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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 34 , Part II, 19 February 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 34 , Part II, 19 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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * CONTROVERSIAL TRIAL OF BELARUSIAN YOUTHS BEGINS * SERBIAN PRESIDENT ASKS PREMIER TO STAY ON * CROATIA WANTS CONSULATE IN MONTENEGRO xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE CONTROVERSIAL TRIAL OF BELARUSIAN YOUTHS BEGINS. The trial of two teenagers accused of hooliganism and desecration of national symbols began in Minsk on 18 February, the RFE/RL Belarusian Service reported. Alexei Shydlowsky and Vadzim Labkovich, leaders of the youth wing of the opposition Belarusian Popular Front, have been jailed since August on charges of writing graffiti on walls and throwing paint on two Soviet-era statues. Labkovich pleaded not guilty to both charges, while Shydlowsky pleaded guilty to the hooliganism charge. He also claimed that he had been badly beaten in prison and had spent a month in the hospital as a result. The two could receive five-year prison terms if found guilty. Human rights monitors and journalists are attending the trial. PB JAILED OPPOSITION LEADER ON HUNGER STRIKE. Andrei Klimov is reportedly in serious condition as a result of his ongoing hunger strike to protest his detention, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 18 February. Klimov, who was arrested on fraud and corruption charges last week, was a member of the democratically elected Supreme Soviet disbanded in late 1996 by Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 February 1998). PB UKRAINIAN BORDER GUARDS DETAIN ILLEGAL ALIENS. Nearly 100 illegal immigrants from Sri Lanka were found in a forest in Ukraine on 18 February trying to cross the border into Poland, PAP reported. One Pole was arrested with the group on suspicion of trafficking refugees. Ukrainian border guards said the illegal aliens were attempting to make their way to Germany. Poland's reputation as a transit country for refugees trying to get to the West is a major concern of EU officials and a main reason for the introduction early this year of stricter visa regulations on Poland's eastern border. PB SWEDISH OFFICIAL CLOSES PROBE INTO 'ESTONIA' SINKING. Swedish Prosecutor-General Tomas Lindstrand has closed the criminal investigation into the 1994 sinking of the "Estonia" passenger ferry, ETA and BNS reported on 18 February, citing the Swedish daily "Dagens Nyheter." Lindstrand said that, owing to a lack of evidence, neither the Estonian crew, the owners of the ferry, nor the German shipyard could be blamed for the disaster. The decision to close the investigation can be overruled by a higher authority in Sweden. The "Estonia" sank en route from Tallinn to Stockholm when heavy seas tore off the visor-style bow door, killing 852 people. JC ESTONIAN PREMIER WON'T SACK JUSTICE MINISTER. Mart Siimann told journalists on 18 February that he does not intend to sack Justice Minister Paul Varul on the basis of "rumors and unproven accusations," ETA reported. Siimann was responding to a United Opposition statement issued earlier that day urging the premier to sack Varul and Prosecutor-General Indrek Meelak and to clarify the controversy in which both officials are involved. Meelak recently accused Varul of seeking to influence a criminal investigation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 February 1998). JC LATVIAN PREMIER OPPOSED TO HALTING LATVENERGO PRIVATIZATION. Guntars Krasts has said he opposes the initiative to suspend the privatization of the state energy utility Latvenergo, BNS reported on 18 February. The parliamentary committee investigating the loss of 3 million lats (some $6 million) at the utility has submitted a draft resolution calling for the company's privatization to be suspended (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 February 1998). Krasts said that he believed Latvenergo's privatization should be continued "on all fronts," noting that, otherwise, the country's general economic improvement would grind to a halt. JC GAZPROM THREATENS TO CUT GAS SUPPLIES TO LITHUANIA. Russia's Gazprom has warned that it will cut gas supplies to Lithuania beginning on 20 February unless the Baltic state pays off its debt, BNS reported. Lithuania owes Gazprom $17.4 million in fines for overdue payments dating back to 1992-1993. Although the Lithuanian government issued a guarantee to Lithuanian Gas for a $9.6 million loan to clear the debt, no payments have been made to Gazprom. The remaining $7.8 million debt is also to be repaid through bank loans. JC LILEIKIS CLAIMS ROLE OF VICTIM. Ninety-year-old Aleksandras Lileikis told Lithuanian Television on 17 February that he is the victim of "international political pressure," BNS reported. Interviewed from his bed, the ailing Lileikis argued that Lithuanian lawmakers have decided to "sacrifice" him. Lileikis, who was head of the Vilnius security police during the Nazi occupation, is accused of participating in genocide against Jews. Earlier this month, Lithuanian investigators announced Lileikis will be brought to trial (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 February 1998). JC POLISH FOREIGN MINISTER CAMPAIGNS IN BRUSSELS. Bronislaw Geremek met with Belgian deputies on 18 February to discuss Poland's application to join NATO, ITAR-TASS reported. Geremek told a joint session of foreign relations committees from Belgium's upper and lower houses that Poland's admission to the Atlantic alliance would finally put an end to the Cold War. In Warsaw, Italian Defense Minister Beniamino Andreatta said that some 90 percent of the parliament in Rome supports NATO expansion. Andreatta held talks with his Polish counterpart, Janusz Onyszkiewicz. PB HAVEL REJECTS 'DOUBLE STANDARDS' CRITICISM. Responding to accusations of "double standards" by accepting former Premier Vaclav Klaus's resignation and asking Deputy Premier Jiri Skalicky to postpone his decision to quit, President Vaclav Havel said on 18 February that the two situations are not comparable. Havel argued that with the departure of two of the three coalition partners, Klaus's cabinet had to be replaced quickly. In Skalicky's case, he said, the constitution gives the president the right to request the withdrawal of the resignation. The president added that he will accept the resignation within a week unless Skalicky resolves the funding scandals in which his party is involved, CTK reported. Havel was speaking on state radio just hours after undergoing surgery under local anesthetic to close a fistula in his throat. MS MECIAR'S PARTY SEEKS SUPPORT FOR HIS PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDACY. Leaders of Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) have met with representatives of the opposition Party of the Democratic Left in a bid to enlist their support for Meciar's presidential candidacy, AFP reported on 18 February . No agreement was reached, but a joint statement said the election of a new president would be a "stabilizing element" for the country. Another round of the presidential ballot is to take place on 5 March. Meciar would need eight opposition votes to achieve the required three-fifths majority. MS PRIMAKOV DISCUSSES BILATERAL TIES WITH HUNGARY. Visiting Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov commented during talks with his Hungarian counterpart, Laszlo Kovacs, that Hungary's orientation toward Euro-Atlantic structures "is a fait accompli" and will have no negative influence on the dialogue between Moscow and Budapest, Hungarian media reported on 19 February. Kovacs said Hungary considers Russia a "stable political and economic partner.". In his talks with Primakov, President Arpad Goncz admitted there had been "some degree of one-sidedness" in Hungarian foreign policy in the early 1990s. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE SERBIAN PRESIDENT ASKS PREMIER TO STAY ON. President Milan Milutinovic of the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) asked Prime Minister Mirko Marjanovic (SPS) to stay on and form a new government. In a statement issued by Tanjug on 19 February, Milutinovic said: "Mirko Marjanovic, who has so far successfully led the national unity government, provides guarantees he will implement a program for social and economic reforms that was supported by all Serbian parliamentary parties during recent consultations." The SPS and its leftist allies have only 110 out of 250 parliamentary seats since the September 1997 elections. Milutinovic has been negotiating with potential coalition partners in recent weeks. It is unclear whether the opposition Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) of Vuk Draskovic will honor its reported recent agreement to join the government. Draskovic insisted that he be named premier as a condition for SPO participation in the cabinet, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on 18 February. PM BELGRADE BLASTS PODGORICA ON WAR CRIMES. Federal Yugoslav Justice Minister Zoran Knezevic said in Belgrade on 18 February that the government will not extradite indicted war criminals to The Hague but that it is not opposed to such individuals appearing before the war crimes court voluntarily. Knezevic added that the Montenegrin government is "compromising its own republic and the [Yugoslav] federation" by cooperating with the Hague-based tribunal. PM U.S. AID FOR BOSNIAN SERBS. Brian Atwood, the director of the U.S. Agency for International Development, said in Washington on 18 February that he and other top U.S. officials are working to unblock a $60 million aid package to the Republika Srpska. That package will enable Washington to increase its assistance to the government of visiting Prime Minister Milorad Dodik from $3 million a month to $5 million. Dodik's hosts made it clear, however, that he must speed up privatization, end all political and economic influence of suspected war criminals, and ensure that elected local officials from other ethnic groups are allowed to take their seats. The U.S. officials stressed that no money will be given to municipalities found to be harboring war criminals. "The New York Times" reported on 16 February that Bosnian Serb hard-liners have regularly been receiving a cut of all international aid money. PM NATO EXTENDS PEACEKEEPERS' MANDATE. The NATO Council on 18 February voted to extend SFOR's mandate beyond its June expiration date (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 February 1998). SFOR will remain at its present strength of about 35,000 until the Bosnian general elections in September, after which it will be reduced to 20,000-25,000 troops. SFOR's new mandate will not have a formal cut-off date, but sponsoring countries will review the peacekeepers' role periodically. PM CLASH OVER BOSNIAN PASSPORTS. The joint Council of Ministers decided in Sarajevo on 18 February to keep the reference in the new joint passports detailing from which part of the country the bearer comes. A spokesman for the international community's Carlos Westendorp disagreed with the decision. Westendorp's office seeks to promote freedom of movement by issuing passports that do not identify whether the bearer comes from the federation or the Republika Srpska. PM SERBS' HOMES TORCHED IN DRVAR. UN police spokesmen said in Sarajevo on 18 February that 12 homes belonging to Serbs have burned down so far this month in the Croat-held town of Drvar. Serbs formed a majority in Drvar before 1992. PM TUDJMAN'S DAUGHTER SUES MAGAZINE. President Franjo Tudjman's daughter Nevenka filed a $50,000 suit in Zagreb on 18 February against the independent weekly "Globus," an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Croatian capital. In June 1996, the magazine wrote that she illegally acquired for her business interests a building owned by the Defense Ministry. HDZ and government officials routinely sue independent periodicals that accuse them of wrongdoing. PM THIRTY-FOUR BODIES IN CROATIAN MASS GRAVE. Forensic experts said in the eastern Slavonian village of Marinci on 18 February that they have completed their investigation of a mass grave that contained 34 bodies, apparently those of Croatian civilians killed in the 1991 war. Some bodies showed evidence of systematic execution, the experts said. The Croatian authorities have been combing the region for evidence of mass graves since eastern Slavonia returned to Croatian control one month ago. PM CROATIA WANTS CONSULATE IN MONTENEGRO. Foreign Minister Mate Granic told representatives of Montenegro's Croatian minority in Zagreb on 18 February that Croatia wants to open a consulate in Boka Kotorska in order to promote contacts with Montenegro's Croats. He added that his country wants to open the border with Montenegro, which has been closed since the 1991 war. The new Montenegrin government of President Milo Djukanovic also wants an open frontier, but the Serbian authorities in Belgrade have blocked that move. PM ALBANIAN PROSECUTOR WANTS LEGISLATOR'S IMMUNITY LIFTED. Prosecutor-General Arben Rakipi on 18 February informed the parliament that he has filed charges against Azem Hajdari, a deputy from the opposition Democratic Party. Hajdari is accused of "intimidation and violent interference in the work of the police" in connection with an armed incident near Shkoder last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 February 1998). Hajdari has already offered to give up his immunity to facilitate the police investigation into the incident. Also on 18 February, Berat prosecutor Sokol Kociu said forensic tests have proven that a shotgun found in Hajdari's possession three months ago was the weapon used in a murder in the village of Ura Vajgurore in June 1997, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. FS ALBANIAN LAWMAKERS TAKE FIRST STEP TOWARD MEDIA LICENSING. The parliament on 18 February passed a telecommunications law requiring the government to set up an agency that will issue licenses to radio and television stations, both public and private. That body will be obliged to work closely with the National Council on Radio and Television, which has still to be appointed. FS DEMOCRATS UNDERMINE ROMANIAN PREMIER... The Senate's Commission on Local Administration has rejected a 1997 government regulation allowing mayors and local councilors to be members of the government, Romanian reported on 18 February. Democratic Party representatives on the commission voted together with the opposition. The Senate has yet to vote on the regulation, but if it were to respect the commission's decision, Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea would have to resign either the premiership or the position of Bucharest mayor. The capital has had an "acting mayor" since Ciorbea took over the premiership in November 1996. MS ...CAUSE ANOTHER COALITION CRISIS. Government Secretary-General Remus Opris said the Democrats' vote is an infringement of the coalition protocol and a "display of duplicity" since the Democrats had supported the regulation last year, Radio Bucharest reported. Democratic Party Chairman Petre Roman responded that the protocol was signed to "promote reforms, not to infringe on the constitution." He added that if Ciorbea does not resign as mayor, his government's mandate will "automatically cease" under the constitution. MS MOLDOVAN POLL REVEALS INDECISION AMONG VOTERS. A poll conducted by the Bucharest-based CURS and IMAS institutes shows that only 47 percent of Moldovan voters have decided which party to back in the 22 March parliamentary elections. Thirty-four percent are undecided and 19 percent said they will not vote. With less than half of the electorate decided, the results can be considered "preliminary" only, the pollsters said. Another poll will be conducted closer to election day. MS MISSING MOLDOVAN PLANE FOUND IN ANGOLA. An aircraft belonging to the Moldovan Renan company that disappeared in Africa last December has been found in Dumve, Angola, BASA-press reported on 18 February, citing "sources requesting anonymity." The agency said that the plane was forced to land by an Angolan fighter jet and that the crew are being detained at a military base in Dumve. The reasons for their detention are unclear. MS BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT ON IRAQI CRISIS. Bulgaria supports UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's plans to go to Baghdad later this week to try to avert a U.S.-led military strike, Reuters reported, citing a Bulgarian government statement on 18 February. The statement said Bulgaria hopes the mission will "make Baghdad back down under decisive international pressure." It also said Iraq must be compelled "by all acceptable means to observe strictly its obligations under the UN Security Council resolutions." During his visit to Washington earlier this month, President Petar Stoyanov said that Iraq owed Bulgaria some $2 billion and that the UN-imposed sanctions prevented Sofia from recovering that debt. MS BULGARIAN MINING STRIKE CONTINUES. Finance Minister Muravei Radev traveled to the southern mining town of Madan on 18 February for talks with more than 500 miners who are staging a hunger strike, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. The miners are demanding a 200 percent wage increase, while the government is willing to offer a raise of about 66 percent. The same day, Prime Minister Ivan Kostov expressed "understanding and sympathy" for the miners but said he disagreed with their methods, in particular not respecting the advance strike warning required by law. MS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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