|Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. - Vladimir Nabokov|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 82, Part II, 28 July1997
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/ xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II *DEMONSTRATIONS IN BELARUS TO COMMEMORATE INDEPENDENCE ANNIVERSARY *VIOLENCE CONTINUES UNABATED IN ALBANIA *SHUTDOWN OF SERBIA'S INDEPENDENT MEDIA SUSPENDED xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE DEMONSTRATIONS IN BELARUS TO COMMEMORATE INDEPENDENCE ANNIVERSARY. Thousands of people demonstrated in Minsk on 27 July to mark the seventh anniversary of the country's declaration of sovereignty, AFP reported. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has changed Belarus's official independence day to 3 July -- the day Soviet forces expelled Nazi troops during World War II. Protesters chanted anti-Lukashenka slogans criticizing his efforts to promote greater integration with Russia. No violence was reported. But a spokesman for the Belarusian Popular Front said the party's deputy chairman, Stanislav Gusak, and 14 members of the group's youth wing were detained. LUKASHENKA OPPONENTS CONVENE IN MINSK. The Second World Congress of Belarusians, which took place in Minsk on 26 July, accused Lukashenka of trying to destroy the Belarusian language and culture. Some 70 ethnic Belarusian representatives from 15 countries attended the congress, but Belarusians from the U.S. boycotted it. The congress condemned Lukashenka for recent actions, including closing Belarusian-language schools, and said the language is in danger of dying out. Vasil Bykov, Belarus's most famous writer, commented that "the leader of the state is not the leader of the nation." Lukashenka is using all his strength to destroy "the nation, its national consciousness, its culture, and language," Bykov added. BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES DETAIN RUSSIAN TV CREW. A three- person crew from Russia's ORT television is in the custody of Belarusian authorities, AFP reported. An ORT administrator in Minsk said he had been informed that reporter Pavel Sheremet and his driver were arrested at Minsk airport on 26 July, while cameraman Dmitry Zavadsky was arrested at his home. They are reportedly being held near the Lithuanian border. A border guard official told AFP that the three have been detained, but he said only that they are witnesses in a border violation case. Other reports have indicated that three may face criminal charges of attempting to cross the Belarusian border illegally. Sheremet and his crew were recently detained at the Belarusian-Lithuanian border while shooting a film about Belarusian border guards (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July 1997). UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT REORGANIZES GOVERNMENT. Leonid Kuchma on 25 July replaced the ministers of economy, agriculture, energy, coal mining and industry, UNIAN reported. The ministers of defense, interior, and finance and the deputy prime minister in charge of economic reforms all retained their posts. Earlier this month, Kuchma appointed Valery Pustovoitenko as prime minister after accepting the resignation of Pavlo Lazarenko. Under the constitution, Kuchma is obliged to form a new cabinet following the appointment of a new prime minister. Among the new ministers are Viktor Suslov (economy) and Yuri Karasyk (agriculture). CHORNOBYL REACTOR REPAIRS POSTPONED. Chornobyl nuclear power plant director Sergei Parashin told journalists on 25 July that repairs to the third reactor at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant have been postponed until 1 October.The third reactor is the only one at the facility still in operation. He said the plant has received only 25 percent of the equipment it needs. Meanwhile, work on the sarcophagus covering the damaged fourth reactor and on the first and second reactors has received almost no financing since the beginning of this year. The first reactor was halted last year in accordance with a memorandum signed by Kiev and the G-7. Parashin said he hopes the halt of all power units will not result in the plant's closure. But he said the lack of control over the power plant may have "dreadful consequences." UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN ESTONIA. Hennady Udovenko and his Estonian counterpart, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, signed a joint declaration in Tallinn on 25 July on boosting bilateral relations, BNS and ETA reported. Estonia and Ukraine pledged to step up cooperation between their governments and parliaments and to encourage trade between small and medium-sized companies . The declaration also states that each country has the right to choose its own method of ensuring security. The previous day, Udovenko met with President Lennart Meri at the presidential summer residence in Paslepa, northwestern Estonia. Udovenko told Meri that relations with Tallinn were a foreign-policy priority for Kyiv, noting that Estonian had been a "supporter" of Ukraine's independence. LATVIAN PREMIER RESIGNS. Andris Skele on 28 July submitted his resignation to President Guntis Ulmanis. Announcing his intention to resign several days earlier, Skele noted that his opinion of democracy differed from that of the coalition parties. He also rejected criticism that he has impaired parliamentary democracy. Skele, who does not belong to any political party, was appointed prime minister in December 1995 and is credited with boosting reforms. However, he increasingly came into conflict with the seven parties that form the ruling coalition. Recently, five ministers were forced to resign, four of them amid allegations of violating the anti-corruption law. Also on 28 July, the seven ruling parties announced they have nominated Economics Minister Guntars Krasts of the Fatherland and Freedom party as new premier, RFE/RL's Latvian Service reported. RUSSIAN ORTHODOX PATRIARCH IN LITHUANIA. Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II and Lithuania's Roman Catholic Archbishop Audrys Juozas Backis took part in an Orthodox-Catholic ceremony in Vilnius on 26 July. The two Church leaders offered a benediction at the Gate of the Sunrise Chapel to some 4,000 people, including Lithuanian President Algirdas Brazauskas. In his address, Backis urged Aleksii to ensure freedom of worship in Russia and noted that no restrictions are placed on the Orthodox Church in Lithuania, whose population is overwhelmingly Catholic. Aleksii recently criticized President Boris Yeltsin for vetoing a controversial bill that declares only Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Judaism to be Russia's "traditional" religions. The Russian patriarch was on a three-day visit to Lithuania to participate in celebrations for the 400th anniversary of the Holy Spirit Monastery and the 650th anniversary of the martyrdom of three Orthodox saints. It was the first-ever visit to Lithuania by a Russian patriarch. FURTHER EVACUATIONS IN POLAND, GERMANY. Further evacuations were ordered in both Poland and Germany on 27 July as flood waters moved down the Oder River, PAP and dpa reported. Some 1,000 residents have been asked to leave in Frankfurt an der Oder, in eastern Germany, as river waters there reached record highs. Some 19,000 others have been told to prepare to depart because of an "acute danger" of more breaks in dikes holding back the river. In the Polish border town of Slubice, at least 2,000 people have been asked to evacuate as officials said flooding was imminent. Meanwhile, Polish officials announced on 26 July that some 15 tons of freon -- the gas used in refrigerators -- had escaped from a flooded plant in Raczibor. Freon is known to damage the earth's ozone layer. POLISH SENATE REJECTS LAWS LINKED TO CONCORDAT WITH VATICAN. The upper house of the parliament on 26 July rejected bills to bring the country's legislation into line with a Concordat signed with the Vatican in 1994 but still awaiting ratification, PAP reported. Conservatives and former Communists joined forces to vote against the bills. The lower house of parliament, which has already approved the measures, is unlikely to achieve the two-thirds majority required to overrule the upper house's veto. President Aleksander Kwasniewski and Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz publicly backed the Concordat when Pope John Paul II recently visited Poland. CZECH, SLOVAK TOWNS EXCHANGED. The former Slovak village of Sidonie, with just 31 residents, has become part of the Czech Republic, while U Sabotu, with a population of 120, is now on Slovak territory, Czech and Slovak media reported. The swap was set out in the new border law, which altered previous legislation and went into effect on 25 July. The law also included the exchange of some 452 hectares of land to satisfy claims from people on either side of the border. SLOVAK PREMIER OPPOSES CZECH DECISION ON GOLD. Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar said on Slovak Radio on 25 July that the Czech Republic "has no right to decide on Slovak assets." He was referring to the Czech government's decision to pay some $580,000 to a Jewish foundation to settle a claim on gold held by the Czech National Bank. The gold, confiscated during World War II from Slovak Jews, was transferred to the Czechoslovak National Bank in Prague after the war. The amount of $580,000 represents two-thirds of the gold's value and is based on the 2:1 ratio used in dividing former federal assets. Meciar argues that all the gold belongs to Slovakia. A U.S. State Department statement on 25 July praised the Czech government's decision as recognizing the country's moral responsibility. HUNGARIAN, US EXTRADITION TREATY TAKES EFFECT. An extradition agreement signed by Hungary and the U.S. in December 1994 went into effect on 25 July, Hungarian media reported. The agreement provides for the mutual extradition of those who committed fraud, embezzlers, and counterfeiters in cases where the authorities of either country suspect someone of, or have sentenced a person for, a crime punishable by more than one year in prison, a Justice Ministry official said. The treaty does not apply to persons accused of political and military crimes. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE VIOLENCE CONTINUES UNABATED IN ALBANIA. Some ten people died in gunfire in Berat on 25 July. Open warfare between rival gangs has become so acute there that business activity has slowed and some residents have fled the town. On 26 July, four gunmen and one policeman were killed in Lezha when police tried to stop the car in which the gunmen were riding. Gang war raged in Vlora, but there are no reports on casualties. Interior Minister Neritan Ceta said in Tirana, however, that special police killed one gunman and arrested eight on the Tirana-Peshkopi road, where the gang had been preying on travelers. News agencies report that about 10 people are killed every day in Albania. Meanwhile, contingents of French, Danish, and Austrian troops withdrew from Albania on 26-27 July. Italian troops staged a farewell parade in Tirana on 27 July. ALBANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SUPPORTS KOSOVO. Paskal Milo said in Tirana on 25 July that his country wants good relations with its neighbors but will also defend the interests of the ethnic Albanian majority in Kosovo. The newly inaugurated minister said that "having new relations with neighboring countries is better than remaining in a Cold War situation with them." He added, however, that wanting to improve ties with Serbia "does not mean we will not support the interests of the Albanian people outside our borders, notably in Kosovo." Milo's most immediate challenge, however, could come in relations with Macedonia, where there has been unrest among the ethnic Albanian majority in Gostivar and Tetovo in recent weeks. No major party in Albania openly supports irredentism. SHUTDOWN OF SERBIA'S INDEPENDENT MEDIA SUSPENDED. Federal Yugoslav Communications Minister Dojcilo Radojevic issued an order on 26 July to suspend the threatened closure of 55 independent radio and televisions for the duration of the election campaign. Acting Serbian President Dragan Tomic invited the OSCE to send observers to the 21 September presidential and legislative elections. Two days earlier, Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic promised Serbian opposition leader Vuk Draskovic that the vote will be "free and fair" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 July 1997). Declared presidential candidates include Zoran Lilic of Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia and Vojislav Seselj of the ultranationalist Radicals. HAGUE TRIBUNAL WANTS MONTENEGRIN COOPERATION. The Prosecutor's Office in Podgorica received a request from the Hague- based war crimes tribunal on 25 July for assistance in investigating at least "one concrete case" of possible war crimes, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Montenegrin capital. The court also asked for information regarding the activities of some Montenegrin officials during the attack on Dubrovnik in 1991 by Montenegrin- based Yugoslav army units and by Montenegrin reservists. The reservists looted and destroyed peaceful communities and tourist resorts. In May, Montenegro sent a high-level delegation to The Hague to demonstrate Podgorica's willingness to cooperate. CROATIAN UPDATE. Defense Minister Gojko Susak arrived in Washington on 27 July for a medical examination to follow up to his earlier surgery there for lung cancer. He is also expected to have top- level meetings with U.S. defense and security officials to discuss the implementation of the Dayton agreement. In Zagreb, the National Bank confirmed on 25 July that the IMF will withhold a planned credit of $40 million until further notice. The U.S. had earlier urged the IMF to hold up transferring the money until Croatia's record on implementing the Dayton agreement improves. Croatian officials say their country does not need the credit. U.S. STRESSES LINK BETWEEN DAYTON, AID. Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights John Shattuck said in Mostar on 27 July that "those [Bosnian Serb] authorities who are systematically violating the Dayton agreement by harboring war criminals and preventing freedom of movement will not receive a single penny of assistance." Shattuck met with local Muslim officials but said he regretted that the local Croatian leadership did not come to see him. The U.S. envoy also stressed the need to bring indicted war criminals to justice. GERMANY DETERMINED TO SEND BOSNIANS HOME. German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel on 27 July warned the Bosnian Serbs that they cannot expect any international assistance if they continue to attack the international community's representatives in Bosnia. On 26 July, Kinkel returned from a one-day visit to Sarajevo and said that Bosnian refugees should not expect a "deluxe return" when Germany sends them home. He warned apprehensive refugees that those who expect "comprehensive security" in Bosnia before they are sent back there "are demanding the impossible." He was accompanied on his trip by Dietmar Schlee, whom the Bonn government recently appointed to coordinate the return of the 340,000 Bosnians. Germany accepted the largest number of Bosnian wartime refugees of any country except Croatia or federal Yugoslavia. It spent more than $7 billion to care for them, but cash-strapped Bonn now wants them to go home. HUNGARIAN FLAG SAGA IN CLUJ. The Hungarian flag hoisted at the recently opened consulate in Cluj was stolen on 25 July by three employees of a company that works for the local mayoralty, an RFE/RL correspondent in the city reported. The employees, who were apprehended by the police the following day, face prison sentences of between three and 15 years. Nationalist Cluj Mayor Gheorghe Funar claimed he had nothing to do with the incident, but the wife of one of the three said her husband had acted on orders received from the mayoralty. Prefect Grigore Blaga said charges may be filed against Funar for having instigated the theft. Funar commented that the three are "Romanian heroes" and that the chairman of the Greater Romania Party, Corneliu Vadim Tudor, will award them 1 million lei (some $143) and 3 million lei to anyone who burns the Hungarian flag. MOLDOVAN DEFENSE MINISTER ENDS ROMANIAN VISIT. Wrapping up a two-day visit to Bucharest, Valeriu Pasat on 25 July said his country might be interested in purchasing from Romania PUMA helicopters produced in Brasov under U.S. license, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Pasat and his Romanian counterpart, Victor Babiuc, said the joint Romanian-Moldovan peace-keeping unit, which the two countries decided to set up the previous day, will not intervene in the breakaway Transdniester region. Pasat also met with President Emil Constantinescu and Premier Victor Ciorbea. In other news, the Marshal Ion Antonescu League commemorated in Cluj on 26 July the 56th anniversary of the liberation of Bessarabia, northern Bukovina, and Herta County by Romanian troops commanded by Antonescu, Radio Bucharest reported. MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT MAKES LAND PURCHASABLE. The parliament on 25 July approved a law making possible the sale of land. The passage of the law was one of the IMF conditions for approving a standby loan to Moldova. Seven communist deputies boycotted the vote, claiming it amounted to an act of "national betrayal," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Under the law, land may be purchased by both Moldovans and foreigners but farmland may be purchased only by Moldovans. At a press conference in Chisinau on 27 July, President Petru Lucinschi criticized the "conservativeness" of the parliament and accused it of blocking reforms, thereby worsening the country's economic and social crisis. An RFE/RL correspondent in Chisinau on 25 July reported that out of the 27 laws initiated by Lucinschi as a reform package, the legislature has passed only two bills. MOLDOVAN FOREIGN MINISTER RESIGNS. Mihai Popov resigned on health grounds on 25 July, Infotag reported. He was appointed the same day as Moldovan ambassador to France. In other news, Defense Minister Valeriu Pasat, speaking on the eve of a two day-visit to Moscow, expressed confidence in Bucharest on 25 July that an agreement will be reached with Russia on the destruction of World War II ammunition stocked in the separatist Transdniester region. The breakaway region's leadership opposes the destruction of the ammunition in Transdniester and claims it is entitled to a share of the profits that could be made by selling it. The separatists say the earnings should be used for paying off Transdniester's share of the Moldovan debt to the Russian gas company Gazprom. BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT REFUSES TO DESTROY SOVIET-MADE MISSILES. Responding to an interpellation from the benches of the opposition, Prime Minister Ivan Kostov on 26 July told the parliament that his government will not order the destruction of eight SS-23 missiles because the step "does not correspond to Bulgaria's current interests and would lead to a serious imbalance of armaments" between the country and its neighbors. The RFE/RL Sofia bureau said that Bulgaria is not infringing on any arms control agreement by refusing to destroy the missiles but that the U.S. had pressed for their destruction. The missiles, which have a range of some 500 km, were delivered to Bulgaria in the early 1980s. BULGARIA BULLDOZERS PIRATE COMPACT DISCS. Customs officials on 25 July bulldozed a pile of more than 91,000 pirate compact discs produced in the country and seized at border check points. Sofia customs chief Boiko Ivanov said the destroyed discs are only part of the shipments confiscated at the border. Dimitar Enchev, who is in charge of copyright affairs in the Ministry of Culture, said Bulgarian pirate CD producers make up to 12 million discs a year, while domestic consumption stands at only 700,000, Reuters reported. The European Commission has warned Sofia that rampant copyright piracy will hinder Bulgaria from becoming a member of the EU. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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