|Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. - Vladimir Nabokov|
No. 14, Part II, 21 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 UKRAINE PROTESTS MOSCOW MAYOR'S CLAIM ON SEVASTOPOL. Ukraine's Foreign Ministry delivered a note to the Russian Embassy on 20 January stressing that statements by Russian officials of the kind made by Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov in Sevastopol on 17 January could damage Ukrainian-Russian relations, Ukrainian and international agencies reported. The ministry also circulated a statement calling Luzhkov's statements "unfriendly" and his claim that Sevastopol "is and will stay a Russian city" a threat to Ukraine's territorial integrity. While the Russian government has refuted any Russian territorial claims on Sevastopol, differences between Ukraine and Russia over how much of the port city will be leased to Russia and for how long remain a stumbling block in the negotiations on the division of the Black Sea Fleet. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev CRIMEAN COMMUNISTS CELEBRATE SIX YEARS OF AUTONOMY. Members of the Crimean Communist Party honored the anniversary of the 1991 referendum that restored Crimea's autonomy with a rally in Sevastopol attended by some 1,000 people, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 January. The communists also demanded early elections to the Crimean parliament, threatening protests and strikes if the parliament stays on. Meanwhile, Ukrainian Deputy Economics Minister Leonid Minin warned that the Crimean economy is in a catastrophic state, Ukrainian radio reported on 18 January. Minin said capital investments in the Crimea had halved and hundreds of thousands of Crimeans are affected by hidden unemployment. Crimean Parliamentary Speaker Vasyl Kyselyov said the continued decline in production raised the specter of a collapse of the peninsula's industry and agriculture. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev COMPETING CLAIMS ABOUT BELARUSIAN ECONOMY. First Deputy Prime Minister Piotr Prakapovich announced on 20 January that the Belarusian economy grew by 2.6% in 1996, the first increase since the USSR collapsed in 1991, Western agencies reported. The opposition Belarusian Popular Front issued a report the same day claiming the economy actually shrank by 4%- 5% and that about 1.5 million people, around a third of the work force, are unemployed. Prakapovich acknowledged that the country's foreign trade deficit in 1996 was $1.4 billion and that industrial goods worth $633 million are languishing in warehouses. -- Saulius Girnius LATVIAN PRIME MINISTER RESIGNS. Andris Skele sent a letter of resignation to President Guntis Ulmanis on 20 January because "the president and the political elite accused me of pressing amoral decisions upon them," Western agencies reported. That was a clear reference to the controversial appointment of businessman Vasilijs Melniks as finance minister (see OMRI Daily Digest, 16 January 1997). Skele expressed regret about leaving a job he had started successfully in December 1995 but had since found too difficult. The president cannot reject Skele's resignation, which also means the dissolution of the government, but he has the right to renominate him. -- Saulius Girnius ESTONIAN PRIME MINISTER IN SINGAPORE. Tiit Vahi, accompanied by Social Affairs Minister Tiiu Aro and a large delegation of businessmen and government officials, arrived in Singapore on 18 January for a four-day working visit. Vahi told a business seminar organized by the Export Institute of Singapore on 19 January that Estonia could serve as an ideal gateway to the European Union, ETA reported. Vahi noted with satisfaction that Singapore was his country's sixth-largest source of foreign investment and said that cooperation should be expanded. Vahi met with Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong on 20 January, BNS reported. -- Saulius Girnius LITHUANIAN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL SUBMITS RESIGNATION. Vladas Nikitinas submitted his resignation to President Algirdas Brazauskas on 20 January, Radio Lithuania reported. He said that his resignation was prompted by the difficult situation with crime in Lithuania and in particular the events in Panevezys on Christmas Eve, when a businessman shot four racketeers and wounded four others who were trying to extort money from him. Nikitinas, however, will remain in office until the president submits his resignation to parliament's regular spring session, which begins on 10 March. The ruling coalition has been advocating that the parliament and not the president should appoint the prosecutor-general. -- Saulius Girnius MAIN POLISH RIGHT-WING GROUPS TO COOPERATE IN ELECTIONS. Jan Olszewski, leader of the Movement for Poland's Reconstruction (ROP), has offered to put up joint lists of Senate candidates with Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) in this fall's parliamentary elections, Polish media reported on 20 January. The ROP had previously refused to cooperate with the AWS. Solidarity trade union spokesman Piotr Zak said Olszewski's offer would probably be accepted. According to an anonymous AWS leader cited by Rzeczpospolita, the ROP wants to cooperate because it does not have enough well-known politicians to field in both the Sejm and Senate elections. Olszewski also warned the AWS -- a center-right coalition led by the Solidarity trade union -- not to admit the recently formed Conservative-People's Party, whose leaders have close links to former President Lech Walesa and are critical of the so-called citizens' draft constitution, supported by the ROP and the AWS. -- Beata Pasek DOCUMENTS SHOW CZECH SECRET SERVICE TRIED TO DISCREDIT POLITICIANS. Documents submitted by opposition Social Democratic Party leader Milos Zeman to the parliamentary committee overseeing the Czech Intelligence Service (BIS) on 20 January show that the BIS attempted to discredit the Social Democrats and other political parties, Czech media reported. Members of the parliamentary committee told journalists that the documents are serious. "If authentic, the documents prove allegations made by Civic Democratic Alliance [ODA] leader Jan Kalvoda in 1994," ODA deputy Ivan Masek told CTK. Kalvoda claimed in 1994 that his party was shadowed by the BIS. Similar charges by Christian Democratic Union Chairman Josef Lux in November 1996 led to the resignation of BIS head Stanislav Devaty. President Vaclav Havel, who has studied the documents, said the BIS might have committed illegal acts but rejected Zeman's charges that the country is turning into a police state. -- Jiri Pehe CZECH DEFENSE MINISTER ADMITS CRISIS IN THE ARMY. Unless immediate steps are taken, the army will be unable to defend the country within four years, Miloslav Vyborny said on 20 January. Vyborny said the army does not get enough money and that the situation is particularly critical in the air force, where 50% of equipment is not operational. Vyborny also called for radical reforms, saying the army could be smaller but needs to be "combat-ready and modern." -- Jiri Pehe SLOVAK ROMA FORMING MILITIA. In a letter sent to Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, a spokesman for Slovak Roma, Marek Balaz, announced that Roma are setting up a militia because the state is unable to protect them, international media reported on 20 January. The decision was prompted by the murder of a Rom in Prievidza, central Slovakia, before Christmas. Another Rom was killed earlier in the year, a victim of one of the 19 racial attacks registered in 1996. "Our militia will guard our houses and our people," Balaz wrote. He argued that the authorities often turn a blind eye to violence against Roma; for example, in the past five years in Prievidza, he said, skinheads attacked Roma on 54 occasions but charges were brought only once. -- Jiri Pehe SLOVAK PETITION DRIVE SUCCEEDING. The opposition has collected almost one-third of the signatures needed to force a referendum on instituting direct presidential elections, a Slovak opposition leader told Reuters on 20 January. The referendum is aimed at preventing Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar from assuming presidential powers before the election of a new president in March 1998, some six moĀ‚hs before the next general elections are expected. "According to the latest reports, we have already collected more than 100,000 signatures since we started two weeks ago," Ivan Simko, vice chairman of the Christian Democratic Movement, who heads the petition committee, told Reuters. Simko said the necessary number of signatures (350,000) could be collected within two months. The government argues that a referendum on changing the constitution is illegal. -- Jiri Pehe KWASNIEWSKI PROMOTES REGIONAL COOPERATION IN BUDAPEST. In a two-day visit to Hungary, Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski said that Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic would form a close-knit group as they approach EU and NATO membership, international and Hungarian media reported on 20 January. Those three countries "should hold regular consultations on presidential, prime ministerial, and ministerial levels in the near future," Kwasniewski said. Hungarian President Arpad Goncz echoed Kwasniewski's views, saying: "We are not competitors but strategic partners on the road leading toward NATO and the European Union." -- Zsofia Szilagyi HUNGARY UNDER FIRE FOR EXCESS AGRICULTURAL SUBSIDIES. The United States, Australia, Argentina, and New Zealand will file a joint complaint against Hungary for oversubsidizing its agricultural exports, Reuters reported on 20 January. The four countries will formally request that the World Trade Organization establish a panel at the next meeting of the organization's dispute settlement body. They accuse Hungary of providing export subsidies in excess of its Uruguay Round commitments and claim it plans to extend subsidies from six products to more than 300 products, including grain, meat, dairy products, fruit, and vegetables. Earlier, the Hungarian Ministry of Industry and Trade had tried tāeconvince the complaining nations that it was using erroneous data when it agreed to reduce state subsidies. All five nations are members of the Cairns Group of agricultural exporter nations, formed in 1986. Hungary is the sole European member. -- Zsofia Szilagyi SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE BOSNIAN SERBS FIRE ON CROATIAN TOWN. Bosnian Serbs in Bosanski Brod fired automatic weapons across the Sava River into Slavonski Brod, Croatia, late in the afternoon of 20 January, Hina reported. The bullets hit the main street and shattered windows but caused no casualties. This is the first such incident since the Dayton peace treaty was signed in December 1995, AFP wrote. In Sarajevo, UN spokesman Kris Janowski criticized the Bosnian Serbs for breaking a "gentleman's agreement" and using UN funds to repair houses whose owners had been "ethnically cleansed" from the region, AFP added. -- Patrick Moore BOSNIAN OFFICIAL WANTS RUSSIAN TROOPS OUT. The new governor of the Tuzla area, Sead Jamakosmanovic, has called for Russian SFOR troops in the area to be replaced. He accused them of complicity in a Serb attack on a bridge on the sensitive Celic-Koraj route, where Muslim refugees are trying to return to homes just inside Serbian lines (see OMRI Daily Digest, 20 January 1997). Jamakosmanovic repeated a frequent Muslim and Croat charge against the Russians, saying "they are not neutral," Oslobodjenje reported on 21 January. He asked that U.S. forces replace the Russians, adding: "We have confidence in the Americans." Scandinavian and Turkish troops are also stationed in the tense area. -- Patrick Moore WAR CRIMES UPDATE. The Bosnian state commission dealing with the 200,000 missing persons -- mainly Muslims and Croats -- from the conflict said that 31 mass graves containing 1,462 bodies and 466 single graves were found and exhumed last year. Forensic inspectors from abroad and from the region will resume their work in the spring. In Zagreb, the Hague- based war crimes tribunal's chief prosecutor, Louise Arbour, said that Croatia is not cooperating with the court despite its promises to do so. She noted that mechanisms for the extradition of indicted war criminals exist, but said that has not led to concrete results, Onasa reported on 18 January. -- Patrick Moore SERBIAN POLICE ATTACK DEMONSTRATORS. Police officers armed with clubs attacked peaceful demonstrators in Belgrade on 20 January, reportedly injuring at least 12 people. According to Radio B92, one person was seriously beaten. The incident occurred when the well-armed police officers moved to disperse the crowd of peaceful protesters from around the city center. Nasa Borba on 21 January reported that Patriarch Pavle had blessed the thousands of students in Belgrade waging an "endurance test" against riot police. The latest student action began on the evening of 19 January, when a cordon of police officers prevented students from continuing their march along Belgrade's main streets. The students, in reply, refused to budge from the police barricades. -- Stan Markotich SERBIAN COURTS BACK THE REGIME. Serbia's judicial system dealt two blows to opposition demands on 20 January. First, a local Belgrade court asked the Supreme Court to rule on a Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) appeal of an electoral commission ruling recognizing opposition Zajedno wins in Belgrade. Since the Supreme Court is under no time restriction to review the case, the municipal court action may be merely the latest SPS ploy to stall for time. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court overturned a decision recognizing opposition victory in the town of Sabac, instead ruling the SPS had won 35 seats to Zajedno's 29 in that municipal assembly. Nasa Borba reported on 21 January that the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party, led by accused war criminal Vojislav Seselj, has filed its own court challenges to Zajedno election wins. -- Stan Markotich UN WANTS TO OPEN HUMAN RIGHTS OFFICE IN KOSOVO. The UN's special reporter for human rights, Elizabeth Rehn, said she had asked the Serbian authorities to "think about" her request to open an office in Kosovo, in which over 90% of the population is ethnic Albanian. She pointed to recent tensions and assassinations there as a reason for establishing a UN presence now, AFP reported on 20 January. Currently her staff based in Belgrade visit Kosovo once per month. Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic had earlier banned other international monitors from working out of Pristina. Meanwhile, in Munich, the Bertellsmann foundation opened two days of talks aimed at bringing Serbs and Kosovar Albanians together to explore solutions to their political deadlock. A dozen delegates from the region are taking part in drafting an agenda for possible official talks, and are joined by experts from Germany and other EU countries, an OMRI correspondent reported. -- Patrick Moore 'SLOVENIAN SPRING' REJECTS PLAN TO FORM GOVERNMENT. Slovenia's three main conservative parties -- the People's Party, the rightist Social Democrats, and the Christian Democrats -- have expressly rejected an offer by Premier-designate Janez Drnovsek to form a working coalition government, STA reported on 20 January. The three so-called "Slovenian Spring" conservative parties allege that Drnovsek's proposal gives his own Liberal Democratic Party too much influence and representation in government, Reuters added. The "Slovenian Spring" parties hold 44 of 90 parliamentary seats and have demanded that Drnovsek redraft his proposal for "a government of unity." -- Stan Markotich ROMANIAN PRESIDENT DEFENDS MINERS' LEADER'S ARREST. In an interview with Radio Bucharest on 20 January, Emil Constantinescu defended the recent arrest of Miron Cozma, the controversial leader of the Jiu Valley miners. Constantinescu said the event was part of a campaign against corruption and organized crime and was aimed at "restoring state authority." He described Cozma, who led thousands of miners in violent marches on Bucharest in 1990 and 1991, as "the most flagrant case of a person acting in defiance of law and state institutions." Meanwhile, Jiu Valley union leaders announced they were looking for people to testify in Cozma's favor and warned against more rallies in the area. They were joined by leaders of five associations of participants in the December 1989 revolution. According to them, the arrest was "politically motivated, and an act of revenge" on behalf of Petre Roman, Romania's prime minister in 1990-1991. -- Dan Ionescu BULGARIA'S FORMER COMMUNIST LEADER RELEASED. Eighty-five-year-old Todor Zhivkov was released from house arrest on 21 January, owing to advanced age, national media and AFP reported. Zhivkov headed the Bulgarian Communist Party for 35 years until he was dismissed by the party's reformers on 10 November 1989. Arrested in January 1990, he spent several months behind bars and has since been under house arrest in his granddaughter's villa in a wealthy part of Sofia. In 1992, Zhivkov was sentenced to seven years imprisonment for involvement in misappropriating public funds for the benefit of relatives and friends. However, the Supreme Court acquitted him in February 1996 on the grounds that as head of state he could be held responsible only for high treason. Despite that, he remained under house arrest and still faces a possible trial for misappropriating funds earmarked for pro-communist groups in the Third World. -- Maria Koinova PROTESTS CONTINUE IN BULGARIA. Opposition demonstrations against the Bulgarian Socialist Party's intentions to form a new government entered their third week, national media reported. Stefan Raytchev, chairman of the Promyana Trade Union's strike committee, told Pari his union would announce a nationwide general strike on the day President Petar Stoyanov gives a mandate to the Socialists to form a government. Promyana Co- Chairman Dimitar Dimanov claimed the two other big trade unions are expected to join in the call. Meanwhile, the strike committee at Bulgarian National TV gathered more than 1,000 signatures on 21 January to a petition demanding improved working conditions, an end to censorship, and the resignation of acting Director-General Ivan Tokadzhiev, his deputy, Paun Tsonev, and Chief Secretary Tsveta Stefanova. -- Maria Koinova [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Tom Warner ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1997 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. ISSN 1211-1570 ------------------------------------------------------------------------ SUBSCRIBING/UNSUBSCRIBING 1) Compose a message to firstname.lastname@example.org 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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