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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 191, Part II, 30 September 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 191, Part II, 30 September 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 * FORMER BELARUSIAN PREMIER INDICTED AFTER SIX MONTHS IN JAIL * DOZENS INJURED AS POLICE USE FORCE TO END BELGRADE RALLY * DOZENS INJURED AS POLICE USE FORCE TO END BELGRADE RALLY xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE FORMER BELARUSIAN PREMIER INDICTED AFTER SIX MONTHS IN JAIL. Former Premier Mikhail Chyhir, arrested on 30 March on suspicion of grand larceny and abuse of office, has been indicted on charges of exceeding his authority, abusing office, and negligence, Belapan reported on 29 September. Investigators accuse Chyhir of issuing dubious credits when he headed a bank before becoming premier and of allowing a company to postpone paying customs duties when he headed the government from 1994-1996. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka publicly accused Chyhir of embezzling $10 million, but investigators could not confirm that allegation and withdrew the charge of grand larceny. JM BELARUS'S SHARETSKI DENIES HE MET WITH MISSING OPPOSITIONIST. Supreme Soviet Chairman Syamyon Sharetski, currently living in exile in Vilnius, has denied a report in the state-run newspaper "Belorusskaya niva" that he has met with Viktar Hanchar since the latter's disappearance (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 September 1999), RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 29 September. In a reference to Lukashenka's praise for the Hitler regime in an interview with a German journalist in 1996, Sharetski commented that "Belorusskaya niva" serves the man who "once called Hitler his idol. Therefore, they do everything like Hitler did--they shamelessly lie." JM UKRAINE REINFORCES SECURITY IN WAKE OF CHECHEN CONFLICT. Security Service Deputy Chairman Yuriy Zemlyanskyy on 29 September said Russia's recent military action in Chechnya is also "likely" to affect Ukraine. He said Chechen militants are now trying to settle in Ukraine. "I can cite specific examples of their envoys coming to Odesa and purchasing [or] leasing apartments for the resettlement of Chechen militants to Ukraine," Interfax quoted Zemlyanskyy as saying. He added that Ukraine's Security Service is taking extra measures to prevent terrorist acts and detect possible terrorists. The same day, Border Troops Commander Pavlo Shysholin announced the introduction of additional security measures at the border with Russia, including an increase in the number of border guard units. JM UKRAINE'S KUCHMA WINS MOCK ELECTIONS AMONG STUDENTS. Winning 31.73 percent of the vote, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma came first in a mock presidential ballot organized at some 200 institutions of higher education throughout the country on 28 September. Natalya Vitrenko received 12.57 percent backing, Yevhen Marchuk 9.55 percent, Oleksandr Moroz 7.37 percent, Petro Symonenko 4.06 percent, Yuriy Kostenko 3.55 percent, and Hennadiy Udovenko 3.09 percent. Of the 111,000 students who participated in the ballot, 16.42 percent did not support any of the 15 presidential hopefuls. JM ESTONIAN PARLIAMENT RATIFIES WTO ACCESSION PROTOCOL. The Estonian parliament on 29 September voted by 48 to seven to approve the protocol of accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO). Many opposition parliamentary deputies did not vote, while 33 of them signed a declaration opposing the passage of the protocol, which they said is against Estonia's national interests, ETA reported. The group added that they are not opposed to WTO membership but to what they described poor accession conditions and negotiated terms, according to "Postimees." Estonia signed the WTO accession protocol on 21 May and was required to ratify all necessary agreements and pass all relevant legislation by 31 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May 1999). Several more pieces of legislation must be ratified before that deadline. MH LATVIAN REGION IS 'POOREST' AMONG EU CANDIDATES. According to a report published on 29 September by the EU statistical office Eurostat, the eastern Latgale region of Latvia is the poorest region of any among the EU candidate states, LETA reported. GDP per capita in Latgale is only 16 percent of the EU average, while Latvia itself also has the lowest GDP per capita of all candidate states--26 percent of the EU average, while the figure is 37 percent for Riga. Lithuania's GDP per capita is 29 percent of EU average and Estonia's 34 percent, according to ETA. Analysts, however, point out that the report is based on information dating from 1996. MH LITHUANIA TO CHANGE BACK TO OLD TIME ZONE. The Lithuanian government on 29 September agreed that the country will revert to the same time zone as Latvia and Estonia. For the past 18 months, Lithuania had opted to be in the Central European Time zone. The change will go into effect on 31 October, since Lithuania will not put back its clock by an hour when most other countries in the region do so. The government decided to return to the old time zone after public opinion clearly demonstrated a preference for that zone. The government is also contemplating ceasing to change to summer time, as Estonia has already done. MH POLISH CABINET APPROVES 2000 BUDGET DRAFT. The 2000 budget draft adopted by the government on 28 September projects 5.2 percent growth in GDP, compared with 4 percent expected this year. Inflation is expected to drop to 5 percent from the projected 7.7 percent in 1999. Budget revenues are put at 141.4 billion zlotys ($35.3 billion) and expenditures 154.1 billion zlotys. Poland expects to obtain 11.7 billion zlotys from selling off state assets in 2000, compared with the 13 billion zlotys slated for this year. The government also plans to increase spending on agriculture by 49 percent, on transportation by 40 percent, and on scientific research by 5.2 percent, compared with this year. The budget draft now goes to the parliament for approval. JM POLAND'S 1999 GRAIN HARVEST SMALLER THAN LAST YEAR. The Main Statistical Office (GUS) reported on 29 September that Poland's grain harvest may be down 1.3-1.6 million tons on last year's level, as some crops have fallen prey to bad weather, pests, and grain diseases. According to GUS, 9.2 million tons of wheat, 5.2 million tons of rye, and 3.4 million tons of barley will be harvested this year. JM CZECH GOVERNMENT APPROVES CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGES. The Czech government on 29 September approved a package of draft changes to the constitution, including measures that curtail certain presidential powers, (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 1999), Czech media reported. President Vaclav Havel attended the cabinet meeting in order to explain his objections to the draft. The cabinet made one change to the proposed amendment obliging the president to call on the party that wins the elections to form a government: according to that change, the lower house of the parliament would confirm a prime ministerial candidate. The change is designed to prevent the Communists from being able to form a government should they win the most votes in an election. VG EU COMMISSIONER SEES EXPANSION IN 2004. EU Enlargment Commissioner Guenter Verheugen on 29 September told the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" that the EU could accept new members in 2004. He refused to say if some countries are lagging behind others among the candidates for the first wave of enlargement. VG ARCHEOLOGICAL DIG STOPPED AT PRAGUE JEWISH CEMETERY. Czech Culture Minister Pavel Dostal on 29 September called for an archeological dig at a 13th century Jewish cemetery in Prague to be halted, Czech Television reported. Dostal's request came just one day after some 100 people demonstrated in front of the site, located on Vladislavova Street, to protest the removal of the cemetery. The insurance company Ceska Pojistovna plans to build an underground garage on that site. So far, the remains of some 100 gravesites have been removed and transferred to another cemetery following an anthropological analysis. Dostal asked the director of the Prague Heritage Institute to stop the dig and take steps toward turning the cemetery into a heritage site. Prague Rabbi Karol Sidon welcomed Dostal's decision. VG BELGIUM TO SEND BACK SLOVAK ROMA. Belgium and Slovakia are working together to have some 500 Slovak Roma flown back to Slovakia, CTK reported on 29 September. Belgium has rejected applications for asylum from the Slovak citizens. The Belgium Immigration Office noted that 541 Slovaks applied for asylum in August alone and another 204 arrived during the first three weeks of September. Last year, 985 Slovak Roma applied for asylum in Belgium, and authorities believe that as many as five times that number could apply by the end of this year. VG SLOVAK GOVERNMENT STRENGTHENS POLICE. The Slovak government on 29 September approved draft amendments designed to strengthen the powers of the police, TASR reported. Interior Minister Ladislav Pittner said the changes will enable police to enter houses, workplaces, and other buildings to check whether foreigners have residence or working permits. VG HUNGARY'S FIDESZ SUES WEEKLY. FIDESZ, the main coalition partner, is suing the "Elet es Irodalom" weekly for failing to publish a correction to an article on mines owned by Prime Minister Viktor Orban's family. FIDESZ press officer Attila Farkas told Hungarian media on 29 September that instead of an official correction, the weekly decided to publish the letter FIDESZ sent to the editor requesting that the mistake be corrected. Farkas added that this decision raises other legal questions, since the published letter includes the addresses of a number of FIDESZ politicians who signed it. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE DOZENS INJURED AS POLICE USE FORCE TO END BELGRADE RALLY. At least 60 people were injured on 29 September when Serbian riot police beat back protesters who were marching to the Belgrade home of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, Reuters reported. Some 30,000 people took part in the march to the capital's Dedinje district. Some 300 riot police, backed by water cannon, turned on the protesters before they reached the Milosevic residence. At least four demonstrators were seriously injured. Five policemen and several journalists, including a CNN cameraman, also sustained injuries. Eleven people were reported arrested, including some opposition officials. Alliance for Change leader Zoran Djindjic said at a subsequent downtown rally that Milosevic "made this protest a popular uprising because you use such force only when you see the protests as a big threat to your regime." The Interior Ministry commented that "a large group of hooligans...including known criminals [and] drug addicts" had attacked police with bricks, stones, and sticks. Protest organizers vowed to attempt to march to Dedinje again the following day. Large demonstrations were also held in Nis, Novi Sad, and several other towns. PB YUGOSLAV ECONOMISTS ASKS EU TO SEND ENERGY TO CITIES. At an EU meeting in Helsinki on 29 September, the independent group of Yugoslav economists called Group 17 urged the EU to help the democratic process in Serbia by providing gas to cities that have opposition-led administrations, Reuters reported. The economists said they need $3.5 million to begin heating oil projects in the southeastern Serbian cities of Nis and Pirot. Group 17 coordinator Mladjan Dinkic said the message to the EU is "that the cost of not acting would surely be higher to the EU than the cost of acting, so give us a chance to show what we can do." He added that if Milosevic tried to stop a fuel shipment from arriving in a Serbian town, "he will face the animosity of citizens who will not have heating." The economists will also visit Paris, Berlin, London, and The Hague. PB NEW WAR CRIMES CHIEF TO FOCUS ON MILOSEVIC. Carla del Ponte, the new chief prosecutor at the UN war crimes tribunal at The Hague, said on 29 September that the court will concentrate on gathering evidence against Yugoslav President Milosevic and others suspected of ordering atrocities to be committed in Kosova, AP reported. The tribunal indicted Milosevic and four top advisers in May for crimes against humanity. Del Ponte said the cases against those indictees will be strengthened. Formerly the federal prosecutor for Switzerland, Del Ponte replaced Louise Arbour, who accepted an appointment to the Canadian Supreme Court. PB BELGRADE DAILY FINED. A judge in Belgrade levied a 130,000 dinar ($21,600 at the official exchange rate) fine on the daily "Glas javnosti" for a story it published on alleged corruption in the distribution of humanitarian aid, Radio B2- 92 reported on 29 September. In addition, the newspaper's editor in chief, Srecko Petric, was fined 70,000 dinars. In other news, Milosevic named Major-General Milen Simic as head of the Yugoslav Army's General Staff for Information and Morale. He replaces General Aleksandar Bakocevic, who Tanjug said will return to "civilian service." PB UN HEAD IN KOSOVA CONDEMNS HATRED. One day after a grenade attack in an outdoor market killed two and left nearly 50 people injured, Bernard Kouchner decried the "massive hatred" between ethnic Albanians and Serbs, AFP reported on 29 September. "We have tanks, troops, and police, but this is not enough," Kouchner said at a hospital where he visited people injured in the incident. A UN spokeswoman said two people arrested on suspicion of involvement in the attack have been questioned and released. She said reports the previous day that four people had been detained were erroneous. In Prishtina, Zivojin Mitrovic, the president of the Serbian National Assembly of Kosova, said that "if similar crimes continue, the Serbs...will be forced to find appropriate forms of self-organization in order to protect their lives and homes." PB UN OFFICIAL SAYS KOSOVA FACES TOUGH WINTER. Dennis McNamara, a deputy representative in Kosova's UN administration, said the lack of major reconstruction in the Serbian province of Kosova means many people will not have proper housing this winter, Reuters reported. McNamara said the UN and other agencies will provide enough "repair kits" to patch up one room each in 50,000 damaged homes. He said some 300,000 to 400,000 people whose homes will not be repaired will have to seek accommodation with family and friends over the winter. McNamara added that 44 people have been killed and 194 injured by landmines and unexploded bombs since the war ended in June. PB OSCE, WAR CRIMES TRIBUNAL SLAM CROATIA. The OSCE said in a report on 29 September that although Zagreb has made some progress toward Western standards of democracy, it remains far behind in many important areas, AP reported. It cited difficulties in property restitution, an ambiguous amnesty law, discriminatory legislation, and flawed media and electoral laws ahead of the December parliamentary elections. It also said that monitoring of Croatian television shows "a continuing pattern of unbalanced news and...reporting in favor of the ruling party." The same day, the UN war crimes tribunal at The Hague said in a letter to the UN Security Council that Zagreb is still not cooperating with the tribunal's efforts to apprehend and prosecute suspects. The court is seeking the extradition of suspected war criminal Mladen Naletilic, who is being detained in Zagreb. PB SAKIC PLEADS INNOCENCE AT END OF TRIAL. In the closing statement at his trial on charges of crimes against humanity, Dinko Sakic, the commander of a concentration camp in Croatia during World War II, claimed that the trial is politically motivated and influenced by international pressure on Croatia, Hina reported. Sakic, 77, said he believes he "was convicted before the process started." He said his voluntary return to Croatia from Argentina is proof of his innocence. Sakic said that he was only carrying out orders "that corresponded to my beliefs about national interests and the biological survival of the Croatian people." He was in charge of the Jasenovac camp from May to October 1944 and is accused of being responsible for the deaths of 2,000 prisoners. A verdict is expected on 4 October. PB MRS. KARADZIC DOESN'T KNOW WHERE HER HUSBAND IS. The wife of wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic said on 29 September that she has not seen her husband for three months, Reuters reported, citing an interview in the Belgrade weekly "Nedeljni Telegraf." She said he moves around a lot and that she receives reports that he is doing alright. Karadzic is wanted by the UN war crimes tribunal for crimes committed during the Bosnian war. In other news, U.S. citizen Charles Kim was found guilty in New York on 29 September of defrauding the UN mission in Bosnia of some $800,000. Kim headed the mission's Zagreb-based transport and travel office from 1995-1998. He will be sentenced in December. PB CANDIDATES FOR MACEDONIAN PRESIDENCY APPROVED. Macedonia's Election Commission approved six candidates to run in the country's third presidential elections, which will take place on 31 October, AP reported on 29 September. Among the six are two ethnic Albanians, Muarem Nexhipi of the Albanian Democratic Party and Muhamed Halili of the Albanian Party for Democratic Prosperity. The frontrunner in the election is Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Trajkovski. The other candidates are Vasil Tupurkovski of the Democratic Alternative, Tito Petkovski of the opposition Social Democratic Union, and Stojan Andov of the Liberal Democrats. PB ALBANIA'S POLLO DECIDES NOT TO CHALLENGE BERISHA. Genc Pollo, a leader of the opposition Democratic Party, said on 29 September that he will not challenge former Albanian President Sali Berisha for the leadership of the party, Reuters reported. Pollo said gross violations in the election of delegates to the party's convention set to open on 30 September were the reason for his decision. He blamed Berisha for "stimulating and ordering such acts." Pollo also resigned from all of his party functions although he will remain in the party. PB ROMANIA, HUNGARY AGREE TO SET UP BATTALION. Romanian Defense Minister Victor Babiuc and his visiting Hungarian counterpart, Janos Szabo, agreed on 29 September to set up a Romanian-Hungarian peacekeeping battalion by 1 January 2000, according to an MTI report cited by the BBC. The two ministers said that the "excellent" relationships between the two countries' military forces could serve as a model for bilateral relations in other areas. In other news, Istvan Szent-Ivanyi, the chairman of the Hungarian parliamentary Foreign Relations Committee, told a visiting Romanian parliamentary delegation that Hungary supports the quick accession of Romania to NATO and the EU. He said the fact that Hungary will have to impose visa restrictions on Romanians as part of the EU's Schengen convention could endanger relations between the two countries in the long term. VG FBI DIRECTOR IMPRESSED WITH ROMANIA'S FIGHT AGAINST CRIME. FBI Director Louis Freeh on 29 September said he is "impressed" with Romania's "determination to fight against crime and organized crime," AP reported. Freeh was in Bucharest for talks with Romanian Interior Minister Dudu Ionescu and Intelligence Service head Costin Georgescu. Freeh said the FBI will open a permanent residence in Bucharest, the 38th such residence in a foreign capital. VG COUNCIL OF EUROPE DEMANDS ACCESS TO IMPRISONED MOLDOVAN DEPUTY. The president of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly, Lord Russell Johnston, has urgently requested that the Red Cross be permitted to visit an imprisoned Moldovan deputy in the breakaway Transdniester region, Infotag reported on 29 September. The so-called Supreme Court of Tiraspol convicted Ilie Ilascu and three other Moldovans of terrorism in 1992. The court is not recognized by the international community. VG BULGARIA CALLS FOR RAPID REOPENING OF DANUBE. Bulgarian Transport Minister Wilhelm Kraus has rejected a proposal by the Danube Commission to reopen the Danube River to boat traffic no earlier than next spring, BTA reported on 29 September. Describing the proposals as "absolutely unacceptable," Kraus demanded that the river be re-opened to traffic sooner. He also called on Yugoslavia to cooperate with other countries in the region to find a solution acceptable to all. He added that if Yugoslavia refuses to provide access to its destroyed bridges on the River Danube, Bulgaria will invoke the Convention on the Regime of Navigation on the Danube. Under the convention, a country's refusal to grant such access can be "ignored." Bulgaria claims it has lost millions of dollars as a result of the war in Kosova, which disrupted trade on the Danube. VG xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. 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