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Watch List: January 21, 1999

21 January 1999, Volume 1, Number 2

THE RECAK MASSACRE. The massacre of at least 45 ethnic Albanians in the village of Recak is comparable to other massacres by Serbian forces in Kosova and Bosnia, says James Hooper of the Balkan Action Council in Washington. But, he adds, the Recak massacre is unique because U.S. Ambassador William Walker and his international monitors were able to verify mutilation and the presence of elderly men, a woman, and a child among the victims before Serbian forces could hide the evidence, which accounts for President Slobodan Milosevic's fury and his demand to change monitoring rules.

CRIMEAN TATAR OFFICE BOMBED. In the pre-dawn hours of January 15, a bomb destroyed much of the headquarters in Simferopol of the main Tatar organization in Ukraine's Crimean peninsula, according to the U.S.-based International Committee for Crimea. ICC notes in its report on the incident that a new constitution for the Autonomous Republic of Crimea "fails to protect adequately political and cultural rights" of the 275,000 Tatars who live there.

RUSSIAN ECOLOGIST-SPY CASE BACK TO COURT. On Feb. 4 Russia's Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the case of Aleksandr Nikitin, who has been charged with espionage and disclosure of state secrets as a result of his efforts to report on environmental pollution by the Soviet and Russian northern fleet, according to the Bellona Foundation, the Norwegian environmentalist group. Last October, a St. Petersburg city court returned the case to prosecutors calling the charges against Nikitin "vague."

RUSSIANS SPURN LITHUANIAN PLEA FOR EVIDENCE... Vytautas Landsbergis, the chairman of Lithuania's parliament, has sharply criticized Moscow for failing to provide, as required by a treaty, information on those involved in killing 14 Lithuanians on January 13, 1991.

...BUT LITHUANIA WILL TRY GENOCIDE SUSPECT. Lithuania will try in abstentia former NKVD officer Petras Raslanas on charges of organizing a massacre of 76 unarmed Lithuanians on June 25, 1941. Raslanas, now 84, lives in Russia and has ignored a summons by Lithuania's prosecutor-general.

LATVIA TO DISMISS TEACHERS WITHOUT LATVIAN LANGUAGE. As of July 1, 88 teachers in Latvia who failed to obtain Latvian-language certificates by the end of 1998 will be fired, according to the Ministry of Education, while 53 other teachers have until June 1 to obtain their certificates. The Latvian pressure, Riga's "Diena" newspaper reports, is aimed at Russian speakers who have been reluctant to learn Latvian.

BELARUS OPPOSITION SCHEDULES VOTE. On Jan. 14 Belarusian opposition leaders told OSCE's Parliamentary Assembly that they had scheduled a presidential election for May 16 on the basis of the constitutional arrangements that Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka overturned.

CANADA GRANTS ASYLUM TO ROMA. Citing evidence of "well-founded fear of persecution" for reasons of race, Canada granted in 1998 political asylum to 121 Hungarian Romas. In the Czech Republic, whose Roma citizens fled to Canada in 1997 in similar numbers, prosecutor Ivo Istvan in Olomouc issued a statement that from now on the state will demand tougher sentences for skinheads who commit racially motivated offenses, most of them targeting Romas.

BULGARIA TO PROSECUTE RFE/RL JOURNALIST. Reporters Sans Frontiers, a group defending press freedom, has protested an investigation of Tatiana Vaksberg, a freelancer for RFE/RL's Sofia bureau. Bulgarian Prosecutor General Ivan Tatarchev charged her with "insulting state authority" in an October 1998 broadcast which suggested his prosecution for failing to pursue criminals.