|I'm going to turn on the light, and we'll be two people in a room looking at each other and wondering why on earth we were afraid of the dark. - Gale Wilhelm|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 45 , Part II, 6 March 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 45 , Part II, 6 March 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 RFE/RL CAUCASUS REPORT: A WEEKLY REVIEW OF POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS IN THE NORTH CAUCASUS AND TRANSCAUCASIA FROM RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY This new email weekly covers Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Russia's North Caucasus. To subscribe, send an email message to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word "subscribe" in the subject line or body of the message. The first issue (March 3, 1998) and all future issues will be online at the RFE/RL Web site. http://www.rferl.org/caucasus-report/ xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * THOUSANDS RALLY IN BRATISLAVA AGAINST GOVERNMENT * KOSOVARS FLEE "MASSACRES" * ALBANIA READY TO MOBILIZE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx REGIONAL AFFAIRS RUSSIA, LATVIA SPAR OVER RIGA POLICE ACTION. Russian presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii on 5 March said Boris Yeltsin agrees with Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov's assessment that Latvian police violated the human rights of Russian-speaking pensioners when they broke up a recent demonstration in Riga (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 5 March 1998). Yastrzhembskii ruled out even preliminary talks on organizing a meeting between Yeltsin and Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis, Russian news agencies reported. Also on 5 March, the Russian Foreign Ministry called on the international community to take action against Latvia. Meanwhile, the Latvian Foreign Ministry called on Russian officials to stop making "biased" comments about the unsanctioned demonstration, and Latvian Prime Minister Guntars Krasts said Russia may have helped stage the pensioners' rally, BNS reported. Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on 6 March condemned Krasts's remarks, saying "there can be no justification" for violating human rights. LB BELARUS ALSO CONDEMNS RIGA EVENTS. Belarusian Foreign Minister Ivan Antonovich said on 5 March that it shares Moscow's view that the use of force against a demonstration of ethnic Russian pensioners earlier this week was "unacceptable," ITAR-TASS reported. Antonovich recommended that the issue be resolved by the governments of Latvia and other Baltic States within the framework of recommendations made by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Russian presidential spokesman Yastrzhembskii said that "one can imagine the European Union's reaction if this happened in Minsk." PB DUMA OFFICIALS DISAGREE ON RUSSIAN-UKRAINIAN TREATY. Russian State Duma Deputy Speaker Svetlana Goryacheva on 5 March criticized the behavior of Duma CIS Affairs Committee Chairman Georgii Tikhonov and suggested that he be replaced, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. During 3 March hearings on ratification of the Russian-Ukrainian friendship treaty, Tikhonov handed a Ukrainian parliamentary delegation a proposal on holding a referendum to reunite the two countries. When a Ukrainian deputy denounced that proposal as a "provocation," Tikhonov tried to force him to leave the Duma chamber. Tikhonov predicted on 5 March that no more than 50-60 Duma deputies are likely to support ratification of the treaty (226 votes are needed for a majority). Supervision within the Duma of CIS issues was recently transferred from Sergei Baburin--like Tikhonov, a member of the Popular Power faction--to Goryacheva, a Communist who supports the treaty with Ukraine. LB EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE ALBRIGHT ARRIVES IN KYIV. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright arrived in Kyiv on 6 March for key talks on economic and international nuclear issues, AFP reported. Albright said Ukraine needs to rapidly adopt economic reforms, saying that "many elements are already in place." She also stressed Ukraine's key role in Europe based on "its size and geographical location." Albright is to discuss a deal to supply Iran with turbines for a nuclear power plant as well as Kyiv's efforts to resolve complaints from U.S. businesses operating in Ukraine (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 March 1998). She will meet with President Leonid Kuchma and Foreign Minister Gennady Udovenko during her half-day trip. Kuchma said on 4 March that economic issues are central to relations with the U.S. and that more foreign investment is needed. PB DEAL WITH AUTOMAKER MEANS JOBS FOR UKRAINIANS. Oleksandr Sotnikov, the director of the AvtoZAZ car firm, said on 5 March that a deal recently signed with South Korean automaker Daewoo will bring 150,000 new jobs to Ukraine, the "Eastern Economist" reported. Sotnikov said under an agreement signed on 2 March, some $1.3 billion will be invested over the next 10 years in AvtoZAZ, which is a joint venture between Daewoo and the Zaporizhzhia auto plant. In a move to give a boost the domestic car market, the Ukrainian government recently passed a resolution increasing the costs of importing cars. The EU criticized that decision. PB LUKASHENKA CRITICIZES OSCE MISSION IN MINSK... Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said on 5 March that the opening of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe mission in Minsk is "absurd," Reuters reported. Lukashenka said he "resisted" for a long time allowing the mission to be set up, saying "we do not need such groups." He also expressed satisfaction with the recent sentencing of two youths accused of vandalism (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 February 1998), advising the youth sentenced to 18 months of hard labor to "get on your knees in prison and write the president a letter requesting mercy." PB ...SWEARS ALLEGIANCE TO COLLECTIVE FARMS. Proclaiming that "the future belongs to large collective farms," President Lukashenka said on 5 March that private ownership of land in Belarus is impossible because the people are against it, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Lukashenka made his comments at an agrarian conference in Hrodno. He said the goal for farmers should be to reach Soviet-era levels of production, which, he said, would happen by the time his term as president expires in 2001. PB LILEIKIS TRIAL POSTPONED. At a short pre-trial hearing on 5 March, a Lithuanian judge postponed until May the trial of 90-year-old Aleksandras Lileikis, who is suspected of involvement in genocide against Jews during World War Two, Reuters and BNS reported. The judge granted a defense request to locate and interview a Jewish woman living in the U.S. whom Lileikis allegedly helped during the war and a U.S. citizen of Lithuanian origin who reportedly knew Lileikis when the latter was chief of the Vilnius security police. The Jerusalem-based Simon Wiesenthal Center expressed "shock and outrage" at the court's decision. "Given the advanced age of the defendant..., any lengthy delay in the proceedings significantly increases the chances of Lileikis escaping justice," the center argued. JC POLISH FOREIGN MINISTER, PRESIDENT ADDRESS SEJM. Bronislaw Geremek said on 5 March during his annual address to the parliament that Warsaw seeks good relations with Russia and Ukraine and wants to help Belarus out of its "self-isolation," an RFE/RL correspondent in Warsaw reported. Speaking after Geremek, President Aleksander Kwasniewski said that all parties in Poland supported the country's two major foreign-policy goals: entry into NATO and the European Union. Geremek said that although he has noticed "some realism" in Russian foreign policy, he said it is "poor" with regard to Moscow's "approach to Eastern Europe." Geremek said he also wanted to intensify cooperation between Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. PB SOLANA ON CZECH REPUBLIC'S NATO ACCESSION. NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana on 5 March told members of the foreign and defense committees of the Czech Senate and Chamber of Deputies that they must "lead the process" of the Czech Republic's integration into NATO, CTK reported. Solana said membership in NATO is "too valuable a goal for anyone to risk not achieving it." Social Democratic Party leader Milos Zeman, who met with Solana, said later that they did not discuss holding a referendum on NATO accession during their meeting. Zeman, who favors such a plebiscite, said he continues to believe that the means of accession must be decided by the next parliament, and not by the outgoing legislature. MS CZECH-SLOVAK RELATIONS 'UNDER EXAMINATION.' Foreign Minister Jaroslav Sedivy, after meeting with President Vaclav Havel on 5 March, told journalists that his ministry is preparing an "in-depth analysis" of relations with Slovakia. He said the Czech Republic may have to "draw consequences" from "the latest developments" in Bratislava, CTK reported. Also on 5 March, Socialist Party chairman Milos Zeman, who is considered most likely to head the next government after early elections, told journalists he does not rule out a "modification" in Czech-Slovak relations if Slovakia is not admitted to the EU. Zeman said he would nonetheless like relations between the two countries to be "above standard," because "governments come and go but countries remain." MS THOUSANDS RALLY IN BRATISLAVA AGAINST GOVERNMENT. Thousands of people rallied in the Slovak capital on 5 March to protest the government's decision to annul last year's referendum on electing the president by direct vote and to amnesty those involved in thwarting that plebiscite as well as those who took part in the kidnapping of Michal Kovac Jr. The rally was organized by the opposition. Also on 5 March, the U.S. sharply criticized the Slovak government's decision. A spokesman for the State Department said the actions are "not consistent with the behavior of a government that respects the rule of law," AFP reported. MS SLOVAK PARLIAMENT AGAIN FAILS TO ELECT PRESIDENT. Lawmakers on 5 March again failed to elect a president, AFP reported. Writer Ladislav Ballek, the candidate of the Democratic Left, received 49 votes, while rail worker Milan Fogas, the candidate of the far left United Worker's Party, was backed by only five deputies. A three-fifths majority in the 150-member parliament is needed to elect a president. A fourth round of elections has been scheduled for 19 March. MS SLOVAKIA, HUNGARY DISAGREE OVER DAM DISPUTE DEADLINE. Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar said on national television on 4 March that Bratislava will turn to the International Court of Justice if the Hungarian government does not approve by 25 March the draft framework agreement on the Danube hydropower plant. The next day, the Hungarian government announced it will sign the agreement only after studies of the possible effects of the project are completed, sometime before the end of the year. Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs said it is unlikely that Slovakia will turn to the court again or that the court will agree to re-examine the dispute, given that Hungary remains ready to negotiate. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE KOSOVARS FLEE "MASSACRES"... Hundreds of ethnic Albanians, primarily women and children, fled the Drenica area west of Pristina on 5 and 6 March in the wake of a massive Serbian assault (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 March 1998). Serbian special police units on 5 March attacked Prekaz and several other villages in which the clandestine Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) has many supporters. Police barred journalists, Red Cross representatives, and others from entering the region. The Serbs used heavy artillery, helicopter gunships, and armored vehicles in what Kosovar spokesmen in Pristina called "massacres" that led to 50 deaths. Several hundred Albanian women held a protest march in front of the U.S. cultural center in Pristina. On 6 March, Kosovar shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova charged Serbian authorities with carrying out a campaign of "ethnic cleansing." PM ...WHILE SERBIA CONTINUES TO "CLEANSE TERRORISTS." A Serbian Interior Ministry spokesman told BETA on 6 March that the police "are continuing the action to cleanse the region of Albanian terrorists." Police closed off the road linking Kosovska Mitrovica and Srbica, where the UCK has widespread support. The previous day, the ministry said in a statement that the armed action resulted in the death of 20 "terrorists" and two policemen. The authorities also said that police captured a "known leader" of the UCK and found an arms cache and underground hospital facilities. There has been no independent confirmation of the claims made by either side. PM ALBANIA READY TO MOBILIZE. An Albanian Defense Ministry spokesman said in Tirana on 6 March that the army is "on high alert in the northern area of the country because of the recent tense situation in Kosovo and an increase in Serbian troops along the Albanian border." The previous day, Defense Minister Perikli Teta told the parliament that "the army has taken all measures called for in a conflict situation [and that] it is ready to mobilize the reservists if the situation demands." He added that the army will "prepare its contingency plans and take measures in order to be ready should acts of violence or ethnic cleansing take a turn for the worse." At the same emergency session of the legislature, Interior Minister Neritan Ceka said that the "police and the army have taken measures to deal with any extension of the conflict." PM BERISHA ASKS CLINTON TO "DRAW LINE." Former President Sali Berisha and legislators from his Democratic Party ended their six-month boycott of the parliament on 5 March in what Berisha called a display of national unity in the face of the Kosovo crisis. "It is a sign to show that the Albanians must act like a single nation," Berisha added. The former president said he would like U.S. President Bill Clinton to tell Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic that Washington will not tolerate violence in Kosovo. Such a clear statement "would be crucial to save the stability of this region. Otherwise a very large and terrible conflict could come in the southern Balkans." Berisha added that the Kosovars "will defend themselves if they are left with no other options.... They asked for a peaceful solution and they have now got massacres. This is a very dramatic situation." PM ALBANIA URGES WEST TO "LEARN FROM BOSNIA." Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo said in Paris on 5 March that diplomatic possibilities for ending the Kosovo crisis have not been exhausted and pleaded for the U.S. and EU to "intervene urgently." Milo stressed that the West should act decisively in exerting diplomatic pressure on Belgrade and not equivocate as it did in Bosnia during the first years of that conflict. PM PENTAGON SAYS NO PLANS FOR BALKAN FORCE. A State Department spokesman said in Washington on 5 March that the U.S. has withdrawn a package of concessions it recently made to Milosevic as a reward for his support for moderate Serbian leaders in Bosnia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 February 1998). The official added that "the repression that is taking place [in Kosovo] is totally unacceptable to the international community and will have the most severe consequences." A Pentagon spokesman said, however, that the U.S. is "concentrating on diplomacy" and has no concrete plans to increase its 250-strong armed contingent in Macedonia. Those troops are part of a UN force that seeks to prevent armed conflict from spreading to the southern Balkans. PM COOK LEAVES BELGRADE EMPTY-HANDED. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said in Belgrade on 5 March that he failed to persuade Milosevic to restore Kosovo's autonomy. Also in the Yugoslav capital, Serbian President Milan Milutinovic commented that Serbia "alone is competent" to deal with the problem. In Moscow, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadii Tarasov spoke of the need "to fully rule out any extremist manifestations and threats.... A civilized dialogue must be conducted [and] the problems of the Albanian population must be resolved in the framework of the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia," Interfax reported. PM MONTENEGRO CALLS FOR DIALOGUE. The government in Podgorica said in a statement on 5 March that "it is necessary to establish a dialogue urgently to solve the Kosovo problem. Terrorism and use of force by the state do not lead toward a solution but can only intensify the situation with the risks of unforeseeable consequences and the inevitable internationalization [of the crisis]." The Montenegrin authorities appealed to their Serbian counterparts to pay attention to "serious warnings by the international community and risks of new sanctions" and come up with a "responsible approach" to the problem. Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic recently called on Milosevic to restore Kosovo's autonomy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 February 1998). PM WESTENDORP FIRES HERZEGOVINIAN MAYOR. Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, sacked Pero Raguz, the hard-line Croatian mayor of Stolac, on 5 March. A spokesman for Westendorp said that Raguz refused to let Muslim refugees go home despite repeated warnings from Westendorp to let them do so. PM ALBANIAN PYRAMID BOSS UNDER HOUSE ARREST. Vehbi Alimucaj, president of VEFA Holding, was put under house arrest on 6 March. The move came after a state-sponsored foreign auditing company filed a law suit against him for allegedly obstructing the auditors' work (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 March 1998). PM ROMANIAN COALITION PARTIES DIG IN HEELS. The Democratic Party's National Council on 5 March released a statement saying the present crisis can be solved "within 10 days" by "forming a new government, working out a different government program, and the new cabinet's assuming responsibility for the 1998 budget." National Liberal Party leader Mircea Ionescu-Quintus said the budget must be submitted to the parliament by Victor Ciorbea's cabinet, after which a "change [of premier] is possible." National Peasant Party Christian Democratic leader Ion Diaconescu said his party has "no grounds" to change Ciorbea as premier. He added that it cannot be ruled out that President Emil Constantinescu will again ask Ciorbea to form a government if the legislature dismisses the cabinet by not approving its budget proposal, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS ROMANIAN COURT RULES ON CONFLICT WITHIN NATIONALIST PARTY. The Bucharest Municipal Tribunal on 5 March ruled that "all actions" taken since last November by Gheorghe Funar, the former chairman of the Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR), were "illegal." The tribunal said the decisions to hold a rival National Convention of the PUNR in Cluj on 22 November 1997 and a rival PUNR Extraordinary National Convention one week later had violated both the PUNR statutes and legislation on political parties. The 29 November meeting had invalidated the decision of the PUNR earlier that month to expel Funar. Also on 5 March, the "Funar wing" in the PUNR and the extremist Greater Romania Party called for a general strike to protest the "treacherous" cabinet headed by Ciorbea. MS UNEMPLOYMENT IN ROMANIA NEARS 1 MILLION. More than 970,000 people, or 9.7 percent of the work force, are currently unemployed, the Labor and Social Protection Ministry announced on 5 March. MS MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT APPEALS TO CONSTITUTIONAL COURT ON ELECTORAL LAW. Petru Lucinschi on 5 March asked the Constitutional Court to invalidate the provision in the electoral law establishing a 4 percent threshold for both political parties and independent candidates (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 February 1998). He said the law discriminates against independent candidates and therefore violates the Moldovan Constitution as well as international legislation on human rights. A spokesman for the court told BASA-press that the Constitutional Court will debate the presidential appeal early this month. Elections are scheduled for 22 March. MS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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