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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 32 , Part II, 17 February 1998


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 32 , Part II, 17 February 1998

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

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SPECIAL REPORT: A quarter of Russia's labor force receives its wages late,
in kind or not at all. This three-article series on the RFE/RL Web site
examines why. Russia's Workers: Why They Go Without Wages
http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/rulabor/index.html

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Headlines, Part II

* CZECH DEPUTY PREMIER OFFERS RESIGNATION

* PLAVSIC FIRES ARMY CHIEF

* TIRANA CHARGES BELGRADE WITH TERRORISM

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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

UKRAINE'S KUCHMA SAYS "CRIMINAL ELITE" INFLUENCING ELECTION CAMPAIGN.
President Leonid Kuchma says an "economic criminal elite" is attempting to
gain influence in the country by financially backing various political
parties, AFP reported on 16 February. Kuchma, who was addressing an
anti-corruption panel in Kyiv, warned that Ukraine is threatened "by the
transformation of some political parties into criminal organizations." He
blamed the previous government of Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko for the
"criminal elite" that he claims is infiltrating energy companies.
Lazarenko, sacked last summer, is the leader of the opposition Hromada
party. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for 29 March. PB

JOURNALIST SHOT IN ODESSA. The editor in chief of a daily newspaper was
shot and seriously wounded in the Black Sea port of Odessa, ITAR-TASS
reported on 16 February. Leonid Kapelushniy, editor of "Slovo" and a
correspondent for the Russian daily "Izvestiya," was ambushed by two men in
the city center and shot twice. A police spokesman said Kapelushniy is also
the chairman of the regional election commission. He is one of several
journalists to have been attacked in Ukraine so far this year. PB

UKRAINE, RUSSIA IN "FULL AGREEMENT" ON IRAQ. Ukrainian Foreign Minister
Hennady Udovenko said in Havana on 16 February that Ukraine's view on the
crisis in Iraq "fully coincides" with the Russian position that an armed
conflict must be prevented, ITAR-TASS reported. Udovenko, who is also
chairman of the UN General Assembly, said Ukraine has offered specialists
to the UN who could investigate alleged sites of biological or chemical
weapons in Iraq. Udovenko is in Cuba for a two-day visit. He met with his
Cuban counterpart, Roberto Robaina, and visited a resort where Ukrainian
children from the Chornobyl region are undergoing treatment. PB

BALTIC PRESIDENTS BACK UN OVER IRAQ. The presidents of Estonia, Latvia, and
Lithuania issued a statement on 16 February saying they "unequivocally
support the United Nations resolution on destroying chemical and biological
weapons in Iraq," BNS reported. They stressed that the UN special
commission in Iraq must be allowed to carry out its work unhindered and
that all diplomatic efforts should be undertaken to solve the crisis. At
the same time, they said the Baltic States are ready, if necessary, to
provide whatever support they can to ensure implementation of the
resolution. JC

ESTONIAN OPPOSITION DEMANDS JUSTICE MINISTER'S DISMISSAL. The United
Opposition has demanded that Prime Minister Mart Siimann dismiss Paul Varul
but has postponed calling a vote of no confidence in the justice minister,
ETA and BNS reported on 17 February. Toivo Jargenson, the leader of the
opposition Fatherland Union, said Siimann should first be given the
opportunity to resolve the controversy surrounding Varul and
Prosecutor-General Indrek Meelak, whom the opposition also wants to have
dismissed. Meelak recently claimed that Varul had exerted pressure on him
to close a criminal case against the late banker Rein Kaarepere. Varul
denies those accusations and claims Meelak's allegations are in revenge for
the minister's decision not to recommend him for a second term in office. JC

LATVIA'S SKELE DENIES KICKBACK CHARGES. Former Prime Minister Andris Skele
has denied a Latvian Television report that he received a kickback from a
German company in 1992, while serving as deputy minister of agriculture,
BNS reported on 16 February. According to the report, Skele helped Tetra
Pak conclude contracts with dairy enterprises and in return the company
paid DM 14,000 for a bathroom set ordered by Skele from a German firm.
Skele was quoted by the Latvian press as saying he paid for the bathroom
set himself and that Tetra Pak had only helped him with the money transfer.
Skele resigned as prime minister last year in the wake of an investigation
that revealed several of his ministers had violated anti-corruption
legislation. JC

CZECH, POLISH PREMIERS PLEDGE COOPERATION. Josef Tosovsky and Jerzy Buzek,
meeting in the Polish town Bielsko-Biala on 16 February, discussed
coordinating efforts to join NATO and the EU and how to better deal with
flood prevention.  Last year, floods devastated large parts of both
countries. The same day, Polish Foreign Minister  Bronislaw Geremek met
with his Moldovan counterpart, Nicolae Tabacaru, in Warsaw to discuss
bilateral relations and the Transdniester conflict, an RFE/RL correspondent
in the Polish capital reported. Tabacaru expressed the hope that Geremek,
in his capacity as current chairman of the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe, will contribute to efforts to reach a settlement of
the Transdniester conflict. Geremek said he will soon present a plan of
action for the disputed region. PB

CZECH DEPUTY PREMIER OFFERS RESIGNATION. Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA)
chairman Jiri Skalicky, who is also deputy premier and environment
minister, told journalists on 16 February that he has tendered his
resignation to Prime Minister Josef Tosovsky over the scandal involving
donations to the ODA in 1995. On 13 February, Skalicky had revealed that
the donors were two Czech companies and the U.S Philip Morris tobacco
concern, but all three deny this was the case, CTK reported. Asked whether
he would accept Skalicky's resignation, Tosovsky said he believed it was
"his duty" to do so but added he has not yet decided whether to notify
President Vaclav Havel about the matter. He also said he does not consider
it necessary to request the resignation of Justice Minister Vlasta
Parkanova and Industry and Trade Minister Karel Kuhnl, both of whom belong
to the ODA. MS

CZECH SOCIAL DEMOCRATS REVEAL SPONSORS. Social Democratic Party (CSSD)
Chairman Milos Zeman told journalists on 16 February that the British
Westminster Foundation for Democracy, the Swedish Olof Palme Foundation,
and the Dutch Alfred Moser Foundation  donated a total of 1 million crowns
($29,000) to his party. He said he will make more details known at a press
conference on 20 February, adding that Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic
Party will "certainly be glad" to learn that Baroness Thatcher provided
assistance to the Czech Social Democrats." Former British Premier Margaret
Thatcher is a member of the Westminster Foundation's managing board. A
spokesman for the foundation said the body had "indirectly" helped the
CSSD's election campaign in 1996 via the British Labor Party. MS

TOSOVSKY IS MOST POPULAR CZECH POLITICIAN. Premier Tosovsky is the most
popular politician in the Czech Republic, according to a public opinion
poll conducted by the Public Opinion Research Institute, CTK reported.
Tosovsky received 75 percent support, followed by Social Democratic Party
(CSSD) Deputy Chairwoman Petra Buzovska (70 percent) and  CSSD
parliamentary faction leader Stanislav Gross (65 percent). President Vaclav
Havel, who for years led popularity surveys, has dropped to fourth place
(60 percent). MS

HUNGARY PAYS OFF REMAINING IMF DEBT. Prime Minister Gyula Horn told the
parliament that on 17 February, Hungary is to pay off its last remaining
debt to the IMF, Hungarian media reported. This means Hungary will be free
of IMF debts for the first time since the country joined the organization
in 1982, he noted. Meanwhile, Mark Allen, the IMF's chief representative in
Hungary, praised Budapest's economic policies in recent years, saying the
country has met its targets with greater success than expected. MSZ

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

PLAVSIC FIRES ARMY CHIEF. Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic on 16
February fired General Pero Colic as commander of the Bosnian Serb army in
Banja Luka and named General Momir Talic to replace him. Colic succeeded
indicted war criminal General Ratko Mladic as commander in November 1996
and subsequently claimed to steer a middle course between Plavsic and her
rivals in Pale. He nonetheless remained too close to the Pale faction for
Plavsic, who regarded First Army Corps commander Talic as her principal
supporter in the military. PM

NATO AGREES ON BOSNIAN PEACEKEEPING FORCE. The North Atlantic Council
decided in Brussels on 16 February to keep an international peacekeeping
mission in Bosnia after SFOR's mandate runs out in June. A final decision
on the new force will be made on 20 February, when representatives of NATO
member countries will meet with officials from Russia and other non-NATO
participants in SFOR. The new contingent is widely expected to continue at
or close to the current SFOR strength of 34,000 until the Bosnian general
elections in September. After that vote, the force will most likely be
somewhat reduced in response to calls from several participating countries
for signs that the peacekeepers' mission is winding down. PM

AMBASSADORS WARN CROATIA ABOUT SLAVONIA. The 11 ambassadors monitoring the
reintegration of eastern Slavonia into Croatia issued a statement in
Vukovar on 16 February in which they noted "the growing feelings of
insecurity in the Serbian community"  since the region formally reverted to
Croatian control last month. The ambassadors added that Croatia has not
made noticeable progress in correcting that problem, an RFE/RL
correspondent reported from Vukovar. Local Serbs have charged that Croatian
former residents of the area often return and intimidate Serbs who live in
the Croats' former homes. PM

UN, CROATS SLAM RIGHT-WING RALLY. A UN spokesman on 15 February in Zagreb
criticized the Croatian Party of [Historical] Rights (HSP) for holding a
nationalist rally in Vukovar and Borovo Naselje in eastern Slavonia the
previous day. The 800 HSP members and sympathizers "sounded their car
horns, made Nazi salutes, waved Ustashe flags, and sang nationalist songs,"
according to the spokesman.  Vukovar Mayor Vladimir Stengl called the rally
a "serious disturbance of the peace," while the Committee for
Reconciliation, which consists of Serbs and Croats, described it as
"inadmissible." On 16 February, President Franjo Tudjman chaired a meeting
of the steering committee of the governing Croatian Democratic Community,
which adopted a resolution criticizing the rally. But HSP leader Anto
Djapic denied that the demonstration was intended as a provocation, saying
it was an "official welcoming" for the Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Dodik,
who was in Zagreb on the day of the rally.  PM

CONTROVERSY OVER KOSOVAR'S DEATH. The Kosovo Committee for the Defense of
Human Rights and Freedoms charged in Pristina on 16 February that an ethnic
Albanian electrician found dead near Glogovac the previous day was tortured
to death by police (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February 1998). The committee
added that the police had sought information from the electrician and
another ethnic Albanian about the clandestine Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK),
BETA  reported. Serbian state-run media, meanwhile, suggested that the UCK
killed the man as part of its campaign to intimidate ethnic Albanians
employed by the state. PM

MILOSEVIC OPENS BORDER--FOR SCRAP. Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic
ordered the Montenegrin-Albanian border open but only for trucks carrying
Albanian scrap metal for Montenegro's Niksic iron works, an RFE/RL
correspondent reported from Podgorica on 15 February. The mill is in danger
of having to shut down if there are no deliveries of Albanian scrap. Trucks
have been openly smuggling metal in from Albania since law and order broke
down in that country about one year ago. At that time, Belgrade officially
closed the frontier. Montenegrin officials estimate that the closure has
cost their country's economy some $10 million. On 10 February, Milosevic
urged Serbian and Bosnian business and political leaders to include the
Niksic works in their plans to cooperate in mining and metallurgy. PM

TIRANA CHARGES BELGRADE WITH TERRORISM.  Albanian Interior Minister Neritan
Ceka on 16 February charged that the federal Yugoslav secret service is
financing terrorists in Albania, "Koha Jone" reported. Ceka claimed to have
received information that Belgrade financed those involved in a recent
police mutiny in Shkoder (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 22 January 1998). He argued
that the Albanians conspiring with Belgrade intended to destabilize Albania
and were mostly from the north of the country. Ceka further claimed that
most of the alleged conspirators had smuggled oil to Yugoslavia during the
wartime embargo and developed ties to Belgrade's secret services at that
time. FS

BOMBS DESTROY SOUTHERN ALBANIAN SOCIALIST HEADQUARTERS. Two large bombs
destroyed most of the Socialist Party headquarters in  Gjirokaster on 16
February, "Shekulli" reported. The town hall and the local prefecture were
seriously damaged in the blast, but nobody was reported injured. Police
said that more TNT was used in the blast that in any of the previous 15
bomb attacks in Gjirokaster since December. FS

POLICE CLAIMS HAJDARI SUPPORTERS ROBBED BANK. Police have issued warrants
for the arrest of two Democratic Party sympathizers who allegedly fled the
scene of last weekend's clash between legislator Azem Hajdari and police,
"Koha Jone" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February 1998). Police
claimed that the two had been involved  in a bank robbery in the northern
city of Tropoja and were carrying the stolen money with them at the time of
the incident involving Hajdari. For his part, Hajdari has maintained that
no criminals accompanied him and that the police staged the incident in a
bid to kill him. He added that three bullets hit his car, "Albania"
reported. FS

ROMANIAN OPPOSITION CRITICIZES GOVERNMENT OVER IRAQI STATEMENT. A spokesman
for the Party of Social Democracy in Romania said on 16 February that the
government's declaration of readiness to participate in a military solution
of the Iraqi crisis was "hasty" and contrary to Romania's economic and
national interests. The Greater Romania Party argued that "at no point in
Romanian history did a government display such a lack of responsibility."
But a statement released by the Defense Ministry said Romania's possible
participation in an eventual attack reflected the fact that the country
would be "threatened" by the "uncontrolled proliferation of weapons of mass
destruction." Defense Minister Constantin Dudu Ionescu said no Romanian
combat troops would be involved but that sending a contingent specialized
in eradicating the effects of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons was
being considered. MS

ROMANIAN FINANCE MINISTER PROPOSES 'SOLIDARITY TAX.' Daniel Daianu on 16
February said there are no differences between the government and the IMF
on the "main targets" of the 1998 budget but revealed that the two sides
disagree on "some details." An IMF delegation led by Poul Thompsen has been
in Romania for one week to discuss the draft budget. Daianu said a
"solidarity tax" like that imposed in Germany may be necessary to meet the
costs of restructuring, which is likely to result in large-scale
unemployment.  Last week Labor and Social Affairs Minister Alexandru
Athanasiu proposed a "solidarity" tax to cover the costs of meeting the
wage demands of paramedics, who have been on strike for the past six days,
RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS

CONFLICT RESURFACES OVER STATUS OF GAGAUZ-YERI REGION. The Popular Assembly
of the Gagauz-Yeri autonomous region have begun debating whether to hold a
referendum on 22 March to decide on a new status for the region. The
plebiscite would take place at the same time as the Moldovan parliamentary
elections. The Moldovan Justice Ministry recently rejected a draft drawn up
by legal experts in the region, saying it contravened the constitution and
the region's current special status, RFE/RL's Chisinau Bureau reported. But
the ministry said that, together with representatives from Gagauz-Yeri, it
will "try to bring the draft into line with existing Moldovan legislation."
Meanwhile, Piotr Pashaly, the chairman of the Popular Assembly, has sent
the draft to the Council of Europe for that body's opinion. Moldovan
parliamentary chairman Dumitru Motpan is in Comrat to participate in the
assembly's debates. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT PLEADS FOR CHILDREN'S RIGHTS. In his weekly radio
address on 17 February, President Petru Lucinschi called for improving the
protection of children's rights, Infotag reported. He said Moldovans must
"root out" indifference to the plight of children and particularly of
orphans. He urged that a bill on children's rights be passed and that
existing legislation be amended to prevent children from being turned into
"victims of illegal transactions as regards their dwellings and family
property" or from being forced to earn their living by "theft and begging."
MS

EX-MILITIA OFFICERS JAILED IN BULGARIA. Four communist-era militia officers
have been sentenced  to prison terms of up to two-and-a-half years for
killing the prominent ethnic Turkish dissident Bilian Hadjiev in March
1989, AFP reported on 16 February. Hadjiev was beaten to death by the four
officers, who were trying to force him to inform on ethnic Turks opposed to
Todor Zhivkov's policy of enforced assimilation.  Last month, Zhivkov (who
is now 86), former Premier Georgi Atansov and former Minister of Interior
Dimitar Stoyanov were indicted for abusing public office in connection with
the assimilationist policies. If found guilty, they face prison sentences
of up to eight years. MS


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