The essence of our effort to see that every child has a chance must be to assure each an equal opportunity, not to become equal, but to become, different- to realize whatever unique potential of body, mind and spirit he or she possesses. - John Fischer
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 66, Part II, 6 April 1999


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 66, Part II, 6 April 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

* BELARUS HOLDS LOCAL ELECTIONS

* U.S. DEMANDS REVERSAL OF ETHNIC CLEANSING

* AIRLIFT BEGINS OF STRANDED REFUGEES
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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

BELARUS HOLDS LOCAL ELECTIONS... Belarus held local
elections on 4 April, in which 26,883 candidates were
running for 24,524 seats on city and village councils.
The elections were boycotted by major opposition parties
whose leading activists have been de facto barred from
taking part in the race by a decree issued by President
Alyaksandr Lukashenka (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16
December 1998). "Some 90 percent of constituencies have
only one candidate, like in Soviet times," Yury Khadyka
from the opposition Belarusian Popular Front told
Reuters. According to preliminary data from the Central
Electoral Commission on 5 April, the election turnout
was 66.3 percent. JM

...WHILE OSCE SLAMS THEM AS UNDEMOCRATIC. Hans-Georg
Wieck, head of the OSCE mission in Minsk, said on 5
April that the local election law in Belarus "cannot
provide for a free and fair election process." According
to Wieck, Lukashenka has "changed the character of
elections from a democratically organized, competitive
event...to an event characterized by the interest of the
state in organizing political support for its
institutions and leaders." Wieck denied that the OSCE
sent its official observers to watch the elections,
saying that his mission monitored the vote as part of
its regular work in studying human rights in Belarus. JM

LUKASHENKA ORDERS DIPLOMACY TO PROMOTE ECONOMIC
INTERESTS. At a meeting with the Foreign Ministry senior
staff on 5 April, Lukashenka demanded that diplomats
step up their work to promoting Belarusian economic
interests abroad, Belarusian Television reported. Citing
Belarus's negative trade balance with a dozen countries,
Lukashenka said he will assess diplomatic work on the
basis of "practical results" in Belarus's foreign trade
and threatened to replace some ineffectual ambassadors.
Interfax reported that Lukashenka urged the Foreign
Ministry to normalize relations with the U.S. by
offering Washington the "tactics of small steps toward
one another." JM

KUCHMA REJECTS APPEALS FOR MILITARY AID TO YUGOSLAVIA...
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma on a visit to
Zaporizhzhya on 5 April condemned appeals by some
Ukrainian politicians to provide military assistance to
Yugoslavia in the Kosova crisis. "Only politicians who
have neither soul nor heart can call for armed
assistance to Yugoslavia," UNIAN quoted Kuchma as
saying. Kuchma's statement is seen as a response to
parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Tkachenko's
pronouncement in St. Petersburg on 2 April that Ukraine
should send "humanitarian, food, medical, and first of
all military aid" to Yugoslavia. JM

...PLEDGES NOT TO CHANGE RELATIONS WITH NATO...
Tkachenko also announced in St. Petersburg that the
Supreme Council will discuss Ukrainian-NATO relations on
6 April and adopt a resolution introducing a "drastic
change" in those relations, Interfax reported. Kuchma
responded in Zaporizhzhya that any resolution by the
parliament on Kyiv's relations with the alliance "will
under no circumstances affect those relations. We
believe that we are implementing a balanced policy in
our relations with NATO," Kuchma added. Meanwhile, the
parliament on 6 April failed to approve a resolution
calling on the cabinet to suspend cooperation with NATO
and condemning the "aggressive character" of NATO's
strikes against Yugoslavia, AP reported. JM

...VETOES LAWS ON UTILITY PRICE HIKES, PENSION HIKES.
The Ukrainian president vetoed a law on utility price
hikes passed by the parliament on 17 March (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 18 March 1999). The law obliges the cabinet
to ask the parliament for permission to raise utility
prices and bans the cabinet from such initiatives until
it fully pays its wage and pension arrears. Kuchma has
also vetoed a law passed by the parliament last month,
which raises the minimum monthly pension from 16.6
hryvni ($4.20) to 55 hryvni. The president argues that
Ukraine cannot afford the hike, adding that the law
would only increase the current pension arrears of 2.3
billion ($585 million), AP reported on 5 April. JM

ESTONIAN PRESIDENT SEES IMPROVED RELATIONS WITH MOSCOW.
Lennart Meri said in an interview with "Izvestiya" that
while Russian and Estonian leaders have not met since
1994, "bilateral relations are not at a standstill," BNS
reported on 3 April. Meri argued that far more important
than personal contacts between heads of state is a "firm
legal basis for bilateral relationsŠ. Heads of state
come and go, but the legal foundations in the form of
various agreements and treaties they've created will
remain." With regard to last year's amendments to
Estonia's citizenship laws, Meri said he currently sees
"no need for further changes." Meanwhile, on 5 April,
Prime Minister Mart Laar agreed to become Estonian co-
chairman of the Estonian-Russian intergovernmental
commission. JC

ESTONIA TO SEND ONLY PEACE-KEEPERS TO YUGOSLAVIA.
Defense Minister Juri Luik said on Estonian Television
that Tallinn will send troops to Kosova only as peace-
keepers after the warring sides have concluded a truce,
BNS reported on 3 April. Meanwhile, one of the
organizers of the rallies outside the U.S. Embassy in
Tallinn told the news agency that city authorities have
given the Union of Russian Citizens permission to
continue to hold protests outside the embassy later this
week. JC

LATVIAN BANKS POST HUGE LOSSES. "Diena" reported on 6
April that the losses sustained by Latvian banks last
year exceeded the most pessimistic official forecasts.
According to information released by the Central Bank,
Latvian banks--including those, such as the Riga
Commercial Bank, whose activities were suspended--lost a
total of 120 million lats (some $203 million) in 1998.
On a more optimistic note, only one of the more than two
dozen still functioning banks was unable to meet the
legal requirement of capital and reserves totaling at
least 2 million lats. On 3 April, "Diena" quoted the
president of the Association of Latvian Commercial Banks
as saying that the "panic and rumors about the
instability of Latvian banks" in the wake of the Russian
financial crisis and the more recent problems
experienced by the Riga Commercial Bank are
"groundless." JC

LANDSBERGIS WANTS POLITICAL PRESSURE PUT ON BELGRADE.
Lithuanian parliamentary chairman Vytautas Landsbergis
said on 2 April that he is in favor of "political
protests and pressure on the Belgrade government" as a
means of stopping the expulsion of ethnic Albanians from
Kosova, ELTA and BNS reported. Landsbergis, who was
speaking after a meeting with President Valdas Adamkus
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 April 1999), added that since
Lithuanians had a similar experience under Soviet rule,
"we should speak up." He also argued that the Russian
authorities' failure to deal with the crimes of their
predecessors is having an influence on the current
situation. Also on 2 April, Prime Minister Gediminas
Vagnorius urged the president to put aside all "non-
essential and personal matters" and to convene as soon
as possible the Councils of State Defense and
Coordination of Foreign Policy to discuss the situation
in Kosova and relations between Russia and NATO. JC

POLISH GOVERNMENT TO LIMIT MEDIA ACCESS. Grzegorz
Michniewicz, an official in the prime minister's office,
has said the freedom of movement for journalists and
other persons in the cabinet office area will be
restricted under the law on the protection of classified
information (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January 1999),
PAP reported on 5 April. According to new rules,
journalists will have no access to the area adjoining
the cabinet meeting room, while ministers will not be
available for comments before cabinet meetings. "The
prime minister's office should not be a place where
journalists lie by the walls in the evening or play
cards," the 6 April "Gazeta Wyborcza" quoted Michniewicz
as saying. JM

CZECH GOVERNMENT APPROVES NATO OVERFLIGHTS. At an
extraordinary meeting on 2 April, the government
approved a request by NATO for its military aircraft to
overfly Czech territory, CTK reported. Czech air space
had already been used by NATO refueling planes on the
basis of an earlier agreement. The cabinet empowered
Foreign Minister Jan Kavan and Defense Minister Vladimir
Vetchy to oversee the use of the air space by the NATO
planes and said the use will be governed by Czech
regulations. Deputy Premier Egon Lansky on the same day
told journalists that the cabinet's decision was not
unanimous, and four ministers had abstained. MS

HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER FEARS CONFLICT WITH SERBIA.
"It cannot be in the interest of the Serbian leadership
to generate any conflict with Hungary, as this would
entail the most disadvantageous consequences, both
politically and militarily," Janos Martonyi told
journalists on 4 April. If Serbia is to take any
"irrational action," Hungary is "under the full
protection of NATO," he added. Some 320 refugees have
arrived to date in Hungary from Yugoslavia, Istvan
Erdelyi, deputy director of the Migration Office told
"Magyar Hirlap" on 5 April. Meanwhile, the opposition
Free Democrats and the Hungarian Helsinki Committee
released a joint statement asking the cabinet to grant
refugee status to ethnic Hungarians from Vojvodina so
that they can legally work in Hungary. MSZ

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

U.S. DEMANDS REVERSAL OF ETHNIC CLEANSING... President
Bill Clinton said in Washington on 5 April that NATO air
strikes will continue "unceasing and unrelenting" until
Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic agrees to make
peace and let the Kosovars go home and govern
themselves. "A commitment to cease killing and a
[Kosova] denied its freedom and devoid of its people is
not acceptable," he added. "We know we are up against a
dictator who has shown time and again that he would
rather rule over rubble than not rule at all, someone
who recognizes no limits on his behavior except those
imposed by others. If Mr. Milosevic does not do what is
necessary, NATO will continue an air campaign," Clinton
concluded. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
stressed that "we seek the withdrawal of Milosevic's
military police and paramilitary forces, the return of
all refugees, the deployment of an international
security force, and the creation of a democratic
political framework" in Kosova. PM

...AS DOES U.K. British Defense Secretary George
Robertson told the BBC on 6 April that Milosevic is
"paying a very heavy price" after 13 days of NATO air
strikes aimed at reversing his policies of ethnic
cleansing. "Day after day we are weakening [Milosevic's
military] machine and we will eventually change his
behavior. He will have to recognize we are not going to
go away." Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said in London
the previous day that "Milosevic must withdraw his army,
his special police, and his paramilitary thugs and
cooperate with an international force." Then, warning
Milosevic directly, he added: "I will tell you, don't
begin offering peace unless you are prepared to reverse
the ethnic cleansing of the war. NATO will not accept
peace in [Kosova] without the population" of that
province back in its homes. Cook stressed that "NATO's
campaign will continue until the refugees can return to
their homes with international protection." PM

U.S. TO STRIKE SERBIAN ARMOR. On April 5, NATO forces
completed their 13th consecutive day of air strikes
against Serbian targets. Earlier, Clinton ordered 24
Apache helicopters and 2,000 support troops to Albania.
A Pentagon spokesman said that the helicopters will
enable NATO to attack Serbian tanks regardless of the
weather. The previous day, the Pentagon confirmed that
the aircraft carrier "U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt" is on
its way to the Adriatic. Sea-launched cruise missiles
destroyed the Yugoslav and Serbian Interior Ministries
in central Belgrade on 2 April. PM

MORE EVIDENCE OF MASS EXECUTIONS. Foreign journalists
and OSCE monitors in Albania and Macedonia report that
the stories of ethnic cleansing and mass executions told
by Kosovar refugees are remarkably uniform, the
"International Herald Tribune" wrote on 6 April.
Reporters noted that the long lines of arriving refugees
contain few military-age men. The BBC the previous day
quoted refugees as saying that the Serbian forces
frequently use Kosovars as human shields and rape women.
Other refugees noted that there were few, if any,
Kosovars left in Prishtina, Mitrovica, and several other
towns. Reporters added that Gjakova can be seen burning
from Kukes. One refugee smuggled out a grisly video of
what he said were the bodies of some 26 farmers near
Rahovec, whom Serbian forces executed at close range.
Cook said in London that the video "underlines the
murderous brutality [of] the ethnic cleansing...It is
exactly the type of atrocity that underlines the need
for the military action." PM

FLOOD OF REFUGEES CONTINUES. Macedonian President Kiro
Gligorov said in Skopje on 3 April that Macedonia cannot
accept more than 20,000 Kosovars without "endangering
its own security." NATO officials in Brussels announced
that the alliance will immediately begin an intensive
program of refugee relief. Of the 120,000 refugees who
fled to Macedonia as of 6 April, some 85,000 are
stranded in the no-man's land at Blace or Jaznice.
Thousands more are believed to be en route. A NATO
spokesman said in Brussels on 3 April that Kosova will
be "completely empty" in 10-20 days if the Serbs
continue to expel civilians at the present rate. The BBC
reported three days later that "half the population of
[Kosova] has fled or is fleeing." NATO officials have
repeatedly charged that Milosevic is trying to
destabilize neighboring countries by flooding them with
refugees. PM

AIRLIFT BEGINS OF STRANDED REFUGEES. Separate flights of
refugees left Skopje airport for Turkey and Norway in
the early hours of 6 April. Some refugees on the plane
to Turkey said that they had been "forced" into leaving
and had no opportunity to contact relatives waiting for
them in Macedonia or to find their relatives among other
refugees. Germany has agreed to take 40,000 Kosovars,
while the U.S. and Turkey will house 20,000 each.
Norway, which holds the rotating OSCE chair, will take
6,000, while Greece and Canada will accept 5,000 each.
On 4 April, Albright said that the refugees should be
housed as close as possible to Kosova to facilitate
their eventual return. PM

ALBANIA READY TO ACCEPT REFUGEES FROM MACEDONIA. Prime
Minister Pandeli Majko told public television on 5 April
that the government decided the same day to accept an
additional 100,000 refugees stranded in the Kosova-
Macedonian border area. Information Minister Musa Ulqini
added that "the number of Kosova refugees of all ages
who are starving to death [there] is growing." In a
separate statement in Tirana, Foreign Minister Paskal
Milo said that the Albanian authorities are deeply
worried about the condition of Kosovar refugees in
Macedonia. He stressed that "the Macedonian authorities
are not showing proper care for them." The BBC reported
that the Macedonian authorities seem "indifferent" to
the refugees' plight. A spokesman for the United Nations
High Commissioner for Refugees in Skopje said that
significant airlifts are some days off, due to
logistical problems on the ground. FS

ALBANIAN PRESIDENT URGES NATO TO HELP DISPLACED PERSONS
INSIDE KOSOVA. Rexhep Meidani suggested in an interview
with the Paris-based daily "Liberation" of 2 April that
NATO send forces into Kosova to help displaced persons
there. Meidani also proposed that NATO help those hiding
in the forests by parachuting in food aid. He stressed
that "we are prepared to put our infrastructure--
including airports and all other important facilities--
at the disposal of NATO units," adding that Albania will
also offer troops if the alliance wishes. FS

U.S. SETS UP LARGE RELIEF CAMP NEAR TIRANA. U.S. troops
on 5 April began building a camp near Tirana airport to
handle relief operations for Kosovar refugees, Reuters
reported. U.S. military transport planes brought in
supplies and equipment. A total of 6,000 U.S. troops
will run the relief operation. According to government
estimates on 5 April, a total of 223,000 displaced
persons have sought refuge in Albania since 1998, ATSH
reported. Meanwhile, a spokesman for the UN's World Food
Program said in Tirana that food distribution to Albania
is now proceeding apace. He added that NATO intends to
have "a full air bridge of 10 flights a day" into Tirana
by 7 April. Transport inside Albania, however, remains a
problem due to lack of trucks. French troops, meanwhile,
started sending 12 tons of food from Tirana to the
northern town of Kukes each day by helicopter. FS

BLAIR PLEDGES BACKING FOR MONTENEGRO. British Prime
Minister Tony Blair told Montenegrin Television on 5
April that "Milosevic must know that we stand ready to
support the people of Montenegro. If he thinks that he
can take you on, he will pay a very heavy price." Asked
about Western policy toward Montenegro, Blair replied:
"I think because of the stand that President [Milo]
Djukanovic has taken, the sense of responsibility that
we all have towards Montenegro is all the greater. The
fact that you have stood out against Milosevic and
refused to agree to his policy of ethnic cleansing has
enormously increased the respect and support for
Montenegro." Blair referred to Milosevic as a "brutal,
bloody dictator" and added: "We cannot allow a dictator
to drive people in their hundreds of thousands from
their homes, butcher them, maim them, torture them, dump
them on surrounding countries and sit idly by." In
Podgorica, a pro-Milosevic rally took place on 4 April
without incident. PM

WHAT IS GOING ON WITH RUGOVA? Kosovar leader Ibrahim
Rugova said in Prishtina on 5 April that he wants to
leave Kosova "to help this situation for the Serbian
side and for the [ethnic] Albanian side." Asked by
reporters whether he is indeed under house arrest,
Rugova replied: "I have here Serbian security," the "Los
Angeles Times" wrote (See "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 April
1999). Russian Ambassador to Yugoslavia Yurii Kotov told
Russian journalists that Rugova "is getting assistance
from the Serbian authorities because his life is in real
danger that comes from those extremists who believe that
Rugova has betrayed the interests of the Albanian
people," ITAR-TASS reported. The previous day, a NATO
spokesman said in Brussels that Rugova held his recent
meeting with Milosevic under duress and that Serbian
Television's footage of the two together was two years
old. The Yugoslav government said in a statement on 2
April that the meeting "is just one more confirmation"
of Belgrade's intentions "to reach a settlement by
peaceful means and through dialogue." PM

SERBS SEEK MEETING OF SECURITY COUNCIL. SFOR troops on 3
April destroyed part of the Belgrade-Bar railway line
that runs through Bosnia in order to deny Serbian forces
access to Bosnia or Montenegro. Two days later, the
Yugoslav and Bosnian Serb governments announced that
they want the UN Security Council to investigate the
attack on the railway. Serbian spokesmen called the
attack a "violation of the Dayton agreement," RFE/RL's
South Slavic Service reported. PM

ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT LAUNCHES ANTI-CRISIS PROGRAM. The
government on 5 April released details of a program
aimed at overcoming the country's economic crisis that
involves closing down loss-making enterprises and
massive layoffs, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The
program is to be discussed on 7 April at a meeting with
the opposition in the absence of convalescing Premier
Radu Vasile, who was released from hospital on 6 April.
On 1 April, Transportation Minister Traian Basescu said
that about 100,000 people will lose their jobs. Standard
& Poor's on 2 April lowered the country risk grading for
long-term and short-term deposits in Romanian national
currency from B plus to B and from B to C, respectively.
Also on 2 April, the General Electric Capital and the
Banco Portugues de Investimento signed a $43 million
deal to acquire a 45 percent stake in Romania's
Bancpost. MS

ROMANIA DENIES NATO AIRCRAFT USING ITS AIR SPACE. The
Defense Ministry on 2 April denied a "Newsweek" report
saying that NATO aircraft have passed through Romanian
air space on their way to bombing raids in Yugoslavia,
RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. President Emil
Constantinescu, in an interview with "Monitorul de
Iasi," said that Romania's chances of achieving
integration into NATO "have been fortified" as a result
of the Kosova conflict, Mediafax reported. On 5 April,
the Timisoara airport was reopened, but on 6 April the
national railway company announced it was temporarily
suspending trains between Bucharest and Belgrade "as a
consequence of the Yugoslav events and of low demand."
MS

NATO OFFICIAL VISITS ROMANIA, BULGARIA. NATO Deputy
Secretary-General Sergio Balanzino met in Bucharest on 5
April with Foreign Minister Andrei Plesu, Defense
Minister Victor Babiuc, and President Emil
Constantinescu, and later that day met in Sofia with
President Petar Stoyanov. Both Plesu and Babiuc (who has
been standing in for ailing Premier Radu Vasile since 2
April) told Balanzino that Romania needs international
help in order to shelter refugees from Yugoslavia.
Babiuc said Romania was willing to accept 6,000 refugees
if it received the necessary aid, RFE/RL's Bucharest
bureau reported. After meeting Stoyanov, Balanzino said
that NATO "does not expect Bulgaria to act as a NATO
member" but "Bulgaria is a front-line state" and
"communication and coordination between us will
continue." MS

KOSTOV SAYS BULGARIA CANNOT SHELTER MORE KOSOVAR
REFUGEES... Speaking after an extraordinary meeting with
the parliamentary groups leaders, Bulgarian Premier Ivan
Kostov on 4 April said that because of its economic
problems, Bulgaria will not be able to shelter many more
ethnic Albanians fleeing from Kosova. "Pressing Bulgaria
to accept more refugees would mean to export the
conflict," he said. There are reportedly a few thousand
Kosovar refugees in Bulgaria and a few thousand more
have transited the country to other destinations. Kostov
said that Bulgaria could, however, host for a week some
5,000 potential refugees from the Bulgarian minority in
Yugoslavia, or Macedonian refugees, if the warfare
spreads to that country, AP and Reuters reported. ITAR-
TASS reported on 5 April that the National Security
Council, at a meeting chaired by Kostov, decided to
close its borders to Kosovar refugees. MS

...AND TALBOTT 'UNDERSTANDS' THE DECISION. "We
understand and respect the decisions that have already
been taken, this is a dynamic situation," U.S. Deputy
Secretary of State Strobe Talbot told journalists after
meeting Kostov and Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova
on 5 April, Reuters reported. Mihailova said Bulgaria
"appeals to the U.S. government to guarantee that the
conflict will not spread in the region," since Yugoslav
President Slobodan Milosevic aims at "exporting the
conflict through refugees." Talbott said the U.S. and
NATO were "very grateful" to Bulgaria for its
"understanding and support" of the operations in
Yugoslavia, adding that Sofia is "not just a good friend
and partner of the U.S., but also a promising and
credible candidate for eventual membership in NATO."
President Stoyanov urged Talbott to consider the early
admission of Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Romania to NATO to
create "a security belt around Yugoslavia." MS

MOLDOVA SATISFIED WITH CIS SUMMIT RESULTS. Presidential
spokesman Anatol Golea on 5 April told journalists that
President Petru Lucinschi considers the results of the
Moscow CIS summit to be "positive." Golea said that an
agreement has been reached to hold an 8 April meeting in
Kyiv between Russian Premier Yevgenii Primakov,
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, Transdniester
separatist leader Igor Smirnov, and Lucinschi in order
to give "new impetus" to the settling of the
Transdniester conflict. He said that Lucinschi is also
satisfied with the summit's decision to establish an
all-CIS free-trade zone. Golea stressed that the
Yugoslav crisis has not been discussed at the summit,
but the Moldovan delegation there "refuted information"
that Moldova was supporting the NATO air strikes,
RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. MS

CORRECTION: The name of the Communist deputy mentioned
in the item "Moldovan Communists Block Parliament
Resolution on Kosova" on 2 April is Victor Stepaniuc,
and not Vasile Nedelciuc, as mistakenly reported.

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