Accessibility links

Newsline - March 15, 2001




PUTIN SAID TO BE PLANNING GOVERNMENT MONOPOLY ON RADIO, TV BROADCASTING

"Vremya MN" reported on 14 March that President Vladimir Putin is expected to issue a decree soon to set up a state enterprise that will broadcast radio and television signals. Communications Minister Leonid Reiman said the government has already considered the matter. In a related development, sources at TV-6 told Interfax on 14 March that the former deputy head of the presidential administration, Igor Shabdurasulov, will become chairman of the directors' council of that station. And on yet another media front, Russia-Belarus Union State Secretary Pavel Borodin has been transferred from a New York hospital to a prison, where he is being held on an extradition request from Switzerland. PG

RUSSIAN SECURITY COUNCIL SECRETARY SEEKS SUMMIT...

Sergei Ivanov said in Washington on 14 March that Russia is selling only weapons of defense to Iran, AP reported. (Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov made the same point in Moscow at the completion of the official segment of Iranian President Mohammad Khatami's visit to Russia, Russian agencies reported the same day. But the foreign minister also took the occasion to say that "sanctions are not the way to resolve problems if those in fact exist.") Both "Kommersant-Daily" on the same day and Sergei Ivanov himself suggested that he hoped, in addition to meeting with senior members of the new Bush administration, to arrange an early summit between the two presidents. PG

...BUT MEETS RESISTANCE IN WASHINGTON

American officials told visiting National Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov on 14 March they were prepared to adopt what U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell called a "realistic" approach toward Moscow because Russia appears to be repeating mistakes made by the Soviet Union in its dealings with regimes like Iran's. Powell also called on Russia to seek a political settlement in Chechnya. Meanwhile, in a meeting with the press, U.S. President George W. Bush said "Russia is not an enemy. They may be a threat, if they decide to be, but they're not the enemy. And it's going to be very important for my administration to make that very clear to Mr. Putin," Reuters reported. As if in response to Bush's statement, Interfax the same day ran the results of a poll by monitoring.ru that found that 34 percent of Russians believe that the United States represents the greatest threat of any country to Russia. PG

NO-CONFIDENCE MOTION FAILS...

As demonstrators gathered outside the Duma on 14 March, only 127 deputies voted in favor of the no-confidence motion, nearly 100 fewer than the 226 needed for passage, Russian and Western agencies reported. Seventy-six deputies voted against, five formally abstained, but most simply did not participate. Eighty members of the Communist Party voted for the motion, only speaker Gennadii Seleznev did not participate. Thirty-nine members of the Agro-Industrial group voted for the motion. No Unity deputies took part. Among the Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) faction, five voted against, one abstained, and 40 did not vote. Among Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) deputies, no one voted for, 32 voted against, and one abstained. Among Yabloko representatives, one voted for, one against, one abstained, and 16 did not take part. All 14 members of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia did not participate. Among the People's Deputy group, no one voted for, four voted against, one abstained, and 27 did not vote. And among the Russian Regions group, five voted for, one against, and 39 did not vote. Of the 14 deputies who are not members of factions, no one voted for, three voted against, one abstained, and 10 did not vote. After the vote, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov expressed his willingness to cooperate with the Duma in the future, Interfax reported. PG

...BUT SPECULATION ABOUT ITS MEANING CONTINUES

Deputies from virtually all groups except the Communists and the agrarians suggested that the vote should be translated into changes in committee chairmanships and even the way in which the Duma does its work, Russian agencies reported on 14 March. Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov was unrepentant, saying after the vote that it was the "final bell" for the government, Interfax reported. Unity leaders took a hard line, saying they would force new elections if the Communists tried to push through a no-confidence measure again. And commentators in the media speculated variously that the Communists, Unity, the government, and the Kremlin had been the winners in the affair. But a poll showed that the Duma has not won any new support as a result: Interfax reported a monitoring.ru poll which found that only one Russian in five thinks that the Duma is working well, and 55 percent negatively assess its operations. PG

A BUSY DAY IN THE DUMA...

On the same day that the no-confidence motion failed to pass, Duma deputies acted on a large number of other measures, Russian agencies reported on 14 March. They passed on third reading amendments to the law on social predictions, on first reading the law on the status of deputies, and on the second and third reading amendments to the state registration of property. Also on 14 March, the deputies refused to support a proposed resolution on how Russia should respond if the U.S. dollar declines in value, and they rejected legislation on first reading that would have set criminal penalties for misuse of budget funds and illegal tax concessions. The Duma also asked Prime Minister Kasyanov to exempt exporters of high-tech goods from the value added tax, and they called on the Audit Chamber to examine the use of foreign credits provided to Russia during the last 15 months. PG

...AND IN THE FEDERATION COUNCIL

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin praised the passage by the Federation Council of budgetary amendments that will allow Moscow to meet its international debt obligations, ITAR-TASS reported. Kudrin said that "this is the answer to the political games by means of which some tried to create a political crisis." Additionally, the Federation Council passed legislation on the new Russian national anthem, ratified an accord with Belarus on a single monetary unit, and on military agreements with Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. But also on 14 March, the upper chamber rejected a Duma-passed measure on the disbursement of pensions. In other developments, Federation Council speaker Yegor Stroev reaffirmed his opposition to the formation of any groups within the Federation Council, and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov said that he, too, is opposed to the creation of the "Federation" group there, and will not take part in it. PG

DUMA PUSHES GOVERNMENT TO RAISE 'KURSK'

By a vote of 319 for, none against, and with one abstention, the Duma on 14 March called on the government to ensure the financing of the effort to raise the "Kursk" submarine that sank in August 2000, Interfax reported. Finance Minister Kudrin told Ekho Moskvy on the same day that the government intends to devote a total of nearly $50 million to ensure that the submarine is raised from the bottom of the sea. PG

UNITY DUMA DEPUTY SHOT IN MOSCOW

Bashir Kodzoyev, a member of the Duma's Unity party, was wounded by two gunshots to the hand in Moscow on 14 March, officials told ITAR-TASS. His Duma colleagues have called for a sweeping investigation to find Kodzoyev's attackers, who, they said, were obviously murderers for hire. PG

NEW INTERFACTIONAL GROUP IN DUMA

Thirty-four deputies from different factions have come together to form an interfactional group called "Honor, Duty, Fatherland -- Career Officers," ITAR-TASS reported on 14 March. The group is headed by Vice Admiral Valerii Dorovin of the Russian Regions faction. The new group seeks to promote military reform and to support the country's armed services. PG

STATE COUNCIL SEEN FUNDAMENTALLY CHANGED...

The new presidium of the State Council fundamentally changes the relationship between that body and the Kremlin, an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 14 March. The former members of the presidium had an independent power base; the new ones don't and therefore will be far more pliant in working with the presidential administration, the paper suggested. Moreover, it said, they are likely to be presented with Kremlin-prepared drafts rather than be asked to prepare them on their own. On the same day, an article in "Segodnya" made the same point. PG

...AND PUSHING ALTERNATIVE ECONOMIC PROGRAM TO THE WAYSIDE?

Although President Putin has appointed new members to the State Council's presidium following the expiration of the six-month terms of the first presidium members, some of the first members, such as Moscow Mayor Luzhkov, Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev, Tomsk Governor Viktor Kress, and former Tyumen Governor Leonid Roketskii, will continue to head presidium working groups, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 14 March. The fate of the group led by Khabarovsk Krai Governor Viktor Ishaev is unclear. Ishaev has said that his group will continue to work on a strategy for the economic development of the Russian Federation until 2010; however, the daily reported that presidential administration officials say that they have not given him instructions to do so. "Segodnya" on the same day argued that "it is not to the Kremlin's advantage if State Council members develop such important documents as an economic program" which "could well become an alternative to [Economic Development and Trade Minister] German Gref's." JAC

HARMONIZATION RUNS INTO A ROADBLOCK

Efforts to harmonize federal and regional legislation have run into a problem in Daghestan, where ethnic peace in the North Caucasus republic has been maintained at least in part by ensuring that the 14 largest nationalities in the republic will each have a representative on the State Council, "Izvestiya" reported on 13 March. Federal law precludes such arrangements, and deputies from Daghestan are pressing either for an exception in the case of that multinational republic or the extension of the principle elsewhere. PG

NO JUDICIAL REFORM ANYTIME SOON

Despite efforts by President Putin to identify additional funds to support judicial and legal reform, his representative to the Constitutional Court, Mikhail Barshchevskii, told Ekho Moskvy on 14 March that judicial reform will be completed only in 2005. PG

KUDRIN SAYS RUSSIA DOESN'T NEED LOANS THIS YEAR

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kudrin said on 14 March that he does not see any need for Russia to seek additional credits from the IMF this year, Russian agencies reported. In other comments, Kudrin said he has no doubts that Russia will be able to make all of its scheduled payments in 2001 and will even be able to meet a higher payment scheduled in 2003 if the government succeeds in pushing through reforms. And he also said a financial intelligence service needs to be created within the Finance Ministry to conduct analytic work. PG

NEW FALLOUT FROM THE TOBIN CASE

"Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 14 March suggested that the drug case against U.S. student John Edward Tobin in Voronezh has already produced what it called "casualties" elsewhere. The paper said that Russian counterintelligence officers now want to investigate the activities of the Fulbright exchange program as a whole. PG

RUSSIAN JEWISH CONGRESS TO BE APOLITICAL

Leonid Nevzlin, the acting president of the Russian Jewish Congress, said on 14 March that his organization does not intend to take part in political activities, Interfax reported. In other comments, he suggested that anti-Semitism would be a problem in Russia only if the government were to support it, something he said it was not now doing. PG

FINANCE MINISTRY WORRIED BY GROWING DOMESTIC DEBT

An article in "Segodnya" on 14 March said Finance Ministry officials are concerned by the growth of short-term domestic debt. Citing ministry officials, the article said that the size of this debt could create problems if the economy runs into difficulties in the future. PG

GAS EXPORT DECLINE CUTS INTO RUSSIA'S EARNINGS

Russian gas exports fell 9 percent from the level reported in January 2000 to the same period in 2001, "Izvestiya" reported on 14 March. That decline, primarily on exports to Russia's CIS partners rather than to European markets, has reduced Russia's foreign earnings as well as its acquisition of debt in CIS countries. PG

RAILROADS NEED $28 BILLION FOR MODERNIZATION

First Deputy Railways Minister Aleksandr Misharin said on 14 March that Russia will need to spend at least 760 billion rubles ($28 billion) over the next five years to repair and modernize the country's railroads, ITAR-TASS reported.

RUSSIA CAN'T AFFORD TO MAKE KALININGRAD INTO A HONG KONG

The Institute of Economics of the Russian Academy of Sciences has calculated that it would take an investment of $36 billion in Kaliningrad over the next decade to transform it into a Russian Hong Kong, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 14 March. The paper noted that Moscow does not have that kind of money for the project, and that no one will be willing to provide it. PG

RUSSIA SEEN MOVING TO 2 1/2 PARTY SYSTEM

In a lengthy survey of Russia's political developments since 1991 published in the 14 March "Nezavisimaya gazeta," Vladimir Lysenko, a Duma deputy with the Russian Regions group, suggested that Russia is moving toward a one-and-a-half party system. If that happens, there will be one, dominant ruling party and a second and significantly weaker third one. If the Russian government protects the rights of all the political players, Lysenko said, that could lead to a situation much like that in the Japanese parliament. But if it doesn't, then the situation could lead to the replacement of democracy by an authoritarian system. PG

MOSCOW INCREASES SPENDING ON DESTRUCTION OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS

Deputy Foreign Minister Grigorii Berdennikov said on 14 March that Moscow will spend six times more in 2001 than it did in 2000 on the destruction of chemical weapons, Interfax reported. He said that Russia had not been able to meet its obligations because of economic difficulties but now could not fail to do so, lest it come under intensifying international pressure. PG

MOSCOW LOOKS FOR COOPERATION IN ARCTIC

Foreign Minister Ivanov left on 14 March for Murmansk, where he is to host a ministerial session of the Barents Sea/Euro-Arctic Council, Interfax reported. Before leaving, Ivanov published an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 14 March in which he said cooperation in the Arctic could help Russia's economy, especially in the impoverished Far North. Meanwhile, Murmansk Governor Yurii Yevdokimov gave another perspective when he told members of the council that Russia's Kola peninsula has more nuclear reactors than anywhere else in Russia and that it represents a serious radiation hazard for all of northern Europe, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

OIL COMPANIES GRUMBLE ABOUT TENDER IN FAR NORTH

Some of Russia's largest oil companies, LUKoil, Surgutneftegaz, and Sibneft are jointly protesting the results of an oil tender held in Nenets Autonomous Okrug, LUKoil Vice President Leonid Fedun announced on 13 March. Fedun charged that the winner of the tender, Severnaya Neft, "had been decided from the beginning." Fedun said Severnaya Neft offered a bonus of only $7 million, "while the other companies were prepared to pay over $100 million each." Severnaya Neft is owned by a group of offshore companies, according to "The Moscow Times" on 14 March. A spokeswoman for the company told the daily that her company's offer was substantially better than the major oil companies "because we are already there" and "have already invested $100 million in the region's infrastructure." "Vedomosti" reported on 15 March that the case has already attracted the attention of the office of the prosecutor-general, along with one of the Duma's high-profile committees. JAC

ADMIRAL CLAIMS HE'S THE KREMLIN CHOICE

Former Black Sea Fleet Commander Admiral Igor Kasatonov officially registered as a candidate in 27 May gubernatorial elections in Primorskii Krai, Russian agencies reported on 14 March. Kasatonov told reporters in Vladivostok that he became a candidate at the Kremlin's initiative, although he has not met with President Putin recently. However, he said that the two men are well acquainted, having met at the Black Sea Fleet's Military Council. "Segodnya" reported the previous day that, according to its unnamed Kremlin sources, Kasatonov met with presidential administration head Aleksandr Voloshin before Kasatonov traveled to the krai (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 14 March 2001). Also on 14 March, another candidate in the race, State Duma Deputy (People's Deputy) Viktor Cherepkov lost a suit challenging the results of 18 June 2000 mayoral elections in Vladivostok in a raion-level court. Cherepkov had tried unsuccessfully to run in that race. JAC

MOSCOW UNHAPPY WITH DANISH AGREEMENT ON RADAR SITE IN GREENLAND

"Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 14 March that Foreign Minister Ivanov had told Danish officials that Moscow was concerned about the willingness of Denmark to allow the U.S. to set up a radar site in Greenland. The paper said that when the Danes expressed their unhappiness with Chechnya, Ivanov replied with Moscow's unhappiness about Greenland. PG

MOSCOW SETS UP COMMITTEE ON TROPHY ART

The Russian government on 14 March set up an interagency committee on questions concerning cultural valuables seized during World War II, Interfax reported. The group will both set policy and negotiate with foreign claimants. PG

MIR FALLS EVER FASTER, SET TO DEORBIT ON 22 MARCH

Russian space officials said on 14 March that the orbit of the Mir space station had dropped by another 2.7 kilometers over the last 24 hours and that the station was now scheduled to fall into the south Pacific on 22 March, Russian agencies said. PG

UP TO 1.5 MILLION IMMIGRANTS IN RUSSIA FROM BEYOND FSU

Oleg Mironov, Russia's human rights ombudsman, told representatives of immigrant communities that estimates of the number of immigrants in Russia from beyond the territory of the former Soviet republics varied from 700,000 to 1.5 million, Interfax reported on 14 March. But he noted that only a very small fraction of them were properly registered and had sought refugee status. PG

MOSCOW POLICE FAILING IN BATTLE AGAINST CARS PARKED ON SIDEWALKS

Officials in the Moscow Mayor's Office told Interfax on 14 March that all efforts to prevent drivers from parking their vehicles on sidewalks had failed and that pedestrians and businesses were suffering as a result. Meanwhile, Mayor Luzhkov indicated that he is now prepared to negotiate with Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailov on candidates to head the city's police agencies, the news service said. PG




NEW CHECHEN ATTACKS AS RUSSIAN TROOPS PULLED

Colonel General Gennadii Troshev, commander of the North Caucasus military district, said on NTV on 14 March that troop withdrawals would not reduce the ability of Russian forces to control the situation in Chechnya, but Russian news agencies reported that at least 12 Russian soldiers were killed and 27 wounded as the withdrawal began. The Russian forces did claim one victory: the killing of Khamid Basaev, the brother of Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, an article in "Kommersant-Daily" on 14 March said that there was less to the "widely promoted" withdrawal than it had been made to appear. And SPS Duma leader Boris Nemtsov, in an interview published in the 14 March "Komsomolskaya pravda," repeated his argument that Chechnya will eventually be partitioned unless there is a political settlement. PG

GROZNY SURVIVED WINTER 'WELL ENOUGH'

Grozny Mayor Bislan Gantamirov told ITAR-TASS on 14 March that the 200,000 residents of Grozny had survived the winter well enough, given the lack of basic services. "There were only a few cases of frostbitten people, but this is a staggering result given that the city was virtually fully destroyed," he said. He expressed thanks to Danish and Czech humanitarian groups for providing the city with food. Meanwhile, a humanitarian convoy of the International Red Cross arrived in Ingushetia on 14 March with 170 tons of food, ITAR-TASS said. PG

RUSSIA HAS NO PLANS TO PULL BORDER TROOPS FROM ARMENIA

Visiting Federal Border Service commander, General Konstantin Totsky, said in Yerevan on 14 March that Moscow had no plans to reduce its border guard presence in Armenia, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. He said that he and his Armenian counterparts will sign an accord on 15 March on sharing the costs of the presence of these troops. PG

MOST ARMENIANS SUPPORT FREEZING KARABAKH CONFLICT

A poll reported in "Haykakan Zhamanak" on 14 March showed that 72 percent of Armenians believe that Armenia should "freeze" the conflict over Karabakh and focus on developing its national economy. Only 30 percent believe that a peaceful resolution of the conflict is possible. PG

U.S. TO HOST ARMENIAN-AZERBAIJANI SUMMIT

The U.S. State Department said on 14 March that Secretary of State Colin Powell has invited Armenian President Robert Kocharian and Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev to Key West, Florida, on 3 April for talks about the Karabakh conflict, Reuters reported. The State Department said the talks would be sponsored by the OSCE group in Minsk. On the same day, Turkey's "Cumhuriyet" reported that Aliev, who is currently in Turkey, had discussed possible resolutions of the Karabakh conflict with Turkish leaders. PG

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT SUPPORTS POLL ON KARABAKH

The office of President Aliyev is supporting a poll to be conducted by Azerbaijani sociologists on the opinions of Azerbaijani citizens concerning the Karabakh crisis, Turan reported on 14 March. The range of opinions may be broad: Turan reported a day earlier that the parliament had received 92 different proposals for solving the crisis, only six of them by force. Meanwhile, a group of Azerbaijani political parties in Nakhichevan demanded that Baku protest statements made in the Armenian media which suggested that Yerevan wants to annex part of that Azerbaijani enclave, Turan reported. PG

GEORGIAN LEADER THREATENS TO FIRE ENERGY CHIEF

President Eduard Shevardnadze told Fuel and Energy Minister Davit Mirtskhulava on 14 March that "if the Kavkasioni high-voltage power line is damaged again, you will be fired," Kavkasia-Press reported on 14 March. Sabotage is suspected. Meanwhile, Interior Ministry officials warned about possible destabilization in the country, the agency said. PG

TROUBLE BREWING IN MINGRELIA?

Elene Tevdoradze, the highly respected chairwoman of the Georgian Parliament Committee for Human Rights, told parliament deputies on 13 March that armed supporters of opposition politician Aleksandre Chachia are openly agitating against the central government in the western region of Mingrelia, Caucasus Press reported. A former adviser to Adjar Republic Supreme Council head Aslan Abashidze, Chachia created a political party in 1999 to promote the economic revival in Mingrelia (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 2, No. 13, 30 March 1999). Mingrelian police officials contacted by Caucasus Press denied Tevdoradze's claims. LF

GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ TALKS OPEN IN YALTA

Georgian Minister of State Gia Arsenishvili and the prime minister of the self-proclaimed Republic of Abkhazia arrived in Yalta on 14 March for two days of talks within the context of the Geneva peace process, ITAR-TASS reported. This is the third such meeting: the first was in Athens in October 1998, and the second in Istanbul in July 1999. PG

FIGHTS OVER WATER SEEN INCREASING TENSIONS IN CENTRAL ASIA

An article in Moscow's "Vremya MN" on 14 March suggested that conflicts over water are likely to exacerbate tensions among the countries of Central Asia. Meanwhile, Interfax reported that Kazakh and Uzbek officials met in Tashkent to discuss a regional pact on water sharing. PG

SECOND WELL COMES IN KAZAKHSTAN FIELD

A spokesman for the Offshore Kazakhstan International Operating Company (OKIOC) told dpa on 14 March that a second and hence confirming well had come in the Kazakh section of the Caspian sea. Officials said that the strike confirms that the Kashagan field "is a truly major oil discovery." In related developments, Kazakh Prime Minister Kasymjomart Tokaev told visiting Russian envoy Viktor Kaluzhnii that Astana finds the recent Russian-Iranian statement on the Caspian "in conflict" with earlier Russian commitments, Turan reported the same day. But Kaluzhnii noted that Moscow does not object to building any pipeline, including one across the Caspian and the Baku-Ceyhan project, if it is economically beneficial, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

POLLUTION HURTS HEALTH OF 54 PERCENT OF KAZAKH WOMEN

A survey conducted by the U.S.-supported Women in Kazakhstan project found that 54.4 percent of all women in Kazakhstan suffer from various illnesses caused by environmental factors, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. PG

EMIGRATION HURTS KYRGYZ ECONOMY

During the last three years, 220,000 people have left Kyrgyzstan, an outflow that is worrying Kyrgyz officials, Moscow's "Vremya MN" reported on 14 March. The outflow is generally among the most educated portions of the population, and sociologists have called it a "brain-drain" that is certain to hurt Kyrgyzstan's economic prospects. PG

TURKMEN PRESIDENT URGES STUDENTS TO WORK WHILE STUDYING

Turkmenistan President Saparmurat Niyazov on 14 March called on students to combine studies with work in production, Interfax reported. PG

RUSSIAN CULTURAL CENTER OPENS IN UZBEK CAPITAL

A Russian Center for Scientific and Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries opened in Tashkent on 14 March, Uzbek radio reported. The center is headed by the first female cosmonaut, Valentina Tereshkova, and is intended to promote ties between Central Asia and Russia, center officials said. PG




BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT BANS USE OF FOREIGN AID FOR POLITICAL PURPOSES...

Alyaksandr Lukashenka has issued a decree regulating the use of "foreign gratuitous aid" in the country, Belarusian Television reported on 14 March. The station said the decree bans the use of foreign aid for activities oriented toward changing the constitutional system or overthrowing state authorities. In particular, the decree prohibits the use of foreign aid for the preparation of elections, rallies, strikes, seminars, "propagandistic materials," and "other forms of propagandistic work among the population." Mechyslau Hryb, former chairman of the Supreme Soviet, told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service that Lukashenka's decree actually intends to prevent the opposition and international community from preparing monitors for this year's presidential elections. The preparation of election monitors in Belarus has thus far been sponsored by foreign grants. JM

...HAILS BELARUS'S CONSTITUTIONAL SYSTEM

In a written address to the nation on the occasion of Constitution Day on 15 March, Lukashenka said the Belarusian Constitution, adopted in 1994 but "renewed" by a referendum on 24 November 1996, "combines the world's democratic experience [as well as] the specificity of [Belarus's] state-building and national traditions, guarantees the protection of human rights, and ensures the successful formation of civil society," Belapan reported. The opposition does not recognize the 1996 constitution, arguing that it was approved in a rigged plebiscite; shifted all essential state prerogatives to the president and the executive branch; and helped Lukashenka install a dictatorship in Belarus. "The legal Chernobyl that exploded in November 1996 has heavily damaged the constitution [of 1994]... [That disaster] was followed by a constitutional crisis, lawlessness, [and] a decline in living standards," the opposition Supreme Soviet noted in its address to the nation the same day. JM

UKRAINIAN COMMUNISTS WANT SOVIET COMEBACK, OUSTER OF PRESIDENT, PREMIER...

Some 3,000 Communists and hard-liners demonstrated at the Ukrainian parliamentary building on 15 March, demanding the ouster of President Leonid Kuchma, Premier Viktor Yushchenko, and a return to the old Soviet ways, AP reported. Yushchenko earned particular ire from the protesters, who stood patiently under pouring rain, chanted "Kuchma and Yushchenko to jail!" and lamented their lost Soviet-era savings, miserable pensions, low wages, and other social woes, the agency noted. Many Communists arrived from outlying regions such as Donetsk, Luhansk, Odesa, and Kharkiv. They were backed by hard-line groups including the Ukrainian Workers' Union and the All-Ukrainian Union of Soviet Officers. JM

...WHILE 'UKRAINE WITHOUT KUCHMA' MOVEMENT FOCUSES ON PRESIDENT

Some 1,000 activists of the "Ukraine Without Kuchma" movement on 14 March picketed the parliamentary building and subsequently the Prosecutor-General's Office, the Interior Ministry, and the presidential administration building, demanding the dismissal of President Kuchma, Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko, and Prosecutor-General Mykhaylo Potebenko, Interfax reported. Demonstrators collected a glassful of blood drawn from their fingers and deposited the glass outside the Interior Ministry, suggesting that Kuchma and Kravchenko have blood on their hands following the murder of independent journalist Heorhiy Gongadze. JM

SECURITY OFFICIALS BRIEF UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT ON LAST WEEK'S VIOLENCE

Security Service chief Volodymyr Radchenko told lawmakers on 14 March that participants in last week's violent antipresidential demonstrations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 12 March 2001) were paid and instructed on how to clash with police, Interfax reported. "Sooner or later...there will appear a problem of foreign interference, including of a financial and material [character], in the events taking place in our state," Radchenko said, without offering further evidence of his claims. First Deputy Interior Minister Mykola Dzhyha mentioned "Ukraine Without Kuchma" movement coordinators Yuriy Lutsenko and Volodymyr Chermerys; and Andriy Shkil and Yuriy Tyma, leaders of the Ukrainian National Assembly-Ukrainian National Self-Defense; as being responsible for the organization of the 9 March violent protests. The parliament had requested Interior Minister Kravchenko and Prosecutor-General Potebenko to report on the clashes but both officials failed to appear. JM

DENMARK WANTS BALTIC STATES TO ENTER EU IN FIRST ROUND

Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen said at a 14 March conference in parliament -- held to discuss Denmark's goals for its EU presidency in the second half of 2002 -- that it is crucial that the first group of new EU entrants be as large as possible, Reuters reported. He asserted: "The Danish government will take the initiative to ensure that the three Baltic states, along with as many countries as possible, be admitted to the EU in the first round." Earlier, Estonia was the only Baltic state mentioned as a first-round candidate, along with the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, and Cyprus, with which the EU officially began membership negotiations in 1997. Latvia and Lithuania, which began formal EU negotiations two year later, were described as countries that must make great efforts in order to catch up with the front-runners. SG

LATVIAN PRESIDENT IN LITHUANIA

Accompanied by a delegation of businessmen as well as the environmental protection, economy, and defense ministers, Vaira Vike-Freiberga began her first official visit to Lithuania, which will last three days, at the presidential palace on 14 March. Vike-Freiberga and Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus awarded nearly 50 state orders to worthy individuals of the other country, BNS and ELTA reported. The presidents agreed that the three Baltic presidents should send a joint appeal to U.S. President George W. Bush declaring their countries' resolve to continue working for NATO membership. They concurred that there are no issues between the countries that cannot be resolved and that cooperation should be increased. Vike-Freiberga attended the presentation of the documentary CD-ROM, "Latvia and Lithuania Between Two Wars in 1920-1940," in the National Martynas Mazvydas Library and participated in other formal events. The environment ministers agreed on the need to improve the exchange of information on environmental accidents and pledged to sign such an agreement later this spring. SG

FRAYED LINES CAUSED OIL SPILL IN LITHUANIA

Mazeikiai Oil General Director Jim Scheel announced on 14 March that the accident at the Butinge terminal the previous week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 March 2001) occurred when frayed hawser lines, which tied the tanker to the terminal, snapped, ELTA reported. He claimed investigations revealed that computer programs had incorrectly calculated the usable life of the hawser lines and that a new policy of changing them every six, instead of 14, months has been established. Joint working teams from Mazeikiai Oil and the Environment Ministry determined that a total of 3,427 liters (2.94 tons or 21.5 barrels) of oil had been spilled -- over 10 times more than the 300 kilograms reported earlier. The terminal resumed operations on 14 March, after having shut down following the 6 March spill. SG

POLISH PRESIDENT URGES UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION TO TALK WITH KUCHMA

Aleksander Kwasniewski on 15 March met with a delegation of the Ukrainian opposition, which included lawmakers Taras Chornovil, Stanislav Mykolayenko, and Ihor Kolyushko, PAP reported. Presidential aide Marek Siwiec said Kwasniewski tried to persuade the Ukrainian opposition activists that "everyone in this conflict should declare their willingness to hold talks." According to Siwiec, Kwasniewski will convey the same message to Ukrainian President Kuchma during their meeting in Poland on 15 March. Meanwhile, Mykhaylo Svystovych, a member of the delegation, told the agency that Kwasniewski will not manage to persuade Kuchma to talk with the opposition. Svystovych added that Kuchma's only reason for meeting Kwasniewski is to show to Ukrainians that their president is still received in Europe and deny the opposition's claims that he is isolated from the international arena. JM

POLISH HISTORIAN SAYS BOOK ON 1941 POGROM OMITS GERMAN PARTICIPATION

Professor Tomasz Strzembosz said there is enough evidence to conclude that the German military was actively and directly involved in the killing of Jews in Jedwabne in 1941, PAP reported on 14 March. Professor Jan Tomasz Gross from New York alleged in his recently published book "Neighbors" that some 1,600 Jews from Jedwabne were herded in a barn and burned by their Polish neighbors without any encouragement from Germans. Strzembosz said he is shocked by the fact that Gross -- who read the accounts of witnesses and defendants testifying in a 1949 trial of pogrom participants -- "did not take notice of the fact that Germans participated in [the pogrom], but shows the murder of the Jews in Jedwabne as a spontaneous and voluntary action by the Polish community." According to Strzembosz, the Germans forced Jedwabne inhabitants to participate in the pogrom. JM

CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER DEFENDS CUBA RESOLUTION

Speaking before the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Chamber of Deputies, Foreign Minister Jan Kavan defended his ministry's proposal of a UN resolution on human rights in Cuba, which has drawn criticism for its rejection of U.S. economic sanctions, CTK reported 14 March. Kavan said that across-the-board sanctions helped dictators stay in power longer. Reacting to speculation that the resolution's criticism of sanctions had been added as part of a deal with Cuba, Kavan claimed that his ministry had only put the resolution forward in the first place because it feared not doing so would be viewed as a concession to Cuba. Together with Poland, the Czech Republic co-sponsored a resolution condemning the failure to observe human rights in Cuba in 1999 and 2000. DW

HAVEL'S FIRST ONLINE CHAT LASTS FOUR MINUTES

Czech President Vaclav Havel's first-ever Internet question-and-answer session lasted four minutes before an estimated 10,000 visitors overloaded the Prague Castle's website, CTK reported. After the site crashed, Havel did answer questions, but readers had to wait 15 minutes for responses to their questions. Among the questions he answered, Havel expressed his opinion that the direct popular election of the president -- as opposed to the current election by parliament -- would better balance the Czech constitutional system; and mad cow disease is "punishment of humans by nature for feeding those vegetarians [cattle]...pulverized carcasses." DW

TWO OPPOSING GROUPS MARK ANNIVERSARY OF SLOVAK STATE UNDER NAZI GERMANY

The People Against Racism group held a "Tolerance March" in Bratislava on 14 March to mark the anniversary of the foundation of the Slovak State (1939-1944) under Nazi Germany, TASR reported. Participants in the march -- who included parliamentary speaker Jozef Migas, Agriculture Minister Pavel Koncos, and Education Minister Milan Ftacnik -- condemned that state as a fascist puppet. Meanwhile, the group called Slovenska Narodna Jednota (Slovak National Unity), which included skinheads, celebrated the anniversary with nostalgia. The Nazi Slovak State experienced an economic boom during World War II and a period of peace until 1944, they claimed, although historical evidence shows otherwise. The two opposing groups met twice during the celebrations but only an ashtray flew among the public, the agency noted. JM

SLOVAKIA'S GDP RISES BY 2.2 PERCENT IN 2000

The Slovak Statistical Office said on 15 March that the country's GDP increased by 2.2 percent in 2000 over the previous year, TASR reported. GDP in 1999 grew by 1.9 percent. JM

HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER SAYS FRENCH REFUGEE DECISION 'NO SHAME'

Speaking on a weekly radio program, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said that the French Refugee Office's decision to grant refugee status to some Hungarian Roma was "no reason to feel shame," Reuters reported. "Hungary today, in terms of human rights, can compare with any Western European country," he said. On the other hand, Jozsef Krasznai, a Roma activist and spokesman for the group of Roma from the village of Zamoly that was recently granted amnesty in France, told the daily "Nepszabadsag" that the Hungarian government had done nothing to investigate the situation of the group. He also described the comments by Hungarian government spokesman Gabor Borokai protesting the French decision (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 March 2001) as "wrong, to say the least." DW




MACEDONIA'S SECOND CITY REMAINS TENSE

Reuters reported heavy gunfire in the mountains above Tetovo in the direction of Kosova on 15 March. Fighting in the area the previous day left one civilian dead and 15 policemen injured, three of whom are ethnic Albanians (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 March 2001). There has been no word on casualties among the rebels of the National Liberation Army (UCK). An Interior Ministry spokesman told London's "The Guardian" that the situation is "horrible." He added that the approximately 200 insurgents have a wide array of weapons, which they "built up over a long period of time." It is not clear to what extent the local population sympathizes with the insurgents, but some young men in Tetovo told newsmen: "We've been waiting for this moment for 40 years. We have nothing here, no work nor any rights." A Macedonian government spokesman told the BBC the rebels want not only rights, but also to "fragment" the country into two parts along ethnic lines. The spokesman stressed that this is unacceptable. PM

MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT PREPARES URGENT MEASURES

Following the outbreak of fighting in the Macedonian heartland on 14 March, President Boris Trajkovski met with ambassadors from EU and NATO countries, the BBC's Serbian Service reported. The ambassadors assured him of their support for the government and the territorial integrity of Macedonia. Top government officials are slated to hold a meeting of the National Security Council on 15 March, and will decide on whether to declare a state of emergency, dpa reported. The British broadcaster described the overall situation as uncertain and volatile. A reporter noted that the rebels have no difficulty hiding from NATO's observation helicopters in the rugged terrain along the Kosova-Macedonian border. Elsewhere, dpa reported that "many" young men have turned up at army recruitment offices to enlist, but Defense Ministry spokesmen said there is no need for additional manpower at present. PM

MACEDONIA'S EX-PRESIDENT PLAYING POLITICS?

Former President Kiro Gligorov, who is close to the opposition Social Democrats, blasted the current government led by the Macedonian nationalist Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE) and the Albanian nationalist Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH), dpa reported from Skopje on 15 March. He sharply criticized "rotten alliances" with ethnic Albanian parties that allegedly serve "only to keep someone in power." He added that this "is a crime against Macedonia" but apparently did not suggest alternatives. PM

ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT SLAMS VIOLENCE

On 14 March, Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski telephoned his Albanian counterpart, Ilir Meta, to ask for his support, the BBC's Serbian Service reported. Meta stressed that Albania opposes violence and calls on the ethnic Albanian population of Macedonia -- comprising about 23 percent of the total -- to seek a peaceful resolution of their grievances. Speaking at a press conference with Kosova Protection Force commander Agim Ceku, Meta said: "The Albanians should demand their rights only through political and democratic means and peaceful protests, not through violent protests as happened in Tetovo today. The Albanians in Macedonia should pursue the road of dialogue and peace, not that of violence, to achieve their rights," dpa reported. PM

U.S. CALLS FOR SUPPORT FOR MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT

Speaking in Tirana on 14 March, U.S. Ambassador to Albania Joseph Limprecht told reporters that "everybody [should] focus principally on the central issue...which is providing support to the government of Macedonia and to those elements of the Albanian political community...to isolate and to put down the people of violence, the extremists, as soon and as quickly as possible," Reuters reported. "It's important that there be action taken to separate [the rebels] from the political community because their actions are not legitimate. And any statements that imply that there is some sort of legitimacy to the extremists and acts of violence are not helpful in this situation." Limprecht praised Albanian Prime Minister Meta for his clear statements opposing violence and calling on Macedonia's Albanians to do the same. PM

NATO: NO PLANS TO SEND TROOPS TO MACEDONIA

An unnamed NATO official told AP in Brussels on 15 March that the Atlantic alliance "stands shoulder-to-shoulder" with Macedonia. He added, however, that Macedonian authorities have the situation under control and that there is no reason for NATO to send in combat troops. The Atlantic alliance will nonetheless make its experts available to Skopje, the BBC's Serbian Service reported. Deutsche Welle noted that there is a German KFOR-support military base in the Tetovo area. PM

NATO DISCUSSES PRESEVO, MACEDONIAN SECURITY

Members of the EU's Political and Security Committee met with ambassadors of NATO countries in Brussels to discuss the situation in Macedonia and the Presevo Valley on 14 March, RFE/RL reported. After the meeting, NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson said: "We focused on the situation in the Balkans, where NATO and the EU are working together. The EU monitoring mission is a very critical part of what is happening in that part of the world today, especially in the ground safety zone between Kosovo and Southern Serbia." Referring to insurgent activity in the region, Robertson added: "And I want to [be] blunt in addressing the small minority who still prefer to use violence and intimidation [instead of] dialogue and democracy, to those who prefer the bullet to the ballot box, that their time is up and the clock is now ticking on them [and] what they do." PM

YUGOSLAV GENERAL PAVKOVIC LEADS HIS TROOPS TO THE KOSOVA FRONTIER

General Nebojsa Pavkovic, who heads the General Staff and commanded the Third Army during the 1999 ethnic cleansing campaign in Kosova, led Serbian forces on 14 March into the southernmost part of the formerly demilitarized safety zone along the border with Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 March 2001). His troops included men from the 63rd Paratroop Brigade and the 7th Battalion of the paramilitary police, which was stationed in Montenegro until recently, "Vesti" reported. Vienna's "Die Presse" noted that the average age of the soldiers is somewhat higher than is the case for most conscript units. In the village of Miratovac, local ethnic Albanians said they were fearful after one soldier threatened a 14-year-old Albanian boy with a knife. Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic, who previously called on civilians to come to him with any complaints about the soldiers, quickly arrived on the scene to talk to villagers. Local Albanians said the troops should stay on the frontier and out of the villages. PM

SERBIAN PRIME MINISTER: VOJVODINA 'NOT A PRIORITY'

Zoran Djindjic said in Novi Sad that a decision on restoring the autonomy to Vojvodina that the Milosevic regime revoked over a decade ago is "not a priority" for the government, "Vesti" reported on 15 March. Djindjic said that it is necessary "to wait" for the authorities to draft a new Serbian Constitution. Dragan Veselinov, who heads the pro-autonomy Vojvodina Coalition, argued that the new governing coalition's views on Vojvodina are no different from those of Milosevic's Socialists and their allies, Vojislav Seselj's Radicals. Under the 1974 Yugoslav Constitution, Vojvodina and Kosova enjoyed a legal status virtually identical to that of the six federal republics. Destroying the two provinces' autonomy was an important step in the consolidation of Milosevic's power. PM

INTERNATIONAL HELSINKI FEDERATION: TIME TO DECIDE ON MONTENEGRO

The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) said in a statement from Vienna on 15 March that the wrangling over the political future of Montenegro has gone on for too long, and is "absorbing political energy and attention in Montenegro that is needed to solve other problems. The same, but to a lesser extent, is valid for Serbia. Taking territorial issues (about Montenegro and Kosovo) off Serbia's political agenda will only help and not complicate the democratization process." The IHF appealed to anti-independence Montenegrins to take part in the eventual referendum. The IHF also called on the international community to maintain strict neutrality. PM

U.S. NOT TO REPLACE 750 SOLDIERS IN BOSNIA

Reporting from Washington on 14 March, AP quoted two unnamed U.S. officials as saying that the Bush administration will not replace some 750 soldiers in Bosnia when their tour of duty runs out. The U.S. will also withdraw an unspecified quantity of tanks and equipment. A "White House official" said that the troops are no longer needed for carrying out SFOR's peacekeeping mission. President George W. Bush told reporters on 13 March that "we must tell our European allies that over time we expect them to put the troops on the ground. But this administration will not precipitously withdraw from commitments that previous administrations made." PM

BOSNIAN FEDERAL GOVERNMENT MOVES AGAINST CROATIAN HARD-LINERS

Defense Minister Mijo Anic said in Sarajevo on 14 March that he has annulled a ruling by his predecessor to withdraw Croatian units from the joint Croatian and Muslim federal army, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 March 2001). Anic promised to take unspecified "strong measures" against those who may try to circumvent his decision. Meanwhile, Interior Minister Muhamed Besic called on Croatian police to take orders only from the "legal authorities" and not from officials of the self-proclaimed "Croatian self-administration," dpa reported. PM

PETRITSCH HANDS OVER POWERS TO BOSNIAN JUDICIAL BODY

On 14 March in Sarajevo, High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch assigned important responsibilities to the Independent Judicial Commission (IJC) that he founded in November to intervene in or suspend proceedings by judicial commissions and councils in the two entities and various cantons, Reuters reported. Petritsch stressed that "the establishment of the rule of law and an efficient, independent judiciary are preconditions for a modern, just, and democratic society. They make up the backbone of all the other reform efforts in Bosnia and Herzegovina." Finnish judge Kari Kiesilainen will head the IJC. PM

CROATIAN LOWER HOUSE VOTES TO ABOLISH UPPER HOUSE

After a walkout by deputies from the opposition Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ), the lower house of parliament approved several proposed constitutional changes, including one to abolish the House of Counties. The HDZ demanded that the measure also be submitted to the upper house, where the HDZ has a majority, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

SLOVENIAN PREMIER TO VIENNA

Janez Drnovsek was to arrive in Vienna on 15 March for a two-day visit, "Die Presse" reported. Drnovsek said before leaving that he hopes to continue the thaw in bilateral relations that began with his recent meeting with Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel at a skiing event in Austria. The Vienna daily noted that Drnovsek's main priority is to ensure that a series of longstanding bilateral problems does not affect Ljubljana's chances for admission to the EU. The problems include the safety standards at Slovenia's Krsko nuclear plant, and several issues stemming from the expulsion of German-speakers from Slovenia at the end of World War II and the confiscation of their property. The rights and legal status of the German-speaking minority in Slovenia and of the Slovenian minority in Austria are also expected to be on the agenda. PM

ALBANIAN EX-POLICE CHIEF ARRESTED

Police arrested Sokol Kociu on drug charges in a Tirana suburb on 14 March, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 February 2001). The former police chief of Vlora was on the run for a month, during which time he gave interviews to media but avoided capture by his former colleagues -- at least until 14 March. His case is linked to broader issues of police corruption (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 2 March 2001). PM

ALBANIAN RIGHTS GROUP SLAMS POLICE VIOLENCE

The independent Albanian Human Rights Group said in a statement in Tirana on 15 March that police deliberately hid evidence in the case of Gjon Gjonaj, whom a recent police report described as having committed suicide on 11 March in his prison cell. Local media and the political opposition say he was beaten to death while in custody for the murder of a policeman last October, AP reported. PM

ROMANIAN PREMIER CONGRATULATES ETHNIC HUNGARIANS

On the occasion of Hungarian National Day on 15 March, which celebrates the 1848 Hungarian Revolution, Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase congratulated the country's ethnic Hungarian community, Mediafax reported on 14 March. Nastase stressed upon the common destiny of ethnic Romanians and Hungarians "to live together." Nastase said the nations' future can only be "a common one" and "within the family of European nations." He admitted however, that representatives of both nations are "still prisoners of prejudices, passions, and stereotypes." According to Nastase, the solution to current problems is "a moderate attitude and dialogue." Nastase, who also serves as chairman of the ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), continues a habit introduced by the former centrist government to congratulate ethnic Hungarians on 15 March -- a gesture not shared by former PDSR governments. ZsM

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT OUTLINES ECONOMIC PRIORITIES

Meeting with a delegation of Swiss businessmen, Romanian President Ion Iliescu on 14 March said the authorities' economic priorities should include the elimination of legislative problems and the reduction of red tape, as well as attracting foreign investment, Romanian media reported. Iliescu stressed the necessity of true economic reform that would improve living standards in the country. He said Romania should seek to develop its outstanding tourism potential by modeling other countries with successful tourist industries. Also meeting with Iliescu on 14 March, Credit Suisse First Boston Chairman David Mulford said foreign investors would be attracted to a Romania with a stable business environment and a further developed banking system. ZsM

NEW MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT VALIDATED

The Moldovan Constitutional Court on 14 March validated the parliament elected in the 25 February elections, Flux reported. The same day, outgoing President Petru Lucinschi set the date of parliament's first session as 20 March. Party of Moldovan Communists Chairman Vladimir Voronin said the new legislature's first decision will be setting the date the parliament will elect the country's new president. ZsM

POWELL CONDITIONS U.S.

SUPPORT TO MOLDOVA ON CONTINUING ECONOMIC REFORMS. According to the Moldovan Foreign Affairs Ministry, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell on 14 March expressed the U.S. administration's wish to continue its cooperation with Moldova, Flux reported. Replying to his Moldovan counterpart Nicolae Cernomaz's letter congratulating his nomination, Powell said the 25 February "free and fair" elections showed the success of democratic reforms in Moldova. He added that, should economic reforms and Moldova's international integration continue, the U.S. is ready to continue its "firm support." Powell advised Moldova to use its current international support to facilitate full membership in the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe. ZsM

BULGARIAN RULING FACTION...

A new Bulgarian political party, the Parliamentary Group for Dialogue and Partnership (PGDP), was formed on 14 March in Sofia when 10 members of the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) faction left it, AP reported. The PGDP is co-chaired by Hristo Biserov, the former chief secretary of the UDF who was recently ousted from the UDF (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 February 2001), and Dimitar Ivanov, a monarchist who left the UDF several days ago. Biserov said he and Ivanov were joined in forming the PGDP by five other UDF members, one deputy from the Popular Union (a UDF ally), one from the Alliance for National Salvation, and an independent deputy. Biserov said the PGDP "will become the core of a new center-right party which will run in the election. It is open to all forms partnership and coalition with right-wing political formations." Bulgarian Premier Ivan Kostov, the chairman of the UDF, was traveling to Macedonia and was unavailable for comment. PB

...AND IT WILL SUPPORT KING SIMEON

A PGDP statement said "we support the bid of His Majesty Simeon II to take part in Bulgarian politics and we believe that he has moral credit and a potential to unify." Biserov returned the previous day from Madrid, where he met with former King Simeon. The Bulgarian Constitutional Court has barred the king from running in the presidential election later this year. Simeon's spokeswoman said the former king will come to Bulgaria at the end of March to announce his political plans. PB

MALTESE PRESIDENT SURVIVES DEADLY CAR ACCIDENT

Guido De Marco, the president of Malta, was uninjured in a car accident involving his motorcade in southern Bulgaria on 14 March, Monitor reported. The accident occurred near the village of Mursalevo, about 65 kilometers south of Sofia. One driver in the motorcade was killed and at least three others injured when a truck skidded into the motorcade. De Marco was returning from a visit to the Rila monastery. His visit continued as scheduled and he met with Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova in Sofia later in the day. PB

WILL THE POPE VISIT BULGARIA?

Metropolitan Neophyte of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church's Holy Synod said on 14 March that Pope John Paul II is expected to visit Bulgaria as early as this autumn, Monitor reported, citing the daily "Trud." The announcement comes after talks between Bulgarian Orthodox Church Patriarch Maxim and the papal legate to Bulgaria, Antonio Menini. Such a trip would mark the 20th anniversary of an attempt on the pontiff's life by Turkish gunman Mehmet Ali Agca, who many believe was supported by the Bulgarian secret service. PB




THE LEGACY OF VIOLENCE IN KOSOVA.


By Fabian Schmidt

Since the end of the Kosova war almost two years ago, many observers have been asking whether it will ever be possible to eliminate violence from public life in the province. It has, in fact, become clear that small armed groups of ethnic Albanians remain active and have even helped export the conflict into neighboring southern Serbia and Macedonia.

The continuing violence indicates not only that the access to arms and the readiness of nationalists to use them are still very much a factor. The violence also shows that Kosova's social structure has significantly changed since the early 1990s.

Kosova has traditionally been a conservative and rural society. Senior political leaders in the early 1990s were able to pursue a nonviolent policy by maintaining strong social control through the village structures. This nonviolence won them much sympathy in the West (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 February 2001). Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) and its officials managed to keep the Kosovars united behind their strategy until early 1996, when the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) emerged.

The new group seized the political initiative from the older generation of politicians, who in the eyes of many young UCK fighters had failed to offer them a serious perspective for the future. Indeed, in 1996 LDK officials still denied the existence of the UCK and blamed its attacks on Serbian agents provocateurs.

Only in 1998, with increased Serbian military operations in Kosova, did the UCK gain mass recognition in the broader public as a protector of villages and towns. The development of the political party system since the war shows that a rift runs through society, between the older generation shaped by the tradition of nonviolence, and the younger generation, which has grown up with the experience of the failure of non-violence and was socialized in war.

Inside Rugova's shadow-state, democratic discourse among Albanian political parties never had a real chance to develop. In many ways, the shadow-state was a product of the political experience of socialist Yugoslavia. Shadow-state media reported about political events in much the same dry and boring way that socialist-era publications did. Politicians and journalists avoided pursuing real discourse or openly discussing their differences, saying instead that all Kosovars are united in their aim of independence through nonviolence.

After the end of the Kosova war, that picture changed with the emergence of more competitive independent media. But at the same time, a democratic political culture is only just starting to develop.

The October 2000 local elections -- in which the moderate LDK won most mayoralties in smaller communities and larger city councils -- clearly showed that most Kosovars have little sympathy for the questionable commitment to democratic principles and transparency on the part of the parties that emerged from the UCK.

But others, who grew up politically through the structures of the UCK, obviously find it difficult to reintegrate into a peacetime society. Many of them are now struggling to get food on the table in an impoverished region with a sky-high unemployment rate.

Members of that generation lost their chance to get a proper education unless they emigrated. At best, they received basic schooling in the shadow-state's underground school system. Their employment opportunities are now minimal, and for many it is more lucrative to get involved in criminal activities than regular work.

In addition, the psychological legacy of the recent conflict, mixed with a desire for revenge and uncertainty about their future, makes it difficult for some people to overcome their wartime traumas. Even though most UCK fighters have given up their weapons and many have found a new lease on life within the newly developed civil service, reintegrating those who have learned nothing but fighting and resistance will remain a difficult task.


XS
SM
MD
LG