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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 75, Part II, 19 April 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 75, Part II, 19 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 * MECIAR RE-ELECTED PARTY HEAD * NATO: EVIDENCE OF 43 MASS GRAVE SITES IN KOSOVA * ANOTHER 34,000 REFUGEES REACH ALBANIA End Note: WHAT IF MILOSEVIC SURVIVES? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE UKRAINE INVITES RUGOVA TO KYIV. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk on 16 April said Ukraine has asked Yugoslavia to allow Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova to come to Kyiv and freely express his opinion on the Kosova conflict. Tarasyuk said Ukraine wants to "dispel doubts that Rugova had spoken earlier [in Yugoslavia] without any pressure," AP reported. Tarasyuk added that Ukraine is also ready to grant shelter until the end of the conflict to the three U.S. soldiers captured by Yugoslav forces last month. JM KUCHMA FIRES ENERGY OFFICIALS. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma on 16 April fired deputy energy ministers Yuriy Ulitych and Serhiy Kuzmenko for "abuse of authority" and Zinoviy Busyo, head of the National Commission for Energy Regulation, for "serious negligence" in his work, Ukrainian Television reported. Kuchma also instructed the energy minister to dismiss directors of two energy companies. Kuchma made the personnel decisions after reading preliminary findings of an investigation into alleged abuses in the energy sectors. JM UKRAINIAN REPORT ON POSITIVE INVESTMENT CLIMATE QUESTIONED. A Ukrainian delegation --including Finance Minister Ihor Mityukov and National Bank Chairman Viktor Yushchenko--has told a European Bank for Reconstruction and Development board meeting in London that Ukraine is an attractive place for foreign investors, an RFE/RL correspondent reported on 18 April. Several Western business leaders publicly questioned Kyiv's assessments and urged speedier reforms. They said administrative hurdles, foreign exchange restrictions, and an incomplete legal framework make Ukraine difficult and risky for foreigners. JM BELARUS HOLDS LOCAL ELECTION RUNOFF. According to official data, 45.6 percent of the eligible voters participated in the local election runoff on 16 April, Belapan reported the next day. Under the local election law, the second round of voting is valid if turnout exceeds 25 percent. After the runoff vote, all but two of the regional and village councils in Belarus have a quorum. JM BELARUS'S POLISH MINORITY LEADER DETAINED. The Belarusian police on 17 April arrested Tadeusz Gawin, chairman of the Union of Poles in Belarus, for organizing an unsanctioned picket in Hrodna. Gawin is to stand trial on 21 April for disturbing the public order. The protesters brandished posters blaming the central and local authorities for "suppressing the Polish educational system" in Belarus, "Gazeta wyborcza" reported on 19 April. Belarus's Poles complain that since Alyaksandr Lukashenka became president in 1994, they have not been allowed to build new Polish-language schools in Belarus. JM EESTI TELEKOM RESTRUCTURING COMPLETED. The restructuring of Eesti Telekom has been completed following the company's acquisition of all shares in its subsidiaries, Eesti Telefon and Eesti Mobiiltelefon, ETA reported on 16 April. The company's share capital now totals some 1.37 billion kroons ($95.8 million). Following the tender for shares in Eesti Telekom earlier this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 January 1999), the state has a 27.28 percent stake in the company, while private investors own 23.72 percent, Baltic Tele AB 25.5 percent, and Sweden's Telia AB and Finland's Sonera Holding B.V. 11.75 percent each. JC VAN DER STOEL AGAIN OBJECTS TO LATVIA'S LANGUAGE BILL. In a letter to Dzintars Abikis, head of the parliamentary Education, Culture, and Research Committee, OSCE Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel has voiced concern over Latvia's language bill, pointing in particular to the provision regulating language use in the private sector, BNS reported on 16 April. Van der Stoel warned that passage of the bill in its current form might impair Riga's chances of integration into the EU. OSCE experts are to meet with lawmakers from 4-5 May to discuss the draft legislation ahead of its third and final reading. JC KRISTOPANS PLEDGES TO CONTINUE PAYING PENSIONS ON TIME. Acknowledging that the social budget deficit is "one degree worse than planned," Latvian Prime Minister Vilis Kristopans told Latvian Radio that the shortfall will be covered by the surplus in the main budget, LETA reported on 16 April. "The situation is being closely monitored, and the government┼will continue to pay pensions on time," he said. Finance Minister Ivars Godmanis predicted last week that the social budget deficit could total 96 million lats (some $166 million) this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 April 1999). With regard to the issue of unemployment, which now exceeds 10 percent, Kristopans pledged to reduce that figure by the summer and ensure that export companies resume operations. Those companies have been strongly affected by the Russian financial crisis. JC CONSERVATIVES DISCUSS HOW TO MAKE PEACE BETWEEN PRESIDENT, PREMIER. Lithuania's ruling Conservative Party has discussed how to end the ongoing "war of words" between President Valdas Adamkus and Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius, ELTA reported on 16 April, citing the country's major dailies. That discussion took place after Adamkus met with parliamentary chairman Vytautas Landsbergis to discuss the issue. The president has indicated that he will make a statement later this week on the premier's conduct following the recent escalation in his conflict with Vagnorius (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 April 1999). JC POLISH PREMIER DENIES BEING COMMUNIST AGENT. Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek on 16 April denied that he collaborated with the Communist-era secret services, as alleged by a right-wing politician the day before (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 April 1999). Buzek called for his personal file to be examined to clear his name. "I know that I have been wrongfully accused. I am someone in whom the public should have complete trust. Therefore I decided to act immediately in this matter and explain it," he told Radio Zet. JM CZECH, HUNGARIAN, POLISH MILITARY CHIEFS PREFER AIR STRIKES TO GROUND TROOPS. The chiefs of staff of the Czech, Hungarian, and Polish armies reaffirmed their support for NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia at a meeting in Karlovy Vary on 17 April, CTK reported. General Jiri Sedivy, the head of the Czech army, said the question of introducing NATO ground forces in Yugoslavia is a "political" one. Hungarian army chief Ferenc Vegh said a ground operation would be "complicated" and dangerous from a military point of view. Polish General Henryk Szumski also attended the meeting. The previous day, the Defense and Foreign Affairs Committees of the three countries' parliaments issued a joint statement pledging their unequivocal support for the NATO operation. Meanwhile, a poll by the STEM polling agency found that opposition to NATO air attacks in the Czech Republic has risen from 40 percent to 48 percent over the last two weeks. PB CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER: GOVERNMENT LIKELY TO COMPLY WITH NATO REQUEST FOR AIRPORTS. Jan Kavan said on 16 April that the government will likely agree to a NATO request that the alliance's planes be allowed to use military airports in the Czech Republic, CTK reported. Kavan said the alliance will request the use of one or two airports at which NATO refueling aircraft can land. He added that the Czech parliament will have to approve the request as well. Earlier, Prague agreed to allow refueling planes to overfly Czech territory. In other news, Jiri Dienstbier, former Czech foreign minister and currently UN rapporteur for human rights, said on Czech Television on 18 April that the bombing campaign against Yugoslavia was a "fatal mistake" that shows Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic that NATO "is not willing to risk the bones of a single soldier." PB ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN BRATISLAVA. Andrei Plesu met with his Slovak counterpart, Eduard Kukan, in Bratislava on 16 April, CTK reported. Plesu praised Romania and Slovakia over their treatment of minorities, saying that other methods "lead to tragedy." Kukan said both ministers agreed that a solution to the crisis in Kosova should be found without the intervention of NATO ground troops. He added that the two countries have similar foreign policy goals, including entry into NATO and the EU, and that bilateral cooperation in all areas will be strengthened. PB MECIAR RE-ELECTED PARTY HEAD. Former Slovak Premier Vladimir Meciar has been re-elected chairman of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), AP reported on 19 April. Meciar is quoted by the daily "Sme" as telling an HZDS congress on the weekend that the arrest last week of the former director of secret service Ivan Lexa made him decide to re-enter politics (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 April 1999). PB SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE NATO: EVIDENCE OF 43 MASS GRAVE SITES IN KOSOVA. Brigadier General Giuseppe Marani, who is a spokesman for the Atlantic alliance, said in Brussels on 18 April that aerial reconnaissance suggests there are 43 mass grave sites in various parts of Kosova. He added that "there have been numerous refugee reports of Serbian police assembling [Kosovars] into grave-digging chain gangs┼. They are being used by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to dig graves for their countrymen killed by Serbian ethnic cleansing." Marani described the graves as "neat rows of individual graves pointing toward Mecca." He did not specify the total number of persons whom NATO believes to be buried in the graves. PM THOUSANDS FLEE TO MACEDONIA. Some 15,000 Kosovars arrived in Macedonia during the weekend of 16-18 April, Reuters reported. This was the result of a "final push" by Serbian forces to clear southwestern Kosova of ethnic Albanians by applying the now-familiar pattern of "emptying, looting and burning villages," AP and the BBC added. On 17 April, Macedonian Defense Minister Nikola Kljusev said in Blace that his country will not build additional refugee camps to house the new arrivals. He demanded that the international community honor its agreements with Macedonia and move quickly to resettle the refugees in third countries. PM MACEDONIA TO ESTABLISH 'BORDER ZONE'? Interior Minister Pavle Trajanov said in Skopje on 17 April that Macedonia has no intention of allowing either the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) or Belgrade to force Macedonia into the conflict. Trajanov noted that Macedonian authorities recently found three UCK arms caches just inside the border and added that "there have been various attempts to infiltrate arms into Macedonia from Albania by various channels." He did not elaborate. The minister suggested that the UCK might be seeking to destabilize Macedonia by "militarizing" it. He added that Serbian forces might want to strike south of the border in order to eliminate UCK strongholds. Trajanov concluded that the only solution for Skopje could soon be to establish a six-mile-wide "restricted border zone" along the frontier with Serbia and Kosova. He did not specify when the authorities would set up the zone or what rules would obtain there. PM MACEDONIA URGES AID AGENCIES TO BUY LOCAL FOOD. Macedonian Ambassador to the U.K. Stevo Crvenkovski told officials from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in London on 18 April that aid agencies are flying food into Macedonia at a time when Macedonian farmers have a surplus of food that they can sell only with difficulty. Crvenkovski also called for Western debt relief to help Macedonia cope with the refugees. FS REFUGEE TOTAL OVER 600,000. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees said in a statement in Geneva on 18 April that more than 600,000 Kosovars have fled their country. Some 359,000 are in Albania, 133,000 in Macedonia, 73,000 in Montenegro, and 32,000 in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The largest group outside the former Yugoslavia consists of nearly 10,000 in Germany, followed by 3,700 in Turkey and 1,100 in Norway, AP reported. PM ANOTHER 34,000 REFUGEES REACH ALBANIA. Another 34,000 refugees arrived in Kukes over the weekend, Reuters reported on 18 April. Refugees said that another 50,000 or so are currently en route to that city. Five refugees died on 18 April near the Morina border crossing when their car hit a mine. According to an OSCE monitor, Serbian forces have made a deliberate practice of leaving dead bodies along the road to frighten the fleeing refugees. Meanwhile, relief agencies made plans on 18 April to evacuate by helicopter some of the 130,000 refugees in Kukes, but many refugees refused to leave, saying they want to stay close to their homes. A large number of refugees there live in the open, protected only by plastic sheets. NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said in Brussels on 17 April that the effects of the current "second round of major ethnic cleansing" are exacerbated by food and water shortages among those internally displaced. Many children arriving in Albania show signs of malnutrition, the BBC added. FS YUGOSLAVIA BREAKS DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS WITH ALBANIA. Yugoslavia broke diplomatic relations with Albania on 18 April, Albanian Foreign Ministry officials told Reuters. They added that the Yugoslav Foreign Ministry has accused Albania of involvement in the NATO attacks against Yugoslav targets. Meanwhile, NATO Supreme Commander for Europe General Wesley Clark met with Prime Minister Pandeli Majko on 17 April in Tirana to discuss the possibility of a Yugoslav military threat to Albania. Clark told reporters later that Yugoslav forces are "indiscriminately firing rockets into Albania" and warned that Milosevic must "cease this aggression." The general added that the Serbian president represents a "danger to regional stability." And in northern Albania, NATO began preparations for the quick deployment of 24 U.S. Apache anti-tank helicopters, which are due to arrive in the region shortly. FS ALBANIAN MINISTER WARNS OF POSSIBLE ECONOMIC CRISIS. Albanian Minister for Economic Cooperation and Trade Ermelinda Meksi told EBRD officials in London on 18 April that Albania will need $800 million to cope with the influx of refugees. She warned that the "impact of events in Kosova could upset the delicate balance of Albania's newly regained stability." And she stressed that the Albanian government has had significant economic success, achieving an 8 percent growth rate and lowering inflation from 42.1 percent in 1997 to only 8.7 percent the following year. An official in the Treasury Department of the Finance Ministry told Reuters that this year's budget deficit is expected to reach 15 percent of GDP. Before the refugee crisis began, the government had predicted a 10 percent shortfall. FS CLINTON: MILOSEVIC OBSTACLE TO BALKAN PEACE. U.S. President Bill Clinton wrote in London's "Sunday Times" on 18 April that there will be no lasting peace in the Balkans until Milosevic is be secure with a belligerent tyrant in its midst┼. We a re in [Kosova] because Europe's worst demagogue has once again moved from angry words to unspeakable violence." Clinton added that Serbia needs "a democratic transition" a to become more integrated with the rest of Europe (see "RFE/RL New removed from power. Clinton stressed that "the region cannot sline," 16 April 1999). Elsewhere, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said that "there is no doubt that while nd Milosevic remains in this region, we have a significant problem." PM BULGARIAN, CROATIAN MINISTERS CALL FOR MILOSEVIC OUSTER. Croatian Deputy Prime Minister Borislav Skegro told a "Wall Street Journal" conference in London on 16 April that NATO must introduce ground troops if the refugees are to go home at any time soon. He added that "keeping Milosevic in power does not solve anything." Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Bozhkov told the same gathering that "we expected $1.0 billion in foreign direct investment this year. I do not think we will get even half of it" as a result of the crisis in Kosova. "With Milosevic in power, nothing can be done," Bozhkov concluded. PM DJUKANOVIC: MILOSEVIC MUST GO. Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic told Reuters on 16 April that "there is an objective danger that the fire and blood [in Kosova] could engulf not only Yugoslavia but also the entire region As long as Milosevic is in power, and I hope that that will not be for much longer, there will be continuing attempts by his supporters to suppress and destroy democracy in Montenegro, where he sees us as a threat┼. Anyone who tries to conscript a minister or tries to apprehend him is certainly trying to provoke a conflict in Montenegro" (see below). Djukanovic argued that a civil war in Montenegro would be "more tragic and worse than anything else seen" in the former Yugoslavia. PM YUGOSLAV ARMY COURT ISSUES WARRANT FOR MONTENEGRIN MINISTER. The military court in Podgorica has issued an arrest warrant for Deputy Prime Minister Novak Kilibarda, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 18 April. The court wants to try Kilibarda for allegedly "undermining the military and defense capabilities" of Yugoslavia. Court officials said that they issued the warrant after Kilibarda refused to respond to an earlier summons to appear before that body. Kilibarda is being guarded by members of the police force, which is loyal to Djukanovic. PM SERBIAN FORCES SEARCH ALBANIANS IN MONTENEGRO. Houses of Albanians living in the Montenegrin town of Rozaje were searched by Serbian forces for arms on 18 April, VOA's Albanian Service reported. Rozaje is located virtually on the Montenegrin border with Kosova. Ethnic Albanian political leaders in Montenegro subsequently appealed to the Montenegrin authorities to protect their citizens against a possible spread of "ethnic cleansing" from Kosova to Montenegro. FS ROMANIAN PRESIDENT REASSURES ROMANIANS OF SECURITY. Emil Constantinescu said on 16 April that Romania will continue to live in peace and security, despite the developments in Yugoslavia, Rompres reported. Constantinescu said on Romanian Television that "all the outstanding voices of the international political life consider our country to be a zone of stability." He added that Romania's security is a result of its firm decision to join NATO and the EU, noting that there cannot be "content-less neutrality stands." PB ROMANIA TO DENY RUSSIA USE OF AIR SPACE. Romanian Defense Minister Victor Babiuc said on 17 April that Russia will not be allowed to use Romanian air space to fly humanitarian aid to Yugoslavia, AP reported. He added that Moscow will be allowed only to transport aid across Romania via land. Bulgarian Radio reported that Romania has also been asked by NATO to provide an air corridor for its planes (see below), but Romanian officials have not confirmed that report. In other news, Romanian officials said on 18 April that the country has lost $175 million in trade as a result of the crisis in Kosova. PB MOLDOVA EXPECTS TO SIGN WORLD BANK LOAN THIS WEEK. Moldovan Deputy Prime Minister Alexandru Muravschi said on 18 April that the government expects to sign a loan agreement with the World Bank later this week, an RFE/RL correspondent in London reported. Muravschi made the remark at an EBRD board meeting. She did not say how large the loan would be but noted that it would bolster hard currency reserves in the Central Bank. The country's reserves reportedly fell to $143 million late last year but have since increased to $192 million. PB BULGARIAN PRESIDENT POSTPONES U.S. VISIT... Petar Stoyanov returned to Bulgaria in mid-flight to the U.S. on 16 April after learning that NATO had made a request for an air corridor over Bulgaria. He was on his way to Washington ahead of ceremonies marking NATO's 50th anniversary. In an address broadcast by Bulgarian Radio before he left for the U.S., Stoyanov called on the cabinet and parliament to provide logistical support for NATO if it requested an air corridor. He said that Bulgaria will continue to support the West and that Bulgaria's interests coincide with those of the Western world and not those of a "handful of Yugoslav politicians." Stoyanov is expected to attend the NATO ceremonies. PB ...AS SOFIA CONSIDERS NATO REQUEST FOR AIR CORRIDOR. Prime Minister Ivan Kostov called for consultations with parliamentary groups on 18 April over the NATO request for an air corridor, Bulgarian radio reported. The Bulgarian Constitution requires that the parliament agree to such a request. Lawmakers declared at the beginning of NATO operations in Yugoslavia that Sofia will "participate neither directly nor indirectly in the military actions." Opposition among political parties to the request is expected. In other news, Nikolay Dobrev, the deputy chairman of the Supreme Council of the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party, died on 17 April at the age of 51. He was interior minister from 1996- 1997. PB END NOTE WHAT IF MILOSEVIC SURVIVES? by Christopher Walker As the target of the international community's second major military operation this decade, Slobodan Milosevic is on the receiving end of a rhetorical campaign directed by the leadership of the Western alliance confronting his country. From the outset, the Clinton administration and NATO officials have repeatedly characterized the NATO attack in individual ways. Operation Allied Force has variously been described as an effort to cause President Milosevic to change his mind as well as his pattern of behavior, while Milosevic himself has been depicted in Hitler-like fashion. Though the Yugoslav leader is without question a vile, ruthless man, the reliance on inflated language-- focused overwhelmingly on one leader in order to make the case for military action--does not come without a price. As the prospect of a Kosova partition seeps its way into the public dialogue, one can only imagine the recriminations that will abound within the transatlantic alliance and the U.S. foreign policy community if Milosevic is able to maintain his rule and lay claim to a significant portion of Kosova--even if beforehand NATO virtually emasculates the Yugoslav military and destroys a good portion of that country's infrastructure. Exacerbating this personality-driven phenomenon is the fact that much of the mainstream Western news media tends all too readily to follow the example that policy- makers set by portraying highly complex conflicts as little more than a showdown with one unsavory thug. But beyond the inconsistencies in the U.S. administration's communication strategy in the Kosova conflict, there is another important issue to contemplate in the case of Serbia. Although Milosevic is indisputably a wily and resilient leader capable of manipulating public sentiment, it is safe to say that his policies on Kosova are not entirely without domestic support within Serbia. Despite driving the Yugoslav economy into the ground and turning his country into a regional bandit state, Milosevic is still accepted by many Serbs, not least because of his nationalist program. His most enthusiastic core support may be a relatively small portion of the entire Yugoslav population, but his rule has been tolerated by the Serbian masses. With the exception of student-led protests in Belgrade in the winter of 1996-1997, there has been no concerted, consistent opposition movement against the Yugoslav leader. Milosevic has managed to split, and in part co-opt, an unorganized opposition and manipulate a large segment of the Serbian population through control over state-run media. Independent media were consistently harassed and forced to the margins until the NATO attack began. Not surprisingly, one of the Yugoslav regime's first acts after NATO bombs began to fall was to crack down on foreign news organizations and domestic independent media. Although some critics remain, much of what constituted the most active political opposition has already left Yugoslavia. A large number of educated, liberal-minded Serbs have elected to forsake their native country for Western Europe or North America over the past decade in frustration and disgust over the Milosevic regime's crony economics and anti-democratic practices. Those who remain are either too fatigued and demoralized to fight for change or have been driven into Milosevic's arms in a show of national solidarity during the NATO bombings. One cannot underestimate how fiercely the Yugoslav leader will seek to retain his authority. Milosevic arguably has as much to fear from losing power as do the countries of the NATO alliance if he manages to hold onto it. If wrested from power, he would face, among other things, retribution from forces within Serbia. This could well mean a rather undignified and painful end to his reign. From outside, he and his associates face the prospect of pursuit and prosecution by the International War Crimes Tribunal. In the end, however, history may repeat itself. The international community could become caught between the rhetoric of demonization and the reality that Milosevic is still confronting it. President Bill Clinton recently observed that Milosevic "would rather rule over rubble rather than not rule at all." As we learned eight years ago in the Persian Gulf-- and may well discover with Milosevic--the inability to oust a demonized adversary is likely to be interpreted as a policy failure, irrespective of the enormous damage the allied forces inflict and whether they have otherwise achieved their stated military goals. The author is a New York-based analyst specializing in East European affairs (email@example.com). 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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