|Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. - Vladimir Nabokov|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 32, Part II, 16 February 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 32, Part II, 16 February 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 * BELARUSIAN KGB SEEKING TO THWART OPPOSITION ELECTION INITIATIVE? * WESTERNERS PREPARE TO EVACUATE KOSOVA * ROMANIAN MINERS' LEADER SENTENCED TO 18 YEARS IN PRISON End Note: LEAVING AFGHANISTAN, TRANSFORMING THE WORLD xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE KUCHMA VETOS PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION BILL... Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has returned the law on presidential elections to the Supreme Council for revision (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 January 1999), Ukrainian Television reported on 15 February. According to the president, many provisions of the bill do not conform with the constitution and other laws. He has proposed several amendments to the bill, including granting the right to nominate presidential candidates not only to political parties and groups of voters but also to public organizations. He also proposes shortening the presidential election campaign from the 180 days stipulated by the bill to 120 days. And he has suggested including a provision stipulating that voters can back only one presidential candidate with his/her signature. JM ...DENIES PERSECUTING LAZARENKO. Kuchma has rejected former Premier Pavlo Lazarenko's statement in "The New York Times" on 15 February that he is being politically persecuted in Ukraine, Ukrainian Television reported. Kuchma said that Lazarenko--who is charged with misappropriating state funds--can freely express his ideas, travel across Ukraine, and leave the country. According to Ukrainian Television, Lazarenko departed for Greece on 15 February. Later this week, the Supreme Council is scheduled to discuss lifting Lazarenko's parliamentary immunity in order to allow criminal proceedings against him. Lazarenko has announced his intention to run in the 1999 presidential elections. JM BELARUSIAN YOUNG OPPOSITIONISTS PUNISHED FOR ST. VALENTINE'S DAY MARCH. Yauhen Skochka, deputy chairman of the opposition Youth Front, has been detained for 10 days for organizing an unsanctioned march in Minsk on St. Valentine Day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 February 1999), RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. A Minsk court also fined two members of the front and gave a warning to 10 others for taking part in the march. JM BELARUSIAN KGB SEEKING TO THWART OPPOSITION ELECTION INITIATIVE? "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta" on 12 February reported that the Belarusian KGB has drawn up a "plan...to foil the presidential election campaign announced by the opposition." A RFE/RL correspondent in Minsk suggested on 15 February that the KGB's warning to Viktor Hanchar, head of the opposition Central Electoral Commission, not to organize such a vote may be part of that plan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January 1999). Barys Hyunter, Hanchar's deputy on the commission, commented to RFE/RL that the Belarusian authorities and the KGB "do not knowwhat to do with the Central Electoral Commission, [which] has practically concluded setting up regional [electoral] commissions. This is very dangerous for the authorities, since they did not expect such a wave [of people] to take part in the work [of organizing the elections]," Hyunter added. JM CENTER, REFORM PARTIES LEAD IN ESTONIAN POLLS. According to an EMOR poll conducted last month, the opposition Center and Reform parties both have 15 percent support, up 2 percent on their ratings in December, ETA reported on 15 February. In joint second place are the Country People's Party and the Fatherland Union, with 9 percent backing. The only other two parties to clear the 5 percent hurdle to parliamentary representation are the Moderate Party (which is running on a joint list with the People's Party), with 8 percent, and the ruling Coalition Party, with 5 percent. Only 67 percent of respondents were "certain" or "more or less certain" about their choice. General elections are scheduled for 7 March. JC FOUL PLAY IN EESTI TELEKOM TENDER? The daily "Eripaev" reported on 15 February that Uhispank has been accused by "several sources" of having leaked information among its clients about the distribution terms of Eesti Telekom shares, according to ETA. The accusations are based on the fact that all clients of Uhispank, which played an advisory role in the privatization of the telecommunications company, made their bids separately, while the clients of other banks and asset management companies placed collective bids. This meant that the former had an advantage over the latter because the Roads and Communications Ministry gave preference to bids not exceeding 1 million kroons (some $77,000). The Securities Inspectorate is investigating the alleged information leak. JC RIGA COURT RULES AGAINST CITY COUNCIL DEPUTY OVER COMMUNIST PARTY MEMBERSHIP. The Riga district court has ruled that Tatyana Zhdanok, a deputy of the Riga City Council for the Equal Rights movement, be stripped of her mandate, "Diena" reported on 16 February. The Prosecutor-General's Office filed suit against Zhdanok, who had been a member of the Communist Party of Latvia after 13 January 1991. Under last year's amendments to the law on municipal elections, anyone who belonged to the party after that date cannot become a member of a municipal government. Zhdanok has said she will appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court. JC ADAMKUS BACKS DOWN OVER OMBUDSMAN NOMINATION. On returning from vacation on 13 February, Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus told reporters that he will not nominate Kestutis Lapinskas as ombudsman for a third time, ELTA reported. Lapinskas was again rejected by the parliament last week, largely thanks to a concerted effort by the ruling Conservatives (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 February 1999). Adamkus commented that "party ambition" had determined the outcome of that vote. JC POLISH PREMIER HINTS AT CABINET RESHUFFLE. Jerzy Buzek told Polish Radio on 15 February that a cabinet reshuffle is necessary "because of the need for an appraisal of [the cabinet's] work." He added that he will "exercise his constitutional rights" with regard to the cabinet lineup. And he stressed that "as a team, the ministers have really proved their worth." "Rzeczpospolita" the next day speculated that Buzek will introduce "minor changes" in the cabinet, dismissing "several" ministers and merging some ministries. JM POLISH FARMERS' LEADER DEMANDS CABINET RESIGNATION, THREATENS BLOODSHED. Polish Radio reported on 13 February that the radical Self-Defense Farmers' Trade Union has adopted a resolution demanding that the government resign and the parliament dissolve itself. Self-Defense leader Andrzej Lepper has threatened bloodshed if those demands are not met. If the government does not take specific measures by March to improve the "tragic situation in the countryside," there will be a "total blockade of the country" and marches converging on Warsaw, he warned. Lepper did not sign the protocol with the government on ending the 11-day protest in which farmers blocked roads throughout Poland (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 February 1999). JM CONTROVERSY OVER CZECH INTELLIGENCE SERVICE INTENSIFIES. A spokesman for the Czech Counter-Intelligence Service (BIS) on 15 February said the BIS is "assigned tasks only by the government or the president," CTK reported. Jan Subert was responding to a statement the previous day by Deputy Premier Pavel Rychetsky that the BIS must be "either dissolved or thoroughly reorganized" and that the government may submit to the parliament a bill on the service's status. Rychetsky said the BIS spends 600- 700 million crowns ($17.8-20.7 million) annually while doing "virtually nothing for the country." He added that the service "is almost privatized [as] it does not work for the government, no one knows for whom it works, and there is enormous disorder there." Stanislav Devaty, former BIS head, has said he opposes dissolving the service. MS HZDS SETS UP COMMISSION TO INVESTIGATE DUCKY MURDER. Opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) spokesman Igor Zvach told CTK on 15 February that the party is setting up a "civic commission" to investigate the murder of former Economy Minister Jan Ducky. He said the commission will be headed by Ivan Lexa, former head of Slovak Intelligence Service, and by former Interior Minister Gustav Krajci, both of whom may lose their parliamentary immunity for breaking the law when the HZDS was in power. Zvach said the decision to set up the commission was taken after the HZDS had received information that incumbent Economics Minister Ludovit Cernak was involved in the assassination. According to Zvach, Ducky possessed information that Cernak had accepted bribes from the Czechs in 1993. Cernak said the allegations are "nonsense and a blatant lie." MS FORMER SLOVAK INTELLIGENCE CHIEF SOUGHT TO HINDER CZECH ACCESSION TO NATO. "Mlada fronta Dnes" on 16 February reported that while Lexa was head of the Counter- Intelligence Service (SIS), he sought to hinder the accession of the Czech Republic to NATO. Citing a recent report delivered by the new SIS chief, Vladimir Mitro, to the Bratislava legislature behind closed doors, the daily commented that "Operation Neutron" and "Operation Dezo" sought to activate neo-Nazi groups and provoke racially motivated, mostly anti-Roma incidents in order to discredit Prague. MS HUNGARY EXPELS NEO-NAZIS AFTER CLASH WITH POLICE. Hungarian authorities on 15 February expelled 26 mostly German neo-Nazis who had been involved in a public disturbance two days earlier. The 26 had been among some 500 neo-Nazis and skinheads who took part in a demonstration at Buda Castle marking the fall of Budapest to the Russian Army at the end of World War II. After the demonstration, a fight broke out between police and demonstrators in a Budapest bar. In other news, hundreds of Holocaust survivors are returning the 30,000 forints ($140) compensation they received from the government for relatives killed in concentration camps during World War II, saying that the sum is "humiliating and insulting." MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE WESTERNERS PREPARE TO EVACUATE KOSOVA. Foreign aid workers, OSCE monitors, and Western diplomats are preparing to evacuate the province if the Rambouillet talks fail and NATO launches air strikes against Serbia, Reuters reported from Prishtina on 16 February. An unnamed diplomat said that "one of my tasks today is to get packed up and ready for an evacuation. Given the reports from the peace talks, it seems very likely to me that we'll get to the point of an evacuation at least, even if not actual bombing, before there's any deal." Unnamed Western diplomats in Belgrade told the news agency that they have received no orders to evacuate. They added, however, that they "always have contingency plans" to leave at short notice. PM MILUTINOVIC REJECTS FOREIGN TROOPS IN KOSOVA. Serbian President Milan Milutinovic said in Paris on 15 February that Serbia rejects any military solution to the crisis in Kosova. He stressed that the West is threatening Serbia with air strikes "only because we defend the sovereignty of our country. We told [Western diplomats] that such threats in fact amount to support for terrorism and for terrorists," by which he meant the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK). If Serbia is attacked, Milutinovic continued, "we shall fight. There is no other answer." He did not elaborate. Turning to the question of foreign troop deployment as part of an eventual settlement, he argued that "if the agreement is so good and accepted by the majority of people in [the province], why would we need foreign troops except for chasing terrorists? And we don't need them for that." He stressed that the question of foreign troop deployment is the main obstacle to a settlement. PM RUSSIA EASING SUPPORT FOR SERBIA? Unnamed Western diplomatic sources told AP on 16 February that Russian diplomats have agreed not to oppose the stationing of a NATO force in Kosova, even if Moscow continues not to endorse the plan. The previous day, Milutinovic said that he "would not be surprised" if Russia ended its support for Belgrade's position "under Western pressure." PM ALBRIGHT OUTLINES THREE OPTIONS FOR KOSOVA. During her recent visit to Rambouillet, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told negotiators that there are three possible outcomes of the talks, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 15 February. The first is that the Kosovars refuse to sign a comprehensive agreement. In such a case, the U.S. would cease all diplomatic support for them and seal their borders with Albania and Macedonia. The second scenario is one in which the ethnic Albanians agree to a settlement but the Serbs do not. The result would be air strikes against the Serbs and increased U.S. diplomatic backing for the Kosovars. In the third case, both sides would sign. NATO would then deploy troops in Kosova to enforce the pact. PM BRITISH MARINES ON WAY TO BALKANS. A spokesman for the Defense Ministry said in London on 15 February that a ship carrying 200 marines for possible deployment in Kosova has left the U.K. for Thessaloniki. A second ship is expected to leave for the Greek port on 16 February. An additional 8,000 British troops are on alert for quick transfer to the Balkans. PM SERBS RETURN THREE UNIVERSITY BUILDINGS TO KOSOVARS. Serbian authorities returned the keys to three buildings of Prishtina University to ethnic Albanian university officials on 15 February. The move was provided for in a March 1998 agreement between representatives of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and shadow-state President Rugova. The pact restores Albanian-language education in government school buildings in stages (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 April 1998). A Kosovar spokesman told "RFE/RL Newsline" after the agreement was signed that its implementation quickly became a low priority for the Kosovar leadership in the wake of the crackdown by Serbian security forces. PM 'TRADE WAR' BETWEEN SERBIA, MONTENEGRO. Montenegrin authorities have charged that Serbia is carrying on a "trade war" against the mountainous republic, the "Financial Times" reported on 16 February. Serbian officials have prevented more than 100 trucks, many of which contain bananas and other perishables, from crossing the border. PM DEMONSTRATION BY CROATIAN SUPERMARKET WORKERS. Some 2,000 employees of the Diona supermarket chain, which is Croatia's largest, staged a protest in Zagreb on 15 February to call attention to the impending dissolution of the bankrupt firm. Prime Minister Zlatko Matesa promised the workers, who want to take over the company to prevent its closure, that he will seek a quick solution to the problem. Diona's owner is Miroslav Kutle, who has accumulated some $200 million in debts. He has close links to the governing Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ). PM CALL FOR CROATIAN TELEVISION BOYCOTT. Zlatko Tomcic, who heads the small Croatian Peasants' Party, has called on citizens not to pay their television license fees to protest HDZ control over state-run television. He said in Zagreb on 15 February that his suggestion amounts to a call to civil disobedience. At the same time, he stressed that citizens are not obliged to finance political advertising, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM ALBANIA' S LEKA FREED ON BAIL. A Johannesburg court has freed Leka Zogu, who is the claimant to the Albanian throne, on $25,000 bail, AP reported on 15 February. Four of his supporters were also released on bail ranging from $170 to $340. Police arrested the five last week on charges of illegal arms possession (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 February 1999). FS ALBANIAN DEMOCRATS AGREE TO REWRITE HAJDARI BILL. Democratic Party officials told the "Albanian Daily News" of 16 February that they have agreed to rewrite a bill providing for an "independent investigation" into the 1998 killing of Democratic leader Azem Hajdari. OSCE experts have said the draft contravenes the constitution and have recommended specific changes to the bill (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 February 1999). Government lawyers also criticized the draft, saying it undermines the independence of the judiciary by creating a body that would duplicate the functions of the Prosecutor-General. FS ALBANIAN SECRET SERVICE WARNS OF POLITICAL VIOLENCE. Secret service (SHIK) officials told "Koha Jone" of 16 February that they have evidence that two armed gangs are especially dangerous. One of the gangs is allegedly based in Thumana, near Fushe-Kruja, and includes former SHIK employees and dismissed policemen. A SHIK official told "Koha Jone" that the group has political ambitions and may try to stage a coup. Another armed group allegedly has its center in the southern city of Vlora and is led by an unnamed criminal who recently escaped from prison. The group, whose specialties are reportedly blackmail and extortion, seeks to infiltrate local government structures in order to protect its operations, according to the "Albanian Daily News." FS ROMANIAN MINERS' LEADER SENTENCED TO 18 YEARS IN PRISON. The Supreme Court on 15 February sentenced Miron Cozma, leader of the Jiu Valley miners, to 18 years in prison for his role in the riots that brought down the government headed by Petre Roman in September 1991. He did not attend the trial and said later that he will not surrender to the authorities, calling the sentence "illegal" and "absurd," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The Supreme Court overturned a lower court's ruling that had handed down an 18-month prison sentence for "disturbing public order." It also changed the charge against Cozma to "undermining state authority, illegal possession of fire arms and jeopardizing rail traffic." In addition, Cozma is forbidden to enter Bucharest or Petrosani for five years after his release. MS ...WHILE MINERS THREATEN TO MARCH ON BUCHAREST AGAIN. Mediafax reported on 16 February that several hundred miners from the Jiu Valley have begun a new march on Bucharest. Earlier, Radio Bucharest reported that on hearing the news of Cozma's sentence, several shifts refused to descend to the pits. In the early hours of 16 February, the miners were reported gathering in Petrosani to prevent Cozma's arrest. According to other reports, busses are bringing protesters to Petrosani from other towns in the valley. The trade union headed by Cozma announced that he will remain its leader. MS BULGARIA DEMANDS RELEASE OF MEDICS IN LIBYA. The Foreign Ministry on 15 February called on Libya to "immediately release" 19 Bulgarian doctors and nurses detained last week for questioning over the reported increase in AIDS cases in their wards at a Benghazi hospital, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. The ministry called Libya's actions "contrary to international norms and practices." The Libyan embassy in Sofia said the investigation of the detained medics is "routine." Bulgarian Foreign Ministry spokesman Radko Vlaikov has summoned Libyan diplomats in Sofia to demand information about the incident. He said there is "no legal justification" for the detentions and criticized Libya for withholding information and the names of the medics detained. MS END NOTE LEAVING AFGHANISTAN, TRANSFORMING THE WORLD by Paul Goble Ten years ago, the last Soviet army units left Afghanistan, closing a chapter on Moscow's disastrous military intervention there and opening the way to the disintegration of the Soviet system as a whole. But as dramatic as those changes were, the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan continues to affect that country, the post-Soviet states, and the Western world in ways that may ultimately prove to be even more dramatic. That is because the withdrawal called into question many of the assumptions that had governed the international system during the Cold War and thus opened the way not only to a post-Soviet but also to a post- Cold War world. That process began on 15 February 1989, when General Boris Gromov led approximately 400 Soviet soldiers across the Afghan border into the USSR, just five minutes before the deadline set for their withdrawal by the U.N.-sponsored Geneva accords of April 1988. In addition to the impact of the event itself--the first Soviet withdrawal from any territory since the Austrian State Treaty more than 30 years earlier--its larger implications for the Soviet Union were suggested by two articles that appeared in the Moscow press on the same day. In a front-page commentary, the Communist Party newspaper "Pravda" argued that any future commitment of Soviet troops must "not be decided in secrecy," as had been the case when Moscow decided to intervene in Afghanistan in December 1979, but only "with the approval of the country's parliament." The Moscow weekly "Literaturnaya gazeta," for its part, published one of the first detailed accounts of Soviet atrocities in the Afghan war, which many Soviet citizens had known about but which the Soviet authorities until then had consistently refused to acknowledge. All three of these events--the withdrawal itself, the acknowledgement that the Soviet intervention lacked popular support, and the description of the atrocities-- had the effect of further delegitimizing the Soviet system. Thus, they played a key role in its ultimate destruction. But precisely because this withdrawal proved to be so pivotal in the history of the region, it has generated a set of images that continue to mold opinions not only in Afghanistan but also in the post-Soviet states and the Western world. These opinions appear likely to reshape the future even as the withdrawal itself already has reshaped the past. In Afghanistan, the Soviet withdrawal had much the same effect as Russia's defeat in the Russo-Japanese War more than 80 years earlier. It encouraged Afghans, other Muslims, and indeed many non-Europeans to think that they could take on a major power and win, something few had assumed until then. That shift in assumptions helped power the Taliban in Afghanistan itself, and many other challenges to European and U.S. dominance of international affairs. Indeed, much of the current terrorist challenge to the West has its roots in the Soviet withdrawal not only because the Mujaheddin demonstrated that a European power could be defeated on the field of battle but also because it showed that a great power would be willing to withdraw rather than continue to fight. In the post-Soviet states--and particularly in Central Asia and the Caucasus--Moscow's withdrawal from Afghanistan has led many to conclude that political power is fragile and that popular groups inspired by Islam can successfully challenge it. Some groups in Tajikistan and elsewhere have challenged the authorities, while many of those in power have sought to justify repressive policies in the name of preventing the kind of societal and political chaos that Afghanistan suffered in the wake of the Soviet occupation. And on a global scale, the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan continues to serve as a reminder that however strong a state may appear to outsiders, it can be defeated and even destroyed if it loses all popular legitimacy. Before the Soviet withdrawal, many in both the Soviet Union and the West assumed that the Soviet Union would continue forever. After that event, many in both places recognized that the days of the Soviet power were numbered. Such prophecies not only proved to be self- fulfilling, but they also have led people in other countries, far different and far removed from the USSR, to think about changing structures that many had assumed could never be dislodged. In 1975, four years before Moscow invaded Afghanistan and 14 years before it withdrew, the yearbook of the "Kabul Times" claimed that Afghanistan was "the beginning of the end of everything." To a larger extent than the editors of that newspaper knew, their claim has proved true, first by the Soviet withdrawal and then by the impact of that withdrawal on the world. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 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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