|Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened. - Sir Winston Churchill|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 92, Part II, 11 August 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/ xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * BELARUSIAN OPPOSITIONIST FINED FOR ORGANIZING DEMONSTRATION * SERBIAN OPPOSITION LEADER TO TAKE PART IN SEPTEMBER ELECTIONS * U.S. TO CRACK DOWN ON BOSNIAN PARAMILITARIES xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUSIAN OPPOSITIONIST FINED FOR ORGANIZING DEMONSTRATION. The Minsk district court on 8 August ruled that Valentin Astashinsky, a member of the Belarusian Popular Front (BPF), was guilty of organizing an unsanctioned march on 27 July, the anniversary of Belarus's sovereignty. Astashinky was fined 150 minimum monthly wages (22.5 million Belarusian rubles or $833). Astashinsky says he will file an appeal with the Minsk City Court and the Prosecutor's Office. He told Belapan that on 8 August, police arrived at the BPF office to demand that deputy chairman Yury Belenky, who also signed the application for the 27 July demonstration, immediately report to the local police. WORKERS IN BREST DENIED RIGHT TO PICKET. Authorities in Brest have denied an application by the Tsvetotron factory's Free Trade Union to picket the Regional Executive Committee on 14 August. The union's main demands are to liquidate wage arrears and dismiss the factory's director. The authorities said, however, that since the factory administration has already started paying off wage arrears and is drawing up a program to pull the factory out of its crisis within six months, the workers have no reason to stage a protest. UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT APPOINTS FIRST DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER. Leonid Kuchma on 8 August signed a decree appointing Anatoly Holubchenko first deputy prime minister, according to the presidential press service. Holubchenko, a metallurgical engineer, was industry minister from 1992 to 1995. He represents the Constitutional Center in the parliament. In other news, Deputy Prime Minister Serhiy Tyhypko and tax officials have agreed that the law on value-added tax will go into effect on 1 October. The law's implementation has been postponed twice since 1 July at the government's request. BALTICS REACT ANGRILY TO FREEZING OF BANK ACCOUNTS IN RUSSIA. The Baltic States reacted angrily to the recent freezing of Russian bank accounts of a number of Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian banks, BNS and Interfax reported. The St. Petersburg tax police on 31 July blocked the accounts, claiming the banks had violated Russian legislation by not informing the necessary authorities when accounts were opened for Russian firms. The tax police demanded the banks pay a 20 percent sales tax on sums transferred abroad. Some Baltic bank accounts in Moscow were also reported to have been affected. The banks dismissed the demands as "absurd" and "totally groundless," according to ETA. By 8 August, some bank accounts had been unfrozen following a ruling by a Russian arbitration court. The banks have said they intend to sue the tax police for damages. LATVIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY COMPLAINS OF INSUFFICIENT FUNDING. The Defense Ministry has sent a letter to the president, prime minister, and finance minister complaining that the 1997 and 1998 budgets are insufficient to maintain current standards in the armed forces and National Guard, BNS reported. Speaking at a press conference on 8 August, Defense Minister Talavs Jundzis said insufficient funding will prevent the Latvian military from participating in international exercises in 1998. He added that "we may be ready to join NATO politically but not financially." The armed forces have been allotted 0.51 percent of GNP this year and 0.46 percent next year. LANDSLIDES FOLLOW FLOODS IN EAST CENTRAL EUROPE. A district environmental official in Vsetin said there is a danger of landslides throughout eastern Moravia following the recent catastrophic floods. The daily "Mlada Fronta Dnes" on 11 August reported that several rivers have changed course and some hills have moved as a result of the floods. In Poland, PAP reported on 10 August that the former fortress at Malbork, in northern Poland, may collapse as a result of high ground water. Government Commissioner for Children's Affairs Miroslawa Katna as said the floods may traumatize children who witnessed their homes being inundated, their pets drown, their toys float away, and the extremely brutal behavior of adults. She says "the destruction of all values before their very eyes cannot but affect their psyche," PAP reported. POLISH SENATOR ADMITS TO COLLABORATING WITH COMMUNIST-ERA SECRET POLICE. Senator Gerhard Bartodziej, who represents Poland's German minority, has issued a statement saying he was a "conscious and secret collaborator of the state security organs." He told dpa on 10 August he does not feel morally guilty, adding that he had been the victim of blackmail by the communist secret police. Bartodziej, who is chairman of the Central Council of German Societies in Poland, says his activities were aimed neither against the Church nor against the opposition. He says it will be up to voters in the electoral district of Opole to decide in the 21 September elections whether to keep him in office. A recent law requires prospective and current public officials to declare whether they had collaborated with the secret police prior to the collapse of communist rule. ANOTHER SHOOT-OUT IN CZECH REPUBLIC AMONG EX- SOVIET CITIZENS. Three people were hospitalized, one in serious condition, following a shoot-out between Ukrainian and Tajik members of what was described as a "Russian-speaking mafia" at a highway rest stop near Prague on 9 August, Czech media reported. Police found 37 spent cartridges at the scene of the shooting, which was just 100 meters from homes inhabited by Russian speakers. The incident came one week after a shoot-out in broad daylight on Prague's Wenceslas Square involving Chechens. Three gunmen had to be hospitalized following that incident. CZECH OFFICIAL CALLS FOR TIGHTENING VISA REQUIREMENTS FOR RUSSIANS. Deputy Interior Minister Martin Fendrych said on Czech TV on 10 August that the country's visa policy should be tightened toward citizens of certain states -- including Russia -- from where it is alleged that organized crime in the Czech Republic originates. He says the Czech Republic cannot enter the EU unless it harmonizes its visa policy with that of the union. Currently, Russians do not need visas to enter the Czech Republic. Fendrych said foreigners constitute one-quarter of all those engaged in organized crime in the country. A new bill on residence permits for foreigners requires prospective residents to supply a police record from their home country. SLOVAK UPDATE. Forty ethnic Slovak families in Ukraine, mainly from areas affected by the 1986 Chornobyl disaster, are to emigrate to Slovakia this year, TASR reported from Kosice on 10 August. All the families were selected by the Slovak Interior Ministry's immigration office. Most have members who are university educated. The first 19 families are due to arrive shortly and will be settled in 3-4 room apartments in Kosice that they purchased with a 20-year interest-free loan guaranteed by the immigration office. The other families are due to arrive in the fall. In other news, more than 4,000 Romas participated in the fifth annual Romany Roman Catholic pilgrimage on 10. August in Gaboltov in eastern Slovakia, TASR reported. HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER ON EU INTEGRATION. In an interview with Hungarian Radio on 10 August, Gyula Horn said his country's top priority is how to come closer to meeting EU standards. He noted that Hungary's per capita GDP is only 37 percent of the EU average, while income levels are three times lower than the EU average. According to the premier, the European Commission's recent report on Hungary is accurate, with the exception on the chapter on corruption, which, he said, is not a Central European but a global phenomenon. ROMANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER CANCELS VISIT TO HUNGARY. Victor Babiuc has canceled a visit to Hungary scheduled for 11 and 12 August, "Magyar Hirlap" reported. The Romanian Defense Ministry gave no explanation for Babiuc's decision. Sources quoted by the Budapest daily said he had been unhappy about the program planned for him in Budapest, since he would have been unable to meet with many politicians owing to the summer holidays. According to Romanian sources, Babiuc was to sign an agreement with his Hungarian counterpart, Gyoergy Keleti, on military cooperation. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE CRACKDOWN ON CRIME CONTINUES IN ALBANIA. Deputy Defense Minister Ndre Legisi said in Tirana on 10 August that more than 100 people were arrested the previous week as part of the new government's crackdown on the gangs that continue to terrorize much of the country. Some 46 people were killed that week in the ongoing violence, down from 61 the week before. Some 1,500 criminals escaped from prisons during the anarchy in February and March and are still on the run, news agencies reported. Spokesmen for the government and opposition alike have recently called for the enforcement of the death penalty, which Albania suspended in 1996 at the request of the Council of Europe. ALBANIAN UPDATE. In Berat on 9 August, unidentified persons stole 18 icons that Orthodox Church officials had sent to a warehouse next to a police station for safe-keeping. Two of the icons date from the sixth century, while most of the others are from the18th century. In Tirana on 10 August, officials of the State Prosecutor's Office and the Justice Ministry said that Leka Zogu, the claimant to the throne, and his aide Abedin Mulosmani face arrest if they return to Albania. They are wanted for "organizing an armed rally" that took place in the capital on 3 July. Leka was armed during the rally, which he and his supporters called to protest what they said was fraud in counting the votes in the 29 June referendum on reestablishing the monarchy. SERBIAN OPPOSITION LEADER TO TAKE PART IN SEPTEMBER ELECTIONS. Vuk Draskovic, the leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO), told BK TV in Belgrade on 10 August that his party will participate in the Serbian parliamentary and presidential elections slated for 21 September. He said the SPO must take part so that the voters have a choice. Zoran Djindjic's Democratic Party and several smaller opposition groups have said they will not participate. Opposition leader Vesna Pesic said in Belgrade on 10 August that she will not run because the elections will be neither free nor fair owing to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's control over the media and the recent increase in the number of electoral districts, which favors Milosevic's party. HOLBROOKE RECEIVES ANOTHER PROMISE FROM KARADZIC. U.S. envoys Richard Holbrooke and Robert Gelbard ended their latest mission to the Balkans in Belgrade on 9 August. Following talks with Milosevic and with Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian member of the Bosnian joint presidency, Holbrooke said that Krajisnik "offered a unilateral undertaking that the agreement reached on 18 July last year [for indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic to stay out of politics] will be respected... This [is] a unilateral offer from Krajisnik...and we will watch carefully if it will be implemented. We gave nothing in return." Holbrooke said Washington's policy remains that Karadzic must be tried at the Hague-based war crimes tribunal. The envoy added that, on frequent occasions, Karadzic has "dramatically violated...every term of the agreement," which, he added, Krajisnik and Milosevic acknowledged. U.S. TO CRACK DOWN ON BOSNIAN PARAMILITARIES. Holbrooke also said in Belgrade on 9 August that implementation of the Dayton agreement is running approximately one year behind schedule. He noted that two key problems are the absence of freedom of movement and the fact that key war criminals are still free. On 10 August in Pale, U.S. Gen. Eric Shinseki, the new commander of SFOR, told Krajisnik that Washington insists that police and other paramilitary forces in Bosnia be placed under NATO control. All three nationalist groups have such forces but the Serbian paramilitaries provide personal security for Karadzic and other indicted war criminals. Many observers consider neutralizing those private armies as a first step toward catching the indicted individuals and sending them to The Hague. EU ENDS BOYCOTT OF BOSNIAN DIPLOMATS. The EU presidency on 9 August called on member states to end their six-day boycott of Bosnian diplomats (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August 1997). Germany and Italy said they would comply, while France had restored diplomatic ties on 8 August. The presidency's decision follows an agreement between the Muslims, Serbs, and Croats on 7 August to divide ambassadorships among themselves (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 1997). Meanwhile in Sarajevo, Britain's Princess Diana on 10 August ended a three-day visit to Bosnia to promote aid for land-mine victims. NEWS FROM FORMER YUGOSLAVIA. U.S. Gen. Jacques Klein said in Osijek on 9 August that he is proud of his achievements during his 20-month mission as the UN's chief administrator in eastern Slavonia, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from that Slavonian town. Klein said his mission "made history." He now becomes deputy to Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia. Many observers regard Klein's work in Slavonia as one of the international community's few success stories in the former Yugoslavia. In Novi Pazar, Muslim leaders said in a declaration they are satisfied with the talks that one of their representatives held with Holbrooke and Gelbard in Belgrade the previous day. The statement said Holbrooke pledged to speak to Milosevic about discrimination against Sandzak's Muslims, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Novi Pazar. ROMANIAN PRIME MINISTER ON LAYOFFS. Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea, in an interview with Romanian Television on 8 August, said the government is determined to abide by its decision to liquidate 17 loss-making enterprises (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 1997). Ciorbea said some parts of the enterprises slated for liquidation may be saved through privatization if suitable offers are made, but he added that there is no chance for any of the loss-making giants to survive. He said dismissed workers can begin collecting compensation payments as of 11 August. In a press release on 8 August, the Ministry of Interior warned against the repetition of violent protests, saying it has instructed its forces to intervene if necessary. UPDATE ON ROMANIAN WORKERS' PROTESTS. Four policemen were injured on 8 August in clashes with demonstrators in Ploiesti. Twelve demonstrators were fined. Rail traffic has resumed following police intervention at Valea Calugareasca (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 1997). In Bacau, protesters temporarily held hostage the deputy prefect and State Property Fund representatives. Protest actions have been reported in Braila and Cluj, RFE/RL correspondents reported. The opposition Party of Socialist Democracy in Romania on 8 August accused the cabinet of having negotiated with the IMF "on its knees." Greater Romania Party leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor said his formation wants Romania to cut off all links with the IMF and the World Bank. He said their "stingy loans" would be more than offset by the "billions of dollars" Romania is losing by following their policies. FLOODS IN ROMANIA, MOLDOVA. One person died and dozens of households were damaged as a result of heavy rains in Romania's Salaj, Giurgiu, and Olt Counties on 10 August, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Several days earlier, rains and floods caused heavy damage to houses and roads in Bacau and Hunedoara Counties. Environment Minister Ion Olteanu estimated on 8 August that the damage caused by the recent floods will total $150 million. He said 20 people died and some 25,000 homes, 625 kilometers of roads, 334 bridges, and 43 dams were either damaged or destroyed. In neighboring Moldova, torrential rains on 7-8 August destroyed several kilometers of roads and two bridges. Many homes in the districts of Soldanesti, Calarasi, and Camenca were damaged, Infotag reported. BULGARIAN OPPOSITION CHALLENGES LAW ON SECRET POLICE FILES. The opposition Socialist Party, the Alliance for National Salvation, and the Bulgarian Business Bloc on 8 August appealed to the Constitutional Court against the recently adopted law on opening communist-era secret police files (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 1997). The 52 signatories to the appeal said the law places the government above the legislative and judicial branches because the commission that is to examine the files of high-ranking officials is headed by the interior minister, BTA reported. The signatories say that if the files of the country's president were to indicate that he collaborated with the former communist security services, both national security -- which he oversees -- and the normal functioning of the state would be jeopardized. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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