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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 181, Part II, 18 September 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 181, Part II, 18 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 SLOVAK SERVICE NEWS ONLINE Thousands are protesting staff firings at an independent TV station as elections approach. News texts in Slovak and all broadcasts are now available online. http://www.rferl.org/bd/sl/slovak/index-sl.html xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * UKRAINIAN POLICE ARREST PROMINENT OPPOSITIONIST * ALBANIAN PRESIDENT, INTERNATIONAL OFFICIALS CALL FOR CALM * RUGOVA FINDS INTERIM AUTONOMY ACCORD UNACCEPTABLE End Note: TIGHTENING OF EASTERN BORDERS GIVES KYIV WESTERN CONTACTS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINIAN POLICE ARREST PROMINENT OPPOSITIONIST. The Ukrainian police have arrested Mykola Syvulskyy, a senior official in the opposition party Hromada's shadow cabinet, on charges of embezzlement and tax evasion, Ukrainian Television and AP reported on 17 September. Syvulskyy, former deputy head of the National Bank and former deputy finance minister, is suspected of transferring more than $5 million from the Ukrhazprom state gas company to Unified Energy System, a private gas company. According to AP, Syvulskyy's arrest is the "latest chapter in an investigation" launched by state prosecutors against former Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, leader of the influential Hromada party. Lazarenko's opponents accuse him of abusing his authority and reaping huge profits when he was premier in 1996-1997. JM KUCHMA SAYS HE WILL NOT SIGN 'POPULIST BUDGET.' Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said on 17 September that he will "never sign a populist budget," Ukrainian Television reported. In his opinion, the budget must be realistic with regards to both revenues and expenditures. Kuchma added that he is "not quite satisfied" with the government's performance during the current crisis. According to him, the government lacks highly qualified professionals, particularly in economics. JM RUSSIAN BLACK SEA FLEET COMMANDER ACCUSES SEVASTOPOL OF 'ABUSIVE ACTIONS.' Vice Admiral Vladimir Komoedov, commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, has sent an open letter to the Sevastopol city administration accusing it of "abusive actions" against Russian sailors, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 September. Komoedov said that those sailors are discriminated against by the city authorities, which have deprived them of the right to use the city transportation free of charge. He also points to increased pressure on the fleet to pay taxes and threats to confiscate property and cut off water and electricity supplies unless the fleet pay its debts. JM BELARUS OFFERS HELPING HAND TO RUSSIA. Belarusian Foreign Minister Ivan Antanovich on 17 September said Belarus has "programs" that may be needed by Russia during its current crisis, Belapan reported. "We have experience, we can share it," he was quoted as saying. He added that Belarus is taking measures to intensify integration processes and political consultations with Russia, adding that the Belarusian Foreign Ministry sees the "current integration wave" to be of "utmost and priority" importance. In his opinion, the West is disseminating "powerful, destructive propaganda" against Russia and attempting to isolate that country, as it has done with Belarus. And he commented that the Russian crisis has culminated in a "collapse of Russia's development based on Western models that were implemented by Chicago boys." He declined, however, to offer any names. JM GERMANY, FRANCE TO EXAMINE NEW DIPLOMATIC RESIDENCES IN MINSK. Also on 17 September, Antanovich told journalists that Germany and France have sent their "technical teams" to examine Belarus's proposed new housing for diplomats following their eviction from the Drazdy residential compound in June, Belapan reported. Antanovich stressed that there will be "no return to the past" since the Drazdy compound is now the official residence of the Belarusian president. He said Belarus demands that foreign ambassadors respect this decision. He also commented foreign diplomat's property left at Drazdy remains untouched. Some ambassadors have requested that "they be allowed to spend at least one night in Drazdy in order to save face," Interfax quoted Antanovich as saying. LUKASHENKA SAYS RUSSIA SHOULD HAVE WARNED ABOUT CRISIS. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said on 17 September that Russia should have warned its CIS partners about its serious financial situation before the crisis erupted, Interfax reported. "This did not happen. That is why the collapse in Russia cost us dearly," he commented. Lukashenka added that Russia is still facing "very bad things" and that they may become a "regular occurrence." Referring to current economic policies in Russia, Lukashenka said that "Russia is now adopting the principles that Belarus has been working on for a long time." He added that there is a need for him to meet with the Russian president or prime minister to discuss Russia's economic course. JM LATVIAN WELFARE MINISTER SUBMITS RESIGNATION. Vladimirs Makarovs submitted his resignation on 17 September over recently adopted amendments to the law on state pensions, which he described as "unfeasible," RFE/RL's Latvian Service reported. Under those amendments, retired people who apply for higher pensions because they have continued to work after retiring will no longer be required to pay back their pensions for the previous three years. This non-payment, however, will depend on the availability of funds in the social insurance budget. In an interview with BNS, Makarovs pointed out that in August, the budget's revenues were 6 million lats ($12 million) down on the projected level. With the revenues for this month also shrinking, he commented that there are grounds for concern that it will not be possible to index pensions. JC U.S. WANT LILEIKIS BROUGHT TO TRIAL. The U.S has called on the Lithuanian government to bring suspected war criminal Aleksandras Lileikis, a former U.S. citizen, to trial, Reuters reported on 17 September. In a statement released by the U.S. embassy in Vilnius, Department of State spokesman James Rubin said "the United States calls on Lithuania to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that justice is rendered in this and other important war crime cases from Nazi occupation." Lileikis's trial was indefinitely postponed last week when the defendant, pleading ill health, failed to show up (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September 1998). JC LITHUANIA SET TO DELIVER MEDICAL AID TO KALININGRAD. Lithuania is preparing to deliver medical aid worth 1 million litas ($250,000) to Kaliningrad, BNS reported. Protocols on the transfer of urgently needed medicines were signed at the Lithuanian consulate in the Russian exclave on 17 September. The medicines are intended for urban and regional children's hospitals, intensive care hospitals, and psychoneurological clinics. Lithuanian Ambassador Viktoras Baublys said Vilnius is providing the support to Kaliningrad "out of [a sense of] good-neighborliness," which, he added, is a priority of Lithuanian foreign policy. JC RUSSIAN CRISIS HITS POLISH BAZAARS. According to Jerzy Kropiwnicki, head of the Government Center for Strategic Studies, the Russian crisis has significantly reduced unregulated trade at Polish bazaars, "Zycie Warszawy" reported on 18 September. He said trade turnover fell "particularly dramatically" at bazaars in Bialystok and Warsaw. Annual turnover in Poland's unregulated trade sector in Poland is estimated at $5-7 billion. Kropiwnicki believes that the bazaar trade slump will not affect official trade with Russia. Some 85 percent of Polish gas and oil imports are from Russia. In his opinion, Poland should expect an increase in such imports since Russia urgently needs hard- currency revenues. The Russian crisis, he continued, will affect only some market sectors, such as trade in vegetables, and primarily eastern regions of the country, which depend to a large extent on cross-border trade with Poland's eastern neighbors. JM SLOVAK BROADCASTING COUNCIL FINES MARKIZA TV. The Slovak Radio and Television Council on 17 September fined the private television company Markiza TV 3.5 million crowns ($120,000) for alleged violation of the country's electoral law, Reuters reported. Markiza TV has given live coverage to the protests against the dismissal by the station's new management of its director-general, Pavol Rusko, and other staff. The council ruled that this violated the law because opposition leaders who addressed the protesters "conducted election campaigning." Also on 17 September, the council ruled in favor of Markiza's new owners, Gamatex, saying that Gamatex owns 51 percent of Markiza TV shares and has the right to make staff changes, AP reported. MS KOSICE MAYOR SAYS HE CAN BRING DOWN MECIAR. Rudolf Schuster, mayor of Kosice and leader of the Party of Civic Understanding (SOP) on 17 September told Reuters that the SOP is "the most important party in this election" and that only he can bring about the demise of Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar. Schuster's SOP was set up eight months ago and is estimated to have the support of some 15 percent of the electorate. He told the agency that "with us, [the opposition can garner] 60 percent, without us, 50 percent." Schuster said it is "crucial" for the opposition to remain united and avoid "disintegration in squabbling over who holds what post." He also said that with the 25-26 September election date approaching, Meciar "is becoming desperate" and that "it remains to be seen whether it is possible to punish him or not" for his "many bad and big mistakes." MS HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER CRITICIZES WEST. The West "sees only itself and is still failing to understand what is going on in Central and Eastern Europe," Prime Minister Viktor Orban said in an interview with the German weekly "Die Woche," cited by "Nepszabadsag" on 18 September. Orban said Western Europe's ignorance prompted it to commit "all possible faults" in its policies toward the wars in former Yugoslavia and the integration of Central European countries into the EU and NATO. Commenting on policies toward ethnic Hungarians abroad, Orban said "our national borders are clear, but it is a fact that Hungarians living in the Carpathian Basin are bound together by a cultural identity. Hungarian minorities do not represent a problem," Orban concluded, since "they have never taken any action in favor of secession, but instead they have formed [cultural and political] associations." MSZ HUNGARY TAKES CUSTOMS DISPUTES WITH SLOVAKIA TO WTO. Hungary will launch urgent proceedings against Slovakia at the World Trade Organization, Hungary's ambassador to the WTO, Istvan Major, told "Vilaggazdasag" on 18 September. Last week Slovakia increased customs tariffs on Hungarian wheat imports by 70 percent. Hungarian trade experts believe that the Slovak decision may have been triggered by political, rather than economic, considerations. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ALBANIAN PRESIDENT, INTERNATIONAL OFFICIALS CALL FOR CALM. Albanian President Rexhep Mejdani has called on his countrymen to disregard opposition leader Sali Berisha's appeal for a nationwide protest on 18 September, Reuters reported. Mejdani made the public plea after a meeting with special EU envoy Herbert Grubmayr, OSCE ambassador to Albania Daan Everts, and Austrian ambassador to Tirana Arnold Riedel. Everts said the officials agreed that it would be good for "people to stay at home, so that they are not misused for political ends." The European Parliament in Strasbourg passed a resolution on 17 September calling on all political forces in the country to seek a peaceful settlement to the crisis. PB BERISHA REMAINS DEFIANT AS PARLIAMENT MOVES TO STRIP HIS IMMUNITY. After another march involving a few thousand people in downtown Tirana on 17 September, former President Sali Berisha continued his attack on Prime Minister Fatos Nano and reiterated a call for a nationwide protest to take place the following day, dpa reported. Berisha called Nano the "champion of corruption in Europe" and accused him of leading the country toward civil conflict. Also on 17 September, a parliamentary commission voted to recommend that the parliament lift Berisha's immunity as a deputy. Berisha could face a sentence of life imprisonment if convicted of "incitement to armed rebellion." The commission voted to recommend that six other Democratic Party deputies not be stripped of their immunity. PB RUGOVA FINDS INTERIM AUTONOMY ACCORD UNACCEPTABLE. A U.S.- backed plan to end the violence in Kosova has been declared unacceptable by Kosova "shadow state" President Ibrahim Rugova, BETA reported on 17 September. The proposed three- year accord, which was published in the daily "Koha Ditore," refers to Kosova as a territory with a sovereign parliament, executive, local police force, and judicial system. Kosova would be represented in the Serbian government and the Yugoslav parliament, although federal officials would not be allowed to interfere in Kosova politics. After a meeting between U.S. envoy Christopher Hill and Rugova in Prishtina, chief Kosova Albanian negotiator Fehmi Agani said his side has "serious complaints about the proposal and it will have to be changed." The Kosova Liberation Army has described the signing of any agreement with Belgrade short of complete independence for Kosova as "national treason." PB RUSSIA OBJECTS TO PROPOSED UN RESOLUTION. A Russian delegate voiced Moscow's opposition to a French-British resolution that calls for a global flight ban on Yugoslavia national airlines and other unspecified sanctions if Serbian forces continue their attacks on ethnic Albanians in Kosova, Reuters reported on 18 September. The disapproval came during a meeting of delegates from the Contact Group countries held in New York. The resolution would demand that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic call an immediate cease-fire in Kosova and allow humanitarian organizations unfettered access to displaced persons or face the ban on flights and other possible sanctions. PB SERBIAN FORCES CONTINUE ATTACK ON VILLAGES. Backed by tanks, Serbian forces continued their assault on ethnic Albanian villages in northeastern Kosova on 17 September, AFP and Reuters reported. A spokesman for the UN refugee agency in Prishtina said some 10,000 refugees have fled their homes in the past three days to escape the shelling. The Serbian offensive is concentrated on the three towns of Kosovska Mitrovica, Vucitrn, and Podujevo, Serbian sources said. According to Kosova Albanian sources, six UCK fighters and one Serbian policeman died in the fighting, but those figures could not be confirmed. In Washington, the Defense Department said it is making plans to provide emergency food supplies, including air drops, in order to prevent a humanitarian disaster from occuring. Some 300,000 ethnic Albanians are reported to be displaced in Kosova without food or shelter. PB SERBIAN OFFICIALS BLAST GERMANY OVER REMARKS. Vojislav Seselj, the ultranationalist deputy prime minister of Serbia, slammed German Defense Minister Volker Ruehe for supporting ethnic Albanian "terrorists" and warned Germany of defeat if it participated in armed intervention in Kosova, AP reported on 17 September. The German Foreign Ministry in Bonn on 18 September rejected a formal protest by Belgrade the previous day. Ruehe said on 15 September that NATO military action against Kosova would be possible in a matter of weeks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 1998). Seselj said "Germany and their allies must be defeated if they strike against our territory." Ivica Dacic, the spokesman for Serbia's ruling Socialist Party, said that apparently "two [German] genocides against the Serbian people were not enough, so they want to finish off the job." PB HARD-LINE SERBIAN CANDIDATE CLAIMS VICTORY. Nikola Poplasen, the leader of the Serbian Radical Party and a candidate for the presidency of the Republika Srpska, claimed on 17 September that he has an insurmountable lead over incumbent President Biljana Plavsic, AP reported. Many Poplasen supporters filled the streets in towns throughhout Republika Srpska, waving flags in celebration. Hanns Schumacher, a deputy to high representative Carlos Westendorp, admitted that Plavsic is trailing but that there are many absentee ballots that still need to be counted. Poplasen claimed he has a 7 percent lead over Plavsic and that there are too few uncounted ballots for his lead to be overcome. Poplasen is an ally of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic. The OSCE has said final results will be issued next week. PB ROMANIAN OPPOSITION PARTY 'BREAKS LINKS' WITH PRESIDENT. The Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) on 17 September announced it is "breaking all links" with President Emil Constantinescu, whom it accuses of "partisanship" and failure to fulfill his duty of "mediator" among social and political forces, Mediafax reported. The PDSR said that at a meeting with leaders of the ruling National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) on 15 September, Constantinescu advised the PNTCD to "attack the opposition, and above all the PDSR." In reaction, presidential counselor Zoe Petre said the PDSR is displaying "excessive political zeal" over alleged statements at a meeting where it was not present. She also said that the opposition has "clearly shown from the beginning" that it is not interested in taking part in consultations initiated by Constantinescu with parliamentary parties. Those consultations continued on 17 September, when Constantinescu met with leaders of the National Liberal Party. MS ROMANIAN PRESIDENT CRITICIZES JUDICIAL SYSTEM. Speaking at the inauguration ceremony of 10 new Supreme Court judges, President Constantinescu said that the Romanian public regards the country's judicial system "with a lack of trust." He added that he himself is "shocked" by judges who have condoned "clear acts of breaking the law" and let criminals go unpunished. Meanwhile, the government has scheduled elections for the mayoralty of Bucharest for 25 October. The election campaign will begin on 1 October. MS MOLDOVAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT POSTPONES DECISION ON 'NUCLEAR TRANSIT.' The Constitutional Court on 17 September postponed until the next day its ruling on an appeal by a group of deputies from the Democratic Convention of Moldova against the parliament's decision to allow the transit to Russia of spent nuclear fuel from the Bulgarian reactor at Kozloduy, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. According to ITAR-TASS on 17 September, by the time the court rules on the appeal, the train transporting the fuel from Kozloduy may have already entered Moldovan territory. Also on 17 September, the parliament passed laws on electricity and gas, which provide for setting up a National Agency for Regulating Energy. The two laws are part of a package of legislation stipulated by international lending institutions as a condition for resuming loans to Moldova. MS MOLDOVAN POLITICIAN MURDERED. Valentin Ciobanu, a prominent leader of the Christian Democratic Popular Front (now part of the Democratic Convention of Moldova, a member of the ruling coalition), died on 17 September of wounds sustained six days earlier when he was attacked by unidentified persons in front of his home. The police did not release news of the attack until after Ciobanu's death. Parliamentary deputy chairman Iurie Rosca told RFE/RL that there can be no doubt that Ciobanu died as a result of a "premeditated political murder." He ruled out robbery, explaining that "Ciobanu was so poor that only his soul could be stolen from him." Rosca commented that Moldova has started "emulating the Russian fashion of killing on orders" and that "other attempts may be under way right now in Chisinau." He also said that he is "bewildered" that the media did not report the attack until after Ciobanu's death. MS END NOTE TIGHTENING OF EASTERN BORDERS GIVES KYIV WESTERN CONTACTS by Jan de Weydenthal Earlier this week, Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek called on Ukraine to impose full control over its eastern borders as an important step toward preserving visa- free travel to Poland and providing for easier contacts with the West. Speaking at the Kyiv Institute of International Relations on 16 September, Geremek said Poland intends to resist Western pressure to introduce visas for Ukrainians. But, he said, Ukraine must take firmer steps to counter the smuggling of weapons and drugs from the East across Polish territory. Poland has been under pressure from the EU to tighten control over its eastern border. German Interior Minister Manfred Kanther told Polish officials during a visit to Warsaw last month that the government should bring its visa policies into line with those of the EU. He added that this is a condition of Poland's EU membership. Warsaw has signed agreements on visa-free travel and on the re-admission of illegal migrants with Kyiv. But it has restricted entry for Russians and Belarusians, whose governments failed to reach similar accords. Ukraine has been concerned that any restriction on travel to Poland would adversely affect its economy. Poland is an important source of trade and employment to thousands of Ukrainians. During a meeting with Geremek, Ukraine's Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko said that Kyiv might set up several free economic zones along the border with Poland to further promote economic contacts. Polish-Ukrainian bilateral trade turnover reached almost $1.7 billion in 1997 and has grown rapidly so far this year. Trade with Poland has become even more important for Ukraine since the onset of Russia's economic crisis. Russia is Ukraine's main trading partner, accounting for 40 percent of trade turnover, and Russia's financial crisis has disrupted those ties with Ukraine Geremek emphasized in his speech that the Russian crisis provides a reminder of the need for speeding up reforms and expanding contacts with the West. He said that Poland would like to see Ukraine in all European institutions and is ready "to support Ukraine at this difficult moment." The economic decline in Russia is certain to affect Ukraine's economy. In addition, the continuing political uncertainty in Moscow does not augur well for many unsolved problems in Ukrainian-Russian relations. The Russian State Duma has failed to ratify a Ukrainian- Russian friendship treaty recognizing Ukraine's independence. And there is still no agreement on delimiting borders between the two states, seven years after Ukraine's declaration of independence. Influential Russian politicians still talk about what they call the "inherent" unity of the two countries within Russian-dominated Slavic nationhood. This state of affairs has not been lost on Ukrainian leaders. During Geremek's visit to Ukraine, there were frequent mentions of a strategic partnership between Kyiv and Warsaw. Stricter control over Ukraine's borders with Russia and Belarus appears to be an important element in the future development of such a partnership. Following talks with Geremek, Volodymyr Horbulin, head of Ukraine's Security and Defense Council, said that "we have to stop the smuggling of drugs, stop organized crime and illegal immigration through our eastern border." Such a program would have important political implications in reinforcing Ukraine's national and territorial separateness from Russia. Poland is to enter NATO next year and is currently in accession talks with the EU. Geremek said that Poland's membership in these institutions could benefit Ukraine. Currently, the main problem is the one of visas. And resolving that problem depends on how Ukraine seeks to tighten its eastern borders, he said. Meanwhile, Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski is to meet with his Ukrainian counterpart, Leonid Kuchma, in Crimea next week. They are to discuss bilateral relations and the regional repercussions of the Russian crisis. The author is an RFE/RL senior correspondent. 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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