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Transition Nations Press Review: An Eastern View Of Kosovo

Prague, 14 April 1999 (RFE/RL) -- The conflict in Kosovo continues to dominate selected recent commentary from the press of nations in transition from communism.


NEZAVISIMAY GAZETA: Kosovo could become the Cuban missile crisis of the Balkans

Writing in Russia's Nezavisimay Gazeta, Dmitry Gornostayev warns that Kosovo could become the "Cuban missile crisis of the Balkans." Gornostayev says that an announcement by President Boris Yeltsin last week that he favored Yugoslavia's bid to join the union of Russia and Belarus constituted a "sharp change" in Russian policy. Gornostayev says Yeltsin's comment was greeted as "sensational news."

The Yeltsin announcement along with press reports that Russia was considering retargeting its nuclear missiles, Gornostayev writes, "very much resembles the Cuban missile crisis of 1962." The writer adds: "So far we cannot say whether the acting leaders will have enough common sense to avoid the catastrophe into which the U.S. administration is drawing the international community."

IZVESTIA: As usual, Yeltsin has played his game

In Izvestia, writers Svetlana Babaeva and Alexander Sadchikov note that the retargeting and Yugoslav union pronouncements came as the State Duma was preparing to debate four impeachment counts against Yeltsin. They write: "Yeltsin has mixed up all the current issues of the Russian political establishment."

Izvestia's commentary says: "Yeltsin's statements were followed first by cautious disclaimers" from sources who declined to be identified, then by responses from the Russian Missile Forces "which neither confirmed nor denied" the retargeting reports. The writers say: "As usual, the president has played his game. What exactly this game is we cannot yet say, but it is clear that the political situation in Russia, complicated as it is, is still mixed and uncertain."

Babaeva and Sadchikov write: "Embassies of foreign countries in Moscow are starting to show interest in both the new would-be union of three states and the retargeting of Russian missiles. Now they will have to be told what exactly it was that Yeltsin and (Duma Speaker Gennady) Seleznyov wanted to say in reality."

IZVESTIA: US prefers Moscow's mediation

Another Izvestia writer, Melor Sturua, reported on April 9 what Sturua claims were "previously unknown details of a telephone call between (Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny) Primakov and (U.S. Vice President Al) Gore." He said Gore asked Russia to mediate in new attempts to find a diplomatic solution in Kosovo.

The writer said: "The U.S. administration has no desire whatsoever to negotiate with Milosevic eye to eye. We should emphasize that the Yugoslavian president likewise is not ecstatic about the idea of direct negotiations with Clinton, the American Hitler, and also prefers Moscow's mediation."

NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA: Events point to imminent ground operations

Also from Russia, two writers in Nezavisimaya Gazeta predict the imminent invasion of Yugoslavia by NATO ground troops. One, Dmitri Gornostayev (quoted earlier) even predicts the date. His prediction, he says, is based on "certain political and military indications." The writer cites a number of events, and adds: "All of these events form a logical chain based on which one can conclude that a planned political and military campaign is being waged to prepare the public for the idea of a possible ground operation against Yugoslavia." He says: "Against this background, rumors have been circulating in certain NATO member states that the NATO summit in Washington may be rescheduled for a later date. It is likely (therefore that NATO) plans to launch an offensive before April 23-24 (when) the summit was supposed to be held."


KAZANSKOYE VREMYA: Islamic theologians of Russia support Kosovar Albanian Muslims

In the Russian republic of Tatarstan, Kazanskoye Vremya describes the difficulties of Muslim religious leaders in Russia, Moscow and Kazan in formulating views on Yugoslavia. The newspaper says that Russian chief mufti Talgat Tajutdin and Moscow mufti Ravil Gaynutdin support the positions of Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov and Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov concerning Serbia and Kosovo. The newspaper says that Tatarstan's mufti Gosman Khazrat also expressed his solidarity with these statements.

The newspaper continues; "Meanwhile, many of the influential mullas and Islamic theologians of Russia directly speak for supporting Kosovar Albanian Muslims. Turkey participates in the air strikes against Serbia. Arab countries positively assert the position of NATO, and, reportedly, Arab Islamic circles criticized the statements of the mufti in Russia."


PARI: Refugees are not the only ones who suffer in this situation

The Bulgarian press reflects official and public ambivalence. In Bulgaria's Pari daily, historian Andrej Pantev says he finds the charges of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo "awkward." He writes: "Recently one ethnic Albanian from Kosovo said in a TV interview that he had left a house worth ($300,000) in Kosovo. If you keep in mind that it was not a house in Manhattan but a country villa, you have to admit the Albanians did have a kind of autonomy, which other ethnic groups, also in Europe, still don't have. The Kosovo crisis already affects Bulgaria, and we have to ask ourselves, could this crisis repeat itself in those parts of our country where Bulgarians are the minority?"

Pantev writes: "I prefer the Kosovo refugees to be transported to other countries abroad rather than be left near our borders. We do really feel compassion with the Kosovo refugees but they are not the only ones who suffer in this situation."

CAPITAL WEEKLY: This war is quite real for us

The Capital Weekly says in an editorial: "Unlike the war in the Gulf, the war in Kosovo is real as far as Bulgarians are concerned. Because we see this war not only on CNN. This war takes place only a few kilometers from our borders. When the Danube bridges near Novy Sad get destroyed, they close not only the Serbian road to Europe but also the Bulgarian road. Unlike the fires in Kuwait, the fires in Belgrade produce fears almost everywhere in Europe."

The editorial says: "This war is quite real for us (also) because of the thousands of Kosovo refugees. ... The messages of our politicians were mixed. First they showed understanding toward the fate of the displaced people, but when it came down to accepting them in our country, politicians changed their minds and began to explain that this move could lead to an explosion."


ZEMEDELSKE NOVINY: A strong position is still enjoyed by left-wing dinosaurs

In the Czech press, the crisis in the Balkans becomes a domestic political problem. Zemedelske noviny, commenting on the 29th Party Congress of the ruling Social Democrats (CSSD), says the delegates "betrayed their own government" when half of them signed a letter to the Yugoslav ambassador condemning what the letter called "NATO's aggression." Zemedelske noviny reports that Socialist International Secretary General Luis Ayala called on "Social Democrats everywhere" to give "unequivocal support to the victims of Kosovo and everyone else whose human rights are being violated in the Yugoslav province." The newspaper said that the two positions "showed the continuing differences between Western Europe and the Czech Republic." It added: "This illustrates the strong position still enjoyed by left-wing dinosaurs in the CSSD, and the huge gulf between them and their colleagues in Germany and Britain."


POSTIMEES: We have a chance and a duty to act as Europeans

Estonia's Postimees urges Estonians to assume the burden of some number of the Kosovo refugees. The newspaper says: "The moment has come for Estonia when we have a chance and a duty to act as Europeans. If human reasons aren't enough, this (European attitude) is reason to give shelter."

Postimees said, in a separate commentary, that Estonian and Estonian Russian-speakers perceive Kosovo differently, with Estonians mostly supporting NATO and the Kosovar Albanians and the Russian-speakers supporting Serbia. The newspaper says: "One of the main reasons for this is the fact that Estonian Russian-speakers get their information mainly from the Russian media."


DIENA: It is impossible to stay neutral

Diena in Latvia says in a commentary that "NATO must not lose in this military combat with the last dictatorship in Europe." The commentary says: "Therefore, it is impossible to stay neutral in this military conflict, and pretending that it does not really affect Latvia is dangerous." Diena says: "Russia's position in this conflict has been clearly stated. Therefore, the Latvian government will have to analyze and restate its (declared) foreign policy priorities" and place good relations with Russia at the appropriate level.

NEATRKARIGA: Relations between Latvia and Russia unlikely to improve

Latvia's Neatkariga says in an analysis: "When this war is over (regardless of whether or not Russia gets involved), the Kremlin will spare no energy opposing any attempts to allow any of the Baltic states to join NATO. The support that the Baltic states have expressed to the NATO military actions has damaged any chances that relations between Latvia and Russia might be improved."

(The Transition Nations Press Review is compiled from contributions by RFE/RL's Broadcast Services.)