|A host is like general: calamities often reveal his genius. - Horace|
No. 10, Part II, 15 January 1997
OMRI DAILY DIGEST 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 OMRI Daily Digest, and other information about OMRI, are available through OMRI's WWW pages: http://www.omri.cz/Index.html CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE UKRAINIAN NEWSPAPER PUBLISHES CONTROVERSIAL LETTER FROM RUSSIAN OFFICIAL. Vseukrainskiye vedomosti on 14 January published an allegedly top-secret letter from Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergii Krylov to Russian presidential foreign-policy advisor Dmitrii Ryurikov calling for measures to be taken against Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma in retaliation for his anti-Russian policies, international agencies reported. The letter, dated 30 October 1996, condemned Kuchma for his rejection of CIS integration and his unwillingness to discuss preserving a single Black Sea Fleet and the status of Sevastopol. It called for neutralizing Kuchma by discrediting him so that he would be impeached. Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Volodymyr Khandohy announced that if the letter is genuine, it does not correspond to civilized norms "even in such a peculiar field as diplomacy." He added that Ukraine will seek an official explanation from Russia over the letter. Meanwhile, Russia has said the letter is a hoax and has called on Ukraine to launch an investigation. (See related item in Russia section) -- Ustina Markus UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT VETOES DRAFT LAW ON COVERAGE OF PARLIAMENTARY DEBATES. Leonid Kuchma has vetoed the draft law regulating media coverage of the parliament's activities, Infobank reported on 13 January. He said the law contravenes the constitution and gives an unfair advantage to the legislative branch vis-ˆ-vis the executive and the judiciary. He also pointed to the high costs of live TV and radio coverage at the parliament. Kuchma proposed that a law be drafted on mass media coverage of all branches of power. In other news, the Crimean parliament has convened for its first session since the Christmas holidays, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 January. Top on its agenda is adopting a new constitution. The constitutional commission says that the controversial articles that prompted the Ukrainian parliament to reject the constitution last year have been brought into line with Ukraine's basic law. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev BELARUSIAN BANK CHIEF DISMISSED, ARRESTED. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has issued a decree dismissing National Bank of Belarus Chair Tamara Vinnikau, international agencies reported on 14 January. Immediately after her dismissal, she was arrested for causing "damage to the state of major proportions." Lukashenka appointed Vinnikau to that post last February, ignoring objections raised by the then parliament. At that time, she was considered an unwavering supporter of the president's economic policies. Later, she was critical of several of his initiatives. Presidential opponents charged that she had poor administrative skills. The same day, Paval Dik resigned as finance minister. He was replaced by Mykola Rumas. -- Ustina Markus BELARUSIAN REACTIONS TO YELTSIN'S REFERENDUM PROPOSAL. Belarusian Foreign Minister Ivan Antonovich played down Russian President Boris Yeltsin's proposal to hold a referendum on uniting Russia and Belarus, an RFE/RL correspondent reported on 14 January. Antonovich said the proposal was "merely a working document." He also dismissed speculation that it was put forward to counter future NATO expansion. The same day, several dozen protesters took to Minsk's streets to protest Yeltsin's initiative. -- Ustina Markus ESTONIA, NORWAY SIGN READMISSION AGREEMENT. Norwegian and Estonian Foreign Minister Bjorn Tore Godal and Toomas Hendrik Ilves, meeting in Tallinn on 14 January, signed an agreement providing for the return of illegal immigrants, BNS reported. Godel said both that measure and Estonia's ratification of the Geneva convention on refugees were needed to establishing visa-free travel between the two countries. During his one-day visit Godal also met with President Lennart Meri, Prime Minister Tiit Vahi, and parliamentary chairman Toomas Savi. -- Saulius Girnius CONTROVERSY OVER DEATH PENALTY IN LITHUANIA. Interior Minister Vidmantas Ziemelis on 14 January commented that the reintroduction of the death penalty was necessary to stem the growth of crime in Lithuania, Radio Lithuania reported. The previous day, he had urged President Algirdas Brazauskas to lift the moratorium on death sentences. Brazauskas, however, noted that capital punishment has not been legally suspended. He explained that in July, he submitted to the parliament a draft law imposing a moratorium on the death penalty but legislators have not discussed it. He stressed that it is the parliament--not the president-- that has the power to suspend the death penalty. Since July, there has been an "informal suspension" because the presidential amnesty commission has not received the appeals for clemency from convicts condemned to death, he explained. -- Saulius Girnius POLISH PRIME MINISTER IN ISRAEL. Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, at the start of his three-day visit to Israel from 14-16 January, met with his Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu, international agencies reported. Cimoszewicz said later that the two countries are working on several agreements that might lead to a free-trade accord. But he reported that there were still differences over Poland's demand that Israel lift the current visa requirement for Poles, noting that his country had last week nullified the "unfair and immoral agreements" reached by Poland and Switzerland after World War II. He added that he and Netanyahu had agreed on an exchange program involving 500 Polish and 500 Israeli schoolchildren. Cimoszewicz is accompanied by Polish Defense Minister Stanislaw Dobrzanski and a large delegation of government officials and businessmen. -- Jakub Karpinski UZBEK PRESIDENT IN PRAGUE. Islam Karimov, in Prague on a three-day official visit, met with Czech Foreign Minister Josef Zieleniec, Czech media reported. Karimov is to hold talks today with Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus, President Vaclav Havel, and Senate Chairman Petr Pithart. Among the issues to be discussed are several bilateral agreements, including on double taxation and combating organized crime. Karimov is also scheduled to meet with Czech entrepreneurs. -- Jiri Pehe SLOVAK POLITICAL UPDATE. The Slovak government has approved a proposal that a public debate take place over Slovakia's possible membership in NATO, Slovak news agencies reported on 14 January. An information campaign is to be run on nationwide TV and radio as well as in the press. While the official goverment position is to support joining the alliance, the Slovak National Party--the junior coalition partner--has come out in favor of neutrality. Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar has said a referendum on the issue will probably be held in May. Meanwhile, it is reported that, in the petition drive organized by the opposition, some 35,000 signatures have been collected so far in support of holding a referendum on direct presidential elections. A total of 350,000 signatures are needed for such a plebiscite. Deputy Premier Katarina Tothova said the petition drive was a "desperate attempt" to ensure that President Michal Kovac retains his post. -- Anna Siskova REPORTS CONFIRM HUNGARIAN SOCIALISTS' INVOLVEMENT IN OILGATE. Recent reports on the 1996 Oilgate and privatization scandals have confirmed that several Socialist party members and Socialist-run government offices were involved in corruption, Hungarian dailies reported on 15 January. A parliamentary investigative committee's report on the Oilgate affair says that 80% of the contracts related to Russia's repayment of its $900 million state debt to Hungary were signed by Socialist- affiliated individuals, Magyar Nemzet reported on 15 January. The report blames the Finance Ministry for leaking sensitive information and not calling an open tender. Meanwhile, in its final report on last year's privatization scandal, the supervisory committee of the State Privatization and Holding Company (APV) says that among those responsible are former Privatization Minister Tamas Suchman, APV's top management, and APV's senior legal counsel--most of whom were appointees of the Socialist-dominated government. -- Zsofia Szilagyi HUNGARIAN OPPOSITION PARTY URGES NO OUT-OF-COURT SETTLEMENT IN GABCIKOVO DAM DISPUTE. The opposition Young Democrats have called on the cabinet not to seek an out-of-court settlement with Slovakia over the Gabcikovo hydropower plant, Hungarian media reported on 15 January. They urged instead that the government wait for the Hague-based International Court of Justice to rule on the dispute. Their appeal follows Prime Minister Gyula Horn's recent remark in support of an out-of-court settlement. The Young Democrats said that the two countries have already resolved some of their differences in behind-closed-doors negotiations. The hearings in The Hague are scheduled to begin in March. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE SERBIAN ELECTION COMMISSIONS RECOGNIZE OPPOSITION VICTORIES. Local election commissions on 14 January recognized the opposition coalition Zajedno's wins in second round of the 17 November local elections, Nasa Borba reported. The commission authorities concluded that the coalition won in Belgrade, Nis, and 12 other municipalities. But opposition leader Vuk Draskovic said the implications of the commissions' ruling was unclear, stressing there were no guarantees that the ruling Socialists and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic would honor it. The Socialists have 48 hours in which to challenge to the ruling. They have already hinted that they may not do so. Meanwhile, Milosevic seems to have responded to the ruling by purging high-ranking party members who held unequivocal points of view on the municipal returns. Belgrade Mayor Nebojsa Covic, who had maintained from early on that the opposition wins should be recognized, was sacked. But so were Belgrade party boss Branislav Ivkovic and his Nis counterpart, Mile Ilic, both hard-liners who had argued that under no circumstances should concessions be made to the opposition. -- Stan Markotich CROATIAN CHIEF JUSTICE FIRED. The state judicial committee on 14 January announced it has sacked Supreme Court head Krunoslav Olujic, AFP reported. Olujic was suspended in November on charges of discrediting the court by allegedly associating with criminals and having sex with minors. Olujic claims a politically motivated smear campaign is being waged to get rid of him because he defends the independence of the judiciary. The authorities earlier tried to coax him out of office by offering him an ambassadorial post. Critics of the governing Croatian Democratic Community charge that the moves against Olujic are part of a broader effort by that party to take control of all aspects of public life. -- Patrick Moore CROATIAN-UN UPDATE. The UN Security Council has extended the mandate for UN monitors on Croatia's Prevlaka peninsula until 15 July, news agencies reported on 14 January. Belgrade has laid claim to that territory because it offers direct access to the Bay of Kotor, where federal Yugoslavia's chief naval base is located. Meanwhile, details are emerging of Croatia's recommendations to the UN on reintegrating eastern Slavonia. Zagreb will exempt ethnic Serbs from military duty for two years, during which a long-term policy will be hammered out, Vjesnik wrote on 15 January. The government also plans to reserve two seats for Serbs in the upper house of the legislature, as well as advisory positions for Serbs in the Ministries of Internal Affairs, Justice, Education, and Culture. Voting rights will be extended to all Serbs who have obtained Croatian papers. Jacques Klein, UN administrator in Slavonia, has praised the Croatian proposals. -- Patrick Moore ANOTHER ETHNIC ALBANIAN KILLED IN KOSOVO. Another ethnic Albanian has been shot dead in northern Kosovo--the second such incident within four days, international agencies reported on 14 January. A spokesman for the Democratic League of Kosovo claimed that the 47-year-old Fazil Hasani, who was killed near Srbica, had cooperated with the Serbian police. The Kosovo Liberation Army is believed to be behind the murder. That group took responsibility for the killings of policeman Faik Bellopoja last month and Socialist Party of Serbia member Maliq Sheholli on 9 January. It also issued a statement on 14 January saying that Sheholli's murder was a "warning to all other collaborators and national traitors." Meanwhile, Adem Demaci has resigned as head of the Kosovo Human Rights Council following his elections as leader of the Parliamentary Party, Deutsche Welle's Albanian-language service reported. -- Fabian Schmidt DEMONSTRATIONS AT SKOPJE UNIVERSITY. Ethnic Albanian students at Skopje University staged a demonstration on 14 January calling for instruction in the Albanian-language at the pedagogic faculty, Flaka and Nova Makedonija reported. At the same time, ethnic Macedonian students demonstrated against Albanian-language instruction. A draft law providing for classes in the Albanian language was drawn up last year and is supported by University Dean Radmila Kiprijanova. Education Minister Sofija Todorova, meeting with Macedonian students on 14 January, asked them to present their concerns to the parliamentary education commission. The parliament will discuss the draft law next week. Meanwhile, special UN envoy Elisabeth Rehn, in Skopje for a two- day visit from 13-15 January, expressed concern about the "intolerance of Macedonian students" who were protesting against Albanian-language instruction at the university. -- Fabian Schmidt ROMANIAN-UKRAINIAN NEGOTIATIONS ON BASIC TREATY. Another round of talks on the Romanian-Ukrainian basic treaty ended in Bucharest on 14 January, Romanian media reported. The negotiators agreed to resume talks in Kyiv after examining proposals submitted by each side. Before the meeting, Romanian Foreign Minister Adrian Severin said that Bucharest would propose a "compromise package" to settle unresolved issues. Romania wants the treaty to include a condemnation of the 1939 Ribbentrop- Molotov pact, which ceded Romanian territories to the then Soviet republic of Ukraine. It also wants guarantees for the 400,000-strong ethnic Romanian minority living in Ukraine. Romania appears to be under pressure to finalize the treaty before the July NATO summit, at which the first countries to join the alliance are expected to be named. Settling disputes with all neighbors is a condition for NATO integration. -- Zsolt Mato MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT FAILS ONCE AGAIN TO ELECT SPEAKER. For the third time in less than a week, the parliament has failed to elect a new speaker, Infotag reported on 14 January. The main contenders to replace Petru Lucinschi in that post are Dumitru Motpan, chairman of the ruling Agrarian Democratic Party, and Deputy Speaker Dumitru Diacov, a close associate of Lucinschi. However, the parliament has allowed Diacov to open and preside over the presidential inauguration ceremony, scheduled for today. Some deputies have warned of a parliamentary crisis if the issue is not resolved soon. Motpan, who chaired the 14 January session, said that later this week, the parliament will launch procedures to designate a new premier. He singled out Ion Cebuc, head of the State Accounting Office, as a possible candidate for that post. -- Dan Ionescu EARLY ELECTIONS IN BULGARIA, BUT WHEN? The ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party on 14 January agreed to hold early parliamentary elections, RFE/RL reported. But it committed itself only to holding the vote by the end of this year. Following a meeting the same day, leaders of the BSP and its coalition partners--the Bulgarian Agrarian People's Union "Aleksandar Stamboliyski" and the Political Club Ekoglasnost--said the parliament should vote in a "government of professionals of international reputation." They also said they will prepare a 500-day government program. The opposition, for its part, has decided to open talks with the BSP on early elections. It demands that the parliament be dissolved by March and early elections held by May. Meanwhile, Pari cited legislators from the New Democracy party as saying that outgoing President Zhelyu Zhelev will not give the BSP a mandate to form a new government until tensions subside. -- Stefan Krause PROTESTS CONTINUE IN SOFIA. Some 20,000-30,000 people continued to protest in Sofia on 14 January, RFE/RL and AFP reported. Students from several Sofia universities joined the demonstrations. Meanwhile, the parliament reconvened today for its first session since the violent clashes several days earlier between protesters and police (see OMRI Daily Digest, 13 January 1997). The building was heavily guarded by riot police, and only BSP deputies and some Bulgarian Business Bloc legislators attended. Union of Democratic Forces Chairman Ivan Kostov said the protests will continue until a date for early elections is set. The major trade unions have staged nationwide one-hour warning strikes today to back the opposition's demands. Meanwhile, the BBB has announced it will not support a new BSP government. BBB Chairman Georges Ganchev said his party will not seek a coalition with any party represented in the current parliament. -- Stefan Krause ALBANIAN PYRAMID SCHEME INVESTORS CLASH WITH POLICE. Some 5,000 angry Albanians gathered in Tirana on 15 January to protest a recent National Bank directive limiting daily withdrawals by a single client to $300,000, Reuters reported. The ruling followed the collapse of a number of high-interest investment companies. Another 10 pyramid schemes have since been forced to shut down their offices. Most of the protesters had invested in a company run by a Roma woman, known only by the name of Sudja, who is accusing the government of trying to discredit her by blocking payments. The protesters apparently believe their money is being kept by the government. Hundreds of police used rubber batons against the protesters, who tried to force their way past a cordon to central Skanderbeg Square. -- Fabian Schmidt [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Jan Cleave ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. ISSN 1211-1570 ------------------------------------------------------------------------ SUBSCRIBING/UNSUBSCRIBING 1) Compose a message to LISTSERV@UBVM.CC.BUFFALO.EDU 2) To subscribe, write: SUBSCRIBE OMRI-L FirstName LastName (include your own name) To unsubscribe, write: UNSUBSCRIBE OMRI-L 3) Send the message BACK ISSUES Back issues of the OMRI Daily Digest are available through the World Wide Web, by FTP and by E-mail. 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