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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 36, Part II, 22 February 1999


___________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 36, Part II, 22 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

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Headlines, Part II

* UKRAINE ISSUES WARRANT FOR LAZARENKO'S ARREST

* KLAUS CALLS FOR RECONCILIATION WITH FORMER ODS DISSIDENTS

* YUGOSLAV ARMY VOWS TO FIGHT, INCLUDING IN MONTENEGRO

* End Note: BROKEN NUCLEAR PROMISES COULD JEOPARDIZE EU
MEMBERSHIP CHANCES FOR BULGARIA, LITHUANIA
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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

UKRAINE ISSUES WARRANT FOR LAZARENKO'S ARREST. Following the
Supreme Council's decision to strip former Premier Pavlo
Lazarenko of his parliamentary immunity (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 18 February 1999), Ukrainian Prosecutor-General
Mykhaylo Potebenko has issued a warrant for Lazarenko's
arrest, AP reported on 20 February. Lazarenko is suspected of
stealing $2 million in state funds and stashing some $4
million in a Swiss bank. Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko
said that Lazarenko is currently in the U.S., to where he
wants to emigrate. Reuters reported the next day that Ukraine
has asked the U.S. to extradite Lazarenko after he was
reportedly detained at New York's Kennedy airport. JM

ALBRIGHT RECOMMENDS $195 MILLION AID TO UKRAINE. U.S.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told the U.S. Congress
on 18 February that Ukraine has made "significant progress"
in carrying out its economic reforms to warrant the release
of $195 million in aid this year. Congress had intended that
sum to be issued earlier but had made its release conditional
on Albright's positive assessment of Ukraine's reform process
and its efforts to deal with complaints by U.S. investors.
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma welcomed the U.S. decision,
saying that Washington "understands the role of Ukraine in
the region" and that the U.S.-Ukrainian "strategic
partnership was not declared for the sake of empty words
alone," AP reported. JM

UKRAINE'S ENERGY SECTOR OFFICIALS FIRED. Prime Minister
Valeriy Pustovoytenko on 19 February sacked Nur Nihmatullin,
head of the Enerhoatom nuclear energy company, for "serious
drawbacks in work," Reuters reported. The dismissal followed
a protest the previous day by nuclear plant workers over wage
arrears (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 February 1999). One week
earlier, President Leonid Kuchma sacked Energy Minister
Oleksiy Sheberstov after farmers had criticized the minister
for massive blackouts in rural regions this winter. In other
news, 31 protesting coal miners in Luhansk Oblast received a
pledge that their back wages will paid. The promise comes
after nine protesters had threatened to commit suicide (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 19 February 1999). JM

LUKASHENKA DENOUNCES EU FOR 'NIGGLING' COMPENSATION DEMANDS.
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 19 February
criticized EU countries for making "niggling" demands for
financial compensation over the eviction of EU ambassadors
from their residences at the Drazdy housing compound, AP
reported. "How dare such great powers bring financial claims
of a meager hundred of thousand dollars against a country
that suffered from the Chornobyl catastrophe?" the agency
quoted Lukashenka as saying. Under the EU-Belarusian
agreement reached late last year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15
December 1998), the evicted EU ambassadors returned to
Belarus in January to move to new residences, while Belarus
has pledged to pay compensation. JM

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION SETS UP COORDINATION BODY. Under a
resolution passed by the Congress of Democratic Forces last
month, the Belarusian opposition has formed a Consultative
and Coordination Council of Democratic Forces to unify all
democratic opposition organizations, RFE/RL's Belarusian
Service reported on 19 February. The council is composed of
Henadz Karpenka, the organizer of the congress, and
representatives of Belarus's six most influential opposition
organizations: the Belarusian Popular Front, the United Civic
Party, the Belarusian Social Democratic Party "Narodnaya
Hramada," the Independent Trade Unions, the Assembly of
Belarusian NGOs, and the civic initiative "Charter-97." JM

EMBEZZLEMENT CHARGE AGAINST ESTONIA'S KALLAS DROPPED. In the
trial over the failed fuel deal with Swiss company Paradiso
SAL, the prosecution has dropped the charge of intended
embezzlement against Reform Party leader and former Bank of
Estonia President Siim Kallas, ETA reported on 22 February.
Kallas, however, still faces charges of abuse of power and
giving false information to auditors. The prosecution argues
that the Bank of Estonia was responsible for the failed deal,
which had been expected to yield interest totaling some 107
million kroons ($8.2 million), and that Kallas violated the
bank's regulations on investing gold and foreign currency
reserves. JC

FOUR QUIT ESTONIA'S PRESIDENTIAL ROUND TABLE ON ETHNIC
MINORITIES. Four members of the presidential roundtable on
ethnic minorities have resigned, saying that lawmakers
ignored the roundtable's views by approving amendments to,
among others, the election and language laws, ETA reported on
19 February. The four, who are ethnic Russians from the
Center Party and the United People's Party, also criticized
President Lennart Meri for failing to uphold the roundtable's
recommendations by making use of his veto power. "Postimees"
commented that while the move can be interpreted as part of
the election campaign, the 21-strong, consultative roundtable
will "lose its meaning" with the departure of its Russian-
speaking members. JC

MOODY'S GRANTS ESTONIA NEW DOMESTIC CURRENCY ISSUER RATING.
Moody's Investors Service Inc. has granted Estonia an A1
issuer rating for domestic currency obligations, ETA and BNS
reported on 19 February. The rating reflects a very small
domestic currency debt (less than 2 percent of GDP) and a
tight fiscal stance, Moody's said. The agency's issuer
ratings is based on its assessment of the issuer's ability to
meet its obligations. JC

ABDULATIPOV TO BECOME CO-CHAIR OF LATVIAN-RUSSIAN COMMISSION.
Russian National Minorities Minister Ramazan Abdulatipov told
BNS on 19 February that he has accepted an offer by the
Russian Foreign Minister to become co-chairman of the
Latvian-Russian intergovernmental commission. Abdulatipov
added that he expects to be appointed to that post "in the
next few days." The commission has not convened for one year
because of Moscow's failure to appoint a new co-chairman of
the commission. JC

POLAND TO SUPPORT VILNIUS'S NATO BID. Visiting Polish
President Aleksander Kwasniewski assured his Lithuanian
counterpart, Valdas Adamkus, on 19 February that once it
becomes a member of NATO, Poland will lobby for the
membership of neighboring Lithuania in the alliance, ELTA
reported. Kwasniewski said that the three new NATO members--
Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic--will make clear
their position on NATO's "open-door" policy at the Washington
summit in April. "Warsaw thinks that [there] should be a
concrete statement on the continuity of the alliance's
enlargement to include the Baltic countries or at least one
of them," Kwasniewski said. JC

POLAND'S HEALTH-CARE STRIKE SMALLER THAN EXPECTED. The
general strike by health-care workers launched on 19 February
is "smaller in scale and not as troublesome for patients as
was feared," Polish Radio reported. "Some 20 percent of
hospitals took part in the strike," PAP quoted a health-care
trade union leader as saying. Talks between the strike
organizer--the Health Service Reform Protection Committee--
and the government have ended in a "provisional agreement,"
Polish Radio reported on 20 February, without giving further
details. The strike is intended to last until 23 February,
when health service trade unionists are to meet to decide
whether to continue the action. JM

KLAUS CALLS FOR RECONCILIATION WITH FORMER ODS DISSIDENTS.
Vaclav Klaus, chairman of the opposition Civic Democratic
Party (ODS), has called on members of the Freedom Union to
consider "more accommodating relations" between the two
parties in order to "stop the unfortunate socialist
experiment," CTK reported on 19 February. Klaus was
addressing the National Assembly of the Freedom Union, a
party that was set up by former ODS dissidents last year.
Freedom Union leader Jan Ruml said in response that Klaus's
appeal was a "sign of good will" that will make possible
future talks between the two formations. He added that
Klaus's presence at the union's assembly marks "a significant
turning point," noting that the two parties' positions are
"similar on many issues" and that he expects them to
"gradually" cooperate in the legislature and in local
government. MS

MECIAR DENIES SIS DEFAMED CZECH REPUBLIC. In a 19 February
letter to Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman, former Premier
Vladimir Meciar wrote that "I swear on my honor and
conscience" that neither the Slovak Intelligence Service
(SIS) nor any other government body or member of the Meciar
cabinet ever tried to damage the Czech Republic's chances of
gaining entry to NATO, CTK reported. He said the report
delivered at a closed session of the parliament by the new
SIS head, Vladimir Mitro, was "full of deliberate lies" and
an "attempt to win the political support of some Czech
political circles." MS

SLOVAKIA'S FIRST ASTRONAUT DEPARTS FOR 'MIR.' Ivan Bella
became Slovakia's first-ever astronaut on 20 February, when
he took off on a Soyuz-TM spacecraft from Baykonur,
Kazakhstan, CTK reported. Bella is a member of a Russian-
French-Slovak team that is to work on the "Mir" space
station. An agreement on Slovak participation in the flight
was signed during Meciar's visit to Moscow in May 1998. The
cost of having Bella take part in the flight is to be
deducted from Russia's $20 million debt to Slovakia, CTK
reported. MS

'HUNGARIAN-HUNGARIAN' DIALOGUE TO HAVE INSTITUTIONALIZED
FRAMEWORK. Representatives of Hungarian parliamentary parties
and ethnic Hungarian organizations abroad agreed in Budapest
on 20 February to set up the Hungarian Permanent Conference.
That body will serve as an institutionalized forum to
maintain dialogue between Hungary and Hungarians abroad.
Participants in the meeting signed a statement drawing the
international community's attention to the "unfairness" of
neglecting the interests of Vojvodina's Hungarians in
proposals on settling the Yugoslav crisis. Foreign Minister
Janos Martonyi told the gathering that while millions of
ethnic Hungarians living outside the country will be helped
by Hungary's accession to EU and NATO, they will not be
granted dual citizenship. MSZ

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

YUGOSLAV ARMY VOWS TO FIGHT... General Dragoljub Ojdanic, who
is chief of the General Staff, told officers in Belgrade on
21 February that "if we lose [Kosova], we'll lose Serbia, the
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and our freedom, which is most
sacred to us." He added that he hopes that negotiators can
reach a "peaceful, political settlement" at the Rambouillet
talks, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The general
stressed, however, that the army is prepared to fight if
unnamed foreign powers attach to any treaty what he called
"unacceptable" conditions, such as the stationing of foreign
troops in the province. Ojdanic pointed out that the army is
prepared to "respond to force with force" if foreign troops
arrive in Kosova. PM

ŠINCLUDING IN MONTENEGRO. The Montenegrin government said in
a statement on 20 February that it will not allow the
Yugoslav military to use Montenegrin territory for "actions
against the NATO alliance," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service
reported. The statement added that the government's "duty is
to protect its citizens." The following day, top officials of
the Second Army Command and the Navy said in a statement in
the Montenegrin capital that the government's decision is
"unconstitutional and damaging to national defense." The
statement added that "units of the Second Army and the Navy
will decisively and professionally carry out all tasks in
defense against aggression and in defending the sovereignty
and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of
Yugoslavia." PM

ALBRIGHT RETURNS TO RAMBOUILLET. U.S. Secretary of State
Madeleine Albright again sought to break the deadlock in
negotiations on a Kosova settlement at Rambouillet castle on
22 February. The previous day, she held talks with the
Kosovar delegation and with Serbian President Milan
Milutinovic. On 20 February, foreign ministers of the
international Contact Group agreed to extend the deadline for
concluding a settlement from that day until 3:00 p.m. local
time on 23 February. The main obstacles are the Serbian
refusal to accept NATO peacekeepers in the province and the
Kosovar demand for a referendum on independence at the end of
a three-year transition period. She has repeatedly warned the
Serbs that they risk NATO air strikes if they do not accept
peacekeepers. Albright has also told the Kosovars that NATO
will not bomb the Serbs if the Kosovars do not sign the
agreement. PM

DIFFERENCES IN EU OVER KOSOVA? German Foreign Minister
Joschka Fischer said in Luxembourg on 21 February that "there
will not be another extension" once the latest deadline for
an agreement in Kosova runs out. British Foreign Secretary
Robin Cook, however, noted that the Contact Group "is not
setting ultimatums and deadlines." The previous day, Albright
said that "it would be a grave mistake for [Yugoslav
President Slobodan] Milosevic to miscalculate our intentions,
adding that "we're not into endless extensions" of deadlines
for a settlement. PM

ALBANIAN PRIME MINISTER SAYS SERBS 'SABOTAGE' TALKS. Pandeli
Majko told Reuters in Tirana on 19 February that Serbia is
trying to "sabotage" the Rambouillet talks. He warned that
failure to reach an agreement would destabilize the region.
In an apparent reference to Russia, he added that "pro-
Serbian international players" share responsibility for the
deadlock in the negotiations. Majko noted that the Albanian
delegation at Rambouillet has Tirana's full support,
regardless of the outcome of the talks. He stressed that
"whatever the stand of the [Kosovar delegation is], the
Albanian government will be on its side." Elsewhere, Sabri
Godo, who heads the parliament's foreign affairs committee,
told VOA's Albanian Service on 21 February that "NATO
deployment in Kosova is an absolute necessity" for any
agreement between the Kosovars and Serbs. FS

SERBIAN POLICE ASSAULT OSCE KOSOVA MONITORS. Two members of
the Serbian security forces punched the driver of a clearly-
marked orange OSCE vehicle near Podujeva on 21 February,
Reuters reported. The policemen also pointed their weapons
into the vehicle and prevented the driver and a second
monitor in the vehicle from radioing for help. The policemen
then ordered the monitors to leave the area. Local OSCE
officials protested what they called the "aggressive behavior
of the Serbian police." The previous day, Serbian forces
fought the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) in several places in
the Podujeva region. Serbian forces also shelled a village
near Suhareka, prompting "several hundred" Kosovar civilians
to flee the area, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

NATO PREPARES FOR EVACUATION, AIR STRIKES. A British military
spokesman said in Petrovec, Macedonia, on 20 February that
the 1,800-strong NATO force based in that former Yugoslav
republic is prepared to evacuate the 1,300 OSCE monitors in
Kosova on short notice. He stressed that the evacuation force
"doesn't have an anti-Serb agenda [or] an anti-Albanian
agenda. We are here to take the peace monitors out if they
are in trouble," AP quoted him as saying. And at Aviano air
base in northern Italy, some 50 U.S. Stealth aircraft arrived
the next day. The alliance has a total of 400 aircraft ready
to take part in air strikes against Serbia, Reuters noted. PM

WASHINGTON ISSUES WARNING FOR REPUBLIKA SRPSKA. The U.S.
embassy in Sarajevo advised U.S. citizens and "U.S.
government personnel" in the Republika Srpska on 19 February
to be prepared to leave on short notice. Observers noted that
Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj threatened in
October 1998 to take unspecified actions against NATO troops
in Bosnia in the event that the alliance launched air strikes
against Serbia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 1998). PM

ALBANIAN MINISTER WANTS FOREIGN POLICE ON THE GROUND. Petro
Koci on 18 February suggested to the parliamentary committee
that deals with public order and the secret services that
Albania request active foreign support for the police in
combating smuggling. Koci acknowledged that Albania's police
force is too weak to deal with smugglers and organized
criminals by itself, "Albanian Daily News" reported. Police
from several EU member countries provide training and
equipment to their Albanian counterparts but do not perform
police duties. FS

UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN ROMANIA. Borys Tarasyuk ended a
three-day visit to Romania on 20 February by visiting areas
inhabited by the Ukrainian minority in Maramures County,
RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. One day earlier, Tarasyuk
and his Romanian counterpart, Andrei Plesu, told journalists
in Bucharest that they achieved a "significant breakthrough"
over outstanding problems related to the 1997 bilateral
treaty and that they are determined to reach a "compromise"
without appealing to the International Court of Justice in
the Hague. While refusing to elaborate, Tarasyuk said that
"nobody challenges" the status of Serpent Island as "part of
Ukrainian territory." (The treaty also delayed for two years
delimiting the continental shelf and some border areas.) The
two ministers agreed to submit proposals on meeting Romania's
demand to set up a "multicultural university" in Cernivici
(Cernauti). MS

KURDISH PROTESTERS CLASH WITH BUCHAREST POLICE. Several
people were injured on 19 February in clashes between the
police and Kurdish demonstrators who tried to break into the
Greek embassy in Bucharest to protest the detention of
Abdullah Ocalan, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Earlier,
the police had prohibited such a demonstration. Four Kurds
detained for questioning were later freed. Prime Minister
Radu Vasile said it had been "a mistake" to grant the Kurds
political asylum and that the issue will be "re-examined" by
the authorities. MS

MOLDOVAN PREMIER-DESIGNATE OUTLINES PLANS. Shortly after his
nomination as premier-designate, Ion Sturdza said his
government's structure will "reflect the expectations of the
parliamentary majority" and that the outgoing cabinet "will
not be radically changed," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported.
Sturdza, who must form a cabinet within 15 days, said his
government will concentrate on the "continuation of economic
and democratic reforms," while taking into consideration
"social aspects." He also said that both he and his cabinet
will "stay away from politics" and will not participate in
the campaign for the local elections. The parliament on 19
February scheduled that ballot for 23 May. MS

BULGARIA INTRODUCES VISA REQUIREMENT. Interior Minister
Bogomil Bonev on 18 February announced Bulgaria will impose
visa requirements on citizens of 24 countries listed by the
EU as a source of illegal emigration, an RFE/RL correspondent
in Sofia reported. Among those affected are citizens of
several former Soviet republics: Armenia, Azerbaijan,
Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, and
Turkmenistan. MS

BULGARIAN LAWMAKERS APPROVE LEV REDENOMINATION. The
parliament on 19 February overwhelmingly approved the lev
redenomination law , under which 1,000 old leva will equal 1
new lev. The new lev will have the same value as the German
mark, BTA reported. MS

END NOTE

BROKEN NUCLEAR PROMISES COULD JEOPARDIZE EU MEMBERSHIP
CHANCES

By Ron Synovitz

	Nuclear power plants in Lithuania and Bulgaria pose a
dilemma for EU officials who want to shut down Eastern
Europe's most dangerous reactors. Over-dependence on nuclear
energy in those countries has made it impossible to close
their aging Soviet-designed reactors and fuel the kind of
economic growth needed to make market reforms successful.
	EU officials thought that in 1993 they had won promises
from Bulgaria and Lithuania on early closures. In that year,
grants totaling more than $50 million were awarded to improve
nuclear safety. But EU External Affairs Commissioner Hans van
den Broek has become frustrated by Sofia's refusal to honor
the promise and by threats from Vilnius to back out of its
agreement. He us now telling prospective EU members they will
not be invited into the union until they reach Western
standards on nuclear safety.
	Some Eastern leaders are questioning which course is
more feasible financially --improving their old Soviet-
designed reactors or scrapping them altogether and building
new types of power plants. At the same time, Brussels has
made it clear that it cannot fund all the necessary
improvements across Eastern Europe. But Eastern leaders say
they must have aid to improve safety and reduce their
dependence on nuclear energy.
	Van den Broek says Lithuania must set a definite
timetable for closing its Ignalina plant if it wants to be
invited to fast-track talks on EU membership. But early this
month, when Lithuanian Economics Minister Vincas Babilius
submitted the government's draft energy policy to parliament,
he warned that Lithuania cannot specify shutdown dates
without aid commitments.
	According to the European Bank for Reconstruction and
Development, Lithuania is more dependent on nuclear power
than any other country in the world. Two 1,500 megawatt RBMK
reactors at Ignalina produce more than 80 percent of the
country's electricity supply. The reactors are the same
design as the unit that caused the Chornobyl disaster in
1986. When both are working, Lithuania can produce almost
twice as much energy as its domestic demand. That allows
Lithuania to export electricity--something increasingly
important as the Baltic States unify their power grids.
	Shutting down one unit at Ignalina would not only reduce
exports but also mean costly electricity imports. A study by
the Swedish firm Grufman Reje found that early closure could
cost Lithuania almost $4 billion.
	In 1993, Lithuania accepted about $30 million from the
EBRD-administered Nuclear Safety Account in exchange for a
promise not to replace Ignalina's fuel channels. Brussels has
taken that promise to mean a shutdown early in the next
century. But Lithuanian officials now say rechanneling may be
the only affordable option. A study last October determined
that Ignalina's oldest reactor can operate safely for only
another three years without rechanneling.
	Babilius says EU funding would allow the oldest unit to
be decommissioned as early as next year and the second
reactor as soon as 2005. But without aid, the government says
Ignalina will continue operating for at least 15 more years.
	Meanwhile in Bulgaria, Prime Minister Ivan Kostov says
it will cost more to decommission the four oldest reactors at
the Kozloduy plant than it will to raise safety standards to
Western levels. As pressure from Brussels for a shutdown
increases, Kostov is asking the parliament to reach consensus
on a new national energy policy.
	National Electricity Company managers say they will run
Kozloduy's four VVER-440 megawatt reactors through the end of
their design lives--from 2004 to 2012. The EU wants the
oldest reactor shut down by 2002 and others soon after.
	Kozloduy produces more than 40 percent of the country's
electricity. About 4 percent of electricity production is
exported, mostly to Turkey. While decommissioning could put
an end to those exports, the trade issues are not as vital to
Sofia as they are for Lithuania.
	In 1991, the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy
Agency (IAEA) labeled Kozloduy's oldest reactor as the most
dangerous in Europe. Since then, vast improvements have been
made in equipment, staff qualifications, and organization.
According to Ivan Shilyashki, chairman of Bulgaria's National
Energy Committee, a team of IAEA inspectors who visited
Kozloduy this month praised the progress and said the plant
is far safer than eight years ago.
	In 1993, about $22 million in equipment was delivered to
Kozloduy through the EBRD's Nuclear Safety Account. In
exchange, Sofia promised to shut the four VVER-440 reactors
by 1998. But Kostov backed away from that pledge last year.
National Electricity Company managers supported the move,
saying shutdowns were impossible because expected replacement
power never became available.
	Threats to block EU accession show how backtracking by
Sofia, Vilnius, and others has forced the European Commission
to rethink its approach. At the request of Van den Broek, a
panel of senior EU officials late last year drafted a new
strategy for improving nuclear safety in the East.
	One telling conclusion deals with Russia. The panel said
a more "cooperative approach" is needed because senior
officials in Moscow are rejecting what they see as
"paternalistic assistance" from the EU. The panel also said
it is pointless to demand reactor shutdowns as a precondition
for aid because many countries stand to lose far more from
energy cuts than the funds offered by the West.
	Significantly, the panel recommended continued pressure
for early closures at Kozloduy and Ignalina.

The author is an RFE/RL editor based in Prague.

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