|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. 89, Part II, 07 May 1996
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Note to readers: Due to the observance of a Czech holiday, the OMRI Daily Digest will not appear on Wednesday, 8 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 ROUNDUP. The trial of opposition leader Yuriy Khadyka began in Minsk on 6 May, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Khadyka has been charged with causing public disorder for his part in the 26 April demonstrations. He faces up to three years in jail if found guilty and has been on a hunger strike since his arrest. Khadyka's lawyer said no journalists or spectators were allowed into the courtroom. She added that she was told to sign a declaration promising not to reveal details of the proceedings. UNIAR reported on 4 May that members of the Ukrainian nationalist organization UNA-UNSO who were sentenced to 30 days detention for their role in the demonstrations have also started a hunger strike. -- Ustina Markus CRIMEAN UPDATE. Crimea celebrated Constitution Day on 6 May, which marks the anniversary of the passage of the 1992 separatist constitution, ITAR-TASS and Russian TV reported. That basic law was annulled by Kyiv last year. The Republican Party of Crimea issued a statement condemning Kyiv for stripping the peninsula of its powers and leaving it in control only of its police force, television, and economy. The party also noted there were forces that wanted to turn Crimea into a national state for Crimean Tatars. In other news, 2,150 cases of hepatitis "A" have been reported in Sevastopol since the beginning of the year. The main reason for the spread of the disease is the poor quality of Sevastopol's drinking water. More than 300 km of water pipes in the city need to be changed or repaired. No fewer than 95 accidents occurred along them in the first quarter of the year. -- Ustina Markus UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON EU. Hennadii Udovenko told EU and Ukrainian officials in Kyiv that Ukraine's strategic goal is to become a full-fledged member of the EU, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 May. He said this will be possible only once Ukraine has became economically "strong." He called on the EU to help the country not only in its fiscal and technical planning but also in expanding trade with EU countries. -- Ustina Markus BLACK SEA MERCHANT VESSELS HELD IN PORTS WORLDWIDE PENDING DEBT PAYMENTS. Twenty-six vessels from the Black Sea Merchant Fleet are being held in various ports throughout the world over the company's debts, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 May. The company owes more than $207 million. The Odessa has been held in Naples for more than a year, and its crew has begun a hunger strike in protest over non-payment of wages. The Indira Ghandi has been held in the Suez Canal since last August and is without electricity supplies. A meeting of Transport Ministry officials is to be held in Odessa in mid-May to solve the shipping company's problems, but any financial assistance will depend on municipal budget revenues. -- Ustina Markus ICELAND'S PREMIER VISITS ESTONIA. David Oddsson told Estonian Prime Minister Tiit Vahi in Tallinn on 6 May that while Iceland has no objections to visa-free relations with Estonia, such an arrangement would have to be coordinated with other Nordic countries, ETA reported. He added that Estonia would first have to ratify the European refugee convention and pledge to step up its fight against crime. Vahi said his Finnish counterpart, Paavo Lipponen, has confirmed that visa-free travel between Finland and Estonia will probably be introduced in 1997. Oddsson agreed with Vahi's suggestion that visa-free travel with Iceland begin at same time. The two leaders also discussed trade relations and the results of the recent Visby summit meeting. Before leaving Tallinn, Oddsson met with President Lennart Meri and parliamentary chairman Toomas Savi. -- Saulius Girnius LATVIAN AGRICULTURE MINISTER SACKED. Prime Minister Andris Skele on 6 May dismissed Alberts Kauls for calling the government's farm policies "destructive" at a meeting with farmers in Skrunda three days earlier, BNS reported. Skele, who reportedly was not pleased with Kauls's work, had called the farming bill drafted by the Agriculture Ministry "catastrophic." Kauls said his dismissal was a deliberate attempt to "squeeze out" the Unity Party, which he heads, from the ruling coalition. Skele appointed Economics Minister Guntis Krasts as interim agriculture minister and asked the Unity Party to propose a successor to Kauls. -- Saulius Girnius LITHUANIA, RUSSIAN PREMIERS MEET IN VISBY. Mindaugas Stankevicius and Viktor Chernomyrdin primarily discussed economic matters at their meeting in Visby on 3 May, RFE/RL's Lithuanian Service reported two days later. Stankevicius was surprised by Chernomyrdin's unexpected proposal that the two countries sign an oil transit agreement that could result in Russia abandoning its plans to build oil terminals in Kaliningrad and St. Petersburg. Responding to Stankevicius's comment that most illegal Asian immigrants to Lithuania have Russian visas, Chernomyrdin said they were probably forged. -- Saulius Girnius MINSK PROTESTS ANTI-BELARUSIAN DEMONSTRATION IN POLAND. The Belarusian Embassy in Warsaw on 6 May protested to Poland's Foreign Ministry over a demonstration on May Day outside the Belarus consulate in the Polish northeastern town of Bialystok, Polish press reported. Some 50 people protested the crackdown on journalists in Belarus, and one demonstrator burned a portrait of Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Among the protesters were representatives of Poland's leftist Labor Union party as well as members of the country's Belarusian minority. Minsk expressed "astonishment" that the Polish authorities refrained from taking action against the demonstrators. Meanwhile, Warsaw and President Aleksander Kwasniewski have declined to comment on the incident. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz UPDATE ON OLEKSY ESPIONAGE CASE. Poland's chief military prosecutor on 6 May instructed several state prosecutors to review the results of the investigation into espionage allegations against former Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy. Last month, Col. Slawomir Gorzkiewicz, who headed the investigation, confirmed it had been closed after no evidence could be found that Oleksy passed on information to the intelligence services of a foreign country. Gazeta Wyborcza on 7 May quoted Justice Minister Leszek Kubicki as saying that this is a routine check. Oleksy rejected all accusations but resigned as premier when the investigation was launched. He said the accusations, which came in the wake of former President Lech Walesa's failure to be re-elected, were politically motivated. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz POLISH CABINET CONSIDERS CHANGING ANTI-TERRORIST LAW. Poland is considering tightening the country's anti-terrorist law following the bomb attack last month on a Shell gas station in Warsaw (see OMRI Daily Digest, 6 May 1996). Polish government spokeswoman Aleksandra Jakubowska on 6 May said that an investigation has been launched and that the government is "concerned" about the incident. She added that if it were concluded that similar incidents could recur, "legal and organizational measures will certainly be taken," Rzeczpospolita reported on 7 May. -- Dagmar Mroziewicz SLOVAK PRESIDENT SIGNS TREATY WITH HUNGARY. Michal Kovac on 6 May signed the Slovak-Hungarian treaty, Slovak and international media reported. The treaty was signed by Prime Ministers Vladimir Meciar and Gyula Horn in March 1995 and ratified by the Hungarian parliament last June. The Slovak parliament ratified it in March this year, but it was submitted to Kovac only on 2 May amid continuing discussions between the two countries' Foreign Ministries over the interpretation of the treaty's provisions on protecting minority rights. The date and place for the final exchange of documents still have to be agreed, but Praca on 7 May quoted a Slovak Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying the remaining steps before the treaty comes into force will proceed normally. -- Steve Kettle HUNGARY'S SOCIAL SECURITY DEFICIT SET TO SOAR. The Hungarian Finance Ministry estimates that the country's social security deficit will amount to 41.3 billion forints by year's end, Magyar Hirlap reported on 7 May. This amount is well above the 17.8 billion forints laid down by the IMF as a condition for releasing a $300 million standby credit. The ministry says, however, that the effects of such a large deficit will be mitigated by a budget deficit that is expected to be below the initial projection. It is now estimated that the deficit will be 3.9% of GDP in 1996. Following the departure of Finance Minister Lajos Bokros, who was a strong advocate of radical social welfare reform, the government has still not revealed a plan to reduce the social security deficit. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE FIRST BOSNIAN WAR CRIMES TRIAL BEGINS. The trial of the Bosnian Serb prison worker Dusan Tadic began at the Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia on 7 May, international and local media reported. This is the first war crimes trial since the ones at Nuremberg and Tokyo, and Tadic was the first indicted war criminal to be arrested and sent to The Hague. The International Herald Tribune the previous day quoted a senior Western diplomat as saying that "Tadic is nothing.... It is doubtful that this trial will make much of an impact." The man in the dock is accused of killing, raping, and torturing, but he held no major position in either the army, the civilian apparatus, or the concentration camp system. Many observers doubt that any major war criminals will ever be brought to justice. -- Patrick Moore BOSNIAN SERB SOCIALIST LEADER SAYS KARADZIC IS BEHIND BOMBINGS. The political rifts among the Bosnian Serbs continue to deepen. Dragutin Ilic, leader of the Socialist Party, which is an ally of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, accused Bosnian Serb civilian leader Radovan Karadzic of being responsible for a campaign of violence against the opposition. Karadzic allegedly is to blame for intimidation, bomb attacks, and sabotage in the run-up to the September elections, Reuters quoted Tanjug as saying on 6 May. Meanwhile, the power struggle between Karadzic and his loyalists in Pale, on the one hand, and the Banja Luka leadership, on the other, has intensified, AFP reported on 7 May. Banja Luka was known to the UN as "the heart of darkness" during the war because of the Serbs' ruthlessness in conducting "ethnic cleansing" and in destroying historical mosques. But the leadership there has since tried to portray itself as a moderate alternative to the men in Pale. Karadzic controls the police in Banja Luka and has used death threats and intimidation against local leaders. Finally, the Sarajevo bi-weekly magazine Slobodna Bosna reported that Karadzic held a secret meeting with Croatian President Franjo Tudjman in Herzegovina last week. -- Patrick Moore CROATIA CHARGES BOSNIANS WITH TERRORISM. Croatian Public Prosecutor Drago Marcinel has formally charged five Bosnians with planning to kill former Bihac pocket kingpin Fikret Abdic, who now lives in Rijeka, Novi list reported on 6 May. A sixth man, a Croat, is accused of aiding "international terrorism." The prosecutor said that they were acting on orders from Bihac state security chief Ejub Ikic and were promised DM 100,000 for the murder. The Bosnian authorities have repeatedly denied the accusations and suggested that the Croats and Abdic manufactured the incident as a publicity stunt to promote Abdic's political comeback. -- Patrick Moore BELGRADE-ZAGREB HIGHWAY RE-OPENS. Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic has announced that the main highway between Belgrade and Zagreb will be re-opened for civilian traffic on 7 May, Nasa Borba reported. The highway was closed to private vehicles in 1991 when the war broke out. The re-opening marks the beginning of concrete efforts aimed at the peaceful reintegration of the Serb-held areas of eastern Slavonia, Baranja, and western Srijem into Croatia. The Adriatic pipeline is also expected to be re-opened soon. Meanwhile, the Croatian government on 6 May adopted a program of peaceful reintegration, Hina reported. It also approved a law granting an amnesty to rebel Serbs in Eastern Slavonia who committed criminal offenses other than war crimes. The law is scheduled to take effect by 15 July. U.S. Gen. Jacques Klein, the UN transitional administrator for eastern Slavonia, also attended the session and said later that the reintegration of occupied areas could be expected to be completed by mid-1997. -- Daria Sito Sucic BELGRADE PROPOSES ELECTORAL REFORM. The ruling Socialist Party of Serbia has proposed legislative amendments increasing the number of federal electoral districts to 27 in Serbia and 12 in Montenegro and stipulating that each party gain a minimum of 25% of the vote in a district to qualify for parliamentary representation, Tanjug reported. Under existing legislation, a party needs to win only 5% of the vote to hold a seat. Opposition parties allege that the amendments are designed to keep them out of office and will benefit the SPS and its allies. -- Stan Markotich KOSOVAR LEADER ADVOCATES CONFEDERATION WITH RUMP YUGOSLAVIA. Adem Demaci, head of the Kosovo Human Rights Council, has said that it is "imperative" for the Kosovar leadership to open talks with Serbia and Montenegro on forming a "confederal Balkan community" in the event that Kosovo gains independence. He pointed out that the recent outbreak of violence in the region shows the need for urgent talks, adding that "We have to do all we can to prevent an escalation [of the conflict]." Demaci also called on the international community to force Belgrade to the negotiating table. He rejected the idea of autonomy for Kosovo, AFP reported on 6 May. -- Fabian Schmidt CROATIAN HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST ACCUSED OF WORKING FOR COMMUNIST SECRET POLICE. Vjesnik, the official mouthpiece of the ruling Croatian Democratic Community, has accused human rights activist Ivan Zvonimir Cicak of working for the former Yugoslav secret police after 1966. The Croatian Journalists Association, the Croatian PEN Center, and all non- government organizations and media have protested the accusation. Cicak was imprisoned by the former Yugoslav regime for alleged Croatian nationalist activities. The Vjesnik article is seen as part of an ongoing campaign against opposition figures in Croatia. -- Daria Sito Sucic ROMANIAN LOCAL ELECTION UPDATE. Opposition leaders have accused the ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania of setting up bureaucratic hurdles to prevent opposition candidates from registering for the 2 June local elections, Romanian media reported. Ziua quoted a representative of the Liberal Party '93 as saying that some election officials have illegally demanded police clearance from candidates to discourage them from taking part in the elections. Harassment and intimidation of candidates have also been reported. In a separate development, the BBC rejected accusations by Chamber of Deputies Chairman Adrian Nastase that it is meddling in the Romanian election campaign by openly favoring the opposition. Nastase has asked the National Audio-Visual Council, the country's media watchdog, to investigate BBC reporting practices. -- Dan Ionescu MOLDOVA, RUSSIA RESUME TALKS ON TROOP WITHDRAWAL. Talks between Moldova and Russia on the withdrawal of Russian troops in Moldova's breakaway Dniester region resumed in Chisinau on 6 May, Moldovan and international agencies reported. Defense and Foreign Ministry officials took part in the negotiations, which have been deadlocked since February 1995. Meanwhile, Yurii Karlov, the Russian presidential special envoy to the Chisinau-Tiraspol talks, told Moldovan President Mircea Snegur that Boris Yeltsin firmly intends to abide by the 1992 Moldovan-Russian agreement ending the military conflict in the region. He added that Yeltsin will consider signing an interim document stipulating the basic principles of a conflict settlement that provides for Moldova's territorial integrity. -- Matyas Szabo BULGARIAN PRESIDENT APPEALS FOR UNITY ON NATO MEMBERSHIP. Zhelyu Zhelev- -speaking at a military parade on 6 May, which is St. George's Day in Bulgaria--appealed to the public to support the idea of Bulgaria's joining NATO, Bulgarian media reported. He noted that NATO membership is "one issue that should not prove divisive" but, on the contrary, should "unite us." Zhelev also said that NATO membership "would increase our chances of solving national security problems." The government, led by the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), seems to be in favor of closer ties to Moscow, which is against NATO expansion. -- Stan Markotich [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Jan Cleave ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. 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