|A man seldom thinks with more earnestness of anything than he does of his dinner. - Samuel Johnson|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 129, Part II, 1 October 1997
A daily report of developments in Eastern and Southeastern Europe, Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia prepared by the staff of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. This is Part II, a compilation of news concerning Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe. Part I covers Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia and is distributed simultaneously as a second document. Back issues of RFE/RL NewsLine and the OMRI Daily Digest are online at RFE/RL's Web site: http://www.rferl.org/newsline RUSSIAN MEDIA EMPIRES. Government and business entities control many major Russian media. This special report on the RFE/RL Web site lists the important players. http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/rumedia/index.html xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * BELARUS ACCUSES MOSCOW OF ATTEMPTED BLACKMAIL * NATO SEIZES FOUR BOSNIAN SERB TRANSMITTERS * RIOT POLICE ATTACK BELGRADE DEMONSTRATORS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUS ACCUSES MOSCOW OF ATTEMPTED BLACKMAIL. The Russian government "often" uses debts for gas supplies to try to blackmail Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, his official newspaper "Sovetskaya Belorossiya" said on 30 September. The same day, Lukashenka told Belarusian Radio that "Belarus owes Russia only $200 million for gas while Russia owes Belarus $1 billion" for guarding its borders and collecting customs duties. He did say, however, that his government will give official accreditation to Russian Public Television (ORT) journalists in Minsk, ITAR-TASS reported. However, his aides were quoted as saying that the charges brought against ORT journalist Pavel Sheremet, who is still being detained in Hrodno, were fully justified. Also on 30 September, Russian and Belarusian officials met in Moscow in an effort to promote integration of the two countries. BELARUSIAN PROTESTERS DEMAND RELEASE OF POLITICAL PRISONERS. Several dozen demonstrators on 30 September staged protests to call for the release of ORT journalist Pavel Sheremet and two youths detained on charges of hoisting the banned Belarusian national flag on the Stolbtsy town hall, RFE/RL's Belarusian service reported. The protests took place outside President Lukashenka's residence in Minsk and outside the prison in Zhodina, 40 km east of the capital, where the two youths are being interrogated The Belarusian Social Democratic Party, which organized the rally in Zhodina, said it plans further protests over the next few days. UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT BRINGS BACK CAMPAIGN AIDE. Leonid Kuchma on 30 September issued a decree appointing Dmytro Tabachnyk as an adviser, Ukrainian media reported. Less than a year ago, Kuchma fired Tabachnyk, who was a campaign leader but has been accused of corruption. Tabachnyk's return suggests Kuchma is preparing for a re-election campaign in 1999. In other news, an opinion poll published in the 30 September issue of "Vseukrainskiye vedomosti" suggests that almost one-third of Ukrainians are ready to sell their votes to the highest bidder. Those sampled said they would charge candidates or parties between $11 and $400 for their votes. PROBLEMS, MARKERS ON UKRAINIAN BORDER. A Polish-Ukrainian experiment at joint customs and border control posts has led to long lines on either side of the border, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 September. The same day, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry announced it will begin demarcating the Ukrainian-Belarusian border in accordance with the provisions of a bilateral border accord. According to the Russian news agency, the border will be marked by poles rather than by barbed wire. ESTONIAN COMMISSION SUBMITS REPORT ON MILITARY ACCIDENT. A government commission investigating the 11 September military training accident that claimed 14 lives has concluded that the tragedy was caused by a combination of circumstances, according to RFE/RL's Estonian service. The panel blamed the unit's leaders for pressing ahead with the maneuvers, despite bad weather. Major- General Johannes Kert, the commander of the defense forces, was also blamed for failing to draw up regulations for the Baltic Peacekeeping Battalion. The unit's chain of command is "impossible to unravel," the report concluded. President Lennart Meri has turned down Kert's offer to resign, while Premier Mart Siimann has so far not submitted Defense Minister Andrus Oovel's resignation to the president. LATVIA NOT TO DEMAND EXTRADITION OF WAR CRIME SUSPECT. The Latvian Foreign Ministry has drawn up a letter to the Simon Wiesenthal Center saying that Riga does not intend to demand the extradition from Australia of 83-year-old war crime suspect Konrads Kaleis, AFP reported on 30 September. The letter stressed, however, that Latvia will cooperate with organizations investigating Kaleis's case. Earlier this year, the center urged Latvia to demand that Kaleis be handed over so that he can brought to trial. It suspects him of having played a role in the massacre of 20,000 Latvian Jews during the Nazi occupation. EXPERTS SAY ECOLOGICAL DISASTER THREATENS KLAIPEDA. Experts have warned that the floating workshops that sank into the Klaipeda harbor in 1993 may cause an ecological disaster, BNS reported on 30 September. A report submitted to the Lithuanian Shipping Company (LISCO) said that lubricants, fuels, and paints that were on board the workshops could spill into the harbor at any time. A LISCO official told the news agency that a tender will be announced in October to lift the workshops from the harbor bed. In other news, President Algirdas Brazauskas will pay an official visit to Moscow on 23-25 October to meet with his Russian counterpart, Boris Yeltsin, and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. The two sides are expected to sign an accord delimiting the Russian-Lithuanian border. POST-ELECTION MANEUVERING IN POLAND. Leszek Balcerowicz, the leader of the Freedom Union party, is now the favorite to become Poland's next prime minister, Polish media suggested on 30 September. Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) chairman Marian Krzaklewski has declined that post. Meanwhile, the outgoing government told reporters that it will leave its successor a draft 1988 budget. But in an indication that the cohabitation between President Aleksander Kwasniewski and the new liberal government may prove uncomfortable, Kwasniewski has confirmed the appointment of a number of senior military officials, ignoring the AWS's request that their appointment be postponed until the new government has been installed. CZECH FINANCE MINISTRY RAISES ESTIMATE OF BUDGET DEFICIT. The Czech Finance Ministry has increased its estimate of this year's budget deficit by another 1 billion crowns ($30.4 million) to 14.9 billion crowns ($452 million), "Pravo" reported on 1 October. Finance Minister Ivan Pilip said the deficit could rise still further to 20 billion crowns. SLOVAK PARLIAMENT REJECTS OPPOSITION BID TO REINSTATE DEPUTY. The parliament on 30 September turned down an opposition proposal to reinstate Frantisek Gaulieder, a former deputy of Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), RFE/RL's Slovak service reported. The government majority deputies stripped Gaulieder of his parliamentary mandate in December after he resigned from the HZDS over a policy disagreement. The HZDS maintains that Gaulieder signed a letter resigning his seat. Gaulieder maintains that the letter was forged. In August, Slovakia's Constitutional Court ruled that the parliamentary vote violated Gaulieder's constitutional rights. It ordered the parliament to reconsider its decision. SLOVAK OPPOSITION REQUESTS GUARANTEES OF FREE ELECTIONS. The Slovak Democratic Coalition's five leaders has sent a letter to Premier Meciar urging him to invite foreign observers to ensure that the 1998 parliamentary elections will be held in accordance with democratic rules. They said free and fair elections are threatened by the parliamentary vote refusing to reinstate Gaulieder and by the 29 September prosecutor-general's decision not to prosecute Interior Minister Gustav Krajci for interfering in the referendum last May on NATO membership and direct presidential elections. HUNGARIAN OPPOSITION POLITICIAN DISMISSED. The Steering Committee of the Independent Smallholders' Party on 30 September has dismissed Agnes Nagy Maczo as deputy leader of the party, Hungarian media reported. Maczo was harshly criticized by party chairman Joszef Torgyan for having recently proposed that the Smallholders set up an alliance with the extremist Hungarian Justice and Life Party and other rightist formations. Torgyan said he told Maczo she can retain her post as deputy parliamentary chairperson only if she "behaves herself" in the future. In other news, the Central Statistical Office reported on 30 September that GDP has increased by 3.2 percent in the first six months of 1997, compared with the same period last year. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE NATO SEIZES FOUR BOSNIAN SERB TRANSMITTERS. NATO-led SFOR troops have taken control of Bosnian Serb transmitters on Mount Trebevic near Sarajevo, Leota near Nevesinje in the south and Duga Njiva and Udrigova in the north, AFP reported on 1 October. Russian troops participated in the SFOR operation following a request from NATO's Supreme Commander in Europe General Wesley Clark. Bosnian Serb radio and television normally received in Sarajevo have been muffled. A spokesman said SFOR received a request on 30 September from international mediator Carlos Westendorp for military action to be taken against Bosnian Serb radio and television. Independent Belgrade-based Radio B-92 reported from Pale that at least 40 SFOR armored vehicles took control of the transmission station on Mount Trebevic, near Sarajevo. Westendorp has repeatedly threatened to shut down Bosnian Serb stations if hard- liners in Pale do not stop broadcasting propaganda against Western organizations in Bosnia-Herzegovina. UN DISSATISFIED WITH MOSTAR BOMB PROBE. The UN said on 30 September it is dissatisfied with the investigation into the 18 September car bomb explosion in Croat-controlled West Mostar, which injured some 30 people. UN spokeswoman Kelly Moore said local Croatian police have gone back on a previous agreement to share information on the case. RIOT POLICE ATTACK BELGRADE DEMONSTRATORS. Riot police attacked thousands of demonstrators in central Belgrade on 30 September during an evening march protesting the ouster of Mayor Zoran Djindjic and the editors of an independent television channel. Hundreds of riot police waded into the crowd of some 20,000 Djindjic supporters. Police beat and detained several protesters. Djindjic was voted out of office by the city council after his former ally in the opposition Zajedno coalition, Vuk Draskovic, blamed Djindic's election boycott for his third place in the presidential elections. Djindjic's opponents also sacked the board of the pro-democracy Studio-B radio and television. Djindjic called his dismissal illegal, but he said he will not contest the decision. MILOSEVIC INVITES BOSNIAN COLLECTIVE PRESIDENCY TO BELGRADE. Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic on 30 September invited all three members of the Bosnian collective presidency to visit Yugoslavia. RFE-RL's South Slavic service reported that the Serbian member, Momcilo Krajisnic, handed over the invitation to his Muslim and Croatian counterparts. The meeting would be the first between the collective heads of Bosnia and the Yugoslav leadership. RIOT POLICE BREAK UP KOSOVAR DEMONSTRATION. Several hundred riot police, supported by armored vehicles and water cannon, dispersed some 3,000 students in Pristina on 1 October. The students were calling for the restoration of Albanian-language education in schools and universities. They also demand the return of university buildings and other premises occupied by the Serbian regime since 1991. Police ordered the students to disperse and patrolled the streets and access roads to Pristina. Protests are also planned on 1 October in Mitrovica, Gnjilane, Urosevac, Djakovica, Pec, and Prizren. Student leaders have rejected pleas from Kosovar President Ibrahim Rugova and foreign diplomats to postpone the protest until after run- off Serbian elections. Late on 30 September, some 7,000 students staged a silent protest in Pristina. UN ENVOY SAYS MACEDONIA IMPROVES HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION. UN Human Rights Commission special envoy Elisabeth Rehn said on 30 September Macedonia has improved human rights. Rehn announced she was recommending that Macedonia be removed from her mandate because of its efforts. But she warned that she remains concerned about abuses by police, including unlawful arrests and detentions. She also expressed concern over the plight of the ethnic Albanian minority. CROATIA INTRODUCES JUDICIAL SYSTEM IN EASTERN SLAVONIA. UN transitional administrator William Walker and Croatian Justice Minister Miroslav Separovic signed a declaration in Vukovar on 30 September on conditions for reintegrating Croatia's judiciary into eastern Slavonia, Hina reported. Walker told reporters he expects the Croatian judiciary, under UN supervision, will start work in Croatia's last Serb-held enclave as soon as possible. ALBANIAN ARMS AMNESTY EXPIRES. A six-week amnesty for people in possession of weapons stolen during the recent civil rebellion expired at midnight on 30 September. But Interior Minister Neritan Ceka said hours earlier that only 45,000 weapons had been handed in or seized. He estimated some 600,000 military weapons remain in the hands of the population. Ceka warned on nationwide television that anybody who continues to hold weapons will be punished under the penal code, which provides for between five and 10 years imprisonment for that crime. He said police will start checking buildings and will make no compromises with those still in possession of weapons. CLOSURE OF ROMANIAN MINES SUSPENDED. Finance Minister Mircea Ciumara and leaders of the trade unions agreed on 30 September to "temporarily suspend" and re-examine a government scheme for closing down mines and paying compensation to those who accept early retirement, Radio Bucharest reported. The decision comes in response to the mass migration to rural areas of miners opting for compensation and to the danger that the country's energy needs will not be met. Talks will continue on 1 October and will be attended by Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea. In other news, President Emil Constantinescu met with Premier Jean-Claude Junker in Luxembourg on 30 September to discuss Bucharest's efforts to join the EU, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS AMENDMENT ON WOMEN DEPUTIES. The Chamber of Deputies on 30 September rejected a new version of the law on political parties, which included an amendment aimed at promoting women's representation in the legislature, Radio Bucharest reported. The amendment had stipulated that subsidies for each party will be increased proportional to the number of women members of the parliament (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September 1997). CHISINAU, TIRASPOL DISAGREE OVER SECURITY ZONE. At the meeting of the Joint Control Commission on 30 September, representatives of Chisinau and Tiraspol disagreed over the future of the security zone, BASA-press and Infotag reported. Tiraspol objects to the Moldovan proposal that Transdniester armed formations, border guards, and custom check points be moved further back into the zone. All sides agreed previously that the size of the zone must be reduced. The Moldovan delegation also insisted on the urgency of implementing the protocol rencently signed by Chisinau, Moscow, and Tiraspol. It also stressed the need to examine the implementation of the July 1992 Moldovan-Russian agreement on settling the conflict in the region. BULGARIA CALLS FOR CONTINUED NATO EXPANSION. Addressing the UN General Assembly on 30 September, Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova called for continued NATO expansion to ensure that no former communist countries are left in a "gray zone" and that equal security is achieved for all European nations. She said her government's desire to join NATO and the EU has the overwhelming support of the Bulgarian people. Mihailova also urged the UN to grant exemptions to those states hardest hit by the embargo against Serbia and Montenegro. She said that, together with the losses caused by the sanctions against Libya and Iraq, "the total amounts of direct and indirect costs for Bulgaria" as the result of the embargo is "comparable to the country's foreign debt," Reuters reported. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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