|Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into faith. - Christopher Fry|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 98 Part II, 25 May 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 98 Part II, 25 May 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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx SPECIAL REPORT xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx CRISIS ON UKRAINIAN FARMS The decline of Ukraine's agriculture sector has been continuous since Kyiv declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. This report includes articles and photos. http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/ukraine-farms/index.html xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * OPPOSITION WINS ELECTIONS IN HUNGARY * SERBS CONTINUE OFFENSIVE IN KOSOVA * WESTENDORP WANTS NATO TO CATCH KARADZIC xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx REGIONAL AFFAIRS LUKASHENKA SIGNS COOPERATION AGREEMENT WITH RUSSIAN REGIONS... Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 23 May signed an agreement on boosting economic cooperation between Belarus and the Central Russia association, which is composed of 12 oblasts, ITAR-TASS reported. Lukashenka, on a visit to Russia's Yaroslavl Oblast, said at a meeting with Russian regional leaders that direct contacts with Russian regions will increase the economic integration of the two states. But he commented that the "subjective will of certain officials in Moscow" is an obstacle to integration within the Russia-Belarus Union, Interfax reported. The Belarusian leader added that he does not intend to create a single state with Russia and denied rumors that he wants to run for the Russian presidency in 2000. JM ...CALLS FOR "EASTERN SLAVS" TO UNITE. Speaking at a conference entitled "The Slav World: Unity and Variety" in Yaroslavl on 23 May, Lukashenka called for the consolidation of "Eastern Slavs" and warned against Western attempts "to impair the creation of any civilized association" on former USSR territory. He said the Russia-Belarus union is "not a closed society but the core of a multi-faceted and equal unity of Slavs and other peoples." Belarus has now taken on the role of a "unifier of Slavic territories," he commented. At the same time, he said that Belarus wants to develop "cooperation [with the West] in all spheres" but stressed that this should be "equal cooperation rather than one-way traffic," Interfax reported. JM DUMA FAILS TO RATIFY ACCORD ON MILITARY WITHDRAWAL FROM BELARUS. The Russian State Duma has voted by 209 to 51 with three abstentions against ratifying the 1993 agreement between the Belarusian and Russian governments on the withdrawal of Russian troops from Belarus, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 May. Duma Committee for CIS Affairs Chairman Georgii Tikhonov said the pullout was illegal without the Duma's ratification of the agreement. Duma deputies have appealed to the Prosecutor-General's Office "to instigate criminal proceedings regarding the illegitimate pullout of Russian troops from the territory of Belarus." JM EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE STRIKING MINERS MARCH TO KYIV. Some 1,000 miners have begun to march from Dnipropetrovsk to Kyiv to demand wage arrears for the last 10 months, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 May. Some 3,000 miners from the Pavlovhrad mining basin have remained in Dnipropetrovsk to picket the regional administration building. They threaten to travel by bus to Kyiv on 26 May unless the directors of Pavlovhrad mines resume hot food supplies to protesters. Those supplies were suspended following the directors' claim that they have no money for transportation expenses. Following a 100-kilometer march, some 1,000 miners from Pervomaysk arrived at Luhansk to demand back wages from the oblast administration. On 22 May, the government released a statement saying that the miners' strikes are a "planned political action" and accusing the miners of an "unwillingness to seek a reasonable compromise" with the government. JM UKRAINIAN SUPREME COUNCIL FAILS TO ELECT SPEAKER. With only 214 out of 437 deputies taking part in the vote, the parliament on 22 May failed to elect a speaker, Ukrainian Television reported. The caucuses of the Popular Rukh, the Social Democrats, the Popular Democratic Parties, and the Greens refused to pick up ballots, and thus the necessary two-thirds majority of deputies present at the session was not achieved. Of the five candidates for the post, Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko obtained 191 votes. JM ODESSA MAYOR WANTS REFERENDUM ON HIS MAYORALTY. Eduard Hurvits says he wants a referendum on his mayoralty after the Supreme Court upheld the decision of an Odessa district court annulling his election in March, Ukrainian Television reported. The district court ruled in favor of Hurvits's rival Ruslan Bodelan, saying that the city electoral commission, which is mostly made up of Hurvits appointees, violated the electoral law. Last week, a 200-strong commission, headed by Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko, was in Odessa to investigate Hurvits's election. Pustovoytenko sharply criticized Hurvits for the way he was running his office and called Odessa the most crime-infested city in Ukraine. Observers say President Leonid Kuchma may introduce direct presidential rule in Odessa to end the standoff. JM POLISH, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTS APPEAL FOR HELP TO UKRAINE. Aleksander Kwasniewski and Leonid Kuchma on 24 May called for international institutions to urgently grant Kyiv help for vital economic reforms, Reuters reported. Together with Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus, Kwasniewski and Kuchma were taking part in a two-day Polish-Ukrainian business forum in Rzeszow, southeastern Poland. Kwasniewski rejected arguments put forward by the IMF and the World Bank that Ukraine should tackle reform before it receives assistance. "Each day of delay may be impossible to catch up," Kwasniewski commented. Kuchma voiced fears that Poland's intended membership in the EU may create a barrier between Poland and Ukraine. JM LATVIAN PREMIER COMMENTS ON RISE IN COMMUNIST ACTIVITIES. Guntars Krasts told nationwide radio on 22 May that the recent increase in Communist activities in Latvia can be attributed to the upcoming general elections and the tensions in relations between Riga and Moscow, BNS reported. Krasts noted that there are organizations in Latvia that tend toward "violent methods." He also urged that an investigation be carried out into the 14 May rally in a Riga park, which was attended by youths attired in communist and fascist regalia. JC NEW LITHUANIAN INTERIOR MINISTER APPOINTED. President Valdas Adamkus on 22 May signed a decree appointing attorney Stasys Sedbaras as minister of internal affairs, BNS and Reuters reported. The previous day, Adamkus had accepted the resignation from that post of Vidmantas Ziemelis, whom many held responsible for the ministry's inability to solve the recent wave of bomb attacks in the country (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 May 1998). Sedbaras is a former Constitutional Court judge and until recently worked as a government consultant on state and human rights issues. "My most important task will be to strengthen the police force and to give more autonomy to the different divisions of the ministry," the new minister told Reuters. JC U.S. CONCERNED ABOUT SLOVAK ELECTORAL PROCESS. Stephen Flangan, special adviser to President Bill Clinton, told journalists in Bratislava on 22 May that the U.S. is concerned about Slovakia's new electoral law and warned that irregularities in the elections scheduled for September could hinder Bratislava's efforts to join NATO and the EU, Reuters and CTK reported. Flangan said it is not only the law but also possible non-compliance with Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe recommendations that endangers Slovakia's international reputation. Slovak parliamentary chairman Ivan Gasparovic on 22 May rejected an opposition demand that OSCE observers be invited to monitor the elections, despite the fact that the government has said such observers will not be banned. MS AUSTRIA HANDS OVER MOCHOVCE REPORT TO SLOVAKIA. Foreign Minister Wolfgang Schussel on 22 May handed over to the Slovak charge d' affaires in Vienna a report drawn up by an international commission on the controversial Mochovce nuclear plant. Earlier the same day, Slovakia protested against the occupation of its embassy by anti-nuclear protesters (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 May 1998). The protesters were evicted by the Austrian police after six hours. Also on 22 May, the Greenpeace environmentalist movement announced it intends to take legal action against the Slovak state electricity company, Reuters reported. MS OPPOSITION WINS ELECTIONS IN HUNGARY... With 148 seats in the 386-strong parliament, the opposition Federation of Young Democrats-Hungarian Civic Party (FIDESZ-MPP) has emerged as the largest party in the parliament following the 24 May runoff. The Socialist Party gained 134 seats, followed by the Independent Smallholders' Party (FKGP) with 48 seats, the Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ) 24, the Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF) 17, and the far-right Hungarian Justice and Life Party 14 seats. One seat was won by an independent candidate. At 57 percent, turnout was higher than in the first round. Since 194 seats are required for a simple majority in the parliament, it is still uncertain whether the next government will be a FIDESZ-MDF-FKGP coalition or a "grand coalition" of FIDESZ and the Socialists. MSZ ...SAYS "PREMATURE" TO NAME COALITION PARTNERS. FIDESZ-MPP leader Viktor Orban said he expects a new government to be formed within four weeks but added that it is premature to speak about which party will join the FIDESZ-MDF alliance in the new coalition. Outgoing Prime Minister Gyula Horn advised FIDESZ to "focus on stability" when forming the new cabinet. SZDSZ party leader Gabor Kuncze, together with the entire executive board of the party, resigned because of the SZDS's poor performance. He said the party will remain in opposition. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE SERBS CONTINUE OFFENSIVE IN KOSOVA. Serbian guns pounded ethnic Albanian villages in the vicinity of Klina on 23 and 24 May. Western journalists said the attacks on the settlements appeared to have been going on for several days and that most local Kosovars have fled. They also said Serbian paramilitaries as well as the police and army took part in attacks on Kosovar villages in the Gjakova area near the Albanian frontier on 23 May. According to Serbian sources, forces of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) shot at Serbian columns there. Serbian spokesmen in Prishtina charged that armed Kosovars took a Serbian police official off a train between Prishtina and Klina. He is the 15th Serb to be kidnapped since the Serbian offensive began in February, none of whom has been heard of since, Reuters reported. Serbian and Kosovar sources say the UCK has set up detention camps in some areas. PM KOSOVARS SAY MILOSEVIC USING TWO-PRONGED STRATEGY. A spokesman for the Kosovar leadership said in Prishtina on 23 May that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic continues to conduct talks with Kosovars representatives at the same time as his "military and paramilitary forces attack the Albanian population" in Kosova. The spokesman called the two-pronged policy "dangerous," because it hinders efforts to find a peaceful, political solution to the region's problems, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The next day, Veton Surroi, who is a leading Kosovar spokesman, told Belgrade's Radio B-92 that progress in finding a political solution to the Kosovar crisis would help put an end to fighting. PM AGANI WANTS END TO BLOCKADE. Fehmi Agani, who led the Kosovar delegation in talks with Serbian officials on 22 May in Prishtina, said that both sides agreed to continue discussion this week in Belgrade, despite major differences between them. Christopher Hill, who is the U.S. ambassador to Macedonia, was present at the talks as what U.S. sources called "an observer." Agani stressed after the talks that top priorities for the Kosovars are securing an end to the Serbian blockade of Kosovar commercial traffic, which has led to widespread food shortages, and the cessation of hostilities by Serbian forces. In Barcelona, NATO Secretary- General Javier Solana said international mediation will be necessary to end the crisis in Kosova and that "the only person who has the mandate from the international community [to negotiate] is...[Spain's] Felipe Gonzalez." PM SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH CONDEMNS KOSOVA VIOLENCE. The Assembly of the Serbian Orthodox Church issued a statement in Belgrade on 23 May calling for an end to "violence and terrorism" in Kosova. Church leaders expressed concern over recent clashes in the province and warned that dialogue is the only means to a settlement. The assembly also called on Serbian and ethnic Albanian leaders to include representatives of Kosova's other ethnic groups in the talks. PM MEIDANI BLASTS ETHNIC CLEANSING, GENOCIDE. Albanian President Rexhep Meidani said in Tirana on 22 May that "only an international, active, and deterrent presence in Kosova and the region that involves establishing monitoring missions along the borders of its neighbors can guarantee the continuity of the [Kosovar-Serbian] talks...[and prevent] the further radicalization of the situation." He added that "ethnic cleansing of Albanians from the cradles of their ancestors, even genocide [of the Kosovars]...remind us of Bosnia, which is still fresh in our collective imagination." Albania has repeatedly called for the stationing of NATO troops along its border with Kosova. NATO is currently examining options to help contain the fighting in Kosova. In Barcelona on 23 May, Kosovar shadow-state Foreign Minister Edita Tahiri asked representatives of the Atlantic alliance to send troops into Kosova itself. PM BALKANS TO HAVE REGIONAL PEACEKEEPERS. President Meidani made those remarks in Tirana on 22 May to the deputy defense ministers of Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Macedonia, Romania, and Turkey. Those officials signed a letter of intent to set up a joint regional peacekeeping force that will consist of up to 3,000 soldiers in cooperation with the UN, the OSCE, and NATO. Officials from the U.S. and Slovenia signed the letter as observers. A formal agreement to launch the force is slated to be signed in Skopje on 26 September, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. It is unclear when the contingent will be set up. PM MONTENEGRIN POLICE CHARGE BULATOVIC BODYGUARDS. Police spokesmen said in Podgorica on 22 May that they have filed charges against three bodyguards of Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic for possessing illegal weapons. Outside the Montenegrin capital, police and supporters of President Milo Djukanovic clashed with backers of Bulatovic, who is Djukanovic's rival (see "End Note" in "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 May 1998). Some Djukanovic supporters stoned Bulatovic's car, which prompted a Bulatovic spokesman to charge Djukanovic with using "tyranny" against his opponents. PM WESTENDORP WANTS NATO TO CATCH KARADZIC. Carlos Westendorp, who is the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, said in Barcelona on 23 May that he wants NATO to arrest Radovan Karadzic, who heads the list of indicted war criminals, and deliver him to the Hague-based war crimes tribunal. "I said two months ago that Karadzic should be in The Hague in April. He's not in The Hague and I am very sorry for that, and I think that if he doesn't go on a voluntary basis it is the responsibility of our [NATO] nations to bring him to The Hague." In April, "The Washington Post" reported that a French officer warned Karadzic that he was about to be arrested, prompting Washington to call off the operation. The French Defense Ministry denied the story. PM ALBANIAN POLICE SEIZE TON OF DYNAMITE. Police on 22 May confiscated a ton of dynamite from the premises of a construction company in Vora, near Tirana. The company, which mainly produces bricks, has a license to buy explosives from the army for professional use. Police spokesmen said the company does not have permission to store such large amounts of explosives and does not have the necessary documentation to prove that it had acquired the dynamite legally. "Koha Jone" quoted experts as saying that the dynamite would have been sufficient to destroy large parts of the city had it gone off by accident. FS ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT COALITION AGREES ON JOINT CANDIDATES. The parties represented in the national government coalition and two other parties signed a pact on 23 May for the 21 June local elections. They agreed to create the Alliance for the State and nominate joint candidates for the seven municipalities and nine smaller communities that will participate in the vote (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 May 1998). FS ROMANIAN SECURITY SERVICES TO BE RESTRUCTURED. At a 22 May meeting convened to discuss the consequences of the cigarette smuggling affair, the Supreme National Defense Council announced it will reduce the staff of the Service for Protection and Guard by 25 percent and disband the intelligence service known as Military Unit 0215. That unit was set up in 1990 and subordinated to the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Citing the council's official communiqué, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported that Military Unit 0215 included "people who were members of the former [communist] political police." The council also noted that 22 percent of the staff of the Romanian Intelligence Service were employees of the former Securitate who are now engaged in "strictly technical activities." The Foreign Intelligence Service is 41 percent composed of former Securitate employees who, according to the council, were not engaged in "political police activities" before 1989. MS ROMANIA'S CREDIT RATING DOWNGRADED. Standard & Poor's has downgraded Romania's credit rating from BB- to that of B+, which means doing business in the country is now considered to be riskier. The warning is directed primarily at potential lenders, but is likely to discourage foreign investors as well, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. As reasons for the downgrading, the agency mentioned political instability, foreign currency vulnerability, and the slow pace of economic reforms. Finance Minister Daniel Daianu said the decision was "hasty" and unjustified by the real economic situation. MS BULGARIAN PREMIER SEEKS TO APPEASE STRIKING ETHNIC TURKS. Ivan Kostov on 23 May traveled to the southern town of Dzhebel to seek to persuade some 1,000 tobacco farm workers, mainly ethnic Turks, to end their strike, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. They are protesting a German-Bulgarian joint venture's failure to pay for last year's tobacco harvest. Kostov announced that the Bulgartabak state enterprise will immediately start paying the workers the money they are owed. Analysts say Kostov's intervention is unusual since he has refused to discuss strikers' demands in other protests. The visit took place just days after a large rally in Dzhebel commemorated the communist suppression of ethnic Turks. Leaders of the ethnic Turk Movement for Rights and Freedom, including chairman Ahmed Dogan, were booed by the rally participants, who accused them of failing to protect minority rights. MS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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