|Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into faith. - Christopher Fry|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 155, Part II, 13 August 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 155, Part II, 13 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 * UKRAINIAN TAX DEBTORS IN TENT CAMP * CZECH GOVERNMENT DENIES INTERFERENCE IN GERMAN ELECTIONS * SERBS STEP UP 'MASSIVE ASSAULT' * End Note: DEVELOPMENT OF UKRAINIAN NAVY HINDERED BY LACK OF FUNDS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE LUKASHENKA PLEDGES SUPPORT TO FORD IN BELARUS. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has pledged support and assistance in expanding the production of Ford motor vehicles in Belarus, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 August. During his meeting with the heads of the Belarusian-U.S. joint venture Ford Union, which was launched in 1997 in a Minsk suburb, Lukashenka called Ford a "very solid investor and partner.... Since you...do not harm our people who work at this plant, we will help you even more than before," ITAR-TASS quoted him as saying. The Ford Union produces automobiles and mini-buses primarily for the Russian and Belarusian market. JM BELARUSIAN NEWSPAPER SUES GOVERNMENT FOR WARNING. The Higher Economic Court on 12 August opened the case brought by the Belarusian-language "Nasha Niva" newspaper against the State Press Committee, Belapan and RFE/RL Belarusian Service reported. "Nasha Niva" chief editor Syarhey Dubavets demands that the committee revoke the warning it issued in May not to use traditional Belarusian spelling, banned by Joseph Stalin's regime in 1933 (see "End Note" in "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August 1998). Dubavets asked the court to set up an expert linguistic commission to determine whether the newspaper distorts the "generally accepted norms" of the Belarusian language, as stated in the official warning. Judge Ina Petukhova, who speaks no Belarusian, agreed to postpone the court proceedings until 14 August. JM UKRAINE REPAYS $450 MILLION TO JAPANESE FIRM. The Ukrainian Finance Ministry has now repaid in full a $450 million loan to the Japanese firm Nomura International, Ukrainian News and dpa reported on 12 August. That move eases fears that Ukraine is facing bankruptcy. According to Ukrainian News, the Finance Ministry paid $406 million from the National Bank's hard currency reserves, which amounted to some $1.5 billion earlier this month. Short-term debts to be paid by Ukraine in August total $1 billion. JM UKRAINIAN TAX DEBTORS IN TENT CAMP. Continuing his unorthodox campaign to collect taxes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 August 1998), Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko has sent some 1,500 business executives to a tent camp at Pereyeslav Khmelnytskyy, 50 kilometers outside Kyiv, AP reported on 12 August. Pustovoytenko said they will remain in the camp watching films and listening to lectures on natural disasters until they pay their overdue taxes. "I want all those present, all the people of our state to understand that we shall keep the process of tax and pension fund payments under control," he commented. JM KUCHMA AMNESTIES 25,000 PRISONERS. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has signed an amnesty law that will free some 25,000 prisoners, Interfax reported on 12 August. The amnesty applies to convicts who have not committed grave crimes and will include minors, prisoners who have children under 18 or disabled children, and pregnant women. It will not extend to those defined as "dangerous recidivists" by courts or who received the death penalty commuted to a prison term. The law will take effect on the day it is published and will be carried out within three months. As of 1 July, there were 236,000 inmates in Ukraine's prisons. JM LATVIAN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL RESIGNS... Janis Skrastins has tendered his resignation, citing "political pressure" in the run-up to the 3 October parliamentary elections and saying he feels "simply physically broken," BNS reported on 12 August. Skrastins, who has held the office of prosecutor-general since September 1990, said that recent decisions by his office are regularly being interpreted as benefiting one political party and harming another. He told reporters that the parliamentary committee investigating the loss of 3 million lats ($6 million) in the Latvenergo-Banka Baltija deal is opposed to his resignation, as are Latvia's Way and the opposition Democratic Party Saimnieks. But the parliamentary groups of the Labor Party, the Union of Christian Democrats, and the Green Party say they support Skrastins's resignation. Skrastins's office has come under criticism by members of the investigative committee for being "too slow" to investigate the Latvenergo case. JC ...WHILE SOME CABINET MINISTERS URGE HIM TO STAY. Justice Minister Dzintars Rasnacs told BNS and "Diena" on 12 August that Skrastins's resignation is "a threat to democracy and signals that representatives of legislative power have intruded too deeply into the competence of the court." Interior Minister Andrejs Krastins argued that attacks against the prosecutor-general from members of the committee investigating the Latvenergo deal "lacked competence and stemmed from political ambitions." He added that he will meet soon with Skrastins and seek to persuade him to stay in his post. Parliamentary speaker Alfreds Cepanis is also to meet with Skrastins on 13 August to discuss the reasons for his resignation. Cepanis told BNS he will try to persuade Skrastins to remain in office, as he considers his work to have been successful. JC POLAND PRINTS NEW ADMINISTRATIVE MAPS AMID PROTESTS. Poland has begun printing maps based on the country's new administrative division into 16 provinces, "Zycie Warszawy" reported on 13 August. The government announced on 7 August that Poland's middle administrative tier will be composed of 308 districts and 65 towns with the status of district. The local elections to district and provincial councils will be held on 11 October, along with the communal elections. Meanwhile, some local communities are still opposing the new administrative division. On 12 August, residents of Brzeziny, Skierniewice Voivodship, blocked roads to demand that their town be designated a district center. And the Czestochowa municipal authorities have sent a letter to the Council of Europe complaining that the city has been stripped of its status as a provincial center. JM CZECH GOVERNMENT DENIES INTERFERENCE IN GERMAN ELECTIONS. Chancellor Helmut Kohl on 12 August accused Czech Premier Milos Zeman of interfering in the German parliamentary elections, dpa reported. Kohl told journalists that Zeman is backing the opposition Social Democrats (SPD) because that party, according to the news agency, takes a "weaker" stand on the rights of the Sudeten Germans. He said this is "totally unacceptable" and that "this type of interference by a head of government in Europe...has never before taken place." A Czech Foreign Ministry spokesman said on 12 August that Kohl may have confused Zeman with somebody else in the Czech government since the prime minister has made no comment in support of the SPD. The Federal Press Office in Bonn responded by quoting the Czech premier as telling Prima TV on 26 July that he firmly believes the SPD will win the September elections and that his party has very good relations with the SPD. MS BUDAPEST PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE LAUNCHES FRAUD INVESTIGATION. Following press allegations of fraud among members of the ruling Federation of Young Democrats- Hungarian Civic Party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 12 August 1998), Deputy Budapest Prosecutor Gyorgy Agai on 12 August told Kossuth Radio that an investigation has been launched. Agai said the Company Registration Court has been asked to check the legality of the companies involved in the scandal. He added that if the court concludes those companies were registered by using stolen documents, the people involved will be charged with forgery. MS SMALLHOLDERS WARN AGAINST 'CHANCELLOR-STYLE' RULE. The parliamentary group of the junior coalition partner, the Independent Smallholders' Party (FKGP), has warned against "chancellor-style" rule, whereby important question are decided by the premier alone. To avoid tensions in the coalition, the premier must consult with coalition partners before making important decisions, the FKGP says. MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE SERBS STEP UP 'MASSIVE ASSAULT.' Serbian forces took Gllogjan, located near the Decan-Gjakova road, from the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) on 12 August. The Serbian paramilitary police and Yugoslav army troops subjected Junik, near the Albanian border, to what Austrian Radio the next day called a "massive frontal assault" with artillery. The Kosova shadow-state authorities in Prishtina appealed for the establishment of a humanitarian aid corridor for the benefit of the civilian population of the beleaguered village. "The Guardian" wrote that Serbian forces set fire to forests along the Albanian frontier and burned abandoned villages in the central Kijeva area. Journalists subsequently "found dozens of empty bottles of barbecue lighter fuel on the ground" in the villages. The satellite broadcaster Euronews reported that the Serbs have begun to use land mines in areas other than along the Albanian border, which they mined several weeks ago. PM EU CONDEMNS ATTACK ON JUNIK. Following the launching of the assault on Junik on 12 August, Austrian Foreign Minister Wolfgang Schuessel, speaking in his capacity as current EU chair, called on the Yugoslav authorities to stop the violence, which, he said, could worsen an "already unbearable humanitarian situation." Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic recently promised EU envoys that his forces would not attack Junik, where some 1,000 UCK fighters and 1,000 civilians are trapped, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Prishtina on 12 August. In London, a spokesman for the Kosovar shadow-state government told CNN that if the Western powers do not intervene soon in Kosova "we will very shortly see the whole region ablaze." In Prishtina, unnamed Western diplomats told Reuters and Euronews that time is running out for starting peace talks because winter is approaching and many crops have either been destroyed or are in need of harvesting. PM BELGRADE REJECTS CRITICISM. The state-run Tanjug news agency on 12 August slammed the UN Security Council's statement the previous day, which said that the Serbs have used "excessive force" in Kosova and conducted a "scorched-earth policy" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 August 1998). Tanjug wrote that the statement "does not help at all to give an objective and true picture" of the situation in Kosova. The news agency added that the text ignores the role of the Kosovar leadership in the conflict and does not mention that Serbian forces are "forced to react to terrorist attacks and provocations." Tanjug also accused Slovenia, which currently holds the Security Council chair, of being "true to its anti-Yugoslav and anti-Serbian policy." Elsewhere, the Foreign Ministry in Belgrade "most energetically rejected" recent Albanian charges that Yugoslav helicopters violated Albanian airspace, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 August 1998). PM JOURNALIST STICKS TO STORY OF MASS GRAVES. Erich Rathfelder, who is a veteran Balkan correspondent for Berlin's "taz" and Vienna's "Die Presse," told an RFE/RL correspondent in a telephone interview on 12 August that he stands by his recent report of mass graves of Kosovar civilians in Rahovec (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 August 1998). He stressed that international forensics experts should visit the area as soon as possible. Rathfelder is in Croatia and has been barred by the Serbian authorities from returning to Kosova. FS DUTCH LAUNCH NEW INVESTIGATION INTO SREBRENICA. Frank de Grave, who is the recently appointed Dutch defense minister, announced in The Hague on 11 August that his Ministry will investigate the role of Dutch UNPROFOR peacekeepers in the fall of Srebrenica three years ago and the subsequent massacre by Bosnian Serb troops of up to 8,000 Muslim males. The announcement comes in response to repeated charges by legislators and UNPROFOR veterans that the Defense Ministry deliberately destroyed films and other evidence that allegedly reveals that Dutch troops helped the Serbs round up their victims. Some veterans also said that the Ministry "systematically" sought to block any investigation into what happened at Srebrenica and into the Ministry's role in any subsequent cover-up, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" wrote on 13 August. PM BOSNIAN SERBS SHUT DOWN NEWS AGENCY. Republika Srpska Information Minister Rajko Vasic said in Banja Luka on 12 August that the government has ordered the closure of the Pale-based Bosnian Serb news agency, SRNA. Vasic added that the authorities made their decision because of SRNA's "fabrications, tendentious reporting, and manipulating of the speeches of top state officials." He also criticized SRNA's "apparent imbalance" in the length of the reports about officials loyal to the Banja Luka-based government and about the government's hard-line opponents in Pale. SRNA was the mouthpiece of the leadership headed by Radovan Karadzic during the 1992-1995 war. PM AFRICAN BOMBINGS LINKED TO ARREST OF FUNDAMENTALISTS IN ALBANIA? The "International Herald Tribune" on 12 August reported that U.S. investigators are looking into a possible link between the recent embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya and the earlier arrest in Albania of four Islamic fundamentalists from Egypt, who may have been employees of the wealthy Saudi expatriate Osama bin Laden. Albanian police made the arrests in late June in close cooperation with the CIA, according to the daily. Several Arabic newspapers wrote before the bombings that the CIA took the suspects out of Albania and subsequently turned them over to authorities in Egypt. The "International Herald Tribune" also quotes unidentified Western security experts as saying that Osama bin Laden may have struck an alliance with the Egyptian-based Jihad group, which had faxed a statement to news organizations before the bombings threatening retaliation for the four arrests. FS ALBANIAN SECRET SERVICE CHIEF DENIES AFRICAN BOMBINGS LINK. Secret service chief Fatos Klosi told "Koha Jone" of 12 August that he has no evidence that the embassy bombings in east Africa are connected to the expulsion from Albania of the four fundamentalists. Klosi admitted that some Islamic fundamentalists are active in Albania but stressed that Albania is "not a center of international terrorism." He added that in recent years, Albania has been a "very convenient place" for people fleeing prosecution in their own countries. He added that Albania "is poor and ready to accept assistance, and its borders are easy to cross." Meanwhile, the governing Socialist Party has requested a special parliamentary session to discuss the issue of Islamic fundamentalism. FS EUROPEAN TROIKA SHOWS SUPPORT FOR ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT. The European Troika, which consists of representatives from the European Parliament and from the parliamentary assemblies of the Council of Europe and the OSCE, visited the northern Albanian city of Bajram Curri on 12 August. Delegation leader and Austrian senior diplomat Gerhard Jandl praised Albania's Kosova policy and assured the Albanian government officials of EU support, adding that the EU will keep up diplomatic pressure on Belgrade. He stressed that Albania has improved its internal security and made progress in its fight against corruption and smuggling. The previous day, Jandl told Albanian officials that the EU will promote cooperation with Albania in trade and fishing, help attract foreign investment in the country, and encourage high-ranking international participation in a donors' conference slated for October, ATSH reported. FS ROMANIA, HUNGARY FAIL TO REACH AGREEMENT ON WHEAT TAX. Two Hungarian officials on 12 August failed to reach an agreement with their Romanian counterparts in Bucharest on the import duties recently imposed on wheat and flour from Hungary (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 August 1998). Romania says the duties-- 15-25 percent on wheat imports and 45 percent on flour--are in line with Article 14 of the CEFTA agreements and will be in force until 31 December 1998. Hungary argues that the CEFTA agreements call for consultations before such measures are imposed, a condition that Bucharest failed to meet. Both sides agreed to continue negotiations at the next CEFTA meeting of agricultural ministers in Prague on 24-25 August. Mihaly Gyorgy of the Hungarian Ministry of Economy said it is "premature" to discuss Hungarian countermeasures ahead of the Prague talks, Romanian and Hungarian media reported. MS ROMANIAN PRESIDENT DENIES KNOWLEDGE OF SRI FILE ON FORMER MINISTER. The presidential office on 12 August denied allegations earlier this week by a former employee of the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) that the presidential office has received information about the SRI file of former Health Minister Francisc Barany. Barany resigned after former SRI official Constantin Alexa leaked to the press Barany's pledge to act as a communist secret police informer in the 1950s. Alexa, who was dismissed for having acted unlawfully, claimed in an interview with the daily "Cotidianul" on 10 August that Baranyi's SRI file shows him as having acted against Romania's "national interest and security" after the overthrow of the communist regime and of having had links to Hungarian "separatists" in Transylvania and Hungarian intelligence. Alexa says he passed on this information to his superiors, who, he claims, must have forwarded it to the presidential office. MS PARTNERSHIP FOR PEACE EXERCISE IN MOLDOVA. A Partnership for Peace exercise began on 10 August at an airfield in Chisinau and will last 10 days. Taking part in the exercise are U.S. and Moldovan military medical corps, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The participants are simulating an airlift of civilians under natural disaster conditions. MS TIRASPOL WANTS SHARE OF BULGARIAN NUCLEAR WASTE TRANSIT. The separatist authorities in the Transdniester say they will not allow the transit of Bulgarian nuclear waste from the Kozloduy plant to Russia unless they receive a share of the transit tax paid to Chisinau, Radio Bucharest reported on 12 August. In related news, the Moldovan government the same day discussed a proposal to ask the Russian contingent stationed in the Transdniester to safeguard the transit. MS BULGARIAN RULING PARTY SLAMS 'NATIONAL SOCIALIST SLOGANS' AT ZHIVKOV FUNERAL. The ruling Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) on 11 August issued a statement criticizing the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party for the speeches at the rally staged before of the funeral of former President Todor Zhivkov on 10 August. The SDS said the speeches reflected "communist nostalgia and rather explicit national socialist slogans directed against Roma, Jews, and Turks." President Petar Stoyanov had said on 10 August said the statements against Roma and Jews at the rally were "overtly fascist." MS DEVELOPMENT OF UKRAINIAN NAVY HINDERED BY LACK OF FUNDS by Stefan Korshak On 1 August, the once mighty Black Sea Fleet, which was founded 302 years ago, celebrated Russian Navy Day. With overflights by helicopters and strike aircraft, a massive procession of cruisers and frigates thundered out salutes for guests assembled in Sevastopol, before heading out to sea for high-speed maneuvers. The same day, Ukraine's fledgling navy celebrated its second birthday. Undoubtedly, a naval tradition takes time to develop. "But without any question, our main problem is shortage of funding," Nikolai Savchenko, Ukraine Black Sea Naval Forces spokesman, told RFE/RL. "The government simply does not have the resources to support even a minimum of operations." Which was why on Ukrainian Navy Day none of Ukraine's 44 major combat vessels budged from their berths. Its 10,000 uniformed personnel and 10,000 civilians mostly in shore-side installations were paid in July on time, but June paychecks remain outstanding. Aside from NATO-funded maneuvers, most Ukrainian vessels have not moved from dock this year. "Jane's Navy International" said only a part of the Ukrainian Navy--44 fighting ships, 80 auxiliary vessels, and 60 helicopters and airplanes--is battle-ready. But it also said that even this is aimed more at showing the flag than serving military purposes. The Ukrainian naval command deploys maritime aviation, coastal rocket and artillery troops, marines, special assault units, and logistic support troops. Most are at cadre strength, with little more than personnel and rusting equipment to contribute to national maritime combat- readiness. Five hundred small vessels survive on the "patronage" of chronically cash-strapped riverside and seaside municipalities. Only two Ukrainian ships, the "Slavutych" and the escort ship "Hetman Sahaidachny," have regularly sailed the Black Sea this year. Although listed as combat-ready, both are configured and crewed not to defend Ukraine's shores but to show its blue-and-yellow banner abroad, especially when Ukrainian participation is required in the NATO Partnership for Peace exercises. Rear Admiral Mykhailo Yezhel, Ukrainian deputy defense minister and navy commander, listed the single firing of a cruise missile and the graduation of the country's first batch of naval cadets as Ukraine's biggest naval achievements this year. "We are establishing a strong foundation," he said. "We are making our first steps.... Our mission is control of our national shores and waters in economic terms." He went on to explain that in practical terms, that means "stopping smuggling...and illegal immigration.... We are neither prepared nor preparing for war." Corvettes and smaller vessels predominate. By 2005, the largest vessel in the fleet will be an anti-submarine frigate. Kyiv also plans deployment of some form of coastal submarine. But for that to happen, the Russian parliament has to approve a recent Ukraine-Russia treaty finalizing the division of the Black Sea Fleet. Signed with great fanfare over a year ago, the agreement has since moldered. "One cannot say that the Russian side has been in a hurry to implement the agreement," Savchenko said. "It seems that the policy has been to let the status quo dictate events." That has meant all the most powerful vessels like guided missile cruisers and attack submarines remaining in Russian possession. In a recently published book, "Anatomy of an Undeclared War," Savchenko argues that Russian Black Sea Fleet officers worked closely with Crimean nationalists and separatists over the last five years to return the strategic Crimean peninsula to Russian control and, at a minimum, keep the Black Sea Fleet and Sevastopol Russian. Last year the Kyiv government replaced separatist local Crimean officials with men supportive of Ukrainian control of the region. But until the status of Sevastopol is settled and the rent money from the Russian fleet begins entering Ukrainian state coffers, the Ukrainian navy appears likely to stay as it is: small and modest. "The government is in great part depending on rent money from Sevastopol to resolve financing for the Ukrainian fleet," Savchenko said. "And as long as the agreement hangs in the air, our navy will have very little money with which to operate." The author is a frequent contributor to RFE/RL based in Kyiv. 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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