RUSSIA WILL TREAT U.S. WITHDRAW FROM ABM TREATY WITH REGRET BUT NOT FEAR
In commenting on mass media reports that the United States is planning to bow out of the 1972 ABM Treaty, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said on 12 December that Russia "will regret, but not worry about such a move," RIA-Novosti reported. "Although we favor preservation of the treaty," Kasyanov said at a press conference in Brasilia during his official visit to Brazil, "U.S. withdrawal from it would pose no threat to Russian national security." However, he said that such a move would "shake international stability. As for us, we would prefer to renegotiate the ABM Treaty." VY
...AS EXPERTS PONDER CONSEQUENCES
Institute of USA and Canada Deputy Director Viktor Kremenyuk said on 12 December that it would be perfectly legal under international law for the U.S. to unilaterally withdraw from the ABM Treaty, strana.ru reported. But he added that Washington is not prepared to address Moscow's concern about the fate of the treaty, as it does not understand Russia's persistence in adhering to it. According to Kremenyuk, a U.S. decision to withdraw from the treaty could be a serious blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin's efforts to improve relations with the United States, and as a result Russia could once again be alienated from the West. VY
PUTIN REJECTS CALLS FOR PRESIDENTIAL TERM EXTENSION...
Speaking in Moscow as part of Russia's Constitution Day celebrations, President Putin rejected the proposal by Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov and the other politicians to prolong his presidential term (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 10 and 11 December 2001), RIA-Novosti reported on 12 December. "The revision of the foundations of the constitution is the same as changing our way of government," Putin said. "There are no such topics on our agenda, including the issue that the duration of the presidential term should be tailored to a particular president." Meanwhile, State Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev, who just announced the creation of a working group for the development of constitutional amendments (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 12 December 2001), said the extension of the presidential term to seven years would be a "bad idea." VY
...AS SENATORS SPEAK IN FAVOR OF CONSTITUTIONAL TINKERING
Federation Council Chairman Mironov told reporters on 12 December that although the Russian Constitution needs some amending, "cardinal changes are not on the agenda." Fellow council member Aleksandr Nazarov (Chukotka) also called for determining priorities for revising the constitution, ITAR-TASS reported. And Ingushetia's President Ruslan Aushev told Interfax the same day that he also considers it necessary to change the constitution. In particular, he believes that the State Council should be given constitutional status. Aushev also noted that the current constitution was written eight years ago for a "specific person" -- then-President Boris Yeltsin. Federation Council member Aleksandr Kalita (Ulyanovsk) said he also favors changes, and that the current constitution was adopted when the situation in Russia was still in a transition period. Two senators, Aleksandr Pleshakov (Penza) and Mikhail Odintsov (Ryazan), expressed similar opinions, suggesting that the constitution needs improvements because of the changes that have occurred over the past eight years. JAC
MOST RUSSIANS IGNORANT OF CONSTITUTION DAY
According to the results of an opinion poll published by strana.ru on 12 December, the vast majority of Russians do not consider Constitution Day to be a holiday. Of 1,500 respondents, 67 percent consider the commemorative day for the signing of the Russian Constitution in 1993 to be just another day off. Only 20 percent view it as a holiday. In addition, 47 percent said they consider the constitution purely as a formal document, and 55 percent said they know nothing about the basic statutes of the document. VY
PRIME MINISTER PUSHES RUSSIAN-BRAZILIAN HI-TECH TRADE
Prime Minister Kasyanov met with Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Vice President Marco Maciel on 12 December and discussed cooperation between their countries on constructing nuclear power plants and developing new types of nuclear fuel, Russian business news agencies reported. Kasyanov also said following the talks that Russia will help Brazil develop missile boosters to launch commercial satellites, while Brazil will allow Russia use of the launching pad Alcantara for commercial launches. In addition, Kasyanov said Russia is interested in selling jet fighters and combat helicopters to the Brazilian air force. VY
MOSCOW LAYS PLANS FOR BRIDGE TO CRIMEAN PENINSULA
Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov announced on 12 December that he and Leonid Hrach, the leader of Ukraine's Crimean Autonomous Republic, and Oleh Osadchyy, the mayor of the Crimean city of Kerch, reached agreement on establishing a shareholding company for the construction of a bridge linking the Crimean Peninsula and Russia's Krasnodar Krai, RIA-Novosti reported. The construction of the 6-kilometer bridge over the Kerch Strait is expected to begin in the summer of 2002, and the $1.2 billion cost of the project will be covered by private Russian investors. Luzhkov said the "bridge between Ukraine and Russia is more than a technical project, but a symbol of the unity of two peoples." VY
RUSSIAN SATELLITE LAUNCH SUCCESSFUL
A single Russian rocket carrying five satellites was successfully launched from the Baikonur space center on 10 December, RIA-Novosti reported. Three of the satellites were Russian, including the 2.4-ton "Meteor-3M," which is designed to monitor the ecological situation on Russia's continental shelf and to aid in the exploration of natural resources. Pakistan and Morocco each had one satellite on board. VY
RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SEEKS TO IMPROVE RUSSIAN-AFRICAN RELATIONS
On 12 December, Igor Ivanov began a weeklong trip to Africa in which he will visit Angola, Namibia, and South Africa, strana.ru reported. The website said Ivanov's trip is not a routine diplomatic effort, but a product of Russia's determination to strengthen its policy toward Africa after ignoring it for years. The website noted that this year Moscow has already received the presidents of Nigeria, Guinea, Gabon, as well as the Ethiopian prime minister. On his current trip, Ivanov will promote Russian arms and a joint venture in the natural resources sphere, according to strana.ru. VY
BIN LADEN'S TIES TO ANOTHER MUSLIM COMMUNITY IN RUSSIA UNEARTHED
Ten years ago, terrorist Osama bin Laden's brother, Tariq, contributed $20,000 toward the construction of a new mosque in Ulyanovsk, a city he also visited, "Obshchaya gazeta" reported on 6 December. According to the weekly, the construction of the mosque led to a split in the local Muslim community there, as questions were raised about how the presiding mufti for the oblast, Ayup Deverdeev, was spending the money. As a result, there are now two competing Muslim religious administrations in the oblast: One is run by Deverdeev, and the other by Fatykh Alliulov. Allegations of Wahhabism are also being made, according to the weekly. Last month, the home of an emigre from Iraq was burned down. The Iraqi emigre is perceived by some people in the city to be an "unselfish man wishing to leave behind a good memory of himself" as he helps with construction of the new mosque, while others believe he is a "wandering Wahhabi" intent on stirring up trouble. JAC
COURT ASKED TO GIVE ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVIST NINE YEARS IN PRISON
The military prosecutor in charge of the espionage case against former military journalist Grigorii Pasko demanded on 13 December that the court give Pasko a nine-year prison term, ITAR-TASS reported. Pasko has been accused of collecting classified information about the Pacific Fleet and passing it on to Japanese journalists. This is Pasko's second trial. The court in Vladivostok has adjourned until 17 December, when Pasko's lawyers will make their arguments. JAC
INCUMBENT'S DEPARTURE THROWS SAKHA RACE UP FOR GRABS
After dropping out of the 23 December presidential race in his republic on 12 December, Sakha President Mikhail Nikolaev asked residents to vote for ALROSA President Vyacheslav Shtyrov, Interfax-Eurasia reported. Shtyrov must first have his registration as a candidate reinstated (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December 2001). Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov praised Nikolaev's decision, noting that it was "symbolic" that it came on the day Russia celebrates its constitution. Mikhail Sokolov, the chief political correspondent in RFE/RL's Moscow bureau, noted that Nikolaev's announcement appeared to coincide with his running out of legal options to support his candidacy. Sokolov also suggested that Nikolaev's departure from the race raises the possibility that a second round will be held, and reported that representatives of the Kremlin administration are already conducting consultations with such candidates as local businessman Fedot Tumusov and federal inspector Ruslan Shipkov. JAC
'ITOGI' SUCCESSOR HITS THE STANDS
A new weekly by members of the staff of "Itogi" has appeared on newsstands in Moscow, TV-6 reported on 10 December. The new weekly, "Yezhenedelnii Zhurnal," is edited by Sergei Parkhomenko, the former editor of "Itogi" before it was taken over by Gazprom-Media in April 2001. Parkhomenko promised that the new publication will have "plenty" of political coverage, but that the amount will vary from issue to issue. Parkhomenko commented, "Modern politics embrace something much greater and much more varied than mere political or cadre intrigues. It is this kind of politics, politics understood broadly, that we shall mostly be writing about." JAC
AND THEN THERE WERE SEVEN
Another contender in the 16 December presidential elections in Komi Republic has dropped out of the race, Russian agencies reported. Vladimir Shakhtin, general director of Western Mine, withdrew from the race on 11 December and asked his supporters to vote for Vladimir Torlopov, the chairman of the republic's legislature. According to strana.ru, recent opinion polls show that Shakhtin had only 4-6 percent of the vote. Torlopov and incumbent President Yurii Spiridonov are considered to be the favorites in the race. Spiridonov got a boost when the political councils of both Unity and Fatherland decided to give him their official support, according to "Izvestiya" on 7 December. As of 11 December, there were five candidates remaining in addition to Torlopov and Spiridonov: Sever Oil General Director Mikhail Kodanev, unemployed Syktyvkar resident Leonid Kochanov, Sosnorgorsk businessman Ivan Ruban, State Duma staffer Leonid Musinov, and writer Aleksandr Nekrasov. JAC
POLL SHOWS WHICH FELLOW CIS STATES RUSSIANS REGARD AS 'FRIENDLY'
A poll of an unspecified number of Russian citizens conducted last month by the ROMIR Sociological Center indicates that 76.7 percent regard Belarus as the CIS state most friendly toward Russia, while 37.1 percent consider Georgia "unfriendly" or even "hostile" toward Russia, Turan reported on 12 December. Ukraine and Kazakhstan were ranked second and third among those states regarded as "friendly" to Russia by 37.5 and 35.3 percent respectively, followed by Armenia (28.1 percent), Moldova (25.4 percent), and Kyrgyzstan (21.3 percent.) Only 11.9 percent of respondents considered Azerbaijan friendly to Russia, while 18.1 percent regard Azerbaijan as unfriendly or hostile. Belarus and Kyrgyzstan were considered the least unfriendly. LF
OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER CONFISCATED IN NORTH OSSETIA
The entire 10,000 print run of the most recent issue of the opposition newspaper "Pravda Osetii" was seized by police on the border between Ingushetia and North Ossetia, Glasnost-North Caucasus reported on 12 December, quoting Editor Saukuz Aguzarov. The whole edition was devoted to materials criticizing the republic's present leadership, including President Aleksandr Dzasokhov, who is running for a second presidential term in a ballot scheduled for 27 January 2002. Aguzarov said pressure on his paper has intensified to the point where it can no longer be printed in North Ossetia. After having used publishing houses in Stavropol Krai and Voronezh, the three most recent issues of "Pravda Osetii" were printed in Chechnya. LF
PROSECUTOR-GENERAL CALLS FOR LIFE IMPRISONMENT FOR CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDER
In his concluding statement at the trial in Makhachkala of Chechen field commander Salman Raduev and associates on charges of terrorism, hostage taking, banditry, and murder, Russian Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov compared their seizure of hostages in the Daghestan town of Kizlyar in January 1996 with the terrorist attacks against the U.S. allegedly masterminded by Osama bin Laden, Interfax reported. Ustinov further dismissed as hypocrisy Raduev's argument that the raid was intended to focus the international community's attention on Russian brutality during the first war in Chechnya (1994-1996). Describing Raduev as "a cold-blooded killer and terrorist," Ustinov demanded that he be sentenced to life imprisonment, to be served in a strict regime prison. Acknowledging that many in Daghestan believe Raduev should be sentenced to death, Ustinov again explained that he cannot demand the death penalty given the moratorium on it, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December 2001). Ustinov further demanded 15-year prison terms for three other Chechen commanders who participated in the Kizlyar raid. LF
ARMENIAN-TURKISH RECONCILIATION COMMISSION NEAR COLLAPSE?
The four Armenian members of the Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Commission (TARC) announced on 12 December that they have suspended their participation in that body following a request by the Turkish commission members to the New York-based International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) not to proceed with a study on whether the 1948 UN Genocide Convention is applicable to the mass slaughter of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire in 1915, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The commission asked the ICTJ to undertake that study following a meeting in New York last month (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 40, 6 December 2001). The Armenian commission members, including former Foreign Minister Alexander Arzoumanian, told RFE/RL they believe their Turkish counterparts were pressured by the Turkish government into demanding that the request for the ICTJ study be withdrawn. That violation of an agreement reached earlier proves that TARC's Turkish members "can no longer be trusted," Noyan Tapan quoted Arzoumanian as saying. LF
AZERBAIJANI JOURNALISTS DEMAND ASYLUM IN UNITED STATES...
Following the brutal attack by police on 12 December on the estimated 50 participants of an unsanctioned demonstration to protest harassment of opposition newspapers, the entire staff of the newspaper "Azadlyg" has asked U.S. Ambassador Ross Wilson to grant them political asylum in the U.S., Turan reported. Baku Deputy Police chief Yashar Aliev told that agency the same day that the police intervention was justified as the demonstration was illegal, and that three journalists detained have been released. One of the 26 journalists beaten by police has been hospitalized with a severe concussion. Editors of independent media outlets submitted a request on 12 December to Baku Mayor Hadjibala Abutalibov for permission to hold a further protest demonstration on 20 December at any one of five suggested locations. LF
...AS INTERNATIONAL WATCHDOG COMPLAINS TO AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT
In a letter addressed to Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev on 13 December, Reporters Sans Frontieres expressed concern both at the brutal police treatment of protesting journalists in Baku the previous day, and at infringements on media freedom in recent weeks, Turan reported. RSF General Secretary Robert Menard reminded Aliev of his pledge during a 6 December meeting with U.S. Ambassador Wilson that he is the guarantor of press freedom in Azerbaijan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 December 2001), and demanded that all pressures and aggression against the press be halted immediately. LF
UN ENVOY WANTS CIS PEACEKEEPERS TO REMAIN IN ABKHAZ CONFLICT ZONE
Dieter Boden, the UN secretary-general's special envoy for the Abkhaz conflict, said in Tbilisi on 12 December that the mandate of the CIS peacekeeping force deployed in the conflict zone should be extended after it expires on 31 December, Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported. Boden explained that the UN has not yet discussed Georgia's request that either the force's mandate be changed or that it be replaced by a UN contingent, and that is impossible to take any such decision before the end of the year. He added that the withdrawal of the CIS peacekeeping force would leave the unarmed 107-person UN Observer Mission in Georgia totally undefended. LF
WATER SUPPLIES TO GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT CUT OFF
Water supplies to the Georgian parliament, the state chancellery, and most ministries were cut off on 12 December due to nonpayment of debts, Caucasus Press quoted Tbilisi Mayor Vano Zodelava as telling journalists (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December 2001). City residents, schools, and hospitals, however, still have running water. Zodelava said organizations funded from the state budget owe a total of 18 million laris ($8.21 million) for water supplies. LF
KYRGYZSTAN TO ABOLISH FREE EDUCATION...
Kyrgyz Premier Kurmanbek Bakiev has signed a decree introducing tuition fees for the country's schools, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 11 December. Parents will be required to pay 160 soms (about $3.3) annually for each child attending city schools, and 11 soms for children in rural areas. According to data released earlier this month by the Bishkek municipal authorities, 30 percent of the city's officially registered 700,000 residents live in poverty; the average monthly wage in Bishkek is 1,620 soms. Last year the Ministry of Education and Science reported that during the 1999-2000 school year some 5,000 children of a total 1.1 million failed to attend school because their parents could not afford to provide them with clothing and shoes. LF
...REINTRODUCE SOVIET-ERA HOLIDAYS
The Legislative Assembly (the lower chamber of the bicameral parliament) voted on 10 December to designate 23 February and 7 November as public holidays, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. In the USSR, the first was celebrated as Soviet Army Day and the second as the anniversary of the 1917 October Revolution; both holidays were abolished after Kyrgyzstan gained independence in 1991. The rationale cited for reintroducing the holidays was that the Kyrgyz people have every reason to be grateful to the Bolsheviks for ending the genocidal policy embarked upon by Tsarist Russia following an uprising in 1916, according to Reuters. LF
BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT COURTS BELGIAN DEPUTY SPEAKER...
Alyaksandr Lukashenka met on 12 December with Belgian parliamentary deputy speaker Jean-Paul Henry and showered him with praise. Lukashenka thanked Henry for Belgium's support of Belarus in international organizations, and for what he called the objective assessment of the September presidential election. "Your position [on Belarus] is not simply constructive and well-wishing but also very friendly toward our people... You are taking a noteworthy stance in the discordant choir of Western politicians... Therefore, your visit to Belarus -- I emphasize: the visit of a leading politician, actually, of the second or third of Belgium's most important politicians -- is very important for us," Belarusian Television quoted Lukashenka as saying. Meanwhile, a Belgian Foreign Ministry spokesman told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service the same day that Belgium has not abandoned the "general European position" that Lukashenka was re-elected in an undemocratic ballot. JM
...MAKES GOVERNMENT APPOINTMENTS
Lukashenka on 12 December appointed Uladzimir Syamashka as energy minister; Syarhey Hurulyou as chief of the General Staff of the armed forces and first deputy defense minister; Ivan Chykala as deputy defense minister for logistics; Aleh Paferau as commander of the air force; and Yury Partnou as commander of the land forces. The same day, the Chamber of Representatives approved Belarus's new military doctrine on second (final) reading. Defense Minister Leanid Maltsau, while presenting the doctrine to lawmakers, stressed that it is of a defensive character and does not suggest any military action by Belarusian troops outside the country, Belapan reported. JM
UKRAINE WANTS TO BOOST TRADE WITH IRAN
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko called for a boost in trade with Iran during talks with his Iranian counterpart Kamal Kharrazi in Teheran on 12 December, Reuters reported. "We discussed the Iran-Ukraine-Europe gas pipeline project that would open up new markets for Iranian gas and diversify gas-supply routes to Europe if implemented," Zlenko told a news conference. Relations between Tehran and Kyiv suffered a setback in 1998 when Ukraine, under U.S. pressure, pulled out of a lucrative deal to sell Iran turbines for a nuclear reactor being built at Iran's southern port of Bushehr by Russian engineers. "We feel that there is much room for expansion of trade ties in the field of aircraft manufacturing, energy, chemicals, and agriculture," Zlenko added. JM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT VISITS CHORNOBYL PLANT, INTRODUCES NEW DIRECTOR
Leonid Kuchma paid a visit on 12 December to the Chornobyl power plant and the nearby town of Slavutych, where the plant's workers and their families live. Since December 2000, when the plant's last reactor was shut down, its staff of 10,000 was reduced to 4,200. Kuchma introduced the plant's new director, Yuriy Neretin, who will replace Vitaliy Tolstonohov. Kuchma implied in Slavutych that Tolstonohov was fired in connection with the suspected misuse of funds allocated for the closure of Chernobyl, STB television reported. Kuchma also divulged that he learned "only yesterday" that the previous cabinet of Viktor Yushchenko initialed an accord with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development for the completion of two nuclear reactors under "unacceptable terms" for Ukraine. According to Kuchma, the government will "soon" make a decision on whether to complete these two reactors with Western or Russian help. JM
UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT OUSTS FIRST DEPUTY SPEAKER
The Ukrainian parliament on 13 December voted by 234 to 50, with 112 abstentions, to dismiss first deputy speaker Viktor Medvedchuk, AP reported. Lawmakers accused Medvedchuk, one of Ukraine's most powerful oligarchs, of abuse of power, biased treatment of the parliament's agenda, and procedural violations. Communist deputy Heorhiy Kryuchkov said he and his allies were determined to oust Medvedchuk for his role in getting the Land Code passed. Deputy Volodymyr Bondarenko from the Reform-Congress caucus said the previous day that the motion to oust Medvedchuk was signed by lawmakers from five caucuses, but refused to name them. Bondarenko also said the same caucuses demand that the parliament view a draft bill on holding obligatory television debates between candidates in the upcoming parliamentary election campaign. The bill was proposed by Fatherland Party leader Yuliya Tymoshenko, who has recently complained that Ukraine's major television channels refuse to give air to her party and broadcast the party's advertisements. JM
ESTONIAN PRESIDENT ASKS PREMIER ABOUT COALITION SITUATION
During their regular weekly meeting, Arnold Ruutel asked Mart Laar on 12 December how the disagreements in the Tallinn City Council will affect the stability of the ruling coalition at the national level, ETA reported. Laar responded that the parliament will soon approve the budget for 2002, and that the Christmas period will be peaceful. It is likely however, that Laar is overly optimistic. The Tallinn City Council on 13 December will vote on a no-confidence proposal against Mayor Tonis Palts of the Pro Patria Union. The council has 64 members, of whom 24 belong to the Center Party and 10 to the Reform Party that recently agreed to form a coalition. Center Party Chairman Edgar Savisaar, who expects to become Tallinn's new mayor, stated that the 33 votes needed to oust Palts should be obtained from the coalition members, although this is not guaranteed since the vote is by secret ballot. SG
LATVIA CLOSES ENERGY CHAPTER IN EU MEMBERSHIP TALKS
The Latvian delegation to the EU, which is headed by Foreign Minister Indulis Berzins, completed the energy chapter in its EU membership negotiations in Brussels on 12 December, BNS reported. The EU delegation was headed by Belgium's Foreign Minister Louis Michel, although EU commissioner for enlargement Guenter Verheugen also participated in the talks. Latvia was allowed a transition period until the end of 2009 for the accumulation of the required 90-day reserve of oil products. Latvia has now completed 22 of the 31 chapters in the membership talks. The meeting also addressed the chapter on telecommunications and information technologies, whose closing is delayed not by Latvian but EU failures to reach a common position. SG
LITHUANIAN AGREEMENT WITH YUKOS CANCELED
The U.S. company Williams International, which operates Mazeikiai Nafta (Mazeikiai Oil), announced on 12 December that it has canceled its agreement with the Russian oil company YUKOS, "Lietuvos rytas" reported the next day. The two companies signed an agreement in June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June 2001) by which YUKOS agreed to pay $75 million, loan another $75 million, and supply 4.8 million tons of crude oil per year to the refinery in exchange for a 26.85 percent share of Mazeikiai Nafta. Randy Majors, the board chairman of Mazeikiai Nafta, told a news conference that the main stumbling block was the failure to reach an agreement on whether penalties would be imposed if YUKOS failed to supply the promised supply of crude oil. YUKOS officials argued that the situation was made more complicated by Russia's recent agreement with OPEC to reduce oil exports. Majors expects the negotiations with YUKOS to be continued next year. SG
POLISH PRESIDENT BRANDS 1981 MARTIAL LAW AS 'EVIL'...
Speaking on the 20th anniversary of the imposition of martial law in Poland in what he announced to be one of the most important speeches in his life, President Aleksander Kwasniewski said, "Nobody who is reasonable has any doubt: martial law was evil," Polish Radio reported on 13 December. "It was evil because it was directed against the rebirth of freedom; evil because its result was the crushing of hope for life with dignity, for civil rights, and for democracy. And evil because it set millions of Poles against each other, deepened inner disputes and divisions, and wasted enthusiasm for building democratic society," Kwasniewski added. JM
...PAYS TRIBUTE TO VICTIMS OF MARTIAL LAW...
Kwasniewski paid tribute to victims of martial law, including miners from the Wujek mine who were shot by the police. "[These killings at Wujek were] the most tragic event of that time. Let's recall the surnames of those young people who, when faced with history, paid the highest price for their aspirations -- Jozef Czekalski, Krzysztof Giza, Ryszard Gzik, Boguslaw Kopczak, Andrzej Pelka, Zbigniew Wilk, Zenon Zajac, Joachim Gnida, Jan Stawisinski. Today, the oldest would be 68, the youngest 39," Kwasniewski said. JM
...FINDS EXCUSE FOR GENERAL WOJCIECH JARUZELSKI
Commenting on the role of General Wojciech Jaruzelski in the imposition of martial law, Kwasniewski said he would not like to be Jaruzelski's defense lawyer but simultaneously added that he understands Jaruzelski's motivation in 1981. "I would like to emphasize that I understand the dramatic circumstances under which he had to make this difficult decision. And I believe and I am convinced that he made it bearing his country's well-being and patriotism in mind. I have respect for his words today when he says: 'I feel responsible for all that happened in the state even if I did not know about something or I did not have influence on it,'" Kwasniewski said. JM
POLISH PARLIAMENT FAILS TO ADOPT RESOLUTION ON MARTIAL LAW ANNIVERSARY
The Sejm has failed to agree on a joint draft resolution marking the 20th anniversary of martial law in Poland, so the Sejm's Convent of Elders decided not to adopt any document, Polish media reported on 13 December. There were two different draft resolutions prepared by the leftist Labor Union (UP) and the rightist League of Polish Families (LPR). The UP proposed to state that the Sejm honors the victims of martial law and expects that the crimes committed during the martial law period will be punished. The LPR's version read: "On the 20th anniversary of martial law in Poland, we want to strongly condemn the authors of brutal pacification of Poles' pro-independence strivings in the memorable December 81" (see "End Note" below). JM
POLISH COALITION PARTY OPPOSES LAND SALES TO FOREIGNERS AFTER THREE-YEAR LEASE
Deputy Premier and Agriculture Minister Jaroslaw Kalinowski, who heads the Peasant Party (PSL) that is a coalition partner of the ruling Democratic Left Alliance, told journalists on 12 December that his party opposes giving the EU farmers the right to buy Polish agricultural land after leasing it for three years, PAP reported. Kalinowski added that such a concession would endanger Polish interests. This concession was presented as Poland's official stance in EU talks by Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz last month, causing considerable controversy in Poland (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 27 November 2001). "The PSL supports the recent shortening of the transition period on land sales to foreigners to 12 years from 18. But purchases after a [three-year] lease period are not acceptable," Kalinowski said. JM
CZECHS CLOSE EU CHAPTERS ON ENERGY, JUSTICE AND HOME AFFAIRS
Foreign Minister Jan Kavan announced the closing on 12 December of the energy and justice and home affairs chapters in EU accession talks, CTK reported. Kavan noted that a statement from Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner did not mention the possible reopening of the energy chapter, something Vienna has threatened in connection with safety concerns over the Temelin nuclear power plant. The Czech Republic has now closed 24 of 30 accession chapters. Kavan also expressed regret that the EU has so far failed to agree on a joint position toward candidate countries in the transport chapter, disrupting a timetable agreed in Nice in 2000. Member states disagree over a German and Austrian proposal on limiting new members' access to the EU cargo market for a transitional period. The Czech foreign minister said there is nothing wrong with "reminding the EU of its commitments," adding that he hopes a solution might still be found by the end of this year. AH
CHARGES LEVELED IN CZECH PROCUREMENT SCANDAL
A police spokeswoman said investigators have brought charges against three current or past members of the army's General Staff in connection with a military tender for aircraft altimeters (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 December 2001, CTK reported on 12 December. The three are accused of costing the military 1.9 billion crowns ($52 million) by unfairly favoring the only bidder in the deal, Prague-based Mikrotechna Praha. Two of the individuals are still on the General Staff and will be given other work at the ministry until the investigation is complete, according to the spokeswoman. AH
CZECH GOVERNMENT APPROVES TROOP DEPLOYMENT
The Social Democratic government on 12 December unanimously approved the deployment of Czech peacekeepers to Afghanistan, and opened the way for military participation in the U.S.-led Operation Enduring Freedom, CTK reported. Prime Minister Milos Zeman said the country has offered its allies an antichemical unit, a field hospital, and another 120-150 soldiers following a formal request from Washington. The head of the lower house's Defense and Security Committee, Petr Necas, said lawmakers will not delay the deployment. Both legislative chambers are expected to debate the move as soon as 19 December, Czech radio reported on 13 December. Media have speculated that Czech soldiers could also be sent to Kuwait or Pakistan, although Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik insisted the only destination discussed was Afghanistan. AH
CZECH STATE ATTORNEY WEIGHS IN AGAINST SOLIH EXTRADITION
The Czech state attorney's office said on 13 December that the extradition of dissident Mohammad Solih to his native Uzbekistan would constitute a breach of Czech law, the "Pravo" daily's website reported. A Prague court is expected to rule on the case on 14 December. The state attorney's office said the "obstacles" to extradition include Solih's refugee status in Norway and Uzbekistan's reputation as an "unsafe" country in terms of its respect for human rights. Solih, who has been released from custody but has pledged to stay in the country to await a decision, visited Czech President Vaclav Havel on 12 December. A presidential spokesman said Havel was relieved that Solih harbors no resentment toward the "young Czech institutions" that have placed him in the current situation. Solih thanked Havel for his support during the ordeal. AH
INSURER, ENTREPRENEUR COULD DEAL DEATH BLOW TO JUNIOR POLITICAL PARTY
Radim Masny, a high-profile Czech entrepreneur, has suggested he might purchase the debts of the Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA) from insurer Ceska Pojistovna in order to "liquidate" the right-wing party, the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes" reported on 13 December. The ODA, a junior partner in the opposition Four Party Coalition, has an outstanding debt of 68 million crowns to the insurance company dating back to 1992, and has faced difficulties with repayment, CTK reported the same day. If the party proves unable to make its payments, the creditor could insist that a court shut it down. The senior management at the former monopoly insurer Ceska Pojistovna includes a former political rival and finance minister for the Civic Democratic Party, Ivan Kocarnik, the paper noted. The daily quoted Masny as saying in reference to the ODA that,"My intention is to liquidate the party." AH
FORMER SLOVAK PRESIDENT OPTS FOR NATO MEMBERSHIP
Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) leader Vladimir Meciar said at a conference in Bratislava on 12 December that his party is in favor of NATO membership. "The HZDS's victory [in next year's parliamentary election] will strengthen the position of pro-integration powers in Slovakia, domestic stability, and also fulfillment of duties. Consequently...membership in NATO will be guaranteed," Reuters quoted Meciar as saying (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December 2001). Slovakia was excluded from the first wave of NATO enlargement because of Meciar's authoritarian policies when he headed the government in 1994-98. The HZDS is again Slovakia's most popular party with steady voter support of 25-30 percent. JM
HUNGARIAN SUPREME COURT RULES ON METRO FINANCING
On 12 December, the Supreme Court rejected a claim by the Budapest City Council that the state must pay 100 billion forints ($360 million) toward the cost of constructing a fourth metro line in Budapest. The court's ruling ends a legal wrangle that has been dragging on for three years. The City Council was trying to enforce a contract signed in April 1998 by then-Finance Minister Peter Medgyessy and Budapest Mayor Gabor Demszky, a few weeks before the 1998 general elections. Later that year, Zsigmond Jarai, the new FIDESZ-government's Finance Minister, canceled the contract on behalf of the government. The court explained that the contract is a valid one, but as parliamentary approval was never obtained for its fulfillment, the state cannot be forced to pay damages. Upon hearing the verdict, Demszky said the cabinet's campaign to suppress all institutions that might act as a counterweight to it has extended to the courts. Demszky will reportedly consult legal experts on whether to take the case to the European Court in Strasbourg. Demszky blamed the government and the present political leadership, and said he considers Prime Minister Viktor Orban to be responsible for the present situation, rather than the Hungarian judicial system, "Vilaggazdasag" reports. MSZ
HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT DEBATES NATIONAL IMAGE CENTER
Parliament on 12 December held a daylong debate on the National Image Center, founded in 1998 by Viktor Orban's government. Istvan Stumpf, the head of the Prime Minister's Office, defended the foundation of the center by saying that "the administration must play a bigger role in shaping and communicating the country's image." He said Hungarians have always had to struggle to dispel prejudices about them abroad. However, opposition Socialist Party parliamentary member Bela Katona said the establishment of the center was a bad idea from the start, as "such an idea was last brought up by [former Romanian dictator Nicolae] Ceausescu." Free Democrat Chairman Gabor Kuncze said the center has secretly spent 13.5 billion forints ($48 million) over 3 1/2 years, and deputies cannot gain access to information about how the funds were used. MSZ
FORMER HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER SLAMS FIDESZ
Gyula Horn on 12 December accused the major coalition party FIDESZ of trying to "slander" leading figures of the Socialist Party, Hungarian media reported. "FIDESZ is abusing the means of power without restraint, whether these be judicial and public security bodies, or various media organs," he said. Horn's statement came one day after police launched an investigation against Socialist prime ministerial candidate Medgyessy in the so-called "Gresham case" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 12 December 2001). MSZ
KOSOVAR PARLIAMENT OFF TO ROCKY START
Ibrahim Rugova, who heads the Democratic League of Kosova (LDK), said in Prishtina that coalition talks with the two next largest ethnic Albanian parties have failed and that the LDK will form a minority government, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Prishtina on 13 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10, 11, and 12 December 2001). The leaders of those two parties -- Hashim Thaci of the Democratic Party of Kosova (PDK) and Ramush Haradinaj of the Alliance for the Future of Kosova (AAK) -- have said they will boycott the parliament if Rugova is elected president on 13 December, as is expected. Thaci's party already staged a walkout on 10 December. Deputies from the Serbian Povratak party will not participate in the presidential vote because they believe that a presidency signifies independent statehood, which Povratak rejects. Some two-thirds of all deputies, or 81 legislators, must approve a given candidate to elect that candidate on a first or second ballot. A simple majority of 61 votes is sufficient to elect on a third ballot, Reuters reported. On the first ballot, Rugova received only 49 votes. PM
KOSOVAR PARLIAMENT SPEAKER CALLS FOR INDEPENDENCE AND MINORITY RIGHTS
Nexhat Daci (LDK) said in Prishtina that he will support all parties that call for independence for Kosova, Hina reported on 12 December. Daci added that he will do all he can to ensure that members of ethnic minorities feel safe in the province, the population of which is 90 percent Albanian. Daci said that he hopes his work for minority rights will have the support of the international community and all "true intellectuals in Kosova." PM
MACEDONIAN POLICE RE-ENTER REBEL AREAS
Reuters reported from Skopje on 13 December that ethnically mixed police forces, accompanied by NATO troops and OSCE monitors, have begun deploying in 15 villages formerly held by ethnic Albanian fighters (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December 2001). No incidents have been reported. Residents of Ljuboten turned out to greet the police, among whom are ethnic Albanians. But an unspecified number of villagers told some Macedonian journalists to leave "to make sure this process goes peacefully." Macedonian security forces are alleged to have killed unarmed civilians in Ljuboten in July. The news agency reported that the real test of the operation will come in several weeks, when the police will resume nighttime as well as daylight patrols. PM
MACEDONIA'S FOREIGN DEBT HITS $378 MILLION
The foreign debt has reached $378 million, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported from Skopje on 11 December. The volume of foreign trade declined during the first 10 months of 2001. The EU remains Macedonia's top trading partner, followed by the other former Yugoslav republics. PM
SOLANA TO MEDIATE YUGOSLAV TALKS...
Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic and Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic said separately in Podgorica on 12 December that EU security chief Javier Solana will mediate talks between the Montenegrin and Belgrade leaderships shortly, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December 2001). Solana and other EU officials have put pressure on Podgorica in recent weeks to remain in a single state with Serbia. But the Montenegrins feel that the EU may change its mind if its representatives have an opportunity to observer what Podgorica regards as Belgrade's bullying tactics. PM
...BUT WILL THE PARTICIPANTS TALK PAST EACH OTHER?
Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica's office said in Belgrade that he welcomes the talks but that the question of setting up two independent states must not be on the agenda, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 12 December. In Podgorica, Djukanovic said that the discussion topic will be how to recast relations now that the federation is dead. PM
RUSSELL-JOHNSTON WARNS OF EU BIAS ON MONTENEGRO
Lord Russell-Johnston, who is the president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, told the Podgorica weekly "Monitor" that the EU is wrong to support one side in the dispute between the Montenegrin and Belgrade authorities, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 13 December. He stressed that the EU's support for a continuation of the Serbian-Montenegrin union is counterproductive because it will alienate many Montenegrins, who have the right to determine their own future. Johnston added that the first thing that the Montenegrins must decide on -- before going ahead with a referendum -- is what will constitute a valid majority in a vote for independence. PM
MOVES TO END FEUD IN SERBIAN COALITION
Goran Svilanovic, who heads the small Citizens' Alliance within the governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition, said in Belgrade on 12 December that he and Miroljub Labus of the G 17-Plus group have drawn up a plan to end the rift between Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) and the other 17 members of the DOS, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December 2001). Svilanovic did not go into detail but noted that the plan includes the return of the DSS to the Serbian government, a cabinet reshuffle, and the election of a new speaker of the parliament. The plan also calls for adopting a new Serbian constitution and agreeing on measures to discipline any member of the DOS who violates the coalition agreement. PM
SERBIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES LABOR LAW
A new labor law passed in a 146-41 vote with seven abstentions, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported from Belgrade on 12 December. The final version included several changes sought by the DSS, which voted for the measure. A recent split between the DSS and its more reformist coalition partners over the labor bill led to the latest round of public feuding between Kostunica's party and its nominal allies. Serbia's economy suffers from the presence of numerous white-elephant, state-run industries that are in need of painful restructuring or outright closure. PM
SERBIAN SMUGGLING RING EXPOSED
In one of the biggest recent seizures of contraband goods, police confiscated $300,000 worth of smuggled cigarettes, alcohol, and foreign currency at the Kelebija border crossing with Hungary, AP reported on 12 December. Two border policemen and one customs officer were arrested. Smuggling continues to provide lucrative incomes for many in Serbia. PM
TITO'S SERBIAN WIDOW SAYS SHE 'LIVES IN MISERY'
In one of her rare interviews, Jovanka Broz told "Blic" of 13 December that her basic human rights have been taken from her and that she "lives in despair and misery," AP reported. "I'm totally deprived of any rights. All my property has been taken away from me," she added. Her decline into poverty began under the regime of former President Slobodan Milosevic. It was widely believed that Milosevic's wife, Mira Markovic, wanted to remove any possible rivals from the limelight. She kept Jovanka under a form of house arrest that lasted until the fall of the Milosevic regime in October 2000. But Jovanka told "Blic": "I had hoped things would [then] change for me, but nothing happened. My house has not been heated for two years, and I live like on a peak of an ice hill. The house is big, and I have no financial means for repairs." Jovanka added: "Some of my valuables were found under Milosevic's bedroom after his arrest" in June but were not returned to her. PM
SERBIA SET TO DELIVER WAR CRIMINALS TO THE HAGUE?
Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic said in Belgrade on 12 December that it is possible that Serbia will send to the war crimes tribunal "several" indicted war criminals within the next 60 days, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December 2001). He did not elaborate. Meanwhile in The Hague, a tribunal spokesman called on Belgrade to extradite the four highest-ranking indictees from the Milosevic regime still at large: Serbian President Milan Milutinovic (who is still in office), top Milosevic aide Nikola Sainovic, former Serbian Interior Minister Vlajko Stojiljkovic, and General Dragoljub Ojdanic, who headed the General Staff during the 1999 Kosova conflict. PM
NATO CONTEMPLATES CATCHING BOSNIAN WAR CRIMINALS
An unnamed NATO official told Reuters in Brussels on 12 December that NATO ambassadors discussed "how we could possibly try and see if there is a way of speeding up the possible arrest and bringing to justice of some of the suspected war criminals who are still at large" in Bosnia. The official added that SFOR's mandate still does not include actively pursuing war criminals, but "I think it's fair to say that if we find out where they are, you may see SFOR making sure that they do run into them in the course of their normal duty." The official noted that the political will is growing to "put our hands on some of the bigger fish, like Mr. [Ratko] Mladic and Mr. [Radovan] Karadzic." PM
MORE DEMONSTRATIONS IN CROATIA
In Zagreb on 12 December, some 500 workers, students, and farmers demonstrated against the government's social policies, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Elsewhere, some 180 police high school graduates demonstrated against the government's refusal to hire them for the force. The government says the high school graduates must complete the police academy first. The government also charges that a large number of the many ostensibly social protests over the past two years have been engineered by the opposition to embarrass the governing coalition. PM
ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS REPORT ON PUBLIC RADIO
The Romanian Parliament's joint session on 12 December rejected the report of the state-owned public radio's administration council for the year 2000, Mediafax reported. Culture Commission Chairman Senator Adrian Paunescu said the radio's administration council has been dismissed. The opposition National Liberal Party, Democratic Party, and Greater Romania Party boycotted the vote, arguing that the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) had already made up its mind on dismissing the council beforehand. They accused the PSD of trying to gain control of public radio. Radio administration council Chairman Andrei Dimitriu said there are "no real reasons" for dismissing the council, which, despite some mistakes had a good record overall. ZsM
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH REPORT SAYS ROMANIA HAS MADE PROGRESS ON HUMAN RIGHTS...
A recently released Human Rights Watch report states that Romania made small, but safe steps toward respecting human rights, Mediafax reported on 12 December. The report, which analyzed the period from November 1999 to October 2000, said that ethnic and racial discrimination leads many Romanian Roma to flee to foreign countries in hopes of obtaining refugee status. It also said that the state is discriminating against several religious groups by refusing them official recognition. Police brutality is still a problematic issue, as are press freedom and the right to a fair trial. The report acknowledged Romanian legislative efforts to combat discrimination against sexual minorities. ZsM
...WHILE INTERETHNIC RELATIONS STILL STRAINED IN ROMANIA
An opinion poll conducted for the Cluj-based Ethnic Diversity Resource Center showed that interethnic relations are still strained in Romania, local media reported. Only 22 percent of Romanians from Transylvania feel that Romanian-Hungarian relations within the country have improved compared to 1989, while 44 percent of ethnic Hungarians agree with this statement. Meanwhile, 43 percent of Romanians and 51 percent of Hungarians view their relationship as cooperative. As for minority rights, ethnic Romanians said ethnic Hungarians have enough rights, while over 60 percent of ethnic Hungarians complained of insufficient rights. The poll also showed that ethnic Romanians living among ethnic Hungarians are more tolerant than those living outside Transylvania, and that the majority of ethnic Romanians still believe that Hungary wants to regain control over Transylvania. The poll was conducted in October and used separate questionnaires for ethnic Romanians and Hungarians from Transylvania, for Roma, and for ethnic Romanians throughout the country. ZsM
ROMANIAN TOURISM MINISTRY LAUNCHES PUBLIC OFFERING FOR SHARES IN 'DRACULA PARK'
Romanian Tourism Minister Dan Matei Agathon launched the initial public offering of shares in the "Dracula Park" project on 12 December (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November 2001), Romanian media reported. The IPO is intended to raise some $5 million for financing the construction of a $31 million theme park near the Transylvanian city of Sighisoara. Agathon and Prime Minister Adrian Nastase were the first ones to purchase shares. At least 60 percent of the shares have to be sold by 15 February 2002. According to the Tourism Ministry, the initial investment is to be returned in 10 years. ZsM
MOLDOVAN GOVERNMENT PUSHES AHEAD WITH REINSTATING SOVIET-ERA LOCAL ADMINISTRATION SYSTEM
The Moldovan cabinet approved a draft law on 12 December for reinstating the Soviet-era local administration system (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 November and 11 December 2001), Flux reported. Premier Vasile Tarlev said the cabinet's measure is aimed at simplifying the adoption of the law, as its original proposal discussed by parliament contained too many amendments. Tarlev argued the proposed system will significantly reduce the number of employees and will cut salary expenditures in half. ZsM
MOLDOVAN PREMIER ASKS FOR DUAL-LANGUAGE INSCRIPTION
During the cabinet's meeting on 12 December, Vasile Tarlev asked governmental structures to use two languages -- Romanian and Russian -- for official signs and on document letterheads, Flux reported. ZsM
VERHEUGEN: BULGARIA NEEDS 'HARRY POTTER' TO JOIN EU IN FIRST WAVE
In reaction to statements on 11 December by Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi that Bulgaria plans to finish EU accession talks in 2003 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December 2001), EU enlargement commissioner Gunter Verheugen said the country would need magic to be ready in time, Reuters reported on 12 December. "You would need magical powers for that. It is a Harry Potter approach," Verheugen told reporters, referring to the character in the best-selling books of J.K. Rowling. Bulgaria had previously set its target date for joining the EU as 2006, and Verheugen said Bulgaria and Romania have not met the economic criteria that would enable them to join the union with the first wave of countries in 2004. "My advice would be not to create expectations [among Bulgarians] that are too high and cannot be met, because that could lead to disappointment," he added. DW
BULGARIA ANNOUNCES TENDER FOR UPGRADING MIG FLEET
Bulgaria's Defense Ministry announced an international tender on 12 December for upgrading its fleet of 20 Soviet-built MiG-29 fighters, Reuters reported. "The bidders are required to repair the planes at Bulgaria's aviation repair plant Georgi Benkovski and to be licensed by Russia's chief construction bureau Mikoyan," the ministry said in a statement. The ministry added that so far five foreign companies, including a Russian and an Israeli firm, have expressed interest. The government of Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski is seeking to upgrade its armed forces ahead of the 2002 NATO summit in Prague, at which it hopes to be invited to join the alliance. DW
IMF TO EXTEND LOAN TO BULGARIA
The International Monetary Fund will extend a $300 million loan to Bulgaria to help it continue economic reforms and support its balance of payments, Finance Minister Milen Velchev told reporters on 13 December, AP reported. He added that the loan agreement runs over two years and still needs approval of the IMF board. Velchev said the new loan "will spur economic growth and will create...more foreign investment" in Bulgaria. As a condition of the loan, the government has agreed to reduce the state budget deficit to 0.8 percent of GDP next year from 1.5 percent this year. DW
POLAND TWENTY YEARS AFTER
Twenty years ago, on the morning of 13 December 1981, all of Poland was shocked by the sight of tanks, armored personnel carriers, and police and military units armed with Kalashnikov machine guns patrolling the streets. And quite suddenly, there were no radio or television programs on the air. Instead, television broadcast images every half hour of General Wojciech Jaruzelski who, sporting his now famous junta-style black glasses, told the country that "our fatherland has found itself on the edge of an abyss," and announced the introduction of martial law.
The highest authority body in the country turned out to be the Jaruzelski-led Military Council of National Salvation (WRON), which was set up shortly after midnight on 13 December. The WRON ordered some 10,000 Solidarity activists interned until the council was dissolved in July 1983; more than 3,000 were arrested in the wee hours of the first day of martial law. The acronym WRON -- which was only one letter short of "wrona" (crow in Polish) -- immediately inspired a popular anti-communist slogan of that period: "orla wrona nie pokona" ("the crow won't beat the eagle" -- by which the eagle stood for both Poland's national emblem and, figuratively, Poland's strivings for independence).
The WRON introduced the censorship of correspondence and telephone calls as well as curfews. Major Polish plants and factories received new managers -- military commissars. All the Polish periodicals -- apart from the party's two countrywide dailies ("Trybuna Ludu" and "Zolnierz Wolnosci"), and 16 regional dailies -- were suspended. All the universities were closed and all the students, including this author, were told to go home and watch television for an official announcement on when to return to their studies.
The general atmosphere in the first days of martial law was surreal and absurd. Whom did the commies want to fight? But then came terse official reports -- read by television news presenters in military uniforms -- about the bloody pacification of strikes in the Wujek and Manifest Lipcowy mines, and it was suddenly chillingly clear for everyone that the communist regime would do anything imaginable to remain true to former Polish communist leader Wladyslaw Gomulka's pledge that "We won't give up the power we once won."
The 1981 martial law was called off in mid-1983, but the general perception is that it lasted until 1989, when Solidarity took over in a peaceful transition from totalitarianism to democracy. Jaruzelski's rule in the 1980s was a bleak period in Poland, both because of economic hardships and the general feeling of hopelessness among younger generations: three-quarters of a million Poles emigrated during that time, most of them young, which led to a brain drain from which the country has yet to recover.
Twenty years later, Poles remain bitterly divided as regards political and moral assessments of the 1981 martial law. Solidarity first leader Lech Walesa has recently commented that Jaruzelski's crackdown on Solidarity in 1981 "destroyed Poland's hope, and that was an unpardonable mistake." According to Walesa, if it were not for martial law, Poland would already be part of the EU.Jaruzelski's self-advocacy boils down to the tenet that his crackdown on Solidarity saved Poland from Soviet invasion and a much bloodier scenario, resembling that of Hungary's anti-communist uprising in 1956.Polish historians have yet to find documentary evidence that Poland was threatened in 1981 by an imminent intervention of Soviet forces. However, Jaruzelski seems to have won over the public in Poland to his reasons for imposing martial law. Poland's three polling centers have concurrently found that some 50 percent of respondents now believe that the imposition of martial law was justified, and only some 20 percent think otherwise.It is also notable that some 30 percent of Poles have no clear opinion about 13 December 1981. Ironically, this group primarily is made up of a "martial-law baby boom" -- young people who were born during the martial law years when annual births topped 700,000 -- nearly double the current levels. One is almost compelled to say that Poles "made love not war" at that time in the literal sense. For these baby boomers -- among whom unemployment currently reaches 40 percent -- the historical disputes of their parents about the Solidarity-Communists standoff in the 1980s seem to have no urgency or even to be completely irrelevant to their lives.Adam Michnik, who was arrested and interned on 13 December 1981, wrote in his "Gazeta Wyborcza" on 12 December 2001 that "after 20 years, Poland deserves peace and reconciliation." Michnik appealed to President Aleksander Kwasniewski and the parliament to find a "legal formula" in order to free General Jaruzelski from all court trials he is currently undergoing. According to Michnik, Jaruzelski deserves the Poles' gratitude in no lesser degree than Walesa for "paving the way toward freedom without blood and barricades, without executions and scaffolds" in 1989.While it is not ruled out that Kwasniewski and the current leftist-dominated parliament may lend an ear to Michnik's appeal, it is hardly conceivable that the postulated "peace and reconciliation" over Poland's contemporary history will reign supreme any time soon. But Michnik's appeal, as well as the above-mentioned polls on martial law, reflect an evident shift in historical thinking of the Poles from traditionally romantic and emotional, to more temperate and detached assessments. This may also be a sign of Poland's ongoing transformation, in which collective myths of both the anti-communist tradition and the communist historiography are gradually replaced by more individualist visions of history and life in general.