|Forty is the old age of youth; fifty, the youth of old age. - Victor Hugo|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 145 Part II, 30 July 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 145 Part II, 30 July 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 * TWELVE RUSSIAN GOVERNORS EXPRESS SUPPORT FOR LUKASHENKA * SERBIAN OFFENSIVE CONTINUES IN KOSOVA * STILL NO AGREEMENT WITH UCK End Note: METHOD TO LUKASHENKA'S MISCHIEF? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE TWELVE RUSSIAN GOVERNORS EXPRESS SUPPORT FOR LUKASHENKA. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 29 July met with 12 Russian governors who were in Belarus on an official visit to take part in festivities marking the 54th anniversary of the liberation of Brest from German troops, ITAR-TASS reported. But according to an RFE/RL correspondent in Minsk, the main reason for the governors' visit was to express political support for Lukashenka in the continuing diplomatic conflict over the eviction of Western ambassadors from the Drazdy residential compound. Yaroslavl Governor Anatolii Lisitsyn told Belarusian Television on 28 July that Lukashenka's "independent policy" is supported by 90 percent of the residents in his region. Belarusian official media had announced last week that as many as 40 Russian governors were expected to come to Belarus to meet with Lukashenka. JM LUKASHENKA DEMANDS MORE CONTROL OVER FORESTRY. Lukashenka has demanded that government officials "introduce order" into the republic's forestry sector, Belarusian Television reported on 28 July. According to the television station, the country's timber trade is controlled by "small firms and profiteers" who export timber "for a song." It added that the West readily allots credits for developing Belarusian forests but does not support the wood-processing industry in Belarus. Lukashenka stressed that Belarus has only three main natural resources: water, wood, and potash fertilizers. He demanded to know why "those brokering swindlers bought timber for...1 million Belarusian rubles (some $25) per cubic meter and exported it for $800-$1,000." The report suggested that Belarus will introduce licenses for timber exporters. JM UKRAINE ALLOCATES FUNDS TO ASSIST CRIMEAN TATARS. The Ukrainian government has allocated 1 million hryvni ($475,000) to help resettle Crimean Tatars who were expelled from their homeland by Joseph Stalin during World War II, AP reported. The funds will be used to improve gas and water supplies to Tatar settlements near the Crimean capital of Simferopol. Another 7 million hryvni will be provided to Tatars in the form of construction materials and equipment. Last month, a UN-sponsored conference of 26 donor countries in Kyiv pledged some $5 million to build infrastructure, create new jobs, and provide for cultural needs of the returning Tatars. JM ESTONIAN CENTRAL BANK GOVERNOR UPBEAT ON ECONOMY. Vahur Kraft told journalists on 29 July that Estonia is not threatened by an economic crisis and that there are no problems in Estonian banking that could jeopardize the economy, ETA reported. Kraft's statement was backed up by visiting IMF representative Ishan Kapur, who said Estonia is living up to the promises it gave the fund. "We have reason to be certain that the developments of the next six to 12 months [will be] in harmony with the agreements that have been signed by the IMF and the government," Kapur said. He added that the country's major economic problems are currently the huge current account deficit and inflation. JC LATVIA TO BEGIN UNILATERALLY DEMARCATING BORDER WITH RUSSIA. Latvian Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs told reporters on 30 July that Latvia will start unilaterally demarcating the border with Russia "as talks on signing the [Latvian- Russian] border agreement are making no headway," BNS reported. "It should not be viewed as an unfriendly act but as a wish to settle the borders which are already signed at the level of delegations," he added. Birkavs also pointed out that the description of the border and the delimitation maps have been completed. JC VILNIUS REACHES DEAL WITH WILLIAMS. Lithuanian Economy Minister Vincas Babilius on 30 July signed a letter of intent with Williams International Co., a subsidiary of U.S.-based Williams Cos. Inc., to sell the firm one-third stakes in the nation's three key oil companies for $300 million, Reuters reported. Williams is to pay $150 million for 33 percent stakes in the oil refiner Mazheikiu, an oil pipeline owned by Naftotiekis, and the planned oil terminal Butinges Nafta. It will later reinvest another $150 million. The agreement is a compromise on Williams' original offer (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 July 1998). Vilnius had valued the companies at some $390 million but agreed to exclude some $40 million worth of assets from Mazheikiu, Babilius told Reuters. "We have met Williams halfway. The price did not go up; we simply decreased the value of the objects by taking away some parts," Babilius said. JC POLISH PREMIER CONDEMNS DESECRATION OF JEWISH GRAVES. Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek on 29 July condemned an attack on Jewish graves at the Palmiry cemetery near Warsaw. In the cemetery, there are some 2,000 graves of Jews and Poles executed by the Nazis in 1939-41. Vandals broke off name plaques from some 30 Jewish tombstones and scattered them in the adjacent woods. They also damaged the memorial to Maciej Rataj, a speaker of the Polish parliament before World War II. "This is a shocking act. In our country graves have always been honored," Reuters quoted Buzek as saying. Jerzy Buzek and parliamentary speaker Maciej Plazynski both laid flowers at the damaged graves. JM SOLIDARITY COALITION EXPELS FORMER PARTNER, ACCEPTS ANOTHER. The National Council of the ruling Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) voted on 29 July to expel from its ranks the Confederation for an Independent Poland-Patriotic Camp led by Adam Slomka, PAP reported. Slomka, who was also AWS deputy chairman, was expelled from the AWS parliamentary caucus after he did not vote with the party over the number of future provinces (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 June and 17 July 1998). The council also decided to accept into its ranks the National-Catholic Movement, led by former Interior Minister Antoni Maciarewicz. JM HUNGARY WILL NOT SEND TROOPS TO KOSOVA. Prime Minister Viktor Orban on 29 July said Hungary will not participate in any "direct military operation" in Kosova, Hungarian media reported. Orban told journalists after visiting the U.S. military base in Taszar, southwestern Hungary, that "Hungarian soldiers can under no circumstances face [other] Hungarian soldiers." He was referring to the fact that several hundred ethnic Hungarians are conscripts in the Yugoslav army in Kosova (see also "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July 1998). He added that Hungary is nonetheless ready to offer its military bases as a launching point for NATO military operations in Kosova. MSZ BUDAPEST READY TO FINANCE HUNGARIAN UNIVERSITY IN ROMANIA. Zsolt Nemeth, state secretary at the Hungarian Foreign Ministry, told national television on 28 July that the cabinet headed by Orban is ready to finance a Hungarian- language university in the Transylvanian city of Cluj. He said that the only obstacle to reopening that university is the Romanian government's hesitation to make its views known "on this delicate matter." MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE SERBIAN OFFENSIVE CONTINUES IN KOSOVA. Serbian paramilitary police and Yugoslav army troops took control of the road linking Mitrovica and Peja in northern Kosova on 29 July. They also continued their attacks on Junik, which is controlled by the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 July 1998). Heavy fighting also took place in the Gjakova region along the Albanian border. Serbian police killed four UCK fighters and captured seven others who had tried to take control of a stretch of the road linking Malisheva and Kijeva, Serbian sources reported from Prishtina. Kosovar sources said that up to 300,000 ethnic Albanian civilians have fled their homes throughout the province as a result of the fighting and that many live "in the forests and without basic necessities of life." PM RUGOVA CALLS FOR ACTION. Shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova said in Prishtina on 29 July that he and leaders of other political groups have reached a compromise on setting up a coalition government, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He did not elaborate. Rugova also called upon the U.S., EU, and international community to take measures to "prevent ethnic cleansing and the stem the flow of refugees." PM STILL NO AGREEMENT WITH UCK. In the Drenica region, U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia Christopher Hill continued talks with UCK representatives about their forming a joint team with the civilians to negotiate with the Serbian authorities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 July 1998). He did not finalize the deal, which involves the UCK being represented in talks by politicians close to it, Reuters reported. An unnamed senior U.S. diplomat told the news agency that the guerrillas are still "considering" the proposal. Observers noted that the recent reverses suffered by the UCK on the battlefield may be a factor in holding up their agreement on joining any future talks. PM UCK SOLDIERS AT TIRANA RALLY. More than a dozen UCK soldiers attended a meeting of the nationalist Albanian National Movement on 29 July in central Tirana. Idajet Beqiri, a deputy leader of the movement, introduced to those present a UCK commander called "Skender," who urged the participants to support the UCK's "fight for the national liberation from the occupier." Beqiri called for setting up a "Front of National Unity" among ethnic Albanians everywhere to draft a joint program for a solution to the Kosovar problem, "Koha Jone" reported. Daut Gumeni, who is the secretary of President Rexhep Meidani, was present and praised the plans for closer cooperation between Kosovars and Albanians. He added that "such a movement would also compensate" for the inability of the government for political reasons to support the UCK openly. FS MORE SHELLS HIT ALBANIA. Albanian border guards in Tropoja told "Gazeta Shqiptare" that there were six separate incidents in which Serbian forces fired with mortars and machine guns on Albanian territory on 28 and 29 July at different areas in the Has Mountains and near Tropoja. Nobody was injured in any of the incidents, but one shell almost hit four children near Padesh, in Albania. Meanwhile in Tirana, the parliament met in closed session on 28 July to discuss the security situation with Foreign Minister Paskal Milo and Interior Minister Perikli Teta. No results of that meeting were reported. FS ARGENTINA TO SEND NADA SAKIC TO CROATIA. Victor Ramos, who is the head of the Argentine government's anti-racism unit, said in Buenos Aires on 29 July that the authorities will soon deport Nada Sakic to Croatia. He added that Argentina has turned down Yugoslavia's request for her extradition because the atrocities took place on what is now Croatian territory. Both Zagreb and Belgrade want her to stand trial on charges of war crimes she allegedly committed at a concentration camp during World War II. Argentina recently extradited Nada Sakic's husband, Dinko, to Croatia to stand trial on similar charges of war crimes. PM SHELLINGS, EXPLOSIONS IN BOSNIA. Some 70 Muslims returned to their former homes in the Croatian-held Stolac region on 29 July. Before they arrived, unidentified persons fired mortar shells at five of their houses. The Stolac region has witnessed many Croatian nationalist attacks on Muslims or their property since the Dayton agreement was signed at the end of 1995. Meanwhile in Muslim-controlled Kakanj in central Bosnia, a bomb damaged a Roman Catholic church. Bosnian Croats have frequently complained about harassment and discrimination by Muslims in that region. And in Sarajevo, a bomb went off outside the offices of the independent bi-monthly "Dani." The magazine's offices have been the scene of several incidents recently following "Dani's" publication of an article linking some members of the Muslim political establishment to organized crime (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 June 1998). PM BOSNIAN SERB POLICE STORM RADIO STATION. In Pale on 29 June, police loyal to Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic stormed the offices of Radio Serbian Sarajevo, whose hard- line management refused to accept their recent dismissal by Plavsic's government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 July 1998). In Sarajevo, the governing board of Radio-Television Bosnia- Herzegovina elected Mirsad Purivatra as its new director. Elsewhere, spokesmen for the office of the international community's Carlos Westendorp said that Bosnian nationals may legally hold dual citizenship provided that the other country in question has signed an agreement on dual citizenship with Bosnia. To date, however, no country has done so. Many Bosnian Serbs have Yugoslav passports, and Croatia freely issues its travel documents to Bosnian Croats, who are allowed to vote in Croatian parliamentary elections. PM ROMANIAN PREMIER ATTACKS 'ANTI-REFORM MANEUVERS.' Prime Minister Radu Vasile on 29 July said he will "not admit" the "perverse maneuvers of anti-reform forces". He added that "any blocking of the reform process will place a question mark over [the country's] future." Speaking in Ramnicu Valcea at festivities marking Romania's first-ever "Day of the National Anthem," Vasile attacked unnamed trade union leaders and "extremist parties" for attempts to hinder the reform process. He also said it is "inadmissible" that the Financial Guard has delivered to the state budget only some 6 million lei ($687) in exposed tax evasions when some 30 percent of Romania's economic activity takes place "underground." He again criticized the State Property Fund for being inefficient and over-bureaucratized, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS ROMANIAN FINANCE MINISTER ON POSSIBLE COALITION CRISIS. Daniel Daianu on 29 July said there are indications that "dissenting forces reminiscent of those that brought about the fall of the [Victor] Ciorbea cabinet" are now emerging in the ruling coalition, Mediafax reported. In an interview with Reuters, Daianu rejected Premier Vasile's recent accusations that his ministry failed to bring in sufficient tax revenues and said he needs the support of the whole coalition, not merely that of the National Liberal Party (PNL), to carry out reform. Daianu said at a meeting with the PNL leadership the same day that "under no circumstances" will he stay in the cabinet if the contract with the U.S.'s Bell Helicopters is approved. PNL deputy chairman Valeriu Stoica said the party will withdraw its support for Daianu if he fails to adhere to its decisions. Agriculture Minister Dinu Gavrilescu and Industry Minister Radu Berceanu also criticized the performance of the Finance Ministry. MS ROMANIAN DEFENSE COUNCIL DISCUSSES NATIONAL SECURITY. The Supreme National Defense Council, which is chaired by President Emil Constantinescu, discussed the country's national defense strategy on 29 July. Presidential counselor Dorin Marian said on national television after the meeting that the discussion was prompted by the need to "update" the strategy in light of developments in the course of the last year, particularly NATO and EU expansion. The council said joining the two organizations and cooperating with them will continue to be Romania's main focus. It added that the country's main objectives are "protection of [the country's] citizens, safeguarding fundamental and individual rights," promoting Romania's international interests, and supporting the "ethnic identity" of Romanians who live beyond the country's borders. The document approved by the council is to be discussed with political parties and put to public debate by 15 August. MS BULGARIAN PRESIDENT, PREMIER DISCUSS NATIONAL MINORITIES POLICIES. President Petar Stoyanov on 28 July urged Premier Kostov to speed up the ratification of the Framework Convention on the Protection of National Minorities. Bulgaria signed that document some 18 months ago. The premier said after the meeting that the government is "ready to seek consensus" for its ratification. Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova, who also attended the meeting with Stoyanov, said consensus-seeking rather than a "strong-arm policy" is required when "serious problems concerning the nation" are at issue, BTA reported. END NOTE METHOD TO LUKASHENKA'S MISCHIEF? by Christopher Walker As the controversy surrounding the Drazdy diplomatic housing compound in Minsk continues, it may be useful to examine more closely Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's strategy for diverting attention from domestic ills in Belarus, while simultaneously consolidating his position as one of the most effective populist politicians in the post-Soviet world. While the boorish action taken by Belarusian authorities against foreign diplomats is emblematic of Lukashenka's blatant disregard of international norms, this approach has also served his purposes, helping him to burnish his image as a politician prepared to stand up to the West and further his goal of becoming a player on a larger stage in the former Soviet Union. Lukashenka's recent public dialogue with Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov provided a forum in which Lukashenka could portray the West as a bully set on dictating terms of behavior to former Soviet states, thus rallying his base in Belarus and gaining political mileage with Russians frustrated by the slow pace of economic reform. Lukashenka's railing against the West is part of an ongoing effort to blame present-day economic pain on Western reform programs and methods rather than on the backward Soviet era policies that originally brought on economic implosion. In Russia, where a great deal of reform has been undertaken, the distress resulting from social and economic dislocation has created an environment where reforms already applied are more closely associated with current pain than the decades of Soviet communism that crippled the country's economy and infrastructure. Whether Lukashenka will be able to wedge himself more deeply into the Russian political scene is not yet clear, but if he fails, it will not be for lack of trying. Albeit on a limited scale, the Belarusian president continues to travel to Russia and to broadcast his populist, Soviet-style message via Belarusian State Radio to Russian regions. As times get tougher, Lukashenka's claims of Western heavy- handedness and his own promises of stability and order may gain greater currency. Lukashenka will not likely ignore the fact that Boris Yeltsin nearly had to beg the Western financial community to stave off collapse of the Russian ruble and financial markets. The tough conditions set by the IMF to encourage needed restructuring of the Russian economy may be characterized by some as a noose being tightened around the country's economic neck, rather than medicine to help it get better. With the Russian economy and so many of its key institutions in disarray, it is easy to understand how many Russians could be led to the conclusion that the West does not have Russia's best interests at heart or at least is not fully sensitive to the depth of the hardships being experienced there. Loss of prestige as a world power is now as palpable as ever in Russia, and Lukashenka does not hesitate to play upon this sensitivity. In Belarus, the operative word is "control." This wide-ranging control enables Lukashenka to exert his authority over virtually all spheres of Belarusian life. He himself deems this governing style as necessary for avoiding the problems Russia and other former Soviet republics are now facing. This domination extends over the judiciary, parliament, media, NGO community, and economy. It is, however, Belarus's own poor economic health under Lukashenka's stewardship that may be his greatest domestic political problem. It is telling that during the dispute over diplomats' housing, both the IMF and the World Bank recalled their respective representatives from Belarus. The IMF and the World Bank explained that move by citing Belarus's failure to fulfill mutual agreements and the obdurate refusal of the regime to implement serious economic reform. With its low levels of foreign investment and privatization and its heavy reliance on barter arrangements with Russia, the World Bank's country director for Belarus has said that the Belarusian government needs "to have a fundamental rethinking of its economic strategy". Russians may have been compelled to swallow their collective pride in requesting this latest massive IMF loan package, but Belarusians will enjoy only short-term relief from their own government's economic policies, such as restriction on foreign exchange trading and other quick-fix measures taken in Minsk to prop up the Belarusian ruble. In addition, Lukashenka's attempt to distinguish Belarus from Russia with respect to wage arrears has been simply to direct his treasury to print more money in order to pay workers, thus raising the specter of inflationary pressures. But while Lukashenka and his inner circle may possess a weak grasp of market economics, he does understand the politics of the economic and social pain experienced by people in former Soviet republics. The very issues to which Lukashenka routinely refers--corruption, fraud, wage arrears, profiteering, and economic insecurity--are, in fact, those which plague Russia. As Russia contends with its most severe economic crisis since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Lukashenka gathers more fodder for his arguments against the incomplete results of Western-style reform. The stakes are high. Russia's internal situation is weak and its foreign policy-- less Western-friendly since the parliamentary elections of December 1994--is being contested by nationalist xenophobes and those who seek greater integration into and cooperation with the West. With all of his apparent limitations, there is a danger that in some disturbing ways, the times in post- Soviet Russia could increasingly be more suited to Lukashenka and his brand of populist politics. Though Lukashenka may not be able to make good on his claim of being "president for life", he may remain in power long enough to cause a great deal of discomfort to those hoping for greater cooperation and integration east of the newest NATO member countries. Never short on surprises, Lukashenka has made stability his rallying cry at home; at the same time, his approach will generate just the opposite effect abroad. The author is based in Prague and manager of programs at the European Journalism Network. 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 of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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