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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 79, Part II, 23 April 1999


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 79, Part II, 23 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

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Headlines, Part II

* CZECH SOCIALISTS TO VISIT BELGRADE TO SHOW SOLIDARITY

* CHERNOMYRDIN SAYS MILOSEVIC 'READY FOR PEACE'

* NATO TAKES 'MILOSEVISION' OFF THE AIR

END NOTE: EU TO DEVELOP TIES WITH ALBANIA, MACEDONIA
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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

UKRAINIAN COMMUNIST DEPUTIES WALK OUT TO PROTEST
PRESIDENTIAL VETO. Communist lawmakers walked out of the
Supreme Council on 22 April to protest its failure to
override President Leonid Kuchma's veto on two bills
increasing subsidies for the elderly (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 22 April 1999), AP reported. Communist Party
Chairman Petro Symonenko said his 122-strong caucus will
refuse to vote on any other legislation until other
lawmakers join them in overriding the veto. In rejecting
the bills, Kuchma argued that the cash-strapped
government does not have enough revenues to increase
social payments. JM

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITIONIST MEETS STROBE TALBOTT. Andrey
Sannikau, international coordinator for the Charter 97
civic initiative and a former Belarusian deputy foreign
minister, met with U.S. State Department Deputy
Secretary Strobe Talbott in Washington on 22 April to
discuss the situation in Belarus, RFE/RL's Belarusian
Service reported. Sannikau told RFE/RL that he is glad
the U.S. has not changed its position vis-a-vis the
Lukashenka regime and remains committed to restoring
democratic principles in Belarus. Sannikau told Talbott
that the U.S. should send its ambassador back to Belarus
because of the "very tense situation in Belarus's
current economic and political life." The U.S. recalled
its ambassador to Washington last year following the
eviction of Western diplomats from the Drazdy
residential area. JM

BELARUSIAN OFFICIAL URGES OPPOSITION TO GIVE FUNDS TO
NEEDY. Deputy Prime Minister Uladzimir Zamyatalin
appealed on Belarusian Television on 21 April to the
Belarusian opposition to contribute its "many millions
intended for the illegitimate, phony elections in mid-
May" to a children's home. The appeal appeared in
connection with the nationwide "subbotnik" (a Soviet-
time practice of voluntary unpaid work on Saturdays) now
under way in Belarus. JM

BALTIC PRESIDENTS MEET WITH ALBRIGHT. Lennart Meri
(Estonia), Guntis Ulmanis (Latvia), and Valdas Adamkus
(Lithuania) met with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine
Albright in Washington on 22 April and reaffirmed their
desire to join NATO, an RFE/RL correspondent in the U.S.
capital reported. Meri said after the meeting that
Albright assured all three countries they will be
mentioned in the summit's final declaration, while
Ulmanis said she stressed the Kosova crisis will not
interfere in the three's quest to join the alliance. In
a statement, Albright thanked the Baltic States for
supporting NATO action in Kosova and offering
humanitarian assistance to refugees. She also encouraged
them to continue providing such assistance, according to
LETA. JC

ESTONIAN FINANCE MINISTRY REVEALS DETAILS OF
SUPPLEMENTARY BUDGET. The Finance Ministry on 22 April
revealed that it has drawn up a negative supplementary
budget providing for cuts of 1 billion kroons ($71.4
million) in expenditures, ETA reported. Of that sum, 370
million kroons is to be saved by reducing investments,
while another 330 million kroons will be slashed from
subsidies to the private sector. The draft budget is to
be discussed by the government next week. Speaking to
journalists, Finance Minister Siim Kallas said that
although revenues from excises are considerably below
forecasts, the government does not intend to lower
duties on tobacco, alcohol, or gasoline for the time
being. Kallas added that to improve excise collection,
the government should instead exercise increased control
over the black market. JC

EC WANTS LATVIAN LANGUAGE LAW TO COMPLY WITH
INTERNATIONAL NORMS. Meeting with Latvian Prime Minister
Vilis Kristopans in Brussels on 23 April, European
Commission President Jacques Santer and Foreign Affairs
Commissioner Hans van den Broek Latvia urged Riga to
ensure that Latvia's state language bill meets
international requirements, BNS reported. The law has
provoked criticism, not least because of its provisions
regulating the use of the state language in the private
sector (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 20 April 1999). JC

LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT AMENDS LUSTRATION LAW. Lawmakers
on 22 April voted by 61 to zero with two abstentions to
amend the lustration law so that it complies with a
ruling by the Constitutional Court earlier this year,
ELTA reported. The law bans former KGB agents from
holding government office and a wide variety of private-
sector jobs. While the court ruled that the legislation
does not violate the basic law, it deemed
unconstitutional the provision establishing a
presidential commission that would decide whether to
lift restrictions in individual cases (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 5 March 1999). JC

POLISH OPPOSITION WANTS TO AMEND LUSTRATION LAW. The
opposition Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) has prepared a
draft amendment to the lustration law, arguing that the
lustration process now under way in Poland is defective,
PAP reported on 22 April. The SLD wants to introduce a
"precise definition of collaboration with the communist-
era secret services" and to make the lustration
procedures confidential. Meanwhile, lustration
prosecutor Boguslaw Nizienski has said his requests for
the lustration court to check individuals' statements on
whether they collaborated will be kept secret. Nizienski
also said he has no evidence supporting the recent
allegation that Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek collaborated
with the communist secret services (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 22 April 1999). JM

POLISH UPPER HOUSE AMENDS BILL ON FORMER CONCENTRATION
CAMPS. The upper house of the parliament on 22 April
amended the bill on the preservation of eight former
Nazi concentration camp sites in Poland (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 12 April 1999), Polish media reported. Under
those amendments, the protection zones around the camps
may maintain only those religious symbols approved by
the Roman Catholic Church or other Churches in Poland.
Thus, the bill is in line with the official stance of
the Roman Catholic Church, which wants to maintain the
so-called papal cross at the Auschwitz camp site and re-
locate some 240 crosses erected by radical Catholics.
The bill must still be approved by the lower house. JM

CZECH SOCIALISTS TO VISIT BELGRADE TO SHOW SOLIDARITY. A
group of parliamentary deputies from the ruling Social
Democrats will travel to Belgrade on a "solidarity
mission," the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes" reported on 23
April. The group is led by Jaroslav Foldyna, who said he
wants "to know what we can do for the people who suffer
most due to the war." He added that he is ashamed of
Czech President Vaclav Havel's strong support for NATO's
campaign in Yugoslavia. The Czech government has shown
only lukewarm support for the NATO air strikes. In other
news, Czech historians and politicians are informally
debating the validity of the Little Entente treaty.
Signed in the 1920s, it grouped the former
Czechoslovakia, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and
Slovenes (renamed Yugoslavia in 1929), and Romania in
one military-political alliance. PB

FORMER DEPUTY CALLS LEXA MASTERMIND OF KOVAC JR.
ABDUCTION. Jaroslav Ivor, the chief investigator in the
1995 kidnapping case of former Slovak President Michal
Kovac's son, said on 22 April that testimony has been
given implicating former Slovak counterintelligence
(SIS) head Ivan Lexa as the mastermind behind the
abduction, CTK reported, citing Slovak Television. Ivor
said that Lexa's deputy, Jaroslav Svechota, has
identified Lexa as such. Ivor said nine other members of
the SIS are in custody for their roles in the
kidnapping. Ivor added that a "parallel secret service"
exists that is "trying to influence the investigation."
Lexa was stripped of his parliamentary immunity and is
in detention. PB

FINANCE MINISTER NOTICES INCREASED INVESTOR INTEREST IN
SLOVAKIA. Brigita Schmognerova said in Bratislava on 22
April that there is a heightened interest among foreign
investors in entering the Slovak market, TASR reported.
Schmognerova spoke after returning from the annual
meeting of the European Bank for Reconstruction and
Development in London. She added that the fact that
Slovakia still has no president and Premier Vladimir
Meciar's intention to run for that post in next month's
elections are viewed unfavorably. In other news, Premier
Mikulas Dzurinda said in New York that he expects
Slovakia to be among the candidates for the next round
of NATO expansion after this weekend's alliance summit
in Washington. PB

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

CHERNOMYRDIN SAYS MILOSEVIC 'READY FOR PEACE.' Russian
special envoy to Yugoslavia Viktor Chernomyrdin told
Reuters in Moscow on 23 April that Yugoslav President
Slobodan Milosevic is willing to allow an "international
presence" into Kosova. Before returning from Belgrade
the previous day, Chernomyrdin outlined his peace plan
to ITAR-TASS. That plan foresees the safe return of
displaced persons and refugees, the implementation of a
humanitarian aid program, the resumption of negotiations
on autonomy for Kosova, the withdrawal of Serbian forces
from Kosova and NATO forces from the border of
Yugoslavia, an international economic reconstruction
program for Yugoslavia, and an international presence in
Kosova with the participation of Russian forces under
the auspices of the UN. Chernomyrdin said that "what
international organizations these will be remains to be
discussed." He called his eight-hour long talks with
Milosevic "not easy" but claimed he had achieved a
"breakthrough." FS

NATO COUNTRIES REMAIN SKEPTICAL... U.S. President Bill
Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have
rejected Milosevic's offer, saying it falls short of
NATO demands, Reuters reported on 23 April. Chernomyrdin
said in Moscow he will meet NATO leaders in Washington
on 24 April. "The Guardian" quotes a French government
spokesman as saying that the alliance must stick to its
air campaign and not send in ground troops. Italian
Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema said in Rome that "the
nature of [the proposed international] force is not
clear, whether it would be military or civilian, and
that's the point on which there is no agreement." German
Deputy Foreign Minister Ludger Volmer told Germany's ARD
television on 22 April that "when Milosevic appears to
be making a concession in negotiations, it can be
ambiguous.... It could be that this is one of the
numerous feints that Milosevic has often used in the
past." FS

...WHILE ANNAN 'ENCOURAGED.' UN spokesman Fred Eckard
said on 22 April in New York that Secretary-General Kofi
Annan is "encouraged" by Chernomyrdin's initiative and
"eagerly awaits the details of what was agreed." He
stressed that he has no details beyond Chernomyrdin's
statement but added that Annan will travel to Moscow
next week "to explore these ideas further with the
Russian authorities." Observers noted that Milosevic
proved particularly difficult and duplicitous in
negotiations on practical details during the Croatian
and Bosnian wars. Meanwhile, "Nezavisimaya gazeta"
reported on 23 April that Georgian President Eduard
Shevardnadze offered to act as a mediator between NATO
and Moscow, following an earlier request by Russian
officials. FS

NATO TAKES 'MILOSEVISION' OFF THE AIR. A NATO missile
struck the main offices of Serbian state-run television
(RTS) in Belgrade in the early hours of 23 April,
killing at least10 people. At the moment of the attack,
RTS was broadcasting an anti-NATO speech by Milosevic.
The station went off the air for several hours and then
broadcast a limited fare of news and patriotic videos.
The BBC reported from the scene that RTS staff members
believed that NATO would attack only transmitters and
not the main studio complex. Yugoslav Deputy Prime
Minister Vuk Draskovic called the attack "an act of
barbarity." RTS is nicknamed "Milosevision" because it
has long been the main vehicle for disseminating the
president's views. Many observers believe that RTS and
other nationalistic television broadcasters in the
former Yugoslavia played a key role in fomenting ethnic
hatred and fueling the conflicts in Croatia, Bosnia, and
Kosova. PM

SERBIAN MINISTER VOWS REVENGE. Serbian Information
Minister Aleksandar Vucic, who was a key figure behind
the highly restrictive 1998 media law, told journalists
at the RTS building that he holds Western leaders
responsible for the attack on 23 April. Vucic said that
"such criminals as Clinton and Blair could not have been
born by any mother. Just punishment will reach them.
They are the biggest criminals and beasts. By
comparison, even [German dictator Adolf] Hitler was but
a little child," AP quoted him as saying. PM

BELGRADE HOLDS GERMAN JOURNALIST AS 'SPY.' Germany's
SAT-1 television reported on 23 April that Serbian
authorities are holding SAT-1 journalist Pit Schnitzler
on suspicion of espionage. Joerg Howe, who is
Schnitzler's supervisor, called the charge "utter
nonsense." He added that "this is a blatant attempt to
quash independent critical reporting," dpa reported from
Berlin. Schnitzler was last heard from on 16 April, when
he traveled from Belgrade to the Serbian frontier with
Croatia. PM

PENTAGON SAYS AIR STRIKES HAVING EFFECT. Rear Admiral
Thomas Wilson, who is the director of intelligence for
the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in Washington on 22
April that the air strikes have impaired Milosevic's
ability to move or supply his troops. Wilson added that
NATO's air "campaign is having an impact on the morale"
of Yugoslav soldiers.... Desertion rates...are on the
climb." Elsewhere in Washington, British Premier Blair
said that "this is a just war based on good, decent
values" and directed at stopping ethnic cleansing. PM

WHAT ARE KOSOVA'S 'MYSTERIOUS TRAINS'? Kris Janowski,
who is a spokesman for the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR), said in Geneva on 22
April that there have recently been what he dubbed
"puzzling" movements of refugees along the border
between Kosova and Macedonia. "Mysterious trains" of
refugees have arrived from Ferizaj, with some being
allowed to proceed into Macedonia and others turned
back. "We don't understand what kind of game [the
Serbian authorities] are playing," Janowski added. He
called Kosova a "black hole," where the fate of
thousands of displaced persons is unknown, the
"Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. PM

UN: FORCED LABOR IN KOSOVA. Mary Robinson, who is the
UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in Geneva
on 22 April that Serbian forces are using "thousands" of
displaced Kosovars as forced labor in the area between
Mitrovica and Gjakova. She quoted refugees as saying
that Serbian forces killed those who refused to leave
their homes in Gjakova. PM

RELIEF WORKERS REACH STRANDED REFUGEES. Macedonian
police allowed officials of the UNHCR into the remote
village of Malina on 22 April after UN officials
"lobbied the Macedonian authorities at the highest
level," Reuters reported. Macedonian police had already
begun evacuating some of the several thousand Kosovars
to nearby villages when the aid workers arrived. Up to
100 refugees had been living in each home in Malina,
while some Kosovars slept in the open or with farm
animals in sheds. A BBC reporter called the conditions
in the village "medieval." Macedonian police barred aid
convoys from the village for several days (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 22 April 1999). They said that the path into
Malina is not safe because it runs through 50 yards of
Serbian territory. Refugees told UNHCR officials that
they came illegally to Malina because Macedonian police
refused to let them enter at a nearby border crossing
and because Serbian troops threatened to shoot them if
they returned to Kosova. PM

MORE FIGHTING ALONG ALBANIA-KOSOVA BORDER. Officials at
Albania's Public Order Ministry told an RFE/RL
correspondent in Tirana that Yugoslav soldiers opened
fire on the border post in Dobruna on 22 April, injuring
an Albanian officer. An OSCE spokesman in Tirana told
Reuters that a senior commander of the Kosova Liberation
Army (UCK) was killed and four rebel soldiers wounded
near Tropoja. Meanwhile in Washington, Albanian
President Rexhep Meidani and Secretary of State
Madeleine Albright agreed that Kosova must not be
partitioned but placed under the control of an
international protection force that can "guarantee the
region's multi-ethnicity," Reuters reported. FS

ALBANIA EVACUATES REFUGEES FROM BORDER REGION.
Information Minister Musa Ulqini told an RFE/RL
correspondent in Tirana on 22 April that the authorities
have evacuated 6,200 refugees from Kukes to other parts
of Albania and will evacuate another 50,000 in the
coming days. The total number of refugees in Albania has
reached 360,000, of whom 110,000 are currently in Kukes.
About 1,000 refugees arrived at the Morina border
crossing on 22 April, saying they were on the road for
eight days and beaten and robbed by Serbian police. Most
of the refugees were from Mitrovica and Drenica. Some of
them said that tens of thousands of Kosovars are trying
to reach Albania but that Serbian forces have sent most
of them back into the interior. They are now hiding in
the hills. FS

SLOVENIA OPEN TO NATO GROUND TROOPS. A spokesman for the
Foreign Ministry said in Ljubljana on 22 April that
Slovenia will allow passage to NATO ground troops if
asked. He stressed that it is Slovenia's duty as a
member of the alliance's Partnership for Peace Program
to permit transit. In Washington, Bosnian Foreign
Minister Jadranko Prlic said that the "NATO operation in
Bosnia-Herzegovina is proof of the ability of the
international community to make and keep peace." He
added that "it is up to the international community to
decide what kind of operation" it wants to use in
Kosova, AP reported. PM

TENSIONS EASE AROUND PREVLAKA... Yugoslav Admiral Milan
Zec and Montenegrin Interior Minister Vukasin Maras
reached an agreement according to which Yugoslav troops
and Montenegrin police will jointly man checkpoints
inside Montenegro, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service
reported from Podgorica on 22 April. At Debeli Brijeg,
UN monitors said that some Yugoslav troops remain in the
demilitarized zone but not on the border (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 22 April 1999).The monitors added that
tensions have eased in the Prevlaka area. PM

...BUT NOT ELSEWHERE IN MONTENEGRO. Yugoslav officials
said in Belgrade on 22 April that foreign humanitarian
aid cannot transit the Montenegrin port of Bar because
the Montenegrin authorities have refused either to
accept Belgrade's authority in the matter or to meet
with Belgrade officials to set a policy. In Podgorica,
Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic told a rally of
some 10,000 supporters that the Montenegrin police must
submit to the authority of the federal army. Elsewhere,
Luigi Juncaj, who is minister for minority affairs, told
Reuters that he wants members of ethnic minorities to
stay put in Montenegro and not allow Belgrade to
intimidate them into fleeing. PM

TURKEY SAYS ROMANIA EXTRADITING SUSPECTED PKK MEMBERS.
The semi-official Anatolia news agency reported on 22
April that Romania has extradited more than 30 people
suspected of being members of the Kurdistan Workers'
Party (PKK) in the last four months. According to the
news agency, the PKK is extremely active in Romania. PB

MOLDOVAN TEACHERS ON STRIKE. Teachers at some 700
Moldovan schools went on strike on 22 April to demand
the payment of back wages, ITAR-TASS reported. The
leader of a teachers' union, Dmitri Ivanov, said the
average teacher's salary in the country is 180 lei ($20)
per month. He said some teachers have not been paid in
eight or 10 months. Teachers have vowed to stay on
strike until all wage arrears have been paid. The
government owes about 100 million lei to teachers and
has begun talks with union officials. In other news,
Russian First Deputy Premier Vadim Gustov criticized
Transdniestrian separatist leader Igor Smirnov after he
refused to meet with Gustov by saying "the demeanor of
[Smirnov] does not contribute to his reputation and is
giving Russia the opportunity to take tougher and more
decisive measures to solve [the Transdniestrian]
problem," Russian Television reported on 22 April. PB

BULGARIAN HIGH COURT RULES FAVORABLY ON NATO REQUEST.
The Bulgarian Constitutional Court ruled on 22 April
that parliamentary approval was not needed for every
instance of a NATO plane overflying Bulgaria, Reuters
reported. The 12-judge panel was unanimous in its
decision. Bulgarian Premier Ivan Kostov said the
parliament may vote next week on his offer to grant NATO
a 110-140 kilometer zone along Bulgaria's western border
for NATO overflights (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April
1999). Hundreds of protesters rallied outside the
parliament building on 22 April to protest plans to
grant an air corridor to NATO. And a NATO missile
inadvertently landed near the village of Babitsa, near
the Yugoslav border, early on 23 April. No injuries were
reported. PB

END NOTE

EU TO DEVELOP TIES WITH ALBANIA, MACEDONIA

By Breffni O'Rourke

        The EU is moving to develop special relationships
with Albania and Macedonia to help protect those
countries against the instability generated by the
Kosova crisis.
        Dirk Buda, a senior EU official in Brussels, told
RFE/RL that proposals should be formalized by next
month, with the prospect--for Albania at least--of
adoption by the EU before the end of the summer.
        His comments follow pleas for swift EU support for
those two countries following the inflow of hundreds of
thousands of Kosovar refugees. Albanian Foreign Minister
Paskal Milo said earlier this week that Tirana will
request a formal association agreement with Brussels as
a step toward full EU membership. He said normal
criteria should not be applied and a faster route should
be found to integrate Albania into Europe. Officials
from Macedonia have expressed similar sentiments.
        Brussels however, has its own ideas on the issue.
One of its considerations is that the existing list of
10 candidate members from Central and East Europe should
not be upset by hasty preferential treatment for
"newcomer" countries like Albania and Macedonia. The 10
candidates are now undergoing difficult negotiations or
a detailed screening process. Some--notably Bulgaria--
have already expressed impatience at the slow rate of
progress toward membership.
        With regard to Albania, Buda, said that forging an
association agreement with Albania now would do more
harm than good, because the country's economy and
institutions would be unable to cope. He said a formal
association agreement is a complicated document and must
be ratified by all EU member states. It imposes rights
and obligations on both sides, including economic ones.
"Albania is basically not ready for a kind of
association with the union," he argued. "This would, for
instance, mean the prospect of free trade [and] the
reduction of customs duties."
        Buda says the EU already has a comprehensive aid
package for Albania in place since 1997 and has
developed it further since the Kosova crisis. He says
the underdeveloped infrastructure of the country can
hardly absorb more aid. Nevertheless, he says the EU is
working on a so-called autonomous measure for Albania,
"meaning that we are preparing a council regulation
which would be adopted and would grant Albania trade
preference for instance. The idea for the time being is
to upgrade the trade regime."
        Buda says that the existing EU-Albania cooperation
agreement is sparse in its provisions on trade, and
Albania does not receive the preferential economic
treatment accorded Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose
products receive almost duty-free entry into the EU. An
envisaged regulation would grant similar trade
preferences to Albania and permit duty-free access to
the entire EU market for Albanian industrial products
and textiles (the Albanian textile industry is
considered to have reasonable prospects within the EU).
That regulation is to be prepared by May, for subsequent
adoption by the EU, and could be ready for
implementation by August.
        Turning to the Former Yugoslav Republic of
Macedonia (FYROM), Buda sees it as more able to cope
with some type of association with the EU. Macedonia, he
argues, "is comparable with Bulgaria at the time [the
latter] got the Europe [association] agreement, so there
is certainly an economic ground, a sound basis for an
association with FYROM, independent of the political
arguing."
        Buda says Macedonia faces the "classical"
transition problems found in the region and is also
disadvantaged by heavy dependence on trade and transport
links with Serbia, which are now being disrupted. That
makes Macedonia harder hit economically than Albania,
although it has better organized industrial and
agricultural sectors.
        Buda expects rapid forward movement on some form of
association for Macedonia. But he cautioned that this
agreement might fall short of the association agreement,
known as Europe agreement, currently enjoyed by
countries like Bulgaria and Romania. The EU, he
stresses, is aware of the impatience among existing
candidate countries, which already have been waiting
years for membership and doubtless have more years to
wait. He argues that "to accept more and more people in
the waiting room would create frustration.
        Buda says current thinking in the EU Executive
Commission is that it would be better to create a type
of technical association for newcomers, without the
perspective of accession as EU members.

The author is an RFE/RL senior correspondent based in
Prague.
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