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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 103, Part II, 26 August1997
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 JOURNALIST FREED * ALBRIGHT URGES MILOSEVIC TO BACK PLAVSIC * MORE BOSNIAN SERB POLITICIANS ENDORSE PLAVSIC End Note : CATCHING WAR CRIMINALS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUSIAN JOURNALIST FREED. Vladimir Kostin, a Belarusian member of the Russian Public Television (ORT) crew that was detained by Belarusian authorities on 15 August on charges of illegally crossing the Belarusian-Lithuanian border, has been freed, RFE/RL's Minsk correspondent reported on 25 August. The three Russian members of the crew were released on 22 August under pressure from Moscow. Two other ORT journalists, who were arrested on the same charges in July, remain in detention. Both journalists are Belarusian. Russian President Boris Yeltsin is also demanding their release. PRIMAKOV ORDERED TO "SETTLE" CONFLICT INVOLVING JOURNALISTS. Russian President Boris Yeltsin on 25 August instructed Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov to fly to Minsk in the new few days to "bring to an end the matter involving the [ORT] journalists," Russian news agencies reported. Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin told Interfax that Primakov will discuss "the entire scope of Russian-Belarusian relations" during his visit to Minsk. The same day, Russian State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev revealed documents recently given to him in Minsk by Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. The documents include a letter signed by ORT journalist Anatolii Adamchuk claiming that ORT executives instructed its journalists to cross the Belarusian-Lithuanian border on 15 August in order to provoke a confrontation with the Belarusian authorities. However, appearing on Ekho Moskvy, ORT news director Andrei Vasilev denied that the network had instructed its journalists to cross the Belarusian-Lithuanian border. RUSSIA CRITICIZES NAVAL EXERCISES IN BLACK SEA. Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev on 25 August criticized the "Sea Breeze 97" naval exercises off the Crimean coast. ITAR-TASS quoted him as saying the exercises are "unjustified and will not help build international trust." Sergeev is leaving for Kyiv on 26 August for talks with Ukrainian officials on Ukrainian-Russian cooperation. Also on 25 August, the anti-NATO group in the Russian State Duma issued a statement describing the exercises as an "action openly hostile to Russia," Interfax reported. It threatened to call for Russia's withdrawal from the Partnership for Peace program. The statement was signed by commission chairman and Duma Deputy Chairman Sergei Baburin. The anti-NATO group consists of 254 deputies in the 450-member Duma. PROTESTS IN CRIMEA AGAINST EXERCISES. Some 2,000 Crimea residents on 25 August protested against the "Sea Breeze 97" exercises, ITAR-TASS reported. Protesters also denounced Ukraine's warming ties with NATO. Russia opposes the exercises as a threat to its security and has repeatedly declined Ukraine's invitation to take part or send observers. Protesters included Russian nationalists and war veterans who carried red Soviet flags and banners bearing anti-NATO and anti-U.S. slogans. U.S., Turkish, Ukrainian, Georgian, Romanian, and Bulgarian ships are participating in the exercises, which started on 24 August at the Black Sea port in Donuzlav, on Crimea's western coast. IMF APPROVES STAND-BY LOAN FOR UKRAINE. The IMF on 25 August approved a $542 million stand-by loan to Ukraine. The fund said it would provide some $49 million immediately and release the remainder in installments over the next year, provided Kyiv carries out promised economic reforms. A larger $2.5-3 billion loan was put on hold earlier this year because the IMF considered that Kyiv's economic reforms were not moving fast enough. The one-year stand-by loan will support the government's 1997-1998 economic program, which aims to consolidate the progress already made and to reduce inflation from 40 percent in 1996 to 15 percent in 1997 and 12 percent in 1998. To achieve those objectives, the budget deficit will be limited to 4.6 percent of GDP in 1997 and 4.5 percent in 1998, the IMF said. FINNISH PREMIER UNDERLINES NORDIC SUPPORT FOR BALTIC INTEGRATION. In his opening address to the Nordic Council security conference in Helsinki, Paavo Lipponen said the council supports the integration of the Baltic States into NATO and the EU, according to BNS and ETA on 25 August. Lipponen stressed that the Baltic States have the right to select their own security priorities. While praising the Russia-NATO Founding Act as a "stabilizing factor," he rebuffed Russian demands to a "right of veto on Baltic and other countries' NATO aspirations." Lipponen also argued that "it is in everybody's common interests that NATO enlargement not become an issue of contention that might put the Baltic Sea countries' unity to the test." Delegates from the Nordic countries, the Baltic States, Russia, Poland, and Germany are taking part in the two-day meeting. LITHUANIAN OFFICIAL EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER NEO-NAZIS. First Deputy Speaker Andrius Kubilius has sent a letter to the national security department and the Prosecutor-General's Office asking them to determine whether the activities of a local neo-Nazi organization can be considered criminal, ITAR-TASS reported on 25 August. Kubilius said the Union for National and Social Unity of Lithuania (UNCUL) has published articles in its own publication that "encourage ethnic strife." He argued that those articles provide evidence that the UNCUL engages in "anti-constitutional activities aimed at igniting hatred toward non-indigenous people living in Lithuania." The UNCUL has some 400 members, most of whom are between 20 and 30 years old. POLISH PRESIDENT DENIES CONTACT WITH KGB AGENT. Aleksander Kwasniewski on 25 August denied that he met with a Russian intelligence officer three years ago. He threatened to sue the conservative daily "Zycie" over the allegations, while presidential spokesman Antoni Styrczula told a news conference that the allegations are a "pack of lies" and part of a pre-election campaign to discredit the ruling party of former communists, with which Kwasniewski is closely linked. The Russian intelligence officer and businessman named by "Zycie" is Vladimir Alganov, who also figured in allegations that forced former communist Jozef Oleksy to resign as prime minister in January 1996. "Zycie" alleged that Kwasniewski (who became president in late 1995) met with Alganov when the two stayed in the same hotel in the Baltic resort of Cetniewo from 5-15 August 1994. The daily printed hotel bills signed separately by the two men. But according to Styrczula, Kwasniewski left the resort on 3 August and therefore could not have met Alganov. CZECH PREMIER REJECTS U.S. CRITICISM OF CITIZENSHIP LAW. Vaclav Klaus on 25 August rejected a call from the U.S. Congressional Committee on Security and Cooperation in Europe that the Czech Republic revise its citizenship law, which the committee says has an adverse effect on the Romani minority. The committee had sent a letter addressed to Klaus and signed by the committee's Republican joint chairmen, Senator Alfonso D'Amato and member of the House of Representatives Christopher H. Smith. Klaus told journalists that "the picture painted in this letter is simplistic and inaccurate." He said it would be necessary to explain the situation in the Czech Republic once again, as it was obvious that previous explanations had not been understood. "This letter uses the same old arguments that the government has encountered for four or five years," Klaus said. Later the same day, the premier left for a private visit to the U.S., where he is to deliver several lectures. U.S. PRESIDENT SUPPORTS SLOVAKIA'S INTEGRATION EFFORTS. In a letter to Slovak President Michal Kovac, U.S. President Bill Clinton says the United States encourages Slovakia's "further international engagement" and "ultimate integration" into trans-Atlantic and European structures, Slovak Radio reported. The letter, which was handed to Kovac on 25 August by the U.S. Ambassador to Bratislava Ralph Johnson, noted that Americans join in congratulating Slovakia on the occasion of its national holiday on 1 September--the Constitution Day. It said that Slovakia has made significant advances in its short history as an independent country and that it has one of the highest economic growth rates in Europe. The letter added that the U.S. hopes Slovakia will continue to strengthen its democratic practices and commitment to the rule of law, ethnic tolerance, and support for human rights. LUXEMBOURG PREMIER AGAINST PUBLICLY LECTURING SLOVAKIA. Jean-Claude Juncker said in Prague on 25 August that he opposes publicly lecturing Slovakia in connection with its problems related to Western integration, CTK reported. Luxembourg is currently chairing the EU, which has pointed out that Slovakia is experiencing difficulties implementing democracy and human and ethnic minority rights. "But does that mean Slovakia always has to be excluded from the EU?" Juncker asked in a lecture entitled "The European Union after the end of the Intergovernmental Conference." "I am against publicly lecturing Slovakia," he added, clearly alluding to the position of some foreign leaders. HUNGARIAN OPPOSITION PUSH FOR REFERENDUM ON LAND OWNERSHIP. Zsolt Arato, the press secretary of the opposition Alliance of Young Democrats, has announced that nearly 100,000 signatures have already been collected in support of a referendum on the law allowing foreign companies registered in Hungary to own land, "Nepszabadsag" reported on 26 August. The opposition is strongly opposed to that law. Under current legislation, 200,000 signatures are necessary in order to hold a referendum (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 1997). But Peter Hack, chairman of the parliamentary Constitutional Commission and a member of the Free Democrats, the junior coalition partner, pointed that the law stipulates that commitments undertaken in international treaties cannot be subject to a plebiscite. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ALBRIGHT URGES MILOSEVIC TO BACK PLAVSIC. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic by telephone on 25 August that he should stop being neutral in his public statements on the Bosnian Serb power struggle. She urged him instead to unambiguously support Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic. A State Department spokesman added that U.S. envoy Robert Gelbard will soon make the same points to Milosevic in person in Belgrade. Most observers feel that Milosevic still has enough political influence among the Bosnian Serbs to settle their dispute, even though he has been feuding in public with both Plavsic and Radovan Karadzic since 1993. There are still strong political, economic, and military links between Milosevic and Karadzic's backers, who are led by Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian member of the Bosnian joint presidency. But either Bosnian Serb faction could embarrass Milosevic by publicly disclosing information about his role in the war. PLAVSIC TELLS BOSNIAN SERB ARMY TO STAY OUT OF POLITICS. President Plavsic said in Banja Luka on 25 August that the Bosnian Serb army (VRS) should not take sides in the ongoing power struggle and that its duty is to defend the entire people, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the northwestern Bosnian city. She added that she expects the general staff to acknowledge her constitutional authority as president when she meets with top VRS leaders on 26 August. Plavsic can probably count on the backing of the Banja Luka-based First Krajina Army Corps, but the general staff appears to be politically closer to the hard-liners in Pale than to her. MORE BOSNIAN SERB POLITICIANS ENDORSE PLAVSIC. Republika Srpska Vice President Dragoljub Mirjanic on 25 August ended his support for Pale and publicly endorsed Plavsic as well as her decision to dissolve the parliament and call early elections. Several members of the parliament, including three deputies of the governing Serbian Democratic Party (SDS), also said they recognize her decision and will not take part in the legislative session that her rivals have called for 26 August, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Banja Luka. The Muslim members of the parliament have already said they will not attend the meeting. Meanwhile in Sarajevo, Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, has threatened to ban international travel for Serbian members of joint institutions unless they stop obstructing legislation on joint citizenship and passports. BOMB ATTACK ON KOSOVO POLICE STATION. Unidentified persons threw a bomb at and opened fire on a police station near Decani on 25 August. The police returned fire but the attackers escaped. It was the fourth attack on the station in four years, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Pristina. In the village of Zub, near the Albanian border, local Albanians blamed armed gangs from across the frontier for the death of one Kosovar and the wounding of another on 24 August, BETA reported from Pristina. Spokesmen for local people urged the Albanian authorities to bring the gangs under control. Meanwhile in Podgorica, representatives of six Montenegrin opposition parties, including the Democratic Union of Albanians, said they will not participate in the presidential elections slated for 5 October. Spokesmen said that conditions will not ensure a fair vote, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Podgorica. MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT SAYS ALBANIANS WANT TO SECEDE. Kiro Gligorov told the 25 August issue of the Belgrade weekly "Ekonomska politika" that all the ethnic Albanian parties in Macedonia want to secede from that state. He added that, as first step on the road to secession, they want to rewrite the constitution to establish a special status for western Macedonia, where most of Macedonia's Albanians live. He denounced calls by ethnic Albanian leaders for local governments in western Macedonia to use the Albanian flag. Gligorov nonetheless distanced himself from a recent court decision against displaying the Albanian flag from public buildings and disclaimed responsibility for a police crackdown on Albanians in Gostivar and Tetovo following the court ruling. Gligorov also pointed out that Albanian politicians are assured of a role in any Macedonian government, because non-Albanian parties cannot form a working majority without the Albanians. ALBANIA'S BERISHA WANTS GUARANTEED AIR TIME. Former President Sali Berisha demanded on 25 August that state television devote one-third of its political programming to the views of the opposition parties. When Berisha was president, state television presented mainly the views of his Democratic Party. Meanwhile, the health of former parliamentary speaker and Democratic Party member Pjeter Arbnori is deteriorating as he enters the seventh day of a hunger strike (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 August 1997). He also wants state television to give the opposition one-third of air-time, "Albania" reported on 26 August. SPLIT IN ALBANIAN DEMOCRATIC PARTY DEEPENS. The number of Democratic Party members who have signed a petition calling for the resignation of party leader and former President Sali Berisha has risen to 230. Arben Mece, one of the initiators of the drive, said he had received support from other smaller conservative parties, "Dita Informacion" reported on 26 August. One such party, the Movement of Democracy Party, said in a declaration that it will consider uniting with the Democratic Party once Berisha is sacked. ALBANIAN PROSECUTOR ISSUES WARRANT FOR ZOGU. The Prosecutor-General's Office on 25 August issued an international arrest warrant for claimant to the throne Leka Zogu and his aide Abedin Mulosmani. The move comes in connection with a rally in Tirana on 3 July, at which a shoot-out took place and at which Zogu and others were armed, "Dita Informacion" reported. Meanwhile, the government's deadline for Democratic Party members to return weapons that police gave them in the spring ran out at midnight on 26 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August 1997). Only about two-thirds of the weapons issued in Tirana have been returned, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. Meanwhile in Vlora, both the prison and the Prosecutor's Office have resumed work, "Koha Jone" wrote. And in Tirana, the trial of 11 members of the Vlora-based Zani Caushi gang started on 25 August, "Dita Informacion" reported. ROMANIAN OPPOSITION FAILS IN BID FOR SPECIAL PARLIAMENTARY SESSION. The Standing Bureaus of Romania's two chambers of the parliament on 25 August separately discussed and rejected an opposition demand for a special parliamentary session to discuss the memorandum signed with the IMF, the closure of 16 loss-making state enterprises, and the amended education and local government laws, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The local government law allows bilingual signs in localities where national minorities make up at least 20 percent of the population (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 August 1997). In related news, the Bucharest Appeals Court rejected an appeal by the Party of Romanian National Unity against amendments to both laws. The court said a political party is not entitled to contest before the court decisions taken by the government. ROMANIAN PRESIDENT DISMISSES PROSECUTOR-GENERAL. Emil Constantinescu on 25 August dismissed Nicolae Cochinescu at the recommendation of Justice Minister Valeriu Stoica, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Cochinescu, who had been appointed by former President Ion Iliescu in September 1996, opposed a law on the reorganization of the judicial system passed by the parliament in early July. He also said he would resign if the law was approved. The new law came into force on 25 August, and a few days earlier Cochinescu retracted his intention to resign. His mandate would have run out in September 2000. Stoica said that Cochinescu blocked investigations into the December 1989 shooting at anti-communist demonstrators and the miners' rampages in Bucharest in 1990 and 1991. He also accused Cochinescu of appealing court decisions on property restitution and of hindering investigations of the illegal adoption of children by foreigners. MOLDOVAN HOLY SYNOD WARNS AGAINST RECOGNITION OF BESSARABIAN CHURCH. In a 25 August declaration, the Holy Synod of the Moldovan Orthodox Church warned the government not to register the Bessarabian Metropolitan Church. The previous week, the Chisinau Court of Appeals had ruled that the Church be registered (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 20 and 21 August 1995). The synod reiterated Metropolitan Vladimir's warning against a schism in the Orthodox Church in Moldova. It added that if the Bessarabian Church were recognized, there would be a split between Romanian and non-Romanian Orthodox believers and further splits along national affiliations. The synod also said the dispute should be solved in parleys between the Romanian and the Russian Orthodox Churches, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. On 26 August, some 100 priests demonstrated in Chisinau against the recognition of the Bessarabian Church. A delegation representing them was received by President Petru Lucinschi, Radio Bucharest reported. MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT ON FUTURE OF ARMED FORCES. Lucinschi has said that Moldova must have a "small, well-equipped, and mobile army whose tasks are defensive." The president was speaking on 24 August following a visit to several military units, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Lucinschi said armament that is not needed by the armed forces must be sold, particularly MiG-29 fighters, which are expensive to maintain and unnecessary for the country's defensive strategy. He said they should be replaced by helicopters, which can be used also for non-military purposes. BULGARIA CUTS MILITARY SPENDING. Defense Minister Georgi Ananiev announced on 25 August that the cabinet has approved amendments to the Defense and Armed Forces Law to cut conscript military service from 18 to 12 months beginning 1 January 1998, Reuters reported. Conscription for university graduates will be reduced from 12 to nine months. The amendments have still to be approved by the parliament. The amended legislation also envisages the gradual transformation of the conscript army into a professional force by 2010. END NOTE Catching War Criminals by Patrick Moore Scarcely a day seems to pass without some story appearing in the news to suggest that NATO troops in Bosnia may soon try to catch Radovan Karadzic or other prominent war criminals and bring them to justice in The Hague. The latest round of stories began on 10 July, when British SFOR troops went after two prominent Bosnian Serb war criminals in the Prijedor region. One of the two was killed when he resisted arrest, but the other is now in The Hague. Since that raid, prominent officials -- notably U.S. envoys Richard Holb rooke and Robert Gelbard -- have made frequent statements suggesting that additional war criminals are about to be caught. There have been, moreover, calculated leaks to Western media that NATO commandos are training to go after Karadzic or that a recent SFOR exercise near Pale was actually a "dress rehearsal" for a planned operation to arrest Karadzic. Some observers have suggested that such statements are simply a bluff designed to intimidate Karadzic and that the Western powers have no more intention of risking casualties now than they had in the 18 months since the signing of the Dayton agreement, during which they avoided contact with armed war criminals. Other observers point out that it would cost NATO credibility throughout the former Yugoslavia and perhaps elsewhere, too, to raise expectations but do nothing. The issue of bringing indicted war criminals to justice is, in any event , central to the civilian provisions of the Dayton agreement. But whereas NATO has fairly rigorously enforced the military aspects of that treaty, most of the civilian provisions -- including the rights of freedom of movement and of refugees to go home -- remain a dead letter. The treaty further calls for the establishment of joint Bosnian institutions in what is supposed to be one state consisting of the Republika Srpska and the mainly Croatian and Muslim Federation. The civilian provisions also include trials for war criminals. The reason for bringing such people to justice is the one given by the A llies at the end of World War II, namely that the crimes of guilty individuals must be brought to light and those persons duly tried and sentenced if societies as a whole are to make a new beginning and put the war behind them. In other words, Karadzic, Gen. Ratko Mladic, and several dozen other individuals must go to The Hague lest the Serbs as a people continue to be demonized by many in the former Yugoslavia and elsewhere for war crimes. One reason for the timing of the latest talk about catching war criminal s is that the Clinton administration has realized that time is running out on the Dayton agreement: SFOR's mandate is valid for less than one more year. Another reason is that, with the 14 September local elections approaching , the international community is anxious to reduce the political influence of Karadzic and the other key war criminals on all sides. Accordingly, Holbrooke and other diplomats have put pressure on Croatian President Franjo Tudjman to hand over indicted Croats to The Hague. Top Croatian officials have said that at least one prominent war criminal might be put on a plane to Holland within days, but so far none has gone. It is unclear to what extent Holbrooke and the other diplomats have sought to have possible Muslim war criminals arrested, but Serbs and Croats alike charge that the court has not indicted a sufficient number of Muslims. But it would be wrong to say that the arrest and trial of Karadzic would solve Bosnia's problems, as some press accounts suggest. It is also unlikely, given his record for lying to foreigners, that the court would ever extract the whole truth from him. The trial of Karadzic would nonetheless be an important step toward clarifying the historical record and establishing justice. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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