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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 52, Part II, 17 March 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 52, Part II, 17 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 ALL BROADCASTS FOR SIX SERVICES LIVE ONLINE All programs of RFE/RL's Armenian, Azerbaijani, Bulgarian, Kyrgyz, Russian and Ukrainian Services are online live in RealAudio. The Russian Service broadcasts 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To tune in, go to: http://www.rferl.org/realaudio/ xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * NO PARLIAMENTARY REPRESENTATION FOR HUNGARIAN MINORITIES * U.S. SAYS MILOSEVIC WON'T BUDGE * WASHINGTON WANTS MOSCOW'S BACKING ON KOSOVO xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE RUSSIA, BELARUS COORDINATE TO SAVE BELARUSIAN RUBLE. Belarus announced on 16 March that during Prime Minister Serhei Ling's recent visit to Moscow. a working group with Russia was set up to help stabilize the Belarusian ruble, ITAR-TASS reported. The Belarusian ruble is trading at about 59,000 to $1, down some 25 percent on the previous week. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has criticized the National Bank for its handling of the currency crisis, saying he will personally monitor the situation. Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais said on 15 March that Moscow may provide financial aid to prevent the collapse of the Belarusian ruble. He added that Belarus's disastrous economy was the result of poor policies and a lack of reform. PB COMMUNISTS MARK CENTENARY IN MINSK. Several foreign delegations were in Minsk on 15 March for a ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of the first congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers' Party (the predecessor of the Soviet Communist Party) in a small house in downtown Minsk in 1898, ITAR-TASS reported. A few hundred people carrying red carnations and flags congregated at the house. Among others, delegations from Russia, Vietnam, North Korea, Cuba, and Greece were present. Oleg Shenin, chairman of the Union of Communist Parties--the Soviet Communist Party, called Belarus "an isle for the revival of Communism." PB CORRUPTION 'WITNESS' DIES IN ODESSA HOSPITAL. Borys Anikeychyk, a witness in a government corruption case, died in an Odesa hospital on 16 March as a result of gunshot wounds sustained the previous day, the "Eastern Economist" reported. Anikeychyk, who was shot by unknown assailants, had recently testified in a court case that Odessa Mayor Eduard Hurvits had accepted a bribe. Odessa Oblast Administration Chairman Ruslan Bodelan, who is running for mayor against Hurvits, called on Hurvits to step down from his post. The two have been locked in a brutal power struggle for some time (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 March 1998). PB RUSSIAN DEPUTY PREMIER IN TALLINN. Oleg Sysuev was in the Estonian capital on 15-16 March to help prepare for the first meeting of the Russian-Estonian intergovernment commission, which is due to take place in June, Baltic and Russian agencies reported. Sysuev and Estonian Prime Minister Mart Siimann, who will co-chair the commission, signed a protocol outlining the tasks and timetable of that body. Sysuev told BNS that the commission must find answers to the problems of trade, the border, and the Russian-speaking population in Estonia. He said he expected some accords to be signed when the commission meets in June. At the same time, he noted that if problems with integrating Russian-speakers are not solved, progress in Russian-Estonian relations would be hindered, ETA reported. Siimann told journalists that Sysuev's visit will pave the way for bilateral summit talks but noted that "extensive preparations" would be necessary. JC CONTROVERSY SURROUNDS LATVIAN SS VETERANS' RALLY. Some 500 veterans of the Latvian SS Legion marched through Riga on 16 March to lay a wreath at the Freedom Monument as part of events commemorating the 55th anniversary of the unit (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 March 1998). At the same time, some 300 elderly Russian-speakers gathered to protest the rally, brandishing placards and shouting slogans that dubbed the veterans "fascists" and "murders." Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis criticized the Russian-speaking protesters, saying everyone in Latvia has the right to free speech but not to freely insult others or behave in an extreme way. Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Moscow is indignant at the veterans' demonstration. It complained that the Latvian government gave special attention and privileges to those who served as SS soldiers while "not recognizing as war veterans Latvians who fought against fascism" with Soviet forces. JC HUNDREDS RALLY IN SUPPORT OF CROSS NEAR AUSCHWITZ. Some 400 people protested the plan to remove a cross near the Auschwitz concentration camp, agencies reported on 15 March. The protesters, many of them war veterans or concentration camp survivors, object to a plan to remove an eight-meter cross from a site where Pope John Paul in 1979 held a mass. Some Jewish groups want the cross removed because they say Catholic symbols near Auschwitz are offensive. The government is hoping for a compromise on the issue, perhaps by moving the cross farther from the camp or by replacing it with a smaller one. PB NEW CZECH POLITICAL PARTY REGISTERED. The Conservative Consensus Party, which was established by Ivan Masek, the former chairman of the Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA) in the Chamber of Deputies, was registered by the Interior Ministry on 16 March, CTK reported. Most of the new formation's members formerly belonged to the ODA. MS CZECH JOURNALIST SUSPECTS SLOVAK SECRET POLICE OF 'FOUL PLAY.' Eugene Korda, a Czech journalist who is a Slovak correspondent for Nova Television, told CTK on 16 March he suspects that whoever vandalized his car in Bratislava the previous night was "acting on orders from top-ranking officials." Korda says he has evidence that he has been followed for a long time, adding that three months ago his other car was vandalized and that he has been receiving threatening telephone calls for a long time. In a report read to the parliament in 1995, Ivan Lexa, the head of the Slovak secret services, mentioned a certain "Eugen K," among "anti-Slovak elements" and as an "extended hand" of the founder of Nova Television, Slovak political scientist Fedor Gal. MS NO PARLIAMENTARY REPRESENTATION FOR HUNGARIAN MINORITIES. Lawmakers on 16 March voted against a bill guaranteeing 13 seats in the parliament for minority representatives this year, Hungarian media reported. The bill, which provided for minority elections in October, would have required a two-thirds majority to pass but was supported by only 215 votes in the 386-seat parliament. Most votes in favor came from the Socialist Party, while the majority of deputies from the junior coalition Free Democrats, the Young Democrats, and the Democratic Forum abstained, saying that they preferred the elections for minority seats to be separately held in May. Ethnic minorities can run in the May elections on regular party lists but their guaranteed seats will be ensured only in the 2002 parliamentary elections, provided that the new legislature passes the required constitutional amendments. MSZ BOMB EXPLODES OUTSIDE OPPOSITION POLITICIAN'S HOME. A bomb exploded on 16 March outside the home of Jozsef Torgyan, the chairman of the opposition Independent Smallholders' Party, Hungarian media reported. There were no injuries. Torgyan, who was at home when the blast occurred, said he was the target of a politically motivated attempt, as was his party's headquarters, when a bomb exploded there last week. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE U.S. SAYS MILOSEVIC WON'T BUDGE. Speaking in Ljubljana on 16 March, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott said Belgrade's offer of conditional talks with the Kosovars was "cynical" and deliberately designed to fail. A State Department spokesman said in Washington that "there is no sign that [Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic] is reversing course" on his tough Kosovo policy. The spokesman added that the Contact Group foreign ministers, who are to meet in Bonn on 25 March, will consider freezing Yugoslav assets abroad if Milosevic does not withdraw special police forces, stop armed attacks on civilians, admit independent observers to Kosovo, and negotiate seriously with the Kosovars (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 March 1998). PM WASHINGTON WANTS MOSCOW'S BACKING ON KOSOVO. The State Department spokesman added in Washington on 16 March that Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told her Russian counterpart, Yevgenii Primakov, in a telephone conversation that Milosevic should not be allowed to "think that there are differences between the [Contact Group] countries on the basic point, [which is that] the blame for this crisis and this violence rests squarely on the shoulders of the leadership in Belgrade; and that if [the Yugoslav leaders] don't change course, the result will be even further alienation from the international community, less integration into the international economy, less integration into the European economy." The spokesman added that Albright got the impression Primakov will give Milosevic "the kind of reinforcing message that we hoped for" when the two men meet in Belgrade on 18 March. PM ALBANIA, U.S. FOR KOSOVO TALKS WITHOUT PRECONDITIONS. Talbot and Prime Minister Fatos Nano, meeting at Tirana airport on 16 March, called for Serbian-Kosovar talks without preconditions. Talbot said the U.S. considers it possible that the Serbs and Kosovars will reach an agreement on autonomy for the province, "Koha Jone" reported. Nano did not offer any ideas of his own on Kosovo but stressed it will be important for the Contact Group countries to agree to implement "effective sanctions that stop the advance of violence and war in the Balkans." He added that Albania will seek to coordinate its Kosovo policy with Macedonia and Montenegro. Nano stated that "the solution of the Kosovo question is closely linked with the democratization of the region and in particular of Serbia." FS KINKEL URGES ALBANIANS TO SEEK DIALOGUE. German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel criticized the Kosovar leadership for refusing to participate in the conditional talks that Belgrade has offered (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 March 1998). He told Bonn's "General Anzeiger" of 16 March that "it is most important now to start a dialogue, even if not all the demands of the Kosovo Albanians will be fulfilled. They should not stage any militant actions, nor should they make demands for independence. There is no support for this in the international community." Kinkel added that Milosevic's paramilitary police "must be stopped from unjustifiable bloody assaults." Also in Bonn, a Foreign Ministry spokesman confirmed reports from Germany's Kosovar community that one of the men killed in the recent Serbian assault on the Drenica region had been deported to Yugoslavia from Germany shortly before. Federal and most state authorities support continued deportations despite the recent violence. PM KOSOVAR LEADER DERIDES "CARNIVAL." Fehmi Agani, one of the chief Kosovar political leaders, told RFE/RL from Pristina on 16 March that the Serbian authorities are engaged in a daily propaganda exercise by offering talks with conditions that they know the Kosovars cannot accept. Agani added that the daily routine has come to resemble a "carnival." He also said that the Italian Roman Catholic foundation that brokered the 1996 Kosovar-Serbian education agreement is keeping channels open to both Serbs and Kosovars in the hope of launching serious talks. PM IS SERBIA PREPARING NEW CRACKDOWN? Belgrade's official Tanjug news agency reported on 17 March that unidentified persons slightly injured a policeman in a hand-grenade attack near Pec the previous day. There was no independent confirmation of the incident. The Serbian authorities used a similar shadowy incident involving Kosovars and police as a pretext to launch the well-prepared assault that began on 28 February and left more than 80 dead. PM KOSOVAR OPPOSITION WANTS ELECTION POSTPONED. Representatives of the opposition Parliamentary Party of Kosovo and the Forum of Albanian Intellectuals of Kosovo called for postponing the shadow-state's parliamentary and presidential elections, slated for 22 March. Speaking in Pristina on 16 March, the opposition leaders said it would be "amoral" to hold a vote under current circumstances. PM FRANCE TO LET OFFICERS TESTIFY IN HAGUE. French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine said in The Hague on 16 March that French officers who served in Bosnia will be allowed to testify in person before the war crimes tribunal. He stressed, however, that French officers "must not be treated like suspects" when they appear before the court. To date, Paris has allowed officers to testify only in writing. Vedrine announced the policy change after meeting with Louise Arbour, the court's chief prosecutor. She has long been critical of France's refusal to let its officers testify in person. PM CROATIAN JOURNALISTS WANT PUBLIC TELEVISION. Representatives of Forum 21, an independent union of radio and television journalists, sent a proposal on 16 March to the parliament calling for the transformation of state-run radio and television (HRT) into a public broadcasting corporation. Among the reforms recommended by the journalists was the reduction of the number of broadcasting channels and changing the composition and prerogatives of the Radio and Television Council, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb. Forum 21's proposals would give a large degree of control over HRT to the editors and journalists, "Slobodna Dalmacija" reported. HRT is widely regarded as loyal to the governing Croatian Democratic Community. PM POLICE EVICT ALBANIAN EX-JUDGE. Police on 16 March evicted Rustem Gjata, who the previous day was dismissed as head of the Constitutional Court, from his office. Gjata said the eviction was "typically communist" and "supported by the Serbs and Greeks." He said he will try to return to his office at a later date, "Republika" reported. FS ROMANIAN RULING PARTY TO SUE NEW POLITICAL FORMATION. The National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) will contest in court the right of the newly founded Romanian National Party (PNR) to its name, RFE/RL's Bucharest Bureau reported on 16 March. Chairman Ion Diaconescu and deputy chairman Ion Ratiu told journalists in Bucharest on 16 April that the new formation has usurped the name of the party set up in Transylvania in the 19th century to represent the interests of the Romanian majority under the Austrian-Hungarian empire and that the PNR's name is "part of the PNTCD legacy". The National Peasant Party was set up in 1926 through the merger of the PNR and the Peasant Party. Ratiu said it is an "insult" that "former Communists" headed by Virgil Magureanu, the former director of the Romanian Intelligence Service, are using the PNR's name. MS ROMANY PROTEST IN BUCHAREST. The Austrian ambassador to Romania on 16 March joined Roma protesting in front of the embassy's building in Bucharest against racial stereotypes and discrimination. The protesters staged what they called a " Dance of the Black Swans" in protest against widespread allegations in the media that Roma killed and roasted swans in the park of the Schonbrunn Castle in Vienna in 1991. There are no swans in the Schonbrunn park, and the Austrian journalist who had authored the report later retracted it. The Roma are marking the European Week for Struggle against Racism. MS MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT WARNS AGAINST 'RADICALS.' In his weekly address to the nation on 16 March, President Petru Lucinschi warned Moldovans not to back "radical political formations" in the 22 March elections, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Lucinschi did not specify whom he considered "radical," but on previous occasions, he has singled out the Democratic Convention of Moldova (CDM). Lucinschi said the "radicals" will "sow hatred and strife" and will "again call people to the barricades" (an allusion to the 1992 military clashes with the separatists, when Mircea Snegur, now a CDM co-chairman, was Moldovan president). By backing "moderate forces," Lucinschi said, the voters will allow the country to continue along the "good road" started in 1997. MS CAMPAIGN IN TRANSDNIESTER TO JOIN RUSSIA-BELARUS UNION. Aleksandr Karaman, vice president of the separatist Transdniester region, is heading a movement to join the Russia-Belarus union. Local labor and veteran soldier associations, such as the United Council of Labor, the Union of Transdniester Defenders, the Association of Afghan Veterans, and the Transdniester Cossacks, belong to that movement. Karaman told BASA-press on 16 March that a drive for collecting signatures in support of joining the union has started. He expressed confidence that most of the population will back joining the union since it will be "politically and economically" beneficial to the Transdniester. MS BULGARIA CLOSES LAST PIRATE CD FACTORIES. The Interior Ministry on 16 March announced that the last four companies producing pirate compact discs have been closed down under the new copyright laws, AFP reported, The announcement comes after repeated threats from the U.S. that it will start trade sanctions against Bulgaria if the makers of counterfeit CDs were not closed by end of March. In other news, Pope John Paul II on 15 March beatified Evgeni Bosilkov, a bishop of the Roman Catholic Church who was sentenced to death and executed by the communist regime in 1952. Bosilkov saved Jews during World War Two and was committed to promoting dialogue with the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, AFP reported. BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT TAKES STRIKERS TO COURT. Transportation Minister Wilhelm Kraus on 16 March told BTA that the government is suing railway engineers and will dismiss some of them because the state has sustained losses of some $25,000 owing to a series of one-hour strikes over the last three days. The strikers are demanding wage increases of up to 400 percent, whereas the government is offering only 20 percent. MS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word "subscribe" as the subject or body of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word "unsubscribe" as the subject or body of the message. HOW TO RETRIEVE BACK ISSUES VIA EMAIL (1) Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the letters "ls" as the subject or body of the message. This will retrieve a list of available files. 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