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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 97, Part II, 18 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 AUTHORITIES ARREST ANOTHER RUSSIAN TV CREW *ALBANIANS RECEIVE DEADLINE TO HAND IN WEAPONS *NATO PREPARING TO CATCH KARADZIC? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES ARREST ANOTHER RUSSIAN TV CREW. Belarusian border guards on 15 August detained another crew from Russian Public Television (ORT) at the Belarusian-Lithuanian border, Interfax reported. The crew, composed of one Belarusian and three Russian citizens, were accused of violating the country's border regulations while filming in the border region; they were freed the same day after paying a fine. However, the next day they were detained once again when they were about to leave Belarus. ORT journalist Vladimir Fashenko told a press conference that the journalists are being held in Lida. In July, Belarusian border guards arrested Pavel Sheremet, a Belarusian journalist with ORT, and his crew on charges of illegally trespassing. Sheremet and his colleague Dimitry Zavadsky remain in prison. UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SUGGESTS KEEPING MAJORITY ELECTORAL SYSTEM. Leonid Kuchma on 15 August proposed that next year's parliamentary elections be held under the current majority system, Ukrainian Radio reported. Kuchma was speaking from the Black Sea resort of Yalta. He said there is not enough time to devise an alternative voting system to the current one. Before March's elections, Ukraine's election law must be updated following the passage last year of the constitution. Opposition parties have called for a mixed system whereby voters would cast one ballot for an individual and one for a political party, which would distribute its allotted seats to candidates on a list drawn up before the vote. Anti- reform parties would benefit from party-list voting. ESTONIA SEEKS EXPLANATION FOR IMPOUNDED TRUCKS. The Estonian Embassy in Moscow on 15 August sent a note to the Russian Foreign Ministry about the 26 Estonian trucks that have been impounded in Moscow for more than two weeks, BNS and ETA reported. The embassy asked the ministry to explain why the trucks and their drivers have not been released and to assist in resolving the issue. The trucks were carrying 600 tons of frozen chicken sent from the U.S. as humanitarian aid to the Russian army and navy. The Moscow customs authorities seized the cargo and took the trucks under armed guard to a cold storage plant. According to an embassy spokeswoman quoted by ETA the customs authorities said the trucks were impounded because the recipient of the cargo had not provided the necessary documentation. LATVIAN UPDATE. Indulis Berzins, the head of the parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, told reporters on 15 August that he believes he has not violated the anti-corruption law, BNS reported. The Prosecutor-General's Office had announced the previous day that he broke the law by not declaring shares in the Klubs company (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 August 1997). Berzins noted that the company had not been operating since 1994 and that his contribution to the company had been "intellectual" rather than financial. In other news, an official from the Education Ministry told President Guntis Ulmanis that school students are still using text books that are up to 10 years old owing to a lack of better teaching materials, BNS reported on 16 August. MORE ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS RETURNED TO LITHUANIA. Polish border guards sent back to Lithuania on 14 August more than 20 illegal immigrants from Vietnam, China, and Afghanistan, BNS reported. Several day earlier, more than 60 Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan citizens were handed over to Lithuanian officials after they were caught trying to cross the Lithuanian-Polish border. The illegal immigrants will be detained at the Pabrade Refugee Detention Center, in eastern Lithuania, which has been the scene of unrest in recent months. The center was built to accommodate 400 people (600 in emergency situations) but already houses more than 800. The center's deputy director told BNS on 15 August that another 116 illegal immigrants must be accommodated at the center within days. POLISH CATHOLIC PRIMATE CRITICIZES GOVERNMENT. Cardinal Jozef Glemp on 15 August accused the government of "stubborn" efforts to keep religious instruction out of schools and public life, Polish Radio reported. In a sermon delivered to some 200,000 pilgrims at Jasna Gora, the cardinal said that non-believers in the state leadership show extraordinary "stubbornness" in fighting for education without God. He said the government's actions remind the Church of the "years of communist errors and distortions." For the past four years, the leftist-dominated parliament has blocked passage of a state treaty or "concordat" with the Vatican providing for teaching religion to pre-school children and for grading religion on school report cards. In June, the lower house of the parliament tried to reduce the Church's influence in schools and public life by passing bills aimed at restricting religious instruction and regulating Church burials and marriages. The Senate has rejected those bills. POLISH OPPOSITION PARTY LEADS IN POLL. In a pre-election poll published by the Warsaw daily "Rzeczpospolita" on 18 August, Solidarity Electoral Action received the support of 28 percent of the respondents and the Democratic Left Alliance 25 percent, RFE/RL's Warsaw correspondent reported. The Freedom Union gained 12 percent support, the National Retirees Party 9 percent, the Peasant Party 8% percent, the Labor Union 7% percent, and the Movement for Rebuilding of Poland, led by former Premier Jan Olszewski, 6 percent. CZECH ROMA RETURN FROM CANADA. A six-member Romani family on 16 August returned from Canada where it was seeking refugee status, CTK reported. The Canadian authorities had turned away the family the previous day. Meanwhile, Nova TV director Vladimir Zelezny told his station's viewers on 16 August that Nova TV did not act improperly by broadcasting a report on the life of Czech Roma in Canada, which depicted in rosy colors the life of a Romani family that had emigrated from the Czech Republic to Canada. The program inspired thousands of Roma to seek emigration to Canada. The Czech Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting will discuss at its first September meeting whether the report contradicted the law. Czech Ambassador to Canada Stanislav Chylek was quoted in an interview in the daily "Zemske noviny" on 16 August as saying the Czech Republic and Canada are seeking to avoid reimposing visa requirements, which, he said, could follow if large numbers of Roma emigrate. HUNGARIAN-SLOVAK SUMMIT FAILS TO SOLVE PROBLEMS. In Gyoer on 15 August, Prime Minister Gyula Horn handed his Slovak counterpart, Vladimir Meciar, a nine-point memorandum dealing with minority issues and said that unless those issues are resolved by the end of the year, Slovakia will bear the responsibility "for the fiasco." The memorandum proposes that the two countries' foreign ministers sign a protocol on the implementation of the 1995 basic treaty and set up a joint committee that includes representatives of the Hungarian minority in Slovakia to oversee the treaty's implementation, Hungarian media report. Meciar said that minority problems in his country were "more propaganda than substance." He added that the Slovak government cannot work with minority groups that do not cooperate with it. Horn and Meciar agreed to hold a meeting on the Gabcikovo dam project after the Hague International Court of Justice rules on the issue. SLOVAK COALITION PARTY OFFICIAL ON HUNGARIAN DEMANDS. Meanwhile, Marian Andel, honorary chairman of the Slovak National Party (SNS), told Slovak Radio on 16 August that the demands raised by Hungarian Premier Horn in the nine-point memorandum are "outrageous." He said he expected Horn to "finally apologize" to Meciar for the abolition of the minority education in Hungary at the beginning of the 1960s, "when the very strong assimilation of Slovaks began." He noted that while there were 370,000 Slovaks in Hungary in 1947, only some 9,000 people declared themselves Slovaks in the last census in Hungary. "This shows who is solving minority questions and how," Andel remarked. SLOVAK RULING PARTY OFFICIAL ACCUSES CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OF BIAS. Jan Cuper, the legal adviser to Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), told Radio Twist on 15 August that some Constitutional Court rulings are "ridiculous" and that the Slovak judiciary is under the influence of the opposition Christian Democrats. He was speaking following a ruling by the Constitutional Court asking the parliament to reinstate former HZDS deputy Frantisek Gaulieder, who was stripped of his mandate by the coalition-dominated legislature. Cuper said the court has been politicized and has "entered politics although it does not bear any political responsibility." SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ALBANIANS RECEIVE DEADLINE TO HAND IN WEAPONS. The Defense and Interior Ministries on 17 August ordered citizens to hand in heavy weapons by the end of the month and small arms by the end of September. Failure to do so could bring a prison sentence of up to five years. In addition, members of the defeated Democratic Party have until 19 August to give up their weapons or face a fine. If they are caught owning guns after 25 August, they will be prosecuted. Estimates put the number of illegal weapons stolen during the anarchy earlier this year at 1 million. Some barracks and police stations distributed about 4,000 guns, mainly Kalashnikovs, to Democratic Party supporters in Tirana and in the north. The new government's top priority is to end lawlessness. CRACKDOWN, VIOLENCE CONTINUE IN ALBANIA. Interior Ministry spokesmen said on 16 August that some 20 members of Zani Caushi's gang have been arrested in Vlora so far, including two of Caushi's brothers. The Interior Ministry believes that the gang leader is still in Vlora, but local police say he has fled to Italy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 August 1997). Also in the south, special police units have arrived in Saranda and Delvina. In the suburb of Tirana- Kombinat, one policeman was injured when police thwarted a robbery in progress. Also on 16 August, Tirana dailies loyal to former President Sali Berisha and his Democratic Party ran a blank front page to protest that they have been unable to distribute newspapers in the south since March. The Democrats charge that the Socialists worked together with criminals to prevent the Democrats from campaigning in the south. ALBANIAN MINISTER SAYS MONTENEGRO ENCOURAGES LOOTING. Interior Minister Neritan Ceka said on 16 August that Montenegro allows convoys of trucks loaded with scrap metal to cross in from Albania while at the same time it shoots individual Albanians who try to enter Yugoslavia in search of work. Ceka added that organized gangs have been blowing up sections of railroad track in the north, collecting the pieces, and carting them off to Montenegro for sale. For months, gangs have been looting factories and other installations for metal to sell to Montenegro. NATO PREPARING TO CATCH KARADZIC? British, French, and U.S. commandos are in Bosnia, where they will soon arrest Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and send him to The Hague, "The Sunday Times" reported on 17 August. The newspaper added that a NATO exercise near Karadzic's stronghold at Pale on 13 August was a "dress rehearsal" for the arrest of the indicted war criminal. Western media, quoting unnamed military sources, have been reporting for some days that a move to catch Karadzic is imminent (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 1997). NATO launched its new policy of actively pursuing war criminals in Prijedor on 10 July. SFOR PREVENTS CLASH BETWEEN RIVAL BOSNIAN SERB POLICE. British NATO troops occupied a police station in Banja Luka on 17 August and prevented a possible clash between Bosnian Serb police loyal to President Biljana Plavsic and those supporting her Pale- based opponents. Pro-Plavsic police under Maj. Dragan Lukac, her security chief, had occupied a building from where, they said, other policemen were bugging her phones and those of her supporters. NATO denied permission for pro-Pale police to intervene. An SFOR spokesman said the peacekeepers will not tolerate violence. SFOR accused Plavsic's loyalists of violating NATO's new guidelines for police in Bosnia and questioned the police who seized the station. The bulk of the Bosnian Serb police are paid by Karadzic. PLAVSIC TO IGNORE COURT DECISION AGAINST HER. President Plavsic said in Banja Luka on 18 August that she will ignore the Republika Srpska Constitutional Court's 15 August ruling that condemned her dissolution of the parliament and her call for new elections. Before the decision was announced, Plavsic had said repeatedly that the court was under political pressure to rule against her. Judge Jovo Rosic, one member of the court known to support Plavsic, was badly beaten on 14 August. He spent the weekend in a Banja Luka hospital guarded by pro-Plavsic soldiers. In Washington, a State Department spokesman on 15 August reiterated U.S. support for Plavsic and criticized the court's decision as politically motivated. In Bijeljina on 16 August, Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian member of the Bosnian joint presidency, praised the court's decision. BOSNIAN REFUGEE UPDATE. UN spokesmen in Sarajevo said on 17 August that some 100 Muslims have peacefully returned to their old homes in Croat-held Krusica, near Jajce. In the Olovo area, Bosnian Serb police arrested five Muslims who were part of a larger group who had returned to visit their former homes. Explosions near Muslim-controlled Bugojno on 16 August destroyed two Croat-owned homes and damaged a third. In Stolac, local Croats stoned busses carrying Muslims back to their pre-war homes. Under the Dayton agreement, all persons have the right to freedom of movement throughout Bosnia and the right to go back to their homes. PROGRESS IN CHISINAU-TIRASPOL NEGOTIATIONS? Vasile Sova, the acting head of the Moldovan delegation to ongoing negotiations with the breakaway Transdniester region, told Infotag on 15 August that "some progress" was made in negotiations with Tiraspol the previous day. Sova said agreement was reached on most of the 12 points of the draft agreement submitted by the three mediators (Russia, Ukraine, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe). But he added that Tiraspol still objects to describing the Transdniester as an integral part of Moldova and to the proposal on how to divide powers between Chisinau and Tiraspol during a transition period until a final settlement of the conflict. TIRASPOL CRITICIZES RUSSIAN COMMANDER. Responding to accusations by Gen. Valerii Yevnevich, the commander of the Russian troops in the Transdniester (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 August 1997), the leadership of the breakaway region accused Yevnevich of deliberately raising tensions in the region on the eve of talks about the future of the Russian army's assets. Tiraspol's official news agency Olivia-Press reported on 15 August that ammunition allegedly belonging to the separatist region has already been destroyed on the orders of Yevnevich, who "is hiding something" and is "making the Moldovan leadership very pleased." The agency reiterated that the Transdniester's "population and public organizations are increasingly concerned" about the alleged increasingly close relationship between Yevnevich and Moldovan Defense Minister Valeriu Pasat and about cooperation between the Moldovan and Russian armies "without the participation of Transdniester's leaders and people." MOLDOVAN NATIONAL SECURITY MINISTER ON COUNTRY'S FUTURE. In an interview with the daily "Flux" published on 15 August, Tudor Botnaru said the Transdniestrian conflict is a "long-term problem" that is likely to take years to solve and that a solution is unlikely to be found unless Russia changes its attitude. "The key is neither in Chisinau nor in Tiraspol, but in Moscow," he said. Botnaru said the greatest danger for Moldova's future is the further deterioration of its economy, Infotag reported. With regard to relations with Romania, he said unification between the two countries would be good for both but could not be based on the 1918 or 1941 unification models. "It should be a step-by-step process, starting with the present generation" and possibly concluding with "our children or grand- children." BULGARIA TO PRIVATIZE NATIONAL TV CHANNEL. The government on 15 August said it will privatize one of Bulgaria's two national television channels, BTA reported. It added that the privatization of the Efir Two channel would mean reduced spending on national television. If sold, the channel would become the first nationwide private television channel. Private channels launched after the fall of the communist regime can be received only locally. ZHIVKOV CRITICIZES GOVERNMENT. Addressing a public gathering on 17 August, Bulgarian former communist leader Todor Zhivkov criticized the reformist government for not doing enough to curb inflation and unemployment since taking office in May. Zhivkov, who is under house arrest, is being investigated for allegedly channeling millions of dollars to communist parties and movements abroad and for incitement to ethnic hatred. He was given a two-day reprieve to attend the gathering in Yundola, a mountain resort some 125 kilometers southeast of Sofia, BTA reported. The Supreme Court overturned a seven-year sentence handed down in 1992 for misappropriating state funds and embezzlement. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx SUBSCRIBING: 1) To subscribe to RFERL-L, please send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org 2) In the text of your message, type subscribe RFERL-L YourFirstName YourLastName 3) Send the message UNSUBSCRIBING: 1) To un-subscribe to RFERL-L, please send a message to email@example.com 2) In the text of your message, type unsubscribe RFERL-L 3) Send the message CURRENT AND BACK ISSUES OF RFE/RL Newsline: RFE/RL Newsline is available online on the World Wide Web. http://www.rferl.org/newsline/ BACK ISSUES OF OMRI Daily Digest: Back issues of the OMRI Daily Digest are available on the World Wide Web and by FTP. 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