Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought. - Albert Szent-Gyorgyi
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 34 , Part II, 19 February 1998


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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

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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

* CONTROVERSIAL TRIAL OF BELARUSIAN YOUTHS BEGINS

* SERBIAN PRESIDENT ASKS PREMIER TO STAY ON

* CROATIA WANTS CONSULATE IN MONTENEGRO

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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


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