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Newsline - April 4, 2001




PUTIN ENUMERATES THIS YEAR'S TASKS IN MAJOR ADDRESS...

In his annual address to the Federal Assembly on 3 April, Russian President Vladimir Putin touched on a number of his pet themes, such as strengthening the Russian state and last year's positive economic indicators. As in past speeches, Putin also called for raising the Russian people's standard of living, reducing bureaucracy in order to stimulate business, and he repeated his stance that he is opposed to reviewing the results of past privatizations. As expected, Putin also devoted considerable attention to the topic of economic reform, calling for the passage of a new Customs Code as well as a package of bills "debureaucratizing" the economy. Putin also called for the Duma to speed up consideration of the Labor Code, while his comments on pension, judicial, and education reform were more general. Only a small portion of the speech touched on foreign policy. Putin warned NATO to refrain from using force and vowed to protect Russians living abroad. JAC

...AS NATIONAL, REGIONAL LEADERS CRITIQUE PUTIN'S PERFORMANCE

Putin did not mention the law on political parties, an omission that, one Russian newspaper reported earlier, leaders of Russia's political parties would take as a sign that the presidential administration is backing away from its support for that bill (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 26 March 2001). The response to Putin's speech from Russia's political elite was not overly enthusiastic. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov said Putin was proposing a "second [former acting Prime Minister Yegor] Gaidar revolution." Boris Nemtsov, leader of the Union of Rightist Forces's Duma faction, of which Gaidar is a part, called Putin's evaluation of the economic situation in the country "adequate" and the measures that the president called for "obvious," "Segodnya" reported on 4 April. Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev said he had expected the president to offer a tougher account of the struggle against crime and corruption, while Chuvash President Nikolai Fedorov called Putin's address "correct and banal." JAC

U.S. FINANCIER TAKES OVER HELM AT NTV...

As expected, an NTV shareholders' meeting on 3 April resulted in sweeping changes in the management of the embattled television station. Boris Jordan, a U.S.-born financier who runs the Sputnik Group investment fund, was selected as the station's general director, replacing Yevgenii Kiselev. At his first press conference in his new capacity, Jordan stated that "in the U.S., a company with such financial results would have been liquidated in a week." He said the company's debts are 150 percent greater than its annual revenues. Jordan pledged to preserve NTV's editorial independence, but suggested that the "company will survive, whether [its current journalists] want to work with us or not." He continued, "there should be no illusions...I have a fiduciary responsibility to make the company profitable." According to AP, the station's evening newscast showed a screen behind the anchorman with scores of NTV employees standing silently as the station's logo in the corner of the screen was covered by the word protest in red letters. JAC

...AS NEW BOARD IS INSTALLED

Also elected on 3 April was a new board of directors that now includes Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev; Gazprom first deputy head Vyacheslav Sheremet; Gazprom-Media head Alfred Kokh; his deputy Aleksandr Kazakov; NTV journalist Leonid Parfenov; NTV-Kino Director Vladilen Arsenev; NTV Holding Executive Director Mikhail Shmushkevich; and Vladimir Kulistikov, chairman of RIA-Vesti board of governors, according to ITAR-TASS. Kulistikov was also named NTV editor in chief, according to Interfax. According to "Segodnya" on 4 April, Parfenov has already announced that he will not serve on the board. Parfenov and Shmushkevich had announced prior to their election that they regard the shareholders' meeting as invalid (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April 2001). JAC

IMF OFFICIAL WARNS OF INFLATION DANGER...

Addressing a conference in Moscow on 3 April, top IMF official Gerard Belanger warned that the "ruble's strong growth in the second half of 2000 is undermining financial stability and is increasing fears of inflation." Speaking on the same day, presidential economic adviser Andrei Illarionov and Mikhail Delyagin, director of the Institute for the Problems of Globalization, both predicted that inflation this year will be higher than the 12-14 percent level forecast in the 2001 federal budget. Delyagin suggested that inflation will be no less than 16-18 percent, according to Interfax. Meanwhile, at the same conference Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin repeated his assertion that the government may revise its annual inflation target upwards, but only by 1 to 1.5 percent. JAC

...AS GOVERNMENT SETS GOAL FOR PAYING DOWN DEBT

Kudrin also said that Russia is seeking to reduce the size of its foreign debt to less than 60 percent of GDP, according to Russian agencies. In an interview with "Komsomolskaya Pravda" on 3 April, Kudrin said Russia has reduced its foreign debts in 2000 by $14 billion and as of 1 January 2001 Russia's total foreign debt was $144 billion. JAC

UNITY FACTION SELECTS NEW LEADER

The second largest faction in the State Duma selected a new leader on 4 April following the appointment of its previous leader, Boris Gryzlov, to head the Interior Ministry. Duma deputy Vladimir Pekhtin, who previously served as head of the legislative assembly for Magadan Oblast, will now head the pro-Kremlin faction. Pekhtin, 50, was born in Leningrad and received a university degree there in technical sciences, according to ITAR-TASS. Pekhtin is also a member of the presidium of Unity's political council. JAC

MOSCOW CONTINUES TO LEAD IN SPREAD OF HIV

Vladimir Pokrovskii, head of the federal center for the prevention of AIDS, told reporters on 3 April that he believes more than 1 million people in Russia will be infected with HIV by the end of the year. According to the official rate, some 103,000 people have contracted AIDS, according to ITAR-TASS. The virus is expected to spread particularly in St. Petersburg, Samara, Kemerovo, Perm, Ryazan, the Ulyanovsk oblasts, and Altai Krai. The largest number of HIV-infected people are in Moscow Oblast, with 14,396 people; followed by Moscow city, with 10,881; Irkutsk Oblast, with 8,842; and St. Petersburg, with 7,582. According to Interfax, Pokrovskii expects the number of persons with HIV to jump to almost 3 million in five to six years. JAC

RABBI CLOSE TO KREMLIN URGES INCREASED INVOLVEMENT IN MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS...

Berl Lazar, head of the Federation of Russian Jewish Communities, told reporters on 3 April that he thinks President Putin should "show that he does not approve of the terrorist acts carried out by the Palestinians, which, unfortunately, have not been described as terrorist acts in the Middle East for a long time now." According to Interfax, Lazar added that it is doubtful that talks may be fruitfully conducted with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who, according to Lazar, "does not control the situation" and "does not condemn the terrorist acts committed by the Palestinians." Lazar is considered close to the Kremlin, particularly to presidential administration head Aleksandr Voloshin. Last December, President Putin paid his second visit to the Jewish Community Center in Moscow run by Lazar for the opening of the celebration of Hanukkah (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 December 2000). JAC

...AS RUSSIAN DIPLOMATIC EFFORT IN MIDDLE EAST IS REINVIGORATED

Unidentified Arab diplomatic observers told ITAR-TASS on 3 April that over the next few weeks Russia's activities in the Middle East will be stepped up. For example, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika arrived in Moscow on 3 April. The visit comes after a 15-year lapse in top-level contacts between the two countries. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is expected to visit Moscow on 26-28 April -- the last Russian-Egyptian summit was held in 1997. In addition, Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdel Quader Bajammal will visit on 11 April to discuss the development of bilateral ties and the situation in the Middle East and Persian Gulf. Meanwhile, the agency also reported on 3 April that former foreign minister and leader of the Fatherland-All Russia faction, Yevgenii Primakov, met with former U.S. President George Bush in Athens to discuss the current state of U.S.-Russian relations. JAC

JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES WIN LEGAL VICTORY IN OREL

A raion-level court in the city of Orel ruled on 3 April that the local Justice Department must complete the registration of a local group of Jehovah's Witnesses, AP reported. According to the agency, the group has sought to register since 1996, but has been rebuffed by the local department on seven different occasions. A spokesman for the group told the agency that a recent court decision in Moscow to reject a local prosecutor's attempts to ban the group may have played a role in the Orel court's decision (see also "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 March 1999). JAC

NIZHNII OFFICIALS PULL PLUG ON TV STATION

A week before elections for the Sechenovo Raion administration head, the raion's administration head, Sergei Vasin, with the help of local law enforcement authorities, turned off the transmitter for local television studio Zemlya Sechenovskaya, RFE/RL's Nizhnii Novgorod correspondent reported on 24 March. Vasin said the action was justified because the television station had refused to give him on-air access to wage his campaign -- although he had been invited along with other candidates to participate in an election program. Station Director Marina Yefremova told RFE/RL that she finds herself in an tough situation: "Of course, it is difficult to live with the sense that people are afraid even to approach me in a place where I have lived for the last 37 years." One former raion official told RFE/RL that the administration's task now is to "dismiss Yefremova and put in place someone else so the station will be theirs." JAC

PUTIN POINTS TO PROGRESS IN CHECHNYA

In his message to the Federal Assembly on 3 April, President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow has "succeeded so far" in its campaign in Chechnya, but that it "would be wrong to either speak about marking time in Chechnya or to succumb to euphoria," ITAR-TASS reported. He said the progress made so far did mean that Moscow must now emphasize the construction of power bodies in Chechnya, even though he acknowledged that more violence is likely. Meanwhile, in Moscow, the former acting head of the Chechen temporary administration, Jakub Deniev, returned home after having been kidnapped on 23 March, the news agency said. PG

CHECHEN WEBSITE SAYS RUSSIANS TRADING IN HUMAN ORGANS

The Kavkaz-Tsentr website on 3 April reported that Russian forces appear to be selling internal organs from the bodies of dead Chechens. The site said that bodies exhumed from mass graves in Khankala are in many cases missing internal organs. PG

INGUSHETIA SETS UP RIGHTS COMMISSION

The Ingush government website Magas on 3 April reported that the republic government has set up an interdepartmental commission to protect the rights of citizens, ensure public security, and combat crime and corruption. PG




POWELL CALLS FOR ARMENIAN, AZERBAIJANI COMPROMISE

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in Key West on 3 April called on visiting Armenian President Robert Kocharian and Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev to make "a mutual compromise" in order to settle their dispute over Karabakh, Western agencies reported. Powell added that Washington is "committed to facilitating a mutually acceptable settlement" of the conflict. The two presidents have met 16 times previously without reaching an accord, and Powell suggested that the talks in Florida represent "just one step on a long road." PG

ARMENIA MAKES OVER 3,000 REFUGEES CITIZENS IN FIRST 2 MONTHS OF 2001

The Armenian representation at the United Nations High Commission for Refugees told the Snark news agency on 2 April that Yerevan granted 3,027 Armenian refugees from Azerbaijan citizenship during the first two months of 2001. PG

RUSSIAN OFFICIAL TO MEET CHECHENS IN AZERBAIJAN

Igor Zadvornov, a representative of the Russian ministry for federation affairs, nationality and migration policy, arrived in Baku on 3 April to meet with Azerbaijani officials and also with representatives of the Chechen diaspora there, the Trend news agency reported. PG

AZERBAIJANI POLICE BEAT UP REPORTER

Azerbaijani police beat up Idrak Abbasov, a journalist with the "Impuls" newspaper, when he tried to photograph the police trying to shut down a news kiosk, the Turan news agency reported. Both the newspaper and the kiosk operator protested the action, the news agency said, but police officials told Turan that nothing of the sort had in fact happened. PG

ROGOZIN SAYS GEORGIA 'NOT READY' TO COOPERATE WITH RUSSIA

Speaking in Yerevan, Dmitrii Rogozin, chairman of the Russian Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee, said Georgia is not ready to cooperate with Moscow in combating terrorism either in Chechnya or more generally, Caucasus Press reported on 3 April. "Georgians say they do not want to interfere in the Chechen conflict," Rogozin said, "but this way they stimulate and encourage it." Rogozin said Georgia's efforts to promote integration with NATO are "very short-sighted." PG

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT COMMITTEE AGAINST LEAVING CIS

The Defense and Security Committee of the Georgian parliament on 3 April refused to support a motion calling for Georgia to withdraw from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Iprinda news agency reported. Leaving the CIS, committee Chairman Giorgi Baramidze said, would merely give Moscow politicians a pretext to declare Georgia an enemy. PG

GEORGIA NO LONGER AMONG MOST CORRUPT COUNTRIES

Caucasus Press reported on 3 April that Georgia is no longer included in the World Bank's list of the five most corrupt post-Soviet states. Last year, it was No. 3 on that list, but this year, the top five consists of Azerbaijan, Moldova, Russia, Ukraine, and Latvia, the news agency said. Meanwhile, officials said the new anticorruption council should serve as a recruiting ground for future senior officials, Prime-News reported on 3 April. PG

GEORGIA TO INCREASE PATROLS IN PANKISI GORGE

Georgian internal troops will increase their patrols in the Pankisi gorge near the border with Chechnya as the weather warms and makes it easier for Chechens to pass into that area, Kavkazia-Press reported on 3 April. Meanwhile, Georgian officials denied Russian reports that their country is a transit zone for Chechen militants and that Wahhabism has taken root in the Pankisi gorge area, Caucasus Press and Prime News reported on the same day. PG

CENTRAL ASIAN OPPOSITION ANNOUNCES COORDINATING GROUP

Members of opposition groups from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan announced on 3 April in Almaty that they set up in London last month a Forum of Democratic Forces of Central Asia, Interfax-Central Asia reported. The group includes both collective and individual members, and seeks to consolidate and coordinate the work of opposition political parties across the region. It will also seek to represent these groups at meetings with Western governments. PG

KAZAKHSTAN'S NAZARBAEV APPROVES CAPITAL FLIGHT AMNESTY

President Nursultan Nazarbaev on 3 April signed into law a measure that will at some point this year allow those who have exported capital to avoid taxes, or as part of financial machinations to repatriate the money during a 20-day window without penalty, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. Those charged with major criminal offenses will not be allowed to take part in the amnesty, according to the law. PG

KAZAKH PREMIER UPSET BY ATTITUDE OF WESTERN FIRMS

Prime Minister Kasymzhomart Tokaev said on 3 April that Astana will not tolerate "disrespectful" approaches by Western firms toward Kazakh workers, Interfax-Central Asia reported. Tokaev noted that a recent protest by 5,000 Kazakh workers against managerial attitudes at a Greek-Italian joint venture was the first time in many years that Kazakh workers had reacted to such attitudes, adding that the protesting workers had the government's full support. PG

KAZAKH TUBERCULOSIS DEATHS RISE

Four thousand people in Kazakhstan died from tuberculosis during 2000, 8 percent more than the year before, Information-Blitz reported on 3 April. Currently, there are an estimated 58,000 TB patients in that country, with every tenth prisoner suffering from the disease, local medical officials said. PG

LENIN TAKEN DOWN AT NIGHT IN KAZAKH CITY

Officials in Aktau removed a 15-meter-tall statue of Vladimir Lenin on the night of 2-3 April, Interfax-Central Asia reported on 3 April. City officials had decided to remove Lenin's likeness last summer, but protests by local communists and veterans delayed the removal of the statue. The officials said they acted at night to avoid any further protests. PG

TURKEY TO HELP KYRGYZSTAN FIGHT TERRORISM...

Umer Izgi, speaker of the Turkish parliament, told Kyrgyz deputies on 3 April that Ankara is prepared to help Kyrgyzstan combat international terrorism and to resolve its debts to Turkey, Interfax-Central Asia reported. The parliament then went into closed session to discuss what security officials there said were invasion threats by Islamist groups from Tajikistan. PG

...BUT TAJIKISTAN REJECTS KYRGYZ CHARGES

Amirqul Azimov, secretary of Tajikistan's Security Council, told Information Blitz on 3 April that Kyrgyz charges that Tajikistan has become a staging area for terrorists are simply wrong (see RFE/RL Newsline," 2 April 2001). He said such baseless accusations are intended to "stir up an information war against Tajikistan," rather than to help both countries fight terrorism. PG

TAJIKISTAN POLICE UNCOVER UNDERGROUND COKE PLANT

Officers of the Dushanbe tax police have uncovered an underground soft-drinks factory and arrested the owners for failing to pay taxes on their production, Asia-Plus agency reported on 3 April. In addition to producing imitation Coca-Cola, the factory was also producing counterfeit Pepsi, Fanta, and other international brands. PG

TURKMENISTAN ENDS CONTRACT MILITARY SERVICE

President Saparmurat Niyazov announced that Turkmenistan's security agencies will no longer use contract workers in the uniformed services, Information Blitz reported on 3 April. Officials said contract servicemen are abusing their access to food and other goods. PG

TURKMENISTAN, IRAN SEEK CLOSER TIES

President Niyazov received visiting Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Ahani to discuss Caspian Sea issues and broader cooperation between their two countries, IRNA reported on 3 April. PG




BELARUSIAN PREMIER URGES FOR RUSSIAN INVESTMENT

Prime Minister Uladzimir Yarmoshyn on 3 April called on cabinet ministers "to stimulate work with Russian capital" in order to attract it into the Belarusian economy, Interfax reported. According to Yarmoshyn, the role of Russian capital in Belarus is especially important in view of the lack of Western investment. He said the government needs to privatize state enterprises on a broader scale in order to attract Russian investors. Yarmoshyn also instructed his ministers to switch from barter deals to cash settlements with Russian energy and fuel suppliers in "a maximally brief period of time." He added: "The Russian side categorically demands the elimination of barter in mutual trade, and all our cadres should clearly realize that." JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT RULES OUT RESIGNATION, TALKS WITH OPPOSITION...

Leonid Kuchma on 3 April dismissed any possibility of his resignation or talks with the opposition, which is demanding his ouster, Interfax reported. "I will resign in November 2004 [when his second term ends]," Kuchma told a seminar of regional media representatives in Kyiv. Regarding talks with the opposition, he said: "Do I look so abnormal as to sit at a negotiation table with those insisting on my resignation?" Kuchma confirmed that he has ordered consultations with opposition members, but noted that "nobody knows with whom to hold [those consultations]." JM

...URGES UKRAINIANS TO MOVE BEYOND CRISIS...

Kuchma called the political crisis in Ukraine a "well-planned action" and added that the country needs "to move on." Asked about the drop in Ukraine's image abroad due to the audio tape scandal and the purported murder of independent journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, Kuchma said: "There is nothing to comment about, we need to stand up and go on." JM

...AND DOUBTS TYMOSHENKO'S LEADERSHIP ABILITIES

In a telephone interview with RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service later the same day, Kuchma said he does not believe that former Deputy Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko, now his staunch opponent, can lead Ukraine. "I rule that out as of now. There is no woman on the Olympus [of Ukrainian politics] who could attract attention with positive ideas, with a constructive position, with her work, with her devotedness to Ukraine, and not with her own interests," Kuchma told RFE/RL. JM

BALTIC PRIME MINISTERS PRAISE SWEDISH EU PRESIDENCY...

Rolandas Paksas (Lithuania), Andris Berzins (Latvia), and Mart Laar (Estonia) told their Swedish counterpart Goran Persson in Stockholm on 3 April that their countries are making considerable progress in EU membership negotiations during the first half of this year (during which time Sweden is heading the EU), BNS reported. Persson, however, suggested that they should immediately begin negotiations on the more difficult chapters in the agreement, namely, those on environmental, agricultural, and energy policy, and on freedom of movement. He approved the Baltic states' efforts to maintain pragmatic and apolitical cooperation with Russia, citing the recent visit of Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus to Moscow and Kaliningrad as an example. SG

...BUT OPPOSE GERMAN PROPOSAL BLOCKING FREE CIRCULATION OF LABOR

The three premiers expressed their opposition to a German proposal that would block citizens of Baltic states from working in other EU countries for a seven-year transition period after they join the EU, BNS reported. Paksas said that they opposed any period of transition and that the free movement of labor was "very important economically, politically, and psychologically." Berzins noted: "We don't want the well-educated young people to go to other European countries either. But the freedom of movement is still important." SG

AUSTRIAN FOREIGN MINISTER BEGINS BALTIC STATES TOUR

Benita Ferrero-Waldner on 3 April began in Riga a scheduled three-day visit to the Baltic states by meeting President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, with whom she discussed Latvia's NATO integration and the development of greater economic relations between their countries, BNS reported. Ferrero-Waldner also held talks with Foreign Minister Indulis Berzins, who informed her about Latvia's current presidency of the Council of Europe. The next day, following discussions with Prime Minister Andris Berzins and parliament Chairman Janis Straume, she traveled to Vilnius for meetings with Lithuanian President Vladas Adamkus and Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis. SG

LITHUANIAN TELEVISION AND RADIO DIRECTOR RESIGNS

Vaidotas Zukas resigned as director on 3 April after a vote of no-confidence was proposed at a meeting of the Lithuanian Radio and Television Council, "Lietuvos rytas" reported the next day. Zukas, who was appointed director 15 months ago, had not only failed to reduce the entity's 15 million litas ($3.75 million) debt he inherited when he took over, but had in fact seen the debt increase by 2.4 million litas in the first two months of this year. Lithuanian Television Director Romas Jankauskas and Radio Director Jurate Lauciute submitted their resignations, but Lauciute has been asked to assume the post of acting director until a replacement for Zukas can be found. SG

POLISH GOVERNMENT ALLOWS EUREKO TO TAKE CONTROL OF TOP INSURANCE COMPANY

Treasury Minister Aldona Kamela-Sowinska on 3 April said the Dutch-based financial group Eureko will be allowed to increase its stake in Poland's PZU insurance company to 51 percent from the current 30 percent. "Eureko will have a right to buy a 21 percent stake of PZU in the public offering at a price set in the offering," Reuters quoted Kamela-Sowinska as saying. PZU controls 60 percent of Poland's insurance market. The government and Eureko have clashed repeatedly over PZU since Eureko and its ally BIG Bank Gdanski bought a 30 percent stake for 3 billion zlotys ($730 million) in 1999. The Treasury Ministry tried to nullify the deal last November, saying it had been misled about Eureko's intentions. JM

POLISH FARMERS' LEADER CALLS FOR BOYCOTT OF EU PRODUCTS

Wladyslaw Serafin, head of Farmers' Circles, called on Poles on 3 April to boycott EU-made products, Polish media reported. Serafin made his call in response to the EU-prepared report that puts Poland on the list of countries threatened with mad cow disease (BSE) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April 2001). No BSE case has been confirmed thus far in Poland. Agnieszka Prawdzic, spokeswoman for Poland's Chief Veterinary Office, said the country tests 3 percent of its slaughter cattle for BSE using state-of-the-art procedures. The government has imposed import bans on cattle, beef, beef products, and meat-and-bone fodder in a series of measures in an effort to reduce the risk of BSE infection. Agricultural Minister Artur Balazs pledged to take every step to remove Poland from the EU list of countries at risk of a BSE outbreak. JM

FOUR PARTY COALITION REPLACES POLITICAL COUNCIL MEMBER

The Freedom Union on 3 April decided to appoint its deputy chairman, Petr Mares, as a member of the Four Party Coalition Political Council, CTK reported. Mares replaces Hana Marvanova, who resigned as a member of the nine-member council last weekend, in protest against the lineup of the shadow cabinet. Like former Four Party Coalition leader Cyril Svoboda, Marvanova, who is deputy Freedom Party chairwoman, objected to Miroslav Kalousek's inclusion in that body (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April 2001). MS

CUBAN DIPLOMAT SAYS CZECH RESOLUTION IS 'U.S. RESOLUTION'

Cuban Charge d'Affaires in Prague David Paulovich Escalona on 3 April told journalists that the Czech resolution on Cuban infringements on human rights about to be submitted to the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva is in fact "an American resolution." The diplomat said that if Washington manages to delete from the resolution the part calling for lifting sanctions against Cuba, this would be further evidence of its sponsorship. He also said he has grounds to believe "a Czech promise" that Prague will not sponsor similar resolutions in the future. A Foreign Ministry spokesman confirmed that Foreign Minister Jan Kavan has "unofficially" made that promise, CTK reported. Paulovich played a video tape showing that, during their arrests in Cuba last January, deputy Ivan Pilip and former student activist Jan Bubenik revealed to the authorities a password enabling access to computer data including the names and addresses of dissidents they were about to visit. MS

CZECH, SLOVAK SOLDIERS TO HOLD JOINT EXERCISE

The Czech and Slovak chiefs of ground forces on 3 April signed in Olomouc, northern Moravia, a memorandum on holding joint exercises and cooperation in training. A joint exercise of the two armies' ground forces will be held in Lest, central Slovakia, following one held last year in Libava, Czech Republic. "It is rare for us to have a chance to train with a NATO army without having to face a language barrier," CTK cited General Jozef Blizman, Slovak commander of ground forces, as saying. The Lest exercise will involve the participation of some 1,600 soldiers and will be attended by the two countries' presidents, premiers, defense ministers, and representatives of European armies. MS

TEMELIN OPPONENTS BLOCK AUSTRIAN ROAD

Austrian opponents of the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant on 3 April symbolically blocked for five minutes a road about one kilometer from the Wullowitz/Dvoriste border crossing point, CTK reported. They were protesting against what they regard as the failure to implement an agreement signed in Melk last December by the two countries' heads of government. They said the Melk agreement has turned out to be "nothing but a propaganda trick." MS

CZECH FOREIGN MINISTRY QUESTIONS EU FINDINGS ON BSE RISK

The Foreign Ministry on 3 April said it wants the EU Commission of scientists that included the Czech Republic among countries with a high risk of BSE to "re-evaluate the question," CTK reported. Ministry spokesman Ales Pospisil said the ministry was involved in close cooperation with the Health Ministry and the Czech State Veterinary Administration in preparing "argumentation showing the high level of supervision activities of the State Veterinary Administration and other bodies, which are comparable to the level of EU bodies." Following the EU commission's decision, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, and Switzerland are to stop any beef exports to EU countries. The commission based its findings on these countries having imported large quantities of live cattle and meat-and-bone fodder from EU countries in which BSE was later discovered. MS

GERMAN COURT SENTENCES TERESIENSTADT CRIMINAL

A court of justice in Ravensburg on 3 April sentenced former Nazi SS man Julius Viel to 12 years in prison. He was found guilty of shooting dead several Jewish prisoners in the Teresienstadt (Terezin) ghetto, northern Bohemia, in the spring of 1945, CTK reported. Viel, now 83, denied the charges. MS

SCHUSTER CONTINUES MIDDLE EAST TOUR

President Rudolf Schuster, on the second day of his visit to Lebanon, on 3 April met with Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and Parliamentary Chairman Nabi Bari, CTK and AP reported. Earlier on 3 April, officials from the two countries signed agreements on trade cooperation and on consultation between their respective foreign ministries. Agreements on cooperation in transportation, education, science, culture, arts, and sports are also to be signed before Schuster departs for a visit to Damascus. The Slovak president expressed an interest in his country's participation in the reconstruction of Lebanon. MS

SLOVAK ROMA PARTY REPLACES CHAIRMAN...

At a meeting held at the end of last week, the Romany Civic Initiative (ROI), one of Slovakia's Romany parties, dismissed Gejza Adam as party chairman, replacing him with Milan Mizic, CTK reported on 3 April. Adam has recently boycotted a meeting of Romany parties on grounds of personal rivalries. Mizic said after his election that "there can be no mention about different currents inside the Romany community. There are no two groups, just one former chairman trying to keep his post." ROI representatives said Adam's style has been "authoritarian and thus contrary to democratic principles." MS

...COMPLAINS OFFICIALS ARE TRYING TO SABOTAGE ROMA CENSUS PARTICIPATION

Ladislav Fizik, who heads ROI's Romany Intelligence for Coexistence group that deals with problems related to the forthcoming census, said Slovak Statistical Office Director Peter Mach and Slovak politicians are breaking their promise to appoint members of the Romany community as census commissioners. Fizik said bureaucrats "continue to invent new arguments" against enabling Roma to help conduct the census in the Romany language. This could result in lack of Romany participation in the census and have a negative impact on the community "for another decade," Fizik said. The official census statistics will be used in determining state financing of minority education and cultural projects. In the last census, only about 100,000 people described themselves as Roma, although unofficial estimates point to as many as 500,000 Roma in Slovakia. MS

SLOVAK AGRICULTURE MINISTER REJECTS EU SUSPICION ON BSE

Agriculture Minister Pavol Konkos on 3 April said he was "infuriated" over the suspicion voiced by EU officials on 12 April that BSE may have gone unreported in Slovakia. "It is the same as if I said that the members of the EU expert panel, one or several of them, are infected with AIDS," Konkos commented, adding that in his country "not a single head is slaughtered without a BSE test." He said that contrary to EU claims, the Slovak Veterinary Authority has never allowed Slovak imports of meat-and-bone fodder, which has been linked to the BSE outbreak. MS

HUNGARY PROTESTS EU REPORT ON RISKS OF BSE

Hungary's chief veterinarian, Antal Nemeth, on 3 April strongly criticized the EU's decision to list Hungary among countries where the risk of BSE cannot be ruled out. Nemeth said the decision is "a mistake both from the professional and from the agrarian policy aspects" as no test, including those used in EU countries, has shown any evidence of BSE in Hungary. However, the EU has restricted the import of Hungarian meat products, citing conclusions reached in a study it conducted on the issue. Hungary's meat-processing plants want diplomatic measures to be taken in response to "the EU's discriminatory policy." Meat industry officials pointed out that Hungarian meat-processing plants are already in compliance with stringent EU practices, as they destroy the parts of cattle most likely to be contaminated with BSE, Hungarian media reported. MSZ

FRENCH OFFICIAL CLARIFIES CASE OF HUNGARIAN ROMA REFUGEES

Decisions by the French Refugees Office to grant asylum to Hungarian Roma families do not constitute a negative assessment of Hungary's democracy, French Minister for European Affairs Pierre Moscovici told the Hungarian daily "Nepszabadsag" in Paris on 3 April. Moscovici said the case of Romany families from Zamoly cannot be allowed to negatively influence "excellent" bilateral relations between the two countries. Moscovici added that France recognizes Hungary's efforts to improve the living conditions of Roma, but further measures are needed for their social and economic advancement. MSZ

HUNGARIAN GOVERNMENT ALLOCATES MONEY FOR FLOOD REPAIRS

The cabinet decided on 3 April to allocate 22.8 billion forints ($76 million) from its reserve fund to repair damages caused by recent floods along the Tisza River, Interior Minister Sandor Pinter told reporters. The government will spend 11 billion forints to rebuild houses, 2 billion to repair agricultural damages, and 9 billion to rebuild public roads and bridges. MSZ




BRITAIN'S COOK: TWO TRIALS POSSIBLE FOR SERBIA'S MILOSEVIC

British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told the BBC on 4 April that former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic may first stand trial in Serbia, provided he is then transferred to The Hague. Cook said that "justice will not be complete until Mr. Milosevic stands trial in The Hague for his crimes, not just against the people of Serbia, but also his atrocities against neighbors in Bosnia and Kosovo. I think the trial of Milosevic for his crimes against the Serbian people could be very educational for the Serbian people. They are entitled to know the extent to which he looted their economy. They are entitled to know that he wasn't a great Serb nationalist, [and that] he was an enemy of the Serb people." The foreign minister added that the more the Serbs know about Milosevic, "the more confident I am that they will agree to hand him over for trial for crimes against the other peoples of the former Yugoslavia." PM

HAGUE COURT INSISTS ON IMMEDIATE EXTRADITION

Dropping their patient tone of recent days, several Hague tribunal officials are now stressing that Milosevic must be extradited immediately, Reuters reported from the court on 4 April. Jean-Jacques Joris, who is a political adviser to the chief prosecutor, told reporters that the demand for Milosevic's "transfer is the result of a non-negotiable obligation and it must happen immediately." Stephane Bourgon of the tribunal president's office added that the "Serbian investigations can go on while Mr. Milosevic is here" and are not grounds for delaying the ex-dictator's departure for Holland. PM

EU'S SOLANA: NO PRESSURE ON SERBIA TO EXTRADITE MILOSEVIC

EU security chief Javier Solana told reporters in Athens on 3 April that the Yugoslav leadership is "doing a very good job in running the country and we are not going to put any pressure on them to do anything. They know what they have to do, and they are going to do it," AP reported. The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" wrote, however, that Serbia needs to make a clean break with Milosevic and its nationalist political culture as soon as possible if it is to become a democratic, modern European country. Experiences of other former communist countries suggest that the longer necessary changes are postponed, the more difficult the process will be, the daily added. The paper also warned the international community against being more lenient in its treatment of Serbia than it has been toward neighboring countries. PM

YUGOSLAVIA'S KOSTUNICA: NATO LEADERS TO THE HAGUE

Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica told reporters in Belgrade on 3 April that Milosevic's extradition to The Hague-based war crimes tribunal is not "on my mind" because of the other problems he has to deal with, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April 2001). "The Hague is not at this moment in our thoughts, especially at this point it is not in my thoughts," he said. He repeated his long-standing view -- which is also that of the Milosevic regime -- that the tribunal is anti-Serb and that it should rather indict and try "even the leaders of NATO" countries for their role in the 1999 bombing of Serbia. "If that would come about, we could start thinking about the validity of cooperation with The Hague tribunal," he added. PM

KOSTUNICA BLAMES FOREIGNERS FOR BALKAN PROBLEMS

The Yugoslav president told journalists in Belgrade on 3 April that the Balkan countries have democratic governments that are capable of solving their own problems. "We have a democratic regime in Belgrade. We've got one in Tirana. We've got one in Skopje. We have democratic forces who have won in local elections last October in Kosovo. This is a great democratic potential. There is just one stumbling block: the international community and its organizations and institutions -- KFOR, UNMIK, other international organizations. We have them all, but despite all of that, there is what is undoubtedly a minority, an extremist, militant minority. Those are the ones who have resorted to arms in Macedonia and southern Serbia, for whom human lives in Kosovo have no value." It is not clear whether he accepts that the "democratic regime" in Tirana and the "democratic forces" in Kosova do not trust Serbia and want a NATO presence in the Balkans for the long haul. PM

YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT: BORDERS CANNOT BE CHANGED

Kostunica told reporters in Belgrade on 3 April that "the departure of Montenegro from Yugoslavia, or more precisely put, Montenegro's secession, would mean nothing else but the death of the well-known [1975] Helsinki principles of the inviolability of state borders. This would open up the way for [border] changes which would further destabilize an already unstable region," RFE/RL reported. He added that "the borders of this extraordinarily sensitive region, the Balkans, must be kept strong, inviolable and within the framework of clearly defined, inviolate borders, democratic institutions should be strengthened and the rule of law affirmed, the rights of minorities respected. That's the best way to avoid what burdened this region in the past 10 years and in the past century." Observers note that his remarks are likely to please many in the international community but will be regarded in Kosova and Montenegro as an attempt to prejudge final political settlements there. PM

BOSNIA, CROATIA HAIL MILOSEVIC ADMISSION OF WAR ROLE

The Bosnian Foreign Ministry said in a statement in Sarajevo on 3 April that Milosevic's admission that he funded Serbian rebels in Bosnia and Croatia will help Bosnia in its lawsuit against Serbia in The Hague-based International Court of Justice, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April 2001). The statement added: "This confession will in particular lift the burden from future relations between Bosnia...and...Yugoslavia and make irrelevant debates within international organizations and judicial institutions about Milosevic's involvement in the Bosnian bloodshed. His confession now and for [good] makes many issues indisputable in a legal, political, and moral sense." Several Croatian legal experts also said that Milosevic's admission will help their country in its legal battles against Belgrade, "Republika" reported. PM

MILUTINOVIC QUITS SERBIAN PARTY OFFICES

Serbian President Milan Milutinovic, who is an indicted war criminal, resigned from his posts as vice president and as a member of the governing body of Milosevic's Serbian Socialist Party, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from Belgrade on 3 April. "Vesti" reported that Milutinovic's signature was one of several on the arrest warrant for Milosevic on 30 March. PM

REGIONAL PEACEKEEPERS FOR MACEDONIA?

Officials representing some of the seven members of the Multinational Peace Force South-Eastern Europe (MPFSEE), or South-Eastern Europe Brigade (SEEBRIG), told Reuters in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, on 4 April that the group will patrol the Kosova-Macedonian border if asked to do so. Turkish Brigadier General Hilmi Akin Zorlu said: "If we are ordered by the seven nations, members of the Multinational Peace Force, we are prepared to deploy peacekeeping troops along the Macedonia-Kosovo border to enforce patrols." The 4,000-strong force was set up in 1999 and has not yet been used. It includes Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Macedonia, Romania, and Turkey. PM

ROLE FOR GUERRILLAS IN MACEDONIAN TALKS?

NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson said in Skopje on 3 April that the Atlantic alliance will step up its efforts to disarm paramilitaries in southern Kosova and prevent their infiltration into Macedonia, Hina reported. He added that it is now imperative to speed up the process of political dialogue in order to deny "extremists" any domestic power base. Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski stressed that he will not negotiate "with anybody but legitimate political parties," Reuters reported. The opposition ethnic Albanian Party for Democratic Prosperity (PPD) has called for including the guerrillas in the talks, since the fighters are the reason that the negotiations are taking place at all (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April 2001). The PPD boycotted the latest talks, calling them poorly prepared and without anything new on the agenda. The governing Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH) charged that the PPD is using the crisis "to score political points" and win a place in the government. PM

COUNCIL OF EUROPE WARNS OF DISCRIMINATION IN MACEDONIA

The council's antiracism commission said in a report released in Strasbourg on 3 April that Macedonia "is still a society in which the issues of discrimination and intolerance are not adequately recognized and confronted," AP reported. The study also noted that there is little concrete evidence available on discrimination and racism in Macedonia. The report stressed that "police abuse and violence" continues to be a problem "that disproportionately affects members of minority groups, particularly Albanians and Roma-Gypsies." The study also noted the prevalence of "hate-speech" in much of the Macedonian media. (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report" 27 March 2001). PM

OSCE'S EVERTS SLAMS DISCRIMINATION IN KOSOVA

Daan Everts, who heads the OSCE's mission in Kosova, said in Prishtina on 3 April that the situation of minorities there is "unacceptable" and must be improved, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

MAJOR TRIAL OPENS IN ALBANIAN CAPITAL

The trial of five men suspected of involvement in the killing of opposition politician Azem Hajdari opened in Tirana on 3 April, dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 March 2001). Two of the five are being tried in their absence and are believed to have fled to Kosova. Five additional suspects have been killed in revenge attacks. The opposition said that the leaders of the governing Socialist Party itself belong in the dock as well. PM

HERZEGOVINIAN POLICE BACK HARD-LINERS

Dragan Mandic, who is interior minister in the Herzegovinian Neretva county, and 19 other ethnic Croatian police officials said in a statement in Mostar on 3 April that they support the "Croatian self-administration" announced recently by Ante Jelavic and his Croatian Democratic Community (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 14 March 2001). The police said that the Bosnian federal government is Muslim-dominated and "illegitimate," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. UN police spokesman Douglas Coffman said that UN officials are reviewing possible steps against the 20 police officials. Measures could include permanent loss of their jobs as police, AP reported. PM

TITO-ERA MASS GRAVE FOUND IN CROATIA

Forensic experts are investigating a mass grave found on a construction site in Sibinj in eastern Croatia, Reuters reported on 3 April. The remains of some 30 World War II German soldiers have been recovered so far, and an additional 130 skeletons may be buried there as well, a local community leader said. The remains of the soldiers from the spring 1945 Srijem Front often showed signs of a violent death by beating or assault. Some victims were bound with wire. Mass graves of Axis soldiers or domestic political enemies of the communists have come to light from time to time in Slovenia and Croatia since the fall of communism. Local people generally knew of the sites, but were forced to maintain secrecy while the communists were in power. PM

SLOVENIAN MINISTER SLAMS EU ADMISSION DELAYS

Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel said in Ljubljana on 3 April that "the slowness in the EU's enlargement is causing frustration among would-be member [states] and their people," AP reported. He noted that he and his visiting Finnish counterpart, Erkki Tuomioja, had "different estimates" as to when the EU might accept new members. Rupel said that Slovenia hopes to join the EU in 2003, but Tuomioja said that 2005 might be more realistic. PM

ROMANIAN PRIVATIZATION MINISTER MEDIATES RESITA CONFLICT

Privatization Minister Ovidiu Musatescu on 4 April began in Resita what he calls a "mediation attempt" between union leaders and representatives of the U.S.-based Nobel Ventures company, which owns the Resita CSR steelmaker. Some 2,000 protesting workers on 3 April agreed to evacuate a major highway that they had blocked after Musatescu promised to come to Resita accompanied by the owners' representatives. He also said the workers "are right" in accusing the company of failing to respect its contractual obligations under the privatization deal, but added that "conflicts are not solved on the street " (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April 2001). MS

CLUJ MAYOR TO MAKE 'HISTORIC VISIT'

Extreme nationalist Cluj Mayor Gheorghe Funar has accepted an invitation of Gyula Mayor Laszlo Dancs to visit the Hungarian town, Mediafax reported on 3 April, citing Dancs. The Hungarian mayor invited Funar to witness first-hand the situation of the Romanian ethnic minority in Gyula, after Funar, who is also secretary-general of the Greater Romania Party, said that the law granting members of the Hungarian minority the right to education in their native tongue should have been postponed until ethnic Romanians in Gyula schools can study in their own language and "freely talk in Romanian on Hungarian streets." MS

ROMANIAN ROYAL FAMILY CONFLICT MAKES HEADLINES

The press office of former King Michael I, in a statement released on 3 April, said "any public or private usage of the title Prince or Royal Highness when making reference to Mircea Grigore Lambrino and his descendants is an abuse and will always meet with the Royal House's disapproval," Mediafax reported. Mircea Horia Lambrino has asked the Supreme Court of Justice to recognize him as eligible to a share of the royal family's property. Lambrino is the great-grandson of King Carol II, Michael's father, whose marriage to Zizi Lambrino in 1918 was declared invalid by the Royal House. The former monarch will visit Romania next month and will be received by President Ion Iliescu. MS

PCM SAYS TRANSDNIESTER SOLUTION NECESSITATES CHANGING TIRASPOL LEADERSHIP

The Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) believes that a solution to the Transdniester conflict will arise "when not only the leadership in Chisinau, but also that in Tiraspol has changed," Victor Stepaniuc, PCM parliamentary group leader said on 3 April. He said that the February 2001 elections had ousted in Chisinau "those guilty for the 1992 war" and it is now the turn of those who carry the same guilt in Tiraspol "to go into history," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Russia, he said, has "finally understood that the Tiraspol regime is illegal" and that Moscow must choose between "Moldova's sovereignty and Transdniester's independence." "It seems that Russia will opt for the former and Tiraspol will have to act accordingly," he said. MS

HUMAN FLESH SOLD ON MOLDOVA MARKET

Officials in Chisinau on 3 April said two people had been arrested on suspicion of having attempted to sell human remains from a hospital as dog meat, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Two beggars were detained late last week at a market with two bags of "suspicious meat," which tests later proved to be human remains. Police believe the remains had been dumped in a municipal litter bin near a hospital that specializes in the treatment of cancer. The hospital "suspended" on suspicion of "negligence" one of its employees. MS

BULGARIA TO ALLOW DEPLOYMENT OF U.S. PLANES?

Bulgaria and the U.S. are discussing the possible deployment of unmanned U.S. reconnaissance planes at some Bulgarian military airports, Reuters reported on 3 April. Defense Minister Boiko Noev said he "can confirm that we are working with colleagues from the Pentagon on this issue." He said the stationing of the aircraft in Bulgaria "is dictated mostly by the situation to the west of Bulgaria" and that "U.S. military is [already] supplying intelligence information from these aircraft to the Macedonian military for their operations against terrorists" from logistics bases of KFOR peacekeeping forces in Macedonia itself. Noev said it was not immediately clear if the agreement would be part of the memorandum with NATO, due to be ratified by the parliament this week and which would allow peacekeeping troops to cross into Bulgaria in the event of a crisis. MS

BULGARIA, GREECE OPPOSE CHANGING BALKAN BORDERS

Bulgarian Premier Ivan Kostov and his Greek counterpart Kostas Simitis on 3 April agreed that ethnic Albanian insurgents in Macedonia must not be allowed to pursue the formation of a Greater Albania and that the region's borders must not change, AP reported. Meeting in Thessaloniki, Greece, the two premiers discussed the possibility of deploying units of the nascent Multinational Peace Force for Southeastern Europe along the border between Macedonia and Kosova, if the UN provides a mandate for such action. The force was established in 1999 and has its headquarters in Plodviv, Bulgaria. It includes soldiers from Albania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Romania along with NATO members Greece, Italy, and Turkey. MS

ETHNIC TURKISH PARTY FEARS FORGERY IN BULGARIAN ELECTIONS

Ahmed Dogan, leader of the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedom told President Petar Stoyanov on 3 April that the OSCE and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe should be invited to monitor the parliamentary elections scheduled for 17 June. Dogan said his formation suspects possible electoral forgery by the ruling Union of Democratic Forces. Parliamentary Speaker Yordan Sokolov has already rejected the proposal to invite foreign observers, the English-language daily "Monitor" reported. Stoyanov is consulting representatives of the parliamentary formations ahead of the elections. MS




FACING THE FACTS IN CHECHNYA


By Paul Goble

A senior Russian Duma deputy argues that Moscow can achieve its ends in Chechnya not through a counterterrorist action alone, but only if it ends human rights abuses there and succeeds in persuading the Chechens that they will be better off as part of Russia.

In an article published in Moscow's "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 3 April, Konstantin Kosachev, the deputy chairman of the Duma Foreign Affairs Committee and the deputy leader of the Fatherland-All Russia faction, argued that Moscow has been making a fundamental mistake in how it addresses Chechnya and must change course before it is too late.

According to Kosachev, who recently visited the North Caucasus, Moscow has had two choices throughout the 1990s as to how to respond to those Chechens who seek independence. It could seek to "physically destroy" Chechen leaders who want independence, or it could persuade people there that "it is better for Chechnya to remain part of Russia than to strive for independence."

Unfortunately, Kosachev continues, Moscow has at each point "preferred to send in the troops," adding that "this method failed us in 1995 and 1996, and God forbid it should fail us again now." He suggests further that "glowing reports about the military and its triumphant march across Chechnya are just wishful thinking." Consequently, he argues, the Russian government must re-examine its approach.

To do so, Kosachev said, requires that Moscow recognize that "the people of Chechnya have serious grievances against federal troops." And the Russian government must also recognize that the "lack of central command and coordinated effort as well as lack of personal accountability have affected the effectiveness of the regular army in Chechnya."

But even putting the security services in charge has done little to improve the situation because officials there are rotated so often that they do not develop the contacts and expertise needed to do their jobs. And as a result, Kosachev continues, "the counter-terrorist operation in its present form is pointless."

Many people, including Union of Rightist Forces leader Boris Nemtsov, are advocating new tactics, Kosachev said, but all of their plans have the same basic flaw. That is, they are designed to be "forced on the people of Chechnya" by Moscow, rather than being the expression of what the Chechens themselves want. He further said that Moscow can only count on the Chechens wanting to remain inside Russia if Moscow changes its approach.

To win over the hearts and minds of the Chechens, Kosachev argues, Moscow must devote more attention to what he called "the process of post-war restoration," centralizing Russian control over aid distribution and providing dramatically more assistance to the Chechen people.

The Chechen people, he said, "will start siding with the federal government when it sees that new schools and hospitals are built in place of the destroyed ones, when it sees that all this is not the result of lobbyist efforts but a deliberate choice and a sincere intention on the part of the political leadership in Moscow."

Kosachev's analysis flows from both criticism this week by an international human rights group concerning human rights violations by Russian forces and a statement last week by President Vladimir Putin that the Russian reconstruction effort in the North Caucasus is not going well.

But it goes significantly beyond both. And as a result, Kosachev's argument is likely to be challenged by some because it appears to rest on three implicit assumptions, all of which are likely to be viewed by many as highly problematic.

First, to succeed, Kosachev's proposal requires that Moscow be willing to admit its own past mistakes, to address rather than deny charges of human rights abuses by its own forces, and to provide significantly more assistance to the Chechens with whom it has been locked in a battle for most of the last decade. None of those things now appears to be much in evidence.

Second, his proposal can succeed only if sufficient number of Chechens are in fact prepared to accept such a shift in Moscow's approach as genuine. The record of the last decade suggests that even the most war-weary Chechens are likely to be skeptical.

And third, his proposal also assumes that those Chechens who have been fighting for their independence over the last decade will be willing to view such a shift as something more than a recognition by Moscow that it has been losing the conflict on the ground. If the Chechens do not do so, they may simply redouble their efforts.

If even one of these assumptions proves false, Kosachev's call for a new realism about Chechnya could have just the opposite impact he intends, sparking a wider war rather than bringing that conflict closer to resolution.


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