|Every custom was once an eccentricity; every idea was once an absurdity. - Holbrook Jackson|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 133, Part II, 7 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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * BELARUSIAN OFFICIAL KILLED BY BOMB * SERBIAN PRESIDENTIAL POLL DECLARED INVALID * GELBARD MEETS SERBIAN, KOSOVAR OPPOSITION xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUSIAN OFFICIAL KILLED BY BOMB. Yevhenii Mikolutsky, a parliamentary deputy and chairman of the Mohilev Raion State Control Committee, died of injuries sustained when a remote- controlled bomb exploded in his apartment building on 6 October, Russian media reported. Mikolutsky was a friend of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. The Prosecutor-General's Office has opened a criminal investigation into the blast. IAEA TO FUND REINFORCEMENT OF CHORNOBYL SARCOPHAGUS. The International Atomic Energy Agency has announced it will create a fund to reinforce the concrete shield around the damaged reactor at the Chornobyl nuclear plant, Interfax and Reuters reported on 6 October. Environment Minister Yuri Kostenko was quoted as saying that the IAEA has launched an international appeal for $350 million to strengthen the so-called sarcophagus, which was hurriedly constructed around the reactor after the April 1986 accident. The total cost of the operation is put at $750 million. The Group of Seven leading industrialized countries has agreed to provide $300 million and Kyiv $50 million. UKRAINE, RUSSIA TO ESTABLISH JOINT VENTURE ON NUCLEAR FUEL. Ukraine and Russia plan to set up a joint venture to supply Ukraine's nuclear stations with fuel, Interfax-Ukraine and Reuters reported on 6 October. An unnamed government source in Kyiv said Ukraine's State Property Fund will take a 30 percent stake in the venture on behalf of the state Energoatom company, while Russia's OAO TVEL, which is the sole supplier of fuel for Ukraine's nuclear plants, will have a 35 percent share. The remaining 35 percent will be divided between Ukraine's VA-Bank, Russia's Inkombank, and the Ukrainian- Andorran AMP joint venture. According to Interfax-Ukraine, the venture is due to be finalized in December and will allow most payments through barter of food and metals. Under a 1994 deal between Ukraine, Russia, and the U.S., Ukraine transferred all strategic nuclear warheads to Russia for destruction in exchange for free fuel. That deal is due to expire by year's end. ESTONIAN DEFENSE MINISTER ON MILITARY TRAGEDY. Addressing the parliament on 6 October, Andrus Oovel acknowledged his political responsibility for the 11 September military accident but also criticized Major General Johannes Kert, commander of the defense forces, ETA reported. The accident, in which 14 peace-keepers perished, could have been avoided if the Estonian chain of command had been in force for the Estonian unit of the Baltic Peacekeeping Battallion, Oovel said. Kert on 3 October published the chain of command for BALTBAT, putting himself at the top. Meanwhile, the parliamentary State Defense Committee on 6 October announced the Defense Ministry was responsible for "insufficient legal regulation" of the defense forces and BALTBAT. Also on 6 October, the United Opposition, the largest opposition force in the parliament, called for Prime Minister Mart Siimann to accept Oovel's resignation, tendered shortly after the accident. Kert has also offered to step down, but President Lennart Meri has not accepted his resignation. LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT NOT TO RUN FOR RE-ELECTION. Algirdas Brazauskas said in a live television address on 6 October that he will not run for re-election in the December presidential elections. Brazauskas said he had feared his communist past would be the focus of the campaign. "My earlier political career as a member of the Communist Party, always mentioned in foreign media reports, is a big minus for Lithuania," he commented. Brazauskas, who is 65 and has consistently topped opinion polls as the country's most popular politician, also commented it is time for the head of state to come from a new generation. Five candidates have so far declared their intention to run in the presidential ballot, including former deputy prosecutor-general Arturas Paulauskas, Valdas Adamkus, a U.S. citizen of Lithuanian origin, and parliamentary speaker Vytautas Landsbergis. POLISH FORMER COMMUNIST LEADER QUESTIONS DECISION ON KUKLINSKI. General Wojciech Jaruzelski and 30 other communist-era generals have sent an open letter to military prosecutors demanding an explanation for the decision to discontinue the investigation into Colonel Ryszard Kuklinski. Kuklinski, who had spied for the CIA since 1972, fled Poland weeks before Jaruzelski declared martial law in December 1981. Kuklinski provided documents on Warsaw Pact plans to invade Poland to curb the Solidarity movement. He was sentenced to death for high treason in 1984, but the sentence was later commuted to a jail term. Kuklinski, who has been living under an assumed identity in the U.S., plans to visit Poland later this year to receive honorary citizenship of the city of Krakow, Reuters reported. CZECH INTERIOR MINISTER JUSTIFIES HIS CHOICE FOR SUCCESSOR. Jan Ruml said on Czech Radio on 6 October that he wants Labor and Social Affairs Minister Jindrich Vodicka to succeed him at the Interior Ministry, despite the fact Vodicka studied at the Odessa naval college before becoming a captain in the Czechoslovak merchant marine. Ruml, who intends to leave his post by the end of this year, said Vodicka meets the criteria of decency and experience in management and public administration. He added that it was not important to take public reaction into account. Both the ruling coalition and Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party, to which Vodicka belongs, are divided over whether to appoint Vodicka or find a "new face." MECIAR SAYS SLOVAK BANKS GRANTED UNCOVERED LOANS WORTH $6.5 BILLION. Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar , speaking on Slovak Radio on 6 October, said he has told the police that the country's banks have granted uncovered loans totaling 220 billion Slovak crowns ($6.5 billion). Meciar described the situation as "fraud that has gone unpunished" to the detriment of the state. He also announced the government will soon start discussing several bills intended to strengthen the authorities' ability to fight crime, including clamping down on private security services. SLOVAK POLITICAL SATIRIST SAYS HE IS UNDER THREAT. Rasto Pisko, one of Slovakia's most popular political satirists, told journalists in Bratislava on 6 October that he was injured in an assault by an unknown assailant on 21 September. He said that one week later, he began to be followed and harassed with threatening telephone calls that referred to the previously unpublicized assault. In his shows, Pisko frequently targets leaders from both the ruling coalition and the opposition as well as President Michal Kovac. He has also been outspoken in his criticism of the ruling coalition. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE SERBIAN PRESIDENTIAL POLL DECLARED INVALID... The Serbian Electoral Commission has declared the 5 October run-off election for president invalid because of insufficient voter turnout. The commission said only 48 percent of eligible voters turned out at the polls. Serbian law requires a 50 percent participation for a ballot to be valid. The Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) said turnout was particularly low in Belgrade and Vojvodina, Kosovo and the mainly Muslim Sandzak area. The decision denied victory to hard-line nationalist Vojislav Seselj, who won 49 percent of the vote. His challenger, Zoran Lilic, gained 48 percent. Seselj predicted he will win in new elections, which must be held within 60 days. ...WHILE OPPOSITION LEADERS CONSIDER RUNNING. The leaders of the opposition Democratic Party and Civic Alliance said on 6 October they may run in the next presidential election, Tanjug reported. Alliance leader Vesna Pesic said the opposition received a hard blow with the Zajedno coalition's collapse and has now decided to form a "far broader and more cooperative model of cooperation than before." Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic announced the formation within 20 days of a broad democratic bloc that could nominate a candidate for the next presidential elections. Djindjic, who was ousted as mayor of Belgrade on 1 October, announced further street protests as part of a "new offensive" by the non-parliamentary opposition. "We have no recourse but to use extra-institutional methods of struggle," he remarked. GELBARD MEETS SERBIAN, KOSOVAR OPPOSITION. U.S. special envoy Robert Gelbard met with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade on 6 October. He also held separate talks in the Serbian capital with opposition leaders Djindjic and Pesic, vice presidents of the Democratic Alliance of Kosovo Hidajet Hiseni and Fehmi Agani, leader of the Parliamentary Party of Kosovo Adem Demaci, as well as Serbian and Kosovar student leaders. Pesic said she had stressed in her talks with Gelbard that the U.S. "must be crystal clear as far as Kosovo's status is concerned." She said that Kosovo is part of Serbia and that a "solution must be found within the existing framework." She also commented that Gelbard confirmed the U.S. stance that there will be "no more fragmentation and disintegration of states." BOSNIAN SERB ARMY HOLDS FIRST MILITARY EXERCISES SINCE DAYTON. Banja Luka TV on 6 October reported that the First and Third Bosnian Serb Army Corps were beginning exercises near Bijeljina, in the northeast of Bosnia, the first major military maneuvers of the Republika Srpksa Army since the signing of the Dayton agreements. General Bosko Kelecevic, the head of the First Corps Command, said the maneuvers involved several units and large amounts of military hardware. He said preparations for such exercises can now be completed within 10 days, instead of the prewar average of two months, because commanding officers and units have the experience of the recent war. Kelecevic said the final stages of the exercise will be held on 8 October on the Manjaca test range. DID KRAJISNIK PREVENT COUNTERATTACK ON SFOR? Momcilo Krajisnik, the hard-line Bosnian Serb member of the all-Bosnian collective presidency, prevented a counterattack on SFOR after NATO-led troops seized four Bosnian Serb Radio and Television (SRT) transmitters on 1 October, "Gradjanin" reported on 4-5 October, quoting an unnamed Republika Srpska minister. The minister was quoted as saying that Krajisnik is very angry with SRT Director Mirosav Toholj for censoring a news conference by Hague Tribunal Prosecutor Louise Arbour and thereby prompting SFOR to seize SRT transmitters. The minister also said Krajisnik managed to stop the police in Pale from organizing a "happening of the people" after SFOR seized the transmitters. "Everything was ready for a counterattack on SFOR in the areas of the seized television transmitters, but Krajisnik decided this would have ended badly and did everything to prevent it," according to the minister. CROATIAN PORT REJECTS U.S. DRAFT ACCORD. The Ploce municipal council on 6 October unanimously rejected a draft agreement on the use of the town's port, HINA reported. The proposal was drawn up by a U.S. arbitration commission and provides with Bosnian access to the port. The news agency quoted municipal officials as saying the draft was "based on destroying Croatia's sovereignty in Ploce and would mean the disappearance of the Croatian identity in the Neretva River valley and the town of Ploce." TWO EXPLOSIONS NEAR SLOVENIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY. Two explosive devices went off near the Defense Ministry in Ljubljana, HINA reported, citing POP-TV on 6 October. The news agency noted that official TV Slovenija did not mention the incident at all. Defense Minister Tit Turnsek said civil police are investigating. He said the ministry grounds did not suffer any damage. ALBANIAN PREMIER CALLS FOR NEW STYLE OF DIPLOMACY. Socialist Prime Minister Fatos Nano said on 6 October that he is in favor of introducing a new style of foreign policy, in particular toward Albania's Balkan neighbors, ATA reported. Speaking to newly appointed Albanian ambassadors and diplomats, Nano said "we favor the Balkans being without walls" and added that "in the hot, problem-plagued Balkans, the only solution is dialogue, not violence." Nano also called for reforming the Foreign Ministry's structures, saying that Albanian diplomats should support the government's programs and the defense of national interests. ALBANIAN MINERS GO ON STRIKE. Some 500 coal miners in the southern town of Memaliaj launched an indefinite strike on 6 October to demand payment of three months' back wages. Meanwhile, the daily anti-government rallies in Tirana have entered their third week. The protesters are demanding the resignations of Nano and parliamentary leaders. Former President and Democratic Party leader Sali Berisha, who is organizing the protests, appealed to demonstrators on 4 October to "unite in protecting democracy. That is what Europe and the USA is asking of us." ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SUBMITS EVIDENCE ON SPYING ALLEGATIONS. Adrian Severin on 6 October submitted to the Romanian Intelligence Service and the Foreign Intelligence Service documents reportedly substantiating his allegations that some party leaders and journalists are foreign agents, Radio Bucharest reported. The next day, he told the radio station that criticism directed against him displays a "lack of responsibility" and that those criticizing him should instead address the issue he has raised. Severin went on to say that corruption is not restricted to the economic sector alone. On 6 October, the major coalition partner, the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic, announced it will demand Severin's dismissal if he is unable to substantiate his allegations, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT AMENDS REGULATIONS ON MINERS' COMPENSATION. The government on 6 October amended the regulations on compensation to miners who accept early retirement or being laid off. The offer will now apply only where the work force is sufficiently large to ensure the continued operation of the mines. Decisions on whether to offer early retirement are to be taken by the six state mining companies depending on their envisaged needs, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Minister of Trade and Industry Calin Popescu Tariceanu said the leaders of the miners' unions participated in consultations with the government and agreed with its decision. He said that of the 175,000 people who were employed in the coal mining sector earlier this year, some 80,000 have left the industry. HUNGARIAN DEFENSE MINISTER COMMEMORATES EXECUTED GENERALS. Gyorgy Keleti on 6 October laid a wreath at a memorial in Arad, Romania, to 13 Hungarian generals executed on 6 October 1849 by the Austrians, following the failed 1848 uprising. Romanian Deputy Defense Minister Dan Zaharia also participated in the ceremony, Hungarian and Romanian media reported. Until this year, Romanian authorities raised objections to the participation of Hungarian officials in ceremonies on the anniversary of the execution, which is commemorated by the ethnic Hungarian minority in Romania. Later the same day, in the presence of Keleti, Zaharia laid a wreath at a monument dedicated to Romanian soldiers. The two men also met to discuss military collaboration in general and the planned joint peacekeeping battalion in particular. BULGARIA TO SIGN CONVENTION ON MINORITIES. The government on 6 October announced it will join the Council of Europe's Convention on the Protection of Minorities, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. President Petar Stoyanov said he will sign the convention during the upcoming Council of Europe meeting in Strasbourg. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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