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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 101, Part II, 25 May 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 101, Part II, 25 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 * BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION DEMANDS RELEASE OF FORMER PREMIER * SERBIAN POLICE ARREST ANTI-WAR PROTESTERS * SERBS SHELL UCK SUPPLY ROUTEIN ALBANIA End Note: NEW ARMS AGREEMENT AIMS TO EASE RUSSIAN FEARS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION DEMANDS RELEASE OF FORMER PREMIER... Some 1,000 people rallied in the Belarusian capital on 24 May to demand the release of former Prime Minister Mikhail Chyhir and "all political opponents of Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka," Interfax reported. The Belarusian opposition believes that Chyhir was arrested on trumped-up charges. He was taken into custody after he had registered as a candidate in the unauthorized presidential elections. Meanwhile, Prosecutor-General Aleh Bazhelka recently said that in his former capacity as bank head, Chyhir is suspected of having issued not only a "dubious $1 million credit to a Canadian firm but also unjustifiable credits to various limited liability companies," RFE/RL's Belarusian service reported on 24 May. JM ...APPRAISES SHADOW PRESIDENTIAL POLL. The opposition Supreme Soviet Presidium devoted its 24 May session to assessing the alternative Belarusian presidential poll, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. According to the presidium, the shadow elections showed that Belarusians are against Lukashenka's staying in power until 2001, as stipulated by the basic law adopted in the 1996 controversial referendum. JM CRIMEAN TATARS END PROTEST IN SIMFEROPOL. Crimean Tatars on 24 May dismantled a tent camp outside the Crimean government building after Crimean Premier Serhiy Kunitsyn had promised that the government will meet some of their key demands, Interfax reported. Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev told the agency that the protesters' main achievement was to obtain permission to set up a council to represent Crimean Tatars' interests in the Crimean government. Kunitsyn also gave permission to Tatar repatriates in the peninsula to own land and open their own schools. "What was do-able within the framework of the [Crimean government] has been done," Dzhemilev commented. JM METHANE BLAST IN DONETSK KILLS 39 MINERS. A methane gas explosion in the Zasyadko mine in Donetsk on 24 May killed 39 miners, AP reported. Forty-eight miners were hospitalized with burns and suffering from trauma. Last year in April, a methane gas explosion in the nearby Skochinskyy mine killed 63. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma declared 25 May a day of national mourning. According to official data, a total of 358 Ukrainian miners lost their lives in mining accidents in 1998, while the figure for this year, before the 24 May blast in Donetsk, is 80. JM ESTONIAN PRESIDENT IN GREECE. At the beginning of his state visit to Greece on 24 May, Lennart Meri met with his Greek counterpart, Konstantinos Stephanopoulos, to discuss, among other issues, EU and NATO enlargement, ETA reported. Greek and Estonian officials signed agreements on maritime transport, culture, and tourism. Later the same day, Meri officially opened a consulate in the port city of Piraeus. MH ESTONIAN SPECIAL GROUP COMMAND CONSIDERED SOUND. Estonian Defense Forces Chief-of-Staff Ants Laaneots has submitted documents on the Special Operations Group (SOG) that detail the chain of command. In his presentation to the parliamentary National Defense Committee on 24 May, Laaneots described the status, operations, and structure of the elite unit. The submitted documents list the activities of the SOG as training military police, guarding military VIPs, participating in special military police and rescue operations, but the SOG can also be assigned other "special tasks," according to "Postimees." Committee Chairman Tiit Tammsalu said that "on paper, the management is in order," but with regard to the group's functions and status, he noted it is unknown "how some intertwine," "Eesti Paevaleht" reported. MH CHARGES FILED AGAINST LATVIAN FORMER MILITARY HEAD. The Prosecutor-General's Office has filed charges of abuse of power against Juris Eihmanis, the former head of the Latvian military. The charges stem from the use of 43,000 lats ($73,000) earmarked for the Home Guards to refurbish an apartment in Riga. The former commander denies the charge. If convicted, he could face up to 10 years in prison. Eihmanis currently holds a position at the Baltic Defense College in Tartu, Estonia, according to LETA. MH VAN DER STOEL IN LATVIA. OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel is in Latvia to assess the debate over the draft language law. In discussions with the parliamentary Education Committee, Van der Stoel noted that the language law must conform with international norms. Committee chairman Dzintars Abikis said the OSCE recommendations were "narrowed," LETA reported. The OSCE's chief concern is the bill's regulation of language use in the private sector, according to BNS. MH LITHUANIA'S MAZEIKIAI OIL REFINERY SHUTS DOWN. The Mazeikiai Oil Refinery shut down completely on 24 May owing to a lack of crude from Russia, BNS reported. Company officials stated that the shutdown, which began on 21 May, will cost 300,000 litas ($75,000) a day. Russian oil transit authorities said domestic shortages are the cause of the crude shipment stoppage. Parliamentary Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis speculated that the stoppage is a political decision by the Russian government. MH FIRST QUESTIONABLE LUSTRATION STATEMENTS TO BE EXAMINED IN POLAND. The Lustration Court has decided to launch lustration proceedings against four public figures whose lustration statements have been questioned by Lustration Prosecutor Boguslaw Nizienski, Polish media reported. The first officials to undergo lustration are a Peasant Party (PSL) deputy, a Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) senator, and two lawyers. SLD spokesman Andrzej Urbanczyk noted that the four people "represent" the former SLD-PSL coalition, adding that he does not believe that this is a coincidence. According to Bogdan Pek of the PSL, any parliamentary caucus can have "problems" with lustration. In his opinion, the lustration process has been carried out correctly. JM POLISH MINERS CONTINUE PROTEST OVER RESTRUCTURING PLAN. Some 50 miners on 24 May occupied the Labor Industry building to protest social benefit packages included in Poland's coal mining restructuring plan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May 1999). Another group is blocking access to the Finance Ministry. "We are prepared even for a one-month blockade," "Gazeta Wyborcza" quoted miners as saying. Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski said the protest should be suspended and the government should start negotiations as soon as possible. He added that even though the money for severance payments to laid-off miners has been used up, the government could find other funds for that purpose. JM CZECH LABOR, INDUSTRY LEADERS CRITICIZE GOVERNMENT. Czech labor and industry leaders on 24 May said the government is not doing enough to deal with the current economic crisis, Czech media reported. Both labor leader Richard Falbr and industry representative Stepan Popovic called on the government to pass a law on insolvencies and create the proper conditions for economic development. Prime Minister Milos Zeman said the two representatives should engage in tri-partite discussions involving the government, rather than making "cheap appeals," "Hospodarske noviny" reported on 25 May. The meeting between Falbr and Popovic came as some 800 workers at the CKD plant, who are on leave without pay because of the plant's financial problems, demonstrated outside company headquarters. Falbr warned that a "hot autumn" lies ahead for the Czech Republic as more and more companies can be expected to get into financial trouble. VG SCHUSTER LEADS MECIAR IN SLOVAK POLLS. The latest poll on the Slovak presidential elections found that 55.9 percent of respondents support Kosice Mayor Rudolf Schuster, while 39.6 percent say they will vote for former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar in the second round of voting, scheduled for 29 May, TASR reported on 25 May. The poll was conducted from 21-24 May by the Institute of Public Opinion. In other news, Slovak Interior Minister Ladislav Pittner and his Czech counterpart, Vaclav Grulich, signed an agreement in Bratislava on 24 May on easing customs controls for Czech and Slovak citizens, TASR reported. VG HUNGARIAN STATE SECRETARY INVOLVED IN LETTER SCANDAL DIES. FIDESZ parliamentary deputy Bela Gyuricza, one of the three state secretaries who had signed a letter lobbying for the appointment of the next U.S. ambassador to Hungary (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 May 1999), died in hospital on 24 May after weeks of treatment. Gyuricza, aged 60, headed the security and defense secretariat of the Prime Minister's Office. Several FIDESZ members confirmed that they had signed the letter at Gyuricza's request. In other news, Spanish Foreign Minister Abel Matutes told his visiting Hungarian counterpart, Janos Martonyi, that Hungary's aspirations to join the EU are "all the more justified as Hungary has made the best progress of all countries seeking admission," Hungarian media reported on 24 May. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE SERBIAN POLICE ARREST ANTI-WAR PROTESTERS. Police in Cacak arrested at least four members of the self- proclaimed Citizens' Parliament on 24 May and took them to police headquarters for an "informative conversation," which is the official term in Serbia for an interrogation. The four have been charged with taking part in an "illegal meeting," Reuters reported. Cacak Mayor Velimir Ilic has gone into hiding and is being sought by the police. In Krusevac, where anti-war protests have also taken place in recent days, tension remains high, "The Guardian" noted. Police there have refrained from breaking up demonstrations and arresting protesters "for fear of igniting a bigger revolt," the London-based daily added. "The New York Times" quoted one resident of Aleksandrovac as saying: "This is not a political protest. It is simply people who are trying to save their necks." PM MORE SERBIAN TROOPS SENT TO KOSOVA. NATO officials said in Brussels and Washington on 24 May that the Yugoslav army has sent 10,000 additional troops into Kosova since NATO air strikes began in late March. The officials added that Belgrade may be seeking to improve its defensive position should NATO ground troops invade Kosova or to strengthen its negotiating position during eventual peace talks. In Washington, State Department spokesman James Rubin noted that Serbian forces are increasingly taking up stationary positions. Major- General Charles Wald, whom AP describes as a "senior U.S. military planner," noted that stationary troops cannot easily battle a guerrilla force such as the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK). He added that the Serbian forces "don't have good places to go to sleep. They're living in the field." PM SERBS SHELL UCK SUPPLY ROUTE IN ALBANIA. Serbian forces fired about 50 artillery shells into Albanian territory near Tropoja on 24 May in an apparent attempt to close a supply corridor used by the UCK. The route links Tropoja with the UCK-held Kosovar village of Koshare, which overlooks the plains of Junik and Decani. Elsewhere, Kosovapress reported that the UCK was involved in heavy fighting around Junik. In Tirana, Albanian Defense Minister Luan Hajdaraga said the Albanian army has begun reinforcing its borders with tanks and heavy weapons. FS NATO SPEEDS UP KUKES EVACUATIONS. NATO forces began evacuating some 30,000 refugees from camps in Kukes on 24 May. NATO spokesman Helge Eriksen said that the Atlantic alliance plans to move out up to 1,000 refugees a day. Meanwhile, 1,239 refugees have arrived in Albania via the Morina border crossing. Most were women and children who had been walking for days, but the arrivals also included 164 men whom Serbian forces had held hostage at the prison in Smrekonica, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees told Reuters in Kukes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May 1999). He said some of the men who arrived that day were in "appalling" condition, with black eyes, damaged ribs, and injured feet as a result of what they said were beatings with rifle butts. FS KOSOVA'S QOSJA URGES UNITY. Rexhep Qosja, who is a nationalist writer and leader of the United Democratic Movement of Kosova, told RFE/RL on 24 May that he welcomes the creation of a Kosovar "National Security Council" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May 1999). He said that the body "will not sideline the provisional government" of UCK leader Hashim Thaci as Kosova's executive body. He added that the council will function as a legislature and "thus give us the possibility to flesh out our institutional structures until we hold free elections." He stressed that all organizations represented in the Kosovar delegation at Rambouillet must have a place in the council. Qosja suggested that the council be open to other Kosovar organizations as well. He urged all rival Kosovar politicians to bury their differences, saying that: "I call upon everybody to meet, talk and agree. Our people demand that we stay together. Kosova has many big problems to solve." FS BELGRADE: NATO HAS 'NO MORAL RIGHT' IN KOSOVA. Vladislav Jovanovic, who is Yugoslavia's representative to the UN, said in New York on 24 May that NATO countries have discredited themselves "both morally and politically in the eyes of the whole international community" by carrying out air strikes against Yugoslav targets. He added that NATO countries will not have "the necessary moral authority" to participate in any peacekeeping operations in the foreseeable future, AP reported. Jovanovic stressed that "it would be really unthinkable for one sovereign country to allow its own destroyers to play the role of peacemakers or peacekeepers." PM UN REPORT DETAILS SERBIAN RAPE PRACTICES. French psychologist Dominique Serrano-Fitamant has completed a report for the UN Population Fund on the "extensive rapes" of Kosovar women from at least three villages at the hands of Serbian forces, Reuters reported from New York on 24 May. She noted that many of the women were beaten and that the rapes lasted "even for days." The Serbs systematically killed many of their victims, Serrano-Fitamant noted, adding that "any resistance is met with threats of being burned alive." She said that some women told her that they could identify their torturers as followers of "a certain well-known leader." She did not elaborate. Serrano-Fitamant wrote that some of the torturers cut off the ears and noses of young boys before slitting their throats. She also noted: "The torturers sharpened their knives in front of the women. They then cut open the stomachs of many pregnant women and skewed the fetus on their blades." PM U.S. SENATE PASSES RESOLUTION ON WAR CRIMES. The Senate on 24 May approved a text calling for the "vigorous prosecution" of war crimes. Supporters of the resolution stressed that war criminals must be punished even if they are high-ranking Serbian officials. The text's backers added that the international community must not conclude any agreement with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic that would grant him immunity from prosecution for war crimes. PM YUGOSLAV ARMY WARNS MONTENEGRIN AUTHORITIES. The command of the Yugoslav armed forces stationed in Montenegro issued a statement accusing the Montenegrin authorities and media of making "baseless and malicious attacks" on the army, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 24 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May 1999). The text added that the military stationed in Montenegro are carrying out their duties "in a professional manner...under wartime conditions." PM SLOVENIA READY FOR 'STABILIZATION PACT.' A government spokesman said in Ljubljana on 24 May that Slovenia is ready to participate in the international community's proposed "stabilization pact" for southeastern Europe once the Kosova crisis is over. The spokesman stressed, however, that Slovenia's role will not be that of an aid recipient but that of a provider of advice and economic assistance, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM LOW PARTICIPATION IN ROMANIAN GENERAL STRIKE. Fewer union members than had been expected took part in a 24- hour work stoppage in Romania on 24 May. Union leader Pavel Tudoran said the turnout had been "below expectations" and that the impact on public services had been limited, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. In other news, the fifth round of talks between Ukraine and Romania on border issues, which was scheduled to begin on 24 May, has been postponed at the request of the Romanian side, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 May. VG ROMANIAN PRIME MINISTER VISITS MOLDOVA. Radu Vasile on 24 May called on international organizations to include Moldova in any regional reconstruction effort following the resolution of the Kosova conflict. Vasile, who is on a two-day visit to Moldova, said his country has agreed to increase electricity supplies to Moldova and to open a new border crossing between the two countries at Costesti, according to a 24 May Romanian Radio report cited by the BBC. Vasile and his Moldovan counterpart, Ion Sturza, agreed to hold regular meetings in the future. The Romanian leader praised Moldova's "clear and categorical" openness to European values. VG MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT SATISFIED WITH REFERENDUM. Petru Lucinschi is satisfied with the results of the non- binding referendum on expanding presidential powers, despite the low turnout, his spokesman Anatol Golea told Infotag on 24 May. With just 55 percent of voters taking part, the referendum was short of the 60 percent required to be considered valid. Nevertheless, Golea said that some 60 percent of those who cast ballots supported Lucinschi's initiative to increase presidential powers. He refused to comment on the fact that 20 percent of the ballots cast in the referendum had been declared invalid. Another 20 percent voted against Lucinschi's initiative. Golea said the president would use this "clear signal" of support to press on with reform. He said a constitutional commission will be set up to draft a law on amending the constitution. And he did not rule out the possibility of a second referendum on the proposed constitutional changes in the fall. VG MOLDOVAN LOCAL ELECTIONS REQUIRE SECOND ROUND IN MANY MUNICIPALITIES. Many of the municipal and regional elections that took place in Moldova on 23 May will have to be repeated because no candidate won the necessary 50 percent of the vote, an RFE/RL correspondent reported on 24 May. In the capital, Chisinau, acting Mayor Serafim Urecheanu won 47 percent of the vote, compared with 24 percent for Communist candidate Vasili Ivov, BASA-Press reported on 24 May. The two candidates will face each other in a runoff. The Interior Ministry reported that the elections took place without any major violations of the electoral law. However, a Council of Europe observation group noted that uniformed police were present in many voting areas and that a "great number" of ballots were declared illegal, BASA-Press reported. VG BULGARIAN, MACEDONIAN PRIME MINISTERS MEET AT ST. CYRIL'S GRAVE. Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov and his Macedonian counterpart, Ljubco Georgievski, jointly attended a ceremony at the grave of St. Cyril in Rome on 24 May to mark the Day of Slavic Letters, according to a BTA report cited by the BBC. Kostov described the meeting as "historic" since it was the first time that leaders from Bulgaria and Macedonia had attended a joint ceremony on the holiday, which is recognized in both countries. In previous years, delegations from the two countries had kept apart. Kostov added that it would have been "ridiculous" for the two sides to continue past arguments in the face of the current conflict in the Balkans. Georgievski said the ceremony would promote friendship between the two countries. VG END NOTE NEW ARMS AGREEMENT AIMS TO EASE RUSSIAN FEARS By Roland Eggleston The U.S., Russia, and 28 other countries are putting the finishing touches on a new European security agreement intended to limit the possibility of a surprise military attack with conventional weapons. The basic agreement, reached in Vienna on 30 March after years of negotiations, places restrictions on the deployment of battle tanks, artillery, and armored vehicles in individual European countries from the Atlantic to the Urals. The final text is expected to be signed in Istanbul in November by heads of government attending an OSCE summit meeting. A senior U.S. negotiator, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told RFE/RL that one of the main goals of the new agreement is to defuse Russian concerns about a possible concentration of Western tanks, artillery, and armored vehicles in the three new NATO member states: Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. "NATO has made several concessions to ease Russian fears", he said, adding that "there are special restrictions on the number of both national and foreign forces which can be deployed in these countries on a permanent basis." On the other hand, the new agreement also prevents Russia from increasing its permanent forces in Kaliningrad Oblast, which borders Poland and Lithuania, or in Pskov Oblast, which borders Estonia. Belarus also accepted restrictions on the military forces that may be deployed on its territory. Another part of the agreement allows Kazakhstan to station a limited number of tanks, artillery, and armored vehicles at the northern end of the Caspian Sea to protect its oil installations. Kazakhstan is the only Central Asian country that is a signatory to the treaty, and the area around the north of the Caspian is the only part of the country covered by the document. In legal terms, the new agreement is an update of the 1990 Paris Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe, which cut the number of battle tanks, artillery, and armored vehicles held by NATO and the former Warsaw Pact. Much of the 1990 treaty remains unchanged in the new agreement. But amendments were necessary because it sought to balance NATO and the now defunct Warsaw Pact. The new agreement focuses on individual countries and the number of tanks, artillery. and armored vehicles that may be deployed in them by either national or foreign forces. The agreements allow each country both a national ceiling and a so-called "regional" ceiling. The former is the total number of its own forces. The latter is the maximum number of foreign forces that may be deployed on a permanent basis. The same system applies to artillery pieces and armored vehicles. Part of the special arrangements made to reassure Russia about the new NATO members is that the "regional" total in these countries will be the same as the "national" total. This restricts the possibilities for deploying foreign NATO forces on their territory. Belarus has accepted a similar restriction, which NATO negotiators believe will prevent a build-up of Russian forces there. In addition, the three new NATO members have agreed to reduce the size of their national forces in the next few years.. Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic were in any case planning such reductions. A European negotiator told RFE/RL: "The structure of the armed forces in these countries was based on their being units of the Warsaw Pact. As members of NATO, the call is for smaller, more mobile forces." NATO, however, insisted on flexibility in these arrangements to allow for rapid assistance in times of crisis. This part of the agreement allows reinforcements to be sent to another country under threat. In most cases, the initial reinforcement would be limited to a single brigade, which, in NATO terms, means about 150 tanks, 100 artillery pieces, and 250 armored vehicles. If the situation worsens, two brigades may be sent. The ceiling on the deployment of foreign forces may also be temporarily increased in certain other situations, including joint military exercises under the Partnership for Peace program. In these cases some equipment may be moved from one country to another. Restrictions on the number of foreign forces deployed in a single country may also be lifted temporarily for military exercises that are not part of the Partnership for Peace program. But this exception is surrounded by restrictions to ensure that the exercises cannot be turned into a threat against another country. The negotiators have also agreed that the normal limits can be exceeded when military forces are supporting peacekeeping operations with a mandate from the UN or the OSCE. In such cases, the size of the forces deployed is determined by the mandate. Finally, the negotiators in Vienna agreed on the thorny issue of the size of the forces that can be deployed in the so-called "flank" areas: St. Petersburg Military District and the Caucasus. Ten countries are affected by the agreement on the flanks. Initially, Russia wanted all restrictions lifted on its deployment of forces in these flank regions, particularly the Caucasus. Under the final agreement, in certain circumstances the "territorial" limit of national and foreign forces in these regions can be exceeded by the temporary deployment of one brigade in the region. The agreement also allows for temporary arrangements allowing countries in the flank region to amend the limits in favor of another country. Negotiators say that in certain circumstances, this would allow Russia to increase the size of its forces in the flank region but only if other countries reduced their own numbers. The author is a senior RFE/RL correspondent based in Munich. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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