|The only certainty is that nothing is certain. - Pliny the Elder|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 157 Part II, 17 August 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 157 Part II, 17 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 NATIONAL BANK'S RESERVES FALL SHARPLY * SLOVAK SUPREME COURT RULES AGAINST MECIAR'S PARTY * SERBIAN FORCES CAPTURE JUNIK xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN NATIONAL BANK'S RESERVES FALL SHARPLY. Ukrainian National Bank Chairman Viktor Yushchenko says the bank's reserves dropped to $1.15 billion from $1.49 billion in August, following the repayment of a loan to Nomura International (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 1998). The government initially planned to repay the loan with foreign aid but was unable to secure such assistance because of the lack of confidence in Ukraine among foreign investors. Yushchenko remains optimistic about the country's financial prospects. "The largest payments in 1998 have been made, and now everything should be done to win the confidence of both market operators and Ukraine's creditors in the Ukrainian market," Interfax quoted him as saying 15 August. JM METHANE BLAST KILLS 20 UKRAINIAN MINERS. A methane explosion at a coal mine in Luhansk, eastern Ukraine, killed 20 miners and injured four others on 16 August, ITAR-TASS reported. The blast occurred 600 meters underground. In April, 63 miners died in Donetsk Oblast in Ukraine's worst-ever coal mine accident. The death toll at Ukrainian coal mines this year exceeds 200. Some 270 miners died in accidents at coal mines last year. JM PRISONERS OF LUKASHENKA REGIME DENIED REGISTRATION. The Belarusian Supreme Court has upheld the Justice Ministry's decision to refuse registration to the Belarusian Association of Prisoners of the Lukashenka Regime, Belapan reported on 14 August. According to the Justice Ministry, the organization's name does not conform with its charter, since there are no political prisoners under Lukashenka. The ministry pointed to official court records for 1994-1997, in which, it said, no trial for "particularly dangerous crimes against the state" is recorded. The Supreme Court argued the association is using President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's name without his consent. It also ruled that the association broke the law by including Vadzim Labkovich, a minor, among its founders. Labkovich has been given an 18 month prison sentence for spraying anti-Lukashenka graffiti in the city of Stoubtsy. JM BELARUS REPORTS HIGHER BUDGET REVENUES THAN EXPECTED. Belarusian Tax Committee Chairman Mikalay Dzyamchuk says budget revenues this year will exceed forecasts by 15-18 percent, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 August. According to Dzyamchuk, the increase is due to a "high level of tax collection." During the first seven months of this year, state budget revenues totaled 108.5 percent of the expected sum and local budget revenues 117.2 percent. JM KALLAS SAYS ESTONIA'S RURAL PARTIES GROWING STRONGER. Siim Kallas, leader of the opposition Reform Party, wrote in the 14 August daily "Postimees" that the Coalition Party is losing ground to its rural partners in the ruling coalition and that the latter will likely have the upper hand if the alliance is renewed for the March 1999 elections, BNS reported. "One can already say that the Estonian Country People's Party has taken the lead in the minority coalition," he argued. He added that the diminishing influence of former Prime Minister Tiit Vahi within the Coalition Party makes the rural bloc's position in the alliance stronger. Kallas went on to accuse the government of seeking to buy votes in the run-up to the elections. He commented that if, as is currently rumored, subsidies to farmers are to be increased by 26 percent, "one can ask whether the government coalition really thinks Estonia doesn't have any bigger worries." JC KRASTS SIGNS PETITION FOR CITIZENSHIP LAW REFERENDUM. Latvian Prime Minister Guntars Krasts on 14 August signed a petition in support of holding a referendum on amendments to the citizenship law, BNS and Reuters reported. Krasts had said earlier that the amendments were passed without a broad public debate and that the best way to judge public opinion would be through a referendum. The driving force behind the initiative is Krasts's Father and Freedom party, which is opposed to the amendment whereby all children born after August 1991 will be granted citizenship without having to demonstrate proficiency in the Latvian language. The campaign to collect signatures closes on 18 August. Local media say that the initiative is still far short of the 133,000 signatures needed to force a vote. JC INTERIOR MINISTER JOINS FATHERLAND AND FREEDOM PARTY. Latvian Interior Minister Andrejs Krastins has joined the Fatherland and Freedom party, BNS reported on 14 August. Krastins quit the National Reform party last month and, as a cabinet minister, required the support of a political party. According to BNS, Fatherland and Freedom was the only party he found acceptable to join. Krastins is a former member of the Latvian National Independence Movement, which he left in protest when it merged with the Fatherland and Freedom party. He will not run for a seat in the October parliamentary elections. JC POLISH FARMERS THREATEN NATIONWIDE PROTEST OVER GRAIN IMPORTS... The national protest committee of the Solidarity trade union of private farmers, the largest trade union of its kind in Poland, has sent a letter to Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek demanding that the government immediately halt all grain imports. If their demand is not met by 20 August, farmers threaten "to resume protest actions on rail, road, and sea border crossings and on internal roads," PAP reported on 16 August. Marian Zagorny, head of the protest committee, said that the aim of the protest action is to destroy all imported grain by dumping it on railroad tracks. Following earlier protests by farmers, the government imposed duties on grain imports and agreed to purchase domestic grain. But farmers now complain that they have to wait for several days outside grain-purchasing stations, which are limited in number, to sell their grain at unsatisfactory prices. JM ...PROMPTING MIXED REACTION. Cardinal Jozef Glemp, head of the Polish Catholic Church, has criticized farmers who are threatening to destroy grain, Television Polonia reported on 15 August. Glemp delivered a sermon to 200,000 pilgrims at the national shrine of Jasna Gora on 15 August. "This is the start of a terror [action], not democracy," he commented. Jaroslaw Kalinowski, leader of the opposition Polish Peasant Party, said the farmers "do not want anything for free. We only desire to receive equitable payment for what we have produced with our own hands," Polish Television reported. Minister of Agriculture Jacek Janiszewski pledged that the government will increase purchases of Polish grain this week. He also confirmed that grain imports to Poland have ceased since the government increased tariffs on such imports at the beginning of this month. JM CONTROVERSY OVER HAVEL'S CONTINUING IN OFFICE. Former Chamber of Deputies chairman Jaroslav Zverina on 15 August said that the doctors treating ailing President Vaclav Havel believe another operation would endanger his life and do not recommend that he remain in office, "Lidove noviny" reported on 15 August. At the same time, Zverina said he is "not challenging" Havel to resign. Last April, Zverina caused a controversy when he called on Havel to quit his post. Miroslav Cerbak, a member of the medical team treating Havel, said the team has "never issued a report saying Havel is fully able to perform his presidential duties," but he stressed that neither has it "recommended that Havel resign," CTK reported. Another member of the team told the news agency on 16 August that Havel's condition is "satisfactory" but that it is not yet possible to say when the tracheotomy performed on him will be removed. MS SLOVAK SUPREME COURT RULES AGAINST MECIAR'S PARTY. The Supreme Court on 14 August rejected the appeal by Vladimir Meciar's ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) against the registration of the opposition Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK) and its right to participate in the September parliamentary elections, Reuters reported. The HZDS claimed that the SDK is a coalition of parties and that, in line with the new electoral law, each of its components must win at least 5 percent of the vote on 25-26 September to gain parliamentary representation. SDK leader Mikulas Dzurinda commented that the court has "prevented the destruction of the democratic system in Slovakia" and that its ruling means "victory of justice over the HZDS's ill- will." MS SUSPECTED KILLER OF HUNGARIAN MEDIA TYCOON GIVES HIMSELF UP. Njazi Aqifi, an Albanian from Kosova suspected of having shot media tycoon Janos Fenyo in February, gave himself up on 14 August at Roeszke, a Yugoslav-Hungarian crossing point, MTI reported. While still on the Yugoslav side of the border he told journalists that he is innocent and hopes to be able to prove his innocence in Hungary. A lawyer representing Aqifi said the authorities have agreed to release him if investigators fail to prove his guilt within 30 days. MS HUNGARIAN OPPOSITION CRITICIZES TAX CHAIRMAN APPOINTMENT. Socialist Party parliamentary group leader Laszlo Kovacs and the leader of the Alliance of Free Democrats parliamentary group, Balint Magyar, have criticized the recent appointment of Lajos Simicska as president of the Tax and Finance Office, Hungarian media reported on 14 August. Simicska is the former treasurer of the ruling Federation of Young Democrats-Hungarian Civic Party. Kovacs said the appointment of a party official "to head an organization demanding impartiality violates the unwritten rules of politics and good taste." Magyar called the step "political cynicism" and said it is aimed at "covering up shady deals" and at using the tax office for "political intimidation." Bela Horvath, leader of the parliamentary group of the Independent Smallholders' Party, a member of the ruling coalition, called the accusations a "political hoax" and expressed support for the appointment. MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE SERBIAN FORCES CAPTURE JUNIK. A spokesman for Serbian paramilitary police forces said in Prishtina on 16 August that those forces took control of Junik, which is located near the Albanian frontier and which was the last key town under the control of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK). The spokesman added that Serbian forces are now able to move unhindered throughout the province. Foreign journalists reported from Junik that it is deserted except for some 15 people too old to flee. The correspondents also noted widespread material damage, including to the main mosque, the minaret of which is reported missing. Kosovar sources said that Serbian forces used tanks and aircraft to launch an assault on villages near the Albanian border on 15 August. PM EXODUS OF REFUGEES CONTINUES. Spokesmen for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said that some 600 refugees from Junik reached Tropoja in northern Albania on 14 August alone, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on 17 August. Two days earlier, the newspaper had quoted a UNHCR spokesman as saying in Geneva that "thousands" of Kosovars are waiting in the mountains near the border to cross into Albania. The spokesman added that refugees had previously avoided the minefields that Serbian forces laid along the Albanian frontier but that more recently they have begun trying to cross through the mined areas. PM DEMACI ACCEPTS UCK POST. Veteran Kosovar politician Adem Demaci told RFE/RL's South Slavic Service on 14 August that he is pleased to accept the UCK's recent offer to head its negotiating team and will relinquish all other political duties, as requested by the guerrillas (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 August 1998). Demaci added that he remains committed to independence for Kosova. The next day, he said that no negotiations on Kosova's future can be successful without the participation of the UCK and the political opposition. Shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova's negotiating team includes only parties that participate in the shadow-state government. PM MOSCOW PRAISES KOSOVAR AGREEMENT TO TALK. The Russian Foreign Ministry on 14 August praised the decision of the shadow-state leadership to appoint a special delegation to talk with the central government in Belgrade, Interfax reported. The Ministry press release called on all sides to "start negotiations immediately and without any preliminary conditions." In a related release, the Foreign Ministry said that Russian participation in NATO's Partnership for Peace maneuvers in the Balkans reflect "Russia's role in strengthening stability and security" there. PG NATO STARTS MILITARY EXERCISES IN ALBANIA... Military personnel from 14 NATO and Partnership for Peace member states began a five-day exercise in Albania on 17 August. The 1,700-member force will take part in various drills in the mountains. ITAR-TASS noted that "no exercises imitating air raids have been planned.... NATO promised to do everything possible so that the exercises seem 'politically sterile,' as Russia... insisted." The U.S. Defense Department on 14 August withdrew two of its planned three warships from the exercises, reducing the number of its participating marines from 1,000 to 275. A Pentagon spokesman said the same day in Washington that the troops are needed to help evacuate U.S. citizens from the Democratic Republic of Congo. He stressed that the reduction is not related to the situation on the ground in Albania. The exercises are partly designed to show Belgrade that NATO is able to respond, if necessary, in the Kosova crisis. FS ...WHILE U.S. EMBASSY EVACUATES PERSONNEL. The U.S. government began evacuating all but essential staff from Albania on 16 August after the State Department temporarily suspended normal embassy operations in the wake of the embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 August 1998). An unnamed embassy source told Reuters that Ambassador Marisa Lino will stay on. State Department officials said the previous day in Washington that the decision to suspend activities does not reflect any change in the "good" U.S.-Albanian relations. The officials declined to comment on whether they fear any specific terrorist threat in Albania. The evacuation follows earlier media reports that the African bombings may have been in revenge for the arrest of four Islamic fundamentalists in Albania earlier this year. Meanwhile, an unidentified Albanian police official told AP in Tirana on 16 August that the authorities recently arrested a fifth suspected Egyptian Islamist. FS ALBANIA QUITS ISLAMIC CONFERENCE. Prime Minister Fatos Nano told "Zeri i Popullit" of 16 August that Albania is no longer a member of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). Albania, which has a large Muslim population, became a member of the OIC in 1993 under former President Sali Berisha. Nano, however, claims that Albania never really belonged to the OIC because Berisha did not follow Albanian legal procedure when applying to join that body. He added that "Albania has no other future but to be integrated in Europe." And he stressed that Albania will continue to cooperate with the "Arab countries" on a bilateral or multilateral level. Meanwhile, "Koha Jone" reported on 16 August that it has received unspecified threats because of its recent articles against Islamic fundamentalism. FS HERZEGOVINIAN SERBS GO HOME. Some 100 Serbs from Bacevici near Mostar returned home on 15 August for the first time since 1992 and immediately began rebuilding the devastated village. The UNHCR will provide the returnees with drinking water and other basic necessities until Bacevici's basic infrastructure is functioning again. To date, only 15,045 Bosnian refugees have returned to homes in regions where they constitute an ethnic minority, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on 15 August, citing UNHCR figures. The newspaper added that some 376,146 Muslims and Croats have gone back to homes on the territory of the mainly Muslim and Croatian federation since the Dayton agreement was signed at the end of 1995. PM SREBRENICA INVESTIGATION WIDENS. Dutch military justice authorities in Arnhem and Defense Minister Frank de Grave in The Hague have launched investigations into charges that Dutch peacekeepers in July 1995 ran over with armored vehicles and killed up to 30 Muslim soldiers who were blocking the Dutch path of retreat from Srebrenica, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on 15 August. The military justice authorities also plan to issue an open invitation to all 460 former peacekeepers to file a disposition about their recollections of the fall of Srebrenica. Several Dutch government bodies are investigating a variety of charges that the Dutch troops did not carry out their duties to protect the Muslims and that they may actually have helped the Serbs round up Muslim civilians (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 1998). PM ROMANIA'S LIBERALS WANT ALLIANCE RESTRUCTURED. Valeriu Stoica, first deputy chairman of the National Liberal Party (PNL), said on 16 August that his party wants to continue its membership in the Democratic Convention of Romania but that the convention must be "restructured". He said restructuring is necessary to "make more specific the role each member plays in the alliance." He added that the PNL may want to run its own candidates in the next local elections. Stoica also warned against the "obsessive ongoing discussions" about a government reshuffle that Prime Minister Radu Vasile has announced for next month. He said the such discussions are reminiscent of the "reshuffling psychosis" that preceded the events leading to the resignation of Victor Ciorbea's cabinet. MS ETHNIC HUNGARIAN LEADER ON UNIVERSITY IN ROMANIA. Attila Verestoy, leader of the Senate parliamentary group of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania, said on 14 August that he wished to "remind" President Emil Constantinescu of his 10 December 1997 declaration. Constantinescu had said he supports the setting up of a Hungarian-language state university in Romania. Verestoy was responding to Constantinescu's recent statement in Cluj in support of a "multi-cultural" university in the town, Mediafax reported. Verestoy also said he does not rule out the possibility of setting up a separate university for national minorities scattered throughout several Transylvanian towns and whose center would be in "Cluj or Targu Mures." He also said teaching at such university could take place "in Hungarian and German." MS BULGARIAN OFFICIALS CLAMP DOWN ON CORRUPTION, CRIME. Three customs officials and two police officers in the Black Sea port of Burgas have been dismissed and 13 other customs officials are being investigated for involvement in smuggling into the country millions of tons of sugar without paying custom duties, AP reported on 14 August. The sugar was processed at a nearby plant owned by a subsidiary of Multigroup, which is run by members of the former communist nomenklatura and security services. The same day, customs officials at the Black Sea port of Varna seized 670 kilograms of cocaine, while police near Sofia arrested a Bulgarian who tried to sell a Turkish bus driver 3,200 compact discs suspected to be pirate copies. MS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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