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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 78, Part II, 22 April 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 78, Part II, 22 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 * KUCHMA SAYS UKRAINE, RUSSIA UNANIMOUS ON KOSOVA * SOLANA: NATO TO STICK TO AIR CAMPAIGN * MONTENEGRO VOWS TO REOPEN BORDER xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE KUCHMA SAYS UKRAINE, RUSSIA UNANIMOUS ON KOSOVA... Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma told regional journalists in Kyiv on 21 April that Ukraine backs Russia's peace plan for Kosova. Earlier the same day, Kuchma met with former Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, who is now Russia's special envoy for Yugoslavia. "Our positions [on Kosova] fully coincide. This problem can be resolved only through preserving Yugoslavia's territorial integrity, granting Kosova broad autonomy, halting military actions, and withdrawing the Serbian army from Kosova," he said. JM ...EXPLAINS GOAL OF VISIT TO WASHINGTON... Kuchma also said he is going to attend the NATO summit in Washington "not to celebrate NATO's anniversary but to resolve Ukraine's problems," Ukrainian Television reported. Kuchma is planning to talk with U.S. President Bill Clinton, U.S. senators and businessmen, and representatives of the IMF and the World Bank during the summit. Kuchma said Ukraine condemns the military action in Kosova, but he added that he "as a politician cannot ignore today's realities, including the fact of NATO's existence." JM ...SLAMS LEGISLATURE FOR BLOCKING REFORM. Also on 21 April, Kuchma accused the Supreme Council of blocking reform and turning itself into a leftist rostrum for the presidential election campaign, Reuters reported. "Our system of power is absolutely paralyzed.Ö The parliament no longer fulfills its main, law-making function and is preoccupied with political bickering," he commented. Communist lawmakers have threatened to boycott the session and paralyze the legislature unless it overrides presidential vetoes on a law providing one-time subsidies to war veterans and another on increasing the minimum pension from the current 16.6 hryvni ($4.2) to 55 hryvni. Meanwhile, leftist deputies on 21 April failed once again to pass an anti-NATO bill (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 April 1999). JM BELARUSIAN COURT EXAMINES TERRORIST ACT AGAINST LUKASHENKA. At the Belarusian Supreme Court, the trial of three residents of Mahileu began on 21 April. One of the defendants is charged with killing Yauhen Mikalutski, head of the Mahileu branch of the State Control Committee, in a bomb attack on 6 October 1997. The other two are accused of plotting a terrorist act against Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. The trial is taking place behind closed doors. Lukashenka said last October that the assassination of Mikalutski was connected to an attempt on the president's life (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 1998). Lukashenka also suggested at the time that a plan to assassinate the Belarusian president was prepared in the Drazdy residential compound, near Minsk, where several Western ambassadors had their residences. JM IMPRISONED OPPOSITIONIST'S WIFE CONDUCTS HIS ELECTION CAMPAIGN. Yuliya Chyhir, the wife of former Belarusian Premier Mikhail Chyhir, who is now in jail on charges of grand larceny (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 9 April 1999), is campaigning for her husband in the opposition presidential elections scheduled for 16 May, Belapan reported on 21 April. According to Mrs. Chyhir, the voters she has met are ready to participate in the opposition elections. Lukashenka's popularity rating is falling "not by days, but by hours," she commented. Mrs. Chyhir also said that people are skeptical about the charges against her husband and tend to view them as politically motivated. Mrs. Chyhir is scheduled to speak on RFE/RL on 25 April, together with the other presidential candidate, Zyanon Paznyak, to answer Belarusian voters' questions on behalf of her husband. JM BELARUS'S POLISH MINORITY LEADER FINED OVER SCHOOL PROTEST. Tadeusz Gawin, head of the Union of Poles in Belarus, was fined 115 million Belarusian rubles ($477) by a Belarusian court on 21 April for organizing an unsanctioned picket and for defaming three officials (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 April 1999), Polish Radio reported. "That is as much as an average Belarusian earns over a year. I feel that this is an unjust verdict, since all our actions and protests concerned the fundamental issue of the development of Polish schools in Belarus," Gawin told Polish Radio. JM RUSSIAN-LATVIAN COMISSION TO RESUME WORK SOON? On returning from Moscow, Latvian Transport Minister Anatolijs Gorbunovs told journalists in Riga on 21 April that his meeting with Russian Minister for National Minorities Ramazan Abdulatipov was "very successful" and "very constructive," LETA reported. Gorbunovs also commented that in order to maintain "normal economic relations" with Russia, Latvia should be "more yielding and guarantee equal rights for Russian businessmen, as Lithuania and Estonia do." The previous day, "Diena" had quoted Abdulatipov as saying there are no "political barriers" to resuming the work of the Russian-Latvian intergovernmental commission. According to Abdulatipov, all working groups of the commission will begin work soon. Abdulatipov and Gorbunovs are co-chairmen of the commission. JC LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT BACKS PREMIER... By a vote of 77 to 46 with five abstentions, the parliament has given its backing to Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius, following President Valdas Adamkus's expression of no confidence in the premier earlier this week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April 1999). The vote on the non-binding motion, proposed by the ruling Conservatives, was secret, as requested by Vagnorius, ELTA reported. Earlier, the premier had told lawmakers that if he resigned now, the new government would be "subservient" to the president. According to parliamentary chairman Vytautas Landsbergis, the vote was "logical and responsible" and gives the premier the green light to continue in office. JC ...BUT PRESIDENT STILL WANTS HIM TO RESIGN. Responding to the outcome of the vote in the parliament, Adamkus expressed regret that the Conservatives did not seize the opportunity to "take a step favorable for Lithuania." He added that "all I can do now is wait for the prime minister to make a decision." His spokeswoman, Violeta Gaizauskaite, indicated that Adamkus had already made clear in his 19 April television address that he expects Vagnorius to resign, ELTA and BNS reported. The premier, for his part, has said he will respond to the president's charges within the next week. In the meantime, Adamkus will attend the NATO summit in Washington, before returning to Vilnius on 26 April. JC LUSTRATION PROSECUTOR INVESTIGATES ALLEGATIONS AGAINST POLISH PREMIER. Lustration prosecutor Boguslaw Nizienski on 21 April questioned parliamentary deputy Tomasz Karwowski, who has filed an application to lustrate Polish Premier Jerzy Buzek (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 April 1999). "I never said that Buzek was a collaborator of the [communist-era] special services, I said that I have doubts about this matter," Karwowski told Polish Radio later. Nizienski has decided to call other witnesses before making any decision on Buzek. Meanwhile, Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski has said he is convinced that Buzek was not a collaborator. Krzaklewski added that he "absolutely precludes" the possibility that Buzek's denial that he collaborated can be called into question and submitted to the lustration court for further scrutiny. JM CZECH, SLOVAK PARLIAMENTS GIVE GREEN LIGHT TO NATO. Both houses of the Czech parliament voted overwhelmingly on 21 April to allow the Atlantic alliance to use Czech airfields, roads, and rail facilities in conjunction with its efforts in the Balkans. In Bratislava, the Slovak government signed an agreement that will enable NATO to use Slovakia's rail system. Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan said that the alliance now has Bratislava's permission to use "any Slovak means of transportation," AP reported. In Prague, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan said on 22 April that Czech media pay too much attention to the suffering of the Serbs and not enough to that of the Kosovars. Kavan suggested that this might help explain why Czech public opinion is less than fully supportive of NATO's policy in the Balkans, CTK reported. PM HUNGARY WILL NOT PARTICIPATE IN GROUND ATTACKS AGAINST YUGOSLAVIA. Leaders of all six parliamentary parties in Hungary agreed on 21 April that Budapest will not participate in the possible launching of NATO ground attacks on Yugoslavia, Hungarian media reported. Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi said it is unlikely that any decision taken at the forthcoming NATO summit would make Hungary change its stand. Prime Minister Viktor Orban told journalists that so far Hungary has received no request to allow NATO trains carrying ammunition and technical equipment to transit the country. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE SOLANA: NATO TO STICK TO AIR CAMPAIGN... NATO Secretary- General Javier Solana said in Brussels on 22 April that the Atlantic alliance's "strategy [in the Balkans] is not going to change" at the 50th anniversary summit in Washington on 23 April. "The question of [introducing] ground troops [in Kosova] will not be debated at all. No decision will be taken at the summit.Ö The strategy is clear. It is the air campaign. It will continue to be so," AP quoted him as saying. Asked about reports that NATO is updating contingency plans for possible ground troop deployment, Solana said that "all the options have been contemplated several months ago and all the options are kept updated." PM ...BUT WILL IT? Solana told the "Washington Post" of 21 April that it is necessary to show Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic that "all options are on the table." In London, "The Guardian" wrote that British Prime Minister Tony Blair will seek to convince President Bill Clinton at the summit that land forces should go to Kosova "soon." In Washington, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Defense Secretary William Cohen said that NATO can update contingency plans to introduce ground troops "very quickly." An unnamed White House official told AP that NATO may soon reconsider its earlier decision not to introduce ground troops. Other unnamed U.S. officials added that Solana has asked NATO commander General Wesley Clark to prepare plans for sending in land forces. The BBC noted that "momentum is building" in Washington and among the U.S. public at large to introduce ground troops. In Ottawa, Prime Minister Jean Chretien told Parliament that "if some day we're confronted with the necessity to send some ground troops, we'll do so." PM FISCHER TO PUSH PEACE PLAN IN WASHINGTON. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer recently discussed in Paris developing a joint approach to Kosova with his British, French, and Italian counterparts, the "Berliner Zeitung" reported on 22 April. Fischer and his European counterparts are determined to make Fischer's peace plan "the basis" of joint NATO policy at the upcoming summit, the Berlin daily continued. U.S. officials are skeptical of certain aspects of the plan, including a halt in air strikes as soon as Milosevic begins to withdraw his forces from the province. Washington prefers to continue the strikes until the withdrawal is complete or nearly so. PM MILOSEVIC TO DISRUPT NATO SUMMIT? Unnamed "senior NATO sources" are concerned that Milosevic may seek to disrupt the summit by accelerating the ethnic cleansing of Kosova or by provoking a new crisis with Albania or Montenegro, "The Daily Telegraph" reported on 22 April. NATO officials also fear Milosevic might provoke fighting in Bosnia or on the Montenegrin frontier with Croatia. Elsewhere, Milosevic told a Texas radio station by telephone that NATO is waging both "a military war and a media war" against him. He denied that the Kosovars are fleeing Serbian forces, arguing that they are running from NATO air strikes. PM NATO DESTROYS MILOSEVIC'S RESIDENCE. Milosevic's Tanjug news agency reported on 22 April that a NATO air strike destroyed the Serbian leader's home in Belgrade's fashionable Dedinje district. Neither Milosevic nor his family were in the residence at the time. This is the latest in a series of attacks directed against property or interests of the Serbian leader and people close to him (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 April 1999). PM SHEA: MOST KOSOVARS AWAY FROM HOME. NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said in Brussels on 21 April that some 1,052,000 Kosovar remain in the province and that 850,000 of them are internally displaced persons. He added that Serbian forces are shelling positions of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) west of Peja, where some 15,000 displaced persons have taken shelter. Shea noted that several non- NATO countries have sent medical or engineering units to help NATO relief operations in Albania. They include Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Austria, Slovenia, and Romania. PM AIRLIFT OF SICK REFUGEES BEGINS. Ten NATO helicopters evacuated about 90 refugees from the northern town of Kukes to Burrel in central Albania on 21 April, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Tirana. The sick refugees are in a critical condition. Evacuations also continued by road, but there are still about 130,000 refugees in Kukes living in poor hygienic conditions and often camping in the open. An OSCE spokesman in Tirana said that only 150 refugees arrived in Kukes from Kosova that day. At the Hani i Hotit border crossing near Shkodra, however, 2,700 refugees entered Albania via Montenegro, Reuters reported. It was the largest number of refugees arriving from Montenegro on a single day so far. Most came from Peja and Gjakova. Local authorities in Shkodra said they are running out of supplies and cannot accommodate more refugees in the area. FS NATO DEPLOYS FORCES IN KUKES. NATO military equipment arrived in Kukes on 21 April, mostly artillery pieces and armored vehicles, to prepare for the arrival of Apache helicopters from Tirana, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the capital. Albanian authorities have expressed concern that following the deployment of the Apaches, the northern mountains may become the scene of more serious clashes with Yugoslav forces in coming weeks and that the combat may pose a threat to the remaining refugees there. Fighting in the region continued on 21 April but at a lower intensity than the previous day, when 200 Serbian soldiers entered Albania and exchanged fire with Albanian forces, according to NATO spokesman Giuseppe Marani. An OSCE spokesman, however, told Reuters that four UCK fighters were killed and 18 wounded in fighting along the border near Tropoja on 21 April. FS ALBANIAN PRESIDENT URGES 'MARSHALL PLAN.' Rexhep Meidani told "Le Figaro" of 22 April that only extensive financial aid can guarantee lasting peace in the Balkans and contain nationalism, AP reported. He stressed that "we absolutely need an international initiative, a Marshall Plan for the Balkans." Meidani also accused Yugoslav forces of trying to drag Albania into a war by violating its borders. He added that "we don't want to get into this game. But in the event of a major foray on our territory, Albania will react vigorously." FS UN: MACEDONIA LEAVES REFUGEES CUT OFF. Officials of the UN's World Food Program said in Skopje on 22 April that Macedonian authorities have denied aid workers access for three days to some 6,000 Kosovars in the remote mountain hamlet of Malina. A spokesman told Reuters that "we are extremely worried about the plight of thousands of refugees now stranded. We fear we could have a major catastrophe on our hands. We can't wait any longer. We have to get food in. We are looking at saving lives." Another UN official added that "it's the same old story as Bosnia. The higher authorities give us the nod but police at the [local] checkpoint say 'no.'" Elsewhere, the government admitted several thousand refugees who had been stranded at the border. PM GEORGIEVSKI: GLIGOROV EXAGGERATES DANGER. Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski said in Skopje on 21 April that President Kiro Gligorov has "spread an atmosphere of uncertainty" by calling recently for the introduction of a state of emergency (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 April 1999). Georgievski, whose center- right coalition government "cohabits" with the Social Democratic president, charged that Gligorov spread fear by publicly describing what the prime minister called "fictitious situations" involving possible ethnic conflict in Macedonia, AP reported. PM TENSION CONTINUES AT PREVLAKA. On 21 April, the UN monitoring mission in the demilitarized area between Croatia and Montenegro protested the incursion by Yugoslav forces into that zone (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 April 1999). A UN spokesman said that some 20 soldiers remain at the border crossing. In Zagreb, Foreign Minister Mate Granic noted that Croatia is "carefully monitoring the situation" and is "fully capable of defending its interests" if need be. Unnamed military analysts told AP that Milosevic may be attempting to provoke a coup in Montenegro by fomenting tensions along the border. Unnamed Croatian officials added that Croatia may respond to the Yugoslav army move into the Montenegrin portion of the zone by sending its own forces into the Croatian portion. PM MONTENEGRO VOWS TO REOPEN BORDER. President Milo Djukanovic told the "Financial Times" of 22 April that "what we have here is a permanent attempt by Milosevic to destabilize Montenegro and overthrow the government by force." Djukanovic stressed that Montenegro will control its own frontier. Deputy Prime Minister Dragisa Burzan told Reuters in Podgorica the previous day that the Yugoslav army roadblock on the Montenegrin-Croatian frontier "will not last long because we will clear it." He charged that the army is "trying step-by-step to become a parallel authority in Montenegro." Elsewhere, army troops arrested a French television team and a journalist for the Croatian weekly "Globus." The troops also expelled journalists from the Split weekly "Feral Tribune," whom the Montenegrin authorities had admitted to Montenegro, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM STRIKES IN CROATIA. Staff at the Tisak press distribution agency began a strike on 21 April to protest mismanagement and increasing financial problems facing the firm. The strike affects the nationwide distribution of the dailies "Vecernji list," "Vjesnik," "Jutarnji list," and "Sportske Novosti." Elsewhere, union and management representatives failed to reach an agreement in Zagreb aimed at ending the ongoing railway strike, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT BACKS NATO AIRSPACE BID. The parliament on 22 April voted by 225 to 21 with 99 abstentions to approve a request by NATO for unlimited use of Romanian airspace in connection with the strikes against Yugoslavia, Mediafax reported. Yugoslav ambassador to Bucharest Desimir Jevtic had warned on the eve of the vote that the decision to offer NATO such access would constitute a flagrant violation of the basic treaty between the two countries. Meanwhile, a public opinion poll staged by the CURS shows that the number of Romanians supporting their country's membership in NATO has dropped from 67 percent in December 1998 to 52 percent since the alliance bombings began. Of the respondents, 84 percent said that the best solution to the Yugoslav conflict would be to immediately stop the war and return to the negotiating table. ZsM ROMANIA, IMF WRAP UP LOAN TALKS. The Romanian cabinet and the IMF on 21 April reached a preliminary agreement on a $500 million stand-by loan to help the country out of its current economic crisis, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The accord came after weeks of difficult talks. Romania's Finance Minister Decebal Traian Remes said that his government agreed to an annual inflation rate of up to 32 percent and a budget deficit not exceeding 2.5 percent of GDP. According to IMF chief negotiator Emanuel Zervoudakis, the IMF board of directors will examine the agreement in June. Also on 21 April, Romanian Prime Minister Radu Vasile met with trade union representatives and used the IMF accord as an argument to persuade them to abandon plans for a general strike beginning 26 April. The government-unions negotiations lasted 10 hours. ZsM MOLDOVA, RUSSIA SIGN AGREEMENTS. A Russian delegation led by First Deputy Premier Vadim Gustov signed in Chisinau on 21 April more than a dozen bilateral agreements, an RFE/RL correspondent in the Moldovan capital reported. The delegation attended a two-day session of the Joint Inter-Governmental Committee for Economic and Trade Cooperation. Among the signed documents were a Program for Economic Cooperation from 1999-2008 and an agreement allowing Moldova to pay some of its debt for Russian natural gas in food and agricultural products. The two sides also agreed to expedite the withdrawal of Russian military equipment and ammunition from the Transdniester region. According to Moldovan Premier Ion Sturza, the first 12 convoys are expected to leave the region soon. Also on 21 April, Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi left for Washington to attend the NATO 50th anniversary celebrations. He is accompanied by Foreign Minister Nicolae Tabacaru and Defense Minister Valeriu Pasat. DI BULGARIA TO ALLOW NATO LIMITED ACCESS TO AIR SPACE. On returning to Sofia on 21 April after talks in Brussels with senior NATO officials, Prime Minister Ivan Kostov said Bulgaria will grant NATO aircraft access to a 70-90 mile (112-144 kilometer) band of airspace along its western frontier with Yugoslavia and Macedonia, BTA reported. That ruling must be endorsed by the Constitutional Court and parliament, whose opposition deputies walked out in protest on after the speaker refused to schedule a debate on Kosova. AP quoted Kostov as saying that NATO will give Bulgaria guarantees of its security comparable to those granted Macedonia and Albania. Kostov added that NATO Secretary-General Solana had assured him NATO has no plans to deploy ground troops in the conflict. LF DONOR STATES PLEDGE ADDITIONAL SUPPORT FOR BULGARIA. In Brussels, 22 donor states meeting with the World Bank and other international institutions pledged $275 million in balance-of-payments support for Bulgaria, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported. Prime Minister Kostov on 21 April estimated that as a result of the Kosova conflict, Bulgaria's financial losses to date total DM 25 million ($13.54 million), predicting they could rise to more than $1 billion if the war continues for seven or eight months, Reuters reported. LF 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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