|Words that open our eyes to the world are always the easiest to remember. - Ryszard Kapuscinski|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 101, Part II, 22 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 *BELARUS RELEASES FOUR RUSSIAN TV JOURNALISTS *U.S. AGAIN ASKS SLOVAKIA TO SCRAP ITS SS-23 MISSILES *KARADZIC ALLY CALLS ON POLICE TO DISOBEY PLAVSIC End Note A DECREE THAT CHANGED THE WORLD xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUS RELEASES FOUR RUSSIAN TV JOURNALISTS... Belarusian authorities on 22 August released four journalists working for Russian Public Television (ORT) who had been detained the previous week. Interfax quoted police sources as saying the journalists -- three Russian nationals and one Belarusian -- were on their way to Minsk from the Lida prison for an official handover ceremony at the Russian embassy. Pavel Sheremet and Dmitry Zavadesky, the Belarusian journalists working for ORT who were detained in July, remain in custody pending trial. Meanwhile, a seventh ORT journalist, Vladimir Foshenko, was expelled from Belarus on 22 August, a spokesman for the Belarusian Security Council told AFP. ...BUT NOT BEFORE CHALLENGING MOSCOW. The previous day, Russian presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii had said that relations between Minsk and Moscow would suffer unless all ORT journalists were quickly released. Belarusian presidential spokesman Ivan Pashkevich responded by complaining of "precipitate" statements by Russian politicians. Speaking on nationwide television, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka commented that the Russian leadership should either apologize or disavow Yastrzhembskii's statement. Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov later said Yastrzhembskii's statement was "harsh but justified." NEW GOVERNMENT APPOINTMENTS IN UKRAINE. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma on 21 August signed a decree appointing Susan Stanik justice minister, UNIAN reported. She was previously family and youth minister, a post that Valentina Dovzhenko, until now deputy head of the Kyiv Oblast administration, will fill. Under another presidential decree, Vasyl Durdynets, the head of the Presidential Anti-corruption Coordination Committee and Investigation Bureau Director, was given the rank of general of the Interior Ministry. A new information minister has yet to be appointed to complete the cabinet lineup. The new government will be presented formally to the president on 22 August. WORLD CONGRESS OF UKRAINIANS KICKS OFF IN KYIV. Some 2,000 ethnic Ukrainians from 46 countries gathered in Kyiv on 21 August for the Second World Congress of Ukrainians. In his opening address, President Kuchma called on the Ukrainian diaspora to exercise influence on their governments to contribute to Ukraine's economic recovery. ITAR-TASS reported that the participants are to discuss the survival of Ukrainian ethnicity and preservation of the Ukrainian culture. The congress will also discuss the political and economic consequences of Ukraine's six-year statehood. RUSSIA RESPONDS TO ESTONIA OVER IMPOUNDED TRUCKS. The Russian Foreign Ministry has responded to a diplomatic note from the Estonian Embassy in Moscow requesting an explanation for the decision to impound more than 20 Estonian trucks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August 1997), ETA reported on 21 August. The ministry said that the recipient of the cargo had violated customs regulations and forged documents in a bid to avoid paying customs duties. The trucks were carrying some 600 tons of frozen chicken donated by the U.S. as humanitarian aid for the Russian army and navy. The Russian customs have found buyers for some of the cargo and have allowed five trucks to leave the customs warehouse near Moscow where they were impounded. Seven Lithuanian trucks are also reported to have been detained at the warehouse. ESTONIAN POLITICAL PRISONER TO STAGE 24-HOUR HUNGER STRIKE. Tiit Madisson, who in September 1996 was sentenced to two years in prison on charges of planning a coup attempt, told BNS that he will stage a 24-hour hunger strike on 23 August to protest his conviction and to mark the 10th anniversary of the so-called Hirvepark meeting. Madisson was one of the organizers of that meeting, at which, for first time under Soviet rule, the restoration of Estonian independence was publicly demanded. Last year,. he was found guilty of planning a coup partly on the basis of a two-page article entitled "Estonia's Fate." Previously, he had received a suspended sentence on charges of embezzlement. Several leading politicians and public figures have appealed to President Lennart Meri to pardon Madisson, who continues to protest his innocence. Under the constitution, the president can grant a pardon only if the prisoner confesses to his crime and appeals for clemency. POLISH OPPOSITION PARTY CHANGES POSITION ON NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE. The opposition Freedom Union on 21 August announced it will support a no-confidence motion against the government. The move came as a surprise, because the union had previously criticized the no-confidence motion as a vote-collecting stunt. The motion was submitted to the parliament by the Peasant Party, the junior member of the ruling left-wing coalition, Premier Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz refused to discuss increasing state grain purchases in the aftermath of the disastrous flooding in the country. The Freedom Union's change of mind means the ruling Democratic Left Alliance (former Communists) could be defeated in the 26 August no- confidence vote. INFLUX OF CZECH ROMA TO CANADA CONTINUES. John Jagt, director of hostel services in Toronto, Canada, told journalists on 21 August that Roma immigrants from the Czech Republic have filled city shelters to near capacity. Jagt said that no one has been turned away so far but that this could change because all of Toronto's 39 family shelters are now full. Several hundred Roma have arrived in the past few weeks after a Czech television station broadcast a documentary portraying Canada as a wealthy, generous country free of racism and open to immigrants. Officials say Roma now make up about 20 percent of the 2,000 people living in Toronto shelters. Most are waiting for refugee hearings. Twenty-two have been accepted as refugees since January on the grounds that their homeland is unable or unwilling to provide protection for them. JAPANESE FOREIGN MINISTER DISCUSSES TRADE WITH CZECH LEADERS. Yukihiko Ikeda met with Czech Premier Vaclav Klaus and Foreign Minister Jozef Zieleniec in Prague on 21 August to discuss boosting bilateral trade. Zieleniec told reporters later that the possibilities for Japanese investments in the Czech Republic are "extraordinary," as is Czech interest in such investments. Asked why one of the four largest banks in the Czech Republic is being sold to the problem-plagued Japanese Nomurra Investment Bank, Ikeda said he is sure the Czech government knows what it is doing. U.S. AGAIN ASKS SLOVAKIA TO SCRAP ITS SS-23 MISSILES. The U.S. Embassy in Bratislava emphasized in a 21 August statement that curbing the spread of missiles is one of Washington's top priorities. The destruction of Slovakia's SS-23 missiles would prevent their use for carrying weapons of mass destruction and their deployment in countries that could use them for that purpose, according to the statement. The U.S. on 18 August officially asked the Bulgarian and Slovak governments to dispose of their SS-23 missiles in accordance with a weapons control treaty signed 10 years ago. Both Bulgaria and Slovakia, however, responded that they are reluctant to dispose of the missiles. On 20 August, the U.S. State Department said it will continue to raise with Slovakia and Bulgaria the issue of weapons non-proliferation. HUNGARY SAYS NATO ENTRY TALKS TO START IN SEPTEMBER. Government spokesman Elemer Kiss on 21 August told reporters that a delegation of experts headed by Foreign Ministry State Secretary Ferenc Somogyi will start talks on Hungary's accession to NATO on 10 September and that it is expected the talks will be concluded in late October. Kiss also said the government was "shocked" by the position recently expressed by the opposition Alliance of Young Democrats, which called for the planned referendum on accession to NATO to be binding. He said all seven parliamentary parties agreed in July that a non-biding referendum would be held before late November. Kiss also rejected the idea that the referendum on NATO accession be held simultaneously with a plebiscite on allowing foreign companies to purchase land in Hungary. HUNGARIAN NUCLEAR REACTOR CLOSED FOR 10 DAYS? The chief engineer at the Paks nuclear plant told Reuters on 21 August that the reactor shut down the previous day could be out of action for up to 10 days. Balazs Kovacs said that if the problem proves to be inside the block, rather than in the external mechanism of the rod, "we will have to use underwater cameras to see why the rod cannot be moved from its position and dismantle the reactor." He added that the safety of the reactor was not threatened and that the 10 percent shortfall in nationwide electricity output would easily be made up by other Hungarian power stations. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE KARADZIC ALLY CALLS ON POLICE TO DISOBEY PLAVSIC. Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian member of the Bosnian joint presidency, appealed to police throughout the Republika Srpska not to follow orders from President Biljana Plavsic. He said on Pale Radio on 21 August that the police should obey only Interior Minister Dragan Kijac, whom Plavsic fired in June. Krajisnik called Plavsic's recent appointment of new police officials "illegal." He added that "the people will not allow [Plavsic] to destabilize the state." Meanwhile in Sarajevo, officials from Pale did not attend a meeting to sign an agreement on civil aviation. Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative, threatened the Serbs with sanctions if they continue to hold up the signing of joint agreements on transportation and on joint citizenship, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Bosnian capital. NATO CONSOLIDATES HOLD ON BANJA LUKA POLICE STATIONS. SFOR spokesmen said in Banja Luka on 21 August that they and police loyal to Plavsic are in complete control of five key police installations in the northwestern Bosnian town (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 August 1997). SFOR has accordingly reduced its armed presence outside the stations but will remain in the area in case Kijac's men try to retake the buildings. The peacekeepers have also sealed off the base of the Sixth Battalion of special police near Banja Luka. A spokesman added that some 80 percent of the city's police force has pledged loyalty to officials appointed by Plavsic. NATO commander Gen. Eric Shinseki warned Krajisnik that SFOR will hold him personally responsible for any attacks on NATO troops or the UN police. BOSNIAN SERB JUDGE SAYS KARADZIC'S POLICE BEAT HIM. Constitutional Court Judge Jovo Rosic said in Banja Luka on 21 August that Kijac's men badly beat him on 14 August near Sarajevo. They ordered him not to support Plavsic in a key court decision and threatened "to liquidate" him if he did not obey them (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August 1997). Rosic subsequently was taken to the hospital in Banja Luka where Plavsic's police guarded him. The court later ruled against her. GERMANY REJECTS MILOSEVIC'S CONDITIONS FOR BOSNIAN SERB ELECTIONS. Wolfgang Ischinger, the political director of the German Foreign Ministry, said in Belgrade on 21 August that Bonn backs Plavsic and that Germany will insist more strongly in the future that the Dayton agreement be implemented. He told Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to use his influence to end the Bosnian Serb political crisis. Milosevic replied that he is willing to support Plavsic's call for a vote in October, provided that presidential as well as legislative elections take place. Ischinger called Milosevic's condition "unacceptable." Plavsic has more than a year to serve in her two- year term, to which she was elected with 59 percent support. In Vienna, officials of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said that Russia and Western countries have reached broad agreement on providing OSCE supervision for the October elections. NEWS FROM FORMER YUGOSLAVIA. The Hungarian Defense Ministry announced in Budapest on 21 August that 30 soldiers have left for Mostar, where they will reconstruct the 16th century Turkish stone bridge that Croatian gunners destroyed in 1993 during the Croat- Muslim war. The soldiers will first retrieve as much of the original bridge as possible from the bottom of the Neretva River. In Zagreb, Croatian and Israeli officials agreed to establish full diplomatic relations after the Croatia fully condemned and apologized for atrocities committed against Jews by Croatia's fascist government during World War II. In Belgrade, the army issued a statement denying press reports that the military is preparing to introduce a state of emergency. The text added that the army supports the constitution and the democratic process and denounced what it called attempts to drag the military into day-to-day politics. ALBANIAN PRESIDENT APPOINTS NEW SECRET SERVICE CHIEF. Rexhep Meidani has appointed Fatos Klosi head of the secret service (SHIK), "Dita Informacion" reported on 21 August. Klosi, a professor of education, is not a member of the Socialist Party, but the Socialists nominated him to the last Central Election Commission, of which he was deputy chair. The outgoing SHIK director is Arben Karkini, a lawyer from the Republican Party, who was appointed on 30 May by the multi-party reconciliation government. "Dita Informacion" pointed out that Karkini had a mandate to make "gradual changes" in the structure and leadership of SHIK, which was widely accused of using violence against opposition figures under the previous Democratic Party government. The daily charged, however, that Karkini has not fired any personnel and has failed to make SHIK a "truly independent institution." The Republican Party daily "Republika," defended Karkini and called SHIK a "bastion of communist spies." ALBANIA'S DEMOCRATS ACCUSE POLICE OF MANIPULATING INVESTIGATION IN ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT. Democratic Party spokesman Genc Pollo on 21 August accused "the ruling clique" of being behind an assassination attempt on "Rilindja Demokratike" journalist Muje Bucpapaj the previous day. He also charged the police with manipulating the investigation, "Albania" reported. Bucpapaj was shot while driving in Tirana, but reports on the incident are contradictory. Pollo claims that the shots were fired from a car with a police license plate. He added that Bucpapaj, who was seriously injured, had received anonymous telephone threats before. Meanwhile, a bomb went off in a park in central Vlora on 21 August and injured one person, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. ROMANIAN CABINET RAISES WAGES. The cabinet on 21 August announced that wages will be raised by 15 percent in August and September and by an additional 14 percent beginning 1 October. That move is in line with an agreement reached recently with the main trade unions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 August 1997). Pensions are to be raised by 16 percent for August and September and by 15 percent for the remainder of the year. The government also decided that women living in mining areas will be able to opt for early retirement. In other news, the cabinet froze the retail price of edible oil at 7,800 lei (roughly $1) per bottled liter in response to the crisis on the market (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 August 1997). NORTH KOREAN AMBASSADOR'S RESIDENCE TO BECOME CASINO. The residence of the North Korean ambassador to Romania is to be turned into a casino and a restaurant, Mediafax reported on 20 August. The casino will be run by a Lebanese who is also involved in business in Russia. Citing "confidential sources," Mediafax said the embassy will charge $2,000 a month for the lease of the premises, which are owned by North Korea. It also said the embassy is facing a "serious financial crisis" reflecting that of North Korea as a whole. MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT ON PARLEYS WITH TRANSDNIESTER. Petru Lucinschi, in an interview with the Ukrainian newspaper "Nezavissimosti" on 21 August, says that granting the Transdniester region a "special status" is not a "concession" on Moldova's part, since it reflects the region's "peculiarities, and one must be naive not to take them into account." Lucinschi also said separatist leader Igor Smirnov is unable to understand that Russia and Ukraine have commitments not only to the breakaway region but also to the international community. "Both Russia and Ukraine recognize the Transdniester as part of Moldova and there is no way they could recognize Transdniester's independence," Lucinschi said. He added that "nobody is trying to change those rules," BASA-press reported. PRO-PRESIDENTIAL FORCES IN MOLDOVA LAUNCH PUBLICATION. The first issue of "Dialog," published by the pro-presidential Movement for a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova, appeared on 21 August, BASA-press reported. A commentary in the inaugural issue maintains that relations between the legislature and the cabinet are deteriorating and that there may be a repeat of the 1995-1996 crisis. It argued that the president's opponents are deliberately trying to compromise the cabinet's "centrist doctrine" and to "preserve the present deplorable economic and political situation" in order to prevent Lucinschi's supporters from gaining representation in the parliament in the 1998 elections. BULGARIA READY TO DISCUSS SS-23 MISSILES WITH U.S. Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova, in a departure from previously expressed positions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 August 1997), has said Sofia is ready to hold talks with the U.S. administration on the fate of the SS-23 Soviet-made missiles deployed in Bulgaria, ITAR- TASS reported. BULGARIA RAISES PRIME RATE. The National Bank on 21 August announced it is raising the prime interest rate in response to continued inflation. Beginning on 25 August, the prime rate will increase by 0.16 percentage point to 5.86 percent annually, BTA reported. The National Statistics Institute said prices rose by 505.6 percent since the beginning of 1997. The daily "Standard" reported the same day that a new 100,000 leva bank note will soon be introduced. BULGARIAN ABANDONED URANIUM PITS UNSAFE. According to "Standard" on 21 August, the abandoned Buhovo uranium mine, northeast of Sofia, is unsafe and threatens to contaminate the nearby River Iskar, which flows into the Danube. Citing Environment Ministry experts, the daily said that the Eleshnitsa mine, some 160 kilometers south of Sofia, is also a source of contamination and is endangering rivers flowing to Greece, in addition to posing the threat of landslides. END NOTE A Decree That Changed the World by Paul Goble On 24 August 1991, Boris Yeltsin, then president of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, issued a decree recognizing the independence of Estonia, thus ending 50 years of Soviet occupation of that Baltic country. If the consequences of that decree were momentous for Estonia, they were, if anything, even greater for the Soviet Union, for Russia, and for the international community as a whole. In many respects, Yeltsin's decree was the death certificate for the Soviet Union, even though that state continued to appear in the world arena for another four months. By recognizing the independence of Estonia, Yeltsin set the stage for his subsequent recognition of the independence of Latvia and Lithuania, the two other Baltic republics occupied by Stalin in 1940 as a result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. But because Yeltsin was unwilling to acknowledge that the status of the Baltic countries was fundamentally different from that of the 12 union republics, the Russian president failed to erect a firewall between them and thus paved the way for their independence as well. Yeltsin's decision to issue a decree on Estonian independence guaranteed that the dissolution of the Soviet Union would be quick, because it foreshadowed the notion that the borders of the union republics should become the borders of the post-Soviet states. It meant that the dissolution process would be peaceful, precisely because independence would result not from struggle or long negotiation but rather from unilateral Russian action. And it created in the minds of Yeltsin and many other Russian leaders an expectation that the Balts and other non-Russians would be grateful and thus remain friendly to Moscow. (That hope was inevitably misplaced, at least in the case of the Baltic States; but its existence helps explain why Moscow has acted and continues to act in the way that it does.) The decree had equally fateful consequences for Yeltsin and Russia. While many around the world had cheered Yeltsin's heroism during the failed coup only a few days earlier, few world leaders were willing to view him as the president of an independent country. His recognition of Estonian independence changed all that. Many countries around the world hurried to recognize Estonia -- in the next 10 days alone, more than 40 did so. But in doing that, they were implicitly recognizing Russia as an independent state as well. That was not well understood by many diplomats and politicians at the time, although there was widespread understanding that such steps constituted some kind of recognition of Yeltsin's right to act as the predominant leader in Moscow. Given the attachment many Western leaders felt to then Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev because of the changes he had brought about both inside the USSR and in Moscow's relations with the outside world, many world leaders were reluctant to recognize Estonia. But by acting on the Estonian demand for independence, Yeltsin effectively forced their hand, thereby gaining just as much for himself and his country as the Estonians had gained for theirs. In the longer term, Yeltsin's action may have an even greater impact. By righting an historical wrong, it contributed to the moral renewal of the Russian people, who also had suffered under Soviet power. Even more important, it was a significant step in Russia's retreat from empire, which has given many hope that the Russia of the future may become a country living at peace with its neighbors rather than a cause threatening their existence. Yeltsin's decree also helped transform the international system, posing a set of challenges to world leaders that all of them are still grappling with. It ushered in a post-Soviet and not just post-Cold War world. In addition to pushing aside Gorbachev and the USSR, it destroyed many of the landmarks of the bipolar world that had guided the foreign policies of the great powers since the end of World War II. Most immediately, Yeltsin's decree helped to recreate what had been a major security challenge in Europe prior to 1939: coping with the zone of weak states caught between Moscow and Berlin and between the Baltic and Black Seas. Indeed, much of the current debate about the eastward expansion of NATO and the EU and about Russia's role in this region can be seen as the working out of the consequences of the August 1991 decree. Finally, Yeltsin's recognition of Estonia six years ago served as a reminder that, despite the hopes of some and the fears of others, history has not ended and that individuals and nations can transform the world, regardless of the forces arrayed against them. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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