will begin on 23-25 January. The 1,500-strong Turkish unit already deployed with IFOR will be deployed in Zenica and Tuzla in the U.S. area of responsibility in central Bosnia. A squadron of 18 Turkish F-16 fighters deployed in Italy and a frigate in the Adriatic Sea are also allocated for use by IFOR, the statement said. -- Lowell Bezanis [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. 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