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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 59, Part II, 25 March 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 59, Part II, 25 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 * LUKASHENKA DENOUNCES NATO STRIKES * UCK WELCOMES STRIKES, PLEDGES TO CONTINUE FIGHTING * SERBS SHELL ALBANIAN VILLAGES xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE LUKASHENKA DENOUNCES NATO STRIKES AGAINST YUGOSLAVIA. "We believe that inflicting strikes on the territory of a sovereign state [constitutes] aggression," Belarusian Television quoted President Alyaksandr Lukashenka as saying on 24 March. Lukashenka said he supports the stance of Russian Premier Yevgenii Primakov on the Kosova crisis. The same day, Lukashenka sent a letter to Russian President Boris Yeltsin requesting him to include the NATO decision to use force in Yugoslavia on the agenda of the 2 April CIS summit in Moscow. "We should know who is who in the CIS," he said, adding that Russia "should become a consolidating factor" in working out a common CIS position on the Kosova crisis. Meanwhile, commenting on Russia's reported intent to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus in response to NATO's action against Yugoslavia, Belarusian Security Council Deputy Chairman Viktar Navelski said that "such an option has not been ruled out." JM UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT URGES GOVERNMENT TO RECONSIDER NUCLEAR STATUS... The Supreme Council on 24 March passed a resolution asking the government to prepare legislation on renouncing Ukraine's non-nuclear status. The resolution was passed after "virtually all factions" condemned the NATO decision to use force in Yugoslavia, AP reported. Ukrainian presidential spokesman Oleksandr Martynenko commented that "the president is the only person" to regulate foreign policy and security issues. He added that the government can implement parliamentary decisions on these issues only after they "are agreed on with the president." In his opinion, the decision to revise Ukraine's nuclear status "was induced by emotions and not by considerations." JM ...RATIFIES BLACK SEA FLEET AGREEMENTS WITH RUSSIA. The parliament also voted by 250 to 63 with five abstentions to ratify the three agreements on the Black Sea Fleet, which were signed by Leonid Kuchma and Boris Yeltsin in May 1997. While approving the Russia-Ukraine 1997 friendship treaty last month, Russia's Federation Council conditioned its implementation on the ratification of the Black Sea Fleet agreements by Ukraine. Under those accords, Russia will keep 460 naval vessels belonging to the fleet, while Ukraine will have 162 ships as well as $526 million compensation from Russia. The Russian part of the fleet will be based in Sevastopol until 2017. JM RIGA, VILNIUS SUPPORT NATO AIR STRIKES... The Latvian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 24 March saying that it "understands NATO's decision to begin military strikes against Yugoslavia as there are no other ways" to solve the Kosova crisis. But, the statement added, Latvia still hopes that the parties to the conflict will return to the negotiating table. The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry said Vilnius regards NATO's decision to initiate air strikes against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia as a "means of preventing the spread of military conflict, which would effectively cause a humanitarian catastrophe in the Balkans." JC ...WHILE TALLINN YET TO MAKE OFFICIAL STATEMENT. Toomas Hendrik Ilves, the designated foreign minister in the new Estonian government, told BNS the same day that "such NATO action to prevent crimes against humanity has long been expected." He added that he was "surprised" by the behavior of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who, he said, did not wish to solve the Kosova crisis "in any way." To date, Tallinn has made no official statement in response to the air strikes. Meanwhile, Mart Laar's government was sworn into office on 25 March, after Estonian President Lennart Meri approved the cabinet lineup the previous night following his return from France to receive the European of the Year award. JC LATVIAN SECURITY COUNCIL BACKS KAMALDINS. The National Security Council on 24 March voted to nominate Lainis Kamaldins for another term in office as director of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, LETA reported. Last week, Kamaldins caused a controversy over his comment to the press that Latvia's Jewish community may have been involved in the 1998 bombing of the Riga synagogue (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 and 23 March 1999). President Guntis Ulmanis told reporters that he had voted for the nomination of Kamaldins. He added that this will give the parliament the opportunity to evaluate the office's activities and to hear Kamaldins's report, according to "Diena." The same day, Russian Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov approved the appointment of Nationality Affairs Minister Ramazan Abdulatipov as co-chairman of the Latvian-Russian intergovernmental commission. JC CABINET SAYS ADAMKUS'S PROPOSAL ON COMPETITION COUNCIL 'UNPRECEDENTED.' Following the vote in favor of an amended version of the competition law, the Lithuanian government issued a statement saying that President Valdas Adamkus's proposal to strip the cabinet of its authority over the Competition Council was "unprecedented" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 March 1999), ELTA reported. According to "Lietuvos Rytas," the president's office regarded that statement as indicating Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius's intention to step down, and thus Adamkus wanted to hear the premier's position during their meeting on 24 March. "Respublika" reported that Adamkus demanded that Vagnorius withdraw the statement, pointing out that he would no longer be able to work with the premier. But ELTA quoted government Chancellor Kestutis Cilinskas as saying the statement would not be withdrawn and cited unidentified sources as saying the president made no such demand during his meeting with Vagnorius. JC POLAND BACKS NATO ACTION IN YUGOSLAVIA. Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek on 24 March commented that "diplomatic means have been exhausted" and that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic bears responsibility for the Kosova crisis. Marek Siwiec, head of the presidential National Security Bureau, told Polish Radio the same day that "Poland backs the NATO decision, and this fact is a joint decision by the supreme state authorities." Speaking on Polish Television, Siwiec said the government sees the current crisis as a test of Poland's credibility as a NATO member. JM CZECH LEADERS CALL ON MILOSEVIC TO RENEW TALKS. Speaking after a meeting of the National Security Council on 24 March, President Vaclav Havel, Premier Milos Zeman, and Chamber of Deputies Chairman Vaclav Klaus called on Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to renew talks with the Kosova Albanians, CTK reported. Zeman said the NATO military action against the Serbs is "a means toward renewing negotiations," while Havel said the air strikes are the only way Europe and the U.S. can express their commitments to human rights." MS CZECH PARLIAMENT APPROVES DISPATCH OF HOSPITAL TO BALKANS. Endorsing the 10 March decision of the Senate, the Chamber of Deputies on 24 March approved sending a military field hospital to Macedonia to support a NATO peace-keeping operation in neighboring Kosova, CTK reported. Premier Milos Zeman told the house that it is the government's duty "to follow up long-lasting friendly traditions and provide medical aid to both sides involved in the conflict." This is why the hospital will not be stationed in Kosova, but inortheast of Skopje, he said. The chamber, however, did not approve the transit across Czech territory of NATO troops that might be involved in action against Yugoslavia. MS SLOVAKIA OPENS AIR SPACE TO NATO FORCES. The government on 24 March granted a NATO request to allow the alliance's planes to use Slovak air space and to land for refueling, Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan told the parliament. Premier Mikulas Dzurinda told journalists that NATO's decision to strike is "the smallest of two evils" in a situation where "the civilized world could not watch for ever the massacres of innocent people in Kosova." During a stormy debate in the parliament, the opposition Movement For a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) called the NATO decision "modern barbarism," and in a declaration issued on 25 March, the HZDS expressed "solidarity" with the Yugoslav population. It also argued that the government's decision was "unconstitutional," having been taken without the consent of the parliament." MS HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT ALLOWS NATO TO USE AIRFIELDS. The parliament on 24 March voted 225 to 12 with eight abstentions to allow NATO to use military airfields for strikes against Yugoslavia, AP and Reuters reported. The decision was supported by all parliamentary groups except the xenophobic Justice and Life Party. It amends an October 1998 decision that allows only the use of Hungary's air space for this purpose. MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE NATO LAUNCHES AIR STRIKES. Aircraft belonging to eight member countries of the Atlantic alliance and cruise missiles struck military targets in more than a dozen cities and towns in Serbia, Kosova, and Montenegro. British Prime Minister Tony Blair said in London the next day that there were no NATO casualties and that no aircraft were lost. Serbian state-run television showed footage of a building in Novi Sad in flames and what the broadcast claimed were civilian casualties. General Nebojsa Pavkovic, who commands the Third Army in the region that includes Kosova, told state-run television that the attackers hit more than 40 different targets but inflicted only "minimal" damage. NATO Secretary- General Javier Solana said in Brussels that the attacks will most likely continue for at least several days. This is the first time in its history that NATO has used force against a sovereign state. PM COOK OUTLINES NATO'S GOALS. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told the BBC on 25 March that the Atlantic alliance's "objective is to curb the capacity of [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic's army to repress the [Kosovar] Albanians. When that stops, the military action will stop. It can stop today if Milosevic returns to the negotiating table and recognizes [that] the peace plan we've put together offers not only a fair deal to [the Kosovar] Albanians but also a fair deal to Belgrade." The previous day in Washington, President Bill Clinton said that "the dangers of acting are far outweighed by the dangers of not acting," by which he meant that failure to act against Milosevic could lead to a wider war. Before the bombing began, Milosevic appeared on state-run television to appeal to all citizens to do everything possible to resist the attacks. PM ANNAN HAS MIXED REACTION. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a statement in New York on 24 March that it is "tragic that diplomacy has failed, but there are times when the use of force may be legitimate in the pursuit of peace." He added, however, that the Security Council "should be involved in any decision to use force." PM DJUKANOVIC SAYS MILOSEVIC MUST CHANGE POLICIES. Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic said on state-run television on 24 March that Milosevic's policies led to the NATO air strikes. The Montenegrin president stressed that the bombings "are the tragic consequences of an irrational policy of confrontation with the entire world. This policy has led us into a dangerous adventure, the price of which is peace and the lives of Montenegrin citizens. Force will not bring peace. Our future is not in confrontation with the entire world and therefore I demand from Milosevic to halt the policy that has led to collective suffering of innocents and endangered the survival of the country," Djukanovic concluded. PM JOURNALISTS HARASSED IN SERBIA. The Yugoslav authorities declared a "state of emergency" throughout the country on 24 March. Meanwhile, police detained an unspecified number of foreign journalists in Belgrade and Prishtina and prevented them from sending footage abroad. A BBC reporter said the next morning that police "kicked in the doors" of an unspecified number of journalists' rooms in Prishtina's main hotel. PM RFE/RL INCREASES BROADCASTS TO CRISIS REGION. RFE/RL'S South Slavic Service increased its daily programming in Serbian by three-and-a-half hours on 24 March. It also doubled the length of its broadcasts to Kosova to make a total of one hour per day. Six local affiliates carry programming in both languages in Montenegro. PM NATO TANKS PATROL MACEDONIA'S BORDER. An unspecified number of tanks and armored personnel carriers belonging to the Atlantic alliance patrolled Macedonia's frontier with Serbia soon after the air strikes began, Reuters reported on 24 March. A NATO spokesman said in Skopje that "there have been no threats or moves by the Serb military [in the border area]. We are taking all precautionary measures and it would be a great mistake by the Serbs to threaten this country." Some 10,000 NATO soldiers are stationed in Macedonia. PM SERBS SHELL ALBANIAN VILLAGES. Kudusi Lama, who commands the Second Infantry Division in Kukes, told Reuters on 25 March that Serbian forces shelled two villages on Albanian territory and wounded the commander of the border post near Dobruna. Lama added that Serbian soldiers fired on Albanian troops, who did not return fire. But he stressed that Albanian soldiers will shoot if Serbian forces enter Albanian territory. PM ALBANIA WELCOMES NATO STRIKES. Albanian Prime Minister Pandeli Majko told a press conference in Tirana on 24 March that "the Albanian government welcomes this NATO initiative, taken after all political means for solving the crisis in Kosova and ending Serbian repression were exhausted." Majko expressed his thanks to "the governments of all friendly countries, especially the U.S. government and President Clinton, who did not hesitate to intervene in the conflict," dpa reported. He repeated his long-standing offer to put all port and airport facilities at NATO's disposal for operations in Kosova. Majko added that "the Albanian government at this moment feels itself very close to the fighters of the Kosova Liberation Army [UCK], who are defending the nation against the Serbian war machine." Majko also said that U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright assured him of U.S. protection against possible Serbian attacks during a telephone call after the air raids began. FS TIRANA TO CLEAN OUT ENVER'S BUNKERS. Tirana Mayor Albert Brojka on 24 March called on citizens to clean out the ubiquitous concrete bomb shelters built during the Stalinist dictatorship of Enver Hoxha. He said 1,000 out of 1,330 shelters in the capital have been readied for use, Reuters reported. Information Minister Musa Ulqini said that Albanian troops on the border with Kosova are on a "second-level alert," which means that army personnel are confined to base. Foreign Minister Paskal Milo left for a meeting of the NATO Council in Brussels to "discuss immediate and direct threats" to the security of Albania. FS UCK WELCOMES STRIKES, PLEDGES TO CONTINUE FIGHTING... UCK spokesman Jakup Krasniqi told Albanian Television on 24 March that "the international community has finally decided to punish the criminal who has long turned Yugoslavia into a slaughter-house," by which he meant Milosevic. Krasniqi added that "we feel more at ease now, but we still shall continue our fight." He stressed that "as long as the Yugoslav army and the Serbian military and paramilitary units continue their attacks on Albanian villages and towns, the objective of the UCK will be the liberation of Kosova from these gangs," dpa reported. UCK leader Hashim Thaci said that the "independence of Kosova will not come as soon as we hoped, it will come [instead] as the result of a process.ж It all depends on our organization and on our fighting in Kosova in the future," AP quoted him as saying. FS ...CALLS FOR ELECTIONS. Thaci also called on ethnic Albanian political parties to nominate candidates for a new Kosova government to replace President Ibrahim Rugova's shadow state. Thaci stressed that "in these difficult circumstances, Kosova needs a government. I ask all the political parties to send their proposals on candidates for the new government by 31 March to the UCK general staff headquarters," AP reported. FS SFOR STEPS UP SECURITY IN BOSNIA. NATO officials said in a statement in Sarajevo on 24 March that SFOR has closed all airports in Bosnia and banned all flights over Bosnian territory. SFOR also tightened security at its bases after receiving a series of unspecified threats from "persons who stand to gain by destabilizing the peace process," a spokesman told AP. SFOR commander General Montgomery Meigs said that "anyone who tries to impede freedom of movement, either SFOR's or that of the civilian populace, will be dealt with firmly." In Banja Luka, Republika Srpska Defense Minister Manojlo Milovanovic said that NATO seeks to "install bases in [Kosova] as part of its expansion to the east." PM SLOVENIA'S KUCAN PRAISES AIR STRIKES. President Milan Kucan said in Ljubljana on 24 March that the Atlantic alliance is welcome to use Slovenian air space to launch air strikes against Serbia. He added that Solana assured him in a letter that NATO will protect Slovenia's security if is threatened. Kucan said that the attacks "had to happen," and he recalled "memories of Vukovar, Dubrovnik, Sarajevo, Srebrenica" and other places in Croatia and Bosnia that Serbian forces attacked during the 1991-1995 wars. Slovenia belongs to NATO's Partnership for Peace program. PM SLOVENIA GETS NEW INTERIOR MINISTER. The parliament on 24 March approved the appointment of writer Borut Suklje to head the Interior Ministry. He is a former minister of culture and belongs to Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek's Liberal Democratic Party. Lawmakers removed Mirko Bandelj as interior minister in February because he had interfered with the parliament's right to supervise the work of the secret police, AP reported from Ljubljana. PM SOLANA REASSURES YUGOSLAVIA'S NEIGHBORS. A senior NATO official on 24 March said that Secretary-General Solana has written letters to the premiers of Albania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Romania, and Slovenia (all members of the Partnership for Peace program) saying that NATO will ensure their safety. BTA quoted Solana as writing to Premier Ivan Kostov that "Bulgaria's security is of a direct and concrete concern to NATO." In his letter to Romanian Premier Radu Vasile, Solana said that NATO would regard as "inadmissible" any Yugoslav threat on Romanian "territorial integrity, independence, and security," adding that NATO views the security of "all its partners" as directly "linked to that of its members," Romanian Radio reported. MS CONSTANTINESCU DENIES KOSOVA MILITARY INVOLVEMENT INTENTION. Speaking on television before the NATO strikes were announced, President Emil Constantinescu on 24 March dismissed "[opposition] suggestions" that Romania intends to send combat troops to Kosova or that it has made such an offer to NATO. He said Bucharest intends to send "humanitarian aid" or peace keepers to the region but will do so only if the conflicting sides reach an agreement and in line with the resolutions approved by the parliament, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. He also said Romania's support for NATO is the country's "only security option." Opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania chairman, former President Ion Iliescu said after the strikes began that "foreign military intervention can only complicate things, as the Vietnam experience teaches us." MS RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR WARNS ROMANIA. Russian ambassador Valerii Kenyaykin told journalists in Sibiu on 24 March said that if NATO attacks Yugoslavia, the conflict will "imminently extend" and will "also involve Romania," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. He also warned that NATO intervention would create "a dangerous precedent" because "satisfying the demands of separatists in one country" would mean other separatists would make similar demands. "In the Balkans, there is no state that does not face this problem," he remarked. MS ROMANIAN WORKERS PROTEST LOW LIVING STANDARDS. Tens of thousands protested in Bucharest and other major cities to protest declining living standards, RFE/RL's correspondents in Romania reported. The demonstrations were organized by the four major labor confederations, which are threatening to hold a warning strike on 19 April and a general strike on 26 April. MS KOSTOV SAYS KOSOVA CRISIS POSES ECONOMIC, NOT SECURITY THREAT. Prime Minister Ivan Kostov, in an interview with state radio on 24 March, said there is no security threat for Bulgaria from the Kosova crisis because Bulgaria "is not perceived by neighboring Yugoslavia as an enemy." He added that Sofia has "played a positive role throughout, seeking a solution within Yugoslavia's existing borders." But he noted that NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia will pose an "economic threat," both because Bulgaria's transport links with Europe pass through Yugoslavia and because further destabilization in the Balkans will hamper foreign investments, Reuters reported. President Petar Stoyanov, in a radio address before a meeting of the Consultative Council on National Security assured "Bulgarian mothers" that they have "no reason for alarm," as "Bulgarian soldiers will not be sent to participate in military operations." MS 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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