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Issue No. 156. - January 8 , 2000.

Contests:
1. Croatia: PEOPLE VOTED FOR CHANGE
By Stojan Obradovic
2. Russia: THE KING IS DEAD. HAIL THE KING !
By Arkady Dubnov
3. Chechnya: IS EVERYTHING GOING AS PLANNED ?
By Arkady Dubnov
4. Special addition: YOUR VALOR SAVED OUR LIVES - APPEAL TO THE MASS MEDIA
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Croatia: PEOPLE VOTED FOR CHANGE
By Stojan Obradovic
Croatia has chosen change. After ten years of absolutist power exercised by Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), a party which won the first elections in 1990 and has been constantly in power ever since, HDZ was devastatingly defeated by Croatian democratic opposition at the parliamentary elections on 3rd of January 2000. Croatian voters said a final no to arrogant, corrupted and thieving HDZ government which, after establishing national sovereignty, caused Croatia to stagnate. HDZ's authoritarian and undemocratic politicy was personified in recently deceased president Tudjman.

Under his leadership, Croatia hit the rock bottom and was isolated from Europe. Via so-called privatisation, which favoured small political elite, HDZ has almost completely destroyed Croatian economy, creating a huge social crisis in the process. It was exactly the social crisis which exploded at this elections. HDZ was removed from the office in almost more spectacular manner than communists in 1990 were removed by HDZ. Winner of the third parliamentary elections since Croatia became an independent state is the coalition made of Social Democratic Party of Croatia -SDP (reformed communists) headed by Ivica Racan and Croatian Social- liberal Party (HSLS) led by Drazen Budisa. Out of 151 seats in the Parliament they will have 71.

Another part of Croatian democratic opposition which went to the elections is a coalition made out of five parties (Liberal Party, Croatian Peasants Party, Croatian People's Party, Social Democratic Action of Croatia and regional party Istrian Democratic Assembly). They will have another 24 seats. Both coalitions signed a pre-election agreement to mutually form new government according to elections results. At the moment, they nearly have two-thirds majority which enables them to change the Constitution. The government will be headed by president of the Social Democratic Party Ivica Racan. SDP is objectively the strongest party in Croatia at the moment. That party alone won 44 parliamentary seats. Defeated HDZ will in total have 46 seats in the new parliament, but it won six of them with votes from abroad, so-called diaspora, which is a very undemocratic element of the election law and was subjected to harsh criticism from the international community. Basically, it means that Croats from B-H who have dual citizenship are able to also vote for Croatian parliament. Another 5 sets in the new parliament will be given to the extreme right Croatian Party of Rights and its coalition partner Croatian Christian Democratic Union, basically "satellites" of HDZ. Five mandates in parliament are reserved for representatives of the national minorities.

However, in a general euphoria over removing HDZ from power after ten years a question remains - what did Croatia get. These elections showed as the strongest Sociald Dermocratic Party led by Ivica Racan (56) who will become the key person of the future Croatian government. Ivica Racan was a pale communist aparatchik who took over the lead role in then Croatian communist party in 1989. He radically set apart from Milosevic's nationalcommunists, made possible first multi-party elections in Croatia and peacefully handed over the power after he lost. He thus made possible transition into a new social system and conditions for creating independent Croatian state. After that, he became a constructive and loyal opposition. Although Racan's party got almost fantastic 30 per cent of the votes at the first parliamentary elections, it started to erode soon afterwards and Racan decided to create a new party according to ideals of modern European social-democracy. At second parliamentary election in 1992 his party barely got over election margin, but already third parliamentary elections in 1995 showed that it was on the rise. Out of all parties, SDP progressed the most and became third party by political power. War in Croatia was over then and the reality started t o show its revolting face of the ruling HDZ oligarchy characterised by unprecedented misuse of power, catastrophic privatisation that was destroying tens of thousands workplaces only to suck out the capital and to transfer it abroad and many corruption, financial and secret service scandals.

At the same time, the number of workers who were on streets asking for their wages and basic rights was growing daily. During past ten years, there were lost about half a million workplaces, unemployment reached about 30 per cent of active population according to some estimates, the number of the retired is almost equal to the number of workers. General existential insecurity and lack of hope became dominant characteristics of life in Croatia. Polls of young generation have shown that as much as 80 per cent thinks about leaving Croatia and it is perhaps best indicator of where has HDZ led Croatia to. Of course, that is only X-ray social picture of Croatia which is burdening people the most. And disrespect for human rights, freedom of media, separatist politics in B-H, lack of co-operation with the War Crimes' court in Hague, disabling return of refugees in Croatia almost completely isolated Croatia from Europe and caused indirect sanctions which closed all channels of international aid and support. To be honest, Racan and his party didn't have to struggle much in such situation. The reality was working for them. People could not be "fed" anymore with national myths, constant fantasy about external and internal enemies, frightening them that new state was constantly in danger which served HDZ to hide and downplay importance of social and economic problems caused by his catastrophic rule. Not even charisma of the late president Tudjman could have saved HDZ from defeat. In many ways Tudjman was, his charisma nonetheless, personification of exactly the most negative aspects of Croatian politics. In a certain way, we could say that Croatian citizens once again, as ten years ago, voted foremost against old government not thinking much about the program of the new.

Racan joined forces with Croatian socio-liberal party led by Drazen Budisa, who was a student leader of Croatian spring movement in 1971. As Croatian nationalist, Budisa was sentenced to 4 years in prison at the same time when Racan was starting his successful communist career, building it on the destruction of Budisa's reformist movement. Although he could have very probably won the elections by himself and get a majority of seats in the parliament, Racan showed elaborate sense for political pragmatism, reality and democratic correctness. He offered as much as a third of candidates to his partners although objectively the strength of Budisa-led party is much lower. This coalition provided Racan's party with a "fig's leaf" the West has been especially interested in, so that the "reformed communists" would not return to power alone. The coalition also makes impossible any broad anti-SDP coalition headed by defeated HDZ after the elections.

Political pragmatism has shown as one of the best Racan's traits. Since the beginning of war in 1990 and 1991 Racan was characterised by the fact that he was ready to keep his silence or only speak in general, avoiding embarrassing places about many crucial problems and difficult issues that always cause great divisions and tensions - Bosnia, war crimes, return of refugees and human rights, among other. However, now when the social crisis has put Racan and his party to the headlight in a similar way that national crisis in 1990 brought Tudjman and HDZ to power, many difficult issues and problems ask for very specific and perhaps embarrassing answers. Key opposition duo Racan and Budisa won under the motto "Vote for change" , but besides that offer which was necessary in the sense of political hygiene, they didn't elaborated those changes in more detail. True, they very clearly stressed that situation in Croatia was very difficult and that all the depth of the crisis which was hidden until now in many different ways will show in its true light only after HDZ has left the power. They promised to immediately make a revision of the privatisation process, secure basic democratic standards in all areas, start European integration process in order to start solving difficult socio-economic crisis.

We shouldn't doubt they will really keep their word. However, there are also many key and dangerous issues that have been avoided until now. The winning duo SDP and HSLS will have to start answering difficult questions. Besides catastrophic socio-economic situation left in HDZ's wake and general issues of democratisation of Croatian society, these questions are perhaps the hardest. International community has already stressed that he will keep the same criteria as it had for now already ex-government... relations with Bosnia and Dayton Accord, human rights, return of refugees and co-operation with the court in Hague. It means radical political cuts, new political theory and practice. It is not just improving HDZ policy. It is in many ways its full negation. It is not a simple task since the government has to destroy many "myths" that poisoned the people during past years. Croatia joining Europe will depend largely on it, as the only possibility of getting over a difficult crisis. That is why Ivica Racan, next Croatian prime minister, stands before his most difficult political test, but also a great chance. He could mark new Croatian history twice. First time was when he significantly helped transition into democracy and now when the democracy should really be implemented.

At the end of the month, Croatia awaits also presidential elections. However, they are not so important for Croatian political future anymore. All parties agree that half-presidential system which gave much authority to president should be transformed into parliamentary and presidential function downsized to more or less protocolary. Two most important presidential candidates are Racan's coalition partner Drazen Budisa and the most popular politician of defeated HDZ and former minister of foreign affairs dr. Mate Granic. New president will have to make certain that process of limiting his authority is made without any great political problems. However, in Croatian society, such problems cannot be ruled out. Difficult socio-economic crisis and built-up frustrations caused by existential problems of many Croatian citizens cannot, objectively, be solved in expedient manner. That is why the new government will have to show exceptional skill, but also great efficiency. Otherwise, it will also be politically "condemned". At last elections Croatian citizens, if nothing else, saw that nothing is forever and that they have the right and chance to change. Disregarding results, that is perhaps the greatest outcome of these elections. Another big outcome is the fact that rigid nationalist systems which caused many evil in the region can be changed. It started in Croatia which, objectively, had the greatest chance for change, but there is a growing hope that same scenario can repeat in Bosnia tomorrow, soon maybe even in Serbia. And the change is a significant condition for complete stability in the region and more successful democratisation process.

***

Russia : THE KING IS DEAD. HAIL THE KING !
By Arkady Dubnov

Yeltsin resigned just in time, but just in time for whom? "Take care of Russia." These are the words that Boris Yeltsin uttered at the door of his Kremlin residence on December 31, the day of his departure. In any case, this is at least the account related by Vladimir Putin, who just a few hours earlier had received full authority as Executor of the Obligations (prefixed with the initials e.o.) of the President of Russia. The first president of Russia, and this is precisely how Boris Yeltsin will now be called, articulated these words with passion. These words were uttered as if he would never again see the Kremlin walls, the Kremlin rooms, and moreover, as if he were about to die.

Thank god, that this is not the case. Nonetheless, Yeltsin's health must have been an influential factor in his decision to resign early of his own free will. As the main political "showman" of Russia, Vladimir Zhironovsky, put it, this fact is without a doubt. Yeltsin is sentimental and more inclined to symbolism. The announcement of his resignation, made public at the end of year, the end of the century, and the end of the millennium, means that Yeltsin consciously did everything he could in order to guarantee that a new generation of politicians would enter Russiaís leadership in the new century, free of communismís prejudices. Yeltsin, had given serious thought over the past few years to his place in history, and arrived at the conclusion that the most important judgement for the future generation wouldnít be that he was first in Russian history to hand over power in a civilized way to a legally elected head of state, but rather they he gave it to a politician would not allow Russia to slip back on its road to develo pment. Perhaps Yeltsin is right.

However, a certain part of the general populations (though not a very large part) have an unpleasant aftertaste from this turn of events, believing that Yeltsin has deprived the country of the opportunity for independent elections, and the presidential elections (they has been set for March 26) will in fact lack any alternative candidates. In reality, the election will be more of a plebiscite: do you or donít you accept Putinís nomination for president? The first president of Russia made a lovely exit. He left in the same manner that he entered power, even his enemies must acknowledge this. Yeltsin is a colossal figure for Russia. The majority of politicians both in Russian and abroad acknowledge this fact. This is emphasized by the chosen moment of Yeltsinís exit from active politics - the events were pure showmanship.

Nonetheless, Yeltsinís decision to resign was not free from pragmatic considerations. The first order of newly appointed President Putin was to put in place guarantees for the first president and his family. Yeltsin retains 75 percent of his presidential salary, security protection, the dacha, and a special office will be provided for him in the Kremlin where he will be able to receive politicians and foreign guests. Yeltsin intends to establish his own foundation, staffed by his permanent chief of protocol Vladimir Shevchenko, his leading chancellery Anotoly Semenchenko, press secretary Dimitry Yakushkin, and so on (Putin has already nominated new people for these posts. This flows from the natural logic that the close circle of a new head of government should not have people older than himself).

Now we turn to how this show-resignation was prepared and why it was such a smashing success in Russia. In distinction to the Catholic West, where the main holiday is Christmas - the week prior to the New Year - in Russia, the New Year is the main holiday. This is a family holiday, but it also marks the traditional change of leadership, similar to Soviet times. In the Soviet Union, bottles of champagne were uncorked right after the change of leadership, followed afterwards by the ringing of the main clock of the country - the Kremlin chimes on the Spasky Tower on Red Square. Yelstin's announcement of his resignation was broadcast at 12 pm, thus reaching the far eastern part of the country at ten in the evening. Russian, from east to west, was supposed to accept this as a New Yearís gift. And this is how it happened, the New Year with a new president. This sort of psychological effect was regarded as a strategy of the presidential administration and it clearly worked. However, the main decision was taken by Yeltsin himself, supposedly according to his erratic character. Thus, notation of his televison address was only made on the morning of December 31, exactly two hours prior to the live broadcast of his resignation. This was done to guarantee than no information leaks took place, and moreover, the preceding two hours of normally scheduled New Year broadcasts would guarantee that there would be no surprises.

On December 30, Yeltsin announced his final decision to the head of his administration Aleskander Voloshin, who suggested that he also get his predecessor to the post, Valentin Yumashev (a journalist who wrote Yeltsin's first book of memoirs - "The Presidentís Notes ") and they sat down as a threesome at the presidents suburban residence known as Gorki-9 on December 31 to compose the written text. The most difficult passages of the text were Yeltsinís request for forgiveness. For a Russian, this issue is extremely important, and in Russia, the people love those who repent. Now, Yeltsin really will be forgiven of a lot. This is clear from the tone of a large majority of people whose commentary has been heard in Russia. It is unknown whether the written text also included the part where the president would make a hand gesture across his eyes, as if he were wiping away a falling tear in the most dramatic moment. But this detail could not help but make a powerful impression on a sentim l viewer.

Yeltsin's daughter Tatiana Diachenko, who serves as his image advisor, confirmed today that first, she herself knew nothing about her fatherís decision, and secondly, he in fact shed real tears immediately after he finished reading his text and the camera was turned off. She approached her father and cried together with him. Other information sources at the Kremlin claim that Yeltsin made his final decision to resign already on December 22, three days after the elections in the Duma guaranteed the parliamentary majority to the government. These same sources say that on this same day, Yeltsin summoned Putin and told him of his decision. However, Putin did not attach any significance to this, and this seemed fact seemed to confirm Yeltsinís conviction that his decision was the correct one. Yeltsin has more than once publically named a successor and then followed his behavior and gauged the reaction to his nomination both in Russia and around the world. This was how it happened with Boris Nemtsov, Victor Chernomirdin and almost, with Sergei Stepashin. As a result, they were all pushed to the side.

On December 27, Yeltsin spoke again with Putin and repeated his decision. This time, the prime minister really believed that Yeltsin was serious. The only external sign of these events was on December 29, the first time in several years that Yeltsin refused to take part in the in pre-New Year's ceremony of handing out the government awards in the Kremlin. He opted, rather, to hand this duty over to Putin. At this time, the very suggestion of an early resignation was something outrageously fantastic. The one and only politician to make an absolutely accurate prediction turned out to be the former Vice Prime Minster, and current deputy in the Duma, Aleksander Shokhin. Already on December 24, Shokhin wrote in his column in the newspaper, Segodnia (Today) the first predicted date of his resignation - December 31 - and enumerated the main reasons for the decision. These were also precise: the need to strengthen the success of the Duma election which the military operation in Chechnya had guaranteed. In reality, if the elections were to be conducted on the original date, meaning July 4, it would be impossible for Putin to maintain over five months the fantastic level of public approval ratings that he has now, which are currently over 50 percent. Eventually, the war in Chechnya will cease being shrouded in the opaque curtain of the information blockade. The price of the war will inevitably become clear to Russian society, though it is doubtful that this will have a powerful effect on Putinís ratings. Yet, he can also not be sure of this, and the Kremlin understands this quite well. Thus, the Kremlin must be hasty. Today, one can say with certainly that the only opponent to Putin in the election will be the war in Chechnya. And it is only the war in Chechnya, not Yevgeny Primakov or Zhironovsky or even Yavlinsky, which can stop the Prime Minster of Russia's chances of removing the prefix e.o. (executor of the obligations) from his title as president of Russia.

No one knows exactly what sort of person Vladimir Putin is today and what sort of president he might be. Perhaps, even Putin himself doesnít know. Here is a person who was never a public politician and has suddenly became the object of a risky, but seemingly infallible "presidential project" carried out by Yeltsinís administration. Now he is the idol of the military, special forces and local leaders in Russia's regions. The absolute majority of these people are scurrying to kneel down before him to demonstrate their loyalty to the new leader in the Kremlin. The main characteristic of contemporary society in Russia is that it still lacks a real structure of civil society. Putin, more than anyone else, knows this. His first move as the head of the government was a trip to Chechnya. He spent New Yearís Eve together with his wife in a helicopter on the way to Gudermes. He was accompanied by none other than the " main architect of the presidential project " and founder of Putinís image, Minister of Print and Television Mikhail Lesin. It is said that the trip to Chechnya was planned prior to the announcement of Yeltsinís resignation, but now this fact is already unimportant. In the eyes of Russia, Putin is the "war president", and I would add to his name "Chechen-Putin ". The question is whether he will be able to become the "President of Peace". Three days prior tp December 31, well-known Russian human rights activist Sergei Kovalev said that Russia is quite clearly destined to go through a period of authoritarianism dedicated to a expedient market economics with strong government regulation and control over civil freedoms. An only later will Russia be able to return to democracy. And perhaps, Sergei Kovalev added gloomily, it will not return at all.

***

Chechnya: IS EVRYTHING GOING AS PLANNED ?
By Arkady Dubnov

On December 26, a video clip was broadcast on the Russian NTV television station depicting Grozny in the middle of December. This video, shot by well-known Russian journalist Andrei Babitsky, a correspondent for Radio Liberty, was the first clip shown in months of the Chechen War that had not been received via international satellite exchanges from Western companies (as a rule, it was anonymous and not annotated as to the time or place of the tape). It one were to compare this reportage with that shown over the last few months on Russian television stations -- done by journalists who were allowed no further than the Russian Army's artillery position - then the picture looks much less optimistic for Moscow. Until now, reportage has shown Russian generals relating victories meant to convince Russian society of an inevitable victory over the Chechen Separatists.

Looking at the Russian TV camera, generals and soldiers alike confirmed that the "the bandits" moral spirit had been broken." Andrei Babitsky's reportage draws quiet a different version of events (once again, Radio Liberty, similar to Soviet times, was practically the only source of information accessible for Russian listeners, providing up-to-date and objective information on the Chechen War). According to Babitsky, Chechen troops are self confident, well-armed, and are fighting on their home turf, meaning they know what ground can be painlessly ceded in order to lead the Russian army into areas that make for good tactical partisan warfare.

On December 27, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin left Boris Yeltsin's office, confidently assuring that everything in Chechnya "was going as planned, as they said it would, and as it will be." Just a day prior, Putin had said, "the military is not laying out concrete deadliness for the completion of its operation." However, it seems that this is not quite the case. The previous week, the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe had warned that if by the middle of January, Russian had not ceased its war operation in Chechnya, then its membership in the council would be suspended, and moreover, economic sanctions would be levied against Moscow. Quite obviously, the army is trying to achieve definite victory in Chechnya prior to this date. That this is the Kremlin's goal was further confirmed by Yeltsin's meeting with the head of the Russian MID (Ministry of Internal Affairs) Igor Ivanov on December 27. At the conclusion of the meeting, Mr. Ivanov announced that the situation con s the correctness of the Russian leadership's position: Moscow does not require the mediation of international organizations (meaning the OSCE) to regulate the conflict in Chechnya.

From the point of view of a propaganda task - it is highly important for Moscow at this stage of the campaign to occupy the Chechen capital. Grozny is associated with the most painful memories of the last Russian campaign. Exactly five years ago, at the end of December 1994, it was precisely the fall of Grozny, previously occupied by the Russian Army, which forced Moscow to enter into peace negotiations with Aslan Maskhadov. This was the well-known Khasavyurt Peace, signed by General Alexander Lebed, the then secretary for Russia's State Security.

Over the last few days, the definitive storming of Grozny has been taking place, defended, according to estimates, by about 2 to 4 thousand Chechen combatants. Thousands of civilian residents remain in the city. No one knows exactly how many, but certainly no less than 10 thousand. It became clear on December 27 after a meeting in the Ingush Capital between the Minister of Emergency Situations Sergei Shoigu, and the a representative for Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, that it would be possible to initiate a two-day cease-fire to allow civilians to leave Grozny. However, official sources have yet to confirm this report. An entirely new stage in the war was marked by the entrance of the so-called "Chechen Militia" on the side of the federal army. These loyalist forces are under the command of Beslan Gantermirov, the former Mayor of Grozny, who a few years ago was sentenced to six tears in jail for embezzling government funds. The former mayor was amnestied about two months ago when Moscow began looking for allies among Chechens from the anti-Maskhadov camp. Gantermirov was helped in gathering Chechens under his wing, primarily from his Teipa (this is the Chechen name for a familial tribe) of Chinkhoi. The men were armed and equipped and today form the "militia" which numbers around 700.

According to some reports from unofficial military sources, the so-called Gantemirovits have already distinguished themselves through their brand of merciless fighting with their counterparts. This will only lead to a future blood vandetta in Chechnya: even today the mountain Caucasian nations still practice the blood feud. Thus, many experts on Chechnya do not exclude the possibility the Chechen militia might enter into exterminations of entire Chechen Teypas in order to guarantee that their tribe won't be subject to revenge killings later.

In the last few days other information has come out as well confirming that the most distinguished "militia men" have been called from the ba ttlefield in order to attend special camps on how to conduct battle in mountain terrain. This means that the Russian generals are seriously considering those lesson learned from the previous Chechen War (the same could be said about lessons from Afghanistan. December 27 marks the 20th anniversary of the day when "a limited Soviet military contingent" was sent to Afghanistan in 1979). The leaders in Moscow well understand that taking Grozny will not end the war in Chechnya. Rather, it will signal the beginning of a new more difficult and drawn-out stage in the war - the war in the mountains in the south of the Chechen Republic. From that point of view, the most serious step in the army's operation was to block the Chechen-Georgian border from the Chechen side. The 84-kilimoter border runs along mountain crossings and canyons, and which up till now, had been practically the only route for Chechen combatants to receive armaments and reinforcements. The decision to close the border was taken during a closed meeting of the Russian Committee for State Security held on December 15. Already on December 17, a combat parachute division was dropped in the Chechen mountains near the border with Georgia. On December 20, another unit was dropped. From that moment on, the Chechen combatants, according to military sources, have experienced serious setbacks.

Whether this is the case or not, however, cannot be confirmed independently. The one thing that is clear today is that this sharply aggravated the relationship between Georgia and Russia. On December 21, Russia's Foreign Affairs Ministry issued an unprecedentedly severe statement, accusing Tbilisi of harboring Chechen terrorists. The leadership of Georgia answered with a no less severe reply, and made it clear that it expects the West to act as a guarantor of its sovereignty. After two days, these sentiments were confirmed in the course of a two-hour meeting between Assistant Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, and Igor Ivanov, the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs. Mr. Talbott demanded that Moscow provide assurances that it would undertake no actions that could threaten either Georgia's or Azerbaijan's sovereignty. According to witnesses, Mr. Ivanov looked completely exasperated after the dialogue with his American colleague.

In either case, on the eve of the Millennium, The Chechen war is entering into its bloodiest and most unpredictable stage. It is not by accident that up to now, official sources have given very low casualty figures for the Russian army (they claim about 550 men killed and 1,200 injured). If the army does not achieve a deciding victory in Chechnya over the coming weeks, then the army will have no way to justify its real losses and Russian society will be convinced that, once again, it has been brutally deceived.

And then, Prime Minister Putin's chances of becoming president (his current ratings are already fantastically inflated) will fall
the same as they fell for Evgeny Primakov the previous summer.
    ________________________________________________________
Special addition: Appeal to Western Journalists from Chechen Journalists:
YOUR VALOR SAVED OUR LIVES - APPEAL TO THE MASS MEDIA

As we have learned from reliable sources, as well as from secret FSB documents, the Russian leadership planned to have an
information blocade in place before launching full-scale military operations in the Chechen Republic. It was to ensure that the
Chechen people could be annihilated without interference. Unfortunately, the FSB's plan was realized.  But not in full.
Thanks to the courage and the valor of foreign journalists, what was hidden was revealed, and as a result many of the Chechen
people were saved. Now that military operations have resumed in Chechnya, and Russia is ready to use any means, to pay any price, to get revenge for its defeat in the war of 1994-96, foreign journalists are again a stumbling block for the Russian
leadership.

In this connection, the threats addressed to foreign journalists by high officials of the Russian Foreign Ministry are
especially alarming, in that they lead one to conclude that there are plans to use a new type of weapon of mass destruction in
Chechnya --a chemical, bateriological, or even a tactical nuclear weapon. Talk about the possible use of tactical nuclear weaponry has frequently surfaced in the Russian media, and prominent politicians and military men have discussed it.

What has particularly aroused our concern and alarm is the fact that the statements of Russian leaders have now been echoed
by the United States Government, which has warned American foreign correspondents of the danger they are in when they visit Chechnya in particular, and the North Caucasus in general.  As we know, even in the past the Chechen Republic and the North Caucasus were not a great place for foreign correspondents, but we still do not understand what at this particular time has inspired top officials in Russia and the United States to intimidate them with warnings and threats.

Given the situation, we, the journalists of the Caucasus, again address the representatives of the mass media:

The absence of foreign journalists has made it possible for the Russian leadership to step up the war again and to carry out a
mass genocide of the Chechen people. At this stage of the war, the absence of foreign journalists makes it possible for the Russian leadership to employ, without interference, hitherto unused weapons of mass destruction, which could lead to the total
disappearance of the Chechens as an ethnic group. 

Therefore we urge foreign journalists not to leave the Chechen Republic or the North Caucasus, under any pretext.
 
Journalists!  Do not let yourselves be small change in politicians' dirty hands; do not allow anyone to confuse your
profession, that of the truth-teller, with the oldest profession; do not sell yourselves.
 
On the eve of the new millennium we must declare that the courage and truthfulness of journalists will save mankind, an
inseparable part of which is the Chechen people! May the ALMIGHTY preserve you!

Maeirbek Taramov
Chairman
The Union of Journalists of the Caucasus