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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 110 Part II, 10 June 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 110 Part II, 10 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 * MINSK'S EVICTION ORDER PROVOKES INTERNATIONAL PROTESTS * CALLS FOR INTERVENTION IN KOSOVA INCREASE * OFFENSIVE NEAR ALBANIAN BORDER INTENSIFIES End Note: VERDICT AGAINST UKRAINIAN NEWSPAPER THREATENS PRESS FREEDOM xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE MINSK'S EVICTION ORDER PROVOKES INTERNATIONAL PROTESTS. Following the U.S refusal to relocate its ambassador from his residence at Drazdy, near Minsk, while repairs are carried out to the compound (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 June 1998), other countries are opposing Minsk's eviction order. "These measures are unacceptable and unbearable," Reuters quoted a French Foreign Ministry spokeswomen as saying. France threatened to recall its ambassador for consultations if Minsk carries through its plan to expel diplomats from the compound. The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry said the Belarusian authorities are "outrageously violating international law," ITAR-TASS reported. Russia also expressed concern over the dispute, saying on 9 June that the decision should have been "taken in accordance with international law," Reuters reported. JM BELARUS SAYS PROTESTS ARE POLITICALLY MOTIVATED. In a statement issued on 8 June, the Belarusian Foreign Ministry apologized for any "inconvenience" connected with the relocation of ambassadors to other lodgings. The statement added that the repairs are necessary because of the sharp deterioration of the technical and sanitary conditions of the buildings and utility systems. Speaking on national television the next day, Foreign Minister Ivan Antanovich said the Drazdy compound may wind up "floating in its own sewage" unless the ambassadors vacate their apartments. Antanovich added that foreign countries are overreacting . "There is a tendency to give political coloring to this [incident] on the part of those who are ready to view all events in Belarus only from a political perspective," he said. JM LUKASHENKA GIVES AMBASSADORS ANOTHER WEEK TO MOVE. The Belarusian Foreign Ministry on 10 June issued a statement saying the relocation deadline has been extended for a week to all 22 ambassadors after the "personal intervention" of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Reuters reported. The previous day, Minsk notified the U.S. about that decision. Washington says, however, that its ambassador will not be moving under any circumstances, Reuters reported on 9 June. U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin stressed that the eviction order is a "fundamental violation" of the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations and is without precedence since the end of the Cold War. "We have tried hard to maintain a working relationship with Belarus.... But now the government has made that task even more difficult by this unnecessary, foolish, and illegal provocation," he commented. JM UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT AGAIN FAILS TO ELECT SPEAKER. The legislature's sixth attempt to elect its speaker has been declared invalid owing to the lack of a two-thirds quorum, Ukrainian Television reported on 9 June. Socialists/Peasants candidate Oleksandr Moroz received 177 votes, while Hromada candidate Oleksandr Pukhkal mustered only 30. As on previous occasions, the Popular Democratic Party, the Popular Rukh, the United Social Democrats, and the Greens refused to participate in the vote. They are demanding a "package vote" on a centrist speaker and two deputy speakers representing the left- and right-wing parliamentary groups. Some Ukrainian newspapers have dubbed the continued deadlock in the Supreme Council a "farce" that is preventing deputies from addressing the country's acute socio-economic problems. JM EU LUKEWARM TOWARD UKRAINE'S BID FOR ASSOCIATE MEMBERSHIP. At the first session of the Ukraine-EU Cooperation Council in Luxembourg on 9 June, Ukrainian Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko requested that Ukraine be granted associated membership in order to pave the way for a full-fledged membership in the future, Ukrainian Television reported. But according to Reuters, the EU reacted unenthusiastically to Ukraine's association bid, saying it is "premature" to look further than the current accord on Ukrainian-EU cooperation and partnership, which took effect on 1 March. "I'm sure that in the medium term Ukraine will arrive at that point which in our view, at the present time, it has not arrived at yet," Reuters quoted EU Commissioner for Foreign Relations Hans van den Broek as saying. JM ETHNIC RUSSIAN ACTIVISTS CHARGED IN ESTONIA. Yurii Mishin, the head of the Russian Citizens Union of Estonia, has been charged with organizing protest rallies without obtaining permission from the authorities, BNS reported on 9 June. The charges are linked to demonstrations last fall that began protesting the high cost of living and concluded by denouncing the Estonian government. Last week, similar charges were filed against two elderly ethnic Russian women. Estonian police have said they realize legal proceedings against the three could be "politically sensitive." But they add that charges have to be brought after investigators concluded laws were violated. JC EU WELCOMES LATVIAN LAWMAKER'S APPROVAL OF CITIZENSHIP LAW CHANGES. The EU on 9 June issued a statement welcoming the Latvian parliament's decision on 4 June to approve in the second reading amendments to the citizenship law proposed by the Latvian government. The statement, which was made by the current holder of the EU presidency, Britain, on behalf of the union, added that reform of the citizenship law is a "key criterion" for Latvia to begin EU entry talks. JC POLAND'S COALITION SEEKS SUPPORT FOR 15 PROVINCES. Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek met with President Aleksander Kwasniewski on 9 June to seek Kwasniewski's support for 15 provinces (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 9 June 1998), "Rzeczpospolita" reported. Both Buzek and Kwasniewski declined to comment after the meeting, but Kwasniewski's lawyer said the president will veto the bill unless it provides for 17 provinces. Later the same day, Buzek and Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski tried to persuade Solidarity Electoral Action senators to introduce an amendment to the administrative reform bill that would increase the number of provinces from 12 to 15. The ruling coalition has 59 senators in the 100-seat upper house but is afraid some of them may not endorse the amendment. JM SOCIAL DEMOCRATS STILL AHEAD IN CZECH OPINION POLLS. A public opinion poll conducted by the Institute for Public Opinion Research shows the Social Democratic Party (CSSD) still ahead less than two weeks before the elections. The CSSD received 22.5 percent backing, followed by Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party (15 percent), Pensioners for Secure Life (9 percent), the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (7.5) percent, and the Freedom Union and the Christian Democrats (7 percent each). The far-right Republican Party gained only 4 percent support, which would mean it would fail to pass the 5 percent threshold for entry to the parliament, CTK reported. MS HAVEL WANTS CORRUPTION INVESTIGATION INTO CSSD TO CONTINUE. Presidential spokesman Ladislav Spacek on 8 June told journalists that President Vaclav Havel will ask the counterintelligence service to continue its investigation into the so-called "Bamberg affair," CTK reported. After studying a preliminary report, Havel said he believes the case could be one of "provocation by forces that aim at destabilizing the country," Spacek said. The investigation focuses on allegations that CSSD leaders met with a Czech- born entrepreneur in Switzerland three years ago and promised him a top economic and state position in exchange for preferential loans to finance the CSSD's 1996 election campaign. MS SLOVAK PARLIAMENT CANCELS PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION ROUND. The parliament on 9 June canceled a new round of presidential elections after the only candidate, the independent Vladimir Abraham, withdrew from the race, RFE/RL's Bratislava bureau reported. Parliamentary chairman Ivan Gasparovic said another round will be held on 11 July. MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE CALLS FOR INTERVENTION IN KOSOVA INCREASE... U.S. President Bill Clinton said on 8 June that he is determined to prevent "a repeat of the human carnage...and ethnic cleansing" that took place in Bosnia, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported. Clinton said he has authorized "accelerated NATO planning" to deal with the Kosova crisis. U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen said NATO feels "an increased sense of urgency" to deal with the conflict. "The Guardian" reported on 9 June that NATO planners in Brussels are considering the use of air strikes to force Serbia to halt its offensive in Kosova. Dutch Defense Minister Joris Voorhoeve called for rapid NATO intervention. But his German counterpart, Volker Ruehe, was quoted by the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" as saying military action should be a last resort. NATO defense ministers will meet in Brussels on 11 June to discuss options for dealing with Kosova. A spokeswoman for the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has called for "vigorous action" to stop the violence. PB ...WHILE RUSSIA, CHINA OPPOSE FOREIGN ACTION. Russian President Boris Yeltsin and his defense minister, Igor Sergeev, said in Bonn on 9 June that they oppose any NATO involvement in Kosova, ITAR-TASS and dpa reported. Yeltsin said at the end of a two-day visit to Germany that foreign intervention could cause the conflict to spread to neighboring countries. He suggested that he would meet with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to help resolve the crisis. Yeltsin spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii said such a meeting is "quite possible." In Beijing, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said it also opposes foreign intervention in Kosova. Both Russia and China could veto a UN Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force in Kosova. PB OFFENSIVE NEAR ALBANIAN BORDER INTENSIFIES. Serbian forces on 9 June continued to spray areas of western Kosova with heavy mortar and artillery fire, Reuters reported. UN and Western officials reported that several villages along the Albanian border between the Kosovar villages of Djakovica and Decan were under attack. The pro-Albanian Kosova Information Center said armed ethnic Albanians are putting up "strong resistance" to the attacks. The upsurge in fighting caused the flow of refugees, which had stabilized in recent days, to increase, a UNHCR official said, adding that some 65,000 people have been displaced because of the fighting over the past 10 days. "Koha Jone" reported that only 8,500 out of an estimated 15,000 refugees in Albania have registered with the UNHCR as of 9 June. The daily added that most of the unregistered refugees are leaving the northern mountainous areas for the central and southern Albanian plains and larger cities, where many of them have relatives. PB/FS YUGOSLAV DEFENSE COUNCIL MEETS IN BELGRADE. Yugoslavia's Supreme Defense Council, chaired by President Milosevic, convened in Belgrade on 9 June to discuss the situation in Kosova, Tanjug reported. The council announced that the army and police are in complete control of the border and have successfully taken "measures that guarantee the safety of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia." It was the first meeting of the council since the Kosova crisis erupted in February. The council included Serbian President Milan Milutinovic, Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic, Yugoslav Premier Momir Bulatovic, and Defense Minister Pavle Bulatovic. In a separate statement, Yugoslav officials denounced the new economic sanctions leveled against the country, calling them "strange and unreasonable." PB BALKAN FOREIGN MINISTERS ISSUE STATEMENT ON KOSOVA. Meeting in Istanbul, the foreign ministers of six Balkan countries issued a statement calling for the "immediate cessation of excessive use of force," the "Turkish Daily News" reported on 10 June. The ministers--from Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, and Turkey--decided to issue a separate statement after Yugoslav Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic refused to allow any mention of Kosova in the conference's final declaration (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 June 1998). Greek Foreign Minister Theodore Pangalos, however, said he does not think the recent economic sanctions imposed on Serbia are the best means of resolving the crisis. He added that third countries suffer greatly when sanctions are imposed. PB COURT FINDS CROATIAN JOURNALIST INNOCENT. Davor Butkovic, the former editor of the Croatian weekly "Globus," on 8 June was found innocent of charges that he slandered an alleged criminal. Mladen Naletilic, currently under arrest, accused Butkovic of slander for writing that he was "a most notorious warlord." The judge ruled that Naletilic created that image for himself during the Bosnian war. In other news, the eastern Croatian town of Darda was awarded $14 million from the U.S. to rebuild homes and improve its infrastructure. The town was chosen for the aid because it has successfully promoted reconciliation between Croats and Serbs and has a multi-ethnic local administration. PB COUNCIL SAYS BOSNIAN PEACE PROCESS MUST ACCELERATE. The Peace Implementation Council, charged with overseeing adherence to the Dayton peace accords, has bemoaned the slow pace of change in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Reuters reported on 9 June. The council, which was meeting in Luxembourg, is composed of delegates from more than 60 countries and international institutions. In a statement, it said that top priorities for Bosnia in 1998 are an accelerated return of refugees, police and judicial reform, economic integration, and fair parliamentary elections in September. The council reaffirmed the right of its high representative, Carlos Westendorp, to decree certain reforms In Bosnia-Herzegovina. PB LEADING ALBANIAN BUSINESSMAN KIDNAPPED. Four unidentified gunmen kidnapped Koco Dado, the head of Albania's Association of Businessmen, in Tirana on 8 June, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported on 10 June. Tirana deputy police chief Ilir Cano told the daily on 9 June that the kidnappers have not yet demanded a ransom. He added that the kidnapping may be linked to Dado's recent appearances on television as part of an initiative to collect aid worth some $90,000 for Kosova refugees. FS PREMIER SAYS FOREIGN SERVICES SEEK TO 'DESTABILIZE ROMANIA.' Radu Vasile told Pro TV on 9 June that "some foreign services are interested in Romania's destabilization." He said these attempts are taking place "at key moments in the country's evolution" and cited the unsubstantiated rumor that a nuclear accident has taken place at the Cernavoda power station. He said the rumor was circulated last month at the time President Emil Constantinescu was visiting Canada and seeking to negotiate the financing of a second reactor at Cernavoda. Vasile said one can expect an "intensification" of the "destabilization attempts" in the fall, when NATO will again discuss the possibility of its further enlargement. MS HUNGARIAN CHURCH LEADERS DEMAND RETURN OF CONFISCATED CHURCH ASSETS. An ecumenical gathering of representatives of the Hungarian Reformed Church and Hungarian Roman Catholics on 9 June demanded that the authorities stop dragging their feet over the return of Church assets confiscated by the Communists, Mediafax reported. The gathering also backed the demand of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) to set up a separate Hungarian-language university in Cluj. UDMR leaders are meeting with coalition partners on 10 June in an attempt to find a solution to the demand. Meanwhile, the Constitutional Court has ruled that government regulation No. 22 was unconstitutional. That regulation made possible bilingual signs in localities where minority populations exceeded 20 percent. It was rejected by the Senate because it also allowed former Premier Victor Ciorbea to continue in office as mayor of Bucharest. The Chamber of Deputies has yet to debate the issue. MS PERSONNEL CHANGES IN MOLDOVAN PRESIDENTIAL STAFF. President Petru Lucinschi on 9 June appointed former Minister of Internal Affairs Mihai Plamadeala to the position of Supreme Security Council secretary, BASA-press reported, citing a press release of the presidential office. Gheorghe Carlan, who until now held that post, has been appointed presidential counselor and head of the negotiating team with the Tiraspol separatists, replacing Anatol Taranu. Taranu's replacement has been repeatedly demanded by the separatists, who claimed he was "uncompromising." MS MOLDOVAN COALITION'S FUTURE UNCERTAIN. The parliamentary groups of the Democratic Convention of Moldova (CDM) and the Party of Democratic Forces (PFD) on 9 June warned in a joint statement that the future of the ruling coalition is uncertain. The two groups say that Prime Minister Ion Ciubuc and parliamentary chairman Dumitru Diacov are "mishandling" the negotiations on the appointment of deputy ministers and directors-general of ministries and are refusing to implement an agreement on those appointments that was reached at the time of the coalition's formation. Under that accord, for every two officials representing the CDM and the For a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova Bloc (PMPD), one official should represent the PFD. The two parties accuse Diacov and Ciubuc of attempting to achieve a "privileged status" for the PMDP, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. MS BULGARIAN, MACEDONIAN FOREIGN MINISTERS DISCUSS BILATERAL RELATIONS. Nadezhda Mihailova and her Macedonian counterpart Blagoj Handziski, meeting at a Balkan conference in Istanbul on 8 June, said they are determined to solve bilateral problems, BTA reported. The two ministers also discussed the situation in Kosova and pledged to contribute to solving the conflict. They exchanged draft documents on bilateral relations, which are to be signed during a visit by Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov to Bulgaria at an unspecified date. At a meeting with Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo, the two chief diplomats agreed that Mihailova will pay an official visit to Tirana in November. MS END NOTE VERDICT AGAINST UKRAINIAN NEWSPAPER THREATENS PRESS FREEDOM by Tiffany Carlsen and Katya Gorchinskaya A Kyiv court last week ordered the opposition daily "Kievskie Vedomosti" to pay libel damages totaling 5 million hryvni (more than $2 million) to an ally of President Leonid Kuchma. If unable to pay, the newspaper will have to close down. But there has been almost no reaction from the journalistic community. Only a few voices have been heard about the case, which many consider to constitute yet another assault on press freedom by the government. "There has been no reaction from any sort of journalists' union and that is very surprising," said Volodymyr Mostovy, editor of the weekly "Zerkalo Nedeli." "This is precisely the moment that solidarity between journalists should be manifested through a statement that speaks out against such actions." Mostovy said that the Starokyivsky District Court's ruling was a "purely political action directed at closing the newspaper" by forcing it into "an unsustainable economic condition." That echoed the comments made last week by Yevhen Yakhunov, editor of "Kievskie Vedomosti," who also said that the court decision was "a political action." But these were isolated comments. Last weekend, several journalists were given awards by Kuchma in a ceremony at Mariyinsky Palace marking Press Day. "Freedom of speech helps the development of democracy," the president said, adding that journalism is a "serious weapon" in politics but should be used with "objectivity and independence." "Kievskie Vedomosti" is standing by its series of reports in which it alleged that Interior Minister Yuri Kravchenko bought a luxury $115,000 Mercedes with money from a fund for the families of slain policemen. Kravchenko filed suit last year after the newspaper had first printed the allegation. The daily plans to appeal the ruling. Four month ago, another Kyiv opposition daily, "Vseukrainskie Vedomosti," was forced to shut down after a court ordered it to pay 3.5 million hryvni in damages to a pro-Kuchma businessman and politician. At that time, however, many journalists openly argued that the government was trying to gag the opposition in the run-up to the March parliamentary elections. Now, Yakhunov is saying, newspapers have not rushed to the defense of "Kievskie Vedomosti" for purely commercial reasons. "Mass media are separated into different camps," he said. "Even those on friendly terms with us might not support us because we are competitors. However, I want to warn them that the repression has started." "Kievskie Vedomosti" attorney Viktor Nikazakov sees apathy as the main reason for silence. "Those newspapers that might want to scream about the decision don't do it because they know it won't accomplish anything," he said, adding that "more and more newspapers are working for the president in any case." Foreign observers say that the case highlights a troubling pattern of opposition newspapers falling afoul of the authorities. In two recent cases, the newspaper "Polityka" had its bank accounts frozen by a local tax administrator for failure to submit documents in time. The newspaper "Pravda Ukrainy" faced similar close scrutiny from government inspectors. Tim O'Connor, Kyiv resident adviser of ProMedia, a U.S.-financed non-governmental organization supporting international press reform, says that cases like the "Kievskie Vedomosti" one are "worrisome because they show how one-sided the libel and defamation laws are in Ukraine." He added that loopholes in the Ukrainian press law are partly to blame, since plaintiffs are currently not required to prove any actual damage in court. He also said there is no legal distinction between press scrutiny of a private citizen and public official. "Certainly public officials should be scrutinized closely, no matter what country you're in," he commented. Irina Polykova, regional office director of the European Institute for the Media, said that Ukraine lacks both courts and lawyers experienced in handling press freedom issues. And she criticized the fact that legislation places no limit on the amount of damages a plaintiff can seek from a media outlet. "Kievskie Vedomosti" attorney Nikazakov said more public pressure should be put on lawmakers. "The media should press the parliament to change laws so that they defend themselves against high-ranking officials," he said. "The parliament probably would pass this kind of law just to spite the president." The authors are Kyiv-based RFE/RL correspondents. 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. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word "unsubscribe" as the subject or body of the message. 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