|Some things have to be believed to be seen. - Ralph Hodgson|
No. 17, Part II, 24 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 TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN PRIME MINISTER ON RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA, U.S. Armen Sarkisyan on 23 January refuted Armenian media reports that the country plans to sign a confederative agreement with Russia similar to the April 1996 Russian-Belarusian community treaty, Armenian and Russian media reported. Sarkisyan said Armenia will continue to cooperate with Russia on an "equal and mutually beneficial" basis. He described the agreement with Gazprom on setting up a joint Russian-Armenian venture (see OMRI Daily Digest, 23 January 1997) as "extremely important," saying it is a "first step to end Armenia's economic blockade." Sarkisyan said he is satisfied with his recent visit to the U.S., adding that 1997 will see "a new page" in relations between the two countries. He also said U.S. politicians and entrepreneurs are expressing a growing interest in Armenia. Sarkisyan denied that the U.S. put pressure on Armenia to hold early parliamentary elections. -- Emil Danielyan RUSSIAN GENERAL: RUSSIAN TROOPS ARE LIKELY TO REMAIN IN ARMENIA. Maj.- Gen. Aleksei Tretyakov, commander of Russian troops stationed in Armenia, said the March 1995 agreement between the Russian and Armenian presidents on the Russian military base is unlikely to be revised, Snark reported on 21 January. Recent reports in the Russian media have suggested that the Russian General Staff is questioning the strategic value of maintaining Russian troops in Armenia and Georgia. Tretyakov said the troops are "protecting the interests of Russia and Armenia" along the external border of the CIS, adding that they will not intervene in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. -- Emil Danielyan AZERBAIJANI AMBASSADOR SUES PAPER. Azerbaijani Ambassador to Russia Ramiz Rezaev has sued the Russian newspaper Pravda-5 for defamation of character after the paper published an article alleging he was a heavy drinker and unwelcome in various diplomatic settings, Radio Rossii reported on 23 January. Rezaev is reportedly seeking 15 billion rubles (about $2.5 million) in damages. Pravda-5 has apologized to Rezaev for the publication. -- Lowell Bezanis and Emil Danielyan NEW REGULATIONS FOR FOREIGNERS STAYING IN ASHGABAT. Ashgabat's mayor has issued an order requiring all visitors to the Turkmen capital to stay in officially approved hotels, RFE/RL reported on 23 January. Foreigners arriving in Ashgabat with their families will be exempted from the new rule if they sign leases with the city authorities. The order also obliges all government offices and businesses inviting foreigners to Turkmenistan to register their presence with the local authorities. -- Lowell Bezanis THREE KILLED IN TAJIK CAPITAL. Three Russians, two of them women, were killed in Dushanbe on 23 January, AFP reported. Oleg Motus, described as a "Cossack military commander," was shot at close range along with his mother and his fiancee. Motus, born in Tajikistan, had returned to work on a humanitarian aid project. While open warfare in Tajikistan has been brought to a halt since the 23 December signing of a ceasefire agreement between the government and the United Tajik Opposition, Russian soldiers serving in Tajikistan have recently become targets of a terror campaign. Civilians have not been exempt from random acts of violence but have not usually been singled out as targets. -- Bruce Pannier CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE CRIMEAN GOVERNMENT REJECTS PARLIAMENT'S VOTE TO OUST IT. The Crimean parliament voted to oust Arkadii Demidenko's government by 52 votes to 19, Ukrainian and international agencies reported on 23 January. The official reason for the motion was a new law that modifies the name of the Crimean government to that of "council of ministers." Demidenko, who is backed by the Ukrainian leadership, said the vote was illegal and that only the Ukrainian president can dismiss the Crimean government. He said he would protest to President Leonid Kuchma and the Constitutional Court. Kuchma's press service said on 22 January that he would oppose Demidenko's dismissal. It was the fifth time in three years that the autonomous parliament voted to oust the peninsula's government. -- Oleg Varfolomeyev BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT DEMOTES CLOSE AIDE. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 23 January demoted Uladzimir Zamyatalin, his close aide and a supporter of his pro-Russian policy, Reuters reported. Zamyatalin was dismissed as deputy head of the president's administration and put in charge of the state press committee. Zamyatalin was known for advocating pan-Slavism and integration with Russia, and helped Lukashenka win the presidential elections in 1994 and various referenda in the following years. But Lukashenka has recently complained of slow progress in integration. -- Sergei Solodovnikov ESTONIA'S COALITION PARTY ACCUSED IN APARTMENT SCANDAL. Pro Patria Union Chairman Toivo Jurgenson demanded that the ruling Coalition Party quit both the government and the Tallinn City Council because of suspicious apartment privatization deals in central Tallinn, ETA reported. City officials are alleged to have inappropriately allowed the privatization of at least 181 apartments for privatization vouchers at a cost several times less than their real market value. Vacant apartments were declared to be the "residence areas" of enterprises and occupied by persons affiliated with those enterprises, who were then allowed to purchase the apartments with vouchers. The vouchers were intended to allow citizens to buy the flats they live in from the state at a nominal price. Prime Minister and Coalition Party Chairman Tiit Vahi, whose daughter purchased one of the apartments, said there was nothing illegal about the deal. -- Saulius Girnius LATVIA SIGNS BORDER AID DEAL WITH EU. Prime Minister Andris Skele and EU Commissioner for Immigration, Justice, and Internal Affairs Anita Gradin signed three agreements on 23 January providing Latvia with some 7 million ecu ($8 million) plus a share of a 14 million ecu grant for the three Baltic states and Poland, Reuters reported. The money is for projects that will improve communications and efficiency among Latvia's border guards to help stop illegal migration and smuggling. Funds will also be used for developing cooperation among the states and for cleaning the badly polluted Baltic Sea. -- Saulius Girnius LITHUANIAN FINANCE MINISTER OFFERS TO RESIGN. Rolandas Matiliauskas submitted a letter of resignation to Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius on 23 January, explaining he wanted to "end political speculation" and avoid damage to the Lithuanian state, Reuters reported. In 1993 while employed at the Kreditas Bank, Matiliauskas received an $18,000 low- interest loan, which he then passed on to one of the bank's owners. The bank later went bankrupt and the loan has not yet been fully repaid. It was not clear whether Vagnorius would accept the resignation of the 29- year-old minister. -- Saulius Girnius POLAND, UKRAINE TO SIGN RECONCILIATION AGREEMENT IN MAY. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and his Polish counterpart Aleksander Kwasniewski announced at a press conference in Warsaw that a declaration on reconciliation would be signed when Kuchma returns to Poland in May, Polish media reported on 24 January. Kwasniewski reiterated Poland's support for Ukraine's efforts to integrate into European structures and the Central European Free Trade Agreement, and said NATO should conclude a partnership treaty with Ukraine similar to the one the alliance intends to sign with Russia. The two presidents agreed that isolating Belarus would only worsen the situation there and endanger stability in Europe. The two countries' industry ministers signed a memorandum on trade liberalization similar to the one Poland signed with Russia last November, and Kuchma received an award from the Polish Business Club for boosting bilateral trade. Polish-Ukrainian trade was estimated at $1.4 billion in 1996. -- Beata Pasek CZECH POLICE RAID REPUBLICANS' OFFICE IN PARLIAMENT. Police raided the parliamentary offices of the right-wing Republican Party on 22 January, Czech media reported. Fifteen uniformed policemen and plainclothes officers stormed the group's premises in search of Lubomir Votava, an assistant to Republican Chairman Miroslav Sladek. Votava is wanted in connection with his failure to appear in court for charges of assaulting a TV reporter in 1994. Republican Deputy Petr Zajic was allegedly injured in the storming, and Interior Minister Jan Ruml charged that Republican Deputy Milan Loukota threatened to draw a firearm against the police. The raid failed to apprehend Votava, and resulted instead in a parliamentary resolution condemning the police's behavior. Relations between parliamentarians and Ruml's ministry were already strained by allegations that the Counterintelligence Service has been shadowing opposition and coalition politicians. -- Ben Slay CZECH COURT REFUSES TO REHABILITATE ALLEGED SPY. The Czech Supreme Court has ruled that a former Czech diplomat sentenced in 1978 for spying for France is not eligible for rehabilitation, CTK reported on 23 January. Frantisek Vojtasek had claimed that his decision to cooperate with the French intelligence service was a form of protest against the Soviet occupation. Vojtasek served 12 years in a Czechoslovak prison before being amnestied by President Vaclav Havel in 1990. Former Justice Minister Jan Kalvoda lodged a complaint with the Supreme Court in May 1996 after Vojtasek's petition for rehabilitation was rejected. However, the court ruled that Vojtasek's actions bore no direct relation to anti- communist resistance or protest against Czechoslovakia's occupation. -- Ben Slay SLOVAK PROSECUTOR SAYS WESTERN COUNTRIES DELAYING KOVAC JR. INVESTIGATION. Slovak Prosecutor General Michal Valo said in Brno on 23 January that third countries are delaying the criminal investigation into the financial activities of the son of Slovak President Michal Kovac, CTK reported. In response to press claims that the Slovak government is dragging out the investigation in order to embarrass Kovac, who is locked in a power struggle with Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, Valo hinted that the Dutch, German, and Swiss authorities' unwillingness to promptly assist the investigation is to blame for the delay. Only the Czech Republic had responded to the Slovak government's requests for assistance in a timely manner, Valo said. -- Ben Slay SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE POLICE CRACK-DOWN MOUNTS IN SERBIA. Tensions between protesters and police escalated to violence in several parts of Serbia on 23 January, Nasa Borba reported. The worst example was in the city of Kragujevac, where protesting motorists blocking access roads were clubbed by baton- wielding riot police. Radio B92 reported that at least several people were seriously wounded, including an opposition member of parliament. Opposition leaders were seemingly singled out for physical abuse and detention. The developments were triggered by an order from the ruling Socialists to Kragujevac police to occupy a local TV and radio facility. While several hundred police officers barricaded themselves inside the building, several thousand demonstrators encircled the facility and threatened to enter. In protest, local TV and radio journalists stopped working, Beta reported. In Smederevska Palanka, five leading members of the Zajedno opposition coalition were arrested for taking part in an auto blockade. Police also arrested an opposition leader in Kraljevo. Belgrade, relatively calm by comparison, saw continuing mass demonstrations, with at least 10,000 people gathering in the capital on 23 January. Students also continued their around-the-clock protest of the police cordon in central Belgrade. Zajedno leader Vuk Draskovic told Belgrade protesters: "Our demonstrations will only stop after our electoral victory is acknowledged." -- Stan Markotich MUSLIM REFUGEES BEGIN TRIP HOME BEHIND SERB LINES. Some 11 Muslims returned to the village of Gajevi just inside Serb lines in northeastern Bosnia on 23 January. They began removing mines and preparing for 36 families to arrive on 24 January, international and regional media reported. Muslims started last August to try to exercise their right under the Dayton agreement to go home, but the Serbs charged that the move was a military provocation. The current group has completed a formal procedure sponsored by the UN and agreed to by all sides to ensure that those taking part are only bona fide refugees from the village in question. Several incidents involving explosions or protests by angry Serb crowds have delayed the return to Gajevi, which was to have started on 20 January. U.S. and Russian SFOR troops surprised ten Bosnian Serb police on 23 January in the act of setting an anti- personnel mine in the area. SFOR has now restricted the movements of the police. The 36 families will be housed in prefabricated buildings because the old village was destroyed. -- Patrick Moore OSCE LAUNCHES BOSNIAN LOCAL ELECTION SEASON. The OSCE-sponsored all- Bosnian-party Political Party Consultation Council announced on 23 January that registration for parties and candidates for July local elections will run from 9 February to 8 March, AFP reported. The lists of those certified will be published on 7 May. However, the thorniest question, voter registration, remains open. The local elections were postponed from 14 September last year because the Serbs in particular had systematically abused a loophole in the Dayton agreement and registered thousands of Serb refugees to vote in formerly mainly Muslim or Croat areas where the refugees had never lived. The Muslims and Croats have demanded that the loophole be closed, while the Serbs insist that it remain. The issue must be clarified by the end of January. -- Patrick Moore LE PEN PRAISES BOSNIAN SERBS. Jean-Marie Le Pen of France's far-right National Front continued his Balkan tour on 23 January by meeting with the Bosnian Serb leadership in Pale, AFP reported. He told Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian member of the Bosnian collective presidency: "I have come to express to you the greetings of French patriots. All the patriots of the world have in common a set of identical values which makes us all a community of civilized men and women. People today no longer know what attachment to the land and the country is. We understand this very well." Krajisnik replied: "We very rarely hear such words. Usually what we hear are criticisms." Le Pen was slated to return to Belgrade on 24 January to sign a "political alliance" with the Serbian Radical Party of Vojislav Seselj, who has been his host. -- Patrick Moore CROATIAN INDEPENDENT RADIO KEEPS ITS LICENSE. Zagreb's Radio 101 won a round in a prolonged legal battle with Croatian authorities on 24 January, Reuters reported. The station announced in a live broadcast: "We got it! Radio 101 got its concession." The National Telecommunications Council had informed Radio 101 that morning that its license had been renewed. The authorities tried to take the station's license away last November but backtracked when the largest crowds in years turned out in central Zagreb in support of the station. Radio 101's fight is far from over, however: it must settle an alleged "ownership dispute" by 31 October. The ruling Croatian Democratic Community's government is generally intolerant of independent media, and has hounded the few independent dailies and weeklies with lawsuits and take-overs or driven them out of business. The government is particularly tough with electronic media and allows no independent television. Most independent radio stations besides Radio 101 broadcast music and entertainment. -- Patrick Moore ROMANIAN MILITARY CHIEFS REPLACED. Gen. Dumitru Cioflina, chief of the General Staff, and Gen. Florentin Popa, chief of logistics, have been replaced by Gen. Constantin Degeratu and Gen. Dan Zaharia, respectively, Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea announced on 23 January. A government press release said the replacements were in line with standing procedure and reflected Romania's adherence to "democratic principles," while at the same time praising the two dismissed officers, Romanian media reported. Adrian Nastase, vice chairman of the previously ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania said the replacements were unexpected and unjustified and had a "serious political motivation." In an interview with Jurnalul National, Deputy Defense Minister Dudu Ionescu hinted that Cioflina might be appointed Romania's representative to either NATO or the UN. Meanwhile, Ion Diaconescu, leader of the main party in the governing coalition, told Romanian television that the controversial director of the Romanian Intelligence Service, Virgil Magureanu, will not be replaced. -- Zsolt Mato ROMANIAN STATE PROPERTY FUND RESHUFFLED. The Standing Bureau of the Chamber of Deputies decided on 23 January to dismiss three members of parliament appointed by the previous legislature from the State Property Fund and to replace them with members representing the new governing coalition. The fund has been accused of slowing down privatization, mismanaging its assets, and selling undervalued state property to cronies, proteges, and supporters of the former government. Adrian Nastase, vice chairman of the Party of Social Democracy in Romania, protested against the decision, saying it was prompted by political motives. Nastase's party colleagues and members of the Party of Romanian National Unity walked out of the bureau meeting in protest, Romanian television reported. -- Dan Ionescu DNIESTER LEADER WANTS AGREEMENT WITH MOLDOVA UNCHANGED. Igor Smirnov, leader of the breakaway Dniester Republic, insists that the memorandum negotiated with Moldova be signed without any amendments, Infotag reported on 23 January. In a message addressed to Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi, Russian President Boris Yeltsin, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, as well as to the head of the OSCE permanent mission in Moldova, Smirnov said the memorandum should be signed in Moscow with Russia and Ukraine acting as guarantors. He criticized the Moldovan leadership for calling for revisions immediately after the document was initialed by both parties on 17 June 1996. Smirnov accused Lucinschi of reneging on his election campaign pledges to quickly sign the memorandum, despite the fact that he had signed it in his former position of chairman of the Moldovan parliament. -- Dan Ionescu BULGARIA'S PRESIDENT TO GIVE THE SOCIALISTS A MANDATE? In his first full day in office, President Petar Stoyanov held separate meetings with leaders of the opposition and the Bulgarian Socialist Party aimed at finding a solution to the current political crisis, national and international media reported. Both sides were reportedly entrenched in their positions, with the Socialists demanding a mandate for a new government and early elections at the end of 1997 and the opposition pressing for immediate elections and a caretaker cabinet chosen by the president. However, the opposition announced that Stoyanov would ask the Socialists to form a cabinet before he leaves for Brussels on 28 January. Opposition groups and trade unions promised to call a general strike on the day that happens. Meanwhile, a few Socialist deputies proposed as a new variant: that Stoyanov give a mandate to a different political group within the current parliament. BSP leader Georgy Parvanov described that idea as an "improvisation" and promised to solicit the opinion of the best constitutional experts in the country. In other news, Bulgarian economic experts cited by Pari said obvious signs of hyperinflation had emerged over the past two days. "Stores are closing and people are not buying," Kontinent wrote on 24 January, adding that thousands of vendors were on unpaid vacations and distributors were not supplying stores with goods. -- Maria Koinova ALBANIA BANS PYRAMID SCHEMES. The parliament voted unanimously on 23 January to ban pyramid investment schemes and announced that a draft law concerning compensation for cheated investors will be discussed on 27 January. Police announced the arrest of 188 people including the leaders of the collapsed companies Populli and Xhaferi, Bashkim Driza, and Rapush Xhaferi, Albania reported. The new law went into force immediately and calls for minimum 20 years imprisonment and the confiscation of all property of people running such schemes. People convicted of abetting them may receive 10-year sentences. Meanwhile, in Shkoder, about 1,500 people gathered outside the town hall accusing the government of failing to warn them about the risks of pyramid schemes, while about 2,500 people turned out in Durres and several hundred in Elbasan. Five leftist and rightist opposition parties in Durres have jointly pledged to keep up protests, and the Socialist Party in Tirana called for another demonstration there on 26 January. -- Fabian Schmidt ALBANIAN OPPOSITION FIGURES ARRESTED. Police arrested several Socialist and Social Democratic leaders on 23 January, charged them with organizing a 19 January demonstration that the government branded illegal, AFP reported. Those charged include Socialist Secretary-General Rexhep Meidani, Social Democratic Chairman Skender Gjinushi, two other Socialists, and seven other Social Democratic leaders. Human Rights Watch/Helsinki said on 24 January it "condemns in the strongest terms the use of violence by President Sali Berisha to silence anti-government protest." The group reported that a man died in Fier on 19 January at a demonstration violently broken up by police. Police claim he had a heart attack. On 22 January, well-known dissident Edi Rama and two friends were ambushed and severely beaten by two unidentified men, believed to be secret police, Gazeta Shqiptare reported on 24 January. -- 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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