Words that open our eyes to the world are always the easiest to remember. - Ryszard Kapuscinski
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

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

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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

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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.

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