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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 69 Part II, 9 April 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 69 Part II, 9 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 * MOSCOW DENIES PLANS FOR 'TOTAL EMBARGO OF LATVIA * UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER RESIGNS * NATO SENDS TWO SERBS TO HAGUE * END NOTE: GUN RUNNING TO KOSOVA xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx REGIONAL AFFAIRS MOSCOW DENIES PLANS FOR 'TOTAL EMBARGO' OF LATVIA. Russian presidential press spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii told journalists on 9 April that Moscow has no plans to impose "any sanctions" or a "total embargo" against Latvia, ITAR-TASS reported. But Yastrzhembskii said that Moscow is drawing up "a number of measures" that would affect the transit fee and tariff regimes between the two countries. And he repeated earlier Russian suggestions that Moscow would seek to develop ports on the Gulf of Finland in order to bypass the Baltic countries while developing relations with Europe. Yastrzhembskii also said that Moscow's approach to Latvia is a "local question" brought about by that country's "Russophobia." He added that it does not presage any change in Russian relations with Europe as a whole. But Yastrzhembskii's statement does not appear to constitute a retreat from President Boris Yeltsin's instructions to his government the previous day to impose economic measures against Latvia. PG RIGA BRACES FOR RUSSIAN ECONOMIC MEASURES. Latvian Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs said on 8 April that his country must prepare itself for Russian economic sanctions and help Latvian businessmen reorient themselves to other suppliers and markets, BNS reported. The next day, Latvian Ambassador to Moscow Imants Daudis told ITAR-TASS that relations between Russia and Latvia have developed to the point that one could already speak of "economic sanctions from the side of Russia." The threat of Russian economic measures against Latvia has already had both an economic and a political impact. Economically, it has made Latvia less attractive as a place for Western investment despite the underlying fundamentals there. And politically, it has destabilized the government (see item below). PG ESTONIA BACKS LATVIA IN DISPUTE WITH RUSSIA... The press service of the Estonian President's Office issued a statement on 8 April saying that President Lennart Meri, Prime Minister Mart Siimann, and Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves condemn the "provocative acts perpetrated in Latvia and affirm that Latvia respects the rule of law and universally recognized European norms." The three Estonian leaders discussed the situation in the neighboring Baltic country at talks the same day in Tallinn. ITAR-TASS quotes them as also condemning Russian attempts to bring economic pressure to bear on Latvia. Meanwhile, several Estonian opposition parties have sent letters to the European Parliament urging support for Latvia in its dispute with Russia. JC ...WHILE LITHUANIA URGES RUSSIAN-LATVIAN DIALOGUE. A high- ranking official from the Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Ministry told BNS on 8 April that Vilnius does "not believe that possible economic pressure is appropriate to resolve issues that should be dealt with through bilateral dialogue." The official also noted that Vilnius positively evaluates "efforts by Latvian law-and-order institutions to expose the organizers and perpetrators of recent terrorist acts in Latvia." Also on 8 April, a representative of the Lithuanian President's Office said sanctions are not the right way to settle the conflict between Russia and Latvia and will not improve the living conditions of ethnic minorities. JC SAIMNIEKS QUITS LATVIAN GOVERNMENT. The centrist Democratic Party Saimnieks withdrew from the ruling coalition on 8 April, just days after the sacking of party member Atis Sausnitis as economics minister for allegedly exaggerating the impact of possible economic sanctions by Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April 1998). Prime Minister Guntars Krasts told reporters that it is "unforgivable" for a party to withdraw its ministers when the country is in a "complicated situation." The premier ruled out the resignation of his cabinet, saying "I cannot afford it at the current stage." President Guntis Ulmanis said that Saimnieks's decision to quit the government "could be described as cowardice." There is speculation that Ulmanis may carry out earlier threats to dissolve the parliament, but the president has expressed his support for Krasts to continue as head of the current government, even if it is a minority one. JC EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER RESIGNS. Hennadiy Udovenko, current president of the UN General Assembly, has resigned his cabinet post to devote himself to parliamentary politics, AFP reported on 9 April. Udovenko was elected to the parliament on the Popular Rukh party list. In a resignation letter to President Leonid Kuchma, he said he wished to "work full time" as a parliamentary deputy. JM UKRAINE REPORTS ECONOMIC GROWTH... Yewhen Kushnaryov, chief of the president's administration, told journalists on 8 April that 1998 may be the first year of economic growth in independent Ukraine, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that industrial output from January through March grew by 1.7 percent, while the inflation rate was only 0.2 percent. JM ...NEGOTIATES NEW LOAN FROM IMF. An IMF representative in Kyiv told ITAR-TASS that the fund's further cooperation with Ukraine has been called into question. In the first quarter of 1998, Kyiv exceeded by 2.2 times the budget deficit limit agreed with the IMF, which responded last month by withholding the next two tranches, each worth $50 million, of its stand-by loan. The Ukrainian News agency reported on 8 April that the Finance Ministry has decided not to seek a resumption of the IMF stand-by program. Instead, the government is negotiating a new three-year loan with an IMF mission currently in Kyiv. JM U.S. ENVOY CRITICIZES UKRAINE FOR HEAVY BUREAUCRACY. Richard Morningstar, U.S. special ambassador for Russia and the newly independent states, who was in Kyiv on 8 April, has censured Ukraine for having too much bureaucracy, AFP reported. He said Ukrainian business regulations are "too numerous, too burdensome, too complicated, too arbitrary." He added that economic development is also hampered by inconsistent tax regulations. The United States, which is the largest investor in Ukraine, has spent $90 million to help resolve disputes between Kyiv and U.S. firms operating in Ukraine, AFP reported. JM BELARUSIAN JOURNALISTS SLAM CRACKDOWN ON INDEPENDENT MEDIA. The Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) has sent an open letter to top Belarusian officials, representatives of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Minsk, and international journalists' organizations protesting an internal government directive cracking down on the independent media (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 April 1998), RFE/RL's Belarus Service and Belapan reported. BAJ chairwoman Zhanna Litvina said that the directive, which forbids officials to hand over documents to the independent media, is "anticonstitutional, antidemocratic, and discriminatory." The BAJ urges the president and prime minister to put an end to such actions, which, it says, "disgraces Belarus in the eyes of the world community." JM WARSAW TO INTRODUCE SUMMER CURFEW FOR MINORS. Warsaw authorities have ordered a night-time curfew for youths under the age of 18, dpa reported on 8 April. Such youths will not be allowed on the streets of the capital between 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. from 1 May to 30 September unless they are accompanied by adults. The curfew was imposed in a bid to fight the capital's growing juvenile crime rate. JM SLOVAK PARTY LAUNCHES DRIVE FOR DEATH PENALTY, NEUTRALITY. The right-wing Slovak National Party has begun a petition drive to reinstate capital punishment and establish Bratislava's neutrality in foreign affairs, TASR reported on 8 April. State television showed large lines of people ready to sign the petitions at the city hall in Zilina, where the drive was launched. Jan Slota, the head of the coalition member Slovak National Party and mayor of Zilina, claimed that a huge majority of Slovaks want the death penalty. He said neutrality would be better than membership in NATO, which, he said, would strip the country of its sovereignty. Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar has said that reintroducing the death penalty would be unconstitutional and that declaring neutrality goes against government policy. PB HUNGARIAN OPPOSITION LEADER DETAILS PROGRAM. Viktor Orban, the head of the opposition Young Democrats-Hungarian Civic Party, said on 8 April that he will nullify the Hungarian-Slovak agreement on the disputed Gabcikovo-Nagymaros dam if his party comes to power in the May elections. Orban, who tops opinion polls as the most popular politician in Hungary, said his party would also reduce taxes, set up incentives to aid small and medium-sized companies, and create a smaller, more effective parliament. He also said his party opposes a bill allowing foreigners to buy property in Hungary. The Young Democrats trail the Socialist Party of Prime Minister Gyula Horn in opinion polls. PB SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE NATO SENDS TWO SERBS TO HAGUE. Miroslav Kvocka and Mladen Radic arrived in The Hague on 9 April to face charges of crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva convention, and "command responsibility" in connection with their activities at the Omarska concentration camp in northwestern Bosnia in 1992. The two men surrendered to British peacekeepers in the Prijedor area the previous day after they were surrounded by the peacekeepers, a SFOR spokesman said in Banja Luka. This is the fourth seizure of indicted war criminals by peacekeepers since the Dayton agreement was signed at the end of 1995. To date, some 26 indicted persons have arrived in The Hague. PM MORE AID FOR BOSNIAN SERBS. The U.S. embassy in Sarajevo issued a statement on 8 April saying Washington will provide $5 million to the government in Banja Luka to cover immediate necessary expenditures, such as salaries for teachers, doctors, and other public sector employees. The U.K., Canada, the EU, The Netherlands, and Sweden have also pledged budget support funds to the Republika Srpska until Banja Luka is able to fund itself through more efficient collection of taxes, customs duties, and other revenues. Meanwhile in Stuttgart, Germany, Republika Srpska Minister for Refugees Miladin Dragicevic said his government will allow all refugees to come home provided that Banja Luka receives financial assistance from abroad to prepare for the returnees. PM SERBS LEAVE KOSOVA FOR BOSNIA. Elisabeth Rehn, who heads the UN mission in Bosnia, said in Helsinki on 8 April that Kosovar Serbs have begun to flee the troubled province and come to Bosnia. She added that "Kosova will affect us, [it] is already affecting us. We cannot really take more refugees into Bosnia." She did not say how many people have arrived or when they began to come. Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic, for his part, told "Le Monde" of 8 April that the Bosnian refugee problem requires a regional solution. He stressed that Muslims and Croats will have the possibility of returning to their homes only when the Krajina Serbs now living in those houses are able to go back to Croatia. PM BOSNIAN SERBS, MONTENEGRINS APPEAL ON KOSOVA... Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic, Prime Minister Milorad Dodik, and Montenegrin parliamentary speaker Svetozar Marovic issued a joint statement in Banja Luka on 8 April calling on all parties involved to solve the Kosovar question through "reason, intellect, and dialogue." Marovic also told reporters that he fears Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's planned referendum on foreign mediation in Kosova will solve nothing and only serve to complicate the problem, BETA news agency reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 April 1998). In London, Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic called for wide autonomy for Kosova and for the thorough democratization of the region, RFE/RL reported. He added that Kosova should not be made a full republic within the federation. Djukanovic urged unconditional talks with foreign mediation. PM ...AS DO MACEDONIA, ALBANIA. Macedonian Foreign Minister Blagoje Handziski and his Albanian counterpart, Paskal Milo, released a statement in Skopje on 8 April calling on Milosevic to meet the demands of the international Contact Group to ease the situation in Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 March 1998). Handziski added that talks should be launched under international mediation to solve the Kosova problem within the borders of Yugoslavia, RFE/RL reported. PM KOSOVARS REPORT SHOOTING IN DRENICA. Serbian forces fired automatic weapons in the village of Llausha near Skenderaj on 8 April, the Kosovo shadow-state's KIC news service reported. The agency also wrote that Serbian forces have recently begun building what it called military emplacements at Bernica e Poshtme and other villages north of Prishtina. Meanwhile in the Decan area, local Serbs told BETA news agency that masked, armed ethnic Albanians recently began patrolling the area in small groups. One of the Serbs said that gunfire from automatic weapons can be heard all night long and that Serbian villagers are continuing to maintain the armed patrols they organized one month ago to stand guard at night. PM RUSSIA DENIES BELGRADE ARMS SALES. Sources in the Russian Foreign Ministry told Interfax in Moscow on 8 April that Russia is strictly observing the UN arms embargo against Yugoslavia (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 8 April 1998). The sources noted "the wording of the [UN] document's provisions does not allow any free interpretation of the arms embargo." But, the sources added, "the resolution does not say anything about the termination of cooperation with Yugoslavia in training military personnel and repairing military equipment as envisioned in the [Russo-Yugoslav agreement on] bilateral cooperation for 1998 signed at the end of 1997." PM UN FAULTS CROATIAN POLICE IN SLAVONIA. A UN spokeswoman said in Zagreb on 8 April that Croatian police have taken part in at least five incidents of intimidating local Serbs over the past week alone, despite the Croatian government's official policy of promoting reconciliation. She added that Croatian police in civilian clothes perform "investigative activities very much in the style of secret police" in the area, which reverted to Croatian control in January. PM WAS ELITE UNIT INVOLVED IN COUP ATTEMPT IN ALBANIA? Unnamed military prosecutors told "Koha Jone" of 9 April that they have evidence showing most of the armed men who marched to the building of the Central Election Commission on 3 July 1997 were members of the Presidential Guard (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 4 July 1997). Among the marchers was claimant to the throne, Leka Zogu. One man died in the shoot-out that ensued between the police and the protesters, who tried to storm the commission offices The prosecutors gave no details but said the evidence suggests that only a few protesters were members of the monarchist party. "Koha Jone" concluded that the march may have been a coup attempt by some guard members loyal to then President Sali Berisha, who had disputed the legitimacy of the June 1997 election results. FS BIG HAUL OF FORGED DOLLARS IN ALBANIA. Tirana police seized some 370 forged $100 bank notes on 8 April while investigating a car theft. The seizure confirms recent media reports that large amounts of forged $100 bills have been circulating in Albania this year. On 8 April, a special police investigation team, assisted by two U.S. experts and equipped with a special laboratory, launched investigations into the authenticity of bills in circulation. Albanian bank officials say they do not have the necessary technology to detect counterfeits. FS ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT SETS TIMETABLE FOR CONSIDERING VASILE GOVERNMENT. Prime Minister-designate Radu Vasile said on 8 April that his government's economic plan will be ready soon, ahead of the parliamentary review scheduled for next week, Reuters reported. Vasile said his government is still working out the details of privatization and restitution programs, two issues that coalition parties have been arguing over. Iuliu Furo, secretary of the Chamber of Deputies, said the ministers named to Vasile's cabinet will be interviewed on 14 April, the day before a scheduled vote by both houses of the parliament on the government lineup and its program. PB AGRICULTURE WORKERS PROTEST IN BUCHAREST. Some 3,000 workers from the agriculture sector marched through downtown Bucharest on 8 April to protest low wages and state policies they say hurt them. the protesters complained that the government is not doing enough to protect domestic farmers. The previous day, some 10,000 workers protested in Bucharest and more than 5,000 in the southern city of Craiova to protest low wages and increasing prices. The average monthly salary in Romania is 850,000 lei (about $102), and inflation this year stands currently at 30 percent. PB MOLDOVAN COMMUNISTS WANT COALITION WITH CENTRIST PARTY. Vladimir Voronin, the head of the Communist Party of Moldova, said it is imperative that his party form a coalition with the For a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova Bloc (PMDP), Infotag reported on 8 April. Voronin said the failure to do so could lead to the formation of an anti-Communist coalition that would "aggravate economic and political instability." PMDP leader Diakov said the previous day that he is skeptical about his party cooperating with the Communists (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 April 1998). The PMDP has 24 seats in the new parliament, enough to establish a majority coalition with the Communists. PB MARKOV GIVES UP HUNT FOR BROTHER'S KILLER. Nikolai Markov, the brother of slain Bulgarian exile Georgi Markov, said he is giving up efforts to find those responsible for the 1978 murder in London of his brother, Reuters reported on 8 April. Georgi Markov, who at the time was working for the BBC and freelancing for RFE/RL, died four days after a poison pellet was injected into his leg at a bus stop. His family believes he was killed on orders from Sofia with help from the KGB. Nikolai Markov said he thinks former Communist leader Todor Zhivkov personally ordered the assassination. Zhivkov denies the charge. PB END NOTE GUN-RUNNING TO KOSOVA by Michael J. Jordan Ali Mata prefers his black hair tousled, his beard bushy. On the streets of Kukes, it projects him as a guy not to be messed with. He talks the talk of an Albanian nationalist. Today, Ali Mata is railing against the Serbian "wild animals" next door in Yugoslavia and their atrocities against Albanians through the centuries. Mata thirsts for revenge after the recent massacre of some 80 ethnic Albanians in Kosova, the southern Serbian province on the other side of the mountain. "It's been a dream of mine since I was young," he says, "to fight against the Serbs because of all the crimes against my [ancestors'] village in 1913 and which they are still doing today to my Kosova brothers." But Mata's tirade is a bit disingenuous: He is a truck driver-turned-gun-trafficker with a financial stake in the misery of his Kosovar "brothers." Such is the nature of arms-dealing in the Balkans. It will likely continue as Kosova emerges as a potentially lucrative market. After Serbian police cracked down on Kosova Albanian "terrorists" in early March, Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic crowed he had broken the shadowy Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK). To the contrary, the killings seem to have radicalized more of the Albanian-dominated province's population. Support for the UCK is rising, despite heated international diplomacy to stave off a new Balkan war. Growing numbers of Kosovar Albanians--as well as restive Albanians in northeastern Albania and northwestern Macedonia--are now spoiling for a fight with the Serbs. One Kosovar, now living in Albania, said the police onslaught was a virtual declaration of war. "History has shown us that no nation has won its freedom through negotiation, only through fighting," says the man, who claims he fled from Serbian police several months ago. "I hope this war continues because it's the only way to rid ourselves of the Serbs." But for the UCK to strike back effectively, it will need arms: Serbian police say they destroyed or confiscated a significant quantity of weapons. Military analysts suggest that potential arms smugglers may include Serbia's former partners in the old Yugoslavia-- Croatia, Bosnia, even Slovenia. Before Milosevic sparked its disintegration a decade ago, Yugoslavia was one of Europe's top arms producers. And there is no love lost for Milosevic among those ex- Yugoslav republics. But a more surefire source for rearmament may be the ethnic Albanian brethren across Kosova's mountainous borders with Albania and Macedonia. The threat is real: Albanians, while desperately poor, are a remarkably well-armed people, courtesy of the chaos that engulfed Albania last year. The crisis was triggered by the collapse of massive pyramid- investment schemes. Looters raided weapons depots the army had abandoned. Suddenly, Albania was awash in guns. Some 1 million guns were stolen in all. Automatic rifles were selling on the street for $60. And from March to May, many were easily smuggled to the Albanians of Macedonia and Kosova through porous mountain passes. Yet the gun-running racket isn't what it used to be. First of all, it's become much more risky. In recent weeks Serbia has beefed up patrols along the 60-mile border between Kosova and Albania, particularly at the lone border crossing. They aim to stamp out both trafficking and the possibility of Albanian volunteers pouring into Kosova. Serbian sentries are known for being quick to fire. And if itchy trigger fingers weren't enough, snow can make the preferred routes impassable. The mountain ridge ranges from 1,500 to 6,000 feet. In northwestern Macedonia, meanwhile, a U.S.-led UN mission remains on alert for suspicious border activity. The 500,000-strong Albanian minority there is also waging a battle for greater autonomy. If Kosova erupts, these Albanians would likely join the fray. The Albanian government itself has also sought to clamp down on gun trafficking. It claims to have recovered 40 percent of the looted weapons.Traffic has indeed been curtailed, but not eliminated. Ali Mata uses Kukes, an Albanian city of 28,000 people just 14 miles from the Kosova border checkpoint, as his home base. He said his last delivery--five AK-47s--was made more than one month ago. Through his web of contacts around town, the unemployed truck driver bought the guns for $100 apiece. In Kosova, he said, they sold for 1,000 German marks ($550) each. He wouldn't divulge how many he's sold in the past year, nor how he delivers them. Mata is one of perhaps a dozen professional traffickers in the region, say local observers. But they also point out that the typical smuggler is the individual driven by his economic plight, who loads guns and other salable goods onto a donkey and tries his luck through a mountain pass. The average Albanian salary is now down to about $60 a month. Mata predicts Albanian smugglers would barely make a dent in the Kosovar market. Echoing the opinions of Western military analysts, Mata agrees the top traders will likely come from within the former Yugoslavia. Even from Serbia itself. Financing the weapons would likely be arranged in part by Kosovars living abroad in countries like Germany and Switzerland. "If they decide they want weapons, they'll get weapons," Mata says. "There are traffickers in Serbia with truckloads of weapons who are not after any nationalist cause. Only money." The author is the Budapest correspondent for the "Christian Science Monitor" (email@example.com). 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. This will retrieve a list of available files. 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