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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 41, Part II, 1 March 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 41, Part II, 1 March 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 * POLAND, CZECH REPUBLIC SIGN NATO ACCESSION DOCUMENTS * KOSOVARS FLEE TO MACEDONIA * OSCE CALLS RAHOVEC SITUATION 'EXPLOSIVE' xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINE'S RUKH SPLITS IN STRUGGLE OVER LEADERSHIP. An extraordinary congress of the Popular Rukh of Ukraine elected 47-year-old Yuriy Kostenko, former environment minister, as chairman to replace 61-year-old Vyacheslav Chornovil, dpa reported on 28 February. Chornovil said at the congress that the vote to replace him lacked the necessary two-thirds majority, and he called on the party to hold another meeting on 6 March. Earlier Chornovil had been removed as chairman of the Rukh caucus in the Supreme Council (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 February 1999). Former Foreign Minister Hennadiy Udovenko, Rukh's presidential candidate in the 1999 elections, had called the congress "illegitimate" and pledged his support for Chornovil, Ukrainian Television reported on 27 February. Kostenko, who was also elected head of the Rukh parliamentary caucus, has accused Chornovil of "selling Rukh to the authorities." JM UKRAINE DESTROYS LAST SS-19 MISSILE. Ukraine has destroyed the last of its 111 Soviet-era SS-19 inter- ballistic missiles. The last IBM was destroyed on 26 February in Dnepropetrovsk under a U.S. program, launched in 1991 by Senators Richard Lugar and Sam Nunn, aimed at helping former Soviet republics get rid of their weapons of mass destruction. Ukraine has received some $500 million under the program. In 1996, Ukraine surrendered all its nuclear warheads to Russia and pledged to remain nuclear-free. The elimination of Ukraine's remaining strategic bombers and SS-24 missiles is scheduled to be completed by December 2001. JM BELARUSIANS PROTEST 'RUSSIAN FASCISM.' Some 2,000 people marched in Minsk on 27 February to protest the beating of three pro-democracy activists by a neo-Nazi group, AP and Reuters reported. Andrey Sannikau, leader of the Charter-97 opposition group, and his two colleagues were beaten on 5 February by some 20 supporters of the fascist Russian National Unity. The protesters carried banners with the slogans "Belarus does not need Russian fascism" and "For a Belarus without fascism and nuclear weapons." They also urged President Alyaksandr Lukashenka to step down when his five-year mandate expires in July. The controversial 1996 referendum extended Lukashenka's term in office until 2001. JM LUKASHENKA DENIES HE WANTS NUCLEAR WEAPONS BACK. Lukashenka has denied he wants to bring back nuclear weapons to Belarusian territory, Belarusian Television reported. The president is quoted as saying at a Moscow airport on 26 January that "journalists close to some political circles" misinterpreted his statement that Belarus made a "big mistake" when it transferred its nuclear missiles to Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 February 1999). Lukashenka said the "terrifying" misinterpretation was an attempt "to wield Belarus as a club in front of the West's nose." He added that he will not allow Belarus to be used to "blackmail the West." He pointed out that Belarus has proposed an initiative to keep Central and Eastern Europe nuclear-free. "We are a peace-loving and neutral state," Lukashenka said, but he stressed once again that withdrawing nuclear weapons from Belarus was a big mistake. JM BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION TO CONTINUE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION INITIATIVE. Alyaksandr Koktysh, a member of the opposition Central Electoral Commission, has told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service that the commission will continue organizing the 16 May presidential elections in accordance with its earlier adopted schedule. Koktysh said despite their detention late last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 February 1999), commission members have approved the composition of territorial electoral commissions and will now register groups collecting signatures for presidential candidates. According to Koktysh, former Prime Minister Mikhail Chyhir and Belarusian Popular Front exiled leader Zyanon Paznyak are expected to run in the 16 May elections. ITAR-TASS reported that Central Electoral Commission head Viktar Hanchar and Paznyak met on 28 February in Warsaw and signed "documents" related to the presidential elections. JM ESTONIA'S NATIONALITIES MINISTER EXPELLED FROM OWN PARTY. The board of the Progressive Party on 26 February expelled Nationalities Minister Andra Veidemann, along with seven members of the party who are running in the 7 March elections on the list of the Country People's Party, BNS reported. Last month, Veidemann had stepped down as chairwoman of the Progressive Party until after the general elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 February 1999) amid differences within the party over, among other things, the issue of members running on the list of another party. According to recent polls, the Progressive Party will not clear the 5 percent hurdle to enter the parliament. On 28 February, the chairmen of the People's and Moderate Parties, Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Andres Tarand, signed documents on the merger of their formations. JC LITHUANIAN ENVIRONMENT MINISTER RESIGNS... Algis Chaplikas of the Center Union party resigned on 26 February as environment minister, saying in a letter to Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius that the present political situation in the country would "hinder" his further work in the government. Conservative parliamentary deputies called for Chaplikas's resignation after Center Union leader Romualdas Ozolas had predicted that early elections would be held and the premier forced to resign. Those comments by the head of the Center Union, which is not a member of the two-party ruling coalition, come in the wake of the dispute over unpaid debts for electricity supplies to Belarus (see below). Last week, Vagnorius accused various state bodies, including the State Control Department and the president's office, of seeking to destabilize the political situation in the country over that affair (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 February 1999). JC ...WHILE PRESIDENT SEEKS TO CALM TENSIONS. Arriving at Vilnius airport following a state visit to Italy, Valdas Adamkus told reporters that "neither the president nor his staff are plotting against the parliament or the government," Baltic news agencies reported on 26 February. He commented that he will seek "solidarity" among politicians, state officials, and leaders of state institutions in solving current problems, adding that he does not intend to "initiate" the cabinet's resignation or early parliamentary elections. He also made it clear that he will not accept an invitation to attend a cabinet meeting this week at which ministers are to decide whether to continue electricity exports to Belarus. JC PROSECUTOR-GENERAL REJECTS CASE AGAINST LIETUVOS ENERGIJA. The Prosecutor-General's Office has returned to the State Control Department charges brought against the state company Lietuvos Energija in connection with Belarus's outstanding debts for electricity supplies, ELTA reported on 26 February. The department has accused Lietuvos Energija of squandering 50.7 million litas ($12.67 million, see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 February 1999). The Prosecutor-General's Office said that the department failed either to justify such a move or to conduct an audit of the company beforehand. It added that the department exceeded its competence and breached the principle of presumption of innocence. JC POLAND, CZECH REPUBLIC SIGN NATO ACCESSION DOCUMENTS... Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski and his Czech counterpart, Vaclav Havel, signed the NATO accession documents simultaneously in Warsaw and Prague on 26 February in ceremonies broadcast live by national television stations. Kwasniewski called the signing a "special moment in our history. We are coming back to where our place is," he said, adding that NATO should remain open for new members. Havel commented that the signed documents are of "truly historic significance." The security of the Czech Republic is now "becoming an integral part of the security of the entire Euro- American world," he said. JM ...WHILE PRAGUE CEREMONY DISRUPTED BY PROTESTER. The ratification ceremony was disrupted in Prague by a environmental activist blowing a whistle, CTK reported on 26 February. Jan Krecek, son of deputy Stanislav Krecek of the ruling Social Democratic Party, also burned a card bearing the NATO emblem, before he was dragged down from a chair and whisked away by President Havel's bodyguards. The protester told CTK that he has been charged with hooliganism, commenting that "I do not see any hooliganism in what I did. I wanted to express my disagreement in some way with the Czech Republic's joining of NATO, because a referendum has been ruled out." Havel's spokesman told CTK that Krecek had abused his journalist's accreditation. MS POLICE ASK SLOVAK PARLIAMENT TO STRIP LEXA OF IMMUNITY. Jaroslav Ivor, director of the Slovak police's Investigation Division, told journalists on 26 February that the police have requested that parliamentary chairman Jozef Migas launch proceedings for stripping former Slovak Counter-Intelligence (SIS) chief Ivan Lexa of his parliamentary immunity, CTK reported. Ivor said the police want to begin a criminal investigation into Lexa. He added that the report presented by new SIS chief Vladimir Mitro to a closed session of the parliament last month aroused suspicion that Lexa was involved in the 1995 kidnapping of former President Michal Kovac's son. MS SLOVAKIA 'REGRETS' SECRET SERVICE OPERATIONS AGAINST HUNGARY. Ervin Demeter, an Hungarian intelligence official, told journalists in Budapest on 26 February that the Slovak government has admited to carrying out secret service operations against Hungary during Vladimir Meciar's tenure as prime minister. He added that it "regreted" those actions. Demer also said that the Hungarian secret services had been aware of, and had successfully countered, the Slovak secret service's activities. The Hungarian Foreign Ministry welcomed the admission as "evidence of a new era of cooperation between the two countries," Foreign Ministry spokesman told MTI the same day. Horvath said Slovakia's ambassador to Hungary has handed over a note saying that "the current Slovak government dissociates itself from the perverseness of the past." MSZ/MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE KOSOVARS FLEE TO MACEDONIA. Up to 3,000 Kosovar civilians tried to flee to Macedonia on 28 February to escape a Serbian assault on their homes in the Hani I Elezit area, near Kosova's southern border. Serbian forces prevented the civilians from crossing the frontier, saying they lack the necessary papers. Reuters reported on 1 March that some 350 civilians took shelter in a nearby snow-covered forest, but it is unclear where the other displaced persons are at present. In nearby Kacanik, at least one Serbian policeman died in fighting on 28 February. The BBC said that the continuing incidents are "part of a daily pattern of instability." The broadcast added that the strong Serbian police presence in many parts of the province has prevented Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) representatives from visiting their followers to explain the terms of the proposed Rambouillet settlement. PM OSCE CALLS RAHOVEC SITUATION 'EXPLOSIVE.' In the Rahovec area, four Serbian civilians were kidnapped in two separate incidents on 27 February. The UCK freed two of the Serbs unharmed, but its spokesmen at first denied any knowledge of the fate of the other two. The following day, UCK spokesman Jakup Krasniqi said the guerrillas had captured them as well and killed one of them. OSCE monitors told AP on 1 March that the situation is "explosive" and that they are investigating. The UCK kidnapped several dozen Serbian civilians in that area last year. PM KOSOVARS MARK FIRST ANNIVERSARY OF ARMED STRUGGLE. Some 4,000 Kosovars in the Drenica area attended a ceremony on 28 February to mark the first anniversary of the slaying of 24 civilians by Serbian police, which was in revenge for the killing of two Serbian security personnel by the UCK. Even larger crowds are expected on 6 March to commemorate the first anniversary of the slaying of UCK leader Adem Jashari and many members of his clan in the Prekaz area (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 March 1998). Supporters of the UCK regard the clashes in the Drenica region in February and March 1998 as the beginning of the guerrillas' armed struggle for independence. PM GUERRILLAS CALL INVITATION TO WASHINGTON 'MILESTONE.' RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 26 February that unspecified representatives of the U.S. government have invited leading officials of the UCK to Washington to discuss the Rambouillet settlement. The UCK's General Staff said in a statement on 1 March that the "preliminary official invitation" came from the State Department and that "the delegation is expected to travel soon to the U.S.... The visit is proof of the acceptance of the UCK [as a legitimate force] and of the internationalization of the Kosova problem." PM SERBIAN BUILDUP AIMED AT 'DESTROYING' UCK? A spokesman for the UCK said in Prishtina on 28 February that the guerrillas have unspecified information that indicates that the Serbian military buildup in and around Kosova is aimed at "destroying" the UCK before peace talks reconvene on 15 March , RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 February 1999). A Pentagon spokesman noted on 27 February that Serbian security forces are continuing their buildup in Serbia proper near the border with Kosova. U.S. President Bill Clinton said on 26 February that Yugoslav President Slobodan "Milosevic should understand that this is a time for restraint, not repression. And if he does not, NATO is prepared to act." NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana told Spanish Television that "we cannot allow a Serbian offensive that changes the situation on the ground." PM CHIRAC WARNS OF 'GRAVE CONSEQUENCES.' French President Jacques Chirac told 1,200 French troops in Kumanovo, Macedonia, on 28 February that the Serbs and Kosovars "should choose wisdom and peace, because this is in the interest of the people of the region. The side that does not sign the agreement will bear responsibility for the grave consequences that will ensue." He did not elaborate. Earlier, Chirac discussed the political situation in the Balkans with President Kiro Gligorov and Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski. In Belgrade the previous day, Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj warned Macedonia against continuing to play host to NATO forces. He said that "nothing will remain of Macedonia if any foreign army attacks Serbia from Macedonia." PM ALBANIA BACKS KOSOVAR PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT. Foreign Minister Paskal Milo told the "Albanian Daily News" of 27 February in Tirana that the Albanian government supports Kosova's new provisional government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 February 1999). Milo said that the government "will lead the [ethnic] Albanians through the transitional period." Milo's spokesman Sokol Gjoka expressed the hope that the UCK's political representative Adem Demaci will drop his objections to the provisional government, to which other UCK leaders now belong. He added that Tirana will invite unspecified Kosovar leaders to a meeting in Tirana on 3 March. FS ALBANIAN ARMY STARTS EXERCISES NEAR KOSOVA BORDER. Albania's army began maneuvers in the Tropoja and Has regions on 26 February, Reuters reported. Defense Minister Luan Hajdaraga, who was visiting the troops, said the border situation is "really tense" and the army remains in a state of "high readiness," AP reported. Elsewhere, Foreign Minister Milo told Albanian public television that "NATO forces are welcome in Albania if that is necessary." He repeated earlier offers of ports and air facilities to NATO troops for a possible Kosova deployment. He expressed the hope that "NATO's presence...will help settle the [Kosova conflict and] restore security in the whole region," dpa reported. FS BOSNIAN SOCIAL DEMOCRATS MERGE. Delegates from the opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the Social Democrats of Bosnia-Herzegovina (SDBH) agreed in Sarajevo on 27 February to form the Social Democratic Party of Bosnia-Herzegovina (SDPBH). The president is the SDP's Zlatko Lagumdzija. The SDBH's Selim Beslagic heads the steering committee, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The merger marks the end of months of efforts by several Social Democratic parties from Western Europe to persuade the two parties to sink their differences and oppose the governing nationalist parties, which control 68 out of 140 seats in the federation's lower house. The SDPBH holds 25 seats. It is the heir to the former League of Communists, and its main support bases are Sarajevo and Tuzla. PM SLOVENIA PROTESTS MARITIME INCIDENT TO CROATIA. A Slovenian government spokesman said in Ljubljana on 27 February that the Slovenian authorities will lodge a formal protest with the Croatian authorities following an incident in the Gulf of Piran earlier that day. A Croatian patrol boat stopped an unspecified number of Slovenian fishing boats and warned them that they were in Croatian waters. For eight years, Croatia and Slovenia have been negotiating--without success--the delineation of their maritime boundary in the Gulf of Piran. PM FORMER ALBANIAN SUPREME COURT JUDGE DIES AFTER SHOOTING. Kleanthi Koci died on 27 February as he was travelling to Italy for treatment of injuries he suffered in an assassination attempt several days earlier (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 February 1999). Koci was Supreme Court chief judge in the early 1990s. He later became chairman of the Albanian lawyers' professional association, ATSH reported. He defended communist-era President Ramiz Alia during his 1994 trial on charges of crimes against humanity. In recent years, there has been a sharp increase in apparently unrelated bombing attacks and assassination attempts against representatives of the judiciary. FS U.S. DONATES PATROL BOATS TO ALBANIA. U.S. military officials formally presented two patrol vessels to the Albanian coast guard near Durres on 27 February. The boats will help to stem the illegal trafficking of immigrants across the Otranto Straits and will also be used for search-and-rescue operations, ATSH reported. FS ROMANIAN PREMIER DEFEATS PARTY RIVALS, SECURES SUPPORT. An enlarged meeting of the Steering Committee of the ruling National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) has voted by 43 to four with two abstentions to approve the policies of Radu Vasile's cabinet, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 27 February. Former Premier Victor Ciorbea, who heads the group of PNTCD dissidents, said that while GDP is decreasing, "we are lectured about the relaunching of the economy." He added that Vasile is responsible for the cabinet's failure to secure an urgently needed accord with the IMF. Meanwhile, IMF chief negotiator for Romania, Emmanuel Zervoudakis, said at the end of a two-week visit to Bucharest on 26 February, that Romania's request to renew loans cannot be considered before June. "Despite some progress" in market reforms, he said, "there is still need to develop detailed plans in the area of structural policy," Reuters reported. MS FORMER LIBERAL LEADER ELECTED CHAIRMAN OF NATIONALIST PARTY. In a move that took many observers by surprise, Viorel Catarama, former deputy chairman of the National Liberal Party, was elected interim chairman of the extra-parliamentary Romanian National Party (PNR) on 28 February. One day earlier, former PNR chairman Mihai Berca said he was ready to step down in Catarama's favor. PNR Secretary-General Virgil Magureanu, former director of Romanian Intelligence Service, is reported to have engineered the move, which he called " a huge step forward for the PNR." Catarama told the PNR National Council that the party must win the 2000 elections by representing the middle class and pursuing a "national policy," one of whose main objectives would be to ensure Transylvania remains part of Romania. MS ROMANIA, BULGARIA TO MEDIATE IN KOSOVA CONFLICT? Bulgarian Premier Ivan Kostov, at the end of a one-day visit to Romania on 27 February, said he discussed with his Romanian counterpart, Vasile, the possibility of sending to Belgrade and Pristina a joint parliamentary delegation to examine ways of contributing to a peace accord in the region. Vasile said the proposal was "useful" but needs the prior approval of Romania's parliament, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The two premiers also discussed bilateral economic problems. Kostov proposed that Bulgaria build and finance a bridge over the River Danube between Vidin and Calafat. The Romanian government is to examine that proposal. MS MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT POSTPONES CONFIDENCE VOTE IN STURDZA CABINET. The parliament on 26 February postponed until 2 March its vote of confidence in the cabinet headed by Premier-designate Ion Sturdza after Iurie Rosca, leader of the Christian Democratic Popular Front (FPCD) announced at the last minute that the FPCD will not support the government. The ruling coalition parties had agreed on 25 February to support the cabinet, but Rosca announced that the FPCD is not satisfied with having just two ministers in the cabinet and that it objects to the predominance of the For a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova bloc, Infotag reported. Without the votes of the nine-strong FPCD parliamentary group, the government would be one vote short of the 51 majority needed for the cabinet's approval. 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