Greatness lies not in being strong, but in the right use of strength. - Henry Ward Beecher
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 56, Part II, 22 March 1999


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 56, Part II, 22 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

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Headlines, Part II

* LUKASHENKA SAYS GOVERNMENT CANNOT HALT PRICE HIKES

* MILOSEVIC TO MEET WITH HOLBROOKE

* SERBIAN FORCES LAUNCH MAJOR OFFENSIVE

End Note: A DISASTER THAT DIDN'T HAPPEN
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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

KUCHMA URGES DEMOCRATIC FORCES TO UNITE... Ukrainian
President Leonid Kuchma addressed the nationwide forum
of democratic forces Zlahoda [Concord] in Kyiv on 19
March, urging those formations to unite in order to
support Ukraine's independent statehood and economic
reforms. "All of us must make a choice between statehood
and amorphousness, between reforms and a retreat [from
them], between democracy and anarchy or
totalitarianism," the 20 March "Uryadovyy kuryer" quoted
him as saying. The initiative to form Zlahoda came from
Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko in an attempt to
enlist wider support for Kuchma's re-election bid (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 19 January 1999). JM

...MEETS WITH ISRAEL'S NETANYAHU. The Ukrainian
president met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu in Kyiv on 21 March to discuss bilateral
relations. "Ukraine supports Israeli efforts in the
peaceful settlement of the Palestinian problem," Kuchma
commented after the meeting. Kuchma added that Ukraine
needs Israeli investments, while Netanyahu confirmed the
interest of Israeli businessmen in investing in
Ukraine's large enterprises. JM

UKRAINE RATIFIES NUCLEAR COOPERATION DEAL WITH U.S. The
Supreme Council on 19 March ratified an agreement with
the U.S. on civilian cooperation in nuclear energy. The
1998 agreement will allow Ukraine to import U.S. nuclear
materials and much-needed technology to revamp its
nuclear industry. It was signed after Ukraine pledged to
give up building turbines for Iran's nuclear power plant
in Bushehr. JM

LUKASHENKA SAYS GOVERNMENT CANNOT HALT PRICE HIKES.
"Owing to various objective reasons, the authorities
cannot put a stop to price increases in the country,"
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka told a
cabinet meeting on 19 March. He explained that price
hikes are largely caused by inflation in "neighboring
countries" from which Belarus buys raw materials for
domestic production. He also blamed the hikes on
"enormous charges" by some Belarusian "monopolist"
producers as well as by trade intermediaries. "There are
ridiculous [instances] of selling Belarusian products on
the domestic market at prices higher than those for
exports," Belarusian Television quoted Lukashenka as
saying. JM

OSCE MINSK MISSION DENIES PROPOSING TALKS BETWEEN
AUTHORITIES, OPPOSITION. Hanspeter Kleiner, deputy head
of the OSCE Minsk group, has denied that his mission
proposed talks between President Alyaksandr Lukashenka
and four opposition figures, as some Belarusian media
reported last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 March
1999). JM

ESTONIA'S LAAR NAMED PREMIER-DESIGNATE. As widely
expected, President Lennart Meri has nominated Mart
Laar, chairman of the Fatherland Union and former prime
minister, to form the next government, Baltic agencies
reported on 19 March. Earlier, the right-wing alliance
of the Fatherland Union, the Moderates, and the Reform
Party, which have a total of 53 seats in the 101-strong
parliament, had selected Laar as their choice for
premier. The 38-year-old Laar, who was prime minister
from 1992-1994, is credited with having put Estonia on
the road to economic reform. He was removed from office
in a no confidence vote amid accusations that, among
other things, he had lied about the sale of rubles to
Chechnya. He later admitted to that lie, saying he had
been afraid the withdrawal of Russian troops from
Estonia might have been delayed had the rubles deal come
to light. JC

LATVIA'S JEWS ANGRY AT SYNAGOGUE BOMBING INSINUATION.
Leaders of Latvia's Jewish community responded angrily
to Director of the Office for the Protection of the
Constitution Lainis Kamaldins's suggestion that Latvian
Jews may have been involved in the 1998 bombing of their
Riga synagogue. Kamaldins told BNS on 18 March that
there were several leads in the investigation into the
bombing, one of which "lead to believe that the Jewish
community itself was involved in organizing the blast."
Jewish leaders denounced Kamaldins's statement as
unsubstantiated. Kamaldins, whose term in office ends
next month, later issued a statement saying his office
has no information suggesting that any member of
Latvia's Jewish community was involved in the
organization or realization of the bombing, "Diena"
reported on 19 March. Parliamentary speaker Janis
Straume of the rightist Fatherland and Freedom party
rejected calls for Kamaldins's resignation, saying his
statements did not "considerably harm" Latvia's
interests or its international image. JC

RUSSIA EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER DESECRATED SOVIET
SOLDIERS' GRAVES IN LITHUANIA. The Russian Embassy in
Vilnius has voiced its concern over "recurrent acts of
vandalism against the graves of former Soviet servicemen
in Lithuania," BNS reported on 19 March. In a note to
the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry, the embassy drew
attention to the desecration of Soviet soldiers' graves
in the town of Kruopiai, in northern Lithuania, one week
earlier. Vandals removed two plaques from a memorial and
overturned some 40 tombstones. The embassy urged the
Lithuanian authorities to punish those responsible. JC

POLISH FARMERS PROTEST GOVERNMENT AGRICULTURAL POLICIES.
Some 30,000 farmers rallied in Warsaw on 21 March to
demand higher prices for farm produce, larger government
subsidies for agriculture, and limits on food imports,
Polish media reported. Peasant Party (PSL) leader
Jaroslaw Kalinowski called for a "Pact for the
Countryside" that would lay down an agricultural policy
to be pursued irrespective of which parties are in
power. The demonstrators said government agricultural
policies are "destroying Polish villages and
agriculture." They also demanded the ouster of liberal
Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz, whom farmers blame
for their plight. Balcerowicz said the previous day the
agricultural sector is suffering on account of
insufficient privatization, largely thanks to the PSL.
"The smaller the PSL's influence in the countryside, the
better for the fortunes of residents in those areas,"
PAP quoted Balcerowicz as saying. JM

POLAND REDUCES MILITARY SERVICE TO 12 MONTHS. The
parliament on 19 March passed a law shortening the
compulsory military service term from 15 months to 12
months. At the same time, the law made it more difficult
to avoid military service. Students exempted from
service will have to prove regularly that they are still
studying, while the sole providers for families and
farmers who run their own farms will no longer be
automatically exempt, as is the case now. JM

HAVEL SUPPORTS REFERENDUM ON EU MEMBERSHIP. President
Vaclav Havel on 19 March said he supports the idea of
holding a referendum on the country's joining the EU.
Havel was responding to a statement by Vaclav Klaus,
chairman of the opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS),
who noted that the ODS will support such a referendum
but is "categorically opposed" to the government's
intention to place European legislation above that of
the Czech Republic and to delete the constitutional
provision saying the country is "a sovereign state."
Premier Milos Zeman said his Social Democratic Party
(CSSD) supports both a referendum and amending the
constitution to give EU law precedence over Czech law.
The possibility of deleting the "sovereignty provision"
from the basic law was recently mentioned by Deputy
Premier Pavel Rychetsky. CTK reported. MS

CZECH MINISTER WILL NOT SEEK RE-ELECTION TO PARTY POST.
Finance Minister Ivo Svoboda on 20 March said he will
not seek re-election as CSSD deputy chairman in charge
of the party's financial affairs at the party's April
national congress, CTK and Reuters reported. Svoboda,
who said he is leaving for "personal reasons," has been
linked by the media to improper financial activities
both within the CSSD and in connection with his
membership on the board of a loss-making company in
northern Bohemia. Premier Zeman told Czech Radio that
Svoboda still has his full support and will remain in
the cabinet as finance minister. MS

SLOVAK PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS TO BE HELD IN MAY.
Parliamentary chairman Jozef Migas on 19 March announced
that Slovakia's direct presidential elections will be
held on 15 May. Candidates must be nominated by 9 April,
AP reported. Parliamentary spokeswoman Elena Zatkova
told Reuters that a run-off will be held on 29 May if no
candidate wins more than 50 percent in the first round.
In other news, Christian Democratic Movement (KDH)
leader Jan Carnogursky told journalists on 20 March that
the KDH Council has rejected a proposal that the party
unite with the other four members of the ruling Slovak
Democratic Coalition (SDK). Carnogursky said the
electoral law must be changed to allow party alliances
and the SDK must become an alliance of independent
political formations, CTK reported. MS

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

MILOSEVIC TO MEET WITH HOLBROOKE... U.S. special envoy
Richard Holbrooke discussed the Kosova crisis with NATO
Secretary-General Javier Solana, British Foreign
Secretary Robin Cook, French Foreign Minister Hubert
Vedrine, and German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer in
Brussels on 22 March. Holbrooke is slated to meet
Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade later
that day. On 21 March in Washington, Secretary of State
Madeleine Albright said "Holbrooke will emphasize to
President Milosevic that NATO airstrikes against
[Serbian targets] are being prepared. [The envoy] will
make clear that Milosevic faces a stark choice: to halt
aggression against the Kosovar Albanians and accept an
interim settlement with a NATO-led implementation force
or bear the full responsibility of NATO military
action." PM

...RECEIVES WARNING FROM WESTERN LEADERS. President Bill
Clinton said in Washington on 19 March that "if we and
our allies do not have the will to act, there will be
more massacres. In dealing with aggressors in the
Balkans, hesitation is a license to kill. But action and
resolve can stop armies and save lives." Over the
weekend, Cook, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, U.S.
National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, and several
other Western leaders publicly warned Milosevic that
time is rapidly running out for him to accept the
Rambouillet accords. Unnamed NATO officials said in
Brussels on 21 March that the alliance will be able to
launch air strikes against Serbia "within hours" of NATO
leaders' deciding to do so. Italian Foreign Minister
Lamberto Dini added the same day that matters will "come
to an end" by 23 March. PM

SERBIA PREPARES FOR WAR... General Nebojsa Pavkovic, who
commands the Third Army in the region that includes
Kosova, inspected border defense units and anti-aircraft
batteries on 21 March, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service
reported. He stressed that the military are taking "all
possible measures to prevent foreign troops from
entering our territory." Broadcasts on state-run
television also emphasized that the military are
prepared for any eventuality. PM

...BUT MONTENEGRO WANTS NO PART OF IT. Meanwhile,
President Milo Djukanovic told a political rally in
Podgorica on 19 March that Milosevic is prepared "to go
to the end" over Kosova in order to preserve his power,
RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Djukanovic added
that Milosevic has "usurped control" over all key
federal institutions, including the army. The
Montenegrin president called on Montenegrin officers not
to take part in a conflict on Milosevic's behalf and
stressed that only a truly Yugoslav army is welcome on
Montenegrin territory. PM

OSCE WITHDRAWS MONITORS FROM KOSOVA. Some 1,400 OSCE
civilian monitors left Kosova on 20 March. Serbian
border police invalidated their visas as they left. The
previous day, Norwegian Foreign Minister Knut Vollebaek,
who currently holds the rotating OSCE chair, had
announced in Oslo that the monitors would leave
Yugoslavia immediately. PM

SERBIAN FORCES LAUNCH MAJOR OFFENSIVE. Following the
departure of the monitors on 20 March, Serbian forces
launched an offensive in the Mitrovica, Vushtrri, and
Drenica regions to the west of Prishtina. "Serbs in
white coveralls and black ski masks drove thousands" of
Kosovar civilians from Skenderaj "in a classic ethnic-
cleansing operation not seen since the Bosnian war,"
Reuters reported. A grinning Serbian soldier said to
journalists: "See what we're doing? When are the
Americans coming?" Elsewhere, Serbian forces closed to
civilian traffic the road connecting Prishtina and
Podujeva. On 21 March, Serbian sources said that
unidentified persons shot dead four Serbian policemen in
Prishtina. Following the reported killings, Serbian
forces set up checkpoints on roads leading into and out
of the provincial capital. One unidentified Serb told
the news agency: "If [armed conflict] is starting in
Prishtina, it's going to be very dangerous for
everyone." PM

ALBANIA WANTS NATO HELP AFTER BORDER INCIDENT. Foreign
Minister Paskal Milo on 21 March asked the Tirana
ambassadors of NATO countries to give "immediate support
to improve our military infrastructure and our ability
to handle any humanitarian emergency." He demanded an
urgent meeting of the NATO Council and Albanian
diplomats, AP reported. Milo also urged international
organizations such as the OSCE to "increase the number
of their monitors on our northern border so that there
are eyewitnesses in case of further Serb provocations."
His appeal came one day after a reported gun battle
between Albanian forces and about 30 Yugoslav soldiers
who had entered Albanian territory at Lugu i Zi, near
Tropoja. The exchange lasted at least 50 minutes,
"Shekulli" reported. FS

UCK LEADERS CALL FOR NATO ACTION... In Tirana on 20
March, several leaders of the Kosova Liberation Army's
(UCK) delegation to the Paris peace talks called for
swift NATO action against Yugoslavia. UCK spokesman
Jakup Krasniqi said that Serbian forces have mounted a
large-scale offensive against ethnic Albanian civilians
with the aim of driving them from Kosova. He added that
"today, the whole of Kosova is at war. This fighting
that follows our signing of the final agreement obliges
the international community and NATO to intervene
against this fascist and barbaric machine," Reuters
reported. The following day a delegation member told the
Kosova Information Center that the UCK leaders will
delay a planned visit to the U.S. because of the "grave
situation" in Kosova. FS

...BUT HAVE DIFFICULTIES GOING HOME. Following the
collapse of peace talks in Paris on 19 March, the UCK
leaders traveled to Tirana with the rest of the ethnic
Albanian delegation. Delegation member Rame Buja told
Reuters that the UCK representatives do not feel that it
is safe for them to return to Kosova after the
withdrawal of OSCE monitors. Serbian authorities have
issued arrest warrants against most of the UCK members
in the delegation. Buja, however, stressed that the UCK
leaders plan to go home at a later point. Non-UCK
members of the delegation continued on to Skopje. FS

MACEDONIAN MINISTER SAYS NO ATTACKS FROM HIS COUNTRY.
Foreign Minister Aleksandar Dimitrov said in Skopje on
21 March that his government will "not allow a [NATO]
attack to be conducted from Macedonia. We don't want to
see the conflict spread into our territory," AP quoted
him as saying. Elsewhere, Deputy Foreign Minister Boris
Trajkovski said that a "unit" of Yugoslav soldiers
crossed into Macedonia the previous day. Although
Macedonian soldiers told them to leave immediately, the
Yugoslavs did not do so until "several hours" later.
Officials of the Macedonian Foreign Ministry then
summoned the Yugoslav ambassador over the incident, but
he refused to accept Skopje's official protest, RFE/RL's
South Slavic Service reported. PM

WILL THE HAGUE TRIBUNAL INDICT CROATIAN GENERALS?
Unnamed employees or former employees of the Hague-based
war crimes tribunal told "The New York Times" of 21
March that the court has prepared a 150-page study of
Croatia's Operation Storm in the Krajina region in the
late summer of 1995. The study reportedly concludes that
"during and in the 100 days following the military
offensive, at least 150 Serb civilians were summarily
executed, and many hundreds disappeared." The report
adds that Generals Mirko Norac, Ante Gotovina, and Ivan
Cermak may be indicted in the future for their
involvement in "ethnic cleansing." Court spokesmen told
the daily that the tribunal is investigating the source
of the leak. PM

BOSNIAN SERB POLITICAL CONFUSION CONTINUES. Officials of
the Bosnian Serb branch of the Serbian Radical Party
said in Banja Luka on 20 March that Prime Minister
Milorad Dodik had "no authority" to state in Vienna the
previous day that the Bosnian Serbs will accept
international mediator Roberts Owen's decision on Brcko
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 March 1999). PM

BALKAN FOREIGN MINISTERS URGE BELGRADE TO SIGN PEACE
DEAL. After meeting in Bucharest on 19 March, the
foreign ministers of Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia,
Romania, and Turkey issued a joint statement calling on
Serbia to sign the Kosova peace agreement and expressing
support for the deployment of an international force in
the region, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Serbia
and Albania declined to attend the meeting. MS

ROMANIAN LEADERS BACK NATO OVER KOSOVA. In a statement
released in 21 March following talks with Premier Radu
Vasile and Foreign Minister Andrei Plesu, President Emil
Constantinescu said NATO intervention in Kosova is
"necessary and legitimate" if the international
community's efforts to achieve a peaceful solution fail.
Defense Minster Victor Babiuc said two days earlier that
Romania "will be on NATO's side," will allow NATO planes
to overfly its territory, and is ready to dispatch "a
medical unit and peace-keepers," RFE/RL's Bucharest
bureau reported. In other news, President Bill Clinton,
in a letter to Constantinescu made public on 19 March,
expressed support for Romania's political and economic
reforms and urged that Bucharest speed up its reform
process. Clinton assured Constantinescu that the April
Washington summit "will offer aspiring candidates a
clear way and a package of practical programs to help
them become full NATO members," AP reported. MS

MOLDOVAN MINISTERS ACCUSED OF CORRUPTION. Iurie Rosca,
leader of the Christian Democratic Popular Front (FPCD),
on 19 March accused four members of Ion Sturza's cabinet
of "corruption and incompetence." The four are
Agriculture Minister Valeriu Bulgari, Defense Minister
Valeriu Pasat, Finance Minister Anatol Arapu, and
Minister of State Vladimir Filat, RFE/RL's Chisinau
bureau reported. All are members of the For a Democratic
and Prosperous Moldova Bloc (PMPD). The FPCD had
objected to their being re-appointed to the cabinet.
Rosca said the Prosecutor General's Office is "a pit"
where "any evidence on corruption [by government
officials] is buried." MS

CHISINAU ELECTORAL COUNCIL RULES AGAINST FPCD LEADER'S
CANDIDACY. The Chisinau Electoral Council on 19 March
ruled that neither Rosca nor parliamentary deputy Vasili
Ivov can run for mayor in the 23 May local elections
because the constitution prohibits the city head from
simultaneously being a parliamentary deputy, Flux
reported. The same day, the council registered outgoing
Chisinau mayor Serafim Urecheanu as a candidate. Rosca
responded that Urecheanu (whose appointment as premier
was hindered by the FPCD) is "trying to eliminate his
competitors." He said that he will appeal the decision
in the Constitutional Court, adding that he will resign
from the parliament if elected mayor. MS

BULGARIAN DEFENSE COUNCIL APPROVES CUT IN ARMY SIZE.
Deputy Defense Minister Velizar Shalamanov told state
radio on 21 March that Bulgaria will cut its army within
five years from 85,000 to 50,000 troops and will improve
its funding, training, and equipment to bring it up to
NATO standards, AP reported. The decision was reached at
a meeting of the Defense Council on 19 March, BTA
reported. MS

END NOTE

A DISASTER THAT DIDN'T HAPPEN

By Paul Goble

	A march by veterans of the Latvian Waffen SS Legion
held in Riga last week had been widely expected to
trigger confrontations between ethnic Latvians and
ethnic Russians in Latvia and lead to a deterioration of
relations between Riga and Moscow.
	But those disastrous outcomes did not materialize.
Not only did the march by 300 aging veterans of a
German-organized unit that had fought advancing Soviet
troops during World War II not lead to disturbances in
Latvia itself; it also revealed some quite remarkable
restraint at the official level in both the Latvian and
Russian capitals.
	As a result, the prospects for inter-ethnic
relations in Latvia have dramatically improved, while
the possibility of better relations between Latvia and
Russia has increased--a development few observers would
have predicted only a month ago.
	There were some very good reasons for the earlier
pessimism. One year ago, a march by Waffen SS veterans
exacerbated tensions all round. There were clashes
between the marchers and ethnic Russians in the Latvian
capital. Several senior Latvian government officials
took part in the demonstration. And the Russian
government roundly condemned Riga for permitting what it
called a manifestation of fascism.
	Even though the Latvian authorities dismissed the
officials who took part, Riga appeared to have
compounded its problems when the parliament voted to
make 16 March an official day of remembrance for all
those who fell in the service of Latvia, regardless of
what uniform they wore.
	While supporters of this measure argued that such a
memorial day was appropriate, opponents were deeply
troubled. The latter argued that by choosing 16 March--
the anniversary of the Legion's first battle against
Soviet troops, near Velikyy Luky in 1943--Riga appeared
to be giving special preference to those Latvians who
served in German uniforms rather than all Latvians.
	Consequently, many Latvians, ethnic Russians, and
Moscow officials predicted that this year's
commemoration would provoke an explosion. All were
wrong.
	First, Latvian officials carefully distanced
themselves from the demonstration. The Latvian
government announced that no official would take part.
President Guntis Ulmanis suggested that the date of such
a memorial was wrong and should be changed. And both he
and other senior officials chose to be out of town on
the date of the march.
	Second, all press accounts suggest that the Latvian
police acted with professionalism, discipline, and
restraint. In contrast to their handling of some earlier
demonstrations, the police behaved in a manner that
suggested they were there to protect public order rather
than to back any particular group. That, in turn, had
the effect of reassuring many in the Latvian capital
that they could now count on the police, regardless of
their own ethnicity.
	And third, the predominantly ethnic Russian
counterdemonstration called attention to a pattern many
of the earlier doomsayers had missed. Local ethnic
Russians who participated in it behaved with dignity.
Only those with close ties to Moscow political groups
appeared interested in provoking any real problems.
	The counterdemonstration which attracted ethnic
Latvians as well as ethnic Russians was both peaceful
and respectful. Speakers denounced the fact that the
march was taking place but did not denounce Latvia as
such--also a sharp contrast with some similar events in
the past.
	The only disturbance came from a group of extreme
Russian nationalists, both the Latvian and Russian media
reported. They condemned Latvia in terms that questioned
its right to national existence and even raised a
portrait of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin attached to
balloons. So hostile and violent were the remarks of
this group that others at the counterdemonstration
denounced them in even sharper terms than they had
criticized those who had taken part in the Waffen SS
demonstration itself.
	Some in Moscow who had indicated they planned to be
outraged by the Latvian demonstration continued to
complain--but in remarkably mild terms. Roman Popkovich,
the chairman of the Russian parliament's defense
committee, said the Russian Duma "regrets and does not
understand" Riga's sanctioning of the demonstration and
believes Europe should understand that "Latvia is a
country where human rights are not respected."
	But a statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry is
perhaps more telling. While its spokesman, Vladimir
Rakhmanin, said Moscow "will always denounce any
attempts" to make national heroes of those who supported
the German side in World War II or to revive fascism, he
concluded with some surprisingly mild and conciliatory
words. "Moscow has paid attention to the fact," he
commented, "that the Latvian authorities have
disassociated themselves from the commemorations." And
he expressed the hope that "the next step will be made"
by changing the date of the soldiers' memorial day in
Latvia.
	If that happens, Rakhmanin said, "that will be the
best proof of Latvia's genuine adherence to the course
of integration of society and the country's merging with
democratic Europe." Because Latvian leaders are now
saying the same thing, the disaster that didn't happen
may point to an even better outcome in the future.

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