Accessibility links

Newsline - May 17, 2002


PUNDIT POSITIVE ABOUT NATO, BUT SKEPTICAL ON CIS COLLECTIVE SECURITY...
The head of the influential Council for Foreign and Defense Policy (SVOP), Sergei Karaganov, told "Gazeta" on 16 May that he hopes Russia's cooperation with NATO will forge a new alliance that will help his country face its security threats and avoid conflict with NATO, even if Russia cannot prevent the expansion of the alliance. However, Karaganov does not believe in the future of the CIS Collective Security Treaty (DKB), of which Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan are signatories. The upgrading of the DKB this week to a military-political alliance (see "RFE/RL "Newsline," 14 May 2002) cannot evolve into a CIS "Warsaw Pact" or serve as a counterbalance to NATO, Karaganov said. "I am skeptical about the DKB. It has not worked before, and I do not understand why it should work now," he concluded. VY

...AS RUSSIA AND CHINA DISCUSS MILITARY AND TECHNICAL COOPERATION
Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said after talks on 16 May with Chinese Defense Minister Chi Haotian, who arrived in Moscow for a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (see "RFE/RL Newsline 15 May), that contacts between the two defense agencies are "a crucial part of bilateral relations," RIA-Novosti reported. Ivanov added that the two discussed issues of mutual interest and agreed that Ivanov would visit China for a session of the joint military technical commission that he co-chairs. VY

PROSECUTOR-GENERAL ORDERED TO TIGHTEN MEASURES AGAINST 'FASCISM'
Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov on 16 May signed a directive ordering his office to enhance prosecutors' supervision over the enforcement of laws against "fascism and other forms of extremism," Russian news agencies reported the same day. In particular, Ustinov demanded an "immediate reaction to any signs or manifestations of fascism and other forms of political and religious extremism." He also ordered prosecutors "to expose and prevent the bankrolling of any type of radical organizations." It is worth recalling that none other than President Vladimir Putin was the first instigator of an "anti-extremism" campaign in Russia. In 1998, Putin -- then the director of the Federal Security Service (FSB) -- was appointed to head the inter-agency commission to combat extremism created by then-President Boris Yeltsin. VY

ONE VERSION OF THE ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT AGAINST SMOLENSK OBLAST DEPUTY GOVERNOR...
An unknown gunman fired shots into the car of Smolensk Oblast Deputy Governor Anatolii Makarenko on 16 May, killing Makarenko's driver and slightly wounding the deputy governor and his bodyguard, Russian news agencies reported the same day. In an interview with "Izvestiya," Makarenko linked the incident with the gubernatorial election to be held in the oblast on 19 May and accused General Viktor Maslov, chief of the territorial directorate of the FSB, of organizing the attempt on his life. Makarenko said that Maslov, who is the most serious opponent of incumbent Governor Aleksandr Prokhorov's re-election bid, previously warned Makarenko to stop supporting Prokhorov. "The local FSB is headed by a criminal," Makarenko said. VY

...AND ANOTHER VERSION OF THE SAME
Meanwhile, Andrei Pashkevish, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry in the Central Federal District, told "Izvestiya" that investigators on the case were looking into possible motives stemming from the facts that Makarenko oversees economic matters in Prokhorov's administration and that he previously worked as the general director of a local liquor factory. VY

AMERICANS IN NO HURRY TO INVEST IN RUSSIA
Members of a delegation of major U.S. investors from the Russell 20-20 Association visiting Russia this week said that they were favorably impressed with the progress of economic reforms, but are still not ready to invest their funds in the Russian economy, "Kommersant-Daily" and "Vedomosti" reported on 15 May. The group -- which together manages $8 trillion in assets -- stressed that Russia is still crippled by poor corporate management, a weak banking system, and an underdeveloped fund market. VY

RUSSIA TO LAUNCH MORE THAN 30 NEW SATELLITES THIS YEAR
Russia intends to launch more than 30 satellites from its launch sites at Baikonur and Plesetsk by the end of the year, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 May, citing a spokesman for the Russian Space Defense Forces. The source said that more than 10 military satellites will be launched and that the Rosaviakosmos group is scheduled to put more than 20 commercial satellites into orbit. He also said that a new reentry vehicle will be tested in July and that the Babakin Space Research Institute will launch an experimental spacecraft in October or November. RC

LEFT LASHES OUT ON ARMS-CUTS ACCORD
Russia's left-wing opposition have issued strong statements condemning this week's announcement of a new strategic-arms limitation pact between the United States and Russia, Russian and Western news agencies reported on 16 May. The People's Patriotic Union of Russia and the Communist Party are demanding that Moscow reverse its pledge to sign the treaty, with Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov calling the agreement a "large-scale national treachery," according to ITAR-TASS. Zyuganov, who also heads the People's Patriotic Union, told a press conference that his faction will introduce a no-confidence resolution in the State Duma over the matter, according to AP. The statements represented some of the sharpest criticism yet faced by President Putin, whose approval rating is over 60 percent. RC

DUMA GIVES INITIAL NOD TO SALE OF AGRICULTURAL LAND...
State Duma deputies approved on 16 May in its first reading the government version of a bill regulating the buying and selling of agricultural land. The vote was 256 in favor with 143 against and one abstention, according to Interfax. Six other versions of the bill were offered but the Fatherland-All Russia faction withdrew its bill before the vote, as did Deputy Adrian Puzanovskii (People's Deputy), and the government bill won the most support. As expected, the Communist Party faction and Agro-Industrial group voted against the legislation, after unsuccessfully trying to persuade their colleagues that agricultural land should be leased but never bought and sold, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 17 May. First Deputy Property Relations Minister Dmitrii Aratskii argued that ownership rather than leasing will bring in more money for regional budgets. He also argued that it is necessary to create "civilized conditions" regarding land in order to attract investment. JAC

...TO FOREIGNERS, RESIDENTS WHO WILL USE LAND TO FARM
Under the bill, it is forbidden to buy agricultural land and then use it for another purpose. In addition, foreign citizens are prohibited from buying agricultural land near border areas. This limitation is already stipulated in the Land Code, according to "Kommersant-Daily." In addition, regions cannot set a limit of less than 35 percent on the amount of total agricultural land in a given area that can be owned by a single person or entity. JAC

PUTIN SUMS UP CONDITIONS IN RUSSIAN SOUTH...
At a meeting with the heads of regions in the Southern Federal District on 16 May, President Putin declared that despite such advantages as fertile soil, closeness to foreign markets, and a large labor pool, the economy of the southern district continues to stagnate, Interfax reported. "The unemployment rate is still high, industrial production is not growing, and the shadow economy is not shrinking," he said. Putin attributed part of the problem to regional leaders' failure to work together. Putin recalled that the federal districts were created not only to ensure effective administration. "Their purpose is to unite efforts -- not only for managing crises, including those caused by immigration -- but also for effective planning.... There should be joint programs for creating jobs, joint social projects," Putin said. According to Interfax, he also said the same day that "the apparatus of the presidential envoys to the federal districts, the directors of district security structures, MVD [Interior Ministry], FSB, and regional prosecutor should closely coordinate their work." JAC

...AS STATISTICS SHOW GROWING NUMBER OF CRIMINAL GROUPS AND FEW DIVORCES
Also on 16 May, Sergei Vorontsov, head of the FSB Directorate for Rostov Oblast, told "Nezavisimaya gazeta" that the southern district represents a crossroads of sorts for international criminal groups. According to Vorontsov, the number of armed criminal formations in the district has increased 3.6 times since 1994, while the number of bandit formations has almost doubled. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 16 May, the southern district has the strongest families in Russia if measured in terms of lowest number of divorces over the past several years. For every 1,000 people in the district there are 4.8 divorces compared with more than six in St. Petersburg, according the State Statistics Committee data. JAC

TV-6 DEBUT COULD BE DELAYED
After a meeting on 16 May with Media Minister Mikhail Lesin, Media Sotsium General Director Oleg Kiselev told Interfax that the company may start broadcasting on channel six in late May or early June. Kiselev said that the ministry and company are bringing their positions "closer together," and the company may initially have only temporary permission to broadcast. The station was previously expected to come back on the air on 26 May, but the Media Ministry refused to give the new company a new broadcasting license until after the existing one has been annulled, vesti.ru reported. According to the website, complications arose because the proprietor, Moscow Independent Broadcasting Corporation (MNVK), has not yet been liquidated legally. JAC

NEW SENATOR CONFIRMED
On 16 May, the Omsk Oblast legislature selected Valentin Chernyavskii to represent it in the upper legislative chamber, Interfax-Eurasia reported. Chernyavskii was a deputy interior minister under then-Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo, according to Omsk's "Kommercheskie Vesti" on 6 May. JAC

SIBERIAN REGION PREPARES TO CELEBRATE FATHERS' DAY
In response to a request from the public organization Crisis Center for Men in Barnaul, the Altai Krai government has announced that the region will be one of the first regions in Russia to celebrate Fathers' Day, Interfax-Eurasia reported. According to the center, Russia has been celebrating Mothers' Day since 1998, and the absence of a holiday devoted to fathers is unjust. The actual date for the celebration of fathers has not yet been selected. JAC

WRESTLER, LEGISLATOR, DOCTOR
Three-time Olympic Greco-Roman wrestling champion and State Duma Deputy Aleksandr Karelin (Unity) has become a doctor of pedagogical science, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 16 May. Karelin defended his dissertation on 14 May at St. Petersburg's Academy of Physical Culture. According to agency, Karelin worked on his dissertation, titled "A System of Integral Preparation for High-Qualified Wrestlers," for some nine years. Meanwhile, on 15 May the Russian government adopted a resolution that reforms the procedure for receiving the rank of professor and assistant professor, "Izvestiya" reported on 16 May. JAC

PUTIN BROADENS CHECHEN LEADER'S POWERS
Speaking in Sochi on 16 May at the meeting of heads of regions belonging to the Southern Federal District, Putin said he has signed a decree empowering the head of the Chechen administration to appoint government ministers and district administrators on his own initiative without first obtaining the approval of presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District Viktor Kazantsev, Russian agencies reported. But "Vremya novostei" on 17 May quoted Chechen Prime Minister Stanislav Ilyasov as saying that administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov has in fact been doing so for months, and Putin's new decree merely formalizes the status quo. Putin also said that he considers economic reconstruction in Chechnya one of the most important tasks facing the Southern Federal District, and its fulfillment would improve the situation throughout the entire district. LF

EIGHT CHECHENS DETAINED IN SEARCH OPERATION
Russian forces have detained eight Chechens during a "sweep" of the village of Avtury in Shali Raion, southeast of Grozny, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported on 16 May. Also on 16 May, Interfax reported that three houses were destroyed and one resident injured in an artillery attack on the village of Alkhazurovo in Urus-Martan Raion southwest of Grozny. Meanwhile, "Kommersant-Daily" on 15 May cast doubts on the accuracy of an Al-Jazeera television broadcast claiming that Chechen fighters have executed an Avar from Daghestan named Ibragim Alauri for the murder of field commander Khattab (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 May 2002). Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov's spokesman Mairbek Vachagaev denied any knowledge of any Avar with that name, or of his involvement in Khattab's death. LF

U.S. NAMES ARMENIAN COMPANY SUSPECTED OF ILLICIT TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER TO IRAN
The U.S. State Department on 16 May named one Armenian company and one businessman subjected to sanctions for allegedly supplying to Iran equipment or technology that could be used in the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. They are apparently the Lizin chemical plant in Charentsavan, north of Yerevan, and its owner, Armen Sargsian, the younger brother of murdered Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsian. Lizin has for years manufactured an eponymous beet-based biochemical substance used as an additive to animal fodder, but which can also be used to produce proteins that increase resistance to nuclear radiation. Lizin did not feature in the list of Armenian exports to Iran last year. But a former government official told RFE/RL that the company's "unique" equipment was dismantled and sold to Iran last year, and that this could not have been done without the government's knowledge. LF

COUNCIL OF EUROPE ASSESSES ARMENIAN PROGRESS...
Members of a visiting Council of Europe delegation told journalists in Yerevan on 16 May following talks with President Robert Kocharian that they are concerned by a slowdown in Armenia's implementation of pledges it made on admission to full membership of the council, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Delegation head Pietro Ercole Ago singled out the failure to amend the country's constitution; to enact several laws aimed at the democratization of its political system, including new election legislation; and to formally abolish the death penalty. Ago also said that he does not consider the present deadlock in the Karabakh conflict to be in Armenia's interest. He quoted Kocharian as saying that he is searching for a solution to the conflict, but that the time is not yet ripe, and as complaining that Azerbaijan consistently rejects all "confidence-building measures" that Armenia proposes. LF

...AS PRESIDENT UNDERTAKES TO HELP INDEPENDENT TV STATION RESUME BROADCASTING
Ago also told journalists that his group conveyed to the Armenian leadership its concern that the tender last month that stripped the independent television station A1+ of its frequency "prevents the opposition from using the media to express its views," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 3 April 2002). He said that the council has reached an understanding with Kocharian that its experts will work with the Armenian side to ensure that when new frequencies are allocated A1+ "can successfully participate in those tenders." LF

ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT DELEGATION POSTPONES TRIP TO KRASNODAR
A 15-18 May visit by Armenian parliament deputies to Krasnodar Krai has been postponed at the request of the Krai's leadership, according to Armenian news agencies cited on 16 May by Groong. The Armenian parliamentarians planned to assess the situation of Armenians living in Krasnodar in the light of Governor Aleksandr Tkachev's recently launched campaign to expel illegal immigrants (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April 2002). A spokesman for Tkachev told the Armenian delegation that the governor would not be able to met with them as their visit coincided with that by Russian President Vladimir Putin to Russia's Southern Federal District (see "Russia" above). LF

U.S. CASPIAN ENVOY VISITS AZERBAIJAN
Steve Mann held talks in Baku on 16 May with Azerbaijan's President Aliev and oil-sector officials on unspecified minor obstacles to the planned Baku-Ceyhan oil-export pipeline and approaches to dividing the Caspian Sea between the five littoral states, Interfax and Turan reported. Mann commended the "realistic approach" demonstrated by Russia, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan to dividing the sea into sectors. Russia and Kazakhstan have just signed an agreement demarcating their respective sectors (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 May 2002), and Aliev reaffirmed on 16 May that Azerbaijan and Russia will probably do the same next month. Mann stressed that the dispute between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan over ownership of two Caspian oil fields can and must be resolved through negotiations. LF

GEORGIAN INTELLIGENCE CHIEF WARNS THAT ABKHAZ-RUSSIAN OFFENSIVE IN KODORI IS IMMINENT...
Avtandil Ioseliani claimed on 16 May that some 4,000 Abkhaz "guerrillas" are concentrated in the lower reaches of the Kodori Gorge and plan with help from former Russian servicemen to launch an attack on the upper, Georgian controlled reaches of the gorge at some point between 16-20 May, Caucasus Press reported. Ioseliani said that Russian officers arrived in Sukhum in April to help draw up the plans for that offensive, which he suggested was intended to disrupt the U.S. "Train and Equip" program for the selected Georgian military units. LF

...WHILE ABKHAZ, RUSSIAN SPOKESMEN DENY IT...
In Moscow, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Colonel Nikolai Deryabin dismissed Ioseliani's claim of an imminent offensive as "absolutely groundless," Interfax reported. He added that the Russian peacekeeping force deployed under the CIS aegis in the Abkhaz conflict zone acts in strict compliance with its mandate. In Sukhum, Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba said Georgia, not Abkhazia, is to blame for any deterioration of the situation in Kodori as it has consistently refused to comply with Abkhazia's repeated demand that it withdraw its forces from the upper reaches of the gorge. LF

...AND GEORGIAN DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS SITUATION 'NORMAL'
Georgian Defense Minister Lieutenant General David Tevzadze implicitly contradicted Ioseliani by telling journalists in Tbilisi on 16 May that there are "no outward signs" to suggest that the situation is as serious as Ioseliani suggested, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported. He explained that the Abkhaz armed forces had conducted training exercises near the gorge on 14 May. Those maneuvers were originally scheduled to last for three days, according to Abkhaz Deputy Defense Minister Garri Kupalba on 14 May, but the second and third days were cancelled. Meanwhile, UN observers and Russian peacekeepers began a scheduled joint patrol of the Kodori Gorge on the morning of 16 May. LF

NEW ABKHAZ DEFENSE MINISTER APPOINTED
Raul Khadjimba, who is first deputy premier and head of Abkhazia's Security Service, was named defense minister on 16 May, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. he succeeds Vladimir Mikanba, who held that post since 1996 and is resigning on health grounds. LF

IAEA TO HELP GEORGIA FIND, COPE WITH RADIOACTIVE MATERIALS
During talks in Tbilisi on 15 May between Georgian President Shevardnadze and the visiting director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, agreement was reached that the IAEA will help train 60 Georgian specialists who will then comb selected districts of western Georgia on foot to search for radioactive substances left behind by the former Soviet Army, Caucasus Press reported. LF

KAZAKH PARLIAMENT PROLONGS AGREEMENT WITH U.S. ON DESTROYING MISSILE SILOS
The Senate -- the upper chamber of Kazakhstan's parliament -- voted on 16 May to extend for an unspecified period the agreement signed with the United States in 1993 on the destruction of ICBM silos and on nuclear nonproliferation, Russian news agencies reported. Kazakh Army Chief of General Staff Malik Saparov told journalists in February that all nuclear warheads on Kazakh territory at the time of the collapse of the USSR were returned to Russia by the end of 1995. He said a total of 147 missiles silos have been destroyed; six remain at the Leninsk testing ground in Kyzyl-Orda Oblast, according to Interfax on 21 February. LF

KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT UPPER CHAMBER RATIFIES BORDER ACCORD WITH CHINA...
The Senate voted on the morning of 17 May in the presence of President Askar Akaev to ratify the 1999 border agreement under which Kyrgyzstan cedes 95,000 hectares of territory to China, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The Senate had twice failed on 13 May to ratify the accord; only 21 of 36 deputies present voted in favor of doing so (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 May 2002). On 17 May, 30 of the 45 deputies (the required two-thirds majority) approved the agreement. LF

...AFTER POLICE DETAIN DEMONSTRATORS...
Police in Bishkek on the morning of 16 May forcibly detained 87 people who were picketing the parliament building to protest the border agreement, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The detainees include prominent human rights activists Ramazan Dyryldaev and Tursunbek Akunov, several opposition politicians, and an RFE/RL correspondent who was subsequently released. Meeting later the same day, the Legislative Assembly (the lower parliament chamber) appealed to Interior Minister Temirbek Akmataliev to release the detainees, which he refused to do. Three international human rights organizations -- the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, the Paris-based Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, and the Geneva-based International Organization Against Torture -- all issued statements on 16 May condemning the arrests. LF

...AND FORMER DEFENSE MINISTER WARNS OF THREAT OF CIVIL WAR
Addressing the Legislative Assembly on 16 May, Myrzakan Subanov, who currently chairs the assembly's Defense Committee, warned that the ongoing mass demonstrations to protest the border agreement with China and to demand Akaev's resignation and the release of former Vice President Feliks Kulov may escalate into civil war, Russian agencies reported. He said President Akaev should "postpone all scheduled official meetings" and meet with deputies from both parliament chambers to discuss what "radical steps" are needed to stabilize the situation. Interior Minister Akmataliev, whose men opened fire on protesters in southern Kyrgyzstan in March, killing five people, pledged that the police will do everything possible to maintain law and order, according to Interfax. LF

NGOS ASK EBRD TO PEG UZBEK MEETING TO HUMAN RIGHTS PROGRESS
More than 50 NGOS from 24 countries that are shareholders in the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) have written to the bank's president, Jean Lemierre, asking him to pressure the Uzbek leadership to make "concrete progress" on improving the human rights situation before holding its annual meeting in Tashkent in 2003, according to a Human Rights Watch press release of 17 May. "Holding such a high-level gathering in Tashkent without requiring anything in exchange will send the wrong message to the Uzbek leadership, which will be able to flag it as an endorsement of its repressive policies," the statement quoted HRW's Elizabeth Andersen as saying. LF

BELARUSIAN COURT AGAIN POSTPONES TRIAL OF JOURNALISTS
Citing a prosecutor's illness, Judge Tatsyana Klimava on 16 May adjourned the hearing of the case in a court in Hrodna against journalists Mikola Markevich and Pavel Mazheyka, who are accused of slandering President Alyaksandr Lukashenka (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April 2002), Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Klimava had already rescheduled the hearing twice, on 9 April and 3 May. As on the two previous occasions, a large group of journalists and foreign diplomats arrived in Hrodna to attend the trial. Markevich believes the authorities intend to wear observers out in a bid to reduce publicity of the trial. "This is an illness of the Belarusian judicial system," Markevich told RFE/RL. "The main reason for postponing the trial was the attendance of a great number of people and international observers from the embassies of the United States, Great Britain, the Czech Republic, and Poland," he added. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT REMAINS WITHOUT LEADERSHIP
The Verkhovna Rada on 17 May adjourned the ongoing session until 21 May without having elected a speaker and two deputy speakers, UNIAN reported. The Communist Party wants the speaker to be from its ranks, while United Ukraine has announced that it will support only a "leadership package" in which United Ukraine leader Volodymyr Lytvyn is proposed for the post of parliamentary leader. According to the "Ukrayinska pravda" website, Our Ukraine led by Viktor Yushchenko is ready to support any candidacy for speaker provided that other caucuses will agree to endorse Our Ukraine's "extended package" that envisions "radical changes of the power structure at all levels." JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SLAMS CABINET FOR POOR CHORNOBYL FUNDING
President Leonid Kuchma on 16 May criticized cabinet members for allocating insufficient funds for Chornobyl-related expenses in this year's budget, UNIAN reported. According to Kuchma, the 2002 budget provides for 220 million hryvni ($41 million) to be spent on the maintenance of facilities of the closed Chornobyl plant, which covers only some 60 percent of actual needs. Kuchma also criticized the way international funds have been spent, saying that donor governments have claimed that Ukraine does not fulfill its obligations to fund Chornobyl problems appropriately. JM

ESTONIAN CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS INITIATED
Seventy-four parliament deputies expressed support on 16 May for a bill proposing amendments to the constitution necessary for the state to become a member of the European Union, BNS reported. They represented all the parties in the parliament except the People's Union, whose chairman Villu Reiljan said that his party is not opposed to the EU in principle, but regrets that the negotiators failed to gain advantageous conditions in entry discussions. The bill consists of three parts, the first of which declares that Estonia may accede to the EU. The second states that when Estonia is a member of the EU its constitution will be applied with consideration of the rights and obligations arising from the accession agreement. The third article declares that the act can be amended only in a referendum. The bill must still be passed by parliament and approved in a referendum, which will probably be held simultaneously with a vote on the country's entry into the EU. SG

LATVIA OVERTURNS DECISION ON CONSTRUCTION OF ICE HOCKEY ARENA
The organizing committee for the 2006 Ice Hockey World Championship in Riga, headed by Prime Minister Andris Berzins, decided on 15 May to overturn its decision of 15 April selecting the Swiss company "IMS Studio 6" to build the new hockey arena necessary to hold the event, LETA reported the next day. The decision was prompted by the failure of the company to submit a draft contract on time. The committee also decided that it will only act as a supervisory institution in the future, which in effect delegates the Latvian Ice Hockey Federation (LHF) to decide which company will construct the arena. In an interview on Latvian State Radio, Finance Minister Gundars Berzins criticized the committee's decision to entrust the LHF with selecting the contractor for the arena and affirmed that the construction will definitely require state financial support. SG

BANK OF LITHUANIA REJECTS LARGE INVESTMENT IN SNORAS BANK
The board of the Bank of Lithuania rejected the request by French citizen Jean-Philippe Iliesco de Grimaldi to acquire a new 1.2 billion litas ($315 million) share issue of Snoras Bank, BNS reported. If the issue had been approved Snoras would have risen from the fourth-largest commercial bank in Lithuania to the first in the Baltic states. Earlier that day, State Security Department General Director Mecys Laurinkus told a news conference that some persons involved in the planned Snoras investment had direct ties with Russian and international organized crime groups. However, he stressed that his words linking the investment with international organized crime did not apply to de Grimaldi. Bank of Lithuania Chairman Reinoldijus Sarkinas said that the board unanimously decided to reject the request because the submitted documents failed to prove that the money was obtained lawfully and that its origin was legal. SG

POLISH GOVERNMENT MOVES TO RENATIONALIZE SHIPYARD
The government is going to take control over the privatized Szczecin shipyard in order to save it from bankruptcy, Polish media reported on 16 May. Following a meeting with representatives of the shipyard's management, creditors, and trade unions, Premier Leszek Miller announced that the State Treasury -- which now holds a 10 percent stake in the shipyard -- will take over a 35 percent stake currently controlled by Grupa Przemyslowa, a group of private entrepreneurs serving as the yard's board of directors. "We want to help, but this must be associated with an increase of responsibility and ownership of the State Treasury," State Treasury Minister Wieslaw Kaczmarek said. Banks, to which the shipyard owes more than $400 million, reportedly agreed to grant the shipyard a short-term loan of $40 million. The Szczecin shipyard is Europe's third-largest shipbuilder, with orders worth $1.2 billion. JM

POLISH PRESIDENT TO REFUSE TO ATTEND CEMETERY OPENING IN LVIV
President Aleksander Kwasniewski has announced that he will not travel to Lviv on 21 May for the planned ceremonial opening of the renovated Polish military cemetery (Lviv Eaglets Cemetery), PAP reported on 17 May. Kwasniewski said the conditions for conducting the opening in a "dignified manner" do not exist. The preceding day, deputies of the Lviv City Council rejected Polish proposals regarding the main inscription at the cemetery and the reconstruction of monuments to U.S. and French soldiers who fought on the Polish side in the Polish-Bolshevik war of 1920. The Polish side proposed the inscription reading "To unknown soldiers who heroically fell for Poland in 1918-20," while the Lviv councilors excluded the word "heroically" from the phrase. The Lviv City Council also did not agree to the installation of the monuments to U.S. and French soldiers. JM

POLAND'S PUBLIC DEBT EXCEEDED $76 BILLION IN 2001
According to experts from the Market Economy Research Institute, at the end of 2001 Poland's public debt amounted to 310 billion zlotys ($76.3 billion), PAP reported on 16 May. The experts estimate that at the end of 2002, the public debt will total 358.9 billion zlotys, or 47.8 percent of GDP. JM

CZECH SUPPORT FOR EU MEMBERSHIP DROPS SLIGHTLY
A public opinion poll conducted by CVVM in April determined that 56 percent of Czechs support accession to the European Union while 28 percent oppose it, CTK reported on 16 May. The poll showed that support for EU membership would be lower, however, if a referendum were to be held on joining the organization. Only two-fifths of respondents said they would vote in favor and 19 percent said they would vote against, while 41 percent said either that they would not cast a ballot or that they do not know how they would vote. Support for membership in April was three percentage points lower than in February. CVVM analysts said the drop may be due to the impact of the recent debates about the abolition of the Benes Decrees being made a condition for accession. MS

SOME 3,000 CZECH EXPATRIATES REGISTER FOR JUNE ELECTIONS
The Foreign Ministry said on 16 May that 2,960 Czech citizens living abroad have registered to vote in the parliamentary elections scheduled for June, Czech radio reported. Original estimates suggested that some 70,000 would do so. Some Czechs living abroad criticized the registration system as limiting, especially in large countries such as Canada or Australia, where there are few consulates at a reasonable distance from where prospective Czech voters live. Those intending to vote were required to register at consulates by 5 May, and many said they were not notified of the change in the law that allows residents abroad to vote. MS

CZECH TELEVISION UNIONS CALL ON DIRECTOR TO TEMPORARILY STEP DOWN
In an open letter to Czech Television Director Jiri Balvin, the unions representing different categories of employees called on him to step down for as long as the ongoing police investigation against him continues, Czech radio reported. They said the investigation could negatively impact Czech Television as a whole (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 May 2002). MS

SLOVAK POLL SHOWS HZDS WINNING ELECTION, BUT LOSING AFTERWARD
A public opinion poll conducted by the UVVM shows that while the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) will comfortably lead the field in the forthcoming parliamentary elections, the party will not be able to find any partners to form a coalition with, CTK reported on 16 May. The poll found that the HZDS is currently backed by nearly 30 percent of voters and would have 56 seats in the parliament if the elections were held today. However, the poll also showed that none of the five parties that placed behind the HZDS are likely to agree to cooperate with HZDS Chairman Vladimir Meciar to forge a coalition. Smer (Direction) is backed by 16 percent (30 seats), the Hungarian Coalition Party by 11.6 (22), the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union by 7.7 percent (15), the Alliance of New Citizens by 7.4 (14), and the Christian Democratic Movement by 7.1 percent (13). MS

SLOVAKIA READY TO DISCUSS STATUS LAW
Foreign Ministry State Secretary Jaroslav Chlebo said in Bratislava on 16 May that his country is ready to settle differences with Hungary over the implementation of the "status law" in Slovakia "as soon as possible," the Hungarian dailies "Nepszabadsag" and "Magyar Hirlap" reported the next day. Chlebo said the Slovak government does not intend to block Budapest's support for ethnic Hungarians in Slovakia, but that such support must be in harmony with current European legislation and must not discriminate against Slovakia's other citizens. MS

U.S. FIRST LADY IN HUNGARY
Laura Bush arrived in Budapest on 16 May and met with President Ferenc Madl and his wife Dalma in the parliament building, Hungarian media reported. Later, at a lunch for women who hold senior positions in Hungary, Laura Bush praised Hungary for its accomplishments over the past 10 years and for its ongoing peaceful change of government. The U.S. first lady also visited outgoing Prime Minister Viktor Orban, whom she told that it meant a lot to her husband "that he could always count on Hungary as a stable NATO ally." MSZ

HUNGARIAN PREMIER-DESIGNATE IN LONDON
Hungary will need a strategic partnership with Britain in order to join the European Union, visiting Prime Minister-designate Peter Medgyessy on 16 May told British Prime Minister Tony Blair in London, Hungarian media reported. Medgyessy told reporters that he and Blair "got along easily" in discussions that focused on the EU's future and long-term bilateral economic cooperation. He also said that he was promised that a group of British experts will participate in projects in Budapest to assist small and medium-sized companies. For his part, Blair said Britain supports Hungary's EU accession, and accepted Medgyessy's invitation to visit Budapest. Medgyessy also met Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who reportedly will pay a visit to Hungary shortly. MSZ

FIDESZ-BACKED GROUP PURSUES ELECTION VERIFICATION DEMAND
The "Democracy Center" set up by FIDESZ on 15 May requested that the National Election Commission release a summary of polling station minutes in the interest of detailing possible abuses committed during the April elections, "Magyar Hirlap" and "Nepszabadsag" reported on 17 May, citing a report posted on the FIDESZ website. According to the report, the center has received complaints pertaining to violations of the rule imposing media silence on the eve of the election, the suspect verification of ballot boxes, and questions as to the validity of ballots. The report also questions the activities of Socialist Party delegates at some polling stations, and mentions instances in which voters were transported to more than one polling station to cast duplicate votes. The center said that without a summary from the commission, there would be no way to draft legislation that could "truly assert the justified social need of ensuring that no suspicion is ever again cast on the results of any democratic election in 21st-century Hungary." MSZ

BUDAPEST MAYOR ANNOUNCES RE-ELECTION BID
Budapest Mayor Gabor Demszky told reporters on 16 May that he will run for a fourth term in the local elections this fall, "Magyar Hirlap" reported on 17 May. Demszky confirmed that he will give up his parliamentary seat, effective 31 May, in order to focus solely on his mayoral duties. He added that he originally accepted to stand as a Free Democrat candidate for parliament in April in order to promote a change of government, a task he said has now been fulfilled. MSZ

RUSSIAN WWII SOLDIERS' REMAINS IDENTIFIED IN BUDAPEST
The human remains discovered beneath the Soviet soldiers' memorial on Budapest's Szabadsag Square are those of Soviet, not Hungarian soldiers, experts at the Museum and Institute of Military History determined on 16 May. The remains of the 15 soldiers killed during World War II will be laid to rest in Budapest's New Public Cemetery. The remains were discovered last week while the memorial was being temporarily dismantled as part of construction work on an underground parking garage (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 May 2002). MSZ

MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT IS HAPPY WITH ELECTION RESULTS
Milo Djukanovic said in Podgorica on 16 May that he is very satisfied with the results of the recent local elections, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 May 2002). He added that he will again issue an invitation after the 22 May session of the parliament to the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Liberal Alliance (LSCG) to join his Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) in a new government. Elsewhere in Podgorica, the OSCE said that the elections met that body's standards and took place "in a peaceful atmosphere." Some 71.5 percent of all registered voters turned out. PM

PRO-INDEPENDENCE PARTIES DO WELL IN MONTENEGRIN VOTE
The DPS and SDP won a majority in Bijelo Polje, Danilovgrad, Rozaje, and Plav in the 15 May local elections, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Podgorica the next day. The two parties together with the LSCG led the poll in Niksic, Budva, Kotor, Tivat, and Bar. The pro-Belgrade Together for Yugoslavia coalition -- consisting of the Socialist People's Party (SNP), the Serbian People's Party (SNS), and the Peoples Party (NS) -- took pride of place in Andrijevica, Berane, Kolasin, Mojkovac, Savnik, Zabljak, Pljevlja, and Pluzine. The LSCG won in Cetinje, while a coalition of ethnic Albanian parties carried the day in Ulcinj. No elections were due in Herceg Novi or Podgorica. PM

SERBIAN GOVERNMENT OFFERS LOSS-MAKERS A CHOICE
The government issued a ruling on 16 May offering state-run enterprises with large debts a choice between privatization or having their debts considered paid and passing into bankruptcy, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Serbia still has many white-elephant firms from the communist era that were kept alive for political reasons during the rule of President Slobodan Milosevic. The government of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic wants to get serious about reforming or shutting down the loss-makers. But many other politicians, including those in the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) of Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, are wary of alienating thousands of often feisty workers. PM

SERBIAN DINAR GOES CONVERTIBLE
Yugoslav National Bank Governor Mladjan Dinkic said in Belgrade on 16 May that the newly convertible dinar is already at some banks and exchange offices in Germany, Austria, Greece, and Hungary, and that it will soon be available in London, Paris, and Rome, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He stressed that this means that the Serbian currency has now returned to international respectability, "Vesti" reported. PM

SERBIAN JUSTICE MINISTER ANNOUNCES SHAKE-UPS
Vladan Batic said in Subotica on 16 May that there will soon be personnel changes in the judiciary aimed at weeding out individuals involved in corruption, election fraud, and Milosevic-era kangaroo courts, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Referring to his Christian Democratic Party of Serbia's (DHSS) petition drive to demand a referendum on declaring Serbian independence from Montenegro, Batic said that he already has 140,000 signatures. He added that this is enough to "shake up Serbian political life, which was the whole point of the exercise." PM

SERBIAN CENSUS SHOWS A DROP
The latest census of Serbia (with Vojvodina but without Kosova) reveals a total population of 7,478,820, which represents a drop of 0.9 percent over the previous population count in 1991, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Belgrade on 16 May. The percentage in Serbia proper fell by 2.3 percent, while that of Vojvodina rose by 3 percent. Some 400,000 Serbian citizens now live abroad, which is 36.5 percent more than in 1991. PM

KOSOVARS WEIGH IN ON BORDER QUESTION
The Kosova parliament's committees on laws and foreign relations adopted a draft resolution on 16 May calling on the legislature to express its disapproval of the February 2001 Yugoslav-Macedonian border agreement at its 23 May session, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Prishtina. The UN civilian administration (UNMIK) warned the legislators not to interfere with issues regarding which they have no legal competence. Several legislators said that they must speak out on important issues or lose their credibility with the voters (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9, 10, and 13 May 2002). PM

ETHNIC MINORITIES IN MACEDONIA DEMAND EQUAL REPRESENTATION
Political parties representing eight ethnic minorities held talks on 16 May about seeking equal representation in the parliament slated to be elected on 15 September, "Utrinski vesnik" reported. They demand that 18 out of a total of 120 seats be assigned to the smaller ethnic minorities. They say that representatives of the Serbs, Turks, Roma, Vlachs, Muslims, and Egyptians should be elected according to a proportional system, without any minimum vote requirement. According to the plan, the remaining 102 seats would be distributed on a proportional basis among the ethnic Macedonian and Albanian political parties receiving more than 2 percent of the vote. The minority leaders, who are said to represent some 350,000 (out of approximately 2 million) Macedonian citizens, warned that they will boycott the vote if their demands are not met. UB

FACTORY BOSSES BLAMED IN BOSNIAN ARMS SCANDAL
The UN police in Bosnia have leveled criminal charges against five present or past directors of the firms on whose property large quantities of arms, ammunition, and explosives were recently discovered, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Mostar on 16 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 14 May 2002). PM

CROATIA TO ISSUE BONDS
The government will issue 10-year bonds valued at about $68 million to help finance the reform of the pension system, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Zagreb on 16 May. PM

MASS GRAVE FOUND NEAR GOSPIC
Experts from Croatia and The Hague have exhumed the remains of 14 persons -- presumably Serbs -- from a mass grave near Gospic, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 16 May. The 14 are believed to have been killed at the time of the Croatian military's Operation Storm in August 1995. And in related news, some 200 victims in mass graves in Bosnia have been identified over the past six months by using DNA tests from samples from their relatives, AP reported from Sarajevo. PM

ROMANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER APOLOGIZES TO JOURNALISTS
Ioan Mircea Pascu released a statement on 16 May saying he "sincerely regrets" that his remarks about journalists included in a recent ministry communique "were interpreted in a manner different from what was intended," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Pascu said he realizes that "my sense of humor generated concern among my friends in the media." The 9 May communique told journalists that their "life is short" and their health too precious to be wantonly endangered by debating "highly emotional subjects" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 15 May 2002). According to AP, the apology reflects concern in the government about negative foreign press coverage. Defense Ministry State Secretary George Maior said on 14 May that there was no reason for the ministry to apologize. MS

PACE COMMISSION ENDS ROMANIA'S 'POST-MONITORING' PROCESS
Meeting in Bucharest on 16 May, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe's (PACE) Monitoring Commission voted unanimously to end Romania's "post-monitoring" process, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Commission Chairman Andras Barsony said Romania is now "at the same level as the other new democracies [that are members of] the family of the council" but added that PACE will continue to follow such unresolved issues as property restitution, protection of children, and prison conditions. President Ion Iliescu said in reaction: "We are a European nation proud of its national identity and of belonging to the free world's civilization and to the great European family." The government issued a communique saluting the decision. MS

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT SAYS PREDECESSOR'S TELEPHONE NOT UNDER SURVEILLANCE
Ion Iliescu on 16 May told former President Emil Constantinescu that the Supreme Council for National Defense (CSAT) has concluded that Constantinescu's telephone conversations are not being monitored, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Constantinescu has asked the Prosecutor-General's Office to say whether his own, his family's, or his colleague's phones are tapped and, if so, why. The complaint was forwarded to the CSAT by the parliament's Human Rights Commission, to which Constantinescu complained after receiving an evasive response to his inquiry. The incumbent and the former presidents met in Bucharest at a ceremony marking 12 years since the creation of the Security and Protection Service. MS

PNL DEPUTY CHAIRMAN ENTERS RACE FOR ROMANIAN PRESIDENTIAL NOMINATION
National Liberal Party (PNL) Deputy Chairman Viorel Catarama announced on 17 May that he is seeking his party's nomination for the presidency in 2004, Mediafax reported. Catarama recently has clashed with PNL Chairman Valeriu Stoica, but in his announcement he said he is "not interested in the PNL chairmanship" and rejected the idea of calling an extraordinary PNL congress aimed at changing the party's current leadership. MS

THREE DEAD, SEVEN MISSING IN ROMANIAN MINE ACCIDENT
Rescue workers managed on 16 May to reach part of a gallery that collapsed at the Vulcan coal mine the previous day, killing three miners and wounding four, international news agencies reported. Seven miners are still missing. Prime Minister Adrian Nastase visited the mine, which is some 350 kilometers west of Bucharest, meeting with the injured and with the families of the missing miners. The government approved emergency aid for those affected. A preliminary investigation concluded that the explosion occurred in a closed area of the mine, when accumulated gases exploded, AP reported. MS

NAMES OF MOLDOVAN ENTITIES INVOLVED IN IRAN ARMS SALES MADE KNOWN
The United States on 16 May officially imposed sanctions against one Armenian, two Moldovan, and eight Chinese companies accused of aiding Iran's efforts to build weapons of mass destruction, Reuters reported (see also Transcaucasus item above). A statement signed by Assistant Secretary of State for Nonproliferation John Wolf said the sanctions were imposed under a 2000 law designed to stop transfers of controlled equipment or technology to Iran. The two Moldovan entities are Cuanta SA and Mikhail Pavlovich Vladov. A senior U.S. official told Reuters earlier this month that companies and individuals in Moldova and Armenia might be "fronts" for Russian entities. They will be barred from doing business with the U.S. government, entering U.S. government programs, or getting export licenses for certain goods. MS

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT STARTS PROCESS OF SHORTENING MILITARY-SERVICE TERM
The parliament on 16 May approved in its first reading a government-sponsored bill to shorten compulsory military service from 18 to 12 months, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Presenting the bill, Defense Minister Victor Gaiciuc said the move would increase the numbers of those called up for duty who actually serve in the army. Gaiciuc said that some 30,000 men reach the call-up age every year, but only about 6,000 serve while some 4,000 perform alternative military service due to budget constraints. The bill also raises the maximum call-up age from 27 to 32. MS

BULGARIA RECEIVES U.S. MEMORANDUM ON DESTRUCTION OF SS-23 MISSILES
Defense Minister Nikolay Svinarov announced on 16 May that Bulgaria and the United States will sign a memorandum on 1 June on the destruction of Bulgaria's SS-23, Scud, and R-65 missiles, "Dnevnik" reported. U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria James Pardew handed over the draft memorandum to the Defense Ministry on 14 May, according to Svinarov. He said that the United States has proposed four possible ways to compensate for the destruction of the missiles. Svinarov previously said that the Bulgarian government most likely will prefer financial to material compensation, as it is still unclear whether the country will be invited to join NATO. UB

BULGARIAN ELECTRICITY PRICES TO RISE, GOVERNMENT DISCUSSES COMPENSATION SCHEME
Energy Minister Milko Kovachev said on 15 May that prices for electricity could rise by 15 percent by the end of the year, by another 15 percent in 2003, and by 10 percent in 2004, BTA reported. Kovachev added that price increases for heating are still under discussion. Meanwhile, on 16 May Labor and Social Affairs Minister Lidia Shuleva discussed the budgeting of her ministry with Jerald Schiff, the head of the International Monetary Fund's mission for Bulgaria. Shuleva familiarized the IMF official with Bulgaria's plan to provide social benefits to offset rising energy prices in the form of vouchers in order to mitigate abuse. Shuleva and Schiff also discussed ways to improve Bulgaria's social insurance system. UB

BULGARIAN JOURNALISTS PROTEST COURT DECISION
Under the motto "Stop Court Arbitrariness," journalists in the Black Sea port of Burgas protested on 16 May against a Burgas district court decision ordering their colleague Katya Kasabova to pay a 2,800 leva ($1,308) fine, news.bg reported. Kasabova must also pay damages of 1,000 leva ($467) each to four experts of the regional inspectorate of the Education Ministry. The officials sued Kasabova after she published a series of articles on corruption in the Bulgarian educational system. The demonstrators could now face charges of interfering in the legal system after they also staged protests in the court building. UB

SERBIA -- FACING UP TO THE PAST
Sooner or later, Serbia will have to look into its recent past and the question of its responsibility for four Balkan wars. Some recent developments suggest that such introspection will not come easily.

On 28 April, U.S. Senator Joseph Biden, who is a Democrat from Delaware and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, addressed an Albanian-American civic group in New York. His speech covered many aspects of Balkan affairs and his recommendations for U.S. and international policies toward the region. He noted that the situation there remains "precarious" despite much progress in recent years.

Biden chided the European Union for offering Belgrade a $160 million credit just after the United States suspended all economic assistance to Serbia over its failure to cooperate completely with The Hague. Macedonia, he continued, is "an explosion waiting to happen" because of extremists on both sides. The senator appealed to Albania to "clean up its corrupt political system" and called on Kosovars to show that they can "pass the test of running a real democracy with rights for all."

Turning to Serbia, Biden noted that President Vojislav Kostunica is "a hard-core Serbian nationalist, but he doesn't call all the shots. He's in a fierce political struggle with Prime Minister [Zoran] Djindjic, also a nationalist but not a fanatic -- and more importantly, an astute politician who recognizes that his country's future is with the West."

The senator noted that Serbia has made much progress since the overthrow of President Slobodan Milosevic on 5 October 2000, but stressed that Belgrade should meet four conditions before aid is restored.

The first is that it must cease "negative interference in Kosova's and Bosnia's political life." Second, Serbia "must fully comply with the international war crimes tribunal." Third, it must "end the de facto partition" of Mitrovica in northern Kosova. And fourth, "Kostunica and Djindjic must publicly own up to Serbia's behavior in the 1990s by apologizing for its genocidal campaign in Kosova, as well as in Croatia and Bosnia."

Biden argued that Serbia has partially met the first two conditions by apparently stopping funding for the Bosnian Serb military and issuing indictments for 23 war crimes suspects. But he added that "Belgrade continues to play a clever game in Kosova and has yet to go after the really big indictees...like [General Ratko] Mladic." Moreover, as to "the third and fourth conditions, Belgrade has done nothing."

It was the senator's fourth point -- the apology -- that touched a raw nerve in Serbia and led to a public comment by Djindjic and a lively discussion in the press.

Briefly, many or most commentators from the mainstream press made the following points. Senator Biden is an important and influential figure, but it is Secretary of State Colin Powell who has set the conditions that Serbia must meet, and a public apology is not one of them. The United States has criticized many aspects of the policies of the governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition, but no one in Washington has any interest in destabilizing DOS.

Milosevic and his cronies, the commentaries continued, are responsible for taking Serbia into war, but the people ousted them on 5 October 2000. In his public remarks on 10 May this year, Djindjic argued that there is no one from the Milosevic regime in power in Belgrade now, and so there is no reason for the present government to apologize for what that regime did.

Some writers added -- as have many Serbs over the past decade -- that all sides were to blame in the violent breakup of former Yugoslavia and that it is unfair to single out the Serbs for war guilt. Other writers ask why an apology is necessary at all, even if apologies for slavery and other historical injustices have become part of American political culture in recent years.

Some commentators acknowledge that Serbs should reexamine their past but feel that it is too soon after the conflicts of the 1990s and the fall of Milosevic for Serbia to produce "a Willy Brandt" -- a leader who will apologize to the dictatorship's victims as the former West German chancellor apologized to those tormented by Hitler.

Indeed, some German Balkan experts have suggested in recent years that it is unlikely that the Serbs will be able to come to grips with their past and war guilt any quicker than the Germans did. These experts argue that Germany did not really face up to such issues until the West German student protests of 1968 and the soul-searching that accompanied and followed that period. One should not expect much more of the Serbs, the German Balkan experts add.

But at least many Germans recognized from 1945 on that their country had been defeated and that consequences had to be drawn. In today's Serbia, however, this does not always seem to be the case.

Nonetheless, some progressive Serbian intellectuals have said that Serbian society must now recognize that it is necessary to face up to the past, to come out of blame and denial, and to have a "catharsis." Only then can Serbia rebuild not only its relations with its neighbors, but also its educational system and other institutions that were carefully built up over the better part of two centuries but are now in shambles.

In short, Serbia will sooner or later find it necessary to remove what one intellectual has called the "mud" from its political culture and thinking. And while Germany may have needed a quarter of a century before it happened, Willy Brandt eventually did kneel in Warsaw.

XS
SM
MD
LG