|In the effort to give good and comforting answers to the young questioners whom we love, we very often arrive at good and comforting answers for ourselves. - Ruth Goode|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 124, Part II, 25 June 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 124, Part II, 25 June 1999 A daily report of developments in Eastern and Southeastern Europe, Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia prepared by the staff of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. This is Part II, a compilation of news concerning Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe. Part I covers Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia and is distributed simultaneously as a second document. Back issues of RFE/RL NewsLine and the OMRI Daily Digest are online at RFE/RL's Web site: http://www.rferl.org/newsline xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * POLISH POLICE CLASHES WITH ARMAMENT WORKERS * ETHNIC ALBANIANS LOOT SERBIAN PROPERTIES IN PRISHTINA * U.S. PUTS PRICE ON MILOSEVIC'S HEAD END NOTE: A Kosova Balance Sheet xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE CEI SAYS YUGOSLAV DEMOCRATIZATION ESSENTIAL FOR BALKANS... Officials from the 16 member-states of the Central European Initiative (CEI) agreed at a 24 June meeting in Karlovy Vary, the Czech Republic, that the full democratization of Yugoslavia is essential for securing peace and stability in the Balkans, AP and CTK reported. The officials said they support the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe, which was drafted earlier this month by the EU, the G-8, and countries in the Balkans that backed NATO's air campaign against Yugoslavia. The CEI officials said they want to "actively participate" in the pact's implementation. Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan said the CEI could establish working groups to deal with the region's economic revival. However, he added that the CEI's participation would not be extensive because the member- states lack funds and "the main financing will come from the EU." MS ...AND CALLS FOR RESPECTING RIGHTS OF VOJVODINA HUNGARIANS. The conference's closing documents also stress the importance of respecting the rights of the Hungarian ethnic minority in Vojvodina. Kavan also said the CEI will send a special mission to Moldova, due to the "continuous controversial presence of Russian units in the country." The CEI was formed in 1989 to boost political, economic, and cultural cooperation among its members, most of which are former communist countries. MS BELARUSIAN-RUSSIAN CONFEDERATION TO BE LAUNCHED ON 20 JULY? Mikalay Syarheyeu, leader of the pro-Russian organization "Belaya Rus," said in Minsk on 22 June that Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka are preparing to sign a treaty on the creation of a confederation called the Union of Sovereign Republics (SSR) of Russia and Belarus, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 24 June. According to Syarheyeu, the confederation will be headed by a president and two vice-presidents - one from Russia, the other from Belarus. The alleged signing ceremony is to take place in Moscow on 20 July, the last day of Lukashenka's presidency according to the 1994 constitution he abolished in 1996 following a controversial constitutional referendum. Meanwhile, the Russian media have abounded with speculations that Yeltsin may take advantage of the creation of a new Russian-Belarusian state to prolong his presidency. JM UKRAINIAN CABINET REMOVES FOOD PRICE CONTROLS. The Ukrainian government on 24 June canceled last week's order to impose rigid controls on the price of bread, wheat and rye flour, sugar, cereals, and vegetable oil. "Prices remain liberalized, depending only on demand and supply. We think there is no need to regulate food prices," First Deputy Economy Minister Viktor Kalnyk commented. He added that Ukraine's food market is saturated with staples and prices have now stabilized following a recent jump. JM COUNCIL OF EUROPE DELAYS DECISION ON UKRAINE. The Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly voted on 24 June to put off until January a decision on whether to suspend Ukraine's membership because of the country's poor human rights record. The Council of Europe put off the decision in order to recognize the country's recent reforms aimed at improving its judicial and political systems. JM UKRAINIAN MOGUL BANNED FROM ENTERING COUNTRY. The Ukrainian State Security Service on 24 June prohibited Vadym Rabynovych, a Ukrainian-Israeli business tycoon whose assets are estimated at $1 billion, from entering the country for five years. The Security Service said that Rabynovych, an Israeli citizen and a leader of the Jewish community in Ukraine, was banned for causing "considerable damage to Ukraine's economy" through his business activities. JM BALTIC POLITICIANS CONCERNED OVER RUSSIAN EXERCISES. Politicians from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania voiced concerns over the 21-26 June Russian military exercises in western Russia along the border with the three Baltic states. Lithuanian parliament Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis called the exercises "a gesture of psychological cold war" against the Baltic states, ELTA reported. Estonian parliamentarian Mart Nutt told "Eesti Paevaleht" that the exercises "demonstrate a change in (the) Russian attitude." He said the Russians have recognized that they "are not able to hinder the Baltic states from joining NATO." MH NEW LITHUANIAN MILITARY HEAD APPROVED. The Lithuanian parliament on 24 June voted 75-3 to name Colonel Jonas Kronkaitis the new commander of the Lithuanian military. Kronkaitis is a dual Lithuanian-U.S. citizen who served for 27 years in the U.S. army. Earlier this year, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright consented to the appointment, BNS reported. Before his confirmation, Kronkaitis pointed out that the training of officers and NCOs would be a "priority task," ELTA reported. MH POLISH POLICE CLASHES WITH ARMAMENT WORKERS. The police on 24 June clashed with some 1,000 workers of the Lucznik armament plant in Radom, who were demonstrating outside the Defense Ministry in Warsaw. The police used tear gas, water cannons, and rubber bullets, while the protesters attacked the police with fire crackers, stones, and metal signs ripped from the roadside. Polish Radio reported that several dozen people were injured in the battle, including a journalist who lost one eye. The Lucznik workers, who have staged many protests in recent months, are demanding that the government buy armaments for the Polish army from their plant. They are also demanding the dismissal of Defense Minister Janusz Onyszkiewicz who they say is responsible for the decline of Poland's defense industry. JM HAVEL EXPLAINS PLANNED VISIT TO KOSOVA. President Vaclav Havel on 24 June responded to criticism of his planned visit to Kosova by saying that "most foreign visits are working visits" and that heads of state seldom go abroad on official state visits. Critics of the planned visit pointed out that Havel has not been invited to Kosova by Yugoslav officials nor will he be visiting the region as supreme commander of the Czech army's KFOR contingent, which is to arrive a few days later. He said he does not yet know for sure whether he will go to Kosova but added that he wanted to find out "whether the [NATO] action has fulfilled its goal ... [which was] to create the conditions for the coexistence of various ethnic groups [...] and what is necessary to be done for [the goal's] early and genuine implementation." MS CZECH 'GRAND COALITION' IN OFFING? In an interview with "Mlada fronta Dnes" on 24 June, Civic Democratic Party (ODS) deputy chairwoman Libuse Benesova said the chances for a coalition between the CSSD and the ODS are greater than those of a coalition between the ODS and other right-wing parties. She also praised the "nearly problem-free" nature of her party's agreement with the ruling Social Democratic Party (CSSD). Benesova said that some Freedom Union members have shown a willingness to cooperate with the ODS but that this could not be said of the Union as a whole. On the other hand, she said the "personal communication" between the ODS and the CSSD extends beyond individuals to the party level. MS CZECH ILLEGAL ARMS TRADERS PROSECUTED IN ABSENTIA. Two men from the Liberec district are being prosecuted in absentia for illegal arms trading, a police investigator told CTK on 24 June. The investigator refused to reveal their identity and would not confirm or refute reports that they are the director and the chairman of the board of the Liberec-based Agroplast company. The investigator said international arrest warrants might be issued. The two suspects allegedly violated arms-trade regulations by trading disassembled MiG-21 fighter jets with a Kazakh company without a license from the Industry and Trade Ministry. CTK reported that customs officers discovered the disassembled MiGs at Baku airport last March and that Azerbaijan returned the aircraft to Kazakhstan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 March and 21 April 1999). The MiGs were being shipped to North Korea, which is subject to an international arms embargo, according to the report. MS CZECH MAJORITY OPPOSED TO RAPID SETTLEMENT OF FEDERAL PROPERTY DISPUTE. About 65 percent of the Czechs say they are opposed to the rapid settlement of the former federal property dispute with Slovakia, CTK reported on 24 June, citing the STEM institute. The dispute concerns Slovakia's outstanding 29 billion crown (some $815 million) debt to the Czech Republic, which resulted from the division of the former Czechoslovak National Bank, and the Czech National Bank's block on 4.5 metric tons of Slovak gold. Another key issue in the dispute relates to Ceskoslovenska obchodni banka, in which Slovakia holds a 25 percent stake and which owes Slovakia 17 billion crowns. In May, Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda and his Czech counterpart, Milos Zeman, agreed on an exchange of stakes between the Slovak Vseobecna uverova banka and the Czech Komercni banka. Meanwhile, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported on 25 June that the International Finance Corporation will acquire a 4.3 percent stake in Ceskoslovenska obchodni banka by investing $75 million in the financial institution. MS HUNGARIAN SOCIALISTS RESIGN IN "VIP LOAN" AFFAIR. Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) deputy chairman Sandor Nagy and MSZP official Judit Csiha on 24 June announced their resignations in response to reports last week that they had received preferential "VIP loans" from Postabank (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 June 1999). Nagy said he had not broken the law by accepting the loan but chose to resign in order to prevent any further attacks on the party and himself. Prime Minister Viktor Orban's advisor, Antal Rogan, said he is "pleased that a process of purification has begun within the MSZP." Orban recently said that no members of FIDESZ, the leading member of the governing coalition, are implicated in those irregular loans. MSZ GROUND INVASION OF YUGOSLAVIA HALTED BY ORBAN? According to a report confirmed by several independent sources, a NATO plan to invade Yugoslavia may have been abandoned due to the personal intervention of Orban with U.S. President Bill Clinton, the Budapest daily "Vilaggazdasag" reported on 24 June. The report says a senior NATO figure gave Orban access to a plan requiring that Hungarian territory be used to launch a ground operation in April. According to the plan, only Western military units were to take part in the invasion. The timing of the ground attack was planned so tightly that the Hungarian parliament would not have had time to debate the issue before making a decision, the paper concluded. MSZ SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ETHNIC ALBANIANS LOOT SERBIAN PROPERTIES IN PRISHTINA. Crowds of ethnic Albanians, many of whom are recently returned refugees, broke into and looted Serbian-owned shops in Prishtina, the BBC reported on 25 June. The broadcast quoted NATO peacekeepers as saying that they are "unable to stop" the plundering. It is not clear why this is the case. Elsewhere in Prishtina, local Serbs "are in panic" following the killing of three Serbs at Prishtina University, the broadcast continued (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June 1999). They fear that returning refugees will seek revenge on the city's remaining Serbs. PM VIOLENCE AGAINST SERBS IN THE PROVINCES. In Prizren, "The Daily Telegraph" of 25 June reported the violent deaths in their homes of several elderly Serbs. In Peja, some local Serbs told AP on 24 June that members of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) ordered them to leave their homes and the province. The news agency also reported that unidentified Kosovars recently burned down an unspecified number of homes owned by Serbs and Roma. "The Guardian" wrote on 25 June that many Serbs and Albanians alike blame Roma "for many of the crimes of the past few months." In Belgrade, the daily "Danas" described as "meager" the results of government efforts to persuade Serbs to return to Kosova. PM SERBIAN RESERVISTS BLOCK ROADS. Some 200 army reservists blocked several roads in central Serbia for the second day in a row, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 24 June. They demand back pay for their recent tours of duty in Kosova. Protests took place in Kraljevo, Kragujevac, and Trstenik. In Belgrade, unnamed sources told "The Daily Telegraph" of 25 June that many reservists are refusing to be demobilized until they are paid. The army has offered them credits toward paying their utility bills or for shopping in army stores. PM SERBIAN CHURCH TO ADMIT ATROCITIES. "The Guardian" reported on 25 June that the Serbian Orthodox Church will soon announce to its members that Serbian forces committed atrocities in Kosova. Patriarch Pavle reportedly made the decision because he was "shocked" at the evidence of Serbian war crimes he recently saw in Kosova. A Church spokesman said in Belgrade that "it is important for a country to know the truth. It has to know, otherwise it will just continue on, without confessing. Denying it is not going to save souls." The government denies that atrocities took place. PM U.S. PUTS PRICE ON MILOSEVIC'S HEAD. State Department spokesman James Rubin said on 24 June that "the United States is offering a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest or conviction in any country of persons indicted for serious violations of international humanitarian law by the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia or for information leading to their transfer to or conviction by the Tribunal... [Persons with information should] call 1- 800-HEROES, or they may contact the Department of State web site at www.heroes.net. We strongly encourage all suspects still at large to surrender themselves voluntarily to competent local authorities or to the NATO-led stabilization force in Bosnia." He mentioned that the reward applies to the arrest of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, four other Belgrade leaders recently indicted with him, and Bosnian war criminals still at large. PM TOP NATO LEADERS VISIT PRISHTINA. NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana, Supreme Commander for Europe General Wesley Clark, and spokesman Jamie Shea visited Prishtina on 24 June, an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent reported. The three met with KFOR commander General Sir Michael Jackson, with the provisional government Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, and Bishop Artemije Radosavljevic of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Solana said that Thaci and Artemije met, shook hands, and pledged to meet again. FS UCK DEFECTOR CHARGES THACI WITH KILLING RIVALS. The "New York Times" of 25 June quoted Rifat Haxhijaj, a former Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) member, as saying that UCK leader Hashim Thaci and two of his lieutenants, Azem Syla and Xhavit Haliti, ordered the shooting of up to six fellow rebel leaders in purges. Haxhijaj told the daily that "when the war started, everyone wanted to be the chief." He added that "for the leadership, this was never just a war against Serbs...it was also a struggle for power." A spokesman for Thaci denied responsibility for any such killings, AFP reported. U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin told the "New York Times": "We simply don't have information to substantiate allegations that there was a [UCK] leadership-directed program of assassinations or executions." FS COOK WANTS KOSOVARS TO FORM REPRESENTATIVE WORKING GROUP. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told an RFE/RL correspondent in Tirana on 24 June that he urged Kosovar leaders the previous day in Prishtina to jointly form a representative group of Kosovar politicians who can serve as a partner for the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and help in rebuilding the local administration and public services. Meanwhile, moderate Kosovar leader Ibrahim Rugova, who is currently in Geneva, has delayed his return to Prishtina for fear of his security, according to unnamed Western diplomats in Prishtina, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 24 June. The diplomats expected Rugova to wait at least until the end of the month before returning, despite calls by several European leaders for him to return earlier. FS EVERTS TO HEAD OSCE IN KOSOVA. OSCE Chairman Knut Vollebaek told Reuters in Oslo on 24 June that he has appointed Daan Everts as head of the OSCE mission in Kosova. The Dutch diplomat thus will become one of the four deputy special representatives of UNMIK. He will be responsible for rebuilding civilian institutions, promoting democracy, monitoring human rights, organizing free elections, and training police and justice officials. Everts has been OSCE ambassador in Albania since 1997. Vollebaek also announced that the OSCE plans to send 400 to 600 people into Kosova. FS FBI FORENSIC TEAM STARTS WORK IN KOSOVA. Fifty-nine FBI investigators arrived in Kosova, the first case ever of FBI agents investigating war crimes against civilians who are not U.S. citizens, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 24 June. FBI Director Louis Freeh said that "we have here alleged crimes against humanity on the gravest scale, and the victims that we know about were murdered principally...because of their ethnicity, because of their religion, and in many cases for no reason at all except an ethnic cleansing plan which was dictated from the very highest levels of government." FS AT LEAST 40 MASS GRAVES IN SOUTHERN KOSOVA. German Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping said in Bonn on 25 June that "it can be estimated that at least 40 mass graves are in the German military-controlled sector." He added that it is too early to provide more definite figures for either the number of graves or the number of people in them. The German forces are based in Prizren. PM WHAT HAPPENED TO 700 PEOPLE FROM GJAKOVA? A spokeswoman for the Kosovar provisional government told RFE/RL's South Slavic Service on 24 June that "according to sources in the UCK's secret service...in the plain of Dukagjin...717 people from that region are missing. There are 860 burned houses. We have to say that these figures are not final and that every day we have new reports about missing people and burned houses." The "New York Times" reported some of the inhabitants of Gjakova believe that the missing Albanians are imprisoned in Serbia. FS 500 HOSTAGES FROM SMREKONICA MISSING. An RFE/RL correspondent reported from the prison of Smrekonica on 24 June that at least 350 of the hostages held there by Serbian forces have disappeared. According to six ethnic Albanian prison guards, 500 to 650 Kosovar hostages were transferred to prisons in Nis, Mitrovica, and Pozarevac. One of the prison guards said he suspected that the missing 350 were killed and cremated in a crematorium near Trepca, but he was unable to confirm this. He added that from 3 May to 12 June there were 4,300 prisoners in Smrekonica. The correspondent added that KFOR soldiers have blocked access to the Trepca mine, a suspected massacre site. Currently the prison of Smrekonica is under the control of the UCK. The six Albanian prison guards who served there during the bombing are currently trying to identify the missing prisoners. FS MACEDONIAN OPPOSITION PROTESTS RAPPROCHEMENT WITH THACI. More than 15,000 Macedonian opposition supporters protested in central Skopje on 24 June against the rapprochement between Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski and Kosova's Thaci, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. The organizer was the largest opposition party, the Social Democratic Union. They were joined by the smaller Serbian and Roma parties, the Communists, and an organization of pensioners. The opposition accused the government of endangering Macedonian national interests by working with NATO during its campaign against Serbia. Georgievski also recently indicated that his government will approve Albanian- language education at the university level by this fall. FS BOSNIAN ELECTIONS POSTPONED. Ambassador Robert Barry, who heads the OSCE's mission to Bosnia, said in Sarajevo on 24 June that the next round of local elections will be postponed from September 1999 until April 2000. He cited "tensions" in neighboring Yugoslavia following the Kosova crisis as part of the reason for the postponement. He also noted that there are "practical difficulties particularly at this time" in registering voters there. PM WESTENDORP THREATENS MUSLIM PARTY WITH SANCTIONS. The office of the international community's Carlos Westendorp announced in Sarajevo on 24 June that he will impose economic sanctions on areas governed by the Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA) unless the SDA implements a local power-sharing agreement in Zepce, which is northwest of Sarajevo. PM DEMOCRATIC PARTY ATTACKS PRESIDENT CONSTANTINESCU. Democratic Party spokeswoman Paula Ivanescu on 24 June accused President Emil Constantinescu of "waging war" against her party and its president, Senate Chairman Petre Roman. Ivanescu said the president's alleged attacks were aimed at "tarnishing" the party's image, preventing the party from taking part in any future government, and "doing away" with a possible rival in the next presidential elections. Presidential spokesman Razvan Popescu rejected the accusations, saying Constantinescu has "never initiated" such an attack on a political party, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The media recently reported that prominent Democratic Party leaders are linked to a Ploiesti-based oil import-export firm with a dubious record. Also, the Brasov prefect, a member of the party, was recently arrested for having illegally mortgaged the assets of a local enterprise. The government on 24 June named a new prefect, who is also a Democratic Party member. MS ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT AMENDS LAND RESTITUTION LAW. The Chamber of Deputies on 24 June passed an amendment to the land restitution law, raising the maximum amount of land that can be restituted to any one applicant to 50 hectares, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Previously, the law had set the maximum limit at 10 hectares. In other news, the Bucharest Municipal Tribunal on 24 June ruled that Creditbank, one of Romania's largest financial institutions, is incapable of meeting payments to depositors and placed the bank under the control of the tribunal. MS ROMANIA'S IRON GUARD ANNOUNCES COMEBACK. The deputy chairman of the National Union for Christian Revival (UNRC), Nicador Zelea Codreanu, on 24 June said the UNRC wants to relaunch Romania's interwar fascist Legionary movement. Codreanu is a nephew of Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, the Legionary movement's leader in the 1920s and 1930s. He made the announcement on the 72nd anniversary of his uncle's establishment of the League of the Archangel Michael, a precursor of the movement. Codreanu said the revived movement must acknowledge its "past mistakes," including its anti-Semitism and racism, and must "distance itself" from the acts committed under Corneliu Zelea's successor, Horia Sima. The UNRC has about 300 members. Romanian law requires that a political party have 10,000 members in order to register. Codreanu said the movement would seek to merge with other formations that have similar roots, Mediafax reported. MS MOLDOVAN PRIME MINISTER ON THE CHISINAU RIOTS. Prime Minister Ion Sturza on 24 June said that the riots in the capital the day before may have been the work of "provocateurs." He said the government had received information on the "provocateurs" in advance and had warned the trade unions about them. The warnings, he said, were ignored. Sturza also said his cabinet, in contrast to its predecessors, will only make promises it can fulfill. He said the government is ready to negotiate with the unions but only from a "realistic position" that takes into account the state of the Moldovan economy. He said that the leaders of the Federation of Trade Unions (FGSM) "panicked" when the government pointed out that the federation is in possession of assets of "dubious" origin. He also said the union leaders' salaries are 10 times higher than the average wage in the country. MS MOLDOVAN TRADE UNIONS ACCUSE CABINET OF BLACKMAIL. FGSM leader Ion Godonoga on 24 June said the government is trying to "blackmail" the unions in order to make them renounce their demands for the payment of wage arrears. Godonoga said that he "challenges the cabinet to prove in court" that the FGSM's assets do not belong to the unions. He added that if the arrears are not paid by 31 December, the unions will launch a general strike, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Cabinet members walked out of the negotiations, saying they cannot meet the demands of the unions, according to a 24 June BBC report cited by Radio Bucharest. MS MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT POSTPONES NUCLEAR FUEL TRANSITING RATIFICATION. The parliament on 24 June postponed a vote on ratifying the 1997 agreement on the transit of nuclear fuel from the Bulgarian Kozloduy nuclear plant. This is the second time that the legislature has refused to ratify the agreement, which was signed by Moldova, Bulgaria, Russia, and Ukraine in 1997. The decision was taken at the initiative of deputies representing the Christian Democratic Popular Front and the Party of Moldovan Communists, Infotag reported. Several Moldovan NGOs on the same day appealed to the parliament to reject the government's request for ratification, saying Moldova must remain an "environmentally clean island" in an otherwise contaminated Europe. MS BULGARIA TO SEND INVESTIGATORS TO KOSOVA. Bulgarian Transportation Minister Wilhelm Kraus on 24 June said the government has approved an Interpol request to send experts to Kosova who will participate in the investigations into the mass killings of Kosovar Albanians in the region, BTA reported. MS BULGARIAN MINIMUM WAGE RAISED, ENERGY PRICES HIKED. The cabinet on 24 June decided to raise the minimum monthly wage by 9.8 percent, BTA reported. The government also hiked energy prices. Prices for electricity went up 10 percent for domestic consumption and 1.1 percent for industrial consumption. Heating prices were raised by 12 percent and the price of briquettes for household use by 30 percent. MS END NOTE A Kosova Balance Sheet by Patrick Moore "That's what you get when you treat a third-rate power like a first-rate one--and it decides to act accordingly." Such was the comment of one Western observer of the Moscow scene, reacting to Russia's recent move to occupy Prishtina airport before NATO could get its troops into Kosova. At the airport, one man identified only as "General Igor" gleefully told London's "The Independent on Sunday": "I'll be here for years." An agreement regulating Russia's role came later, after days of painstaking negotiations. One suspects that it could have been reached a lot sooner were it not for Moscow's desire to savor its coup-on-the-ground and drag the talks out accordingly. The Russian troops arrived from Bosnia-Herzegovina, where they were part of SFOR, formerly known as IFOR or UNPROFOR. They were there partly because of Russia's longstanding desire to serve notice that it remains a great power, at least as far as the Balkans are concerned. But they were also there partly because of a Western desire to involve Russian troops in the peacekeeping effort. Part of the irony in this is that the cornerstone of Western policy for decades had been to keep Soviet or Russian ground troops out of the Balkans. Now, 200 paratroopers left their NATO-supervised peacekeeping posts in Bosnia to elbow in on Kosova. Whatever happens, General Igor and his friends will not have their own zone of occupation, at least under the current arrangements. Many observers had feared that any Russian zone would turn into a local version of the ethnically-cleansed Republika Srpska, which would attract the province's Serbs to settle but would not welcome ethnic Albanians. Meanwhile, the Kosovars have been coming home in droves despite the dangers of landmines (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," No. 24). On the military side, NATO now has a document from the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) in which the guerrillas pledge to demilitarize and partially disarm according to a fixed time table. It is too early to tell whether the UCK will stick to its word. But perhaps the most disturbing phenomenon on the ground involves continuing reports from various parts of Kosova regarding attacks on Serbian civilians, abandoned Serbian property, and Serbian cultural monuments, including historic churches. The big question is whether these are isolated acts of revenge or something more sinister. On the diplomatic front, three young prime ministers have shown a willingness to look forward and stress reconstruction and regional cooperation. Macedonia's Ljubco Georgievski, Albania's Pandeli Majko, and Hashim Thaci of the UCK's provisional government are political products of the 1990s. (And when considering those who belong to the new generation of Balkan leaders, one might also add Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic and Macedonian Albanian leader Arben Xhaferi.) Their taking office marks the end of an era in which the political leadership rested--and that seems truly the right word--with persons whose politically formative years were under communism. Macedonia's President Kiro Gligorov and the Kosovar shadow-state leader Ibrahim Rugova have both made their marks on the region's history, but time now seems to have passed them by, along with their Tito-era styles. The main issue on the horizon, however, remains the democratization of Serbia. The Serbs are the numerically largest people of the former Yugoslavia and live at the very center of the Balkans. They also have a stronger democratic tradition than most of their neighbors. They therefore cannot be "written off" as inherent warmongers, any more than the Germans could after having started and lost two World Wars. It is precisely the example of post-1945 Germany that suggests that there is ample time and opportunity for Serbia to reclaim its democratic heritage and take its place politically as well as geographically at the center of the Balkans. But NATO ended the war with a "Saddam Hussein peace" that left in office a dictator who first came to power by manipulating nationalist sentiments and after 10 years of economic downturn. Many Western leaders are now predicting Milosevic's eventual demise, but not necessarily in the coming weeks. Part of the reason for this is that the domestic opposition presents no readily identifiable alternative to Milosevic. Some opposition leaders have no large followings, while others are tainted by a history of opportunism or mercurial behavior. Still others are extreme nationalists who might have no qualms about launching new wars or waves of ethnic cleansing. Perhaps the most serious threat to Milosevic could come from below, including from Serbs who lost their homes as a result of his wars. That sort of discontent could, however, as easily be harnessed by the extreme nationalists as by democrats. In order to help promote a non-nationalist alternative to Milosevic, some Western governments and NGOs have actively begun to promote the democratization of Serbia. This involves support for democratic political forces and the independent media. It also means launching the German-sponsored Balkan stability pact for regional peace and development, which Serbia will be welcome to join once it has rid itself of Milosevic. A tantalizing prospect would be for the international community to use its de facto protectorate over Kosova to promote democracy in Serbia as a whole. The province could become a center for a free and vibrant Serbian press and independent electronic media. NGO's and the opposition could also operate freely there. Kosova could once again become a "cradle of Serbian civilization." xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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