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Newsline - April 2, 2001




MUSCOVITES RALLY FOR NTV...

More than 10,000 people gathered on Moscow's Pushkin Square on 31 March to express their support for freedom of speech and the embattled television station NTV, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. The turnout was double that expected by the rally's organizers, the Union of Journalists, the Glasnost Foundation, Yabloko, and the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS), according to the bureau. Participants carried signs saying "We Love NTV" and "We want to watch NTV." Irina Khakamada, deputy Duma speaker (SPS), declared that "there is a tremendous threat to freedom of speech in Russia today." "But," she continued, "this rally is good in the sense that there is a need for preventive measures and for a warning that we will fight for freedom." Former Russian Public Television anchorman Sergei Dorenko, who also attended the rally, told RFE/RL that while he personally does not like NTV, he wants to be able to turn it off himself rather than have Russian President Vladimir Putin do it for him. JAC

...AS GUSINSKY APPEALS TO GERMANY

Meanwhile, "Frankfurter Rundschau" reported on 31 March that Media-MOST Group head Vladimir Gusinsky has urged German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to raise the issue of NTV's independence during Schroeder's summit with Putin on 9-10 April, according to Reuters. On 3 April, an NTV shareholders' meeting, which was convened by Gazprom-Media against Gusinsky's wishes, will take place (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 March 2001). JAC

MORE BLACKOUTS PREDICTED NEXT WINTER...

Speaking at a meeting on 31 March devoted to the energy problems of the Urals federal district, presidential envoy to that district Petr Latyshev said that "if qualitative changes are not made, the situation we had in Primorskii Krai may repeat itself in the Urals," ITAR-TASS reported. During the past winter, the krai experienced chronic heat and electricity shutdowns. Latyshev said that Kurgan Oblast is particularly vulnerable because the situation with energy suppliers there is already critical. It already experienced blackouts last winter, and grain elevators and food processing plants were left without power during the harvest season. Kurgan Oblast Governor Oleg Bogomolov added that the region's farmers have had to slay some 5,000 cattle since the beginning of this year in order to pay overdue electricity bills. Speaking at the same conference, Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko said the government is going to release a new, much shorter list of consumers who are protected against electricity cutoffs even when they have not paid their bills. JAC

...AS ENERGY HEAD FINED IN ULYANOVSK FOR ELECTRICITY CUTOFF

Unified Energy Systems head Anatolii Chubais, who also addressed the conference, told reporters there that his company will maintain its "tough" policy with regard to energy supplies. Chubais called a 30 March court decision in Ulyanovsk against Ulyanovskenergo head Sergei Sedov "disgraceful." Sedov was fined 300 minimum wages for turning off electricity to an entire village last October, which affected the region's hospital. JAC

RUSSIAN POLITICIANS LINK MILOSEVIC'S ARREST WITH U.S.

State Duma International Affairs Committee Chairman (People's Deputy) Dmitrii Rogozin told Interfax on 1 April that surrendering former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to the International Criminal Tribunal at The Hague would be "a serious political mistake" that would "play into the hands of the U.S.," which would like to "justify NATO's aggression against Yugoslavia." Rogozin added that the arrest seemed inevitable but its timing -- just before the deadline the U.S. set for the continuation of its $100 million aid package to Yugoslavia is "particularly distressing." The previous day, Communist Party and People's Patriotic Union leader Gennadii Seleznev issued a statement declaring that "there are no doubts that a decision regarding...the former Yugoslav president was made in the U.S., which put forward an impudent demand to arrest Milosevic by March 31 and backed this demand with economic and political blackmail." JAC

LITHUANIAN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENTS CONSIDER KALININGRAD

Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus and Russian President Putin signed a common statement on 30 March on the future of Kaliningrad once Lithuania joins the EU and possibly NATO, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. After their three-hour meeting, Putin said Lithuania and Russia had reached an understanding that Russia should not suffer negative consequences because of EU enlargement. Some Russian officials have been concerned that Lithuania might be forced to implement transit regulations of the EU and NATO and in effect cut off Kaliningrad Oblast from the rest of Russia. But during a visit to Kaliningrad on 31 March, Adamkus said that residents there will not need a visa in the future to visit Lithuania, Interfax North-West reported. And in a special statement signed by both presidents, the countries agreed that Kaliningrad's inhabitants will have as much freedom of movement as possible. The two presidents also discussed bilateral economic and political cooperation, security issues, oil and gas supplies, tariff harmonization, and other issues, according to RFE/RL's Moscow bureau. JAC

PUTIN, WTO HEAD DISCUSS RUSSIAN MEMBERSHIP

Following a meeting on 30 March between President Putin and World Trade Organization Director-General Michael Moore, Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref told reporters that the two men had outlined a compromise formula for Russia's joining of the WTO, enabling Russia "to eliminate some of the weak points in its economy," according to Interfax. Gref added that by the end of the summer the government will submit legislation adjusting Russian laws to WTO norms. In his remarks to reporters, Moore said that several more months of talks with Russia will be needed, especially on access to service markets. He also said that agriculture remains the most complicated issue, and reform of that sector will directly affect progress on Russia's accession to the WTO. Arkadii Volskii, head of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, told reporters that he expects that Russia will join the WTO in no less than two years. JAC

PUTIN BACKS 'LIBERAL' AMENDMENTS TO CRIMINAL CODE

Following a meeting at the Kremlin chaired by President Putin on 30 March, deputy head of the presidential administration Dmitrii Kozak told reporters that participants in the meeting supported amendments to the criminal procedural code that will give the courts the exclusive authority to order arrests, searches, and detention. Currently, prosecutors may issue arrest or search orders. However, Kozak added that the amendments cannot be implemented before 2003, because "3,000 more judges and 6,000 more court workers" need to be hired. Last January, the Kremlin withdrew amendments to the Criminal and Criminal Procedural Codes 14 days after submitting them to the State Duma, saying that more work was needed on them (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 26 January 2001). JAC

NAZDRATENKO CRONY TO RUN FOR GOVERNOR'S SEAT

The deputy mayor of Vladivostok, Valentin Nechaev, has been detained by the city's prosecutor on suspicion of abuse of office with regard to the committee for the administration of municipal properties, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 31 March. Meanwhile, the acting governor of Primorskii Krai, Valentin Dubinin, announced on 29 March that he will be a candidate in the 27 May gubernatorial elections, and on 2 April he submitted his application to the regional election commission. Dubinin was first deputy governor during the tenure of the previous governor, Yevgenii Nazdratenko, who resigned in February (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 7 February 2001). So far, some 30 people have already declared their plans to run. State Duma deputy (Communist) Vladimir Grishukov on 30 March was the first candidate to submit signatures gathered in support of his candidacy to the regional election commission, according to the agency. JAC

REGIONS ERECT TRADE BARRIERS TO PREVENT SPREAD OF HOOF-AND-MOUTH DISEASE

The Sakha Republic has banned all imports of animal, meat, fish, fodder, and dairy products from all EU countries as well as from the Baltic states, Mongolia, China, Kyrgyzstan, and Georgia, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 April. The head of the republic's veterinary department said that such products will be imported only with special authorization to prevent the spread of hoof-and-mouth disease. Also on 1 April, the veterinary service in the Altai Republic launched quarantine measures to protect the republic against the disease, issuing an order that all domestic animals be kept at least 15-20 kilometers away from the borders with Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan. On 2 April a federal Agriculture Ministry spokesman announced that not a single case of hoof-and-mouth disease has been registered on Russian farms during the recent crisis. JAC

EDUCATIONAL REFORM TO BE TRIED IN FOUR REGIONS

Education Minister Vladimir Filippov told reporters on 30 March that a single state exam for all graduating high school students will be introduced this year in four Russian regions, prior to its adoption nationwide in 2003, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 31 March. According to the daily, the exams will be taken in the republics of Chuvashia, Mordovia, Marii El, and Sakha. Students will eventually have to take one exam in math and one in Russian language and literature as well as three exams of their choice based on their majors, according to ITAR-TASS the previous day. The daily said work on the educational "experiment" has not gone as quickly as planned. For example, none of the exams in literature have yet been approved by the ministry. JAC

RUSSIAN 'OSCARS' TO BE HANDED OUT AT END OF THE MONTH

The Russian Film Academy has announced its nominations for the "Nika" prize, which will be granted on 28 April, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 30 March. The film "Diary of My Wife" attracted the most nominations with seven, and "Russian Rebellion" and "Moon Daddy" received five nominations each. "Diary of My Wife," "Moon Daddy," and "Tender Age" are all up for best film and best director. Film expert Aleksandr Timofeevskii told RFE/RL that there is no dominant trend among the nominees. He said that "Diary of My Wife," which was Russia's submission for the foreign film category for the Academy Awards, "is a typical English melodrama," while Sergei Soloviev's "Tender Age" is the only nominee in that category that is a "modern art film." The "Nika" prize has been awarded for 14 years, according to the bureau. JAC

PRO-INDEPENDENCE CHECHENS INCREASE RECRUITMENT

A spokesman for Federal Forces in the North Caucasus told ITAR-TASS on 31 March that Chechen guerilla groups had increased their recruitment of civilians and were moving into Grozny and the northern plains of the republic. Meanwhile, Akhmed Kadyrov, chief of the pro-Moscow interim Chechen administration, said on 30 March that no election or referendum will be possible in Chechnya during the next two years because the majority of Chechens cannot come to the republic to take part in such ballots, ITAR-TASS said. PG




ARMENIAN COMMUNISTS WANT END TO IMF DIKTAT

Speaking to the 35th Congress of the Communist Party of Armenia on 30 March, First Secretary Vladimir Darbinian said his party seeks to end the current situation in which Armenia's policies are the result of "the dictates of international financial organizations, in particular, the International Monetary Fund," Noyan Tapan reported. Also speaking was visiting Russian Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov, who called for integrating the countries of the South Caucasus into the Russia-Belarus Union, the Armenian agency said. "I don't see prospects for the Caucasus region without close interaction with Russia," Zyuganov said at a press conference the same day. "If ties with Russia are torn," Zyuganov said, "there will be no peace here ever." PG

ARMENIAN-RUSSIAN ACCORDS SEEN NOT WORKING

Dmitrii Rogozin, the chairman of the Russian international relations committee, said in Yerevan on 1 April that a considerable number of the agreements between the Russian Federation and Armenia are not working, ITAR-TASS reported. Rogozin said that the Russian parliament will send a delegation to Armenia in June to do "a stock-taking" of the situation. PG

AZERBAIJAN GENOCIDE DAY MARKED

Azerbaijan on 31 March marked the Day of Azerbaijan Genocide on the 83rd anniversary of the massacre of Azerbaijani civilians by predominantly Armenian Bolshevik forces in Baku, the Turan news agency reported. Flags were flown at half-mast, and the Azerbaijani parliament appealed on the United Nations and governments around the world to recognize what the deputies described as the continuing genocide against the Azerbaijani people by Armenian forces now occupying portions of Azerbaijan. PG

AZERBAIJAN'S Aliyev ORDERS COMMUNICATIONS FACILITIES PRIVATIZED

On 30 March, President Heidar Aliyev issued 29 decrees calling for the privatization of enterprises and facilities owned by the Communications Ministry, including the telephone network, the telegraph system, and Teleradio, Turan reported. PG

AZERBAIJANI SECURITY CHIEF SEES SPY THREAT

Azerbaijani National Security Minister Namiq Abbasov said on ANS television on 31 March that his country is the object of "growing interest" by foreign intelligence services. He did not provide any additional details or name the countries involved. PG

GEORGIA CONSULTS WITH NATO, EU

The first ever Georgia-NATO political consultations began at NATO headquarters in Brussels on 30 March, Caucasus Press reported the same day. The sessions are to focus on developing cooperation within the framework of the Partnership for Peace program. (Writing in "Dilis gazeti" on the same day, parliamentarian Irakli Batiashvili said that the new U.S. administration will take a much tougher line on Russia and that there is no reason for Georgia to remain in the CIS.) Meanwhile, consultations between Georgia and the European Union about the harmonization of Georgian legislation to EU standards took place in Tbilisi, the same agency reported. PG

GEORGIA DENIES PLAN TO ALLOW TURKEY TO USE BASE

The Georgian Defense Ministry on 30 March said that reports in the Turkish press that Tbilisi plans to allow the Turkish air force to use the Marneuli airfield are not true, ITAR-TASS reported. But officials said that the Defense Ministry does retain the right to "receive planes from any country, among them Turkey, if it wishes." PG

OSCE MONITORING ON GEORGIAN-RUSSIAN BORDER EXTENDED

The OSCE Standing Council on 29 March extended the term of the OSCE's monitoring of the Chechen sector of the Georgian-Russian border until 17 November, Caucasus Press reported on 30 March. Georgian envoy Avtandil Napetvardize said that the monitoring has played "an important role in easing tension" and said that Georgia believes the arrangements should be extended "to the Ingush part of the Georgian-Russian border as well, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. PG

GEORGIAN DEPUTIES CONDEMN RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM

By a vote of 135 to four, the Georgian parliament on 30 March adopted a resolution against religious violence, Prime-News reported. The deputies called on law enforcement personnel to block any manifestations of religious intolerance or violence. At the same time, AP reported, the parliament approved a constitutional change that will grant the country's autocephalous Orthodox church a special role. PG

ELECTION OUTCOMES VOIDED IN 3 GEORGIAN DISTRICTS

The Georgian Constitutional Court on 31 March voided the outcome of the 31 October 1999 parliamentary elections in three districts, "Kavkazia-Press" reported on 31 March. Opposition deputies had charged that there had been irregularities in the election of three members of the ruling Union of Citizens of Georgia party. The latter have been stripped of their mandates. PG

GAMSAKHURDIA COMMEMORATION ATTRACTS FEW IN GEORGIA

Only 250 people showed up for a meeting in honor of the 10th anniversary of the referendum on independence and in memory of former Georgian President Zviad Gamsakhurdia, Caucasus Press reported on 31 March. PG

NO AGREEMENT YET ON WATER USE IN CENTRAL ASIA

Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan have failed to reach an agreement on water sharing and distribution for 2001, Blitz agency reported on 30 March. Last year, delays in reaching an agreement forced some of the countries involved to delay planting crops. PG

FORMER KAZAKH OPPOSITIONISTS DEMONSTRATE AGAINST LEADERS

Former members of the opposition Republican Peoples' Party denounced the party's leader, Akezhan Kazhegeldin, at a protest in front of the group's Almaty offices, Kazakh Commercial Television reported on 30 March. The protesters read out a symbolic death sentence to the party and called its leaders "traitors and U.S. intelligence spies," the government channel said. PG

KYRGYZ, CHINESE SECURITY OFFICIALS TO COOPERATE

Kyrgyzstan Interior Ministry Lieutenant-General Tashtemir Aytbaev met with his Chinese counterpart Jia Chunwang in Beijing on 30 March to discuss expanding cooperation in fighting extremism and international crime, Kabar news agency reported. PG

KYRGYZ OPPOSITION PAPER NOT PRINTED

The opposition newspaper "Res Publika" was not printed on 30 March even though it had agreed not to identify some of the journalists writing for it as former members of the now banned "Asaba" newspaper, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. The same day some 200 people picketed in Bishkek in support of the paper and demanded that President Askar Akaev resign. Meanwhile, State Secretary Osmonakun Ibraimov told RFE/RL that "Asaba" had been suspended for debt rather than for political reasons. PG

KYRGYZ ARMY PREPARES FOR TERRORIST INVASION

Defense Minister Esen Topoev told ITAR-TASS on 30 March that Kyrgyz army units have been concentrated at every possible invasion route in anticipation of attacks by what he called "international terrorists." PG

RUSSIA GIVES TEXTBOOKS TO TAJIKISTAN

The Russian government delivered 30,000 textbooks for Tajikistan's Russian-language schools, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 March. According to the news service, Moscow plans to send another 70,000 textbooks before the start of the next school year. Meanwhile, Great Britain sent 1.5 million pounds ($2.1 million) to help Tajikistan overcome the results of the drought there, the Russian news agency reported. PG

TURKMENISTAN'S NIYAZOV WANTS FENCE ALONG THE BORDER

Turkmenistan President Saparmurat Niyazov on 30 March ordered his government to finish construction of a 1700-kilometer fence along Turkmenistan's borders with Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan by the end of 2001 to prevent smuggling and illegal migration, Turkmen television reported. PG

UZBEKISTAN PREPARES FOR EXPANDED INSURGENCY

Defense Minister Kadyr Gulamov told Reuters on 30 March that Tashkent is currently preparing for stepped up attacks by Islamist political forces and drug smugglers. He said that "drug trafficking and terrorism go hand in hand here." And he added that Tashkent plans to build up "mobile, well-trained, well-equipped, and self-sufficient" military units to "safeguard the country's territorial integrity." PG




CZECH LEGISLATORS, NGO PROTEST ARREST OF BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER

Czech senators Jan Ruml, Michal Zantovsky, Josef Zieleniec, lower house deputies Petr Mares and Marek Benda, as well as the People in Need humanitarian organization have protested the jailing for 15 days of Belarusian opposition leader Vintsuk Vyachorka (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 March 2001), CTK reported on 30 March. "We are convinced that this was a politically motivated decision by a court, which ignores basic human rights and freedoms -- freedom of speech and freedom of assembly -- and is evidence of the undemocratic style of the current regime in Belarus," the protesters wrote in a statement. Meanwhile, the "Charter-97" Belarusian human rights group, quoting "informed sources," said the authorities intend to arrest a number of other opposition leaders and charge them, like Vyachorka, for the organization of an unauthorized Freedom Day demonstration on 25 March. JM

BY-ELECTION FILLS UP BELARUS'S LOWER HOUSE

The second round of the by-election to the House of Representative on 1 April provided 11 deputies whom the 110-seat lower house had lacked since the ballot last October, Belapan reported on 2 April. According to preliminary results, turnout in the 1 April ballot was 55 percent. JM

KYIV CITY COURT RULES TO REARREST TYMOSHENKO...

Former Deputy Premier Yuliya Tymoshenko was rearrested on 31 March, after the Kyiv City Court complied with an appeal from the Prosecutor-General's Office to cancel a district court's order to release Tymoshenko four days earlier (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 and 29 March 2001). Oleksandr Turchynov, head of the parliamentary caucus of Tymoshenko's Fatherland Party, said the hospital ward where Tymoshenko is currently staying has been sealed off by guards. According to Turchynov, Tymoshenko was rearrested on President Leonid Kuchma's "direct order," AP reported. Turchynov added that the arrest is intended to undermine the planned talks between the opposition and the president. JM

...BUT SUPREME COURT SAYS HOLD ON

Ukraine's Supreme Court on 2 April suspended the Kyiv City Court's decision to rearrest Tymoshenko, Reuters reported. The Supreme Court said it has suspended the arrest at least until it considers an appeal by Tymoshenko's lawyers. The agency quoted a Fatherland Party activist as saying that Tymoshenko's hospital room is still being guarded. JM

ANTI-KUCHMA OPPOSITION WANTS POLAND'S KWASNIEWSKI AS INTERMEDIARY

The Forum for National Salvation (FNP) told journalists on 30 March that it wants talks with President Kuchma or, should they fail to materialize, with Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, Kuchma's old friend. "We only agree to Kwasniewski acting as an intermediary, or someone named by him," Reuters quoted FNP activist Volodymyr Filenko as saying. "It was Kwasniewski who suggested to Kuchma that he should sit down to talks with the opposition," Filenko added. Filenko declined to say whether the FNP still insists on Kuchma's resignation as one of the key topics at the talks. JM

ESTONIAN PRIME MINISTER VISITS MALTA

Mart Laar held talks on 30 March with his Maltese counterpart Fenech Adam on their countries' preparations for EU membership, BNS reported. The premiers called for closer economic cooperation between the two nations. The agreement on avoiding double taxation, whose text was initialed in January 2000, should be signed soon and negotiations are nearly completed for agreements on the promotion and protection of investments and an aviation accord. Laar also met with President Guido de Marco, who is scheduled to visit Estonia in May. He flew to Rome on 1 April, where he will confer with his Italian counterpart Giuliano Amato the next day before returning to Tallinn. SG

LATVIA OPENS 8 AND CLOSES 2 CHAPTERS IN EU TALKS

Foreign Ministry Deputy State Secretary Andris Kesteris and European Union officials in Brussels on 30 March formally opened eight and closed two chapters of the EU membership talks, BNS reported. The meeting approved the opening of chapters on the free movement of goods; social policies and employment; energy; telecommunications and information technologies; regional policies and structural instrument coordination; the environment; the customs union; and financial and budget requirements. It also closed a just-opened chapter on the free movement of goods, and an earlier opened chapter on cultural and audio-visual policies, which could not be closed until the radio and television law was amended. SG

LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT ENDS VISIT TO RUSSIA...

Valdas Adamkus concluded his three-day visit to Russia in Kaliningrad on 31 March where he agreed with the region's governor, Vladimir Yegorov, on the need to improve the current procedure of transit, BNS reported. The most important part of the trip was his meeting in the Kremlin the previous day with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin and the signing of a joint statement which did not contain any intentionally ambiguous language concerning their differing positions on security and military transit. Putin repeated Russia's opposition to NATO expansion, but said every state has the right to chose its own form of security. A principal agreement was also reached on the necessity to hold trilateral Lithuanian, Russian, and EU negotiations on the future of Kaliningrad. Adamkus also discussed political, economic, and cultural issues with Federal Assembly Council Chairman Yegor Stroev and Premier Mikhail Kasyanov. SG

...AFTER HOLDING TALKS WITH LUKOIL, GAZPROM

Adamkus also held talks with LUKoil President Vagit Alekperov and the head of the Russian gas company Gazprom, Rem Vyakhirev, to discuss the possibilities of their purchasing shares in Mazeikiu Oil and Lithuanian Gas. The talks with Alekperov were extremely difficult because he called Lithuania's unwillingness to sell 51 percent in Mazeikiu Oil a purely political decision, but he eventually promised to come to Vilnius in May for further talks. SG

RUSSIA'S SELEZNEV SAYS MOSCOW, WARSAW OVERCAME CRISIS IN RELATIONS

Russian State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev said Russia and Poland have overcome a crisis in bilateral relations, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 March. Seleznev visited Warsaw last week and held talks with President Kwasniewski, Premier Jerzy Buzek, Foreign Minister Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, Sejm Speaker Maciej Plazynski, and Senate Speaker Alicja Grzeskowiak. Meanwhile, PAP reported that Polish officials and Seleznev discussed such "burning issues" as the Duma's failure to ratify an accord on the mutual protection of investments, the future of the Kaliningrad region, and Poland's trade deficit with Russia ($3.6 billion last year). JM

POLAND IS FOR 'PATIENT DIALOGUE' WITH UKRAINE

Polish Foreign Minister Bartoszewski on 30 March discussed the situation in Ukraine with NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson, who was visiting Warsaw last week. After the talks, Bartoszewski explained Poland's position on Ukraine to journalists: "We represent the view of a necessity for patient dialogue with Ukraine, of influence, in as much as that is possible, from outside for the amelioration of internal conflicts, in the interests of progress, stabilization and democratic processes in that country." Bartoszewski added that "it is not necessary to become discouraged, despite the fact that some phenomena are hard to accept," since "distancing and isolating Ukraine cannot bring anything good." JM

POLISH PROSECUTORS PROBE SECOND 1941 POGROM

The National Remembrance Institute (IPN) has commenced an investigation into the pogrom of Jews in Radzilow on 7 July 1941, which took place three days before a similar massacre in nearby Jedwabne (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 6 and 20 March 2001). "According to initial findings, between 600 and 800 victims were murdered in Radzilow by being burned to death in a barn and also by being shot," Witold Kulesza, head of the investigations section of the IPN, told PAP. "The hypothesis has been taken up that the events in Radzilow had a similar course to the events in Jedwabne," Kulesza added. A recently published book by a New York professor alleges that Poles in Jedwabne burned some 1,600 Jews from the town and its vicinity without any encouragement from Nazi occupation troops there. JM

CZECH OPPOSITION ALLIANCE HEAD QUITS OVER SHADOW CABINET...

After two months in office, Cyril Svoboda resigned as leader of the Four Party Coalition over disagreements in the composition of its shadow cabinet, CTK reported 31 March. He has been replaced by Karel Kuehnl, chairman of the Freedom Union (US). Svoboda disagreed with the inclusion of a fellow Christian Democrat (KDU-CSL), Deputy Chairman Miroslav Kalousek. "They [the council] voted against my [cabinet] proposal... It did not include Kalousek... This meant either him or me," said Svoboda. KDU-CSL Chairman Jan Kasal denied this version of events: "Svoboda was unable to identify with the majority view... This is why he resigned." DW

...AS CRACKS IN ALLIANCE BEGIN TO SHOW

KDU-CSL senators have protested pressure by fellow Four Party Coalition senators on forming a joint senators' group, CTK reported. Despite the groups' merger having been agreed to in January, the KDU-CSL senators refused to do so until there is "absolute" consensus among them. The new "spring agreement" reached on 31 March makes no mention of the merger, and the chairman of the KDU-CSL senators' group, Jiri Senkyr, said the "integration of senators' groups cannot precede the integration of parties." He added that his group wasn't against the idea, just "against its formal establishment." DW

KLAUS: 'OPPOSITION AGREEMENT' OFF IF ZEMAN QUITS

Chamber of Deputies Speaker and Civic Democrat (ODS) Chairman Vaclav Klaus said in an interview with the BBC that if Social Democrat (CSSD) Prime Minister Milos Zeman steps down, the ODS would end the "opposition agreement" the two parties have between them keeping the minority CSSD in power, CTK reported on 30 March. Zeman said recently that he would not only resign as CSSD chairman at its April conference, but as prime minister as well. DW

KREMLIN HAS NO INFORMATION ON PUTIN'S PRAGUE VISIT

Russian President Vladimir Putin's press service has no information about any planned visit to Prague, a Kremlin spokeswoman told CTK 30 March. Despite Czech President Vaclav Havel's spokesman, Ladislav Spacek, saying the previous day that Putin was interested in visiting Prague (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 March 2001), the spokeswoman said: "We have no information of this kind," nor any information about preparations for such a visit. The Russian Foreign Ministry also said it has no information about such a visit. DW

TEMELIN POWERED DOWN AFTER ONE DAY UP...

The Temelin nuclear power plant again underwent an emergency power reduction in the early hours of 2 April, after going online the day before. A Temelin spokesman said output from the single reactor was cut to less than 2 percent overnight after "several hundred liters" of oil leaked. He said the leak was in a secondary, non-nuclear circuit and was due to a "seal problem." DW

...AS ANTI-NUCLEAR ACTIVISTS ANNOUNCE PROTEST

Josef Neumueller of the Austrian Stop Temelin organization told CTK on 1 April that the group would stage a demonstration at the Wullowitz/Dolni Dvoriste border crossing on 3 April to protest the Temelin nuclear power plant. He said it "might lead to a new blockade of the border or give an impulse to it." He said the border population in the Czech Republic and Austria would no longer let itself be "cheated by Brussels, Prague, and Vienna." DW

SLOVAKIA SHRUGS OFF RUSSIA'S CONCERN OVER NATO EXPANSION

The Slovak Foreign Ministry said it is the country's sovereign right to choose its allies and join international structures, CTK reported on 1 April. The ministry was commenting on a recent statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry that said Moscow regrets the Slovak parliament's confirmation on 27 March that NATO membership is the country's top foreign policy priority. JM

SLOVAK CABINET APPROVES TERRITORIAL DIVISION PROPOSAL

Mikulas Dzurinda's government on 31 March voted by 12 to eight to approve a proposal to divide the country into 12 regions, which was the main contention issue in the planned civil service reform, CTK and AP reported. The Democratic Left Party ministers were against the proposal, while those from the Party of Civic Understanding abstained from the vote. "The talks were not easy and there was a need to vote. As there was no consensus, it is obvious that nothing has been won," Dzurinda told journalists after the cabinet meeting. Under the planned reform, the 12 regions will be decentralized in order to grant more power to municipalities. The parliament is expected to vote on the civil service bill in May. JM

HUNGARIAN GOVERNING PARTY NOMINATES NEW CHAIRMAN

The national council of FIDESZ on 31 March nominated party Deputy Chairman Zoltan Pokorni for party chairman. Pokorni told Hungarian Television that if elected to the post by the FIDESZ congress in May he will resign as education minister. In other news, the extremist Hungarian Justice and Life Party said it will withdraw its candidate in the second round of parliamentary by-elections in the Hungarian town of Dabas, set for 8 April, and will support the FIDESZ candidate. MSZ

FOREIGN SECRET SERVICES BEHIND AMNESTY'S ANTI-HUNGARIAN AD?

Secret Services Ministry State Secretary Istvan Simicsko on 30 March told Hungarian media that foreign secret services may be behind an Amnesty International advertisement broadcast in Slovenia, which represented Hungarian police as brutal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 March 2001). Simicsko said a well-organized operation is underway that aims to discredit Hungary and worsen its chances of being admitted to EU. The leadership of Amnesty's Hungarian branch on 30 March resigned, saying the ad runs counter to the spirit and regulations of the organization, as it was not based on actual fact. The head of the Slovene section of Amnesty, Natasa Posel, admitted that the ad was not broadcast in an appropriate form, and apologized for the fact that it could be misinterpreted. MSZ




SERBIA'S MILOSEVIC BEHIND BARS

Serbian police arrested former President Slobodan Milosevic at his Belgrade home in the early hours of 1 April. Milosevic and a rowdy crowd of his supporters had resisted the arrest for more than 24 hours. He is now in Belgrade's central prison on a series of financial charges, to which have been added charges of inciting his bodyguards to fire on police. Milosevic maintains his innocence and plans to appeal. The authorities are holding him on 30-days preventive detention, but his lawyer demands his immediate release. The Hague-based war crimes tribunal will present Milosevic with an arrest warrant within a few days, RFE/RL reported. The Belgrade authorities maintain that they want to try Milosevic in Serbia and that there is no legal provision for his extradition. Croatian President Stipe Mesic recently remarked that Belgrade's legal excuses are "words for little children." He urged Belgrade to change its constitution and send the indicted war criminals to the tribunal, noting that Croatia has changed its legislation. PM

WERE MILOSEVIC AND SERBIAN EXTREMISTS PLANNING AN UPRISING?

Police found a large arms cache -- including two armored personnel carriers -- and plans for an armed uprising in Milosevic's villa, Deutsche Welle reported on 2 April. AP added that the weapons include some "30 automatic weapons, three heavy machine guns, an antitank grenade launcher, 23 pistols of varying calibers, 30 rifle grenades, two cases of hand grenades, and several cases of machine-gun clips and other ammunition." It is not clear exactly what the former president was planning to achieve with the weapons and whom he was counting on to help him. PM

WAR CRIMES TRIBUNAL: SERBIA'S MILOSEVIC BELONGS IN THE HAGUE

Florence Hartmann, spokeswoman for The Hague-based tribunal's chief prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, told RFE/RL on 2 April that "we are very happy that the Yugoslav and the Serbian authorities [arrested the indicted war criminal] and now we are working on the transfer of Milosevic to The Hague." She added that the court is expecting Milosevic within months. Hartmann stressed that the Belgrade authorities "have the legal international obligation to [extradite] Milosevic, because even if there is a local proceeding against him for charges [like] corruption, there is also a proceeding against him for crimes against humanity [in Kosova] and he is also under investigation for his role in the war in Bosnia and in Croatia." Regarding the extradition, Hartman stressed that the Belgrade authorities "have to do it and if they don't do it, it is a violation, and we have different legal instruments to oblige them to bring him to The Hague." A few hours earlier, she told the BBC that Belgrade's attitude has been a "total refusal" to cooperate with The Hague. PM

BUSH: ARREST OF SERBIA'S MILOSEVIC A 'FIRST STEP'

U.S. President George W. Bush said in a written statement in Washington on 1 April: "I welcome today's arrest of Slobodan Milosevic, the former president of Yugoslavia. His arrest represents an important step in bringing to a close the tragic era of his brutal dictatorship." The U.S. president added that "Milosevic's arrest should be a first step toward trying him for the crimes against humanity, with which he is charged." Bush noted that Belgrade has begun to cooperate with The Hague, adding: "I call on President [Vojislav] Kostunica to continue this cooperation and to see that Milosevic is likewise brought to justice," Reuters reported. Bush stressed that "Milosevic was responsible for great suffering throughout the Balkan region. He deserves to be tried for his crimes against the Serbian people. He also deserves to be tried for violations of international law." It is not clear whether Secretary of State Colin Powell will consider the arrest sufficient grounds for releasing some $50 million in aid to Belgrade (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 March 2001). He is expected to make his ruling shortly. PM

MIXED EMPHASIS IN EUROPEAN REACTIONS TO ARREST OF SERBIA'S MILOSEVIC

The arrest of Milosevic was widely hailed by most leading European politicians, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" and "Die Presse" reported on 2 April. Some, such as EU Commission President Romano Prodi and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, stressed that the arrest shows Belgrade's commitment to the rule of law. Others, such as Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner, her German counterpart Joschka Fischer, and unnamed NATO spokesmen, emphasized that the arrest is just a first step toward Milosevic's eventual extradition to The Hague. PM

PRAISE, CAUTION, CRITICISM HIGHLIGHT REACTIONS FROM NEIGHBORS

Bosnian Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic said in Sarajevo on 1 April that the arrest of Milosevic is a first step and that he should now be sent to The Hague. Beriz Belkic, who is the new Muslim representative on the joint presidency, said he hopes that "Milosevic's role in the genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina will now be completely revealed," dpa reported. Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic pointed out that the arrest took place without bloodshed or upsetting internal peace. He said that the Serbian authorities can now bring Milosevic to justice, but that they should also cooperate with The Hague, "Pobjeda" reported. Croatian Foreign Minister Tonino Picula said in Zagreb that normalization of his country's relations with Belgrade will depend on whether Milosevic is sent to The Hague. Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski implicitly criticized the U.S., saying that it is wrong to tell Belgrade that it may receive money only if it arrests and extradites Milosevic. Georgievski added that "Milosevic must answer for his crimes, but not in this manner," "Die Presse" reported. PM

ALL-PARTY TALKS TO START IN MACEDONIA

President Boris Trajkovski is slated to meet with leaders of all parties represented in the parliament on 2 April to discuss the country's future. The EU's Javier Solana and Chris Patten will arrive in Skopje later. Some observers have suggested that the recent unrest in the Tetovo area strengthened the hand of the ethnic Albanian parties in relation to the Macedonian politicians by adding a sense of urgency to long-standing mainstream Albanian demands for reform. But Georgievski said on 31 March that there is no need to make any special concessions to the Albanians. "We maintain a dialogue and talks within the democratic institutions. This dialogue will continue at a number of different levels," dpa reported. PM

MACEDONIA'S KERIM: TURN THE CRISIS INTO AN OPPORTUNITY

Foreign Minister Srdjan Kerim told the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" of 29 March that it is not necessary to create a special constitutional status for the Albanians. He stressed that it is enough to make "the Albanians in Macedonia feel at home," adding that Macedonians living in predominantly Albanian areas should study the Albanian language in school (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 27 March 2001). Kerim stressed that the choice is between "a society of citizens, or...a federation of various nations, which would then collapse and end in a bloodbath." PM

BOSNIAN MUSLIMS 'STORM' UN BUILDING

AP reported from Sarajevo on 2 April that "several hundred" survivors of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre "stormed" the UN building amid rumors that Naser Oric, the former Bosnian army commander at Srebrenica, was about to be arrested for war crimes or had turned himself in. It is not clear where Oric is. Many Muslims consider the controversial Oric a hero, while others argue that he unduly provoked members of neighboring Serbian communities and then escaped the town to avoid the massacre. Many Serbs regard him as a war criminal because of the brutality of his troops against Serbian civilians in the early stages of the Bosnian war. PM

YET ANOTHER POLITICAL DECLARATION SUPPORTING ROMANIA'S NATO ACCESSION BID

Participating on 31 March in the "NATO 2002 Forum" initiated by President Ion Iliescu, representatives of government, political parties, trade unions, and civil society discussed the adoption of a declaration intended to boost Romania's NATO accession bid, Mediafax reported. However, Iliescu said at the meetings in Snagov, north of Bucharest, that "it will not be a tragedy" if Romania is not invited to join the alliance next year. He stressed the need for looking for alternative solutions, arguing that his country is not a NATO member, but is participating in NATO's Partnership for Peace program. Premier Adrian Nastase added that amidst the political turmoil in the Balkans, Romania can "serve as a stabilizing element" in the region. Participants will meet again on 4 April to adopt the declaration. The leader of the main opposition Greater Romania Party, Corneliu Vadim Tudor, declined to participate in the meeting, saying such a discussion was "useless, demagogical, and totally inappropriate." ZsM

FORMER ROMANIAN KING TO VISIT BUCHAREST

Former King Michael I on 30 May announced that his family will visit Romania beginning on 18 May, Mediafax reported. Michael I thus answered a surprise invitation issued last month by President Iliescu, which was initially declined by the king (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 March 2001). Michael I and his family will meet Iliescu and his wife during the visit. During Iliescu's presidency between 1990 and 1996, Michael I, now a Swiss citizen, was denied entry to the country several times. ZsM

BRAGHIS TO STAY ON AS PREMIER?

Incumbent Moldovan Premier Dumitru Braghis on 30 March said that, should the Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) majority parliamentary group accept his proposals and conditions, he might accept a new mandate as premier, Flux reported. Braghis said in a news conference that he has yet to receive any proposals, but discussed with PCM Chairman Vladimir Voronin the conditions in which he would accept such a proposal. Braghis said he would like to head a government of technocrats, and be able to act "without being pressed and directed from the outside." Braghis is one of three candidates for the country's presidency. The president is to be elected by parliament this week. Voronin, a presidential candidate himself, said at the same press conference that Braghis has "big political perspectives" and "equal chances to those of other competitors for the presidential seat." ZsM

TIRASPOL INSISTS CERTAIN PROVISIONS REGARDING TRANSDNIESTER BE INCLUDED IN TREATY

Transdniester breakaway region leader Igor Smirnov's deputy, Aleksandr Karaman, said that the Moldovan-Russian Basic Treaty does not contain provisions on Transdniester's right to establish direct relations with the Russian Federation in social, economic, humanitarian, and cultural fields, Flux reported on 30 March. Meeting with experts working on the draft of the treaty, Karaman insisted that the treaty should contain references to the memorandum signed in 1997 between Chisinau and Tiraspol, which provided for the creation of a "common state." The Tiraspol administration also wants the basic treaty to provide for the opening of a Slavic university in the region and the opening of Russian Consulate in Tiraspol. Moldovan authorities rejected Karaman's proposals, arguing that the memorandum is only valid until a final solution to the breakaway region's legal status is found. ZsM

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT SAYS COUNTRY MUST ALLOW NATO BASES...

Petar Stoyanov said on 30 March that Bulgaria must be prepared to allow NATO to set up military bases in the country, AP reported. Stoyanov, speaking on the radio station Darik, said that if the alliance made such a request he would answer "yes." He said he "will plead to parliament to respond positively to that question, because this will guarantee the security of our country in the tumultuous Balkan region." Bulgaria agreed last week to allow NATO full access to Bulgarian territory and airspace, actions that previously required the parliament's approval (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 March 2001). Bulgaria is seeking to join the alliance and is in the process of reducing its army from some 72,000 to about 45,000 troops, among other reforms aimed at meeting NATO standards. PB

...SAYS BALKAN BORDERS MUST REMAIN UNCHANGED

Bulgarian President Stoyanov said on 31 March in Sofia that "redrawing borders in the Balkans...for newly formed states based on ethnic or religious homogeneity threatens to destroy the very foundation of European civilization." Stoyanov acknowledged the right of Kosovar Albanians to live in a democratic society, but said "regrettably it seems that they see only one possibility to turn this desire into reality...within the framework of some other independent state such as Kosovo." PB




ELECTIONS THIS YEAR VITAL FOR KOSOVA


By Robert McMahon

The actions of ethnic Albanian gunmen in southern Serbia, northwest Macedonia, and Kosova have raised concerns in the international community that independence-minded Kosovars will destabilize the Balkans.

But in a recent interview with RFE/RL, Danilo Turk, the United Nations' assistant secretary-general for political affairs, stressed that laying the groundwork for province-wide elections this year is the best way to counter the influence of Albanian rebels and bring moderate Albanians to power.

"This is the only way to establish a legitimate Kosovo-wide authority which would be also an indigenous authority, which would then be expected to deal with these problems, and I think that in such situations the moderate Kosovars will prevail," Turk said. "Of course, the international presence will need to remain for a while, but without that political evolution, I don't see how this problem can be effectively addressed."

Turk, who previously was Slovenia's ambassador to the United Nations, has during the past 18 months overseen the work of the UN Mission in Kosova -- known as UNMIK. Like UNMIK's chief, Hans Haekkerup, Turk believes that elections can be held this year despite the difficult conditions minorities, particularly Serbs, face in the province.

In March, Haekkerup set up a working group on establishing a legal framework for creating the institutions that will administer Kosova on a province-wide level. The group includes international and Kosova Albanian legal experts, but the Kosova Serb member of the group withdrew.

Russia, China, and some other members of the UN Security Council have warned against rushing into new elections because of ongoing security threats to Serbs and other minorities. The United States strongly supports holding elections as soon as possible. Turk points to the experience gained in last autumn's municipal elections in Kosova -- conducted in a period of relative calm -- as proof that Kosovars are politically mature enough to carry out new polls.

"My own assessment is that elections later this year should be a realistic possibility. Now, we are not yet at the point that specific dates can be determined, but...it would be wise not to lose any time and to make all the preparations and proceed with elections as soon as conditions so permit," Turk said.

Haekkerup told the Security Council last month that the new democratic leaders of Yugoslavia need to provide clear signals they are willing to engage Prishtina in dialogue and push Kosova Serbs to participate in local bodies. Turk said Belgrade also needs to cooperate with UNMIK in working out a way for some 250,000 displaced Serbs to participate in the elections. With their return to Kosova unlikely any time soon, Turk said, they could be instructed to participate through absentee ballots or through some other practical arrangement.

Turk said it's important to acknowledge that Kosova's Albanian majority will dominate local politics and that Security Council resolution 1244 -- adapted in 1999 after Yugoslavia withdrew its troops from the province -- permits that to happen democratically.

"There is no way of establishing substantial autonomy without empowering the local population... That's the basis of everything," Turk said. "It so happens that the majority of that population, ethnically speaking, are Albanians and there is no way of avoiding a certain transfer of power to the Albanian population. That is the essence of substantial autonomy."

But UN officials and Security Council representatives in recent weeks have been critical of Kosova Albanian political leaders, pressing them to isolate the extremists operating in Presevo and northern Macedonia.

Turk said even though elections are months away, Kosova Albanian politicians already have de facto political responsibility for guiding the province to peace and stability and bringing an end to attacks on Serbs and other minorities.

"There is a basic political wisdom that suggests that the majority and its leading political forces are always responsible for the fate of minorities and they have to understand that," Turk said.

Turk thinks the potential for conflict remains in the Balkans, but only in small pockets not capable of coming close to the scale of the wars of the early 1990s. One reason, he said, is a population exhausted by war and looking for peace. Second, a long process of reintegration into the European mainstream is underway. Turk is confident these and other factors will keep the current conflict in Macedonia under control.

"I don't think that the situation in Macedonia, even in the worse scenario, could unravel into a large scale use of force by all sides...even if, politically, the European Union and others do not succeed immediately in bringing full stability," Turk said.

Turk also sees little basis for fears that Montenegro -- which this spring faces a parliamentary vote and possible referendum on independence from Yugoslavia -- is another potential Balkan powder keg, although he said "that fear is not yet completely gone." He said the Montenegrin authorities are proceeding in a responsible manner with preparations for this month's elections, including allowing the free movement of independent monitors.

Turk said it would be better for the international community to let the Serbs and Montenegrins work out a solution in which "all opinions can be expressed, that interaction among them in ensured and that the process leading to final status will be democratic" rather than throw support behind one side or the other.

As a former diplomat from one of the Yugoslav successor states, Turk is sensitive to the challenges facing other new states in the region. He cites Slovenia's neighbor, Croatia, as a positive example of a state where reformist forces have gained strength and are putting the country on a stable course. It is now the responsibility of the rest of Europe, he said, to take each of the region's new states seriously and integrate them without delay.


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