|A host is like general: calamities often reveal his genius. - Horace|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 161 Part II, 21 August 1998
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 161 Part II, 21 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 SPECIAL REPORT: CZECHOSLOVAKIA IN 1968--AN INVASION REMEMBERED Thirty years ago today Soviet tanks crushed the Prague Spring reform movement. This special report looks at the invasion's history and impact. http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/invasion1968/index.html xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * UKRAINIAN NATIONAL BANK TO KEEP TIGHT REIN ON HRYVNYA * CHIRAC SAYS INTERVENTION IN KOSOVA MAY BE NECESSARY * RUGOVA SEEKS 'NO FLY ZONE' xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN NATIONAL BANK TO KEEP TIGHT REIN ON HRYVNYA. The Ukrainian National Bank has decided to keep the hryvnya within the exchange rate corridor of 1.8-2.25 to $1, which was set by the government in January 1998 for the entire year. "We have decided to take several measures to improve the trade balance so as to preserve the corridor," a bank official told Ukrainian News on 20 August. Meanwhile, Ukrainian Television reported the same day that the Ministry of Economy has prepared a package of measures to soften the impact of the Russian ruble's decline on the Ukrainian economy. Deputy Economy Minister Leonid Minin told journalists that "there are no reasons for panic in Ukraine." JM BELARUSIAN MAIN BANKER SAYS BELARUS NOT HIT BY RUSSIAN CRISIS. Belarusian National Bank Chairman Pyotr Prakapovich said on national television on 19 August that Russia's financial crisis has not "directly" affected Belarus's banking system. Prakapovich added that in anticipation of a crisis in Russia, his bank recommended Belarusian commercial banks to sharply reduce transactions with Russian securities. But he voiced concern about Belarusian exports to Russia if the Russian crisis provokes an economic decline. Prakapovich stressed that the National Bank intends to fulfill its pledge several months ago to introduce a single exchange rate of the Belarusian ruble in non-cash transactions by year's end. JM UN CALLS ON BELARUS TO OBSERVE HUMAN RIGHTS. A subcommission for discrimination and minorities of the UN Commission for Human Rights has called on Belarus to observe human rights, Belapan reported on 20 August. A resolution adopted by the subcommission at the current 50th UN Session in Geneva appeals to the Belarusian government to ensure the freedom of criticism, the protection of journalists and human rights defenders, and the establishment of an independent judiciary. Minsk's official position was expressed by Ambassador Stanislau Ahurtsou, who said the resolution "will essentially complicate the work of the OSCE consultation and monitoring group [in Belarus], right up to its leaving the country, and bring the entire negotiation process to the brink of disruption." JM BELARUSIAN PARTY CALLS FOR 'ORTHODOX, SLAVIC MORALITY.' The Belarusian Patriotic Party has appealed to Belarusian citizens to reject the Western model of life and "to form their life and free time on the basis of Orthodox and Slavic morality," Belapan reported on 20 August. The party believes that the spread of "the Western model of life, television advertising, independent free press, and computer toys" will bring about national "degradation and debilitation.... The mass admiration of Western culture leads to [psychological] disorders and to an erroneous and destructive orientation in society," the appeal reads. The party is also concerned by the future of the young generation which, according to the appeal, is gradually transforming into "music lovers, television addicts, hackers, and sectarians." JM RUSSIA AGAIN URGES LATVIA TO CEASE DISCRIMINATION. Moscow on 21 August renewed its call for Latvia to cease discriminating against its Russian-speaking minority, according to ITAR-TASS. Sergei Prikhodko, Russian presidential adviser on international affairs, told visiting chairman of the moderate Latvian Party of Popular Accord Janis Jurkans that "only the elimination of Latvian legislative provisions that discriminate against the non-indigenous population and the compliance of legislative norms with international recommendations can normalize bilateral relations and bring economic cooperation to the level that meets the potential of neighboring countries." He added that Moscow welcomes the efforts of those political forces in Latvia that favor the development of relations with Russia. Earlier this week, the Fatherland and Freedom party claimed it had collected enough signatures for a referendum on the citizenship law amendments (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 August 1998). The official results of the signature collecting campaign are due to be announced on 24 August. JC LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT 'CONFUSED' BY SPEAKER'S STATEMENT ON TALIBAN. Valdas Adamkus has expressed "confusion" over parliamentary speaker Vytautas Landsbergis's statement that if the situation in Afghanistan stabilizes, Lithuania may "have concrete deeds that will promote relations" with the Taliban, according to ITAR- TASS on 20 August. Adamkus told the Russian news agency that the speaker's statement "is the opinion of a private individual who does not represent the foreign policy of Lithuania." Under the Lithuanian Constitution, the president and the government are responsible for such policy. JC GERMANY'S KANTHER PLEDGES AID TO REINFORCE POLISH BORDER. German Interior Minister Manfred Kanther announced during his visit to Warsaw on 20 August that Germany will continue financing the modernization of Polish border posts, PAP reported. He added that German border guards will assist in training their Polish counterparts. Kanther visited the Polish-Ukrainian border crossing at Medyka to see how Poland is implementing an EU program for sealing its eastern border. According to the Polish agency, Kanther praised the Polish border guards, noting that "we have to be sure that the future border of the EU will be secure." Since 1993, Germany has provided Poland with some $67 million to reinforce border posts on Poland's eastern frontier. JM POLISH ZLOTY FALLS IN WAKE OF RUSSIAN RUBLE DECLINE. The Polish National Bank exchange rate of the zloty fell to 3.67 to $1 on 20 August, down by 7.5 percent since early August, "Gazeta Wyborcza" reported. According to a bank expert quoted by the daily, the decrease in the value of the zloty is due to the retreat of Western investors from East European markets following the de facto ruble devaluation in Russia. The expert says Western investors are selling Polish securities and buying dollars in order to compensate for their losses in Russia. The Polish National Bank has not taken any measures to prop up its currency. JM HAVEL ON 1968 SOVIET INVASION. President Vaclav Havel, in a Czech Radio address on 20 August marking the 30th anniversary of the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact countries, said the invasion had revealed Communism's "totalitarian character." He said that for him, the short period of the so-called Prague Spring meant "a time when one could breathe and speak again after 20 years" and that "nobody who lived in that era can forget it." RFE/RL organized at its headquarters in Prague a symposium attended by several key participants in the 1967-1968 reforms, including former officials and dissidents (see related Russian items in Part 1). MS NEW SLOVAK CHIEF OF STAFF PROMOTED TO GENERAL. Parliamentary chairman Ivan Gasparovic on 20 August promoted the newly appointed chief of staff, Marian Miklus, to the rank of general. Rejecting criticism that the appointment was illegal because the recommendation of the Defense Ministry was ignored, Gasparovic told an RFE/RL correspondent that "there is no point in discussing legal questions now." RFE/RL's Bratislava bureau said the speedy replacement of outgoing chief of staff Jozef Tuchyna with Miklus indicates the strong interest of Vladimir Meciar's government in having the army under its control. MS SLOVAK JOURNALIST DETAINED, BEATEN BY POLICE. The New- York based Committee to Protect Journalists on 19 August protested in a letter to Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar against the detention and the beating of a Slovak journalist. Vladimir Bacisin, an investigative reporter for the private business daily "Narodna Obroda," was stopped on 7 August by Bratislava police for crossing a street on a red light. The committee says Bacisin was then beaten and jailed. It suspects the beating was in retaliation for his reports revealing illegal practices by firms with links to the ruling coalition. Bacisin was released the next day. MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE CHIRAC SAYS INTERVENTION IN KOSOVA MAY BE NECESSARY. French President Jacques Chirac told Russian President Boris Yeltsin in a telephone conversation on 20 August that UN-sanctioned military intervention in Kosova "will become difficult to avoid" unless a cease-fire comes into effect and negotiations begin soon. Chirac said that Russia's role in the former Yugoslavia is "crucial." An aide to Chirac told AP that the president will soon telephone German Chancellor Helmut Kohl to discuss Kosova. Chirac and U.S. President Bill Clinton had a conversation on that topic on 8 August. Also in Paris on 20 August, Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine blamed "extremists" among Serbs and Kosovars alike for the absence of any progress toward a negotiated settlement. PM RUGOVA SEEKS 'NO FLY ZONE.' Kosovar shadow-state leader Ibrahim Rugova said in Prishtina on 21 August that the international community should declare a "ban on military flights over Kosova. That is one of the ways to stop Serbian war machinery." Serbian forces have frequently used aircraft and helicopter gunships in the crackdown. Rugova also asked the international community to supply protection for Kosovar refugees who want to go home. He added that the Serbian paramilitary police are preventing civilians from doing so. PM SERBIA WARNS AGAINST 'LIES.' Ivica Dacic, who is a spokesman for Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia, said in Belgrade on 20 August that warnings of an impending humanitarian catastrophe in Kosova are "sensationalist lies" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 August 1998). He stressed that the real problem in Kosova is "separatism and terrorism." Elsewhere, Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj said that, after a negotiated settlement is reached in Kosova, the authorities will take a new census, "correct" the voting lists in line with the results of the census, and hold new elections, an RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM MEIDANI SAYS KOSOVARS CANNOT LIVE UNDER SERBS... Albanian President Rexhep Meidani told dpa on 20 August in Tirana that he believes the Kosova problem can be solved in two stages, the first of which would be autonomy. But, he added, "for me the final solution is quite clear; there is only one...the Albanians can no longer live under the Serbian regime." Meidani said the Kosovars are "fighting for their freedom, for a normal life for their children, for a life in which they will not be suppressed," adding that "history teaches us that when there is a struggle for life, freedom, and normal education, it will end only after it achieves its goals." Meidani nonetheless said he is opposed to the creation of a "greater Albania," which implies that he favors independence for Kosova. FS ...CALLS FOR INTERNATIONAL INVOLVEMENT. Meidani also told dpa in Tirana on 20 August that the international community should become more involved politically and militarily in Kosova. "An international presence in Kosova is needed to stop the fighting and open the way to negotiations...If the bloodshed continues...the negotiations [will] produce [no] results." Meidani argued that international emphasis on talks is a "miscalculation, which has actually given a free hand to the Serbs" to carry out their crackdown. Meidani denied allegations that Tirana gives material and training support to the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK). He added that "these fighters have been helped only by individuals, not by the Albanian state.... Until now [the state's] support has been only moral, but this support could change, it could become stronger, if there is no end in fighting." He doubted Serbia would attack Albania, because in the past "they have attacked Albania two or three times and have been defeated." FS MOSCOW DIVIDED ON NATO EXERCISES IN ALBANIA. Foreign ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin told ITAR-TASS on 20 August that the NATO exercises in Albania, in which Russian troops are also taking part, do not pose "any threat to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia." Nesterushkin said the exercises are a "timely measure" to prevent the escalation of the conflict in Kosovo." But the Defense Ministry's newspaper "Krasnaya zvezda" the same day portrayed the exercises as precisely that. "The West is not even trying to conceal its aggressive plans against Yugoslavia," the newspaper said. Instead, it is trying to find some legal basis for a "NATO invasion of Yugoslavia." Consequently, "Krasnaya zvezda" continued, the Russian soldiers taking part in the exercises should be seen as "monitors" of NATO's intentions. PG OSCE WANTS NATO TO HELP KOSOVAR REFUGEES. OSCE Ambassador to Albania Daan Everts told Reuters in Tirana on 19 August that NATO units should be deployed in Albania to help house Kosovar refugees. He said NATO troops could assist the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to renovate buildings, following the example of French troops who have been renovating a dilapidated school in Kruja during maneuvers this week. Everts warned that northern Albania could face a humanitarian crisis if there were another major influx of refugees in addition to the 14,000 who have registered with the Albanian authorities since the beginning of 1998. Tham Meechubot, who heads the UNHCR's Tirana office, said that his organization is making contingency plans for the arrival of up to 50,000 refugees. FS U.S. TIGHTENS SECURITY IN ALBANIA. U.S. officials on 21 August canceled a planned visit by journalists to the "USS La Salle," a warship that is taking part in NATO's "Cooperative Assembly 1998" exercises. The ship left the port of Durres but is still in Albanian waters. AP reported from Tirana that the moves are security precautions in the wake of U.S. attacks on presumed terrorist centers in Afghanistan and Sudan the previous day. PM SPECIAL BOSNIAN SECURITY UNIT NOW READY. Italian Colonel Vicenzo Coppola, who heads the Multinational Specialized Unit in Bosnia, said in Sarajevo on 20 August that his 350-strong force is ready to begin its work in maintaining public order and controlling crowds. The unit is based in the capital but maintains "outposts" in other places. Most of the highly-trained police officers are Italian Carabinieri. Some 70 Argentineans and Romanians will arrive soon to join the unit, which is under orders to use as little force as possible when dealing with civilians. Coppola added that his group's mandate does not include arresting suspected war criminals. PM REPUBLIKA SRPSKA GOVERNMENT MOVES SRNA. The government decided on 20 August to move the headquarters of the official news agency, SRNA, from Pale to Banja Luka. The new director will be Dragan Davidovic, who is a former government minister for religious affairs. On 12 August, the government temporarily closed down SRNA, which until then was a mouthpiece for the Pale-based hard-line faction loyal to Radovan Karadzic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 1998). Meanwhile in Zagreb, the international community's Carlos Westendorp and his deputy, Jacques Klein, told President Franjo Tudjman on 19 August that they expect Croatian Television not to favor any one political party in its coverage of the upcoming Bosnian elections, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Croatian Television can be received in much of Bosnia. PM TENSION MOUNTS AGAIN IN ROMANIAN COALITION. Democratic Party leader Petre Roman, in a letter to President Emil Constantinescu, has complained about reports leaked to the media that police, prosecutors, and the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) are investigating alleged illegal dealings by and links to foreign espionage of cabinet ministers that represent his party. The letter was leaked to the press. On 20 August, Democratic Party deputy chairman Bogdan Niculescu-Duvaz said three members of his party's staff have been dismissed for "unprofessionalism" in making public the contents of a letter that was "confidential." The same day, Constantinescu met with Roman but they discussed only accelerating economic reform and privatization. In a separate press release, Constantinescu said the allegations against the Democrats will be discussed with representatives of the police, the SRI, and the Foreign Intelligence Service at a special Supreme Defense Council meeting. MS... ROMANIAN INTERIOR MINISTER DENIES POLICE SURVEILLANCE OF POLITICIANS. Interior Minister Gavril Dejeu on 20 August denied accusations made earlier this week by Democratic Party deputy chairman Traian Basescu that he has been placed under police surveillance at Dejeu's orders, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Dejeu said that neither himself nor any other Interior Ministry official has issued orders "for any cabinet member to be put under surveillance for his political activity." Also on 20 August, government spokesman Gabriel Peiu said the restructuring of the government has been "postponed" until after the approval by the cabinet of the 1999 budget. Peiu also said that the National Liberal Party has been warned that Finance Minister Daniel Daianu is infringing government regulations by continuing to publicly oppose the deal with Bell Helicopters Textron after that agreement was approved by the cabinet. MS MOLDOVA NOT AFFECTED BY RUBLE DEVALUATION. The impact of the ruble devaluation on Moldova's economy will be "insignificant," National Bank deputy governor Veronica Bacalu told the independent news agency Flux on 19 August. She said Moldova has "enough foreign currency reserves" to deal with the impact but added that Moldovan exporters that have ruble-dominated contracts with Russian partners are likely to suffer. In an interview with Infotag the same day, Deputy Premier Ion Sturdza said the immediate impact was not strong but that Moldova must "restructure" its trade. He said that some 60 percent of Moldovan exports are currently to Russia. Sturdza added that the ruble crisis broke out "at the peak of the agricultural export season" and that Moldovan exporters must now be particularly careful to negotiate contracts in U.S. currency only. MS TRANSDNIESTER PRISONER THANKS RFE/RL. Ilie Ilascu, who has been condemned to death in the Transdniester and has been in prison for more than six years, has written to RFE/RL thanking the Romanian Service for having begun broadcasts of a special program for Moldova a few months ago. Ilascu says he is able to listen to the program and that he and the other members of the Moldovan group condemned for alleged terrorist activities are encouraged in their struggle by the RFE/RL coverage. MS IMF LOAN TO BULGARIA STILL UNCERTAIN. Reuters reported on 20 August that the IMF board, which is to consider an agreement reached in July for a three-year $800 million loan, is still demanding that some 15 so-called "prior actions" be taken before the loan is approved. Those "actions" would lay the ground for further reforms. MS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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