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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 3, Part II, 6 January 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 3, Part II, 6 January 1999 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 * KLAUS WANTS DIALOGUE WITH HAVEL * VIOLENCE BREAKS OUT IN PRISHTINA * ABDIC BALKS AT MOVE TO TRY HIM FOR WAR CRIMES xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE INFLATION IN UKRAINE REACHED 20 PERCENT LAST YEAR. Presidential aide Valeriy Lytvytskyy said on 5 January that inflation in Ukraine reached 20 percent last year, AP reported. Inflation in September was 3.8 percent and rose to 6.8 percent in October in the wake of Russia's financial crisis, sinking to 3 percent in November and 3.3 percent in December. The previous year, inflation stood at 10 percent. Lytvytskyy commented that the 20 percent inflation rate in 1998 was "a relatively acceptable price to pay for the regional crisis, considering its depth and comparing Ukraine's inflation figure to those of neighboring countries." JM UKRAINIAN SECURITY SERVICE SAYS 12 SPIES CAUGHT IN 1998. The Security Service reported on 5 January that last year it caught 12 agents from foreign intelligence services and thwarted 14 attempts to pass sensitive data to foreign diplomats. It added that a total of 19 foreigners were expelled from Ukraine in 1998 for their involvement in espionage. JM PROTESTING REPAIRMEN SHUT OFF ELEVATORS IN SEVASTOPOL. Workers of a company maintaining and repairing elevators in Sevastopol have closed down all elevators in the city, except those serving hospitals, to protest unpaid wages, AP reported on 5 January. The protesters say the repairmen are owed more than 300,000 hryvni ($87,500) in back wages and have not been paid for more than seven months. JM BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER'S CHIEF EDITOR SACKED. Ihar Hermyanchuk, chief editor of Belarus's main opposition newspaper "Naviny," was dismissed on 4 January, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reported the next day. Pavel Zhuk, the founder of the newspaper, who decided on Hermyanchuk's ouster, told RFE/RL that "the newspaper should be changed" but gave no details. Since 1991, Hermyanchuk has been chief editor of the opposition newspaper "Svaboda," which was banned by the authorities in late 1997 and resumed its publication under the name of "Naviny" early last year. Hermyanchuk told RFE/RL that this spring, he intends to launch an information and analytical weekly, "something like Moscow 'Itogi,' which has so far had no analogs in Belarus." JM ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES RAILWAYS PRIVATIZATION. The cabinet on 5 January approved the principles of the concession agreement for privatizing Estonia's railways network, ETA reported. Under that agreement, the highest bidder for the railways will sign a deal on improving the sector's infrastructure. It is estimated that an initial investment of 5.9 billion kroons (some $454 million) is needed to improve tracks and to update signal equipment. Economy minister Jaak Leimann said that by the end of the month a tender for the railways may be announced. JC IVANGOROD EMPTYING SEWAGE INTO NARVA RIVER. BNS reported on 5 January that Ivangorod has been releasing some 1,700 cubic meters of sewage into the Narva River since the Estonian water company Narva Vesi stopped treating its waste water (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January 1999). An Ivangorod official told the news agency that 90 percent of the sewage is domestic and some 10 percent industrial waste. He added that industrial production in Ivangorod has declined considerably and thus no heavy metals waste is among the sewage. Ivangorod's sewage outlet is some 6 kilometers from the Gulf of Finland. Estonian environmental experts say that Ivangorod's untreated waste spells catastrophe neither for the Narva River nor for the Gulf of Finland but may affect their fauna and flora. JC FORMER CHIEF OF LATVIAN POLICE DECLINES TO BE REINSTATED. General Aldis Lieljuksis, who was dismissed as head of police following the April 1998 bombing of the Riga synagogue, has declined to return to his former post following a court ruling that he be reinstated, BNS reported on 5 January, citing the Interior Ministry. The ministry said that it has revoked a statement released on 6 April 1998 giving "tendentious and exaggerated information about Lieljuksis" and has apologized for the "moral damage" he sustained as a result of that statement. Interior Minister Roberts Jurdzs told journalists that last spring, all the blame for the bombing of the synagogue had been wrongly placed on one person, namely Lieljuksis. JC GIMZAUSKAS FAILS TO SHOW UP FOR TRIAL. Suspected World War II criminal Kazys Gimzauskas failed to attend the opening of his trial on 5 January. His lawyer told the court that the 90-year-old Gimzauskas is seriously ill and confined to bed, to which the judge responded that he will resume the trial the next day to decide whether to call for a medical examination of the defendant. Gimzauskas is charged with handing over Jews to Nazi execution squads in his war-time capacity as deputy Vilnius police chief. His superior at that time, 91- year-old Aleksandras Lileikis, is also charged with such crimes. Lileikis's trial has been repeatedly postponed owing to poor health. JC GEREMEK SAYS POLAND WILL BE READY FOR EU IN 2002-2003. Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek told the radio station RTL on 6 January that Poland will be ready to join the EU in 2002 or 2003 and wants to sign up for the single currency, the euro, in 2006. "The problem is whether the EU will be ready," he added. Geremek said Poland is "frustrated" that its original EU entry date of 2000, backed by former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and French President Jacques Chirac, has been pushed back. JM POLISH CABINET REJECTS DEMANDS OF STRIKING ANESTHETISTS. The government on 5 January said that it cannot meet the demands of striking anesthetists (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 January 1999) because those demands "distort the essence of the [health care] reform," Reuters reported. According to the Health Ministry, some 60 percent of the 742 anesthetists who handed in their resignation failed to show up for work on 5 January. Anesthetists say some 1,500 of the country's 2,700 practicing anesthetists have resigned. Meanwhile, Polish Radio reported the same day that anesthetists from the Baltics and Sweden have begun appearing in Polish hospitals to replace their protesting Polish colleagues. JM KLAUS WANTS DIALOGUE WITH HAVEL. In an open letter, Civic Democratic Party (ODS) Chairman Vaclav Klaus has called on President Vaclav Havel to meet with him to discuss the Czech Republic's "serious social and economic problems," CTK and AP reported on 5 January. Klaus said that "a dialogue...must replace monologues" and that Havel must help reach consensus. He also expressed the hope that the "walls" about which Havel spoke in his New Year speech "will be destroyed this year" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January 1999). Presidential spokesman Ladislav Spacek said Havel "has never been opposed to a dialogue," adding that the president has "repeatedly emphasized that political parties and politicians should not put personal interests and group interests above those of the state and the citizens." Havel, Spacek said, "welcomes any effort to reach a consensus and solutions that would help the country." MS DUTCH COMPANY DENIES CZECH BRIBERY ALLEGATIONS. A spokesman for the Dutch KPN company on 5 January denied that in 1995 KPN bribed Czech politicians from the ODS and the Civic Democratic Alliance in order to gain a stake in the privatization of the Czech SPT Telecom company, CTK reported. In Prague, a group of deputies from the Social Democratic Party announced they will propose setting up a special parliamentary commission to investigate the allegations. The daily "Pravo" commented on 6 January that the Dutch authorities want to send an investigation team to Prague to clarify the allegations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 January 1999). MS SLOVAK OPPOSITION LEADER EXPLAINS MECIAR'S EXIT FROM POLITICS. Augustin Marian Huska, deputy chairman of the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), said on 5 January that party chairman Vladimir Meciar has decided to withdraw from politics in order to undermine the only tie that binds the parties of the ruling coalition, CTK reported. Huska said that only "anti-Meciarism" is uniting these parties, whose political programs otherwise differ widely, and "we really do not want to help them put this conglomerate together." Meciar last appeared in public at the end of September 1998, after his electoral defeat. Later, he said he would not run for president and was planning to withdraw from politics "at an appropriate date." Huska also said the most important task facing the HZDS is that of attracting new members who will realize that the country must have a strong opposition party. MS NATO FRONT-RUNNERS PLEDGE SUPPORT FOR SLOVAK MEMBERSHIP. Deputy defense ministers from the three front-runners for NATO membership, meeting in Bratislava on 5 January, pledged to help Slovakia join the alliance, Reuters and CTK reported. Slovak Ministry of Defense State Secretary Jozef Pivarci told journalists that, "Our colleagues from the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland told us, 'If you do not come to NATO, we will bring NATO to you.'" MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE VIOLENCE BREAKS OUT IN PRISHTINA. Unknown persons tossed a hand grenade at a Serbian cafИ in central Prishtina on 5 January. Angry Serbs then attacked nearby Albanian cafes with rocks and broken glass. Three Serbs and four Kosovars were injured. Until now, the Kosovar capital had remained largely unaffected by the previous 10 months of violence. Meanwhile in the Rahovec area, south of Prishtina, international monitors began an investigation of a purported mass grave of Kosovars killed in August by Serbian security forces. PM NATO COMMANDER BLAMES SERBS FOR KOSOVA CRISIS. General Wesley Clark, who is the supreme allied commander in Europe, told the "International Herald Tribune" of 6 January in a telephone interview from Paris that Belgrade's termination of Kosova's autonomy in 1989 "plunged [Kosova] into a cycle of repression, [which led to Kosovar] resistance andКvastly excessive reaction" by Serbian forces. He stressed that the Kosovars "have to continue to struggle because they can't risk another catastrophe of falling under political repression from Belgrade." The Serbian authorities, Clark added, "are violating their commitments to NATO" under the October agreement between Belgrade and the Atlantic alliance. He noted that the Serbs have broken their promises by deploying additional troops and giving heavy weapons to the paramilitary police. Clark told his French hosts that he disagrees with Defense Minister Alain Richard, who recently blamed the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) for the continuing crisis (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January 1999). PM UCK WARNS THAT 'TIME IS RUNNING OUT.' Adem Demaci, who is the UCK's chief political spokesman, said in Tirana on 5 January that the Serbs "should realize that this is the last moment for them to lay down their arms, give up their terror and killings, and join the civilized world." He said of his talks with President Rexhep Meidani, Prime Minister Pandeli Majko and Foreign Minister Paskal Milo that "we understood each other very well" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 January 1999). Demaci appealed to Albanian politicians to end their squabbles because "a strong, stable Albania is a great source of support for [ethnic] Albanians in Kosova," dpa quoted him as saying. Demaci and Milo agreed on the need for regular contacts between Tirana and the UCK. Demaci's visit was the first in which a leader of the UCK was officially received by the top Albanian political figures, who favor a negotiated solution to the crisis. PM HILL RESUMES DIPLOMATIC MISSION. Christopher Hill, who is Washington's chief negotiator in the Kosova crisis, resumed his shuttle diplomacy on 5 January by meeting with shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova in Prishtina. Hill said that he came "to review the situation," including the "serious deterioration on the ground." He stressed that "we need to make sure that the cease-fire holds. The cease-fire is critical to getting a political settlement." Jacques Huntzinger, who is France's chief envoy in the crisis, has taken on an increasingly active role in recent weeks, which led some observers to suggest that Paris would like to replace Washington as the key sponsor of a negotiated settlement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 January 1999). PM GLIGOROV STALLS ON AMNESTY. Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov on 5 January returned to the parliament a proposed amnesty law that would end the jail terms of some 800 people found guilty of violating the 1997 law on the public display of national symbols (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 December 1998). Most of the 800 are ethnic Albanians. It is unclear what changes Gligorov would like to be made. Some observers suggested that he may be testing the political determination of the new government of Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, which sponsored the amnesty in order to defuse ethnic tensions and concentrate its energies on the economy. The VOA's Albanian Service reported that Georgievski may push through the amnesty without Gligorov's signature if the prime minister feels that the president is deliberately obstructing the measure. PM/FS OSCE BACKS DODIK. U.S. diplomat Robert Berry, who heads the OSCE's mission in Bosnia, said in Banja Luka on 5 January that "on behalf of the international community, we continue to support the [bid] of Milorad Dodik [to remain the Republika Srpska's] prime minister." Berry's visit to Dodik came in the wake of hard-line President Nikola Poplasen's nomination of Brane Miljus to succeed Dodik (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January 1999). Elsewhere, Miljus told Belgrade's Radio B-92 that Dodik should be jailed for his business activities during the 1992-1995 war and that former President Biljana Plavsic should be tried for war crimes. Spokesmen for the international community have repeatedly said that the Republika Srpska will continue to receive reconstruction and other aid only if the Bosnian Serbs choose a moderate government. Poplasen defeated the moderate Plavsic for the presidency in the 1998 elections. PM ABDIC BALKS AT MOVE TO TRY HIM FOR WAR CRIMES. Fikret Abdic, the former kingpin of the Bihac pocket in northwestern Bosnia, told journalists in several telephone interviews from Rijeka on 5 January that the Bosnian government's recent moves to have him extradited from Croatia for war crimes are politically motivated (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 January 1999). Abdic charged that Sarajevo Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic wants "to see me deadК[or] at least in jail" lest Abdic defeat Izetbegovic's allies in a future electoral contest to succeed the elderly Izetbegovic. In the 1998 elections for the Muslim seat on the joint presidency, Abdic won 36,000 votes, compared with Izetbegovic's 511,000, AP noted. Abdic's popularity is largely limited to the northwest, where many regard him as a champion of local interests. His detractors consider him a crook and a war criminal. PM WOULD CROATIA EXTRADITE ABDIC? Spokesmen for the Justice Ministry said in Zagreb on 5 January that the authorities have not received a formal request from Sarajevo for Abdic's extradition, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The spokesmen added that the constitution prohibits the extradition of Croatian citizens. This could prove the deciding factor in Abdic's case, since he holds Croatian as well as Bosnian citizenship. The Croatian independent media have repeatedly suggested that Zagreb may be "holding Abdic in reserve" for a possible role in an unspecified future partition of Bosnia. PM ROMANIAN OPPOSITION SIDES WITH STRIKING MINERS. Former President and Party of Social Democracy in Romania Chairman Ion Iliescu has said the Jiu Valley striking miners' demands are "justified" and the causes of the labor conflict are "more complex" than presented by the government. He called on President Emil Constantinescu to mediate the conflict, adding that the miners' planned visit to Bucharest to stage a protest is "no solution." Greater Romania Party Chairman Corneliu Vadim Tudor called on the population to organize a general strike to end "Constantinescu's anti-popular and anti-national regime." He added that the parliament must meet in an extraordinary session to debate the strike. Valeriu Tabara, chairman of the Party of Romanian National Unity, said his party is backing the miners' demands, "except some exaggerated ones," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS ROMANIAN RULING PARTY APPOINTS NEW OFFICIALS. The leadership of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic, meeting in Bucharest on 5 January, appointed Constantin Dudu Ionescu as acting secretary-general of the party and Remus Opris as its acting spokesman. Both positions were held by Premier Radu Vasile until his appointment as head of government. Ionescu and Opris are to fill the posts during Vasile's tenure as premier, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS ROMANIA INTRODUCES MANDATORY HOLOCAUST STUDIES. History textbooks are to be revised to correct "errors and omissions" on the inter-war and communist period, a spokesman for the Ministry of Education announced on 5 January. Particular attention will be paid to the "apex of modern world barbarity," the Holocaust. The ministry will cooperate with specialists on the Holocaust from Israel and other countries in revising the textbooks. MS MOLDOVA THREATENS TO LEAVE CIS INTER-PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY. Moldovan parliamentary chairman Dumitru Diacov, in a letter to Russian State Duma chairman Gennadii Seleznev, said Moldova will be "forced to examine the possibility of taking adequate measures, including quitting the CIS Inter-Parliamentary Assembly" if the Duma does not strike from its agenda a planned debate on recognizing the Transdniester as an independent state, BASA-press reported on 5 January. Diacov said that the separatist region is an "indivisible part of the Republic of Moldova" and that the "whole international community" acknowledges this. He added that "some forces in the Russian Federation" play "a negative role" in seeking to "exploit the Transdniester problem for purposes that have nothing in common with the fundamental interests of our [two] peoples." MS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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