Accessibility links

Newsline - February 28, 2001




PUTIN SAYS RUSSIA TO BE 'A LAW-GOVERNED DEMOCRATIC STATE'

At the conclusion of his visit to Seoul, President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow's "principal policy towards the building of a law-governed democratic state is absolutely unchangeable," ITAR-TASS reported on 27 February. Putin and his host South Korean President Kim Dae-jung said that they have put behind them the ideological hurdles of the Cold War and that they will work together to expand energy, trade and transport between them and promote cooperation between the two Koreas. Putin heads for Vietnam on 1 March. PG

KASYANOV PROMISES ECONOMIC RESTRUCTURING

Ending his visit to Italy, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said on 27 February that his government will promote both stability and fundamental structural reform in order to attract investments and boost growth, Russian agencies reported. He said the government will seek legislation to protect ownership rights, reform natural monopolies, and liberalize currency transactions. He also said that Moscow will seek a medium-term agreement with the IMF on its debt liabilities. In the meantime, Kasyanov said, Russia will pay all its debts, not just those to the Paris Club, and will build up reserves to be able to pay the heavier debt burden in future years. PG

STEPASHIN URGES SINGLE FINANCE CONTROL SYSTEM

Audit Chamber head Sergei Stepashin said that the chief task of his institution is to create a single system of independent financial control in Russia, Interfax reported on 27 February. Without such a system, he said, Russia's economic security could be threatened by budgetary, fiscal and financial problems. PG

AGRARIANS WON'T BACK NO CONFIDENCE VOTE

Mikhail Lapshin, the head of the Agrarian Party of Russia, told ITAR-TASS on 27 February that his party will not back the efforts of the Communists to bring a no-confidence motion against the government. He said that "in the interests of the country, it is high time to learn not only to criticize but if necessary to support the president and the government in order to transform Russia." This decision makes it virtually certain that the no confidence motion scheduled for 14 March will fail. PG

'OUR HOME IS RUSSIA' IS NO MORE

Former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, who heads the "Our Home is Russia" movement, officially disbanded the group on 26 February and called on its members to join the pro-Kremlin "Unity" party, "Rossiya" reported. In another party development, Duma deputy Yelena Mizulina said she is leaving the Yabloko party as a whole but will remain within its parliamentary fraction, Interfax reported on 27 February. PG

FEDERATION COUNCIL FOCUSES ON NORTH CAUCASUS

The Federation Council on 27 February hosted a roundtable discussion on "the Status and Perspectives of Stabilization in the North Caucasus: Questions of History and Practical Politics," Interfax reported. Participants called for constant monitoring of the ethno-political situation in the region. Federation Council member Ramazan Abdulatipov, who organized the meeting, criticized those who call for negotiations with Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov. PG

MOSCOW TRACKS SPY PLANES NEAR RUSSIAN BORDERS

Air Force chief General Anatolii Kornukov said on 27 February that Russian radars detected and tracked approximately 250,000 airborne targets near Russia's border in the Far East and on the Kola Peninsula during 2000, Interfax reported. He said that half of these were foreign planes, including 1,500 combat aircraft and nearly 600 spy planes. PG

GORBACHEV SAYS TALK OF COLD WAR 'PREMATURE'...

During an Internet press conference on 27 February, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev said that talk about the resumption of a cold war between Russia and the United States is "premature," ITAR-TASS reported. Gorbachev said that some statements by the new American administration might "incite those who would like to reverse the relations to bring tension back, but it is too early to think that things are going to a new Cold War." PG

...ARGUES MEDIA MUST BE FREE BUT RESPONSIBLE

Gorbachev also said that the media in Russia must be "free but responsible" and that "the Russian president needs a free press more than anyone else," Interfax reported on 27 February. PG

MEDIA MINISTER SAYS U.S. TELLING LIES ABOUT RUSSIA...

Media Minister Mikhail Lesin said on 27 February that Moscow is considering the launch of an advertising campaign in the United States aimed at creating a positive image of Russia in American society, Interfax reported. He said that the U.S. administration is spending "a large amount of money on making Russia's image worse," and he asked rhetorically "when will they stop telling Americans lies about the processes that are taking place in our country?" He said that Moscow will publish within two weeks a report "On the Situation of Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Action in the United States." PG

...SAYS KREMLIN READY TO BACK ANY BUSINESS SETTLEMENT TO NTV AFFAIRS

Media Minister Lesin said that the Russian government "will definitely" back any business solution to the conflict over NTV, including involvement by foreign firms, Interfax reported on 27 February. But Lesin said that foreign firms have chosen the wrong approach in their negotiations. He said they should have dealt with Vladimir Gusinsky directly rather than seeking to go through intermediaries. PG

RUSSIA URGED TO SHIFT FROM DOLLAR TO EURO

An article in "Vremya MN" on 27 February argued that Russia would gain significant freedom of maneuver if it stopped using the American dollar and start using the euro to calculate its financial transactions. The paper acknowledged that most Russians know little about the euro but suggested that a government education program could change that quickly. PG

RUSSIA, U.S. AT ODDS OVER SPACE TOURISTS...

ITAR-TASS reported on 27 February that Russian and American space officials are currently at odds over whether to allow American millionaire Dennis Tito to become the first space tourist. The Russian side wants him to do so because he has been ready to pay a rumored $20 million to Moscow for the trip; the American side opposes it because of fears he will be a problem on board. The two countries will discuss the issue later this week. PG

...AND ON AMERICAN FULBRIGHT STUDENT

Reports that Russian officials had detained American Fulbright participant John Edward Tobbin in Voronezh for spying prompted an incredulous response from the U.S. State Department, Russian and Western agencies reported. In the event, Tobbin was arrested for drug use, and ITAR-TASS reported that contrary to some Russian media reports, there are no grounds to charge him with espionage. PG

AN EXPANDED UNION STATE?

Russian media continue to discuss the consequences of the Communist electoral victory in Moldova. "Segodnya" suggested on 27 February that bringing Moldova into the Russia-Belarus Union would only make Russia's own debt problems worse. Meanwhile, Duma Deputy Speaker (Union of Rightist Forces) Irina Khakamada said that she does not expect Moldova to join that union in the near future, Interfax reported. Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev said that the election may lead both Moldova and Ukraine to join the Union, since "the autonomy (sic) of former Soviet republics resulted in misfortunes for many," ITAR-TASS reported. Speaking in St. Petersburg on the same day, CIS executive secretary Yurii Yarov said that his organization is working well "in all directions," and that he expects ties among its members to strengthen over the next several years, Interfax North-West reported on 27 February. PG

RUSSIAN, UKRAINIAN SECURITY SERVICES EXPAND COOPERATION

Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Nikolai Patrushev and his Ukrainian counterpart Vladimir Radchenko signed a series of accords in Moscow on 27 February expanding cooperation between their two organizations, Interfax reported. PG

ORTHODOX CHURCH REMAINS OPPOSED TO PAPAL VISIT

Vsevolod Chaplin, a spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church, said on 27 February that the patriarchate remains opposed to a visit by Pope John Paul II, Russian and Western agencies reported. He repeated Moscow's conditions for a visit: the end of all Catholic missionary activity in Orthodox countries and the settlement of a dispute over church property in western Ukraine. Chaplin insisted that the obstacle to the visit is Catholic, not Orthodox behavior. Also on 27 February, "Segodnya" reported that the patriarchate disapproves the use of saints' names or other religious terms on consumer products, at least without prior agreement by the church. PG

RUSSIA, LIBYA CONFIRM ECONOMIC AGREEMENTS

At a meeting in Moscow on 27 February, Deputy Foreign Minister Vasilii Sredin and Libya's representative in Russia, Salekh Abdallah Salekh, said that the two sides have reconfirmed plans to expand trade and also discussed a variety of international and regional issues, Interfax reported. PG

MOSCOW CONCERNED BY TENSIONS IN KOSOVO

The Russian Foreign Ministry released a statement on 27 February expressing Moscow's concerns over mounting tensions along the Kosovo portion of the border between Macedonia and Yugoslavia, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 February 2001). The ministry said that "the activity of Albanian armed groups has abruptly intensified lately," adding that this trend risks "provoking a crisis and destabilizing the international political situation in that country." PG

KASYANOV LETTER ON BORODIN DELIVERED TO COURT

A letter from Russian Prime Minister Kasyanov has been submitted to a New York court which will soon hold a hearing on currently detained Russia-Belarus Union Secretary of State Pavel Borodin, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 February. The letter calls for Borodin's release on bail because of the case's "special circumstances" and Borodin's key role in preparing for a 17 March meeting of the Union State's Supreme Council. PG

PROCURACY OPPOSES FREQUENT AMNESTIES

Yuri Shcherbanenko, the head of the administration which supervises criminal punishments for the Office of the Russian Prosecutor General, said on 27 February that he opposes too frequent general amnesties, Interfax reported. He said that amnesties could weaken the criminal justice system if applied too often or too generally. The same day, the prosecutor's office said that 12,237 of the 877,000 people amnestied in Russia last year have committed new crimes, AP reported. In a related development, the Interior Ministry said that 31,000 crimes were committed in Russia by residents of former Soviet republics during 2000 and that 4,000 crimes were committed by other foreigners in the same year. PG

TIBET PYRAMID SCHEME OPERATOR GOES ON TRIAL

Vladimir Dryamov, the former head of the Tibet company which operated a pyramid scheme in Russia in the mid-1990s, went on trial in Moscow on 27 February on charges of embezzlement and fraud, ITAR-TASS reported. Dryamov's trial had been delayed while he served an eight-month sentence in Greece. PG

NEW MOVES ON NUCLEAR POWER FRONT

Saratov Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov agreed on 27 February to head a new association of regions which have nuclear power plants on their territories, Interfax reported. Such a group could be expected to lobby for nuclear power. Also on 27 February, Swedish Ambassador to Russia Sven Hirdman said that the development of nuclear waste storage sites in Russia is an important aspect of the European Union's ties with Russia, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, the Russian government raised pensions for former employees of nuclear weapons plants, AP reported. PG

TEACHERS PROTEST LOW SALARIES, POOR CONDITIONS

Across the Russian Federation, tens of thousands of teachers participated in marches and other demonstrations on 27 February to protest low pay, wage arrears and poor working conditions, Russian and Western agencies reported. PG

UNIVERSITY SYSTEM TO CONTRACT DRAMATICALLY

Vladimir Troyan, the pro-rector of St. Petersburg University, told "Izvestiya-Peterburg" on 26 February that as a result of financial constraints, in a few years Russia may have fewer universities than the 25 his city now has. Interfax reported the same day that members of the Academy of Sciences are becoming alarmed by press reports that the government plans to reorganize their institution into two parts for natural and humanitarian sciences. Such a step, the scholars said, would weaken the country's scientific base. PG

NEWSPAPERS TRICKED BY FALSE AD

According to "The Moscow Times" on 27 February,13 Russian newspapers took money for running an advertisement for an electronics firm that did not in fact exist. The move, apparently a publicity stunt by the Promaco PR/CMA agency, highlighted the willingness of Russian newspapers to take money without checking on the facts, the paper said. The government's anti-monopoly policy ministry said it will investigate, Interfax reported the same day. PG

MIRONOV SEES NO IMPROVEMENT IN RUSSIA'S HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION

Oleg Mironov, Russia's human rights commissioner, said on 27 February that he sees no real improvement in the state of human rights in Russia, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that violations continue in psychiatry, military service and the judiciary system as well as in Chechnya and the Far East. PG

DAVID DUKE'S ANTI-SEMITIC EFFORT IN RUSSIA CONDEMNED

The U.S. Anti-Defamation League on 26 February denounced white supremacist David Duke's campaign to exploit anti-Semitism in Russia, Reuters reported. ADL National Director Abraham Foxman said that "anti-Semitism, with deep roots in Russia, is being stirred up by nationalist leaders and extremists," adding that "Duke has detected an opportunity to spread his hatred of Jews and other minority groups to like-minded bigots." Duke's website features an article headlined "Is Russia the Key to White Survival?" The former Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi leader is currently in Russia. PG

COSSACKS SEEK CONTROL OF TRADITIONAL AREAS

General Vladimir Gromov, the ataman of the Kuban Cossack host, said on 27 February that he and his fellow Cossack leaders believe that traditional Cossack self-government should be introduced in the locales of historical Cossack settlements, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, Cossack General Vasiliy Bondarev, who heads the Terek Cossack host, said that his forces always cooperate with the Russian Defense and Interior Ministries in operations in Chechnya, the Russian agency said. PG

GM, AVTOVAZ LAUNCH JOINT VENTURE

General Motors Corporation has signed an agreement with Russia's state-owned AvtoVAZ on a joint venture to produce a sports utility vehicle in Russia, AP reported on 27 February. The $322 million project calls for the production of approximately 75,000 vehicles in Togliatti, the two companies said in Geneva. PG

WILD TIGERS HUNT DOMESTIC PETS IN KHABAROVSK

The unusually severe winter in Khabarovsk Krai has led endangered wild tigers to begin hunting domestic pets for food in several villages, Interfax reported on 27 February. PG

SOLDIERS FIGHT GENERAL WINTER IN MOSCOW

Russian officials dispatched soldiers from the railway troops to help clean up Moscow's streets after an unusually heavy snowfall in the capital on 27 February, Interfax-Moscow reported. During what has been a harsh winter, some 182 residents of the capital have died from the cold this year, the news service said. PG




OSCE CHAIRMAN-IN-OFFICE VISITS ARMENIA

Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana held talks in Yerevan on 27 and 28 February in his capacity as OSCE chairman-in-office with Armenian President Robert Kocharian, Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, and parliament speaker Armen Khachatrian, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Geoana told Kocharian that mediating a settlement of the Karabakh conflict remains one of the OSCE's priorities. Praising the continuing dialogue between Kocharian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Heidar Aliev, Geoana said he hopes the OSCE Minsk Group will soon find a solution acceptable to all parties to the conflict. LF

GEORGIAN JUSTICE MINISTER UNDER FIRE

United Communist Party of Georgia chairman Panteleimon Giorgadze suggested on 27 February that Justice Minister Mikhail Saakashvili "deserves a thrashing" for suggesting the previous day that the Communist Party should be stripped of its registration and banned, Caucasus Press reported. Interfax on 26 February had quoted Saakashvili as saying that the Communist Party is supported by "influential Russian forces" that are interested in destabilizing the situation in Georgia. He reportedly accused the party of engaging in "anti-constitutional activities," including calling for the overthrow of the Georgian leadership. Also on 27 February, Socialist Party leader and parliament vice-speaker Vakhtang Rcheulishvili called for Saakashvili's impeachment on the grounds that he has violated the Georgian Constitution by failing to step down as a parliament deputy after being named minister of justice last October. LF

HAS ZHIRINOVSKY CANCELLED PLANNED VISIT TO GEORGIA?

Rcheulishvili also said on 27 February that Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky has abandoned his plans to visit Georgia, Caucasus Press reported. Saakashvili had said on 26 February that if the Russian politician did come to Georgia, government officials and the parliament majority would refuse to meet with him (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 February 2001). But the daily "Akhali taoba" quoted Zhirinovsky in its 28 February issue as saying that he has not cancelled his planned visit but merely postponed it due to the logistical problems involved in travelling from Tbilisi to Sukhum and the fact that it would not be possible for him to meet in early March with either Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze or parliament speaker Zurab Zhvania. The paper also quoted Zhirinovsky as arguing that Russia should keep and enlarge its military presence in Georgia so that its troops could guarantee the safety of rail traffic between Russia, Tbilisi and Yerevan. LF

GEORGIA TO BAN EXPORT OF SCRAP METAL?

The Georgian Interior Ministry has asked the government to impose a temporary ban on the export of both ferrous and non-ferrous metals, ministry official Eduard Gendzekhadze told Caucasus Press on 27 February. Gendzekhadze said scrap metals worth $5 million, mostly telephone and high-tension cables, were illegally exported from Georgia last year, and that a ban on such exports could reduce the crime rate by as much as 15 percent. LF

TURKISH AMBASSADOR TO GEORGIA VISTS ABKHAZIA

Visiting Sukhum on 26 February, Turkish Ambassador to Georgia Burak Gursel met for 90 minutes with Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba, Caucasus Press reported. Gursel underscored his country's support for, and readiness to promote, a peaceful solution to the Abkhaz conflict. Gursel told journalists after his talks with Ardzinba that Turkey "is an influential state," and is interested in assessing the economic potential of the South Caucasus region, including Abkhazia. LF

KAZAKH SECURITY OFFICIAL HOLDS TALKS WITH NATO

Marat Tazhin, who is chairman of Kazakhstan's Security Council, met in Brussels late on 26 February with NATO Secretary General Lord George Robertson to discuss bilateral cooperation and the security situation in Central Asia, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. The possibility of holding an international seminar on Central Asian security issues was also discussed. Also on 26 February, Kazakhstan's Defense Minister Lieutenant General Sat Toqpaqbaev met in Astana with Ukrainian Ambassador Yevgenii Kartashov to discuss bilateral military cooperation. LF

KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT CALLS FOR MORATORIUM ON ENERGY SECTOR PRIVATIZATION

The People's Assembly (the upper chamber of Kyrgyzstan's legislature) decided on 26 February to form a special commission to oversee the privatization of the energy giant Kyrgyzenergo, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Deputies also appealed to the government to delay that privatization, which is intended to raise between $3-5 billion, most of which is to be used to pay off the country's foreign debt. Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiev had announced plans to privatize Kyrgyzenergo at the first session of his new cabinet last month, but said at that time that the company would be divided into four parts prior to privatization (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 January 2001). LF

KYRGYZ DIPLOMAT SUMS UP VISIT TO BALTIC STATES

Kyrgyz First Deputy Foreign Minister Erlan Abdyldaev told journalists in Bishkek on 27 February on his return from a visit to the three Baltic states that a special agreement was signed during that trip between Kyrgyzstan's National Bank and its Baltic counterparts, and that those states' $1.4 million debt to Kyrgyzstan was discussed, but gave no further details, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. Interfax quoted Abdyldaev as saying that he also discussed expanding trade turnover with the three Baltic states, which amounted to over $10 million last year, and access to Baltic ports for exporting Kyrgyz goods. Abdyldaev complained that a transit agreement on shipping Kyrgyz exports via the Pakistani port of Karachi is not being implemented. LF

CRACKDOWN ON RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM IN KYRGZYSTAN COULD PROVE COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE

Participants at a conference held in Osh on 27 February to assess the threat posed by religious extremism in southern Kyrgyzstan warned in a letter to President Askar Akaev and to the Kyrgyz government and parliament that a crackdown on the banned Islamic organization Hizb-ut-Tahrir could backfire by engendering further support for that organization, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Also on 27 February, a court in Djalalabad Oblast sentenced three members of Hizb-ut-Tahrir to one year in prison on charges of inciting hatred between members of different religious faiths. LF

TAJIKS DON'T TRUST BANKING SYSTEM

Of a total of more than 100 million somonis ($43 million) currently in circulation in Tajikistan, only 17.8 million pass through the country's banking system, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 26 February quoting the Press Center of the National Bank of Tajikistan. The agency quoted unnamed specialists as recommending that the government should raise interest rates as part of an attempt to make the banking system more attractive to the population. Last year's annual inflation rate in Tajikistan was over 60 percent, according to Interfax on 21 February. On 27 February, Asia Plus-Blitz reported that several counterfeit 50 somoni notes have surfaced and been confiscated in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast. The persons from whom those bills were confiscated said they received them in payment for goods they sold in Dushanbe. The somoni was introduced as a replacement for the Tajik ruble in late October 2000 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 and 30 October 2000). LF

TURKMEN PRESIDENT DISCIPLINES TWO CABINET MEMBERS

At a cabinet meeting on 26 February, President Saparmurat Niyazov demoted Minister of Water Resources Sakhatmurad Kurbanov to the rank of deputy minister because of unspecified "serious flaws in his work," Interfax reported the following day. Niyazov said that if Kurbanov's work improves during the next 12 months, he will be allowed to retain that post. Niyazov also dismissed acting Customs Committee Chairman Mered Khalovezov for serious shortcomings. Niyazov announced that in future, individual customs officials will not be empowered to rule on whether to issue export permits and clear imports through customs, but must make such decisions collectively in consultation with officials of the state border service. LF

TURKMEN AUTHORITIES DENY IMPRISONED BAPTIST TORTURED

Turkmenistan's Deputy Foreign Minister Yolbors Kepbanov has assured Amnesty International that imprisoned Baptist Shageldy Atakov has not been tortured while in custody, Keston News Service reported on 27 February. Amnesty International had reported earlier this month that Atakov had been forcibly treated with psychotropic drugs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 February 2001). But the Turkmen government has still not responded to a request by the OSCE center in Ashgabat to be allowed to visit Atakov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 February 2001). LF




BELARUSIAN LEGISLATURE TO RATIFY ACCORD ON SINGLE CURRENCY WITH RUSSIA?

The Commission for International Affairs of the Chamber of Representatives on 27 February recommended that the legislature ratify the agreement on the introduction of a single currency for the Belarus-Russia Union. The agreement provides for the introduction of the Russian ruble as the sole currency on 1 January 2005, and of a new single currency on 1 January 2008, following the establishment of a common money-printing center. Belarus's Justice Ministry said the accord may be adopted only through amending the Constitution. The ministry noted that Article 136 of the Constitution stipulates that Belarus's National Bank has the exclusive right to print money on the country's territory. National Bank deputy head Pavel Kalaur said the same day that Belarus may refuse to accept the Russian ruble in 2005 if Minsk fails to agree with Moscow on a single money-printing center. JM

UKRAINIAN INVESTIGATORS TO LOOK FOR GONGADZE'S MURDERER

Prosecutor-General Mykhaylo Potebenko on 27 February launched a formal investigation into what he called "the premeditated murder" of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, Interfax reported. The move follows the official identification of Gongadze's body by genetic tests "to the extent of 99.9 percent" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 February 2001). The Prosecutor-General Office's also decided to pass the body to Gongadze's wife and mother for burial. "They gave us a death certificate. But the reason for his death, the date of his death, where his head is -- nobody can tell me this... They want me to bury him so [the case] can be forgotten," Gongadze's mother told Reuters. She demands that Potebenko be dismissed, saying she has "absolutely no trust" in how he has so far handled the investigation of her son's case. JM

UKRAINIAN LAWMAKER ACCUSES NATO OF BUGGING SCANDAL

Lawmaker Bohdan Boyko, a leader of the Popular Movement for Unity, told journalists on 27 February that President Leonid Kuchma's office was bugged by "special services of one or several NATO countries," Interfax reported. "The famous digital recorder of Major [Mykola] Melnychenko has nothing to do [with this case]," Boyko said. According to Boyko, Melnychenko is currently hiding in a "NATO military base, most probably in one of the Benelux countries." Boyko said the "first phase" of the NATO special services' operation against Kuchma misfired, because Kuchma remains in his post. Boyko noted that the "second phase" will seek to discredit Kuchma by pointing to his alleged financial machinations and abuse of power during the 1999 presidential elections. JM

UKRAINIAN COMMUNISTS WANT YUSHCHENKO'S OUSTER

The Communist Party parliamentary caucus will vote to dismiss Premier Viktor Yushchenko if the issue is raised in the parliament, the "Eastern Economist Daily" reported on 28 February. "This government openly states that it executes all IMF recommendations... It is carrying out an anti-social, anti-national policy," Communist lawmaker Heorhiy Kryuchkov noted, referring to recent rumors that the Communists may side with some pro-Kuchma legislators to oust Yushchenko (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 February 2001). Progressive Socialist Party leader Natalya Vitrenko told Interfax on 27 February that she does not rule out the possibility of cooperation between the Communists and some "oligarchic" parliamentary caucuses in order to change the top leadership alignment in Ukraine. Meanwhile, lawmaker Serhiy Tyhypko, leader of the pro-presidential Labor Ukraine Party, said the parliamentary opposition should obtain the right to appoint one deputy parliamentary speaker and several heads of parliamentary committees. JM

CORRECTION

"RFE/RL Newsline" reported on 23 February, citing Interfax-Ukraine, that a U.S. Congressional delegation that visited Kyiv had said that Washington supports "the Ukrainian leadership." In fact, the original statement by the Congressional delegation said that the United States supports "the Ukrainian people."

EU ASSOCIATION COUNCIL MEETS WITH BALTIC FOREIGN MINISTERS

Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh and EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen met separately in Brussels on 27 February with Foreign Ministers Toomas Hendrik Ilves (Estonia), Indulis Berzins (Latvia), and Antanas Valionis (Lithuania) and discussed their countries' progress towards EU membership, BNS reported. Praising its progress, Verheugen noted that "Estonia is approaching the end game of the negotiations." He also named Latvia among the best second-group candidates likely to catch up with the so-called fast-track candidates. Berzins mentioned that the problem areas remained the same: administrative capacity, ability to perform as a member state, too slow implementation of adopted laws. Verheugen said that Lithuania's progress is "tangible" and it should be able to catch up with the candidate countries that began negotiations earlier if it continues its reforms successfully. Lindh invited the ministers to attend an informal gathering of foreign ministers from EU member and candidate countries in Norrkoping, Sweden, on 5-6 May, which will discuss the future of the EU. SG

FINNISH, ESTONIAN STOCK EXCHANGES ENTER INTO STRATEGIC COOPERATION

Helsinki Exchanges Group (HEX), the operator of the Helsinki Stock Exchange, and Tallinn Stock Exchange (TSE) announced on 27 February that they are entering into strategic cooperation which will include ownership as well as operational aspects, ETA reported. The cooperation will be based on HEX's offer to acquire over 50 percent ownership in TSE by purchasing existing shares as well as subscriptions to new shares in a directed offering. The aim of the cooperation is to build a well-functioning securities market in Estonia and to significantly increase the visibility of Estonian companies and liquidity in the trading of their shares. HEX supports strong Estonian ownership in TSE in the future and wants to develop the Estonian equity markets in cooperation with local participants. Trading in the TSE will continue to be regulated by Estonian laws and clearing and settlement will take place at the Estonian Central Depository for Securities. Trading with Estonian securities in the HEX trading system is expected to start this year. SG

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE TO NATO PREFERS JOINT BALTIC ENTRY INTO NATO

During talks in Riga on 27 February, U.S. military representative in NATO, David S. Weisman praised defense cooperation and joint projects between the Baltic states, BNS reported. He said the militaries regard simultaneous admission of the Baltic states to NATO as a better option than their separate entry. He told Foreign Ministry State Secretary Maris Riekstins that the admission of the Baltic states to the alliance will be on the agenda of the NATO summit in 2002. The aim of Weisman's two-day visit to Latvia was to examine Latvia's achievements as a candidate country in order to allow for good and timely preparation of the summit resolutions. He confirmed that no country outside NATO, including Russia, will have the right to veto the organization's enlargement. SG

POLISH TREASURY MINISTER RESIGNS

Premier Jerzy Buzek on 27 February accepted the resignation of Treasury Minister Andrzej Chronowski and replaced him with Deputy Treasury Minister Aldona Kamela-Sowinska. Chronowski said he resigned because of the continued occupation of his office by Solidarity Electoral Action lawmaker Gabriel Janowski (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 February 2001), who "paralyzed the work of the ministry." Jerzy Buzek said he accepted Chronowski's resignation to help defuse controversy over the ministry, which has been recently criticized for moves to gain control of partially privatized firms. JM

POLAND BANS LIVESTOCK IMPORTS FROM MOST OF EUROPE

Poland's chief veterinarian on 27 February imposed a ban on imports of livestock from all EU countries as well as Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Croatia, Estonia, Romania, Bulgaria, Iceland, and Slovenia, PAP reported. The move is intended to protect the Polish market from foot-and-mouth disease. The ban extends on imports of live pigs, sheep, and goats and embryos and semen from these animals, as well as their meat and by-products. JM

POLISH PRESIDENT HAILS NICE TREATY SIGNING...

Aleksander Kwasniewski on 27 February welcomed the signing of the Nice Treaty the previous day, PAP reported. Kwasniewski wrote in a statement that solutions included in the treaty pave the way for Poland and other aspiring countries to gain membership of the European Union. He added that in the coming months he expects a breakthrough in accession talks between the EU and the aspiring countries. JM

...DISCUSSES EUROPEAN POLICIES WITH SCHROEDER, CHIRAC

Kwasniewski, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, and French President Jacques Chirac agreed in Neustadt, Germany, on 27 February to closely coordinate their countries' European policies, PAP reported. Germany's news agency DDP quoted Schroeder as saying after the summit that a common European defense and security policy is not intended to replace NATO. Commenting on EU enlargement, Schroeder said the seven-year transition period restricting the free movement of labor for new EU members should be "flexibly handled." JM

U.S. REPORT ON HUMAN RIGHTS IN CZECH REPUBLIC 'OBJECTIVE'

Petr Uhl, the Czech government's outgoing human rights commissioner, told CTK on 27 February that he views the U.S. State Department's report (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 February 2001) on the human rights situation in the Czech Republic as favorable, and praised its "balanced wording and objectivity." He admitted that police violence and discrimination against Roma are problems, but said that the situation is improving. He added that if the situation of Roma in the country continues to improve at the rate it has in the last two years, in 10 years it will be comparable to the situation of minorities in Great Britain, for example. Uhl is leaving office to avoid a possible conflict of interest after his wife, Anna Sabatova, takes office in the newly-created post of deputy ombudsman. DW

CZECH CONSTITUTIONAL COURT ABOLISHES PART OF ELECTION LAW

The Constitutional Court on 27 February abolished two sections of a law on political parties, upholding the challenge by President Vaclav Havel that the law favored the larger parties in parliament, CTK reported. The court struck down provisions of the law doubling the state subsidy parties receive per seat in the parliament and requiring parties to pass the 5 percent barrier to continue to receive state funding. Leader of the deputies' group of the Social Democrats, Bohuslav Sobotka, said the court's decision would harm "the development of our political scene" because increased subsidies to parties would lessen the danger of "suspicious funding." Freedom Union Chairman Karel Kuehnl, who approved of the decision, said that the court's task is only to decide what is in line with the constitution, and parliament needs to take that into account when drafting laws. DW

TEMELIN CONNECTED TO CZECH POWER GRID...

For the first time since it was shut down due to a faulty steam pipe on 18 January, the Temelin nuclear power plant was briefly connected to the Czech Republic's power grid on 27 February, dpa reported. Temelin spokesman Milan Nebesar said the connection only lasted a few hours, but that it will resume for short periods over the next few months. The tests involve only one of the plant's two 1,000-megawatt reactors, which is scheduled to go on line in late June. The second is due to go on line this autumn. Environmentalists in Austria, Germany, and the Czech Republic claim that the Soviet-designed reactors equipped with Western safety controls are unsafe. DW

...DESPITE AUSTRIAN PROTESTS

The relaunch of test operations at the Temelin plant has damaged the possibilities of making an environmental impact study with the reactor shut down, Wolfgang Sobotka, Upper Austrian councillor for the environment, told APA on 26 February. He said important issues regarding the legal basis and public participation in the study agreed by the Czech and Austrian governments need to be explained. "If not, Austria must keep the possibility of vetoing the energy chapter at the Czech-EU admission talks," he said. DW

SLOVAKIA SATISFIED WITH U.S. REPORT ON HUMAN RIGHTS

Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan said on 27 February the U.S. State Department's annual report on human rights was "positive" for Slovakia, CTK reported. "Slovakia considers the report an objective evaluation of the situation in the country. Compared to the past, it is positive for Slovakia. The report appreciates the government's efforts in all spheres of human rights and states that the situation has improved," Kukan noted. The report says that the previously wide-spread practice of using the SIS secret service to monitor politicians, journalists, and their wives has been almost completely abolished. The report also notes that the Slovak government has stopped forcing journalists into self-censorship and trying to influence public television and radio politically. JM

HUNGARIAN INTERIM AGRICULTURE MINISTER URGES TORGYAN TO RESIGN

Interim Agriculture Minister Imre Boros and Independent Smallholders' Party (FKGP) parliamentary group leader Attila Bank met former Agriculture Minister Jozsef Torgyan on 27 February and urged him to resign his post as Chairman of the FKGP. In related news, Prime Minister Viktor Orban told Hungarian Radio that Torgyan has nominated several FKGP members to the post of agriculture minister, but Boros is not among them. Orban said it will take a couple of days until the new minister is appointed. Meanwhile, opposition Socialist Party Chairman Laszlo Kovacs demanded immediate action in agriculture and accused the cabinet of wasting nearly three years and hundreds of billions of forints in this sector. MSZ

HUNGARIAN TV PRESIDENT RESIGNS

Laszlo Zsolt Szabo resigned on 27 February as President of the state-run Hungarian Television (MTV), and the board of trustees accepted his resignation with immediate effect. Szabo stepped down after accusations that he had failed to consolidate the financial situation of the MTV. The board agreed with Szabo's recent decision to dismiss Andrea Szenes as Vice-President and appointed Karoly Medreczky to that post. Medreczky said he will suspend his membership in the ruling FIDESZ party. Last year MTV accumulated 20 billion forints ($69 million) in debts. MSZ




NATO CAUTIOUS ON REDUCING PRESEVO SECURITY ZONE

At a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels on 27 February, Secretary-General Lord George Robertson said that the alliance is "prepared to implement a phased and conditioned reduction of the Ground Safety Zone" along Serbia's border with Kosova (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 16 February 2001). He added that the allies are "still working on the details of how this will be done." British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook called the decision a "significant step." Details of the plan are expected to emerge in the next few days, Reuters reported, citing unnamed NATO sources. NATO negotiators are slated to arrive in Bujanovac on 28 February, AP reported. PM

NATO SEEKS SIGNS OF SERBIAN GOOD INTENTIONS...

An unnamed "senior NATO diplomat" told Reuters in Brussels on 27 February that ethnic Albanians will regard any shrinking of the zone as a concession to the Serbs, so NATO must be "careful not to spark new tensions." He added that Serbia must free Kosovar prisoners and take other, unspecified measures to win the Albanians' confidence. The Serbian military presence in the area must be reduced, he added. The "Wall Street Journal" reported that the Serbs must quickly begin integrating Albanians into local political and police structures. Reuters noted that "some NATO allies...have lingering doubts about the durability of the new friendship with Serbia that has blossomed since hard-liner Slobodan Milosevic was ousted... They're asking 'what if the situation changes?'" Observers note that the head of the General Staff, General Nebojsa Pavkovic, commanded Serbian troops in Kosova during the 1999 ethnic cleansing campaign. The commander of the Serbian Interior Ministry special police, Deputy Interior Minister General Sreten Lukic, commanded Interior Ministry forces in Kosova at that same time (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13 February 2001). PM

...AMID CONCERN ABOUT SERBIAN FORCES

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told a news conference in Brussels on 27 February that the problem of the zone should be resolved without turning the nearby Serbian forces into "belligerents...[which would lead to] a more difficult situation than we have now," the "New York Times" reported. An unnamed U.S. official noted that Serbian "tanks are in a very, very aggressive position [and able to] run roughshod over [the zone]." Reuters observed that NATO does not want to send its own forces into the zone, conduct joint patrols with the Serbs, or allow the Serbs to take on the Albanian insurgents by themselves. Shawn Sullivan, who is political advisor to KFOR commander General Carlo Cabigiosu, said that there is a "definite danger" of a clash between KFOR and Serbian forces if the Serbs are allowed into the zone (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 February 2001). Sullivan noted that there are "still people [in the Yugoslav army and police] who do not want to see a peaceful solution," the "Daily Telegraph" reported. PM

MIXED REACTION IN SERBIA TO NATO'S RULING

Reuters noted on 27 February that the delayed decision on exactly how to reduce the size of the zone is "likely to come as a disappointment to Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, who confidently predicted [the day before] that NATO will soon hand back most of the buffer zone." In Belgrade, Yugoslav Interior Minister Zoran Zivkovic nonetheless welcomed the NATO decision, saying that the "security zone was the least secure place in Europe," the "New York Times" reported. But government political leader and parliamentary deputy Cedomir Jovanovic warned that "if NATO does not fulfill its obligations [to prevent armed infiltrators from entering Presevo from Kosova], then we will do it." PM

NATO TO SEND TEAM TO MACEDONIA...

Robertson told the Brussels news conference on 27 February that NATO will send "a political and military mission immediately to Skopje to see what the situation is on the ground," Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 February 2001). He stressed that "NATO is committed to supporting the stability and security of...Macedonia, including the enhanced security of its borders." PM

...AS MACEDONIA'S IMPATIENCE GROWS

Reuters quoted an unnamed "Macedonian defense official" in Skopje on 27 February as saying that "the situation cannot stay like this. Eventually we have to attack with military force." A second official said: "We have asked KFOR to step up patrols many times. Now we are asking the international community to support Macedonia in dealing with the issue." Elsewhere, President Boris Trajkovski and Defense Minister Ljuben Paunovski prepared a document on the crisis, which they will soon send to NATO and the UN. But the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" noted on 28 February that the long border between Kosova and Macedonia is so rugged that it is not possible for KFOR to control it completely. Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski has nonetheless repeatedly criticized this view. The Serbian authorities have similarly said that they expect KFOR to exercise control over Kosova's border with the Presevo Valley. PM

POWELL STRESSES U.S. COMMITMENT TO BALKANS

Powell said in Brussels on 27 February that the U.S. will not take any unilateral move to withdraw its troops from the Balkans, which account for about one-fifth of the 60,000-strong Western presence in Bosnia and Kosova. He noted that "we [NATO members] went in together and we will leave together," the "Financial Times" reported. Pre-election speculation that the U.S. will greatly reduce or pull out its Balkan ground forces in the near future led in recent months to expressions of concern among U.S. allies in Western Europe and in the region, as well as to rising expectations in Belgrade and Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February 2001 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 19 December 2000). PM

SERBIAN PRESIDENT SNUBS MILOSEVIC?

Milan Milutinovic has reportedly rejected a call by Milosevic, who is his former mentor and boss, to block the new amnesty law and government measures against Milosevic's former director of Serbian television, "Vesti" reported on 28 February. Since the fall of the old regime in October, the new authorities have not pressured Milutinovic to resign and have developed a working relationship with him (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 January 2001). His term ends in 2002. There is much speculation that Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic is content to keep the indicted war criminal as president in order to deny that post to Kostunica should the Yugoslav federation break up and Kostunica find himself out of a job. PM

YUGOSLAV PARLIAMENT PASSES CITIZENSHIP LEGISLATION

The legislature voted on 28 February to allow Yugoslav citizens to hold dual citizenship, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The parliament also voted to restore citizenship to the Serbian royal family, thereby reversing a communist decree from 1947. The question of returning the Karadjordjevics' property will be dealt with as part of upcoming legislation on the restitution of property confiscated by the communists. PM

YUGOSLAVIA'S 'SUPER GRANDDAD' DIES

Dragoslav Avramovic died at 82 on 26 February at Rockville in the U.S., where he was undergoing medical treatment, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Avramovic had long been suffering from kidney and other problems. As governor of the National Bank, he became something of a folk hero when he ended hyper-inflation in 1994. Although some critics suggested that his ideas remained too influenced by socialism, he was often discussed in opposition circles as a potential presidential candidate against Milosevic. PM

LOWER HOUSE CONFIRMS BOSNIAN 'ALLIANCE FOR CHANGE' LEADERS

The lower house of the mainly Croatian and Muslim federal parliament voted on 27 February to confirm non- nationalists Karlo Filipovic as president and Safet Halilovic as vice president. The appointments must be approved by the upper house, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

CROATIA ENDS ROUND OF TALKS WITH EU

In Brussels on 27 February, Croatian and EU representatives concluded the second round of talks on Croatia's stabilization and association agreement, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Foreign Minister Tonino Picula said that the EU no longer considers Croatia to be a "problem" country. "Novi List," however, reported in an article entitled "Croatia Is Not For Sale" on concerns among many Croats that EU membership could lead to widespread purchases of Croatian coastal properties by affluent West Europeans. PM

ROMANIA, RUSSIA TO IMPROVE RELATIONS

Romanian President Ion Iliescu discussed bilateral relations with a Russian parliamentary delegation led by Federation Council speaker Yegor Stroev in Bucharest on 27 February, Mediafax reported. Iliescu said there should be "normal relations" between the two countries, adding that there can be no European or world stability without the "active role" of Russia. He also said Romania's aspirations to EU membership do not pose a threat to Romania's relations with Russia. After meeting with Stroev, Premier Adrian Nastase proposed the creation of a group to promote economic relations between Romania and the various Russian regions. Nastase said the two parties also discussed "political problems," including the Romanian state treasury deposited in Moscow during World War I. He said these problems can be solved and they should not hinder the development of bilateral economic relations. ZsM

ROMANIAN CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATIC PARTIES DECIDE ON MERGER

Leaders of the National Peasant Party -- Christian Democratic (PNTCD) and the Christian Democratic National Alliance (ANCD) on 27 February decided to merge "as soon as possible," Romanian media reported. A former major government coalition member between 1997 and 2000, the PNTCD is to absorb the ANCD according to a schedule approved upon at the meeting. The ANCD, led by former PNTCD premier Victor Ciorbea was created in 1998 by politicians who split from the PNTCD. Both parties failed to secure parliamentary representation in the November 2000 elections. ZsM

FINAL RESULTS OF MOLDOVAN EARLY ELECTIONS RELEASED

The Moldovan Central Election Commission on 27 February released the final results of the 25 February pre-term parliamentary elections, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Vladimir Voronin's Communist Party of Moldova (PCM) won 49.93 percent of the vote, Premier Dumitru Braghis's "Braghis Alliance" 13.40 percent backing, while the third party to pass the 6 percent threshold was the Christian Democratic People's Party (PPCD), with 8.31 percent of votes. The estimated distribution of the 101 parliamentary mandates gives the PCM 70 seats, the "Braghis Alliance" 19 and the PPCD 11. The communists thus have an absolute majority in parliament, which would allow them to form a government, elect the country's president and modify the constitution. Voter turnout was 69 percent. ZsM

COMMUNISTS INTEND TO BRING MOLDOVA CLOSER TO RUSSIA

PCM chairman Voronin said on 27 February that Moldova might join the Russia-Belarus Union and introduce Russian as the country's second official language, Infotag reported. While arguing that Moldova, being a "small and poor republic," should join the Russia-Belarus Union, Voronin said a referendum should be held on whether to introduce Russian as an official language. According to Voronin, the PCM wants no major changes in the country's foreign policy. But at the same time he warned that the notion of "two Romanian states" favored by some Bucharest officials is not acceptable for Moldova and "has no perspective for the future." As for the Transdniester problem, he foresees an agreement suiting both parties involved in the conflict. The PCM wants no interference with the banking sector, but Voronin promised to examine in detail the privatization of former state-owned companies. ZsM

BUCHAREST, TIRASPOL NOT ENTHUSIASTIC OVER COMMUNIST VICTORY

Romanian President Iliescu said on 27 February that the outcome of the parliamentary elections in Moldova reflects the choice of a population "at the brink of survival" and which looks to political forces that have not previously been represented in the government to solve its problems, Mediafax reported. He said Bucharest should preserve good relations with Moldova regardless of which parties govern that country, as the majority of the population in both countries "are of the same origin." Grigori Marakutsa, chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the breakaway Transdniester region, similarly viewed the results of the elections as a desperate gesture on the part of Moldova's electorate. He said he has no reason to be optimistic about the prospects of improving the dialogue between Chisinau and Tiraspol, because, he said, the PCM has the same agenda as all other Moldovan parties concerning the country's territorial integrity. ZsM

BULGARIA'S RULING PARTY KICKS OUT DISSENTERS

The Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) expelled two party members on 27 February for their public comments made last year that Premier and party leader Ivan Kostov should resign, BTA reported. Hristo Biserov, the party's former chief secretary, and Yordan Tsonev, a former member of the UDF's ruling body, were ousted from the party for acting "against the party rules" and for causing "damage to the organization." Biserov is expected to form a center-right party that could attract members from the UDF. Commenting on that possibility, Kostov said: "I don't believe that the UDF could split and a part of it take a different path." A recent Gallup survey showed that if parliamentary elections were held now, the UDF would garner 22.2 percent of the vote, while the opposition Socialist Party would get 19.8 percent. PB

U.S. REPORT SEES IMPROVEMENT IN HUMAN RIGHTS IN BULGARIA

The U.S. State Department report on human rights for 2000 said that in Bulgaria "several serious problems" remain, although improvement could be seen as the government "generally respected the human rights of its citizens," BTA reported on 27 February. The problems mentioned include extrajudicial killings, poor conditions in many prisons and detention centers, corruption within the courts, violence and discrimination against women and Roma, and human trafficking. The report cites instances of "serious human rights abuses" by police. It also quotes a Bulgarian Helsinki Committee survey as saying that Romany prisoners are abused more often than other inmates. The report said as many as 10,000 Bulgarian women, many under the age of 18, are victims of international trafficking. PB




ANOTHER DIFFICULT ANNIVERSARY


By Paul Goble

Tomorrow, March 1, marks the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the revolt of Kronstadt sailors against Soviet power, an anniversary that Russian officials and Russian scholars have found it difficult to acknowledge.

On that date in 1921, 15,000 sailors of the Kronstadt naval garrison near what is now again St. Petersburg, a group thought to be among the most fanatical supporters of Lenin and the Bolshevik regime, staged a demonstration in front of the cathedral there to protest Soviet repression of worker and civil rights. They demanded new elections in order to have soviets which genuinely reflected the will of workers and peasants.

Fearing that the appeals of the Kronstadt sailors would spread to other groups in society, Lenin and the Bolshevik leadership ordered their forcible suppression. Under the leadership of Leon Trotsky, the Red Army attacked Kronstadt and by March 18 had killed 15,000 of the sailors and forced another 8,000 to flee across the ice to Finland.

Like the working class revolts in the Siberian cities of Izhevsk and Votkinsk and the peasant revolts in Tambov and elsewhere during the Civil War, the Kronstadt protest by hitherto loyal Soviet sailors and the drowning of their efforts in blood presented the Soviet regime ever after with a serious ideological problem.

On the one hand, it called into question Soviet claims to represent the workers, peasants and soldiers in whose name Lenin had made the revolution and in whose name his government claimed to exercise its power. And on the other hand, it showed that the Soviet regime was prepared to be especially merciless to those who were members of these social categories but who questioned the behavior of the Soviet regime.

Not surprisingly, the Soviet government and Soviet historians did what they often did when confronted with a fact that did not fit in with their ideological world view: they ignored the event to the point of acting as if it had never happened.

Access to Kronstadt was restricted until 1996, and the cornerstone of a monument to the sailors who died was laid only in 1990. In 1994, former Russian President Boris Yeltsin ordered that the Kronstadt sailors be officially and mostly posthumously rehabilitated, and he called for the erection of a memorial to their heroism.

But until last year, little was done to implement Yeltsin's order. The government provided no money for constructing a monument, and things appeared to have reverted to the pattern of the Soviet period when no one said anything and nothing appeared to be remembered about the sailors of Kronstadt.

Then last winter, Kronstadt administration head Leonid Surikov organized a competition to design a monument to the sailors. The winning entry consists of a broken mast as a symbol both of the aspirations of the sailors for freedom and their suppression by Lenin and his government. Local historian Marat Kuznetsov is slated to publish a volume on the rising next month.

Throughout the Soviet period, most Russians were told that the Kronstadt struggle was an "armed rebellion" or a "counter-revolutionary mutiny." Many people in Russia still believe that, including many in the government. According to Venyamin Iofe who heads the St. Petersburg branch of the Memorial human rights organization, there is a good reason for this.

As he puts it, "the heirs of the communists are still in power and still determine how we treat history." But he adds that such an interpretation must change because the Kronstadt sailors did "what was right." His words are echoed by historian Kuznetsov, who said in advance of this difficult anniversary that the events in Kronstadt in 1921 were not "an armed rebellion." Instead, the rising "was a natural expression of discontent by sailors over the policy of the Bolsheviks directed at their own people."


XS
SM
MD
LG