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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 167 Part II, 31 August 1998
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 167 Part II, 31 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 RUSSIA IN CRISIS Continuing coverage in English and Russian of Russia's economic and political crisis. http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/ruchaos98/index.html xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * RUSSIAN RADAR SITE IN LATVIA SHUT DOWN * KOSOVARS CALL FOR INVESTIGATION OF CREMATORY CHARGE * OSCE, COUNCIL OF EUROPE CALL FOR CALM IN ALBANIA xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN CENTRAL BANKER CONFIDENT ABOUT NATIONAL CURRENCY. Ukrainian National Bank Chairman Viktor Yushchenko said on 28 August that "the devaluation of the hryvnya is impossible," ITAR-TASS reported. "There are no reasons for a sharp devaluation of the hryvnya and its rate is under control," AP quoted him as saying. The hryvnya has been falling steadily since Russia devalued the ruble two weeks ago. On 28 August the hryvnya sank to 2.25 to $1, reaching the upper limit of the formerly set exchange corridor. Yushchenko added that the confusion in Ukraine's financial market was bound to stop given the IMF's plans to issue a $2.2 billion loan to the country. IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus said in Washington on 28 August that he will call a meeting of the IMF Executive Board "on short notice" to consider the loan. JM UKRAINE PROTESTS LUZHKOV'S 'INTRUSION' INTO INTERNAL AFFAIRS. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has summoned the Russian ambassador to Ukraine, Yurii Dubinin, to protest statements made by Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov on 26 August in Sevastopol, AP reported. Luzhkov, speaking at the opening of a Russian-language school, accused Ukrainian authorities of the forced Ukrainization of the city and its educational system and of attempts to force the Ukrainian language on ethnic Russian residents. According to the agency, Luzhkov also told Russian servicemen in Sevastopol to continue to hope that the city will return to Russia. "Some statements by Yurii Luzhkov can be assessed as an intrusion into Ukraine's internal affairs and disrespect for its sovereignty," the ministry said in a statement. JM LUKASHENKA PROMOTES SLAVIC UNITY AS CURE FOR RUSSIAN ILLS... Belarus and Ukraine can help Russia overcome its crisis if the three former Soviet republics draw closer together, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka told journalists on 28 August, at the end of his three- day visit to Crimea. "Bringing the three Slavic countries closer will be a strong factor in stabilizing the situation not only in Russia, but in Belarus and Ukraine," Interfax quoted him as saying. Lukashenka said that the financial collapse in Russia was predictable and that the Russian government "should have warned Ukraine and Belarus" of it. In his opinion, the current situation pushes the three presidents to make "steps toward each other. The three of us will be to blame if we fail to use this unique situation," he said. JM ... SAYS IMF NOT UNIVERSAL ANSWER FOR POST-SOVIET ECONOMIES. After returning to Minsk on 28 August, Lukashenka told journalists that the IMF's recommendations "have in no way proven to be a universal remedy for economic reform," ITAR-TASS reported on 28 August. In his opinion, "[the IMF's recommendations] aim at disrupting the national economic system of post- Soviet republics." Lukashenka added that during his visit to Crimea he met with Russian acting Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin twice but did not meet with IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus. JM BELARUS, VIETNAM TO BOOST ECONOMIC TIES. Lukashenka met on 29 August with Vietnamese President Tran Duc Luong, who is on a three-day official visit to Belarus, ITAR- TASS reported. The Belarusian president said after the meeting that Belarus and Vietnam intend to increase the mutual trade turnover by 1000 percent by 2000, to some $200 million annually. Lukashenka added that Vietnam "may become a bridge for promoting Belarus on markets of the Asian and Pacific region, while Belarus may become a bridge for promoting Vietnam's interests in Europe." He stressed that both Belarus and Vietnam pursue "similar" domestic and foreign policies. JM RUSSIAN RADAR SITE IN LATVIA SHUT DOWN. In conformity with a 1994 agreement and despite suggestions that Moscow would continue its operation, the Russian authorities turned off the Skrunda radar site in Latvia on 31 August, BNS reported. Skrunda was the last Russian military outpost in the Baltic countries. Russian officials have 18 months to dismantle and remove equipment from the site. Moscow paid $5 million per year to rent the site at which 400 Russians had been working since 1994. PG JOINT BALTIC NAVAL SQUADRON INAUGURATED. In ceremonies in Tallinn on 28 August, representatives of the three Baltic countries established a joint naval squadron to be known as BALTRON, BNS reported. Consisting of two mine-sweepers each from Estonia and Latvia and a Lithuanian logistics ship, the unit will participate in its first exercise in September. Based in Estonia's Mine Harbor, the unit will be commanded this year and in 1999 by Latvian Naval Captain Ilmars Lesinskis. PG BALTIC GOVERNMENTS DIVERGE ON RUSSIAN CRISIS. As the Russian economic crisis deepened, the three Baltic governments adopted increasingly different public positions. An Estonian foreign ministry deputy secretary, Clyde Kull, said on 29 August that Moscow might launch a propaganda attack against the Baltic states to divert attention from its domestic problems, BNS reported. A day earlier, Latvian Prime Minister Guntars Krasts said that the Russian crisis would harm some Latvian banks but not the banking system, a prediction apparently born out when one Latvian bank was forced to close and other banks in that country experienced a run by depositors. Meanwhile, also on 28 August, Lithuanian State Security Department Director Mecys Laurinkus met with President Valdas Adamkus to discuss the crisis, BNS reported. Laurinkus said that Lithuania is well-placed to weather the current difficulties. PG RADICAL CATHOLICS EXACERBATE AUSCHWITZ CROSSES CONTROVERSY. Polish radical Catholics placed two more crosses at the former Auschwitz concentration camp and held mass at the site on 30 August in defiance of church leaders, Polish media reported. The mass was organized by a priest from the Society of St. Pius X, a splinter Roman Catholic order which does not recognize the reforms introduced by the Second Vatican Council in 1962-65. German priest Karl Stehlin held the service in Latin and criticized in Polish the official position of Polish bishops on the Auschwitz crosses dispute. The same day the bishop's statement condemning the erection of new crosses at Auschwitz was read in all churches in Poland. Both the government and the Catholic Church admit that more than 150 crosses planted recently around the papal cross should be removed from the camp site. JM CZECH PRESIDENT SUPPORTS RFE/RL BROADCASTS TO IRAN, IRAQ. Vaclav Havel, speaking on Czech radio in his weekly program on 29 August, said that he supported RFE/RL's plan to start broadcasts to Iran and Iraq. Havel said that the Czech Republic went to great lengths to get RFE/RL to move to Prague. This, he said, also means that "we have delegated certain decision-making powers and Radio Free Europe in fact decides itself in what languages it broadcasts. This means, to put it formally, [that] the station must not consult anyone at all." Jan Ruml, leader of the opposition Freedom Union, said on 30 August that since the Czech Republic allowed RFE/RL to relocate on its territory, it cannot stop it from broadcasting to Iran or Iraq, since RFE/RL is a private institution and no government can decide on its broadcasts, CTK reported. MS HAVEL LEAVES HOSPITAL. Havel on 28 August was released from the hospital, where he underwent surgery on 26 July. Presidential spokesman Ladislav Spacek said Havel will now rest in the presidential residence at Lany, near Prague, and prepare for his official visit to the U.S., set for 14-19 September. In other news, the British government has contacted Czech and Slovak officials after some 600 Roma from the two countries requested asylum in the United Kingdom in August, TASR reported on 29 August. The applicants say they are victims of attacks by skinheads. MS MECIAR SAYS SLOVAKIA'S ENERGY FUTURE BASED ON NUCLEAR POWER. Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar on 28 August said that Slovakia wishes to be self-sufficient in energy and that this means it will have to rely on nuclear power by 2003. Meciar said water and coal resources are insufficient, and stressed that 59 percent of the electricity supplied by the Slovak national power company is already produced by nuclear plants. Earlier on 28 August Meciar attended the official start-up of the first reactor at Slovakia's controversial Mochovce nuclear power plant. He said that the second reactor will be launched within a year. MS HUNGARY SLOWS FORINT DEVALUATION RATE. In agreement with the National Bank, the Hungarian government decided on 29 August to cut the monthly rate of the national currency's crawling-peg devaluation from 0.8 percent to 0.7 percent as of 1 October, Hungarian media reported. Prime Minister Viktor Orban said the move is expected to reduce inflation and improve the current balance of payments. "Although the Russian economic crisis has painfully hit the Budapest Stock Exchange, its effects on the Hungarian economy do not necessitate exchange- rate policy measures," he said. MSZ PINPOINT, POSTABANK DENY ILLEGAL COLLECTION OF DATA IN HUNGARY. Former Postabank President Gabor Princz firmly denied charges that he or his bank had illegally collected information on leaders of the Federation of Young Democrats-Hungarian Civic Party (FIDESZ-MPP) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 August 1998), Hungarian media reported on 31 August. The former executive manager of Pinpoint Ltd., Gyorgy Meth, called allegations that his firm carried out illegal surveillance of FIDESZ-MPP politicians "false assertions." Meanwhile, "Nepszabadsag" reported that it received an envelope, allegedly from the Swedish Embassy, containing the complete documentation of the secret investigation. According to the documents, the investigation was based exclusively on company registers and not on secret or illegal sources. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE KOSOVARS CALL FOR INVESTIGATION OF CREMATORY CHARGE. The Serbian Interior Ministry said in a statement in Belgrade on 29 August that members of special police forces found a crematory two days earlier in the village of Klecka near the Prishtina-Prizren road. The text added that ethnic Albanian "terrorists" had allegedly killed 22 Serbian civilians in July and cremated their remains in a limekiln. The statement added that police found remains of the incinerated bodies nearby. In Prishtina, the pro-Kosovar Board for the Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms called for an investigation by independent forensics experts to determine if the remains are indeed those of Serbian civilians. Spokesmen for the Board hinted that the Serbian police may have planted the alleged evidence. PM BELGRADE SEEKS BAN ON UCK. The Serbian government issued an appeal to the international community on 29 August, in which it called for the condemnation of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) as a terrorist organization. The statement added that some unnamed governments have taken a "tolerant attitude" toward the UCK and allow it to conduct recruitment and other activities on their territory. The next day, Serbian Justice Minister Dragoljub Jankovic said in Belgrade that the authorities have filed charges against more than 300 persons for "terrorism" this year. In Duha, which is southwest of Prishtina, police Colonel Bozidar Filic said on 28 August that, for the first time in nearly four months, Serbian police are in control of the entire Prishtina- Prizren road. He added that police are now in control of all major highways in Kosova. PM GREECE BLOCKS SANCTIONS AGAINST JAT. Greek diplomats appealed to other EU ambassadors in Brussels last week to postpone until at least 8 September a decision on whether to deny landing rights to Yugoslav state airlines (JAT), the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on 29 August. EU diplomats agreed in June to seek a ban on landing rights for JAT in response to the Serbian crackdown in Kosova. JAT has since threatened to bar EU carriers from landing in Serbia in retaliation. German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel in May expressed concern that such countermeasures would make it difficult for Germany to continue deporting refugees back to Yugoslavia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 May 1998). PM ALBRIGHT WARNS CROATIA OVER BOSNIA... U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said in Zagreb on 30 August that the Croats of Bosnia-Herzegovina must be first and foremost citizens of that country and participate in its political structures. President Franjo Tudjman replied that "the main problem between the United States and Croatia is the problem of Bosnia...Croatia...is obliged by its constitution to take care of Croats outside the Republic of Croatia." Albright also said that Croatia has yet to meet "European standards" in democratization, minority rights, and independence of the media. To underscore her concern for democracy in Croatia, she met with the leaders of six major opposition parties. Two days earlier, representatives of those parties agreed to prepare joint draft election and media laws, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb. PM ...AND URGES BOSNIAN SERBS TO BACK DAYTON. Also on 30 August, Albright met with Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic and Prime Minister Milorad Dodik in Bijeljina and praised the two as a "good ticket" committed to the Dayton agreement. Albright reminded Bosnian Serb voters that the international community is prepared to deliver economic and reconstruction assistance, but only to those officials who back the Dayton accords. Her basic message, she added, is that "Dayton pays." Dodik, however, said that the international community should grant local authorities more decision-making powers and cut the size of the peacekeeping force. Meanwhile, near Mostar the previous day, some 150 Serbs returned to their former homes in two villages for the first time in six years. This was the fourth time in recent weeks that a group of Serbs went home in that part of Herzegovina, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM CRITICISM OF PRIVATIZATION IN BOSNIA. A spokesman for the international community's Carlos Westendorp said in Sarajevo on 29 August that Muslim and Croatian authorities are issuing privatization vouchers to former soldiers in place of back pay for political reasons. He noted that giving compensation to former soldiers is a way to "win votes" in the 12-13 September general elections. Elsewhere in Sarajevo, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit pledged economic and political support for Bosnia. He said that a $10 million reconstruction grant will be paid soon, along with $4 million in assistance for Air Bosna. Ecevit suggested that the Turkish government might soon decide to admit Bosnian-built Volkswagens to the Turkish market duty- free. PM OSCE, COUNCIL OF EUROPE CALL FOR CALM IN ALBANIA... Representatives of the OSCE and Council of Europe issued a joint statement in Tirana on 30 August, in which they urged Albanian political parties to stop making a political issue of the recent arrest of six former government officials on charges of committing crimes against humanity (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 28 August 1998). The text read: "we find recent statements and reports that cast this issue only in political terms to be counterproductive." The statement also urged all parties to allow justice to take its course and warned that politicizing the case risks compromising the ability of the legal institutions "to implement due process." It added that "we are very concerned about statements that contain violent rhetoric and we call upon all parties to refrain from any statements that may hinder peaceful and democratic procedures." FS ...WHILE PRIME MINISTER PLEDGES TO INCREASE SECURITY AHEAD OF DEMONSTRATION. As political tensions mount in the wake of the arrests, Fatos Nano pledged in Tirana on 29 August to strengthen the police, defense forces, and the secret service "to show the real force of the state by applying the law correctly." Former President Sali Berisha the same day said that Nano has "torn up the agreement that prevented civil war and [he] will face all the consequences of [his] unilateral act." Berisha called on his supporters to turn out for a rally slated for 31 August. Interior Minister Perikli Teta banned the demonstration, charging that "criminal elements" were planning to cause trouble. Six opposition supporters and six policemen were injured during a banned rally in Tirana on 27 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 28 August 1998). "Rilindja Demokratike" on 30 August quoted Berisha as saying that "nobody can stop the protest," adding that "the fall of Nano starts tomorrow." FS GREECE OPENS SECOND CONSULATE IN ALBANIA. Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos and his Albanian counterpart Paskal Milo opened a Greek consulate in Korca on 30 August. Milo praised the opening as "a major contribution to the further expansion of [bilateral] relations." Greece opened its first consulate in postcommunist Albania in Gjirokastra in 1994. Albania has a consulate in Ioannina and plans to open one in Thessaloniki soon. Meanwhile, the Greek consul in Gjirokastra on 28 August asked police to ensure the protection of the ethnic Greek community there following threats by masked gunmen against villagers. FS ROMANIAN PREMIER CRITICIZES PRIVATIZATION PACE. Radu Vasile, speaking on Romanian state radio on 29 August, criticized the slow pace of privatization and said changes will soon be made in "the second and third echelons" of the State Property Fund, where some officials are "blocking privatization." One day earlier, at a meeting of the leadership of the National Peasant Party-Christian Democratic (PNTCD), Vasile criticized the performance of Privatization Minister Sorin Dimitriu, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The 28 August meeting was "tempestuous," with former Premier Victor Ciorbea saying the government has met none of its deadlines. A meeting of the party's leading bodies must be convened and "fixed deadlines" must be established for carrying out the reforms, he said. Interior Minister Gavril Dejeu said he demands that Vasile "state clearly" if he intends to sack him. MS MORE ROMANIAN JOURNALISTS SENTENCED. Two Romanian journalists working for the Botosani "Monitorul" newspapers were fined 100 million lei ($11,250) after being convicted of libel, AP reported on 29 August. The journalists had written that a local politician had abused his position by quashing court proceedings against his son, who was accused of demolishing a building that was listed as a protected historical monument. This is the third time in recent months that journalists have been sentenced for libel in Romania. MS ECUMENICAL GATHERING IN BUCHAREST. Bucharest is hosting the 12th international ecumenical gathering "People and Religions," which is being attended by Christian Orthodox, Catholics and Protestants, as well as by Muslims, Buddhists, and Jews. The event is sponsored by the Romanian Orthodox Church and the Italian Catholic organization Sant Edigio. An interdenominational chapel was inaugurated on 29 August. Addressing the opening ceremony on 30 August, President Emil Constantinescu said he hoped the gathering will pave the way for the planned Romania visit of Pope John Paul II. He added that conflicts between the Orthodox Church and the Uniate Church in Romania "are not grave." MS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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