It is easier to love humanity than to love one's neighbor. - Eric Hoffer
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 58 Part II, 25 March 1998


___________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 58 Part II, 25 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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RUSSIAN MEDIA EMPIRES II
Businessmen, government leaders, politicians, and financial companies
continue to reshape Russia's media landscape. This update of a September
report identifies the players and their media holdings via charts, tables
and articles.
http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/rumedia2/index.html

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Headlines, Part II

* TATAR PROTEST TURNS VIOLENT IN CRIMEA

* SERBIAN ATTACKS NEAR ALBANIAN BORDER

* ALBRIGHT URGES PRESSURE ON SERBIA

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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

TATAR PROTEST TURNS VIOLENT IN CRIMEA. Several thousand 
Tatars clashed with police in the Crimean capital of Simferopol on 24 
March, Interfax reported. The Tatars began their protest in the central Lenin 
square and then blocked railway tracks and a key highway after the 
Ukrainian parliament took no action on their request for suffrage rights. 
Police then intervened. Eight policemen were hospitalized and an 
unspecified number of Tatars were also injured in the confrontation. The 
protest ended when Tatar leader Refat Churbarov announced he had reached 
an agreement with President Leonid Kuchma's office to discuss the issue. 
Several hundred thousand Tatars have returned to the Crimea from Central 
Asia since 1991 but many have not been granted Ukrainian citizenship and 
therefore cannot vote in the 29 March elections. Crimean Tatar leaders fear 
that as a result, they will not be properly represented in the local, regional, 
or national legislatures. PB

TWO POLITICIANS SHOT IN RUNUP TO UKRAINIAN 
ELECTIONS. Two candidates for the Ukrainian parliament were injured in 
separate attacks on 24 March, Reuters reported. Vasyl Koryak, mayor of the 
central city of Lubny, was seriously injured when his car was attacked by 
gunmen. Koryak, a member of the United Social Democratic party, is 
running for a seat in the national parliament. In the Black Sea port of 
Sevastopol, Vasyl Kalytyuk, a top official in the Crimean branch of the 
Social Democrats, was also shot at while driving his car. He suffered light 
injuries. PB

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT ON REFORMISTS' ELECTION 
PROSPECTS. Leonid Kuchma said on 24 March that the outlook for pro-
reform parties in the 29 March parliamentary elections is "gloomy," ITAR-
TASS reported. Kuchma, who is in Sofia for a two-day visit, fears that 
many Ukrainians are apathetic about the vote, which, he says, can only 
benefit the Communists and other parties on the Left. Kuchma said a return 
to Communist-era socialism is "comparable to attempts to get sick again." 
The Communist Party, which holds the largest number of seats in the 
parliament, tops all opinion polls. PB

BELARUSIAN RUBLE CONTINUES FALL. New restrictions by the 
Belarusian Central Bank are being blamed for another devaluation in the 
Belarusian ruble, BelaPAN reported. The currency fell to 64,000-69,000 
against the dollar on 24 March, one day after the central bank put 
restrictions on all payments by foreign economic entities. Banks, mostly 
Russian ones, are now prevented from exchanging their Belarusian rubles 
for a more stable currency. In response, the Moscow Interbank Currency 
Exchange has halted trading in the Belarusian ruble. The currency was 
trading at 60,000 to $1 on 19 March and has lost about 30 percent of its 
value since the beginning of the year. PB

SENTENCES UPHELD ON TV JOURNALISTS IN BELARUS. The 
Grodno regional court has rejected an appeal filed by Russian Television 
journalist Pavel Sheremet and his cameraman Dmitry Zavadsky, BelaPAN 
reported on 24 March. Both were given suspended sentences of 2 years and 
18 months, respectively, for illegally crossing the Belarusian-Lithuanian 
border last summer. Defense attorneys said they will file an appeal with the 
International Human Rights Court based in The Hague. PB

LUKASHENKA IN MURMANSK. Belarusian President Alyaksandr 
Lukashenka arrived in the Arctic port of Murmansk on 24 March for talks 
with local political and business leaders, BelaPAN reported. Lukashenka 
met with Murmansk Governor Yurii Yevdokimov, Admiral Oleg 
Yerofeyev, the commander of the Northern Fleet, and Vladimir Grigoryev, 
Belarus's ambassador to Russia. Lukashenka told journalists that the union 
treaty between Belarus and Russia is more successful at the regional than 
the national level. The city of Murmansk is holding an exhibition called 
"Days of Belarus," which is aimed at promoting Belarusian goods. PB

ESTONIA'S UNITED OPPOSITION EXPELS RIGHT-WINGERS. 
The United Opposition, the strongest opposition force in the parliament, has 
expelled the four members of the Right-wingers faction following their 
recent decision to merge with the Farmers' Party, ETA reported on 24 
March. The United Opposition said the Right-wingers cannot participate in 
the work of the opposition because they have allied themselves with a party 
of which Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves is a leader. The departure 
of the four deputies means that the United Opposition now has 32 members 
in the 101-seat parliament. JC

RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR SAYS NO CHANGE IN POLICY 
TOWARD TALLINN. Russian ambassador to Estonia Aleksei Glukhov 
told the daily "Postimees" on 24 March that Russian policy toward Estonia 
will not change after a new government is formed in Moscow, ETA 
reported. Glukhov said that Estonian-Russian relations "depend mostly on 
the work of the bilateral intergovernment commission," which is due to 
convene for the first time in June. He also commented that Estonian Prime 
Minister Mart Siimann's visit to Moscow requires "thorough preparations" 
will be probably not take place before summer or the fall. JC

LATVIA EXTENDS VALIDITY OF SOVIET PASSPORTS. The 
cabinet has extended until 31 October the validity of former Soviet foreign 
passports for Latvian residents traveling to CIS states, BNS reported on 24 
March. Under the amendments to government regulations, holders of 
former Soviet domestic passports will be entitled to return to Latvia by 1 
July. Only 3 percent of the 700,000 or so non-citizens residing in Latvia 
hold former Soviet foreign passports, while 74 percent have Soviet internal 
passports. Some 15 percent have received non-citizens' passports from the 
Latvian authorities. JC

SLOVAK POLL ON PRESIDENTIAL REFERENDUM. An opinion 
poll conducted by the independent Institute for Public Affairs shows that 62 
percent of Slovaks would participate in a referendum on electing the 
country's president by popular vote. Of those, 92 percent would approve the 
direct election of the president, RFE/RL's Bratislava bureau reported on 24 
March. MS

SLOVAK NATIONALISTS WANTS TO BAR NATO MEMBERSHIP. 
The Slovak National Party (SNS), a junior partner in the ruling coalition, 
says it has started collecting signatures for a petition on declaring Slovakia a 
neutral state and barring its possible membership in NATO. The petition is 
also to call for a return of the death penalty, which would be a breach of one 
of the conditions for EU membership. A spokesman for Prime Minister 
Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia dismissed the SNS 
initiative as one aimed at "boosting its popularity before the elections," 
Reuters reported on 24 March. RFE/RL's Bratislava bureau added that the 
SNS also expressed "full brotherly support for the Serbian nation" and 
called on the international community to "revise its support of irredentist 
efforts of the Kosovo Albanians." MS

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

SERBIAN ATTACKS NEAR ALBANIAN BORDER. Serbian special 
police attacked at least four villages north of Djakovica with mortars, 
armored vehicles, and helicopter gunships on 24 March. Serbia's Tanjug 
news agency reported that the police action was in response to a "terrorist" 
ambush of a police patrol. Some of the dozens of local Kosovars who fled 
to nearby villages told Reuters, that they do not know why the police 
attacked them. The fighting left several persons dead, but exact figures are 
not available. In Tirana, "Koha Jone" reported that "hundreds" of soldiers 
were sent to northern Albania on 24 March to reinforce units along the 
border with Serbia. "Shekulli" wrote that the latest fighting in Kosovo is 
"only 10 kilometers" away from the Albanian frontier. PM/FS 

UN AGENCY SLAMS VIOLENCE. Jakob Selebi, who is chairman of the 
UN Human Rights Commission, has criticized the violence in Kosovo and 
called on the Serbian authorities to stop human rights abuses there 
immediately. Speaking in Geneva on 24 March, Selebi said that the 
Commission "condemns the excessive and brutal use of force by the Serbian 
police." Selebi added that the Serbian authorities have a duty to protect the 
rights of all citizens and "to ensure that public security forces act with 
restraint and in full respect of internationally agreed norms and standards." 
Selebi also said the commission "calls on the leaders of the Kosovo 
Albanian community to make clear their total rejection of terrorism." PM

ALBRIGHT URGES PRESSURE ON SERBIA. U.S. Secretary of State 
Madeleine Albright said in Rome on 24 March that "Belgrade is still 
ignoring the Contact Group's key demands" that diplomats from the U.S., 
U.K., Germany, Russia, Italy, and France formulated on 9 March in 
London. Albright added that "Serbian security police are digging in, [and] 
not pulling out" as the Contact Group requested. She said the international 
community "will need to maintain credible pressure on Belgrade to end 
repression and restore autonomy" to Kosovo. U.S. diplomats accompanying 
Albright on her way to the 25 March Contact Group meeting in Bonn told 
Reuters, however, that she is unlikely to find support for additional 
sanctions on Belgrade. The diplomats noted that Russia supports Serbia and 
that the four Western European countries are reluctant to impose sanctions 
on Belgrade just two days after the Serbian government signed an 
agreement on education with the Kosovars. PM

KOSOVARS SET UP NEGOTIATING TEAM. Kosovar shadow-state 
President Ibrahim Rugova announced in Pristina on 24 March that the 
Kosovar leadership has appointed 15 prominent persons to negotiate with 
the Serbian authorities if Belgrade agrees to unconditional talks. The 
members of the Kosovar team represent a wide variety of political views, 
RFE/RL reported. Negotiators include Rugova's adviser Fehmi Agani, 
shadow-state Prime Minister Bujar Bukoshi, communist-era leader Mahmut 
Bakalli, and Parliamentary Party President Adem Demaci. PM

RAMIZ ALIA CALLS FOR INDEPENDENT KOSOVO. Ramiz Alia, 
Albania's last communist-era president, told "Koha Jone" on 25 March that 
the major powers should recognize Kosovo as a sovereign and independent 
state. He added that "Europe has been slow to act, as it was in the case of 
Bosnia," and that "now is the time for action and not for words. Kosovo 
needs solutions and not declarations and promises." Concerning the 
education agreement signed on 23 March between Serbian and Kosovo 
Albanian officials, Alia said that holding talks and signing agreements "are 
well-known tactics of [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic, which he 
also used in the case of Bosnia" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 March 1998). 
FS

SESELJ JOINS SERBIAN GOVERNMENT. The Serbian parliament on 
24 March approved a new 35-member government consisting of Milosevic's 
Serbian Socialist Party, United Yugoslav Left, led by his wife Mirjana 
Markovic, and Vojislav Seselj's Serbian Radical Party. Seselj becomes a 
deputy prime minister. Spokesmen for the opposition parties Vojvodina 
Coalition, Union of Vojvodina Hungarians, New Democracy, and the 
Muslim List for Sandzak said the government "will lead the country to 
disaster and to new conflicts with the international community," RFE/RL 
reported. PM

KOSOVARS CONCERNED ABOUT SESELJ. Serbian Prime Minister 
Mirko Marjanovic told the parliament on 24 March that his government's 
priorities include "preserving Kosovo as an inseparable part of Serbia." In 
Pristina, Milazim Krasniqi, who is a spokesman for Rugova's Democratic 
League of Kosovo, said the Radicals' participation in the government is a 
"bad sign" for the future of peace and stability in the Balkans. Krasniqi 
added that "the arrival of Seselj and his people could lead to an even further 
radicalization of the situation in Kosovo and to an upsurge in the anti-
Albanian campaign in Serbia," RFE/RL reported. The ultranationalist Seselj 
led paramilitary forces in Croatia and Bosnia, where he is widely regarded 
as a war criminal. PM

GARROD SAYS NO DEMILITARIZATION OF BOSNIA ALONE. 
Martin Garrod, the international community's chief representative in 
Mostar, said on 24 March that the international community cannot support 
the demilitarization of Bosnia, as Croatian President Franjo Tudjman 
recently proposed (see "RFE/RL Bosnia Report," 25 March 1998). Garrod 
stressed that any regional demilitarization would have to include Croatia 
and Serbia as well as Bosnia in order to be effective. Meanwhile near Ploce, 
some 2,300 SFOR troops from six countries began a two-day exercise to 
"demonstrate the peacekeepers' military readiness," RFE/RL reported. PM 

CROATIAN SOCIAL DEMOCRATS WANT EARLY VOTE. Social 
Democratic leader Ivica Racan said in Zagreb on 24 March that early 
parliamentary elections are the only way out of what he called Croatia's 
general crisis. Racan also slammed Tudjman's rejection of Western criticism 
of Croatia's record on implementing democracy. The leader of the largest 
opposition party added that Croatia must meet Western democratic 
standards if it wants to be considered part of Europe. PM

SLOVENIA DISGUSTED WITH YUGOSLAV SUCCESSION 
TALKS. A government spokesman said in Ljubljana on 24 March that 
Slovenia is withdrawing its permanent mission to the Brussels negotiations 
aimed at dividing the former Yugoslavia's debts and assets. The spokesman 
said Serbia has long obstructed the talks and hence made it "a waste of time 
and the taxpayers' money" for Slovenia to maintain a permanent mission 
there. The Foreign Ministry will assume direct responsibility for 
representing Slovenia at future negotiating sessions. PM 

PROBE INTO ALLEGED CORRUPTION AT ROMANIA'S 
GERMAN EMBASSY. President Emil Constantinescu has demanded that 
the government set up a commission to investigate German charges that 
Romanian diplomats in Bonn have been involved in issuing forged 
passports, dpa reported on 24 March. Earlier the same day, a German 
prosecutor said the diplomats issued the forged passports to gangsters who 
used them to bring children into Germany, where they were trained to work 
as pickpockets. German investigators say that some 100 children aged 8-13 
were beaten up by their "keepers" if they did not bring in enough "loot." 
They add that the children are expected to make some 2,000-3,000 German 
marks a day. MS

ROMANIAN SENATE REJECTS OPPOSITION MOTION. By a vote 
of 77 to 51, the Senate on 24 March rejected an opposition motion to debate 
the privatization of the state-owned RomTelcom company. The motion was 
submitted by the Party of Social Democracy in Romania and supported by 
the Greater Romania Party and the Party of Romanian National Unity. The 
government envisages selling a 35 percent share in the company to a foreign 
investor that has not yet been selected, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau 
reported. MS

COALITION NEGOTIATIONS UNDER WAY IN MOLDOVA. The 
Democratic Convention of Moldova (CDM), For a Democratic and 
Prosperous Moldova Bloc, and the Party of Democratic Forces (PFD) are 
negotiating to establish a coalition government, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau 
reported on 24 March. PDF leader Valeriu Matei said that "at this stage, it is 
clear only that none of these parties will form a coalition with the 
Communists." A spokesman for the CDM said that the accession of the 
Communists to power would be tantamount to a "return to the totalitarian 
past." He said the three parties must now "set aside all differences" because 
"opposing the Communists is only possible by joining forces." President 
Petru Lucinschi held talks on 24 March with Matei and with CDM co-
chairman Mircea Snegur. MS

OBSERVERS EVALUATE MOLDOVAN ELECTIONS. The Helsinki 
Committee-Moldova says its observers have concluded there was 
widespread ignorance of electoral rules among many members of electoral 
commissions, observers sent to the commissions by competing political 
parties, and the electorate itself. It adds that this resulted in some 
irregularities. Committee chairman Stefan Uratu also said the authorities 
were unable to ensure conditions for the Transdniester Moldovan electorate 
to freely participate in the ballot, mainly due to obstacles set by the Tiraspol 
authorities, BASA-press reported. Observers from the European Institute for 
Media (EIM) also said Transdniester voters did not have free access to 
information and were thus unable to fully exercise their electoral rights. The 
EIM observers also criticized the political partisanship of the Moldovan 
mass media. MS 

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT IN BULGARIA. Visiting Ukrainian 
President Leonid Kuchma and his Bulgarian counterpart, Petar Stoyanov, 
signed several agreements on 24 March, including a declaration on a 
"strategic partnership" for strengthening political and economic ties, 
RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. Kuchma also met with Prime Minister 
Ivan Kostov. He said it is "sad" that trade turnover between the two states 
totals only some $300 million but noted that prospects have improved since 
the pro- reform government came to power in Bulgaria. MS

BULGARIA REVEALS DETAILS OF RUSSIAN GAS SUPPLIES 
AGREEMENT. Deputy Premier Evgeni Bakardzhiev on 24 March said 
that under the preliminary agreement reached last week in Moscow (see 
"RFE/RL Newsline, 23 March 1998), Gazprom has agreed to take over full 
control of the controversial Topenergy company, AFP reported. Topenergy 
had acted as an intermediary between Gazprom and Bulgaria. Also on 24 
March, a consortium composed of Germany's Siemens, France's Framatom, 
and Russia's Atomenergoexport signed a $100 million contract for 
upgrading two reactors at the Kozloduy atomic power plant. The signing 
ceremony was attended by visiting German Economics Minster Gunther 
Rexrodt, who pledged continued German support for Bulgaria's integration 
into Euro-Atlantic structures, Reuters reported. MS

End Note
ECONOMIC GROWTH IN BELARUS: FACT OR FICTION?

by Lavon Zlotnikau

	Last year, the Belarusian government claimed the highest rate of 
economic growth in Europe--some 10 percent of GDP. That growth had 
nothing to do with genuine, market-economy factors such as job creation, 
increased investments, and price liberalization. Rather, it was artificially 
stimulated by Soviet-era methods of a command economy. 
	State control over the Belarusian economy is virtually total. The 
private sector's share in industry is less than 1 percent and in trade and 
services 4 percent. Under President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, private 
business is subject to constant regulation and steep taxation. Foreign 
investments in 1997 totaled only $40 million, and the per capita figure was 
10 times lower than in the neighboring Baltic states or Poland. And while 
the employment situation looks deceptively good (official unemployment 
figure stands at 2.8 percent), many people without work choose not to 
register as unemployed, engaging instead in private commerce or trade.
	One of the reasons for the "Belarusian economic miracle" is the high 
level of Russian indirect subsidies. In March 1996, Russian President Boris 
Yeltsin and Lukashenka signed an agreement on the "satisfaction of mutual 
claims of Belarus and Russia.". Under that agreement, Belarusian debts for 
Russian gas supplies totaling $1.3 billion (or 6.5 percent of Belarusian 
GDP) are converted into long-term credits. Moreover, Belarus imported 
Russian oil and gas at prices lower than those on world markets. Whereas 
Lithuania and Ukraine, for example, pay $80 per 1,000 cubic meters, 
Belarus pays only $50. Paying lower prices for energy resources results in 
indirect Russian subsidies totaling some $400-450 million a year.
	In addition, Belarus pays for some Russian goods by means of 
barter. Prices for bartered Belarusian goods are fixed at high or even world-
market levels. For example, Russia imported sugar from Belarus in 1997 at 
a price of $513 per ton and from other countries at $307-320. Similar price 
differences exist for Russian imports of Belarusian butter, synthetic fibers, 
and other goods. 
	Taking into account all forms of indirect Russian subsidies, Andrei 
Illarionov, former economic adviser to Yeltsin, concluded that those 
subsidies were equal to $1.52 billion in 1997. By comparison, the 
Belarusian state budget is only $3.5 billion. 
	Another reason for the "Belarusian economic miracle" is the 
depletion of the country's national assets. Minsk inherited a large amount of 
arms from the former USSR, which are now being sold off. In 1996, 
armaments sales generated more than $400 million, and last year, Belarus 
gained a place on the list of the top 10 arms exporting countries in the 
world.
	Statistical data show that the total savings of the population are 
decreasing at a rate of $180-200 million a year. And last year, current assets 
of Belarusian enterprises decreased by 10 percent. With inflation rising, all 
enterprises were prohibited from increasing their prices by more than 2 
percent a month. 
	Last year witnessed an increase of production volumes at a large 
number of unprofitable enterprises. If capital turnover and inflation are 
taken into account, the share of unprofitable enterprises in Belarus is 
approximately the same as in Russia --47-50 percent. In Belarus, those 
companies were simply ordered to produce more and export (mainly to 
Russia) at prices below production costs.
	A final reason for Belarus's economic growth is protectionism. High 
import duties imposed within the framework of the Russia-Belarus customs 
union make certain Belarusian manufactured goods competitive on the 
Russian market. For example, Russian import of car tires from Belarus for 
the first nine months of1997 increased 2.6 times over the same period last 
year, while the production volume of Belarusian television sets increased by 
60 percent and their export to Russia by 27.3 percent. Such trends are taking 
place at the expense of per capita consumption by the Belarusian 
population..
	Thus rather than introducing genuine  reforms, the Belarusian 
government artificially stimulates its economy by relying on Russian 
subsidies, the depletion of the nation's wealth, and trade protectionism. It 
also engages in increased deficit spending. The total budget deficit 
(including soft credits) was equal to 4.9 percent of GDP. That deficit is 
financed by credits from the Belarusian National Bank. Such soft-credit 
monetary policy leads to high inflation and to a redistribution of resources 
in favor of unprofitable enterprises.

The author is an adviser to the 13th Supreme Soviet of Belarus and to the 
World Bank.

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