|Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. - Vladimir Nabokov|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 77 Part II, 22 April 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 77 Part II, 22 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 Headlines, Part II * BELARUS, GAZPROM AGREE ON GAS DEBT REPAYMENT * REPORTS OF MILITARY BUILDUPS IN KOSOVA CONTINUE * INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY CALLS FOR DIALOGUE End Note: RUSSIA'S CONSTITUTIONAL COURT CHAIRMAN DISPLAYS LEGAL RESOLVE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUS, GAZPROM AGREE ON GAS DEBT REPAYMENT. Belarus and Russia's Gazprom have agreed on how Belarus will repay its $220-million gas debt, ITAR-TASS reported. The agreement was reached during a meeting between Gazprom chief Rem Vyakhirev and Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and Prime Minister Syarhey Linh in Minsk on 21 April. According to Vyakhirev, Belarus is to repay 26 percent of its debt in hard currency and 74 percent in goods and services. "Belarus will be supplied with as much gas as it needs," ITAR-TASS quoted Vyakhirev as saying. JM SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS GUILTY VERDICT ON YOUNG OPPOSITIONISTS. The Belarusian Supreme Court on 21 April upheld the Minsk regional court's ruling sentencing two young oppositionists to prison terms for painting anti -presidential graffiti on city buildings in Stoubtsy in February, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Under that ruling, 19-year-old Alyaksey Shydlouski will have to complete his 18-month sentence in a penal colony. Sixteen- year-old Vadzim Labkovich was given an identical, suspended sentence. JM KUCHMA APPOINTS NEW ECONOMY MINISTER... In the ongoing reshuffle of the cabinet, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has appointed Vasyl Rohovyy as new economy minister, ITAR- TASS reported. Rohovyy's predecessor, Viktor Suslov, resigned in order to take up his seat in the parliament, as did Technology Minister Vitaliy Seminozhenko. Environment Minister Yuriy Kostenko, Transport Minister Valeriy Cherep, and Acting Prosecutor General Oleh Lytvak are also expected to step down after winning parliamentary seats. JM ...PLEDGES COOPERATION WITH NEW PARLIAMENT. At a meeting with lawmakers representing various business circles on 21 April, Kuchma vowed constructive cooperation with the new Supreme Council, ITAR-TASS reported. "Continuing confrontation between the legislative and executive power would be a deliberate suicide," he was quoted as saying. JM UKRAINE WANTS TO PROSECUTE RUSSIAN DIPLOMAT. Ukraine has asked Russia to strip a legal attache at the Russian Embassy in Kyiv of his diplomatic immunity. While driving a car, the attache hit and killed a Ukrainian citizen crossing the street. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman said the diplomat was drunk at the time of the accident but declined to take an alcohol check and medical tests. "Considering the seriousness of the accident, we want appropriate measures to be taken," Reuters quoted the spokesman as saying. JM KYIV CRITICIZES G-8 FOR NOT ABIDING BY ACCORD ON CHORNOBYL CLOSURE. Kyiv has accused the international community of failing to keep an agreement on the shutdown of the Chornobyl nuclear plant, ITAR-TASS reported. "Our expectations of receiving financial aid from the international community have not been met," the agency quoted Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Anton Buteyko as saying. Under the 1995 deal, the G-8 (at the time G-7) pledged $3.1 billion to assist Ukraine in closing the plant. Ukrainian authorities maintain they have received only $250 million to date. JM ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT ENDORSES 1998 PRIVATIZATION PROGRAM. The cabinet has approved this year's privatization program, ETA reported on 21 April. Under that program, the privatization of such major enterprises as Estonian Oil Shale, Estonian Railroads, Estonian Telekom, and Estonian Energy is to be launched. The government will also continue to sell shares in the country's alcohol distilleries. JC LATVIAN GOVERNMENT SUBMITS WORKING GROUP'S PROPOSAL TO PARLIAMENT. The cabinet has submitted to the parliament the draft amendment to the citizenship law drawn up by a government working group whereby the system of "naturalization windows" is to be abolished, BNS and AFP reported on 21 April . But it wants to continue to review the draft amendments granting citizenship to children born in Latvia to non-citizens since 21 August 1991 in order to take into account changes to the language and education laws. The working group has drawn up two draft proposals: the first would allow those children to acquire citizenship if one of their parents requests it, the second provides for the children to become citizens when they are 16 years old if they can prove sufficient knowledge of the Latvian language. The working group is to draw up a final version of the amendment by next week, which will be submitted to the parliament separately. JC RUSSIAN ORGANIZATION REFUSES TO VACATE RIGA HISTORICAL BUILDING. A small group of ethnic Russians are refusing to vacate an historical building in downtown Riga that houses the Russian Cultural Center. The so-called Peter I Palace was bought in December by an Estonian company, which had asked the center to vacate the premises by 21 April. The palace was put up for auction after the Russian Community of Latvia had not paid the rent over a lengthy period. The Russian Cultural Center, however, maintains, that the building is its property. Protesters on 21 April blocked the door to the building and refused entry to Riga Mayor Andris Berzins. Berzins, for his part, told the group that they have chosen the "wrong course" by blockading the building" and that they should "appeal through the courts." JC NORDIC COUNTRIES DENOUNCE RUSSIAN THREAT OF SANCTIONS. The foreign ministers of the five Nordic countries issued a statement following their 21 April meeting in Stockholm saying that "political problems" in the Baltic Sea region should be solved through dialogue and calling on Russia to drop its threat of economic sanctions against Latvia. Swedish Foreign Minister Lena Hjelm-Wallen told the Swedish news agency that "we cannot accept the threat of sanctions against Latvia. They are outside the European agenda." The Nordic ministers also urged the Latvian parliament to quickly enact amendments to the citizenship law. JC POLAND TO HOLD LOCAL ELECTIONS THIS FALL. President Aleksander Kwasniewski on 21 April signed the government's bill postponing local elections to the lowest tier of administration until this fall, "Gazeta Wyborcza" reported. In this way, Kwasniewski, a former Communist leader, demonstrated his support for the Solidarity-led government's plan to decentralize state administration. According to that plan, the number of voivodships will be reduced from 49 to 12 and the "powiat," a middle tier of administration, introduced. Local elections to all three levels of administration will be held simultaneously in the fall. JM POLISH PREMIER ENTERS DISPUTE OVER AUSCHWITZ CROSS. Jerzy Buzek on 21 April sent an open letter to residents of the Oswiecim/Auschwitz region, warning them against any "provocation" over the "Cross of Auschwitz" issue. Some Polish and overseas Jewish organizations are demanding that a large cross erected near the site of the former death camp in 1979 be removed. Buzek says in his letter than no decision will be taken on the cross without consulting "the clergy and local people." JM CZECH OFFICIAL CALLS FOR HAVEL'S RESIGNATION. Jaroslav Zverina, the deputy chairman of the Chamber of Deputies and a member of former Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party, has said President Vaclav Havel should consider resigning from office. Zverina, who is a medical doctor, said that Havel should not have run for re-election in view of the state of his health and that he should leave office after the June early parliamentary elections. MS SLOVAKIA ESTIMATES ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE BY FORMER SOVIET TROOPS. The Defense Ministry says Soviet troops stationed on Slovak territory from 1968-1991 caused environmental damage totaling nearly $27 million, Reuters reported on 21 April. By January 1998, Slovakia had spent some $20 million in the redevelopment of damaged localities. This is the first time the government in Bratislava has released an estimate of the environmental costs of the 23-year Soviet presence in the country. According to the ministry, the Soviet troops polluted the soil, rocks, and underground water in 81 localities. Most of the pollution was caused by fuel oils. So far, 50-60 percent of the polluted sites have been cleaned. MS TWELVE HUNGARIAN PARTIES QUALIFY FOR NATIONAL LISTS. Twelve political parties have submitted enough regional lists in order to run candidates on national lists as well (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 April 1998), according to the Central Electoral Committee. An opinion poll recently conducted by Szonda Ipsos shows the Socialists continuing to lead the field with 34 percent, followed by the Young Democrats (23 percent), the Smallholders (18 percent) and the Free Democrats (10 percent). The same poll suggests no other party will pass the 5 percent threshold. But a Gallup poll indicates a much narrower gap between the Socialists (21 percent) and the Young Democrats (20 percent), with support for the Smallholders totaling 10 percent and Democratic Forum 5 percent. MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE REPORTS OF MILITARY BUILDUPS IN KOSOVA CONTINUE. A convoy of armored vehicles and troops from the Yugoslav army were reported heading toward the Kosovar town of Pec, AFP reported on 21 April. Belgrade-based B92 radio reported the same day that Yugoslav army garrisons in the Decani region have been reinforced and heavy artillery positioned near the ethnic Albanian towns of Djakuvica and Decani. Serbian sources report that the Kosova Liberation Army (KLA) is receiving arms and manpower across the border from Albanians. The Yugoslav army accused the Albanian government last week of aiding that process. Reuters reported that the KLA controls the villages of Glamocelj, Glodjane, Rznic, Dubrava, Crni Breg, Prilib, Ratise, Lubarda, and Maznik. In Prishtina, a few thousand ethnic Albanians staged a peaceful demonstration for the 12th consecutive day against Serb rule. INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY CALLS FOR DIALOGUE. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott said that both sides in the Kosova conflict should immediately begin unconditional negotiations, an RFE/RL correspondent in Warsaw reported on 21 April. Talbott spoke after meeting with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe chairman Bronislaw Geremek. Talbott recently toured the Balkans and Moscow ahead of a meeting of the Kosova Contact Group in Rome on 29 April. Geremek reiterated that an OSCE envoy was prepared to go to the Yugoslavia to find a solution to the crisis. Belgrade has until now rejected the offer. In Brussels, EU External Relations Commissioner Hans van den Broek said that both sides should hold talks in a neutral location. Belgrade has offered to talk with ethnic Albanian officials in Kosova but only on the condition that independence for the province is not on the agenda. PB SILAJDZIC SAYS BOSNIA PARTITION BEING CONSOLIDATED. Haris Silajdzic, the Muslim co-chairman of the Bosnian Council of Ministers, said on 21 April that the "de facto partition" of Bosnia-Herzegovina is being consolidated. Silajdzic, a Muslim, made his comments in Stockholm after meeting with Swedish Prime Minister Goeran Persson. Fellow Bosnian co- chairman Boro Bosic, a Serb, was more optimistic, saying that the "peace process is going in a positive direction." Silajdzic said that more than half of Bosnia's population are unable to return to their homes, a right guaranteed to them in the Dayton accords. Silajdzic said he "measures everything" by that fact. Bosic, Silajdzic, and their Croatian colleague Nevin Tomic were in Sweden to discuss the peace process and the plight of the some 60,000 Bosnian refugees living there. PB UN SACKS MORE OFFICIALS IN DRVAR. The police chief of the Croatian-run town of Drvar and the local interior minister were fired on 21 April by the UN in response to the murder of a Serbian couple last week, AFP reported. Ivan Jurisic was dismissed for failing to provide a safe environment and was decertified as a policeman. He was told of the sacking in a letter from the commissioner of the UN's International Police Task Force. Barisa Letica was released from his post as interior minister of Canton 10, where Drvar is located. The Serbian couple were shot and their house set on fire, one of several house-burnings directed against Serbs returning to their pre-war homes. PB VOLKSWAGEN TO REOPEN FACTORY IN BOSNIA. The German automaker Volkswagen said on 21 April that it will reopen its Vogosca factory near Sarajevo in July, AFP reported. The factory was first opened in 1979 but was closed and then pilfered during the war. Husein Musabegovic, the general manager of Tvornica Automobla Sarajevo, a VW partner in the operation, said they hope to produce 5,000 cars this year and 15,000 in 1999. "Oslobodenje" said the first group of employees has already begun training. PB MACEDONIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN ANKARA. Meeting on 21 April with visiting Macedonian Foreign Minister Blagoy Handziski, President Suleyman Demirel pledged continued Turkish support for Macedonia, assessing bilateral relations as "very good," according to the "Turkish Daily News" on 22 April. Handziski requested continued Turkish support for his country's bid for NATO membership. He said that his talks the previous day with his Turkish counterpart, Ismail Cem, on increasing Turkish financial and technical aid to the Macedonian armed forces were "very productive." Referring to the ongoing tensions in Kosova, Demirel called on the region's Albanian population to "be patient and work for a peaceful solution." LF NEW ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT NEARLY COMPLETE. Albanian President Rexhep Meidani has approved two more ministers in the reshuffled cabinet of Prime Minister Fatos Nano, Reuters reported on 21 April. The appointment of Maqo Lakrori as minister for Euro-Atlantic integration and Ilir Meta as minister for European integration leaves only two of the nine new ministers unapproved by Meidani. The president's failure to approve the cabinet last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April 1998) led the prime minister to accuse Meidani of creating a political crisis. Nano's office issued a statement on 20 April assuring the international community "that there is no...governing crisis in Albania." PB ALBANIAN UNITS CARRY OUT EXERCISE NEAR KOSOVAR BORDER. The Albanian army held an artillery firing exercise in the northeastern town of Kukes, Albanian Television reported on 21 April. A Defense Ministry statement said the practice session was held to indicate the military's "high level of preparedness." The Albanian military was in ruins after the chaos and riots that engulfed the country last year. The government has re-established several army units in recent months and has stationed a division near Kukes, which is just a few kilometers from the Yugoslav province of Kosova. PB ROMANIA REJECTS AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL REPORT. Both Premier Radu Vasile and Interior Minister Gavril Dejeu on 21 April rejected a report on infringements of human rights presented on the same day by Amnesty International at a press conference in Strasbourg, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Vasile and Dejeu acknowledged that there have been "isolated cases" of police violence against detainees but said they were "isolated instances" such as can also be found in Western democracies. Dejeu added that "disciplinary measures" have been taken against the perpetrators. In an interview with RFE/RL, the Council of Europe special rapporteur for Romania, Gunnar Janson, said the report was "well founded" and its conclusions "coincide in many points" with his own. A committee of the council's Parliamentary Assembly will decide on 23 April whether to place Romania on the council's special monitoring list. MS ROMANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER DEFENDS ARMY'S ROLE IN 1989. Defense Minister Victor Babiuc, in a statement released on 21 April, says the Romanian army "deserves the gratitude of the nation" for the role it played in December 1989 and "not the harassment to which it is subjected today." Babiuc said that only the then supreme commander of the army (Nicolae Ceausescu), Defense Minister (Vasile Milea, who committed suicide) and the chief of staff (Stefan Guse, who died of natural causes) can be held personally responsible for ordering the opening of fire; the rest "followed orders," he argued. Babuic added that the " presumption of guilt" hanging over the army as a whole is "illegal, immoral, and contrary to reality." Former Defense Minister Victor Stanculescu and former Interior Minister Mihai Chitac are currently on trial for having ordered the army to open fire on demonstrators at that time. MS MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT FAILS TO ELECT CHAIRMAN. The new Moldovan parliament convened for the first time on 21 April but failed to vote on electing a chairman, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The Party of Moldovan Communists faction intended to propose its leader, Vladimir Voronin, for that post. The other three factions, however, requested a 10- minute break for consultations, and the vote had to be postponed until 22 April. President Petru Lucinschi earlier addressed the legislators, warning them against turning the "national ideal" into "an inimical and aggressive" one that could affect "inter-ethnic peace." Observers say the warning was addressed primarily at deputies from the Democratic Convention of Moldova and the Party of Democratic Forces who favor union with Romania. Lucinschi called on the deputies to cooperate "on the basis of reasonable compromises" since no faction has a majority and can claim that it alone represents voters' interests. MS CENTER-RIGHT COALITION FORMED IN MOLDOVA. The pro- presidential For a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova Bloc (PMPD), the rightist Democratic Convention of Moldova (CDM), and the Party of Democratic Forces (PFD) on have formed a joint faction in the parliament, Romanian state radio reported on 22 April. The faction, called the Alliance for Democracy, has 61 deputies and thus is larger than that of the Party of Moldovan Communists, which is 40-strong. Former president Mircea Snegur, co-chairman of the CDM, was elected leader of the joint faction. The move paves the way for the election on 22 April of PMPD leader Dumitru Diacov as chairman of the parliament. Citing sources that requested anonymity, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on 21 April that an agreement has been reached on setting up a center- right cabinet supported by the PMPD, the CDM, and the PFD. MS END NOTE RUSSIA'S CONSTITUTIONAL COURT CHAIRMAN DISPLAYS LEGAL RESOLVE by John Helmer Marat Baglai, the chairman of Russia's Constitutional Court, called his first press conference in almost a year to dismiss the constitutional claims of acting Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko and the president's representative at the court, Sergei Shakhrai. There has been no comparable rebuke to ranking government officials since Valerii Zorkin, the first chairman of the Constitutional Court, publicly told Boris Yeltsin that his presidential order disbanding the Supreme Soviet in 1993 was illegal. Baglai, who is the third chairman in the court's six- year history, dismissed Kirienko's claim that during Yeltsin's recent visit to Japan, the acting premier would take over the presidential duties. According to Baglai, "an unconfirmed chairman of the government cannot, of course, carry out the duties of the president." Kremlin aides subsequently said Yeltsin would not delegate any of his powers while traveling. Baglai's repudiation of Shakhrai was even more sweeping. Last week, Shakhrai had called his own press conference to announce that if the State Duma voted Kirienko down three times and were to be dissolved, the new election might be postponed until 27 September or 11 October. In the six-month interval, Shakhrai hinted, Yeltsin might rule by decree as he had done in 1993. "It would be inhuman, "Shakhrai announced, "to fix the date of the elections in July, since in the summer the people must have an opportunity to forget about politics." Shakhrai also claimed that the new Duma elections might be conducted according to majority-vote rules that have yet to be enacted but might be ordered by presidential decree. Baglai reacted strongly. He made it clear that the Kremlin cannot violate the article of the constitution mandating an election within three months of the dissolution of the parliament. He rejected Shakhrai's suggestion of an election postponement and warned the Kremlin against threats to impose new vote-counting rules by presidential decree. Such a decree abrogating the law is "impossible in our country," Baglai said. Shakhrai, a lawyer by profession, is the last surviving office-holder among Yeltsin's advisers who, in December 1991, helped him break up the Soviet Union, along with the leaders of Belarus and Ukraine. He is also the last of Yeltsin's advisers from the disbanding of the 1993 Supreme Soviet to remain on the Kremlin staff. According to Shakhrai himself, only half his time is spent on Constitutional Court and legal matters. The other half, he said recently, is spent on giving political advice to Yeltsin. When asked how often he speaks to or meets with Yeltsin, Shakhrai replied: "every day." Shakhrai's tactics last week contrast with his earlier hesitation to answer a question about the legality of a third presidential term for Yeltsin. Shakhrai's aide, Svetlana Popova, tells RFE/RL Shakhrai did not feel he had a right to express an opinion "before the decision of the Constitutional Court." Suggesting behind-the-scenes pressure on Constitutional Court judges to rule Yeltsin's way on a third term, Baglai said "there is no constitutional legal crisis in the country." Recently, after the Court ruled that the president had no legal right to refuse to sign legislation on returning wartime art trophies--after parliament overrode his veto-- Yeltsin referred to the ruling as a "slap in the face." The author is a Moscow-based journalist who regularly contributes to RFE/RL. 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. 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