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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 109 Part II, 9 June 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 109 Part II, 9 June 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 TRIES TO LOCK U.S. AMBASSADOR OUT OF RESIDENCE * EU, U.S. FREEZE ASSETS, BAN INVESTMENTS IN SERBIA * ATTACK ON NORTHERN ALBANIAN ARMS DEPOT xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUS TRIES TO LOCK U.S. AMBASSADOR OUT OF RESIDENCE... Belarusian authorities have given an order to weld shut a gate to the residence of U.S. Ambassador to Belarus Daniel Speckhard at the Drazdy compound outside Minsk. Workers preparing to carry out that order retreated when Speckhard arrived with journalists at his residence on 8 June, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. The move follows a warning in April that diplomats from 22 countries will have to leave Drazdy by 10 June owing to planned repairs there. Speaking at a news conference in Minsk on 8 June, Speckhard said Belarus has breached the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations by violating the ambassador's residence, which is considered foreign territory, like the embassy itself. "If the government wants to lock us out, we will have to leave the country," Speckhard commented to Reuters. He added that the action is without precedence since the Cold War. Speckhard has appealed to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka to rescind the eviction order. JM ...WHILE STATE DEPARTMENT THREATENS DIPLOMATIC RETALIATION. U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin says the U.S. government has urged Belarus "to halt this self-destructive action" of evicting foreign ambassadors of their residences at Drazdy, Reuters reported. "If the government in Belarus makes it impossible for our ambassador to carry out his responsibilities, we will be forced to take retaliatory action," he added. "We certainly would have options of our own in the welding area here in Washington," UPI cited Rubin as saying. Meanwhile, the Belarusian Foreign Ministry said in a statement read on state television on 8 June that "all embassies are being offered new land and other properties." It added that President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and Prime Minister Syarhey Linh, who also have their official residences at Drazdy, have set an "example" by vacating those buildings for repairs. JM UKRAINIAN MINERS' STRIKE ENTERS SECOND MONTH. According to the Ukrainian Miners Independent Trade Union, strikes at 43 mines throughout the country entered their second month on 8 June, Ukrainian Television reported. Miners marching to Kyiv from Dnipropetrovsk (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May 1998) are now 80 kilometers from the capital, while another group continue to picket the oblast administration building in Dnipropetrovsk (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 and 21 May 1998). Meanwhile, miners picketed the National Bank building in Kyiv on 8 June to demand that the government implement a parliamentary resolution allocating funds for the purchase of coal. Under pressure from the striking miners, the government has announced it will reduce coal imports by 80 percent, ITAR-TASS reported. JM PASSENGERS WANT $2 MILLION IN COMPENSATION FOR ABORTIVE SEA TRIP. The Ukrainian cruiser "Taras Shevchenko," owned by the Odessa-based Black Sea Shipping Company, is returning home with more than 500 passengers aboard after a canceled Mediterranean cruise, Ukrainian Television reported on 8 June. The passengers had strongly protested the previous day after realizing that the ship had changed its route and was returning from Piraeus to the Black Sea. Greek authorities had tried to impound the vessel because of the Black Sea Shipping Company's debts, which total $125 million. The passengers, who paid $1,500 -$7,000 for the trip, are to file suit against the company to obtain "moral and material compensation" amounting to $2 million. JM ESTONIA'S RURAL BANK OPTS FOR LIQUIDATION. Estonia's sixth largest bank has opted for voluntary liquidation, ETA reported on 8 June. The Rural Bank, which last year registered significant losses owing to unsuccessful stock market ventures, has suspended deposits worth some 842 million kroons ($58.9 million). Of that sum, 260 million kroons belong to private individuals and 500 million kroons to the government. In an address on public radio, Prime Minister Mart Siimann said the crisis is a "serious matter" but does not reflect the state of Estonian banking in general since the market share of the Rural Bank was "rather small." In response to the bank's liquidation, the Tallinn Stock Exchange fell 7.53 percent on 8 June. JC LATVIAN PRESIDENT WANTS EXTRAORDINARY PARLIAMENT SESSION. Guntis Ulmanis has urged Prime Minister Guntars Krasts to call an extraordinary session of the parliament to adopt amendments to the citizenship law in the third and final reading, BNS reported on 8 June. Ulmanis was speaking following a meeting with the parliamentary group of Latvia's Way. The president said that Krasts should call the meeting because it was his cabinet that had proposed the amendments, whereby citizenship would be granted to all children born to non-Latvians after 21 August 1998 should their parents request it. If the premier fails to call an extraordinary session, the president said he will do so to ensure the amendments are passed at least by the end of this month. JC UNCERTAINTY REMAINS OVER NUMBER OF POLISH PROVINCES. Despite the 5 June vote in favor of an administrative reform bill providing for 12 new provinces (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 June 1998), uncertainty remains over how many provinces will be set up in the country. The ruling coalition has announced that it will seek the support of the upper house to increase the number of provinces to 15. On 9 June, "Gazeta Wyborcza" reported that both the opposition Democratic Left Alliance and President Aleksander Kwasniewski are in favor of 17 provinces. Presidential aide Marek Siwiec told the newspaper that the president will veto the bill if it provides for only 15 provinces. The issue of administrative reform, which prompted protests by some provincial communities, is likely to dominate the local elections scheduled for this fall. JM SLOVAKIA ACTIVATES MOCHOVCE REACTOR. Slovakia on 8 June activated a reactor at the controversial Mochovce nuclear plant, Reuters reported. Slovak Foreign Ministry spokesman Milan Tokar told the agency that Slovakia has the right to determine its energy policy without foreign interference and that "no one can deny us our right to guarantee our energy." A spokesman for the plant said all safety and technical requirements for activating the reactor have been met. Austrian Chancellor Viktor Klima said the Slovak decision was "unfriendly and irresponsible" and that he is considering withdrawing Austria's ambassador to Bratislava in protest. MS SUSPECTS OF RECENT BOMBINGS ARRESTED IN HUNGARY. One German, one Israeli, and two Russian citizens suspected of involvement in a series of recent bomb attacks in Hungary have been arrested, National Police commander Laszlo Forgacs announced on 8 June. The four persons were detained after police raided three houses in Budapest and discovered a laboratory for producing explosives. Police also seized 10 kilograms of explosive materials and weapons as well as 1 ton of paper suitable for forging bank notes. Since 1991, there have been 111 bombings in Hungary, most of which are thought to have been perpetrated by rival domestic and foreign gangs. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE EU, U.S. FREEZE ASSETS, BAN INVESTMENTS IN SERBIA. In separate moves, the EU and the U.S. government have frozen all Yugoslav assets in their countries and slapped a ban on investment in Serbia, Reuters reported. Meeting in Luxembourg, the EU foreign ministers decried the "ethnic cleansing" under way in Kosova and called on Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to allow humanitarian organizations and foreign observers to western Kosova, where military operations are taking place. The ministers also said they have not ruled out the option of putting into effect Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which authorizes foreign military intervention in order to keep peace. The U.S. State Department said it is working with Britain on a UN Security Council Resolution that would allow "all necessary measures" to stop the violence in Kosova. The official Yugoslav news agency, Tanjug, called the new sanctions against Serbia "politically motivated" and "incomprehensible." PB STRONG WORDS FROM BLAIR, CHIRAC, COHEN. British Prime Minister Tony Blair said on 8 June in Copenhagen that all options are being considered to stop the "unacceptable violence and brutality" in Kosova, AFP reported. French President Jacques Chirac said in Washington the same day that "we cannot accept the ethnic cleansing" and that he hopes the Contact Group (consisting of Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, and the U.S) will "decide to be very firm to Serbs and to President Milosevic." He added that such an approach could include military action, which, he said, would need UN authorization and Russian approval. U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen said on 8 June that U.S. and European forces may be deployed to prevent the spread of violence in Kosova. U.S. National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, however, said unilateral U.S. military intervention in the crisis is not being discussed at this time. Cohen will discuss the situation in Kosova on 11 June at a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels. The Contact Group meets the next day in Paris. PB ENVOY URGES TALKS TO RESUME BETWEEN BELGRADE, KOSOVAR ALBANIANS. U.S. envoy Christopher Hill said it is imperative that Yugoslav officials and Kosova Albanian leaders renew talks, Reuters reported. Hill, who toured an area of heavy fighting near the Albanian border with Kosovar Albanian official Fehmi Agani, said it is time to "get a negotiating process started." Kosovar officials failed to attend talks scheduled for 5 June in Prishtina because of the ongoing Serbian offensive in western Kosova. The Kosovar side said it will not resume talks until Serbian paramilitary forces withdraw from Kosova. PB DIPLOMATS TOUR DESTROYED TOWNS. Escorted by Yugoslav officials, some 60 foreign diplomats on 8 June were given a tour of several locations in western Kosova that had been sealed off because of fierce fighting, Reuters reported. The diplomats, who were not allowed to be accompanied by journalists, said most of the towns were deserted and many of the buildings reduced to rubble or burned down. Police also showed the diplomats confiscated weapons. Dutch ambassador Jan Sizoo said the area is a "battlefield" and that Yugoslav officials accompanying the diplomats said the "terrorists" started the fighting. PB REFUGEE INFLUX SLOWS DOWN, SPREADS OUT. International relief agencies reported on 8 June that the flow of ethnic Albanian refugees fleeing from Kosova to Albania had stabilized, Reuters reported. A UN High Commissioner for Refugees official said some 10,000 refugees arrived in northern Albania over the past 10 days. Albanian officials said the total is closer to 15,000. While most were receiving care in the Tropoje region, some 600 people had fled to the port city of Durres, the Albanian news agency ATA reported. Other reports said refugees are making plans to join relatives in other European countries. Fighting is reported to be continuing near the Albanian border. The pro-Serbian Media Center in Prishtina, said ethnic Albanians had attacked two Serbian villages in the Drenica region. It also reported that one Serbian policeman was killed near the border. PB ISTANBUL CONFERENCE DISCUSSES KOSOVA. Referring to Kosova, Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem said at a Balkan conference in Istanbul on 8 June that a tragedy similar to Bosnia cannot be allowed to be repeated, the "Turkish Daily News" reported. Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo said in his speech to the delegates that although there will be no mention of Kosova in the declaration issued at the end of the two-day conference, Albania must express its concern over the "killing of innocent civilians, the destruction of villages and towns, and the increasing flow of refugees." Yugoslav Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic, who has insisted that no mention of Kosova be included in the declaration, did not mention the troubled Serbian region in his address. UN Undersecretary-General Vladimir Petrovski, an observer at the conference, urged the group to discuss the Kosova crisis. PB ATTACK ON NORTHERN ALBANIAN ARMS DEPOT. Unidentified gunmen attacked an arms depot in the northern Albanian district of Mirdita on 8 June, "Koha Jone" reported. Guards exchanged fire with the attackers until the gunmen withdrew. Nobody was injured. The previous day, Prime Minister Fatos Nano told the National Security Council in Tirana that the secret service has warned him that some Kosovar refugees may try to attack arms depots to obtain weapons. Nano claimed that some federal Yugoslav agents provocateur were among the refugees, but he did not elaborate. The Defense Ministry, meanwhile, has increased security around depots. FS DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS ALBANIA HAS NATO SUPPORT. Albanian Defense Minister Luan Hajdaraga told parliament on 8 June that the army is ready and able to defend Albania's borders and that it expects NATO support in the event of a Yugoslav attack, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. Hajdaraga was responding to a question by opposition legislator Azem Hajdari, who claimed there are "fewer Albanian soldiers at the border than there are deputies during a parliamentary session." Hajdaraga noted that NATO experts recently surveyed the northern Albanian border area (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 June 1998) and are planning to hold joint military exercises there in August. FS BOSNIAN SERB PARTIES TO UNITE FOR ELECTIONS. Three reformist Bosnia Serb political parties announced on 8 June that they will join forces for elections in September. The Serb National Alliance, the Socialist Party, and the Independent Social Democrats said they will nominate a joint list of candidates for the posts of the Republika Srpska presidency and two posts reserved for Serbs in Bosnia's joint presidency and government. The move is aimed at replacing two Bosnian Serb hard-liners: Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian representative on the joint presidency, and Boro Bosic, co- chairman in Bosnia's joint government. The parties announced that they will run independently in the parliamentary elections. PB BOSNIA SIGNS DECLARATION WITH EU. Bosnian Foreign Minister Jadranko Prlic said in Luxembourg on 8 June that his country is determined to join the "European family of nations," dpa reported. Prlic made his comments after meeting with EU foreign ministers and signing a declaration on relations between Bosnia-Herzegovina and the EU. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said Bosnia could expect continued support from the EU "if you help yourselves" and "build a peaceful, democratic and open nation." The EU has donated some $2.2 billion to Bosnia. PB BOSNIAN CROAT INFORMS TUDJMAN OF PLAN TO SET UP SPLINTER PARTY. Kresimir Zubak said in an open letter to Croatian President Franjo Tudjman on 8 June that he will continue with the formation of a new Bosnian Croat political party, Croatian Radio reported. Zubak said he is tired of the hard- liners in the ruling Croatian Democratic Union of Bosnia- Herzegovina (HDZ-BH), who, he said, are accumulating power in the Bosnian Croat stronghold of southwestern Bosnia, to the detriment of Sarajevo. Zubak said he has concluded that "the differences within the political leadership of the party are unbridgeable." Tudjman has sought to keep the HDZ- BH intact through the September elections in Bosnia and recently met with Zubak in Zagreb (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 June 1998). PB ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVE PLANS TO RESTRUCTURE ELECTRICITY MONOPOLY. The government on 8 June approved a draft law for restructuring the RENEL electricity state monopoly utility. Under that bill, the monopoly would be divided into three companies: two would compete for customers, while the third would remain under state control and oversee nuclear energy production. The draft still has to be approved by the parliament. No layoffs are envisaged by the plan, which would be implemented over two years; the unions, nonetheless, have protested the bill. Also on 8 June, some 20,000 miners in several towns protested the government's program to restructure the mining industry. Almost 10,000 miners have been laid off since last September. MS ROMANIAN PRESIDENT IN NEW YORK. Emil Constantinescu, addressing the UN General Assembly on 8 June, said the new democracies in Eastern Europe can and must play a significant role in combating organized crime and drug trafficking. On 7 June, Constantinescu met with the Romanian emigre community in New York, which protested the delay in returning confiscated properties. Constantinescu also announced that Emil Hurezeanu, a former director of RFE/RL's Romanian Service, is to be appointed presidential spokesman. MS MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR 'RADICAL REFORM' OF ARMY. In his weekly address to the nation on 8 June, Petru Lucinschi called for a "radical reform" of Moldova's armed forces, BASA-press and Infotag reported. He said the reform must improve both the country's "fighting capability" and military technology. Lucinschi also called for an end to the "interminable debates" on whether the country needs an army or a national guard. He said that Moldova is "at a crossroads where the interests of several states intersect" and has "paramilitary structures that are not controlled by the government...and huge arsenals of Russian troops" stationed in the country. He argued that in those circumstances, "the army is an instrument for ensuring the country's security, independence, and territorial integrity." MS GAZPROM TO CUT MOLDOVAN SUPPLIES. Gazprom on 8 June told the Moldovan government that it will cut gas deliveries by 50 percent as of 15 June, RFE/RL's Chisinau reported. The Russian concern said "normal deliveries" will resume only when Moldova clears its entire debt to the company. It added that Chisinau has paid for only 51 percent of deliveries so far this year and has thus broken the March agreement on clearing the debt. On 31 May, Moldova's total debt to Gazprom was $590 million, of which $388 million is owed by the Tiraspol separatists. MS BULGARIA FREEZES SERBIAN ASSETS. The government on 8 June announced it is freezing Serbian and federal Yugoslav funds in local banks, Reuters reported, citing BTA. The decision followed that of the EU earlier the same day to freeze assets held abroad by the two governments. The ban will not apply to funds held by Yugoslav companies and individuals in Bulgarian banks. It also excludes accounts of the Yugoslav embassy in Sofia. 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