|A disagreement may be the shortest cut between two minds. - Kahlil Gibran|
No. 13, Part II, 20 January 1997
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 MOSCOW MAYOR IN SEVASTOPOL. Yurii Luzhkov flew unannounced to Sevastopol on 17 January, despite Ukrainian threats to declare him a persona non grata and his earlier assurances that he would not come but would tend to his broken leg, Ukrainian and international agencies reported. Upon arrival, Luzhkov reiterated his position that Sevastopol had never been handed over to Ukraine, saying when former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev handed Crimea over to Ukraine "after a drinking binge, Sevastopol was turned into a separate administrative entity and was not handed over to Ukraine." He added he would continue to visit Sevastopol and that no one can stop him. The next evening, Luzhkov and his bodyguards spent most of the night at the airport, after customs officials refused to let one of the bodyguards leave because he allegedly brought a gun illegally into the country. Luzhkov's entourage denied the gun was brought in illegally, and Luzhkov called the incident "a very primitive" act of revenge. -- Ustina Markus UKRAINIAN REACTIONS TO LUZHKOV VISIT. Foreign Minister Hennadii Udovenko said he viewed Luzhkov's visit very negatively. He said he had personally appealed to Luzhkov not to visit Sevastopol or aggravate the situation there, and that Luzhkov's claims to the city were not constructive for Russian-Ukrainian relations. President Leonid Kuchma, speaking in Homel, Belarus, during a meeting with Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, said Russian-Ukrainian relations are deteriorating, AFP and Reuters reported on 17 January. Kuchma said it was pointless to investigate the letter published last week by Kievskiye vedomosti, which was allegedly from one senior Russian official to another and urged a campaign to discredit Kuchma so he could be impeached. Russia has called the letter a fabrication. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov said on 17 January that Moscow would like to rent the entire city of Sevastopol as it main Black Sea Fleet base but had no territorial claim to the port. -- Ustina Markus WAR OF LAWS CONTINUES BETWEEN CRIMEA AND KYIV. The ethnic Russian- dominated Crimean parliament voted down changes to the autonomous region's draft constitution designed to overcome the Ukrainian parliament's objections, UNIAN reported on 15 January. Ukraine's parliament rejected the 1 November 1995 draft last year because of provisions giving Crimea the right to determine Sevastopol's status and to grant citizenship, giving Crimeans the right to dual citizenship, and giving Russian the status of an official language and the language of business in Crimea. Meanwhile, President Leonid Kuchma asked the Constitutional Court to overturn Crimean legislation imposing taxes on barter trades, which he claims contradicts Ukrainian law, Ukrainian TV reported on 18 January. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev BELARUSIAN AND UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTS DISCUSS TRADE, BORDER CONTROLS. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma met in Homel, southeastern Belarus, on 17 January to discuss economic cooperation and controls on their mutual border, international agencies reported. The two leaders signed a communiqué aimed at simplifying customs rules and fostering ties between the two countries' customs agencies, border guards, and interior ministries. They also agreed to broaden cooperation in industry, especially in the manufacturing of farm machinery. Lukashenka said that "if the countries carry out the signed agreements, Belarus's relations with Ukraine will overtake its relations with other states." Since the break-up of the Soviet Union, Ukraine has been one of Belarus's main trade partners, importing $714 million of Belarusian goods in 1996. -- Sergei Solodovnikov PROTESTS CONTINUE IN BELARUS. The nationalist Belarusian Popular Front picketed the Russian embassy in Minsk for the fourth day in a row on 17 January, Ekho Moskvy reported. The group was protesting Russian President Boris Yeltsin's proposal to hold a referendum on Russian- Belarusian unification. Among the signs toted by the demonstrators was one saying: "Russia broke its teeth on Chechnya, and will choke on Belarus." -- Ustina Markus ESTONIAN PROGRESS PARTY COULD SPLIT. Fourteen out of 34 members of the Estonian Progress Party's governing council, including former council chairman Arvo Junti, walked out of the council's meeting on 17 January in protest against Tiit Made's leadership, BNS reported. Made was appointed head of the council at the meeting, replacing party chairwoman Andra Veidemann, who became a minister last year while her party was still in the ruling coalition. Junti is calling for a party congress in March, but the council decided to hold it on 3 May provided that the party had gathered the 1,000 members it needs to be formally registered as a political party by that time. Party board member Mart Ummelas accused Junti of creating the split on instructions from leaders of the Center Party, which the Progress Party split from last year. -- Saulius Girnius POLISH JOURNALIST CHARGED WITH DISCLOSING STATE SECRETS. Jerzy Jachowicz of Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland's largest daily newspaper, has been charged with identifying a Polish secret service agent in an article on the spying allegations brought against former Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy, Polish media reported on 20 January. Jachowicz has also been charged with obstructing investigation of the leak by refusing to disclose his source. It was the second time charges of obstructing criminal proceedings have been brought against Polish journalists for refusing to reveal their sources; the previous one was also connected to the Oleksy affair. The Supreme Court ruled in 1995 that the criminal code provision allowing a prosecutor to require journalists to reveal their sources overrules the media law provision on journalists' right not to reveal their sources. Justice Minister Leszek Kubicki disagreed with that ruling. -- Beata Pasek CZECH PRESIDENT CASTS DOUBTS ON OPPOSITION LEADER'S CHARGES. Vaclav Havel told Czech Radio on 19 January that the documents he received last week from Social Democratic Party Chairman and Parliament Speaker Milos Zeman do not prove Zeman's suspicion that constitutional officials, especially from the opposition parties, have been shadowed by the country's secret service (BIS). Havel however conceded that the documents might justify Zeman's suspicion that unlawful acts had been committed. Havel said the content of the documents was "disgusting," adding that they deserved to be examined by the parliamentary committee overseeing the BIS. The president rejected Zeman's claim that the documents show the Czech Republic is becoming a police state. In response to Havel's statements, Zeman said the documents were indeed disgusting. "I believe that spying on political opponents is always disgusting," he added. -- Jiri Pehe SLOVAK PREMIER REMINDS JOURNALISTS OF 'RESPONSIBILITY.' The Slovak government wants to restore a continuous dialogue between journalists' organizations and the government, but new media legislation is needed to create the right political conditions, Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar said in a meeting with journalists on 17 January. Meciar said he "wondered" why Slovak journalists allow themselves to be described as "not free," declaring: "You are free and proud, so acknowledge it." But every freedom entails responsibility, Meciar stressed, urging journalists to bear the interests of Slovakia in mind. If journalists continue squabbling with the government this year, Meciar said, the expansion of NATO and the European Union will pass Slovakia by. The opposition daily Sme and Czech independent TV channel Nova were not invited to the meeting. -- Anna Siskova HUNGARIAN PRIVATIZATION PAYOFF TRACED TO COALITION-LINKED COMPANIES. The ongoing investigation into last year's privatization scandal provides evidence that parts of the controversial payment by the state privatization agency to an outside consultant were transferred to companies linked to the coalition parties, Magyar Hirlap reported on 20 January. The paper cites a letter from the prosecutor-general which says that Laszlo Boldvai, the Socialist Party's treasurer and a deputy in parliament, and Gyorgy Budai, an entrepreneur with links to the junior coalition party, the Alliance of Free Democrats, told consultant Marta Tocsik last May that she could only keep her $5.1 million commission from the privatization agency if she transferred 25% of that amount to each of two companies. According to the paper, the prosecutor-general has evidence of a series of money transfers between Tocsik and the two companies and on 19 December requested that parliament waive Budai's immunity from prosecution. -- Zsofia Szilagyi OPPOSITION SEEKS DETAILS OF OUT-OF-COURT SETTLEMENT ON GABCIKOVO DAM. Forty-five public figures have issued an appeal condemning government efforts to reach an out-of-court settlement in the Gabcikovo dam dispute, which will soon go before the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Hungarian media reported on 20 January. Endorsed by such prominent Hungarians as film director Miklos Jancso and historian Gyorgy Litvan, the appeal calls on the cabinet to reveal details of the secret talks it has been holding with Slovakia. The appeal follows Prime Minister Gyula Horn's 17 January denial of any secret agreement and the opposition Young Democrats' demand that the secret negotiations stop. Opponents of an out-of-court settlement fear that a consensus between Bratislava and Budapest over the dam will only produce an environmentally damaging solution. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE KOSOVO LIBERATION ARMY CONTINUES OFFENSIVE. In a letter to Deutsche Welle's Albanian service, the Kosovo Liberation Army claimed responsibility for the killing of Cun Dervishi in Skenderaj on the night of 16-17 January, calling the ethnic Albanian man a "cooperator with the Serbian occupiers." The secretive group also claimed responsibility for the attempted assassination on 16 January of Radivoje Papovic, dean of the state-run Pristina University, and for the 13 January killing of Fazli Hasani, an ethnic Albanian who worked for the Serbian police near Mitrovica. Meanwhile, some 1,000 Serbs held a demonstration in Pristina on 18 January to protest the attack on Papovic. While Radio Serbia put the blame for the attacks on Serbian opposition leader Vuk Draskovic, the opposition claimed the United Yugoslav Left -- led by President Slobodan Milosevic's wife, Mirjana Markovic -- were the real "terrorists" responsible for the attacks and accused Milosevic of planning to use the events in Kosovo as a pretext for declaring a state of emergency, BBC reported. AFP quoted Draskovic claiming that "Milosevic is trying to play his last card by preparing civil war in Kosovo without caring about the consequences and the expected blood bath." -- Fabian Schmidt SERBIAN OPPOSITION PROTESTS 'BEASTS IN POWER.' While the regime of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic continues to resist calls to recognize the opposition Zajedno coalition's wins in 17 November runoff municipal elections, the opposition continues to find creative ways to protest. The latest effort to bypass official bans on mass protests was to rally under the banner of "Pets Against the Beasts in Power," international media reported. On 19 January, an estimated 10,000 people gathered in downtown Belgrade, all "coincidentally" out on the town walking their pets. Other methods of bypassing bans on mass protests have included thousands of motorists simultaneously experiencing mechanical difficulties in downtown Belgrade, shutting down all traffic in the city center. Meanwhile, UN human rights envoy Elizabeth Rehn met with government and opposition officials, and on 18 January urged Milosevic to recognize the Zajedno election wins. After meeting with Zajedno leader Zoran Djindjic on 19 January, German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel vowed that international pressure against Milosevic would not abate, Nasa Borba reported. The ruling Socialists were reported to be appealing an electoral committee ruling recognizing the opposition victory in the Belgrade Assembly. Zajedno leader Vuk Draskovic, addressing the crowd of pet owners on 19 January, warned that the regime may be attempting to foment violence and urged members of the military to side with the peaceful protesters. -- Stan Markotich MONTENEGRIN FOREIGN MINISTER KILLED IN CAR ACCIDENT. Janko Jeknic died in a traffic accident on 17 January when his car slammed into a stalled bus. The accident took place on the Podgorica-Danilovgrad road near Komanski Most, Montena-fax reported. One other person was seriously injured in the incident. -- Stan Markotich EXPLOSION PARTLY DESTROYS BRIDGE IN TENSE BOSNIAN REGION. An explosion eliminated a section of a wooden bridge near Koraj in Serb-held territory in northern Bosnia late on 18 January. It is not clear who caused the blast, but an electric detonation cord was found nearby, AFP reported. The region has been a source of tension since the second half of 1996 as Muslim refugees try to exercise their right to return to their homes just inside the Serbian side of the interentity border. Meanwhile in Mostar, a gunman threatened Muslim journalists in full view of UN police, Onasa wrote on 19 January. The Muslims were waiting for news of the outcome of a meeting of the High Representative's office and said they will boycott Carl Bildt's future meetings unless their security is guaranteed. -- Patrick Moore FORMER BOSNIAN SERB LEADER IN CRITICAL CONDITION AFTER SUICIDE ATTEMPT. Nikola Koljevic, a former vice president of the Republika Srpska, is in critical condition after shooting himself in the head in Pale on 16 January, news agencies said. Initial reports on 17 January suggested that he was dead, but he actually was in a coma. SFOR flew him by helicopter to Belgrade, where he underwent emergency surgery in the military hospital. Doctors there are "reserved" about his chances for recovery, AFP wrote on 19 January. Koljevic had attempted several times to end his life after being replaced as vice president following the 14 September Bosnian elections. In late 1995 he participated in the talks that led to the Dayton agreement, and in a suicide note for his family, he said he had done all he could for his people. -- Patrick Moore ROMANIA'S FORMER RULING PARTY REORGANIZED. The left-wing Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) elected former President Ion Iliescu as its chairman on 17 January, Romanian and Western media reported. The decision was taken at an extraordinary national congress, at which a new party statute was also discussed. Iliescu pledged to renew both the membership and the policies of the party that, under different names, governed Romania from December 1989 until November 1996, when it was defeated in general elections. He singled out the need to combat corruption within the party's own ranks in order to improve its image, which was seriously eroded by corruption scandals in recent years. The PDSR, now the main force in the opposition, defines itself as a center- left political organization. Critics, however, say it is a haven for former communists and doubt its ability to reform itself. -- Dan Ionescu FRICTION IN ROMANIA'S RULING COALITION. The "Romania's Alternative" Party (PAR) announced on 19 January that it is withdrawing its "unconditional support" for Victor Ciorbea's government, Romanian media reported. PAR, which is a member of the Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR), complained that it was not offered state secretary positions and local administration posts as promised. Radu Vasile, secretary general of the National Peasant Party-Christian Democratic (the main force in the CDR), suggested that the Senate might reverse the nomination of PAR Chairman Varujan Vosganian to chair its Budget and Finance Commission. -- Dan Ionescu BULGARIAN SOCIALISTS PREPARE FOR A NEW GOVERNMENT. Nickolay Dobrev, nominated by his party to succeed the resigned Prime Minister Zhan Videnov, presented the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) Executive Council on 19 January with a short-term stabilization program aimed at improving the economy and fighting crime and corruption, Standart and Trud reported. The program expects a short-term government and early elections, and includes such measures as the adoption of a currency board and procedures for closing insolvent banks. The same day, President-elect Petar Stoyanov, who under the constitution is expected to give Dobrev a mandate to form a new government, made his formal oath to the constitution along with Vice President-elect Todor Kavaldzhiev. Police cordoned off the ceremony with metal barriers, apparently concerned protesters might again try to storm parliament as they did on 10-11 January. In his speech, Stoyanov endorsed the idea of early elections and called for "a new social contract" between the authorities and the people. -- Maria Koinova in Sofia ALBANIAN DEMONSTRATORS COVERED IN 'RED INK.' Riot police used truncheons to disperse a demonstration in Tirana organized by the Center Pole coalition and the Socialist Party on 19 January. Out of some 10,000 demonstrators, 3,000 managed to break through a police cordon and reach central Skanderbeg Square, a Deutsche Welle correspondent told OMRI. Another 5,000 people took to the streets in Fier to demand the resignation of the local mayor. The Interior Ministry subsequently issued a statement warning that it "will deliver the deserved legal response to those responsible for violating the law It will act with all the force the law entitles against anyone who does not respect it," Reuters reported. The ministry rejected eyewitness reports that some protesters in Tirana had been hurt in scuffles with police and accused the opposition of encouraging people to daub themselves with red ink. Disappointed investors in collapsed pyramid schemes had started the protests earlier in the week; the opposition accused the government of involvement in the schemes. Socialist Party Secretary-General Rexhep Mejdani pledged to "continue protests for democracy until this fully anti-democratic regime is overthrown." -- Fabian Schmidt [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Tom Warner ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1997 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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