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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 62, Part II, 30 March 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 62, Part II, 30 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 * UKRAINIANS MOURN CHORNOVIL * SERBS LAUNCH MAJOR OFFENSIVE * NATO: KOSOVAR LEADER 'EXECUTED' End Note: THE KOSOVA CRISIS AND THE NATO HOPEFULS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE KUCHMA BLASTS GOVERNMENT, PARLIAMENT. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma on 29 March sharply criticized the government for failing to revive the country's economy and blamed the parliament for blocking economic reforms, ITAR-TASS reported. Kuchma said incomes dropped an average of 14.4 percent from the previous year and retail trade was nearly 12 percent lower. He said that financial policy is "inefficient" and sometimes wrong and that leftist forces in parliament are ready to block IMF and World Bank credits. Kuchma also noted that the government must support domestic production and improve the financial system in order to allay wage arrears. He vowed that Ukraine will "never go along the path of inflation" caused by printing money. PB UKRAINIANS MOURN CHORNOVIL. President Kuchma and Premier Valeriy Pustovoytenko were among an estimated 15,000 people attending the Kyiv funeral of Vyacheslav Chornovil, head of the Popular Rukh of Ukraine and a key leader in the country's fight for independence, the "Eastern Economist" reported. Chornovil, who died in a car accident last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 March 1999), spent 15 years in Soviet prisons as a dissident. He was first arrested in 1967 after two of his books appeared in the West. PB CHYHIR COLLECTS SIGNATURES FOR BELARUSIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION. Former Prime Minister Mikhail Chyhir said on 29 March that despite "difficult conditions," he has collected the necessary signatures to register as a candidate in the opposition presidential election, Belapan reported. Chyhir said he has some 132,000 signatures; 100,000 are needed to register as a candidate for the scheduled May election, which has been called illegal by the government. He said many people who signed his application have lost their jobs and others have been expelled from universities. He added that the KGB and police seized lists of signatures and searched cars near his headquarters. In other news, Vladymyr Pleshchenka, chairman of the Vybar organization of the Belarusian Popular Front, was released from jail on his own recognizance after being detained for six months on charges of malicious hooliganism. PB LUKASHENKA OFFERS SUPPORT TO MILOSEVIC. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka telephoned with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic on 29 March to offer his support, AFP reported. Lukashenka, who had earlier promised to send aid to Belgrade if Yugoslavia were attacked by NATO, told Milosevic that the air campaign against Yugoslavia is a "direct threat to European security." Milosevic responded that Serbs "cannot be enslaved." PB ETHNIC RUSSIANS COLLECT ANTI-NATO SIGNATURES IN NARVA... More than 1,000 ethnic Russian residents of Estonia's northeastern city of Narva have signed a petition urging NATO to cease its air strikes against Yugoslavia, ETA reported on 29 March. A local ethnic Russian leader is quoted as saying that a poll of residents of the city, which is predominantly ethnic Russian, shows that a majority is opposed to Estonia's joining NATO. JC ...WHILE PROTESTS CONTINUE IN LATVIA. Some 100 ethnic Russians took part in an unsanctioned rally in a Riga park on 29 March to protest NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia. The demonstrators were mainly elderly people. Police in the Latvian capital have pointed out that the regular demonstrations by some 20-30 people outside the U.S. embassy are illegal, since the demonstrators have not applied to the city council for permission to hold such meetings. In Liepaja on 29 March, police detained about 15 people who took part in an unsanctioned rally to protest NATO policy in Yugoslavia. Meanwhile, in the Russian city of Pskov, several dozen Russian youths gathered outside the Estonian and Latvian consulates to condemn the air strikes, Baltic news agencies and "Diena" reported. There are no diplomatic representations of NATO member states in Pskov, while Estonia and Latvia are both aspiring to join the alliance. JC LANDSBERGIS STRESSES HIS CONFIDENCE IN PROSECUTOR- GENERAL. Lithuanian parliamentary chairman Vytautas Landsbergis commented to journalists on 29 March that "for the first time ever, we have a prosecutor-general who is taking action and never covers up huge frauds," ELTA reported. Landsbergis stressed that there is no reason to distrust the current prosecutor-general, Kazys Pednycia, or to consider how to replace him. Those remarks come on the heels of press reports that President Valdas Adamkus proposes to submit amendments to the parliament aimed at "reinforcing the independence of the Prosecutor-General's Office and granting more rights to the institution." According to BNS, Adamkus will propose that the prosecutor-general be nominated by the parliament with the president's approval. Under the current law, the holder of that office is nominated by a parliamentary committee and approved by the legislature. JC WARSAW DOESN'T WANT WALL BETWEEN POLAND, UKRAINE. Polish Foreign Minster Bronislaw Geremek said on 29 March in Warsaw that he does not want a new "Iron Curtain" to emerge after Poland joins the EU, PAP reported. Geremek made his comments after meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart, Borys Tarasyuk, in the inaugural meeting of the Polish-Ukrainian Conference, designed to promote European affairs in Ukraine. Geremek said Poland, under pressure from EU members to tighten its eastern borders, will try to convince Brussels that it is better to create a "controlled border" than a new wall. PB PRAGUE READY TO ACCEPT SEVERAL HUNDRED KOSOVAR REFUGEES. An Interior Ministry official on 29 March said the Czech Republic is "prepared to accept immediately several hundred refugees from Kosova." The same day, the government approved the country's military strategy. Defense Minister Vladimir Vetchy told journalists that the cabinet has not discussed sending ground forces to Yugoslavia and will do so only if it receives such a request from NATO. Also, a Kosova Albanian was shot dead at a rally in Prague's city center. His killer, a Yugoslav national, has been arrested by the police, which later said the reason for the murder was a family quarrel, CTK reported. MS SLOVAK POLICE SEEK LEXA'S ARREST. Jaroslav Ivor, who is heading the investigation into former Slovak Intelligence Service chief Ivan Lexa, said on 29 March that police have asked the parliament for permission to arrest Lexa, who is suspected of involvement in the 1995 kidnapping of former President Michal Kovac's son as well as of other abuses of power, Reuters reported. The parliament has been asked to lift Lexa's immunity, but under existing regulations, a deputy is still immune from arrest until found guilty in court. Ivor said police are concerned that "if let free during the prosecution period, [Lexa] might disrupt the investigation, for example by influencing witnesses." MS SLOVAK INTERIOR MINISTER SAYS DUCKY'S KILLER ARRESTED. Ladislav Pittner on 29 March said the "likely murderer" of former Interior Minister Jan Ducky, who was shot dead in early January, has been "taken into custody," CTK reported. The suspect, whose cover name is "Alex," is a member of the "Ukrainian mafia." The child of Alex's driver was kidnapped because it was feared the driver "knew too much." When they received the ransom, the kidnappers attempted to kill the father, but police saved the child and arrested "Alex." With regard to another incident, Pittner said that three contract killers were involved in the shooting of 10 people in a bar in Dunajska Streda on 25 March and that they had been hired for a total of $1 million. The victims were members of a "Ukrainian mafia" gang headed by Tibor Papaya. Investigators are looking into a possible link with Lexa, because Papaya had claimed he enjoys Lexa's protection. MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE SERBS LAUNCH MAJOR OFFENSIVE. Serbian forces accompanied by tanks and armored personnel carriers shelled the Pagarusha area of the Semetiska valley from Malisheva, Suhareka, and Rahovec on 30 March, Reuters reported. An unnamed diplomat told the news agency that "the Serbian goal is two-fold: to destroy units of the [guerrillas] and to drive into Albania" some 50,000 displaced persons who have taken refuge in the valley. PM THACI: UCK 'OVERWHELMED.' State Department spokesman James Rubin said in Washington on 29 March that Secretary of State Madeleine Albright spoke with Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) leader Hashim Thaci the previous day by telephone, AP reported. "Thaci told her that Yugoslav army and police units as well as paramilitary groups were killing civilians and burning houses, that the [UCK] was trying to defend civilians but the fighting has spread to the cities and that there had been a sense that they were being overwhelmed," Rubin added. Elsewhere, refugees arriving in Montenegro said that Serbian forces have "ethnically cleansed" Peja of its ethnic Albanian population. PM NATO: KOSOVAR LEADER 'EXECUTED.' A spokesman for the Atlantic alliance said in Brussels on 29 March that "Serbian forces executed" Fehmi Agani the previous day. The moderate, 66-year-old Agani was chief negotiator for shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova and a professor of sociology. He wanted independence for Kosova but supported the Rambouillet peace accords that provide for broad autonomy but not independence. The NATO spokesman added that Serbian forces also killed Baton Haxhiu, who was editor-in-chief of the Prishtina daily "Koha Ditore" as well as four other intellectuals. It is unclear where the killings took place. Unidentified Serbs recently killed a prominent human rights lawyer and his two sons. Albanian Prime Minister Pandeli Majko said in Tirana on 29 March that Agani's "execution and those of other well-known intellectuals in Kosova are a clear indication of what Milosevic is about." Rugova, negotiator Veton Surroi, and many other prominent Kosovars are reportedly in hiding. PM CHIRAC: NO PLACE FOR MILOSEVIC. French President Jacques Chirac said in Paris on 29 March that Europe "cannot accept on its soil a man and a regime that, for nearly 10 years, has conducted...operations of ethnic cleansing, murders, and massacres, of destabilization in the entire region, resulting in more than 200,000 deaths and millions left homeless." In Chicago, Vice President Al Gore stressed that "we abhor the ethnic cleansing that is now occurring.... Ethnic Albanians are being driven from their homes, forced to flee their country in large numbers and in many cases are being murdered in cold blood." In Washington, Rubin noted that "it is clear that Slobodan Milosevic bears responsibility for the events that led to war crimes in Croatia, Bosnia, and now [Kosova, where events] obviously are being directed from Belgrade." Defense Secretary William Cohen warned that Milosevic runs the risk of the Hague-based war crimes tribunal indicting him. PM GENERALS: GROUND FORCES COULD PROTECT KOSOVARS. Several active and retired top U.S. military commanders told the "New York Times" of 30 March that NATO could assemble a force of up to 40,000 troops and send them to Kosova "within days" to protect civilians from further attacks and atrocities. One general warned against overestimating Serbian military strength. Another suggested that the main problem preventing sending in ground forces is the lack of political will on the part of many key Western leaders. Some generals noted that NATO could set up "safe havens" for refugees. General George Joulwan, who is NATO's former top commander, argued that "if the killings continue, how can you have 12,000 NATO troops [in Macedonia] 10 miles from where the atrocities are being committed and do nothing?" PM NATO COMMANDOS ALREADY IN YUGOSLAVIA? Elite units from the U.S., the U.K., and France have been "going about their business throughout [Milosevic's] Yugoslavia for weeks," retired Croatian General Ante Roso told "Vecernji list" of 30 March. He added that they are conducting unspecified secret operations "that will not be reported in CNN or Sky News." The Zagreb daily added that most of Yugoslavia's MiGs are intact but are physically unable to leave their underground hangars due to damage from bombing on the surface. Retired General Antun Tus told "Vjesnik" that NATO seeks to destroy all Serbian heavy weapons between Kragujevac and Kosova in order to "isolate" Serbian forces in the province. PM DJUKANOVIC: STOP THE BOMBING. NATO aircraft bombed targets in Serbia, Kosova, and Montenegro on 29 March. Speaking in Podgorica, Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic warned that the "spiral of violence is spinning out of control" and appealed to Western leaders to stop the attacks. He stressed: "It is no longer important whose violence was the cause and whose violence was the consequence. In this hell, innocent people are being hurt." Djukanovic noted that Milosevic's "insane policy" has hurt the "Serbian people" more than anyone else. The Montenegrin leader stressed: "It is necessary to end NATO air strikes and open talks. Not even the staunchest [domestic] opponents of Milosevic can understand the international community's stance toward him." Djukanovic also criticized the international community for treating Milosevic as their main negotiating partner in the region for many years, "RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM ALBANIA EXPECTS MORE REFUGEES. Information Minister Musa Ulqini told a private Tirana radio station on 29 March that "many refugees report that Serbs have ordered residents of Prizren to leave the town by tomorrow or else their houses will be shelled and they will be killed." Ulqini said that if the residents obey that order, the number of Kosovar refugees in Albania will increase to 100,000 in a couple of hours. According to Ulqini, an estimated 80,000 Kosovar refugees have crossed into Albania since the weekend. Prime Minister Majko told the parliament that the government is expecting another 100,000 refugees, who are still on their way. The legislators adopted a resolution calling on NATO to send ground troops to Kosova. FS UNHCR AIRLIFT TO ALBANIA. Kris Janowski, a spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva, told AP on 30 March that the British government has supplied a transport plane that will shuttle supplies from Copenhagen to Tirana. The previous day, an Italian military ship loaded with buses, trucks, and tents for refugee relief work left Bari for Durres. In Kukes, UNHCR personnel told AP that the authorities simply cannot cope with the influx and stressed that "we need everything." Some refugees are sleeping on sidewalks. Elsewhere, the Rome-based World Food Program sent a convoy carrying food from Tirana to Kukes. FS TIRANA RESIDENTS OFFER THEIR HOMES. Buses, trucks, and cars brought about 21,000 refugees from the remote north to other locations in Albania on 29 and 30 March, dpa reported. Information Minister Ulqini stressed that "there has been a great show of solidarity and traditional Albanian hospitality by people all over Albania." About 5,000 refugees arrived in Tirana on 29 March. The first arrivals had been expected to stay in an indoor stadium on the outskirts of the capital, but around 1,000 local residents competed with one another to put up the refugees in their homes. FS ROMANIA DENIES RUSSIAN USED AIR SPACE FOR FLYING ARMS TO SERBS. The Defense Ministry on 29 March denied media reports that Russian aircraft transporting weapons to Yugoslavia overflew Romania on 26 March, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The ministry said that no authorization has been given for Russian overflights to Yugoslavia and that no Russian plane overflying Romanian territory had a Yugoslav airport as its registered destination. The ministry also commented that no "violation or attempted violation" of Romanian air space has been recorded since 26 March. The Ministry of Transportation announced it has re-opened the Arad and Caransebes airports, but the Timisoara airport remains closed. It added that it has authorized the "temporary stationing" at Bucharest's Baneasa airport of six JAT planes, following a request by the Yugoslav national carrier. MS ETHNIC SERBS DEMONSTRATE AGAINST NATO STRIKES IN BUCHAREST. Several hundred ethnic Serbs demonstrated in Bucharest on 29 March against NATO air strikes. The demonstrators, who were joined by some Romanian nationalists and leftists, threw eggs at the U.S. and French embassies. They carried Yugoslav flags and banners that read "NATO-Nazis" and "Yugoslavia is not Lewinsky." They also shouted "Today Yugoslavia, tomorrow Transylvania," in a reference to the province where most of Romania's large Hungarian minority lives, Reuters and AP reported. MS ROMANIAN PARTY CHANGES NAME. At an extraordinary congress on 27-28 March, the Romanian Alternative Party changed its name to the Union of Rightist Forces (UFD) and elected Varujan Vosganian and Adrian Iorgulescu as UFD co-chairmen, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The Romanian National Party (PNR), holding its first congress on 28 March, elected Viorel Catarama as PNR chairman and Mihai Berca as his deputy. Catarama was also nominated as PNR candidate for the premiership in the 2000 general elections. Virgil Magureanu was replaced as PNR secretary-general by Mircea Cranta but was elected a member of the PNR Political Bureau. Magureanu was elected PNR deputy chairman on 29 March. MS MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT FEARS TRANSDNIESTER ARSENAL WILL REACH KOSOVA. Presidential spokesman Anatol Golea said on 29 March that President Petru Lucinschi believes there is a danger the Russian army arsenal in the Transdniester will be transferred to Kosova and used in the conflict there, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Lucinschi said he is "worried" about declarations made by some Russian leaders backing Tiraspol, such as Vladimir Zhirinovskii, who is trying to organize volunteers for the Serbian side. He also expressed concern about Tiraspol's declared readiness to allow Russia to use its military airfield. In a 28 March statement, Lucinschi said he feared an escalation of the Kosova conflict. Moldova's own "tragic experience" shows that each day fighting continues, a peaceful settlement becomes more difficult, he said. MS MOST BULGARIANS OPPOSE NATO STRIKES. Several opinion polls published on 29 March show that most Bulgarians oppose NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia, Reuters reported. All the polls show that at least 50 percent of the population sides with its Serbian neighbors. Support for NATO ranges from 20-24 percent. In a poll conducted by the Fact institute, 71 percent said they fear the conflict will spread to Bulgarian territory. An Interior Ministry official on 29 March said nearly 100 Kosova Albanians have asked for refugee status so far. He said security has been increased at the borders with Yugoslavia and Macedonia in anticipation of a refugee wave, AP reported. MS END NOTE THE KOSOVA CRISIS AND THE NATO HOPEFULS By Michael Shafir An unexpected side effect of the Kosova crisis is that NATO aspirants in Central and Eastern Europe now have raised expectations that their admission to NATO will be expedited. Slovakia is a case in point. When U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told Hungarian television earlier this month that Bratislava was "sadly" not yet prepared for NATO membership (which the U.S. embassy in Bratislava later clarified as referring to the country's development under Vladimir Meciar's leadership), Foreign Minster Eduard Kukan interpreted that statement as "an appeal to Slovakia to proceed more resolutely ahead." That Bratislava intended to do just that was demonstrated by, among other things, the decision to cancel orders for the Russian S-300 anti-missile system, which Moscow was to have supplied in part repayment for its debt to Bratislava under a deal reached by Meciar. Current Premier Mikulas Dzurinda explained that the deal "would not reflect Slovakia's orientation toward the UN and NATO." While that move was significant in itself, the decision to allow NATO aircraft to over-fly Slovak territory, including to carry out mid-air fueling, was undoubtedly the most significant aimed at proving that Bratislava was indeed "proceeding resolutely ahead." The latter decision appears to have been taken in the hope that in the midst of the Kosova crisis Bratislava is drawing NATO's attention to the country's importance for the alliance. As the daily "Sme" wrote shortly after NATO air strikes began, Slovakia has been generally perceived as of little strategic importance, mainly because of its small size. "Sme," which is thought to reflect to some extent government thinking, believes the conflict may have changed that perception. Two neutral countries in central Europe, Austria and Switzerland, cannot allow over flights and mid-air fueling without contravening their constitutions. This, "Sme" says, suddenly revealed Slovakia's strategic importance as the only possible corridor in central Europe between NATO and the CIS as well as between western or northwestern Europe and the southeastern parts of the continent. And, according to "Sme," NATO is unlikely to want to make such requests each time a crisis requiring its intervention develops in those regions. Whether this argument will have any impact at the NATO Washington summit next month is unclear. Most alliance officials do not envisage further enlargement in the immediate future, though some steps may be taken to demonstrate that the "open doors" policy is not merely a declaration of intent. But Slovakia is by no means alone in entertaining such a hope. Closer to the conflict area, both Romania and Bulgaria want to use the conflict to bolster their long-standing argument that NATO currently has a strategic "loophole" in a volatile area where they can serve as "islands of stability." On the other hand, they fear that the proximity of the conflict might find them militarily involved without the benefit of membership. Thus, while denying in the parliament that NATO planes have already over-flown Bulgarian territory or that Sofia has offered soldiers to fight on NATO's side, Bulgarian Premier Ivan Kostov urged NATO to express readiness at the Washington summit to admit Bulgaria as a full member. A resolution adopted by Bulgarian legislators after the air strikes began echoes that call. Like Bulgaria, Romania is "hoping against hope" that the crisis will help it overcome the obstacles to membership, despite its financial crisis, which makes it highly unlikely that it could meet the high costs of membership. Romanian Deputy Foreign Minister Elena Zamfirescu has even speculated that the Kosova crisis might open doors in Washington that had seemed closed, and the same thoughts were expressed by Ion Diaconescu, leader of the main coalition National Peasant Party Christian Democratic. Meanwhile, however, Slovakia and Bulgaria are facing the problem of volunteers who want to enroll to fight on the "other side" in the name of "Slavic brotherhood." Reportedly, 430 such volunteers have registered in Bulgaria, and some are already in Serbia. In a bid to prevent a similar development among would-be Slovak volunteers, the Slovak Defense Ministry has announced that fighting for another country without official permission is a punishable offense. In Romania, "orthodox brotherhood" triggered a procession organized by the Orthodox Church (which, however, has not openly taken any side in the conflict). A prominent role in that procession was played by the Students' League, which is allegedly pro-Western and rightist in political outlook but rather fundamentalist when it comes to facing alleged dangers posed by the influence of Western Churches. Paradoxically, these young Romanians find themselves on the same side as the groups of Slovak and Bulgarian "volunteers," which are supposedly being organized by pro-communist and pro-Russian forces. They also find themselves on the same side as the Cossacks in Moldova's separatist Transdniester region--a state of affairs that they themselves would have considered impossible, had it been proposed to them before the Kosova crisis. In short, while some perceive the Kosova crisis as an opportunity to achieve NATO membership quicker than they had believed possible before the crisis and while others would rather promote historical attachments, there are also those who believe they can eat the cake of NATO membership and preserve the traditional slice of Slavic and Orthodox brotherhood. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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