True heroism consists not in fighting under a flag but in not fighting at all. - Freidrich Nietzsche
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

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

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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)

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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.

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