|It is easier to love humanity than to love one's neighbor. - Eric Hoffer|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 151 Part II, 7 August 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 151 Part II, 7 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 * BELARUS, GAZPROM REACH AGREEMENT ON DEBT * KINKEL SAYS KOSOVA INTERVENTION WOULD BE DIFFICULT * MACEDONIA, UN CONFIRM MINING OF BORDER WITH YUGOSLAVIA xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUS, GAZPROM REACH AGREEMENT ON DEBT... Meeting in Minsk on 6 August, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and Gazprom chairman Rem Vyakhirev reached an agreement on Belarus's repayment of a $250 million debt to the Russian gas company, Belapan and Interfax reported. "Today we agreed on all points," Vyakhirev commented, but he refused to provide details, saying only that Belarus will pay in cash for gas supplies at the same prices as Russian customers. He also denied that the agreement with Belarus amounted to a barter arrangement. Citing unidentified sources, Interfax reported that Lukashenka asked Gazprom to supply 17 billion cubic meters of gas this year and 18 billion cubic meters in 1999. The president is also reported to have insisted that the state bonds with which Belarus intends to repay some one- third of its gas debt should not be sold to other parties until Belarus buys them back. JM ...WHILE LUKASHENKA BLAMES RUSSIA FOR REPAYMENT PROBLEM. The Belarusian president said after meeting with Vyakhirev that Belarus would not have had the "most painful" problem of paying its debt to Gazprom if Russia had paid in cash for supplies of Belarusian goods, Belapan reported. Lukashenka hinted that Belarus and Russia should "make operational" a system of mutual debt payments instead of barter deals, which are currently the main means of paying for Russian gas. "We still cannot agree with the Russian government and the Russian president on supplies of our goods, which are necessary for Russia, not only to Gazprom," Lukashenka said. JM UKRAINE TOUGHENS BORDER ZONE REGIME FOR FOREIGNERS. In a bid to clamp down on illegal immigration via Ukraine, the government has introduced new restrictions on foreigners staying in Ukraine's border zone, Ukrainian Television reported on 6 August. In addition to valid passports and visas, foreigners there must now have a document from the Interior Ministry confirming "the necessity of their stay on that territory." Pavlo Shysholin, chief of staff of the Ukrainian Border Troops, told journalists on 6 August that 11,000 border violators were detained in Ukraine in the first half of this year, including 5,000 illegal immigrants who were seeking to reach the West. Two-third of the illegal immigrants from Asia, the Middle East, and Africa arrive in Ukraine via Russia. JM UKRAINE TO CUT CENTRAL ADMINISTRATION STAFF. Oleksandr Yakovenko, head of the personnel policy department in the presidential administration, has announced that the government administration will be cut by 100 people to a total of 600, Ukrainian Television reported on 6 August. He added that the Ukrainian president's administration will be cut by 20 percent. He provided no figures for that reduction because, according to the television station, "it is unknown how many people are working in the [presidential] administration by now." The reductions are part of an ongoing administrative reform that is to be completed in 2010. JM UKRAINIAN PLANT THREATENS TO POISON RIVER. Workers of a chemical plant in Stebnik in Lviv Oblast have threatened to release poisonous waste into the River Dniester unless they are paid their wages for the past six months, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 August. The river passes through Lviv, Ternopil, Chernivtsi, and Odessa Oblasts, as well as neighboring Moldova. The plant's management has sent a delegation to Kyiv to obtain funds to repay wage arrears totaling 8.5 million hryvni ($4.1 million). JM OFFICIAL SAYS LATVIAN GDP COULD FALL 2-3 PERCENT. Latvian Railroad Minister Vilis Kristopans told reporters on 6 August that the country's GDP may decrease by 2-3 percent owing to worsening relations with Russia, ITAR-TASS reported. Kristopans said budget revenues will fall because of a decrease in transit cargo and in Latvian exports to Russia. The minister, who is planning to meet with leaders of Russian transportation departments next month, said it will be difficult to discuss anything if the amendments to the citizenship law have not gone into effect by then. A campaign is currently under way in Latvia to collect signatures in support of a referendum on the amendments. JC BUTINGE TO BE 'SAFEST' TERMINAL IN BALTIC SEA. In a letter to his Latvian counterpart, Guntis Ulmanis, Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus argued that the Butinge oil terminal will be the safest installation in the Baltic Sea, BNS reported on 6 August, citing the Lithuanian presidential press service. Adamkus stressed that the terminal is being constructed using the latest technology, ensuring ecological safety. He expressed surprise at "alleged fears" that the terminal will pose a threat to the environment. Such fears are unfounded, he maintained, and reflect "unfair competition and inappropriate political lobbyism on the part of certain oil exporting and transport firms." Adamkus was replying to a letter sent by Ulmanis last month. JC POLISH PRIMATE DEFENDS CROSS AT AUSCHWITZ. Cardinal Jozef Glemp, primate of the Polish Catholic Church, said on 6 August that the controversial cross at the former Auschwitz death camp should remain in place, PAP and Reuters reported. "The papal cross should stay. I am expressing my own views, but I feel I also express views of other bishops," he was quoted as saying. Glemp was speaking after the Polish government had said that the Catholic Church is the correct addressee for Jewish demands that the Christian symbols at Auschwitz be removed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 1998). JM SUPPORT FOR POLISH COALITION DECREASES. Support for the ruling coalition parties, the Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) and the Freedom Union (UW), has decreased in July owing to their disputes over integration with the EU and Poland's administrative reform, Reuters reported on 6 August. A poll by Poland's Center for Studying Public Opinion showed that the AWS's approval rating dropped to 20 percent in July, down from 25 percent the previous month. Support for the UW fell by two points to 13 percent. Meanwhile, backing for the ex-communist opposition Democratic Left Alliance grew by seven points to 31 percent. JM HAVEL'S HEALTH CONTINUES TO IMPROVE. Czech President Vaclav Havel's health continues to improve, his doctors said on 7 August. CTK quoted the head of the Czech medical team treating Havel as saying the president is now breathing on his own. Laboratory results and X-rays show his lung infection is clearing up. Havel will probably remain in hospital one week longer than the original 10-14 days forecast. Havel underwent surgery on 26 July to close a colostomy but subsequently developed breathing and heart problems. JN SLOVAKIA REJECTS REVOKING BENES DECREES. Slovak Foreign Ministry spokesman Milan Tokar told Czech Radio on 6 August that a Czech revocation of certain decrees signed by Czechoslovak President Edvard Benes in 1945 would be unacceptable for Slovakia. The most controversial of the decrees dealt with the confiscation of property owned by ethnic Germans, Hungarians, "and other enemies of the state" and amnestied certain crimes against expellees. "Our position is that this is a historical matter upon which the legal order of our state and the Czech Republic stand and any intervention would have absolutely unacceptable consequences," Tokar said. Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman has come under fire from German politicians for saying that the Sudeten German expellees association, like the Czech Communists and Republicans, should not take part in the new Czech-German discussion forum since it opposed the Czech- German declaration. Sudeten-German expellees have repeatedly demanded that the Benes decrees be revoked. JN HUNGARIAN MINISTRY PROPOSES CHANGES TO LEGAL SYSTEM. The Ministry of Justice has completed draft legislation providing for the prosecutor-general to come under the government's supervision, instead of the parliament's, as is currently the case, "Nepszabadsag" reported on 7 August. The prosecutor- general would be nominated by the prime minister and appointed by the president and can be removed from that post without explanation. The government is also planning to tighten the penal code, strengthen the role of investigating authorities, and simplify procedures for fighting organized crime. JN SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE KINKEL SAYS KOSOVA INTERVENTION WOULD BE DIFFICULT. German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said on 6 August that NATO intervention in Kosova would be drawn out and "enormously complicated," Reuters reported. Kinkel, speaking at The Hague, rejected allegations that the West has delayed taking action to stop the violence in the Serbian province. A White House spokesman said preparations for military intervention will be finished in a couple of days. Spokesman P. J. Crowley said Washington is outraged by the Serbs' continued use of violence against civilians. Kinkel also called on Russia to support a UN mandate for possible foreign military involvement in Kosova. PB AFANASEVSKII IN PRISHTINA. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Nikolai Afanasevskii traveled to Prishtina on 7 August for talks with ethnic Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova and representatives of Serbian authorities and humanitarian agencies. Afanasevskii met in Karadjordjevo with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic the previous day, and both men urged new negotiations between Yugoslav and Kosovar Albanian officials, Tanjug reported. Afanasevskii told RIA Novosti after the talks that he concentrated on making Milosevic aware of Russian alarm over the latest developments in Kosova. JN EU CALLS FOR EXPERTS TO PROBE MASS GRAVE ALLEGATIONS. The EU on 6 August called on Yugoslavia to grant forensic scientists access to the town of Rahovec, where mass graves are alleged to have been found (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 1998). EU officials said the previous day that they saw no evidence of the mass graves, which are said to contain the bodies of some 500 people. The Austrian daily "Die Presse" said the same day that there are two sites, not visited by the EU officials, that have been freshly plowed over by a bulldozer. UN human rights investigator Jiri Dienstbier said he has no independent confirmation of mass graves. He added that Serbian action in Kosova could not be termed ethnic cleansing when compared with what occurred in Bosnia. In Prishtina, family members of some 100 Serbs alleged to have been kidnapped by the Kosova Liberation Army met with Red Cross and U.S. officials to seek help in finding their missing relatives. PB HUMANITARIAN GROUPS PLEAD WITH CLINTON ON KOSOVA. Several human rights organizations sent a letter to U.S. President Bill Clinton urging him to take immediate steps to stop Serbian aggression against civilians in Kosova, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported on 7 August. The letter said the international community cannot afford to wait for a cease-fire or a political settlement before resolving the "humanitarian disaster." The letter was signed by 30 major humanitarian and human rights groups including Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Open Society Institute. The letter said a large-scale crisis would occur without urgent action. It said the number of "besieged, displaced, and attacked" Kosovar residents nearly 1 million people. PB HUNGARY WANTS BELGRADE TO STOP SENDING VOJVODINA CONSCRIPTS TO KOSOVA. The state secretary of Hungary's Foreign Ministry, Zsolt Nemeth, summoned Yugoslav ambassador Balsa Spadijer on 6 August to request that the Yugoslav authorities cease sending ethnic Hungarian soldiers and police from Vojvodina to Kosova, ministry spokesman Gabor Horvath told "Nepszabadsag." Nemeth repeatedly expressed the ministry's concern about the broadening of the crisis in Kosova and the call-up of ethnic Hungarian reserve soldiers and policemen to Kosova. In Subotica, the Democratic Alliance of Croats in Vojvodina asked the Yugoslav Army not to send ethnic Croat conscripts to Kosova and called for the return of all conscripts from Vojvodina. (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August) JN MACEDONIA, UN CONFIRM MINING OF BORDER WITH YUGOSLAVIA. The Macedonian Ministry of Defense on 6 August confirmed news reports that the Macedonian-Yugoslav border has been mined. The previous day, a representative of the UN Preventive Deployment Force (UNPREDEP) in Skopje said the minefields overlap UN patrol routes. Defense Ministry spokesman Petar Atanasov told Radio Macedonia the anti-personnel mines are on the Yugoslav side of the border. Yugoslav forces have been laying the mines for at least one month, the Skopje daily "Nova Makedonija" reported on 6 August. It added that four mines have exploded since 9 July. JN MACEDONIAN ELECTIONS CALLED. Tito Petkovski, the speaker of the Macedonian parliament, said on 6 August that elections for the 120-seat legislature in Skopje will be held on 18 October, AP reported. The Social Democrats won the last elections, which were boycotted by several opposition parties because of alleged voter fraud. PB BOSNIAN SERB POLITICIANS PUNISHED. Two Bosnian Serb politicians on 6 August were barred from participating in next month's parliamentary elections because of their actions in a protest to prevent the burial of a Muslim cleric, AFP reported. The names of Predrag Lazarevic and Slavko Zupljanin were struck from candidate lists by the Elections Appeal Sub- Commission for failure to "respect the codex of the elections." Some 800 Bosnian Serbs prevented the burial of Mufti Ibrahim Halilovic at the former site of the Ferhadija mosque in Banja Luka late last month. In Sarajevo, the UN announced that 17 Bosnian Serb policemen were suspended last month for torture and abuse of authority. PB MORE BODIES FOUND IN BOSNIAN MASS GRAVE. UN officials said on 6 August that 70 more bodies have been exhumed from a mass grave in eastern Bosnia near Srebrenica, Reuters reported. UN spokesman Alexander Ivanko said many of the victims had been blindfolded and their hands had been tied behind their backs. Some 7,000 people from the Srebrenica region went missing after the fall of the town to Serbian forces. PB CROATIAN TAXES ANGER BOSNIAN CROAT FARMERS. Bosnian Croat farmers blocked all but one border crossing between southwestern Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia on 6 August to protest against a value-added tax on their produce, Reuters reported. Zagreb recently imposed a 22 percent levy and instituted other regulations on fruit and vegetables imported from Bosnia. Ahmed Smajic, the Bosnian agriculture minister, sent a letter to Darinko Bago, the Croatian ambassador in Sarajevo, protesting the actions as derailing economic cooperation between the two countries. Croatian farmers are also upset about the government's imposition of a 22 percent tax on the money they receive from government purchases of their grains. PB ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES PLAN TO COLLECT ARMS. The parliament on 5 August approved legislation aimed at accelerating the collection of unregistered weapons. The creation of a central disarmament commission, headed by Minister of Local Government Bashkim Fino, is envisaged. Local disarmament commissions are to carry out the nationwide action to collect weapons over the next year. The authorities will first appeal to the people to hand over their weapons voluntarily; those who fail to do so will be liable to punishment. The law, however, allows several categories of Albanian civilians to keep their weapons. More than 600,000 arms were looted from depots during unrest in 1997. Police have so far collected only a small number of those arms. FS ALBANIAN COMMISSION PRESENTS DRAFT CONSTITUTION. Minister for Institutional Reform Arben Malaj on 5 August said the commission drafting a new constitution, which he heads, has finished its work and will send the latest draft to the parliament for approval. The parliament will discuss the draft in September--after the summer recess--and is scheduled to submit it to a referendum on 22 November. A preliminary version of the draft has been published in newspapers over the last two weeks. Albania's current constitution is based on constitutional provisions passed by the parliament in 1991 to replace the communist basic law. FS BULGARIANS DIVIDED OVER ZHIVKOV'S LEGACY. Commenting on the death of Todor Zhivkov on 5 August, Bulgaria's reformist president, Petar Stoyanov, said the former Communist dictator had overseen "one of the darkest periods of recent Bulgarian history.... Eight million Bulgarians lived during that long period with their work, dreams, and illusions, but also in fear and political repression." He added that "with the death of Todor Zhivkov, the era of Bulgarian communism is finally ending." The Bulgarian Socialist Party, which reinstated the ousted leader as a member earlier this year, praised Zhivkov and predicted "generations of Bulgarians would link his name to hard but creative work and a secure and easier life," BTA reported. JN 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. 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