|We have flown the air like birds and swum the sea like fishes, but have yet to learn the simple act of walking the earth like brothers. - Martin Luther King Jr|
No. 186, Part II, 25 September 1996
Note to OMRI Russian Regional Report readers: The OMRI Russian Regional Report is no longer being distributed via the OMRI-L listserv. If you would like to receive a copy, please follow the subscription instructions at the end of this message. As always, if you have any questions, please contact OMRIPUB@OMRI.CZ Ken Varnum Internet Services Manager OMRI 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 RADIATION INCREASES AT CHORNOBYL SIGNAL "DANGEROUS CHAIN REACTION." Ukrainian Environment Minister Yurii Kostenko has said the three recent increases in radiation levels at Chornobyl reveal that a dangerous chemical chain reaction is taking place inside the entombed fourth nuclear reactor, Ukrainian and Western agencies reported on 24 September. He noted that spent nuclear fuel inside the sarcophagus- encased reactor is undergoing dangerous chemical reactions that could cause further radiation increases or an explosion at any time. Kostenko added that these latest incidents prove that the planned construction of a new sarcophagus is not enough to contain the radioactivity and that Ukraine must consider the feasibility of removing the spent fuel. He once again complained that Kyiv has received none of the funding promised by the G-7 powers to shut down Chornobyl. -- Chrystyna Lapychak CRIMEAN LAWMAKERS DISMISS ACTING SPEAKER. Crimean legislators have voted to dismiss acting speaker Anushevan Danelyan for allegedly abusing his office, Ukrainian agencies reported on 20 September. In a unusual move, the Crimean Tatar caucus joined forces with the pro-Russian elements in the legislature to oust him. Danelyan took over the temporary post when speaker Yevhen Supruniuk was hospitalized recently after foiling a kidnapping attempt. After the vote, Supruniuk named Deputy Speaker Refat Chubarov, a Tatar leader, as new acting speaker, dashing separatists' hopes of seeing their representative in that post. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma commented that the move provided evidence that a "clash of clans" was under way in the troubled region. -- Chrystyna Lapychak RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR ON RELATIONS WITH UKRAINE. Yurii Dubinin, meeting with Ukrainian parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Moroz on 24 September, said the adoption of the new Ukrainian constitution marked a new stage in Russian-Ukrainian relations, Ukrainian Radio reported. Dubinin, who had initiated the meeting, also noted that the two countries are each other's largest trading partners, with a total turnover of more than $13 billion. He noted that 150 bilateral agreements have been signed in trade, economic cooperation, and other spheres. Asked by Dubinin about Ukraine's position on NATO expansion. Moroz said he gave greater priority to cooperation with the OSCE. He added that neutral, non- aligned European states such as Austria, Switzerland, and Ukraine could provide the framework for a new European security model on the principles of neutrality, non-nuclear status, and continued participation in peacekeeping missions. The issues of the Black Sea Fleet and Russia's imposition of a 20% tariff on Ukrainian imports were not raised. -- Ustina Markus BELARUSIAN UPDATE. The political information department of the president's administration has denied that Alyaksander Lukashenka has wronged any Western state, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 September. The statement was in response to a protest by the U.S. embassy in Minsk over the president's recent allegations that Western diplomats have engaged in activities to destabilize Belarus. However, department head Mikhail Podhany said foreign diplomats are meddling too much in Belarus's internal affairs and that these activities were damaging the country's independence. In other news, a Minsk court has fined head of state radio and television Hryhor Kisel, who was appointed by Lukashenka, 30 minimum wages (the equivalent of $55) for not fulfilling his duties when he failed to broadcast parliamentary debates on the president's proposed referendum. Kisel was also fined 20 minimum wages for not airing regularly the program "Parliament's Diary." Meanwhile, the Constitutional Court has called upon both the president and parliament not to proceed with their proposed referendums. -- Ustina Markus BALTIC REGION DEFENSE MINISTERS MEET. Defense ministers and other high- ranking officials from the countries of the Baltic Sea region, Great Britain, the Netherlands, and the U.S met in Copenhagen on 23-24 September to discuss security issues, Western agencies reported. Russian Defense Minister Igor Rodinov declined to attend, and his planned substitute, Baltic Sea Fleet Commander Vladimir Yegorov, also failed to appear. German Defense Minister Volker Ruehe stressed that new NATO members should have stable relations with Russia. Lithuanian Defense Minister Linas Linkevicius said the Baltic Action Plan presented by U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry was acceptable as long as it did not amount to an alternative to NATO. He stressed that the alliance was the only real guarantee of the security of the Baltic states. -- Saulius Girnius ESTONIAN PREMIER NAMES NEW HEAD OF FERRY DISASTER COMMITTEE. Tiit Vahi on 24 September said the government has approved the appointment of Uno Laur, a 68-year-old former captain of the Estonian Shipping Company, as head of the international committee investigating the sinking of the ferry Estonia in September 1994, Reuters reported. The committee's former head, Andi Meister, resigned in July alleging that Swedish investigators had concealed some of the video evidence. Laur's appointment is expected to be ratified on 26 September by the Swedish and Finnish members of the committee. They have insisted that the committee be headed by an Estonian. Laur, who already is a member of the committee, thus appears to be a suitable choice. -- Saulius Girnius LATVIAN PRIME MINISTER IN U.S. Andris Skele, during his visit to the U.S. from 21-25 September, held talks in Washington with World Bank Vice President Johannes Linn, International Finance Corporation Vice President Wilfried Kaffenberger, and representatives of the International Business Council. He was forced to cancel a meeting with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott in New York on 23 September due to engine problems with his plane in Washington D. C. Skele addressed the UN General Assembly on 24 September, stressing the importance of respecting human rights and Latvia's potential as an "economic bridge between East and West," RFE/RL reported. He also met with his Swedish and Japanese counterparts, Goran Persson and Ryutaro Hashimoto, and UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali. -- Saulius Girnius VATICAN QUESTIONS AUTHENTICITY OF STASI FILES. Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valla has queried the authenticity of former East German secret service (Stasi) files on Pope Paul VI's meeting with West German Chancellor Willy Brandt in the 1970s based on a Polish priest's reports (see OMRI Daily Digest, 24 September 1996). Navarro-Valla said important details from the conversation that took place at that meeting are missing and that the rest is a reconstruction based on known facts or facts that could be easily deduced. "If the reports are false, one has to conclude that the priest did not exist," he said. The Polish episcopate's secretary, Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek, said there was no need for the episcopate to make a statement on the matter. -- Jakub Karpinski POLAND PROPOSES ANTI-CRIME CONVENTION. President Aleksander Kwasniewski, speaking at the UN General Assembly session in New York on 24 September, proposed a convention designed to fight international organized crime and terrorism. The convention would urge signatories "either to punish offenders or to extradite them," he said. Kwasniewski also reiterated that joining NATO and the EU are priorities of Polish foreign policy. Earlier that day, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov said Russia opposes former Warsaw Pact countries' membership in NATO. -- Jakub Karpinski CZECH PARLIAMENTARY PARTIES DISAGREE OVER COMMITTEE TO INVESTIGATE BANK COLLAPSE. Czech parliamentary parties are at odds over the composition and size of a special parliamentary committee that is to investigate the collapse of the Kreditni banka, Czech media reported on 24 September. The opposition Social Democrats (CSSD), who proposed the creation of the committee, wants to chair it and have five of the 13 seats. This would mean that Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party (ODS) would have only four seats and the four other parliamentary parties one each. The ODS has announced it will insist on either a 10- or 12-member committee in which both it and the CSSD would have three or four seats each and all other parties one each. The coalition parties have also rejected the nomination of the CSSD's Michael Kraus to head the committee, pointing to his communist past and recent charges of involvement in suspicious property deals. -- Jiri Pehe SLOVAKIA RESPONDS TO HUNGARIAN CRITICISM OVER FOREIGN ANTHEM BAN. The Slovak Foreign Ministry on 24 September responded to Hungarian criticism of the recently passed Law on State Symbols, Slovak media reported. Among other things, the new legislation allows foreign national anthems to be played in Slovakia only when a foreign delegation is present. Slovakia's Hungarians have complained that the law is aimed at preventing them from singing or playing the Hungarian anthem on Hungarian national holidays. The Foreign Ministry said it "has taken notice of the reactions in Hungary" to the law. It added that the law affects only Slovakia's internal affairs and has "no bearing on Slovak- Hungarian relations and the implementation of the Slovak-Hungarian Treaty as well as the position of the Hungarian minority in Slovakia." -- Jiri Pehe HUNGARIAN INDUSTRY MINISTRY TO BE RESTRUCTURED. Newly appointed Industry and Trade Minister Tamas Suchman has announced a plan to reduce the ministry's staff from 640 to 540 employees, Hungarian dailies reported on 25 September. Scheduled for implementation before the end of the year, the plan will also merge some trade representation offices abroad with embassies. Those offices in Moscow, Brussels, Washington, and Tokyo are to be granted a special status, and a new office will be set up in Budapest to coordinate trade relations with CEFTA countries. -- Zsofia Szilagyi PARLIAMENTARY PARTIES SUBMIT MODIFICATIONS TO DRAFT HUNGARIAN CONSTITUTION. The six parliamentary parties represented on the committee responsible for a new constitutional draft have submitted their recommendations on modifying that document, Magyar Hirlap reported on 25 September. After the parliament failed to agree on a concept for a new constitution in June, a final vote was postponed until the fall (see OMRI Daily Digest, 1 July 1996). The two coalition parties--the Socialists and the Free Democrats--have jointly submitted three recommendations. Among those proposed by the opposition Christian Democrats is one requiring a referendum on certain clauses it deems crucial. The parliament has yet to decide whether to allow the Democratic People's Party--which was recently formed by the liberal wing of the Hungarian Democratic Forum, the former governing party--to be represented on the committee. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE BOSNIAN ELECTIONS TO BE VALIDATED . . . OSCE's election coordinator Ed Van Thijn on 24 September said he will recommend that the 14 September vote be certified. He admitted that the ballot was not "free or fair" but denied that there was "fraud or manipulation...of sufficient magnitude to affect the [results of the] elections." He added, however, that freedom of movement and association will have to be ensured before local elections can be held and that the nagging problem of voter registration lists will have to be solved as well, Onasa reported. This means that the local elections could be postponed until early 1997, the BBC noted. -- Patrick Moore . . . BUT NOT WITHOUT PROTESTS. Parties now have 72 hours to protest the results, after which the OSCE has another 72 hours to consider those complaints. Challenges have already come from the Muslim Party of Democratic Action. AFP quoted Biljana Plavsic, acting president of the Republika Srpska, as claiming on 24 September that "the figures have been adjusted in order to answer the political needs of some. This adjustment has been accomplished with the help of illegal ballots that the electoral commission of the Republika Srpska was unable to check. The Republika Srpska cannot accept a revision of the results relying on these mysterious ballots." -- Patrick Moore TRIAL OF CROATIAN JOURNALISTS RESUMES. Proceedings begin again on 25 September in Zagreb against Viktor Ivancic, the editor in chief of Feral Tribune, and Marinko Culic, who writes for the same outspoken satirical weekly. The trial resumes after a three-month break in what is widely seen as a test for the new press law, which allows the government to silence and jail journalists by claiming that they slandered high officials or revealed "state secrets." The two men are accused of defaming President Franjo Tudjman, international media noted. Croatia has been widely criticized for the vague new legislation, and there were some expectations that the charges would be quietly dropped during the recess. Opponents of the law charge that by providing special protection from criticism for the five top government officials, the measure violates the constitution, which guarantees equality before the law for all citizens. -- Patrick Moore WILL FORMER RUMP YUGOSLAV BANK GOVERNOR ENTER POLITICAL RACE? Dragoslav Avramovic has been asked to head the list of the Zajedno (Together) coalition, which consists of the Serbian Renewal Movement, the Democratic Party, and the Serbian Civic League, in the 3 November federal elections, Nasa Borba reported on 25 September. Avramovic, who is expected to announce tomorrow whether he will accept, initiated economic reforms in 1994. He is regarded by opposition politicians as one of the few public figures who may appeal to enough voters to oust the ruling Socialist Party of Serbia. -- Stan Markotich SLOVENIAN JUSTICE SURVIVES BOMBING ATTEMPT. Judge Konrad Rebernik was unhurt after a bomb exploded near his Maribor home on 24 September, local media reported. Rebernik's wife, however, was rushed to hospital for treatment for serious but unspecified injuries resulting from the incident. This is the first time a senior member of the Slovenian judiciary has been the target of such action. Rebernik is head of Maribor's regional criminal court and has been involved in criminal law for the past seven years. -- Stan Markotich ROMANIA'S RULING PARTY DEFEATED OVER BANK PRIVATIZATION. The Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) on 24 September was defeated over a draft law on the privatization of banks with majority state capital, local media reported. The democratic opposition was supported by the ultra-nationalist Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR), a former PDSR ally, in rejecting the draft legislation, which it described as de facto sanctioning the communist "nationalization" of the banking system. The text, which was previously adopted by the Senate, was sent to a commission of experts to be amended. Romanian TV commented that the ruling party is experiencing "the consequences of the lack of parliamentary support" following its break with the PUNR earlier this month. -- Dan Ionescu ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT COMMISSION RULES ON ANTI-GAY LEGISLATION. The parliamentary Mediation Commission on 24 September overruled a Chamber of Deputies decision to make homosexuality a crime in Romania, domestic media reported. The commission opted for the text adopted earlier by the Senate stating that relations between people of the same sex are punishable only if they are "performed in public" or "provoke a scandal." The only opposing vote was cast by deputy Rasvan Dobrescu of the National Peasant Party--Christian Democratic. -- Dan Ionescu BULGARIA'S BASE INTEREST NEARLY TRIPLES. The Central Bank on 23 September raised the base interest to 300% from 108% in a bid to restore depositors' confidence in banking institutions and the lev, international and national media reported. The move is also aimed at assuaging public anxieties and thereby preventing a run on deposits, which could lead to the further collapse of banks. Deposits are to be guaranteed up to 100%, parliamentary Budget Commission chief Kiril Zhelev said. But Standart has warned that with much of the public's money already in the banks, the government could be tempted to raise the exchange rate for the dollar to 1,000 leva and lower the interest rate to, for example, 40%. -- Maria Koinova BULGARIAN TRADE UNIONS DEMAND GOVERNMENT'S RESIGNATION. The leaders of the two biggest trade unions have demanded the cabinet's resignation following its decision to sell 15 large state-owned companies, Reuters and Trud reported on 24 September. That decision was taken in an effort to obtain new loans from the IMF. The unions plan to establish a joint strike committee next week and to press ahead with protests and nationwide strikes. The same day, Premier Zhan Videnov said that in the case of the 15 companies, the government expects privatization deals worth more than $1 billion. In other news, the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry ordered Slavi Pashovsky, the country's ambassador to the UN, to resign after he accused his government of seeking to subvert democracy (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20 September 1996). -- Maria Koinova ALBANIANS CLASH WITH POLICE IN LAND DISPUTE. Some 400 Albanians clashed with police on 24 September over the setting up of barricades on the main road between Tirana-Durres to protest the police destruction of three illegally-built houses in the area last week, Republika reported. Four protesters and five policemen were injured, while 20 people were arrested. Protests began following the Tirana city hall's decision to award the disputed land as compensation and to order the three families living there to leave. Similar clashes occurred in 1995, when police were forced to beat a retreat. After that incident, authorities formally approved the construction of new settlements. -- 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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