PACE CALLS FOR CHECHEN CEASE-FIRE, TALKS
Speaking at a press conference in Moscow on 13 March following a two-day visit to Daghestan, Chechnya, and Ingushetia, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe envoy Lord Frank Judd condemned what he termed serious human rights violations and war crimes committed in Chechnya by both Russian and Chechen forces, AFP reported. He noted assurances by senior Russian officials, including acting President Vladimir Putin, to investigate allegations of human rights violations, but said those statements appear not to have been acted upon. Judd called for an immediate cease-fire and for measures to enable international humanitarian agencies to visit Chechnya. He said the PACE delegation he heads "calls on the Russian government without any further delay to begin negotiations on a political solution to the conflict with elected Chechen representatives and other influential Chechens." Later on 13 March, however, Kremlin Chechnya spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii again ruled out any talks with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, Interfax reported. LF
RADUEV CHARGED WITH TERRORISM, HOSTAGE-TAKING
Captured Chechen field commander Salman Raduev has been charged with terrorism and hostage-taking, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 March, quoting a spokesman for the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office. Russian Television on 13 March showed footage of Raduev answering basic questions. Federal Security Service (FSB) spokesman Aleksandr Zdanovich said the same day that Raduev had started testifying to an interrogator from the Prosecutor-General's office about the bombings of apartment buildings in Moscow in September 1999. In Tbilisi, officials from the Prosecutor-General's Office said on 13 March that at present they have no evidence that would substantiate Raduev's claim that he was involved in the failed February 1998 attempt to assassinate Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 February 1998). They added, however, that the investigation into that attack has not been completed and that they would welcome further evidence from Moscow, Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported. LF
ARREST WARRANT ISSUED FOR ANOTHER CHECHEN LEADER
The Russian Prosecutor-General's Office has issued a warrant for the arrest of Chechen propagandist and former acting Foreign Minister Movladi Udugov, Interfax reported on 13 March. Udugov is charged with participating in an armed revolt. That charge is based on evidence given by Chechen prisoners of war who identified Udugov as having organized the Chechen incursion into Daghestan last summer and having provided the participants in that raid with weapons. LF
RUSSIAN OFFICIALS COMMENT ON POSSIBLE PRESIDENTIAL RULE FOR CHECHNYA
Russian State Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev and presidential envoy for human rights Vladimir Kalamanov both expressed support on 10 March for the proposal that acting Russian President Putin made in an interview in "Kommersant- Daily" of the same day that presidential rule be introduced in Chechnya for a period of several years after the 26 March Russian presidential elections, ITAR-TASS reported. But both officials noted that at present no legal basis exists for the introduction of presidential rule. North Ossetian President Aleksandr Dzasokhov, however, cautioned on 13 March that "very tough measures will be needed in order to make positive processes [in Chechnya] irreversible." His Ingushetian counterpart, Ruslan Aushev, warned that presidential rule alone would not contribute to consolidating control over Chechnya, and that hostilities are likely to continue for years. Aushev again advocated peace talks between Moscow and Chechen President Maskhadov. LF
PUTIN TELLS ALL...
A new book consisting of interviews with acting President Putin and called "In the First Person: Conversations with Vladimir Putin" is available for viewing in its entirety at . In the interviews, Putin reveals details about his personal life as well as his view on a variety of issues, such as Russia's political culture. "In general, Russia has from the very start developed as a super-centralized state. It is part of its genetic code, its tradition and the mentality of its people," he declares. Putin also appears to lament the breakup of the former Soviet Union: Commenting on the August 1991 coup against then Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Putin said "In principle, their cause was noble as they saw it--to keep the Soviet Union from disintegrating, but the means they chose only pushed the country to [its] dissolution." JAC
...AS ELECTION COMMISSION NIXES BOOKS SALES
The Central Election Commission on 13 March banned sales of the book until after 26 March presidential elections. The commission decided that the book contains campaign materials and that Putin's electoral fund must pay for the book's publication and distribution. One excerpt from the book was published in "Kommersant-Daily" last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 March 2000). According to Reuters, Putin's campaign team has bought the 50,000 existing copies of the book and will distribute them for free from their regional branches. JAC
PUTIN REVIEWS FOREIGN LEADERS PAST AND PRESENT...
In the book of interviews, Putin comments that he found U.S. President Bill Clinton a "charismatic person" who in conversation "appears very sincere, open, and nice." Putin also reveals that his favorite past political leaders are former French President Charles De Gaulle and former German Chancellor Ludwig Erhard, both deceased. He says that the two leaders revived their nations' spirits by defining new moral principals. JAC
...CALLS FOR NEW MORAL ORDER
Putin also comments that he is opposed to legalizing prostitution and believes it should be combated with "socio-economic methods so that no one will want to be a prostitute." He added that "after World War II, prostitution boomed in Western Europe because the population was living in such poor conditions. Talk to veterans of the Great Patriotic War, they will tell you that women were selling themselves for a piece of bread. And now it is occurring because of poverty and hopelessness." JAC
POLLS SHOW PUTIN MAINTAINING LEAD...
Two prominent polling agencies, ROMIR and VTsIOM, conducted polls in the first week of March that show acting President Putin with 59 percent and 60 percent of voter support, respectively. Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov has 26-22 percent, followed by Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii with 3.9-4.0 percent and Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev with 1.9-2.0 percent. JAC
...AS SMALL ACTIVIST GROUPS ASK VOTERS TO CHOOSE NONE OF THE ABOVE
Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov announced on 10 March that encouraging voters to vote against all candidates or to abstain is a violation of the federal presidential election law. The commission's spokesman explained to RFE/RL's Moscow bureau on 13 March that Article 8.2 of the law says that only candidates are allowed to campaign. Vladimir Pribylovskii, the leader of the activist group Nyet, which is calling for voters to select the "none of the above" option, told the bureau that if elections are delayed until June there will be enough time for voters to become disillusioned with Putin and real competition will be possible. However, Pribylovskii said that he will vote for Yavlinskii in the first round and none of the above in the second. JAC
CANDIDATE PUTIN WOOS FOREIGN INVESTORS
Speaking at a meeting of Russia's Foreign Investment Advisory Council on 13 March, acting President Putin pledged that Russia will improve its legislation in order to make the country more attractive to foreign investors. Putin called for providing "unconditional guarantees of ownership rights" and said that it is abnormal that work on the country's Tax Code has not yet been finished and the Land Code has not been adopted, ITAR-TASS reported. Putin also noted that the law on foreign investment has not been working properly because supporting legislation has not yet been enacted. Reuters reported that a communique was adopted at the session in which the Russian government promises to accelerate the use of international accounting standards, implement production-sharing legislation, bring corporate tax deduction rules into line with Western standards, and strike down some regional barriers that hinder the national distribution of products. JAC
...CALLS FOR RETURN OF RUSSIAN CAPITAL...
Putin also stressed that the government will try to make conditions favorable for the return of domestic capital. "Foreign investment is important, but internal reserves [of capital] are the main thing.... Return of Russian capital from abroad and reducing capital flight will send the right message to foreign companies." Last month, Moody's Bureau for Economic Analysis issued a report concluding that a certain amount of capital flight is "built into" the Russian economy and noting that before and after the 1998 economic crisis, there was no radical increase in capital flight, "Segodnya" reported on 9 February. According to the report, the two aims of capital flight are to evade taxes and convert enterprise funds into private property. While some of the capital flight returns to the country as a "foreign investment"--often from Cyprus--the amount is too small proportionately to provide much benefit to the economy. JAC
...AS EBRD TAKES GOVERNMENT TO TASK FOR FEEBLE REFORM OF BANKING SECTOR
Also addressing the Foreign Investment Advisory Council on 13 March was EBRD First Vice President Charles Frank, who criticized the government for not doing enough to restructure the Russian banking sector. According to Interfax, Frank said the government has not gone to great lengths to stop banks from illegally transferring money to new bodies or bringing those guilty of such transactions to account. In addition, he said the government's inability to close down or restructure some insolvent banks has led to infringements upon creditor and investor rights. JAC
GAP BETWEEN MOSCOW, REGIONS GROWS
About a quarter of the income of all Russians is concentrated in Moscow, compared with only 10 percent in 1990, according to the Moscow City Statistics Committee. "Tverkaya 13" (No. 10) reported that while only one-fifth of Russians have a monthly income exceeding 2,000 rubles ($70), more than half of Muscovites earn in excess of 2,000 rubles a month. "Argumenty i fakty" reported earlier this month that the gap between rich and poor in the federation has been increasing (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 March 2000). JAC
LATEST CONTRACT KILLING IN ST. PETERSBURG CALLED POLITICAL
Dmitrii Varvarin, director-general of the St. Petersburg- based company Orimi, was shot outside his home on 10 March in what police believe was a contract killing. A city police spokesman was quoted by Interfax as saying Varvarin had "problems" with law enforcement agencies and his murder was most likely connected with his business activities. But political leader Yurii Boldyrev said that Varvarin's murder was politically motivated, pointing out that the killing took place just hours after documents to register Boldyrev as a candidate for the St. Petersburg's 14 May gubernatorial ballot were submitted. Varvarin was a member of the political council of the Yurii Boldyrev Bloc. And Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko, who announced her candidacy in those elections on the same day Varvarin was murdered, said the killing was a warning to all those aspiring for the governor's post, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 March. JC
CHERKESS, ABAZINS AGAIN DEMAND AUTONOMY
Some 20,000 ethnic Cherkess and Abazins staged a demonstration on 13 March in central Cherkessk to protest the policies of the president of Karachaevo-Cherkessia, Vladimir Semenov, and to demand the restoration of a separate Cherkess autonomous formation that would be a part of Stavropol Krai, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported. One of the Cherkess leaders, Boris Akbashev, accused Semenov of reneging on a pledge made at the time of his inauguration last September to include ethnic Cherkess and Abazin representatives in the republic's new government and to offer the post of premier to his defeated rival in the presidential poll, Cherkessk Mayor Stanislav Derev, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 14 March. Russian business magnate Boris Berezovskii, who represents Karachaevo- Cherkessia in the Russian State Duma, cut short a visit to London to return to Russia after telephone conversations with local leaders on 13 March, Interfax reported. LF
CASPIAN LITTORAL STATES DRAFT ENVIRONMENTAL SECURITY CONVENTION
Meeting in Almaty, representatives of Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan have reached agreement on the wording of a draft Caspian Environment Security Convention, Caucasus Press reported on 13 March. But that agreement is unlikely to be signed. let alone implemented, until the five countries reach agreement on the international status of the Caspian. LF
ARMENIAN OPPOSITION PARTY CONDEMNS LEADERSHIP INFIGHTING
Concluding its three-day congress on 12 March, the National Democratic Union (AZhM) adopted a statement condemning the ongoing tensions between Armenian President Robert Kocharian and Prime Minister Aram Sargsian and his supporters, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The statement termed the present system of government an obstacle to efficient governance, economic development, and democratization, and it called for the abolition of the "clan system" and the formation of a true government of the people. Also on 12 March, AZhM chairman Vazgen Manukian acknowledged the existence of two wings within the party, one of which advocates close cooperation with the present cabinet. But Manukian said the political situation is evolving so swiftly that within two or three months that split will no longer exist. LF
AZERBAIJAN, GEORGIA DISCUSS GAS SECTOR COOPERATION
Azerbaijani gas sector officials met in Tbilisi on 13 March with their Georgian counterparts and with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze to discuss plans for the export of natural gas from Azerbaijan's off-shore Shah Deniz field via Georgia to Turkey, Caucasus Press reported. The plans entails reconstruction of an existing pipeline from Azerbaijan to Georgia and its extension via Georgia to Turkey. The new gas pipeline will run parallel to the planned Baku-Ceyhan pipeline that will export Caspian oil to Turkey. The gas pipeline will have a throughput capacity of 16 billion cubic meters per year that may be increased to 20-24 billion cubic meters. Construction will begin next year and is scheduled for completion in time to provide gas to Turkey during the winter of 2002-2003. The issue of transit tariffs has not yet been addressed. LF
AZERBAIJANI POLICE BREAK UP UNSANCTIONED PROTEST
Police in Baku on 14 March forcibly dispersed members of the opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front Party who had tried to picket the parliament building, Turan reported. The picketers were demanding that the parliament debate the deteriorating social and economic situation in the country. They had earlier applied to the Baku Municipal Council for permission to stage the protest, which was refused. LF
AZERBAIJAN'S MUSLIMS CONDEMN CHECHEN 'GENOCIDE'
Representatives of seven Muslim organizations in Azerbaijan issued a statement on 13 March calling on progressive forces in Russia and the international community to protest the ongoing genocide of the Chechen people, Turan reported. The statement expressed concern at the possibility that Moscow might undertake similar punitive action against Azerbaijan. LF
ABKHAZIA DENIES EXECUTING GEORGIAN POWS
Anri Djergenia, who is prosecutor-general of the unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia, has written to UN Special Representative Dieter Boden denying Georgian media allegations that three Georgian prisoners of war have been executed in Abkhazia's Dranda prison, Caucasus Press reported on 13 March. Djergenia also denied Georgian claims that Abkhazia has held several dozen Georgians captive since the war ended in 1993. He said that there are only three Georgian prisoners of war in Abkhaz prisons. LF
OSCE CONDEMNS KYRGYZ POLL VIOLATIONS
In a statement released in Bishkek on 13 March, the OSCE election observer mission said that the parliamentary elections "failed to comply with OSCE commitments," Reuters reported. It added that "the positive conditions for fair and competitive elections, which the existing legislation could have ensured, have been undermined." The statement expressed concern at the exclusion of opposition candidates from the runoff vote on 12 March and queried the validity of the poll results in a Talas Oblast constituency where pressure on voters apparently contributed to the second round defeat of opposition Ar-Namys Party leader Feliks Kulov. Some 500 Kulov supporters congregated outside the local election commission on 13 March to protest Kulov's defeat, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. LF
TURKMENISTAN DEPORTS THREE RUSSIAN BAPTIST FAMILIES
From 11- 13 March, the Turkmen authorities forcibly returned to Russia three Baptist preachers and their families who had been living in Ashgabat and the town of Mary to the southeast, Keston News Service reported on 13 March. Two other leading members of Turkmenistan's Baptist community were deported to Russia and Ukraine last December. LF
BELARUSIAN POLICE SEEK TO SABOTAGE FREEDOM MARCH-2
Over the past few days, police in Minsk have been confiscating leaflets announcing the opposition Freedom March-2, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 13 March. Policemen told an RFE/RL correspondent that they are acting on orders but refused to say who gave such instructions. The Freedom March- 2, which is scheduled to take place on 15 March, was sanctioned by the authorities, but the opposition fears the administration will seek to disrupt the event. "We are annoyed by some actions by the authorities, the police, and the propaganda apparatus. Leaflets are removed from walls, television recalled the Freedom March-1 and tried to intimidate people and prevent them from coming [to the march]," Alyaksey Karol of the opposition Social Democratic Party told RFE/RL. Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department on 13 March urged Minsk not to repress a series of demonstrations planned by the Belarusian opposition this spring. JM
ANOTHER TWO REFERENDA IN UKRAINE?
The Central Electoral Commission has registered two initiative groups that will collect signatures in support of referenda that would be alternatives to the constitutional referendum scheduled for 16 April, Interfax reported on 13 March. The first group is seeking the population's consent to include a number of social guarantees in the constitution, abolish the post of president, and grant the legislative branch the "exclusive right" to form executive bodies. The second group wants to pose questions about suspending Ukraine's obligations to the IMF, passing a vote of no confidence in the president, and canceling the immunity of the president, people's deputies, and judges. The first plebiscite is proposed by the Communist Party, while the second is the joint initiative of the Communist Party, the Progressive Socialist Party, and the Peasant Party. The groups each have to collect 3 million signatures by mid-June if the referenda are to take place. JM
UKRAINE'S SYMONENKO ACCUSES PRESIDENT OF SEEKING SPLIT AMONG COMMUNISTS
Communist Party of Ukraine leader Petro Symonenko told Interfax on 13 March that the Ukrainian Communist Youth Union (UKSM) was created "under the patronage" of the presidential administration, which "seeks to split the left spectrum of political parties" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 March 2000), According to Symonenko, a majority of delegates to the UKSM constituent congress were students who "had no idea" where they were being taken to by their deans. Symonenko added that there will also be attempts to split the Communist Party of Ukraine and create an alternative organization, the Ukrainian Communist Party. Symonenko also noted that the authorities are seeking to stoke "enmity toward Communists" in society and had an "interest" in the seizure of the Communist headquarters by young radicals last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 March 2000). JM
LITHUANIAN POLL SHOWS GROWING SUPPORT FOR CENTER-LEFT ALLIANCE
A Vilmorus poll published by "Lietuvos Rytas" on 13 March showed that support for the center-left New Alliance leaped by 8.8 percent over the February level. The group took second place, with 11.2 percent support. The Liberal Union of former Premier Rolandas Paksas remained in first place with 12.5 percent backing, down 6.5 percent from the previous month. The Center Union's support dropped by 1.1 percent to 8.3 percent, while the ruling Conservatives tallied 5 percent and the Christian Democrats (who have two cabinet ministers) only 2.9 percent support. The same poll also showed that President Valdas Adamkus is in first place among politicians with 55.3 percent backing, overtaking Paksas, whose support fell to 45.2 percent. MH
CONTROVERSY RAGES OVER INTERVIEW WITH CONVICTED MURDERER OF SOLIDARITY PRIEST
An interview with former communist-era security service officer Grzegorz Piotrowski broadcast by the Polish Television local station in Lodz has provoked a storm, "Zycie" reported on 14 March. Piotrowski is one of the four officers convicted of the 1984 murder of Jerzy Popieluszko, a Roman Catholic priest and spiritual leader of the Solidarity movement. Piotrowski was sentenced to 25 years in prison, which was later commuted to 15 years. In the interview, which was filmed during one of his periodic leaves from prison, Piotrowski denied involvement in Popieluszko's murder and criticized Polish courts. Polish Television has suspended a news editor at the Lodz television center, and Solidarity parliamentary deputies are demanding that all persons responsible for the broadcast be fired. Juliusz Braun, chairman of the National Council for Radio and Television, commented that the broadcast "went beyond all limits of decency." JM
CZECH PRESIDENT CALLS FOR INVESTIGATION OF POLICE SITUATION
Vaclav Havel on 13 March asked Jiri Ruzek, the head of the Czech Republic's Security Intelligence Service (BIS), to investigate the situation surrounding special police squads for fighting organized crime and investigating corruption cases (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 March 2000), Czech media reported. Presidential spokesman Ladislav Spacek said the president is convinced that the work of the two police units is being affected by outside "forces," adding that the issue goes beyond "plain criminal activities." In response, Prime Minister Milos Zeman said the same day that the president should "express an opinion only on matters that he understands." He argued that Havel is under the influence of former Interior Minister Jan Ruml. Ruml has rejected the accusations. VG
FIRST CANDIDATE FOR ZEMAN'S JOB APPEARS
Czech Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla told CTK on 13 March that he is ready to run for the leadership of the governing Czech Social Democratic Party (CSSD) next year. In 1999, CSSD leader and Prime Minister Milos Zeman had said he would not seek re-election as party chairman at the CSSD congress in 2001 and had recommended Spidla as the best candidate to replace him. VG
RABBIS' CONFERENCE BEGINS IN SLOVAKIA
Under tight security, the 22nd annual international conference of European rabbis got under way in Bratislava on 13 March, CTK reported. Slovak President Rudolf Schuster and Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda attended a reception at the conference, which was moved from Vienna as a protest against the Freedom Party's participation in the new Austrian cabinet. The chief rabbis of Yugoslavia and Croatia presented a special award to Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal. VG
PRESS GROUP CRITICIZES HUNGARY
The International Press Institute on 13 March noted in its annual report on the state of the press around the world that 1999 was an "annoying" year for the Hungarian media, MTI reported. The report notes that "the principles of transparency and accountability were frequently not taken into consideration in connection with critical or uncomfortable press reports." The report noted incidents in which journalists were attacked or their offices searched. It also describes a Constitutional Court decision upholding the "incomplete" formation of Hungarian Television's board of trustees as "surprising." VG
HUNGARY SEEKS INTERNATIONAL HELP FOR TISZA...
Hungarian parliamentary speaker Janos Ader told a gathering of EU and NATO ambassadors in Budapest that he expects financial and diplomatic help in dealing with a new case of environmental damage affecting the Tisza River (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 March 2000) and in preventing similar cases in the future, Hungarian media reported. Hungarian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gabor Horvath said Budapest wants to work on upgrading bilateral environmental protection measures with Romania, and he called on Romania to provide as much information as possible on the recent environmental accidents. At a joint press conference with his Hungarian counterpart, Ibolya David, in Szeged, Romanian Justice Minister Valeriu Stoica expressed regret at the latest environmental accident, which took place along the Romanian sector of the river, MTI reported. The heavy metals contamination flowing down the river is expected to reach the lower Tisza by the weekend, "Nepszabadsag" reported on 14 March. VG
...AS EU TASK FORCE ARRIVES IN ROMANIA
An EU task force on 13 March began investigating the earlier cyanide spill in the Baia Mare area, which polluted the Tisza River. The same day, German Deputy Environment Minister Gila Altmann said her country will offer to help Romania improve factories and mines that pose environmental risks in the region. Altmann, who is scheduled to arrive in Romania later in the day, said Germany will evaluate the situation to see what help it can offer in conjunction with the EU. VG
KOSOVAR STUDENT LEADER SENTENCED TO 15 YEARS
A district court in Nis has sentenced Albin Kurti to 15 years imprisonment. Charges against him included "separatism..., jeopardizing Yugoslavia's territorial integrity, and conspiring to commit hostile activities linked to terrorism." Kurti told the judge that he does not "recognize [the authority of] the court, or Serbia, or Yugoslavia," adding that he has nothing to add to his previous testimony, "Danas" reported on 14 March. Kurti's court-appointed lawyer said that he will appeal the sentence. State prosecutor Aleksandar Obradovic said that "the defendant has shown in this courtroom all his hatred for the Serbian people." The charges against Kurti carried a maximum sentence of 20 years, but observers suggest that he received less than that because of the high degree of publicity his case had received abroad. As a student leader in 1997 and 1998, Kurti was a pacifist. After the Serbian crackdown began in Kosova, he became a spokesman for the Kosova Liberation Army's Adem Demaci, who had been Kosova's best-known dissident under communism. PM
RUBIN APPEALS TO ALBANIANS, SERBS
U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin said in Gjilan on 14 March that people in Kosova should be patient in awaiting justice and not seek revenge for atrocities committed against them in the recent conflict (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 March 2000). He stressed that it will take time for a functioning judicial system to be established in the province. Rubin told his ethnic Albanian listeners that they are now "free of the oppression from Belgrade," adding that freedom requires responsibility. The previous day in Gracanica, he told members of the local Serbian minority that the U.S. did not intervene in Kosova in order to "watch Albanians act against Serbs." He said that "the Serbs should know that we want coexistence for all the peoples" in the province. PM
OSCE PREPARES FOR KOSOVA VOTE
The OSCE's Daan Everts said in Prishtina on 13 March that Serbian refugees from Kosova need not return to the province to register or vote in local elections tentatively slated for 1 October. He called on the Yugoslav authorities to cooperate in enabling the refugees to take part in the electoral process. In Leposaviq, Everts met with leaders of the Serbian minority to discuss plans for a pre-election census. Oliver Ivanovic, who is the chief representative of the Serbs in Mitrovica, said that the "money that will be spent on a three-month census should instead be used for the return of Serbian" refugees, AP reported. PM
SERBIAN OPPOSITION CALLS FOR PROTESTS AGAINST MEDIA SHUTDOWN
Spokesmen for several opposition parties called on citizens of Belgrade to rally in front of the city hall if the authorities try to shut down Studio B Television, which is controlled by Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement. Speaking on 13 March, the spokesmen stressed that they expect the government's recent crackdown on the independent and private media to continue (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 March 2000). But Predrag Markovic, who is a spokesman for the G-17 group of independent economists, said they have unspecified information that opposition leaders will "hand the station over to the regime in order to protect their own fundamental interests," "Vesti" reported. Elsewhere, the private Beta news agency reported that Yugoslav army authorities in Nis ordered the staff of the independent TV 5 station to evacuate their premises by 24 April. The army officials said in a letter that they want to use the "unprofitable space" for living quarters, Reuters reported. PM
SERBIAN ARMY RESERVISTS PROTEST CALL-UP NOTICES
Some 200 tank corps reservists demonstrated near Kraljevo on 13 March to protest what they said are frequent call-ups. They demanded a more equitable distribution of call-up notices, "Vesti" reported. Opposition spokesmen have repeatedly said in recent days that they suspect the army is selectively sending out the notices to opposition supporters and to individuals in strongly anti-regime municipalities. Army chief-of-staff General Nebojsa Pavkovic and other commanders say that the call-up notices are "routine" and have nothing to do with tensions in southwestern Serbia or between Serbia and Montenegro. PM
MILOSEVIC PLEDGES DEFENSE
Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic on 13 March formally named General Vladimir Lazarevic to succeed Pavkovic as head of the Third Army, which is responsible for southern Serbia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 January and 16 February 2000). Milosevic stressed that he is ready to "defend the peace and freedom of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia with all [available] means," "Vesti" reported. PM
U.S. EXPERT CALLS FOR 'REMOVAL' OF SERBIAN URANIUM
Nuclear authority William Potter said in Washington on 13 March that the international community should "remove" some 50 kilograms of weapons-grade uranium stored at Vinca, between Belgrade and Kragujevac. Potter said that security at the facility is lax and that the uranium could easily be stolen. He also warned that some Serbian leaders may be tempted to "pursue a nuclear option," Reuters reported. PM
CLARK WARNS MILOSEVIC ON MONTENEGRO
NATO's Supreme Commander in Europe General Wesley Clark said in Sofia on 13 March that "NATO will do or not do the things it needs to do or not do as it sees it at the time.... As I have said publicly, Mr. Milosevic should be very aware about NATO's capability." Clark stressed that the Atlantic alliance is "watching very closely what's happening in Montenegro as Milosevic tightens the noose." PM
CROATIAN SERB LEADER CALLS FOR DEMOCRATIC REFORM
Milorad Pupovac said in Zagreb on 13 March that Croatia could easily return to the nationalism characteristic of the late President Franjo Tudjman's rule unless the government takes urgent measures to enable Serbian refugees to return to Croatia, rebuild their homes, and acquire citizenship. He added that "democracy in Zagreb without democracy in [the Krajina center of] Knin is something that is not realistic," Reuters reported. Elsewhere in the Croatian capital, British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook praised the new government but called on it to cooperate more closely with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal. PM
CROATS WANT TO KNOW WHO PAID HAGUE LAWYER
A spokesman for the Croatian Embassy in Washington said on 13 March that the embassy has no record of a reported contract with the U.S. attorney David Rivkin, according to which Rivkin allegedly received some $9 million over several years to represent Croatian interests at the Hague-based war crimes tribunal. Justice Minister Stjepan Ivanisevic said recently that embassy officials, and not his ministry, negotiated the contract. "Slobodna Dalmacija" reported on 14 March that several top officials of the former ruling party are trying to blame one another for the alleged deal with Rivkin. Critics charge that Rivkin was ineffective in representing Croatia and was not worth the huge fees he reportedly received. PM
BOSNIAN SERB SOCIALIST PARTY CONTINUES TO DISSOLVE
Meeting on 13 March in Banja Luka, the steering committee of the Socialist Party of the Republika Srpska expelled Nebojsa Radmanovic and Mirko Nozica from the committee. Momir Malic, who is the parliament's general secretary, said he has quit the party. Party General Secretary Zeljko Mirjanic added that he is leaving that post, "Oslobodjenje" reported. The expulsions and resignations come in the wake of the party's decision to leave the governing coalition (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 February 2000). The party is the Bosnian branch of Milosevic's party, and the decision to quit the government is widely seen as having been on his orders. PM
ROMANIAN PRESIDENT NAMES NEW DEFENSE MINISTER
Romanian President Emil Constantinescu has appointed Sorin Frunzaverde as new defense minister, Romanian media reported on 13 March. Frunzaverde was nominated to the post by the Democratic Party, following the resignation of former Defense Minister Victor Babiuc. However, the Democratic Party is to meet on 15 March to decide whether to remain in the coalition government. Constantinescu also expressed his support for Prime Minister Mugur Isarescu and called on the various coalition parties to work together on drafting key laws, such as the budget and a medium-term economic strategy. VG
MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT COMPLETES DUAL CITIZENSHIP DRAFT
Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi has completed work on a draft law on dual citizenship, according to a 13 March BASA-Press report. Mihai Petrache, the president's legal adviser, said the Moldovan Foreign Ministry will submit the document to countries with which it wants to sign dual citizenship agreements. Last week, Lucinschi said in a televised address that Moldova is primarily interested in having such agreements with Romania, Russia, and Israel. VG
BULGARIA DENIES SELLING ARMS TO ANGOLA'S UNITA
The Bulgarian Economy Ministry on 13 March denied reports that the country has sold weapons to UNITA and trained members of the rebel group in Angola, BTA reported. The ministry was responding to a UN report that cited Bulgaria as a chief source of weapons for UNITA since 1997. The report also noted that UNITA members disguised as Zaireans have been trained in Bulgaria. The Economy Ministry said Bulgaria signed a military training accord with Zaire in 1996, at a time when there were no international restrictions on such programs with that country. It added that it sold weapons to Togo, which the UN report cites as a supplier of arms to UNITA. VG
MACEDONIAN FIRM WANTS ONLY TWO BULGARIAN DAILIES
The Macedonian publishing house Nova Makedonija has asked the Bulgarian distributor Pelagonia-M Ltd to provide it with only two Bulgarian newspapers, "Trud" and "24 Chasa," rather than the full allotment, BTA reported. The head of the Bulgarian firm said he is "alarmed" at that decision. On 11 March, the Macedonian firm denied earlier reports that it has decided to discontinue all deliveries of Bulgarian newspapers. VG
ON EQUAL TERMS
By Paul Goble
Russian and Chechen forces increasingly will meet on equal terms and are likely to suffer equal losses now that the military phase of Moscow's operation is mostly over. That pattern appears certain to have an impact on Russian popular attitudes about the conflict as well as on Chechen efforts to continue to fight.
That is the judgment of Pavel Felgengauer, Russia's leading defense analyst. Speaking on Russian radio last week, he suggested that the conflict would now turn into one of "total war" between Russians who have brought it upon themselves by the way in which they have conducted the war and Chechens who now see their struggle as one for national survival.
Such a war, Felgengauer continued, is one that Russian army and Interior Ministry units are not prepared for. Even the most well-trained units are likely to be at risk, he said, pointing to the destruction of a Moscow police convoy outside of Grozny the previous week and the escape of the Chechen units who inflicted it.
But for conscripts and new recruits, Felgengauer suggested, the situation is certain to be even worse. The fighting in Chechnya "will increasingly be on equal terms, without artillery or air power," on which Russian forces had relied to keep their own casualties to a minimum.
Any rise in Russian casualties is likely to undercut Moscow's current claims of victory, simultaneously leading some Russians to call for even tougher measures against the Chechens and causing others to consider trying to find a peaceful way out.
Because acting Russian President Vladimir Putin has based his reputation largely on his tough stance in Chechnya, he will be reluctant to pull back in any way. Right now, the Russian public overwhelmingly supports him in this, with approximately 70 percent favoring a continuation of his campaign to suppress the Chechens.
But that support is predicated on his keeping Russian losses low. Felgengauer's analysis suggests that Putin and his regime may not be able to continue to do so. And once casualties increase, the historical record of many countries that have fought similar wars suggests that many who now support the war effort may turn against it.
Moreover, as the war drags on, ever more Russians are likely to become concerned about the impact of the conflict on Russian political and social life more generally. As Felgengauer pointed out, Moscow has conducted this campaign in a way that has demonized the Chechens and created a situation in which "hatred is met with hatred."
Not only will that further fragment Russian society, but it will almost certainly poison Russian politics and limit the possibility that Russia will be able to move in a democratic direction. That risk was highlighted in a recent speech by Dmitrii Furman, a senior scholar at Moscow's Institute of Europe and a consultant for the Andrei Sakharov Museum and Center.
Speaking to the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington on 23 February--the anniversary of Stalin's deportation of the Chechens--Furman suggested that Moscow's approach both to Chechnya and the Chechens left him unable to "imagine a peaceful integration of Chechens into Russian society."
As a result, Furman said, Russian democracy is likely to become impossible without Chechen independence. And because of that, he concluded, "in the long run, I think Chechen independence is inevitable."
So far, relatively few Russians appear ready to agree with Furman's conclusion, a state of affairs that raises serious questions about Moscow's ability to move toward democracy.
But Felgengauer's argument that the new phase of the Chechen conflict will feature more Russian casualties could ultimately lead many other Russians to conclude that they would be far better off in a democratic Russia without Chechnya than in an undemocratic Russia that tries to hold on to this small republic in the North Caucasus.
If that happens, Russia will join a long list of countries that have given up their colonial possessions once they realized the full cost of holding them.