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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 163 Part II, 25 August 1998


___________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 163 Part II, 25 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

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Headlines, Part II

* BELARUSIAN BISHOP SENTENCED TO THREE YEARS FOR 'MALICIOUS
HOOLIGANISM'

* HUNGARIAN CURRENCY FALLS TO RECORD LOW

* SECURITY COUNCIL CALLS FOR CEASE-FIRE IN KOSOVA

End Note: LATVIA TO HOLD REFERENDUM ON CITIZENSHIP LAW
AMENDMENTS
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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

UKRAINE CELEBRATES INDEPENDENCE DAY WITH MILITARY PARADE.
Some 5,000 troops and 130 pieces of large-scale military
equipment took part in a parade on Kyiv's main street to
celebrate the seventh anniversary of Ukraine's independence
on 24 August. The parade was attended by President Leonid
Kuchma, Supreme Council Speaker Oleksandr Tkachenko, Premier
Valeriy Pustovoytenko, and other top officials. "The seven
years that have passed since [independence] are a whole epoch
during which we have created all the elements of statehood,"
AP quoted Defense Minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk as saying to the
troops. Meanwhile, left-wing activists staged a rally in the
eastern city of Donetsk to protest Ukraine's proclamation of
independence in 1991, ITAR-TASS reported. The protesters
dubbed that move a "historic mistake" and appealed for a
union with Russia and Belarus. JM

KUCHMA HOPES FOR CHERNOMYRDIN'S APPROVAL. Ukrainian President
Leonid Kuchma told Interfax on 24 August that he hopes the
Russian State Duma will confirm Viktor Chernomyrdin as
Russia's prime minister. Kuchma added that the latest
developments in Russia stressed the importance of a "strong
and stable government." An official from the Ukrainian
presidential administration told ITAR-TASS the same day that
Kuchma believes Chernomyrdin "will manage to put the nation's
financial issues in order." JM

LUKASHENKA SAYS BELARUS WOULD NOT SEND TROOPS TO CENTRAL
ASIA... Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has said
Belarus would not send its troops to defend CIS borders in
Central Asia in the event of a Taliban attack, Belarusian
Television reported on 23 August. "Whatever the Taliban may
do there, we have nothing to do there," he said. Lukashenka
stressed that it is necessary to "introduce order" in
Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to counteract "common hysteria."
"This hysteria has brought U.S. strikes on Afghanistan and
Sudan," he commented. Lukashenka stressed that Belarus will
defend CIS interests "in the western direction, from Kiev to
Riga." JM

...PLEDGES HOT WATER, HEATING, ELECTRICITY. The Belarusian
president has promised that he will not allow supplies of hot
water, heating, and electricity to the population to be
reduced, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 August. Lukashenka's pledge
follows the publication of an austerity energy program worked
out by the Belarusian Ministry of Economy (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 18 August 1998). Lukashenka called the program
"stupidity and nonsense" prepared by "some deputy minister."
"None of the measures listed [in the program] can be
implemented without the president's approval," he commented.
JM

BELARUSIAN BISHOP SENTENCED TO THREE YEARS FOR 'MALICIOUS
HOOLIGANISM.' A Minsk district court on 21 August sentenced
Bishop Pyotr Hushcha, the leader of the Belarusian Orthodox
Autocephalous Church, to three years in prison on charges of
"malicious hooliganism," Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian
Service reported. Hushcha was arrested for allegedly exposing
himself in front of two girls, aged eight and 10. Hushcha
maintains that he is innocent and that the case is fabricated
to discourage others from challenging the religious
domination of the Russian Orthodox Church. The 4,000-strong
Church led by Hushcha is independent of the Belarusian
Exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church. JM

LATVIAN ELECTORAL COMMITTEE GIVES GREEN LIGHT TO REFERENDUM.
The Central Electoral Committee has announced that sufficient
votes have been collected for a referendum on amendments to
the country's citizenship law, BNS reported on 24 August. The
committee said that according to preliminary results, 223,999
citizens signed the petition to hold a popular vote on the
legislative changes. The official results of the referendum
are expected to be released later this week. Earlier the same
day, President Guntis Ulmanis said in an interview with state
radio that some European politicians have an "exaggerated
stance" of telling Latvia what it should do. He said this
stance was prompted by Russia's position and may have had the
opposite effect of arousing opposition in Latvia to the
citizenship law (see also "End Note" below). JC

LITHUANIA REJECTS LATVIAN CONCERNS OVER BUTINGE. The
Lithuanian Environment Ministry has rejected Latvian claims
that there are shortcomings in the construction and design of
the Butinge oil terminal, which is being built near the
Latvian border, BNS reported. In a statement issued on 24
August, the ministry said that the Danish company Carl Bro
Evision International has drawn up for Lithuania a plan for
dealing with oil spills. Based on that plan, Butinge is to
formulate its own procedures for tackling such spills, which
are to be finalized before the terminal begins operations.
The terminal will also acquire all necessary oil-spill
cleaning equipment in advance, the ministry stressed. On 21
August, Latvian State Minister for the Environment Indulis
Emsis had told reporters that Lithuania has drawn up no
"accident strategy" and has purchased no equipment to deal
with the consequences of an oil spill. JC

POLAND, HUNGARY TO COORDINATE POLICIES. Polish Prime Minister
Jerzy Buzek agreed with his Hungarian counterpart, Viktor
Orban, in Warsaw on 24 August that the two countries will
coordinate their policies on Russia's current crisis, NATO,
and the EU, Polish and Hungarian media reported. Warsaw and
Budapest are to exchange information on Russia and hold
consultations on that country's financial crisis. Hungary is
to set up a special telephone hot line with Poland because,
according to Orban, Poland has "broader knowledge" of Russia
and its affairs. Orban voiced the hope that the Polish,
Hungarian, and Czech legislatures will adopt in December a
final decision on joining NATO. Buzek and Orban also agreed
that their countries will try not to be rivals in their bid
for EU membership. JM

POLAND REACTS WITH 'CAUTIOUS OPTIMISM' TO CHERNOMYRDIN'S
RETURN. Buzek has reacted with "cautious optimism" to the
appointment of Viktor Chernomyrdin as Russian acting prime
minister, Reuters reported on 24 August. "I understand the
decision mainly aims at stabilizing the economy, as Prime
Minister Chernomyrdin's name carries international weight and
he has always been regarded as an advocate of reform," the
agency quoted him as saying. Foreign Minister Bronislaw
Geremek told Polish Radio on 24 August that Boris Yeltsin's
appointment of Chernomyrdin shows that the Russian president
is still in control of the situation in Russia. The Polish
zloty strengthened by 3.36 percent on 24 August, compared
with last week's level. Polish analysts ascribed that
development to Chernomyrdin's reappointment, PAP reported. JM

NEW INTELLIGENCE CHIEF APPOINTED IN CZECH REPUBLIC. Petr
Zeman has been appointed director of the Czech Intelligence
Service, replacing Oldrich Cerny, who resigned two weeks ago,
CTK reported on 24 August, quoting Interior Minister Vaclav
Grulich. Petr Zeman was previously head of the counter-
intelligence school in Zastavka u Brna. Zeman's appointment
is the second recent personnel change in the leadership of
the Czech Intelligence Service. Last week, Tomas Kadlec
replaced Pavel Kolar as head of the service's National
Security Office. MS

SLOVAK COALITION ARGUES OVER CHIEF OF STAFF. Prime Minister
Vladimir Meciar on 24 August said Defense Minister Jan Sitek
must either accept the appointment of Marian Miklus as chief
of staff or step down, dpa reported. Miklus was appointed
chief of staff to replace Jozef Tuchyna against the advice of
Sitek, who was on holiday when the appointment was announced.
Sitek's Slovak National Party, which is a member of the
ruling coalition, rejected Meciar's threat and pledged its
support for the defense minister. Although he resigned to run
in the September elections, Tuchyna said after Miklus's
appointment that he is "forced to stay in office, because the
new chief of staff was appointed against the law," AP
reported on 20 August. The law requires that the appointment
be made at the recommendation of the Ministry of Defense. As
a result, Slovakia now has two chiefs of staff. MS

HUNGARIAN CURRENCY FALLS TO RECORD LOW. The Hungarian forint
on 24 August fell to record lows against US dollar and the
German mark, as nervousness about Russia's government shakeup
caused losses on Hungary's stock exchanges. The exchange rate
was 225 forint to $1 and 125 forint to DM 1 -- a drop of some
0.7 percent since 19 August. The Budapest Stock Exchange's
index dropped some 6.6 percent and closed at 6,714 points,
compared with 7,999 at the beginning of 1998. For the first
time since the introduction of the "crawling peg" devaluation
of the forint, the National Bank said it may intervene on the
foreign exchange market to stabilize the currency. Analysts
say that the forint's decline is too sharp and does not
reflect Hungary's economic stability. MSZ

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

SECURITY COUNCIL CALLS FOR CEASE-FIRE IN KOSOVA. The UN
Security Council issued a statement in New York on 24 August
calling on both sides to establish an immediate cease-fire in
the province. The text condemned "all violence and acts of
terrorism from whatever quarter" and warned of a
"humanitarian disaster" if the conflict continues into the
winter. It added that the violence "has dangerous
implications for the stability of the region." In Bonn, a
spokesman for Chancellor Helmut Kohl said that "if the
situation worsens further, military intervention could become
necessary." The spokesman added that Germany will propose to
its EU partners an additional package of economic sanctions
against federal Yugoslavia. The proposal also calls for the
"observation of Kosovar Albanians in Germany to prevent them
from purchasing weapons." Elsewhere, Libyan leader Moammar
Gadhafi told visiting Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Zoran
Lilic that he supports Serbia's position on Kosova, the
Belgrade daily "Danas" wrote. PM

SERBIAN OFFENSIVE CONTINUES. Serbian forces continued to
shell ethnic Albanian villages near the road connecting
Prishtina with Prizren on 24 August. Several ethnic Albanian
villages near Prishtina airport also came under fire. From
London, the "Financial Times" quoted unidentified diplomats
as saying that the Serbian strategy is to take control of
highways and nearby villages and confine the guerrillas to an
ever smaller area of central Kosova. "Once the villages are
empty, police and paramilitary forces move in, looting and
burning homes, despite assurances given by [Yugoslav
President] Slobodan Milosevic...that civilians are welcome to
return." PM

AID WORKERS REPORTED KILLED. The Prishtina daily "Koha
Ditore" reported that Serbian paramilitary police killed
three aid workers belonging to the Mother Teresa charitable
foundation near Malisheva on 24 August after allowing the
three to pass a checkpoint. The report said that the Serbs
fired on a tractor that the aid workers were using to take
basic food supplies and soap distributed by the office of the
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to displaced
persons nearby. Spokesmen for the Mother Teresa organization
told AP that they are trying to contact their personnel in
the field to verify the report. PM

STUDENT LEADERS SENTENCED. The district court in Prizren
sentenced nine ethnic Albanian students on 24 August to jail
terms totaling 32 and one-half years. Their crimes included
"engaging in hostile acts and terrorism" this past spring
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 May 1998). The students said that
they had only organized a public first-aid course. PM

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL CALLS KOSOVAR ABUSES 'COMMONPLACE.'
Amnesty International issued three reports in London on 24
August charging that "each day, extreme misery and pain
produced by human cruelty is now an everyday experience for
more and more helpless people." The organization argued that
women, refugees, and the mentally handicapped are
particularly vulnerable to violence and to "ill treatment by
police and unfair trials." PM

INDEPENDENT JOURNALISTS PROTEST VIOLENCE. The Belgrade-based
Association of Independent Electronic Media in Yugoslavia
(ANEM) issued a statement on 24 August to protest what it
called "violent acts against journalists that occurred over
the past week" in Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 August
1998). The incidents involved beatings, intimidation, or
"disappearances" of Serbian or ethnic Albanian journalists.
The text concluded: "ANEM calls on all participants in armed
actions...to refrain from violence against journalists and
from using them in mutual showdowns and for blackmail. ANEM
calls on the international organizations to find Radio
Prishtina's missing journalist and his driver.... ANEM urges
all mediators...to pay special attention to the security of
journalists.... ANEM once again calls on all journalists and
media to [be professional and]...adhere to journalistic
ethics." PM

UCK TO ADOPT GUERRILLA TACTICS. Adem Demaci, the chief
political spokesman for the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK),
said that the fighters will no longer wage conventional
warfare against the Serbian forces but will use guerrilla
tactics, the Belgrade daily "Danas" wrote on 25 August.
Demaci argued that the Serbian forces will be much more
vulnerable if they do not know from which direction to expect
an attack and that "30,000 armed guerrillas" will be very
effective using hit-and-run tactics. PM

ALBANIAN OPPOSITION LAUNCHES PROTESTS AFTER ARRESTS... About
3,000 Democratic Party supporters protested in central
Tirana's Skanderbeg Square on 24 August against the
imprisonment of six former high-ranking government officials
the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 24 August 1998).
Former President Sali Berisha delivered a speech in which he
called Prime Minister Fatos Nano a "criminal" and "drug
addict." Berisha added that "we are here today to tell [Nano]
that we defend our rights with our lives, with our blood. You
are our enemy, the enemy of freedom, the enemy of the
Albanians, Albania, and the Albanian nation." An editorial in
a special edition of "Rilindja Demokratike" the same day
called on Democratic supporters to "fill public squares with
protests until this government of criminals, smugglers, and
national traitors is gone." Most Albanian newspapers do not
usually publish on Mondays. FS

...BUT COURT BACKS DETENTION. A Tirana military court ruled
on 24 August that the six former officials, who are charged
with committing crimes against humanity during the unrest in
1997, must remain in custody pending trial. So far, no date
has been set for that trial. A defense lawyer told VOA's
Albanian-language service that the charges are trumped-up. He
stressed that no individual was hurt by any actions of the
six. The lawyer charged that the military court overstepped
its authority by ruling on all the defendants, some of whom
are civilians. FS

ALBANIAN CENTRAL BANK REPORTS SLOW RECOVERY. Central Bank
Governor Shkelqim Cani told Reuters on 24 August in Tirana
that the economy is showing modest signs of recovery after
unrest, following the collapse of pyramid investment schemes
in early 1997. Cani said that he expects a GDP growth of 10
percent this year and a decline in inflation from 40 percent
at the end of 1997 to 10 percent by the end of 1998. Both
targets are in line with recommendations by the IMF, which
recently allocated $48 million to Albania. Cani said that
Kosova crisis could have a negative impact on foreign
investment and also force the government to increase
spending. FS

ROMANIAN FINANCE MINISTER PRESENTS BUDGET REDUCTION PROPOSAL.
Daniel Daianu on 24 August submitted to the government his
proposal to cut the current budget by some 8 trillion lei
(almost $ 1 billion), RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported.
Daianu also said his ministry is working on a project to sell
the debts of state companies in exchange for shares at prices
below the outstanding debt. Daianu also said he supported a
proposal recently made by Sorin Dimitriu, head of the State
Privatization Fund, to sell loss-making companies "for 1
dollar" to those willing to take over the companies' debts.
MS

ROMANIAN MINERS STAGE WARNING STRIKE. Some 30,000 miners on
24 August staged a 24-hour warning strike to protest lay-offs
and what they claim is the government's failure to implement
a program for the restructuring of areas in which miners have
accepted voluntary redundancy. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT ON RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT CHANGE. Petru
Lucinschi on 24 August told journalists that he hopes the
changes in the Russian government will help overcome "the
acute financial crisis" in that country. Lucinschi said that
Russia is Moldova's "strategic partner," with 60 percent of
exports being directed to that country. Consequently, he
added, Moldova "is very much interested in having the
situation there stabilized," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau
reported. Deputy Foreign Minister Dumitru Croitoru told
RFE/RL that the change of government in Moscow will not "in
any way influence" Russian-Moldovan relations and is "an
internal Russian problem in which Moldova cannot interfere."
MS

MOLDOVANS MARK RIBBENTROP-MOLOTOV PACT ANNIVERSARY. Some 200
people on 23 August participated in a rally in Chisinau
marking the 59th anniversary of the signing of the
Ribbentrop-Molotov pact, which led to Bessarabia's annexation
by Stalinist Russia in 1940. The participants demanded the
"elimination of the historic injustice," the annulment of
"all consequences of the pact," and the restoration of the
"Romanian unitary state within its historic borders," Infotag
reported. The protesters also shouted anti-Russian slogans in
front of the Russian embassy and demanded the release of Ilie
Ilascu, who has been jailed for six years in Transdniester.
MS

BULGARIAN PREMIER SAYS RUSSIA WILL OVERCOME FINANCIAL CRISIS.
Ivan Kostov on 24 August said Russia will overcome its
current financial crisis "because the international community
supports Moscow's efforts" and because Russia itself has
"considerable resources," ITAR-TASS reported. Kostov said
that President Boris Yeltsin's "decisive governance" is also
a factor that will help overcome the crisis, but he added
that the financial situation in Russia could have a "negative
impact" on bilateral trade and economic cooperation. In other
news, Reuters reported on 24 August that in a bid to attract
foreign tourists, Bulgaria has lifted value-added tax on
tourist services offered by local tour operators to
foreigners. MS

END NOTE

LATVIA TO HOLD REFERENDUM ON CITIZENSHIP LAW AMENDMENTS

by Jan Cleave

	Two months after the passage of amendments to the
country's citizenship law, the Latvian Central Electoral
Committee has announced that an initiative by the
nationalist-inclined Fatherland and Freedom party to hold a
referendum on those amendments has been successful. By 24
August, the committee had counted some 224,000 signatures,
well over the 131,000--or 10 percent of the electorate--
required to force a referendum. The final result of the
campaign will be announced once signatures from abroad are
included in the tally. Meanwhile, the fate of the citizenship
law amendments continues to hang in the balance--a state of
affairs that will not help improve Latvia's tense relations
with neighboring Russia.
	Latvia's treatment of its approximately 650,000-strong
ethnic Russian and Russian-speaking minority has long been a
source of discord between Moscow and Riga. Basing its law on
the principle that it was occupied and did not have to give
citizenship to those who were moved there by the occupying
authorities, Latvia renewed the citizenship of those who had
it in 1940 and also that of their descendants. Many of those
who fell into these two categories were ethnically Russian.
	The Russian government has rejected Latvia's
interpretation of its political history and argued that
Latvia's citizenship law is intended to withhold citizenship
from the many people, primarily but not exclusively
ethnically Russian, who moved to Latvia between 1940 and
1991. And Moscow has consistently argued that this
"deprivation" constitutes ethnic discrimination.
	Latvia's citizenship law was passed in 1994, following
extensive debates and disagreement among the coalition
parties. The legislation came under fire not only from Russia
but also from international organizations such as the OSCE,
which urged Riga to adopt amendments in line with its
recommendations. But with a ruling coalition that includes
groups willing at times to play the nationalist card, it
quickly became apparent that the government parties were
unable to agree among themselves on how to amend the law.
	Ironically, the passage of the amendments was expedited
by an event earlier this year that outraged Moscow and
revealed just how fragile Latvian-Russian relations are. On 3
March, some 1,000, mostly Russian-speaking pensioners blocked
the main road in downtown Riga to protest living standards.
When several protesters refused to move off that road, police
used rubber batons to disperse them. Footage of those events
shown by Russian Public Television sparked an outcry in
Moscow, with politicians of all stripes calling for
retaliatory measures.
	Just six weeks later, the Cooperation Council of the
ruling coalition parties reached an agreement whereby the law
would be amended to remove the "naturalization windows"
(which gave priority to younger people), simplify language
tests for people over 65, and grant citizenship to all
children born after 21 August 1991 when they reach 16 and can
prove their ability to speak Latvian. But while the last
provision was supported by the Fatherland and Freedom party,
which is the largest party in the parliament, it did not meet
the OSCE recommendation that children born in Latvia be
automatically granted citizenship, regardless of language
proficiency. An amended version of the law that complied with
the OSCE recommendation was finally pushed through the
parliament in the third and final reading in mid-June.
	Since then, the signing into law of the amendments has
been on hold, thanks to the initiative of the Fatherland and
Freedom party, supported by the constitutionally required
one-third of parliamentary deputies, to collect signatures
for a referendum. Prime Minister Guntars Krasts of the
Fatherland and Freedom Party, who signed the referendum
petition just days before the signature-collecting campaign
ended, argues that the amendments were passed without a broad
public debate and that the best way to judge public opinion
is through a popular vote. President Guntis Ulmanis and
Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs, in particular, have been
vocal opponents of such a ballot, arguing that it will
further damage relations with Russia and also jeopardize
Latvia's chances of joining the EU.
	But the referendum will not only impact on Latvia's
relations with its eastern neighbor and on its image abroad.
It is also set to make citizenship and minority-majority
relations a campaign issue in the run-up to the parliamentary
elections scheduled for 3 October. That, observers note, will
have the effect of both keeping alive and turning the full
public spotlight onto an issue that has deeply divided
Latvian society. Moreover, with only the two-thirds majority
population able to cast its vote, the referendum itself is
likely to stir up animosity within the disenfranchised one-
third minority.
	The Fatherland and Freedom Party, meanwhile, has made it
clear that it wants the referendum to take place at the same
time as the elections. Such a scenario would likely encourage
more people to take part in the ballot. The party is also
concerned that if the vote were to take place on a separate
day, there may not be the necessary turnout of 50 percent of
the electorate.
	Indeed, the timing of the referendum may well prove
crucial to the validity of the ballot. If the vote does not
take place until after the elections -- and the chairman of
the Central Electoral Committee has already come out in favor
of that option -- voters may be required to cast their ballot
twice within a short period. Experience shows that in such
cases, election-weariness among voters frequently determines
the outcome of the second ballot.

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