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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 67 Part II, 7 April 1998


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 67  Part II, 7 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

* RUSSIAN NATIONALIST SUSPECTED IN LATVIAN BOMBINGS

* POLAND DENIES ALLEGATIONS OF SPYING ON NATO

* U.S. TO KEEP TROOPS IN MACEDONIA

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REGIONAL AFFAIRS

RUSSIAN NATIONALIST SUSPECTED IN LATVIAN BOMBINGS. Latvian
state television said on 6 April that at least some members
of the country's police believe that a member of an
extremist Russian nationalist group may have been behind the
recent bombings of the synagogue and the Russian embassy in
Riga. Latvian officials have suggested that the explosions
were the work of those who want to discredit Latvia
internationally. Police have already concluded that the same
individual was behind both bombings, and they have
identified the explosives as being of Soviet origin, BNS
reported. More than 2,000 Latvian police and agents of the
U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation are currently working
on the case. The manhunt has already led to the confiscation
of several weapons and the arrest of a former Soviet OMON
officer, who was wanted on other charges. PG

LATVIAN PRIME MINISTER CALLS FOR FIGHT AGAINST EXTREMISM. In
an interview with Riga's "Diena" newspaper on 7 April, Prime
Minister Guntars Krasts said the recent wave of bombings
will not succeed in threatening the stability of the
country. In the interview, he repeated calls he made the
previous day for Latvians to fight all forms of extremism
that may threaten the country. But again he sought to calm
the situation by saying "my view is that we will control the
situation." PG

BOMBINGS AFFECT LATVIAN ECONOMY, POLITICS. Latvian Transport
Minister Vilis Kristopans told a Riga press conference on 6
April that the recent increase in tensions with Russia has
contributed to a significant decline in trade volume passing
along Latvian railroads and through Latvian ports, Reuters
reported. Meanwhile, leaders of the various political
parties in the Latvian parliament focused on amending the
country's citizenship law to make it easier for at least
some ethnic Russians who do not yet have Latvian citizenship
to acquire it, BNS reported. The factions are expected to
submit their ideas and plans on this point by 9 April, but a
consensus is emerging that there will be significant support
for at least one amendment allowing for automatic
naturalization of children born after 21 August 1991 to non-
citizens. PG

INTERNATIONAL REACTION TO LATVIAN BOMBINGS. Moscow Mayor
Yurii Luzhkov on 7 April repeated his call for Moscow to
impose economic and other sanctions on Latvia, Interfax
reported. The previous day, Saratov governor Dmitrii
Ayatskov had urged the Russian government to develop a
special program in support of ethnic Russians abroad, ITAR-
TASS reported. Ayatskov said "the explosion in Riga puts
Latvia on par with countries where terrorism is the main
method of deciding political disputes." The U.S. and other
Western countries, meanwhile have condemned the bombing of
the Russian embassy in Riga. U.S. State Department spokesman
James Rubin on 6 April called on Latvia and Russia to begin
a dialogue in order to overcome problems in their bilateral
relationship. Meanwhile, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry
expressed both concern over the situation in Latvia and
support for Riga's efforts to expose the organizers of the
attacks, BNS reported on 7 April. PG

RATIFICATION OF TROOPS AGREEMENT WITH MOLDOVA DELAYED. The
Russian State Duma on 3 April postponed ratification of an
October 1994 Russian-Moldovan agreement on the withdrawal of
Russian troops from the Dniester region, ITAR-TASS reported.
On behalf of the Russian Defense Ministry, General Valentin
Bogdanchikov called on Duma deputies to ratify the
agreement, saying it provides a "legal foundation for the
temporary stay of the Russian military units on the
territory of the Republic of Moldova." But Duma CIS Affairs
Committee Chairman Georgii Tikhonov of the Popular Power
faction argued against pulling out Russian troops before the
conflict in Dniester has been settled. After a 40-minute
debate, Yeltsin's representative in the Duma, Aleksandr
Kotenkov, withdrew the agreement from proposed ratification.
There is also considerable opposition within the Duma to the
1990 basic treaty between Russia and Moldova (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 11 December 1997). LB

EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

UKRAINE MOURNS MINERS LOST IN METHANE BLAST. Nineteen of the
63 miners killed in the underground explosion at the
Skochynsky coal mine were buried on 6 April, which was
declared a day of official mourning, dpa reported. Prime
Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko told a news conference after
the funeral that the government can close down dangerous
mines only after it has created other jobs for the region's
miners. The government has earmarked 5 million hryvnyas
($2.5 million) as compensation for the families of miners
killed in the tragedy. Each family has been promised a free
apartment and a cash payment of some $20,000. JM

VOTES STILL BEING COUNTED IN UKRAINE. The Ukrainian Central
Electoral Commission is planning to announce the final
results of the 29 March elections early next week,
commission head Mykhaylo Ryabets told journalists in Kiev on
6 April, Ukrainian Television-1 reported. Ryabets also said
the commission has received many complaints of election
violations throughout the country. An eight-member team is
investigating complaints from the Dnipropetrovsk region,
where the number of votes scored by the Hromada party is
half that received nationwide. Hromada is led by former
Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, who is an opponent of
President Leonid Kuchma. Meanwhile, the Agrarian Party,
which did not overcome the 4 percent vote barrier, has
claimed that its votes in several constituencies were
appropriated by other parties. JM

OPPOSITION YOUTHS FACE PRISON TERM IN BELARUS. Belarusian
authorities have brought charges of "malicious hooliganism"
against 21-year-old Pavel Sevyarynets, leader of the
opposition Belarusian Popular Front youth branch, and 15-
year-old Zmitser Vaskovich, a member of that organization,
RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Both were arrested
during the Union Day demonstration in Minsk on 2 April.
Sevyarynets is being held in the Minsk city prison, while
Vaskovich was released on his own recognizance. If
convicted, they could receive a prison sentence of up to
five years. JM

POLAND DENIES ALLEGATIONS OF SPYING ON NATO. Polish Prime
Minister Jerzy Buzek on 6 April denied allegations that
Poland is spying on its future allies in NATO. The German
magazine "Der Spiegel" of 4 April had reported that
intelligence agents from Poland, Hungary, and the Czech
Republic maintain contacts with Russian spies and that the
three East-Central European countries have tried to plant
agents at NATO headquarters in Brussels. "There are no such
activities on our part," Buzek said, according to the 7
April "Zycie Warszawy." Janusz Palubicki, coordinator for
Poland's intelligence services, also denied the allegations
and told the Polish daily that "Der Spiegel" had been
"either poorly informed or misinformed by NATO opponents."
JM

HAVEL VETOES CONTROVERSIAL DRUG BILL. Czech President Vaclav
Havel rejected a bill on 6 April that would have outlawed
the possession of drugs for personal use, Reuters reported.
Havel cited human rights concerns in sending the bill back
to the parliament. His spokesman said the president believes
the bill would "lead to the prosecution of victims rather
than culprits." The bill sought to criminalize possession of
a "larger than small" amount of drugs. The spokesman added
that the vagueness of the bill and the dangers that might
arise in implementing it outweighed its positive aspects.
Czech law currently bans drug production and distribution
but allows possession and use. PB

CZECH POLICE INVESTIGATING EXTREMIST PARTY. Police are
gathering information on the far-right Republican Party
after former members charged it with fraud, embezzlement and
extortion, CTK reported on 6 April. A former party aide said
recently that the Republicans, who have 18 seats in the
parliament, have used state subsidies to purchase large
houses and expensive cars. Former Deputy Chairman Pavel
Mozga has said that party chairman Miroslav Sladek used
physical violence to prevent people from leaving the party.
Republican officials have denied the charges. Sladek was
imprisoned in January for fomenting racial hatred. He was
subsequently acquitted of those charges. PB

MECIAR'S PARTY NAMES PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE. The ruling
Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) has named Milan
Secansky as its candidate for president, Reuters reported on
6 April. Secansky, a former judge, is a deputy head of the
parliament's constitutional committee. The fifth attempt by
the Slovak parliament to elect a president will take place
on 16 April. A senior member of the opposition movement
Slovak Democratic Coalition said SDK members will not vote
for Secansky because he is a Meciar supporter. Economist and
former minister Brigita Schmoegnerova and teacher Zdeno
Suska have also registered for the election. A candidate
must receive 90 votes from among the 150 deputies in order
to be elected. PB

HORN OPPOSES DUAL CITIZENSHIP FOR ETHNIC HUNGARIANS. Prime
Minister Gyula Horn on 6 April rejected a proposal by Sandor
Csoori, president of the World Federation of Hungarians, to
grant citizenship to ethnic Hungarians living abroad. Horn
said the proposal is a campaign ploy and could damage
Hungary's relations with its neighbors. Hungary's borders
will not close after the country joins the EU, he added. The
opposition Young Democrats, meanwhile, support the idea of
granting ethnic Hungarians a "special status" in Hungary,
while the Hungarian Democratic Forum has made other
proposals, including visas valid for up to 10 years and
limited citizenship, Hungarian media reported. MSZ

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

U.S. TO KEEP TROOPS IN MACEDONIA. Secretary of Defense
William Cohen said in Washington on 6 April that the U.S.
wants to keep peacekeepers in Macedonia even after the
current UN force's mandate expires on 31 August. He told his
Macedonian counterpart, Lazar Kitanovski, that "the U.S.
supports a continued international military presence" in
Macedonia because "the key to maintaining stability in the
region is now the success of efforts to calm tensions in
Kosova." Cohen added that Washington is studying options for
keeping the troops in Macedonia. Some 350 Americans take
part in the 750-strong UNPREDEP, which is the first UN
mission aimed at preventing the spread of a conflict rather
than at keeping the peace after fighting. PM

WARNING ON MACEDONIAN POLICE VIOLENCE. The prominent New
York-based Human Rights Watch charged in a statement on 6
April that Macedonian police frequently engage in illegal
behavior and that the international community "turns a blind
eye" because it does not want to undermine the Macedonian
government's authority. The statement noted that members of
minority groups, in particular, are frequently the victims
of police brutality. The text added that "long-term security
in the Balkans can only be achieved through establishing the
rule of law and respect for human rights, especially
minority rights." PM

RUGOVA NAMES NEGOTIATORS. A spokesman for Kosova shadow-
state President Ibrahim Rugova said in Prishtina on 6 April
that a four-man team will represent the Kosovars in talks
with the Serbs whenever Belgrade is ready to offer
unconditional talks. The prominent politicians are: Rugova's
deputy Fehmi Agani, former communist-era leader Mahmut
Bakalli, leading journalist Veton Surroi, and Pajazit Nushi,
who is president of the [Kosovar] Committee of Human Rights
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 March 1998). Also in Prishtina,
Agani described Serbian offers of conditional talks as
"tricks," RFE/RL reported. PM

SERBIAN PARLIAMENT BACKS REFERENDUM. The Serbian legislature
on 6 April passed a law that enables the parliament to call
a referendum with only 15 days' notice. "Nasa Borba" wrote
the next day that the legislators approved the bill with
unusual speed and that the new law will enable Yugoslav
President Slobodan Milosevic's proposed referendum on
international mediation in Kosova to be held on 23 March
(see "RFE/RL Newsline, 6 April 1998). Referring to
international opposition to the referendum, Serbian Deputy
Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj said: "What do we care about
the world's reaction? We are dealing with our country's own
internal affair and are not interested in what the world
thinks about it. The important thing is that we solve the
problem democratically, according to our laws." PM

SIX FOUND DEAD IN KOSOVA. Kosovar spokesmen in Prishtina
reported the discovery on 6 April of the bodies of six
ethnic Albanians about 60 km southwest of Prishtina. The
spokesmen said that investigations into the deaths are in
progress. The next day, pro-Milosevic Belgrade dailies wrote
that the six Kosovars had been loyal to the Serbian
government and were kidnapped by masked men on 3 April. No
one has claimed responsibility for the killings. PM

CHIRAC MEETS BOSNIAN LEADERS. French President Jacques
Chirac met with the three members of the Bosnian joint
presidency in Sarajevo on 7 April. The previous day, Ejup
Ganic, who is the president of the mainly Croatian and
Muslim federation, told the BBC that Western leaders come to
Sarajevo primarily to seek "therapy" for themselves and
their political careers. He charged that France "did not do
much for Bosnia before the Dayton agreement" was signed at
the end of 1995 and had stood by and "witnessed the
genocide" during the war in the republic. He stressed that
the French government must let French officers and other
officials testify freely before the Hague-based war crimes
tribunal if Paris wants to show its good faith to Sarajevo.
PM

OSCE SETS UP SREBRENICA COUNCIL. A spokesman for the
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
announced in Sarajevo on 6 April the formation of a
temporary government for Srebrenica. In last year's local
elections, Muslim refugees elected a Muslim-majority council
for the Serb-held town, but the Serbian authorities have
refused to let the council members take office. The
temporary body consists of four Muslims and four Serbs, in
addition to an OSCE chairman, who will be named later,
RFE/RL reported. PM

CROATIA GETS NEW DAILY. The Zagreb-based "Jutarnji list,"
Croatia's first independent nationwide daily, appeared for
the first time on 6 April. The independent weekly "Globus"
invested $7.5 million in the newspaper, which will employ
200 people and have an initial circulation of 200,000. The
pro-government daily "Vecernji list" has a print-run of
120,000 copies, which until now has been Croatia's largest.
The independent daily "Novi List" appears in Rijeka but is
primarily a regional publication. "Globus" has previously
been the target of lawsuits by government officials.
Elsewhere in Zagreb, unemployed journalists have set up a
union called Right to One's Profession, an RFE/RL
correspondent reported from the Croatian capital. PM

ALBANIAN POLICE ARREST SUSPECTED RIVAL GANGS. In a large-
scale operation, police arrested 18 suspected members of two
prominent criminal gangs in Korca on 6 April. The rival
gangs had robbed and blackmailed shop owners in that
southern city since March 1997, "Koha Jone" reported. Early
last month, they had engaged in a shoot-out. Also on 6
April, gangsters in Tirana held up a bank security van and
absconded with some $30,000 intended as wages for the
employees of the state electric company. FS

GREEK FORCES TO STAY IN ALBANIA. Military spokesmen in
Athens said on 6 April that Greek troops will remain in
Albania until at least 25 September. Greece has 180 soldiers
in Albania, who are assisting in rebuilding military
facilities and training troops. Turkey and Italy are
involved in similar military reconstruction projects. FS

ROMANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER CRITICIZED FOR PROPOSED AMNESTY.
Dudu Ionescu has been sharply criticized for a plan to
pardon former army officials who suppressed pro-democracy
demonstrations that led to the deaths of hundreds in 1989.
The defense minister argues that the troops followed orders
and that their actions were thus "legal." Traian Orban, a
former leader of the uprising that led to the overthrow of
dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, said such an amnesty would be
the "most embarrassing mistake" the government could make.
More than 1,000 people died in the clashes, which observers
say were never thoroughly investigated. In other news, the
Civic Alliance Movement announced it is suspending its
membership in the Democratic Convention of Romania. The
party, which strongly supported former Premier Victor
Ciorbea, had criticized the coalition's close cooperation
with the Democratic Party. PB

ROMANIA RECALLS DIPLOMAT FROM BONN. The Romanian Foreign
Ministry recalled a diplomat and a chauffeur from Germany
for allegedly dispensing fake documents to criminals, AFP
reported on 6 April. German police broke up a Romanian
criminal gang last week that it said had received false
documents from the Romanian embassy in Bonn (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 25 March1998). The Foreign Ministry apologized to
the German government and said it will take measures to
prevent such activities in the future. PB

UNCERTAINTY SURROUNDS SMIRNOV'S CONDITION. The condition of
Transdniester separatist leader Igor Smirnov, who is in a
Tiraspol hospital, is unclear, RFE/RL's Romanian Service
reported on 6 April. Smirnov has been in the hospital for
several days, although it is unclear when he was admitted.
According to some reports, he suffered a severe heart
attack, while others reports say he has influenza. Moreover,
there is speculation in the media that Smirnov's
hospitalization may have been a response to the dire
economic situation in the region. The Transdniestrian ruble
recently collapsed and is now trading at around 2 million to
$1. The Tiraspol Supreme Soviet has accused several
ministers, including security minister and Smirnov's close
associate Vladimir Antyufev, of being responsible for the
devaluation. PB

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