We are all apt to believe what the world believes about us. - George Eliot
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 74 Part II, 17 April 1998


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 74  Part II, 17 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

* U.S. URGES MOSCOW TO ENGAGE IN DIALOGUE WITH RIGA

* BOSNIAN SERB COUPLE FOUND DEAD IN DRVAR

* ALBANIAN PRESIDENT REJECTS NEW GOVERNMENT

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REGIONAL AFFAIRS

U.S. URGES MOSCOW TO ENGAGE IN DIALOGUE WITH RIGA...
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has sent a letter to
her Russian counterpart, Yevgenii Primakov, urging Moscow to
engage in a dialogue with Riga to resolve their differences
over the ethnic Russian minority in Latvia. State Department
spokesman James Rubin said on 16 April that Washington does
not want to see Russian-Latvian relations "spin out of
control," adding that the U.S. regards "threats or
sanctions" as "counterproductive." The State Department also
welcomed amendments to the citizenship law proposed by a
Latvian government working group (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16
April 1998). JC

...WHILE MOSCOW SAYS SUCH LETTERS "NORMAL PRACTICE. Also on
16 April, the Russian Foreign Ministry responded to a "New
York Times" report that Albright's letter to Primakov was
"harsh" in tone, Interfax reported. "There is nothing harsh
in the correspondence between [Primakov and Albright]," a
ministry official told the Russian news agency. He also
commented that exchange of such letters is "normal practice"
in discussing "various international issues of mutual
interest." "Nobody in Moscow is talking about sanctions
against Latvia. What is under discussion is the possibility
of instilling order in trade and economic relations with
that country and taking specific steps designed to help Riga
understand the need to normalize its relations with ethnic
minorities in that country," the official said. JC

LUKASHENKA DISCUSSES PAYMENT FOR RUSSIAN OIL. Belarusian
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka met in Minsk on 16 April
with managers of Russia's four largest oil companies
(LUKoil, Slavneft, Yukos, and Surgutneftegaz) to discuss
payment for crude oil supplies to Belarus, Interfax
reported. Until recently, Minsk paid for 70 percent of the
oil supplies in hard currency and 30 percent in commodities.
It has run into difficulty making those payments, however,
since the Russian government demanded that the total sum be
paid in hard currency. Lukashenka said Belarus owes Russia
some $170 million for oil deliveries because "there is no
reliable settlement procedure." LUKoil President Vagit
Alekperov said before the meeting that a new means of
payment will certainly be found because the two sides "have
no alternative to cooperation and mutual understanding,"
Interfax reported. But according to Reuters, no results were
publicly announced after the meeting. JM

EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

THREE YOUTH OPPOSITIONISTS BEATEN IN MINSK. Three young
members of the opposition Belarusian Popular Front were
beaten on Minsk's Kamarouka marketplace on 13 April, Belapan
and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 16 April. The
youths were attacked by some 20 guards with dogs at the
marketplace, allegedly for speaking Belarusian. Police
arrived some 20 minutes after the assailants had fled. The
youths were handcuffed and taken to a nearby police station
where, according to RFE/RL's Belarusian Service, they were
beaten by police officers. One of the youths was
subsequently taken to the hospital with concussion, while
the other two allowed to go home. JM

LUKASHENKA DECLARES WILL TO COOPERATE WITH EU. While
receiving the credentials of the EU mission head in Minsk on
16 April, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said
that maintaining ties with the EU is a priority for Minsk,
Interfax reported. He also welcomed a statement by the
mission head that European agencies are prepared to assist
Belarus in building a democratic society and observing human
rights. "Belarus has expected this statement for a long
time," Interfax quoted Lukashenka as saying. JM

KUCHMA REPORTEDLY PLEDGES SUPPORT TO CRIMEAN TATARS. During
his one-day trip to Crimea on 16 April, Ukrainian President
Leonid Kuchma met with Mustafa Dzhemilev, head of the
Crimean Tatar parliament, ITAR-TASS reported. Dzhemilev told
journalists after the meeting that Kuchma had promised to
present a bill on by-elections to the parliament of the
Autonomous Republic of Crimea in order to ensure the Crimean
Tatars are represented in that body. Dzhemilev and his
deputy, Rafat Chubarov, were elected to the Ukrainian
Supreme Council on 29 March, but no Tatar candidate was
elected to the Crimean legislature. JM

VILNIUS LAUNCHES INVESTIGATION INTO TAX OFFICE BOMBING.
Interior Minister Vidmantas Ziemelis has ordered the Special
Investigations and Organized Crime Investigation services to
launch an inquiry into the bomb explosion on 15 April in the
northern city of Siauliai, BNS reported. Nine people were
injured, four seriously, when a bomb exploded at the city's
tax office. President Valdas Adamkus expressed his
condolences to those injured in the blast and said he is
concerned about the ongoing wave of explosions in the
country. The Siauliai incident is the latest in a series of
bomb attacks in Lithuania since the beginning of this year.
Police say the attacks are the work of organized criminal
gangs, but no one has been arrested to date. JC

HAVEL CANCELS OFFICIAL ENGAGEMENTS TILL END OF MAY. Vaclav
Havel's office on 16 April said all official engagements of
the president, who recently underwent emergency surgery in
Innsbruck, have been canceled until the end of May, CTK
reported. The doctors in the Austrian clinic said his
condition is "very good" but the second operation he has to
undergo, though "relatively risk free," cannot be carried
out for at least six weeks. MS

SLOVAK PARLIAMENT FAILS AGAIN TO ELECT PRESIDENT. Lawmakers
on 16 April failed again to elect a successor to Michal
Kovac, RFE/RL's Bratislava bureau reported. This was the
fifth time that the legislature had voted on the issue but
the first in which Premier Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a
Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) ran its own candidate, Milan
Secansky. Secansky received 59 votes, short of the three-
fifths majority of 90 votes needed for election. Brigita
Schomognerova, the candidate of the Party of the Democratic
Left, was endorsed by 43 deputies and independent candidate
Zdeno Suska received five votes. A run-off between Secansky
and Schomognerova will be held on 30 April. MS

REGISTRATION FOR HUNGARIAN ELECTIONS ENDS. The Central
Electoral Office on 16 April said that 1,544 candidates have
collected the 750 signatures necessary to endorse candidates
in single-member constituencies in the forthcoming May
elections. Registration ends on 17 April, Hungarian media
reported. The office said it has so far verified the
national lists of four political parties. Under the
Hungarian electoral system, national lists can be presented
only by those parties that can prove they are running on at
least seven regional lists. A total of 31 political parties
and groups are seeking representation, compared with 15 in
the 1994 elections. Six groups are represented in the
current parliament. MS

HUNGARY INTENSIFIES FIGHT AGAINST ORGANIZED CRIME. The
government on 16 April decided to allow the Civil Secret
Service to tap mobile phones as of next year in its fight
against organized crime, Hungarian media reported. The
decision makes it possible also to tap messages on the
Internet. Providers of communications services will have to
install the necessary equipment at their own expense,
Hungarian media reported. MS

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

BOSNIAN SERB COUPLE FOUND DEAD IN DRVAR. UN police found the
bodies of a Bosnian Serb couple in their burning house in
Croatian-held Drvar on 16 April. A police spokesman said
that both had been shot in the back and that the husband's
body showed signs of physical abuse, RFE/RL reported. The
two had recently returned to Drvar within the framework of a
program sponsored by the international community under the
Dayton agreement, which guarantees all refugees the right to
go home in safety. The UN police spokesman added that some
local Croats have been seeking to intimidate returning
Serbs. He stressed that the latest incident underscores the
need to replace the current Croatian police force with a
multi-ethnic one. In Washington, the State Department issued
a statement blaming the local Croatian authorities for "the
climate of intolerance and harassment in which these murders
took place." PM

U.S. DEMANDS END TO 'HERCEG-BOSNA.' William Dale Montgomery,
the U.S. ambassador to Croatia, said in a statement in
Zagreb on 16 April that Croatia must help dismantle the
Herzegovinian quasi-state of Herceg-Bosna, which continues
to exist in contravention of the Dayton agreement. "We look
to the government of Croatia to use its influence to see
that these parallel institutions are dismantled and that
responsibility is ceded" to the joint Croatian and Muslim
federal government in Sarajevo. Montgomery added that
Zagreb's continued support for the Herzegovinian hard-liners
places a "heavy financial and political burden on Croatia."
PM

INDICTED WAR CRIMINAL ARRESTED. On 16 April, representatives
of the Hague-based war crimes tribunal took custody of Zoran
Zigic at a Banja Luka prison, where he was serving a
sentence for murder not related to alleged war crimes. He
has since arrived in The Netherlands. The tribunal wants him
in conjunction with atrocities at the Bosnian Serbs' Omarska
concentration camp in northwest Bosnia in 1992. PM

SERBIA'S OTHER REGIONS WANT TALKS... On 16 April in
Prishtina, ethnic Albanians continued to stage peaceful
protests and to boycott talks with the Serbian authorities
without foreign mediation. The previous day, political
representatives of Serbia's other regions demanded in Novi
Sad that Belgrade offer them the same type of open
negotiations on outstanding issues that the authorities say
they are ready to offer all ethnic groups in Kosova.
Representatives of Vojvodina, Sumadija, and Sandzak said
their regions are no less important to Serbia than is
Kosova. Sandzak Coalition leader Rasim Ljajic said his group
has given the authorities a one-week deadline to send a
negotiating team to Novi Pazar, the Belgrade daily "Danas"
wrote. PM

...BUT BELGRADE SAYS NO TO 'POLITICAL CLOWNS.' Meanwhile,
Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj dismissed as
"laughable" the idea of talks with the leaders who met in
Novi Sad, "Danas" reported on 16 April. Seselj said the
government offered talks to the ethnic Albanian political
parties because they represent the majority of the Kosovars.
He added that the other regional leaders are "political
clowns" who have no mandate from the people they claim to
represent. PM

MAIN KOSOVAR PARTY SPLITS. A group led by nationalist
academic Rexhep Qosja and former Democratic League of Kosova
(LDK) Deputy Chairman Hydajet Hyseni has founded the New
Democratic League of Kosova (LRDK). Meeting in Prishtina on
15 April, the group elected Qosja as party leader and Hyseni
as deputy. In a declaration, the LRDK accused the current
LDK leadership of "changing the character, the substance,
the structure and the organizational principles of the LDK
[by] neglecting...democratic procedures and misusing the
institution and position" of President Ibrahim Rugova. It
also said that the LDK was responsible for gross
irregularities in the 22 March parliamentary and
presidential elections. FS

YUGOSLAV ARMY INVOLVED IN KOSOVA. Yugoslav troops in the
Gjakova region have seized over 60 automatic rifles, four
machine guns, 100 hand grenades, more than 10,000 bullets
and other "terrorist equipment" after an armed clash with
smugglers who were attempting to cross the border from
Albania, Tanjug reported on 16 April. This is Belgrade's
first acknowledgment that regular troops as well as the
paramilitary police are playing a role in the current
repression. The Yugoslav authorities formally protested the
alleged incursion to the Albanian government. The following
day, a spokesman for the Albanian Prime Minister's Office
said the incident was a "set-up." PM

FOREIGN MILITARY ROLE NOT RULED OUT IN KOSOVA. General Henry
Shelton, who is chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff,
said in Skopje on 16 April that an international armed force
could be sent to Kosova if no political solution emerges
there. "Because of the impact in the region we have made it,
I think, very clear that we prefer a diplomatic solution,
but we have not ruled out any alternative," he said. PM

ALBANIAN PRESIDENT REJECTS NEW GOVERNMENT. Rexhep Meidani on
16 April turned down the proposed new cabinet agreed on by
the parliament the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16
April 1998). Meidani noted that the position of prime
minister was not mentioned in the cabinet list and demanded
that the minister for local government also be made deputy
prime minister. The parliament then approved yet another
cabinet, which Prime Minister Fatos Nano presented to
Meidani. In the new version, the Socialist Luan Hajdaraga
will receive the defense portfolio and his fellow Socialist
Bashkim Fino local government. Outgoing Interior Minister
Neritan Ceka is not included the new government, but his
Democratic Alliance will keep the Interior Ministry through
former Deputy Defense Minister Perikli Teta. Observers told
"RFE/RL Newsline" in Tirana that the changes are more a
public relations exercise than a real political overhaul. FS

BALKAN COUNTRIES AGREE ON JOINT MILITARY FORCE. Albania,
Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Romania and Turkey agreed on 16
April to set up the Multinational Peace Force in South-
Eastern Europe (MPF). Romanian chief of staff Gen.
Constantin Degeratu said the MPF will be subordinated to
either the United Nations or to the Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe and could begin
operations within two years. Each country will contribute
some 5,000 troops. Further discussions on setting up the
force are planned for 22 May in Tirana, and the final
agreement is expected to be signed in Sofia in May or June.
MS

BALKAN SUMMIT DISCUSSES REGIONAL SECURITY. Meeting in the
southern Turkish resort of Antalya on 16 April, the
presidents of Turkey, Bulgaria, and Romania discussed
regional security and agreed that the best form of such
security is integration into Euro-Atlantic structures. They
called on the international community to continue closely
monitoring the implementation of the Dayton agreements. They
also said that the Kosovo crisis can be resolved only by a
peaceful solution achieved through "constructive dialogue"
and in line with the UN Charter on Human Rights. The three
presidents agreed to "gradually" set up a free trade zone
between their countries, Mediafax reported. MS

ROMANIAN PREMIER VISITS TRANSYLVANIA. Radu Vasile spent his
first day in office visiting the counties of Harghita and
Covasna, Romanian media reported on 16 April. He said he
wanted to "demonstrate" to ethnic Romanians who form a
minority there that "they are not abandoned." and that
Vasile said the local authorities' use of the Hungarian
language "should pose no problems," but he warned the
Sfantu-Gheorghe authorities that it "must show the same
sensitivity" to the demands of ethnic Romanians that it
displays toward those of ethnic Hungarians living in
counties with a Romanian majority. Vasile also said he found
out that while some of the ethnic Romanians' demands are
"legitimate and correct," many of their alleged problems
exist "in their imagination." By way of example, he cited
alleged "flooding" of the counties by investments from
Hungary. MS

BODYGUARDS OF EXTREMIST ROMANIAN SENATOR INVOLVED IN
INCIDENT. Bodyguards of Senator Corneliu Vadim Tudor, leader
of the extremist Greater Romania Party (PRM), physically
attacked a private television team filming on the Bucharest
street where both the senator and Premier Vasile live,
RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 15 April. Tudor
shouted insults at the team and later said in the parliament
that the journalists had scared his daughter, who believed
they wanted to kill her. The Prima TV team had reported that
Tudor has set up an illegal information network from among
PRM members but Tudor told the parliament his party was "too
poor" to maintain such a network. MS

TIRASPOL, CHISINAU POSTPONE EXPERTS' MEETING. A meeting of
the experts negotiating a settlement of the conflict between
Moldova and the separatist Transdniester has been postponed
for what Chisinau described as "technical reasons," Infotag
reported on 16 April. RFE/RL's bureau in the Moldovan
capital quoted Aleksander Karaman, the deputy of separatist
leader Igor Smirnov, as saying Tiraspol is interested in a
speedy resumption of the negotiations and that the "only
obstacle" to those talks is the continuation of the Moldovan
coalition parleys and Chisinau's failure to date to appoint
a successor to Anatol Taranu, the former chief of the
negotiating team. Taranu failed in his bid to be elected a
deputy in last month's parliamentary elections. MS

BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL,
PROGRAM. The parliament on 16 April approved setting up a
National Security Council and a pro-Western national
security program, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. The
council is to be headed by Premier Ivan Kostov and will deal
with economic issues, domestic and foreign policy, and
participation in collective security systems such as NATO.
The program defines gaining access to NATO and the EU as
strategic priorities and says Bulgaria is to take part in
regional peace-keeping efforts. MS

PROTEST AGAINST SENTENCING OF BULGARIAN JOURNALIST. In a
letter addressed to President Petar Stoyanov, Reporters sans
Frontieres protested the recent sentencing of Yovka
Atanasova, the chief editor of a daily published in the
southern Bulgarian town of Stara Zagora. Atanasova is to pay
a fine and serve a five-month jail sentence for the repeated
libel of a local businessman: she had previously received a
suspended sentence. The organization says that there are
four other cases pending against Atanasova and that several
other journalists may face trial for similar reasons. It
demands that the penal code be changed to prohibit such
prosecutions. Stoyanov recently asked the parliament to
amend the relevant provision. MS

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