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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 47 , Part II, 10 March 1998
RFE/RL Newsline. We are resending the March 10, 1998 edition (Vol. 2, No.47).] RADIO FREE EUROPE / RADIO LIBERTY, PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC ___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 47 , Part II, 10 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 * RIGA TO OFFICIALLY RESPOND TO MOSCOW OVER PENSIONERS' RALLY * KOSOVARS WANT AUTOPSIES * GELBARD EMPTY-HANDED IN BELGRADE * End Note: PLAYING THE ETHNIC CARD xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx REGIONAL AFFAIRS RIGA TO OFFICIALLY RESPOND TO MOSCOW OVER PENSIONERS' RALLY. Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrejs Pildegovics said on 9 March that Riga will send a diplomatic note to Moscow over the response by Russian officials to the 3 March pensioners' rally in the Latvian capital, BNS and AFP reported. "Latvia finds unacceptable the tone and manner of Russian statements...about the illegal picket," Pildegovics said. He added that because Russia has "politicized the incident" and "deceived the public," the Latvian Foreign Ministry must comment on those statements. Also on 9 March, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Algirdas Saudargas said his ministry is closely watching the deterioration of Latvian-Russian relations and will make its position known at a later date. And in Tallinn, the United Opposition-- the strongest opposition force in the Estonian parliament--issued a statement criticizing Russia's reaction to the rally and saying that "restoring and maintaining order on its own territory is an internal matter of any country" (see also "End Note"). JC RUSSIA OUTRAGED OVER TOMB DESECRATION IN LATVIA. The Russian Foreign Ministry on 9 March issued a statement denouncing the desecration the previous day of a tomb of Soviet soldiers in Liepaya, Latvia, Russian news agencies reported. The statement demanded that the perpetrators be punished and charged that the Latvian authorities failed to provide adequate protection for the memorial. It claimed that vandalism is a logical extension of "nationalism, Russophobia, and trampling on human rights" in Latvia. And it accused the Latvian authorities of encouraging "militant nationalism," singling out the breakup of the 3 March pensioners' rally in Riga. LB EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH SYRIA'S ASSAD. Alyaksandr Lukashenka held talks on 9 March with Syrian President Hafez Assad in Damascus, ITAR-TASS reported. The two leaders discussed, among other things, the development of bilateral relations and the Middle East peace crisis. Accompanying Lukashenka on his three-day visit are the Belarusian parliamentary speaker and the foreign affairs, defense, foreign trade, and industry and agriculture ministers. PB U.S. RESOLUTION CONDEMNS RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN BELARUS. A 9 March U.S. House of Representatives resolution charges President Lukashenka with establishing authoritarian rule and violating international human rights agreements, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported. The resolution calls for Minsk to restore civil rights in Belarus and fully cooperate with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. It also calls on President Bill Clinton to review Belarus's trade status with the U.S. The resolution does not carry the force of law but will be reviewed by the congressional International Relations Committee. PB EU APPROVES FUNDS FOR CIVIL SOCIETY IN BELARUS. The EU has announced it will donate more than $5 million for a program to develop civil society in Belarus, an RFE/RL correspondent in Brussels reported on 6 March. The money will be given to non-governmental organizations, media outlets, and educational institutes. The program is designed to enhance the public's knowledge of democratic issues. It also provides for journalists' training and the setting up of the first Master of Business program in the country. The EU froze talks on a partnership and trade accord with Minsk last year in protest against the government's violation of democratic norms. PB UKRAINE TO JOIN WORLD SPACE TECHNOLOGY GROUP. Aleksandr Negoda, the head of the Ukrainian Space Agency, said on 9 March that Ukraine will join the Missile Technology Control Regime, dpa reported. He said that move will establish Ukraine as a world leader in producing and exporting space technology. The group coordinates exports among member countries with the goal of preventing the proliferation of missiles capable of carrying warheads. Ukraine inherited one of the largest rocket manufacturing programs in the world when the Soviet Union collapsed. PB ESTONIAN OPPOSITION PUTS OFF NO CONFIDENCE VOTE. The United Opposition on 9 March decided not to demand that five cabinet ministers resign, ETA reported. The Moderates--one of the four parliamentary factions belonging to the United Opposition--had demanded those resignations last month over what they call the ministers' inefficiency. Toivo Jurgenson, the chairman of the Fatherland Union (another member of the opposition grouping), said the United Opposition will wait for the response of Prime Minister Mart Siimann before it decides whether to call for a vote of no confidence in the ministers. The Moderates have demanded the resignation of Social Affairs Minister Tiiu Aro, Defense Minister Andrus Oovel, Economics Minister Jaak Leimann, Finance Minister Mart Opmann, and Justice Minister Paul Varul. JC HAVEL, KWASNIEWSKI CALL FOR END TO 'NATIONALIST MADNESS' IN KOSOVO. Czech President Vaclav Havel and his Polish counterpart, Aleksander Kwasniewski, appealed for dialogue to avert further violence in the Kosovo conflict, Reuters reported on 9 March. Kwasniewski and Havel, who is in Poland on a three-day visit, condemned the recent violence and said in a statement that now was the time to prevent the "next escalation of nationalist madness and crime." The two presidents are also discussing their countries' efforts to join NATO and the EU. PB HAVEL REJECTS NATO REFERENDUM... Before departing for Warsaw on 9 March, President Havel told journalists that the position of the Social Democrats, who want a referendum to be held on joining NATO, is "entirely unjustified" and "hazardous," CTK reported. Havel said that the "security of our country, the security of future generations cannot become the subject of party political games." Also on 9 March, Defense Minister Michal Lobkowicz said he believes the parliament will ratify the Czech Republic's adherence to NATO before early elections, expected to take place in June. MS ...LOOKS TO POST-ELECTION FUTURE. Havel also said there is "nothing in the constitution" saying that the next premier must be the head of the party that gains the most support in the elections. He said the premier must be a person "on whom the coalition will agree and who can hope to form a government having a majority in the parliament," CTK reported. MS UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN PRAGUE. Hennady Udovenko and his Czech counterpart, Jaroslav Sedivy, met on 9 March in Prague and discussed economic cooperation between their countries. Udovenko told journalists later that the two states can "fruitfully cooperate in areas such as nuclear power engineering, machine-building, transportation, and space technologies."' He said he is satisfied with the "large trade turnover" of the two countries but worried about the possibility of a Czech decision to re-introduce visa requirements for non-EU citizens. Sedivy said a decision on Ukrainian citizens is "still pending," CTK and ITAR-TASS reported. MS SLOVAKIA NOT TO REACT TO HAVEL STATEMENT. Josef Kroslak, spokesman for Slovak Premier Vladimir Meciar, said on 9 March that he does not expect the cabinet to officially react to Czech President Vaclav Havel's statement earlier that day expressing concern about the latest steps taken by the Slovak government. Havel had also commented that Slovakia has a "democratic potential" and that he hopes that potential "would prevail." Kroslak told CTK he would have been "immensely surprised" if Havel had said something different. MS SLOVAK OPPOSITION WIDENS POPULARITY GAP. Total support for the anti-Meciar opposition has grown from 54 percent in October 1997 to 61 percent now, Reuters reported on 7 March, citing a poll by the independent MVK institute. The survey was conducted before the deepening of the country's political crisis, triggered by the decision of the government to annul the plebiscite called by former President Michal Kovac. MS UKRAINIAN DEFENSE MINISTER IN HUNGARY. Oleksander Kuzmuk told his Hungarian counterpart, Gyorgy Keleti, on 9 March in Budapest that he hopes Ukrainian-Hungarian military cooperation will lead to the setting up of a joint peace-keeping force modeled on the Polish-Ukrainian unit. He also told Keleti that one of the "basic principles" of Ukrainian foreign policy is to join European institutions. In response to a journalist's question, Kuzmuk said Ukraine was the first country in the world to voluntarily renounce nuclear weapons and is therefore entitled to demand that no nuclear weapons be stationed on its neighbors' territory, Hungarian media reported. MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE KOSOVARS WANT AUTOPSIES. Police in Srbica turned over the bodies of 62 Albanians to Kosovar representatives on 9 March. Spokesmen for the families of most of the dead, however, said they will not bury the bodies until international experts perform autopsies. The spokesmen accused the Serbian authorities of demanding immediate burials in order to prevent investigations into an "atrocity." The corpses include the remains of 14 women and 12 children. Some of the bodies were burned beyond recognition or showed signs of mutilation. Kosovar shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova has proclaimed 10 and 11 March days of mourning for those killed by police. Serbian police officials said they will bury the dead in a mass grave on 10 March if their families do not claim the bodies by that afternoon. PM PRISTINA POLICE TOLD NOT TO BEAT PROTESTERS. A Serbian policeman said in Pristina on 9 March that "we got orders from Belgrade not to beat" the 50,000 or so ethnic Albanians who staged a brief demonstration against "police terror" in the Kosovar capital. The protest was the largest in Pristina in 10 years, RFE/RL reported. Albanian spokesmen said, however, that police broke up demonstrations in Istok, Klina, and Pec. PM CONTACT GROUP AGREES ON KOSOVO MEASURES. The foreign ministers of the U.S., U.K., Germany, France and Italy, and the deputy foreign minister of Russia agreed in London on 9 March to place an embargo on sales to Yugoslavia of arms and other equipment that could be used to aid repression there. All countries except Russia pledged to deny visas to Serbian officials responsible for the police violence in Kosovo and to impose a moratorium on credit for government-financed exports to Yugoslavia. All participants except Russia also said they will freeze Yugoslav assets abroad unless Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic launches a dialogue with the Kosovars within 10 days, halts action against civilians, withdraws special police units, and allows international representatives into Kosovo. PM GELBARD EMPTY-HANDED IN BELGRADE. U.S. special envoy Robert Gelbard informed Milosevic on 9 March about the London talks but did not inform reporters of the Yugoslav president's reaction. Gelbard went on to Pristina to meet with ethnic Albanian leaders. In Washington, a White House spokesman said the measures will have a "persuasive effect" on Milosevic. In London, Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said that the situation in Kosovo "cannot be tolerated." In Paris, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman called the measures "dynamic" and added that "it was the French approach that prevailed." Meanwhile, several European dailies on 10 March noted that the London package does not include any reference to massive economic sanctions or air strikes, which had prompted Milosevic to end the Bosnian war. PM BOSNIAN SERB MERCENARIES IN KOSOVO? At least five busses filled with Serbian "volunteers" have left Doboj in recent days for Kosovo, "Oslobodjenje" reported on 9 March. The men are demobilized Bosnian Serb soldiers who have neither jobs nor prospects of employment in Bosnia. Their pay as mercenaries in Kosovo is $500 a month. The unemployment rate in the Republika Srpska stands at 70 percent. PM MACEDONIA TO TAKE ACTION AGAINST ALBANIANS. The government will press charges against Republican Party leader Nevzet Halili, Halit Hajdari of the Party of Democratic Prosperity, and Reshat Nagavci of the Albanian Democratic Party, state-run television reported on 9 March. The three are accused of disturbing public order in conjunction with pro-Kosovo rallies held in Tetovo and Skopje the previous week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 March 1998). Other charges include singing the Albanian national anthem and displaying the Albanian flag in violation of a 1997 law on the display of national symbols. PM YELTSIN SAYS NO RUSSIAN TROOPS FOR KOSOVO. President Boris Yeltsin said in Moscow on 10 March that "Russia cannot get drawn into a new [military] campaign, this time in Kosovo. There are already enough places where our forces are deployed." He stressed that Russia instead "should be cutting back" on its military commitments abroad. Some NATO foreign ministers recently discussed an expanded role for international peacekeepers in the southern Balkans (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 March 1998). PM RUSSIA WARNS ALBANIA OVER BORDER DEPLOYMENTS. Russian Ambassador Igor Saprikin presented a note to Foreign Minister Paskal Milo on 9 March expressing Russian concern over unspecified reports on the alleged passage of arms and "terrorist groups" from Albania to Kosovo. The note added that "the deployment of Albanian army formations on the border...could only aggravate the situation." Albania recently strengthened army units in the Kukes area and began preparations to deal with a possible influx of refugees there (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 March 1998). Yugoslav Information Minister Radmila Milentijevic said in Belgrade on 9 March that she has reports that Kosovar "terrorists" are undergoing training in Albania. PM GUNMEN SHUT DOWN ALBANIAN TRANSMITTER. Unidentified gunmen shot at a television transmitter in an isolated mountainous border region near Kukes on 9 March, cutting off power supplies to the facility, "Shekulli" reported. The transmitter's signal reaches southern Kosovo and three northern districts of Albania. Elsewhere, Albanian border guards in the region opposite the Yugoslav town of Djakovica said unidentified men crossed into Albania from Yugoslavia on 6 March and filmed the border area for some two hours. The guards added that they did not challenge the intruders in an effort to avoid an armed clash. And in Tirana, the leadership of the opposition Democratic Party voted to end the party's boycott of the parliament to show national solidarity in the face of the Kosovo crisis. FS WAS BOMB TARGETED AT PYRAMID INVESTIGATORS? A powerful bomb badly damaged the VEVE business center in central Tirana on 7 March and shattered the windows of the nearby National Museum. The VEVE building is owned by ethnic Albanian Croatian businessman Vebi Velia and houses many well-known companies, including Deloitte & Touche, which is investigating the collapsed pyramid schemes. FS ROMANIAN PRESIDENT MEETS DEMOCRATIC PARTY LEADERS. Emil Constantinescu on 9 March told leaders of the Democratic Party that their recent statement on the urgent need to relaunch economic reforms and restructure the economy was "fully acceptable." Democratic leader Petre Roman said the declaration also included the demand that reforms be launched by "another cabinet." Representatives of the Party of Social Democracy in Romania said after meeting with Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea that the party is "unlikely" to support the cabinet's draft budget, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. In other news, three extra-parliamentary parties on 9 March announced that they will merge to form the Romanian National Party, which is to be "centrist neo-liberal." The three formations are the Democratic Agrarian, New Romania, and Christian Liberal Parties. MS ROMANIAN FORMER SPY CHIEF ON YUGOSLAV EMBARGO. Virgil Magureanu, the former director of the Romanian Intelligence Service, has denied media reports that he said at a 7 March press conference that Nicolae Vacaroiu government's had approved fuel deliveries to Serbia in violation of UN sanctions. But an RFE/RL correspondent who attended the press conference in Oradea has provided RFE/RL's Romanian Service with tapes proving the accuracy of the media reports. Magureanu said that the decision to send 8,000 tons of gasoline and almost 40,000 tons of diesel fuel to Serbia was approved by the Supreme Defense Council, at the time headed by former President Ion Iliescu. He claimed that "international authorities, including the UN," had agreed to the deliveries. MS LUCINSCHI CLARIFIES STANCE ON RATIFYING TREATY WITH RUSSIA... The presidential office on 9 March said Petru Lucinschi has never asked Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov to delay State Duma debates on the ratification of the basic treaty signed in 1990, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The office said Primakov had suggested in a message to Lucinschi that before the Duma debates ratification of that treaty, the Moldovan parliament adopt a resolution saying the implementation of the provisions of the basic treaty will take into account the May 1997 memorandum signed with the Transdniester separatists. The office said Lucinschi had replied that the Moldovan parliament's prerogatives have been curtailed by the recent Constitutional Court decision on the upcoming elections. He added that Moldova insists the Duma "unconditionally ratify the treaty." MS ...WANTS TO EXPEDITE REFORM IN VILLAGES. In his weekly address to the nation on 9 March, Lucinschi said it is "high time to end the useless debates about land privatization" and accelerate reforms in the villages, regardless of "strong resistance" encountered in some localities. He repeated that 1998 must be the "year of the peasantry," in which every Moldovan entitled to land ownership must be given the land title. It would be "up to the peasants themselves" to decide "what type of land management suits them best." But the model he recommended was "that of the West", where peasants work their land in "well-equipped peasant associations" rather than work "tiny plots of one to three hectares by themselves." Lucinschi said some 700,000 land titles have already been distributed. MS ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN SOFIA. Andrei Plesu on 9 March said Romania is joining the Bulgarian initiative to issue a joint Balkan declaration on the situation in Kosovo, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. The initiative calls for settling the conflict by peaceful means within Yugoslavia's existing borders, Premier Ivan Kostov said after talks with Plesu that the initiative is also supported by Turkey, Greece, and Macedonia. Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova told journalists that the declaration "does not replace efforts of the international community but it supports such efforts." The two foreign ministers agreed that their countries are "in no way competitors" for NATO membership and that bilateral trade must be increased. MS END NOTE PLAYING THE ETHNIC CARD by Paul Goble Riga's handling of a demonstration last week and Moscow's response to it are an object lesson in how sensitive certain ethnic issues remain in the region and how quickly they can be exploited for broader political ends. Last Tuesday, police used batons to disperse a protest march by some 1,000 elderly residents of the Latvian capital against increases utility rate hikes. The Latvian authorities said the protesters lacked a permit and were blocking traffic, and the police insisted that they had not used excessive force. But because most of the demonstrators were ethnic Russians, their protest and even more the Latvian handling of it immediately set off a political firestorm in Russia. At least some in Moscow now appear to be using the incident to isolate Riga and to pressure Latvia on a broader front. The day of the demonstration, Russia's ORT television carried footage of the clash between demonstrators and the Latvian police but gave little space to statements by Latvian authorities that the police had acted within the law. That report generated a crescendo of statements and actions by Russian officials. On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov denounced Latvia's handling of the protest as a "flagrant violation of human rights." On Thursday, Russian President Boris Yeltsin's spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii described the Latvian action as a "blatant violation of elementary human rights," saying there "can be no talk" now about setting a date for a meeting between Yeltsin and Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis. Also on Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadii Tarasov called for international pressure on Latvia to change its approach to ethnic Russians more generally. And some 60 people gathered in front of the Latvian embassy in Moscow to protest Riga's policy. On Friday, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said he was "indignant" at Latvia's behavior, for which, he said, there could be "no justification." The Russian Duma called on Yeltsin to take firm steps, including economic sanctions and political reprisals, to force Riga to change its policies. And finally on Saturday, Yastrzhembskii told Ekho Moskvy that Yeltsin's advisers now favor imposing economic sanctions on Latvia, thus setting the stage for a further escalation of the crisis. Throughout the week, Latvian officials repeatedly denied that the police had acted illegally and suggested that the Russian authorities were responding on the basis of insufficient information. To give but one example, Latvian Prime Minister Guntars Krasts on Saturday repeated that the police had acted "very correctly" and that they had not violated anyone's human rights. Regardless of what happens next in this crisis, the events of the past week yield three conclusions. First, relations between Russia and the Baltic States remain far more finely balanced than many on either side had believed. A single incident can suffice to shift that balance. Prior to the events of last Tuesday, relations between Russia and Latvia in fact had been on the upswing. As recently as 19 February, a Latvian government spokesman said Yeltsin had sent Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis a letter that was characterized as "hopeful and positive" about relations between the two countries. Second, many in the Russian government believe that they can play the ethnic card against Latvia and its neighbor Estonia because neither country gave automatic citizenship to all residents at the time that they recovered independence. Instead, both countries required a naturalization process for all those who moved onto their territories while they were under Soviet occupation. Although consistent with international law, as any number of authorities have concluded, their decision to do so has offended many in Russia and has on occasion left them vulnerable to criticism from abroad. Indeed, since 1992, Moscow has routinely sought to enlist Western support against these two states on this issue and, failing that, to isolate Latvia and Estonia from their Western partners by appealing to human rights concerns among Western populations. And third, and perhaps most disturbing, at least some in the Russian government appear to be willing to exploit such situations to generate support for themselves. Given recent polls suggesting that many Russians dislike, or are indifferent to, the current Russian government, some officials there may have concluded that the exacerbation of relations between Moscow and its neighbors could serve their personal interests. To the extent that some in the Russian capital have indeed reached that conclusion, protests from Moscow over the status and treatment of ethnic Russians outside the Russian Federation may soon be directed at other countries as well. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word "subscribe" as the subject or body of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word "unsubscribe" as the subject or body of the message. HOW TO RETRIEVE BACK ISSUES VIA EMAIL (1) Send an email to email@example.com with the letters "ls" as the subject or body of the message. This will retrieve a list of available files. 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