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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 60, Part II, 26 March 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 60, Part II, 26 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 * RUKH LEADER KILLED IN CAR ACCIDENT * NATO LAUNCHES SECOND NIGHT OF AIR STRIKES * OSCE FEARS NEW MASSACRE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE LUKASHENKA COMPARES NATO STRIKES TO FASCIST AGGRESSION. Meeting with villagers in a flood-hit area of Brest Oblast on 25 March, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said "the Americans along with NATO and their allies--as the Fascists in their own time--have committed an act of aggression" against Yugoslavia. Lukashenka explained that NATO and the U.S. are forcing their way into Yugoslavia because it is one of the "richest regions [where] people mine gold and other precious metals." He added that NATO has been "punched fairly well in the jaw" by the Serbs and will hardly dare launch warfare on the ground. Lukashenka said he opposes sending "our boys, even volunteers," to help Yugoslavia, which, he noted, needs "not soldiers, but good, modern weapons to defend itself," Belarusian Television quoted Lukashenka as saying. JM NATO STRIKES DRAW MORE CRITICISM IN UKRAINE. Following the Supreme Council resolutions on 24 March denouncing NATO strikes on Yugoslavia as aggression and urging the cabinet to reconsider Ukraine's nuclear status (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 March 1999), left-wing deputies have demanded more actions over the Kosova crisis. Borys Oliynyk, head of the Foreign Affairs Committee, demanded the following day that Ukraine recall its ambassador from Washington and the cabinet step down for promoting cooperation with the U.S. and NATO. Petro Symonenko, head of the Communist Party, said the parliament should immediately reconsider Ukraine's relations with NATO. After an emergency cabinet session devoted to the Kosova crisis, Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Chaliy called the use of force in Yugoslavia "inadmissible" without the consent of the UN Security Council. JM UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT FAILS TO STOP COOPERATION WITH IMF. The Supreme Council on 25 March voted four times to renounce the 1998 memorandum on cooperation between Ukraine and the IMF but failed by a margin of 21 votes to pass an appropriate resolution. Communist leader Symonenko told the parliament that policies outlined in the memorandum amount to the Ukrainian government's "genocide against its own people." National Bank Chairman Viktor Yushchenko argued that World Bank and IMF loans are the only means of replenishing state reserves and financing the budget deficit, other than printing money. The parliament on 26 March voted by 231 votes to 44 to adopt a compromise resolution saying that the 1998 memorandum should be revised to correspond with Ukrainian law. JM RUKH LEADER KILLED IN CAR ACCIDENT. Vyacheslav Chornovil, leader of the Popular Rukh of Ukraine, was killed on 25 March in a car crash near Kyiv, ITAR-TASS reported. Chornovil had led Rukh since its formation in the late 1980s and became well known as a staunch advocate of Ukrainian independence. JM BALTIC STATES REMEMBER VICTIMS OF 1949 DEPORTATIONS. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania on 25 March remembered the victims of mass deportations that took place 50 years ago on the orders of the Soviet authorities, Baltic news agencies reported. In March 1949, 20,702 people from Estonia, 47,322 from Latvia, and 29,180 from Lithuania were taken under armed guard to cattle trains bound for Siberia. Some victims died on the journey, many others fell victim in Siberia to hunger and illnesses. In Estonia, two former KGB employees have been convicted in connection with their involvement in the deportations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 January and 11 March 1999). Both men were given suspended prison sentences. JC TALLINN SAYS NATO ACTION 'UNAVOIDABLE.' Following the swearing in of the new Estonian cabinet, the Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 25 March saying that it regrets that negotiations failed to find a peaceful solution to the situation in Kosova but arguing that NATO action was "unavoidable." Estonian President Lennart Meri had told journalists the previous day after his return from France that NATO, its partner states, and Russia did "everything to avoid that war." He added that he "regrets deeply that the world was left with no choice" but to use force to bring peace to Kosova. JC LITHUANIA'S RULING CONSERVATIVES REJECT PRESIDENTIAL AMENDMENTS. The ruling Conservatives, meeting late on 25 March, rejected amendments to the law on privatization submitted to the parliament by President Valdas Adamkus, ELTA reported the next day, citing "Lietuvos Rytas." Under those amendments, the government's right to decide on the distribution of money from the Privatization Fund would be transferred to the parliament. The Christian Democrats, which form the ruling alliance with the Conservatives, have said they will support the amendments, as have other factions in the parliament. The news agency noted that in previous controversies between the president and the ruling Conservatives, the Christian Democrats supported the presidential candidate to the post of State Controller and voted in favor of the presidential amendments to the competition law. JC POLISH PREMIER COMPLETES GOVERNMENT RESHUFFLE. Jerzy Buzek carried out a long-awaited cabinet reshuffle on 25 March by appointing Maciej Srebro, Franciszka Cegielska, Artur Balazs, and Andrzej Zakrzewski as new ministers of telecommunications, health, agriculture, and culture. All the appointees are affiliated with Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS). Government spokesman Krzysztof Luft commented that the "reconstruction of the government" has been completed. The Freedom Union (UW), the AWS's coalition partner, said Buzek nominated Srebro and Zakrzewski without the UW's approval. Zakrzewski replaced Joanna Wnuk-Nazarowa of the UW. Andrzej Potocki of the UW commented that the coalition will survive, but "it will continue in conditions considerably more difficult than so far." JM CZECH GOVERNMENT 'ACCEPTS' NATO DECISION. The government on 25 March said that while the Czech Republic, as a member of NATO, accepts the decision to launch air strikes on Yugoslavia, that decision was taken "before the Czech Republic became a member," CTK reported. Premier Milos Zeman told "Mlada fronta Dnes" that it is "superfluous" to speculate on whether Prague would have had any effect on the decision if the Czech Republic had been a NATO member when it was made. Foreign Minister Jan Kavan on 25 March told Nova TV that the Czech Republic "is not at war with Yugoslavia." He said NATO has not formally declared war on Yugoslavia and the Czech Republic "takes no part in the NATO operations." MS SLOVAK NATIONALISTS TO MOVE NO CONFIDENCE VOTE OVER GOVERNMENT'S NATO SUPPORT. The extreme right Slovak National Party (SNS) on 25 March said it will move in the parliament a no confidence vote in Mikulas Dzurinda's cabinet, CTK reported, quoting SNS chairman Jan Slota. Slota said the government "has lost the moral right to stay in office" by allowing "the aggressor" to use Slovak air space. Yugoslav ambassador to Bratislava Veljko Curic said Slovakia's decision was "an enormous shock" and that those who made it "without consent from the parliament must answer before their own people." Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan said on Slovak television that the ambassador's remarks were "inappropriate," and he denied Slovakia intended to dispatch to Kosova an engineering platoon composed of 30-40 troops, CTK reported. MS HOLBROOKE IN HUNGARY. U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke on 25 March attended a closed session of the Hungarian parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee and discussed the Kosova crisis with Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi, Hungarian media reported. Holbrooke said that while "there is no guaranteed way" to protect ethnic Hungarians in Vojvodina from extremist Serbs, "it would not be in Milosevic's interest to open new front lines." Prime Minister Viktor Orban on 25 March told journalists that "Yugoslavia has enough problems already, even without considering any military operations against Hungary." He said consultations between the cabinet and NATO are "continuous" and that NATO had "accurately informed" Budapest twelve hours in advance of the operations it undertook. MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE NATO LAUNCHES SECOND NIGHT OF AIR STRIKES. NATO aircraft attacked up to 20 military targets in Serbia and Montenegro during the night of 25-26 March, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Targets included army and air bases as well as military communications centers. U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen told CNN that all planes returned to base safely. During the previous night's raids, NATO aircraft destroyed three Yugoslav MiG fighters, the BBC reported. The correspondent added that "there is not one shred of evidence" to substantiate Belgrade's claims that its forces shot down at least one NATO aircraft. Observers noted that NATO officials are surprised that the Yugoslav military has fired only one missile from its Soviet SAM air defense system at NATO aircraft. Retired Croatian General Martin Spegelj, who is one of the region's senior military commentators, told "Novi List" that he expects NATO attacks will become "even more intense" in the coming days. PM BELGRADE BREAKS DIPLOMATIC LINKS. Yugoslav authorities on 25 March announced that Belgrade has broken diplomatic relations with Washington, London, Paris, and Bonn. The Yugoslav authorities are considering the future of their diplomatic ties with other countries involved in the air strikes. PM INFORMATION BECOMES MORE DIFFICULT TO OBTAIN. Serbian authorities on 25 March told journalists from NATO countries that they must leave Yugoslavia because their reporting allegedly encouraged the Atlantic alliance to launch air strikes. It is unclear whether Greek journalists, who are often sympathetic to Serbian views, are included in the ban. It has become increasingly difficult to verify conflicting Serbian and Kosovar claims as to what is happening on the ground in that province because most foreign journalists and all OSCE monitors have left, several international broadcasters reported on 26 March. Observers noted that some of the Serbian independent media have recently moved closer to Belgrade's official line in their reporting on the conflict, including Radio B-92 and the BETA news agency. PM WHAT IS HAPPENING IN KOSOVA? Guerrillas of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) have taken advantage of NATO air strikes to attack Serbian positions, the Serbian Media Center reported from Prishtina on 25 March. Kosovar sources reported heavy fighting in the areas to the north and west of Prishtina. They added that Serbian tanks have surrounded Qirez, where 20,000 people have taken refuge. Serbian police in several localities have detained Kosovar males "of whom all trace is then lost," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. One Serbian soldier told a Kosovar woman to "ask NATO where your husband is." A UCK spokesman in London said that Serbian police have singled out middle-class persons and especially teachers in the latest round-up. In Prishtina, a Serbian policeman told Serbian residents of an apartment building to put special stickers on their doors, the BBC reported. PM SERBIAN FORCES "ETHNICALLY CLEANSE" BORDER VILLAGE. About 200 Kosovar refugees, mostly women and children, arrived from the remote border village of Goden in the village of Dobruna in Albania's Kukes district on 25 March. The refugees reported that Serbian security forces entered Goden and separated the men from the women and children, whom they forced to march across the border along the only mine-free route. They then set the village ablaze, AP reported. FS OSCE FEARS NEW MASSACRE. OSCE spokesman Andrea Angeli told Reuters in Tirana on 25 March that "we confirm that Goden is in flames. Our monitors [on the Albanian side of the border] saw Serbian forces round up the [ethnic] Albanian population...and later heard gunshots." Albanian police reported seeing their Serbian counterparts enter Goden, round up all the residents in front of the school, take the men away, and then set fire to the schoolhouse. One of the 10 male eyewitnesses who managed to flee Goden said he fears the forces killed 24 male inhabitants. He added "I am alive only because I knew the Serbian commander." FS TENSIONS RISE ALONG BORDER. Albanian border officials told AP that reinforcements of Serbian forces have been deployed along the border, adding that those troops fired at villages in Kosova all day on 25 March. Reporters on the Albanian side of the border saw "large numbers" of Serbian forces armed with heavy artillery across the frontier. They also heard mortar fire and saw houses aflame in five villages. Captain Ramiz Tahari, who heads the border guards in the Has region, said Yugoslav guards opened fire on his station and wounded one of his men. Information Minister Musa Ulqini said in Tirana that Yugoslav forces fired mortars into Albania earlier the same day, slightly damaging three houses near Tropoja. Army commander Kudesi Lama told AP that "we are no longer talking about avoiding incidents but [are] preparing for possible attacks." FS ALBANIA CLOSES AIRPORT. Albania shut down its only international airport, which is near Tirana, on 25 March for an indefinite period owing to security reasons. Ferries to Italy are still in operation, Reuters reported. FS ALBRIGHT WARNS MILOSEVIC OVER MONTENEGRO. Speaking in Washington on 25 March, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright warned President Slobodan Milosevic not to "attempt to use this crisis to broaden the conflict or spread violence and instability elsewhere in the region. Nor should he attack the democratically elected government of Montenegro, whose approach to the crisis has been rational and constructive, in stark contrast to that of President Milosevic." She added that "any attempt to either overthrow the democratically elected government [of Montenegro] or to create instability would lead to deeper isolation for the Serbs, for Yugoslavia, and escalate the conflict with NATO." Elsewhere in Washington, Montenegrin representative Zorica Maric warned that continuing NATO attacks on targets in her republic could "undermine support among the people for the democratically elected government" of President Milo Djukanovic, who blames Milosevic for the current crisis (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 March 1999). PM BULATOVIC CALLS FOR MONTENEGRIN PARLIAMENT SESSION. Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic called for an emergency meeting of the Montenegrin parliament to "decide whether to stand with Serbia," AP reported on 26 March. He added that "it's most vital to maintain peace and then the people of Montenegro can decide later" whether they wish to remain part of Yugoslavia. Bulatovic is the arch-rival of Djukanovic, who does not recognize the Bulatovic government. Djukanovic says he wants Montenegro to remain in Yugoslavia but demands that Milosevic change his policies on a variety of issues, including Kosova. PM CLINTON APPEALS TO SERBS. President Bill Clinton, in a 25 March televised address broadcast via satellite to the Serbian people, appealed to "all Serbs and all persons of good will to join with us in ending this conflict." Clinton noted that Washington and its allies "have no quarrel with the Serbian people." He stressed that Milosevic and his policies are to blame for the crisis. Milosevic, he continued, "has your sons fighting a senseless conflict you did not ask for that he could have prevented.... Hopefully, he will realize that his present course is unsustainable The sooner we find a peaceful resolution of this dispute..., the sooner Serbia can join the rest of Europe and build a nation that gives all its citizens a choice and a chance for prosperity," Clinton said. He noted that the Milosevic regime has offered its citizens "too much propaganda and too little plain truth." PM SERBS STAGE VIOLENT PROTEST IN SKOPJE. Some 2,000 members of Macedonia's small Serbian minority, along with some Macedonian nationalists, fire-bombed the U.S. embassy and also damaged the German and British embassies on 25 March. U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia Chris Hill said none of his staff was injured. Protesters threw rocks and other objects at cars belonging to the OSCE and international agencies and at the hotel where most foreign personnel are staying. The attacks appeared "orchestrated," the BBC reported. Some protesters physically attacked German journalists, Deutsche Welle added. PM TAIWAN TO HELP MACEDONIA WITH REFUGEES. Officials of Republic of China's Foreign Ministry said in Taipei on 26 March that Taiwan will provide $2 million to help Macedonia deal with an influx of refugees from Kosova. The officials added that Skopje requested the assistance. Some 20,000 Kosovar refugees are currently in Macedonia, but the total could eventually reach 200,000, Reuters reported from Taipei (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 March 1999). PM CROATIA WANTS ASSURANCES FROM NATO. Prime Minister Zlatko Matesa told the government on 25 March that Croatia supports the NATO air strikes but wants guarantees for its security from NATO and the U.S., "Jutarnji list" reported. He added that Croatia supports Western policies in the region and should receive the same assurances that the Atlantic alliance recently gave to members of the Partnership for Peace program, even though Croatia is not yet a member of that program (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 March 1999). PM MOST CROATIAN AIRPORTS REOPEN. A spokesman for Croatian Airlines said in Zagreb on 26 March that Croatia has reopened its airspace, which it closed two days earlier. He said that only the airport at Pula, which is near NATO's key air base at Aviano, Italy, will remain closed, Reuters reported. PM U.S. PROTESTS BOSNIAN SERB ATTACK. The U.S. embassy in Sarajevo issued a statement on 26 March condemning an attack on its office by violent protesters in Banja Luka the previous day. One staff member was seriously injured, Reuters reported. "The U.S. expects local authorities to aggressively investigate and prosecute those responsible for the attack," the text added. "We hold responsible all those officials who recently made statements suggesting that violence against the U.S. and the international community might be acceptable under any circumstances," the statement noted. Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj recently called on Serbs to attack U.S. interests everywhere. PM ROMANIAN CLOSES AIRPORTS NEAR YUGOSLAV BORDER. Transportation Minister Traian Basescu told journalists on 25 March that he has ordered the airports in Timisoara, Arad, and Caransebes closed "in response to a NATO request to set up an "air traffic safety zone" in the vicinity of the Yugoslav border. The Foreign Ministry the same day expressed "concern" over the consequences of the Kosova crisis for the region and said that Foreign Minister Andrei Plesu, rotating chairman of the South East European Cooperation (SEEC), which includes Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Turkey, and Romania, has convened a meeting in Bucharest of the monitoring group, formed by an SEES gathering in Bucharest on 19 March, to discuss the "humanitarian" consequences of the crisis. The Romanian Red Cross announced it is ready to extend aid "without discrimination" to either side in the conflict. MS FITCH IBCA DOWNGRADES ROMANIA'S RATING. The Fitch IBCA international rating agency on 24 March downgraded Romania's rating for the service of its long-term external debt from B to B minus and for the servicing of the country's internal debt from BB minus to B minus, Mediafax reported. The agency downgraded the rating for external debt servicing from BB minus to B last December. MS MOLDOVA, TIRASPOL ON NATO STRIKES. The Moldovan Foreign Ministry on 25 March said it is "worried" about the failure of the negotiating process in Yugoslavia and "takes note" that the NATO decision to use force has been "to a large extent imposed by the irreconcilable position" of one of the sides involved in the Kosova conflict. The ministry said any use of force "carries with it inherent risks" and that Moldova will continue to support and participate in "efforts of the international community to restore peace and the respect of human rights in Kosova," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The communist parliamentary group expressed "indignation" over the strikes. Vladimir Atamanyuk, chairman of the separatist Supreme Soviet, said on 25 March that "Tiraspol will grant Russian armed forces the right to use its military or civilian airfields" and supports "blocking NATO-launched aggression and NATO's eastward expansion." MS MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT ALLOWS DEPUTIES TO RUN IN LOCAL ELECTIONS. The parliament on 25 March voted to allow deputies to run for mayor in the local elections scheduled for 23 May but requires them to resign from the legislature if elected, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Christian Democratic Popular Front leader Iurie Rosca and communist deputy Vasili Ivov were denied registration by the Chisinau Electoral Council on 19 March. Five days later, the Central Electoral Commission rejected Rosca's appeal against that decision. MS BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT URGES YUGOSLAVIA TO SIGN KOSOVA DEAL. The parliament on 25 March passed a resolution calling on Yugoslavia to "sign the peace agreement in order to avert new human casualties and destruction." At the same time, it called on NATO to accept Bulgaria as a member. Both President Petar Stoyanov and Premier Ivan Kostov told the special session of the legislature that Bulgaria faces no immediate political or military danger from the conflict. The opposition, led by the Bulgarian Socialist Party, voted against the resolution. Kostov told legislators that he and Stoyanov received a message from President Bill Clinton saying the U.S. will guarantee Bulgaria's security if the war spills over the border, BTA and Reuters reported. BTA reported that some 120 Albanians from Macedonia and Yugoslavia have fled to Bulgaria. 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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