Issue No. 226 - June 12, 2001

           By Zvezdan Georgievski

2. Bulgaria: KING COMES BACK
          By Peter Karaboev

         By Paulyuk Bykowski
4. Special addition: NEW AT TOL

     By Zvezdan Georgievski
   There's a joke circling around Macedonia saying: Macedonian
prime minister Ljupco Georgievski tells his main coalition partner
Arben Djaferi - "Why couldn't we split Macedonia like Milosevic
and Tudjman split Bosnia?" Djaferi responds: "Fine. But what about
Branko Crvenovski (president of Social Democrat Alliance of
Macedonia - the strongest opposition party who is the strongest
critic of territory division)?" Georgievski answers: "Well,
somebody has to be Alija Izetbegovic!"
    It seems that this joke best illustrates the final stage of
ten-year old absurd "cartographic" madness in former Yugoslavia.
As well as ten years before, when the so-called Memo of Serbian
Academy of Sciences and Arts let "the genie out of the bottle" and
became a platform of Milosevic's conquering politics, it is now
the Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts (MANU) that has published
"unfinished" document about "peaceful" resolution of the Macedonian
crisis. According to it, the only outcome is "voluntary" exchange
of territories and population between Macedonia and Albania.
    What's it all about?
    According to this plan, Macedonia should cede parts of its
north-western border (Sar planina) that in fact aren't bordering
Albania but Kosovo, and get parts of Albanian territory with
ethnic Macedonians near Ohrid and Prespan lake in return. The plan
implicitly unveils creation of the so-called Greater Albania,
since it means that Kosovo will join present Albania. MANU
president, geneticist Georgi Efremov who is close to the ruling
party VMRO-DPNE, said that this was only one among proposals that
deserve attention, comparing coexistence between Albanians and
Macedonians to a lousy marriage. So, according to Efremov, it
isn't outdated to break up the marriage in a civilized manner.
Macedonian public was also confused by Efremov's statement that
the political top was shown these proposals and that they were
considering them. Macedonian prime minister Ljupco Georgievski
said that academicians, since they aren't pressed with daily
political issues, can think more strategically about the future
of the country, while speaker of Macedonian parliament Stojan
Andov said that it was an interesting idea, which didn't irritate
    After a huge shock among Macedonian public as well as the
international community ("I'm shocked!", Max van der Stuhl, high
OSCE representative for minority rights; "It is a paradox that
Macedonia itself is trying to create Greater Albania", Carlo
Ungaro, OSCE representative in Macedonia), Ljupco Georgievski
loosely distanced himself from the idea, still saying that after
a month it will seem best solution to all Macedonians. That
things became much complicated was shown exactly by Georgievski,
who demanded early parliamentary elections to be held next
September. The only outcome of the elections would be a parliament
without Albanian political representatives (there is a war raging
on in election bases of Albanian political parties) which de facto
means division of territory. Plan of OSCE special envoy Robert
Frovik which consisted of retreat of Macedonian UCCK members to
Kosovo was also rejected, without offer of any alternative. If
we add continuous demands of Macedonian prime minister to
introduce the state of emergency, then it is obvious that
somebody could profit from long-term war and the division of
the country!
    So, to put it mildly, local public is confused, and the
international community which insists so much on territorial
integrity and Macedonian sovereignty is wondering - Macedonia
lacks political will to preserve its integrity! On the contrary!
If we go into details, we can find myriad of differences between
Ljupce Georgievski and the international community. While NATO
general secretary George Robertson speaks about bandits and
murderers, Ljupco Georgievski calls Macedonian extremists rebels.
While Javier Solana, high EU representative for security and
foreign politics talks about political negotiations, Georgievski
is in favor of the state of war.
    The latest massacre of five soldiers near Tetovo added fuel to
the fire. Spokesman to the Macedonian government Antonio
Milossoski who is now acting as personal spokesman of prime
minister Georgievski, said after the massacre that it was doubtful
whether there was any chance that "Albanians and non-Albanians
could live together". At the occasion, he asked leaders of two
Albanian parties in the government of political unity Arben
Djaferi (Democratic Albanian Party) and Imer Imeri (Party of
Democratic Prosperity) whether they agreed with those "who kill
Macedonians in order to employ Albanians in their places?" In a
difficult situation Macedonian is in, these two statements tell us
much about political goals of the ruling party or at least a
faction within it.
    At the moment, UCCK proclaimed free territory in the village
of Aracinovo, only ten kilometers from Macedonian capitol Skopje.
Military analysts claim that Skopje will be encircled after only
several days, and UCCK officially warned the government that they
would shell vital government institutions (parliament, government,
ministry buildings, military barracks). Albanian extremists
already have the town of Kumanovo in a kind of hostage situation
since they have blocked the local water supply so that the town of
one hundred people has been without water for several days now.
Accordingly, UCCK demands are geometrically growing with every
passing day, without any serious political or military response
which is caused by big differences and discrepancies in the
so-called Government of the national unity made out of all
important parties.
    Some Macedonian analysts have predicted that events will go
this way already a month ago. They warned that situation will
escalate after schools were called off. However, there are more
and more people who think that the joke from the beginning of this
article is in effect. Increased activity of Bulgaria regarding
anything Macedonia-related (their Security Council met more times
because of Macedonian crisis than the Macedonian itself) is
fostering theory that now comes "global solution" to Macedonian
issue, meaning division of Macedonia among neighboring countries.
So, the most pessimistic scenario says that Macedonian-Albanian
war is not the issue anymore, rather Macedonian-Macedonian civil
war regarding where should Macedonia sell itself: to Bulgaria,
Greece, Serbia...
    The question now is how will Europe and USA guarantee
territorial integrity and sovereignty of Macedonia? With military
intervention? Their lack of interest for some adequate response in
Macedonian crisis (unlike their interest in Kosovar crisis) is
encouraging extremists even more, and local analysts get
confirmations for their theories that the international community
is in this case more likely to negotiate then intervene. So, more
and more steps are made towards another international protectorate
in the Balkans, with the absurd result - NATO will become the
strongest country in the Balkans. comprising Bosnia and
Herzegovina, Kosovo and Macedonia, with prospect of taking also
Montenegro. Anyhow, Macedonia has the hottest summer in its modern
history ahead.

                          * * *

     By Peter Karaboev
    On Sunday, June 17, Bulgarians will go to the voting boots in
the first "post-Modern" elections in this Balkan country. For the
first time in the last 10 years the Past is turning itself to
alternative for the Future. And one man is to be blamed for this -
former king Simeon the Second. His "National Movement for Simeon
II" is the biggest political power at the moment, but it's very
strange to see how in the Age of Internet it is using rhetoric and
populist promises dating from the late XIX century. Shifting
attention from party programs to his appeal "Believe me!" the
Simeon gained enormous support but created an atmosphere of
insecurity and unpredictability.
    One thing is for sure - that former communist are condemned to
get 15-16% at the best. Simeon who impressed disappointed,
disillusioned, unemployed, "un-formal" businessmen, pensioners...,
occupied their populist appeal. This pool of voters shifted for
the last 10 years from one exotic party to another, waiting for
"miracle" to happen. Today it's almost impossible to engage them
into serious political debate at least because these people are
too poor to buy a newspaper. Another reason for these people to
be lost for the existing political model is the fact that
candidates' party lists are written in the party headquarters by
party "nomenklatura", not after real debate in the society who
has the right to represent it in the Parliament. King's men -
most of them young newcomers - appeared to be not better but nor
worse then today's Bulgarian politicians. They created a new
"demography" of Bulgarian politics with their ambitions, vanity,
foreign languages, expertise and lack of ideology matrix. They
will eventually introduce new rules - seeking of broad compromise
and competition, instead of existing party policy of making deals
behind the closed doors and concentration of the power into
certain party leaders.
    But all this depends on results of the vote. And predictions
are very confusing.
    There are two scenarios what Bulgaria will see on the morning
of 18 June. The first one is that Simeon will win but not enough to
rule in majority. This means that his party will have to look for
coalition with ruling UDF. But there's no love between them and at
the best the new Government will heave to lower the speed of
painful reforms and to abandon the words "radical changes". To
some this already sounds as a reminder of the weak governments
from the early 1990s.
    This leads to the second scenario - unsuccessful coalition
negotiations and early elections in the autumn. Bulgaria will have
to vote for the President sometimes in October or November. That's
why some people in Bulgaria are counting on early disappointment in
Simeon's supporters lines and turning vote for President into a
referendum for/against the Republic. Disappointed voters will
start to think "If even The Messiah can't help us, than we will
have to change the System." And Simeon is not the one to be blamed
for this - the so-called "party-state" capitalism is to be blamed
too, even if it looks like that this system created its own
gravedigger. The bottom line of the debate is that there is still
no clear understanding in the Bulgarian society to whom the
Government serves - to its ministers or to business and the
    The main problem in this situation is that Simeon himself
failed to answer huge number of questions. After his first -
rather emotional - public statement on April 6, he made a second
one last week. He promised - as local press said - "everything for
everyone", tax free credits of up to 5000 DM, low tax company
credits of up to 25 000 DM, money for policemen, teachers and
pensioners. But he was quite unclear where this money will come
from as bankers reacted with anger and everyone in Bulgaria knows
that under its currency board regime the IMF is the last one to
say "yes" or "no" and there is no reason why the IMF would have
to say "Yes".
    According to famous local analyst Ognjan Minchev the second
public statement made by Simeon was more confusing and would not
rise additional support for his movement. The same is in force for
the announcement from the last week of the President Petar
Stoyanov that he intends to run for a second term - Stoyanov said
something that was already known and this will hardly change
voters opinion. There are some 25% of them still undecided and
this group is hardly predictable as it is rationalizing its choice
and is critical to every party programs and appeals.
    Simeon refused to engage himself with a promise to head the new
Government as a Prime Minister and this disappointed a lot of his
followers. King's party is steadily losing support from over 40%
in mid-May to some 30% in recent polls. This trend will go on in
the week to the elections but Simeon is still far ahead of the
ruling UDF with some 18-20% and former communists with 12%.
    With only a week to the most interesting vote in Bulgaria
since 1990 it's time to talk about eventual coalitions for none of
the main player will get enough support to head the country alone.
Ognjan Minchev said that there's no reason behind speculations for
broad coalition because Bulgaria needs a perfectly clear program
with its priorities, not a populist appeal "Let's save the
country!" According to him Siemon is hiding his authoritarian
ambitions behind this appeal while at the same time his model
prefers personal loyalty by his members of the Parliament, not a
loyalty to certain political rules, norms and principals. It's not
unbelievable that on June 18, Bulgaria will have a new kind of
bi-polar political system with UDF fragile victory - in fact
parity with Simeon's party - and opposition made of former
communists and King's men in the Parliament. But the last is very
difficult to be achieved because these "King's men" are a mix of
very strange and colorful people with little common between them,
thus, a group that is hard to steer in one clear direction.
Situation will become more complicated with the fact that Simeon (he
is not running for the Parliament) will turn himself into a fourth
power center instructing his people from his residence and pulling
the strings of everyone who has ones to be pulled.

                          *  *  *

     By Paulyuk Bykowski
     On May 30, an explosion took place on the territory of the
embassy of the Russian Federation, half a meter from the fence
along Kommunisticheskaya Street, creating a crater 6 cm. deep and
30 cm. wide.  There were no injuries or significant property
damage.  Official Minsk is calling the incident an act of
terrorism.  Moscow is skeptical.
    ITAR-TASS originally quoted an embassy employee as saying that
"two low-power thunder-flash charges were thrown" and that "grass
caught fire at the site of the blast."  The incident was initially
assessed not as terrorism, but as a prank.  Later, the Belarussian
Ministry of the Interior department of information and public
relations reported that it was a RGD-5 grenade and not
thunder-flash charges, and the Central District Department of
Internal Affairs (police) opened a criminal investigation that was
almost immediately handed over to the Belarussian Republic
    All that happened on the eve of a visit to Minsk by the heads
of the CIS member states and the question of their security then
naturally arose.  Belarussian authorities made assurances that it
was guaranteed.  Russian minister of foreign affairs Igor Ivanov
lent his support.  "The events that took place at the Russian
embassy do not interfere with the holding of the summit of the
heads of state," he said.  That fact is not by itself as
interesting as its interpretation.  Ivanov said that two grenades
exploded at the embassy.  (Was the minister misinformed?), an
investigation is underway and he does not "connect the matter with
any 'Chechen leads' yet."
    Ivanov's comments were made just after the event occurred, and
the minister was obviously more worried about the upcoming
summits, as was understandable, if only because of the number of
them. Besides the meeting of the CIS heads of state, heads of
governments and foreign ministers in Minsk, the first session of
the Intergovernmental Council of the Eurasian Economic Community
was taking place.  Moreover, Russian president Vladimir Putin was
meeting with his colleagues from Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia
at his residence Zaslavl-1 to conduct negotiations on the
normalization of the situation in Karabakh, and it was then still
too early to abandon the hope that Putin could bring them around
to signing a peace agreement, which the negotiations held in Key
West by the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe had failed to produce.  And here comes some
thunder flashes...
    It was easier for Dmitry Rogozin, chairman of the State Duma
committee for the international affairs, to comment.  Greater
distance and a lighter workload allowed him to take a sober view
and give some thought to the meaning of the incident at the embassy.
The parliamentarian did not think that it was connected with the CIS
summit.  In an interview with Interfax, Rogozin suggested that it
may have been "simply hooliganism," perhaps connected with the
desire of certain parties that "take an unfriendly stance toward
the official power in Belarus and Russia" to provoke a certain
reaction from those powers.  Rogozin also said that it was
possible that the unfriendly act was "an attempt to thwart the
arrival of the president of Russia on the ground of disorder in
Minsk."  "I am more inclined to think that there is no political
subtext to the incident," he added.
    Officials in Minsk were more eager to exploit the political
interpretation of the event, in spite of the lack of political
demands or statements after the blast, and the fact that the time,
place and means used to create it ruled out human casualties and
serious damage.  So where's the political terrorism?
    Belarussian leader Alexander Lukashenko held a meeting with
the heads of law and order departments on May 31, and expressed
his dissatisfaction with the incident.  "What, don't we have
enough laws to stop the radical activities of our 'conscious'?",
he asked, speaking Russian but saying the last word in
Belarussian.  It is a catchword for the supporters of Belarussian
independence and comes from Belarussian People's Front founder
Zenon Poznyak's division of the population of Belarus into the
"conscious" and "unconscious."
    Lukashenko thus directly indicated the explanation of the
blast that suits him.  His audience would not dare to contradict
him.  Although minister of the interior Vladimir Naumov admitted
that no one had claimed responsibility for the incident, he took
that opportunity to announce the coincidence of the blast with
opening of a series of CIS summits and the ceremonial laying of
the cornerstone for a new complex of Russian embassy buildings, to
be attended by the presidents of both countries.  "Therefore, the
thought of the intentional provocation to destabilize the situation
suggests itself," he said.  In an interview with Interfax-West on
June 1, Naumov said that investigators are "developing four
versions" of the incident and three of them "lead to the thought
of obvious political causes."  He said that one witness had
already been questioned on May 31.  That witness saw two young
men, ages 18-20, running away from the Russian embassy immediately
after the blast.
    The Republican Prosecutor's office, to which the criminal case
has been transferred, is so far refusing to comment.  The
opposition is unanimously calling the incident a provocation by
the ruling regime aimed against its opponents, that is, against
    This is not, however, the first shot taken at the Russian
embassy in Minsk.  On April 1, 1997, a criminal case was opened in
connection with machinegun fire on the embassy.  No one was
injured then either and the previously unknown Belarussian
Liberation Army claimed responsibility for the action in an e-mail
message sent to opposition publications about a month later.  One
of them, "Svaboda" (Freedom) newspaper, readily published their
statement, leading to its closure and Lukashenko's accusing his
opposition of terrorism.
    Talk of a Belarussian People's Army arose after the November
1996 referendum to change the constitution of Belarus, which,
because of gross violations of legislation and the "royal"
concentration of power in the hands of the president, Lukashenko's
opponents and major international institutions called a
"constitutional coup d'etat."
    Since there had been a coup d'etat, the supporters of the
legitimate power (read XIII High Council of Belarus, dissolved by
the president) had grounds to take up arms, call themselves a
liberation army and fight the criminal regime using partisan
methods.  The opposition in the parliament and the presidium of
the High Council almost unanimously refused to recognize the
changes to the constitution or enter the new parliament, the
National Assembly, openly appointed by the president.  They are
the ones recognized by the international community as the
legitimate representatives of the Belarussian people.
    Thus, the idea was already in the air and no one was surprised
when, on May 3, 1997, "Svaboda" ran the statement by the
Belarussian Liberation Army claiming responsibility for shooting
at the Russian embassy on the evening of April 1, as well as an
explosion at the compressor station at the Krupki gas collection
point on the night of April 28 or the undermining of the trunk
pipe near the Uzda gas collection point on April 30.  Those
actions, the document read, were "a forewarning to the Moscow
'integrators' and their Belarussian lackeys."  The statement
indicated that the Liberation Army considered "integration" the
annexation of Belarus by Russia and all deed opposing it a battle
for the independence of the Fatherland.  The newly declared
partisans demanded a return to the pre-referendum constitution and
establishment of a democratic order, and promised to fight the
Lukashenko regime and foil the imperialistic aspirations of Russia
toward Belarus.
    Furthermore, the Liberation Army made a list of Russian
politicians whom it forbade to enter Belarus on threat of death.
Among these personae non gratae were Viktor Chernomyrdin, Yegor
Stroev, Gennady Seleznev, Yevgeny Primakov, Yury Luzhkov, Aman
Tuliev, Sergei Baburin, Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Nikolai Gonchar.
    There is no proof of the actual existence of the Belarussian
Liberation Army.  The way its claimed responsibility for the
explosions, after the incidents had been covered in the media,
leads to thoughts of falsification and those who stand to gain
from it.  The last action attributed to the Liberation Army,
smacks of counter-provocation.  On November 17, 1997, two
Prodservis stores in the Pervomaisky neighborhood of Minsk
received calls warning them that there was mercury in their sales
areas.  Later, an anonymous caller stated to the BelaPAN
information agency that the Liberation Army claimed responsibility
for that action as well.
    Then nothing more was heard of the Belarussian Liberation
Army.  The radical organizations that do exist are very small.
They either brood in isolation or are occupied defining their
relations to each other, and none of them even have pretensions to
terrorism.  A good example is the youth organization Right
Revenge, headed by poet Slavomir Adamovich, author of the
much-talked-about poem "Kill the President!".  It disintegrated
after it was unable to defend one of its members in a conflict
with criminals.  The Belarussian Freedom Party is in the thralls
of internal dismantling.  Its leader, Sergei Vysotsky, never
played an independent role.  After the Belarussian People's Front
split into pieces by Zenon Poznyak and Vintsuk Vecherka, Vysotsky
lost control of his own party.
    The White Legion, an organization of retired military, is in a
surer position.  In 1996, they and their Ukrainian colleagues from
the UNA-UNSO fought with police at an opposition demonstration to
mark the anniversary of the Chernobyl catastrophe.  In 1999, they
guarded an underground session of the 13th High Council of
Belarus, which declared that it had terminated Lukashenko's
powers.  In the more than five years of its existence, White
Legion leader Sergei Chislov has yet to define his ideology, which
is a greater impediment to the Legion's development than lack of
funds and good reason to exclude it from the ranks of terrorist
organizations.  But the Legion does have its own specialists in
diversionary tactics.
    A few years ago, a group of radical youth split off from Pavel
Severinets's Youth Front and formed the Edge athletic and
patriotic organization.  They conspire to play sports, study
nationalistic literature and place crosses on the graves of
Belarussian insurrectionists from the times of the Recz Pospolita.
They are neither old enough nor inclined toward terrorist
    On the other side of the barricades, there is only one
organization, Russian National Unity.  Its leader, Gleb Samoilov,
was murdered on August 5, 2000, and its most authoritative
activist, former agent in the elite Almaz division of the
Belarussian Ministry of the Interior Valery Ignatovich, was
arrested on suspicion of a number of violent robberies and
the kidnapping of ORT cameraman Dimitry Zavadsky.  After that,
the Belarussian branch of the Russian National Unity ceased
activities in the capital and clings to existence only somewhere
in the provinces.
    The grenade explosion near the fence of the Russian embassy
cannot be seen as a symptom of the spread of terrorism to Belarus.
There are no hot spots in the country and the controversies
surrounding the constitutional changes of 1996 do not touch lives
of the majority of Belarussians but are rather a stumbling block
for the political elite.  It also cannot be denied that the
potential for the rise of terrorist organizations exists, but
there is no stimulus to realize that potential at the present
    On the evening of June 4, the Belarussian Ministry of the
Interior department of information and public relations reported
that the investigation of the recent incident has uncovered that
not one but two RGD-5 grenades were thrown onto the territory of
the Russian embassy on May 30.  "Criminology experts have been
called into the investigation of the incident and they have
conducted a number of special investigative procedures.
Odorological examinations (to identify the explosives by their
scent) have been conducted using police dogs.  Fragments of the
grenades have been collected at the site of the incident," reads
the statement.  In addition, as that document implies, the
investigation is not being carried out by the Republican
Prosecutor, as previously stated, but by the Ministry of the
Interior Investigative Committee for the Central District of
    A criminal case has been opened under article 339, part 3, of
the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, that is, hooliganism
committed with weapons or other objects used as weapons, which is
punishable by 3 to 5 years of limitations on freedom (so-called
"chemical" punishment) or 3 to 7 years in prison.  There are
thought to be two perpetrators.

                     *  *  *

 Special addition: NEW AT TOL                 June 11, 2001
      - - - TOL MESSAGE: TOL Wire and Balkan Reconstruction Report
    TOL is proud to announce the launch of the pilot version of
TOL Wire--a daily news service bringing together breaking news and
in-depth analysis from selected independent newsrooms across the
former Soviet Union, Central Europe, and the Balkans. For further
information on the TOL Wire and the process of becoming a news
partner, please contact Virginie Jouan, TOL Wire Editor, at:
    Check out the Wire at:
    As part of TOL's ongoing efforts to bring its general and
expert readers the type of coverage not found in the mainstream
media, we are proud to announce the launch of a special subsite,
the Balkan Reconstruction Report (BRR). With breaking news,
in-depth analysis, colorful and insightful human-interest
features, local press reviews, profiles of key officials and
decision-makers, and more, the BRR will approach the Balkan
societies in their entirety and not just focus on the crisis of
the day. The BRR will also be the place to turn to monitor
promises and reality concerning the international aid flowing to
the region.
    Check out the BRR at
    .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .
    --- WEEK IN REVIEW ---
    Welcoming Nuclear Waste
    Fears abound about Russia's plans to get-rich-quick by
processing nuclear fuel.
    by Sophia Kornienko
    A Not-so Strategic Partnership Central Europe's post-communist
countries agree to form a "regional" partnership with Austria.
    by TOL
    King Spin
    Bulgaria's election campaigning hots up as the king courts the
votes of the business community.
    by Konstantin Vulkov
    Six Becomes Five
    Italian-minority party leaves the Croatian coalition
    by Mirna Solic
    Out Of The Woodwork
    In the Czech Republic, a Defense Ministry security check
uncovers falsified clearances for people linked to the
communist-era secret service.
    by Petra Breyerova
    World Bank Approves Loan To Belarus
    Bosnian Serbs Ratify Pact With Yugoslavia
    Chechen War Hearings Begin in Russian Duma
    Prodi Reassures EU Accession Leader Slovenia
    The Hungarian Forint Unshackled
    .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .
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    .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .
    --- OUR TAKE: Russia's Waste Land  ---
    Russia needs to clear up its existing nuclear waste rather
than burdening itself with more.
    .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .
    --- FEATURES ---
    In the Empire's Shadow Vienna lobbies for the creation of a
"strategic partnership" of Central European countries.
    by Lubos Palata
    Wasting Away
    The Soviets kept a dirty secret about deadly radiation from
the villagers of Muslyumovo, and now the Russians want to cover up
old waste with new.
    by Anna Badkhen
    .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .
    Partners in Despair
    Lack of support for the Georgian military is creating dangers
withinand beyond--the countrys borders. A TOL partner post from
    EurasiaNet (
    by Anatol Lieven
    Confusion Reins Macedonians new grand coalition government is
in permanent crisis as the fighting in the Kumanovo region
continues. by Vlado Jovanovski
    From the Balkan Reconstruction Report.
    EU Insider: Fighting for Common Ground As compromise is
reached over two controversial chapters in record time, the focus
shifts to the battles ahead.
    by Karel Bartak
    The Deep End: Quirky News From Around the Region
    by TOL staff
    .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .
    --- ANNUAL REPORTS ---
    Bosnia and Herzegovina Annual Report 2000: Progress or
Stagnation? Five years after Dayton, is Bosnia and Herzegovina
simply a protectorate waiting to collapse when international
commitment wanes, or is it, slowly, becoming a viable country? The
year 2000 brought supporting evidence for both arguments, but
proof for neither.
    by Gordon Bardos
    .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .
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    Our Take: Russia's Waste Land
    Russia needs to clear up its existing nuclear waste rather
than burdening itself with more.
    Given the choice, most people prefer the light to the dark.
For close to a century, the Russians did not have the choice, and
were kept in the dark about things that weren't their
business--things like nearby nuclear waste dumps, toxic spills,
unusually high levels of radiation, cancer. In a recent story, TOL
reported from Chelyabinsk along the banks of the Techa River, into
which Soviet officials dumped nuclear waste from the nearby Mayak
plant from 1947 onwards. When an explosion sent deadly waste and
radioactive dust across the villages, no one was warned, or told,
or helped for generations. It was the Soviets' dirty little
    This week, when a bill allowing the import of other's nuclear
waste into Russia went before the parliament, the State Duma
repeated the message that generations of Russians are already
familiar with--"don't bother, it is not your business"--when it
rejected the liberal faction's request for a national referendum
on the issue. And, on those rare occasions when a Russian citizen
has felt the need to say something about the government's failure
to protect its people from chemical, nuclear, or toxic disasters,
they have been thrown into prison. The protracted case against
ex-Navy captain Alexander Nikitin, who spilled the beans about the
Russian navy's dumping of nuclear waste, and the similar on-going
case of Grigory Pasko come to mind. These people were "spies,"
"traitors," "revealers of state secrets"--not justifiably
concerned citizens. This is a political elite that, when it comes
to the environment, likes the dark and will go a long way to keep
the light out.
    The other reason for regretting the passage of the bill
through the lower house is--of course-- that Russia is already a
nuclear waste-land. What it needs is to clear up its waste, not
more waste. The bill, proponents counter, will generate the cash
Russia needs for this clean-up. True, it will generate cash. But,
before then, Russia will need to invest significant sums into an
infrastructure that is woefully inadequate. Professor Alexey
Yablokov, once head of environmental affairs under former
President Boris Yeltsin, believes for example that the country
lacks the equipment needed to transport, store, or reprocess the
spent nuclear fuel safely. Existing facilities are nearly full
and, with just one suitable four-wagon train, it is not clear that
the nuclear fuel rods could be transported to Siberia safely.
    But, assume the investment is made and Russia earns the money,
will the money be re-invested to protect Russians from this new
waste and also to protect them from the huge accumulated waste
that is poisoning the rivers and groundwater of areas like
Chelyabinsk? There is good reason to doubt that. First,
politically, President Putin's commitment to the environment is
questionable. A year ago, Putin signed a decree doing away with
the State Environmental Committee, dissolving it and the country's
other major official body responsible for the ecology (the State
Forestry Committee) into one new ministry, the Natural Resources
Ministry. At the time, the move was presented as a way of cutting
costs, of streamlining. Environmentalists, in contrast, argue that
the move was a reflection of the government's lack of interest in
protecting the environment, and regret that the decision removed
much of their relatively limited lobbying power. A former Russian
ecology minister, Viktor Danilov-Danilyan, went as far as to call
Putin's decision to disband the committee "a signal to thieves
that they were now free to destroy and steal Russia's
environmental wealth."
    Moreover, money earmarked for nuclear repairs has often ended
up in the wrong hands.  Yevgeny Adamov, the atomic energy
minister, was sacked in March for alleged corruption. Whatever the
truth of that case, it is clear that Russia's copy book is deeply
blotted in this area, as in many others. Russia has had money from
the EU and the EBRD to repair and upgrade its nuclear power
plants--that money, though, has largely been funneled into
different projects (and people) and the building of new plants.
With this money, nothing has been done with the old plants
teetering on the edge of catastrophe.
    At least the EBRD then had some control. This time, though,
Russia will be earning the money itself. That leaves two hopes.
The first is Putin who, when asked this January what he would do
after he left office, said: "I've always admired people who devote
their lives to environmental problems. I've watched with
astonishment as a group on a little boat tries to oppose a huge
industrial ship. I must say this inspires only sympathy." Just
platitudes? Probably. The second--clearly and much more likely
hope--is that the United States, fearing the smuggling of nuclear
fuel to "rogue nations" will, as bilateral agreements give it the
right to, prevent partners such as Japan from exporting its spent
fuel to Russia.
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    -- Transitions Online - Intelligent Eastern Europe
    Copyright: Transitions Online 2001
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