He who knows nothing is nearer the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors. - Thomas Jefferson
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

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

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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

* MOSCOW DENIES PLANS FOR 'TOTAL EMBARGO OF LATVIA

* UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER RESIGNS

* NATO SENDS TWO SERBS TO HAGUE

* END NOTE: GUN RUNNING TO KOSOVA
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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" (michaeljjordan@compuserve.com).


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