|Every custom was once an eccentricity; every idea was once an absurdity. - Holbrook Jackson|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 71, Part II, 13 April 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 71, Part II, 13 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 * BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES STEP UP PRESSURE ON OPPOSITION * RUSSIAN CONVOY ALLOWED TO TRANSIT HUNGARY * FIGHTING ALONG ALBANIAN-KOSOVAR BORDER ESCALATES xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE LUKASHENKA TO VISIT BELGRADE OVER KOSOVA CRISIS. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka is planning to visit Yugoslavia on 14 April, following an invitation from Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Foreign Minister Ural Latypau said on 13 April that Lukashenka will "discuss political settlement of the conflict, sending aid, as well as Yugoslavia's desire to join the [Belarus-Russia] union. The union cannot be made too quickly, it requires a lot of time," Reuters quoted him as saying. Lukashenka has so far not commented on Yugoslavia's vote to join the Union of Belarus and Russia (UBR). The issue of Yugoslavia's admission to the UBR has not been put on the agenda of a UBR Executive Committee session in Minsk on 13 April. (See related Russian and Yugoslav stories). JM BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES STEP UP PRESSURE ON OPPOSITION. The authorities have intensified pressure on territorial electoral commissions that are preparing for the opposition presidential elections set for 16 May, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. According to RFE/RL correspondents, the regional KGB directorates and prosecutor's offices have begun to summon electoral commission members for interrogations "on a large scale." According to Barys Hyunter, secretary of the opposition Central Electoral Commission, the authorities are looking to accuse commission head Viktar Hanchar of a "plot to seize power" after they had failed to charge him with "usurping official position. As far as I know, no commission member has been forced into signing a refusal to participate in his commission," Hyunter said. JM U.S. COURT STARTS HEARINGS ON ASYLUM FOR LAZARENKO. A U.S. immigration court on 12 April began hearing a request for asylum from former Ukrainian Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, Reuters reported. The hearings are being held behind closed doors and no details have been made available to the public. Last week in Kyiv, Lazarenko's lawyer said his client has every reason to expect that Washington will heed his plea for asylum. "Lazarenko's life would be in danger in Ukraine," the lawyer added. Lazarenko maintains that the charges of misappropriating more than $2 million worth of state property in Ukraine and of money laundering in Switzerland are politically motivated. "Criminal investigations [against me] in Ukraine and Switzerland are part of a politically motivated plot to repress opposition," Lazarenko reiterated in a recent statement. JM KRISTOPANS URGES CABINET UNITY OVER EU BID. Latvian Prime Minister Vilis Kristopans issued a statement on 12 April urging his cabinet ministers to "refrain from any negative comments on Latvia's integration into the EU," LETA reported. "Each remark or commentary by ministers is perceived as a political signal by foreign embassies in Latvia," Kristopans commented. Interior Minister Roberts Jurdzs told the news agency that he interprets the statement as a "political announcement" aimed at stanching the flow of recent reports about the government's instability. Kristopans has suggested that the intention of such reports is to block Latvia's integration into the EU. JC RECORD NUMBER OF NEW LATVIANS IN MARCH. Latvia's Naturalization Department press secretary, Aigars Smiltnieks, told LETA on 12 April that a record 842 people received Latvian citizenship last month--125 of whom were children. From February 1995 until the end of last year, an average of 250 people had received citizenship each month, of whom 20-25 were children. Smiltnieks also noted that his department received a record 1,481 applications for citizenship in March. With regard to the 19,000 children of non-citizens who were born after 21 August 1991, he noted that only 44 persons have registered their children for Latvian citizenship since the amendments to the citizenship law took effect earlier this year. Under those amendments, such children are virtually automatically granted citizenship if their parents request it. JC ADAMKUS DEMANDS PREMIER EXPLAIN CUSTOMS CHIEF'S ABSENCE. Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus has sent a letter to Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius requesting that the latter explain "immediately on what grounds you are restricting my constitutional rights to keep in touch with state officials and receive all necessary information," ELTA reported on 12 April. The letter comes after Customs Department director Stasys Stazys failed to attend a 12 April meeting convened by the president to discuss customs issues. Nor did the customs chief offer an explanation for his absence. Instead, he took part in a gathering at the prime minister's office to discuss the same topic. According to the news agency, Stazys had told presidency staff last week that he was "eager" to attend the presidential meeting but had to receive the "government's blessing" first. JC WILLIAMS TO ACQUIRE ADDITIONAL STAKE IN MAZEIKIU NAFTA. The Lithuanian State Defense Council on 12 April approved the U.S.-based Williams company's request to acquire an additional 33 percent stake in the Mazeikiu Nafta complex, ELTA reported. It already owns one-third of the company. Lithuanian Economy Minister Vincas Babilius said after the meeting, which President Adamkus chaired, that the council has asked the government to continue talks with Williams, saying that the company's additional investments in the national economy are "a political issue, therefore the strategic interests of the nation must be assessed as well." JC SOLIDARITY WANTS LUSTRATED OFFICIALS TO RESIGN UNTIL CLEARANCE. The ruling Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) wants the AWS-recommended officials in the government to resign their posts after their declarations denying collaboration with the Communist-era secret services have been questioned and passed to the Lustration Court for scrutiny. According to the AWS, if the court confirms that those officials have not collaborated, they may resume their posts. Under Poland's lustration law, the lustration declarations are examined by the lustration prosecutor, who may pass questionable declarations to the Lustration Court for a final verdict. If an official is found guilty of lying in his/her lustration statement, that person will be forbidden from holding public office for ten years. According to "Rzeczpospolita" and "Gazeta Wyborcza," none of the 23,000 lustration statements have so far been sent to the court for scrutiny. JM PRESIDENT SAYS CZECH POSITION ON KOSOVA DISCOURAGES NATO EXPANSION. Vaclav Havel, speaking on television on 12 April after talks with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan, said that NATO has doubts whether the alliance should be further enlarged after experiencing "contradictory signals" from the Czech Republic on the Kosova conflict, CTK reported. Havel said his information comes from "outstanding sources." He also said that the position on the conflict taken by some politicians "deprives them of the right to contribute to diplomatic efforts aimed at bringing peace to Kosova." But Albright, also on Czech television, praised the Prague government for its role aimed at "harmonizing" alliance attitudes on the conflict and said the Czechs can "serve as an example" to countries not yet admitted to NATO through their "central role" in the conflict. MS CZECH GOVERNMENT APPROVES NATO STATEMENT. Foreign Minister Kavan on 12 April told CTK that the Czech government approves the statement released on the same day by NATO's foreign ministers at their meeting in Brussels. Kavan said that possible ground operations in Yugoslavia "were not on the agenda" of the meeting. The statement speaks of sending peacekeepers to Kosova only after a political agreement has been reached, he said, and this reflects the Czech cabinet's position and means that Belgrade must approve of the peacekeepers' presence. He added that a ministerial team headed by Deputy Premier Egon Lansky is preparing a document on humanitarian aid to Kosova refugees. MS SLOVAK NATIONALIST PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE 'OPTIMISTIC'... Jan Slota, leader of the Slovak National Party (SNS), said on 12 April that he was optimistic about his chances to reach the runoff in the presidential elections, whose first round is scheduled for 15 May. Slota said that if he advances to the runoff, he believes he could "come to an agreement" with Movement for a Democratic Slovakia leader Vladimir Meciar and secure his backing, CTK reported. If he fails to reach the runoff, the SNS will "support a pro-Slovak politician," and that is Meciar, Slota said. MS ...WHILE KOVAC REJECTS COMPARISON WITH SCHUSTER. Also on 12 April, former President Michal Kovac said he had never collaborated with the former Czechoslovak communist secret police and called on all other presidential candidates to declare whether they had done so, CTK reported. Kovac also rejected any comparison between himself and the ruling coalition candidate, Rudolf Schuster, because of their communist past. Kovac said that while he was a supporter of Alexander Dubcek and was demoted to a minor banking clerk position, Schuster occupied important positions in the party in the 1980s and was the last communist chairman of the Slovak parliament in November 1989. Meanwhile Schuster, who is leading in the polls, said in Warsaw that he is convinced Meciar will not win the elections, but if he did Slovakia's access to the EU and NATO "will definitely be closed." MS SLOVAKIA READY TO ACCEPT 'THOUSANDS' OF KOSOVA REFUGEES. An Interior Ministry official on 12 April told CTK that Slovakia can accept "thousands" of Kosovar refugees. Jan Michalko said some of these refugees may be granted political asylum after their temporary stay permits expire. MS RUSSIAN CONVOY ALLOWED TO TRANSIT HUNGARY. Following intensive talks between Hungarian Interior Minister Sandor Pinter and Russian Emergency Minister Sergei Shoigu in Budapest, the Russian convoy carrying aid shipment to Yugoslavia on 12 April was allowed to enter Hungary, Hungarian media reported. Five armored trucks were returned to Ukraine and only four of the eight gasoline tankers were allowed to travel with the convoy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 April 1999). Russia's presidential deputy chief of staff, Sergei Prikhodko, cited by ITAR-TASS, said that despite the settling of the dispute, Moscow "will draw very serious conclusions from Budapest's actions." He said Hungary had not acted "independently" or "freely." Shoigu said before returning to Moscow that Hungary had consulted with NATO before blocking the convoy's passage. MSZ/MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE MORE REFUGEES ARRIVE IN MACEDONIA. Over 2,000 Kosovars arrived at the makeshift refugee camp at Blace on 13 April. The previous day, Defense Minister Nikola Kljusev said in Skopje that the government is concerned about delays in the evacuation to third countries of refugees already in Macedonia. Sadako Ogata, who is the UN high commissioner for refugees, recently asked Australia, Canada, and the U.S. to postpone plans to take in refugees lest the Kosovars find themselves too far from their homeland. Macedonia is currently home to over 100,000 Kosovars, some 60,000 of whom are staying with families. In Lojane, each house in the village of 2,000 hosts some 10 to 30 Kosovars, Reuters reported. Meanwhile at Radusa, a spokesman for the OSCE's William Walker referred to the local camp as a "concentration camp." Women residents spoke of frequent harassment by Macedonian guards, AP reported. PM DANGERS FOR MACEDONIA. In Washington, a study prepared for the House of Representatives warned that a continuing influx of refugees could destabilize Macedonia. The paper added that the small but militant Serbian minority poses a lasting threat to U.S. troops there, Reuters noted on 12 April. Elsewhere, President Kiro Gligorov told the German weekly "Der Spiegel" that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic poses a danger both for Serbia and for the entire Balkan region. Gligorov stressed that Serbia is the only Balkan country that has not begun a process of democratization and economic reform. PM SERBS CONTINUE TO DRIVE OUT KOSOVARS. More than 3,000 Kosovar refugees arrived in the Albanian town of Kukes on 13 April, an OSCE official told Reuters. The official said the refugees came from Prishtina and Prizren. It was the biggest influx in three days and brings the total number of refugees in Albania to 310,000. Private families have put up about half of them. With foreign assistance, the Albanian authorities have so far built 24 refugee camps with space for a total of 31,000 people. Another 10 camps with a total capacity of 58,000 are currently under construction. FS FIGHTING ALONG ALBANIAN-KOSOVAR BORDER ESCALATES. A battle between Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) guerrillas and Serbian forces entered its fourth day near Tropoja on 12 April. The Yugoslav army fired mortars at the village, Reuters reported. Serbian state television claimed that its forces killed 150 UCK fighters. The report could not be independently confirmed. Albanian and French army helicopters evacuated six wounded UCK fighters and one journalist to the Tirana military hospital. Meanwhile, Serbian troops began torching three villages inside Kosova near Prizren on the night of 12 April. The burning appeared to be part of a Serbian campaign to prevent Kosovars from returning. Refugees had earlier described the villages as "ghost towns" after Serbian forces had expelled the population. Some refugees reported seeing corpses sprawled along the roadside in these areas. Elsewhere, "Der Spiegel" summarized dozens of interviews with refugees from throughout Kosova, which suggest that Serbian forces frequently carry out killings, often in a sadistic fashion. FS MILO HAILS NATO SUPPORT. Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo told the BBC on 12 April that "NATO is a guarantee for our sovereignty [and] territorial integrity." He accused Milosevic of trying to "destabilize" Albania. The same day, French and U.S. helicopters and troops arrived in Albania as the first part of NATO's 8,000-strong Allied Harbor mission to help aid agencies cope with the influx of refugees. A French army spokesman told Reuters that "the purpose of Operation Allied Harbor will be to coordinate NATO's military assistance to the government of Albania and to international organizations to help alleviate the suffering" of the refugees. FS NATO HITS SERBIAN REFINERIES. NATO aircraft hit oil refineries in Pancevo and Novi Sad on 12 April as part of a campaign to slow Milosevic's war machine by denying it oil and gasoline. Serbian authorities said that a passenger train was hit, killing nine and wounding 16. A NATO spokesman said in Brussels that the Atlantic alliance does not deliberately target trains but added that it does hit transportation and communications infrastructure that has military uses. PM NATO REAFFIRMS FIVE DEMANDS FOR MILOSEVIC. Foreign ministers of the Atlantic alliance's 19 member states agreed in Brussels on 12 April that air strikes will continue until Milosevic agrees to meet NATO's five demands. These are that he stop the killings and expulsions, withdraw his forces, permit international peacekeepers in the province, allow refugees and displaced persons to go home, and accept the Rambouillet accords, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" wrote. The ministers warned Milosevic against attempting to destabilize Macedonia, Albania, or Montenegro, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The ministers also discussed ways in which Russia might be brought into an eventual peacekeeping force. Britain's Robin Cook said in London on 13 April: "We would hope that together [NATO and Russia] might be able to make progress in getting Belgrade to recognize that the world is not going to let them get away with ethnic cleansing" in Kosova. PM ALBRIGHT MEETS WITH REGIONAL MINISTERS. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright discussed the crisis in Kosova on 12 April in Brussels with her counterparts from Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Romania, and Slovenia, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. She reaffirmed the international community's interest in regional stability and pledged support for those countries taking in Kosovar refugees. Albright also stressed that she will do "all in her power" to support the "democratic government in Montenegro" and prevent efforts to destabilize it. She turned down a request from the UCK for anti-tank weapons, saying that Washington supports the arms embargo against Yugoslavia. PM MONTENEGRO REJECTS UNION WITH RUSSIA, BELARUS. Deputy speaker of parliament Predrag Popovic reminded reporters in Podgorica on 12 April that the Montenegrin government does not recognize the legitimacy of the federal authorities in Belgrade. He added that Podgorica accordingly rejects the federal parliament's decision to seek admission to the Union of Belarus and Russia (see stories in Part I and above). Social Democratic leader Zarko Rakcevic said that Milosevic is trying to give "false hope" to Serbs through what he portrays as an alliance with Russia. Rakcevic said that Montenegro is more interested in joining NATO's Partnership for Peace program and the EU than in "linking up with ultranationalists." He stressed that Russia and Montenegro need to base their cooperation on concrete economic and cultural programs rather on "myths and Orthodox fundamentalism," AP reported. Observers note that Montenegrins are traditionally known for their Russophile sentiments. PM YUGOSLAV NAVY TOLD TO LEAVE BAR. Petrasin Kasalica, who is the chief administrator of the Montenegrin port of Bar, told the Yugoslav Navy Command in a letter on 12 April to withdraw its vessels from that port immediately. He stressed that a gunboat recently acted "provocatively" by firing on NATO aircraft. Kasalica called the incident "a clear breach of trust and abuse of our friendship and hospitality." He added that "under the present circumstances, the port of Bar does not need the protection of the Yugoslav Navy," Reuters reported. PM WAR CRIMES TRIAL OPENS IN HAGUE. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia opened proceedings on 12 April against Croats Dario Kordic and Mario Cerkez for war crimes against Muslims in central Bosnia during the 1993-1994 internecine war. The two men turned themselves in to the court in 1997. PM BOSNIAN ECONOMY HIT BY KOSOVA CRISIS. Bosnian Federal Industry and Mining Minister Mirsad Salkic said in Sarajevo on 12 April that Bosnia has now lost recently restored economic links to Serbian companies. He added that NATO's closure of Bosnian air space to civilian traffic is also costing airports and local carriers dearly, Reuters reported. PM ROMANIA, IMF, RENEW NEGOTIATIONS. The IMF's chief negotiator for Romania, Emmanuel Zervoudakis, met in Bucharest on 12 April with Transportation Minister Traian Basescu, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. An IMF team of experts has been in Bucharest since last week. Basescu said the meeting aimed at bringing in line the envisaged standby accord with the IMF with the $300 million World Bank loan agreed to in March. He said the fund will grant a much larger loan if the negotiations are successful. In June, Romania must service some $900 million of its foreign debt and its capability to do so depends on the outcome of the negotiations with the fund. Zervoudakis said after a first round of February- March negotiations in Bucharest that "some progress" had been made but not sufficient to meet IMF conditions for renewing loans. MS ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS TALK ON NATO GROUND FORCES 'PREMATURE.' Andrei Plesu said in an interview on 12 April with Romanian state radio that it is "premature" to discuss which position Romania will adopt in the event that NATO launches a ground attack on Yugoslavia. Plesu said Romania has not been "even vaguely approached" on the matter by NATO and that the position "in any case rests with the parliament alone." Plesu also said Bucharest will not diverge from its decision to not "become directly involved" in military operations. European Integration Minister Alexandru Herlea on the same day said Milosevic, "just like Ceausescu, embodies [a] political mixture between communism and nazism," Mediafax reported. MS UKRAINIAN CARGO PLANE DETAINED IN CHISINAU. The Moldovan customs authorities on 9 April detained in Chisinau a Ukrainian "Air Alliance" AN-26 cargo plane secretly transporting 5,000 Hungarian-made pistols bound for Yemen, via Sofia, Infotag and Reuters reported the same day. The plane, which originated in Budapest, landed in Chisinau due to technical problems. The crew provided documentation claiming the plane was transporting oil exploration equipment. On 12 March, a Ukrainian plane belonging to the "Air City" company was detained in Chisinau on route to Yemen, upon suspicion that it was transporting cartridge-cases. That plane was allowed to take off following the intervention of the Ukrainian embassy. "Air City" said it will sue for damages. 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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