|Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. - Vladimir Nabokov|
No. 83, Part II, 26 April 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 CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE UKRAINIANS MARK 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF CHORNOBYL ACCIDENT. Thousands of people have gathered in the town of Slavutich, just outside the 30 km Chornobyl exclusion zone, to mark the tenth anniversary of the nuclear disaster, international agencies reported on 26 April. At 1:24 a.m. local time, people joined hands and maintained silence to commemorate the exact time the no. 4 reactor exploded. So far, 4,229 people have died as a result of the accident, of whom 2,929 took part in the clean- up operation. As many as 3 million more have been affected by the explosion, which released 200 times more radiation into the atmosphere than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The previous day a small radiation leak at the nuclear power plant raised the level of radiation to seven times above normal. The leak was the latest in a series of accidents. President Leonid Kuchma has promised to close the oldest no. 1 reactor by the end of the year. The only other working reactor should be shut down by the end of the decade. -- Ustina Markus BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT ON ALLOWING FORMER RESIDENTS TO RETURN TO CHORNOBYL ZONE. Alyaksandr Lukashenka has said authorities have no moral right to stop people from moving back to their former homes in areas evacuated because of contamination from the Chornobyl accident, Reuters reported on 25 April. Lukashenka, speaking on nationwide TV, said it was neither Christian nor human to stop people returning to their homes in the Chornobyl zone. He called the evacuation from the areas a "hastily organized" operation, adding that the contaminated areas will eventually produce "ecologically pure food." The 10th anniversary of the Chornobyl disaster is to be marked by a ceremony and Church service in Minsk, but the nationalist Belarusian Popular Front has been banned from staging a demonstration to mark the event. Lukashenka warned against using the tragedy as a "tool for political ambitions." -- Ustina Markus LVIV NAMES STREET AFTER DUDAEV. The City Council of the west Ukrainian city of Lviv approved a proposal by the nationalist Ukrainian National Assembly to rename a street after Chechen leader Dzhokar Dudaev, Reuters and AFP reported on 25 April. The street in question had been named after the Russian poet Mikhail Lermontov. The City Council also voted to change Pushkin street to Taras Chuprynka street. Chuprynka commanded the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, which waged a guerrilla war against Soviet rule in western Ukraine after World War II. -- Ustina Markus ESTONIAN TOBACCO MANUFACTURER CEASES PRODUCTION. The board of Estonia's largest tobacco manufacturer, Eesti Tubakas, announced on 25 April that it will wind up production and lay off 140 people, BNS reported. The company, which is owned by Sweden's Svenska Tobaks AB (67%) and the Estonian government (33%), will transfer its production to the Swedish company's main plant in Malmo. The company's sales have dropped by almost two-thirds since last year largely owing to the Finance Ministry's decision to end lower excise taxes for local cigarettes. The move prompted an increase in the smuggling of cigarettes. -- Saulius Girnius RUSSIAN INTERIOR MINISTER IN LATVIA. Anatolii Kulikov on 25 April met with Prime Minister Andris Skele to discuss crime in the region and problems related to the war in Chechnya, BNS reported. Kulikov noted that while serious crime was declining in Russia, the fight against organized crime and economic crimes was unsuccessful owing to insufficient legislation. He is scheduled today to meet with his Latvian counterpart, Dainis Turlais, on curbing illegal migration and smuggling. The ministers are expected to sign a cooperation agreement on curbing organized crime. -- Saulius Girnius POLISH COURT RULES IT CANNOT TRY MARTIAL LAW LEADER. A district court in Gdansk on 25 April ruled it is not competent to try former head of state Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski and former Interior Minister Kazimierz Switala for their roles in the killings of more than 40 people in 1970, international agencies reported. The judge, accepting Jaruzelski's submission that the court has no authority in the case because he is charged with breaching the constitution, referred the case to the State Tribunal. The trial began last month. Prosecutors said they may appeal the ruling. Jaruzelski was defense minister in 1970 when troops and police were ordered to use force to break up protests over food price hikes. At least 44 people were shot dead and hundreds of others wounded. -- Steve Kettle POLISH PREMIER REJECTS EUROPARLIAMENT'S RACISM CHARGE. Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz on 25 April told the European Parliament that Poland will preserve the site of the former Auschwitz death camp, Reuters reported. But, in a letter to the parliament, he said that Poles need no lessons about racism. The parliament last week adopted a resolution condemning plans to build a supermarket near Auschwitz and criticizing local authorities for allowing an extreme rightist group to hold a demonstration at the camp. The resolution urged the European Commission to back moves to strengthen Poles' awareness of racism. "Treating incidental and deplorable demonstrations of xenophobia and anti-Semitism as representing the feelings of the whole of Polish society is deeply unjust," Cimoszewicz wrote. He said his government has halted the supermarket project and condemned the demonstration. -- Steve Kettle CZECH PREMIER'S PARTY EMBROILED IN FINANCIAL SCANDAL. Leaders of the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) on 25 April admitted they do not know the origin of two donations of 3.75 million crowns ($135,000) each made to the ODS last year, Czech media reported. In the party's list of sponsors submitted to the parliament, one amount was registered under the name of a Hungarian who died 14 years ago and the other allegedly came from a citizen of Mauritius. "We will obviously try to determine who this sponsor is," Prime Minister and ODS Chairman Vaclav Klaus said. ODS Executive Deputy Chairman Libor Novak said party officials could not find documents about the donations, admitting that "it was possibly our stupidity" not to have checked their origin. According to the law on political parties, all donations of more than 100,000 crowns ($3,600) must be declared with the real name and address of the donor. -- Steve Kettle AUSTRIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON SLOVAK PROSPECTS FOR EU MEMBERSHIP. "A country that wants to join the EU must respect the EU legal situation and, by extension, the highest standard of human rights in the world," Wolfgang Schuessel told Austrian ORF radio on 25 April before leaving for a one-day visit to Slovakia. He added that, "If Slovakia wants to become an EU member, it must do much more than now." The "unclear circumstances" of the kidnapping of President Michal Kovac's son last August are "more than unpleasant," he commented. Nonetheless, Schuessel stressed that Austria wants all its neighbors to enter the EU. He met with Kovac and Foreign Minister Juraj Schenk, but Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar avoided meeting him by traveling to northern Slovakia to inspect highway construction, possibly because of Schuessel's criticism of the bill on the protection of the republic. -- Sharon Fisher HUNGARIAN UPDATE. The cabinet on 25 April approved a health care bill that would eliminate 10,000 hospital beds this year, Hungarian media reported. Some 15,000 health care employees would be affected. The cabinet also opted to grant additional subsidies worth a total of 2.5 billion forints ($16.8 million) to Hungarian TV and Radio and Duna Television to compensate for arrears in broadcasting fees and lost revenues from unpaid subscription fees. Finally, the cabinet decided to use loans from West European sources for highway construction in eastern Hungary. -- Sharon Fisher SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE U.S. TROOPS TO STAY IN BOSNIA UNTIL DECEMBER. Secretary of Defense William Perry says that NATO commander Gen. George Joulwan has asked that U.S. forces remain in Bosnia at "essentially a full capability" through December, the International Herald Tribune reported on 25 April. The American exit strategy has never been fully stated in public, but it was expected that the GIs would be out by 20 December, about one year after the Dayton treaty was signed. Joulwan seems especially concerned that NATO be present in full force to provide security for September's elections. Other European allies have been discussing contingency plans for keeping NATO forces in Bosnia beyond one year. Perry said he sees the success of the mission in restoring basic security to the embattled republic. He would therefore consider extending the mandate beyond one year to "deter a war [but not ] to unify the country." The secretary stressed that the political future of Bosnia is a matter for the local people themselves to decided. -- Patrick Moore HAGUE COURT THREATENS BELGRADE, PALE WITH SANCTIONS. Antonio Cassese, president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, has said that Serbia and the Bosnian Serbs should be punished with sanctions unless they begin to cooperate seriously with the court. In particular, they must begin handing over indicted war criminals, the BBC and Vecernji list stated on 26 April. In Bosnia, Prime Minister Hasan Muratovic denied Croatian reports that the six Bosnians arrested near Senj on terrorism charges were Bosnian agents trained by Iran, news agencies noted on 25 April. Sarajevo argues that it has nothing to do with the shadowy six and that the whole affair might be a publicity stunt by their alleged victim, Bihac pocket kingpin Fikret Abdic, to aid his attempt at a political comeback. Abdic, who is wanted in Sarajevo for war crimes, met with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic on 25 April, Onasa added. -- Patrick Moore CROATS, MUSLIMS REACH AGREEMENT ON POLICE FORCE . . . Senior Muslim and Bosnian Croat officials met with German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel, the international community's Michael Steiner, and other negotiators at Petersberg near Bonn on 25 April, Oslobodjenje reported. The Muslims and Croats agreed to end their acrimonious dispute over the nature of the federal police force by disbanding half of their respective forces, merging the rest, and issuing them neutral gray uniforms. Kinkel threatened the two sides with sanctions if they did not reach and stick to agreements to bolster their shaky federation, Nasa Borba noted. -- Patrick Moore . . . BUT SPAR OVER ARMY. Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic has meanwhile called for an integrated federal army, Onasa added on 25 April. His representative Muhamed Sacirbey said that officers on active duty would be barred from "elected office...or being high functionaries within political parties." Izetbegovic's Party for Democratic Action (SDA) has, however, been consolidating its hold over the military. Its governing bodies at all levels contain officers, and two generals serve on the top SDA steering committee. Croatian Defense Minister Gojko Susak on 24 April said the Bosnian Croat military must remain separate in order to guarantee the Croats' security. -- Patrick Moore SERBIAN OPPOSITION LEADER FACES LIBEL INVESTIGATION. A Serbian district court on 25 April cleared the way for authorities to launch an investigation into Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic's alleged libel activities. Serbian Premier Mirko Marjanovic recently took action against the weekly Telegraf, which in January ran a Democratic Party advertisement alleging corruption and fraud within his government. Djindjic took responsibility for the advertisement, thereby setting himself up to be the target of such an investigation, Reuters reported on 25 April. -- Stan Markotich RUMP YUGOSLAV BANK GOVERNOR FINDS SUPPORTERS. Ivan Kovacevic, spokesman for the opposition Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO), has said that his party "will under all circumstances...defend [National Bank Governor Dragoslav] Avramovic and his policies," Nasa Borba reported on 26 April. Avramovic earlier this week was removed as rump Yugoslavia's chief negotiator with the IMF. Federal Finance Minister Jovan Zebic will now assume that role. SPO leader Vuk Draskovic said that this move effectively meant that Avramovic was being removed as bank governor in all but name. Montenegrin Premier Milo Djukanovic, currently in the U.S., has also voiced support for Avramovic and for his role as negotiator with international financial institutions. -- Stan Markotich ACTIVISTS CALL FOR MASS DEMONSTRATIONS IN KOSOVO. Unidentified ethnic Albanian activists have distributed leaflets calling for mass demonstrations in Kosovo, the BBC reported on 26 April. The appeal does not have the support of any of the shadow-state's political parties, which have called on the population to remain calm. The head of the Kosova Information Center in London warned that the situation in Kosovo is tense and that the shadow-state government may lose control over more radical activists. Meanwhile, Albanian President Sali Berisha also called on Kosovars to stay calm and urged the international community to take swift measures to solve ethnic problems in the region, Reuters reported. Since five Serbs were shot dead in separate incidents following the murder of an Albanian by a Serbian civilian last week, police have arrested more than 100 Albanians, mainly in Decani and Stimlje, ATSH reported. -- Fabian Schmidt BLACK SEA SUMMIT OPENS IN BUCHAREST. A high-level conference on economic cooperation in the Black Sea region opened in Bucharest on 25 April, Radio Bucharest and Western media reported. Political leaders and businessmen from 11 countries , including Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov and the premier of rump Yugoslavia, Radoje Kontic, are attending. Gligorov launched an impassioned appeal for the Black Sea states to help rebuild former Yugoslavia after almost five years of war. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov is expected to join the conference at the weekend. He also plans to discuss the final details of the long-delayed basic treaty between Romania and Russia. -- Dan Ionescu MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT URGES PARLIAMENT TO DISMISS CABINET. Mircea Snegur has called on the parliament to sack the government because of alleged incompetence and involvement in corruption, Reuters reported on 25 April. The agency quoted Snegur as saying that people "want to know if elected representatives can sack those unable to carry out their duties and nominate others able to cope with difficulties and get the country out of the abyss of poverty." Snegur said the government was responsible for growing unemployment as well as wage and pension arrears, which exceeded $70 million by mid-April. Snegur's appeal came after he unsuccessfully attempted to sack Defense Minister Pavel Creanga on corruption charges in mid-March, without consulting Andrei Sangheli's government. The Constitutional Court later reinstated Creanga. -- Dan Ionescu BULGARIAN SUPREME COURT CONFIRMS ELECTION OF KARDZHALI MAYOR. The Supreme Court, overruling a Kardzhali Regional Court decision, has reinstated Rasim Musa as mayor of Kardzhali, RFE/RL reported on 25 April. Musa, a member of the mainly ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedom, was declared winner of November 1995 elections when he beat out a candidate backed by the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party by a margin of one percentage point. The BSP demanded that the election be invalidated on grounds of irregularities, which the Regional Court did in early February. The Supreme Court has now ruled that the irregularities were "insignificant" and did not affect the outcome. In other news, the parliament has overruled President Zhelyu Zhelev's veto of an agreement with Greece on joint use of water from the River Mesta/Nestos, Reuters reported. -- Stefan Krause BULGARIA RAISES INTEREST RATE BY 18%. The Bulgarian National Bank on 25 April announced it will raise the prime interest rate from 49% to 67% beginning today, Bulgarian and Western media reported. The move is aimed at stopping the continuing devaluation of the lev, which has lost some 18 percentage points against the U.S. dollar since the beginning of the year. BNB Governor Lyubomir Filipov said the central bank "prefers to raise the prime interest rate rather than intervene on the foreign exchange markets." -- Stefan Krause BULGARIAN TV BOSS STAYS ON. The BSP caucus on 25 April voted not to remove Bulgarian National TV (BNT) Director-General Ivan Granitski, Kontinent reported. The deputies rejected the BSP Executive Bureau's recommendation that Granitski be sacked. Officially, the BSP blamed Granitski for financial irregularities at BNT and for poor management. But the BSP daily Duma yesterday reported that Prime Minister and BSP Chairman Zhan Videnov does not approve of BNT's newscasts, co- productions, and sociological analyses. Standart on 26 April reported that Videnov told the BSP deputies that "it's either me or Granitski." -- Stefan Krause ALBANIANS KILLED WHILE SMUGGLING REFUGEES. In a shoot-out off the Corfu coast, Greek coast guards have killed an Albanian sailor who was trying to smuggle illegal immigrants into Greece, AFP reported on 25 April. The smuggler reportedly opened fire on a Greek patrol boat during a chase. Shortly before that incident, Greek patrols arrested another Albanian who also opened fire on a Greek vessel. Meanwhile, an Albanian smuggler was killed when his motorboat hit an Italian Navy vessel during a boat chase on 24 April, Reuters reported. -- Fabian Schmidt GREECE RECOGNIZES YUGOSLAV SUCCESSOR STATES. Greece on 25 April officially recognized rump Yugoslavia as one of the successor states of the former Yugoslavia, AFP and Reuters reported. It also recognized "all the countries created by the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia," a Foreign Ministry statement said. However, the Greeks recognize Macedonia only under the name "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia." In related news, Nova Makedonija reported that the Macedonian parliament ratified the rump Yugoslav-Macedonian agreement on mutual recognition. -- Stefan Krause [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Jan Cleave ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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