|We are all apt to believe what the world believes about us. - George Eliot|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 85, Part II, 3 May 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 85, Part II, 3 May 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 * LITHUANIAN PREMIER ANNOUNCES RESIGNATION * REFUGEES FLOOD INTO MACEDONIA * UCK TAKES STRATEGIC TOWN NEAR ALBANIAN BORDER xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE MINSK LABOR DAY CELEBRATION ENDS IN ARRESTS. Some 5,000 people participated in a Labor Day rally staged by the city authorities and the Federation of Trade Unions in Minsk, Belapan reported. The demonstrators adopted a resolution condemning the NATO action in Yugoslavia and dispersed after 20 minutes. Meanwhile, an alternative demonstration organized by the opposition Social Democratic Party "Narodnaya Hramada" and other groups resulted in arrests. Some 300 opposition demonstrators who sought to disrupt the official rally demanded the release of political prisoners and protested President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's efforts to form a union of Belarus, Russia, and Yugoslavia. The police arrested "Narodnaya Hramada" leader Mikalay Statkevich and 18 other protesters. JM BELARUS'S PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION PROCEDURE DEEMED 'OPTIMAL.' Viktar Hanchar, chairman of the Central Electoral Commission, which is organizing the opposition presidential elections, said on 30 April that the early voting procedure adopted the previous day is "optimal" in the current political situation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 1999), Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. According to Hanchar, some 14,000 members of the 2,300 regional electoral commissions will visit voters in their homes from 6-16 May to ask them to cast ballots in the opposition presidential elections, in which there are two candidates: Mikhail Chyhir and Zyanon Paznyak. The elections will be deemed valid if turnout exceeds 50 percent (or 3.5 million voters). Hanchar criticized Paznyak for demanding that the elections take place on 16 May only. Such a demand, he said, is "cut off from reality" and "threatening to disrupt the elections." JM SOME 200,000 MARK LABOR DAY IN UKRAINE. A total of some 200,000 people took part in Labor Day rallies and demonstrations, primarily in eastern Ukraine (100,000 in Donetsk Oblast) and Crimea, Ukrainian Television reported on 1 May. In a 4,000-strong demonstration in Kyiv, Communists carried flags of the former USSR and Ukrainian SSR as well as Joseph Stalin's portraits, calling on President Leonid Kuchma to step down. "The authorities are leaving our children with no future whatsoever," Communist leader Petro Symonenko told the rally. AP quoted parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Tkachenko as saying that "the fight for the good of the people must determine the outcome of [presidential] elections." Ukrainian Television reported that at the rally, Tkachenko "hinted for the first time" at his willingness to run in the presidential elections. JM UKRAINIAN CABINET RAISES PAYMENTS FOR PUBLIC UTILITIES. The government has increased tariffs for public utilities by an average of 20-30 percent in "most Ukrainian regions," Ukrainian Television reported on 1 May. The same resolution canceled all subsidies for public utilities, except those to housing. Lifting the parliamentary ban on increasing public utilities tariffs is one of the IMF's requirements for resuming the fund's cooperation with Ukraine. An IMF mission is currently in Kyiv to discuss with government officials boosting financial aid to the country. Kuchma's aide Valeriy Lytvytskyy said last week that Ukraine is requesting a new $300 million loan from the fund and will also ask it to "double or even triple" the monthly installments of the resumed $2.2 billion loan. Those installments currently average $70 million, AP reported on 30 April. JM UKRAINIAN PATRIARCH ATTACKED BY RIVAL CHURCH BELIEVERS. Patriarch Filaret, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate, was physically attacked on 30 April by a group of members of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. The Interior Ministry reported that some 80 followers of the Moscow-subordinated Church attacked Filaret and his retinue while the former was consecrating the site where a cathedral in Mariupol, Donetsk Oblast, is to be constructed. Five of Filaret's supporters and four of his opponents were injured, but none was hospitalized, according to the ministry. The scuffle highlighted the continued conflict between the larger Moscow-affiliated Church and the one led by Filaret. Filaret's Church split from Moscow in 1992. JM ESTONIA'S COALITION PARTY ELECTS NEW CHAIRMAN. At its party congress on 2 May, the Coalition Party elected former Defense Minister Andrus Oovel as its chairman, ETA reported. Oovel, who was the only candidate for the post, replaced former Prime Minister Mart Siimann, saying his task as new party leader is to stop infighting. The former ruling Coalition Party won only seven parliamentary seats (7.5 percent of the vote) in the March general elections. JC RUSSIAN PARTY IN ESTONIA LEADER TO BE OUSTED? A group of members of the Russian Party in Estonia has announced its intention to call a general meeting to discuss dismissing chairman Nikolai Maspanov, ETA reported on 3 May, citing "Eesti Paevaleht." Maspanov allegedly held secret negotiations recently over forming a new coalition in the Tallinn City Council. The group claims that rank-and-file members of the party are dissatisfied with the current leadership, which it blames for the party's failure to win any seats in the March elections. JC LITHUANIAN PREMIER ANNOUNCES RESIGNATION... Speaking on nationwide television on 30 April, 11 days after President Valdas Adamkus had expressed no confidence in him (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April 1999), Gediminas Vagnorius announced he will hand in his resignation to Adamkus on 3 May, ELTA and BNS reported. Without elaborating, the outgoing premier said that "political motives," rather than "personal discord," were behind the recent tensions between the government and the president. "I have to assume part of the responsibility for failing to curb these unfavorable political circumstances," he said. He also commented that in seeking to make the country more stable financially, his government may have been "excessively demanding" and have sought to "impose stricter order too quickly," thus accounting for its low popularity ratings. Vagnorius first held the post of prime minister from January 1991 to July 1992, when he resigned following a split within the ruling Sajudis movement. JC ...WHILE CONSERVATIVES MULL STRATEGY. Meeting one day after the premier's announcement, the board of the ruling Conservative Party made clear that it does not want to head the next government, ELTA and Reuters reported. "A Conservative could not accept an offer by the president to lead a future government," Andrius Kubilius, a board member, later told reporters. At the same time, he stressed that the Conservatives, which together with their Christian Democratic allies have 81 of the 138 filled parliamentary seats, will confirm a cabinet "formed by the president and [designated] prime minister." Meanwhile, parliamentary chairman and Conservative Party chairman Vytautas Landsbergis welcomed Vagnorius's decision. Landsbergis has expressed opposition to the Conservatives' earlier proposal that the president take the lead in forming a minority government, as have both the president and the opposition parties. Under the constitution, the president must nominate a new premier within 15 days of receiving Vagnorius's resignation. The parliament must then approve that candidate. JC POLISH-GERMAN SUMMIT VIEWS KOSOVA CONFLICT, EU INTEGRATION, SLAVE LABOR. Polish Premier Jerzy Buzek and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder held talks in Gdansk on 30 April, Polish and German media reported. Other members of the Polish and German cabinets attended that meeting. Buzek stressed there is no difference of opinions between the two sides on the Kosova crisis. Schroeder pointed out that both NATO's military action and the efforts to seek a political solution to Kosova must be continued. He supported Poland's "ambitious" bid to join the EU by early 2003, noting "the strength of Polish reforms." Schroeder also assured Buzek that Polish slave laborers in Nazi-era Germany will receive the same treatment as citizens of other countries with regard to their compensation claims. He added that the slave labor issue should be decided not by governments but by German companies. JM HAVEL, KAVAN DISCUSS YUGOSLAV POSITIONS. Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan met with President Vaclav Havel on 2 May to discuss their diverging opinions on the crisis in Kosova, CTK reported. Kavan said that both he and Havel agree that Czech troops should participate in any eventual peacekeeping mission in Yugoslavia, but he noted that they disagree over whether Czech forces should take part in any ground offensive there. Havel said last week that he is embarrassed that Kavan has rejected such participation outright, even before NATO has considered such a plan. Kavan said this is a disagreement over "tactics" and "formulation" that is "completely unimportant." He added that Havel has approved of Kavan's peace plan for Kosova, which he said he will reveal when it wins "broader consensus." PB KAVAN CHIDES U.S. POLITICIANS FOR MISCALCULATING YUGOSLAV DETERMINATION. Kavan said on 2 May that some U.S. politicians erroneously thought they could quickly defeat Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic with air strikes, CTK reported. Kavan, speaking on nationwide television, said this opinion was "proud [and] naive" and not based "on a completely accurate analysis." In Prague, government officials criticized city officials for allowing a skinhead demonstration to take place on 1 May. A few hundred skinheads rallied on a small Prague island that is traditionally the site of left-wing and anarchist demonstrations on that day. A few dozen people were arrested in the incident. PB KUKAN DENIES POLICY SUBMISSIVE TO NATO. Slovak Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan said on 2 May that the public needs to be better informed about why cooperation with NATO and eventual accession to the alliance are in Slovakia's best interests, TASR reported. Kukan was responding on Radio Twist to nationalist Jan Slota's charge that Bratislava is submissive to NATO. Kukan asked whether politicians that make such statements want to turn Slovakia into a "skanzen" (an open-air museum in which traditional Slovak wooden houses are exhibited). Kukan said the Kosova conflict would probably be abused during the presidential campaign, and he urged candidates to be objective about the issue. In other news, Justice Minister Jan Carnogursky, the chairman of the Christian Democratic Movement, said at a party convention in Liptovsky Mikulas that the party will continue to act like a "normal right-wing party." PB SOCIALISTS OPPOSE USE OF HUNGARIAN AIR SPACE FOR NATO BOMBINGS. The opposition Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) wants to modify the text of a parliamentary resolution allowing NATO to use Hungarian air space and airports for its actions against Yugoslavia. It proposes adding a clause to the document saying that no attack can be launched on Serbia from Hungarian territory. Ferenc Juhasz, the Socialist deputy chairman of parliament's Defense Committee, said a new situation arose when Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced at the NATO summit in Washington that NATO aircraft taking off from Hungary might bomb Yugoslavia, Hungarian media reported on 3 May. MSZP chairman Laszlo Kovacs accused the government of "increasingly losing control over the situation." MSZ HUNGARIAN INTELLECTUALS APPEAL FOR BALKAN PEACE. Fifty prominent Hungarian intellectuals and politicians have published an appeal to end the war in the Balkans, Hungarian media reported on 3 May. The appeal calls on the governments of NATO countries to suspend bombing in Yugoslavia and begin negotiations. It urges Hungary to exercise its veto right provided by NATO membership, engage in "constructive abstention," and exert pressure on its allies to ensure that the war does not spread to neighboring countries. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE REFUGEES FLOOD INTO MACEDONIA. Some 11,000 Kosovars are waiting to enter Macedonia at the Blace border crossing, Reuters reported on 3 May. Paula Ghedini, who is a spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said the previous day at Cegrane that some 7,000 Kosovars arrived in Macedonia on 1 May. She added that only 600 Kosovars were able to proceed to third countries the same day. Ghedini noted that in various parts of Macedonia, some 80,000 refugees are packed into nine camps designed for only a fraction of that number. The newly-opened Cegrane camp was planned for 4,000 people but currently houses 14,000. German soldiers are working round the clock to put up tents but cannot keep pace with the influx of new arrivals. Thousands of refugees at several of the camps sleep on plastic sheets in the open. Ghedini described sanitary conditions as "horrendous." More than 90,000 Kosovars are staying with private families. PM GEORGIEVSKI: MACEDONIA FACES GRIM CHOICES. Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski told "The Daily Telegraph" of 3 May that "either we will be ruined as a state [by the refugee influx] or we will have to close our frontiers." He stressed that "Europe must give us a safety valve" by providing more aid and by taking greater numbers of refugees. Georgievski suggested that his country would be unable to accommodate a possible new wave of refugees of up to 50,000 people. Georgievski also said that Macedonia might reconsider its decision not to allow its territory to be used to launch a land invasion of Serbia, but he stressed it would do so only if the parliament approved the change and received "assurances on the aims of such an offensive and the involvement of other Balkan states." PM MORE FOREIGN AID FOR MACEDONIA. Georgievski also told "The Daily Telegraph" of 3 May that he is disappointed that unnamed European countries, which he said, have taken in fewer than 1,000 refugees each, criticize his country, which could soon be home to some 200,000 Kosovars. The London-based daily suggested that he was referring primarily to the U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair is slated to arrive in Macedonia on 3 May. Two days earlier, French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin visited Macedonia and pledged a supplementary aid package for that country amounting to $26 million. France previously pledged some $160 million for Macedonia and Albania together. Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy told Macedonian officials that Ottawa will provide $24 million for refugee relief and $6 million in economic assistance. In Bonn on 3 May, Interior Minister Otto Schily said Germany, which is currently home to 10,000 Kosovar refugees, will take in another 10,000. PM MACEDONIA ARRESTS FOUR AS BOMBING SUSPECTS. Macedonian police arrested four suspects in Kumanovo on 1 May in connection with a recent grenade attack on a French sentry post (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 April 1999). The suspects had bought grenades in Yugoslavia and were drunk when the attack took place, Reuters reported. Kumanovo is a center of Macedonia's small ethnic Serbian minority. PM UCK TAKES STRATEGIC TOWN NEAR ALBANIAN BORDER. Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) fighters recently took control of the road from Bajram Curri to Koshara and occupied Yugoslav army barracks there, Reuters reported on 2 May. The UCK can now transport weapons and ammunition from Albania into Kosova and bring wounded guerillas back. UCK guerillas told Reuters that the capture of Koshara marked a "turning point" for them, adding that more than 200 Serbian soldiers and paramilitaries were killed in the fight for the town, which is near the border. Currently, the front line is at Batusha near Junik, overlooking the plains of Gjakova and Decani. UCK soldiers, however, noted that the Yugoslav army still frequently shells the route between Bajram Curri and Koshara. The guerrillas said they aim to link up with UCK units operating inside Kosova. FS MORE ALBANIAN-YUGOSLAV BORDER CLASHES. Serbian and Albanian forces exchanged fire in the villages of Vlahen and Letaj in the Has Mountains, while Serbian forces fired several mortar shells into villages near Tropoja and Morina over the weekend, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Tirana on 2 May. No casualties were reported. Meanwhile, NATO planes attacked Serbian artillery near Morina on the border. FS MORE THAN 20,000 REFUGEES ARRIVE IN ALBANIA. Serbian forces expelled more than 20,000 Kosovars to Albania over the weekend. Most of the refugees came from Prizren. Reuters quoted them as saying that the city has become a "depopulated wasteland." Refugees arriving on 2 May said Serbian forces close to the Morina border crossing separated women and children from the men and sent the women and children back into Prizren as human shields. Others told BBC Television of 3 May that during their flight, they saw Serbian forces killing civilians. There are currently more than 120,000 Kosovar refugees in Kukes. The UNHCR and Albanian authorities continued evacuations from Kukes to other parts of Albania. Albanian President Rexhep Meidani said in Bonn on 1 May that Albania will need aid totaling $600 million this year to cope with the refugee influx, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. FS ALBANIAN PREMIER MEDIATES BETWEEN RIVAL KOSOVARS. Pandeli Majko told Kosovar shadow-state Prime Minister Bujar Bukoshi on 2 May that the Albanian government wants to bring the rival Kosovar groups together at a round table, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Tirana. The UCK does not recognize Bukoshi and has named Hashim Thaci as premier. Majko called for a "spirit of dialog." Bukoshi is a member of the Democratic League of Kosova (LDK), the party of Ibrahim Rugova, who is under Serbian house arrest in Prishtina. Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo appealed to the rival groups to coordinate their actions, dpa reported. He stressed that "there is no time to lose [over] who will be the prime minister and who will be ministers." He added that "it is important to set up a government representing all [ethnic] Albanians in Kosova." FS ROBINSON: WAR CRIMES NO ACCIDENT. Mary Robinson, who is the UN's chief official for human rights, said in Blace, Macedonia, on 2 May that the Serbian policy of ethnic- cleansing is "deliberate and unacceptable." She stressed that those responsible must be held to account and that "we cannot have impunity." Robinson described the accounts she heard from Kosovar refugees as revealing "savagery and a total lack of respect for human beings" on the part of the refugees' tormentors. In Belgrade, Yugoslav Assistant Foreign Minister Nebojsa Vujovic denied that Serbian forces have committed atrocities. He suggested that reports of atrocities were invented by NATO. PM NATO: 'NO REWARD FOR MILOSEVIC.' Atlantic alliance spokesman Jamie Shea said in Brussels on 2 May that NATO is pleased that U.S. civil rights leader Jessie Jackson obtained the release of three U.S. soldiers from Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Shea added, however, that the alliance will not "reward" the Yugoslav leader for the gesture and that Serbian forces should not have taken the men prisoner in the first place. In Washington, U.S. President Bill Clinton said that "as we welcome our soldiers home, our thoughts also turn to the over one million Kosovars who are unable to go home because of the policies of Belgrade. Today we reaffirm our resolve to persevere until they too can return with security and self-government." Defense Secretary William Cohen noted: "We will not stop the bombing but intensify the bombing" of Serbia. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbot called Milosevic "a master manipulator" and dismissed a letter Milosevic gave Jackson for Clinton as a "stunt," AFP reported. PM NATO HITS SERBIAN POWER PLANTS. The Atlantic alliance hit Serbia's five main power-generating facilities during the night of 2-3 May, Shea said in Brussels. He noted that "what we have done is demonstrate our ability to shut off the power system whenever we want it. ... [When the power is] shut off for a significant period of time, the Yugoslav army has to go through enormous trouble to try to restore that power." The previous day, NATO spokesman Conrad Freytag expressed regret that NATO aircraft hit a bus on the Nis-Prishtina road on 1 May, killing at least 40. Freytag noted that the bus had been crossing a bridge, which he called a legitimate military target. PM MONTENEGRO APPEALS TO NATO. Deputy Prime Minister Dragisa Burzan said in Podgorica on 1 May that his government condemns a recent NATO attack that killed four civilians in the village of Murino. Burzan stressed that the attack had no legitimate military purpose and that attacks on civilian targets in Montenegro only serve to "encourage Milosevic and his policies" there. The following day, Clinton announced that the U.S. is joining the EU in imposing further economic sanctions on Serbia but that the sanctions do not affect Montenegro, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. In Podgorica, the command of the Yugoslav Second Army issued an order prohibiting ships and boats from using the civilian harbor at Bar. The mountainous republic now has no air, sea, or rail links to the outside world, AP reported. Elsewhere, an Information Ministry spokesman said that the army released a French television cameraman the previous day. Soldiers had arrested the Frenchman on 20 April. PM ROMANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER GIVES NATO GREEN LIGHT TO AIRPORTS. Victor Babiuc said on 30 April that NATO planes are "implicitly" allowed to use Romanian airports because of the parliament's approval for alliance planes to use Romanian air space, Reuters reported. Babiuc said "this right obviously applies to those airports close to the Yugoslav border." He added that "we believe the NATO intervention is fully justified. It is in no way aggression but rather a means of persuading Milosevic to return to the negotiating table." Hundreds of car drivers continued to line up along the Romanian-Yugoslav border to travel to Serbia to sell most of the gasoline in their tanks for a profit (see also below). And in Bucharest, several hundred people demonstrated on 1 May against the NATO air strikes. PB ROMANIA DENIES PROCESSING OIL FOR YUGOSLAVIA. Transport Minister Traian Basescu on 1 May dismissed Bulgarian claims that Romania is processing crude oil from Serbian tankers along the Danube River, Reuters reported. Basescu said "none of Romania's ports on the Danube can unload crude from barges. We can only load ships with oil products." A Bulgarian customs chief said the previous day that Serbian tankers are carrying crude oil to Romanian terminals (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 1999). PB KOSTOV BRIEFS PARLIAMENT ON MISSILE INCIDENT, PRAISES NATO ACCORD. Bulgarian Premier Ivan Kostov informed the parliament on 30 April about the errant NATO missile that destroyed a home in a Sofia suburb two days earlier, Reuters reported. Kostov said that the government will work closely with NATO to ensure that such an incident does not occur again. He said Bulgaria's western border will be marked electronically and that Sofia has asked NATO for "friend or foe" radar equipment that would allow Bulgarian security forces to identify foreign aircraft. Kostov hailed the government's air corridor accord with NATO, which he said no other country was able to secure. The National Assembly is to vote on the accord as early as 4 May. Since Kostov's Union of Democratic Forces has a majority in the legislative body, the accord is expected to pass, even though polls show that a majority of Bulgarians oppose it. PB BULGARIAN PRESIDENT BLAMES YUGOSLAV GOVERNMENT FOR STAGNATION. Petar Stoyanov said on 30 April that Yugoslavia is "isolating" Bulgaria from Western Europe, AP reported, citing an interview in the French daily "Le Monde." Stoyanov said that "despite all our efforts, foreign investors are wary." He added that "the Serbs must not think they can count on our help because we are fed up with being hostages for the last seven years to the policies of Milosevic." Stoyanov also repeated a call for a Balkan version of the Marshall Plan because "after 45 years of Communism, we cannot get out of this alone." In Sofia, some 8,000 people rallied on 1 May against NATO and the Bulgarian government. Socialist Party leader Georgi Parvanov said "we are against this illegal war." PB BULGARIA TO CLOSE BORDERS WITH YUGOSLAVIA. The Interior Ministry said on 30 April that it will close all five of its border crossings with Serbia and allow only passage of goods and people for humanitarian reasons, BTA reported. The measure is aimed at preventing citizens from crossing the border and selling their gas to Yugoslavs at a large profit, as hundreds of them have been doing recently. PB xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. 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