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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 16, Part II, 25 January 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 16, Part II, 25 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 * UKRAINE TO DEFAULT ON FOREIGN DEBT? * DIPLOMATIC 'OFFENSIVE' UNDER WAY FOR KOSOVA * STRIKE, VIOLENCE ENDS AFTER ROMANIAN PREMIER MEETS MINERS End Note: MESSAGES SENT, MESSAGES RECEIVED xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINE TO DEFAULT ON FOREIGN DEBT? Ukraine may default on its foreign debt payments in 1999 unless foreign donors resume their aid to the country, AP quoted the Foreign Ministry as saying in a statement on 22 January. According to that statement, Ukraine must pay $1.17 billion to foreign creditors in 1999, but the government is asking for new loans because it will not be able to raise the money on its own. In addition, the National Bank, which has $1 billion in reserves, owes the IMF $700 million in loan payments. Ukrainian Television reported the next day that last year Ukraine's foreign debt increased by $2 billion to $11.5 billion, which is equal to 40 percent of the country's GDP or 70 percent of its annual exports. According to the Finance Ministry, Ukraine needs $2.2 billion in foreign loans this year. JM LAZARENKO NOMINATED PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE. A congress of the opposition Hromada party on 22 January nominated former Ukrainian Premier Pavlo Lazarenko as its candidate for the October presidential elections. Lazarenko is currently under investigation by Swiss police on money laundering charges. He was arrested in Switzerland in December and released on a $3 million bail. The Prosecutor-General's Office has asked the parliament to lift Lazarenko's deputy immunity so that he can be arrested and tried on charges of embezzling government funds and siphoning some $4 million abroad. Lazarenko told the Hromada congress that the corruption charges against him are aimed at removing him as President Leonid Kuchma's potential rival in the presidential race. JM UKRAINIAN MINER IMMOLATES HIMSELF OVER UNPAID WAGES. Anatoliy Konarev, a 37-year-old miner from Luhansk, set himself alight on 22 January after the director of the local mine had refused to discuss with him his wage arrears. Konarev died in the hospital several hours later. The mine owed him 600 hryvni ($175). JM BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION PROTESTS 'RUSSIAN OCCUPATION.' Some 4,000 people participated in a march organized by the Belarusian Popular Front (BNF) in Minsk on 22 January to protest the Belarusian-Russian union, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. "We are launching the second stage of actions of the Belarusian people in defense of our state. For the time being, we do not need to resort to arms to advance toward civilized Europe," BNF acting chairman Lyavon Barshcheuski told the crowd. "We are not fighting against the Russian worker nor against the Russian peasant, but against the Russian-Asiatic mafia that needs a transport corridor through Belarus," AP quoted Aleh Trusau, another opposition leader, as saying. The protesters adopted a one-phrase resolution reading "No to Russian Occupation!" Some 70 protests against the union took place around the country the next day, Belapan reported. JM BELARUSIAN WORKERS FORM NATIONAL STRIKE COMMITTEE. Workers from a dozen regions have set up a national strike committee headed by independent trade union activist Syarhey Antonchyk, Belapan reported on 23 January. The committee demands that the authorities guarantee free access to state-controlled media, a minimum monthly wage of $100, and a minimum monthly pension of $50. If those demands are not met, the committee threatens to launch a nationwide strike. It also plans to hold a trade union rally in Minsk on 27 January and supports the opposition initiative to hold presidential elections on 16 May, pledging to help organize them. According to Antonchyk, the workers' movement is the only force capable of radically changing the situation in Belarus. JM LUKASHENKA AMESTIES SOME 34,000 PRISONERS. The Belarusian president has signed a bill setting free or slashing the prison terms of some 34,000 prisoners, AP reported on 22 January, citing official sources. The bill grants amnesty to World War II veterans, minors, pregnant women, pensioners, single parents with children under the age of 18, victims of the Chornobyl nuclear accident, and people suffering from tuberculosis or cancer. The amnesty is expected to ease overcrowding in Belarusian prisons, where 60,000 people are held in facilities designed for 39,000. JM ESTONIAN COURT CONVICTS EX-SECURITY OFFICER OVER 1949 DEPORTATIONS. Johannes Klaassepp, a former Soviet security official, has been found guilty of ordering the deportations of more than 20 people in 1949. A local court handed down an eight-year suspended sentence to the 77-year-old, who had pleaded innocent. In passing that sentence, the court took into account the fact that Klaassepp had been acting in his official capacity when he ordered the deportations and had complied with the authorities during their investigation into his crimes. Klaassepp is the first person to be convicted in Estonia for involvement in deportations during the Stalinist era. Meanwhile, the Estonian Commission for the Investigation of Crimes against Humanity, which was set up by President Lennart Meri last fall, convenes for the first time on 26 January. JC EESTI TELEKOM TENDER OPENS. From 25 January to 9 February, investors can make bids for shares in the telecommunications company Eesti Telecom, ETA and BNS reported. Analysts predict the sale could result in revenues totaling nearly 3 billion kroons (some $230 million). Of that sum, nearly half a billion kroons are intended to plug a hole in the 1999 budget while the remainder will be channeled to the stabilization fund. JC LATVIAN COALITION PARTY NOT TO OBJECT TO SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC MINISTER. At a 23 January meeting, the council of the Fatherland and Freedom party announced that the party does not object to the Social Democrat Peteris Salkazanovs assuming the agriculture portfolio, BNS reported. Prime Minister Vilis Kristopans had nominated Salkazanovs to that post last month, but the Fatherland and Freedom party had postponed making a final decision until the 23 January meeting. (Under the coalition agreement, all three signatories to the coalition agreement must agree to inviting a member of another party to join the government.) Party chairman Maris Grinblats said the decision not to object to Salkazanovs's appointment will "strengthen" the government, which, in turn, would pave the way for adopting a "tolerable budget." At the same time, the Fatherland and Freedom party will support increasing the defense budget to 1 percent of GDP, something to which the Social Democrats and other leftist forces are opposed. JC LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT, PREMIER AGREE ON OMBUDSMAN VOTE. Meeting at the presidential residence in Vilnius on 22 January, President Valdas Adamkus and Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius agreed that "full voting procedures should be [undertaken] by the parliament" over the candidacy of lawyer Kestutis Lapinskas as ombudsman, BNS reported. Earlier this month, Conservative deputies in the parliament narrowly succeeded in blocking approval of Lapinskas to that post, arguing that the nominee should be not only a legal expert but also a specialist in auditing and state assets management. Adamkus has issued a decree re-nominating Lapinskas to that post, but last week, the Conservatives announced that his nomination is unacceptable and urged the president to revoke his decree. Adamkus has refused to comply with that demand. JC LITHUANIA'S CONSERVATIVES, CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATS RENEW COALITION AGREEMENT. Leaders of the ruling Conservative and Christian Democratic Parties have renewed their coalition agreement until 2000, when general elections are due, BNS reported on 22 January. The agreement stipulates that the coalition functions on the basis of the principle of "proportional participation in state institutions in accordance with representation at the parliament." According to that principle, the Christian Democrats are entitled to head three ministries. Currently, the party has only the foreign affairs and defense portfolios. JC POLISH FARMERS EXPAND ROAD BLOCKADE CAMPAIGN. Following the blockade of the Swiecko border checkpoint on 22-23 January, Polish farmers have expanded their road blockade campaign to press the government to protect them against food imports, Reuters reported on 25 January. Andrzej Lepper, leader of the radical Self- Defense farmers' trade union, which is organizing the campaign, said on 23 January that protesters in 300 localities in Poland are prepared to launch nationwide road blockades, despite the government's threats to use force against them. JM POLISH PARLIAMENT URGES RESTORATION OF DEMOCRACY IN BELARUS... The Polish parliament on 22 January voted by 354 to seven with 49 abstentions to adopt a "message to the Belarusian nation" affirming "moral support" for the opposition Supreme Soviet deputies and sympathizing with those in Belarus who are repressed because they "seek freedom" and express their beliefs. It also stresses that Poland is interested in continued good-neighborly relations with Belarus as well as in the existence of an independent Belarus. The Belarusian Foreign Ministry responded that the message constitutes interference in Belarus's domestic affairs, questions the "equal nature" of mutual relations, and might lead to the "complication" of those ties. JM ...REJECTS NO CONFIDENCE MOTION IN HEALTH MINISTER. The same day, the parliament voted by 233 to 184 with nine abstentions to defeat the ex-communist opposition's no confidence motion in Health Ministry Wojciech Maksymowicz. The vote is seen as a major step toward overcoming the crisis within the ruling coalition (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 January 1999). JM CZECH PREMIER RATES HIS GOVERNMENT A SUCCESS. Milos Zeman said on 23 January that his cabinet has had many more successes than failures, CTK reported. Zeman, reviewing the work of his government after six months in office, said the cabinet has successfully accomplished 10 things, including the passage of the 1999 budget, an increase in public sector wages, the launching of bank privatization, the resolution of a row with the EU over pork imports, and investment in industrial zones. Zeman said the cabinet failed only in communicating with the media and in "presenting itself sufficiently." Opposition groups have criticized the government for, among other things, its apparent mistrust of private ownership and the increased role of the state in society. PB CZECHS SEEK ITALIAN HELP IN ANTI-CORRUPTION PROGRAM. Premier Milos Zeman said on 24 January that Italy will send experts to Prague to help kickstart its "clean hands" anti-corruption campaign, CTK reported. Zeman said the experts will accompany Italian Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema on his visit to Prague next month. He added that anti-corruption officials from the U.S. will also help. Zeman said the first results of the campaign will be made available in March, noting that some 350 cases of white-collar crime are being investigated. In other news, Labor and Social Affairs Minister Vladimir Spidla said that unemployment could reach 11 percent at the end of 1999, up from 7.5 percent at the end of December. PB KUKAN PLEASED WITH U.S. TRIP, HOPES FOR INTEGRATION WITH WEST. Slovak Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan said in Bratislava on 25 January that he is encouraged by his recent visit to the U.S., TASR reported. Kukan said the U.S. government "knows what is happening in Slovakia and values developments positively." U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said after meeting with Kukan in Washington on 22 January that Slovakia is on the right track but must "stay on target" with its reform program and continue to improve relations with its neighbors if it wants to join NATO and the EU. Albright said that though a good candidate for NATO membership, Slovakia should "not expect an invitation anytime soon." Representatives of the European and Slovak parliaments ended a three-day meeting in Bratislava by calling on EU leaders to quickly reevaluate Slovakia's bid to join the union. In a report to be sent to the European Council, delegates to the meeting suggest that a decision on whether to add Slovakia to the "fast track" should be made by December. PB U.K. INVESTING IN SLOVAKIA. The U.K. was the largest investor in Slovakia in 1998, the Slovak Statistical Bureau reported on 23 January. Its investments, totaling 2.9 billion crowns ($78.6 million), account for 28.7 percent of total foreign investment in 1998. As the second biggest investor in 1998, the U.S. invested some 2.7 billion crowns. The Netherlands followed in third place. PB CANADA REJECTS ROMANI ASYLUM REQUESTS. A Toronto immigration committee has rejected the asylum requests of two Romani families from Hungary, MTI reported on 22 January. A lawyer for the committee said the families arrived in January and May 1998 and that an investigation into their cases determined that they face neither persecution nor denial of their rights in Hungary. The committee met with a Hungarian delegation that included Florian Farkas, chairman of the National Romani Self-Government Council, before making its decision. Farkas said that Roma in Hungary just face discrimination, but not persecution. He said it is important Budapest to help Roma who are denied asylum to return to Hungary. Hundreds of Roma are still in Canada awaiting a decision on their requests. Dozens have been granted asylum. PB SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE DIPLOMATIC 'OFFENSIVE' UNDER WAY FOR KOSOVA. Western diplomats have launched a "tough new take-it-or-leave- it" initiative, which they hope will secure Russian backing and force the Serbs and Kosovars to comply, Reuters reported from Brussels on 24 January. The plan is to offer the Serbs the choice of granting autonomy to Kosova or facing NATO air strikes, while Kosovars will have to choose between accepting something less than independence or risk losing Western support. Diplomats from the international Contact Group agreed in London late last week to press the Serbs and Kosovars to take part in a peace conference in the near future (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 1999). EU foreign ministers will discuss the new diplomatic efforts at their meeting in Brussels on 25 January. Kosova is also on the agenda in talks between U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and her Russian counterpart, Igor Ivanov, in Moscow. The Contact Group is slated to meet again on 30 January to finalize the plan. PM NATO CONTINUES TO STAND BY... NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said in Rome on 24 January that the alliance remains prepared to take military action "in order to support a political solution" in Kosova. He added that "at this very moment...there is the determination of the international community to have a political agreement work. For that, NATO will be prepared to do its job. I hope very much that there will be a new impulse, a new dynamic, that we are ready to support." PM ...WITH GROUND TROOPS? Veton Surroi, who is Kosova's leading journalist, wrote in "Koha Ditore" of 24 January that "military action [by NATO] can lead to a solution" in the troubled province. He added that ground troops will be necessary "to ensure that violence [by Serbian forces against civilians] is not repeated." An unnamed senior U.S. government official told the "Washington Post" of 23 January that "a serious discussion [on ending the crisis in Kosova] must explore all options, including American participation on the ground. It's just a fact of life that our allies are reluctant to support air power against the Serbs in the absence of a clear strategy for what happens next on the ground." Secretary of Defense William Cohen is strongly opposed to sending U.S. ground troops into Kosova. PM GERMANY PREPARED TO SEND GROUND TROOPS. Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, and Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping agreed in Bonn on 22 January that Germany is prepared to send ground troops to Kosova to help ensure the safety of OSCE monitors, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. Germany has already made aircraft available for possible NATO air strikes against Serbia. A German government spokesman said that Belgrade must understand that "this is not a game" and that the Atlantic alliance is serious about ending the violence in Kosova. Scharping noted that "we will not just sit by idly while people are being butchered. This is not like in Bosnia, where we sat back and watched while the most grisly kind of massacres took place." PM HOLBROOKE DEMANDS 'FULL COMPLIANCE' BY SERBIA. U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke, who negotiated an agreement on Kosova with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in October, said on 22 January in Washington that the agreement has "eroded" because it "didn't have teeth." He warned Belgrade that its recent decision to suspend its expulsion order against William Walker, who is the chief OSCE monitor in Kosova, is not sufficient to avoid NATO air strikes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 1999). Holbrooke stressed that Milosevic must show "full compliance" with the October agreement. PM HOSTAGES FREED IN KOSOVA. Serbian forces freed nine Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) fighters in Likoc on 23 January as part of a secret agreement with OSCE diplomats under which the UCK freed eight Yugoslav soldiers 10 days earlier (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 January 1999). Some of the freed guerrillas told AP that their captors had beaten them and that they want to return to the front lines. Also on 23 January, the UCK freed five elderly Serbian civilians, whom guerrillas captured near Vushtrri the previous day. The Serbs said they had been well treated, but one noted that their captors took "some money, a video recorder, and some of [her] son's clothes..., adding that the guerrillas warned them not to mention this," Reuters reported. Spokesmen for the UCK said that the guerrillas had "arrested" the five because they were armed. In Prishtina, Walker said that "it was a very unwise and uncivilized thing for the [UCK] to do to kidnap civilians and I want to condemn it." PM WALKER SAYS RECAK WAS 'MASSACRE.' Walker wrote in "Newsweek" that he stands by his view that Serbian forces "massacred" 45 Kosovar civilians in Recak on 15 January, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 24 January. He added that "neither I nor any of those who accompanied me saw any signs of a two-sided battle." Serbian spokesmen say that the Kosovars, who included women, children, and pensioners, were UCK fighters who died in battle. Belgrade recently ordered Walker's expulsion after he charged that Serbian forces massacred innocent civilians. On 22 January, AP in Vienna obtained a confidential OSCE report in which monitors concluded that armed Serbs killed the Kosovars and "mutilated some of them." Also in the Austrian capital, "Die Presse" quoted Sadako Ogata, who is the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, as saying that at least three Kosovar children recently froze to death when several hundred Kosovars fled their homes following the Recak killings. PM GLIGOROV VETOES AMNESTY LAW. Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov on 22 January refused to sign a draft amnesty law that would end the jail terms of some 800 people, mostly ethnic Albanians, who were convicted for violating the 1997 law on the public display of national symbols (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 January 1999). Among the 800 are the mayors of Gostivar and Tetovo. The bill will be returned to the parliament, where the pro- government majority is expected to override Gligorov's veto without difficulty. It is the first time that Gligorov has refused to sign a law passed by the parliament. Observers suggested that his refusal was intended as a snub to the government of Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski. Georgievski sought the amnesty in order to guarantee the support of his ethnic Albanian coalition partners and to reduce inter-ethnic tensions. PM MACEDONIA, ALBANIA AGREE ON KOSOVA. Georgievski and his Albanian counterpart, Pandeli Majko, said in Tirana on 22 January that they support increased international political pressure directed at ending the crisis in Kosova. Majko added that "if the Serbs continue their massacres in Kosova, there could be large waves of refugees heading for both Albania and Macedonia." He and Georgievski agreed that current relations between Skopje and Tirana are "an example of how new relationships can be built in the new Balkans." PM ARMED CIVILIANS PROTEST BANDITS IN ALBANIA. More than 400 armed civilians blocked the main road linking Gjirokaster to Greece to protest the inability of the police to control bandits operating from the nearby mountain village of Lazarat. The inhabitants of Lazarat, which was a leper colony in Ottoman times, have a tradition of behaving as a law unto themselves. Meanwhile in Vlora, gangsters kidnapped the police chief on 23 January and held him until police returned six impounded speedboats belonging to the smugglers. The incident "shocked Italy," Reuters reported the next day. Defense Minister Carlo Scognamiglio said that Rome is prepared to double the strength of its 630 military, police, and customs officials in Albania. PM STRIKE, VIOLENCE ENDS AFTER ROMANIAN PREMIER MEETS MINERS. Some 10,000 coal miners interrupted their march to Bucharest and returned to the Jiu Valley after a deal was reached by Premier Radu Vasile and miners' leaders on 22 January, RFE/RL's Romanian Service reported. Vasile announced the end of the strike after four hours of talks with Miron Cozma at an Orthodox monastery near Ramnicu Valcea, 170 kilometers west of Bucharest. Vasile said "neither the miners nor the government won. Only the country won, because there will be peace." Some 170 people, mostly policemen, were injured in several clashes as the miners overran barricades and police cordons set up to prevent them reaching Bucharest. Vasile agreed to increase miners' wages by 35 percent and to allow two mines slated for closure to remain open. Vasile added, however, that the wage hike is dependent on miners' eliminating losses at heavily subsidized mines over the next five years. Further rounds of talks between the government and mining officials are to take place in the coming weeks. Most of the 20,000 miners in the region already make nearly twice the national average salary. PB ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT WANTS AGREEMENT MADE PUBLIC. Both chambers of the parliament, meeting in an extraordinary session on 22 January, approved a declaration affirming their support for the actions of Vasile in his defense of "state institutions, the constitution, and all democratic values," Rompres reported. The resolution condemned the violent actions of the miners and called on state officials to ensure that the crisis not be repeated. It also urged the government to present by 15 March an economic and social program intended to stop the economic decline in the country. In addition, lawmakers want the government to detail how it plans to pay for the concessions made to the miners. The leader of the ethnic Hungarian Democratic Union of Romania, Bela Marko, criticized the agreement between Vasile and the miners and called for the protesters to be detained and prosecuted. Marko, whose party is a member of the ruling coalition, said the government will lose credibility if it does not prosecute those involved in violence. PB BULGARIA NOT TO SHUT DOWN REACTORS EARLY. Bulgarian Deputy Premier Evgenyi Bakardzhiev said on 22 January that his government will not shut down four controversial nuclear reactors at the Kozloduy nuclear power plant earlier than scheduled, AP reported. Bakardzhiev said the two oldest reactors will stop operating in 2005, as planned, and the other two will shut down in 2010. Bakardzhiev said Sofia has invested some $140 million to improve safety at the plant, which some Western organizations say is unsafe. The facility provides about 40 percent of Bulgaria's electricity needs. PB BULGARIAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR UNITY. Petar Stoyanov said on 22 January that increased internal discord could weaken Bulgaria's credibility, AP reported. Stoyanov, in his annual address to the nation, urged the government and the opposition to cooperate over reform. He said this is the only way Bulgaria can make a "dignified accession to the EU and NATO." Stoyanov also noted that the country cannot secure the West's trust "unless government and opposition guarantee that whoever comes to power will stick to all basic rules of a market economy." PB END NOTE MESSAGES SENT, MESSAGES RECEIVED by Paul Goble The statements of Russian politicians notwithstanding, the Russian military has sent a message that suggests many in Moscow are coming to terms with the idea that the three Baltic States will eventually become members of NATO. But just as in 1990, when Moscow's military commanders indicated that they did not expect Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to be part of the USSR by the year 2000, the Russian generals are giving out signals that some in both the region and the West appear likely to misinterpret. On 29 December, Lieutenant-General Pavel Labutin, the chief of the Leningrad Military District, told ITAR- TASS that he has re-established a Russian army group "in the Baltic direction" as a result of "NATO expansion to the East and the prospect of admitting the Baltics into this bloc." Labutin's remarks suggest that he and his officers have been planning the reorganization of their forces not so much to prevent the expansion of NATO but rather on the assumption that the Western alliance will sometime in the near future include the three Baltic countries. In taking that position, General Labutin appears to be out in front of, if not out of step with, the Russian political elite. But precisely because his remarks suggest such is the case, Labutin's actions have been interpreted in a very different way not only by some in the region but also by a few analysts in NATO capitals. Not surprisingly, some Baltic officials see the restoration of this army group in the same way as they viewed last summer's Russian military exercise "Operation Return" near their borders: as a direct threat to themselves and as an effort to intimidate the West. Some observers in NATO capitals have drawn a similar conclusion. They have argued that this Leningrad Military District reorganization is a direct challenge to NATO and that the Western alliance must take notice of it. Moreover, they have argued that this latest shift may represent a potential violation of the Conventional Forces in Europe agreement. Such Baltic and Western comments may lead some in NATO capitals to draw exactly the opposite conclusion from the one that Labutin's words and actions suggest. And they may thus lead some in those cities to argue for putting off the inclusion of the Baltic States into the Western alliance. If that happens, there will be a repetition of events that took place nine years ago. One day after the Lithuanian government declared the restoration of its independence, a Washington newspaper published a map showing how Soviet generals perceived the security architecture of Europe in the year 2000. That map, the product of extensive interviews with these generals by a U.S. Defense Department analyst, showed that the generals did not believe that Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania would be part of the Soviet Union by that time. But to a remarkable degree, the publication of that map had a very different impact on U.S. thinking about the Baltic pursuit of independence than the most obvious reading of it would appear to have suggested. Instead of leading more people in the West to conclude that Russian acceptance of eventual Baltic independence could allow the West to increase its support for the Balts, the appearance of this map led some writers to conclude that the West should be even more circumspect lest it exacerbate divisions in Moscow. As subsequent events proved, the Soviet military's assessment of the facts on the ground was far closer to reality than the one given out by the Soviet political establishment. And had that been more widely understood at the time, all the parties might have avoided some of the difficulties they subsequently faced. Labutin's action, one he almost certainly did not undertake on his own, appears to be yet another such message about the Russian military's understanding of the situation. And just as in 1990, how it is received is likely to have a major influence on the fate of the Baltic countries over the next several years. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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