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Newsline - January 23, 2001




PUTIN WITHDRAWS PLAN TO LIBERALIZE CRIMINAL CODE

President Vladimir Putin late on 21 January withdrew proposed amendments to the country's criminal code that he had submitted on 5 January and that would have required among other things prior court approval of all arrests, "Segodnya" reported on 22 January. Kremlin officials told Interfax that Putin had taken this step in order to find the 3,000 additional judges they said were necessary for its implementation. Duma legal affairs committee chairman (KPRF) Anatolii Lukyanov and Unity fraction leader Boris Gryzlov approved the move, Russian agencies reported, but Viktor Pokhmelkin of the Union of Rightist Forces told Reuters that the security forces were behind this move and that Putin "has shown his weakness and dependence" on them. PG

RUSSIANS URGED TO DEFEND HUMAN RIGHTS...

The All-Russian Extraordinary Congress in Defense of Human Rights issued an appeal on 21 January to all those concerned about the fate of freedom in Russia to work for its defense," Interfax reported on 22 January. "The growth of threats to the foundations of the constitutional system and civil society, to the supremacy of law and the rights of individuals requires that we form a constructive civil non-political opposition to this regime," the congress's declaration said. The two-day meeting also adopted a resolution condemning the adoption of the music of the former Soviet hymn. PG

...AS OMBUDSMAN CALLS ON AUTHORITIES NOT TO IGNORE THESE RIGHTS...

The Russian government's ombudsman for human rights, Oleg Mironov, told the meeting that the Russian authorities must not "remain deaf" to the appeal of this first-ever Russian congress in defense of human rights, Interfax reported. "Otherwise, [it] will lose authority," he told the news service on 22 January. PG

...AND YABLOKO HEAD CALLS FOR DEMOCRATIC FORCES TO CONSOLIDATE

Meanwhile, Grigorii Yavlinskii, the head of Yabloko, told the delegates that his group plans to hold a democratic conference in the spring, Interfax reported on 22 January. "People are becoming aware that we have a fake freedom of speech, fake independence of the judicial system, fake elections, and a fake multiparty system," Yavlinskii said. He said that a new political system is emerging in Russia, one that he said might be described as "disguised national-bolshevism." He also said that the government must end the military draft this year and has the funds to do so. PG

SWISS TURN DOWN MOSCOW ON BORODIN

Swiss prosecutors on 22 January refused a proposal by the Russian government in which they would drop their request for Pavel Borodin's extradition in exchange for Moscow's promise that he would travel to Switzerland to answer questions, AP reported. As a result, the former Kremlin property manager and current Russia-Belarus Union secretary will remain in detention without bail at least until a hearing on 25 January. Meanwhile, Ruslan Tamaev, the deputy head of the serious crimes unit of the Office of the Prosecutor General, predicted that the Swiss will fail to convict Borodin if he is handed over to them, Interfax reported. PG

MEDIA-MOST CONTINUES TALKS WITH INVESTORS

Even as Gazprom-Media insisted it had taken control of 19 percent of the shares in NTV in its suit against Media-MOST and as the Union of Journalists announced plans to organize a public fund to purchase some of these shares, Media-MOST representative Dmitrii Ostalskii told Interfax on 22 January that talks with potential foreign investors are continuing. He said that the asking price would be not less than $300 million, which would more than cover the Media-MOST loan Gazprom had guaranteed. Meanwhile, the "Moscow Times" reported the same day that a consortium of foreign investors led by U.S. media magnate Ted Turner is ready to pay at least $300 million but that Turner, who knows President Putin personally, has been unable to reach the Russian leader. PG

DUMA COMMITTEE BACKS INCREASE IN RUSSIAN USE OF IMF

The Duma budget and tax committee on 22 January unanimously passed a resolution supporting the government's plan to increase Russia's use of special drawing rights at the International Monetary Fund by $1.7 billion. Committee chairman Aleksandr Zhukov noted that Moscow has no overdue obligations at the IMF. Meanwhile, Vneshekonombank said that it is current in interest payments to the Paris Club as of 22 January but will need $9.6 million by the end of the month to keep up on that account. PG

RUSSIA'S RETURN TO PACE DELAYED

More than 10 deputies objected on 22 January to the reseating of the Russian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, forcing a hearing on 24 January on whether the Russian deputies will regain the right to vote, Russian agencies reported. The Assembly last year stripped Russia of its voting rights there because of Moscow's conduct in Chechnya. Also on 22 January, PACE held a hearing on the status of freedom of the press in Russia. Meanwhile, the All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion found Russians are almost equally divided on whether it is important that Russia regain its voting rights in PACE. PG

KARAGANOV SEES SHIFT IN U.S. APPROACH TO RUSSIA

Sergei Karaganov, the head of the Foreign and Defense Policy Council, told "Segodnya" in an interview printed on 20 January that the new Bush administration will devote less attention to Russia. He said that the policies of the Clinton administration had "collapsed" and had even "led to a considerable growth in anti-American sentiments in Russian society." But the new administration wants Russia to look after itself and will react sharply only if Moscow's actions are viewed as anti-American. Because the U.S. has various means to express its displeasure, Karaganov said, President Putin will have to be cautious in his approach. PG

NO LEUKEMIA CASES FOUND IN RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPERS

A thorough examination of Russian peacekeepers in Kosova failed to find any leukemia cases, Colonel General Yurii Baluevskii, the chief of the main operational directorate of the general staff, said in Moscow on 22 January, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

U.S.-RUSSIAN COMMAND STAFF EXERCISES PLANNED

Officials at the Russian Defense Ministry told ITAR-TASS on 22 January that Russian and American officers will hold joint command-staff exercises 1-10 February. The exercises, to be held in the U.S., will take place under the terms of a 1996 agreement that calls for such exercises at least once every two years. The last such games were held in Moscow in 1998. PG

MORE COMPLAINTS THAT MILITARY SPENDING IS TOO LOW

"Vek," NO. 3, featured a long article subtitled "Russia equips foreign armies better than its own," which suggests that the federal budget allocation of 80 billion rubles ($2.8 billion) for arms procurement is far too low. Meanwhile, "Tribuna" on 20 January said that cuts in spending for conventional forces could mean that Russia will not be able to defend its border to Chinese expansionism. China is a boiler "containing steam under pressure," the paper said, adding that "it's not hard to guess where the steam from the Chinese boiler will go." On 22 January, the Movement for the Support of the Army told Interfax that it plans to stage a series of demonstrations on 5 February to demand the removal of the country's prime minister, his government, and UES head Anatolii Chubais. PG

MOSCOW CONCERNED BY GUUAM'S FOCUS

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko on 22 January said that Moscow has noticed "signs of increased military cooperation" in the activities of GUUAM, the regional association involving Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Moldova, Interfax reported. Such a tilt represents "a divergence from its initially declared goals," he said. PG

RUSSIA-UKRAINE BLACK SEA SQUADRON PLANNED

Admiral Viktor Kravchenko, the chief of the naval staff, told Interfax on 22 January that Russia intends to work with Ukraine to set up a joint naval squadrom based in Sevastopol. Meanwhile, the Defense Ministry told the Russian news service the same day that Moscow has renewed training flights of the TU-95MS over the extreme north. PG

ZHIRINOVSKY ARGUES NUMBER OF REGIONS SHOULD BE CUT TO 20

At a wide-ranging press conference in Moscow on 22 January, LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky said that he believes the country should have "a maximum of 20 regions," Interfax reported. He also said Russia is developing super weapons that will defeat any NMD system, that there will be changes soon at the top of the country's defense ministry, and that Russia's plan to serve as a final resting place for spent nuclear materials will add to its ability to influence other states, especially Russia's neighbors. PG

ZYUGANOV OUSTS SHEIN AS HEAD OF SKP

Gennadii Zyuganov, the head of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, was elected chairman of the council of 19 Communist parties in the former union republics in place of Oleg Shein who was ousted for his "splitting activities," ITAR-TASS reported on 22 January. On 21 January, Zyuganov and other Russian communists marked the 77th anniversary of the death of the founder of the Soviet state, Vladimir Lenin. PG

WAGE ARREARS REDUCED

The State Statistics Committee reported that the total wage debt in Russia fell by 5.111 billion rubles ($180 million) in December 2000 to a total of 31.690 billion rubles as of 1 January 2001, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 January. PG

CENTRAL BANK REPORTS BANK CLOSURES

A Central Bank report carried by Prime-TASS on 22 January said that the number of credit institutions in Russia declined from 1349 on 1 January 2000 to 1311 on 1 January 2001. PG

GAZPROM TO SELL COMMERCIAL PAPER IN THE WEST

The "Times" (London) reported on 22 January that Gazprom will return to the world financial markets in the near future with the floating of $500 million in bonds, AFI reported. PG

RUSSIA EXPECTS ARMS EXPORTS OF $4 BILLION IN 2001

A Rosvooruzhenie spokesman told ITAR-TASS on 22 January that Moscow expects to export $4 billion in arms in 2001, slightly less than the $4.3 billion predicted at the end of last year. PG

ORDZHONIKIDZE LEAVES HOSPITAL

Moscow Deputy Mayor Iosif Ordzhonikidze was discharged from hospital on 22 January, Interfax-Moscow reported. Ordzhonikidze was the victim of an assassination attempt on 19 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 December 2000). His attackers have not been identified. PG

GROUND CONTROL WRESTLES WITH MIR PROBLEMS

Russian ground controllers have been unable to restart gyroscopes on the Mir space station, AP reported on 22 January, but instead are controlling the craft, scheduled to deorbit in early March, by using small thruster rockets. PG

'KURSK' SUNK BY ITS OWN TORPEDO, EXPERT SAYS

An expert involved in the investigation of the sinking of the "Kursk" submarine on 12 August 2000 told "Obshchaya gazeta," no. 3, on condition of anonymity, that the "Kursk" had sunk as a result of the spontaneous combustion of the fuel of a reusable practice torpedo. He said that this explosion then set off charges in the live torpedoes and these sunk the ship. The expert blamed the Navy and its commander, Admiral Vladimir Kuroyedov, for covering up what had happened. "For all these people, telling the truth about the 'Kursk' is equivalent to admitting that the Navy's arsenals are in a state of chaos, as well as the Navy itself -- and the entire country for that matter." PG

MI-6 AGENT'S MEMOIRS PUBLISHED IN MOSCOW

The memoirs of former British intelligence officer Richard Tomlinson have been published in Moscow in an edition of 10,000, but Russian intelligence officials told Interfax on 22 January that they had not had anything to do with the publication. PG

VODKA PRODUCTION FALLS...

The Russian Association of Producers of Spirits and Alcohol has reported that vodka and liquor production in Russia fell by 9 percent in 2000 compared with 1999, "Vremya MN" reported on 20 January. The association added that illegal production grew to 50 percent of total consumption last year, up from 40 percent a year earlier. Meanwhile, Interfax reported on 22 January that the Russian government has postponed the deadline for the use of excise stamps on vodka until 1 July 2001. PG

...BUT INFLUX OF HEROIN MAY BE INCREASING

Moscow airport customs officials seized almost twice as much heroin from Afghanistan and Tajikistan in 2000 as they did the year before, Interfax reported, suggesting that efforts to send the drug through and to the Russian capital may be increasing. PG

TWO-THIRDS OF RUSSIAN TERRITORY SAID UNFIT FOR HABITATION

Researchers at Moscow's Energy Institute claim that more than two-thirds of Russia's territory is unfit for human habitation, "Sobesednik," no. 2, reported. PG

SOME RESIDENTS OF THE FREEZING FAR EAST REMAIN WITHOUT HEAT

The long spell of unusually cold weather eased in some parts of Siberia but continued in parts of the Far East. Schools reopened in the city of Krasnoyarsk on 22 January after a two-week hiatus due to temperatures measuring minus 40 degree Celsius; schools in Buryatia had reopened the previous week. On 21 January, an emergency situation was declared in Khingansk, the northernmost village of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, RFE/RL's Birobizhan correspondent reported. More than 1,200 people there are without central heating in their homes while outside temperatures have dipped to minus 44 degree Celsius. Residents have been forced to rely on electric heaters and wood stoves to keep warm. Meanwhile, the energy situation in Sakhalin Oblast has worsened, and electricity shut-offs have reached 12 hours a day, according to RFE/RL's Russian service. JAC

LOCAL NEWSPAPER SEIZED IN RUN-UP TO TATARSTAN ELECTIONS

Tatarstan's Press Ministry has explained why it ordered the seizure of 18 January edition of "Kazanskoe Vremya," RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 22 January. According to the ministry, the newspaper had issued two separate editions with different content, and therefore the republic's interior ministry was ordered to seize both editions. "Kommersant-Daily"'s Kazan correspondent had a different theory, reporting on 19 January, that the seized edition carried articles promoting Rafgat Atlinbaev, the former mayor of Chally and deputy agriculture minister, who is reportedly planning to run for president of Tatarstan. "Kazanskoe Vremya" founder Gennadii Naumov said that he has already appealed to the republic's prosecutor to launch criminal proceedings over the illegal seizure of the newspaper. JAC

GERMANY DENIES KALININGRAD-FOR-DEBT SWAP REPORT

The German embassy in Moscow denied on 22 January a report that appeared the previous day in Britain's "Sunday Telegraph" that Germany and Russia were conducting secret negotiations over the possible return of Kaliningrad Oblast to Germany in exchange for part of Russia's foreign debt owed to German creditors, Interfax reported. According to the newspaper, unidentified German officials said that the idea was floated during a private visit to Moscow earlier this month by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. The German embassy said that the report has no basis, while a representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry to Kaliningrad told Ekho Moskvy on 21 January that the British report is part of "an information war against Kaliningrad." Kaliningrad Governor Vladimir Egorov told Interfax on 21 January that he has not received any instructions from Moscow to give special preferences to German businesses in Kaliningrad. JAC

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH-DOG RELEASES NEW MEMORANDUM ON CHECHNYA

Human Rights Watch on 22 January released an eight-page memorandum detailing further instances of human rights violations by Russian troops in Chechnya. The memorandum is based on interviews with nearly 100 Chechens who witnessed or were subjected to arbitrary arrest, torture, blackmail or intimidation. LF

CORRECTION:

The e-mail and fax versions of "RFE/RL Newsline" on 22 January erroneously reported that President Putin had appointed a new Chechen premier on 19 January. That appointment was made by Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov following the signing by Putin of a decree expanding the powers of the Chechen administration and formally removing from its designation the term "interim."

NORTH OSSETIAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR CIS SUMMIT ON CAUCASUS

Speaking at a press conference in Moscow on 22 January, Aleksandr Dzasokhov called for convening a CIS summit to focus on the Caucasus, Caucasus Press reported. Dzasokhov said he had already discussed that possibility with the presidents of two CIS states, both of whom approved it. He said Russia, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan should draft and agree on a "strategic approach" to the region's security problems. Dzasokhov also suggested founding an Institute for the Study of the Caucasus under the aegis of the Russian Academy of Sciences. LF




DETAINED ARMENIAN BUSINESSMAN'S HEALTH DETERIORATING?

Businessman Arkadii Vartanian, who has been held in pre-trial detention in Yerevan since 30 October, is suffering from high blood pressure and may suffer a stroke unless he receives urgent medical attention, his wife Elena told Noyan Tapan on 22 January. Vartanian is accused of having called for the overthrow of the Armenian leadership at a march of his supporters to the presidential palace in Yerevan on 30 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October and 13 November 2000). LF

RUSSIAN SECURITY COUNCIL SECRETARY VISITS ARMENIA, AZERBAIJAN

Sergei Ivanov paid a low-profile visit on 21 January to Yerevan where he met separately with Armenian President Robert Kocharian and Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian to discuss bilateral relations and the situation on the South Caucasus, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Ivanov then flew to Baku for talks on 22 January with Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliyev that reportedly focussed on the results of Russian President Vladimir Putin's 9-10 January visit to Baku and the Karabakh conflict, ITAR-TASS reported. Aliyev characterized the visits by Putin and Ivanov as evidence of an improvement in Azerbaijani-Russian relations, according to AFP. "Russia has definitely begun paying more attention to the Caucasus and is trying to be as objective and correct as possible," Aliyev said. LF

AZERBAIJAN, TURKEY TO COORDINATE TACTICS OVER ARMENIAN GENOCIDE RECOGNITION

President Aliyev and Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister Vilayat Quliev met on 19-20 January in Baku with visiting Turkish Foreign Ministry Under-Secretary Faruk Lologlu (a former Turkish ambassador to Azerbaijan) to discuss drafting a common policy towards Armenia, according to Trend News Agency on 22 January as cited by Groong. That coordinated policy will also include joint actions in response to the resolutions adopted by various national parliaments condemning the genocide of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey in 1915. Meanwhile in Yerevan, Armenian Union of Consumers chairman Arsen Kazarian called for an Armenian boycott of Turkish consumer goods in response to Ankara's call for a boycott of French products to protest the French parliament's condemnation of the genocide, Groong quoted Snark as reporting on 22 January. LF

AZERBAIJAN'S WAR INVALIDS LAUNCH HUNGER-STRIKE

Some 40 members of Azerbaijan's Society of Nagorno-Karabakh War Invalids began a hunger-strike on 22 January at the society's Baku headquarters to demand an increase in the pensions they receive, Turan reported. A further 10 war invalids launched a parallel protest in the Djulfa and Sharur districts the same day to demand that their pensions of 70,000 manats ($14) be tripled. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT, PARLIAMENT SPEAKER DENY MUTUAL ANIMOSITY

Speaking on 22 January in his traditional Monday radio interview, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze denied persistent rumors of tensions between himself and parliament speaker Zurab Zhvania, Caucasus Press reported. Shevardnadze characterized his relations with Zhvania as business-like, warm and friendly, but admitted that from time to time they disagree. Zhvania similarly told journalists the same day that rumors of a "confrontation" between himself and the president are untrue. LF

GEORGIA PARLIAMENT DELEGATION VISITS MOSCOW

Georgian parliament deputy speakers Vakhtang Rcheulishvili and Eldar Shengelaia met in Moscow on 22 January with Russian State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, ITAR-TASS and Caucasus Press reported. The three men agreed that the legislatures and foreign ministries of both Russia and Georgia should work towards lifting the visa requirement for Georgian citizens wishing to enter the Russian Federation which Moscow imposed last month. Speaking in Tbilisi the same day, President Shevardnadze said the Russian and Georgian Foreign Ministries have begun drafting a new framework treaty on bilateral relations that, he said, "will enable the two countries to establish absolutely new, friendly and equitable relations," ITAR-TASS reported. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT ACCEPTS INVITATION TO CASPIAN SUMMIT

During a telephone conversation on 22 January, Nursultan Nazarbaev accepted his Turkmen counterpart Saparmurat Niyazov's invitation to attend a summit of Caspian littoral states, Russian agencies reported. That forum is to be held in the Turkmen port of Turkmenbashi (former Krasnovodsk) in early March, and will focus on resolving disagreements between the five littoral states on how to divide and use the Caspian Sea's resources. LF

KYRGYZ OPPOSITION CONDEMNS KULOV SENTENCE...

Kyrgyz opposition parties on 22 January harshly criticized the seven-year jail sentence handed down earlier that day by the Bishkek City Military Court on former Vice President Feliks Kulov, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 2001). Kairan-El Party leader Dooronbek Sadyrbaev said that sentence shows that the country is in the grips of an "authoritarian regime," while Communist Party chairwoman Klara Adjybekova said it was "politically motivated." People's Party chairman Melis Eshimkanov said the sentence marks the end of what he termed "the romantic period of democracy" in Kyrgyzstan. Kulov was found guilty on charges of abuse of his official position while serving as National Security Minister in 1997-1998 by illegally promoting an aide, forgery of official documents, and instigation to commit a crime. His entire property has been confiscated, and he has been stripped of his rank of police colonel general. Fellow members of Kulov's Ar-Namys Party had urged him earlier this month to leave the country before sentence was pronounced, but he declined to do so, affirming that he is innocent. LF

...AS ANOTHER SENIOR KYRGYZ OFFICIAL DISTANCES SELF FROM LEADERSHIP

Kamal Bayalinov, who submitted his resignation as public relations advisor to Kyrgyzstan's President Askar Akaev last November, has founded his own information agency named "Asia," he told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 22 January. Bayalinov, who had served as presidential advisor since February 2000, incurred criticism from the head of the presidential administration, Misir Ashyrkulov, for having criticized the work of the Ministry of National Security and calling for it to be disbanded. Bayalinov had also proposed that any state or government official who wanted to sue a journalist or newspaper should first resign from his post. LF

KYRGYZSTAN TO ELECT FIRST LOCAL GOVERNMENT HEADS

Minister of Local Government Tolebek OmurAliyev said in Bishkek on 22 January that as an experiment, elections will be held in March for village administration heads in one village in each of the country's seven oblasts, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Elections of local administrators in the remaining 30 towns and 450 villages will take place in the autumn. LF

TAJIKISTAN URGED TO ADMIT AFGHAN FUGITIVES

The UNHCR issued a statement in Geneva on 22 January calling on the Tajik leadership to allow an estimated 10,000 displaced persons now congregated on the Afghan side of the Afghan-Tajik border to enter Tajikistan, AP reported. The statement noted that over 40 of those displaced persons, including several newly-born children, have died since October, and that the survivors are short of food and drinking water. Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov said earlier this month that the displaced persons, who fled fighting between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance, include some armed fighters, and that they will not be permitted to enter Tajikistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 January 2001). LF

JAPAN PROVIDES NEW LOAN FOR UZBEKISTAN

Under an inter-governmental agreement signed in Tashkent on 22 January, Tokyo will provide a 550 million yen ($5.5 million) interest-free loan to Uzbekistan to finance two programs for increasing food production, ITAR-TASS reported. The money will be used to promote rice-growing in Khorezm and Karakalpakistan. LF




BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT TO RECEIVE AWARD IN MOSCOW

Alyaksandr Lukashenka will visit Moscow on 23--24 January, where he will be presented with a prize by an organization called the International Fund of Unity of Orthodox Nations, Belapan reported on 22 January, quoting Lukashenka's spokesman Mikalay Barysevich. The Belarusian leader will receive the prize from the hands of Moscow and All Russia Patriarch Aleksii II. Lukashenka will also hold talks with Russian State Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev and meet with the chief editors of "leading Russian media" at the ITAR-TASS headquarters. JM

TYMOSHENKO DECLARES WAR ON UKRAINE'S OLIGARCHS

Yuliya Tymoshenko, who was sacked by President Leonid Kuchma from the post of deputy premier last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 2001), told journalists on 22 January that the president dismissed her under pressure from oligarchs, Ukrainian media reported. Tymoshenko said she is not going to fight personally against Kuchma but she declared her intention of becoming a unifying factor for Ukrainians in their struggle against oligarchic clans. She promised to support Premier Viktor Yushchenko providing that he continues "the course we have built together." Tymoshenko seems to have moderated her stance since last week, when she said she will remain in opposition "to the current regime." JM

UKRAINE'S PRO-MOSCOW ORTHODOX CHURCH ASKS POPE TO DELAY VISIT

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate has asked Pope John Paul II to postpone his Ukrainian visit which is scheduled to take place from 23-27 June. The church warned the pope against meeting representatives of other Ukrainian Orthodox groups, which the Moscow Patriarchate considers as "schismatics." "If during your visit there is a meeting between Your Holiness and anyone of the schismatic leaders...it would mean the practical end of all relations between our churches," Reuters quoted from the Moscow Patriarchate's statement. The statement also suggested that the visit may contribute to whipping up tensions between Orthodox and Uniate believers in Ukraine. Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the same day that the pope's trip to Ukraine will go ahead as planned. JM

UKRAINIAN RIGHT-WING FORCES UNITE

Some 30 political parties and public associations have created a union of national democratic forces called the Ukrainian Right Wing (Ukrayinska pravytsya), Interfax reported on 21 January. In particular, the union includes the Ukrainian Popular Rukh, the Fatherland Party, the Ukrainian Republican Party, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, and the Ukrainian Cossacks. The union's declared goal is to coordinate efforts for "embodying the Ukrainian national idea" and create an electoral block of the right-wing forces. JM

LASCO PRIVATIZATION CALLED TOUCHSTONE FOR LATVIAN GOVERNMENT

President Vaira Vike-Freiberga said on 22 January that the privatization of the Latvian Shipping Co. (LASCO) will be a touchstone for the government of Premier Andris Berzins, BNS reported. The privatization process will indicate whether Latvia and its government have "indeed achieved a stage in development where a credibly transparent privatization process can take place," the president said. The failed privatization of LASCO could have negative consequences from an international perspective and contribute to the impression that corruption is flourishing in the country. The January 2001 issue of "Lloyd's List Economist" indicated that LASCO in 1999 ranked third in the world in terms of the volume of oil products transported. SG

ETHICS COMMISSION TO RULE ON TWO LITHUANIAN MINISTERS

Prime Minister Rolandas Paksas on 22 January submitted to President Valdas Adamkus the resignation of Transport and Communications Minister Gediminas Striaukas, BNS reported. The Special Investigation Service had raised questions whether Striaukas had breached service ethics in his previous post as head of the Lithuanian Road Directorate because a company in which his wife owned stock had won many of the contests for contracts which the Directorate held. Adamkus will wait for the judgment of the Chief Public Service Ethics Commission before deciding whether to accept Striaukas's resignation. The Ethics Commission is also deciding whether Economy Minister Eugenijus Maldeikis acted improperly during his recent visit to Moscow where he conducted talks with Gazprom. SG

POPE APPOINTS VILNIUS ARCHBISHOP AS CARDINAL

Pope John Paul II on 21 January named Archbishop of Vilnius Audrys Juozas Backis as one of 37 new cardinals, ELTA reported the next day. Backis is only the second Lithuanian named as a cardinal in the past three centuries. The first one, Vincentas Sladkevicius, who had been raised to that rank in 1988, died last summer. Although born in Lithuania, Backis grew up in France, graduated from the Lithuanian seminary in Rome, and had a successful career as a diplomat of the Holy See before returning to Vilnius in 1991 as its archbishop. SG

SOLIDARITY BLOC STRIKES BUDGET DEAL WITH FORMER PARTNER

The ruling Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) has won support from the Freedom Union (UW), the AWS's former coalition partner, for amendments in the 2001 budget draft due for a parliamentary vote next month, Polish media reported on 22 January. The deal staves off the prospect of early parliamentary elections and means that Premier Jerzy Buzek's cabinet will serve its full four-year term until the fall. Bogdan Pek from the opposition Peasant Party commented that the budget deal is "a continuation of the AWS-UW political contract" whereby the UW traded its support for the 2001 budget in return for the AWS's endorsement of Leszek Balcerowicz as the National Bank head. JM

POLAND'S UNEMPLOYMENT RISES TO 15 PERCENT IN DECEMBER

Poland's Main Statistical Office reported on 22 January that the unemployment rate in December 2000 was 15 percent, up from 13.1 per cent in December 1999 and 14.5 percent in November 2000. There were 2.7 million registered jobless Poles at the end of December 2000; of these, 79.7 percent are no longer entitled to unemployment benefits. Meanwhile, the CBOS polling agency found in early January that 25 percent of respondents said the situation in Poland is developing in a good direction, while 63 percent were of the opposite opinion. JM

CUBAN INVESTIGATION ON PILIP, BUBENIK, MAY LAST SIX MONTHS

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ales Pospisil on 22 January told CTK that the investigation of the two Czech citizens detained in Cuba can last 60 days and, if the authorities decide so, can be prolonged to up to six months. Pospisil stressed that the information is "unofficial" and that Prague hopes that Ivan Pilip and Jan Bubenik will be "immediately released." Lucie Pilipova, who on 21 January visited her husband in prison, said that he and Bubenik are suspected of acting against state security and fomenting an uprising. However, she was told no charges have yet been brought and that the authorities are "looking for a solution that would be good for both sides." MS

EU INTERVENES ON BEHALF OF CZECH PRISONERS IN CUBA

Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, acting as rotating chairwoman of the EU, on 22 January asked Cuba to free Ivan Pilip and Jan Bubenik, CTK reported. Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castaneda told journalists that his country is considering the possibility to act as mediator between Cuba and the Czech Republic. MS

CZECH TELEVISION OFFICIAL SKIPS NEGOTIATIONS ON SETTLING CONFLICT

Interim TV director Vera Valterova on 22 January declined to take part in talks with the striking journalists mediated by the Trade Union Federation leader, Senator Richard Falbr, CTK and AP reported. Valterova said the strikers were "putting her under undue pressure." Falbr said in reaction that "a strike always means organized pressure," adding that if there is no will to negotiate, the strike will continue until the Chamber of Deputies appoints a new Radio and Television Council. Later on 22 January, Falbr submitted a proposal under which the TV management would nullify the dismissal of some employees and criminal complaints launched against some strikers, in exchange for which Jindrich Beznoska and Jana Bobosikova would leave the posts of TV financial manager and TV news director to which they were appointed during Jiri Hodac's short tenure as general director. But Valterova rejected the proposals as "ultimatum-like." MS

CZECH PARTY LEADERS DISCUSS FIGHTER TENDER

The leaders of the Social Democratic Party (CSSD), the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), the Freedom Union and the Christian Democratic Party agreed on 22 January to continue talks on the governmental tender for the purchase of fighter planes, CTK reported. ODS Chairman Vaclav Klaus told journalists that for now it was agreed that certain questions are still in need of clarification, among which are not only the financial and economic implications of the envisaged purchase, but also whether the purchase itself is necessary. Prime Minister and CSSD leader Milos Zeman said the parties differ on the importance of the offset conditions that would be linked to the purchase. Media reports said offset programs may reach 150 percent of the fighters' price. MS

AUSTRIA BACKS GERMAN PROPOSAL FOR 'TRANSITION PERIOD' IN EU ENLARGEMENT PROCESS

Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner said in Brussels on 22 January that the German proposal for a seven year "transition period" in the implementation of the EU clause on the free movement of labor force is "fully in the spirit" of Austria's own views on the subject. She told journalists that Austria may even "demand something that is more," but added that a "certain flexibility" might still be required, as some EU member countries "need an influx of labor force in some sectors," CTK reported. MS

CZECH TENNIS STAR, ODS DONOR, IMPRISONED

Former professional tennis star Milan Srejber was sentenced on 19 January to five and-a-half years in prison for using inside information to benefit his investment company, AP reported. Srejber appealed the verdict. In 1997, the former tennis star made a $7.5 million crowns ($200,000) illegal donation to the Civic Democratic Party, which later led to the resignation of Vaclav Klaus as prime minister. MS

SLOVAK DEMOCRATIC PARTY LEADER TO STEP DOWN

Democratic Party leader Jan Langos said on 22 January he will not seek re-election at the conference of his party scheduled to take place next month, but will be a candidate for the post of deputy chairman, CTK reported. He urged the party leadership to elect Frantisek Sebej as his successor, saying Sebej "represents the same values I also believe in." Langos said there are "situations when decisions require that personal considerations be laid aside," and the Democratic Party finds itself now in such a situation. Polls have been showing the party's support being below the 5 percent threshold. MS

NATO GENERAL SECRETARY IN SLOVAKIA

Visiting NATO Secretary General Lord George Robertson said in Bratislava on 22 January that the alliance has not yet decided whether at the 2002 summit in Prague it will discuss the acceptance of new members, CTK reported. Parliamentary speaker Jozef Migas said after talks with Robertson that Slovakia must under no circumstances ease up on its efforts to qualify for joining the alliance. He said Slovakia must respond to doubts about its capability to do so by intensifying and perfecting reforms. Among these, Migas said, the parliament should approve a constitutional amendment enabling Slovak soldiers to participate in NATO operations. MS

CRIME DECLINES AMONG SLOVAK YOUTH, WHILE CHILD VIOLENCE RISES

Criminal offenses committed by people aged 18 and less declined in recent years, but violent crime by children under the age of 15 is on the rise, CTK reported on 22 January, citing Slovak police statistics. In 2000, the number of crimes committed by young people declined to 5,560 from 7,360 in 1997. On the other hand, there were 930 violent crime incidents involving children in 2000, whereas in 1997 there had been only 570 such incidents. A particularly steep rise has been registered in cases of armed robbery and murder committed by children. MS

FIVE LEAVE SMALLHOLDERS' PARLIAMENTARY GROUP

The Hungarian government's parliamentary majority has shrunk to six, after Independent Smallholders' Party (FKGP) chairman Jozsef Torgyan on 22 January expelled from the party's parliamentary group Laszlo Csucs, FKGP deputy leader of the group, and four other deputies resigned from it in sign of solidarity, Hungarian media reported. The four, Zsolt Lanyi, Robert Molnar, Katalin Kiszely and Mihaly Papai, said they will become independent members of the parliament. Csucs said the action taken by Torgyan demonstrates that "a dictatorship" prevails in the FKGP 11 years after the dictatorial system was changed. MSZ




DEL PONTE IN YUGOSLAVIA TO SEEK MILOSEVIC EXTRADITION

The chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia, Carla Del Ponte, arrived in Belgrade on 23 January for an unprecedented three-day visit. Del Ponte is expected to meet Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica on her first day in the Serbian capital. Kostunica recently agreed to see her after first saying he was "too busy" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 and 19 January 2001). Del Ponte is expected to demand full cooperation from the government, including the arrest and extradition of former President Slobodan Milosevic and other suspects it has indicted. Kostunica has made clear he does not want to extradite Milosevic to The Hague, but has suggested trying him in Yugoslavia. Del Ponte has stressed that he must be tried in The Hague. She also appears willing to deal directly with Serbian Prime Minister-designate Zoran Djindjic if Kostunica does not cooperate. PM

CROATIAN PRESIDENT: YUGOSLAVIA CAN CHANGE CONSTITUTION

President Stipe Mesic said in Ilok on 22 January that Belgrade should stop making excuses about constitutional prohibitions on extraditing war criminals to The Hague, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Mesic called such excuses "words for little children." He urged Belgrade to change its constitution and send the indicted war criminals to the tribunal. PM

EU TELLS MONTENEGRO TO WORK WITH SERBIA

In a sharp rebuke to Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic and his pro-independence government, EU foreign ministers said in a statement in Brussels on 22 January that Montenegro must seek its future in a federation with Serbia and not take any action unilaterally (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 2001, and "End Note" below). The ministers said that a solution should be worked out on the basis of Kostunica's proposals. Podgorica's policy is to try to negotiate a settlement with Belgrade as two independent actors and to hold a referendum on independence. Elsewhere, Wolfgang Petritsch, who is the international community's high representative in Bosnia, said that the day is past for solving problems in the former Yugoslavia through partition. He stressed that Montenegrin independence would have an adverse affect on Kosova, Macedonia, and Bosnia, "Vesti" reported on 23 January. PM

MONTENEGRIN LEADER TO EU: PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH

Dragisa Burzan, who is a pro-independence deputy prime minister, said in Podgorica on 22 January that the EU's statement is "unfounded" and based on faulty information, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He stressed that EU officials should become more acquainted with the facts before making such declarations. He also urged the EU, which includes several countries with relatively small populations or land areas, to apply in the Balkans the same standards as they apply at home. PM

MONTENEGRIN MINISTER: EU HAS TAKEN SIDES

Foreign Minister Branko Lukovac said in Podgorica on 22 January that the EU statement is one-sided. "We are surprised the statement refers to proposals and the interests of only one side, thus objectively making the talks more difficult because the EU, as a very important factor, is siding with one party and favoring its proposals," Reuters quoted him as saying. Lukovac added that "we think [that] in the coming phase, the EU should take equally into account all choices, arguments, and stands, both those of Montenegro and of Serbia." Lukovac also appealed to Montenegrins not to be discouraged by the EU statement and to support policies in keeping with Montenegro's own national interest. PM

MONTENEGRIN JUDGE BLASTS 'POKER GAME'

Justice Blagota Mitric of the Montenegrin Constitutional Court said in Podgorica on 22 January that EU statement is tantamount to the "opening of a poker game" on the mountainous republic's future. Mitric argued that the statement is "outside all domestic and international rules" of conduct, "Vesti" reported. PM

PRO-BELGRADE MONTENEGRIN PARTY WELCOMES EU STATEMENT

The Socialist People's Party, which serves in the Kostunica government and previously backed Milosevic, said in a statement in Podgorica on 22 January that it supports the EU's call in favor of the federation, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

SPECIAL GUEST STATUS FOR YUGOSLAVIA IN STRASBOURG

The Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly voted on 22 January to make Belgrade a special guest as a prelude to extending full membership. Several legislators expressed concern about Yugoslavia's failure to extradite Milosevic and other indicted war criminals. The guest status will allow a seven-man delegation from the Belgrade parliament to participate in the assembly's deliberations but not to vote, Reuters reported. PM

SERBIAN PRIME MINISTER'S NOMINATION OFFICIAL

At the opening session of the Serbian parliament on 22 January, President Milan Milutinovic formally nominated Djindjic as prime minister. Parliamentary speaker will be Dragan Marsicanin of the Democratic Party of Serbia, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

EU MONITORS TO PRESEVO VALLEY

Javier Solana, who is the EU's top foreign and security policy official, said in Brussels on 22 January that "we have taken a very important decision today. [As of] today, European Union monitoring mission people will be deployed in the Presevo valley for reasons of information [gathering]. Today there'll be already two teams, and in the coming days, in negotiations we are about to finish with Serbia...we will have the possibility of deploying more people. ...I would like to [make clear] that it will be only for the purpose of [gathering] information, [and] that [the EU] will be the only organization to be deployed in Presevo valley," RFE/RL reported. PM

ALBANIAN SOCIALIST LEADER URGES BELGRADE TO FREE PRISONERS

The Socialist Party of former Prime Minister Fatos Nano said in a statement in Tirana on 23 January that Nano urged Kostunica in Athens the previous week to free the some 700 Kosovars being held in Serbian jails. The statement added: "Mr. Nano urged the new Belgrade authorities to [make a clear]...commitment to release all the Albanian political prisoners in Serbia. The problem of the rights and freedoms of Albanians in the Presevo valley, of co-existence and equality with the other citizens of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, should also be solved through dialogue," Reuters reported. Kostunica and Nano had rooms on the same floor of an Athens hotel, but this was the first public indication that the two had met. PM

MACEDONIAN-ALBANIAN AGREEMENTS SIGNED

Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo completed a two-day, high-profile visit to Macedonia on 19 January, Reuters reported. Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski's office said in a statement afterward that "we express the belief that cooperation between the two countries will [significantly] improve after signing the three agreements for cooperation in education, free trade, and health." PM

NATO SEES FUTURE IN MACEDONIA

Italian Admiral Guido Venturoni, who heads the Atlantic alliance's military committee, told reporters in Skopje after meeting with Defense Minister Ljuben Paunovski that a NATO presence will be necessary to maintain stability in the Balkans for some time to come, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 October 2000). PM

BOSNIAN SERB PRIME MINISTER SEEKS BREAK WITH PAST...

Republika Srpska Prime Minister Mladen Ivanic told Reuters in Banja Luka on 22 January that he hopes that the U.S. and other members of the international community will work with his government following his sacking of a cabinet member from Radovan Karadzic's Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 2001). "I think that by this change, the government can fulfill the conditions to be supported," Ivanic said. He added: "I did what I could. We have now a stable government with a stable majority, and I think that the international community has now to judge this government by its steps and not by the symbols." U.S. Ambassador to Bosnia Thomas Miller said that "although there are still problems with regards to the formation of the new government of the Serb republic, I know that the American government is ready to do anything to help Ivanic in his efforts." The ambassador did not elaborate on the "problems." PM

...WITH ONE MINISTER IN LIMELIGHT

Western diplomats in Bosnia are closely watching what several SDS-backed members of Ivanic's cabinet will do in office, Reuters reported from Banja Luka on 22 January. The one coming in for the closest scrutiny is Mico Micic, who is minister in charge of refugee returns. He is from Bijeljina, which, like several other towns in eastern Bosnia, was the scene of particularly ruthless "ethnic cleansing" operations in 1992. Ivanic stressed that "we have to deal really with what this minister will do, what will be his approach, and I really don't think there will be any obstruction in this area." PM

NATO OFFICIAL IN BUCHAREST

Admiral James Ellis, Allied Forces Commander South Europe, on 23 January ended a visit to Romania as guest of chief of staff General Mihail Popescu, Romanian Radio reported. During his two-day visit, Ellis met with President Ion Iliescu, Defense Minister Ioan Mircea Pascu and Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana. His hosts updated Admiral Ellis on Romanian military reforms and discussed with him participation in the Partnership for Peace program and in the peace-keeping operations in Bosnia and Kosova. MS

OSCE MISSION HEADS MEET IN BUCHAREST

A meeting of the heads of the OSCE missions began in Bucharest on 22 January under the chairmanship of rotating OSCE Chairman Geoana, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The Romanian Foreign Minister outlined the organization priorities for 2001 at the gathering. The OSCE "troika," which comprises the Austrian, Portuguese and Romanian foreign ministers, is scheduled to meet on 23 January. MS

FORMER ROMANIAN COMMUNIST PRISON BOSS CHARGED WITH MURDER

Former Aiud penitentiary commander Gheorghe Craciun, aged 88, on 22 January denied accusations that he was responsible for the death of 216 political prisoners between 1958 and 1964, AP reported. Craciun, a former Securitate colonel, is the first communist secret police official to stand trial on charges of involvement in such murders. A military judge traveled to Craciun's home to hear his testimony, after he said he is too weak to attend court proceedings. A new hearing is scheduled for 20 February. MS

ROMANIAN JUDGES ARRESTED FOR BRIBE-TAKING

Viorel Burzo, chief justice at the Cluj Criminal Court of Appeals, and Cluj Civil Court judge Zoltan Haltek are under detention on suspicion of corruption and bribe-taking, an RFE/RL local correspondent reported on 21 and 22 January. Burzo was arrested on 21 January and charged with attempting to use his influence on prosecutors and judges to sentence a person convicted of corruption only to the minimum prison-term. Haltek has been detained on similar grounds. MS

A GAGAUZ-TRANSDNIESTER ALLIANCE?

The moving up of elections in Moldova has prompted officials in Gagauz-Yeri to step up their contacts first with the unrecognized government of the Transdniester and then with Russian officials, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 18 January. On 4 January, Gagauz leader Dumitru Croitor signed an accord with separatist leader Igor Smirnov on expanding cooperation, and in the coming week Croitor is slated to travel to Moscow to seek greater support, according to the Russian newspaper. On 22 January, Smirnov told U.S. envoy Carey Cavanaugh that the talks on a settlement are continuing, not due to Moldova's positive position, but to the mediation efforts of Russia, Ukraine and the OSCE. Smirnov also said the Transdniester is "not bound" by the decisions of the OSCE 1999 Istanbul summit, in which it had not participated. PG

MOLDOVAN PARTY PROTESTS DETENTION OF LEADERSHIP PERSONALITY

The leadership of the Edintsvo (Unity) electoral bloc on 22 January said the detention of Nikolai Kirilchuk on 3 January was aimed at "removing him from the political arena for as long as the electoral campaign is ongoing," Infotag reported. Kirilchuk was detained on 3 January and has been charged with "theft in particularly aggravating circumstances." Kirilchuk is Balti county chairman and is placed third on the Edinstvo lists in the February elections. Also on 22 January, the National Liberal Party (PNL) appealed to the Central Electoral Commission to nullify the registration of the Party of Conciliation and Rebirth (PRCM) in the forthcoming ballot. The PNL said PRCM Chairman Mircea Snegur and PRCM Deputy Chairman Nicolae Andronic have infringed on the electoral law, engaging in televised "electoral propaganda" outside the hours specifically allocated for this purpose. MS

IMF URGES BULGARIA TO SPEED ENERGY SECTOR REFORM

Yuha Kahkonen, head of the IMF mission to Bulgaria, on 22 January urged Prime Minister Ivan Kostov to submit a draft law to the parliament by March to reduce state regulation of the energy sector, AP reported. The IMF board of directors will assess the new legislation before disbursing the second $70 million tranche of a three-year $840 million loan, he said. The Bulgarian energy sector is still almost entirely state-owned. Kostov's government has promised not to raise electricity and heating tariffs before the general elections scheduled for later this year, but that promise is proving difficult to keep due to rising international oil prices. MS

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT OFFERS JOB TO WEBSITE HACKER

President Petar Stoyanov on 22 January said in an interview with the daily "24 Chasa" that he is ready to offer a job "at any time and without any hesitation" to the hacker who last week broke into the official presidential website, leaving there a message of desperation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 2001). "He is obviously very talented, because he broke into the site without damaging any information," Stoyanov said. MS




LETTING GO


By Patrick Moore

No one can doubt the patriotism or sense of national mission and grandeur of French President Charles de Gaulle. One of the ways in which he best demonstrated his visionary commitment to his country's good was to recognize when it was time to end France's colonial enterprise in Algeria and concentrate national energies elsewhere.

The post-1945 worldwide process of decolonization has not always moved along easily. Indigenous peoples have often had to fight for the recognition of their basic rights of self-determination and majority rule. Colonial powers, spurred on by large and powerful domestic lobbies, have sometimes proven very reluctant to part with one or another of their holdings.

This is as true of the post-communist collapse of the land empires of Moscow and Belgrade as it is of the post-1945 overseas empires of other countries. True, former Yugoslavia was not a purely Serbian empire in the sense that the USSR was a large, Russian-dominated state operating under a different name. But it was Slobodan Milosevic's attempt to co-opt or hijack the Yugoslav state for his own and for Serbian interests--with strong backing from Serbian voters--that accelerated the process of dissolution.

Whether the disintegration of Yugoslavia was somehow inevitable will likely preoccupy students of politics and history for many years to come. The important point is that old Yugoslavia is now gone, and that all the will to put Humpty Dumpty back together again--or to hold parts of his torso together--is bound to fail. International pressures and cajoling did not work in 1991 or 1992, and they are unlikely to hold up the further disintegration of Yugoslavia in the coming decade (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 28 November 2000 and 19 January 2001).

There are nonetheless those in the international community who would seek to hold back the tide. The clearest recent demonstration of this came on 22 January, when the EU foreign ministers made it clear to Montenegro that mighty Brussels wants that small republic to seek its future only "within an overall federal framework," i.e. together with Serbia.

The ministers' statement also made it clear that Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica is in better graces now with the EU than is Montenegro's Milo Djukanovic. It does not seem to matter that Kostunica regularly displays Balkan "inat," or spiteful defiance, in discussing the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, while Djukanovic has pledged to cooperate with the court (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 January 2001). Presumably it has been noted in the region that cooperation with The Hague is thus not necessarily of decisive importance for some in the West.

Why many Westerners maintain their dogged insistence on preserving what is left of Humpty Dumpty's shell is sometimes hard to fathom. Perhaps there is a desire to prove that their diplomatic failures in 1991 and in subsequent years were just an aberration. Perhaps there is a real fear that the peaceful separation of Montenegro and the independence of Kosova would somehow lead to a new Balkan anarchy and the formation of an inherently wicked greater Albania. After all, Milosevic's propaganda machine and numerous Western pundits have been pushing this line for years.

But the previous wars did not just "happen." They were instigated by a Belgrade dictator who has been consigned to the sidelines, at least for now. For their parts, Djukanovic, Kostunica, and Serbian Prime Minister-designate Zoran Djindjic have all stressed that no force will be used if Montenegro chooses to go its own way, a point also made by army Chief of Staff General Nebojsa Pavkovic.

As for the Albanians, no leading ethnic Albanian politician or mainstream political party anywhere in the Balkans is campaigning for a greater Albania as a realizable goal at any time in the foreseeable future. Mutual contacts in recent years have helped gently remind Albanians in Albania, Kosova, and Macedonia that they come from three very different societies and political cultures, which would not be easily integrated into a common polity. On a more practical note, union would mean power-sharing---and that is something that does not come easily to politicians anywhere.

But UN Balkans envoy Carl Bildt, who has been much in the media as of late, told Reuters on 22 January that the EU ministers' statement "very clearly expresses that the international community has no interest in setting up new states in the region."

Whether the inhabitants of Montenegro or of Kosova will passively accept this "interest" of distant foreigners remains to be seen. Djukanovic wants to obtain a fresh mandate through early parliamentary elections and a referendum on independence in the first half of the year. The Kosovars have already made it clear time and again that they are interested only in independence (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 and 22 December 2000).

For their part, the top politicians in Belgrade still seem intent on holding the remnants of Humpty Dumpty's torso together. Calls for dialogue have replaced the bluster of the Milosevic era, but the message is the same: Yugoslavia must be preserved if unspeakable evils are to be avoided. But is it too far-fetched to imagine that some day, one of the leading political figures in Belgrade will show the political courage of de Gaulle, part with Serbia's last possessions, and concentrate the country's energies on the immense tasks facing it at home?


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