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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 67 Part II, 7 April 1998
___________________________________________________________ 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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * RUSSIAN NATIONALIST SUSPECTED IN LATVIAN BOMBINGS * POLAND DENIES ALLEGATIONS OF SPYING ON NATO * U.S. TO KEEP TROOPS IN MACEDONIA xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word "subscribe" as the subject or body of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word "unsubscribe" as the subject or body of the message. HOW TO RETRIEVE BACK ISSUES VIA EMAIL (1) Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the letters "ls" as the subject or body of the message. 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