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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 55 Part II, 20 March 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 55 Part II, 20 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 * RUSSIA SENDS MIXED SIGNALS ON SANCTIONS AGAINST LATVIA * ETHNIC ALBANIANS, SERBS HOLD RIVAL RALLIES IN PRISTINA * TOP FOREIGN DIPLOMATS SAYS PROGRESS MADE IN TALKS WITH BELGRADE * End Note: MOLDOVA'S UPCOMING PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS (PART TWO) xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx REGIONAL AFFAIRS RUSSIA SENDS MIXED SIGNALS ON SANCTIONS AGAINST LATVIA. Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii announced on 19 March that Russia is considering "certain targeted economic counter-measures" against Latvia, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Yastrzhembskii expressed concern about the "silence" of other European countries over the recent march in Riga by veterans of the Latvian SS Legion (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 March 1998). Yastrzhembskii questioned whether the lack of condemnation of that march indicates that the verdicts at the Nuremburg trials are no longer deemed binding international law and whether Europe is willing to invite "a country whose government panders to SS remnants" into the "zone of democracy." In contrast, Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin announced on 19 March that "Russia will not impose economic sanctions on Latvia," ITAR-TASS reported. He added that "we do not support a 'tooth for a tooth' position." LB LATVIAN FOREIGN MINISTER CLAIMS "ANTI-LATVIAN CAMPAIGN." Addressing a session of the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva on 19 March, Valdis Birkavs argued that Russia is conducting a "widespread anti-Latvian campaign," BNS reported. Referring to the recent incident at the Latvian Embassy in Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 March 1998),. Birkavs said Latvian diplomatic personnel "have been threatened with physical violence." He added that "Latvia has received threats of economic sanctions because, it is said, Latvia is not loyal enough to Russian interests." Birkavs was responding to a proposal made by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Yurii Ushakhov in Geneva two days earlier that the committee adopt a resolution condemning human rights violations in Latvia. The Latvian minister rejected Ushakhov's accusation of applying "double standards" over the protection of human rights, adding that he is ready to discuss those rights with Moscow. JC LATVIA ARRESTS RUSSIAN NATIONAL ON GENOCIDE CHARGE. The Latvian Prosecutor-General's Office on 19 March arrested a Russian citizen and former Soviet security official on charges of genocide, BNS reported. Ilya Mashonkin is accused of involvement in the 1949 deportation of some 100 ethnic Latvian families. Many of the deportees reportedly died in exile. A spokeswoman said that Mashonkin's arrest cannot be linked to the recent activities of Latvia's Russian-speakers or SS Legion veterans because the Prosecutor-General's Office has been working on the case for the past year or so. Until now, Latvia had sentenced only one former Soviet security official. Alfons Noviks, a Latvian citizen, was jailed for life in 1995 for helping organize deportations. He died in prison the following year, aged 89. JC EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUSIAN CABINET ORDERS PRICE CUTS... The Belarusian government on 19 March ordered state-owned companies and private businesses to reduce prices on all goods to 1 March levels in an effort to stave off an economic crisis, Reuters reported. Trade Minister Pyotr Kozlov said directors of state firms failing to adhere to the order would be sacked and that the licenses for disobeying private businesses revoked. The government announced that Deputy Trade Minister Hrihor Kravchenka and Alyaksandr Hretsky, the chairman of the Economics Ministry's prices committee, have been fired. The Belarusian ruble has lost about 25 percent of its value since the beginning of the month, leading to huge increases in prices. PB ...AS MOSCOW STOPS TRADING CURRENCY, REDUCES GAS SUPPLIES. Moscow's Interbank Currency Exchange announced on 19 March that it is suspending all trading in the Belarusian ruble, AFP reported. An exchange official said the action was recommended by the Russian Central Bank. Also on 19 March, Gazprom said it is reducing gas deliveries to Belarus because of Minsk's failure to pay its debt of $220 million. Belarusian Prime Minister Serhei Ling said Minsk might take "retaliatory steps" if gas supplies are cut by 30 percent, Interfax reported on 19 March. PB LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES OIL INVESTMENT TALKS WITH U.S. COMPANY. Lawmakers on 19 March voted by 57 to six with three abstentions for the government to begin talks with the U.S. Williams International Company on investing in Lithuania's leading oil companies, BNS reported. The U.S. company will be given a chance to acquire 33 percent stakes in Butinges Nafta, Naftotiekis, and Mazeikiu Nafta. The state plans to retain at least a 51 percent stake in Naftotiekis, a 34 percent stake in Butinges Nafta, and no less than 25 percent of the shares in Mazeikiu Nafta. JC POLISH FACTORY WORKERS, MINERS PROTEST PRIVATIZATION PLANS. Some 1,500 workers and miners held a demonstration at government buildings on 19 March to protest plans to privatize their enterprises, an RFE/RL correspondent in Warsaw reported. Organized by the Solidarity trade union, the rally involved workers from the Ursus tractor plant and miners from Silesia, who burnt EU flags and shouted "Balcerowicz must go." The workers blame Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz for the lay-offs that will result from the privatization plans. The EU has instructed Poland to stop subsidizing unprofitable factories or risk violating EU association agreements. Talks on joining the union begin on 31 March. PB CZECH SENATE APPROVES EARLY ELECTIONS BILL. Senators on 19 March approved a bill shortening the mandate of the Chamber of Deputies and saying that new elections must be held by 30 June. President Vaclav Havel's spokesman recently said that if the Senate passed the law, Havel would call elections for 19 and 20 June, CTK reported. In another development, Social Democratic Party chairman Milos Zeman on 19 March told journalists that it was likely that the lower house will ratify Czech NATO membership before early elections. Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Czech counter-intelligence service (BIS) on 19 March said the service has started investigating allegations that Czech businessmen living in Switzerland bribed Zeman. Zeman, who denies the allegations, has handed over documents to both the Interior Ministry and the BIS. MS SLOVAK PARLIAMENT AGAIN FAILS TO ELECT PRESIDENT. Lawmakers on 19 March again failed to elect a president. Ladislav Ballek, the candidate of the opposition Democratic Left Party received 50 votes, 40 votes short of the needed two-thirds majority. Independent candidate Milan Fogas withdrew from the race before the ballot. A third vote is now set for 16 April, when new candidates may be nominated. In other news, an opinion poll released by the Focus institute confirms that the gap between the opposition and the forces supporting Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar is widening, RFE/RL's Bratislava bureau reported on 18 March. The joint forces of the opposition are backed by 59.2 percent, while the present ruling coalition has 29.4 percent support. MS SLOVAK PREMIER CRITICIZES HUNGARY'S MINORITY POLICIES. Slovak state radio reported that Meciar on 19 March said that for decades Hungary has been pursuing a "policy of genocide" against its national minorities and has turned into a state that is a "graveyard for national minorities." The criticism was triggered by the recent failure of the Hungarian parliament to pass a law that would have allowed minorities to be represented in the legislature in guaranteed seats. In other news, Meciar charged in a national television address the previous day that Czech politicians are "permanently acting on the international scene to secretly undermine Slovakia's interests." MS DWINDLING SUPPORT FOR HUNGARY'S SOCIALISTS. According to a Marketing Center opinion poll, support for the governing Socialist Party has decreased as a result of the recent controversies over the Hungarian-Slovak Danube hydropower plant. The Socialists' support dropped from 43 percent last month to 34 percent, while the opposition Young Democrats have 30 percent backing, compared with 24 percent last month. The Independent Smallholders are backed by 14 percent, followed by the junior coalition partner, the Free Democrats (8 percent) and the opposition Democratic Forum (5 percent). MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ETHNIC ALBANIANS, SERBS HOLD RIVAL RALLIES IN PRISTINA. Some 40,000 ethnic Albanians on 19 March held a demonstration in the center of the Kosovar capital at which demonstrators jangled keys to signify the passing of the deadline set by the six-nation Contact Group for Belgrade to begin talks with ethnic Albanian leaders. A few hours later, some 50,000 Serbs, carrying flags and singing nationalist songs, began a counterprotest against what they called "terrorism and separatism," an RFE/RL correspondent in Pristina reported. Fighting broke out between many of the demonstrators from the opposing sides, and police had to use tear gas to restore calm. Some minor injuries were reported. In Pec, some 10,000 people attended the funeral of a man said to have been shot by Serbian police during a rally the previous day that ended with gunshots. Police officials deny the charges. PB TOP FOREIGN DIPLOMATS SAYS PROGRESS MADE IN TALKS WITH BELGRADE. German and French Foreign Ministers Klaus Kinkel and Hubert Vedrine said progress was made in talks with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and Serbian President Milan Milutinovic in Belgrade on 19 March, Reuters reported. Vedrine said "significant progress was achieved," although Kinkel added that there had not been a "breakthrough." Milosevic was said to have made concessions by naming Yugoslav Deputy Premier Vladan Kutlesic as a special envoy for Kosovo and by agreeing to talk with EU special envoy Felipe Gonzalez. Those talks, however, will deal only with relations between Belgrade and the EU and will not cover Kosovo. Milosevic is also said to have agreed in the talks with Kinkel and Vedrine to withdraw special paramilitary police units from Kosovo, a promise he had already made earlier this week. Kinkel did not say if the pledges by Belgrade were enough to prevent a tougher regime of sanctions to be imposed by the Contact Group, which is scheduled to meet in Brussels on 20 March to review the situation. PB ETHNIC ALBANIAN LEADER SLAMS DIALOGUE OFFER. Xhemail Mustafa, an adviser to Kosovo shadow state President Ibrahim Rugova, said that Serbian President Milutinovic's offer of unconditional talks with Kosovo Albanian leaders next week is a "farce," AFP reported on 19 March. Mustafa said it is "another attempt at deceiving the public and international political circles." Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov said in Banja Luka on 19 March that autonomy is the "most acceptable" answer for the Kosovo crisis, though he repeated his position that it is Yugoslavia's internal affair. PB ETHNIC ALBANIAN PARTY URGES VOTERS TO GO TO POLLS. The Kosovo Democratic League (LDK), the leading ethnic Albanian party, called for voters to turn out in force on 22 March in the elections to elect a shadow Kosovo president and 130-seat parliament, AFP reported on 19 March. An LDK statement said the elections "will be a sort of referendum of Albanians for an independent republic of Kosovo." The document accused Belgrade of doing everything possible to prevent the vote. Rugova, who is also the leader of the LDK, is the only candidate for president. Several other Kosovo Albanian political parties have called for the elections to be postponed until tensions in the province subside (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 and 19 March 1998). The election commission announced that voting will not take place in the Drenica region owing to the Serbian police presence there. PB GELBARD IN TIRANA... U.S. special envoy to the Balkans Robert Gelbard told journalists on 19 March that if Yugoslav President Milosevic fails to comply with the Contact Group's demand that he begin a dialogue with the Kosovo leadership and withdraw special police from the region, the U.S. government will consider toughening its sanctions against Serbia. "If President Milosevic is serious about the dialogue, then he is going to have to prove it," Gelbard affirmed, following a meeting in Tirana with Albanian leaders. Gelbard also expressed approval of Rugova's 18 March statement that he is ready to seek a dialogue with the Serbian leadership. LF ...AND SKOPJE. Also on 19 March, Gelbard said after talks with Macedonian Foreign Minister Blagoj Handziski in Skopje that Yugoslav President Milosevic does not understand the "seriousness" of the Kosovo situation, AFP reported. Gelbard said Milosevic "is not prepared yet" to take the measures prescribed by the Contact Group to relieve tension in Kosovo. He said Belgrade's call for dialogue "falls quite short of what we feel is necessary to a serious start." PB PRIMAKOV DUBIOUS ABOUT TOUGHER SANCTIONS. Addressing Russian members of SFOR, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov said he hopes that the Contact Group will be able to avoid imposing tougher sanctions on Yugoslavia at its 25 March meeting, Interfax reported on 19 March. Primakov said that Serbian President Milutinovic's statement the previous day that he is ready to begin a dialogue with the Kosovo leadership on self-government may render such sanctions unnecessary. He also underlined that Moscow is opposed to Kosovo's seceding from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Speaking in Moscow on 19 March, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin welcomed Milutinovic's offer and called on the Kosovo Albanian leadership to accept it. LF MONTENEGRIN PARLIAMENT SHORTENS MANDATE. Lawmakers on 19 March voted to shorten their mandates, thereby enabling President Milo Djukanovic to schedule new parliamentary elections for May, AFP reported. The parliament also voted to increase the number of deputies from 71 to 78. In January, Yugoslav Prime Minister Radoje Kontic brokered an agreement between Djukanovic and his predecessor, Momir Bulatovic, on scheduling pre-term elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 1998). LF YUGOSLAVIA APPLIES TO JOIN COUNCIL OF EUROPE. The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia applied to join the Council of Europe on 19 March, AFP reported. Daniel Tarschys, secretary-general of the council, said that a decision on whether to admit Belgrade would be based on Yugoslavia's respect for human rights and the rights of minorities. PB KINKEL, VEDRINE IN ZAGREB. Before their talks with Milosevic and Milutinovic in Belgrade, the German and French foreign ministers said in Zagreb on 18 March that as long as Croatia continues to implement the Dayton peace agreement and facilitate the return of Serbian refugees, Zagreb can count on French-German support in forging closer ties with Europe. Kinkel and Vedrine held talks with their Croatian counterpart, Mate Granic, and Croatian President Franjo Tudjman. Granic said Tudjman presented them with a new proposal for establishing a lasting peace in the region by demilitarizing under EU guarantees and securing non-aggression agreements between Croatia and Bosnia and between Yugoslavia and Bosnia. Also on 18 March, Granic complained that Croatia is being put under "unjust and unfair pressure" by the international community. JN/PB TALBOTT IN BUCHAREST. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott on 19 March met with President Emil Constantinescu, Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea, and Foreign Minister Andrei Plesu to discuss the Kosovo crisis, regional developments, Romania's bid for NATO membership, and U.S. investments in Romania, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Talbott said that all three leaders expressed Romania's readiness to participate in finding a solution to the Kosovo crisis and that Bucharest is in a position to "use its prestige and influence" for that purpose. He added that the U.S. wants to see a "strong, democratic, prosperous Romania" that will be integrated into NATO as soon as possible. MS ROMANIAN SENATE DEBATES OPENING SECRET POLICE FILES. The Senate on 19 March began the long-postponed debate on a draft law allowing access to former secret police files, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. It approved the first article of the law, whereby Romanian citizens residing in the country or abroad as well as those who acquired foreign citizenship after 1945 will be allowed to inspect their own files. Debates on all articles of the law are expected to take months. MS MOLDOVA'S CIUBUC WILLING TO FORM NEXT GOVERNMENT. Victor Ciubuc told journalists on 19 March that he is ready to fulfill President Petru Lucinschi's wish that he form the next government but added he will do so only if it is not a heterogeneous cabinet such as the current one. Ciubuc called on the electorate to support Lucinschi's program at the 22 March ballot, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The premier added that recent negotiations in Moscow over gas deliveries had been "difficult" because Gazprom had set "very tough terms" for those deliveries. The two sides had agreed, however, that Moldova supply goods worth $100 million and pay $40 million in cash to cover part of its debt. Setting up the MoldovaGas company, in which Gazprom owns 50 percent of the shares, will cover another $47 million of the debt. MS MOLDOVAN ELECTION CAMPAIGN MARRED BY INCIDENTS. The electoral headquarters of the pro-presidential Social Democratic Bloc Speranta in Tiraspol was ransacked by officers from the Transdniester Ministry of State Security. The leader of the bloc, presidential adviser Anatol Taranu, called the incident a "pogrom," Infotag reported on 19 March. The separatist authorities say that campaigning for the Moldovan elections in the region is illegal. BASA-press reported on 19 March that the cars of two candidates running on the list of the pro-presidential For a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova, were stolen while the candidates were campaigning in Chisinau and Comrat, respectively. MS BULGARIA TO COOPERATE WITH NATO AGENCY. Bulgarian Deputy Defense Minister Rumen Kanchev and Robert Zweerts, the visiting manager-general of the NATO Maintenance and Supply Agency (NAMASA) met in Sofia on 19 March and signed a memorandum on cooperation in logistics, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. The cooperation will begin with coordinating the codification of military standards, which is to be achieved within two years. Kanchev said this was the "first step toward integration into Western military structures." One day earlier, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott discussed with Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova measures aimed at ending the conflict in Kosovo. He lauded Sofia's stabilizing role in the Balkans, saying Bulgaria has become a "strong multi-ethnic democracy that could serve as a model for other Balkan nations," dpa reported. MS END NOTE MOLDOVA'S UPCOMING PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS (PART TWO) by Michael Shafir It is a victory of the Right, rather than of the Left, that President Petru Lucinschi fears may lead to a "confrontational situation" between himself and the parliament. The main force on the Right is the Democratic Convention of Moldova (CDM), an alliance that was set up last year. Its main components are the Party of Revival and Conciliation (PRRM) and the Christian Democratic Popular Front (FPCD). Former President Mircea Snegur, who heads the PRRM, and the FPCD were bitter enemies in 1994, when Snegur opted for the road of "Moldovanism" and the FPCD remained true to its pro-Romanian, unionist stance. But Snegur's alliance with the FPCD may been seen by some observers as the "homecoming" of the former president. Leaving behind his communist identity (as chairman of the Moldovan Supreme Soviet in July 1989 and Central Committee secretary since 1985), Snegur in 1990 allied himself with the pro-independence and pro-Romanian Popular Front. Snegur has not fully returned to a pro-Romanian unionist position, but Iurie Rosca, the co-chairman of the CDM, has apparently decided to follow the "Romanian model" in setting up the convention. Like the Democratic Convention of Romania, the CDM sees its main purpose in removing the "vestiges of communism" and is therefore willing to postpone resolving differences among its component parties or leaders. For the time being, the FPCD is not promoting reunification with Romania as a main priority, though the CDM wants closer links with Bucharest and wants to step up efforts to eventually gain entry to the EU. It also insists that it is the only political alternative that can guarantee accelerating the privatization process and cutting the umbilical cord that links President Lucinschi (a former Central Committee secretary in Moscow under Mikhail Gorbachev) to the CIS and Russia. Other parties on the Right of the political spectrum are the Party of Democratic Forces (PFD), led by Valeriu Matei, and the Alliance of Democratic Forces Bloc (BAFD), set up by the National Peasant Party and the National Liberal Party. Their electoral chances are uncertain. The first CURS-IMAS poll put support for the PFD at 15 percent, the second at 16 percent. Support for the BAFD dropped from 11 percent to 6 percent over the past two months, according to the CURS-IMAS surveys. The Opinia poll also credited the PFD with 15 percent, but put the BAFD below the electoral threshold. The CDM, meanwhile, has been running a close second to the Communists in the opinion polls. It gained 18 percent support in the first CURS-IMAS poll, 19 percent in the second, and 20 percent in the Opinia survey. The fact that the CDM has moderated its position on unification with Romania may well explain why it leads the field among rightist parties. Polls in Moldova have consistently shown that for both historical and more immediate reasons, a solid majority of voters do not favor reunification. And while the separatist Transdniestrian demands find little backing on the left bank of the Dniester River, Moldovans are in general willing to go a long way toward accommodating the fears of the non-Romanian (non-"Moldovan") minorities, whether they are Russian, Ukrainian, Gagauz, or any other. For lack of a better definition, parties backing President Lucinschi can be considered "centrist". The Center is aware of the need to promote reforms but at the same time realizes that many voters oppose them. It also builds on Lucinschi's popularity and the widespread belief that his links to Moscow will ultimately bring about a settlement of the Transdniestrian conflict whereby the country's territorial integrity would be preserved and the large population of Slavs and particularly Russians (who constitute nearly 13 percent of the population) would be accommodated. The pro-presidential For a Democratic Prosperous and Moldova Bloc (PMDP), set up immediately after Lucinschi's victory in the late 1996 presidential elections and led by Dumitru Diacov, is the most prominent among the centrist parties. Premier Ion Ciubuc, whom Lucinschi has named as his preferred candidate for the premiership after the elections, is a PMDP member. Support for the PMDP has soared from 9 percent to 19 percent in just one month, according to the two CURS-IMAS polls (the Opinia poll credited it with some 10 percent backing). The PMDP, as well as other pro-presidential lists (which, unlike it, may fail to pass the 4 percent election threshold), favors transforming the system from a parliamentary democracy into a presidential one-- a rather dangerous proposition in a state lacking strong democratic traditions. Perhaps the most colorful of the centrist formations is the Party of Social and Economic Justice. Last week, 16 would-be candidates on the list headed by Maricica Levitschi left the party in protest at her apparent attempts to bribe the electorate by distributing humanitarian aid received from abroad, including condoms and contraceptive pills. They also objected to the fact that Levitschi had forced them to swear on the Bible everlasting political fidelity. She should have known that there is no such thing in politics and least of all in Moldovan politics, where everything is still in flux. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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