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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 66 Part II, 6 April 1998


___________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 66  Part II, 6 April 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

* METHANE GAS BLAST IN DONETSK MINE KILLS 63

* MOSCOW DEMANDS LATVIA ACT AGAINST EMBASSY BOMBERS

* DJUKANOVIC CALLS KOSOVA DEMOCRATIC, NOT TERRITORIAL, ISSUE

End Note: WHEN COMMUNISTS WIN ELECTIONS

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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

METHANE GAS BLAST IN DONETSK MINE KILLS 63. A powerful
methane gas explosion occurred in the Skochinsky coal mine
in eastern Ukraine's city of Donetsk on 4 April. A fire that
followed the blast killed 63 people and injured 71. It was
the worst mine accident since Ukraine gained independence in
1991. "It's scandalous," AFP quoted Deputy Coal Minister
Dmytro Herasymchuk as saying. He said maintenance of mines
has been neglected because of a lack of funds. The
Skochinsky mine in Donetsk is notorious for its dangerous
work conditions and gas emissions. The government has set up
a commission to investigate the disaster. It proclaimed 5
and 6 April days of mourning. JM

OPPOSITION FIGURES JAILED IN AFTERMATH OF UNION DAY RALLY.
Belarusian authorities arrested about 50 people in Minsk on
2 April after a demonstration against the Union of Belarus
and Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April 1998), RFE/RL's
Belarus Service reported. Lyavon Barshcheuski, acting
chairman of the Belarusian Popular Front (BPF), was arrested
even though he says he did not participate in the rally and
informed the authorities that he would not. At his trial on
3 April, two police officers testified they saw him at the
rally, but RFE/RL correspondents say he was attending a
cultural reading at the time. Vyachaslau Siuchyk, a BPF
secretary, was given a 10-day sentence and Yan Abadouski, a
BPF activist from Mahilyou, was sentenced to 15 days. Other
detainees received warnings or fines. Yury Khadyka, a BPF
deputy chairman who was also arrested and interrogated on 2
April, said the authorities' reaction constituted "hysterics
on the part of the regime." JM

MAN WITH BOMB ARRESTED NEAR LUKASHENKA'S RESIDENCE.
Belarusian police arrested a man they say was trying to
detonate a homemade bomb near President Alyaksandr
Lukashenka's office in Minsk on 3 April, Belarusian State
Television reported. Police identified the man as Ryhor
Byanchuk, an unemployed mechanical engineer from Homel. They
said he threatened to kill himself in protest against
corruption by government officials. Belarusian security
officials said the bomb was made with World War II-era
explosives. JM

MOSCOW DEMANDS LATVIA ACT AGAINST EMBASSY BOMBERS. The
Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 6 April
blaming Latvia for encouraging a climate of opinion that the
foreign ministry said had led to the apparent bombing attack
on the Russian embassy in Riga earlier that day. The
statement demanded that Riga take immediate action, Russian
agencies reported. According to BNS, a bomb exploded at
approximately 2:00 a.m. local time in a garbage bin some 50
meters from the embassy building. The explosion caused no
injuries or damage except for the garbage bin itself. The
Moscow statement said that "this terrorist act is the result
of the spurring of anti-Russian hysteria in Latvia, of
encouraging nationalism and extremism." It added that
"blasts ring out, monuments are defiled, fascists are
raising their heads. This has to be stopped. We demand that
the Latvian authorities take decisive measures and punish
those guilty." Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis also
denounced the blast and called on his country's Interior
Ministry to bring the perpetrators to justice," ITAR-TASS
reported. Meanwhile, Latvian Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs
said that "any manifestations of terrorism are utterly
unacceptable" and added that "the executors of this cynical
and outrageous crime will be unable to destabilize the
situation in the country and discredit the prestige of
Latvia in the eyes of the international public." PG

ARMY COMMANDER MAY BE DISMISSED OVER PARADE IN RIGA. The
National Security Council on 3 April called for the
dismissal of Juris Dalbins, armed forces commander, for
participating in a parade last month of veterans of the
former Latvian Waffen SS Legion. Earlier last week,
President Guntis Ulmanis criticized Dalbins and other senior
officers for taking part in the parade. Under Latvian law,
the head of the armed forces is appointed and can be
dismissed by the parliament. The council also called for the
firing of police chief Aldis Lieljuksis for failing to take
the steps necessary to prevent the bombing the previous day
of the Riga synagogue. Also on 3 April, the head of Riga's
criminal police was dismissed over the explosion at the
synagogue, and the chief of the national criminal police
resigned, BNS reported. JC/PG

LATVIAN PREMIER DISMISSES ECONOMICS MINISTER. Guntars Krasts
on 3 April dismissed Economics Minister Atis Sausnitis,
charging that Sausnitis had dragged his feet over
privatization and had exaggerated the impact of possible
economic sanctions by Russia. Several days earlier,
Sausnitis had predicted that a further deterioration in
Latvian-Russian relations might cause losses to Latvian
companies of some 150 million lats (about $300 million).
Krasts said those remarks were "hysterical" and had caused
"ungrounded panic," BNS reported. He added that while it
cannot be ruled out that prolonged tensions in bilateral
relations would inevitably have an effect on Latvia's
economy, he does not believe the damage would be as serious
as Sausnitis predicted. On the same day, Russian Duma
deputies played down suggestions that they were actually
prepared to impose a complete sanctions regime on Latvia,
Interfax reported. But Yaroslavl governor and head of the
Central Russia Economic Association Anatolii Lisitsin said
that he had asked all firms in his region to boycott Latvian
goods, ITAR-TASS reported. JC/PG

ULMANIS SAYS LATVIA MUST CHANGE COURSE. President Guntis
Ulmanis acknowledged on 3 April that the way in which police
handled a protest by ethnic Russians, and the participation
of senior officials in a reunion of Latvian Waffen SS
veterans, damaged Latvia's international reputation. He told
Riga's "Diena" newspaper that Latvia must act decisively to
correct the situation. He said that the government must do
more to improve ties with Moscow. He called on the Latvian
parliament to move quickly to amend the country's
naturalization law so that more of the country's stateless
population, much of which is ethnic Russian, can qualify for
citizenship. PG

LATVIA ASKS U.S. HELP TO INVESTIGATE SYNAGOGUE BOMBING.
Latvian Prime Minister Guntars Krasts asked the United
States to dispatch FBI agents to help investigate the
bombing of the Riga synagogue, and U.S. State Department
spokesman James Rubin said on 3 April that Washington would
extend such assistance. Then, on 4 April, unknown assailants
desecrated a monument to victims of the Holocaust in the
Latvian city of Liepaja, Latvian Interior Ministry officials
told BNS. PG

ESTONIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ELECTED HEAD OF NEW PARTY.
Estonian Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves on 5 April
was elected chairman of the Estonian People's Party in
Tartu, BNS reported on 6 April. The new party combines the
Estonian Farmers' Party and the right wingers. The attitude
of the new party toward the current government remains
unclear. A week ago, the Estonian Farmers' Party announced
that it would neither back the government nor support the
opposition. But Estonian Prime Minister Mart Siiman said
that it was "impermissible" for the party to "reap foreign
policy laurels while refusing to take any domestic policy
responsibility," an indication that Ilves may lose his
current government position unless the party changes its
position. PG

POLISH LEFT-WING TRADE UNIONS MARCH AGAINST GOVERNMENT. More
than 16,000 people from the OPZZ trade union federation, the
ex-communist Democratic Left Alliance, and pensioners'
organizations marched in Warsaw on 3 April demanding to be
consulted on key reforms in health, education, pensions, and
the country's administrative division, Reuters reported. The
protesters, displaying anti-government banners, handed a
petition to parliamentary speaker Maciej Plazynski and ended
their peaceful march at the government headquarters.
Government spokesman Tomasz Tywonek told Reuters that "The
issues mentioned by OPZZ -- health, education, pensions --
are problems which they themselves failed to solve, areas of
negligence of the previous government of which OPZZ was
part." JM

CZECH OPPOSITION LEADER BACKED BY PARTY. Leaders of the
opposition Social Democrats overwhelmingly voted at a
meeting in Prague on 5 April to decline party leader Milos
Zeman's resignation. Zeman had offered to resign two days
earlier on charges of influence peddling during meetings
with Czech-Swiss businessmen. Zeman admits attending the
meeting in the German city Bamberg, but denies accusations
he made any agreements in exchange for campaign donations.
The Social Democrats lead all opinion polls and Zeman is a
likely choice for prime minister after the mid-June
elections. In other news, former Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus
said on 4 April that the parties that made up the coalition
under his government should reform after the elections and
rule again. He said this was necessary to avoid the "danger"
of a Social Democratic-led government. PB

NEW OPPOSITION PARTY FORMED IN SLOVAKIA. The Party for Civic
Understanding (SOP) was founded in Bratislava on 5 April
with the aim of defeating Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's
Movement for a Democratic Slovakia in September elections.
The SOP, to be headed by popular Kosice Mayor Rudolf
Schuster, said at its founding congress that it will work
with other opposition parties. Schuster said he believes the
party will take votes away from the HZDS as well as garner
support from undecided voters. Pavlo Hamzik, a former
foreign minister under Meciar, is the deputy leader. The SOP
is sponsored by Jozef Majsky, one of Slovakia's wealthiest
businessmen. PB

OPPOSITION LEADER HUNGARY'S MOST POPULAR POLITICIAN. Viktor
Orban, the chairman of the Federation of Young Democrats-
Hungarian Civic Party, topped a list of politicians people
would like to see play a leading role after the general
elections in May, a poll said. According to a Gallup opinion
poll taken in March, Orban has 21 percent support, followed
by Prime Minister Gyula Horn, with 19 percent, and Interior
Minister Gabor Kuncze with 17 percent. Another poll,
conducted by Szonda-Ipsos, shows the Socialist Party as the
most popular political party among decided voters, with 35
percent, ahead of the Young Democrats with 26 percent,
Hungarian media reported on 6 April. MSZ

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

U.S. SAYS MILOSEVIC 'GAMBLING WITH FUTURE.' The EU, NATO,
the Kosovar leadership, the Albanian government and the
United States quickly rejected as demagoguery and a delaying
tactic Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's call for a
referendum on international mediation in Kosova (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 3 April 1998). A U.S. State Department spokesman
said in Washington on 3 April that "President Milosevic's
call ... is ... another in a long line of diversionary
tactics, one that shows clearly that he remains defiant,
unwilling to meet the minimum conditions set forth by the
international community." The spokesman urged Milosevic to
stop "gambling with his nation's future" and "put aside the
dangerous games, put aside the diversionary tactics, and
start focusing on what would improve the lives of his
citizens and improve his nation's role in the world."
Speaking in Prishtina, Kosovar shadow-state President
Ibrahim Rugova called international mediation a necessity.
PM

DJUKANOVIC CALLS KOSOVA DEMOCRATIC, NOT TERRITORIAL,
ISSUE... Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic said in
Podgorica on 3 April that the referendum "is a serious
challenge to international factors and playing games with
the destiny of the people." The next day he added that
Milosevic follows a "policy of staying in power at any
price... His only program is to isolate us even more from
the world, and chained by the burden of sanctions, we will
sink to the bottom." Djukanovic argued that "Kosova is a
democratic, not a territorial issue" and warned the Yugoslav
president that "playing with the emotions of citizens and
inflaming national feelings ... is looking for trouble and
can really lead to tragedy." Djukanovic said in response to
Milosevic's assertion that isolation helps Yugoslavia retain
its dignity: "We have already tasted how dignity looked on
an income of $5 a month and we do not want to repeat the
experience." PM

...AND UNVEILS REFORM PROGRAM. President Djukanovic, who
took office in January on a platform of reform, autonomy,
and good relations with the outside world, sent the Belgrade
authorities a comprehensive reform proposal on 3 April, an
RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Montenegrin capital.
He stressed that Yugoslavia is "riding a train... that is
rushing toward a wall." He said, "It will be smashed if we
do not change the direction of the locomotive." His
initiative centers on social and economic opening to the
world, economic reform and privatization, respect for the
rule of law, political democratization, social justice, and
security. He urged Belgrade to join the Central European
Free Trade Area (CEFTA) and the South East European Economic
Integration Initiative (SECI). Djukanovic added that
Yugoslavia should return to the Council of Europe and
International Monetary Fund, apply to join the EU, and seek
access to the EU's Phare aid program. PM

SERBS RETURN FIRST HIGH SCHOOL TO ALBANIANS. The Serbian
authorities in Podujeva on 4 April returned to Kosovar
representatives the first high school in Kosova to be given
back to the Albanians under the March education agreement
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 April 1998). The first building to
change hands, Prishtina's Albanian Studies Institute, did so
on 31 March. The process of restoring public educational
facilities to majority ethnic Albanian control is slated to
end on 30 June. PM

NGO'S SEEK PROTECTIVE FORCE. The International Helsinki
Federation for Human Rights and its affiliates from Kosova,
Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, and Greece issued a
statement in Vienna on 3 April calling for an international
preventive force for Kosova on the model of the Macedonia-
based UNPREDEP. The statement dubbed Milosevic's call for a
referendum "an ominous signal, recalling similar gestures
that preceded ethnic aggression in Croatia and Bosnia. " It
said, "We consider that such a proposal is aimed at kindling
flames of nationalistic hysteria and xenophobic
confrontation, as a prerequisite for increasingly autocratic
policies." PM

SERBS WARN OF DESTABILIZATION IN VUKOVAR. The leading
Independent Democratic Serbian Party, the Joint Township
Council, and the Serbian People's Council condemned the
arrest of three ethnic Serbs in Vukovar on 3 April. The
three groups said in a statement there the following day
that arrests for crimes allegedly committed during 1991 will
only serve to destabilize the delicate political balance in
the region, RFE/RL reported. The statement added that none
of the three appears on a list of 25 persons formally
charged with wartime offenses. PM

CROATIAN BANKING SCANDAL GROWS. Croatian police arrested
Neven Barac, the former director of the scandal-plagued
Dubrovacka Banka, in Zagreb on 3 April. He is wanted in
conjunction with losses totaling $250 million through
questionable business practices, to which press reports have
linked some officials of the governing Croatian Democratic
Community (HDZ). The independent weekly "Globus" wrote on 1
April that the bank at one point transferred $150 million to
HDZ loyalists in Herzegovina. In recent days, spokesmen for
the Croatian National Bank have issued a series of
statements aimed at restoring consumer confidence in
Dubrovacka. PM

"FERAL TRIBUNE" CHARGES CAMPAIGN AGAINST IT. The editors of
the independent weekly "Feral Tribune" said in a statement
issued in Split on 3 April that the paper is the victim of
an ongoing campaign by state-run television and other HDZ-
controlled media. The editors charged that the HDZ "wants to
liquidate the weekly financially and physically." PM

ALBANIA'S NANO THREATENS CABINET WITH DISMISSALS. Prime
Minister Fatos Nano hinted in a press release on 3 April
that some government ministers may soon lose their jobs in a
reshuffle. He admonished them to improve their performance.
Nano said there is a lack of coordination among ministers
and added that "I do not doubt some of you are acting from
interests other than our mandate and the responsibilities we
have undertaken." President Rexhep Meidani said he hopes
that the five-party coalition will remain intact following
the expected reshuffle. Meanwhile, Interior Minister Neritan
Ceka from the small Democratic Alliance Party told a party
assembly in Tirana on 4 April that he has proof that some --
unnamed -- politicians are involved in smuggling, "Koha
Jone" reported. He pledged to investigate all allegations
and threatened to leave the coalition if he faces opposition
from within the government. FS

TWO POLICEMEN KILLED IN SHKODER. Unknown assailants killed
two off-duty policemen in the night of 4 April in Shkoder
near the police headquarters, "Koha Jone" reported. In a
separate incident, an unidentified man shot dead one man and
wounded another in Tirana's central Skanderbeg Square. FS

ROMANIAN PRIME MINISTER-DESIGNATE DISCLOSES POLICY-CHANGE
PLANS. Prime Minister Radu Vasile on 3 April made public his
plan for boosting Romania's lagging reforms. Vasile, chosen
last week to form a government, said he will lower income
taxes, raise import duties, and subsidize the country's
farmers. Vasile said that a decrease in salary taxes would
lead to greater foreign investment. Vasile led negotiations
with probable coalition parties on 4 April. Valeriu Stoica,
the deputy president of the National Liberal Party, said he
hoped talks on forming the cabinet would be finished and
announced early this week. Under the constitution, Vasile
has 10 days to submit a government to parliament. Vasile
said he also will ask the parliament to reduce the number of
ministries in an effort to streamline the government. PB

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT, DNIESTRIAN LEADER, IN HOSPITAL.
President Petru Lucinschi is in a Chisinau hospital for
treatment of lumbago, AFP reported on 3 April. Lucinschi was
admitted last week and is reported to be working while in
the hospital. In Tiraspol, the capital of the separatist
Transdniester region, secessionist leader Igor Smirnov has
been hospitalized for several days after reportedly
suffering a heart attack, INFOTAG reported on 4 April. In
other news, the parliament in Tiraspol fired central bank
President Oleg Natakhin and his deputy, Vladimir Kharchenko,
INFOTAG reported on 3 April. The firings come on the heels
of a three-fold devaluation in the Transdniestrian ruble,
followed by crippling inflation. PB

END NOTE

WHEN COMMUNISTS WIN ELECTIONS

by Paul Goble

	The impressive showing of Communist Party candidates
in the Ukrainian and Moldovan parliamentary elections has
prompted some observers to make apocalyptic predictions
about the future of those countries. The day after the
Ukrainian vote, one Kyiv newspaper asked whether the results
constituted a new "red dawn." Other commentators suggested
that the vote for the Communists meant a return to the past
and a reorientation toward Moscow.
	But an examination of both the returns in those
countries and what actually happened in the elections
suggests that the future of the two states is unlikely to
proceed in that direction.
	On 23 March, the Communist Party in Moldova received
30 percent of the vote, far more than any other party but
also far less than a majority in the parliament. Not
surprisingly in such a situation, the party's leader,
Vladimir Voronin, indicated that the Communist deputies
would seek to form a coalition with the country's main
centrist bloc and would not demand that a Communist be named
prime minister. And while Voronin said that his party would
seek to promote the economic "rebirth" of the country, he
also said that the Moldovan Communists would not oppose
privatization, a key part of the reformist program.
	Six days later, on March 29, the Communist Party in
Ukraine received approximately one vote in four, giving it
25 percent of the 225 seats allocated by party list, far
more than any other political party in that election. But
the Communists triumphed in fewer than 40 of the 225
parliamentary seats chosen in single-member districts and
thus will be forced to seek allies among other parties if
they hope to participate in the government or determine
policy outcomes.
	More to the point, in both countries, there are three
important reasons to think that this increase in the vote
for Communist deputies does not presage a return to the
past, either domestically or internationally.
	First, the Ukrainian and Moldovan Communists won in
competitive elections rather than through the use of
revolutionary methods. As such, they are far more like
leftist parties in Europe than their Bolshevik predecessors.
They have had to make promises to voters. They have not won
a majority that would allow them to run roughshod over
others. And they are forced to seek coalitions to be
effective.
	Second, the Communists won as the result of a protest
vote by those who have suffered owing to social and economic
dislocations of the past decade. As one of the more
thoughtful Ukrainian newspapers said earlier this wee,
"Ukraine voted in protest -- not for the Greens or other
colors of the spectrum but against the way we are living."
Pensioners and many workers there have not been paid for
months. Many people are suffering from the decline in public
services. And still more are frightened about what will
happen next.
	Not surprisingly, they voted for Communist candidates
who promised to ease their situation. If those making
promises cannot keep them any better than the parties they
defeated, they too will lose at the next election.
	And third, the vote for the Communists was not
necessarily a vote for closer ties with Moscow, let alone a
return to some kind of revived Soviet Union. While some
people in both countries may have voted communist out of a
misplaced nostalgia for the past, most voted the way they
did out of domestic considerations rather than foreign
policy calculations. And even if some Communist candidates
did promise to improve ties with Moscow, they also spoke out
in favor of strengthening the national governments they
hoped to be elected to.
	Indeed, precisely because of the legacy of the past,
many of the Communists adopted campaign rhetoric as
nationalist as any of the other candidates.
	To say all this is not to welcome the votes for the
Communists in either Moldova or Ukraine. On the one hand,
the vote for them represents a repudiation, at least for a
time, of those who have sought to promote democracy and free
markets. On the other hand, Communist deputies in both
countries are likely to be able to block or at least water
down further efforts toward those two goals.
	Rather, it is to suggest that this pattern of voting
may be part of the birth pangs of a democratic system in
Moldova and Ukraine, instead of its death knell as some
fear.

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