|Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. - Vladimir Nabokov|
Vol. 1, No. 59, Part II, 24 June1997
Vol. 1, No. 59, Part II, 24 June1997 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 * UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER TO UNDERGO SURGERY * SLOVAK OPPOSITION, COALITION LEADERS MEET WITH PRESIDENT * ALBANIAN PARTY LEADERS SIGN "PACT FOR FUTURE" End Note : Pavlo Lazarenko's "Temporary" Removal xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER TO UNDERGO SURGERY. A spokesman for Pavlo Lazarenko told journalists on 23 June that Lazarenko will undergo surgery in the next few days. The spokesman said Lazarenko needs an operation for thrombophlebitis, which signifies the formation of a blood clot in a blood vessel accompanied by inflammation. President Leonid Kuchma temporarily relieved Lazarenko of his duties for health reasons on 19 June. Deputy Prime Minister Vasyl Durdinets was appointed acting premier. Meanwhile, the chief doctor of Kyiv's Feofania clinic told Interfax-Ukraine on 23 June that Lazarenko will undergo surgery for chronic phlebitis and varicose veins before the end of the week. The physician said the decision is not final. OSCE OFFICE MAY BE SET UP IN BELARUS. A spokesman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe told RFE/RL in Vienna on 23 June that Belarus has given preliminary permission for the OSCE to open an office in Minsk to help that country make progress toward democracy. The agreement was reached at a meeting on 20 June between Belarusian Foreign Minister Ivan Antanovich and an OSCE envoy. The spokesman said more discussions will be required to work out the practical details. No date had been fixed for opening the office, which was the main recommendation of an OSCE mission that visited Belarus in April and later issued a sharply critical report. That report concluded the Belarusian authorities are constructing a system of totalitarian government. It said "there is no effective political structure in Belarus to oppose the descent into totalitarianism." LATVIA "FULLY SUPPORTS" WASHINGTON'S DECISION ON NATO. Latvian Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs, speaking at RFE/RL's Prague headquarters on 23 June, said his country "fully supports" Washington's decision to include only Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary in the first wave of NATO expansion. At the same time, he urged the alliance's eastward expansion to continue until all the Baltic States are included and called on NATO members to send a "very clear message" about the alliance's expansion intentions at the Madrid summit next month. He also repeated that Riga is "ready to bear the full costs, responsibilities, and risk of membership in the alliance." Birkavs was in Prague to attend the NATO security forum. LEADING LITHUANIAN BANKER FOUND DEAD. Gennady Konoplyov, until recently the manager of the Tauras bank, was found shot dead in his office on 23 June, ITAR-TASS reported. It is unclear whether Konoplyov committed suicide or was murdered. The 52-year-old banker was considered an influential economic reformer and one of the wealthiest people in Lithuania. But recently, the Lithuanian Central Bank suspended the operations of the Tauras bank and dismissed Konoplyov from his post, according to the news agency. U.S. PRESIDENT TO VISIT POLAND, ROMANIA AFTER MADRID SUMMIT? A spokesman for Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski told journalists on 23 June that U.S. President Bill Clinton may visit Poland after NATO's Madrid summit in July, at which the alliance is to invite some East European countries to join. A source close to the Polish president told Reuters the visit would likely start on 10 July and last one or two days. During his stay, Clinton would address the Polish nation and hold a joint news conference with Kwasniewski. The same source said Clinton would then fly to Romania. POLISH FARMERS THREATEN TO BLOCK GERMAN BORDER CROSSING. A group of farmers belonging to the Solidarity trade union plans to block roads at a German-Polish border crossing on 24 June to protest food imports, PAP reported . The blockade will take place at Jedrzychowice, southwestern Poland, and will last indefinitely. The news agency quoted the Lower Silesia regional Solidarity leader Marian Zagorny as saying the government has rebuffed farmer demands for protection from imported foodstuffs. NATO OFFICIAL SATISFIED WITH RESTRUCTURING OF CZECH ARMY. George Joulwan, NATO'S Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, on 23 June praised the Czech Republic's plans to restructure its armed forces but said the country must do more to modernize them. Joulwan was speaking at a meeting in Prague with Czech Defense Minister Miloslav Vyborny. Joulwan is in the Czech Republic taking part in a NATO forum focusing on security issues and plans to expand the alliance. President Vaclav Havel is to decorate Joulwan with the country's highest award, the Order of the White Lion, in a ceremony on 24 June. Meanwhile, Michael Zantovsky, chairman of the coalition Civic Democratic Alliance, told Radio Frekvence on 23 June that public support for Czech entry into NATO was low owing to the government's previous lack of interest in the issue of NATO expansion. "If the government is not interested in it, why should the citizens be?" Zantovsky asked. SLOVAK OPPOSITION, COALITION LEADERS MEET WITH PRESIDENT. Following their meeting on 23 June with President Michal Kovac, leaders of eight opposition and two coalition parties announced they are ready to meet for round-table talks with Premier Vladimir Meciar. They also noted that the aim of such a dialogue would be to reach agreement on implementing the recommendations made by the Slovak-EU parliamentary commission on 19 June. That commission demanded progress toward consolidating Slovak democracy be made by November. The participation in the 23 June meeting of the coalition Slovak National Party and the Slovak Farmers' Association, a satellite of Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), was unexpected. The HZDS and another coalition party, the Slovak Workers' Party, were not present. Meciar told Slovak Radio that "we don't consider the president an authority capable of conducting a constructive dialogue." HUNGARY WITHHOLDS FILES ON TERRORIST. A Hungarian prosecutor said on 23 June that secret documents wanted by Germany for the trial of an accomplice of "Carlos the Jackal" are being withheld for security reasons, "Magyar Hirlap" reported. He said that handing over the documents would violate "foreign-political and national-security interests of Hungary." A Berlin court wants the files for the upcoming trial of Johannes Weinrich. They contain some 8,500 pages about Carlos and members of his gang who lived in Budapest between 1979 and 1985. A hostage-taking at the OPEC meeting in Vienna in 1975 was among the most publicized actions undertaken by the group. The German magazine "Der Spiegel" claims that the Hungarian government is trying to conceal the former communist leadership's connections with international terrorist groups. HUNGARY, MALAYSIA TO INCREASE TIES. Visiting Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and his Hungarian counterpart, Gyula Horn, agreed on 23 June to participate jointly in rebuilding Bosnia, to increase financial and banking ties, and to cooperate in communications and railraod development projects, Hungarian media reported. "Hungary is a natural gateway for Malaysia to Central Europe, the Balkans, and the Baltic States," Mahathir told a Budapest press conference. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ALBANIAN PARTY LEADERS SIGN "PACT FOR FUTURE." Democratic Party leader Titan Shehu, the Socialists' Fatos Nano, and the Social Democrats' Skender Gjinushi agreed in Rome on 23 June to respect the results of the 29 June elections and not to use violence (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 June 1997). They also pledged to grant the opposition a greater role in political life, including control over important parliamentary commissions and the anti-corruption agency. The opposition will also nominate the deputy speaker of the parliament. The three parties further agreed to cooperate after the elections in the formation of a new government, "Zeri i Popullit" reported. Sabri Godo of the Republican Party and the National Front's Hysen Selfo refused to sign the document in Rome and demanded that the ceremony take place in Albania, according to "Gazeta Shqiptare." ALBANIAN CENTRAL ELECTION COMMISSION STRUGGLING OVER POLLING TIME. The Central Election Commission held a heated debate in Tirana on 23 June over the closing time of polling stations, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. The majority of the commission members asked President Sali Berisha to decree that the stations close at 7:00 p.m. A Democratic Party representative, however, said that such a move would be illegal. The Democrats want a later closing time, which the opposition fears would enable fraud to take place under the cover of darkness. Observers from the Albanian media at the commission meetings told an RFE/RL correspondent that the Democratic Party representatives are deliberately blocking the commission's work by delaying decisions. "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported on 24 June that "the extreme stubbornness of [the two Democrats] did not allow for a normal debate." ALBANIAN UPDATE. A multi-party round-table meeting in Tirana on 22 June failed to reach agreement on another key issue, namely the assigning of legislative seats on the basis of proportional representation. The same day, five policemen were injured, two seriously, when unidentified assailants opened fire at their car on the outskirts of Tirana. The shots were fired after curfew by several people who were using a military-type car, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported on 24 June. MONTENEGRIN SOCIALISTS GIVE MILOSEVIC "HALF VICTORY." The governing body of the Democratic Socialists Party (DPS) met in Podgorica on 23 June and endorsed the candidacy of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic for the federal Yugoslav presidency. The vote was 56 to 31, with 10 abstentions, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Montenegrin capital. By a much larger majority, however, the DPS voted down Milosevic's proposal for the direct election of the federal president. Under the current system, the parliament will elect the replacement for President Zoran Lilic, whose term ends on 25 June. Many Montenegrin politicians fear that direct elections would greatly reduce their republic's influence in federal affairs by weakening the role of the parliament. Montenegro plays a much larger role in the federal legislature than can be justified by the size of its population. STATE DEPARTMENT BLASTS PROPOSED SERBIAN LOCAL GOVERNMENT LAW. A State Department spokesman said in Washington on 23 June that Serbia's proposed law on local government would strengthen the power of the governing Socialist Party at the expense of the opposition. The spokesman said that the measure would undermine the opposition's control over more than a dozen cities that the opposition won only after a protracted political struggle with Milosevic last winter, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the U.S. capital. Other provisions of the legislation work against the interests of ethnic minorities by guaranteeing a power role for Serbs and Montenegrins in areas where other ethnic groups form the majority. Meanwhile in Ulcinj, a conference of Kosovar Albanians and opposition Serbs opened to discuss the future of Kosovo. BLASKIC TRIAL BEGINS IN THE HAGUE. The trial of Croatian Gen. Tihomir Blaskic started on 23 June at the Hague-based international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Security for witnesses is tight, following a recent series of leaks to the press of names of witnesses and other confidential information. Blaskic, who also served in the Bosnian Croat army, stands indicted on 20 counts involving atrocities against Muslims in the Lasva valley during the 1993 Croatian-Muslim conflict. Blaskic is the most senior suspected war criminal to stand trial so far. Charges against him stem from the orders he formulated and gave, whereas the other men in custody at The Hague carried out the orders of their superiors. Other top-ranking indicted figures--including Dario Kordic, a Croatian civilian who is also wanted in connection with the crimes in the Lasva valley--have not yet been taken into custody. BOSNIAN SERBS BLOCK AIRPORT AGREEMENT. NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said in Sarajevo on 23 June that Bosnian Serb representatives raised last-minute objections to a measure that would reopen civilian airports in Tuzla, Mostar, and Banja Luka. The Serbs demanded that local Serbian authorities be in full charge of the Banja Luka operation, whereas the agreement put all three airports under a joint authority. Momcilo Krajisnik, the Bosnian Serb member of the joint presidency, said in Pale that he also refused to agree on a proposal for a joint body to cooperate with the Hague-based tribunal, since the Serbs insist that each ethnic group have its own representative at the court. The Serbs have consistently tried to hamstring attempts at forming joint institutions. ROMANIAN PRESIDENT ON NATO MEMBERSHIP. Emil Constantinescu told a NATO security forum in Prague on 23 June that the Romanian people will regard the U.S. as "cynical" and "incapable of analyzing global interests" if his country is not admitted to NATO at the Madrid summit in July, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Constantinescu said "national pride" is the driving force behind Romania's bid to join the organization, adding "we are asking for a firm and clear recognition of our progress." He also noted that Romania started the campaign for NATO admission out of fear it would be left in a "gray zone." Since then, however, the country has become "not only a security consumer but a security provider as well," he stressed. Constantinescu also noted that the alliance would benefit from Romania's "strong" relations with Serbia and Bulgaria as well as with the Baltic States. ROMANIAN PRIME MINISTER IN NEW YORK. Addressing the UN General Assembly's "Earth Summit" on 23 June, Victor Ciorbea said 50 years of communism "had left nothing unpolluted in Romanian society." He said his government views cleaning up the environment as one of its top priorities. Ciorbea also discussed his country's application for NATO membership with several leaders also attending the Earth Summit, including Slovenian Premier Janez Drnovsek, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Italian Premier Romano Prodi, and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Radio Bucharest reported. BOB DOLE IN ROMANIA. Former U.S. presidential candidate Bob Dole, concluding a two-day visit to Romania on 23 June, said his "personal view" is that Romania should "immediately" be accepted into NATO, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Dole said President Bill Clinton and his administration are aware of his opinions. During his visit, Dole met with President Emil Constantinescu and the chairmen of the two houses of the parliament, Petre Roman and Ion Diaconescu. He left Bucharest for Bosnia, where he was sent on an official mission by Clinton. MOLDOVA, U.S. SIGN AGREEMENT ON PREVENTION OF WEAPONS PROLIFERATION. Moldovan Minister of Defense Valeriu Pasat and visiting U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary John P. White signed an agreement in Chisinau on 23 June on preventing the proliferation of mass destruction weapons, Infotag and BASA-press reported. The agreement prohibits the transportation and stationing of such weapons on Moldovan territory. The two leaders also signed an accord on military cooperation. In addition, White met with Prime Minister Ion Ciubuc and with deputy parliamentary chairman Dumitru Diacov. Among the issues discussed were the memorandum on joint activities signed by the U.S. and Moldovan Defense Ministries in December 1995, and Moldova's participation in NATO's Partnership for Peace program. LEFT-WING POLITICAL ALLIANCE SET UP IN MOLDOVA. The Socialist Unity Party-Edinstvo, the Socialist Party, and the Moldovan Union of Communists have set up a left wing alliance calling itself the Popular Patriotic Forces, BASA-press reported on 23 June. The bloc was established in Balti on 21 June, according to the agency The new alliance hailed the Russia-Belarus union and demanded that Lenin's mausoleum in Moscow be maintained intact. It also harshly criticized the policies of Ion Ciubuc's government and called for a way out of the "labyrinth of destructive reforms." Valeriu Senic, Petr Shornikov, and Florin Hristev were elected co-chairmen of the alliance. BULGARIAN ROUNDUP. Two miners are missing and nine injured following a coal mine blast at Bobovdol, southwestern Bulgaria, AFP reported on 23 June. Four of the injured are in serious condition. The explosion was caused by a buildup of methane gas. In other news, a naval exercise named "Cooperative Partner '97" began on 22 June along Bulgaria's Black Sea coast. The exercise is being held within the Partnership for Peace program and will last two weeks. Participants include Greece, France, Italy, Turkey, Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, and Ukraine. END NOTE Pavlo Lazarenko's "Temporary" Removal by Roman Kupchinsky On 19 June, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma issued a decree naming Fir st Deputy Prime Minister Vasyl Durdynets acting premier owing to Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko's illness. The same day, Lazarenko was taken to Kyiv's Feofania clinic, where he was placed under strict observation. The first diagnosis was that Lazarenko was suffering from extreme exhaustion. The previous day, the Council for National Security and Defense, chaired by Volodymyr Horbulin, recommended to President Kuchma that Lazarenko be removed from his post. Horbulin commented publicly later that day that "the prime minister has to take responsibility for the promises he did not keep." Appeals to remove Lazarenko had begun to intensify earlier this month. A congress of the National Democratic Party of Ukraine (NDPU)--whose leadership consists of many high-ranking members of Kuchma's administration as well as a number of influential businessmen--issued an appeal to the president to dismiss the Cabinet of Ministers and, above all, the prime minister. On 17 June, NDPU member and parliamentary deputy Oleksander Karpov said that members of the NDPU who had called for Lazarenko's removal were receiving threatening phone calls. The same day, Karpov repeated charges that the prime minister had illegally privatized his government-owned dacha in Pushcha Vodytsia--one of many corruption charges leveled against Lazarenko this year. Kuchma appointed Lazarenko premier in May 1996 to replace Evhen Marchuk, a former chief of the Ukrainian Intelligence Service. Before his appointment, Lazarenko had been the presidential representative in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast and the head of both the oblast legislature and the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast state administration. During the communist era, he was the head of a collective farm and held various positions at the raion and oblast levels. His association with Kuchma dates back to when Kuchma was director of the Yuhmaz missile factory, in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast. Shortly after becoming prime minister, Lazarenko was faced with growing discontent from coal miners in the Donetsk region who had not been paid wages for several months. On 16 July 1996, while traveling by car to Donetsk to mediate the crisis, he was the target of an assassination attempt. A bomb placed by the side of the road exploded as Lazarenko's car passed by, leaving a 10-foot crater. Lazarenko, however, escaped injury. Kuchma subsequently removed Volodymyr Shcherban as presidential representative in Donetsk. At the time, there were numerous rumors that powerful business clans in Donetsk, with whom Shcherban allegedly had links, were behind the attempt on Lazarenko's life. This year, charges of widespread corruption in the Ukrainian government began to proliferate. The U.S. telecommunications company Motorola announced in March that it was pulling out of the Ukrainian market because of "officials constantly changing the rules of the game." The press began to link Lazarenko to the Motorola pullout, pointing out he owns a significant portion of Kyiv Star, a newly formed telecommunications company that was awarded a tender by the government to install a mobile phone network in the country. Motorola had believed it had the rights to that project. Lazarenko responded to those and similar accusations in a letter to "The New York Times," but the charges only increased. With crucial parliamentary elections scheduled for 1998, Kuchma decided in May to bring in a new, "clean" deputy prime minister. Serhiy Tyhipko, the 34-year-old director of Dnipropetrovsk's Privatbank, is seen by many in Kyiv as a future replacement for Lazarenko. By early June 1997, charges that the president and the prime minister were cooperating in illegal deals had begun to surface. Lazarenko had clearly become a liability to Kuchma. He was removed on his return from an official visit to Canada to discuss greater economic cooperation between Ottawa and Kyiv. The "temporary" removal of Lazarenko is regarded by many in Kyiv as permanent. Kuchma has to show the West that he is cleaning up the government, and the proof of the pudding was getting rid of Lazarenko. Without him, Kuchma stands a far better chance of convincing Western financial institutions that he is sincere about both the anti-corruption drive and the reform program, which Lazarenko supported only half-heartedly. The author is director of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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