|Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. - Vladimir Nabokov|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 149 Part II, 5 August 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 149 Part II, 5 August 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 * HAVEL REPORTED IN STABLE CONDITION * HUNDREDS OF CHILDREN IN KOSOVA MASS GRAVE * SCHUESSEL SAYS SITUATION 'TOO CONFUSED' FOR AIR STRIKES End Note: KOSOVA'S ETHNIC ALBANIAN REFUGEES CLOSE TO CATASTROPHE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE INTERNATIONAL CONSORTIUM TO REINFORCE CHORNOBYL SARCOPHAGUS. An international consortium has won a tender to reinforce the sarcophagus covering the damaged reactor at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant, AP reported on 4 August. The consortium, headed by the French company Technique Atom, includes British, German, and U.S. companies. The $5.4 million deal is the second stage of a broader project on improving Chornobyl's safety. The funds will be used for, among other things, the technical maintenance of and repairs to the sarcophagus. Some 20 donor nations have pledged $400 million to make the concrete and steel sarcophagus environmentally safe. JM KUCHMA SACKS CHIEF AVIATION OFFICIAL. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has fired State Aviation Administration chief Volodymyr Maksymov for failing to improve the safety of Ukrainian air flights, AP reported on 4 August. The formal reason for the dismissal was Maksimov's failure to implement Kuchma's January 1998 decree on measures to tighten air transport regulations. The decree was issued shortly after a Ukrainian Yak-42 crashed in Greece, killing 70 people. Last month, a Ukrainian Il-76 aircraft fell into the sea near the United Arab Emirates, killing all eight people on board, and a Ukrainian Il-78 military plane crashed in Eritrea, killing 10 people. JM UKRAINE SETTLES BORDER DISPUTE WITH MOLDOVA. During Moldovan Prime Minister Ion Ciubuc's visit to Kyiv on 4 August, agreement was reached on resolving a border dispute in an area near the Danube delta. Under that agreement, Moldova will receive a small area of Ukrainian territory to build an oil terminal on the banks of the River Danube. In exchange, Ukraine will receive a section of the road connecting the Ukrainian cities of Odessa and Izmail. Ukrainian Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko said that Moldova is Ukraine's strategic partner and that economic relations between both countries must be intensified. JM BELARUSIAN PRIVATE NOTARIES CLOSE OFFICES. Since 1 August, Belarusian private notary offices have ceased operations, "Beloruskaya Delovaya Gazeta" reported on 3 August. The reason for that move is President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's May decree ordering private notaries to transfer 77 percent of their fees to the state and pay taxes on the remaining 23 percent. An edict issued by Lukashenka one month later increased the percentage of fees to be transferred to 81 percent. In addition, a government directive in January ordered the private notaries to pay taxes retroactively for the period 1993-1997. In July, the Chamber of Private Notaries adopted a resolution ceasing operations as of 1 August. JM LATVIA TO CONTINUE WITH PLANS TO UNILATERALLY DEMARCATE BORDER. Latvian Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs told BNS on 4 August that Latvia will not give up its plan to unilaterally demarcate the border with Russia. Birkavs was responding to an appeal by Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin that Latvia abandon those plans (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 1998). The Latvian minister said Riga has met many demands by Russia, including amendment to its citizenship law. And he argued that his country cannot be blamed for the failure to sign the border treaty with Russia. JC NEW CAUCUS JOINS LATVIAN RULING COALITION. Prime Minister Guntars Krasts told a news conference on 4 August that the caucuses of the ruling coalition parties have signed an agreement allowing a new caucus to join the coalition, BNS reported. The new parliamentary group, the fourth largest in the legislature, has been set up by the Labor Party, the Christian Democratic Union, and the Green Party, which have formed an alliance for the October parliamentary elections. JC LATVIAN CABINET MINISTERS SIGN PROTEST AGAINST BUTINGE. Nearly all members of the Latvian government have already signed an appeal saying that an oil terminal at Butinge, Lithuania, should not be constructed without a thorough environmental study, BNS reported on 4 August. Foreign Minister Birkavs, who signed the appeal several days ago, stressed that he is not opposed to the terminal's construction, which, he said, is an internal affair of Lithuania. But he noted that he has always supported the "observance of environmental norms" in the Baltic Sea. JC POLISH FARMERS BLOCK ROADS TO PROTEST GRAIN IMPORTS... Polish farmers on 4 August blocked roads with tractors to protest grain imports and low prices for domestic grain. Police reported that 54 road blocks had been erected mainly in northern provinces of the country, while the farmers' unions put the number at 200. "We demand cheap credits, protection of the domestic market, and a system of contracts that would ensure that farm output can be sold," Andrzej Lepper, one of the protest organizers, told Reuters. JM ...WHILE GOVERNMENT PLEDGES MEASURES TO APPEASE FARMERS. Deputy Prime Minister Jerzy Tomaszewski called the protests a "great surprise to the government" and said they were "political" rather than aimed at protecting farmers' interests. He added that on 6 August, the government will introduce threshold prices on grain imports in accordance with its earlier announcement. Agricultural Minister Jacek Janiszewski pledged that beginning on 15 August, the state- run Agricultural Market Agency will buy grain from Polish farmers in an emergency procurement measure. He also promised state subsidies to private companies that buy Polish grain. JM HAVEL REPORTED IN STABLE CONDITION. Doctors treating Czech President Vaclav Havel used electric shocks during the night of 3-4 August during a two-hour crisis in which Havel's heart rate soared to 200 beats a minute, the CTK reported on 4 August, quoting Ilja Kotik, who heads the Czech medical team treating Havel. He was later reported to be in a stable condition. Doctors say he experienced a "temporarily critical" condition but his life was not in danger at any time. MS KOHL CRITICIZES ZEMAN OVER SUDETEN GERMAN COMMENT. Chancellor Helmut Kohl said in an interview with RTL television on 4 August that Czech Premier Milos Zeman's comparison of an organization representing the Sudeten Germans with Communists and neo-Nazis is "totally unacceptable." Kohl said it is "incomprehensible" how such "absurd remarks" could be made by a head of government. He said that the next time he meets Zeman, "I will tell him that if his idea of good neighborhood means insulting a group of people who suffered just as your people suffered under the Germans, then you cannot expect that we will be good neighbors," AP reported. Czech Deputy Premier Egon Lansky said Kohl's comments were based on a " totally incorrect interpretation" of what Zeman said. The Czech government "will make no further comment" to German politicians' reactions to Zeman's statement, Lansky added. MS HUNGARIAN OFFICIAL SEEKS TO END JOB DISCRIMINATION. Jeno Kaltenbach, ombudsman for minority rights, has appealed to the Ministry of Justice to examine the possibility of drafting new bills that would end discrimination on the country's labor market, Hungarian media reported on 4 August . Kaltenbach's move came after a private-building contractor sought "white labor" through an advertisement in the "Expressz" daily. The contractor admitted that he wanted to keep Roma from applying, arguing that his regular employees refuse to work with them and that clients will not talk to him if he is accompanied by them. Kaltenbach said the advertisement violated the constitution, minority rights and the labor code. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE HUNDREDS OF CHILDREN IN KOSOVA MASS GRAVE. Local eye- witnesses took several foreign journalists on 4 August to the site of at least two mass graves near Rahovec, which fell to Serbian paramilitary police and Yugoslav army forces after clashes with the Kosova Liberation Army in mid-July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July 1998). The Vienna daily "Die Presse" wrote that Kosovar grave-diggers have already opened one of the graves and found "the corpses of more than 500 people, of whom 400 were children. The second grave may contain about 1,000 bodies." The grave-diggers said that the paramilitary forces of Zeljko Raznatovic "Arkan" committed the killings, but Western observers hold the Serbian police responsible, the newspaper added. Kosovar spokesmen recently told "RFE/RL Newsline" that the police include many veterans of the "ethnic cleansing" campaigns in Croatia and Bosnia. PM UNHCR WARNS OF 'ETHNIC CLEANSING.' The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees sent a relief convoy from Prishtina to the Malisheva area on 4 August, but the vehicles had to stop at Qirez in the Skenderaj region because of heavy fighting. Relief workers could see Lausha and other nearby ethnic Albanian villages on fire. The UNHCR's Chris Janowski said in Geneva that the convoy "cannot go into a battlefield." He compared the latest developments in Kosova to the Serbian ethnic-cleansing campaigns in Bosnia and added that if this is an attempt to drive Kosovar Albanians out of Kosova, "that would be total lunacy." PM RED CROSS FEARS EPIDEMICS. In Prishtina, UNHCR spokesmen estimated that some 200,000 people, or 10 percent of Kosova's total population, have been displaced since Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic launched his crackdown in February. Officials of the World Food Program added that some 70,000 have taken to the roads since the current offensive began just over one week ago. Red Cross officials warned that "serious epidemics" could break out on Mount Berisha in central Kosova, where several thousand people are living in the open, AFP reported. PM SCHUESSEL SAYS SITUATION 'TOO CONFUSED' FOR AIR STRIKES. Austrian Foreign Minister Wolfgang Schuessel, whose country holds the EU chair, told the Hamburg weekly "Die Woche" that the situation in Kosova is "too confused" for any air strikes there to be effective, dpa reported on 5 August. He added that only ground troops could help secure a cease-fire but that the UN would not agree to outside intervention because of Russian and Chinese opposition. Meanwhile in Belgrade, Tanjug quoted Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Marjanovic as saying that attempts to put down the UCK's insurgency are a justified defense of national sovereignty. "We will suppress any violence in [the province].... We shall win this battle," he added. PM HILL VISITS DEVASTATED AREA. Christopher Hill, who is U.S. ambassador to Macedonia and Washington's principal negotiator in Kosova, said after visiting central Kosova on 4 August that he is "particularly concerned about the activities of the security services that are out there now.... We observed a number of structures in villages and towns that were burning as of today. We did not see any signs, however, of any fighting today," Hill told Reuters. He said he visited one village where male inhabitants who had returned for food and water for families hiding in the hills said tanks had fired on houses. "They brought me a shell from a T-55 tank and said they had many more like that. I saw some tank rounds on the ground in another village." Kosovar spokesman Veton Surroi added that he saw one house go up in flames seconds after two uniformed police emerged from it. "We saw police burning houses and looting shops," Surroi noted. PM WESTWARD FLOW OF KOSOVARS CONTINUES. Some 600 persons, half of whom are Kosovar refugees, leave Albania by boat each day to try to enter Italy illegally, Deutsche Welle reported on 5 August. Of that number, only about 200 are caught at sea and sent back (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 1998). Those Kosovars who reach land are interned in detention camps. Meanwhile in Bonn, Bavarian Interior Minister Martin Beckstein said that camps for Kosovar refugees should be set up in Italy and northern Albania as part of a "European system of burden-sharing," the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" wrote. He said that Germany will not deport any Kosovars currently living there "except for law-breakers," but he warned against any general recognition of Kosovars as refugees from a civil war. Beckstein added that such recognition would lead to an influx of refugees into Germany, as was the case during the Bosnian war, and that Germany cannot agree to that. PM SERBIAN PEACE GROUP CALLS FOR PROTECTORATE. The Serbian peace organization Women in Black appealed to the international community in a statement in Belgrade on 4 August to establish a protectorate over Kosova "as soon as possible." The text called on the international community to exert "all possible pressure on all warring parties to desist from using armed force and [carrying out] ethnic cleansing" and from violating human rights, the Belgrade daily "Danas" wrote. Women in Black is one of the best known and oldest peace groups in the former Yugoslavia. Meanwhile in Podgorica, the People's Party, the Social Democrats, and the Democratic Socialist Party are opposed to the recent proposal of Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement that the authorities declare a state of emergency in Kosova. Leaders of the three parties feel that such a move would bind Montenegro all the closer to Milosevic's policies there, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Montenegrin capital. PM ROMANIAN PREMIER MEETS WITH ARAFAT. Prime Minister Radu Vasile, who is on a four-day visit to Israel, met with Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat in Ramallah on 4 August and offered his country's "good services" to mediate in the dispute with Israel over the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the West Bank, an RFE/RL correspondent in Tel Aviv reported. Vasile also met in Modiin with Romanian workers in Israel, who complained about working and housing conditions as well as unpaid wages. He promised to appoint an embassy official to examine their complaints. The same day, Vasile and Israeli parliamentary deputies agreed to establish a joint commission to examine the restitution of Jewish property seized by the fascist and communist regimes. Mediafax reported that Vasile was "angered" by remarks of a National Religious Party deputy who accused Romania of "indifference" toward "vandalism" in desecrated Jewish cemeteries. Vasile said the accusation was based on "misinformation." MS MOLDOVAN COALITION LEADERS TRY TO MEND FENCES. Parliamentary chairman Dumitru Diacov on 4 August said on Moldovan television that the ruling Alliance for Democratic Reforms "is viable and will carry out its goals," BASA-press reported. He expressed "regret" that the intra-alliance agreement was violated when the For a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova Bloc voted jointly with the opposition Party of Moldovan Communists on the transit of Bulgarian nuclear waste to Russia and on the nomination of the new prosecutor-general (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August 1998). He said this was "the last time" that this will happen. Iurie Rosca, parliamentary deputy chairman and co-chairman of the Democratic Convention of Moldova, told journalists on 4 August that all disputes within the alliance "will be overcome," but he added that voting with the Communists remains "unacceptable." MS BULGARIAN OPPOSITION DAILY TEMPORARILY SUSPENDS PUBLICATION. "Duma," the daily of the opposition Socialist Party, will not be printed for the next two weeks, BTA quoted party spokeswoman Iliana Yotova as saying on 4 August . The previous day, the Rodina publishing company announced that the newspaper will not be printed owing to debts totaling 186 million leva (some $100,000). "Duma" editor in chief Todor Koruev told Bulgarian national radio on 4 August that the crisis within the newspaper reflects the "overall financial and ideological crisis within the party itself." He said some 10 journalists have quit the daily in the last months because of the financial crisis and that the remaining journalists do not want to transform "Duma" into a "tabloid," as "some people inside the BSP" are urging them to do. MS END NOTE KOSOVA'S ETHNIC ALBANIAN REFUGEES CLOSE TO CATASTROPHE by Kitty McKinsey The scenes across much of the southern Serbian province of Kosova in recent days are reminiscent of the worst days of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Long lines of tractor-drawn carts slowly carrying terrified women and children away from the smoldering remains of their shelled and burned homes. Refugees cowering in forests with only the clothes on their back, little food or water, no medicine, and no shelter. Contrary to promises made by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic last week, the Serbian and Yugoslav offensive in Kosova is not over. In fact, observers on the scene say that the offensive has escalated, driving another 35,000-70,000 ethnic Albanians from their homes in recent days. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the total number now displaced from their homes in more than five months of fighting could top 200,000. That figure includes those who have sought refuge in neighboring Albania and the Yugoslav republic of Montenegro, as well as those on the move inside Kosova. With the escalation of the Serbian offensive, ethnic Albanians say the Serbs are no longer battling the separatist Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) but are concentrating on driving ethnic Albanian civilians from their homes. They say that Serbian forces are shelling and burning homes of ethnic Albanians who have already fled to ensure that they will not return. Moderate ethnic Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova charged that "Serbian forces kill civilians, burn and destroy settlements and entire villages, and carry out ethnic cleansing." Mans Nyberg, spokesman for the UNHCR in Prishtina, said he and his fellow aid workers have seen "countless houses burning in practically every village we passed through." He adds: "It is very difficult to see any sound military objective for such behavior by the Serbian police forces." Only in the last few days have international relief agencies been able to reach any of the fugitives hiding in the mountains and dense forests of Kosova. They have found desperate people camping in the open, sleeping under trees and even in dry river-beds, without any blankets, mattresses or tents. In one area, relief workers discovered that five women had given birth within the last four days. It is, Nyberg says, "a humanitarian catastrophe in the making." Mick Lorentzen, emergency coordinator for the UN's World Food Program in Prishtina, says that the main problem is that whole villages are on the move: "Within the mountain range itself, there's an estimated 50,000 to 70,000 people and this is not the only area that's being affected. People are moving every day. It's a changing situation. The forests are very, very dense, so it's sometimes hard to find them. How much longer are they going to stay out, nobody knows." Both Nyberg and Lorentzen agree that the fugitives are far too terrified and distrustful of Serbian authorities to return to their villages right now. Lorentzen says that while he was in the mountains delivering food to refugees on 2 August, the Yugoslav government air-dropped leaflets telling the refugees it was safe for them to return to their villages, and that if they did, they would be protected. As the refugees were reading the flyers, Lorentzen said, they could hear Serbian shelling just a kilometer away. Lorentzen concludes : "The people are just not going to return while this is going on." He also questions what they have to go home to after so much destruction by Yugoslav and Serb forces. Another major problem is that Serbian forces are routinely blocking attempts by aid agencies to reach people in distress. "This is very serious obstruction," says Nyberg. "President Milosevic has repeatedly assured the humanitarian organizations that they have free access, they can go anywhere they want. The same has been assured to us by the police commander in Prishtina. In spite of all this, it happens almost on a daily basis that our field teams are being stopped by police at checkpoints and being refused access." The UNHCR has added its voice to that of many countries around the world in appealing to Milosevic to halt the Serbian offensive and allow his ethnic Albanian citizens to live a normal life again. The author is an RFE/RL senior correspondent. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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