|Monday, 1 March 2021|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 5, No. 54, 01-03-19
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 5, No. 54, 19 March 2001
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ARMENIAN MAJORITY PARLIAMENT BLOC MEETS...Representatives of the center-right Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) and the left-wing People's Party of Armenia (HZhK), partners in the majority Miasnutiun parliament bloc, met in Yerevan on 17 March in a bid to strengthen cohesion and cooperation, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Rumors of the impending collapse of the 49-deputy Miasnutiun faction into its two constituent parts have been circulating since last summer, but the HHK now faces internal pressures after several prominent party members left last month to protest the refusal of its chairman, Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, to challenge President Robert Kocharian (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 34, 24 August 2000 and Vol. 4, No. 6, 9 February 2001). Those defectors, including former Premier Aram Sargsian and former Yerevan Mayor Albert Bazeyan, have established a rival party named Hanrapetutiun (Republic), which dozens of disaffected HHK members have already joined. LF
 ...AS NEW OPPOSITION COALITION TAKES SHAPEUp to one dozen left-wing opposition parties, including the Communists and the HZhK, are preparing to launch a new anti-Kocharian National Accord Front (AHCh), RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 16 March, quoting senior members of the parties involved who asked not to be identified. The driving force behind the new grouping is pro-Moscow former presidential national security adviser Ashot Manucharian, who now heads the Union of Socialist Forces. Petros Makeyan, chairman of the small opposition Democratic Fatherland Party, told journalists in Yerevan the same day that the new alliance will try to harness and direct popular dissatisfaction with President Kocharian's policies. LF
 ARMENIA DENIES TERRITORIAL CLAIMS ON AZERBAIJAN, TURKEYAn Armenian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman on 15 March denied that Presidential Human Rights Commission Chairman Paruyr Hairikian's call for the abrogation of the 1921 Treaty of Kars reflects official policy, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and 16 March 2001). She said Hairikian's statements "absolutely do not correspond to Armenia's foreign policy." LF
 AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT UNDERSCORES SIGNIFICANCE OF FLORIDA KARABAKH TALKS...Speaking to journalists at Baku airport on 17 March following his return from a five-day official visit to Turkey, President Heidar Aliev said U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's invitation to himself and Armenian President Kocharian to discuss the Karabakh conflict in Florida early next month is "the most important" recent initiative aimed at resolving the Karabakh conflict, Interfax reported. Aliev noted that it will be the first time that the three co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group will be present at talks between the two presidents. In Ankara the previous day, Aliev expressed the hope that the Florida talks will result in the withdrawal of Armenian forces from occupied Azerbaijani territories, according to ITAR- TASS. Also on 16 March, Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian visited Moscow for talks on Karabakh and bilateral ties with his Russian counterpart Igor Ivanov and Russian Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov, ITAR-TASS and Noyan Tapan reported. LF
 ...WHILE FOREIGN MINISTER DENIES FILING CHARGES AGAINST ARMENIAN PRESIDENTAzerbaijani Foreign Minister Vilayat Quliev has rejected as untrue Azerbaijani media reports that he has filed charges with the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague against Armenian President Kocharian for war crimes against the Azerbaijani people, Turan reported on 17 March. But Quliev admitted he has appealed to international organizations to issue a formal condemnation of the killing of several hundred Azerbaijani villagers in February 1992. At that time, Kocharian headed the unrecognized Nagorno- Karabakh Republic's wartime government. LF
 GEORGIA, ABKHAZ AGAIN ABJURE USE OF VIOLENCE...At the close of the 15-16 March talks in Yalta between Georgian and Abkhaz government delegations, Georgian State Minister Gia Arsenishvili and Abkhaz Premier Vyacheslav Tsugba signed yet another undertaking to abjure the use of force in seeking to resolve the Abkhaz conflict, and asking the UN, the OSCE, and the CIS to act as guarantors of a nonresumption of hostilities, Reuters and Caucasus Press reported. The two sides earlier signed such pledges in May 1998 and August 2000. Arsenishvili and Tsugba also pledged to expedite the return to their homes in Abkhazia of Georgian displaced persons who fled during the 1992-1993 fighting, and empowered Russian peacekeepers, who since 1994 have been deployed along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia under the CIS aegis, to intervene to curtail any future outbreak of hostilities. UN Special Representative Dieter Boden said the program of confidence-building measures agreed on during the talks "should assist in achieving...a complete peaceful solution of the conflict," while Ukrainian Foreign Minister Anatolii Zlenko said the talks "justified our expectations," AP and ITAR-TASS reported. LF
 ...BUT ATTACKS ON POLICE OFFICERS CONTINUEFive Abkhaz police officials were wounded on 18 March when their checkpoint came under fire from a grenade-launcher, AP reported. Three of them have since died of their injuries, according to Caucasus Press on 19 March. A spokeswoman for the Abkhaz Interior Ministry said a grenade was fired from the Georgian bank of the River Inguri, but Georgian police denied this, according to ITAR-TASS. Over the past three years, Georgian guerrillas have systematically targeted Abkhaz police officials, killing several dozen of them. LF
 GEORGIAN DEFENSE MINISTER VISITS U.S.Georgian Defense Minister David Tevzadze met in Washington on 16 March with U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to discuss expanding bilateral military cooperation, ITAR-TASS reported. LF
 GEORGIAN POLICE BREAK UP COMMUNIST DEMONSTRATIONGeorgian police used violence on 17 March to disperse a demonstration in Tbilisi by some 200 communist sympathizers demanding the resignation of President Eduard Shevardnadze, ITAR-TASS reported. Between one dozen and 27 people were injured. In his traditional Monday radio interview on 19 March, Shevardnadze accused the Georgian communists of undermining Georgia's liberty and independence, Caucasus Press reported. Shevardnadze expressed concern over the recent rapprochement between right-wing opposition forces and the Georgian Communist Party. LF
 RENEGADE GEORGIAN PRIEST AGAIN TARGETS JEHOVAH'S WITNESSESDefrocked Georgian Orthodox priest Vasili Mkalavishvili and several dozen of his followers on 16 March broke into the Margalita publishing house and set fire to 500 copies of a volume printed for the local community of Jehovah's Witnesses, AP reported quoting Interfax. An adviser to that community said the following day that police observed the incident but declined to intervene, and that the fire brigade was called only when almost all of the books had already been destroyed. LF
 KAZAKH MILITARY REFORM ENTERS NEW PHASEFollowing a session of Kazakhstan's Security Council on 15 March, Council Secretary Marat Tazhin told journalists that President Nursultan Nazarbaev has appointed Colonel General Alibek Kasymov to the posts of deputy defense minister and head of the army General Staff, Interfax reported. Tazhin said Nazarbaev's move reflected the enhanced role that the General Staff will play in future, explaining that the General Staff will assume responsibility for tactical and strategic planning while the Defense Ministry will focus on issues relating to political and financial support for the armed forces. Georgii Doubovtsev, who is deputy head of the Defense Ministry's military-scientific center, told Interfax on 16 March that the Defense Ministry may in future be transformed into a purely civilian organ, leaving the chief of General Staff as the country's highest military official. At the 15 March Security Council session, President Nazarbaev instructed Defense Minister Lieutenant General Sat Toqpaqbaev to take specific measures to strengthen the recently established military districts, especially the southern one. Nazarbaev has also appointed Bulat Dzhanasaev as commander of the Republican Guard. LF
 KAZAKH PARLIAMENT DEBATES CUTS IN RETRANSMISSIONA parliament working group on 16 March discussed amendments to a media law that would reduce the volume of international broadcasting retransmitted by Kazakh electronic media, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Arguing that almost 90 percent of airtime is taken up by rebroadcasting of Russian programming, and that the predominance of the Russian programming undermines Kazakhstan's sovereignty, deputies decided after a heated debate that the volume of international programming retransmitted should be cut by 50 percent by 2002 and by 80 percent by 2003. Discussion of the amendments will continue this week. LF
 HOMES OF PROMINENT KAZAKH OPPOSITION PARTY OFFICIALS VANDALIZEDUnknown vandals targeted the homes in Almaty of Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan acting Chairman Amirzhan Qosanov and of the party's press secretary, Almira Kusainova, during the night of 16-17 March, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. The perpetrators threw stones at Kusainova's apartment, breaking three windows, and daubed insulting and vulgar slogans on Qosanov' s door. Both Qosanov and Kusainova have received numerous anonymous telephone threats over the past week, warning that their lives will be at risk unless they abandon their political activities. LF
 KYRGYZ OFFICIAL DEFENDS LIBEL SUITS AGAINST JOURNALISTSMeeting in Bishkek on 16 March with editors of independent and opposition media outlets, Secretary of State Osmonakun Ibraimov denied that the numerous libel suits that have brought several publications to the verge of ruin were politically motivated, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. He said it is normal for individuals to "defend their dignity in court." Meanwhile, two of the newspapers threatened by closures as a result of such lawsuits, "Asaba" and "Res Publica," published a further joint edition on 16 March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 March 2001). LF
 TAJIKISTAN AGAIN DENIES PRESENCE OF ISLAMIC MILITANTSNuralisho Nazarov, the deputy secretary of the Tajik Security Council, told Asia Plus-Blitz on 19 March there are no members of the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), or any international terrorists, on Tajik territory. He added that Kyrgyz Defense Minister Esen Topev's statement to Interfax on 17 March that there are now some 2,500 international terrorists in Tajikistan was intended to discredit his country. He added that the situation in Tavildara, where observers believe the IMU maintains a permanent presence, is "fully under control," and that the Tajik Interior Ministry is closely monitoring the situation there. Nazarov said Bishkek has not yet responded to a Tajik invitation to form a joint group to inspect the situation in the border region's of Tajikistan. LF
 CONSCRIPTION SHORTCOMINGS NOTED IN TAJIKISTANTwo Tajik Defense Ministry officials have been fired and a further 14 reprimanded in connection with shortcomings during the spring call-up, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 16 March. At a meeting the previous day of the Defense Ministry board, officials noted that medical evaluations of draftees' health are frequently wrong. It is not clear whether the problem is incompetence, as a result of which young men who are physically unfit to serve are drafted into the army, or whether officials are accepting bribes to exempt healthy individuals from the draft. LF
 MORE ISLAMIC EXTREMISTS SENTENCED IN TAJIKISTANA district court in Tajikistan's Sughd region handed down prison terms of eight and nine years on two members of the banned Hizb ut-Tahrir Islamic party on charges of conspiring to overthrow the country's leadership, ITAR- TASS reported on 16 March, quoting the Tajik Interior Ministry. The sentences are the most severe passed to date on members of Hizb ut-Tahrir, the agency noted. LF
 AFGHAN OPPOSITION REPRESENTATIVES HOLD CONSULTATIONS WITH UZBEK LEADERSHIPA Northern Alliance delegation representing Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani and headed by Foreign Minister Dr. Abdullah held talks in Tashkent on 15 March with Uzbek officials, Reuters and AP reported. Abdullah told journalists after those talks that although the Uzbek government established contact late last year with the Taliban (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 2000), it has not retreated from its official recognition of the Rabbani government. Interfax on 16 March quoted Abdullah as having assured his Uzbek counterpart Abdulaziz Kamilov that the Northern Alliance will take steps to drive Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan militants out of those areas of Afghanistan under its control. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 NATO TO BOOST CONTROLS ON KOSOVA-MACEDONIAN BORDERNATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson told Macedonian Foreign Minister Srdjan Kerim in Brussels on 19 March that the Atlantic alliance supports the Macedonian government and that country's democratic parties, AP reported. Robertson said that there is "no question" of extending KFOR's mandate from Kosova into Macedonia, but promised to send an additional unspecified number of troops to help close smuggling and supply routes along the Kosova-Macedonian frontier. "We are determined to starve this limited group of extremists" of the means of waging a guerrilla war, he added. Kerim stressed that his government will be able to handle the situation once KFOR cuts the supply routes. PM
 NATO'S ROBERTSON BLASTS ALBANIAN GUERRILLASSpeaking in Brussels on 19 March, Robertson said that "NATO strongly condemns the armed attacks that have taken place against soldiers and policemen from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia," RFE/RL reported. He added that "Those responsible for this violence are inflicting serious damage to the interests and the image of ethnic Albanians in the whole region, and they should stop and they should stop now." He also warned the guerrillas that "this is the time in the Balkans where decisions should be taken by the ballot box and not by the bomb or by the bullet, and that is a message that these extremists are receiving from Tirana, from Prishtina, as well as from the democratic Albanian representatives in Skopje, as well." Representatives of most Western governments in addition to Russian President Vladimir Putin have also condemned the insurgents in recent days. PM
 PUTIN SEEKING INTERNATIONAL INTERVENTION IN MACEDONIA?Russian President Putin told a government meeting in Moscow on 19 March that the situation in Macedonia is "out of control," dpa reported. He argued that "first the Albanian separatists were given arms, then today no one knows how to deal with them." Elsewhere, Putin said in a letter to Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica that "only decisive political and, if necessary, military steps by the international community can prevent the conflict spreading through the Balkans" It is not clear whether he elaborated. In Belgrade, Kostunica and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov called on the international community to combat "terrorism." PM
 MACEDONIA HOPES FOR EU HELPKerim told EU foreign ministers in Brussels on 19 March: "I believe that the European Union, with its measures, combined of course, with the measures the Macedonian government is undertaking on the diplomatic, political, and security level, will manage to resolve a very grave situation in my country," RFE/RL reported. Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, acting as EU chair, said that "it is extraordinarily important that all actors such as KFOR, the EU, and the OSCE are now cooperating and coordinating our efforts so that we will be able to make the borders more secure and [do] whatever we can do to stop the violence." PM
 MACEDONIAN PREMIER BLASTS WESTPrime Minister Ljubco Georgievski said in Skopje on 18 March that "nobody will negotiate with the terrorists [of the National Liberation Army (UCK)], and I can assure you that there will be no change in the constitution," Deutsche Welle's Macedonian Service reported. He praised Yugoslavia's role in the conflict, but blamed Western countries, particularly the U.S. and Germany, for refusing to "admit" that Kosova is the source of the insurgency, lest the admission reveal Western failures there. He stressed that the "Western democracies" have willy-nilly helped "create a new Taliban" in Europe. Georgievski said that the Macedonian military is constantly receiving fresh arms and ammunition from abroad but did not elaborate. He added that the government forces will win, and that Macedonians and Albanians will continue to live together "as we have to." PM
 MACEDONIAN MILITARY FAILS TO DISLODGE REBELSGeorgievski also said in Skopje on 18 March that government forces are using tanks and heavy artillery in the area around Tanusevci in the north as well as near Tetovo. The government previously claimed to have the situation in the north under control. Around Tetovo, the UCK appears to be holding its own and even to have captured an additional strategic position despite earlier government reports of success against the guerrillas. Reuters reported that army units as well as police are involved in fighting the UCK. The army is a conscript force up to 40 percent Albanian in make-up, whereas the police are a more highly trained professional body. The authorities have imposed a nighttime curfew in Tetovo and announced a mobilization of army reservists. On 17 March, the BBC also reported fighting near Kumanovo. PM
 MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT TELLS MILITANTS TO GO HOMESeveral thousand Slavs from Tetovo demonstrated in Skopje on 17 and 18 March to demand weapons to fight the UCK. They chanted anti-government slogans. President Boris Trajkovski told them on 17 March to go home and live with their neighbors in peace. He reassured them that Tetovo was, and is, a Macedonian town. The protests took place in front of the parliament, which held a two-day session to discuss the crisis. A parliamentary resolution called for a "dialogue with the relevant political subjects" and state bodies, dpa reported. The resolution also called on NATO to secure the border with Kosova, but stressed that Macedonia does not need military intervention from neighboring countries. PM
 ALBANIAN GUERRILLAS HOLDING THEIR OWN IN MACEDONIAA UCK spokesman told the BBC near Tetovo on 19 March that their ranks have swelled from "200 to 2,000" in recent days. The BBC reporter did not confirm those figures but added that the UCK's forces have "increased dramatically" recently. The guerrillas have groups organized and ready in Skopje and in many other communities, a UCK spokesman told Vienna's "Die Presse." Skopje has large Macedonian and Albanian communities, which, roughly speaking, are divided by the Vardar River. On 17 March, the UCK called on able-bodied Albanian males to join the nearest guerrilla unit. The UCK also urged Albanian members of the police to desert to the guerrillas with their arms. In Tetovo, ethnic Albanian police chief Rauf Ramadani said that his men are professionals and will not heed the UCK's call, dpa reported. PM
 MACEDONIAN ALBANIAN LEADER CALLS FOR URGENT DIALOGUEArben Xhaferi, whose Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH) is represented in the government, told "Fakti" of 17 March that the rebels are resorting to violence as a short-cut to taking power, Reuters reported. "I do not think that you start a war in order to create a political party," he added. The veteran Albanian leader, who is clearly in declining health, stressed that "the situation calls for the opening of a dialogue between the two peoples on the mode of co-existence. I hope that both the Macedonian government and the foreign powers will try to launch this dialogue that will benefit all. Nobody will lose." PM
 RUGOVA: INTERNATIONAL MEDIATION IN MACEDONIAKosovar moderate leader Ibrahim Rugova said in Stuttgart on 17 March that the Macedonian authorities should pay more attention to the legitimate grievances of their fellow citizens of Albanian origin. He said that the way out of "the war" in Macedonia is through an "international organization, " namely one with "more weight" than a "purely political one, like the OSCE, " the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. Rugova also called for sending international peacekeepers to Macedonia. He warned that the conflict in Macedonia and crisis in Presevo could have a destabilizing effect on Kosova. An independent Kosova would have a calming effect on the political atmosphere in the Balkans, he added. PM
 YUGOSLAV POLICE HEAD SEES QUICK RETURN THROUGHOUT SECURITY ZONEFederal Interior Minister Zoran Zivkovic said that he expects that Serbian forces will return to positions throughout the security zone along the border with Kosova "within one month," "Vesti" reported on 19 March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 March 2001). He added that this will "create conditions" for a political solution in Kosova "from a different perspective" than had previously been the case. Predrag Simic, who is one of President Kostunica's advisers, has long argued that Serbia can "return to Kosovo" by working with the international community. PM
 SOME OF SERBIAN OLD GUARD ON WAY OUT?Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic, who is the government's point man on Presevo, believes that Belgrade must improve its image by removing prominent officials held over from the regime of former President Slobodan Milosevic. One person whom he would like to see out is the chief of the General Staff, General Nebojsa Pavkovic, who commanded army forces in Kosova during the 1999 ethnic cleansing campaign, "Vesti" reported from Belgrade on 17 March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 March 2001). Covic was unhappy that Pavkovic and General Vladimir Lazarevic, who is also a veteran of the Kosova campaign, led Serbian troops into the security zone recently. Pavkovic, for his part, denied press reports that he had publicly referred to Covic as "the marshal." PM
 PEACEFUL PRESEVO PROTESTSome 6,000 ethnic Albanians demonstrated in Presevo on 17 March to protest the readmission of Serbian forces to the security zone. Presevo Mayor Riza Halimi said that "the presence of [Serbian] military forces is a cause of uncertainty for us," AP reported. He added that "there will not be peace here for a long time...if the Serbian government impedes negotiations by rejecting [talks including representatives of] the Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja, and Bujanovac [UCPMB]." Covic said on 18 March that talks on southern Serbia will begin soon, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM
 SERBIAN PREMIER CONFIDENT ON NO EARLY EXTRADITION OF MILOSEVICPrime Minister Zoran Djindjic said in Belgrade on 17 March that "it is not realistic, it would be judicial violence" to expect that Milosevic could be arrested and sent to The Hague by the end of March, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 March 2001). He added: "I am sure that we can persuade the international factors to accept our position. In the next 10 days we are going to press ahead with that persuasion process. We'll tell them that what we are doing here is the maximum, and that this is best for this country. The final goal is to see that justice is done but in a regular way." On 16 March, Yugoslav Justice Minister Momcilo Grubac told U.S. Balkans envoy James Pardew and U.S. Ambassador to Yugoslavia William Montgomery that he will "do everything he can" to show by the end of the month that his government is cooperating with The Hague, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM
 HAGUE COURT EXPECTS ACTION BY SERBIAFlorence Hartmann, who is spokeswoman for The Hague's chief prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, said in Belgrade on 17 March that "the prosecutor expects a concrete and clear move by the Yugoslav authorities before the end of the month. The concrete move should be the beginning of the process of arresting and transferring fugitives who are on Yugoslav territory," Reuters reported. The previous day, she said that the Belgrade authorities are not cooperating with the tribunal, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Elsewhere, Kostunica argued that he has no authority to order anyone's extradition. In recent months, some other Belgrade officials have suggested that he does not have the authority to prevent an extradition, either. PM
 KOSOVAR SERB LEADER SUGGESTS TWO TRIALS FOR MILOSEVICArchbishop Artemije, who is president of the Serbian National Council in Kosova, told RFE/RL's South Slavic Service on 18 March that Milosevic should be tried for war crimes in The Hague and on various criminal charges in Belgrade. PM
 PRO-BELGRADE MONTENEGRIN RALLYSome 1,000 Montenegrins living in Serbia held a rally in support of continued ties between Montenegro and Serbia in Belgrade on 17 March, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Speakers charged that President Milo Djukanovic is trying to "create" a fictitious Montenegrin identity separate from that of Serbia (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 January 2001). The previous day, Djukanovic told the Paris-based daily "Le Figaro" that "Serbian nationalism and the dream of a greater Serbia" hold sway among Belgrade's new leaders. PM
 MILITARY ROLE AT MONTENEGRIN AIRPORT ENDEDThe Montenegrin authorities and the federal army reached an agreement in Podgorica on 17 March to withdraw the military guard from the civilian area of Podgorica airport, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM
 BOSNIAN FEDERAL DEFENSE MINISTER CLEANS HOUSEDefense Minister Mijo Anic, who is an ethnic Croat belonging to the multiethnic governing coalition, has sacked eight of his Croatian hard-line deputies and replaced them with men loyal to the pro-federation views of his coalition, AP reported from Sarajevo on 17 March (see "RFE/RL Newsline, " 15 March 2001). PM
 IMF DELEGATION ARRIVES IN ROMANIAAn IMF delegation is expected in Bucharest on 19 March to discuss with the government the draft 2001 budget, and the fund's chief negotiator for Romania, Neven Mates, will join the delegation on 20 March. Prime Minister Adrian Nastase on 16 March said the arrival of the delegation "two weeks ahead of schedule" bodes well for the prospects of signing a new agreement with the IMF on a standby loan. None of the agreements previously signed by successive Romanian governments was implemented and the IMF repeatedly suspended delivery of tranches due to nonfulfillment of agreements. The cabinet is discussing the new budget at its 19 March meeting and on 16 March Nastase said the budget will be one of "austerity," envisaging a 3.7 percent deficit, 4.1 percent growth of GDP, and an inflation rate of between 25 and 27 percent. MS
 PREMIER ATTACKS ROMANIAN LIBERALSNastase on 16 March said that every country needs legislation aimed at protecting state secrets, and called National Liberal Party (PNL) leader Valeriu Stoica a "political chameleon." He said the recently adopted law on protecting state secrets was "90-95 percent" based on the draft law initiated by the Justice Ministry headed by Stoica in the former coalition government. Last week, the PNL, the Democratic Party, and eight members of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania asked the Constitutional Court to rule on the law's constitutionality. Stoica responded that "in politics, what is important is to acknowledge one's mistakes and correct them," and this is precisely what the PNL is now doing in opposing the legislation, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS
 ROMANIAN EXTRAPARLIAMENTARY PARTY RE-ELECTS CHAIRMAN...Teodor Melescanu was re-elected chairman of the extraparliamentary Alliance for Romania (APR) at a party congress held in Brasov on 17 and 18 March and the delegates approved the party's new "social-liberal" ideological platform and its new statutes, a local correspondent of RFE/RL's Romania- Moldova service reported. Viorel Catarama, considered to be Melescanu's main rival for the chairmanship, withdrew from the competition and was elected first deputy chairman. The congress also approved the setting up of an APR Senate, and Mircea Cosea was elected chairman of that new body. Cosea, who has previously left the APR and joined the Union of Rightist Forces, announced on 17 March that he was returning to the party. MS
 ...AND SUFFERS SCHISMFormer prominent members of the APR leadership who oppose its new social- liberal doctrine on 16 March announced they were setting up a new political formation, to be called Alliance for Romania-Social Democrat (APR-SD). The group is led by Doru Viorel Ursu, Marian Enache, Emil Putin, and Dan Mihalache, Mediafax reported. Ursu told journalists that while he does not exclude the possibility that the APR-SD will register as a new political party, its main aim is to "conduct a dialogue with political forces of the center-left" with the aim of setting up a unified "powerful Social Democratic Party." MS
 ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS BELGRADEForeign Minister Mircea Geoana, in his capacity as OSCE rotating chairman, on 16 March inaugurated the new OSCE offices in Belgrade, Romanian Radio reported. Geoana conducted talks with his Yugoslav counterpart Goran Svilanovic, Prime Minster Djindjic, and President Kostunica, to whom he conveyed an invitation to visit Romania. The talks concentrated on the conflicts in Macedonia and Kosova, Bosnia, and the forthcoming elections in Montenegro. The sides also discussed bilateral, particularly economic relations. A Romanian request that the authorities in Belgrade act more quickly to re-establish navigation on the River Danube was rejected by Svilanovic. According to a Mediafax report, Svilanovic said Romania is "not the only country interested in the resumption of navigation" but Belgrade is "interested in the reconstruction of all bombed bridges," not just those of Novy Sad, where traffic is delayed and directed to bypassing channels. MS
 ROMANIAN PRESIDENT CRITICIZES RFE/RLPresident Ion Iliescu on 16 March said Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty played an important role before the fall of the Nicolae Ceausescu regime, but that it later became "stridently partisan" and backed his political opponents. Romania-Moldova Service Director Nestor Ratesh said in reaction that RFE/RL "does not engage in polemics with its critics" and believes it has always "provided accurate and balanced" reporting. Ratesh said it is "natural " that "those who dislike such reporting" disagree with RFE/RL's positions. In an editorial broadcast on 17 March, Ratesh said that democratic reforms in Iliescu-led post-1990 Romania are encountering difficulties, the media is weak and electronic media subordinated to the rulers. In that situation, international broadcasters, including RFE/RL, attempt to "substitute and provide alternative sources of information." He also said tension between governments and the media is "natural" in any democracy, but "in the democratic West governments rarely indulge in virulent criticism of the media." MS
 VORONIN TELLS U.S. THAT REFORMS IN MOLDOVA WILL CONTINUEMoldova intends to continue its course of economic reform, integration into European structures and into the world community at large, Party of Moldovan Communists leader Vladimir Voronin told a visiting delegation of the U.S. State Department 16 March. The reforms are being hindered by "budgetary constraints" and it is consequently necessary to "attract foreign investments, primarily in order to back domestic producers and the agrarian sector," Infotag cited him as telling the delegation headed by acting deputy assistant secretary of state for the CIS, John Purnell. Voronin said it is necessary to continue the "Land Program" for completing the privatization of agriculture. He also said the Transdniester region conflict must be "urgently solved" and that the decisions of the 1999 Istanbul summit on the withdrawal of Russian troops from that region must be respected. MS
 BULGARIAN MURDER SPARKS PROTESTS IN SOFIAThousands demonstrated in front of the parliament in Sofia on 16 March in protest against a raising crime wave, while the opposition Socialist Party called for the government's resignation and early elections, Reuters reported. Prime Minister Ivan Kostov addressed the protesters, who called on him to resign and to reinstate the death penalty. The protest was triggered by the murder of a three-year-old boy, whose mother claimed he had earlier been abducted by unidentified persons as she was accompanying him to school. On the next day, the Interior Ministry announced that the mother, who has a history of mental disorders, had confessed to strangling the boy herself, the English-language daily "Monitor" reported. On 18 March, an unidentified gunman shot and killed a security guard in front of a Sofia restaurant. MS
 BULGARIANS' TRIAL IN LIBYA POSTPONED AGAINThe trial of six Bulgarian medics -- a doctor and five nurses -- charged with deliberately infecting Libyan children with the HIV virus was postponed for the 10th time in Tripoli on 17 March, "Monitor" and Reuters reported. The trial was postponed due to the absence of a lawyer representing a Palestinian facing the same charges. The trial is to be resumed on 28 April. "Monitor" reported that one of the Bulgarian nurses looked seriously ill and in need of medical help, but the prison authorities refuse to allow that help, citing security reasons. MS
 PROTESTING BULGARIAN JOURNALISTS MAY FACE SANCTIONSThe acting director of Bulgarian state radio on 18 March threatened to discipline some 500 journalists who have been protesting for over a month against he appointment of Ivan Borislavov as the new radio director, "Monitor" reported. Alexander Barzitsov, who is substituting for Borislavov while he recovers from a heart attack, urged the journalists to drop plans to launch a civil-disobedience campaign on 19 March. He said the planned campaign "seriously threatens national security," and commented that "we shall not allow anybody to use the national radio in this manner and we shall react in the adequate legal way." MS
 BULGARIA WANTS RUSSIAN DIPLOMATS OUTForeign Ministry spokesman Radko Vlaikov on 17 March told Reuters that Bulgaria wants three Russian diplomats suspected of having links to alleged spies expelled from the country. Vlaikov said the diplomats' actions were "incompatible with their status" and threatened "Bulgarian national interests." He further commented that "it is a sign of good will [that] we do not declare them persona non grata and will await for a week for the problem to be solved." Vlaikov said there is evidence linking the three diplomats with the arrest last week of a Defense Ministry employee and a retired colonel on charges of spying (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 March 2001). BTA, citing Defense Ministry sources, said Colonel Yani Yanev was arrested at the entrance of the Russian Embassy. Ambassador Vladimir Titov denied any Russian involvement in the case. MS
[C] END NOTE
 HAS A YEAR WITHOUT YELTSIN BEEN A YEAR WITHOUT CHANGE?By Julie A. Corwin
President Vladimir Putin will soon mark the end of his first full year as Russia's elected president, as his regional "reforms" -- the one policy to which he has devoted the most attention -- appear to be unraveling. Within the last two months, President Putin has taken a series of actions that appear to be at odds with their declared aims of restructuring Moscow's relationship with its far-flung regions.
Last May, Putin issued a decree reorganizing the Russian Federation into seven federal districts and appointed individual presidential envoys to enforce federal laws in each. Putin then persuaded the country's legislators to give him the power to dismiss elected regional leaders, and reorganized the country's upper legislative chamber, making seats in that body appointed, permanent positions. The rationale for all these moves, according to Putin, was to put an end to Russia's "legal chaos" and strengthen the so-called "power vertical." Russia's integrity as a nation- state was to be ensured by reinforcing the primacy of federal laws and institutions over regional ones. An additional, equally important -- although unstated -- goal was to reduce the power of the country's governors. Under former President Boris Yeltsin, they had been able to rule virtually unchallenged in most regions across the country because they had de facto control over all who might "check" their power. That is, the courts, local media, local elections commissions, and federal officials that operated on their territories.
At the one-year mark, it's too early to say whether Putin's reforms have succeeded or failed. News reports suggest that the effort to bring regional laws into conformity with federal laws is proceeding -- albeit slowly. However, judging from the results of dozens of gubernatorial elections held last year, the powers of incumbent governors have hardly been curbed. In many cases, they were able to deploy the vast administrative resources at their disposal into the service of their campaigns (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January 2001). And, with the cooperation of local legislatures, they were able to move up their election dates, leaving potential opponents little time to organize.
The presidential envoys, who were installed in part to ensure that federal laws be obeyed, have done little to intervene. In fact, they increasingly appear not to be performing any kind of control function at all. Instead, they seem to be building independent power bases from which they can actively engage in local politics. One deputy presidential envoy has already been elected to the governorship in one of the country's most important regions, the oil- and gas-rich Tyumen Oblast, while another has just declared his plans to run in the strategically important home of the Pacific Fleet, Primorskii Krai. So far, President Putin, to whom the envoys must answer, has done nothing to check this trend.
Instead, Putin has taken three actions in recent months that undermine the reforms he devoted so much attention to at the beginning of his term. Last month, Putin signed into law a bill that allows the majority of the country's incumbent governors to seek a third term and some even to seek a fourth term. As a result, the new "governors-for-life" are likely to amass even more power, rather than less. While the Kremlin didn't author the final version of the bill that extended additional terms to so many governors, it apparently did not oppose it, as President Putin chose to sign the bill instead of employing his veto.
A second contradictory action undertaken by Putin has been to back a regional solution to the question of land reform. Last month, Putin declared that Russia's regions should be "given maximum freedom in setting the land problem within the framework of basic law." While this may be the only politically feasible solution, it cannot help but work against Putin's aim of creating a "single legal field" throughout Russia.
A third step that appears to undermine Putin's reforms is his appointment last month of former Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko as chairman of the State Fishing Commission. Rewarding a flamboyantly corrupt regional official with a plum new job assignment in Moscow would hardly seem to reinforce Russia's "power vertical" -- particularly when this official is already openly challenging the policy he has been tasked by his superiors with carrying out. On 11 March, Nazdratenko gave a press conference in Vladivostok in which he again condemned the commission's policy of distributing quotas for fish and seafood catches by auction, charging that it "threatens the food supply." As head of the commission, Nazdratenko should be ensuring that the auctions are successful.
Some analysts have attributed Putin's recent actions to indecision -- he hasn't yet chosen what he wants or how to go about it. They believe that Putin has not yet decided whether he wants to try to establish the rule of law in Russia's provinces or whether his ultimate goal is simply to ensure that the regional leaders in place be loyal. This would explain why he extended a "carrot" to them in the form of a third term and even a fourth.
Other analysts suggest that Putin's recent actions reveal his weakness. He may still be popular, but his success in public opinion polls is merely a useful, but ultimately indecisive, weapon in the battle among the Moscow political elite. They suggest that Putin didn't simply dismiss Nazdratenko and install a new regime in the krai, because he did not possess the power to do so. Instead, he had to lure Nazdratenko away to Moscow with a job offer. Also, they conclude, Putin hasn't tried to push for the kind of land code that reformers in his government might want, because he knows that he would fail.
Putin's lack of progress on the regional front is leading ever more observers to think that Putin may be indecisive, weak, or perhaps both, perceptions that almost certainly will reduce his popularity -- unless he is able to show some real progress soon.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty