Accessibility links

Newsline - April 3, 2001




CONFLICT OVER PRESIDENT'S ANNUAL MESSAGE ALLEGED...

"Segodnya" reported on 3 April that, according to its unnamed sources, the main author for Russian President Vladimir Putin's annual speech before the Federal Assembly that day was Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref. The daily, which is owned by Vladimir Gusinsky's Media-MOST Group, also suggested that the speech would have a "liberal" bent. The previous day, an unidentified Kremlin source concurred, telling Interfax that there are no disagreements on Putin's team about the annual message and that it "will be liberal in essence." The source denied allegations by Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov that there are two competing versions of Putin's message, only one of which was authored by Gref. Zyuganov told reporters on 2 April that "if Putin accepts the Gref version, it will be the end of the economic independence of Russia." JAC

...AS REGIONAL LEADERS LOOK FOR CLARIFICATION OF ECONOMIC AGENDA

The previous day, a number of regional leaders expressed the view that they hoped Putin would focus his address on economic issues. Tyumen Oblast Governor Sergei Sobyanin told Interfax on 2 April that he hopes the president will outline his economic priorities, particularly with regard to the development of medium and small businesses. And Samara Governor Konstantin Titov told the agency that he is counting on the president to settle questions regarding the right to private ownership of land and that by the end of the year a law governing such activities will come into effect. Ingushetian President Ruslan Aushev said that he hopes to hear about "effective measures to stabilize the situation in Chechnya and in the entire North Caucasus." JAC

BORODIN REQUESTS TRANSFER TO SWITZERLAND

After fighting extradition to Switzerland since January, Pavel Borodin, secretary of state for the Russia-Belarus Union, told a court in New York City on 2 April that he is waiving his right to contest the extradition. In a statement to the court, Borodin said that he continues to insist on his innocence and his decision is "based solely upon [his] desire to be set free as soon as possible." Borodin also stated that he "does not wish to remain in prison in the United States," expressing his confidence that a Swiss court will acquit him. Ruslan Tamaev, a prosecutor in the Prosecutor-General's Office who headed up the investigation into alleged money-laundering and bribery charges against Borodin, told reporters in Moscow that he also believes that Borodin is unlikely to be convicted. JAC

NTV LEADERSHIP PREPARES FOR BATTLE...

Gazprom-Media announced on 2 April that its goal at an NTV shareholders' meeting the following day will be to seek a new board of directors for the embattled television station (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 April 2001). According to ITAR-TASS, Gazprom-Media's press service stated that the company will propose 11 board members, including NTV General Director Yevgenii Kiselev, NTV journalist Leonid Parfenov, and NTV executive Mikhail Shmushkevich, but not Media-MOST head Gusinsky. However, the three NTV managers said they regard the 3 April shareholders' meeting as "unlawful" and that they will refuse to participate in it or in any decisions made there, according to Interfax. "Moskovskii Komsomolets" reported the same day that NTV managers have a secret plan to take the station off the air should Gazprom-Media try to usurp their control. Financier Boris Jordan is one of the most likely candidates for the post of NTV's general director, according to Grigorii Krichevskii, NTV's director for information programs. JAC

...AS 'ITOGI' SLATED TO TAKE ON NEW EDITORS

Meanwhile, Sergei Parkhomenko, the editor in chief of another Media-MOST company, "Itogi" magazine, said on 2 April that he is not ruling out the possibility that his editorial staff will be completely replaced. The same day, "Segodnya" Editor in Chief Mikhail Berger told Interfax that some 20-30 people on his newspaper's staff have agreed to form a new editorial team for "Itogi": "Some people...have agreed to publish the journal under state control, considering this to be more comfortable and safe for them." "Segodnya" is set to stop publishing by 1 May, but the majority of the newspaper's staff is prepared to put out the newspaper under a new publisher, according to Berger. JAC

SPRING DRAFT BEGINS

The Russian military launched its military draft on 1 April. Some 190,000 men between the ages of 18 and 27 have been called to report from 1 April to 30 June for two years of military service, according to AFP. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 31 March, recent statistics show that only 12 percent of registered recruits wind up serving in the army, in part because draft boards release some 30 percent for health reasons. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported the same day that the number of draftees who have failed to receive a secondary education before joining the army has increased from 30 percent to the current rate of 40 percent. General Vladislav Putilov, deputy chief of the armed forces' General Staff, told reporters that 47-48 percent of draftees have neither worked nor studied before their army service, and that in some regions this figure reaches 80 percent. JAC

RANKS OF NEO-NAZIS SWELL TO 30,000

Neo-Nazi groups across Russia have been targeting nonethnic Russian students with increasing frequency, "Obshchaya gazeta" reported in its No. 13 issue. The most recent attack occurred in Moscow on 15 March, when about 20 teenagers attacked students of primarily Armenian descent. According to the weekly, April 1998 marked an important phase in the groups' history: they sent faxes to a number of Moscow newspapers promising to kill one black person every day to mark Hitler's birthday. Most newspapers did not take the threat seriously, but the Foreign Students Association found that after 20 April four black students on average were attacked every day and one was killed. The ranks of the neo-Nazi groups have also been increasing since the early 1990s. According to the weekly, there are about 3,800 neo-Nazis in Moscow, about 2,700 in St. Petersburg, more than 2,000 in Nizhnii Novgorod, and thousands more across Russia, which adds up to a total of some 30,000. JAC

PUTIN VETOES BILL THAT WOULD HAVE INCREASED NUMBER OF FEDERAL WORKERS

President Putin vetoed on 2 April a bill that would have increased the number of staff that each federal legislator is allowed from 30 to 50 (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 26 January 2001). According to Interfax, in a letter to the Duma Putin expressed his belief that such an increase is unnecessary. The president also stated that the government is opposed to the fact that all of the legislators' staff currently have the right to ride free of charge on public transport, because such a privilege raises government expenses. JAC

AUTONOMOUS OKRUG WANTS TO BREAK AWAY FROM OBLAST

The legislative assembly of Taimyr Autonomous Okrug is preparing to consider the possibility of no longer being a part of Krasnoyarsk Krai, Interfax reported on 2 April. Taimyr legislators sent a letter to Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed informing him that their plans resulted from the failure of the krai to send some 37 million rubles ($1.3 million) to the okrug's budget from 1995 to 2000. The deputies also object to a number of decisions by Krasnoyarsk authorities concerning the use of natural resources and the taxing of enterprises in the Norilsk industrial district. According to the agency, Taimyr Governor Aleksandr Khloponin, who was until recently the head of Norilsk Nickel, wholly supports the legislators' position. JAC

MORE OLIGARCHS JOIN FEDERATION COUNCIL

A number of Russian business leaders are poised to become senators in Russia's upper legislative chamber. Transaero head Aleksandr Pleshakov has been nominated to represent Penza Oblast in the Federation Council, and Serge Bekov, vice president of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, has been tapped to represent Ingushetia, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 April. On 30 March, Taimyr Autonomous Okrug Governor Khloponin named Leonid Bindar, a Norilsk Nickel executive, as the okrug's representative to the Federation Council. Last December, Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev suggested during a council session that the increasing number of non-regionally based businessmen in the upper chamber could mean that seats are being "sold" (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 10 January 2001). JAC

CUSTOMS DUTIES SURGE

The State Customs Committee announced on 2 April that it collected 41.33 billion rubles ($1.43 billion) in March, ITAR-TASS reported. For the first quarter, the committee reported that it collected 111.89 billion rubles. JAC

HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS CALL FOR INTERNATIONAL PROBE OF MASS GRAVES IN CHECHNYA...

Seven human rights groups on 2 April called for the international community to investigate mass graves in Chechnya because the Russian government has failed to do so, Reuters reported. Holly Cartner, the executive director of the Europe and Central Asia division of Human Rights Watch, which is one of the signatories, said Russian investigations so far have been "a charade" and "absolutely inadequate," according to a Human Rights Watch press release on the same day. Specifically, she said, "the Russian government has focused its energy on denying any responsibility for the deaths, rather than on ensuring a meaningful investigation." PG

...AS RUSSIAN PROSECUTORS SET UP COMPLAINTS OFFICE...

The Russian Prosecutor-General's Office and the office of the presidential envoy to Chechnya have set up a joint working group to handle complaints by Chechen civilians of mistreatment by federal forces and police, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 April. Meanwhile, Presidential Representative for Human Rights and Freedoms Vladimir Kalamanov said that the general situation in Chechnya has improved since the FSB took over operations there, the Russian news agency said. The news agency also said that the Chechen government will move from Gudermes to Grozny by 15 April. PG

...AND OSCE SAYS ITS RETURN TO CHECHNYA REMAINS UNCERTAIN

Aleksandr Kornya, chief of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Chechen mission, told ITAR-TASS on 2 April that the date of his mission's return to the North Caucasus "remains open, and will be solved only when a complex [set] of safety measures is solved." PG




ARMENIA'S COMMUNISTS PUSH FOR UNION WITH RUSSIA, BELARUS

Armenian Communist Party leader Vladimir Darpinian said in Yerevan on 2 April that his party will relaunch its campaign for Armenia's accession to the Russia-Belarus Union, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. "We are convinced that the vast majority of our people would vote for joining the Russia-Belarus Union," he said. And he added that the campaign will culminate in a mass demonstration in the Armenian capital on 16 May. PG

ARMENIA'S ENERGY PRIVATIZATION CHALLENGED

More than one-third of the deputies in the parliament on 2 April offered a motion to reconsider the government's plans to privatize the national power distribution networks, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. The parliament approved such a measure last summer, but now will take up the issue once again. PG

ARMENIANS, AZERBAIJANIS LOOK TO KEY WEST

As presidents Robert Kocharian and Heidar Aliyev flew to their meeting in Florida, Armenians, Azerbaijanis, and others speculated about whether the talks there could lead to a settlement of the Karabakh conflict. Most commentaries in Yerevan and Baku were cautiously optimistic that some progress could be made, but officials in both capitals stressed that neither side is prepared to make significant concessions that would violate their respective national interests. Baku's "Yeni Musavat" asked on 2 April what was the likely meaning of plans for Aliyev to travel to Washington after Key West. And Russian Duma International Relations Committee Chairman Dmitrii Rogozin said in Yerevan on 2 April that Armenia and Azerbaijan should agree to entrust Russia with the role of guarantor of security of communications between Karabakh and Armenia, and between Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan, Noyan Tapan reported the same day. PG

AZERBAIJANI RADIO GOES INTERNATIONAL

Burc FM began broadcasting via satellite to Azerbaijani-language listeners around the world on 2 April, Turan reported the same day. The news agency said this is "the first time in history" that listeners abroad will be able to enter into dialogue live with a station in Baku. PG

AZERBAIJANI MUSLIM BOARD AGAINST SELF-FLAGELLATION

The scientific religious council of the Spiritual Board of Muslims of the Caucasus has called on Azerbaijani Muslims not to engage in self-flagellation as they mark the martyrdom of Imam Husseyn on 5 April, Trend news agency reported on 2 April. PG

COUNTERFEIT CURRENCY ENTERS AZERBAIJAN FROM IRAN

An official in the Azerbaijani National Security Ministry told Turan on 2 April that counterfeit manats are being produced in northern Iran and then smuggled into Azerbaijan. PG

SHEVARDNADZE SAYS GEORGIA TO STAY IN CIS

At a press conference on 2 April, President Eduard Shevardnadze said he rejects the idea that Georgia should leave the Commonwealth of Independent States, Prime-News reported on 2 April. In other comments, he said Tbilisi would try to help Russians deal with Georgia's visa regime, that his government plans to discuss with Moscow the return of Chechen refugees from Georgia, that he sees no need for any change in the electoral calendar, and that he is hopeful there will be an agreement about Russian bases in Georgia. Meanwhile, in his weekly radio interview, Shevardnadze said the parliament's adoption of laws about church and state was a historic occasion, but not one that would hurt non-Orthodox Georgians; that credit for the 1991 independence poll goes to both nationalists and communists; and that corruption was the main reason for the country's budgetary shortfall. PG

GEORGIAN INTELLIGENCE SAYS RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPERS ENGAGE IN SMUGGLING

Levan Kiknadze, deputy chairman of the Georgian State Intelligence Department, told the country's parliament on 2 April that Russian peacekeepers in Abkhazia are smuggling contraband into Samegrelo, Prime-News reported the same day. PG

NAZARBAEV TO NORWAY

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev on 2 April departed for a two-day official visit to Oslo, ITAR-TASS reported. He is to discuss "the entire spectrum of bilateral relations," the Kazakhstan Foreign Ministry said. PG

KAZAKHSTAN STEPS UP BORDER CONTROLS

Kazakhstan has tightened customs controls over goods coming from China, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan as part of an effort to crack down on narcotics smuggling, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 April. The country's customs service noted that melons, potatoes, and fabrics are often used to conceal drugs. PG

KYRGYZ OPPOSITION PREPARES FOR PROTEST

Several opposition parties announced on 2 April that they would mount a major protest on 13 April in support of press freedom, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported the same day. That meeting will build on a 30 March demonstration that attracted some 200 people. Meanwhile, Tolekan Ismailova, president of the NGO coalition, told RFE/RL that her group is circulating a petition against Bishkek city efforts to prevent demonstrations. PG

KYRGYZSTAN SEEKS DEBT FORGIVENESS FROM TURKEY

President Askar Akaev and other Kyrgyz officials met with a visiting Turkish parliamentary delegation on 2 April to press for debt forgiveness and expanded assistance, AP reported. PG

KYRGYZSTAN PREPARES FOR ISLAMIC MOVEMENT OF UZBEKISTAN INVASION

Talant Razzakov, the deputy chief of the Kyrgyzstan National Security Service, told Interfax-Central Asia on 2 April that Bishkek was preparing for an invasion by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, as it believes that group seeks to use Kyrgyz territory as a staging area against Tashkent. But on 1 April, Uzbek television showed the reinforced Uzbek-Kyrgyz border to be quiet. PG

TAJIKISTAN RESTORING BUDDHA STATUE

Tajikistan's scholars are restoring a 14-meter-long statue of a reclining Buddha, Interfax reported on 2 April. PG

TURKMENISTAN LEADER SAID TO BE IN GOOD HEALTH

German cardiologist Hans Meissner examined President Saparmurat Niyazov and announced that he is good health, Turkmen television reported on 2 April. Meissner was the doctor who performed heart bypass surgery on Niyazov in 1997 and has conducted regular examinations of the Turkmen leader since that time. PG

KARIMOV TO SIGN MORE ACCORDS IN GERMANY

Prior to his departure for Germany on 2 April, President Islam Karimov said he would sign 10 more agreements with German officials on top of the 50 Tashkent already has with Berlin, Uzbek Radio reported on 2 April. PG




BELARUSIAN HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST JAILED FOR 10 DAYS

Ales Byalatski, head of the human rights center Vyasna and deputy chairman of the opposition Belarusian Popular Front (BNF), has been sentenced to 10 days in jail for the organization of an unauthorized demonstration to mark Freedom Day on 25 March, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 2 April. "I think this sentence is unjust, but proceeding from the current situation in Belarus one should not expect anything else from our courts. These severe sentences for the 25 March [demonstration] testify to the fact that the authorities are trying to intimidate people and suppress the wave of vigorous spring protests that are now rising," Byalatski said of his punishment. BNF leader Vintsuk Vyachorka was handed a 15-day jail term (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 March 2001), while Yuras Belenki, deputy chairman of the Christian Conservative Party, goes on trial on 3 April. JM

BELARUS'S PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS NOT ON LEGISLATIVE AGENDA

The Chamber of Representatives on 2 April inaugurated its spring session, but the issue of setting a date for presidential elections is not on the session agenda, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. According to the 1996 constitution, presidential elections are called by the Chamber of Representatives no later than five months before the expiration of the term of the incumbent president. The legislature must set the date by late June. An RFE/RL Minsk correspondent reported that most legislators are waiting for President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's address to the legislature on 10 April, when he is expected to speak on the election issue. "As long as there is no command from the presidential administration or from the president, this issue will not be put on the agenda," lawmaker Ivan Pashkevich commented in regard to the way the Belarusian legislature operates. JM

ACCORD BETWEEN UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT, PARLIAMENT TO BE AGREED WITH KUCHMA

Premier Viktor Yushchenko on 2 April said he and leaders of the parliamentary majority will ask President Leonid Kuchma for a meeting in order to agree on controversial issues in the currently discussed political accord between the cabinet and majority caucuses, Interfax reported. Yushchenko said the draft accord stipulates that the parliamentary majority will back the current cabinet until April 2002. However, the sides have not yet agreed on the procedure for appointing ministers and other officials. Meanwhile, Deputy Parliamentary Speaker Stepan Havrysh said the accord between the government and the parliamentary majority can be signed within a week. Yushchenko is expected to report on the government's performance to the parliament on 17 April. First Deputy Parliamentary Speaker Viktor Medvedchuk noted last week that no one in the parliament has moved to initiate Yushchenko's ouster. JM

KUCHMA, OPPOSITION TO DISCUSS MORATORIUM ON CONSTITUTIONAL REFERENDUM?

Presidential administration staff chief Volodymyr Lytvyn on 2 April said talks between the authorities and the opposition could focus on a moratorium on last year's constitutional referendum results. Lytvyn suggested that President Kuchma could address the nation with an appeal to postpone the implementation of the referendum for some time. Lytvyn noted that the opposition, in turn, could withdraw its proposals to change the constitution. Lytvyn added that the sides could also discuss adopting laws on political opposition, political parties, and parliamentary elections under a proportional system. According to Lytvyn, the best candidates from the authorities to conduct talks with the opposition are Anatoliy Kinakh, head of the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, and Viktor Musiyaka, leader of the "Forward Ukraine!" party. JM

ESTONIAN PARTIES PLANNING JOINT STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF EU

Pro Patria Union deputy Mart Nutt told the parliament's European Affairs Committee on 2 April about the need for the republic's most influential parties to adopt a statement supporting European Union membership, BNS reported. He said that since 1995 the ruling coalitions and opposition parties have had a common position backing EU membership and should explicitly state this view. It is likely that his remarks were prompted by a recent EMOR survey, which indicated that the majority of respondents opposed EU membership (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 March 2001). Director of the Eurointegration Bureau Henrik Hololei noted that the reason for Estonians' skepticism is the lack of systematic information that could explain what benefits EU membership would bring. SG

EUROPEAN COMMISSION SUPPORTS 10, REJECTS 2 LATVIAN PHARE PROJECTS

The parliament's European Affairs Committee was informed on 2 April that the European Commission (EC) had decided to support 10 and reject two of Latvia's projects for the PHARE program for 2001, BNS reported. Latvia will receive 30 million euros ($26.7 million) for the 10 projects, of which 9 million euros would be allocated for institution strengthening, 2 million euros for cross-border cooperation, 10 million for investment in taking over EU legislation, and 9 million euros for the equalization of social and economic conditions. The EC rejected a project developed by the Justice Ministry to combat corruption because appropriate legislation has not been prepared and the status of the formation of an office for combating corruption is unclear. Moreover, under the proposed project the staff of such an office would receive far higher wagers than police officers. The EC also did not approve a project pertaining to the inspectorate for data protection because its preparation was insufficient. The two rejected projects, however, are still relevant and could be considered again for the PHARE program in 2002. SG

LITHUANIAN HEALTH MINISTER RESIGNS

President Valdas Adamkus on 2 April signed a decree accepting the resignation of Vinsas Janusonis and appointing Social Security and Labor Minister Vilija Blinkeviciute as acting health minister, "Kauno diena" reported the next day. Janusonis, who was selected by the Social Liberals, is the third of 13 ministers to leave their posts since a new cabinet was formed in the fall. Janusonis told a press conference that personal reasons, which he did not specify, were the basis for his decision and that he would return to his former post as the head of a hospital in Klaipeda. The newspaper wrote that the main reason for his decision was the poor health of his seven-year-old daughter, to whom he could not pay enough attention while working in Vilnius. SG

WARSAW SLAMS BRUSSELS OVER DECISION ON MAD COW DISEASE RISK

Agricultural Minister Artur Balazs harshly criticized the EU decision made on 2 April to include Poland on a list of countries with "probable" risk of mad cow disease (BSE). "This is a political decision of a trade nature. Including Poland in the same group of countries where BSE is present is a scandal and extremely dishonest of Brussels," Balazs told the 3 April "Gazeta Wyborcza." Balazs added that Polish cattle breeders have never used the meat and bone fodder that is suspected as the source of BSE. "The EU, which is now accusing us of feeding cattle with the meat and bone fodder, charged me with the deterioration of EU-Polish relations two years ago when I blocked the import of that fodder. They said then that the fodder had all possible certificates of EU experts and was totally safe," Balazs added. JM

POLAND'S MAIN OPPOSITION PARTY REVEALS ELECTION PLATFORM

The Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) on 1 April presented the main tenets of its election platform, PAP reported. SLD leader Leszek Miller said that, should the party win this fall's parliamentary elections, it will ask all opposition groups to cooperate in the SLD's National Program for Combating Crime. The SLD intends to crack down on the criminal world by tightening sanctions and fighting causes of crime such as unemployment and poverty. The platform calls for streamlining state structures, correcting the current government's reforms, and fighting corruption and party nepotism. The SLD also wants to boost economic growth and increase the competitiveness of the Polish economy. JM

CZECH OPPOSITION ALLIANCE LEADER PRESENTS SHADOW CABINET...

Karel Kuehnl, who on 31 March was elected leader of the Four Party Coalition following the resignation of Cyril Svoboda (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 April 2001) on 2 April presented the lineup of his shadow cabinet, CTK reported. Kuehnl has three deputies: Jaroslav Kopriva, from the Christian Democrats, (KDU-CSL), who is in charge of the interior portfolio; Michael Zantovsky, from the Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA), who is shadow defense minister; and Ratibor Majzlik, from the Democratic Union (DEU), who is in charge of the secret services and the office for the Documentation and Investigation of Communist Crimes. In the 16-seat shadow cabinet, the KDU-CSL has eight portfolios, Kuehnl's Freedom Union five, the ODA two, and the DEU one seat. Only one member of the shadow cabinet is a woman. She is Zuzana Roithova (KDU-CSL), who is in charge of the health portfolio. MS

...SAYS DISPUTE OVER PERSONNEL MATTERS IS 'OVER'

Kuehnl said disputes in the Four Party Coalition over personnel matters must be considered "over" and the alliance must prepare its electoral manifesto for next year's elections, after which it should be in the position to "form a real cabinet." But the disputes are unlikely to easily fade away. Former coalition leader Svoboda on 2 April clarified that he has resigned because he could not agree with the inclusion on Miroslav Kalousek (KDU-CSL) in the cabinet. Kalousek, who was nominated as shadow industry and trade minister, has been criticized for his performance as deputy interior minister between 1993 and 1998. Allegations that he was involved in illicit deals were never proven after several investigations. Svoboda said he could not agree with the nomination of a person he "cannot trust." MS

ZEMAN REACTS SARCASTICALLY TO SHADOW CABINET LINEUP...

Prime Minister Milos Zeman on 2 April commented that the shadow cabinet is "nothing but a collection of political used cars," CTK reported. Zeman alluded to the fact that a number of members in the cabinet served as ministers and deputy ministers in previous governments. Kuehnl said the presence of figures such as shadow Foreign Minister Josef Zieleniec, a former Civic Democratic Party (ODS) foreign minister, does not contradict the coalition's promise that it will bring about a "new style" in politics. He pointed out that Zieleniec resigned his ministerial post in 1997 and later quit the ODS in reaction to scandals involving that party's financing. More than half of the shadow cabinet members are either former ministers or deputy ministers. Among them are Kalousek, shadow Finance Minister Ivan Pilip, and Miloslav Vyborny, a former defense minister who now has the justice portfolio in the shadow cabinet. MS

... SAYS MILOSEVIC IS 'YUGOSLAVIA'S INTERNAL AFFAIR'

Zeman on 2 April told journalists that what happens to former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, "has been, and remains, Yugoslavia's internal affair," CTK reported. Zeman said he is not "one of those messianic politicians who advises every government of a sovereign state how to act" -- an obvious allusion to President Vaclav Havel, who has said he would "welcome it if Milosevic were to be tried by The Hague" international war crimes tribunal, but can also imagine his being tried by a Yugoslav court of justice. MS

AUSTRIAN SOCIAL DEMOCRATS DEMAND 'DEFINITIVE END' FOR TEMELIN

The Austrian opposition Social Democratic Party (SPO) on 2 April demanded that a "definitive end" be put to the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant, CTK reported. SPO spokeswoman Ulli Sima said the recent shutdown of the plant was the 16th since chain-fission reaction was begun at Temelin. "Not a single day passes without a further fault being announced. Under the circumstances, it is impossible...to allow the operators to experiment with peace...close to our border," she said. MS

CZECH ROMANY REPRESENTATIVES SET UP CRISIS COMMITTEE

A five-member crisis committee empowered to monitor and assess the situation of the Romany minority was set up on 2 April at a meeting of the Board of Romany Regional Representatives in Beroun, central Bohemia. Board spokesman Ondrej Gina told CTK that the deteriorating situation in Romany communities and poor communication with local authorities determined the formation of the committee. Gina also mentioned the recent acquittal of four people by a court in Jesenik, despite a Supreme Court ruling that they had participated in a racially motivated attack that led to the death of a Romany woman (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 March 2001). Also on 2 April, CTK reported that the number of Czech Roma applying for asylum in the U.K. has significantly increased in the past three months and that British authorities are threatening to impose visa requirements on Czech citizens as a result. MS

CZECH GOVERNMENT APPROVES PLAN ON PENSION REFORM SYSTEM

The government on 2 April approved a plan for continuing the gradual reform of the pension system. The core of the plan is the "Swedish model" of variable retirement age. Zeman told journalists after the cabinet's decision that each person who has met the minimum number of years required to receive a pension will be able to decide for themselves whether to retire at that time or at a later stage, CTK reported. Government spokesman Libor Roucek said the pension system will continue to be based on compulsory contributions to the pension fund, but will be supplemented by voluntary contributions to private retirement funds, with the latter category gradually becoming larger and eventually making up one-quarter of coverage. In the next decade, state pension payments will be between 55 and 60 percent of the net salary upon retirement, Roucek said. MS

SLOVAK GOVERNMENT APPROVES DRAFT LAW ON REFORMING CIVIL SERVICE...

The government on 2 April approved a draft law on reforming the civil service and improving local government control over areas such as health and education. The reform of the civil service is one of the conditions demanded by the EU for Slovakia to successfully complete accession talks, AP reported. The bill is based on the draft of increasing the country's administrative divisions from eight to 12. The regions are to grant more powers to municipalities in order to improve their control over health and education. The civil service is also to be substantially reduced. MS

...BUT MAY NOT BE ABLE TO SEE IT THROUGH PARLIAMENT

Deputy Premier Pal Csaky of the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) on 1 April told Markiza television that it is "not sure" if the Democratic Left Party and the Party of Civic Understanding, which opposed in the cabinet the country's new administrative division, will support the bill in the parliament, CTK reported. Csaky said it may be necessary to link the bill with a vote of confidence in the cabinet, but this is "risky" and may lead to early elections. The SMK has renounced a demand that a separate Komarovo region be established to include most of the areas inhabited by members of the Hungarian minority and said that instead it now demands the fulfillment of "three conditions," which it refused to elaborate on. MS

SLOVAK DEPUTY PREMIER NOT AGAINST EU 'TRANSITIONAL PERIODS'

Slovakia is not opposed "in principle" to transitional periods being imposed on the free movement of people after EU accession, Deputy Premier Pavol Hamzik told the Austrian daily "Der Standardt" on 2 April. However, Hamzik believes that the German and Austrian proposal for a seven-year transitional period is "too long." Hamzik said what is needed "is flexibility and differentiation. If in one to two years it surfaces that there is no problem, there must be a possibility to react to the new situation." He also added that thousands of Slovaks already work in Austria in the health and the catering sectors, where there is a shortage of manpower.

SLOVAK PRESIDENT IN LEBANON

President Rudolf Schuster, heading a large Slovak delegation, on 2 April began a three-day visit to Lebanon, conducting talks with his Lebanese counterpart Emile Lahoud, CTK reported. Presidential spokesman Jozef Leikert declined to comment on Slovak media reports that Schuster will try to revive the Lebanese market for Slovak-made military equipment. MS

CZECHOSLOVAK STB CHIEF FEELS HE IS BEING UNJUSTLY PROSECUTED

Alojz Lorenc, the former head of the Czechoslovak communist secret service (StB) who is now facing prosecution in Slovakia, on 2 April told the daily "Narodna obroda" that he intends to "defend my professional honor" in court. He said he faces the prospect of "ending like some kind of a swindler who has violated the law" and that the charge of "abusing power" is unjustified. Lorenc refused to tell the daily who was responsible for the order to have the StB intervene against students demonstrating in Prague in November 1989, saying only that he "knows exactly what orders were issued" and that he "personally forbade the StB to forcefully intervene." He also said that in 1989 the "orientation" of the StB had been toward "intelligence assignments" and that the organization had "saturated" the Charter 77 dissident movement with its agents and had no need to "intervene" against it, CTK reported. MS

HUNGARY'S FIDESZ REJECTS COALITION WITH EXTREMIST PARTY

Hungary's major coalition party FIDESZ on 2 April rejected a suggestion by Istvan Csurka, chairman of the far-right Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP), to form a coalition after the next parliamentary elections. "There is a chance that FIDESZ and MIEP will receive more than 50 percent of votes in the 2002 parliamentary elections and form a government," Csurka suggested one day earlier. Csurka said the other alternative for FIDESZ would be to form a grand coalition with the Socialists, but added that in that case "FIDESZ would soon be finished." FIDESZ Chairman Laszlo Kover, however, ruled out any cooperation with MIEP, saying such a scenario "would entail serious consequences for Hungary's future EU membership." He also ruled out a coalition with the Socialist Party. MSZ

SURVEY REVEALS INCREASE IN XENOPHOBIA IN HUNGARY

According to a survey conducted by the Tarki polling institute and published on 2 April, the Hungarian population has never been so hostile to refugees as last month. The survey, conducted in March among 1,500 people, shows that 43 percent of the respondents would refuse refugee status to any asylum seeker. Last year that figure was 38 percent. The highest level of xenophobia was recorded among pensioners, unskilled workers, and among voters of MIEP. In other news, a country report of the Council of Europe's committee investigating torture and abuse says Hungarian police have physically and psychologically abused persons in their custody. According to the report, primarily foreigners, juvenile delinquents, and Roma are exposed to police brutality, Hungarian media report. MSZ

HUNGARIAN GOVERNMENT CRITICIZED FOR ITS MEDIA POLICY

The Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI) said in its latest report that the Hungarian government and FIDESZ in particular are attempting to exert political influence over the press and the electronic media, Hungarian media reported on 2 April. The criticism comes after FIDESZ submitted last week a draft law under which the media could be obliged by a court to publish corrections and pay fines if anyone objects to published or broadcast opinions. FIDESZ parliamentary member Robert Repassy said "the defense of personal rights enjoys priority over press freedom or the freedom of opinion." IPI claims, however, that if the law is passed, Hungary will breach EU rules. MSZ

TORGYAN PLANS TO REMAIN AS SMALLHOLDERS' CHAIRMAN

Independent Smallholders' Party (FKGP) Chairman Jozsef Torgyan on 2 April said in a statement released from the Kutvolgyi hospital that next week he plans to return to lead the party and will remain FKGP chairman for at least 10 years. Torgyan said he has convened a meeting of the FKGP Steering Board to discuss next year's parliamentary elections. Torgyan described party Deputy Chairman Geza Gyimothy as his future successor, but made it clear that they will "fight together for...several electoral cycles." Torgyan also said he will begin preparing the party's 2002 election strategy while he is still hospitalized. MSZ




YUGOSLAVIA'S KOSTUNICA: MILOSEVIC SHOULD NOT GO TO THE HAGUE...

Asked about a possible extradition of former President Slobodan Milosevic to The Hague, Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica told the "New York Times" of 3 April that "it should never happen" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 April 2001). Kostunica added that "other presidents are not being sent to The Hague. I must make some compromises [with the West], but there is a line I cannot cross. Even among those people in the Serbian and Yugoslav governments who don't think about legitimacy but about what might be politically useful, the prevailing view is that it would be unacceptable" to send Milosevic to face war crimes charges in the Dutch city. Kostunica argued that the tribunal is anti-Serb and based on shaky legal foundations. PM

...AND NOBODY SHOULD PRESSURE SERBIA

Warning the U.S. against applying political pressure against Serbia because of Milosevic, Kostunica added in remarks to the "New York Times" of 3 April: "If pressure did not work with Milosevic in power, and now he is no longer in power and we are having a horrible situation in Serbia, what is the sense of such threats now?" Kostunica nonetheless said that he understands the view in Washington that Milosevic's arrest just before a 31 March aid cut-off deadline is proof that "pressure works." "But that is incorrect thinking, even when Milosevic was in power," Kostunica stressed. Yugoslavia does not need more foreign pressure "but patience, to let us cope with these problems, especially when one considers that the stability of Yugoslavia and Serbia is very important for this unstable region... How can our people and courts become competent to deal with questions like war crimes unless you're given a chance?" PM

KOSTUNICA: SERBIA WILL 'SUFFER' IF MONTENEGRIN DECISION IS DELAYED

Referring to Montenegro, the "New York Times" of 3 April reported that Kostunica believes that "an independent Montenegro would produce more regional instability, noting that more refugees live in Serbia -- about 800,000 -- than the 650,000 people in Montenegro. But he strongly opposes a moratorium or delay on Montenegro's deciding its future, saying Serbia would suffer from any further period of uncertainty." For their part, Montenegrin pro-independence leaders believe that Montenegro can manage its affairs efficiently and economically precisely because it is small. They warn that Montenegro will "suffer" if it remains in a state with a Serbian leadership that has attitudes toward the mountainous republic similar to those of Milosevic. PM

FOREIGN PRESSURE FOR EXTRADITION MOUNTING

The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on 3 April that foreign leaders, including UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, have stepped up calls for Milosevic to go to The Hague. Top German officials, including Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, his aide Michael Steiner, and former Bosnian troubleshooter Hans Koschnik, have made similar statements. Vienna's "Die Presse" wrote that the arrest of Milosevic has reduced domestic political tensions within Serbia and improved the government's image abroad. In Belgrade, Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic said that the U.S. decision to renew aid to Serbia reflects growing foreign confidence in the government, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see below). PM

U.S. TO KEEP AID TO SERBIA -- WITH A CONDITION

Secretary of State Colin Powell ruled on 2 April that Yugoslavia is eligible for continued U.S. economic aid following Milosevic's arrest on corruption charges. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the decision means that the U.S. can begin to turn over $50 million in assistance to Belgrade. Congress had set a 31 March deadline on the certification process. But Boucher added that unless Belgrade cooperates with The Hague, Washington will not help sponsor an international conference aimed at raising money for Serbia's battered economy. The $50 million in aid -- part of a $100 million overall package -- will run out by 1 October, the start of the new fiscal year. The U.S. administration will need to determine by then the level of assistance, if any, it intends to provide Yugoslavia in the new fiscal year. PM/NCA

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: AID DECISION ON SERBIA 'PREMATURE'

"The decision to certify [Belgrade] is premature," said Holly Cartner, executive director of the Europe and Central Asia division of Human Rights Watch, in a statement issued in New York on 2 April. She stressed that "this is not the moment to let the pressure off Belgrade. Slobodan Milosevic would not be behind bars today if it were not for international pressure." Cartner argued that the Bush administration is correct in deciding to withhold support for a donors' conference until the Yugoslav government has exhibited real cooperation with the tribunal. But the administration should set down specific benchmarks, including the transfer of Milosevic and other indictees to the tribunal, in order for the donors' conference to go ahead, the statement added. Cartner also urged the administration to link future support in international financial institutions to the transfer of indictees, including Milosevic, to The Hague. PM

SERBIA'S MILOSEVIC TO FACE DEATH PENALTY?

Serbian Interior Minister Dusan Mihajlovic told reporters in Vienna on 2 April that: "we have indications that Milosevic was also involved in serious crimes which carry the death penalty. But we are talking about investigations, we need proof. If we get this we will ask the justice authorities to bring charges." He did not specify what the additional charges might be, Reuters reported. Some officials have suggested that the current charges might be expanded to include treason or involvement in political assassinations. The death penalty has not been officially carried out in Serbia for many years. Mihajlovic added that "it is really of historic importance that there should initially be a court hearing in Serbia. It is important that Milosevic is put on trial in Serbia for what he did there, for what he did to the people. Otherwise false myths could arise and we have had enough false myths in the past." PM

KOSOVA SERBS TO SEEK CHARGES AGAINST MILOSEVIC

Serbian Orthodox Archbishop Artemije told the Belgrade daily "Danas" of 3 April that Milosevic's greatest crimes were against his own people. Artemije's diocese includes much of Kosova. Serbian National Council leader Momcilo Trajkovic stressed that he wants Milosevic investigated for his role in creating "the conditions in which our nation now finds itself." Milosevic rose to power in the late 1980s by exploiting Serbian nationalist sentiments, above all in Kosova. For years, Kosova Serbs were widely regarded as his staunchest backers. They gradually turned against him after he lost wars in Croatia and Bosnia, and especially after he lost Kosova in 1999. PM

MILOSEVIC ADMITS ARMING REBELS IN CROATIA, BOSNIA

In a denial of embezzlement charges, Milosevic's attorney wrote in a statement that some of the money the former president is accused of stealing was actually used to provide weapons for Serbian rebels in Croatia and Bosnia a decade ago. The statement noted that "these sums could not be publicly presented in the draft budget for reasons of state security as the top state secret," the "Daily Telegraph" reported on 3 April. This is the "first official confirmation from Belgrade that the actions of the Serb rebels in...Croatia and Bosnia...were stoked by Milosevic," the daily added. Elsewhere, Florence Hartmann, who is the spokeswoman for The Hague tribunal's chief prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, told RFE/RL that the tribunal is preparing charges against Milosevic stemming from the Bosnian conflict. PM

MILOSEVIC AIDES 'SINGING LIKE CANARIES' IN SERBIAN INQUIRY

London's "The Independent" of 3 April quoted an unnamed source close to the investigation of several of Milosevic's top aides as saying that the former officials have "started to sing like canaries." They include former security chief Rade Markovic, customs chief Mihalj Kertes, banker Jovan Zebic, and former Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic. The source told the daily that the men saw nothing wrong in what they did. "You asked for money and you got it. And it worked for years," the source added. PM

CROATIA TO MAKE 'ALL' DOCUMENTS AVAILABLE TO THE HAGUE

Prime Minister Ivica Racan said in Zagreb on 2 April that the arrest of Milosevic is a necessary step but only an initial one, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He added that the government will make available to The Hague tribunal "all" documents it has regarding specific war crimes committed on Croatian territory. In other news, Racan told a press conference that organized crime is on the rise and extending its links to the army and police, "Jutarnji list" reported. He added that the Interior Ministry has a job on its hands. PM

MACEDONIA REOPENS BORDER WITH KOSOVA

Macedonia reopened its border with Kosova on 3 April, RFE/RL reported. The Interior Ministry said two border crossings -- at Blace and Jazince -- were reopened for general traffic. Macedonia closed the border three weeks ago in a bid to prevent ethnic Albanian militants from crossing over. PM/NCA

ALBANIAN OPPOSITION PARTY BOYCOTTS MACEDONIAN TALKS

Representatives of the Party of Democratic Prosperity (PPD), which was part of the previous Social Democrat-led government, did not attend all-party talks in Skopje on 2 April, RFE/RL reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 April 2001). After three hours of talks, President Boris Trajkovski said there will be more discussions. He described the boycott as regrettable. The PDP defended its move. Elsewhere, there were renewed reports of gunfire in the village of Selce, above Tetovo. Macedonian defense officials say their forces exchanged fire with a group of gunmen trying to enter the village. On the diplomatic front, the EU's Chris Patten and Javier Solana, were in Skopje for more talks with Trajkovski. NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson is due in the Macedonian capital shortly. PM/NCA

BOSNIA LOOKING INTO DIPLOMATS' BEHAVIOR ABROAD

"Dnevni avaz" reported on 3 April that the Bosnian government is investigating possible misuse of office by some of its Foreign Ministry officials and diplomats based abroad. The concern focuses on alleged shady business dealings. Among the targets of the inquiry are the embassies in Vienna and at the UN. The daily added that the authorities may seek from the U.S. the extradition of Ambassador and former Foreign Minister Muhamed Sacirbey, who holds U.S. and Bosnian citizenship. PM

ROMANIAN LEADERS REACT CAUTIOUSLY TO MILOSEVIC'S ARREST

President Ion Iliescu on 2 April told journalists that the imprisonment of former Yugoslav President Milosevic "opens the road to stability and normalization" in Yugoslavia, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said the arrest is "an internal political decision, probably a painful one for a segment of Yugoslavia's population, but the only possible decision with regard to ensuring the country's future." Viewed from this perspective, Nastase said, "I believe the decision is politically correct." Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana, who is also serving as OSCE chairman, said the arrest "is a step forward for the consolidation of democracy in Yugoslavia." Geoana said Yugoslav President Kostunica is "a legalist and a great expert in constitutional matters" and his decision to grant "preference to domestic law at the initial stage is wise." MS

ROMANIAN CHIEF OF STAFF ADMITS ARMY POORLY TRAINED

Chief of Staff General Mihai Popescu on 2 April acknowledged that Romania's army is poorly trained due to a lack of funds and personnel, AFP reported. Popescu said that in 2000 air force pilots were able to carry out only 13 percent of planned training flights and that nearly 70 percent of pilots were "nonoperational" because of insufficient flying time. He also said the state of the navy was "precarious" and the army's combat training has suffered because of worn-out equipment. Half of the navy's war ships did not even leave port last year, because the navy received only 15 percent of the fuel it needs, he said. MS

ROMANIAN STEEL WORKERS PROTEST PLANT SHUTDOWN

Steel workers in Resita on 3 April left the CSR steel-production plant in town and are marching to the Resita-Caransebes highway with the intention of blocking it, Romanian radio reported. The protest began on 2 April, with the workers urging the government to save their jobs. CSR stopped production in early March, after the U.S. firm Noble Ventures, which bought the steelworks last year, failed to pay electricity bills amounting to $4.71 million along with similar gas bills, causing the plant to be cut off from gas and electricity deliveries. The U.S. consortium agreed to take over the company's debts when it bought it. The protesters shouted "Down with the Americans" and demanded that Premier Nastase come to talk to them. Nastase said the government's power to intervene was limited, but ordered Privatization Minister Ovidiu Musatescu to examine whether the privatization contract has been honored. MS

VORONIN WELCOMES TIRASPOL'S REFUSAL TO ATTEND OSCE MEETING

Party of Moldovan Communists leader Vladimir Voronin on 2 April said he finds "reason for hope" in the refusal of the Transdniester separatists to attend the OSCE Bratislava meeting before the election of the next Moldovan president and a meeting between him and separatist leader Igor Smirnov, Infotag reported. "Frankly speaking, I would like such meetings to be held in Chisinau and Tiraspol, not in Bratislava, Vienna, or anywhere else abroad. The Transdniester conflict is a domestic Moldovan problem, and it should be solved at home," Voronin said. He added that the "excessive internationalization" of the Transdniester negotiations may be "not only inefficient, but also lacking perspectives of success." He said he intends to personally be "very active" in the negotiations and "the Transdniester settlement is going to be one of my biggest priorities." MS

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT PRAISES, WARNS MACEDONIANS

President Petar Stoyanov, in a telephone conversation with his Macedonian counterpart Boris Trajkovski on 2 April, praised the successful operation by Macedonian forces against Albanian insurgents, calling it "an adequate response to the actions of extremists," AP reported. At the same time, Stoyanov warned that further violence in Macedonia may jeopardize the European future of the entire region. He said the successful Macedonian military operation has "made a forthcoming dialogue possible" and emphasized that the dialogue "must prevent Macedonian society from splitting along ethnic lines." Also on 2 April, Prime Minister Ivan Kostov told journalists there is a danger that the Macedonian crisis could spread to engulf all territories with an ethnic Albanian minority. "If there really are aspirations to set up a Greater Albania, [the rebels] are very adequately coordinated, armed, and financed," he commented. MS

NEW BULGARIAN PARTY TO SUPPORT FORMER KING

The recently established Conservative Union (EKIP), headed by former Union of Democratic Forces dissenters Hristo Biserov and Yordan Tzonev, in a statement released on 2 April said it "unconditionally supports" former King Simeon II's "expressed will" to "take part in Bulgarian political life," Reuters reported. Observers said that if the EKIP fails to win the endorsement of the former monarch, it has little chance to get into the parliament due to be elected on 17 June. Simeon II is expected to arrive soon from Madrid and clarify his intention to participate in Bulgarian politics. In February, he said he will seek a political role despite being banned by the Constitutional Court from running for president. MS

ISRAELI OWNER APPEALS BALKAN AIRLINE BANKRUPTCY

A lawyer representing Zeevi Group, the Israeli owner of Bulgaria's national carrier Balkan Airlines, appealed a court decision to declare the company bankrupt, the English-language daily "Monitor," citing the private Darik Radio, reported on 2 April. The lawyer said he will submit a rehabilitation plan for the airline at a meeting with creditors on the next day. The plan was drafted by Balkan Holdings, a Dutch-registered company of Zeevi. MS




BELGRADE TOOK POSITIVE FIRST STEP


By Jolyon Naegele

Laura Silber, senior policy adviser to the New York-based Open Society Institute, commented during an interview on 2 April with RFE/RL correspondent Jolyon Naegele on the manner of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's arrest, which was unsuccessfully tried on 31 March before another attempt succeeded on 1 April. She was asked what this said about the capabilities of the Serbian police, the relations between the police and the army, and the relations between the republic and federal organs in general. Silber responded:

"Well, it obviously reveals that there is a great amount of tension and that the balance of power has yet to be defined. However, in the end, we did see that they were able to reach an accord and to decide how to deal with this. But there was obviously a lot of behind-the-scenes negotiation and struggle -- not with Milosevic and his party, but rather between the Yugoslav and the Serbian authorities and the police and the army. The army until the last minute seems to have really stood by Milosevic and have been very reluctant to take any action against him."

Serbian police did not detain Milosevic's wife, Mira Markovic, who heads the Party of the Yugoslav Left, on the grounds that they were not authorized to do so. Markovic has been rumored to be behind a variety of violent acts, including the attempted assassination of former Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov in 1995. Asked whether Markovic is innocent or whether the authorities lack sufficient evidence to charge her, Silber said:

"Well, I think, clearly there will be some sort of charges against her in the end. I think perhaps either they don't have enough evidence accumulated or, what is more likely, they decided to deal with one person at a time. But I think we haven't seen the end of the charges against the Milosevic family."

Silber was then asked to what extent the new authorities in Belgrade are fulfilling their international obligations by detaining Milosevic:

"Well, I think, as we know, the detention of Slobodan Milosevic was not a precondition. What [is] the precondition for Belgrade, to fulfill its international obligations, is compliance with the international criminal tribunal for -- in former Yugoslavia. So that Milosevic, or the detention and ultimate surrender of Milosevic, is just one condition that Belgrade must fulfill in order to meet its international obligations. But I think what [happened] is a very good step and that most likely the outside world will allow Belgrade some time, possibly even for a domestic trial first before there is pressure to hand over Mr. Milosevic to The Hague [international war crimes tribunal]."

At a hearing after his detention yesterday, Milosevic rejected the Belgrade prosecutor's charges of abuse of office and financial impropriety. RFE/RL asked Silber what -- in view of Milosevic's defiant attitude and refusal until now to accept responsibility for his actions -- can we expect to learn from Milosevic when he finally goes on trial? She answered:

"I think it really remains unclear how he will react. I think that for the time being Milosevic really tried to the very last minute. He was hoping that enough people would rally to prevent his detention. He played his cards wrong. I think now it's impossible to really know what we can expect from Mr. Milosevic at the tribunal. So far, he hasn't been willing to divulge any information. But perhaps when he sees his future in a jail somewhere, perhaps he might be willing to be cooperative. Perhaps he may try to bring down others, give evidence against others he feels might be able to share the blame with him. So I think it is difficult to predict what kind of testimony he will ultimately give when really sitting in the dock."

Silber expects Belgrade will eventually -- but not immediately -- extradite the former president to The Hague.

"I think it will take Belgrade some time to surrender Mr. Milosevic to The Hague. I also think it is difficult for their [Belgrade's] position: while [Serbian] public opinion is certainly clamoring for Milosevic to stand trial, so far public opinion is not in favor of sending Mr. Milosevic to The Hague. And while obviously Belgrade cannot be a slave to public opinion, they have to lead the agenda. I think there is an understanding that they probably won't in the very short term surrender Mr. Milosevic to The Hague. But I think, ultimately, Belgrade very well understands that they must meet their international obligations, one of which includes surrendering all indicted war criminals to The Hague."

The Hague tribunal has indicted for war crimes numerous other former political and military leaders who are still at large in Serbia and in the Bosnian Serb entity, Republika Srpska. Silber was asked what Milosevic's detention suggests for those such as former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and former Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic.

"I think it means that they had better be careful. And I think that obviously, taking Mr. Milosevic, who was the symbol of the violent destruction of Yugoslavia -- I think it is very powerful and I am very sure that those indicted war criminals right now are thinking, 'am I next?'"


XS
SM
MD
LG