|The fool wonders, the wise man asks. - Benjamin Disraeli|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 166 Part II, 28 August 1998
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 166 Part II, 28 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 * PUSTOVOYTENKO SAYS UKRAINE NOT THREATENED BY RUSSIAN CRISIS * SHELL KILLS ELEVEN IN KOSOVA * POLICE CLASH WITH PROTESTERS IN ALBANIA End Note: RUSSIA'S NEIGHBORS ON RUSSIA'S PROBLEMS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE PUSTOVOYTENKO SAYS UKRAINE NOT THREATENED BY RUSSIAN CRISIS... Ukrainian Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko told journalists on 27 August in Kyiv that he does not believe the country is facing a financial crisis of the same dimensions as Russia, dpa reported. "We will bolster the hryvnya and take further steps toward reform," the agency quoted him as saying. Ukrainian National Bank Chairman Viktor Yushchenko added that he does not see any reasons for a "deep devaluation" of the hryvnya. But he admitted that changing the 1998 exchange corridor of 1.8-2.25 hryvni to $1 remains an option, Interfax reported. JM ... SAYS IMF HAS NOT POSTPONED LOAN... Pustovoytenko said the IMF has not postponed issuing a $2.2 billion loan to Ukraine, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 August. He said that IMF Managing-Director Michel Camdessus promised at a 26 August meeting with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, and Russian acting Premier Viktor Chernomyrdin that Ukraine will obtain its loan as planned. JM ...SAYS RUSSIA, UKRAINE SHOULD MUTUALLY CANCEL DEBTS. Pustovoytenko also said the Ukrainian government wants Ukraine's debt to Gazprom and Russia's debts to Ukrainian plants to be canceled, Interfax reported on 27 August. He added that this problem was a major item on the agenda of his talks with Chernomyrdin on 26 August. "We will insist on this arrangement," the agency quoted Pustovoytenko as saying. In early July, Ukraine owed Russia $610 million for gas supplies. JM WORLD BANK REPRESENTATIVE TO LEAVE BELARUS. When David Phillips, World Bank representative in Minsk, leaves Belarus in two weeks, nobody will be sent to replace him, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 August. Philips told journalists that the main reason for his departure is the lack of progress in implementing economic reforms that the World Bank and Belarus agreed to in a June 1997 memorandum. Philips noted some positive aspects in the Belarusian economy, including a significant increase in GDP and industrial production. But he said the growth results mainly from resuming operations at formerly idle enterprises and from regaining access to the Russian market. He added that the growth cannot be sustained without structural transformations and large foreign investments. JM LATVIAN CITIZENSHIP REFERENDUM TO BE HELD WITH ELECTIONS. The Central Election Committee on 26 August announced that the referendum on amendments to the citizenship law will be held at the same time as the general elections scheduled for 3-4 October. BNS reported that if the parliament adopts necessary changes to the law on referenda, the vote on the citizenship amendments will take place on one day only; otherwise, voting on those amendments will take place on two consecutive days. The committee's decision was backed by five members, with three voting against and chairman Andris Cimdars abstaining. The committee also announced the final result of the campaign to collect signatures supporting the referendum: 226,530 citizens added their signature to the petition, of whom 1,506 live abroad. JC LATVIAN ECONOMICS MINISTER SURVIVES NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE. Legislators on 26 August voted down a no-confidence motion in Laimonis Strujevics by 33 to 14 with 13 abstentions, BNS reported. The motion was moved by deputies from the opposition For Latvia and People's Harmony factions as well as several independent deputies over proposed changes in privatization regulations whereby the state oil enterprise Ventspils nafta would have been sold for some 8 million lats ($16 million) below its market value. Those change were supported by Strujevics but opposed by his aide, Andis Bumbieris, who allegedly committed suicide shortly after. The proposed changes in the privatization regulations have since been scrapped. JC PREMIER SAYS LITHUANIA NOT TO BE AFFECTED BY RUSSIAN FINANCIAL CRISIS. Gediminas Vagnorius told journalists on 26 August that he does not believe the financial crisis in Russia will spread to Lithuania, BNS reported. Vagnorius said that the government began to prepare for possible upheavals on Russia's financial market in the spring, when "the first symptoms of the crisis" appeared. To that end, the premier said, "we started accumulating financial resources." He noted that Lithuanian foreign-currency reserves increased by $600 million this year to $1.699 billion as of 1 August, while Lithuania's foreign debt now totals $1.047 billion. "So, our gold and foreign-currency reserves exceed the total foreign indebtedness of Lithuania, and this is already a guarantee of stability on the Lithuanian financial market," he commented. JC KWASNIEWSKI APPEALS FOR 'SENSIBLE SILENCE' ON RUSSIAN CRISIS. Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski has appealed for a "sensible silence" regarding Russia's financial crisis, PAP reported on 27 August. He said Poland should analyze the Russian crisis in order to minimize its effects on the Polish economy. Referring to an analysis made by his economic adviser Marek Belka, Kwasniewski said the Russian crisis is not "crushing" for Poland. He added that the Polish and Russian economies have become different owing to consistent reforms implemented in Poland since 1990. Similarly, Leon Gomulka, adviser to Polish Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz, told the 28 August "Gazeta Wyborcza" that Russia's financial crisis does not increase the risk of foreign investments in Poland. But he added that if the Russian crisis persists, Poland may lose up to $1 billion dollar next year owing to lower exports to Russia. JM POLISH BISHOPS URGE FAITHFUL TO VOTE IN LOCAL ELECTIONS. Polish Catholic bishops on 26 August appealed to their congregation to take part in the local government elections scheduled for 11 October, PAP reported. "It is important to extend the democratic transformations, which have brought about deep changes in Poland over the recent years, on to the basic structures of local government," the agency quoted one archbishop as saying. JM CZECH REPUBLIC TO ALLOW RFE/RL FARSI BROADCASTS ON TRIAL BASIS. The Czech government on 27 August announced that RFE/RL will be able to begin broadcasting to Iran from 1 September on a trial basis. Government spokesman Libor Roucek said the cabinet also decided that the U.S. must officially request the consent of the Czech government for the broadcasts. The spokesman said the cabinet decided not to revoke the previous government's position on broadcasting to Iran, but the government will review the "risks" connected with the broadcasts and make a "definitive decision" by the end of 1998. Roucek said that the U.S. has not yet requested permission for broadcasts to Iraq and that if it does so, the Czech government will consider the request "within a reasonable amount of time." The Iranian Embassy in Prague on 27 August issued a protest about the plans to start Farsi broadcasts. MS HAVEL TO LEAVE HOSPITAL. Doctors treating ailing President Vaclav Havel on 27 August announced that he will be discharged from the hospital the next day and allowed to return home, CTK reported. The doctors said they are optimistic that Havel will be able to travel to the U.S. in mid-September as planned. In other news, former Premier Vaclav Klaus on 27 August protested against government plans to replace managers of state- owned companies, AP reported. He said it is "unacceptable" to replace these managers with "faithful friends" of the Social Democrats. MS MOCHOVCE NUCLEAR PLANT BECOMES FULLY OPERATIONAL. Slovakia's controversial Mochovce nuclear plant is to be fully operational by 28 August, a spokesman for the plant told Reuters on the previous day. The plant will have to run at full production output without any interruption for six days before it is allowed to start the so-called "trial period," the spokesman said. The Mochovce plant has been supplying electricity to the national grid since it first started up in July, triggering strong protests in neighboring Austria, which considers the Soviet-designed plant to be potentially unsafe. A second reactor at the plant is expected to begin operating some time before September 1999. ITAR- TASS reported on 27 August that acting Minister for Atomic Energy Evgenii Adamov will attend a ceremony at the plant and will conduct talks with Slovak leaders on nuclear energy cooperation. MS RUSSIAN CRISIS HITS HUNGARIAN MARKETS. The ongoing financial crisis in Russia took a heavy toll on the Budapest Stock Exchange on 27 August, causing a halt in the trading of most issues, Hungarian media reported. The BUX index experienced the second-largest fall in its history, plunging 14.3 percent. The national currency has also weakened to 227.07 forints to $1 from 226 the previous day. Finance Minister Zsigmond Jarai said the country's economy is growing and has reserves totaling $9 billion. There is no need to devalue the forint, but the National Bank may intervene again to protect the national currency, he concluded. MSZ HUNGARY'S POSTABANK INVOLVED IN SPYING SCANDAL? Postabank may have ordered the private company Pinpoint to collect information on the business interests of Federation of Young Democrats-Hungarian Civic Party leaders, "Nepszava" reported on 28 August, quoting administration officials. Postabank officials refused to comment on the allegation. Former Prime Minister Gyula Horn told Hungarian media that neither the previous government nor his Socialist Party ordered the illegal collection of data. "Vilaggazdasag" reported it is possible that individuals who had high-level contacts with the previous administration, rather than the administration itself, ordered the surveillance. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE SHELL KILLS ELEVEN IN KOSOVA. Serbian forces southwest of Prishtina killed eight children and three women with a mortar shell that Serbs fired at the tractor-trailer on which the ethnic Albanian family was riding. Three other family members were badly wounded in the attack on 27 August. The Kosova Information Center, which is close to the government of the shadow-state, reported from Prishtina that Serbian artillery continued to pound 14 ethnic Albanian villages near Suhareka. A spokesman for the center appealed to the international community to send monitors to that region. And near Prishtina airport, Serbian forces refused to allow a UN humanitarian aid convoy to leave the capital. AP reported that a shipment of anti-aircraft missiles may have been leaving the airport on trucks at that time. PM UCK SAYS FIGHT WILL GO ON. The Prishtina daily "Koha Ditore" on 27 August published a statement by the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) in which the guerrillas promised to "continue the liberation struggle" and appealed to the people for support. The UCK called on unidentified moderate politicians to "abandon empty rhetoric and verbal messages [and instead] make more concrete contributions to its nation and homeland." AP reported that this appeal may be directed at some politicians based outside Kosova, whom the UCK suspects are wavering in their support for the guerrillas. PM MORE U.S. AID FOR KOSOVA. Assistant Secretary of State Julia Taft visited Kosovar refugees near Peja on 27 August and said that she is "trying to find a way to catalyze all the [international relief] actions in some kind of [joint] strategy." Taft warned that the advent of cold weather in about six weeks could lead to a "catastrophe" unless refugees receive adequate food, clothing, and shelter. She said that the Serbian authorities have agreed to set up 11 aid distribution centers in various parts of Kosova. Taft added that she will ask President Bill Clinton to authorize additional "millions of dollars" in relief for Kosova in addition to the $11 million in aid that Washington has already approved. PM U.S. TO SEND FACT-FINDING MISSION TO KOSOVA. An unidentified State Department official said in Washington on 27 August that John Shattuck, who is assistant secretary of state for democracy, labor and human rights, will go to Kosova shortly. The official added that the Yugoslav embassy is continuing to delay issuing a visa for David Scheffer, who is Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's special representative for war crimes issues, Reuters reported. Commenting on the reason for the new missions, the official said that Washington wants to "get the facts and make sure people understand our interest and our desire to do the right thing there." He regretted, however, that "repeated promises from Belgrade to do more, to do better, to allow humanitarian access, really have not been met." PM ALBANIA HOLDS MANEUVERS NEAR KOSOVA BORDER. The Albanian army held military exercises at Helshan, near the border with Kosova's Gjakova region, on 27 August. Taking part in the "Drini '98" maneuvers were 650 soldiers, who fired live ammunition. The exercises also involved 10 tanks and numerous anti-aircraft guns, mortars, and heavy artillery. Defense Minister Luan Hajdaraga told the soldiers that "with the bloody Kosova conflict becoming more dangerous every day, such exercises have a special value in strengthening our country's stability and security." A NATO official told Reuters that the soldiers practiced "defensive tactics." Albanian General Kudusi Lama said the exercises demonstrated the readiness of his troops to repel any attack. But he added that "we stay calm in the face of the increasing number of [border] incidents in order to avoid being provoked." FS EU CONCERNED ABOUT SERBIAN TREATMENT OF JOURNALISTS... On 27 August in Vienna, the EU Presidency, which is currently held by Austria, issued a statement objecting to "the pattern of denial of access" to foreign journalists in Kosova. "We are also especially concerned about the recent expulsion of journalists," the text continued. The statement reminded Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic that freedom of expression is a basic human right, adding that the government should help create favorable working conditions for journalists, Reuters wrote. PM ...AS IS OSCE. Elsewhere in the Austrian capital, Freimut Duve, who is the OSCE's spokesman on media affairs, said on 27 August that his office has "received several reports of harassment of journalists by Serbian police, specifically an attack on Kurt Schork of Reuters and Anthony Lloyd of 'The Times' of London." He added that in June, a Danish TV crew's vehicle was fired on by Serbian forces and that other foreign journalists have been denied visas or expelled. Duve suggested that the Belgrade authorities have particularly negative feelings toward German journalists. In response, Yugoslav Ambassador to Austria Dobrosav Veizovic said that the OSCE should concern itself with promoting what he called "free, responsible reporting." He charged that those to whom the authorities denied visas had written "sensationalist lies" about Kosova. Veizovic added that the UCK "has ill-treated Serbian journalists and made it difficult for them to report." PM BELGRADE DAILY SUSPENDS PUBLICATION. The independent daily "Nasa Borba" stopped publication for two weeks on 27 August, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The move comes in the wake of months of financial problems and disputes between the staff and the newspaper's owner. Many journalists left "Nasa Borba" earlier this year to help found the independent daily "Danas." In unrelated news, the Serbian government announced that all Serbian motorists must register their cars in Serbia. Hundreds of thousands of Serbs have registered their cars in Montenegro, where fees are hundreds or thousands of dollars lower than in Serbia. PM TUDJMAN BOWS OUT OF OWN MEETING. Croatian President Franjo Tudjman did not attend a meeting in Zagreb on 27 August to which he had invited Croatian political leaders from Bosnia-Herzegovina to discuss the upcoming elections there. His top aides Franjo Greguric and Ivic Pasalic represented him in talks with the leaders of the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) and the Croatian Party of [Historic] Rights instead. Leaders of the other Bosnian Croat parties turned down Tudjman's invitation on the grounds that he and his state-run media allegedly favor the HDZ. Observers noted that the refusal of most Bosnian Croat leaders to attend his meeting was a major embarrassment to Tudjman. PM POLICE CLASH WITH PROTESTERS IN ALBANIA. Protesters injured a policeman when they tried to break through police cordons outside the residence of Prime Minister Fatos Nano on 27 August. Some demonstrators threw stones at the police when marching toward the residence from central Skanderbeg Square. Police arrested several protesters. The authorities had earlier banned the demonstration and warned residents of the capital to stay indoors in order to avoid "terrorist attacks" should the rally take place. Police nonetheless did not intervene when the estimated 3,000 protesters gathered at the square prior to the clashes. The opposition supporters were protesting the arrest of six former Democratic Party government officials, accused of committing crimes against humanity during the unrest in 1997 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 August 1998). At an earlier demonstration, Democratic leader Sali Berisha had called on his supporters "to use all means" to overthrow the Socialist-led coalition government. FS MOLDOVAN DEPUTY PREMIER IN ROMANIA. Ion Sturdza, on a two-day visit to Romania, met with Foreign Minister Andrei Plesu on 27 August and discussed bilateral cooperation, particularly in the economic sphere, and the situation in the Transdniester, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Sturdza said Moldova may be interested in setting up a "joint energy pool" with Romania, but he added that his country would have difficulty finding funds to participate in the financing of a second nuclear reactor at Cernavoda. MS BULGARIA DENIES EXTRADITION OF ISLAMIC EXTREMIST TO EGYPT. An Interior Ministry spokesman on 27 August denied that Bulgaria has recently detained and extradited to Egypt a member of the Jihad group who had been condemned in absentia to life imprisonment, BTA reported. Citing the London-based "Al-Hayat" Arabic daily, AP earlier reported that Issam Abdel-Tawab Abdel- Aleem had been handed over to Egyptian authorities. The report said he entered Bulgaria from Albania last November with his Albanian wife and asked for political asylum. It also said his wife had been handed over to the Albanian authorities. MS END NOTE RUSSIA'S NEIGHBORS ON RUSSIA'S PROBLEMS by Paul Goble The leaders of Russia's immediate neighbors--the 11 former Soviet republics and the three Baltic States-- appear confident that the ongoing political turmoil in Moscow will not have a negative impact on either their internal development or their bilateral relations with the Russian Federation. Some even have suggested that the return of Viktor Chernomyrdin might bring Russia some stability, allow it to recover from its current crisis, and thus make it possible for relations between Moscow and their countries to improve. But a few have indicated that they are concerned that Moscow's problems could become theirs either directly, if Russian politicians try to exploit nationalist themes, or indirectly, if Western governments and investors decide that the entire post- Soviet region is now at risk. Such a range of judgments would not surprise anyone if it came from the neighbors of any other major country going through difficulties. But it undoubtedly will surprise many who still think of the post-Soviet region as a single unit and who believe that the leaders of all the countries there still focus first and foremost on Moscow. Across the region once occupied by the USSR, presidents, prime ministers, and foreign ministers reacted calmly to Boris Yeltsin's decision to bring back Chernomyrdin as prime minister and the latter's willingness to cooperate with Communists in the Russian parliament. The statement of the Kyrgyz presidential press secretary earlier this week was typical. Kanybek Imanaliyev said the change is "Russia's internal affair," a statement echoed in Tajikistan and other Central Asian capitals. Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis reflected the views of most when he said the change in government in Moscow will have no impact on Russia's relationship with his country. The return of Chernomyrdin, the Latvian leader said, is "in no way linked to relations with Latvia." And he pointed out that at the present time, whatever some citizens of his country may think, "Moscow is least of all thinking about Latvia." Most leaders were inclined to put an even more positive interpretation on developments in the Russian capital. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said he hopes Chernomyrdin's return will enhance stability in Russia, which, he said, is now "crucial for everybody" but "especially for Georgia." Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi said he believes that Chernomyrdin's "experience and influence will help overcome the severe financial crisis" in Russia. He expressed confidence in the future of Russian-Moldovan relations on the basis of their development during Chernomyrdin's earlier tenure as Russian prime minister. And Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus said he is confident Chernomyrdin has the skill to "stabilize the situation" in Russia, which, he added, would promote the continued expansion of bilateral ties "in the right direction for the benefit of our peoples." But in the midst of this generally upbeat set of assessments, there were some who indicated that the problems in Russia might spread to their own countries. In contrast to his president, Latvian Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs was one such person. He suggested that the deepening of the economic crisis in Russia could lead to problems for Latvia. That conclusion, Birkavs said, reflects the fact that "Russia unfortunately uses Latvia in its domestic political games." But even he said that Moscow now faces so many domestic problems that it is unlikely to focus its attention on any of its neighbors anytime soon. Others expressed concern that Russian political and economic problems could have a serious impact on Western assessments of their countries. Estonian President Lennart Meri, for example, said he does not believe that Chernomyrdin's appointment will have a negative impact on Estonian-Russian relations. But he indicated that the devaluation of the ruble and the declines in the Russian stock markets could lead some in the West to draw more sweeping conclusions about the region. In every case, at least some of the confidence reflects the requirements of diplomacy. But equally, if not more, important, this confidence also reflects the extent to which these are 14 independent and very different countries, significantly less dependent on Russia now than they were only a few years ago. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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