|Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into faith. - Christopher Fry|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 174 Part II, 9 September 1998
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 174 Part II, 9 September 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 * UKRAINE CRACKS DOWN ON ORGANIZED CRIME IN CIS * UN SECRETARY-GENERAL ALARMED BY KOSOVA SITUATION * ALBANIAN PREMIER READY FOR RECONCILIATION xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINE CRACKS DOWN ON ORGANIZED CRIME IN CIS. In a large-scale operation undertaken in Odessa, the Ukrainian police and security service have arrested 48 people who had intended to hold a "Mafia conference," Ukrainian Television reported on 8 September. Interfax reported that a total of 109 people were arrested, including underground leaders from 30 regions of Ukraine as well as from Russia, Belarus, Moldova, Kazakhstan, and the Transcaucasus. According to law enforcement agencies, those arrested had planned to meet in Odessa on 5 September to redivide spheres of influence and plan future joint operations. JM UKRAINE DENIES BANNING ROMANIAN LANGUAGE IN ODESSA REGION. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has rejected claims voiced recently in Romanian press that the Ukrainian authorities have banned the use of Romanian (called Moldovan in Ukraine) in schools in Odessa Oblast, dpa reported on 8 September. According to the ministry, there has been no change in the status of Romanian schools or in language policies in Ukraine since 1991. The ministry says that the Romanian claims are "absolutely groundless" and can be attributed to a "political and propaganda campaign" launched against Ukraine in the Romanian press. JM BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION MARKS ANNIVERSARY OF BATTLE OF ORSHA. Some 1,000 people took part in a rally organized by the opposition Belarusian Popular Front (BNF) in Minsk on 8 September to mark the anniversary of Belarusian troops victory in the battle against Muscovy near Orsha in 1514, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. In defiance of the current Minsk authorities, the Belarusian opposition celebrates the anniversary as Military Glory Day. BNF Deputy Chairman Yuryy Khadyka, addressing the rally, appealed to protesters to help Belarusians understand the true essence of the regime of Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, whom he called a "mental pensioner." For the first time in two years, the authorities allowed the opposition to march along Minsk's main street. JM BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER CALLS TO BREAK AWAY FROM RUSSIA. Zyanon Paznyak, exiled leader of the opposition BNF, has appealed to Belarusians to "cut themselves off from the dying Russian empire," Belapan reported on 8 September. In a statement issued for Military Glory Day, Paznyak called the current economic crisis in Russia "the beginning of the collapse of the Russian empire." He warned Belarusians against the "Russian imperialists," who "desire to quickly annex Belarus" before their "total financial collapse." Paznyak denounced the Belarusian government for helping Russia and appealed to Belarusians to defend their statehood and independence. JM ESTONIAN FARMERS RECEIVE FINANCIAL SUPPORT FROM GOVERNMENT. The government on 8 September allocated 2.3 million kroons (some $167,000) to farmers and local governments in partial compensation for losses incurred by heavy rains earlier this year, BNS reported. Agriculture Minister Andres Varik told reporters that this sum covers 36 percent of the claims submitted to the government, adding that more money could not be spared from the reserve fund. The minister also said that the state should help create a system whereby farmers can insure themselves against such natural disasters in the future. JC LITHUANIA TO PREPARE FOR TRADE LIBERALIZATION WITH RUSSIA. Lithuania is to push ahead on plans to liberalize trade with Russia, although the Russian financial crisis may delay further talks, BNS reported on 8 September, citing Lithuanian officials. Rimantas Segzda, an official at the Economy Ministry, told the news agency that "it is now especially urgent for Lithuania to ease trade in meat and dairy products, maybe introducing barter exchanges for Russian crude oil and natural gas." Lithuanian Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius is scheduled to visit Moscow this fall to sign various economic agreements and protocols. Lithuania and Russia have already signed protocols on mutual cooperation in the fishing industry, the encouragement and protection of investments, and avoiding double taxation. JC LILEIKIS TRIAL SCHEDULED TO BEGIN. The trial of suspected World War II criminal Aleksandras Lileikis is scheduled to begin in Vilnius on 9 September. The 91- year-old Lileikis, who headed the Vilnius security police during the Nazi occupation of Lithuania, is accused of genocide for handing over Jews to Nazi death squads. In 1996, he was stripped of his U.S. citizenship for concealing his wartime activities. Lileikis's trial has repeatedly been postponed owing to his ill health. Reuters reports that many observers fear his failure to appear on 9 September could halt the proceedings before they begin. JC POLISH OPPOSITION URGES STIFFER PENALTIES FOR CRIMINALS. Leszek Miller, leader of the opposition left-wing Democratic Left Alliance, told journalists on 8 September that his party favors stiffer penalties for brutal murders, assaults on policemen, and killings of children and teenagers, PAP reported. A campaign for more severe punishments is also being conducted by right-wing parties that are not represented in the parliament. A spokesman for the Fatherland Patriotic Movement has said some 1,000 "hardened, demoralized criminals will regain freedom as a result of the new penal regulations," which took effect last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 September). The movement demands that Justice Minister Hanna Suchocka be dismissed. Suchocka responds that she cannot be held responsible for a penal code passed by the parliament. JM GERMAN EXPELLEES BLAST POLAND OVER COMPENSATION REFUSAL. Erika Steinbach, chairwoman of Germany's Alliance of Expellees, has fiercely attacked Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek and Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek for rejecting the alliance's compensation claims (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 September 1998), PAP reported on 8 September. Steinbach said Geremek's statement that compensation for the expellees is a matter for the German government alone shows that "Poland lacks European maturity." She also blasted Buzek for calling the alliance an "extremist group." The demand "to heal wounds is not a demand by extremists," she commented. JM MECIAR DENIES HUNGARIAN ALLEGATIONS. Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar on 7 September denied recent allegations in the Hungarian daily "Magyar Hirlap" that he sent a "Meciar commando" to Budapest that carried out the bomb attack on Bratislava businessman Tamas Boros on 2 July. Speaking on private Radio Duha, Meciar called the allegations a "stupid and primitive lie" and added he is "not surprised" that such "dirty things" are possible in Hungary, CTK reported. In other news, former Slovak President Michal Kovac, in a lecture to the Batory Foundation in Warsaw on 7 September, said Meciar's cabinet "distorts the law, violates the constitution, ignores basic democratic principles, abuses the secret services, and uses public television for its ideological interests." MS SLOVAK JOURNALIST TO LEAVE COUNTRY. Pavol Rusko, director of TV Markiza, is leaving Slovakia because he fears he will be arrested there, the Czech daily "Pravo" reported on 8 September. TV Markiza was taken over in August by close associates of Counter-Intelligence Service head Ivan Lexa and Interior Minister Gustav Krajci. Rusko told the station's staff that the move was triggered by his refusal of a privatization offer made two years ago by the government. He said he had turned down the offer because "it would have meant serving [Meciar's government]." Rusko said he knows a warrant for his arrest has been issued under tax fraud allegations and that "if the current government remains in power after the elections, I am not sure whether I would leave jail at all. Accidents occur from time to time." Interior Ministry spokesman Peter Ondera denied that a warrant has been issued for Rusko's arrest. MS HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ATTENDS EU TALKS. European Union Commissioner Hans van den Broek told reporters after meeting in Brussels with Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi that "there are no obstacles" to the opening of accession talks between the EU and the six "fast track" countries on 10 November, Hungarian media reported on 9 September. Both Martonyi and Van den Broek said the crisis in Russia will have a limited impact on Hungary and the EU, as Hungary now is a "completely European country." MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE UN SECRETARY-GENERAL ALARMED BY KOSOVA SITUATION. Kofi Annan on 8 September expressed concern over the lack of progress in resolving the Kosova crisis and called on the international community to provide aid to avert a "major humanitarian disaster," AFP reported. In a monthly report to the UN Security Council, Annan said he is "alarmed" by the situation and the "further loss of life." Annan also said he has sent a letter to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic protesting the "excessive use of force" by Serbian forces in Kosova. And he criticized ethnic Albanian separatists for "acts of provocation." PB RUSSIA REPEATS OPPOSITION TO FOREIGN INTERVENTION IN KOSOVA. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin on 8 September said that Moscow is against possible NATO intervention in Kosova because it would only exacerbate the humanitarian situation in the province, Interfax reported. Rakhmanin said this message was delivered by Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov to Milosevic on 4 September. Rakhmanin said Milosevic praised Moscow for the role it played "in the settlement of the Kosova crisis" and said that his government "guarantees safety for all refugees and displaced persons returning to their homes." PB MILOSEVIC TO SANCTION SELF-RULE? The independent daily "Glas Javnosti" reported on 8 September that Milosevic has instructed Serbian officials to begin drafting a plan to hold elections in Kosova. The newspaper said parliamentary elections would be held in three months and that the formation of a Kosova parliament could be the centerpiece of an accord between Belgrade and ethnic Albanian leaders in Kosova. Adem Demaci, the Kosova Liberation Army's political representative, said the proprosed draft of an accord has no guarantees that Milosevic would abide by the agreement. "Only force can make [Milosevic] carry out what he promises..., that's the only language he understands," Demaci said. PB BOSNIAN SERB HARD-LINER DENOUNCES SRPSKA LEADERS. Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian member of the Bosnian presidency, has accused the leadership of the Republika Srpska of preventing it from uniting with Serbia, Reuters reported on 8 September. Krajisnik said that the goal of the Western-supported Bosnian Serb president, Biljana Plavsic, is to "destabilize the Serb ethnic region and weaken our emotional affiliation to Yugoslavia." Krajisnik is seeking reelection in the 12- 13 September elections. In Yugoslavia, Serbian Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj said the Republika Srpska is under "foreign occupation," and he severely criticized OSCE mission chief Robert Barry for prohibiting him from campaigning in Srpska (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 September 1998), BETA reported. He called Plavsic and Bosnian Serb Premier Milorad Dodik "quislings." PB BOSNIAN CROAT PARTY WON'T BOYCOTT ELECTIONS. Ante Jelavic, president of the nationalist Croatian Democratic Union of Bosnia-Herzegovina (HDZ BiH), said on 8 September that his party will participate in the September elections, HINA reported. The HDZ BiH said it was considering a boycott after the OSCE banned 15 of its candidates for violating election regulations. Meanwhile, the OSCE said that Croatian television programs are now abiding by election regulations on media coverage of the Bosnian elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 September 1998). PB U.S. OFFICIAL VOWS SUPPORT FOR MONTENEGRO. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State John Shattuck said on 8 September in the Montenegrin capital of Podgorica that Washington supports democratization in Montenegro, AFP reported. Shattuck held talks with President Milo Djukanovic and Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic about the influx of refugees from Kosova. Montenegro Deputy Premier Dragisa Burzan said on 6 September that some 40,000 people from Kosova have fled to Montenegro and that the small republic does not have the resources to cope with the refugees. Germany pledged $4.3 million to Montenegro the next day to help provide for the refugees. PB NATO GENERAL IN LJUBLJANA. NATO's Supreme Commander in Europe, U.S. General Wesley Clark, met with Slovenian officials in Ljubljana on 7-8 September, AP reported. Clark discussed plans for NATO expansion and the situation in Kosova with President Milan Kucan, Defense Minister Alojz Krapez, and the chief of staff of the Slovenian army, General Iztok Podbregar. Podbregar told Clark that NATO membership is Slovenia's "strategic aim." Slovenia is a member of NATO's Partnership for Peace program. PB CORRECTION: In the 8 September issue of "RFE/RL Newsline," the U.S. ambassador to Croatia should have been identified as William Dale Montgomery. ALBANIAN PREMIER READY FOR RECONCILIATION. Fatos Nano on 8 September said that he is willing to halt the prosecution of officials appointed by former President Sali Berisha, Reuters reported. Nano said in a speech to the parliament that he will support "initiatives which, without paralyzing and demotivating justice, bring to a formal end punishment of a political nature and aspire towards...national reconciliation." Six Berisha-era officials have been detained and accused of crimes against humanity for their roles in last year's unrest. Berisha has led demonstrations in Tirana to protest their arrest and vows to continue such protests until Nano steps down. PB ROMANIAN COALITION LEADERS FAIL TO COMPROMISE ON HUNGARIAN UNIVERSITY. The leaders of the ruling coalition parties have failed to reach an agreement that would satisfy the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR)'s demands for university-level instruction in the Hungarian language, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 8 September. They will meet again on 14 September to discuss the issue. Prime Minister Radu Vasile commented that he is "confident" a compromise solution can be reached. UDMR chairman Marko Bela said his party demands that the Chamber of Deputies' Education Commission change the wording of the provision prohibiting instruction in national minority languages at university level. Observers say this may be a hint that the UDMR is now ready to settle for the amendment passed last year by the Senate allowing private universities that teach in national minority languages and "multicultural" universities. MS ROMANIAN TABLOID DEPLORES 'LACK OF CYCLONE-B'. In its 7 September issue, the tabloid "Atac la persoana" said there are too many "potential soap [people] from Tel Aviv" on Bucharest's streets. It deplored the fact that owing to its present economic "penury," Romania does not have "sufficient barbed wire and Cyclone-B gas" to provide a solution to this problem. The prominent columnist Cornel Nistorescu, in an editorial in "Evenimentul zilei" on 9 September, called upon the authorities to sanction the tabloid in line with existing legislation. MS SMIRNOV ON TRANSDNIESTER ARMY. The leader of the separatist region, Igor Smirnov, says the Transdniester has "sufficient military equipment," which is "domestically produced," and that its military forces are "consistently improving their training [methods]." Smirnov, whose speech marked the seventh anniversary of the separatist military forces, said the main objective of the Transdniester army is to defend "the state and the citizens' lawful interests," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on 8 September. Transdniester media, citing military sources in Tiraspol, say the Transdniester army has 10,000 troops, of whom some 20 percent are retired Russian military and 10 percent new recruits. MS BULGARIAN PRESIDENT ON INTER-ETHNIC TENSION. Responding to the removal of ethnic Turkish commemorative plaques in a village in southeastern Bulgaria, Petar Stoyanov on 7 September said he will "do his best to prevent any further exploitation of inter-ethnic relations in Bulgaria for cheap political dividends." Stoyanov said he is "convinced that neither Hasan not Ivan, who are now harvesting, are likely to become hostages to an artificially sought and inspired conflict" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 September 1998), BTA reported. MS BULGARIA, ROMANIA, GREECE AGREE TO COMBAT CRIME TOGETHER. Bulgaria, Romania, and Greece have signed an agreement aimed at coordinating the struggle against organized crime. Meeting in Sofia on 8 September, the interior ministers of the three countries pledged to exchange information and launch concerted actions against drug and weapons smuggling, illegal immigration rackets, money laundering, and illegal financial operations, AP reported. 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