|Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened. - Sir Winston Churchill|
Vol. 1, No. 23, Part II, 2 May 1997
Vol. 1, No. 23, Part II, 2 May 1997 This is Part II of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Newsline. 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 RFE/RL NewsLine are available through RFE/RL's WWW pages: http://www.rferl.org/newsline/search/ Back issues of the OMRI Daily Digest are available through OMRI's WWW pages: http://www.omri.cz/ xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * SUPPORTERS, OPPONENTS OF LUKASHENKA MARCH IN BELARUS. * GERMAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN ROMANIA AND SLOVAKIA. * ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT THREATENS TO RESIGN OVER VOTING LAW. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE SUPPORTERS, OPPONENTS OF LUKASHENKA MARCH IN BELARUS. Police in Minsk yesterday arrested Nikolai Statkevich, the leader of the opposition Belarusian Social Democratic Party, who tried to turn a pro-government demonstration into a rally against President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, RFE/RL's Minsk correspondent reported. More than 20,000 people carrying portraits of Lukashenka and hardline communists with portraits of Josef Stalin marched side by side through Minsk to mark May Day. About 5,000 Lukashenka opponents marched separately and joined a meeting with the communists and presidential supporters on Independence Square, where Statkevich addressed the crowd. He was detained for violating a decree by Lukashenka on unsanctioned rallies. SOROS FOUNDATION IN BELARUS FINED. Belarusian tax officials have accused the Soros Foundation of violating the status of a charitable organization and ordered it to pay almost three million dollars in fines, foundation spokeswoman Veronica Begun told journalists on 30 April. Tax inspectors started an audit of the foundation in March, when the government of Lukashenka barred the foundation's director from returning to Belarus from a trip abroad. She said the audit took issue with 19 grants the Foundation issued last year, saying the projects did not correspond to their stated goals. The U.S. yesterday voiced apprehension over Belarus's handling of the Foundation. A State Department spokesman told reporters that Belarus's stance in this matter would be a sign of its attitude toward all non-governmental organizations. UKRAINIAN DEFENSE MINISTER MEETS COHEN IN WASHINGTON. U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen met yesterday in Washington with Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk, and praised Ukraine's choice to get rid of the nuclear weapons it inherited after the collapse of the Soviet Union, RFE/RL's Washington correspondent reported. Cohen and Kuzmuk signed an agreement that will provide Kyiv with an additional $47 million in U.S. assistance for the destruction of nuclear weapons. Ukraine has received more than $400 million in U.S. aid for missile destruction. U.N. URGES UKRAINE TO TAKE STEPS AGAINST TORTURE. The U.N. Committee against Torture, citing Amnesty International reports of alleged torture by Ukrainian officials during investigations, yesterday urged Ukraine to adopt a new criminal code defining torture as a punishable crime, Reuters reported. The committee expressed concern over what it called a lack of independent institutions to investigate complaints of torture. It also said it was concerned by beatings which it said were routinely carried out in initiating military recruits. The committee noted what it said was Ukraine's excessive use of the death penalty in recent years. It welcomed Ukraine's adoption last year of a constitution that expressly prohibits torture and urged that a current moratorium on the death penalty be made permanent. NEW ESTONIAN INTERIOR MINISTER NAMED. Estonian President Lennart Meri on 30 April named Tallinn mayor Robert Lepikson as interior minister, following the sudden dismissal of former minister Riivo Sinijarv. Lepikson is deputy chairman of the ruling pro-business Coalition Party. Sinijarv was fired on 29 April, reportedly over an investigation into the abuse of official cars by interior ministry officials.(See RFE/RL Newsline, 30 April). LITHUANIAN GOVERNMENT TO DISCUSS PRIVATIZATION WITH OPPOSITION. The Lithuanian government on 30 April expressed its willingness to discuss privatization of strategic enterprises with the opposition, according to a statement quoted by the Baltic News Service. The government also said it had no intention of privatizing the country's only nuclear power plant, Ignalina, the Lietuvos Dujos gas company or Lietuvos Energija thermal and electrical power company. The government termed as "groundless" allegations that it planned to privatize the Butinges Nafta oil terminal which is under construction. ULMANIS URGES CLOSER POLISH-LATVIAN COOPERATION. Speaking to reporters in Gdansk on April 30 at the end of a three-day state visit to Poland, Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis said Poland and Latvia should cooperate closely in their efforts to integrate with the West. Ulmanis said there was no animosity between the two countries and this was an excellent basis for reciprocal contacts. In his talks with Polish politicians, Ulmanis sought to win support for Latvia's efforts to join the EU and NATO. POLISH PRIME MINISTER IN WASHINGTON. Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz says he is "sure" his country will be asked to join NATO in the first wave of new members. Cimoszewicz, on an official visit to the U.S., met yesterday in Washington with U.S. Vice President Al Gore. Cimoszewicz told journalists afterward that negotiations on Poland's membership in NATO will be completed in the coming months and that Warsaw should become a full member in two years. Cimoszewicz also said that Gore told him NATO will make "no new concessions" to Russia on the alliance's eastward expansion. CZECH BANK OFFICIALS ARRESTED. A Prague district court on 30 April formally arrested the top two managers of the Czech Republic's third largest bank, Investment and Postal Bank (IPB), Czech media reported. The bank, which is nearly one third state-owned, is due to be privatized. Police detained IPB general director Jiri Tesar and his deputy Libor Prochazka on 29 April. The court justified the arrests, saying the danger exists that the defendants could influence witnesses. Tesar and Prochazka are accused of embezzlement and abuse of commercial information. GERMAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN SLOVAKIA. Klaus Kinkel told reporters in Bratislava yesterday that Slovakia must first fulfill all economic and political criteria if it wants to be considered for membership in NATO and the EU. Kinkel held talks with Slovak Foreign Minister Pavol Hamzik, and later said that Germany feels responsible for Central and Eastern Europe. But he said the conditions for Slovakia's membership are, in his words, "the fulfillment of all criteria, both economic and those concerning the development of democracy." Hamzik repeated Slovakia's desire to be among the first countries invited by NATO to join the alliance at its summit in Madrid in July. HUNGARIAN POLICE SAY EXTORTION GANG ARRESTED. The chief of Hungary's National Police, Laszlo Forgach, said on 30 April that the recent arrest of 13 suspected extortionists this week could bring an end to a wave of bombings in Budapest. Forgach said the arrested men also are believed to have been part of an illegal fuel sales ring. Another National Police official, Colonel Istvan Miko, said two dozen bombings in Budapest since September were an attempt to divert attention from the group's evasion of fuel taxes and excise duties. Miko said the unpaid taxes amount to billions of forints. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ALBANIA'S FINO WANTS TOUGHER MANDATE FOR FOREIGN TROOPS. Prime Minister Bashkim Fino said in Tirana yesterday that he has asked Franz Vranitzky, the OSCE's special envoy, to extend Operation Alba's mandate to include guarding borders and ammunition dumps. Fino argues that the country's military cannot do it on its own. His request comes in response to an April 30 explosion in Burrel that killed 27 people as they were looting an underground ammunition depot for empty shell casings. Defense Minister Shakir Vukaj has since fired two regional commanders because of the incident. The army's inability to control the borders has provided an incentive to looters, who then smuggle scrap metal and other booty abroad. ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT THREATENS TO RESIGN OVER VOTING LAW. Fino also said in Tirana that his broad coalition government will quit if there is no suitable election law in place for the 29 June emergency ballot. Fino's Socialists and President Sali Berisha's Democratic Party failed to agree on a text on 30 April. The Socialists and the other parties opposing the Democrats insist on a new law as a guarantee against the abuses that marred last year's parliamentary vote. They also want to introduce a system of proportional representation to enable smaller parties to enter parliament. SERBIAN POLICE ARREST FIVE IN KOSOVO. Police on 30 April charged five ethnic Albanians with planning terrorist activities over the 1 May holiday, the official Tanjug news agency reported from Belgrade. A police statement said that the five belong to the clandestine Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK), which has killed 12 so far this year. Until a few months ago, the UCK conducted only apparently random attacks on Serbs. More recently, however, its killings have become more frequent, more professional, and increasingly directed at those ethnic Albanians whom it says collaborate with the Belgrade government. BILDT WANTS U.S. TROOPS REDEPLOYED TO BALKANS. . . Carl Bildt, the international community's High Representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina, said in Washington yesterday that the U.S. should transfer some of its troops from Germany to southeastern Europe. Bildt said that soldiers stationed in Germany are "deployed in order to counter a Soviet threat that is no longer there." He added that the real threat to security in Europe today lies in the Balkans. The former Swedish prime minister also called "somewhat naive" U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen's claim that the civilian provisions of the Dayton agreement have not been implemented as well as the military ones. ...AND LEAVES DOOR OPEN TO TALKS WITH KARADZIC. On 30 April, Bildt told the U.N. Security Council that it might be necessary to have "business contacts" with indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic. Bildt called him "a force of evil and intrigue," but added that Karadzic is "an elected representative of Bosnia-Herzegovina." According to the Dayton agreement, signatories are obliged to hand over all indicted war criminals to the Hague-based tribunal. Under a deal reached between the international community and the Bosnian Serbs last year, Karadzic is supposed to leave public life completely. SERBS STONE RETURNING REFUGEES IN BRCKO. Bosnian Serb crowds yesterday attacked two buses carrying Muslim refugees on a visit to their homes in the strategic northern town of Brcko. The Social Democratic Party organized the trip, during which party leader Zlatko Lagumdzija was among those wounded. Serb youths also stoned a bus bringing in U.S. troops from Hungary. Earlier that day, Brcko's exiled Muslim mayor, Munib Jusufovic, resigned to protest what he called decisions by the international community to force returning Muslims to take out Bosnian Serb identity papers, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Sarajevo. ROUNDUP FROM AROUND THE FORMER YUGOSLAVIA. Also in the Bosnian capital, Bildt's office announced yesterday that the international Bosnian aid donors' conference has been cancelled because the Muslims, Croats, and Serbs cannot agree on basic economic legislation for the republic. Still in Sarajevo, the OSCE said that voters crossing the inter- entity border to vote in September's local elections must go directly to their designated polling place and not try to visit their former homes. In Croatia's Karlovac, vandals desecrated Jewish graves. City officials and police have launched an investigation, Novi List writes this morning. In Zagreb, the authorities have assigned an additional frequency to independent Radio 101, one of Croatia's few independent broadcasters. And in Belgrade, several thousand people turned out to demonstrate against President Slobodan Milosevic and poor living conditions, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Serbian capital. ROMANIAN INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR REJECTS ACCUSATIONS. In his last speech as director of the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI), Virgil Magureanu on April 30 rejected accusations that he or other SRI members had been serving interests of the KGB or other foreign powers, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Magureanu also rejected accusations that the report he presented to parliament on his activities had an anti-Western bias. Speaking later to reporters, Magureanu confirmed that former President Ion Iliescu had offered him a place on the list of the Party of Social Democracy in Romania before the 1996 elections. Magureanu said he intends to enter political life and that his views are "centrist." He promised never to use information gathered during his tenure for political purposes. ROMANIA APOLOGIZES TO GERMANY. Romania has apologized to Germany for the first time for having deported ethnic German inhabitants to the Soviet Union after the Second World War. Romanian Foreign Minister Adrian Severin expressed what he termed "deep regret, together with apologies for what happened," during German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel's visit to Romania. Kinkel told the Romanian parliament on 30 April that Bucharest's bid to join NATO is being examined with great attention, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. He said the results of NATO's July summit in Madrid are still unforeseeable, and that the alliance will remain open for partners who are not invited to join in July. He told the legislators that the EU's criteria will be "equal and transparent" for all candidate countries. He also pledged that the new Europe would be without "lines of separation or marginalization." BULGARIAN PRESIDENT VISITS FRANCE. Petar Stoyanov arrived in France yesterday on an official three-day visit. His delegation includes a group of Bulgarian businessmen and caretaker Economy Minister Alexander Bozhkov, who is expected to keep his post in a new government named later this month. Stoyanov's schedule includes talks with French President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Alain Juppe. RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reports that Stoyanov will seek support for Sofia's bid to join NATO. Bulgaria is not expected to be among the first candidates invited. Meanwhile, today Bulgaria's Interim Prime Minister Stefan Sofianski and U.S. presidential adviser Richard Shifter held talks in Sofia. The talks focused on regional cooperation. BULGARIAN PATRIARCH FILES COMPLAINT WITH EUROPEAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION. The head of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Maxim, has filed a complaint with the European Human Rights Commission in Strasbourg against the Bulgarian Supreme Court and the Prosecutor General, a spokesman for the Holy Synod told an RFE/RL correspondent on 1 May. If the commission accepts the complaint, Patriach Maxim may take the case to the European Court. Patriarch Maxim is protesting a July ruling of the Bulgarian Supreme Court, which indirectly upheld an earlier decision of the then Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) government, pronouncing Maxim's Holy Synod illegitimate and supporting an alternative Synod, led by another Patriarch, Pimen. Maxim's Synod was pronounced illegitimate because most of its members were not elected, but appointed by the former Communist regime. ROMANIAN PRESIDENT VISITS SOFIA. Romania's President Emil Constantinescu met with Stoyanov in Sofia on 30 April. RFE/RL's Sofia bureau quoted Stoyanov's press service as saying that the presidents were coordinating their positions on efforts to join NATO. Earlier this month, Constantinescu said Romania and Bulgaria "are not competitors, but partners" on the road to both the EU and NATO. The two presidents also discussed bilateral relations, including a joint project for building at least one new bridge across the Danube River border. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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