You see things and you say 'Why?' But I dream thing that never were; and I say, 'Why not?'. - Geroge Bernard Shaw
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

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

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This new email weekly covers Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Russia's
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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

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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.


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