|The only certainty is that nothing is certain. - Pliny the Elder|
No. 88, Part II, 06 May 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 BELARUSIAN PARLIAMENT RATIFIES INTEGRATION ACCORDS. The Belarusian parliament on 4 May voted by 166 to three with one abstention to ratify the treaty on forming a union with Russia, Russian and Western agencies reported. The agreement, which was signed on 2 April in Moscow, prompted a mass protest demonstration in Minsk by nationalist organizations. In mid-April, the Russian State Duma unanimously ratified the union accords as well as the 29 March integration agreement between Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. -- Ustina Markus HUNGER STRIKE CONTINUES IN BELARUS. A hunger strike by 15 people detained following demonstrations in Minsk on 26 April entered its seventh day on 4 May, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. One of the hunger strikers is Deputy Chairman of the Belarusian Popular Front Yuriy Khadyka, who is scheduled to go on trial today. Khadyka's attorneys and relatives as well as medical personnel have not been allowed to see him. Meanwhile, the journalist Uladzimir Dziuba has been sentenced to 15 days detention for resisting arrest. Dziuba denies having had any part in the 26 April demonstrations or clashes, saying he was detained after police tried to prevent him from getting on the metro. -- Ustina Markus BELARUSIAN KGB DENIES BEATING RUSSIAN JOURNALISTS. The Belarusian KGB has denied any role in the beating of Russian NTV journalists during the May Day demonstrations, NTV reported on 2 May. NTV correspondents charged that security officials attempted to drag the journalists out of their car and confiscate their video cameras. Belarusian TV described the incident as a "provocation by unknown criminals." ITAR-TASS the next day reported parliamentary speaker Syamyon Sharetsky as blaming the nationalist Belarusian Popular Front for the "escalation of the confrontation" in Belarus. Sharetsky said the BPF is using "flawed methods to implement its ideas" after losing all its seats in the parliamentary elections. Meanwhile, the parliament adopted a statement condemning the 26 April clashes. -- Ustina Markus BELARUSIAN POLITICAL UPDATE. The Belarusian parliament on 4 May approved a series of appointments recently made by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, ITAR-TASS reported. Leanid Maltseu was confirmed as defense minister, Uladzimir Matskevich as head of the KGB, and Tamara Vinnikau as head of the National Bank of Belarus. The parliament also approved Lukashenka's decree dismissing Yuriy Zakharenka from the post of interior minister and confirmed Maj.-Gen. Valyantsin Holtsa in that position. -- Ustina Markus OIL SPILL IN UKRAINE. An accident along the Luhansk-Tykhoretsk oil pipeline has resulted in an oil spill of almost 500 tons of oil, Ukrainian Radio reported on 5 May. The fuel spilled into the River Bilenka and caused a fire in the village of Nyzhnye, which destroyed a number of homes and crops. -- Ustina Markus UKRAINE SHORTENS MILITARY SERVICE. A decree passed by the parliament and signed by President Leonid Kuchma shortens military service for officers and troops in Ukraine's armed forces, the national guard, the border guard, and Interior Ministry and other security units, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 May. They will now serve 18 months instead of 24 months. Those with higher education will serve only 12 months. Officers and sailors in the navy and marine units will serve 24 months, and those with higher education 18 months. Soldiers, sailors, and officers under contract service will serve for three years. -- Ustina Markus BALTIC PREMIERS ATTEND BALTIC SEA SUMMIT. Prime Ministers Tiit Vahi (Estonia), Andris Skele (Latvia), and Mindaugas Stankevicius (Lithuania) attended the summit meeting of the Council of Baltic Sea States in Visby, Sweden, on 3-4 May, BNS reported. The meeting issued a joint statement supporting the entry of the Baltic states and Poland into the European Union. It also called for increased regional cooperation to stimulate their economies and to combat crime and pollution. The Baltic leaders also had separate meetings with their Russian counterpart, Viktor Chernomyrdin, who reiterated his opposition to any NATO expansion eastward. Skele called his meeting "extremely fruitful," since it was agreed that an accord on the readmission of refugees would be signed before 1 June. -- Saulius Girnius ESTONIA HEADS COUNCIL OF EUROPE'S COMMITTEE OF MINISTERS. Estonian Foreign Minister Siim Kallas on 3 May took over the rotating six-month chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, ETA reported. Kallas thanked the council for helping Estonia find an acceptable solution to the question of citizenship, reorganize its judicial system, and contribute to effective confidence-building measures, especially in the field of human rights. He said Estonia was working on the ratification of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. He stressed again that his government welcomed Russia as a new council member. -- Saulius Girnius ESTONIAN, LATVIAN FISHING DISPUTE CONTINUES. Estonian border guard vessels on 2 May forced five Latvian trawlers to leave the Estonian- Latvian fishing area in the Gulf of Riga, BNS reported the next day. Estonia on 28 April handed over to Latvia the text of a provisional fishing agreement whereby Estonian regulations would apply in the joint area around Ruhnu Island. Latvian Fisheries Department Director Normunds Riekstins said the Estonian regulations were "totally unacceptable," and he called for further talks to be held. Estonia has not yet responded. Estonian regulations ban trawling fishing from 1 May; Latvia's from 15 May. An Estonian border guard official said that the names of Latvian fishing boats violating the regulations will be noted and that those vessels will later be denied fishing licenses. -- Saulius Girnius POLISH XENOPHOBES THREATEN MORE ATTACKS ON SHELL GAS STATIONS. A xenophobic group has claimed responsibility for last month's bomb attack on a Shell gas station in Warsaw, Polish media disclosed on 4 May. Two letters sent before the attack were signed "GN-95," a group formerly unknown in Poland. Members of the group had demanded $1 million in extortion money from the Shell company. A third letter--sent after the 24 April explosion, which killed a police bomb disposal expert-- threatened further attacks on Shell stations unless the company handed over $2 million. The group vowed to continue its fight against "Western companies that are taking over our markets and turning us into slaves of capitalism." At the same time, it stressed it will not target Polish companies. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz CZECH RULING PARTY'S POPULARITY INCREASES. In an opinion poll conducted by the Prague-based Center for Empirical Studies, 29.1% of respondents said they would vote for Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party, Mlada Fronta Dnes reported on 6 May. This is an increase of 2.4% over last month. The Social Democrats placed second, with 20.4%. They were followed by the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (10.6%), the Christian Democratic Union (9.7%), the extreme-right Republican Party (8.8%), and the Civic Democratic Alliance (7%). Parliamentary elections are to be held on 31 May and 1 June. -- Jiri Pehe EXPLOSION OUTSIDE SLOVAK ETHNIC HUNGARIAN LEADER'S HOUSE. A hand grenade exploded early on 5 May outside the house of Bela Bugar, chairman of the Hungarian Christian Democratic Movement and a leading opponent of the Slovak government, Slovak and international media reported. No one was injured in the blast, which occurred in the town of Samorin, near Bratislava, and damage was minimal. Bugar told Narodna obroda that the explosion may have been a warning for him, adding that he has received telephone and mail threats connected with his investigations into organized crime. Bugar accused the government of remaining silent despite a recent increase in such attacks. -- Steve Kettle SLOVAK PREMIER BLAMES HUNGARY FOR TREATY DELAY. Vladimir Meciar on 3 May blamed Hungary for the delay in the exchange of the ratification documents of the Hungarian-Slovak basic treaty, the Hungarian news agency MTI reported. In his regular Friday evening radio interview, Meciar said Hungary wants to "extend a protective arm toward the citizens of another sovereign country." He stressed that the Slovak parliament will submit the Slovak version of the treaty in its current form to the president for signing. A spokesman for the Hungarian Foreign Affairs Ministry told Magyar Hirlap on 3 May that the international community would like to see an exchange of ratification documents as early as possible, adding that "those organizations are aware that it is not Hungary that is delaying this process." -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE BILDT SAYS PARTITION OF BOSNIA MUST BE PREVENTED. The international community's high representative to Bosnia has said the ethnic partition of Bosnia must be prevented if "an endless succession of Balkan wars" is to be avoided, Reuters reported on 5 May. Carl Bildt said partition may achieve short-term stability in Bosnia but is "a recipe for long-term turmoil in an important part of Europe." He added that Radovan Karadzic, president of Republika Srpska and an indicted war criminal, is the single greatest obstacle to reintegration. Meanwhile, George Mitchell, a member of the International Crisis Group charged with monitoring the implementation of Dayton peace accord, said the presence in Bosnia of war criminals is the biggest obstacle to peace, Reuters reported on 4 May. In an unrelated development, Republika Srpska Premier Rajko Kasagic said Bosnian Serb authorities will allow an investigation into war crimes in the Bijeljina area, Nasa Borba reported on 6 May. -- Daria Sito Sucic MUSLIMS DENIED FREE MOVEMENT IN REPUBLIKA SRPSKA. NGOs in rump Yugoslavia have protested discriminatory actions by the Republika Srpska and rump Yugoslavia authorities against Muslims who want to travel in the Bosnian Federation, Nasa Borba reported on 6 May. Muslims from rump Yugoslavia transiting the Republika Srpska have either been sent back to Serbia or taken away for interrogation. Serbs need only identification cards to travel to the Bosnian Federation, where they enjoy free movement. Meanwhile, rump Yugoslavia has introduced visas for Bosnian citizens at a fee of DM 50, Dnevni Avaz reported on 3 May. * Daria Sito Sucic BOSNIAN PRESIDENT PROMISES ALL BOSNIA WILL "BE LIBERATED." Alija Izetbegovic, speaking in Gorazde on 4 May for the first time since the beginning of the war, said that "history has taught us that not a single honest man of ours can be unarmed; every single one will have a rifle to defend himself," the BBC reported the next day. The president also pledged to retake lands lost to the Serbs: "They have not and they will not expel us; we will return to all the places they have expelled us from and our struggle will not be over until the whole of Bosnia is free. Our children will liberate the whole of Bosnia." The speech took place against the background of the ongoing election campaign and growing anger and frustration among Muslims over IFOR's reluctance to make the Serbs implement key parts of the Dayton agreement, such as freedom of movement and the right of refugees to return home. -- Patrick Moore ATTACKS ON CROATIAN OPPOSITION INTENSIFY. Croatian police on 3 May interrogated Viktor Ivancic--editor of the satirical weekly Feral Tribune, one of the few independent mass circulation periodicals in Croatia, Novi list and Nasa Borba. The move appears to be yet another effort by President Franjo Tudjman and his governing Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) to silence criticism. The authorities earlier tried to shut down Feral Tribune by imposing a "pornography tax," which they were later forced to drop under international pressure. Officials have recently levied punitive tax payments against the country's sole independent daily, Novi list. A new press law passed in March threatens punitive action against journalists inclined to criticize top officials or investigate abuse of power and corruption. The offices of the independent weekly Panorama were sealed on 30 April, and two days later, Tudjman gave a speech lambasting the opposition as a "threat from within." The president on 30 April dissolved the opposition-dominated Zagreb City Council but is delaying calling new elections. The HDZ would likely lose the ballot, the International Herald Tribune wrote on 2 May. -- Patrick Moore BELGRADE TO DELAY REPAYING INTERNATIONAL LOANS. The federal rump Yugoslav authorities on 4 May resolved not to pay some $20 million in financial obligations to the IMF and the World Bank, Nasa Borba reported on 6 May. This decision is regarded as another challenge to National Bank Governor Dragoslav Avramovic, who has advocated meeting obligations to international financial institutions. -- Stan Markotich NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL IN BUCHAREST. Javier Solana on 3 May paid a brief visit to Romania on the last leg of his East European tour, Romanian and Western media reported. Solana met with Romanian President Ion Iliescu, Premier Nicolae Vacaroiu, Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu, Defense Minister Gheorghe Tinca, and the chairmen of the parliament's two chambers, Oliviu Gherman and Adrian Nastase. The two sides discussed cooperation and Romania's prospects for full membership in the alliance. Western agencies noticed that Solana tried to reassure Bucharest that it has not been forgotten in the alliance's eastward expansion plans. He thanked Romania for its participation in the international peacekeeping force in Bosnia, recalling that it was the first country to sign up for NATO's Partnership for Peace program. -- Dan Ionescu ROMANIAN EXTREMIST PARTY ADOPTS "BLITZ STRATEGY." The chauvinistic Greater Romania Party (PRM), at its third national convention in Bucharest on the weekend, unanimously adopted a "blitz strategy" in the event that it comes to power after the fall general elections, Romanian media reported. The party's top priority would be to change the country's constitution to allow for "the confiscation of property improperly acquired." It would also seek to exert strict control over foreign investors and to outlaw the "anti-Romanian" Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania. The PRM protested alleged pressures on party chairman Corneliu Vadim Tudor to withdraw his candidacy for the Romanian Presidency. Tudor's parliamentary immunity was recently lifted by the Senate for offending the authorities (see OMRI Daily Digest, 23 April 1996). -- Matyas Szabo THREE BULGARIAN POLICE OFFICERS KILLED, INTERIOR MINISTER OFFERS RESIGNATION. Two armed men gunned down three police officers in the Bulgarian capital on 3 May, Bulgarian Radio reported the same day. Eye witnesses said the men were dressed in dark suits and wore black masks. They brandished Kalashnikov automatics and made their escape by car. Reuters reported that the two gunmen may have been resisting arrest just before the shooting. Meanwhile, Premier Zhan Videnov on 4 May announced that Lyubomir Nachev has tendered his resignation as interior minister in the wake of the killings. He added that he plans to ask the parliament to replace Nachev with Nikolai Dobrev, chairman of the parliamentary National Security Commission, AFP reported on 4 May. Since January 1995, 15 Bulgarian police officers have been killed. -- Stan Markotich ALBANIAN SOCIALISTS STONED ON WAY TO RALLY . . . Unknown culprits attacked a car convoy carrying Albanian Socialist Party leaders to a rally in Burrel, Reuters reported on 4 May. The Socialists accused plain-clothes policemen of carrying out the attack, saying the local police chief had headed it. Police "grabbed the camera with which the rally was going to be filmed and attempted to hit the party leaders," the Socialists claimed. The government has denied the charges, saying the police intervened to calm down an escalating situation after the Socialists "behaved arrogantly," broke traffic rules, and insulted passers-by, Rilindja Demokratike reported on 5 May. Windows of cars in the convoy were smashed and several people injured. One driver's condition remains serious. -- Fabian Schmidt . . . WHILE SOCIAL DEMOCRATS' MEETING BANNED. Local police outlawed a meeting by the Social Democrats in Kavaja on the weekend, saying it had been announced too late, Poli i Qendres reported. Party leader Skender Gjinushi had planned to address local citizens. Meanwhile, the Albanian Helsinki Committee has protested a speech by French Gaullist politician Michel Pericard at a Democratic Party rally in Tirana, also attended by President Sali Berisah. The committee argued that the election law prohibits non-Albanian citizens from participating in an election campaign, Koha Jone reported on 5 April. Pericard responded by saying that "democracy means respect and tolerance and this means that no one can be banned from speaking," Reuters reported. -- Fabian Schmidt [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Jan Cleave ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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