|We are all apt to believe what the world believes about us. - George Eliot|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 74 Part II, 17 April 1998
___________________________________________________________ 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 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 * U.S. URGES MOSCOW TO ENGAGE IN DIALOGUE WITH RIGA * BOSNIAN SERB COUPLE FOUND DEAD IN DRVAR * ALBANIAN PRESIDENT REJECTS NEW GOVERNMENT xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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