|When we can begin to take our failures non-seriously, it means we are ceasing to be afraid of them. It is of immense importance to learn to laugh at ourselves. - Katherine Mansfield|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 164 Part II, 26 August 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 164 Part II, 26 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 * IMF TO REVIEW UKRAINE'S ECONOMIC SITUATION BEFORE DECIDING ON LOAN * UCK SPOKESMAN PLEDGES TO HELP FIND MISSING SERBS * ALBANIAN PREMIER DENIES HE ORDERED FORMER MINISTERS' ARREST xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE IMF TO REVIEW UKRAINE'S ECONOMIC SITUATION BEFORE DECIDING ON LOAN. The IMF on 25 August announced that it may need more time to assess the effects on Ukraine of Russia's financial crisis and change of government before setting a date to approve a $2.2 billion loan to Ukraine, AP reported. The IMF Executive Board was expected to meet by the end of August to approve the first installment of the loan, totaling $200-250 million. Ukrainian officials have said the loan will be used primarily to replenish the National Bank's reserves. In the wake of the Russian ruble plunge, the Ukrainian hryvnya slid to 2.249 to $1 on 25 August, only slightly below the upper limit of 2.250 to $1 set by the government. JM PROTESTING MINERS IN LUHANSK UNDER INVESTIGATION. The Luhansk Oblast Prosecutor's Office has launched an investigation into a clash between riot police and 150 miners who were protesting wage arrears, Ukrainian Radio and Television reported on 25 August. The clash took place in a Luhansk city park the previous day, Ukraine's Independence Day, when the miners gathered to burn a straw effigy. Police troops arrived at the scene after receiving an anonymous telephone call saying that the effigy contained an explosive device. The miners refused to let policemen examine the effigy and fought back. Twelve policemen and eight miners were hospitalized after the skirmish. JM ODESSA ELECTS MAYOR. Ruslan Bodelan, former governor of Odessa Oblast, was elected Odessa mayor on 23 August, Ukrainian Television reported on 25 August. Bodelan, who was supported by the government in his mayoral bid, received some 100,000 votes (36 percent) in the ballot. More than 30 candidates ran in the election, and turnout was 36 percent. The previous mayoral elections in Odessa in March were declared invalid when the victor, former Odessa Mayor Eduard Hurvits, was found guilty of breaking the law. Hurvits was banned from running again. JM LUKASHENKA TO RAISE MINIMUM WAGE FOR STATE EMPLOYEES. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has announced that the government will increase the minimum wage for state employees, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 25 August. The hike will take place in two stages: beginning 1 November, the minimum wage will be increased by 20 percent and as of 1 January 1999 by 25 percent. The current minimum wage in Belarus is 250,000 Belarusian rubles (some $4). JM ESTONIAN AUDIT CHIEF CALLS FOR TWO MINISTERS' DISMISSAL. Head of State Audit Office Juhan Parts is urging that Prime Minister Mart Siimann dismiss Finance Minister Mart Opmann and Social Minister Tiiu Aro over the loss of state funds in Maapank, ETA reported on 25 August, citing the dailies "Postimees" and "Eesti Paevaleht." Parts reportedly sent a letter to Siimann summarizing what happened at Maapank and suggesting the dismissal of the two ministers. "Postimees" reported that criticism against Opmann and Aro focuses on the transfer of large sums of state funds to Maapank at a time when the bank's bankruptcy was imminent. Parts has said his report on Maapank will be publicly released next week. Maapank collapsed at the beginning of June reportedly owing to mismanagement and misappropriation of funds. JC OSCE COMMISSIONER SAYS CITIZENSHIP AMENDMENTS 'NOT DANGEROUS' FOR LATVIANS... Speaking in Riga on 25 August, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel said he hopes the Latvian people will know what they are voting for in the referendum on amendments to the citizenship law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 August 1998). BNS quoted Van der Stoel as saying that he "hopes the Latvian people will comprehend what these amendments imply and what they don't imply." He stressed that amendments removing the so-called naturalization windows and automatically granting citizenship to children born after independence are "not dangerous" for the Latvian people. And in meetings at the Latvian Foreign Ministry the same day, Van der Stoel threw his support behind the amendments, which, he said, will significantly influence Latvia's international position--for example, in cooperation with the EU. JC ...WHILE MOSCOW AGAIN EXPRESSES CONCERN. Also on 25 August, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin said that the "humanitarian situation" in Latvia continues to be a cause of "serious concern" for Moscow, ITAR-TASS reported. Referring to the campaign to collect signatures for a referendum on the citizenship law amendments, Rakhmanin noted that "national-radical forces" in Latvia have succeeded in preventing those amendments from entering into force. "When Latvian politicians urge the parliament to pass the amendments and then the same politicians suggest their abrogation, this deserves to be classed as hypocrisy," he commented. The Fatherland and Freedom party, of which Prime Minister Guntars Krasts is a member, was the driving force behind the referendum. JC POLISH BISHOPS SAY PAPAL CROSS TO STAY AT AUSCHWITZ. Polish Catholic Church leaders met in Czestochowa on 25 August to formulate the Church's official stance on the Polish-Jewish controversy over some 150 crosses erected outside the former Auschwitz concentration camp. In a statement issued after the meeting, the Polish bishops expressed their "conviction" that the large papal cross erected in 1979 "will remain in place," while the newly erected crosses "will find a respectful place in our parishes and churches," AP reported on 26 August. The statement appeals for an end to erecting further crosses, saying that "escalating the conflict brings harm to the Church and turns against our homeland." The bishops added that the campaign of erecting crosses at Auschwitz "painfully harms the different sensitivity of our brothers, the Jews." JM POLISH FARMERS SUSPEND PROTEST OVER GRAIN IMPORTS. Leaders of Poland's three largest farmers trade unions have appealed to farmers to suspend until 10 September all road blockades set up to protest grain imports, "Rzeczpospolita" reported on 26 August. If the government does not begin "honest negotiations" before that date, the trade unions threaten to launch a nationwide protest. Polish farmers demand that the government introduce higher prices and state contracts for agricultural products as well as reduce grain imports. Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek said on 25 August that grain imports this month decreased fivefold. He noted that the government cannot reduce those imports further without violating international agreements. Meanwhile, the police is suing some 500 farmers for their participation in road blockades in recent months. JM MECIAR SAYS SLOVAK UNITY THREATENED. Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar on 25 August said "those who believe that Slovakia's ethnic Hungarians must integrate into Europe together with Hungary are the advocates of Slovakia's partition," Hungarian media reported. He alleged that Hungarian nationalists seek to control Slovak politics and that "helped by certain circles in Budapest," they aim at "the common integration of Hungarians into Europe". Last week, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said that it would be in both countries' interests if Slovakia joined the EU. Meciar also expressed concern about the Slovak opposition's readiness to join forces with Hungarian political forces in Slovakia to form an alliance against him. MSZ HUNGARIAN PREMIER SAYS HIS PARTY WAS SPIED ON. Orban on 25 August said that data on him and other leaders of the Federation of Young Democrats-Hungarian Civic Party were illegally collected before the May parliamentary elections. He said members of his cabinet are facing "a well-constructed slander campaign based on information illegally obtained under the previous government." Former Prime Minister Gyula Horn and other leading officials of his administration firmly deny the charge, saying the secret services worked within the law. Orban has ordered a government investigation into the case. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE UCK SPOKESMAN PLEDGES TO HELP FIND MISSING SERBS. Adem Demaci, who is one of Kosova's best-known politicians and also the political spokesman for the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), told independent Belgrade Radio B-92 on 26 August that he will contact UCK "headquarters" to see what can be done to free two employees of Serbian Radio Prishtina. Demaci told B- 92 that the UCK does not engage in kidnapping but that its officials will try to find out who captured the men and arrange their release. The two men "disappeared" recently, and independent journalists and local Serbian officials have called for their release (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 August 1998). RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 25 August that Bosko Drobnjak, who is the Serbian information secretary for Kosova, has appealed for help to Demaci. This marks the first time that Serbian government personnel have contacted a representative of the UCK in an official capacity. PM SERBIAN AUTHORITIES HINDER REFUGEE RELIEF. Serbian forces continued their assault to the west and southwest of Prishtina on 25 August. The Prishtina daily "Koha Ditore" reported that at least 25 Kosovars died within 48 hours during the offensive. Meanwhile in Geneva, spokesmen for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said that Serbian forces in Kosova are preventing UNHCR relief convoys from reaching encampments of displaced persons. The officials noted that one convoy consisting of 10 vehicles and goods to supply 30,000 persons is waiting to leave Prishtina. The spokesmen added that humanitarian conditions in Kosova resemble those in Bosnia at the beginning of the conflict there, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. PM MILOSEVIC WANTS SANCTIONS LIFTED. Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic told U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia Christopher Hill in Belgrade on 25 August that "if the U.S. truly wants to do something positive for this region, it must lift the sanctions" in force against federal Yugoslavia in response to its crackdown in Kosova. Milosevic added that he will continue to fight "terrorism" in the province but said that he seeks a dialogue to end the unrest. He charged that the violence is the work of "terrorist gangs." Hill has spent several weeks engaged in seemingly fruitless shuttle diplomacy in the region. PM BELGRADE CHARGES ALBANIA WITH BORDER VIOLATION. The federal Yugoslav Defense Ministry on 25 August issued a statement accusing Albanian forces of firing two mortar shells into Yugoslav territory. The announcement said the incident occurred on 24 August near the border outpost of Kosare in Kosova. Meanwhile, AP reported from Padesh, on the Albanian side of the border, that the civilian population there has begun arming itself with machine guns and bazookas following several recent border incidents in the area. FS BOSNIAN CROAT LEADER SNUBS TUDJMAN. Kresimir Zubak, who is the Croatian member of the Bosnian joint presidency, said in Sarajevo on 25 August that he will not attend a meeting of leading politicians from Bosnia-Herzegovina with Croatian President Franjo Tudjman slated for the following day. Tudjman recently invited several politicians to Zagreb to discuss the Bosnian general elections, which will take place on 12-13 September. Most invitees refused on the grounds that Tudjman allegedly favors Ante Jelavic of the nationalist Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ). Zubak broke with the HDZ after Jelavic's election as party leader this past spring and founded his own New Croatian Initiative. Observers noted that Zubak's refusal of Tudjman's invitation is the clearest signal to date that Zubak intends to follow the example of Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic by breaking with nationalists and seeking to work with moderates and the international community. PM MUSLIMS NOT WELCOME IN VITEZ. Hanns Schumacher, who is a deputy to the international community's Carlos Westendorp, obtained no agreement from local Croats in the central Bosnian town of Vitez on 25 August, when he tried to negotiate the return of several hundred Muslim refugees to their former homes in nearby villages. Schumacher's spokeswoman told AP that the Croats "were very upset and not very friendly." She added that Schumacher holds the HDZ responsible for the failure of the meeting, because its officials had earlier assured him of its success. The Muslims attempted to go home one month ago but were driven out by a Croatian mob. Meanwhile in Sarajevo, spokesmen for SFOR said that investigators have concluded that charges made by the Madrid daily "El Mundo" in May that peacekeepers and Bosnian gangs are running a prostitution ring are groundless (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 May 1998). PM SLOVENIA, CROATIA TO SEEK ARBITRATION. Slovenian Foreign Minister Boris Frlec and his Croatian counterpart, Mate Granic, agreed in Mokrice, Slovenia, on 25 August to try to resolve four outstanding problems between their two countries within three months. If any issues remain outstanding after that deadline, Croatia and Slovenia will seek international arbitration in order to put an end to disputes that have bedeviled their relations since they seceded from the former Yugoslavia in 1991. The issues are: control of the jointly- owned nuclear power plant at Krsko, Slovenia; demarcation of land and sea frontiers; ensuring property rights for Slovenes who own homes on Croatia' sea coast; and guaranteeing the deposits of Croats in the Ljubljanska Banka. PM ALBANIAN PREMIER DENIES HE ORDERED FORMER MINISTERS' ARREST... Fatos Nano, in a televised address to the nation on 25 August, strongly denied opposition claims that he recently ordered the arrests of three former ministers and three other former high-ranking officials. Public prosecutors have charged the six with having committed crimes against humanity during the unrest in 1997 (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 24 August 1998). Nano said: "I reject with disgust...every charge [of involvement in] the arrest of the six." He stressed that his governing coalition has "resisted the temptation...to interfere with the work of the judiciary." Alluding to his own imprisonment under the previous government, he stressed: "I know far better than anybody else what it means to be a victim of a judicial branch that [does the work of those wielding] political power." He added that his only "revenge" for his own imprisonment will be to build a "modern Albania." FS ...WHILE HOPES FOR RECONCILIATION FADE. "Koha Jone" Editor- in-Chief Armand Shkullaku told Reuters on 25 August that "if there was any hope for the [opposition Democratic Party] to return to parliament or the talks about the drafting of a new constitution, now this hope has totally disappeared." He added that "the arrests will, without doubt, only aggravate the situation." The Democrats have been intermittently boycotting the parliament since October 1997 on the grounds that the government has allegedly subjected them to political persecution. Opposition leader and former President Sali Berisha was due to meet Nano at the end of August for talks on a new constitution, but Berisha rejected the invitation after the arrests. Reuters quoted an unidentified Western official as saying that "there will [not] be any repercussions [over the arrests] among voters," adding that ordinary "Albanians are too busy with their own personal survival" to care. FS TENSIONS WITHIN ETHNIC HUNGARIAN PARTY IN ROMANIA. The chairman of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR), Bela Marko, says the UDMR's honorary chairman, Bishop Laszlo Tokes, must choose between his present honorary position and that of leader of a "platform" within the UDMR, the independent Pro TV reported on 25 August. Marko was responding to Tokes' initiative to hold a "Szeklers' Forum" in the Transylvanian town of Cernatul de Jos next month and to his criticism of the UDMR's participation in the ruling coalition. In an interview with the Budapest daily "Nepszava" on 24 August, Marko said that if the government rejects the initiative to divide the Babes-Bolyai university in Cluj into a Romanian and a Hungarian university, another Hungarian- language state university will have to be set up in the same town. He accused the UDMR's coalition partners of "politicking" and of "thinking more of the next elections than of the next generation." MS OPPOSITION TO ROMANIAN FINANCE MINISTER'S INTENTION TO CUT BUDGET. Defense Minister Victor Babiuc on 25 August said Finance Minister Daniel Daianu's proposed cuts in military spending mean that the army will barely be able to cover wages and the costs of food and military equipment. He added that the Finance Ministry "does not comprehend it is endangering national security." Health Minister Hajdu Gabor has likewise opposed the envisaged cuts in his ministry's allocations. Also on 25 August, Daianu met with representatives of the main trade unions and told them that the economic situation does not make it possible to cover wage indexation till the end of 1998. According to trade union leaders, this is a "death sentence" for unionists. Meanwhile, the largest mining trade union has announced it will launch a strike on 27 August, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. ROMANIAN ROMA SUE EXTREMIST LEADER. The Romani Party on 25 August announced it has asked the Prosecutor- General's Office to place Greater Romania Party leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor under investigation for "spreading chauvinistic- nationalist propaganda" and for "incitement to acts of violence and to racial hatred," AFP reported. Reacting to Tudor's declaration earlier this month that Roma who refuse "integration" into Romanian society must be "interned" in special settlements, the Romani Party Secretary-General, Ivan Gheorghe, said that a "state that tolerates such declarations is a racist state." MS MOLDOVAN-RUN SCHOOLS IN TRANSDNIESTER TO REMAIN OPEN. All Transdniester schools run by Chisinau are to remain open during the new school year, which begins on 1 September, Infotag reported on 25 August. An agreement has been reached between the Moldovan and the Transdniester Ministries of Education after a visit paid to Tiraspol by Moldovan Education Minister Anatol Grimalschi earlier this month. Chisinau will continue financing these schools, including one in Tiraspol where teaching is conducted using the Latin alphabet. Earlier, the separatist authorities announced they will close down that school. Six other Moldovan schools in the Transdniester also use the Latin script. In Moldova itself, the education and science trade union announced a strike beginning on 2 September to protest wage arrears, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. MS BULGARIAN PRESIDENT APPOINTS TOP MILITARY COMMANDERS. President Petar Stoyanov on 25 August appointed Major-General Pencho Dobrev as deputy chief of staff in charge of material and technical supplies. Major General Stefan Nikolov was appointed commander of the Rapid Reaction Forces. Lieutenant General Stefan Popov has been relieved from his duties as commander of the Bulgarian air force but remains the chief of the air force's General Staff. General Ginio Tonev has been dismissed as commander of the land forces but remains chief of the land forces' General Staff, BTA reported. MS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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