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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 95, Part II, 17 May 1999


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 95, Part II, 17 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

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Headlines, Part II

* BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION CONCLUDES PRESIDENTIAL BALLOT

* KOSICE MAYOR WINS FIRST ROUND OF SLOVAK PRESIDENTIAL
ELECTION

* COHEN BLASTS SERBS FOR 'CROCODILE TEARS'

End Note: WHILE EUROPE LOOKS ELSEWHERE
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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION CONCLUDES PRESIDENTIAL BALLOT.
According to Central Electoral Commission estimates,
turnout at the unauthorized presidential polls that
finished on 16 May was 53 percent or slightly more than
4 million voters, Belapan reported. The final results
are expected on 19 May. Zyanon Paznyak, one of the two
presidential candidates, had withdrawn from the vote
last week, claiming election fraud (see "RFE/RL
Newsline, 14 May 1999). Many commentators see Paznyak's
withdrawal as the beginning of a serious split within
the Belarusian opposition. Viktar Hanchar, head of the
Central Electoral Commission, played down the
opposition's differences by saying on 15 May that "the
point of the elections was to show that Lukashenka is
not legitimate and start his removal. Only after that
can we hold free, democratic elections," Reuters
reported. JM

UKRAINIAN PARTIES NAME PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFULS. Several
political parties on 15 May announced their candidates
for the 31 October presidential elections, Interfax
reported. Leonid Kuchma, the incumbent president, was
nominated by the Popular Democratic Party, the Liberal
Party, and the Social Democratic Party (United).
Oleksandr Moroz was nominated by the Socialist Party,
which he leads. His candidacy is also supported by the
Social Democratic Party. Petro Symonenko, leader of the
Communist Party, was fielded by his own party. Nataliya
Vitrenko was also nominated by her Progressive Socialist
Party. Former Premier Yevhen Marchuk was proposed by the
Social Democratic Union, the Rural Democratic Party, the
Republican Party, and the Christian Popular Union.
Marchuk has quit the parliamentary caucus of the Social
Democratic Party (United), to which he had belonged
since its formation last year. Each wing of the split
Rukh nominated its own hopeful: Hennadiy Udovenko and
Yuriy Kostenko. JM

CENTRAL EUROPEAN PRESIDENTS BACK G-8 STANCE ON KOSOVA.
In Lviv on 15 May, the presidents of nine Central
European countries urged the Yugoslav government to
accept the G-8 plan for ending the Kosova crisis. That
plan calls for the deployment of international
peacekeepers, the withdrawal of Serbian forces, and
substantial autonomy for Kosova. The heads of states
also proposed a "high-level conference on southeastern
Europe" to work out a "comprehensive strategy for the
stabilization of the entire region through economic
reconstruction and the promotion of democracy." The
statement--signed by the presidents of Austria,
Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Poland,
Romania, Slovenia, and Ukraine--condemned ethnic
cleansing in Kosova and deplored civilian deaths because
of the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. Ukrainian President
Kuchma was the only head of state at the Lviv summit to
call on NATO to stop its air strikes. JM

KALLAS RE-ELECTED REFORM PARTY CHAIRMAN. At a congress
in Tallinn on 15 May, Finance Minister Siim Kallas was
re-elected head of the Reform Party, ETA reported.
Addressing delegates, he predicted that 1999 will be a
year of "saving and reorganizing" while 2000 will be
marked by "stabilization." Meanwhile, the Statistics
Office has released preliminary data showing that GDP
grew by 4 percent last year. JC

BIRKAVS ASKS RUSSIANS TO 'FACE HISTORY.' Writing in the
"International Herald Tribune" on 14 May, Latvian
Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs asked Russia to "look at
itself in the mirror" and Russians "to accept the facts
of their own history." "An acknowledgment of Russia's
role in Latvian history in this century will defuse many
of the sensitive problems related to naturalization of
noncitizens," Birkavs wrote, adding that such an
approach would "also set a basis for Latvia and Russia
to address together opportunities in business." The
foreign minister pointed out that Latvia is currently
establishing an "international historical commission"
that will address such questions. Latvia's prosecutor-
general is ready to "follow up on any substantive
allegations of war crimes regardless of the nationality
of the perpetrators," he added. JC

REHABILITATION PLAN APPROVED FOR RIGAS KOMERCBANKA. The
Latvian Central Bank has approved a rehabilitation plan
for the failed Rigas Komercbanka (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"
24 March and 28 April 1999) . Under that plan, the
European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the
largest shareholder in the Rigas Komercbanka, will
invest $9 million (part of which will be a loan), the
Latvian government 1 million lats ($1.69 million), and
the Bank of Latvia 15.5 million lats. JC

WALESA NOMINATED TO RUN IN POLAND'S PRESIDENTIAL
ELECTIONS. Christian Democracy of the Third Republic, a
political party formed and headed by former Solidarity
leader and Polish President Lech Walesa, has nominated
its leader to run in the 2000 presidential election,
Polish media reported on 16 May. Walesa has not yet
taken a final decision, but he has said he believes he
can defeat the incumbent, Aleksander Kwasniewski, who
will almost certainly be the candidate of the Polish
left wing. If Walesa decides to run, he will likely
compete for votes against Marian Krzaklewski,
Solidarity's current leader and head of the Solidarity
Electoral Action ruling coalition. JM

TEMELIN DECISION CONTINUES TO DRAW REACTIONS. Austrian
politicians continued to blast the Czech government's
decision to complete the Temelin nuclear power plant,
saying the decision may complicate the country's
accession to the EU, Czech media reported. Austrian
Chancellor Viktor Klima said the plant is not just an
Austrian-Czech issue "but a European matter and part of
the admission process to the EU," Czech media reported
on 14 May, citing the Austrian daily "Neue Kronen
Zeitung." German Environment Minister Juergen Trittin
said the Temelin decision "was not a prudent step from
the point of view of EU integration," CTK reported on 14
May. Meanwhile, the spokesman for the Czech Security
Information Service, Jan Subert, said the service has no
information about any threat of terrorist attacks
against Temelin, CTK reported on 16 May. Subert was
responding to a 15 May report in "Pravo" which cited an
unnamed source from the service as saying that Austrian
environmental extremists are preparing such an attack in
collaboration with their Czech counterparts. Czech and
Austrian environmentalists also dismissed the
allegations. VG

ZEMAN, DZURINDA AGREE ON PROPERTY DIVISION. Czech Prime
Minister Milos Zeman and his Slovak counterpart, Mikulas
Dzurinda, have resolved one of the outstanding issues
related to the division of Czechoslovakia, CTK reported
on 15 May. The two leaders, meeting in the Slovak town
of Smokovec, agreed that the countries' national
property funds will carry out an exchange of stakes
between the Slovak Vseobecna uverova banka and the Czech
Komercni banka at a ratio of 1:1. VG

KOSICE MAYOR WINS FIRST ROUND OF SLOVAK PRESIDENTIAL
ELECTION... Rudolf Schuster won the first round of the
Slovak presidential election with 47.38 percent of the
vote, Slovak media reported. Former Prime Minister
Vladimir Meciar came in second with 37 percent. Both
candidates, who will now advance to a second round of
voting on 29 May, won considerably more votes than the
last public opinion polls before the election had
suggested. Former Czechoslovak diplomat Magda Vasaryova
took just 6.6 percent of the vote, Ivan Mjartan 3.6
percent, and Slovak National Party chairman Jan Slota
2.5 percent. The turnout was just below 74 percent, TASR
reported on 17 May. The OSCE observers' mission noted
that voting took place in accordance with the law, but
it added that TV Markiza did not give the same coverage
to all candidates. At the same time, the mission added
that TV Markiza's coverage did not affect the outcome of
the vote. VG

...CANDIDATES COMMENT ON FIRST ROUND. After the results
had been released, Schuster said he expects Meciar to
engage in a "dirty campaign" in the run-up to the second
round of voting, "Mlada fronta Dnes" reported on 17 May.
He also said he was not surprised by the results, TASR
reported the same day. Meciar said the elections had
take place in a "relatively correct" fashion, according
to "Die Presse"on 17 May, cited by TASR. Vasaryova said
the first round of voting revealed the polarization of
Slovak politics. She also conceded that her performances
during the televised debates may have caused her to lose
some votes. Mjartan said he would like to stay in
politics and build a strong leftist force in Slovakia to
counterbalance the country's right-wing movements. Slota
said he was disappointed by the results and that he
would call on his supporters to back Meciar in the
second round. VG

BREAKTHROUGH IN HUNGARIAN-SLOVAK DAM TALKS. The Slovak
delegation to talks on the Nagymaros-Gabcikovo dam on 14
May in Budapest agreed to let Hungary draw up a proposal
by September on how to bring about the joint operation
of the Gabcikovo hydropower plant without building a
second dam on the Danube, Hungarian media reported. The
two parties also agreed that Budapest will outline its
ideas on matters concerning the environment, flood
protection, energy, and shipping. Laszlo Szekely, head
of the Hungarian delegation, said Slovakia's readiness
to discuss Hungary's position is "a success in itself,"
as Bratislava had earlier insisted on the implementation
of the 1977 bilateral agreement. MSZ

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

COHEN BLASTS SERBS FOR 'CROCODILE TEARS.' British
Foreign Secretary Robin Cook and U.S. Secretary of State
Madeleine Albright wrote in the "Washington Post" of 17
May that "there have been perhaps hundreds of innocent
casualties as a result of NATO action" against Yugoslav
military targets. Cook and Albright stressed that they
"deeply regret that.... But in a conflict as intense as
this, it is impossible to eliminate such casualties."
U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen said in
Washington the previous day that "for the Serbs to
lament publicly about the deaths of these refugees is
almost tantamount to [Nazi war criminal] Adolf Eichmann
complaining about Allied forces bombing the
crematoriums. These are crocodile tears coming out of
mass killers." PM

U.S.: KORISA VICTIMS MOST LIKELY 'HUMAN SHIELDS.' Cohen
also said in Washington on 16 May that the 87 displaced
Kosovars killed in a NATO air strike on Serbian military
targets in Korisa two days previously may have been
deliberately brought to that village by Serbian forces
as human shields. "I think there's no level to which
[Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic and his troops
won't sink in terms of using refugees as human shields,"
Cohen argued. Elsewhere, U.S. Undersecretary of State
Thomas Pickering said that he also had heard reports
from refugees that civilians were being used as human
shields, although there is no independent verification
of those claims, AP reported. "It is another tragic
example of absolutely outrageous behavior on the part of
Milosevic, trying to use innocent [ethnic] Albanians to
protect his military forces," Pickering concluded. PM

U.K.: SURVIVORS SAY SERBS USED THEM AS HUMAN SHIELDS. In
London, British Defense Minister John Spellar said on 16
May that Serbian forces were using Korisa at the time of
the air strike "as a military camp and command post with
military vehicles and artillery present. We do not yet
know the reason why civilians were at this location at
the time of the attack. But it increasingly appears
likely, however, that the civilians were used as human
shields. We're aware of continued reports that according
to survivors, the civilians were ordered by Serb police
to return to the village from the hills where they'd
been hiding for several weeks. On their return they were
not permitted to live in their homes, instead they were
herded into concentrated areas within the village and
held there until the NATO attack took place," AP quoted
him as saying. PM

NATO: ATTACKS WILL CONTINUE. In Brussels on 16 May, NATO
spokesman Jamie Shea said that "we know that we're up
against an adversary who has no scruples when it comes
to using civilians as human shields." He noted that NATO
considers the possible presence of human shields in
selecting its targets. Shea also stressed that "we will
never, never intentionally target civilians." He
concluded, however, that the attacks will continue and
that the Atlantic alliance will not be deterred in
carrying out its mission by the Serbian use of human
shields. PM

CLINTON OUTLINES GROUNDS FOR INTERVENTION. President
Bill Clinton said in Las Vegas on May 16 that U.S.
intervention in Bosnia and Kosova was prompted by a
desire to stop "ethnic cleansing [and] mass killing of
people because of their ethnic and religious background.
If we can't stop that in the underbelly of Europe on the
edge of the 21st century, then we're going to have a
very difficult world ahead of us because there will be a
lot more of it," he continued. Clinton also stressed,
however, that "we can't ask people not to fight each
other if one group wants to secede and the other
doesn't. He added that nor can "[we tell people] what
their governmental arrangements have to be." Referring
to what he called the "terrible, regrettable" conflict
between Ethiopia and Eritrea, Clinton said that it is a
cross-border tribal conflict, Reuters reported. "Ten
thousand people have been killed there. No one has
suggested that some third party should intervene and
fight both of them," the president concluded. PM

JOINT CHIEFS: GROUND TROOPS NEEDED. The members of the
U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff have written to U.S.
Secretary of Defense Cohen that ground troops must be
committed in the conflict in Kosova to "guarantee
fulfillment of the administration's political
objectives," "Newsweek" reported on 17 May. The military
leaders added that "a ground war would have to commence
by the beginning of August, and the forces required must
start assembling by the beginning of June" if the
hundreds of thousands of refugees and displaced persons
are to be back in their homes before winter. PM

REFUGEES POUR INTO MACEDONIA. More than 800 Albanians
arrived on 16 May at the Macedonian border crossing of
Blace, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. UN High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman Ron Redmond
said that most of the refugees are from Ferizaj. He
suggested that this is only the beginning of a new wave
of refugees from Kosova. Redmond told Reuters that "when
the word spreads that the border is open, we are going
to see more and more people...it can easily be in the
tens of thousands, it could be more than 100,000."
Refugees told AP that there are constant food shortages
in Kosova and that Serbian forces conduct sporadic
killings. One refugee reported that Serbian forces
separated the men from the women in her village and
gunned down about 40 males. Refugees also said that
Serbian shopkeepers refused to sell food to ethnic
Albanians. FS

FIGHTING ALONG NORTHERN ALBANIAN BORDER. Serbian forces
and Kosova Liberation Army fighters exchanged fire
inside Albania for about five hours in the village of
Zogaj, near Tropoja, on 16 May, an RFE/RL correspondent
reported from Tirana. Government officials in Tirana
said that Serbian forces shelled the village of Dobruna
in the Has Mountains and that women and children left
the village, while the men there have taken up fighting
positions. Nearby, Albanian border guards and Serbian
forces exchanged fire in the village of Letaj. The
previous day, NATO jets pounded targets in the village
of Zhur, on the Kosovar side of the Kukes region. FS

REFUGEE INFLUX TO ALBANIA STOPS. Only about a dozen
refugees arrived in Kukes over the weekend, apparently
signaling a virtual halt to the flow of refugees,
Reuters reported on 15 May. In Tirana, Information
Minister Musa Ulqini said on 15 May that there are
currently about 80,000 refugees still in Kukes, despite
UNHCR efforts to evacuate refugees from the town.
Elsewhere, AP reported that the only international
agency bringing humanitarian aid to about 3,000 refugees
in Bajram Curri is the Irish aid group Concern. Other
agencies avoid the remote town owing to frequent armed
robberies in the area. FS

YUGOSLAV MILITARY ABDUCTS ALBANIANS IN MONTENEGRO.
Refugees arriving in Albania on 16 May said that
Yugoslav army forces ordered about 150 ethnic Albanian
males of military age to get off busses en route to the
Albanian border crossing of Hani i Hotit, an RFE/RL
correspondent reported from Tirana. Refugees said that
the males were taken away in the direction of Ulcinj. It
is unclear what happened to them. The refugees were part
of a group of some 400 people from the areas of Klina
and Peja. FS

MONTENEGRO WARNS OF 'CREEPING COUP.' After the Yugoslav
army moved to close the border with Albania, it took
control of the western frontier with Bosnia, AP reported
from Podgorica on 17 May. Two days' earlier, Deputy
Prime Minister Dragisa Burzan said that the army is
preparing a "creeping coup" aimed at ousting the
democratic government of Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic
through a series of incremental steps. On 14 May,
Djukanovic said in Paris that he condemns Milosevic's
policies. He argued that Milosevic seeks "to create
internal conflict in Montenegro, but we won't fall into
that trap because our priority is to maintain peace in
the country." In related news, the Yugoslav navy on 16
May prevented a cargo ship from docking at Montenegro's
port of Bar with a cargo of much-needed flour. PM

BOSNIAN MUSLIMS, CROATS AGREE ON ECONOMIC PROGRAM.
Bosnian federal Prime Minister Edhem Bicakcic, who is a
Muslim, and Deputy Prime Minister Dragan Covic, who is
an ethnic Croat, agreed on 14 May in Sarajevo on a
package of concrete measures aimed at reviving the
economy. The measures deal with accelerating
privatization, strengthening the currency, reforming
several socialist-era economic institutions, and
establishing an integrated railway system. Western
observers have frequently criticized what they regard as
pervasive corruption and bureaucracy in Bosnia. The
observers note that reform must take place quickly
because Bosnia will need to attract more foreign
investors in the coming months once many postwar aid
programs come to an end. PM

CORRECTION: A "RFE/RL Newsline" report on 14 May was
based on a source that did not make clear that Romania
has agreed to permit international FM broadcasting to
Yugoslavia from its territory and that this FM net
carries programs to Yugoslavia 24 hours a day from
RFE/RL, VOA, Deutsche Welle, and the BBC.

ROMANIA'S HUNGARIAN FEDERATION RE-ELECTS LEADER. At a
15-16 May congress in Miercurea-Ciuc, the Hungarian
Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) re-elected
chairman Bela Marko for another four-year term, an
RFE/RL correspondent reported. Marko criticized
Romania's governing coalition, in which the UDMR is a
partner, for not following its program with regard to
minority issues. He also acknowledged that the status of
minorities in Romania, while still not "perfect," has
significantly improved over the last decade. The
congress, which was marked by heated debates between
"radical" and "moderate" wings, modified the UDMR's
statute and program to include a "strategic partnership"
with Romanians from Transylvania. The congress also
adopted a statement describing the NATO campaign in
Yugoslavia as "inevitable and justified." ZSM

ROMANIA, BULGARIA REACH AGREEMENT ON DANUBE BRIDGE.
Romanian President Emil Constantinescu and Bulgarian
President Petar Stoyanov agreed on 14 May to build a
bridge linking their countries over the Danube River at
Vidin-Calafat, BTA reported. Constantinescu said the
conflict in Yugoslavia changed Romania's views about
building a second bridge linking his country with
Bulgaria. He also said Bulgaria will have to arrange
financing for the new bridge. The two presidents, who
met at the Central European summit in Lviv, said they
will ask their transport ministers to hold urgent
meetings on the problem of Danube shipping. In other
news, the foreign ministers of Romania, Bulgaria, and
Greece met in Sofia on 14-15 May to discuss the conflict
in Yugoslavia. The ministers said the conflict should be
resolved by political means and without any border
changes. They said any solution should be followed by a
Balkan stability pact to help integrate the region into
European structures. VG

BULGARIAN AMBASSADOR ON VISAS FOR MOLDOVANS. Bulgarian
Ambassador to Moldova Petar Vodenski said his country's
decision to apply visa restrictions to Moldovans is not
related to Chisinau's refusal to allow Bulgaria to
transport spent nuclear materials through Moldova, BASA-
Press reported on 14 May. Vodenski also denied that visa
requirements were related to demands by the Bulgarian
minority in the Taraclia district of Moldova for
autonomy. He said the visa decision is part of
Bulgaria's attempts to bring its laws into line with EU
standards. On 12 May, Moldovan government adviser
Nicolae Chirtoaca rejected that explanation, saying
Bulgaria had not applied visa restrictions on Ukrainian
and Russian travelers. Chirtoaca said the "true motive"
for the restrictions was related to Moldova's stance on
the used nuclear materials. VG

END NOTE

WHILE EUROPE LOOKS ELSEWHERE

by Jan Maksymiuk

        As NATO continues to bomb Yugoslavia, the chances
that Belarusian democrats will be able to turn the
political situation in Belarus to their advantage are
becoming increasingly remote. Thanks to Belarus's
official propaganda machine, NATO's air strikes in
Yugoslavia have become a powerful stimulus for advancing
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's idea of "Slavic unity"
and reintegration with Russia. Russia's Yegor Gaidar has
complained that by dropping bombs on Yugoslavia, NATO is
bombing Russian democracy. That statement is even more
true with regard to Belarus and its democratic
opposition.
        What seemed a far-fetched idea when first voiced by
ultranationalist Serbian Deputy Premier Vojislav Seselj
in Belarus in May 1998 has come true one year later: the
Yugoslav parliament recently applied for membership in
the Belarus-Russia Union and was supported in its bid by
the Russian State Duma, not to mention the Belarusian
legislature, which is subservient to Lukashenka. Most
would argue that joining the " Slavic union" was simply
a propaganda exercise on the part of Yugoslav President
Slobodan Milosevic as he and his regime face
international isolation. Doubtless such is the case. But
that move has also added a dimension and given increased
publicity to what initially looked like a whim primarily
of Belarus's authoritarian president.
        It is hardly conceivable that the idea of Slavic
unity idea would ever appeal to Poland and the Czech
Republic, which are now safely in NATO, or to Slovenia
and Bulgaria, both yearning to be there as soon as
possible. But Lukashenka's appeals are intended
primarily for the ears of Russians, Ukrainians, and
Belarusians--the "East Slavic core" of a possible union
state that he so much covets. The NATO action in
Yugoslavia has reanimated and strongly inflamed Soviet
stereotypes about the "NATO aggressive block."
Lukashenka's bid to transform what he calls today's
"unipolar world" into a bipolar one--as, for example, in
the Brezhnev era--is finding more and more backers in
the former Soviet republics. As for Lukashenka, he
continues to consistently promote himself as a "tough"
leader who can make this transformation happen.
        Lukashenka's propaganda campaign has three major
pillars: the Belarus-Russia Union (which he hopes will
expand to include other countries) should counterbalance
NATO by building up its military power; both Belarus and
Russia, while remaining sovereign states, should
delegate extensive executive powers to the Union
leadership in the sphere of military and economic
policies; and the Belarus-Russian Union should help
Yugoslavia militarily.
        In their coverage of the Kosova conflict, Belarus's
official media provide graphic examples of how "total
propaganda" techniques are utilized to achieve
Lukashenka's political goals. The coverage is extremely
biased--there is virtually no reports on the problem of
Albanian refugees and, consequently, no reference
whatsoever to the reason for NATO's intervention in
Yugoslavia. The most "insightful" official explanation
states that Yugoslavia can be found guilty only of
desiring to exist "according to its own laws."
Addressing flood-stricken villagers in Brest Oblast,
Lukashenka explained NATO intervention in Yugoslavia
even more simplistically: Yugoslavia is being attacked
because it is one of the "richest regions [where] people
mine gold and other precious metals."
        In this atmosphere of prejudice and manipulation,
Belarus's official media present the Belarusian
opposition as a West-sponsored group of nationalists
backing NATO intervention in Belarus. When former
Premier Mikhail Chyhir, a candidate in the opposition
presidential elections, somewhat carelessly told
journalists, that the situation in Belarus may worsen to
the point where it will be necessary to bring in
peacekeeping troops, Lukashenka's propaganda machine did
not miss its chance. Chyhir's statement was interpreted
as an open invitation for NATO to bomb Belarus.
According to one of the five main tenets of classical
propaganda, the so-called "rule of orchestration," the
message was subject to endless variation, including
condemnation by Lukashenka. And when Chyhir was
subsequently jailed on charges of embezzlement, his
image in the media had been sufficiently sullied to
"officially justify" his arrest and possibly enlist
public moral support for this measure.
        The first piece of bad news for the Belarusian
opposition is that its orientation toward Western
democratic values has become very vulnerable to
propaganda attacks that claim such values have to be
supported by bloodshed. When U.S. Ambassador to Belarus
Daniel Speckhard said during his short trip to Minsk
that the Belarusian authorities should not resort to
force in dealing with the opposition, the official
response was damning: "If the U.S. path to democracy and
integration leads through bombing and destroying a
civilian population in an independent European state, we
advise Mr. Speckhard that he should [promote] something
else in his own homeland," Belarusian Television
commented earlier this month.
        The second piece of bad news is that by pressing so
hard to achieve a satisfying solution to the Kosova
problem, European democracies are tending to ease their
pressure on the Lukashenka regime. That, at least, is
how the situation is perceived by many Belarusian
commentators and oppositionists, who fear that the
prospect of Belarusian democracy--a minor problem in
comparison with the Kosova crisis--will be sacrificed on
the altar of a Kosova solution. According to Belarusian
pessimists, the arrest of Chyhir and the OSCE's refusal
to send observers to the opposition presidential
elections in Belarus are the first signs of such a
sacrifice.
        Moreover, it would doubtless be an irony of history
if by seeking to depose one dictator in the Balkans,
Europe helped another one to consolidate his hold over
Belarus.

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1996 Friends and Partners
Natasha Bulashova, Greg Cole
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Updated: 1998-11-

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©1996 Friends and Partners
Please write to us with any comments, questions or suggestions -- Natasha Bulashova, Greg Cole