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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 5, No. 38, 01-02-23

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: Newsline Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>

RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol. 5, No. 38, 23 February 2001


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT SHOOTINGS TRIAL RESUMES
  • [02] ARMENIAN BUSINESSMAN RELEASED FROM PRE-TRIAL DETENTION
  • [03] ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT YIELDS TO RETAIL SECTOR OVER CASH REGISTERS
  • [04] GEORGIAN SUPREME COURT REVOKES REGISTRATION OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES
  • [05] GEORGIAN PRESIDENT BLAMES CURRENCY SLIDE ON TURKISH CRISIS
  • [06] U.S. OIL COMPANY EXECUTIVE, GEORGIAN PRESIDENT DISCUSS OIL EXPORT PIPELINE
  • [07] KAZAKH ARMS EXPORTER SENTENCED FOR MURDER
  • [08] KAZAKH AUTHORITIES BAN PLANNED MASS DEMONSTRATION
  • [09] KAZAKH ECOLOGISTS URGE OIL CONSORTIUM TO COMPENSATE FOR DAMAGE TO CASPIAN ECOSYSTEM
  • [10] KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT FINALLY APPROVES AMNESTY LAW
  • [11] TAJIK DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS ARMY IS COMBAT-READY
  • [12] FURTHER REPRISALS AGAINST BAPTISTS IN TURKMENISTAN

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [13] BALKAN SUMMIT HEADED FOR CLASH?
  • [14] NATO MOVES TO ACCOMMODATE SERBIA...
  • [15] ...AS SERBIA CRITICIZES NATO
  • [16] SERBIA STRESSES DANGERS IN PRESEVO
  • [17] YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT DENIES HELPING U.S., U.K. AGAINST IRAQ
  • [18] SERBIAN PRIME MINISTER ASKS RUSSIA FOR 'MAGNANIMITY' ON DEBT...
  • [19] ...HOPES FOR IMPROVEMENT IN POLITICAL TIES
  • [20] HAGUE COURT SENTENCES SERBS FOR RAPE CRIMES
  • [21] RUSSIA WANTS HAGUE TRIBUNAL ABOLISHED
  • [22] CROATIAN GENERAL PLEADS 'NOT GUILTY'
  • [23] BOSNIAN NON-NATIONALIST GOVERNMENT APPROVED
  • [24] ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT LAUNCHES LARGE-SCALE PRIVATIZATION
  • [25] DEMOCRATIC PARTY IN TURMOIL
  • [26] GROUP OF SOCIAL DIALOGUE EXPELS FORMER CHAIRMAN
  • [27] MOLDOVAN ELECTORAL CAMPAIGN ENDS
  • [28] IMMIGRANTS COMPLAIN ABOUT DISCRIMINATION IN MOLDOVA
  • [29] BULGARIAN JOURNALISTS IN PROTEST MARCH AGAINST RADIO CHIEF
  • [30] MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT TO VISIT BULGARIA
  • [31] BULGARIA AND TURKEY TO TEAM UP AGAINST CRIME, TERRORISM

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [32] REDEFINING THE CHECHEN CHALLENGE

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT SHOOTINGS TRIAL RESUMES

    The trial resumed in Yerevan on 22 February after a seven-day interval of 13 men accused of perpetrating or abetting the shooting of eight senior officials in the Armenian parliament on 27 October 1999, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The leader of the five gunmen who committed the killings, Nairi Hunanian, and his brother Karen both pleaded not guilty on nine charges, including terrorism, high treason, and attempting a coup d'etat. Supporters of the assassinated officials again congregated outside the court house, demanding the death sentence for the gunmen. Meanwhile the leaders of four parliament factions (the Communist Party of Armenia, the National Democratic Union, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation -- Dashnaktsutiun and Orinats Yerkir) have all affirmed that the trial should be "impartial" and must not be "politicized," Noyan Tapan reported on 22 February. LF

    [02] ARMENIAN BUSINESSMAN RELEASED FROM PRE-TRIAL DETENTION

    Armenian state prosecutors released ailing businessman Arkadii Vartanian from pre-trial detention on 22 February, two weeks after a Yerevan court complied with their demand that he be kept in custody for a further month, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 February 2001). Vartanian was arrested last October and charged with calling for the overthrow of the Armenian leadership. He was hospitalized with heart problems last month, and his lawyer said on 22 February that Vartanian will not leave hospital for the time being. LF

    [03] ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT YIELDS TO RETAIL SECTOR OVER CASH REGISTERS

    Parliament deputies voted unanimously at an emergency session on 20 February to annul a government ruling requiring small retail traders to introduce cash registers to record all transactions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 February 2001). That ruling was met with cheers from thousands of traders who had surrounded the parliament building while the debate was in progress, according to "Haykakan zhamanak" on 21 February. But several participants in a 19 February demonstration by traders to protest the proposed installation of cash registers were fined 1,000 drams each ($1.80) for organizing and participating in an "unwarranted" demonstration, Noyan Tapan reported on 22 February. LF

    [04] GEORGIAN SUPREME COURT REVOKES REGISTRATION OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES

    In a move that may not be appealed, the Georgian Supreme Court on 22 February revoked the registration of the Jehovah's Witnesses with the Georgian Ministry of Justice, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. The Jehovah's Witnesses had appealed to the Supreme Court to revoke a ruling by the Circuit Court upholding the abolition by a Tbilisi District Court of the sect's registration. The Supreme Court stressed that the annulment of the registration is not a repressive move. Interfax quoted unidentified Georgian "experts" as pointing out that no other religious organization in Georgia is formally registered with the Ministry of Justice as no law requiring such registration exists. LF

    [05] GEORGIAN PRESIDENT BLAMES CURRENCY SLIDE ON TURKISH CRISIS

    Eduard Shevardnadze said on 22 February that the loss in value of the Georgian lari over the past week was due in part to the financial crisis in Turkey, Georgia's main trade partner, AP reported. Shevardnadze said the lari-U.S. dollar exchange rate has stabilized and that "we hope this tendency will continue." Prices for some imported goods in Tbilisi shops, including cigarettes, rose by between 10-20 percent on 22 February. LF

    [06] U.S. OIL COMPANY EXECUTIVE, GEORGIAN PRESIDENT DISCUSS OIL EXPORT PIPELINE

    During talks with President Shevardnadze in Tbilisi on 22 February, Chevron President Richard Matzke said his company may join the sponsor group to tackle the technical and engineering problems involved in construction of the planned Baku-Ceyhan export pipeline for Caspian oil, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported. But Matzke stopped short of making a commitment to contributing to funding construction of the pipeline. Meanwhile in Baku, a senior official of the state oil company SOCAR said the $2.58 per barrel transit tariff agreed on last year for use of the pipeline could be raised or lowered depending on how much construction of the pipeline finally costs. Yielding to pressure from Tbilisi, Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliev had agreed last March to cede to Georgia part of Azerbaijan's share of the transit tariffs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 March 2000). LF

    [07] KAZAKH ARMS EXPORTER SENTENCED FOR MURDER

    After a one-month trial, an Almaty court sentenced Ersa Qoshqarov on 22 February to 20 years imprisonment for ordering the assassination of Talghat Ibraev, his predecessor as head of Kazakhstan's arms export agency, Reuters reported. Ibraev was shot dead outside his Almaty home last April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April 2000 and 19 January 2001). Qoshqarov's lawyer Vladimir Kondratov told journalists after the trial that the accusations against his client were groundless and have not been proved, RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported.

    LF

    [08] KAZAKH AUTHORITIES BAN PLANNED MASS DEMONSTRATION

    The municipal authorities in Shymkent, southern Kazakhstan, banned a planned 22 February demonstration in support of Temirtas Tleulesov, author of two books detailing corruption in the city, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Tleulesov was tried in absentia by the Shymkent City Court earlier this month and sentenced to two years' imprisonment for "hooliganism" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 February 2001). His present whereabouts are unknown. LF

    [09] KAZAKH ECOLOGISTS URGE OIL CONSORTIUM TO COMPENSATE FOR DAMAGE TO CASPIAN ECOSYSTEM

    The organization "Caspian XXI" has asked the OKIOC consortium engaged in exploiting off-shore Caspian oil to draft and implement a program to compensate for the damage that organization claims OKIOC is inflicting on the Caspian ecosystem around the town of Atyrau and the health of the region's population, Interfax quoted Caspian XXI's chairman Ibragim Kushenov as telling journalists in Almaty on 22 February. Kushenov said OKIOC is dumping tons of unfiltered sewage and other byproducts from its drilling in the sea each day, raising the level of toxic substances in the waters around its Sunkar rig to levels far above what is permitted. OKIOC rejected 18 months ago claims by the Atyrau Environmental Protection Agency that its drilling was polluting the sea (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 September 1999). LF

    [10] KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT FINALLY APPROVES AMNESTY LAW

    The Legislative Assembly on 22 February approved by a two-thirds majority the amnesty law it first adopted on 26 December, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 22 February. The second vote was necessitated by the bill's rejection on 19 February by the People's Assembly, the upper chamber of the legislature. The law provides for the release from jail of some 3,000 of the 15,560 people currently serving prison sentences in Kyrgyzstan. LF

    [11] TAJIK DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS ARMY IS COMBAT-READY

    In an interview with Asia Plus-Blitz on the eighth anniversary of the formation of Tajikistan's armed forces, Defense Minister Colonel General Sheraili Khairulloev said on 23 February those forces are able to protect Tajikistan's state sovereignty. He said that in determining the structure of the armed forces, particular attention was paid to combat readiness and discipline. (Last summer, Khairulloev had criticized lax discipline in the military, including cases of desertion and going AWOL.) Khairulloev denied that the joint military exercises conducted on 15-20 February together with Russian troops were prompted by an intensification of military activity by "extremists" close to Tajikistan's borders. LF

    [12] FURTHER REPRISALS AGAINST BAPTISTS IN TURKMENISTAN

    Local authorities in Ashgabat's Niyazov district on 17 February sealed the last Baptist church still functioning in the country, Keston News Service reported on 22 February. Meanwhile the Turkmen authorities continue to ignore a request by the OSCE Center in Ashgabat to be allowed to visit imprisoned Baptist Shageldy Atakov, who is reported to have been forcibly treated with psychotropic drugs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 13 February 2001). LF

    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [13] BALKAN SUMMIT HEADED FOR CLASH?

    Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski opened the Balkan summit's first full day of work on 23 February, dpa reported. Heads of state or government from Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Turkey, and Yugoslavia are taking part, as well as an "observer" from Croatia. The EU's Chris Patten, Javier Solana, and Bodo Hombach are representing the international community. It is not clear whether Washington or Moscow are represented. Albanian President Rexhep Meidani canceled his plans to attend "at the last minute" but did not give a reason, Deutsche Welle reported. Prime Minister Ilir Meta is representing Albania. The state-run Serbian news agency Tanjug reported that Albania may not sign the final declaration, which condemns the activities of "Albanian terrorists in southern Serbia." Balkan summits usually put on a show of unanimity before the general public, issuing declarations that include only the lowest common denominator of agreement. PM

    [14] NATO MOVES TO ACCOMMODATE SERBIA...

    After meeting with Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic in Belgrade on 22 February, Pieter Feith, who is the political director of NATO forces for the Balkans, urged Serbian authorities to withdraw some of the army's Prishtina corps from Presevo, because many Albanians associate that unit with the 1999 ethnic cleansing campaign.. Feith also suggested that the alliance is ready to yield to Serbian demands for a narrowing of the five- kilometer demilitarized zone on the Presevo Valley's border with Kosova. Feith said: "We are willing...to consider...readjusting parts of the ground safety zone because we share the assessment of the government in Belgrade that the ground safety zone should not become safe haven for people attacking Serb security forces," AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 February 2001). It is not clear whether Serbian leaders will be satisfied with this revision of the 1999 Kumanovo agreements that ended the Kosova conflict, or whether they regard it as a first step toward undoing the entire settlement in favor of Serbia's "return to Kosovo," as Kostunica's foreign policy advisor put it in two articles in "NIN" in December. PM

    [15] ...AS SERBIA CRITICIZES NATO

    The Yugoslav government issued a statement on 22 February, in which it blasted the Kosova record of the UN civilian administration (UNMIK) and NATO. The government also promised to draft a "complete political plan for overcoming this situation." "The unsatisfactory situation in Kosovo, especially regarding security, is the result of the inefficient work of UNMIK and a failure to implement UN Security Council resolution 1244," Reuters quoted the statement as saying. The statement added that "KFOR and UNMIK have undertaken a series of acts without consulting the federal [Yugoslav] government, departing from the stand of the resolution on Yugoslavia's sovereignty and territorial integrity." The former regime of President Slobodan Milosevic also complained frequently about NATO and UNMIK in statements nearly identical to this one. It is not clear how Belgrade would try to control Kosova, where the population is 90 percent ethnic Albanian and strongly opposed to any ties to Serbia (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 December 2000 and 23 February 2001). PM

    [16] SERBIA STRESSES DANGERS IN PRESEVO

    The Serbian government issued a statement on 22 February in which it claimed that Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic "was nearly kidnapped by Albanian terrorists...when Mr. Covic and his team approached village of Lucane." Nearby police reportedly prevented the abduction. "This provocation is yet another proof of seriousness of the situation and dangers present in the region," AP reported. There was no independent confirmation of the incident, as is the case with many reported incidents in the Presevo Valley. PM

    [17] YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT DENIES HELPING U.S., U.K. AGAINST IRAQ

    President Vojislav Kostunica denied in a statement on 22 February British press reports that Belgrade recently provided information to Washington and London on Iraqi air defenses (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 February 2001). The statement noted that "President Kostunica has strongly denied these reports. He also used the opportunity to condemn the air strikes on Iraq and pointed out our country's principle that not a single problem in the world can be solved through the policy of sanctions and military retaliation," Reuters reported. Kostunica's office issued the statement after he met with Iraqi Ambassador Samir Sadum at the envoy's request. The statement added that Belgrade does not intend to neglect its relations with Arab countries even though it has "turned towards European integration." PM

    [18] SERBIAN PRIME MINISTER ASKS RUSSIA FOR 'MAGNANIMITY' ON DEBT...

    Speaking in Moscow on 22 February, Zoran Djindjic called on Russia "to display magnanimity" in settling debt problems between the two countries. Belgrade would like to link the question of its $300 million gas debt to Russia to that of the former USSR's debt to the former Yugoslavia, which, however, included other republics besides Serbia. Djindjic added that he expects that Serbia will come to need ever larger amounts of natural gas as its industry is rebuilt, Interfax reported. Djindjic also referred to "the high potential for the development of military-technical cooperation between Russia and Serbia, including our countries' jointly entering markets of third countries." PM

    [19] ...HOPES FOR IMPROVEMENT IN POLITICAL TIES

    Djindjic told Interfax in Moscow on 22 February that it is unfortunate that the Russian leadership delayed in developing ties to the Serbian opposition in 1999. He added, however, that "our strategy is to have good relations with Moscow, Brussels, and Washington. All of these centers are equally important for us. However, Yugoslavia, which is willing to become integrated with

    Europe, is aware that its economy has no chance in Europe, as the European market is quite closed. Therefore, the development of economic relations will give [Russia and Serbia] an opportunity and create conditions for active political contacts. Belgrade would like to reach such a level of trust in relations with the Russian leadership that will make it possible to settle many problems by telephone, the way we do in dealings with some other countries," Djindjic added. PM

    [20] HAGUE COURT SENTENCES SERBS FOR RAPE CRIMES

    In a landmark decision that recognizes women's special vulnerability in conflict situations and the use of rape as a war crime, the Hague-based war crimes tribunal sentenced three Serbs to prison sentences for their abuse of women at a "rape camp" near Foca during the Bosnian war. Dragoljub Kunarac received 28 years, Radomir Kovac got 20, and Zoran Vukovic will spend 12 years behind bars. Judge Florence Mumba said: "What the evidence shows is that the rapes were used by members of the Bosnian Serb armed forces as an instrument of terror, an instrument they were given free rein to apply whenever and against whomsoever they wished," RFE/RL reported on 22 February. "The three accused were not just following orders, if there were such orders to rape Muslim women. The evidence shows free will on their part," Mumba added. PM

    [21] RUSSIA WANTS HAGUE TRIBUNAL ABOLISHED

    Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said in Moscow on 22 February that the tribunal should be shut down in the interest of promoting "stability" in the Balkans (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 February 2001). Ivanov argued that "the tribunal was formed at a time when Bosnia and the Balkans were in a state of war, when there were no democratic institutions or institutions of justice. Today this is passing into history. Today Croatia, Bosnia- Herzegovina, and Yugoslavia have democratic leaders," AP reported. PM

    [22] CROATIAN GENERAL PLEADS 'NOT GUILTY'

    Cashiered General Mirko Norac entered a plea of "not guilty" in a Rijeka court on 22 February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 February 2001), "Republika" reported. He is charged with responsibility for the deaths of dozens of Serbian civilians in the Gospic area in 1991. PM

    [23] BOSNIAN NON-NATIONALIST GOVERNMENT APPROVED

    Some 22 of the 42 members of the joint Bosnian legislature approved the government of Prime Minister Bozidar Matic on 22 February. In a clear snub to nationalists, Matic said: "I do not speak Serbian, Croatian, or Bosnian. I speak the language of competitive economic skills, because that's the only language that will help us survive," AP reported. The new foreign minister will be Zlatko Lagumdzija, the Muslim head of the Social Democratic Party. It is the first government of independent Bosnia not to be dominated by nationalists. The government has limited powers but enjoys the support of the international community. PM

    [24] ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT LAUNCHES LARGE-SCALE PRIVATIZATION

    Romanian Premier Adrian Nastase on February 22 announced the resumption of the large-scale privatization of state companies, Romanian Radio reported. The government singled out the first 17 state-owned companies out of 62 companies to be privatized according to a program agreed upon with the World Bank. Nastase warned, however, that the privatization is to be done "without harming the social equilibrium," by which he may have meant that redundancies should be kept to a minimum. In related news, the government also approved the creation of the privatization commission of the Galati Sidex factory, the country's largest steel mill. ZsM

    [25] DEMOCRATIC PARTY IN TURMOIL

    Democratic Party (PD) Chairman Petre Roman on 22 February accused several party members of trying to destroy the party's unity, Romanian media reported. Roman said the setting-up of a group supporting PD vice chairman and Bucharest Mayor Traian Basescu's candidacy for the party's chairmanship "polarizes the different factions" within the party. He also suggested that attempts to undermine party unity could lead to the PD being absorbed by the governing Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR). Basescu retorted that he is a candidate "not against Roman, but for the PD," and that he intends to lead the party to success in the 2004 parliamentary elections. He also denied plans to cooperate with the PDSR. The PD is to elect a new chairman in May. ZsM

    [26] GROUP OF SOCIAL DIALOGUE EXPELS FORMER CHAIRMAN

    The non-governmental Group of Social Dialogue (GDS) on 22 February excluded prominent anti-Ceausescu dissident and former GDS chairman Gabriel Andreescu, following his "defamatory accusations" against former Foreign Minister Andrei Plesu, Mediafax reported. Andreescu on 20 February accused Plesu of having collaborated with the former Romanian secret police, the Securitate (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 February 2001). GDS argued Andreescu produced no evidence supporting his accusations but merely used suppositions and "pseudo-arguments" to prove his point. ZsM

    [27] MOLDOVAN ELECTORAL CAMPAIGN ENDS

    The electoral campaign for early parliamentary elections set for this weekend ends on 23 February, RFE/RL correspondents reported. A Council of Europe delegation that is due to monitor the 25 February ballot discussed with Central Electoral Commission chairman Dumitru Nidelcu details of the legal framework for the process. According to electoral polls, the communists have the best prospects for gaining a majority in the legislature, which was the case in the previous parliament. Some 1,963 polling stations will be open around the country for the vote, as well as 20 abroad. President Petru Lucinschi dissolved parliament in mid-January after it failed to elect the country's new president. ZsM

    [28] IMMIGRANTS COMPLAIN ABOUT DISCRIMINATION IN MOLDOVA

    Stefan Uratu, chairman of the Chisinau-based Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, said on 22 February that the rights of immigrants in Moldova are often violated, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Participating at a seminar on immigrant problems, Uratu said there are no well-defined laws for immigrants and that gaps in the legislation lead to them violating the law. Official data show that last year there were nearly 8,000 immigrants in Moldova, many of whom reported racial discrimination. Moldovan emigrants often found themselves in the same position, as some 600,000 Moldovan citizens are said to be working abroad, mostly illegally. ZsM

    [29] BULGARIAN JOURNALISTS IN PROTEST MARCH AGAINST RADIO CHIEF

    Some 600 media employees marched in central Sofia on 22 February to publicize their call for the resignation of Ivan Borislavov, the director- general of Bulgarian national radio, BTA reported. Bulgarian Radio journalists stressed that their problems with Borislavov are "not political but professional," and they criticized the process used to select the poet, translator, and literary critic. One of the protest's leaders, Silvija Welikova, said the protests will continue until "the National Media Council revises its decision and carries out a normal selection procedure for the post of director-general." Borislavov, 54, was recently hospitalized after suffering a heart attack (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 February 2001). PB

    [30] MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT TO VISIT BULGARIA

    The office of Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov announced on 23 February that Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski will visit Bulgaria in May, BTA reported from Skopje. Stoyanov and Trajkovski held talks in Skopje on the sidelines of the Southeast European Cooperation Process on the same day. The two leaders expressed concern over the delay in the construction projects needed for Transport Corridor VIII, and said they will propose a meeting of officials from Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Albania to discuss the matter. PB

    [31] BULGARIA AND TURKEY TO TEAM UP AGAINST CRIME, TERRORISM

    Bulgarian Interior Minister Emanuil Yordanov and his Turkish counterpart Saadettin Tantan signed a protocol on 22 February in Sofia pledging to jointly combat terrorism and organized crime in the region, Reuters reported. Yordanov said the protocol will bring cooperation in the "fight against organized crime, which includes trafficking of people, drugs, and contraband." Bulgaria and Turkey want to join the EU and are under pressure from Brussels to tighten their borders, prevent illegal activities and reduce the Balkans' role as a transit point for illegal immigration from Asia and Africa into Western Europe. PB

    [C] END NOTE

    [32] REDEFINING THE CHECHEN CHALLENGE

    By Paul Goble

    On the 57th anniversary of Stalin's mass deportation of the Chechen and Ingush peoples in 1944, a Russian general has suggested that the current fighting in Chechnya more closely resembles the fighting that took place between Soviet forces and Baltic nationalists following Moscow's occupation of the Baltic states in 1945 than it does a guerilla war.

    In an interview published in last week's "Obshchaya gazeta," Major General Vladimir Dudnik says that the ongoing conflict in Chechnya is not a guerilla war as most Moscow officials and commentators now suggest. Instead, he suggested, it is very much like the kind of conflict that took place between Baltic nationalists who retreated into the woods at the end of World War II to resist Soviet occupation of their countries.

    That conflict, although little commented upon at the time, lasted more than a decade, Dudnik points out, and "the Baltic region was conquered only in 1956." But despite Soviet victories in that battle, Dudnik notes, Moscow ultimately lost that contest because Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian nationalists never gave up their desire for independence, and Moscow "let them go in 1991."

    On the one hand, Dudnik's comments may appear to be little more than the complaint of an army officer who feels that his political masters have made a terrible mistake. After all, the greater part of the interview consists of Dudnik's criticisms of President Vladimir Putin's decision last month to put the internal security forces rather than the army in charge of operations in Chechnya. Dudnik suggests that the military "will never obey the Chekists."

    But on the other hand, the general's remarks call attention to a broader effort among some Russian analysts to rethink the Chechen conflict both militarily and politically. In some ways, that discussion has been prompted by shifts in the way the fighting there has been discussed by Russian government officials.

    At various times, Russian officials have described their efforts in Chechnya as combatting a guerilla war, conducting a counterinsurgency operation, and fighting international terrorism on Russian soil. Each of these terms reflects some of how the Russian government views the situation, but the use of so many terms suggests that Moscow is neither able nor willing to define the Chechen problem more precisely.

    That in turn has provided an opening for the kind of analysis General Dudnik has made, an analysis that suggests that the roots of the Chechen challenge are inherently political and that Moscow will only be able to resolve that challenge through political rather than military means.

    By drawing an analogy with the Baltic countries, Dudnik is implicitly warning Russian officials not to assume that victories on the battlefield or the arrest of Chechen leaders will end the Chechen yearning for freedom and independence. Such victories will only buy the Russian authorities a little time until the Chechens are able to resume their challenge to Moscow.

    Chechen history would seem to provide ample support for Dudnik's analysis. In the 18th century, the Chechens under Mansur resisted Russian encroachment. In the 19th century, they supported Shamil in his fight against the Russian empire. In the early Soviet period, they resisted Soviet Russian reoccupation. And in 1933-34, they participated in a North Caucasus revolt against Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

    When Stalin ordered their mass deportation to Central Asia on 23 February 1944, the Chechens' fortunes appeared to be exhausted. Almost half of the Chechen men, women and children sent in boxcars from their ancestral homeland died either on the way or upon arrival.

    But after Stalin's death, the Chechens were rehabilitated and allowed to return. And as the Soviet Union collapsed, they declared their independence from the USSR. In the decade since, Russian forces have twice tried to break the Chechens to their will. Most recently, Russian President Putin has been claiming a kind of victory there as part of an effort to build his own authority.

    But on this anniversary, Dudnik's words serve as a reminder of how far from defeating the Chechens Moscow still is. As the general points out, Putin may "need this war, but Russia does not." The price of continuing to pursue a political conflict by military means, Dudnik suggests, is simply "too high."

    23-02-01


    Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
    URL: http://www.rferl.org


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