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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 37, Part II, 23 February 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 37, Part II, 23 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 * UKRAINE'S POPULAR RUKH FACING SPLIT? * SLOVAK AGENTS WHO SOUGHT TO DISCREDIT NEIGHBORS DISMISSED * KOSOVA TALKS REMAIN DEADLOCKED, WHILE FRESH FIGHTING BREAKS OUT End Note: BREAKTHROUGH IN UKRAINIAN-ROMANIAN RELATIONS? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINE EXPECTS LAZARENKO'S EXTRADITION FROM U.S. Viktor Lakizyuk, spokesman for the Ukrainian Prosecutor- General's Office, said on 22 February that he expects a "positive" U.S. decision on the extradition of former Premier Pavlo Lazarenko from the U.S., Reuters reported. Lazarenko was detained at New York's J.F. Kennedy airport on 19 February while seeking entry without a valid visa. According to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, Lazarenko is currently under an "expedite removal" procedure whereby he may be sent to the country of his nationality or of his birth, the country he was last in, or any other country willing to accept him. Lazarenko can apply for asylum or challenge the decision in court. Commenting on Lazarenko's possible appeal for political asylum in the U.S., Lakizyuk said he is "absolutely sure" the U.S will reject such a plea. JM UKRAINE'S POPULAR RUKH FACING SPLIT? Thirty of the 48 deputies of the Popular Rukh parliamentary caucus supported a vote of no confidence in their leader Vyacheslav Chornovil last week. According to the 20 February "Den," Chornovil was removed from his post for making political decisions single-handedly. "Rukh is facing a choice: either its historical past or a promising future. The period of idolatry is over," Rukh member Roman Zvarych told "Den." A Rukh congress on 6 March is expected to address the conflict between Chornovil's opponents and supporters. President Leonid Kuchma has expressed his regret over the "split" in Rukh and called on party officials to show unity. The nationalist-leaning Rukh, the third-largest party in the Ukrainian parliament, is not seen as a pro-Kuchma force, although it has not directly opposed the government either. JM KYIV DAILY SUSPENDS PUBLICATION OWING TO FINANCIAL PROBLEMS. The Kyiv-based Russian-language daily "Kievskie Vedomosti," which has a circulation of some 200,000, has suspended publication owing to financial problems, Reuters reported on 22 February. Deputy Chief Editor Iryna Titova told the news agency that the daily's reporters have worked in "field conditions" without being paid for the last four months. She added that the newspaper's financial situation considerably deteriorated after it lost a libel case brought by Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko over corruption allegations. The court ordered the daily to pay some $2.5 million in damages to the minister (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June 1998). JM LUKASHENKA CALLS ON RUSSIA, IRAN, CHINA, INDIA TO 'COUNTERBALANCE' U.S. In an interview with Iranian State Television on 22 February, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka called for a union of Russia, Iran, China, and India to offset the U.S.'s influence in a "unipolar world," AP and Interfax reported. "I would like politicians in these regions to discard their differences...[and] to understand that only they can counterbalance today's bloc of NATO and the U.S.," Lukashenka said. He criticized the U.S. for bombings of Iraqi targets, the threat of NATO strikes against Yugoslavia, and efforts to block leaks of weapons technology to Iran. Lukashenka predicted that Iran will become a "superpower" in the early 2000s, adding that Belarus wants close ties with Tehran in trade and "other spheres." JM EU LIFTS VISA BAN ON BELARUSIAN OFFICIALS. EU foreign ministers voted in Luxembourg on 22 February to scrap a seven-month visa ban on Belarusian officials, Reuters reported. The EU imposed the ban last July after EU ambassadors had been forced out of their residences at Drazdy, near Minsk. The five EU ambassadors who were recalled from Belarus over the diplomatic housing scandal returned to Minsk last month. The U.S., which took the same retaliation measures against Belarus, has so far neither sent its ambassador back to Minsk nor lifted the travel ban on Belarusian officials. JM COURT RULES COMPENSATION FOR PRO-MOSCOW ACTIVIST DEPORTED FROM ESTONIA. A Tallinn court has ruled that compensation totaling 46,000 kroons ($3,300) be paid to the pro-Moscow activist Pyotr Rozhok, ETA and BNS reported on 22 February. The Citizenship and Migration Department had expelled Rozhok in 1995, citing his "subversive actives." The following year, however, a district court ruled Rozhok's expulsion "illegal," arguing that the expulsion order was not issued in full compliance with the law. JC LATVIAN PRESIDENT SAYS GOVERNMENT 'STABLE.' Guntis Ulmanis, speaking on Latvian Radio on 22 February, commented that the cabinet of Vilis Kristopans is "stable" and is ready to deal with "real issues," BNS reported. Ulmanis's comment was in response to a study by analysts at the U.S. Center for Strategic and International Studies who argued the ruling coalition is "unstable " and will likely fall before year's end. Kristopans called this viewpoint "mistaken." JC FRANCE RELEASES LATVIAN CREW OF SEIZED VESSEL. The Latvian crew detained last week by French authorities on suspicion of drug-smuggling has been released (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 February 1999), LETA and BNS reported on 22 February. A Latvian diplomat in France told BNS that after questioning the Latvian crew members, the French authorities had concluded they were not involved in smuggling narcotics. Customs officials had found some 23.5 tons of marijuana aboard the seized vessel. JC EU TO HELP FUND LITHUANIAN-RUSSIAN BORDER CROSSING. The EU has announced it will fund construction of the Kaliningrad part of the Chernichnoe/Kybartai crossing point, on the Lithuanian-Russian border, BNS reported on 22 February. Funds are to be allocated for this purpose under the TACIS program. A spokeswoman for the Lithuanian Customs Department told BNS that money for construction of the Lithuanian side of the border crossing has been earmarked from the state budget. JC POLISH UNEMPLOYMENT ON THE RISE. The number of registered jobless people in Poland totaled 2.046 million in January, up by 215,000 from December, "Rzeczpospolita" reported on 23 February. That figure represents an unemployment rate of 11.5 percent. Polish experts attribute this increase to an economic slowdown triggered by the sharp decrease in Polish exports to Russia and other post-Soviet countries. They also point to the health reform launched this year, which obliges the state to pay health insurance contributions for registered jobless people. According to estimates, some 100,000 people working in Poland's shadow economy may have registered to have health insurance paid by the state. JM U.S. PRAGUE EMBASSY REOPENS AFTER TERRORIST ALERT. The U.S. embassy in Prague, which was closed after a terrorist alert on 18 February, reopened on 22 February for "essential business," an embassy statement said, adding that the mission will be open to regular visitors beginning 23 February. The British embassy, which was also closed after the alert, reopened on 22 February, but an embassy's spokesman said it is unclear when regular work will resume, CTK reported. An RFE/RL spokeswoman said the radio, which reduced its staff during the alert, resumed "working normally" on 22 February. MS SLOVAK AGENTS WHO SOUGHT TO DISCREDIT NEIGHBORS DISMISSED... Slovak Counter-Intelligence Service (SIS) agents who were involved in provocation aimed at preventing the accession to NATO of the Czech Republic and Hungary have been dismissed, the new head of the SIS told CTK on 22 February. Vladimir Mitro added that he "has no information" confirming that such operations had been conducted at the request of foreign secret services, such as Russia's. In a report delivered to the parliament's closed session on 12 February, Mitro said that under his predecessor, Ivan Lexa, the SIS had "active contacts" with the Russian secret services. MS ...AS HUNGARY OPENS SIS ACTIVITY INVESTIGATION. The Hungarian Intelligence Office and the National Security Office have launched an investigation to identify SIS contacts in Hungary during the term in office of Vladimir Meciar's government, Hungarian media reported on 22 February. Intelligence sources said that agents working in Slovakia passed on to Budapest information about contacts between the SIS and criminal gangs operating in Hungary. In his report, Mitro also said the SIS's "Operation Omega" was aimed at creating the impression among Hungary's neighbors that Budapest was being treated preferentially by the U.S. MSZ/MS HUNGARY NOT TO JOIN POSSIBLE NATO ACTIONS IN KOSOVA. Foreign Ministry spokesman Gabor Horvath on 22 February said Hungary will not "actively take part "in any NATO operation in Yugoslavia. If peace talks in France are successful, Hungary could provide health and technical aid units, but only outside Yugoslavia, he said. "A parliamentary resolution that allows NATO to use Hungary's air space is still in force, but this does not include the use of the Taszar military air base," Horvath noted. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE KOSOVA TALKS REMAIN DEADLOCKED... U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe General Wesley Clark on 22 February sought to reassure ethnic Albanian delegates to the peace talks in Rambouillet, France, that NATO will move troops into Kosova quickly to protect them if an agreement is reached. But the Albanians, who appeared to be constrained by Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) field commanders, are continuing to demand a referendum on independence after three years. Unnamed officials said that UCK representative Hashim Thaci is the main obstacle to agreement within the Albanian delegation. The same day, U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin said the Yugoslav government "is still not prepared to engage seriously on the military piece" of the accord and remains adamantly opposed to allowing NATO peacekeepers. FS ...WHILE FRESH FIGHTING BREAKS OUT. Thousands of Kosova Albanians fled their homes on 22 February as fierce fighting broke out between the UCK and Serbian forces in several villages near Vushtrri, northeast of Prishtina. UNHCR officials told Reuters that about 4,000 people, mostly women, children, and the elderly, fled, while male residents had stayed behind. An unnamed OSCE official told Reuters that Serbian authorities earlier had announced a "live-fire" exercise in the area. OSCE official Ferdinand Schafler blamed the fighting near Vushtrri on "provocations" by the Yugoslav army, which moved troops through UCK-controlled territory, AP reported. VOA's Albanian Service reported on 23 February that at least six people died in the fighting and that 2,000 refugees had arrived in Macedonia the previous day. FS MONTENEGRIN-SERBIAN ROW OVER NATO INTENSIFIES. Deputy Prime Minister Novak Kilibarda told "Blic" of 22 February that Montenegro will not allow Yugoslav army troops to use its territory in the event of hostilities with international forces (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 February 1999). Kilibarda stressed that "we will find a way to prevent the abuse of our territory," adding that "any supplies necessary for sustaining [federal military] installations are under Montenegrin authority," Reuters reported. Meanwhile, an official from the ethnic Albanian Democratic League of Montenegro, which is a member of Montenegro's governing coalition, told VOA's Albanian Service on 23 February that "we do not even consider fighting against NATO." He added that Montenegro will not participate in a possible Yugoslav mobilization. FS TRIBUNAL PRESIDENT ALARMED OVER RAMBOUILLET DRAFT. Gabrielle Kirk McDonald, the president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, said in The Hague on 22 February that participants in the Rambouillet talks have "sacrificed" granting the tribunal's investigators full access to suspected war crimes sites in Kosova for the sake of obtaining an agreement. McDonald said that according to unnamed sources close to the talks, the Serbs are insisting there should be no reference to the tribunal in the agreement. McDonald attacked the draft agreement in its reportedly "watered-down" form, which excludes a specific reference to the court included in the original draft, Reuters reported. She stressed that "there can be no lasting peace without justice." FS NATO OFFICIAL REJECTS UN COMMAND FOR KOSOVA FORCE. An unnamed senior NATO official told Reuters on 22 February that NATO will not accept any attempt to substitute a UN command for that of the Western alliance. He stressed that NATO must command any mission in Kosova. In a reference to Bosnia, he added that "there is no way that we will ever put ourselves into a dual-key situation again." He went on to say that "Yugoslav national mythology is steeped in repelling foreign dominance, but Belgrade must appreciate that NATO would not enter Yugoslavia as a conqueroronly NATO can do the job." The official also stressed that the peacekeeping mission would be "broad-based" and NATO would welcome Russian participation. Meanwhile, German government spokesman Uwe-Karsten Heye said Bonn is prepared to offer up to 4,500 troops to take part in any peacekeeping operation in Kosova. FS ALBANIAN PREMIER SAYS RAMBOUILLET AGREEMENT 'TEMPORARY.' Pandeli Majko told reporters in Tirana on 22 February that "any deal that could be achieved at Rambouillet would have a transitional character." Majko, who was speaking after telephoning with U.S. Secretary of State Albright, also appealed to the Kosovars to accept the Contact Group's proposal. Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo and the chairman of the parliament's foreign affairs commission, Sabri Godo, left for Rambouillet the same day to attend the talks, Reuters reported. FS UCK NAMES NEW COMMANDER. The UCK General Staff has named Sulejman Selimi, a 29-year-old regional commander and hard-liner, as its commander, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 22 February. Unnamed UCK sources confirmed the appointment, which the daily "Kosova Sot" had announced earlier that day, but others denied it, according to Reuters. A Serbian court had earlier sentenced Selimi in absentia to 20 years in jail for terrorism. FS 'RILINDJA' RESUMES PUBLICATION IN KOSOVA. Eight years after it was closed down by Serbian authorities, the daily "Rilindja" resumed publication in Prishtina on 22 February, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The daily had appeared in exile editions in the Swiss town of Zofingen and in Tirana since the early 1990s. FS POPLASEN DEFIES INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY OVER ARMY CONTROL. Republika Srpska President Nikola Poplasen has called a session of his army's Supreme Command Council in defiance of the international community. Bosnia's top international official, Carlos Westendorp, recently stressed that the joint presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, rather than the country's two entities, is commander of the armed forces. In effect, Westendorp has transferred command of the Bosnian Serb army to the Bosnian Serb member of the joint presidency, Zivko Radisic. However, Radisic cannot make any decisions without the prior agreement of his Muslim and Croatian colleagues. FS CROATIAN PREMIER APPOINTS NEW MINISTERS. Zlatko Matesa on 22 February named Ivan Djurkic as agriculture minister to replace Zlatko Dominikovic. Last week, Dominikovic resigned after he had been sharply criticized for months by farmers claiming that his policies are ruining the country's potentially profitable agricultural sector. Matesa also appointed Milena Zic-Fuchs as science and technology minister. That post had been vacant since last year, when the incumbent, Ivica Kostovic, became chief of President Franjo Tudjman's office, AP reported. FS LEADING ROMANIAN BANK CHIEF RESIGNS. Vlad Soare, president of Bancorex, Romania's largest state-owned bank, and his deputy, Dragos Andrei, resigned on 22 February amid reports of criticism of the bank's restructuring by the IMF chief negotiator for Romania, Emmanuel Zervoudakis, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. According to Romanian Radio, their resignations have been officially submitted to the State Property Fund. The restructuring of Bancorex has been at the top of agenda of discussions under way in Bucharest between Romanian officials and an IMF delegation headed by Zervoudakis. The bank has suffered losses on account of bad loans approved in the early 1990s. Soare took over the presidency of Bancorex in March 1998. Also on 22 February, the international rating company Moody's for the first time rated Romania's internal debt servicing, putting the country into its lowest category, alongside Russia and Ukraine. MS ROMANIA, BULGARIA CALL ON YUGOSLAVIA TO ALLOW NATO TROOPS IN KOSOVA. In a joint appeal to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, the Romanian and Bulgarian heads of state said an international peace initiative under NATO leadership is the only way to guarantee peace in Kosova, while also protecting Yugoslavia's territorial integrity. Emil Constantinescu and Petar Stoyanov called on Milosevic to allow NATO troops into his country for that purpose, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS MOLDOVAN PREMIER-DESIGNATE STARTS CABINET TALKS. Christian Democratic Popular Front (FPCD) leader Iurie Rosca said after meeting with Premier-designate Ion Sturdza on 22 February that the "negotiations are proceeding quite smoothly." Party of Democratic Forces leader Valeriu Matei also expressed "satisfaction" with their progress, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Mircea Snegur, leader of the Party of Revival and Conciliation, said after meeting with Sturdza that negotiations with his party have not "really started." He noted that Sturdza "just wanted my opinion on some of his proposals," adding that his party has not yet decided on its position vis-à-vis the premier- designate's program. Following a meeting of the Democratic Convention of Moldova's executive board, Snegur said that the convention "has taken note" that the FPCD has "left the convention." MS BULGARIA, MACEDONIA SIGN DECLARATION SETTLING LANGUAGE DISPUTE. Visiting Macedonian Premier Ljubco Georgievski and his Bulgarian counterpart, Ivan Kostov, signed a declaration on 22 February saying the two countries have "no territorial claims on each other" and will not "undertake, incite, or support actions of a hostile nature" against one another, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia and BTA reported. The declaration was signed in the official languages of the two countries, ending the so-called "language dispute" that arose when Bulgaria refused to recognize Macedonian as a language separate from Bulgarian (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and 15 February 1999). In addition, Bulgaria agreed to Macedonia's request to donate decommissioned weaponry, including Soviet-made tanks and artillery, worth $3.5 million. MS END NOTE BREAKTHROUGH IN UKRAINIAN-ROMANIAN RELATIONS? by Michael Shafir The recent visit to Romania by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk left observers with more questions than answers. The visit--the first to be paid to Bucharest by a chief Ukrainian diplomat in seven years--was primarily intended to clarify the status of negotiations on issues unresolved in the June 1997 bilateral treaty. On signing that document, the two sides agreed to try to reach an agreement on those issues within two years; failing that, they would ask the International Court of Justice in The Hague to make a ruling. Negotiations at expert level, however, seemed to have stalled, despite repeated reassurances of "progress." The issues put on hold for two years include the status of Serpents' Island in the Black Sea, which was handed over to the former Soviet Union by Romania in 1948 and which became part of Ukraine when the Soviet empire collapsed; the delimitation of the continental shelf in the Black Sea, which is believed to be rich in oil reserves; and the demarcation of the border, which is currently runs along the Romanian bank of the Chilia branch of the River Danube delta and which Bucharest wants moved to the middle of the branch. But there are also issues on which the two neighbors disagree--above all, the implementation of the treaty's provisions dealing with the rights of national minorities. Whether any progress was made during Tarasyuk's visit is still unclear. Optimists would point to the joint press conference held by Tarasyuk and his Romanian counterpart, Andrei Plesu: a "significant breakthrough" was announced, but the nature of that breakthrough remains unclear. The two sides were said to have reached agreement to continue negotiations on "delicate and sensitive issues" and to settle them "amicably," without appealing to the court in The Hague. Judging from hints dropped by Tarasyuk, the Romanians appear to have agreed to renounce any claim on Serpents' Island, with the Ukrainian foreign minister arguing that Ukraine's "rightful ownership" of the island "is beyond any question." Did the two sides reach a "package" agreement whereby Ukraine would agree to the earlier proposal by Romanian President Emil Constantinescu that the sides jointly exploit the natural resources in the continental shelf? From Kyiv's perspective, this would involve a major concession, but Radu Vasile's cabinet might find it difficult to secure approval of such a deal. It is no secret that Bucharest's rather surprising willingness to sign the 1997 bilateral treaty--which among other things, foresees the renunciation of historical territorial claims on Ukraine (northern Bukovina and the Herta territory annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940)--was motivated by one major factor: the hope of securing an invitation at the NATO summit in summer 1997 to join the alliance. With those hopes dashed and with little chance of receiving such an invitation at the upcoming summit in Washington, many in Romania are likely to question any "further concessions." And opposition is likely to come not only from the ranks of the ruling coalition's political rivals (who have successfully stirred up nationalist sentiment against the treaty) but also from within the ranks of the coalition itself. Why would Bucharest propose such a compromise solution? Because it apparently has no choice. Ukraine, which is both a nuclear power and, despite its continued economic difficulties, a potentially strong economic partner of the West--is much more likely to succeed in enlisting Western support for its goals than is Bucharest. But there are two more reasons. First, with presidential elections due in Ukraine later this year, Romanians must be aware that unless they hurry up, they may have to conduct negotiations with a more nationalist-inclined and perhaps even a "nostalgic Communist" in the driver's seat in Kyiv--a somewhat less than thrilling prospect for Bucharest. Second, Kyiv has already taken some steps that are seen in the Romanian capital as aimed at increasing Ukrainian territorial claims, despite Tarasyuk's denials that this is the case. Kyiv has declared the area around Serpent's Island as a nature reserve, which under international law would give Ukraine the right--at least in theory--to enlarge its territorial waters from 12 to 200 nautical miles from the coastline. Second, there is the issue of minority rights. In 1997, the Romanian side insisted on including the Council of Europe's Recommendation 1201 in the treaty with Ukraine, after long opposing its inclusion in the treaty with Hungary. Now, Bucharest is now demanding that a "multicultural" university be set up in Cernivtsi/Cernauti, while largely stalling on measures to set up such a university for its own Hungarian minority. Many media outlets have long engaged in a campaign aimed at stirring up anti-Ukrainian sentiment, claiming that Ukraine does not respect its obligations toward the 135,000- strong Romanian speaking minority. Those conducting such a campaign disregard the fact that some of these "Romanians" consider themselves Moldovans and reject close contacts with Bucharest. Tarasyuk, while not denying that problems do exist, says that a lack of funds, rather than ill-will, is to blame. He was quick to point out during his visit that there is only one Ukrainian high school in Romania and that instruction there is conducted 75 percent in the Romanian language. In order to seek a solution, the two sides agreed that a commission of experts will study the issue. As conventional wisdom has it: where there is good will, issues are solved; where there is none, commissions are set up. 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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